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tv   Washington Journal Molly Reynolds  CSPAN  December 10, 2021 3:13pm-3:36pm EST

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many of our television programs are also available as podcasts. you can find them all on the c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts. s molly reynolds, a senior fellow of governance studies at brookings institution in washington here to talk about congress and the biden presidency. molly reynolds, let's start with capitol hill behind us and this from gallup, apel they took in october of this year showing congress approve -- approval rating at its lowest at 21%. what you make of that number? guest: first i will note that there has been moments in the not so distant past where congress approval rating has been lower than that. that is useful context but one thing we know about americans and how they think about congress is they generally think quite highly of their individual
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members but the institution itself is rarely very popular. americans don't really like to watch congress do the sausage making part of the lawmaking process. they do not like to see the conflict on display. they would prefer things to go more smoothly than they often do. when we have extended periods like we have had over the last several months, real disagreements both between the parties and do some cases within the parties, it is not surprising to me that congress is not especially popular. host: what you make of senator mitch mcconnell's move to agree with democrats on a one time vote to avoid the filibuster that would allow democrats to raise the debt limit with a simple majority? guest: first, i will note that leader mcconnell has a long
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history of saying the federal government should not default on debt. that we need to address the debt limit. the consequences of not doing so are catastrophic for the u.s. and global economy more generally. in that sense, the fact there was some sort of deal reached is not surprising to me. since the way or the form of the deal, this one-time exception to the filibuster for this measure to increase the debt limit, was a history of these kinds of procedures in congress. there are other times when congress has come together and said we will carve out specific pieces of legislation from the filibuster and often we have seen that happen when one or both parties are trying to avoid blame, trying to keep their fingerprints off of something that they see as unpopular, and a special procedural maneuver
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they think and help them. even in that history, this fits neatly with the idea that republicans, some of them, are committed to making sure the debt limit is increased. they want to put as much of the blame or responsibility for doing that on democrats so coming to this procedural pretzel, this complicated set up procedures to do this, is in line with that history. host: where is this congress on passing appropriations bills that explain why it is congress is supposed to pass the spending bills for federal agencies, and they are supposed to do it without a continuing resolution. guest: they are supposed to do it without a continuing resolution, but they have consistently fallen down on this part of their job. the ways the appropriation process in the house and senate is supposed to work every year
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is there are 12 individual appropriations that are handled different -- handled by different federal agencies. one for the department of defense, labor, health and human services. there are 10. congress is to take up each one of the 12 bills individually, delivering over spending, levels for programs in those agencies, and pass the bills individually and they are supposed to do a by the start of the new federal fiscal year on october 1. congress has failed to do this regularly for the past several decades. so when it fails to act on appropriations before the start of the new fiscal year, that is when we end up with a continuing resolution or short-term stopgap bill that keeps the federal operations funded, usually at the same level they were in the previous year.
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right now, we are on our second continuing resolution of this current fiscal year, fiscal year 2022. there is one passed in september that got us to the beginning of december and recently the house and senate passed another one that will take us to february. this is good in a sense it prevents a parcel government shutdown, as we know from having lived through a record length government shutdown at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019. those have been incredibly disruptive to the lives of americans who depend on federal programs and services. we do not have -- the government did not shut down but knew resolutions are not the test wafer congress and the president to handle the budget process. they create uncertainty, we end up with agencies having to spend a lot of time planning for the possibility of a shutdown,
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deciding who -- which operations would have to continue, which would cease, and that sort of thing. they are costly and inefficient ways to handle the budget process. host: i want to encourage our viewers to call in and join this conversation and tell us what you think of this 117th congress and president biden -- brydon' -- biden's first year. democrats (202) 748-8000, republicans (202) 748-8001, or independent (202) 748-8002. you can also text us at (202) 748-8003 or go to and send a tweet with the handle @cspanwj. what are your thoughts on congress and the presidency? caller: i think a lot of it is flavored by organizations such
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as the ones that your speaker here represents or association with the federalist society and other. they are far right wing pushing exotic libertarian, destroy government perspectives. they come from the 1860's and the federalist societies and others were formed to push social racism. the idea was a eugenic bias and social darwinism. it has a failed -- has to do with a failed understanding. the direct question is, what is your understanding of evolution? do you believe that might makes right? that is the core foundation of libertarian and that is false. evolution is about cooperation. host: i will move onto teresa in dennis e. a republican. caller: good morning. -- in tennessee. a republican. caller: good morning.
