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President Biden is set to miss his self-imposed deadline of getting a police reform bill passed by the anniversary of George Floyds death, May 25. CBS News congressional correspondent Nikole Killion and Washington Post national political reporter Eugene Scott spoke to "Red and Blue" host Elaine Quijano about what comes next in negotiations on that plus his infrastructure plan.
ELAINE QUIJANO: Hi, everyone. I'm Elaine Quijano. It is good to be with you. Thanks for joining us. So far, President Biden has only set deadlines he expects to meet, until now. Tuesday marks one year since the murder of George Floyd. His death set off a summer of protests against police violence. The president had hoped to have the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act passed by that day. But it is looking increasingly unlikely, as bipartisan negotiations continue.
Mr. Biden also laid down Memorial Day as the deadline for infrastructure negotiations with republicans. If they cannot reach a deal by then, democrats say they will look to pass a bill without them. President Biden had initially said the only misgivings he had on his plans were that they were not big enough. Since then, the White House offered to cut about $600 billion from their original proposal from $2.3 trillion to 1.7. That cut was more than the entire $568 billion deal proposed by the republicans.
The two sides are still more than a trillion dollars apart. White House press Secretary Jen Psaki said at this afternoon's briefing which had more reporters in attendance due to relaxed CDC guidelines. It is time for the GOP to make a move.
JEN PSAKI: The last counter offer that came from the republicans just came up $50 billion. So our concessions went 10 times as far as theirs. So the ball is in their court. We are awaiting their counterproposal. We would welcome that. We're eager to engage and even have them down here to the White House once we see that counter proposal.
ELAINE QUIJANO: Nikole Killion and Eugene Scott join me now. Nikole is a CBS News congressional correspondent. And Eugene is a national political reporter for "The Washington Post". Welcome to you both. Nicole, let's start there with infrastructure talks. Jen Psaki says the ball is in the republicans' court. Is that an accurate characterization?
NIKOLE KILLION: I think for the most part, I mean, because you did see Senate republicans go down to the White House. And this is basically the White House's response to their proposal. So in essence, yes. The ball is in their court. We just heard a short time ago from the number two republican in the Senate, John Thune, who spoke to reporters just a short time ago saying that right now, he kind of sees things more or less at a stalemate. You heard Jen Psaki there say that look, we've come down 10 times as much as republicans. So really, it's kind of up to them to move the ball.
But as you very well know, Senate republicans have already made clear they are going to remain pretty conservative as far as numbers are concerned. Mitch McConnell has indicated he probably would be willing to go up to about $800 billion at best. So even just getting over that trillion dollar hump seems unlikely from Senate republicans, which is why you made-- which is why Senator Thune suggested they could be at a stalemate at this point.
But he did at the same point in time tell reporters that he does feel like both sides do want an agreement in kind. They do want to keep working in good faith if they can. But many Senate republicans as well as Senate democrats have made clear that there is a limited window to do this, not only with the president, a deadline of trying to at least have some kind of agreement in principle, or a sense of a potential compromise by Memorial Day, but even more so democrats and republicans agree that that window is starting to close.
And so if they can't get on board with something within the next week or two, then certainly a broader deal seems unlikely.
ELAINE QUIJANO: Well Eugene, the White House has always maintained that a lack of Republican support is not the end of the road, so to speak on infrastructure. So what is their plan work around?
EUGENE SCOTT: Well, I think what we're seeing is the White House making plans to just really lean in on Republicans that they think would be more willing to compromise, and by focusing on specific issues be it maybe broadband, or the need for jobs in a certain community, or crumbling bridges, and roads in another part of the country. That alone is I think the approach that the Biden White House is hoping to take with those on Capitol Hill.
But beyond that, we've seen the president take an approach method towards connecting with republicans that was really effective during the campaign. And that's by speaking directly with voters.
And so I think what you may see is what we've seen in the past month. And that may mean Biden and Harris visiting more red state voters, hoping to make the pitch directly to them.
ELAINE QUIJANO: Well Nikole, bipartisan negotiations still seem to be moving forward on police reform. Despite a deadline about to be missed, what do both sides agree on?
NIKOLE KILLION: Well, that still remains to be seen. What we continue to hear from all of the negotiators, whether that's Cory Booker, or Karen Bass, or Tim Scott is that they're making progress. In fact, they just put out a statement saying that while they do still have differences, they are trying to work towards the potential for compromise. So it remains to be seen. Just last week, I spoke with Congresswoman Karen Bass and said, well, what have you ironed out? And she-- or what do you still need to iron out, I should say? And she said, everything.
