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Biden defends tax increases on corporations and wealthy to fund education plans

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President Biden is continuing his push for his jobs and families proposals as more signs emerge it's likely a road Democrats will have to walk alone. Washington Post national political reporter Eugene Scott and Boston Globe Washington bureau chief Liz Goodwin join CBSN's "Red & Blue" host Elaine Quijano to discuss where the plans head next if Senate Republicans aren't getting on board.

Video Transcript

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ELAINE QUIJANO: Hi, everyone. I'm Elaine Quijano. It's good to be with you. Thanks for joining us. President Biden is pushing for his jobs and families proposals as more signs emerge it's likely a road Democrats will have to walk by themselves.

The president and the first lady started the week by visiting an elementary school in Virginia. The White House is doing a promotion tour to highlight education features of the American Families Plan. It would fund free prekindergarten as well as free community college. The administration is defending its plan to pay for it.

President Biden wants to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy to fund services for everyone. Here's how he explained the proposal earlier at Tidewater community college in Portsmouth, Virginia.

JOE BIDEN: And here's what the American Families Plan doesn't do-- it doesn't add a single penny to our deficit. It's paid for by making sure corporate America and the wealthiest 1% just pay their fair share.

I don't want to punish anybody, but everybody should chip in. Everybody should pay something along the road here. The choice is about who the economy serves. And so I plan on giving tax breaks to the working class folks and making everybody pay their fair share.

And the good news is I think there's overwhelming bipartisan support for this. If you look at the polling data, Republican voters overwhelmingly support it. Now I just got to get some of my Republican colleagues to support it.

ELAINE QUIJANO: But that Republican support the president mentioned does not seem to be materializing. On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said tax increases on the highest-earning companies and Americans are a bridge too far.

MITCH MCCONNELL: So I think I can pretty safely say none of my Republican colleagues are going to support a $4.1 trillion infrastructure package, only part of which is for infrastructure. So what we have offered is to support a more narrow proposal.

On our side is we're not going to revisit the 2017 tax bill. We're happy to look for traditional infrastructure pay-fors, which means the users participate.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Eugene Scott and Liz Goodwin join me now. Eugene is a National Political Reporter for the "Washington Post" and Liz is the Boston Globe's Washington Bureau Chief. Welcome to you both. Happy Monday.

Liz, let me start with you. Is there any surprise at all in hearing this from Mitch McConnell? And where does that leave the White House's attempts at bipartisanship?

LIZ GOODWIN: No, I don't think there's a surprise here, because Senator McConnell has been pretty clear for the past few weeks that they are skeptical of any bill that includes spending for non just very traditional infrastructure, as he was saying in that clip-- roads, bridges. He even had a sound bite a couple of weeks ago where he said, build back better, riffing off the name of the plan he said, build back never if it didn't have the things they were looking for-- Republicans were looking for.

So I think it is worrisome for President Biden that they are pretty united around that position. And Biden has said it's a no-go for him if Republicans only want to spend a quarter or a fifth of what he's proposed, which is this larger $2.25 trillion plan. And it does seem like what Republicans are coalescing around, the more moderate group that's trying to work out a compromise is about a quarter of what Biden wants to spend. So right now, it doesn't really seem like there would be a deal. And the question is whether Biden would be willing to go way lower and Republicans would be willing to go a little bit higher.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, Eugene, we heard President Biden make the case that voters agree with him on how to fund his plans. And our CBS News polling last month shows Americans would rather raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy, then have fees for people who use roads and bridges more often. So can the White House get all 50 Democratic senators on board with this?

EUGENE SCOTT: It's going to be difficult, because while those results show how many more Americans would prefer that taxes be raised and they have to pay more tolls or other fines or fees, should I say, to get these roads built, when you break down that data for Republicans and Democrats, we know that Republican voters are not as supportive of increasing the taxes, even if they themselves would not have to pay more taxes.

And so what Biden is going to have to do is communicate to more Americans that this is a plan that would ultimately benefit them and their pockets and put pressure on them to encourage their lawmakers to support it. And that's actually an approach we've seen Biden take previously, appealing directly to voters and believing that he has the support of voters, even when he doesn't have the support of lawmakers.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Yeah, hence this push that we've been seeing from not just the president, of course, but other administration officials. Meantime, Liz, President Biden says that he will raise the cap on refugee admissions after originally keeping the Trump administration's historically low number. We also learned that Customs and Border Protection is reducing overcrowding in its facilities for unaccompanied children, and a small number of family reunifications are beginning. So, Liz, where does the White House stand on the overall issue of immigration at this point?

LIZ GOODWIN: Yeah, I think the Biden administration has a little bit more good news on immigration this week. As you mentioned, the numbers of children in the Border Patrol facilities, which is where the conditions are really not good and kids are not supposed to be there more than 72 hours, they're finally getting that under control. Those numbers are way down.

