tv White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain Discusses Presidents Agenda CSPAN April 1, 2021 8:01pm-8:26pm EDT
billions filling infrastructure, upgrading technology, empowering opportunity in communities big and small. charter is connecting us. >> charter communications support c-span as a public service along with these other television providers giving you a front row seat to democracy. >> white house chief of staff ron klain spoke about president biden's agenda with politico chief washington correspondent ryan lizza. this conversation is 20 minutes. ryan: good morning, everyone. i am the co-author of political playbook and chief washington correspondent at politico. the washington administration is full ahead with the vaccination timeline, the deployment of $2 trillion in pandemic relief at a
multi trillion dollar infrastructure plan detailed by president biden yesterday in pittsburgh. the white house is also dealing with a rising number of migrants at the u.s. mexico border, the aftermath of back to back mass shootings and a looming showdown over the senate filibuster. i am joined by white house chief of staff ron klain to discuss what is ahead for the biden agenda. thank you so much for joining us. for those tuning into the livestream, you can follow the conversation on twitter using #litter co. playbook -- politico playbook. good morning. thank you for doing this. ron: thanks for having me. ryan: the american jobs plan has been detailed. there is 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. we have democrats in the middle who want certain things in this package like state and local tax deduction returns. and then of course you have republicans not very enthusiastic about the tax hikes , the corporate tax hikes in the plan. can you take us through those three groups and give us a little about you massage that opposition? ron: i start with the fact that as the politico morning poll showed yesterday, this plan starts off with enormous support among the american public. support among all groups, all sectors. that kind of support was the driving engine around the passage of the american rescue plan in the president's first 50
days and that support is going to drive this plan to passage through 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. what president biden did yesterday was put on the table a concrete plan to do that and a way to pay for it. as you talk about these groups, there are some in our party who think it is too small. there are some who think it is too big. we think it is just right. we are happy to have a conversation with people less about the price tag, more about what are the elements that should be in the plan that people think are missing or what are the elements that people think not need to be in the plan? we think the plan addresses our most urgent needs. replacing all the lead pipes in america that bring water to people's homes and businesses. taking every -- attaching every single house to broadband.
on the tax side, the people who benefited from the economic infrastructure should help pay for what we need to continue to win. corporations are seeing higher profits than ever. many corporations, large corporations pay no taxes at all. donald trump jammed through a massive cut in the corporate tax rate. what we are talking about are what we think our commonsense reforms to pay for it. as the president said in pittsburgh, if people have other ideas for how to pay for this investment, they should put those on the table. we can have a debate about the different possible paths. i think everyone believes we need to make it. ryan: one of those ideas that folks like josh gottheimer have put forward as they want the state and local tax deduction returned. they even have a slogan now.
no salt, no vote or whatever it is. what is the white house's view on salt? ron: restoring the salt the duction is not a way to pay for the planted i have -- pay for the planted we want to -- we under kant -- we understand the concern it i want to hear how they would pay for the deduction. we know that to pass this bill, we are going to need a broad range of support. we are going to try to put that together in the weeks ahead working with democrats, republicans to try to find the votes. that is the process that got the american rescue plan past. we are going to go through an effort, hopefully this time a more bipartisan effort to pass this much needed investment in america's future. ryan: most republicans in the
senate if you are on the hunt for senate republicans, they voted in 2017 to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21. many of them believed that a strong economy followed those tax cuts and the results of that vote. you are asking them to partially reverse the corporate tax rate and bring it back up to 28%. by my account, nine out of the 10 republicans generally targeted as the moderate group voted for that tax cut in 2017. what is your argument to them to say i know you and voted -- i know you voted for that and we are going to tweak it and here is how you should do it. ron: at the time that cut was made, there was a lot of consensus before donald trump came up with the 21% rate.
