tv Washington Week PBS March 26, 2021 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT
peter: a president facing a grilling. >> help is here, and hope is on the way. >> president biden holds his first press conference days after the second mass shooting in as many weeks as he faces a deluge of challenges from migrant children on the border. >> i'm not going to do it. peter: to protecting voting access. >> i will not back down. it's about protecting the very foundation of who we are. >>why are you arresting her? >> what i'm worried about is how un-american this is. it's sick. it's sick. >> to foreign policy tests. >> this is a batt between the utility of democracies and
autocracies. peter: that could swamp his young administration. >> i can guarantee we're going to make everything better. >> next. announcer: this is "washington week." corporate funding is provided by -- >> consumer cellular. kaiser permanente. additional funding is provided by the estate of arnold adams and koo and patricia yuen, with the yuen foundation committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. peter: welcome to "washington week." i'm peter baker. presidt biden fielded
questions thursday on everything from immigration to how far he ll go to break the filibuster. here is some of what we heard in the east room of the white house. >> i've been hired to solve problems, to solve problems, not create division. we should go back to a position of the filibuster that existed when i came to the united states senate 120 years ago. it used to be that you would talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapsed pithe biden announced a new goal to distribute 200 million doses of the vaccine double his original target. absent from the discussion is a mass shooting at supermarket in colorado. joining me to open their notebooks are four of washington's very best. errin haines, editor at large for the 19th. zolan kanno-youngs, my colleague
at the "new york times," sahil kapur for n. p.r. and ashley parker from "the washington post." what's the difference between a trump press conference and a biden press conference? ashley: there are so many differences, peter. i'll focus on one or two. one is that trump's press conferences are theater and spectacle and they could often be combative with the president using the reporters as foils an even the reporters kind of posturing in that role of quesoner. and that's not to say that president biden is incapable of getting frustrated with the media. we saw some flashes of that as well. but it was sort of a calr, more deliberate news conference. and one other thing, which also changed the dynamic is coronavirus. because this is an administration, the biden administration that takes
precautions and mitigation efforts very seriously. you saw social distancing in that room. you saw less reporter which is gave reporters in the room a chance to ask a question and a follow-up and sometimes a follow-up on the follow-up and a third question. so you could have more substantive and lengthy exchanges in certain ways with president biden we saw. peter: zolan, what do you think we learned about biden's approach to governing? he tlked about the art of the possible. zolan: he talked about the art of the possible. he even described himself. he said look, i'm pragmatic. i'm paraphrasing there. that was the take away from this. at one point when he was asked, i believe only questions about the recent mass shootings that have occurred, there was a remark that -- that -- that -- that -- that i really thought was key, a key takeaway of the press conference. and that's where he -- he -- he
focused on timing. he really specified that when it comes to a successful presidency it is about timing and prioritizing certain issues. and really that's -- that's the way biden campaigned, and that's what you're seeing him deal with when it comes to each of these issues and crisises that are occurring thus far early in his administration. you -- you really did see that even though he's going to face criticism some areas, he's still going to have a similar approach that we've seen for -- for -- for the decades that he's -- that he's been governing. peter: yesterday, that press conference biden was repeatedly questioned about voting rights. >> the republican voters i know find this despicable. republican voters. folks out in the -- outside this white house. i'm not talking about the elected offials, i'm talking
about voters, voters. and so i'm convinced that we'll be able to stop this because it is the most pernicious thing-- this makes jim crow look like jim eagle. peter: just hours later, georgia governor, brian mp signed a sweeping bill into law making it illegal to give food and water to voters waiting in line. georgia democratic state representative park cannon who opposed the law was arrested after she knocked on governor kemp's door to ask permission to watch him sign the bill. it read "this is jim crow" in the 21st century. it must end. and republicans say this is about election security. president biden says it's about jim crow. you're from atlanta. you cover the georgia leg chure. put this into con teblingse text
-- context for us. what's happening down there? >> peter, i know for a lot of americans, this has to do with the big lie. and this latest iteration of restricting voter access in the georgia legislature is in response to the 2020 election where you saw a record turnout of black voters. but in fact, i cover the georgia legislature 15 years ago when the state was pioneering voter i.d. laws that were mirrored by other states after georgia was able to successfully pass that legislation. you're seeing it happen again here. it will be interesting to see what other states pick up where georgia has left off here with the signing into law, you know, things that will now make illegal passing out food and water, which in itself a sense of voter suppression. you saw president biden -- there were moments where he was particularly passionate with really expressing his outrage at
what he was seeing happening in states like georgia calling it un-american, calling it sick. the legislation that was being proposed and later signed into law, you know, the same day that he made those remarks. i think as much as he was speaking to reporters in that moment, he was speaking to the black voters who helped him and president harris get into office, and you know, signal to them that he understands that -- that in many ways addressing the issue of voting rights was something they voted for in elects the two of them. hr-1 and sb-1 has added a sense of urgency. and georgia is now headed to the courts. peter: right. that's the legislation that democrats are proposing that would set national rules for elections across the country. republicans are very opposed to that. sahil, reports showing that they
do oppose i.d. requirements but this latest round of laws goes well beyond that. what's the republican argument here? what is the argument for election security by barring people from handing out water in lines? how does that improve election security? >> peter, this is going to be a whale of a fight. democrats are gearing up for a very, very fierce battle for s-1 that has passed the house. democrats have some work to do to ca bill together the 50 votes they need to get a majority let alone 60. they argue this is a inflection point whether it will be a democracy. they say it could go on the road to blue tocksi. to your -- plutocracy. republicans believe valid voter i.d. requirements are necessary to protect the votes.
