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What are the obstacles for Republican support of a bipartisan relief bill?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Wednesday that the bipartisan COVID relief bill just unveiled should be the starting point for negotiations going forward. Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana is one of the lawmakers responsible for that bipartisan bill. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, as we heard a little while ago from Republican Gabriel Sterling of Georgia, the language around the election, denial of the vote, false claims of fraud and potentially inciting violence are dangerous.

    Sterling, a top elections official in Georgia, claims that his state did it right, as they now face a run-off that will determine control of the U.S. Senate.

    And, as we just heard just now from Senator Durbin, there's a critical need for economic relief from the pandemic.

    Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana is one of the senators involved in that bipartisan bill that we were just discussing aimed at addressing some of those needs. He's also a physician. And he joins us now.

    Senator Cassidy, I think — there you are. I wanted to make sure you were with us at the Capitol.

    Thank you so much for being with us.

    I don't know if you were able to hear any of what Senator Durbin said, but he — it's very clear, from listening to him, that Democrats are prepared to support either this bipartisan proposal as it is or something close to that. Where are Republicans on this?

  • Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.:

    There is a lot of enthusiasm on our side. People want to get something done.

    Now, still, we have to show the details. You know the old saying, devil's in the details. We're working on a bipartisan basis, House and Senate members — I just got off a call regarding that — to come to a mutual understanding of those details.

    And people are operating in good faith, not holding out, trying to get something else, operating in good faith. And that's very encouraging.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we had heard from Senate Majority Leader McConnell that he was not in favor of the amount of aid — federal unemployment assistance that is — would be part of this bipartisan proposal.

    Is he prepared to change his mind on that? Do you know?

  • Sen. Bill Cassidy:

    I cannot speak for — I cannot speak for Mitch McConnell.

    But if you look at the comments he made earlier, they're actually in line with what we have been speaking of. He's not in favor of bringing a bill that cannot pass. This is bipartisan. It is the only bill that's bipartisan. He's not in favor of doing something which is merely to make a point.

    Hey, I agree with that. If it's not bipartisan, then you're — it's just a messaging bill.

    The best way to send a message is to pass a bill, and if it's not bipartisan, it will never pass. And so I think, actually, if you look at the qualifications he has for getting something through, we meet those qualifications, which is why I'm told that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has come out in support of.

    So, we're lining up that support, from business interests, from others as well. I'd like to think that Mitch, Leader McConnell, will come on board.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, I just am trying to understand what it is that you think that could be an obstacle to his support, because, for month after month, we have seen him resist the proposals not only from Speaker Pelosi, but other proposals that were as much money as — or more money, not much more money, but some more, than what is represented in this bipartisan proposal.

  • Sen. Bill Cassidy:

    First, let's stop and look at the proposals that Speaker Pelosi put forward. It mentioned marijuana more than it mentioned jobs.

    It had a bailout for millionaires and billionaires in big blue states. Now, that was not really a proposal meant to attract attention. I will go back to what I said earlier. If it's not bipartisan, it is a messaging bill. And that was a messaging bill.

    This is bipartisan. This is a bill that sends a message that we can pass a bill that we care about the American people. I would not look too harshly upon the leader not considering the HEROES ACT, Speaker Pelosi's bill, because it was a messaging bill. This is a bill that can pass.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you believe this can get done by the end of next week? Senator Durbin says he does. Are you optimistic?

  • Sen. Bill Cassidy:

    I don't know.

    I mean, there's a big spending bill that we have to pass, the National Defense Authorization Act. In the lineup of that which must pass, maybe those two come first, or maybe not.

    But I do think the progress we have made to support — and I can't emphasize enough, Judy, people from either side to have the party coming up to give solutions to a problem that we know, OK, Republicans are bringing a solution that we know Democrats care about, would you be OK with it, and vice versa, that is progress.

    There's a heck of a lot of goodwill going into finding a product that Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate can agree upon. That's what gives me encouragement.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Cassidy, I want to bring up a different subject with you.

    A few minutes ago, I interviewed a top elections officials in the state of Georgia, Gabriel Sterling, who has just, in the strongest language, condemned the president's — what he says is the president's language that has led to threats, threats of violence against elections officials in Georgia.

    He called on Republicans everywhere to condemn what the president is doing. Are you prepared to do that?

  • Sen. Bill Cassidy:

    I have said that, although I voted for President Trump and wished him to be elected, it is clear from the Electoral College awarding 270 votes to Joe Biden that Joe Biden has won.

    I will also say that, if someone is to make allegations, they should be made in court, and they should be verifiable. If you have allegations to make which are not verifiable, which do not hold up in court, it would be responsible not to make those allegations.

    I have not followed what the president is saying. I am just saying that in general. If you are going to make allegations, they better be supported in a legal — in a legal court, and you should not make them if they are not sustainable in a court of law.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, President Trump as recently as today is saying that the election in Georgia was rigged, that it is riddled with fraud.

    He's continuing to do this. People who are allied with the president are making threats against elections officials in Georgia and other states.

    Who's responsible for that?

  • Sen. Bill Cassidy:

    First, let's say….

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is — does the buck stop with the president?

  • Sen. Bill Cassidy:

    First, let's say this, that threats of violence against others are wrong, period, end of story, and should not be made.

    Secondly, there's a Republican governor in Georgia. There's a Republican governor in — there's a Republican secretary of state, both of whom are strong President Trump supporters, and both of whom, as best I know, have assured that the election process was valid.

    And my understanding is that there was a hand recount, which, again, verified the results. And so, if somebody has — whoever that person is, has some verifiable proof of fraud, it should come forward now.

    But if there's not proof of fraud that can be proven in a court, the allegation should not be made.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, thank you very much.

  • Sen. Bill Cassidy:

    Thank you.

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