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this congress, i hate the way they only pass continuing resolutions, they won't pass the budget. everything is always passed on a friday before they go on vacation for weeks. they never have to answer questions about anything. joe biden never takes questions. it is the most dysfunctional congress and presidency i have ever seen. it is dirty. they don't do anything right. nobody knows what's in the bills, they don't release them. how can they release the bill 20 minutes before they vote on it? i don't understand this congress and that is why joe biden's approval ratings are low 30's. host: do you think this congress is different than previous congresses and administrations, republicans and democrats? guest: by proxy.
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the house doesn't even show up to work. i sit here and watch the votes on c-span and none of them vote in person. they are all by proxy, which i think should be illegal. i don't know how they come up with that by proxy vote. host: there is a court case on the very issue of proxy voting. guest: share. on the caller's point about congress doing things at the last minute, whether on a friday, right before a deadline, before something will expire, that is not unique to the 117th congress. those are characteristics we have seen repeatedly throughout recent decades. in some ways, it can sometimes take that deadline, that action forcing mechanism to get congress, like anyone else, to really come to agreements and get its work done. those are not new
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characteristics to this congress. even when congress is not in session in washington, representatives and senators are doing hard work in their districts and states. on the caller's point about proxy voting, i will say a couple things. one, where the system came from. proxy voting is the house's response to needing to have a workplace accommodation for members to keep members and staff safe during the covid-19 pandemic. so that stood up in may of 2020 as a way to allow members who do not feel safe traveling long distances to washington, gathering in large groups, to keep doing the work of the country without necessarily needing to appear in person. and certify extension. if you are people are coming to the floor, they do more social distancing and that sort of thing. it has continued throughout all
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of 2020 and through 2021. we do still see members using it because they need to do so for health and safety reasons. then we also, as the caller said on members using it on an interim basis, sibley because it is more convenient than appearing in person -- simply because it is more convenient than appearing in person. the medium to long-term, it is a tricky challenge for the house. there are some situations where i thing members of the house representatives, like any other american who seeks a workplace accommodation for health and safety reasons or because they are giving birth to a child or their partner has given birth to a child or they have family responsibilities, these are the kinds of situations in which some sort of voting accommodation might make sense. in addition, we are not through the pandemic.
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there are real health and safety concerns for folks to travel and gather in person. figuring out what it should look like over the medium to long-term is a real challenge for the house. host: fred in west palm beach, florida. independent. caller: good morning. thank you for taking my call. i have been trying to get through, and, regarding the pandemic, i am retired right now but i worked for 70 years in the medical field. i am appalled at certain percentage of the population still not vaccinated. when that has been proven over -- host: what does this have to do with congress and the presidency? caller: well i just wanted to
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get back to -- they should get together and really work for the american people rather than being parshall on trying -- par tial on trying to keep their jobs. host: is there a way to judge the rate of partisanship in congress? guest: it is hard to capture with numbers empirically. i think it is worth noting that many large pieces of bills past due get bipartisan support. we have been talking about the bipartisan inver structure bill. that is what we called it, and that did get votes for members of both parties in both chambers. the big defense policy bill that
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passes every year, that will get bipartisan support. it is certainly the case that many things that go through congress still do get votes from democrats and republicans in the senate. in most situations, this is required because you need 60 votes to overcome the threat of a filibuster. but we have obviously spent a lot of time this year, the first year of the biden administration, talking about efforts by democrats to legislate on a party line basis using procedures that allow them to get around the filibuster in the senate. that happened with the american rescue plan in the spring and set of procedures used for the build back better bill. that has been a focus this year of congress and the president, using these procedures that do not require getting any republican votes to move legislation. host: our next caller in tennessee. caller: good morning.