some rate lower than 35 was where this would land. i think trump came up with the surprise 21% rate. between 21 and 35, there is a lot of room. we think 28 a reasonable number. the second thing i would say as many of those same republicans have been passionate voices for this investment we need. you can go to any different week in any rotary club in america and find leaders giving speeches about how we need to fix our pipes, connect people to broadband. these things are things this country has been talking about for decades. the question is are we going to stop talking about them and actually do them? if we are going to do them, how are we going to pay for them? we have put a proposal on the table to pay for them. that was incumbent on us to say, how would you pay for it? i want to hear what others have to say about how they would pay
for it. ryan: to turn things around, on the others of the debate, i want to ask you about the white house's view of that. a lively conversation in progressive circles about how much deficits matter. there is a school of thought that -- thought of the modern monetary theory school that frowns upon pay force and arguing the investments the countries need need to be offset by revenue raises. i know some economists in the administration have some sympathies to that school of thought. president biden yesterday talked about this being paid for, even talked about the debt 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 is a trap to make sure you have a pay for for every single one of your spending priorities? ron: it is a fair question. first, one of the objections to infrastructure has been by some in congress, you cannot show us how to pay for it and we want to remove the objections. the core of this is that for decades, this country has failed to make this investment. we want to strip away any excuses. the second thing i would say about corporate tax reforms is they are a way to pay for if that is something members are concerned about. we also think they are good policy. the idea that some big corporations pay no taxes at all is not fair. we need to fix that. idea corporations get a tax break and are tax a set of's to move jobs overseas is wrong. -- tax incentives to move jobs overseas is wrong.
they will make our country more competitive. they will create jobs in this country. they will reduce the outsourcing of jobs to other countries. we think it is a good policy. ryan: in some ways you are sympathetic to that argument because these tax hikes on their own are good policies. not like you're rummaging through the couch cushions to find the money for the items. these are policies that were separated from the spending of the white house. ron: what i'm trying to do is strip away objections to making this needed investment. we think a way to pay for it that is public policy. our central focus is on getting this country ready to win the future with a big, bold investment in the infrastructure . improving our manufacturing capacity. our investment in research and develop it has been cut in half
since the 1960's. we are greeting jobs based on investments made in the past. if we want to win the future, we have to up the r&d investment now. ryan: along the lines of what you're talking about in shooting down opposition, one of the things that struck me about the spending in the core infrastructure of the plan is the american jobs plan, total spending on electric vehicles, 174 billion that is more than all the spending on roads, bridges, airports, waterways, ports. it strikes me that gets at this idea that democrats and republicans look at and about infrastructure in very different ways these days. what do you say to republicans who say you have got to talk about infrastructure but we are not interested in spending 200 billion on electric vehicles. we want a highway bill that is
concrete and steel. ryan: i am not sure how you are slicing those numbers. this plan would make the largest investment in our roads since the eisenhower administration. it would fix 10,000 bridges around the country. certainly not slim at all. those are only one of our infrastructure needs. we also need to invest in removing lead pipes. they will create a lot of jobs for people who do pipefitting work and rebuild our water infrastructure. that is part of infrastructure in this country. as we rebuild our roads, having electric charging stations so cars of the future can get across the country, that is a sensible thing to do. investing obviously in housing and schools. these are parts of our infrastructure.
as i travel the country when i used to before the pandemic, you talk to people over the country who say there are crumbling buildings, crumbling roads, roads and bridges are part of it. all kinds of construction is needed to bring this country to 21st century standards. ryan: everyone is going to be asking you about reconciliation. it seems like the path of least resistance. what is the argument for not using budget reconciliation, which would avoid a filibuster? ron: what we want to do is get this passed. that starts with a conversation with a broad array of members from both parties to see how this looks as we move it through the process. that is our first goal. i am not going to get into legislative tactics today. congress is out of session. we are going to start to bring
members down here physically when congress comes back after the easter break and talk to congress. about how they want to move forward. we want to move forward if it is at all possible in bipartisan basis. -- possible on a bipartisan basis. ryan: similarly with the last bill, bipartisanship is desired but not required from your perspective in passing this? ron: i think these are national needs. as the president has said, people have to decide if they are going to deliver or divide. we intend to deliver. when i talk to republicans, i see they want to deliver. particularly around the infrastructure issues. i think there is strong bipartisan support. controversy about the pay force, controversy about specifics. let's work together to see if there is a way for us to deliver
this. the president was elected to do a job. part of that job is to get the country ready to when the future. we know it has bipartisan support in the country. we're going to try best to get support in washington. ryan: a question 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 trips and discussions he had when he was vice president? ron: what lesson he learned is putting the vice president in charge of working with these countries can be very effective. that is 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, parents do not send their minor children on a multi-thousand mile hazardous journey as a frolic or detour. they do it because conditions where they are living, because of economic collapses, because of crime and violence, conditions are so desperately feel like they have no choice. or best way to attack this migration issue is to help these countries rebuild their economies and make life in guatemala, el salvador, honduras more harmonious for people who live there. that people live their lives where they want to live their lives. that is where vice president -- that is what vice president joe biden worked on. that is no one vice president harris is going to work on. ryan: want to ask you about being chief of staff and how you think about that role.