So that kind of gives you an indication. Generally speaking, they have been able to build consensus in some areas and components of the bill, whether that's for instance things like limiting the use of police chokeholds, or standards for no knock warrants, but really one of the critical sticking points has continued to be this issue of qualified immunity. And a group of progressive democrats just sent a letter to congressional leaders late last week saying that they feel strongly they are concerned about the negotiations, and that could possibly be an issue that gets compromised.
And they feel strongly that that needs to stay in the bill, ending qualified immunity that is, which does protect officers from civil liability. So on the flip side, you do have many Republicans, including Tim Scott, who have indicated maybe it's better to try to hold the departments accountable as opposed to individual officers. And they don't want to see that completely phased out. So again, the negotiations continue. But all sides are still very optimistic that at the end of the day, they can hopefully get to an agreement.
ELAINE QUIJANO: Yeah, that issue of qualified immunity is one that I know we had heard about for months as being one of the toughest sticking points. It's interesting to hear it still appears to be that way. Eugene, President Biden plans to meet privately with George Floyd's family one year after his murder. What do we know about that?
EUGENE SCOTT: Well, we know that the president quite frankly is a bit disappointed that this bill did not make the progress he was hoping it would by now. But he wants to reassure the family that police violence against Black people is an issue that he will continue to combat, and at least speak out against, by Senate not supporting this-- republicans should I say, in the Senate not supporting this to the degree that he wants.
I think the Floyd family speaking very vocally about violence continued interaction and conversation with them over this past year definitely played a role in helping reshape some people's views of Biden and his commitment to this issue considering some of the questionable laws he supported in the past. And I think what we know that the president is going to try to do is see if there are other ways that he can get people in Congress to support what he's hoping to do because when it comes to re-election time and even before then, midterms, he's going to want to be able to point to this as something that he can show Black Americans and other Americans who care about this issue to attract their support.
ELAINE QUIJANO: On another topic Nikole, it is looking like Senate republicans are ready to end hopes for the creation of a commission to study the January 6 Capitol insurrection as we see National Guard troops start to depart the Capitol. Some House republicans did vote with democrats for a commission. But what's the basis of Senate republicans' opposition?
NIKOLE KILLION: Well you heard Mitch McConnell last week say on the floor when he expressed his opposition to this commission as saying that he felt that it was a duplicative, that there are already a number of investigations underway with various congressional committees, not to mention the federal investigations that have been underway as well, which have resulted in hundreds of arrests. So his concern, that of Kevin McCarthy, is that there's already a lot of entities investigating that.
And furthermore, another point that Republicans have raised is that they feel that this should be broader in scope. That certainly was Kevin McCarthy's argument that this should not just focus solely on January 6, but other political violence. That being said, at the end of the day here in the Senate, 10 republicans will have to get on board for this commission to pass. And again, I know I mentioned Senator Thune who just spoke with reporters. But he did also on this issue say that he thought at this point, it may be unlikely to try to get 10 Senate Republicans on board. But not everybody has closed the door to this as some Republicans have remained open.
They do potentially want to see tweaks or changes to this bill. And that is something even Senator Durbin has acknowledged that he may be willing to sit down with somebody like a Senator Collins to see if they can meet in the middle on this in terms of some of the concerns, for instance, she has about some of the staffing with respect to the commission. So again, remains to be determined. Either way, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has made clear that he does intend to bring this to a vote soon.
ELAINE QUIJANO: And Eugene, before we let you go, I want to ask you about President Biden's doubling of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's fund to help communities prepare for disasters he visited FEMA this afternoon as they prepped for hurricane season. What role is climate science playing when it comes to policy in this administration?
EUGENE SCOTT: It's fair to say a significant role as we head back into hurricane season. The Biden administration wants American communities to be prepared. As you know, when hurricanes hit, so many of our areas in the South economies are destroyed. It's a public safety hazard. It ends up being a real challenge for so many Americans. And what Biden's White House is hoping to do is prepare these communities to maybe not take the brunt of the impact as severely as they may have in recent years. And there's real fear that as climate change continues to be an issue, that these things will get worse.
And so I think he's hoping to get some support from those right of him on this issue so that they understand how seriously this needs to be taken, the issue of climate change because it affects so many of the people in the districts that they represent.
ELAINE QUIJANO: All right. We'll continue to watch it. Nikole Killion and Eugene Scott, great to have you both. Thank you.