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tv   White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain Discusses Presidents Agenda  CSPAN  April 1, 2021 2:35pm-3:04pm EDT

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>> we have to many kids into many schools -- too many kids in too many schools struggling. we know if we are going to use education to promote mobility, opportunity, address poverty and inequality, we are going to have to empower kindergartners, make sure they have the skills and education they need to contribute to their families and their community. i think given that those of us with the resources to move into communities with good schools or protect private schools have strategies for making sure our kids are empowered who those don't have those resources.
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announcer: sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. you can also listen to q&a as a podcast, where you get your podcasts. announcer: the white house chief of staff, no one president biden's policy agenda -- no one president biden's policy agenda, talked about what to expect on immigration, the economic relief plan, as well as health care. >> good morning, everyone. i am the co-author of political playbook and the chief washington correspondent at political. the biden administration is full speed ahead with an ambitious nation timeline. the deployment of nearly $2 trillion in pandemic relief, and i multitrillion dollar infrastructure plan they told by president biden yesterday in pittsburgh. the white house is also dealing with the rising number of migrants at the u.s.-mystical border, the aftermath from back to back mass shootings, and a
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looming showdown over the senate filibuster. this morning, i am joined by the white house chief of staff to discuss what is ahead for the biden agenda. thank you all so much for joining us. for those tuning into the livestream, you can follow the conversation on twitter using the #politicoplaybook. you can ask us questions by tweeting us at @politicolive. thank you for doing this. >> x for having me, ryan -- thanks for having me, ryan. >> the american jobs plan has been detailed. there's a lot in it. let's start with how you move this thing through congress. i see sort of three elements of opposition already forming. you have people in the house on the left who want to go bigger, you have people, democrats in the middle who want this
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infamous pal encourage -- this infamous package, then you have republicans who have spoken up so far not very enthusiastic about the corporate tax hikes in the plan. can you take us through those three groups and give us a little bit about how you massage that opposition? >> first of all, let's start with the fact that as the polls showed yesterday, this plan starts off with a more must -- with enormous support in the american public, support among all groups come all sectors, overwhelming support. that was the driving engine around the passage of the american rescue plan. that support is what is going to pass the plan through passage in the covers.
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-- going to drive it through the congress. congress people of all ideological stripes have been talking for decades about the need to rebuild our infrastructure, about the need to create jobs, about the need to raise wages and what president biden did yesterday was put on the table a concrete plan to do that and a way to pay for it. i think as you talk about this, yes, there are definitely some who say it's too small. there's some in the party who think maybe it's too big. we've got to think it's just right and less about the price tag, more about the elements, that should be in the plans and people think are missing and what are the elements, don't need to be in the plan. we think it's quite ambitious and bold and addresses the urgent needs and replacing the lead pipes to bring water to people's homes and businesses and connecting to broadband to move into the 21st century. on the tax side, look, people who have benefitted from the economic infrastructure should help pay for what we need to continue to with.
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-- to win. corporations are seeing higher profits, and large corporations pay no taxes at all. donald trump jammed through a massive cut in the corporate tax rate. we're thinking of common sense reforms. to be clear, as the president said yesterday in pittsburgh, if people have other ideas to pay for this, they should put those on the table and we can have a debate about different possible paths to pay that everyone believes we need to make. >> one of the ideas that folks like josh and tom and the house have put forward is they want the state and local tax deduction returned, and they have a slogan right now, "no salt, no vote." whatever it is. what's the white house's view on salt? >> salt, of course, restoring
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the salt is not a way to pay for the plan, it's another deduction. i've talked to josh and he's an old friend. we want to engage those parts of the country, and it's a major issue. i want to hear how they would pay for this tax deduction and how it fits into the overall package. look, we know that to pass this bill, we're going to need a prod broad change of support and -- need a broad change of support, and we'll put that together with the republicans and democrats to try to find the votes, and that's the process that got the american rescue plan passed and we'll go through a bipartisan effort in the future. >> most republicans in the senate, if you're on the hunt for senate republicans, they voted in 2017 to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21. many of them believe that whether you agree with this or