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i want to say i admire the president when people say he has no charisma, i beg to differ. i love his crooked smile and his remarks. i fear not only that i know him but that the president knows me. i am deeply concerned for our democracy, and i hope some republicans, especially some of the ones that come from tennessee, where we democrats do not have much of an influence at all, will try to be a little bit constructive and bipartisan. i pray for them every night. host: molly reynolds, how is the president, a former senator, doing on reaching out across the aisle in congress to accomplish his agenda? guest: i am glad you noticed the president is himself a former
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senator. particularly at the beginning of the year, his posture towards capitol hill was really influenced by his long career in the senate. i think over the course of the year, we have seen at times the white house has two confront the idea that the senate of today really does not look, and many cases, like the senate in which president biden served for many years. it is more partisan, the gaps between where democrats and republicans are is larger, not to mention the fact legislating in a 50-50, evenly divided senate is quite challenging, even under the best of circumstances. i do think the fact he has long senate service has been influential and i think it has shaped the kind of hopes the white house has brought in to help work with capitol hill. i do think it is also worth
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noting how different the congress of 2021 looks from the congress joe biden served in when he was in the senate. host: anthony in brookland. a republican. caller: yes. first of all, i hope president biden doesn't have the nuclear codes because he does not even know where his brain is. second of all, the republicans did not want anything to do with raising the debt, so the bill they just passed, mcconnell did not want anything to do with the republicans raising the debt. this bill that just passed puts the democrats in the position of having to pass it by themselves. host: molly reynolds? guest: the caller is eluding to and describing these politics
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around raising the debt limit and the degree to which the real goal on the part of leader mcconnell and the republicans who were helping develop the strategy was to find a way to ensure the debt limit did get raised because they were not interested in having -- incurring the wide sweeping negative consequences that would calm if there was a default on the debt. but trying to find a way to make democrats, as the color indicated, appeared to be responsible for taking the vote to raise the debt limit. i will remind folks that the debt limit and raising it is about spending that has already happened in the past. so the debt the federal government's servicing is the result of policy choices made by previous democratic and
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republican congresses and presidents. it is about sort of paying the bills we have already incurred. in this moment, republicans are looking to find a way to i think ensure the debt limit got addressed. there was no sort of real interest at the leadership level in experiencing a develop at figuring out how to do it in a way that would put as much political responsibility as possible on democrats. host: david, a republican. caller: hi, good morning. i wanted to make some comments. congress is not reading these large bills. the infrastructure bill that is getting past is not really going to fix anything for the infrastructure. most states do that on their own. these large bills that were in the past would have been paid for and are paid for because
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congress went through the bills and allocated the money then. when does the congress talk about paying off the debt? how does the debt just keep rising and rising and nobody is trying to do anything? liabilities are astronomical in the red. i don't see them trying to fix these. all i see is congress playing politics and saying we can't have human infrastructure but we can have roads and bridges but they are not owned by the federal government and they have tollbooths and collect money every day. i don't understand where the authority of new york gets off saying they need to hundreds of billions of dollars -- they need hundreds of billions of dollars because they are collecting hundreds of billions of dollars for those. guest: sure.
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physical infrastructure is things like roads and bridges. we have a shared responsibility, the state and federal governments. we are i think at a moment where we know that there are needs around the country to address aging physical infrastructure. bipartisan infrastructure bill also contains other provisions around things like broadband and things to improve the lives of americans. to the caller's point about deficits and deaths, he is right that we hear less genuine rhetoric and concern around addressing the debt and deficit now than perhaps we did several decades ago. it is simply not the same kind of political issue for many members of congress.


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