Week In Politics: January 6 Commission, Infrastructure Bill, Biden’s New Budget Proposal
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Capitol Hill is often compared to a glacier because it takes a very long time to see movement. A commission to investigate the Jan.6 insurgency – most Senate Republicans won’t even talk about it. The infrastructure bill – maybe next month. We are now joined by NPR Editor and Correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thank you very much for being with us.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Nice to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: Ron, 70% of – of Senate Republicans voted to block even debate on a bill that would establish a bipartisan commission – meaning both sides – to investigate the attack on the chamber. in which they worked, which Capitol Hill security defended at risk to their own lives. Why not even a debate?
ELVING: Indeed, why? The way modern obstructionism works is not like the way in the movies. They don’t play it, chop it on the ground for days and weeks. In fact, it prevents any formal consideration of the bill. And we saw it here. Six Republicans voted in favor of an independent commission. Nine other Republicans did not vote. And the other 35 just said no. So even when you added the Democrats there were 54 votes to continue. And given the rules of the Senate, that two-party majority lost. And that left moderate Republicans feeling pretty isolated, indeed. Here is Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski speaking to reporters on Thursday.
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LISA MURKOWSKI: Making a decision for short-term political gain at the expense of understanding and acknowledging what was in front of us on January 6 – I think we need to take a critical look at this. Is that really what it is, is it all just one election cycle after another?
ELVING: So, yeah. Let’s be frank. If you’re Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, it’s one election cycle after another. He said it very clearly by putting pressure on party members in the Senate. Shedding light on what happened on January 6 may well throw a bad light on the former president. And at the very least, it would encourage the Conservatives to argue. And for McConnell, the first job is to keep his party more or less united for the midterm elections of 2022 and 2024.
SIMON: Ron, I have a feeling Congress can’t agree on chocolate chip cookies right now. Is there something they could agree on?
ELVING: Well, yeah. There is the China bill, which aims to compete more vigorously with that country. We’re talking about semiconductor production, energy and computer research, defense, and other critical areas of competition. There were real negotiations and real bipartisan cooperation on this, and final approval of this bill seemed within reach on Friday morning, and it should be done in June.
SIMON: And, Ron, I seem to remind myself this week that my first words from the cradle were, what about an infrastructure bill? Are we close to an infrastructure bill?
ELVING: I think we can all understand. It is traditionally a place where the parties have cooperated. Everyone wants roads and bridges for the people at home. So you’ll probably still see a trillion dollar bundle with a lot of these roads and bridges and a few other things. But Biden will have to return later to get his electric vehicle charging stations and other ways to make the future possible.
SIMON: And President Biden yesterday proposed a budget of $ 6 trillion for the next fiscal year – of course, starts in October. That’s almost a small infrastructure bill of $ 2 trillion. How is this received? Does he have a chance?
ELVING: Presidential budgets are largely wish lists and negotiating positions, really. Congress has its own budget process and its own committees that actually write the bills that release the dollars from the treasury. But the Biden budget is an important statement. He says that this president wants the government to do more, that he must do more and tax some people more to do it. The spending figures are records. The deficit figures would be too. We have made these kinds of records since Ronald Reagan in 1980. The difference is that this budget tries to restore part of the safety net that the Reagan budget shrunk and part of the tax escalation that Reagan eliminated in the years. 1980s. So you can see why it’s going to be a big budget fight this year.
SIMON: Ron Elving, thank you very much.
ELVING: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.