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not, that a strong economy followed those tax cuts and were partially a result of that vote. you're now asking them to partially reverse the corporate tax rate and bring it back up to 28%. by my count, nine of the 10 republicans generally targeted at that moderate group voted for that in 2017. what's your argument to them to say, i know you voted for that, but we're going to tweak it a little bit, and here is why you should do it. >> i have two arguments for that group. the first is, it's the time that cut was made. i think there's a lot of concensus before donald trump came up with that 21% rate, that some rate lower than 35, but not all the way down to 21 is where this should land. there's a lot of policy conversation around being in the mid 20's and trump came up with the advice rate. -- the surprise rate. between 21 and 35, there's a lot
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of room, and we think that 28 is a reasonable number between the two. the second thing, look, many of the same republicans have been passionate voices for this investment that we need. i think you can go any given week into any rotary club in america and find elected leaders at all levels of government giving speeches about how we need to fix our roads and bridges and connect people to broadband. these things that people have been talking about for decades. the question is, are we going to stop talking about them and actually do them? if we're going to do them, how are we going to pay for them? we've put a proposal on the table to pay for them. that was incumbent to say, how would you pay for it? if people don't like our proposals, i would like to hear how others would say they would pay for it. >> to turn things around, on the other side of the debate, there's a lively conversation and debate in progressive
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circles about how much deficits matter. there's a school of thought, the modern monetary theory school that frowns on paper work and arguing that the investment that the country needs need to be offset by revenue raisers. i know some economists in the administration have some sympathy for that school of thought. president biden yesterday talked about this thing being paid for, even talks about the debt many reduced -- being reduced in the long-term with this plan. what is the white house's view of that progressive debate over how much deficits matter and whether it's a trap to make sure that you have a pay for, for every single one of your spending priorities? >> well, ryan, i think it's a fair question, let me say two things about that, first, one of the objections to structure has
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-- to infrastructure has been, you can't show us how to pay for it, and we want to remove the objections as we said. for us, the core is that for decades this country has failed to make this investment and we want to strip away excuses. second is, they're a way to pay for it if that's something that members are concerned about and we think they're good policy, for example, the idea that some big corporations pay no taxes at all. that's just not fair. we ought to fix that. the idea that corporations get a tax break and tax incentives to move jobs overseas, that's wrong and we want to change that and we think that the corporate tax reforms we are talking about in this package are just good policy. they will make our country more competitive and create jobs in this country, and they'll reduce the outsource offing jobs to her
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countries -- other countries. we think it's good policy. >> so in some ways, that argument, that these tax hikes on their own are a good policy, it is not just like you're rummaging through the couch cushions to find the money for the items, these are the policies if they were separated from the spending, the white house. >> well, look, again, what i'm trying to do, what we're trying to do is strip away actions to making this needed investment -- and we're doing it with, we think, a way to pay for it is good public policy. again, our central focus is here is on getting this country to win the future with the big, bold investment in the infrastructure we need, improving our manufacturing capacity, and in restoring, you know, it's amazing, our investment in research and development has been cut in half since the 1960's. we're basically creating jobs based on technology and investments made in the past, if we want to win the future we have to up that r&d investment
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now. >> along the lines of what you're talking about shooting down opposition, one of the things that struck me about the spending and the core infrastructure of the plan is that the american jobs plan, the total spending on electric vehicles, $174 billion, and that is more than all of the spending on roads, bridges, airports, water ways, ports. it strikes me that that gets at this idea that democrats and republicans look at and think about infrastructure in very different ways these days. what do you say to republicans who say, now what? you've got to talk about infrastructure, but we're not interested in spending nearly 200 billion on electric vehicles, you know, we want a big, meaty highway bill, you know, that's all concrete and steel. >> yeah, well, so i'm not sure how you're slicing those numbers, ryan, but i'll say that this bill, this plan would make the largest investment in our roads since the eisenhower administration.
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it would fix 10,000 bridges around the country. certainly not slim at all on its investment in roads, bridges, highways, but those are only one of our infrastructure needs. we also need to invest, for example, in removing lead pipes as i've talked about, that would create a lot of jobs for people who do pipe fitting work and really rebuild our water infrastructure. that is part of infrastructure in this country. and as we rebuild our roads, obviously, having electric charging stations so that the cars of the future can get across the country, that's a sensible thing to do, of course it is, and investing, obviously, in housing and schools, you know, these are parts of our infrastructure. and look, as i travel the country, when i used to before the pandemic, traveled the country, you talk to people all over the country, look, there's crumbling businesses roads here and crumbling, this, crumbling that.
