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tv   Washington Week  PBS  October 22, 2021 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT

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♪ yamiche: the biden agenda on the line. >> do you think you won't get a deal? >> i do think i will get a deal. yamiche: agreement on his slimmed-down infrastructure plan. >> we must defend and strengthen the right that unlocks all other rights, the right to vote. yamiche: but democrats face another setback in their effort to pass a voting rights bill. >> as long as senate democrats remain fixated on their radical agenda, this body will continue to do the job the framers decided, and stop terrible ideas in their tracks. yamiche: as senate rublicans blocked debate on their latest legislation, the move setting off another argument over the future of the filibuster. plus. >> we need to make it clear that
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no person is above the law. yamiche: the house votes to hold top trump aide steve bannon in contempt of congress, next. ♪ >> this is "washington week." corporate funding is provided by consumer cellular. visual funding is brought to you by coup and patricia yuen, can he renewing to bridge cultural differences in our communities. sandra and carl. rose, herschel, and andy shreve's. the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your seat -- pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again from washington, moderator yummy shells and door --yamiche alcindor. yamiche: good evening and
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welcome to "washington week." with the clock ticking, president biden pushed hard to get his plans through congress. at the white house, he scrabbled to unite his party to make a deal and met with key democrats. he also hit the road to promote his agenda and went to his birth to -- birthplace of scranton, pennsylvania. on thursday come he held a town hall with cnn. he took questions from anderson cooper and voters. >> it's all about compromise. bipartisan compromise still has to be possible. everybody's been saying that's crazy. you can't do it. if we can't unite this country, we're in deep trouble. yamiche: here's the key question. how can the president sell his plan to the american people if he hasn't closed the deal with his own party? according to a recent cbs news poll, the majority of aricans say they don't know what is in the bill. keep in mind most lawmakers also aren't sure will end up in the
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final bill either. plus on thursday, the house voted to hold steve bannon in contempt for defying a congressional subpoena. >> the people who attacked this building have told us on video, and social media, and now before the federal courts, exactly what motivated them. they believed what donald trump told them, that the election was stolen and that they needed to take action. yamiche: joining me tonight to discuss all of this and more, mike memo, nbc news white house correspondent. a white house reporter for the washington post. ryan j riley, of post-senior justice reporter. and jake sherman, founder of fungible news. -- touchable news. i'm going to come to you first. talk a little bit about where the latest is in this bill, what's and it, and talk about the reporting the white house has been pushing democrats to get a vote on not one, but both bills next week. >> yeah, they need to count
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their lucky stars, something we've been hanging out in hallways train to figure out where this bill is all month, three months. here's where i think it is. it seemed to work to reporting at the washington report -- washington post. they are about to settle on a tax on billionaires, which is a new scheme, so to speak, to get revenue. because a democrat from arizona will not rse tax rates. it's difficult this late in the game to say you're not going to raise tax rates. listen, the white house is pushing the democratic leadership for a victory before the white house goes to rome and to glasgow on a hardship assignment next week. but i am skeptical, really skeptical this will happen. i think infrastructure vote, this is two pieces, infrastructure and social spending. could get one next week, but i'm skeptical of both because i'm a skeptic. yamiche: i'm happy you are here
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because the capitol hill porters have all the information. i want to ask you one other question, jake. how does your reporting square with this? president said yesterday when you're president of the united states, you have 50 democrats in the senate. everyone of them is president. what does that say about where the powerbrokers are? >> every single democrat has veto power over the president's agenda and have been saying this since the beginning. you have to work with government you have not the government you want to beat the government joe biden once is something that can pass everything. it's a very fractured democratic caucus among merates and progressives and all range of progressive lawmakers. and he's right. he has to get them a on board. he has no margin for error in a 50-50 senate and three or four seat majority in the house. yamiche: it's incredible to think about the power the democrats have. it's also interesting you have democratic leaders, someone like terry mccullough, running for
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governor in virginia, saying we need to get something done as democratic party. i wonder what you are hearing about the biggest disagreements with this bill. talk about the powerbrokers, especially progressives, a congressman whose showed up with a lot of power. >> she has really made herself into a power player in these negotiations. a lot is coming from knowing where her caucus block stands. the way that caucus is structured, it has changed in recent years so that the power is centralized. they used to have a cochair relationship in the past. what the congressman has been able to do is to make almost a threat but be able to back that up with actual votes because she has said publicly over and over to speaker pelosi, to other leaders in washington, that her members, enough of her members would not vote to pass this bipartisan infrastructure bill unless there was actual
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movement, an actual plan on this other social spending package. and that is what has been important because it's nearly every other democratic party priority. and in the stand up between her and moderates, she won, so she's been able to be that powerbroker and have the conversation. she has spoken with the senator, one of the two key democrats in the house. she has spoken several times to president biden, so she is someone to watch here. yamiche: you were in scranton, pennsylvania, birthplace of biden. you might love the fact that we still call you the biden whisperer. i want to ask you about where the president's concerns light when it comes to whether this bill will get too watered down. we see key reservatis, paid family leave, free community college, which is big for the first lady.