the republican-led officials certified that there was no widespread fraud. it's not hard to look at this and see it kind of as a solution in search of a problem. deb democrats say this is simply about shutting them out trying to prevent their voters and the republicans argument is that there is some unrelated measures to voting rights that figures like senator mcconnell their republican leader to attack it. peter: senator joe manchin who seems to be in the middle of everything these days says he has some qualms about the legislative election. he would like to see some bipartisan compromise. do we they's possible or is itiness ex-trickably so much about power that there are no way these two can come together on a single bill that resets election bill so that everybody agrees we have a fair vantage point for everybody to compete? zolan: it certainly seems
unlikely that there could be bipartisan in this area thus far, i would say from what we've seen. many republicans on the hill have made clear that -- that they believe that this is an issue that the state should decide, at least that's what they're saying at this time. and when you have joe manchin, he has made clear that he is a hard no when it comes to eliminating the filibuster. so right now, it kind of puts the white house in a corner in a way where -- where when it comes to, you know, legislation such as voting rights or, you know, we were talking about the mass shootings, any gun measures, potentially gun legislation, can you get that legislation passed in congress right now with joe manchin's position? or is that going to put the white house in a position where they're really limited to executive action that would likely face lawsuits? it seems like that's likely. peter: the voting restrictions were not the only jim crow
comparison. the democrats and joe biden are talking about a filibuster as a relic from a by-gone era. why is that an issue of race? they have used it when they're been in theinority. republicans have used it when they've been in the minority. how does that get us back to this issue of race? >> well, because the filibuster -- i'm sorry. while that may not have been the original intent, we know it has been used over the years to inhibit, you know, racial progress in particular. and so you know, while that wasn't the initial tent that was the impact and intent in the late part of the last century. but you know what, what was interesting senator rafael warnock who came in that senate run-off in georgia that gave the demoats the majority -- a governing majority inongress, you know, was asked today, you know, where hetood about
filibuster reform? attempted to refrain that conversation saying really, this shouldn't be a question about whether democrats are onboard with the filibuster reform but whether republicans are onboard with voting rights an expanding the electorate and they should be asked where they stand on voting rights and democracy as opposed to where democrats stand on the filibuster. that was an interesting way to frame this knowing that many americans are in favor of more people voting not less. peter: so the president talked about the talking filibuster, sort of the mr. smith goes to washington of washington, but would that change things? would it help biden get through if the threshold is 60 in order to cut off debate? sahil: it's an excellent question, peter. there are ways you can structure a talking filibuster that can
empower the majority. for instance, if you change the standard instead of 3/5 of those voting in present, if you force 41 senators to be near the chamber ready for a vote at any point, that creates a situation where a very determined majority outlast the majority by keeping enough members in the chamber. maybe if some of them decide to go home at 3:0 a.m. can push things through. the details matter. there are some senator who is wonder if a talking phil buster is realistic. they are in their 70's and 80's. are they going to want to stick it out through night and weekends over things like this? there are many questions that are being considered here and a talking fill buster is the one idea that seems to have support from senator manchin who kind of holds the keys to what democrats do next. he is not in favor of abolishing it. he has said it should be more
painful to obstruct bills. if anything happens here, democrats are going to use that as a gateway to a solution. peter: i want to play now some sound from "pbs newshour" yamiche alcindor about the administration's response to the uptick of migrants arriving in the u.s.-mexico border. >> is there a time line for when we won't see these overcrowding facilitys? >> an overwhelming majority of the people are being sent back. we're providing for the space again to be able to get these kids out of 2 border patrol facilities which no child, no one should be in, in longer than 72 hours. we're building back up the capacity that should have been maintained and built upon that trump dismantled. it's going to take time. peter: you covered immigration for years including a lot of time down at the border.