you have been chief of staff before but not quite at this level. i know from talking to you in the past you have thought about the history of that job and how to design it. one of the most important things you need to think about in that job is how much do you bring decisions to the president and how much are you able to get white house consensus around the big table in the chief of staff's office? some president have wanted to delegate quite a lot to their staff and only wanted the most important issues brought into the oval. others wanted everything in there. can you give us a sense of how you think about that and how the president has asked you to think about that issue? ron: we bring all significant issues to the president even if their decisions the staff is in
consensus on because maybe sometimes our consensus is not where he is. the president as a person elected by the american people and all the significant decisions come to him. to vice president harris as well, she is in the room for all of his decisions. she is one of his article advisors. -- his critical advisors. in terms of how i do my job, i am lucky to have a team of people who i work with. many of whom i have known for a long time. a very diverse team of people who bring a lot of talent, a lot of expertise. i try to approach the job with humility in the sense on a most every question that comes up, there is always someone who knows more about it than i do. to put that advice in front of the president, to get the president and vice president to hear the best advice from this talented team they have assembled and make them -- and let them make the key decisions. ryan: as you are assembling this
bill, can you give us an example of something that was easy you do not have to bring to the president and vice president versus something that is a major decision he needed to decide in crafting this legislation? ron: what i will tell you is we had multiple meetings with the president and vice president every step of the way. their fingerprints are on every aspect of this plan. they looked at not just the overall dollar amount but things that were included, specific sub plans, 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 in the build night better plan the president laid out as a candidate for president. this is one of the recurring themes of this administration. i hear people say i am surprised joe biden did x, y or z when what he is doing is what he told
people he would do if he got elected president. that is the touchstone here. i think that is partly why we have had so much support. people see him doing what he said he was going to do. he said i am going to fix the code response, get the economy moving, build back better and that is what we are doing. that is the touchstone of our approach in the white house. ryan: one question on antitrust. there is a lively debate on antitrust among democrats these days. the administration has picked well-known antitrust activists. there is enormous amount of interest about who the administration will choose for associate attorney general for antitrust and for the ftc commissioner.
will those two spots be filled with people who are on their side of the debate about antitrust or to make it simple, not their side? ron: as with professor con and tim wu, those jobs will be filled with people who are on the joe biden side. he has picked a team in all of these positions that reflect his views that we need to tackle. we need to make sure we have a system that is working for the middle class and for consumers. his pix have reflected that. his remaining picks will reflect it as well. moving him to cfpb, another part of that effort we are looking out for consumers and that is his philosophy. i am not going to get into
announcing our personnel picks. as much as he would like me to,. -- like me to. ryan: one policy questions on the public option. that was one of the central debates in the democratic primaries. medicare fraud versus public option. while the public option be included in the second stage of legislation in the american families plan? ron: i will let us roll out american families plan when we are ready to pull it out. health care will be a part of that with a focus on trying to lower costs for most americans around prescription drugs and efforts also to expand affordable health care. we know health care prices is one of the most important concerns that face american families. it would be no american family plan unless we tackle that issue.
some versions of how to tackle the issue will be part of that plan. ryan: one other quick policy question on the minds of a lot of democrats and that is about student debt. a lot of democrats believe president biden has the authority to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt right now and they are asking him to use it. how does he see that issue and his authority? ron: as he said, he asked his secretary of education who was just put on the job. to have his department prepare a memo on the president legal authority and we will see that in the next few weeks. he will look at the legal authority. he will look at the issues around that and make a decision. he has not made a decision either way. he has not yet gotten the memos he needs to start to focus on that decision. ryan: i think we are out of
time. thank you very much for joining us and covering all of these issues. ron: thanks for having me, ryan. ryan: if you are not subscribed to playbook yet, you can sign up by visiting politico.com/playbook. you can follow upcoming politico live programming on our lives social media. thank you and take care. thanks again. >> president biden held his first in person cabinet meeting thursday at the white house. the meeting took place in the east room instead of the traditional cabinet room to adhere to social distancing measures. measures during the pandemic. pres. biden: it is hard to believe that we are among the quickest of all the cabinet members being put in place. we have a lot to discuss. but while the press is h