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you heard the president last night at the town hall talk about sleeping in a different bedroom. what is the president's thinking here? >> fascinating to be in scranton because that's not just the president's hometown. but it's where he first late down the bill back at her agenda. this is of full circle moment. the white house is declining to call this a closing argument type speech in part because they don't know how this really will and and there's nervousness. my job really did drop when the president acknowledged community college was off the table because that's not just a priority from the last campaign. it goes back to the time in the obama white house. a signal from the president to the progressives to the moderates, i'm having up onef my sacred cows here and i think the other message from the white house, we are hearing more about next time. we know the realities of washington. we know that election year is going to be hard to get more things done after doing an awful lot of legislating this year.
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but there is some hope. we are the president express this, that community college, which by the way was modeled after republican governors from tennessee, it's the kind of thing that might have support down the road. another senior official said to me you know we're getting too close to the finish line when you start to see all the leaks. yamiche: they're accurate leaks, by the way. the president confirmed them. i want to also go to this idea that according to the center for justice, in the past year, at least 19 states have passed laws that make it harder for americans to vote. wednesday night, republicans voted to block the voting rights bill supported by democrats. president biden took a question that got to the heart of what many democrats and other americans are wondering. >> now, many disheartened as we watch a congress failed to support police reform.
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we watch ever voting rights vanish before our very eyes. mr. president, my question is, what will you do over the next three years to rectify these atrocities, secure our democracy, and ensure that freedoms and liberties that all americans should be entitled to? >> my biggest regret is i have these three major piece of legislation that are going to change the circumstances. but what it's done is prevented me from getting deep enough to my ears, which i'm going to do once this is done, and dealing with police brutality, dealing with the whole notion of, what are we going to do about voting rights? yamiche: ryan, i think about the time i met you at our time in ferguson together, covering this story of policing. voting is such an up there topic for people, especially african-americans who are key to getting president biden elected. i wonder what you make of that exchange.
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it was so powerful watching that in real-time. what is at stake for president biden? you think about what democrats and other americans are looking at. these are things that get to the heart of how people live and survive in america. >> that has fallen on the legislative branch. it's going to fall to the executive branch on the voting side. the justice department has have in their voting session of the civil rights division. because of that 2013 supreme court decision that had struck down a major provision of the voting rights act, it's been difficult for them to stop any of these laws from going into effect before they actually are going into effect. and what happens if you have to file the lawsuit -- and that litigation takes a long time -- so ultimately, a lot of these laws are going to go into effect or restricting voting. on the police reform side, that's another thing there's a limited resources in the executive branch. the justice department can only investigate through pattern and practice, a limited number of
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actual entities. in order to bring about broader reform, you're going to need to take bigger swings and try to get ways for enacting police reform that isn't fixing this police department and this police department. we need something more systematic. we need a more universal approach. that's something that there's only so much the executive branch can do with the laws on the books today. yamiche: jake, you're nodding your head. a key part is the issue of the filibuster. last night, president biden said he might be open to having a loophole in the filibuster related to voting rights and many other issues. what do you make of that? what does your reporting tell you of how likely it is to happen? >> simon and i can give this answer together in unison. [laughter] there are not 50 votes to do that. joe mansion has gotten to telling us to just stop asking him about the filibuster. he says we are not going to engage on this topic. he's pro-filibuster and it's
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difficult for democrats to internalize, but he is for the 60 vote threshold. so joe biden can say he's not for it but he doesn't have a vote in the senate anymore, so he needs to get joe mansion on board. and i find it very difficult to believe that after this bruising legislative fight with him and cinema voting for a product that they're going to like, but it's going to be a stretch for them to blow up the filibuster. i just don't see it. yamiche: and simon, youould have given the answer was jake. i just want to ask you really quickly, what's at stake here, the legacy of president biden, when you think about what happens when he doesn't get some of these big ills through, voting rights, and the issue of democracy somehow doesn't get involved? >> right, president biden came in very ambitious, promising a lot of things. the voting rights has been a central issue for civil rights activists for so many voters in these key states such as georgia. this is something that voters
