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Congress is moving closer to passing President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package without the minimum wage increase the bill originally included. Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to President Biden, spoke to "Red and Blue" host Elaine Quijano about plans to push for the $15 minimum wage, as well as calls to eliminate the Senate filibuster, the growing number of unaccompanied migrant children entering the U.S., violence against Asian Americans, and closing racial inequities in the United States.
- It looks like this will be the week Congress approves coronavirus relief for millions of struggling Americans. Once passed by the House, the $1.9 trillion package will be President Biden's first major legislation signed into law. The updated American Rescue Plan includes $1,400 checks for those who qualify based on reported tax income.
It also expands the child tax credit to up to $3,600 per child and sets aside money to make government provided health insurance cheaper. As the House prepares for their vote, the Biden administration is marking International Women's Day. The president has nominated two women to oversee four star combatant commands. If confirmed by the Senate, they will become the second and third women to hold the leadership position. Here's how President Biden introduced General Jacqueline Van Ovost and Lieutenant General Laura Richardson.
JOE BIDEN: Blazing the trail a little wider, a little brighter, for all proud women following in their path and looking to their example. And I wanted to shine the light on these accomplishments for those women today. Because General Van Ovost has reiterated in an interview this last week, and I'm the second person to say this, it's hard to be what you can't see. It's hard to be what you can't see, but you'll soon see.
- Former Congressman Cedric Richmond joins me now. He is a senior advisor to President Biden, and is the Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Congressman, welcome. Thanks very much for being with us.
CEDRIC RICHMOND: Thanks for having me.
- So the Coronavirus Relief Bill heads back to the house for a vote tomorrow, where it seems likely to pass without the phased in $15 minimum wage increase. My question is, where does the fight for minimum wage go next?
CEDRIC RICHMOND: Look, I learned when I was small. My parents always told me, where there's a will, there's a way. And President Biden has the will to get the minimum wage up to $15, because he believes that not one person in this country should work 40 hours a week and still live in poverty.
And that's a value statement. We're not going to compromise our values. We're going to keep working, and we're going to figure out how to get it done.
- Well, progressives, as you know, want to see Democrats change the Senate's filibuster rule, which would allow your party to get things through with a simple majority, which they have. Why not do that?
CEDRIC RICHMOND: Well, look, President Biden has made his feelings about the filibuster clear. He's not willing to do that, at this moment, because he believes that you try to go get 60 votes first. And if you look at what we've been able to do in just six weeks, which means passing, hopefully, tomorrow, the American Rescue Plan, but also, some other things through legislation that we've been able to do.
So we're going to keep trying, and we will attempt to get 60 votes. And if Republicans just determine that they won't do it, then maybe the president will revisit it. But he said on the campaign trail, over and over, again, that it's his preference to get 60 votes to get things passed in the Senate.
- Well, let's turn to the topic of immigration. Over 7,000 unaccompanied migrant minors were taken into custody last month. That is a record for February. Already, in the first four days of March, more than 1,500 minors were placed in shelters, according to preliminary government data reviewed by CBS News. What is the plan to care for these children and teens? And how do you respond to critics who see reopened detention facilities for children as a continuation of what took place under the Trump administration?
CEDRIC RICHMOND: Well, I just dispute most of all of that. Look, we're trying to handle this problem in a very humane and compassionate way. And every center that's been reopened, it's because we will not pack people into shelters or anything else that we don't abide by COVID restrictions.
So because it's six feet social distancing, and it requires more room, more space. And then we went in and made it more educational, more nurturing, and revamped these facilities. They just don't hold the same amount of people, and now, it's forcing us to open some temporary ones.
But again, the goal for us is to quickly get children processed, get them through the system, so that they can be reunited with family or temporary housing in the country. So that's our ultimate goal. But the reason why you see more places open is because we're doing it in a more humane and compassionate way.
- On another topic, as you know, there's been a recent surge in violence against members of the AAPI community in this country. And last week, you were there for a listening session with Asian-American and Pacific Islander advocates. I wonder, what did you take away from that session, and what are the specific next steps the White House will be taking to address this problem?
CEDRIC RICHMOND: I took away the real pain that the AAPI community is dealing with, the anti-Asian hate, bullying, rhetoric, and violence. And it's real, and it is causing a lot of trauma in that community. And people are not talking about it.
People are not addressing it, and people are not standing up to it. We should not just leave our API brothers and sisters out there to deal with it. This is an American problem. So you saw President Biden sign an executive order combating racism, and specifically, calling out xenophobia, and directing the FBI and other government agencies to cooperate with the community to see if we can't root this out.
But I would just remind the listeners out there that we can't let people single Americans out just because of how they look or where they're from, simply, because it's a popular thing to do. Or because they want to do it out of fear or ignorance. And we should all hold hands, and stand up, and fight back against that. You know, Sunday was the commemoration of Bloody Sunday. And that should remind this country that when we stand together, there's nothing we can't accomplish.
- In our final two minutes here, you said in a recent interview that you believe Congress will move to create a commission to study reparations for the descendants of enslaved people in the United States. And related to that, you said, free HBCU or community college tuition could happen soon. So when can we expect to see some of this do you think?
CEDRIC RICHMOND: Well, I was addressing a very specific question, whether HR40 would pass, and I think HR40 is going to pass the United States House of Representatives. We will see what happens in the United States Senate, but the other part of that is we can't wait on a commission or a study to make things right. Well, President Biden, now, has done a number of things to start dealing with racial equity right now, whether it's his executive order on a whole of government approach, whether it's breaking down systemic barriers in home ownership, and fair housing, and education. So tripling money to Title I schools in this country, and making colleges free, and HBCU's, I think, goes a long way in terms of empowering the African-American community to reach their wildest dreams and break down those barriers that have been here since the beginning.
- Senior Advisor to the president, Cedric Richmond. Mr. Richmond, thank you very much for your time.
CEDRIC RICHMOND: Thank you for having me.