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tv   Washington Week  PBS  April 9, 2021 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT

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law. >> americans no longer trust the system. >> in statehouses across america, republicans are passing legislation to tighten election laws. but they face opposition from democrats and corporate america. >> this legislation is unacceptable. >> on capitol hill, legislation to reform voting rights faces an uphill battle in the senate. >> the biggest power grab since i've been in congress. >> where do these efforts go from here and what effect will these battles over access to the ballot box have on the democratic process? >> these new jim crow laws are just antithetical to who we are. >> next. ♪
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>> this is washingtonweek. corporate funding is provided by consumer cellular. kaiser permanente. of -- additional funding is provided by the estate of arnold adams and koo and patricia u.n. through the u.n. foundation, committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. the corporation for public broadcasting and contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ anchor: good evening and welcome to washingtonweek. i'm amy walter. the battle over voting rights is boiling over. republicans in georgia, texas, arizona, and florida are considering tougher voter laws.
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george's new voting law has faced a backlash. atlanta-based companies including delta criticized the law and major-league baseball moved its all-star game out of georgia. mitch mcconnell lashed out at some of these corporate leaders. >> i think this is quite stupid. to jump in the middle of a highly controversial issue. amy: the house passed a bill expanding voter access in march but it faces tough opposition in the senate. a new tape sheds light on dark money. more on this later. we begin with the battle over voting rights. joining us tonight are three top washington reporters. aaron haynes, amon jeffers, and jane mayor. i'm going to start with you. you are a georgia native. you have covered the battle over voting rights extensively.
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is what we are seeing now, these new voter laws that are being passed or proposed by republicans, is this a response to the 2020 election or is ere something more going on? >> good evening. good to see you in the chair. as somebody who's from georgia and has long covered the georgia legislature, i can tell you that georgia was telling the big lie before. it was the big lie. 15 years ago when i was covering the legislature there in georgia , they were pioneering voter id laws. they were mimicked by several other states after georgia was successful in passing those. they were arguing that it was about ballot integrity and the threat of voter fraud that s yet to be proven. including in this last election which was declared by our own government as the most secure in u.s. history. this has long been a solution in
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search of a problem. it has come to define the issue of election integrity, what we know as 21st-century voter suppression and intimidation. in 2020, georgia is leading the way, bolstered by the big lie perpetuated by former president trump and espoused by other republicans. it is not new. it is certainly something that i think we are continuing to see now that georgia has passed its law in states from texas to arizona and beyond. amy: when you hear the pushback from republicans including the governor of georgia, look, it's easier to vote in georgia than new york. we have better absentee vote and early vote laws, more access to voters through those laws than some of these blue states.
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>> well, that goes to show that this is not just about states that had a history of discrimination. that history that was addressed with section five of the voting rights act, dismantled in 2013. you are seeing voter suppression efforts happening in states outside of the south, in states that were not necessarily taking these tactics during jim crow. it's not that voter suppression is not on the march just in georgia or pennsylvania where i now live, which attempted a voter id, attempting to curtail voting. you have other states outside of that part of the country that have also moved to curb voting rights. amy: i want to move to you and the corporate response to this. we've been seeing now for some
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time that corporations are getting engaged on social issues. what's also been fascinating is watching the pushback from many republicans who criticized what the corporations are saying. what is going on here? >> i mean it's fascinating. we have not seen companies get this involved in politics and american society like we have seen in 2020 with a black lives matter protests and 2021 with this voting issue. you get the sense that companies are not ideological. they care about making money. that's about it. they look at the demographics of the trunk coalition and they say, that's a coalition that is older, whiter, and more rural than the rest of the country that we want to serve. in a polarized nation, if we have to make a choice of which demographic to stand with, we will go for a younger and more diverse demographic because that's the future of our
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business in terms of customers, the future of the business in terms of the employee base. a lot of these companies are coming down hard against this voting measuring georgia because they want to signal demographically to their future employees and customers where they are. they think that's where the country is going. this is all about making money. these companies have not become liberal. you can see that in the opposition we saw this week from a lot of companies to joe biden's tax plan. wait a second, we don't want to pay for the infrastructure. we want you to spend money but let's not put the bill on american corporations. amy: that's really interesting, the point about employees. the sense that i get is that this pressure on corporations isn't just coming from the outside. they are hearing a lot from their own employees including many who moved to these once red states from blue areas. >> yeah.