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-- and crumbling this, crumbling that. roads and bridges are part of it. all kinds of construction is needed to bring the country up to 21st century standards. >> everyone is going to be asking you about reconciliation , obviously, it seems like the path of least resistance. why would you use budget reconciliation? which would avoid, of course, a filibuster. >> i think what we want to do is get this passed and i think that starts with conversation with a broad away of members in both parties to see the support and how it looks through the process. you know, that's our first goal. i'm not going to get into legislative tactics, we launched this plan yesterday. congress is out of session. and we're going to bring members down here physically when congress comes back after the easter break, and talk with the congress and members of the house and senate, democrats and republicans, how they want to
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move forward. we want to move forward if at all possible on a bipartisan basis, and you know, i think there's some hope for that. >> similar with the last bill, bipartisanship is desired, but not required from your perspective in passing this? >> look, i think these are national needs, and, you know, as the president has said people -- as the president has said, people have decide if they're going to deliver or divide. and we intend to deliver. when i talked to republicans, i see that they want to deliver, too, particularly around the infrastructure issues, i think there's strong bipartisan support. i understand controversy about certain specifics, but let's work together and see if there's a way for us to deliver this. in the end, let me be clear. the president was elected to do a job, and part of that job is to get this country ready to win the future, and that's what he's going to do.
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we know it has bipartisan support in the country, and so, we're going to try our best to get bipartisan support here in washington. >> okay, i want to get to a couple other issues as well, sort of of a hodgepodge. >> potpourri. >> yeah, questions for a colleague of mine on immigration. what lessons do you think the president learned on border, immigration, the northern triangle, from his time as obama's emissary to the region and the many trips and discussions he had when he was vice-president? >> well, i think one lesson he learned was that putting the vice-president in charge of working with these countries is be very effective and that's one reason why he asked vice-president harris to lead this effort in his administration, to focus on trying to deal with the root causes of this migration. as the president said in his press conference, parents don't send their minor children on a multi-thousand mile hazardous journey as a frolic or detour, they do it because the
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conditions where they are living are so desperate, because of natural disasters and economic collapses, and crime and violence, conditions are so desperate, they have no choice. the best way to attack this migration issue is to help these countries rebuild their economies and make life in guatemala, in el salvador, in honduras more safe for the people who live there, and let people live their lives where they want to live their lives in their home country. that's what president joe biden worked on and what vice-president harris is going to work on in the administration. >> i want to ask you about chief -- about being chief of staff and how you think about that roam. -- that role. you've been a chief of staff before, but not at this level. you've thought about the history of the job and how to design it.
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from my understanding, correct me if i'm wrong, one of the most important things to think about in that job, how much do -- job is, how much do you bring decisions to the president and how much are you able to just get white house concensus around that big table and the chief of staff's office? some presidents have wanted to delegate quite a lot to their staff and only wanted the most important issues brought into the oval, others, you know, wanted everything in there. can you give us a little bit of a sense of how you think about that and how the president's asked you to think about that issue? >> well, we bring all significant decisions to the president, even the decisions that the staff is in concensus on, because maybe sometimes our concensus isn't where he is, and the president is the person who is elected by the american people, and so all the significant decisions come to him and to vice-president harris as well.
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she's in the room for all the major decisions, and she's one of his critical advisors and playing an incredibly effective and important role in this administration. in terms of how i do my job as chief of staff, i'm very lucky to have a team of people who i work with, many of whom i've known for a long time. a very diverse team of people, who bring a lot of talent and expertise to it. and i try to approach the job with humility in the sense that on every question that comes up in the building, there's someone else that knows about it more than i do and my job is to bring the advice forward and to give the advice to the president and vice-president, and from the talented team they've assembled and let them make the key decisions. >> just to put a little meat on that -- as you were assembling this bill, can you give us an example of something easy that you don't have to bring to the president and the vice-president
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versus something that the big major decision that you needed to decide in crafting this legislation? >> well, what i will tell you is that we had multiple meetings with the president and vice-president, every step along the way as we're crafting it and their fingerprints are on every as expect of this plan. they looked at not just the overall dollar amounts, but the things that were included, that specific subplan, the plans on how to pay for it, and look, to be honest, as you well know, the architecture of this plan was set by joe biden in his presidential campaign. the american jobs plan is an amalgamation of provisions that were in the build back better plan that the president laid out as a candidate for president in the summer of 2020. i think this is one of the themes of the administration. time and again, i hear people say i'm surprised that joe biden did x, y, z. it's not what he's doing, it's what he told people he would do if he got elected president, and that's the touchstone here, and i think that's partly why what we've done has had so much