I think they said 90% fewer kids are in CBP custody right now. So that's obviously a big improvement for them. At the same time, there is still more than 20,000 kids in HHS custody, which is those shelters where they go before they can be reunited with a relative in the United States.

So they're still dealing with a big logistical issue there. And Biden has tasked Vice President Kamala Harris with stopping or slowing the flow of migration from Central America in the first place. And that is a very mammoth diplomatic task that she's encountered some troubles with, just given that some of the leaders don't really have great relationships with the US right now.

So she's been talking to the President of Guatemala, for example, but not of El Salvador. And so that's remaining for them and is a big challenge. In terms of the refugee decision, I think that's interesting, because this is something where you've seen Biden reverse himself, which he doesn't do often. He tends to kind of stick to his decisions, even when he gets some blowback from the left, in particular.

And this is one where when they announced a lower number of refugee admissions, there were progressives who felt very betrayed. There was a lot of pushback on that decision immediately. And the White House sort of walked it back, said it was being misunderstood. And this week, you finally get this new number that is what he originally promised back in February.

So I think that's a sign that they are responsive to criticisms from the left on immigration, since this is something that really fires them up, and starting to make progress on reuniting a few families that the Trump administration separated I think also is good news for them on that front.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Yeah, I remember on the refugee admissions, that walk back, if I recall correctly, Liz, it was just a matter of hours, right-- like, on a Friday afternoon or something that that walk back came very quickly from the White House after that really fierce pushback, as you noted, from the left, when it was announced that, originally, the president was going to keep that refugee admissions number the same.

So that has been interesting to watch. And they certainly telegraphed that a change would be coming in May. So here we are May, and here we are with the change. On another topic, Eugene, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee wants FBI Director Christopher Wray to explain a new report detailing the agency's sources inside the Proud Boys organization ahead of the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. What's going on here?

EUGENE SCOTT: Well, there have been reports that the FBI, of course, had sources embedded within the Proud Boys and other extremist groups that could have given the FBI more information about the January 6 attacks as they were planned before they actually happened. But it appears that the FBI did not have as much information as they needed to prepare for the safety of all of those connected, or involved, or near this insurrection or incident.

And even if they did, from what they did have, they just didn't act on it in a proactive way that could have prevented so many of the tragedies and injuries that came about from it. So Senator Dick Durbin, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, wants to hear from Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, and wants to know why the FBI was not better prepared to prevent this attack from happening.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Liz, later on in the show we're going to talk a little bit more about the future of the Republican Party. But I want to ask you about former Vice President Mike Pence's plans to visit New Hampshire, a key early primary state in 2024. What are you seeing from Republican visits to the state so far as Democrats talk about taking away their place in the primary order?

LIZ GOODWIN: Yeah, this is something that Republicans in New Hampshire are pretty excited about. They've been getting a steady stream of visits of Republican hopefuls. They had Mike Pompeo, Tom Cotton. They had Nikki Haley a while back. And now they're getting Mike Pence, which is, obviously, a really big one.

And this is important for the state in general, because national Democrats have talked about no longer having New Hampshire and Iowa go first, just given how woefully inaccurate those results ended up being for the primary. They're overwhelmingly white states. They don't reflect the Democratic primary electorate at all anymore.

And so there's a push to pull that away from Democrats. And so Democrats and Republicans in the state are very happy that Republicans seem more than willing to keep their primary there as the first official primary, and that these visits are still happening there, because they think that will hopefully guard their position as the first primary.

ELAINE QUIJANO: OK-- never too early to talk about 2024. Meantime, Eugene, since our last show-- right, I know, here we are talking about it-- no surprise, I suppose, with the groundwork being laid years in advance, we know, for these campaigns. Eugene, since our last show, we got some news about to swing district Democrats-- Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos is retiring. And up until recently, she led the party's House Campaign arm.

And Florida's Charlie Crist is teasing a Tuesday announcement that could potentially be a run for his old job as governor. What does this tell us, if anything, about how Democrats feel about keeping the House in the midterms?

EUGENE SCOTT: Well, the Democrats certainly, as you know, want to keep the House and are working hard to keep the House, but are probably also aware that they may have a much more difficult time keeping the House for a few reasons. One, historically, at least fairly recently, the party that is in power in the White House loses the House right after being elected. But also, I think specifically when you focus on Bustos, we're talking about another reminder of the urban rural divide.

I believe that she was the only Democrat in Illinois outside of Chicago representing the state in the House. And even though she won her 2020 election, obviously, these wins are much harder to come by. And so it does not surprise me that she, the former chair of the DCCC, who was over the party when they lost quite a few seats this past election, is maybe deciding that it's easier to get out on her own terms than to be voted out. And so the Democrats are now put in a position where they're trying to figure out how do they find candidates that can win the support of most voters in places where their message either isn't as popular or is easier to be manipulated by conservatives.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Yeah, but certainly notable to see this retirement, and, according to some accounts, really took some Democrats by surprise. All right, Eugene Scott and Liz Goodwin, great to see you both. Thank you very much.