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definitely feel in those key states that president biden owes them. but because of this dislike of role that president biden has no control over, he himself has no control over this debate. what president biden can do is use that pulpit to make the public case for getting rid of this rule that he has said is a relic of the jim crow era. and i think jen saki previewed that earlier today when she said you will hear more from the president about what he means by that and what they are thinking on the filibuster. but biden, it's not really his style to bully hardheaded senators into supporting what he wants. yamiche: i hear that from the white house when he says he remembers what it's like to be a senator and not be bullied. meanwhile on thursday, though, nine republicans join house democrats in holding steve bennett in contempt of congress. here's representative minnie thompson, the chairman of the house committee investigating e capital attack. >> what sort of president would it set for the house of
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representatives if we allowed witnesses to ignore us flat out without facing any kind of consequences? yamiche: the vice chair of the committee, liz cheney, spoke wrigley to members of her own party. but the threat of january 6 and the threat it posed to our democracy. >> there are people in this chamber right now who were evacuated with me, and with the rest of us on that day during that attack. people who now seem to have forgotten the danger of the moment, the assault on the constitution, the assault on our congress. yamiche: the department of justice and attorney general merit: will now decide what to do next -- merrick garland will now decide what to do next with this case. what's attorney general merrick garland going to do? and how might that be impacted by the fact president biden walked back some statements were he said yes, people who defied congressional subpoenas, they should be prosecute then he said it was
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inappropriate of him to say that. >> that was an amazing moment. imagine in the last administration if that happened. the idea that the president is saying, yes, i was wrong there. the just old -- justice department handles these matters. that's the way this works. we've had this understanding justice department is supposed to be a step removed. merrick garland has been trying to make that clear because when these important conditions -- decisions come down the line, he has to be able to show the debt just -- departments independents and this wasn't based on politics. this was based on the law. i think the reason the congressional investigation is so important is because when you look at the fbi investigation, there's so many so many answers that's going to bring. we've had 650 arrests from the fbi and a total universe of chargeable defendants, people who enter the capital or assaulted law enforcement, according to those i spoke with,
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around 2500. you consider we're about a quarter of the way there. this is going to have a very long tail. there's a lot of what happened in the lead up to january 6 and generate six itself that is in the category of awful but lawful. yamiche: we're going to coin that term may be. >> i think that's what is going to be an issue here because there's a lot that happened that there's not an obvious criminal charge you can find and that's what the fbi has to remain focused on. yamiche: mike, with all of that awful but possibly lawful stuff that's going on, i wonder what the balance is at the white house and really the calculation that president biden has to make one he thinks about the fact he wants to see this full investigation of january 6 but he doesn't want to be seen as getting in the way of the doj. >> i thought we saw a line drawn. very often times it's executives versus legislative and the president made a significant
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decision as it relates to executive privilege of you weeks ago. directing the national archives to cooperate with the committee's investigation. they asked for an awful lot of documentation from the trump administration. when i spoke to officials about this, they said sure, typically you would want to protect a former president executive privilege because you n't want to set a precedent that might affect you in the future. but in this case, he says is not about the president decision-making. it was about a direct attack on the constitution, and it was an important signal from the president, who was affected deeply, happened on january 6, that he's going to cooperate in this case very clearly with congress. that is a case in which he can speak to the values of this country without interfering in an end independent investigation. yamiche: talk about the politics of all of this. there is been presidt biden having to walk this back. talk about all that's going on.