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we saw this in silicon valley a couple of years ago. we are seeing it now throughout the rest of the economy. delta, coca-cola, major-league baseball looking at their employees and saying, we need to attract younger res. how are we going to do this? we need to be seen by that group as on the right side of history, ultimately. a generation ago, companies might have said, we are not going to take stands on big social issues because it's divisive and it's a 50-50 country. now with things so intensely polarized, companies are looking at that and saying, we will have to take a stand. we might as well take a stand that puts us on the side of the future. that's why you are seeing companies do this. again, it's a business decision. they want to make money. it's not about the values at stake. it's about positioning themselves for the future. amy: i want to talk to you about this new rift here. the rift between the business
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community and republicans. mitch mcconnell earlier this week saying, my warning to corporate america, stay out of politics. he walked that back a couple of days later. other republicans including the governor of georgia say, we have to fight against this woke corporate culture. they take this as a badge of honor, to see corporations coming out against legislation that they are promoting. you have covered this nexus between politics and money for a long time now. is business breaking up with republicans? >> you began to see a little bit of a break really towards the election. you could see -- after january 6 , the riot on the hill. you could see that there were some corporate leaders who were saying they were no longer going to give to any members of
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congress who did not certify biden's election or challenging that certification. basically, i think anybody who is following politics for a while, partilarly mitch mcconnell, you can't help but be struck by the irony of this. it is pretty thick. there's pretty much nobody who has done more to cement the role and power of corporate america in american politics than mitch mcconnell. he's made his reputation saying that it's a principal with him that corporations have the right to speak and that they have first amendment rights. it turns out that it seems that what he's really saying is, their wallets have the right to speak so long as they are giving donations particularly to the republican party. he really does not want to hear from specifically the chief executives if they will stand up
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and complain about republican policies. there's been a tacit agreement between corporate america and the republican party in which the republican party delivered tax cuts and deregulation. corporate america delivered campai donations. that is obviously under a lot of strain right now. amy: thank you. i want to turn out to the legislation. we started talking about it earlier. it's called hr one. it passed the house. it will require states to automatically register voters, have a minimum number of voting days, andt proposes solutions to fight gerrymandering. republicans are opposed to the legislation. democrats hope to pass it by getting rid of the filibuster. democratic senator joe mansion of west virginia all but killed that idea this week. >> would you be willing to pass the for the people's act by killing the filibuster? >> i'm not killing the
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filibuster. >> never? >> if you read my op-ed, it was very clear. i think we can find a pathway forward. i really do. you can't work in the fringes. we want fair, open, secure elections. what georgia has done was just atrocious. amy: what now? is he right that he can find republicans? it doesn't seem like there are 10 that i can count for it. is this dead? >> yeah. ultimately, the filibuster reform effort is dead for now. as dead as anything gets in american politics where life can be very long. he said, under no circumstances will he vote to remove or weaken the filibuster. they need his vote to do that so that seems sherman ask. politicians have been known to change their mind in the past.