help us fact check the president. this is just the normal seasonal increase we see all the time, in fact, it was larger as a percentage under president trump. but his own secretary homeland security said we mig see the largest surge in 20 years. and his own vice president said this is a "big problem." help us sort through this. what's going on here? zolan: we're seeing the increase through march. let's talk about the president was referring to there. as we discussed earlier, he has been getting criticized. and one of the things he's been getting criticized for his administration's handling and entreatment of uncompanied minors that he's welcome into the u.s. he's been criticized by republicans as not being tough enough at the border. so his response has been to say well, let's remember, i'm still -- thed a minutes thration is
still expelling using a pandemic emergency rule. that was implemented by president trump in march. he's using that pandemic emergency rule to expel single adults in the administration's intention is to rapidly turn away to expel families as well. mainly families from central america. but here's the thing. while that might be their intention, they need the corporation of mexico to do that. and what has happened since about january after mexico passed a recent law that prohibits the detention of young immigrant children in their facilitieses -- facilities mexico and i should add a lack of shelter capacity, mexican authorities have stopped basically accepting some of those familys that the united states is trying to rapidly turn away. so that means there are more famies being released into the united states than there were months ago. he is -- the president -- that
was a false statement when he says that a vast majority -- majority of families are being returned at this time. and i do think it's important to also tell the viewers here. i mean, this brings up a question for the president as well. i mean, he campaigned on restoring asylum at the border and while he has broken away from the trump administration in welcoming in children, he is still using that pandemic rule that was criticized by now vice president harris. he is still using that rule or an intending to use it for adults and families fleeing poverty and persecution in central america. what will be interesting going forward is how long he relie on that rule and what potential backlash he gets from continuing to use that rule as well as what the plan is when he can no longer use it. peter: ashley, all new presidents like to blame their troubles on their predecessor. it was a few weeks ago we heard
president biden saying he was tired of talking about president trump. but yesterday he didn't seem to talk about him. he mentioned trump by name 10 times. he said my predecessor, oh, god, i miss him. do you think he actually does miss president trump as a unifying course for his mission for any troubles that he might have? ashley: well, it is democrats and republicans as you said. they always blame their predecessor. that's sort of a political rule, time enmemoriam. and biden does legitimately seem eager to move past the former guy. this was their campaign strategy that helped get them elected which is to largely ignore then president trump and not really engage him. and that's something biden has done largely until that press
conference where not only he mentioned him 10 times on immigration, on afghanistan, on human rights, on taxes. so it was a range of issues to be fair to president biden he mentioned him unprompted sometimes about half of his exchanges, the media did bring up former president trump asking biden to respond to something he had said. but you do get the sense. it's quite understandable that for biden and trumps the personal. this is someone who went after his son, hunter repeatedly during the campaign. biden always likes to boast that he is the rare irish man who does not hold grudges but it seems that former president trump may be the exception. peter: a gunman opened fire in boulder, colorado killing 10 people. it's the second week in a three a mass shooting has rattled america.
president biden urged come congress to pass tougher laws. >> i don't need to wait another minute let alone an hour to take common sense steps that will save the lives of the future and to urge my colleagues in the house an senate to act. we can ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines in this country once again. peter: congress has shown no sign of being willing to act. republicans are dead set against the restrictions passed earlier this month. it feels like we've seen this movie before. we had a terrible massacre. republicans oppose it. and then nothing happens. president biden was in charge of the obama administration's of the gun laws back in 2012. if congress isn't willing to do something, what reason is there to think that anything might happen now, or is this just a
quest on the part of the democrats? sahil: they have the white house. they have the senate and they have the house. that was not the case in 2013 when republicans controled the house and thenderstanding was anythinghat could get to the senate was dead on arrival there. this is the first time since the early 1990's when, y know, president biden was involved in this effort that democrats have the trifecta and pursued gun control. that's the key difference. theoretically there is a pass to get something to president biden's desk. the house has passed a couple of bills to close some loopholes in the system. but this has proven to be a very heavy lift in the senate to just get 50 votes let alone 60 votes. those two background check bills don't have the sup port of senator manchin in the senat. we're noticing a trend here. but there is a bill that he wrote with the republican senator pat tomby that's a
watered-down veron of that that expands to gun sales online where they can go forward without a background check. but it has person to person begun sales to family. and even that bill doesn't have the 60 votes need. but it has between 50 and 60 votes. if there is anything to be done on gun control it's going to senator -- center on that. once you start going down this road, there's a perful community in the gun rights world that will portray any gun control as the first step in repealing the second amendment and takingour guns away. and that's a powerful motivating force that gets a lot of single issue gun vote ertz to flood congress with calls. that scares them and that could be where this is headed if democrats don't find a way to pull a rabbit out of the hat. peter: when the president was asked about gun control at that
press conference, pivoted to talk about infrastructure. was that a concession that he doesn't think that gun control will be his priority given the legislative obstacles that sahil just talked about? errin: i don't know. i don't want to speak as to what could be in president biden's mind. but it does reflect on something that happened in that inaugural press conference which was as much a test for him as reporters. he would like to be focused on the pillars that he and president harris said they inherited when they came io office namely the economy, the pandemic, climate change and racial equity. yet, that was not, you know, the agenda that was on the table in yesterday's press conference. you heard everything from voting rights to immigration as we discussed to filibuster reform to asking, you know, about those things instead. and so while there are things
that he would like to stick to -- you know, the events of the day certainly overtake that agenda, or at least in thi case. but that goes to show that there needs to be more of these briefings. hopefully there be more early and often. peter: thank you very much. we'll have to leave it tonight. many thanks thanks to errin, ashley, sahil, and zolan for their contribution. thank you for joining us. we'll continue our conversation on "washington week" extra. catch it live on our website or facebook. i'm peter baker. good night from washington. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy.visit ncicap.org] ♪
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