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support, because people see him doing what a president is supposed to do. he ran for president, i'm going to fix the covid response, get the economy moving and build back better, and that's what we're doing. i think that's the touchstone of our approach in the white house. >> one quick question on anti-trust. there's a big lively debate up on anti-trust among democrats these days. the administration for two positions has picked well-known anti-trust activists, tim wu as the white house economic advisor and lena khan at fcc. there's enormous amount of interest about who the white house will choose for associate general for anti-trust and ftc commissioner. will those two spots be filled with people who are on the wu-khan side of the debate will -- about anti-trust or make it
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simple, not their side? [laughter] >> look, as with professor khan and with tim wu, those are by those people on the joe biden side. -- will be filled by people on the joe biden side. he's picked a team in all of these positions that reflect his views, that we need to tackle some of the issues in the country. and making sure we have a system working for the middle class and for consumers, so his picks have reflected that to date and the remaining picks that you talk will reflect it, as well. by the way, including not just the anti-trust thing, the ftc, and moving it and there's an effort to make sure we are looking out for consumer and that is certainly his philosophy. i'm not going to get into announcing our personnel picks here, playbook, as much as you'd like me to. we will run through a process and that's how we've done it and
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how we'll continue to do it. >> one policy question on public options. that of course was one of the central debates in the democratic primaries. medicare for all versus public options. will the public options be included in the second stage of legislation here in the american families plan? >> well, you know, again, i'll let us roll out the american family plan when we're ready to roll it out. i think you'll see, health care will certainly be a part of that with the focus on trying to lower costs for most americans, particularly around protection drugs -- prescription drugs and efforts also to expand affordable health care. we know that health care prices is one of the most important concerns that face american families. and there will be no american family plan unless we tackle that issue. some versions of how to tackle the issue of high health care costs will be a part of that plan. >> one other quick policy question on the mind of a lot of -- minds of a lot of democrats
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about student debt. a lot of democrats believe that president biden has the authority to cancel up to $50,000 of student debt right now, and they're asking him to use it. how does he see that issue and his authority? >> well, as he said, he asked his secretary of education, who was just put on the job a few weeks, once he got on the job, to have his department prepare a memo on the president's legal authority, and hopefully we'll see that in the next few weeks, and then he will look at that legal authority, at the policy decisions around that, and make a decision. he hasn't made a decision and hasn't gotten the memos he needs to start to focus on that decision. >> got it. ron, i think we're out of time and thank you very much for joining us and covering all of these issues. >> thanks for having me, ryan. >> thank you, see you soon. if you're not subscribed to
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playbook, you can sign up online and you can follow upcoming politico live programming our -- on our social media @ politicolive. take care. announcer: this afternoon, a discussion on providing support for immigrant families will be held by the urban institute. watch live coverage at 3:30 eastern on c-span come online at, or listen on the free c-span radio app. announcer: saturday, on the communicators, tom wheeler, the former chair of the federal communications commission during the obama administration. >> the complaint that was made during our term about net neutrality is that it would stifle innovation. it would stifle investment. but the reality is that in the
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period of time when the net neutrality rules were in place, the internet service providers spent more on capital investment than they spent after the trump fcc removed those rules. and it was that capital investment that has allowed us to be successful now, during covid, when everybody is on zoom and stressing out the network. the point of the matter is is that what we try to deal with was to continue -- try to to deal with west to continue this basic american concept of not handing gatekeepers to crucial services and encouraging competition among those using those networks. announcer: watch the communicators saturday at 6:30 p.m. p.m. eastern on c-span. announcer: sunday night on q&a, a conversation about education
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policy and the importance of having several discussions when differing opinions are involved. our guests co-authored the book, "the search for common ground." >> we have too many kids in too many schools who are not challenged and no one is troubled by it. that should disturb all of us. we know that if we are going to use education to promote mobility, opportunity, address poverty and inequality, we are going to have to empower the learners, make sure they have the skills and education they need to contribute to their families and their community. >> pedro has eloquently talked about some of the inequities from education. i think given that those of us with the resources to move into communities with good schools or protect private schools have strategies for making sure our
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kids get something. school choice is away to empower those don't have those resources. announcer: sunday night at 8:00 eastern, on c-span's q&a. you can also listen to q&a as a podcast, where you get your podcasts. announcer: nancy pelosi held her weekly briefing today to answer questions from reporters on the congressional agenda. the briefing was held remotely, and due to some technical problems, we will start just after speaker pelosi wished everyone a good holiday weekend. >> he promised we would build back better.


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