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assume that that is dead. that means that you are vote -- your voting effort in the house doesn't look great in terms of getting to the president's desk for signature. democrats did get this new lifeline in terms of this ruling that they can now use the reconciliation process, which allows you to get that lower vote thrhold. it's to do with the budget process. it get to a 50 vote threshold instead of a sickly vote threshold. democrats can get ovethat if they hang together. if they can use that process more than once a year -- the old assumption is that you get one crack at that year. the new ruling is that you might be able to do this more than once a year. that changes the ballgame. now democrats can look at that and say, we can't go the filibuster route but what can we stuff in a budget bill that has all of our priorities and i and use the reconciliation process to get that 50 vote threshold? that will be a fascinating question. how many bites at the apple do
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they get now? we used to think they only got one. now maybe it's a new world. amy: to that point, usually budget reconciliation -- you need to put things in their that are related to the budget. the voting rights seem unlikely to pass the part -- parliamentarians on that one. it's an interesting choice for president biden now. where does he use this political capital? does he keep pushing on this even though it's pretty clear that he might not have the votes? does he try to use his political capital? he is going around the country, talking more about his infrastructure plan. what does this tell you about the priority from this white house on these issues? >> it seems right now that the prioty is probably the infrastructure bill. i think there's the slightest wiggle room still.
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i would not pronounce senate bill one dead yet. there is one possibility still there. it's possible. biden has talked about how he wants as little change in the senate rules as is necessary to pass the legislation. among the things he has talked about maybe supporting is changing the filibuster so that it goes back to the original way that it was done, with the talking filibusters. that means the old movies, they have to stand up night after night, day after day, hour after hour, keep arguing for something. it's possible that mansion might support something like that. that's not killing the filibuster. it's just restoring it to its original meaning. that could be one way that this goes. as i said, i would not pronounce it necessarily dead yet.
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the white house priority is this infrastructure bill right now. amy: if it doesn't pass and instead the state laws that you talked about at the beginning of the show, they go into effect. what does this mean as we are looking forward to the 2022 elections? some of these battleground states like georgia, arizona, texas, florida. >> yeah. you will continue see democratic organizers especially black and brown organizers [inaudible] -- voter suppression versus voter turnout. that was what we saw in 2020. you saw organizers knowing even before the pandemic that they were up against voter suppression. the pandemic just exacerbated that. they were still able to turn out record numbers of black and brown folks who were responding
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to voter suppression. as we know, a potential opposite effect of these voter suppression laws is that it galvanizes the very people that it is intended to exclude. i think that may be what we get -- end up seeing. a democratic base that is fired up because they know that these laws are intended to take their voting rights away from them. amy: i want to get to another part of this legislation. that's one that would require dark money groups to publicly say who their donors are. a bombshell reporting of a phone call between conservative groups and a policy advisor to mitch mcconnell in last week's new yorker. youan hear them strategizing about how to oppose this legislation. let's take a listen. >> don't get into a fight in hr one where you engage with the other side, where they have the talking points.
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hr one stops billionaires from buying elections. unfortunately, we found that that's a winning message. for both the general public and also conservatives. amy: that was the voice of kyle mckinzie, the research director for the group stand together. who put this -- put this into context for us. how is this conversation part of the larger -- larger strategy for republicans following the loss of the white house? >> what you are listening to his behind-the-scenes. very powerful dark money groups, big money groups, plotting with the republican leadership in the senate about how to kill hr one. they see this bill, that shows the disclosure of big secret donors, they see it as a huge threat.
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they are trying to figure out how to kill it. what is so interesting is what they are saying is, the american public wants this reform. the american public does not want billionaires buying elections. that's not just democrats. publicans have tried to make it sound like this is just a democratic bill. what they found out and what they admit to behind closed doors is that this reform is really popular across the political spectrum, even with very conservative voters. there's a sense that elections have become corrupted by big money. the american public overwhelmingly, in a bipartisan way, favors reform. what these groups are saying in this meeting is that the only way they can kill this thing, they want to kill these reforms, is in the back rooms of congress. they call it under the dome. they are saying, we will have to filibuster this thing.