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>> what house republicans did was pretty effectively make the vote this week on holding banning in contempt of basically proxy loyalty vote for donald trump, when in fact that is not the case. you are trying to hold someone accountable for defining a lawful subpoena. this is a fundamentally a question of congressional oversight and its ability to exercise oversight, to keep the executive branch in check. and i think a handful of republicans didn't acknowledge what that vote was about, but most of them didn't. but that is the microcosm of what has happened to the january 6 investigations. i think in the immediate aftermath, those who were in the capital, who were horrified and personally affected, they saw the dangers that this posed on them personally and what it could cause. but as time has faded, that has reallyaded from their memory and they're really out there defending the former president, aligning behind him, because they know that's their ticket
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back to the majority in 2022. yamiche: jake, jump in. >> this is a really simple tissue. steve van -- simple issue. steve bannon, kevin mccarthy has said this is an illegitimate committee, illegitimate subpoena because the subpoena doesn't have any legislative purpose. that's not for him to decide, right? if bannon wants to make that case in court, he should go do that. kevin mccarthy should not be the person who is making that decision for him. mark meadows was subpoenaed. he is talking to the committee in some fashion. cash patel was subpoenaed. steve bannon has decided to not, and that is contempt. they did the right thing according to almost everybody. yamiche: yeah, and ryan, just quickly, what do you make of all this when you think of the doj's role in the position they're in now? >> imagine if republicans take the house in 2022.
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they're not going to be able to use this against the biden administration, which is what they want. if they got this process and say no, you don't have to comply with the congressional subpoena. how are they going to make that argument? it won't stop them from making that argument. but they will look like hypocrites. yamiche: some smart foreshadowing on your part. finally, this week started with some sad news that general: powell passed away. he w the first black secretary of state, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and national security advisor. he helped shape the foreign policy. he was battling cancer and parkinson's disease, died on monday due to covid-19 complications. he was 84. he delivered a commencement address at howard university. >> never lose faith in america. its faults are yours to fix, not to curse. america is a family. there may be differences and disputes within the family, but we must not allow the family to
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be broken. from the diversity of our people, let us draw strength and not see weakness. yamiche: a trailblazer, general powell applied those principles to his life and his work. still, his legacy was haunted by the u.s. invasion of iraq and his u.n. speech that used faulty intelligence to justify the war. mike, i want to come to you. the president was chair of the foreign relations committee with general powell confirmed as secretary of state. i wonder what you make of general powell's legacy given the times we are living in. >> well, think about powell as someone who is recruited by republicans to be a candidate for president against bill clinton in 1996. and a significant and historic role he played in endorsing barack obama for the presidency. we talk about the state of the republican party, the idea didn't leave the party, the party left me. he is an example of that. i think about his endorsement of president biden, as well. biden is somebody we note
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delivers a eulogy. we don't know the plans for the service, who exactly is going to speak, but i would expect, if the president is one of the speakers, hear him speak on something he campaigned on, lowering the political temperature of country above party, of of self. and that would be a meaningful opportunity for the president to reflect on a true statesman, a giant of our time. yamiche: and jake, where did general powell fit into today's gop? could he have had the success that he had in today's gop? >> no, i mean i don't think so. you saw what donald trump said about general powell. it's not even worth repeating, but he was not praising carol powell. -- general powell. listen, i think that in this republican party, you see a lot of republicans not respect the military and its brass as they did in the past. i think that's just the reality of it. it's an unfortunate reality read -- reality.
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i don't think he has any place in today's gop to be honest with you. yamiche: it's such a smart analysis by you. i also think when i learned about his death, i thought about covid. i thought about the idea of him struggling and battling and still deciding to get vaccinated. i want to come to you in the last 30 seconds we have here just to talk a little bit more about his place and his legacy in his party. >> that's exec the right. -- exactly right. he's such a respected hero of the country. but at the same time, was increasingly out of step because the republican party has turned into a party driven by personality, donald trump. and not by principles they stood by. there were statements from across the political spectrum, both parties praising him when he passed. but in today's party, he doesn't have a place. yamiche: yeah, well never lose faith in america. that is something i take to
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heart and thinking about him and all the stories that we're covering. that's all we have tonight. thank you for your reporting, and thank you for joining us. tune in monday to the pbs newshour, where they will travel to benton harbor, michigan, a predominately black city exposed to lead in that state. we'll continue our conversation on "washington week" extra. this week's topic, the latest on the kidnapping of american missionaries in haiti. i'm yamiche alcindor. good night from washington. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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