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that brings you right back to senator joe mansion. amy: let's talk about that for a minute. in 2020, democrats actually raised more of this dark money than republicans. biden did better than trumpeted on it. can't this legislation and upcoming back, hurting democrats? >> it could. it is amazing that the democrats have not only caught up with republicans on dark money but they've now outstripped them in raising this. the thing is that that is an anomaly. it's the first time that the democrats have raised more than the republicans in a presidential election. meanwhile, it is proliferating. dark money, undisclosed money from anonymous donors is exploding ever since the supreme court 2010 citizens united decision. there's a billion dollars of it in the 2020 election.
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the part that is growing fastest in terms of campaign money is this anonymous money. it's a problem. it's a bipartisan problem. neither side,either party has a lock on the virtue here. the republicans generally have had the advantage with it. amy: i want to go back to you, linking this all together here about the role that corporations can play or outside groups can play in swaying this legislation. major league baseball said, we are not coming to atlanta anymore. they moved to denver to play the game. it's not just republicans that are criticizing major league baseball. a lot of democrats are, too. stacy abrams said she was disappointed with this poor cot -- boycott. what does this tell us about the politics o this? just the kind of leverage that companies can really play in changing these laws. both sides are saying, don't
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boycott. we also want you to make a strong stand. what can they do to move the needle? >> you also s these organizers putting pressure on these companies to do what you are seeing them do in texas right now, which is to be publicly proactive before these bills pass. delta and coca-cola being particularly vocal on the other side of this after the governor had passed the bill. why weren't you more public before there were questions about that? you have people like it -- the mayor of atlanta saying, she thinks it's unfortunate. companies or events that may choose to boycott a city. that would cost -- there would be an economic cost to that. stacy abrams is concerned about
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the potential economic cost of boycotts. i can recall when georgia was weighing legislation around abortion. she was asking hollywood not to boycott the state -- not abortion. it was after the 2018 election, asking hollywood not to boycott the state over the way that that gubernatorial election played out. atlanta is nicknamed the city that is easy thate. there was a white business community and the jim crow era that decided that atlanta was going to go a certain direction. racial harmony and equity was going to be the thing that they prioritized at that time. you have a long tradition and legacy of the business community, the white business community, really saying that this is not who we are. companies like delta and coca-cola have diverse workforces.
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delta is 46% people of color. to your point earlier about pressure coming internally from some of these businesses, especially when you think about their employees of color who are asking, what's my workplace standing for? what is it about? would they want to not say something about loss that could potentially be harmful to employees? i think that's a very powerful message. very powerful pressure. amy: 30 seconds or so left. we've heard some of the state legislatures threaten to retaliate against some companies, saying they will get rid of tax breaks. one leader said, don't bite the hand that feeds you. do you think that they can follow through on that? did you hear my question? >> yeah.
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look, the companies are clearly deciding that this is -- this is worth doing. you talk about uopularity of billionaires. these big iconic american brands are pretty popular with the american public and well trusted. the companies have realized that they have the power to step -- that the boundaries in american politics. amy: we have to leave it there. sorry about that at the very end. i want to thank them for their insights. inc. you for joining us. to cover the latest on controversy on the washingtonweek extra, catch it live at 8:30 on our website, facebook, or youtube. i'm amy walter. good night from washington. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> corporate funding for
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washingtonweek is provided by -- >> consumer cellular has been offering no contract wireless plans designed to help people do more of what they like. our customer service team can help find a plan that fits you. to learn more, visit consumer cellular online. ♪ >> kaiser permanente. additional funding is provided by the estate of arnold adams and koo and patricia u.n. through the winter -- and, committed to bridging differences in our committees. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station. from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ >>
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man: ready when yoare. rehm: hi, it's diane. happy to be with you. on my mind this week, medical aid in dying. as my radio and podcast listeners know, i've long lamented the fact that so many americans seem to resist planning for the end of life. i think this began to change in 2020, when the covid-19 pandemic made us realize too many of us could die in a way we would never have chosen as my late husband did in 2014 of parkinson's disease.

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