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Biden visits aging bridge in Louisiana to promote infrastructure plan

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President Biden is campaigning for his infrastructure and jobs plan in reliably-Republican Louisiana, as GOP lawmakers move forward with plans to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from caucus leadership. CBSN Washington reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns, NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordonez and Politico Playbook co-author Tara Palmeri spoke to "Red and Blue" host Elaine Quijano about the day's political news.

Video Transcript


ELAINE QUIJANO: Hi, everyone. I'm Elaine Quijano. It's good to be with you. Thanks for joining us. President Biden is breaking his pattern of visiting battleground states to promote his new plans. On Thursday, Mr. Biden pitched his infrastructure plan in front of a bridge in Louisiana that's 20 years past its designed lifespan. His message inside the reliably Republican state-- it's time to raise taxes on corporations to fund and update.

JOE BIDEN: Not surprisingly, critics say they worry that I'm going to stunt economic growth by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy. There's just one problem with their argument-- the facts. Experts have looked at it. The last time taxes were around the rates I'm proposing was in the '90s, and the economy boomed.

I'm meeting with my Republican friends up in the Congress to see number one, how much they're willing to go for, what they think are the priorities, and what compromises we've made. And I'm ready to compromise. What I'm not ready to do-- I'm not ready to do nothing. I'm not ready to have another period where America has another "infrastructure month" and doesn't change a damn thing.

ELAINE QUIJANO: While President Biden makes his pitch to Republican lawmakers, many of them are focused on the pressure to remove Congresswoman Liz Cheney from House GOP leadership. As we've been reporting, Cheney is on the verge of losing her spot as the third-ranking Republican in the House. It's over her criticism of what she calls former President Trump's big lie about losing the 2020 election.

Mr. Trump is now backing New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik to take the place of House Republican conference chair. Stefanik has continued to defend baseless claims about the legitimacy of the election, including Thursday morning in an interview with Trump 2016 campaign manager Steve Bannon.

That's where I want to bring in Caitlin Huey-Burns, Franco Ordonez, and Tara Palmeri. Caitlin is CBSN's Washington reporter. Franco is a White House correspondent for NPR. And Tara is a co-author of the Politico Playbook. Welcome to you all, a lot to get to.

Tara, let me start with you. Where does this push to replace Congresswoman Cheney stand at this point? And is she at risk of losing her seat in Congress as we see this continued shift in the Republican Party?

TARA PALMERI: Yeah, it looks like by this time next week, Liz Cheney will not be the Republican chairwoman. It's the number three seat in the House. It seems pretty much like once the Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has advocated openly for her to be removed that it's all but inevitable that it will happen.

And as we know that there's really a story behind the story, and it's all about President Trump. Liz Cheney voted to impeach him after the insurrection. She said she voted with her consciousness-- conscience. And then afterwards, she really put the flag pole-- stuck the flagpole in and said, I'm going to lead the anti-Trump faction of the Republican Party in Congress.

And meanwhile, Kevin McCarthy and the other members of leadership, they're raising money off of Trump, and they need him to endorse candidates. And they are not ready to let go. And they're also not ready to renounce his lie that the election was stolen and-- and really to take ownership for January 6.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, Caitlin, Congresswoman Stefanik's comments this morning were in defense of an audit in Arizona that the Justice Department is now expressing concerns about. Tell us about that, as well as the new Florida voting changes signed into law earlier.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: That's right. These are examples of the president's rhetoric and basic-- baseless claims about the election are having real consequences. So in Arizona, this is a state that Biden won for the first time for Democrats in 30 years. He won it by about 11,000 votes. Before and after the election, it's state law that they conduct audits of the machines. They did that, found nothing wrong.

The-- Maricopa County, which is the largest county in Arizona, went ahead and conducted two other audits on machines because of all of these protests that they had seen, also found nothing wrong. So here you've had already multiple audits done to test the machines. They also did an audit of sample ballot-- a sample-- a significant sample size of ballots as well, found nothing wrong.

Then you had the state Senate, which is run by Republicans, push to have its own recount. And the board of supervisors in Maricopa County said, which, by the way, are run by mostly Republicans, said, look, no, we already did all of these audits and found nothing. Everything's fine. Everything went well.

Then the state Senate subpoenaed the board to turn over 2 million ballots in nearly 400 machines. A court sided with the state Senate. And so now they're conducting their own audit of ballots that has raised so many concerns among election experts and election officials across the country, who are really worried that state legislatures could, you know, try to continue to undermine the election results at the urging of the former president.

So right now they're conducting this audit that's not very transparent. It's done by a third-party firm that has no experience in election auditing. And so that's what's going on-- on there and a real-world example of the president's rhetoric fueling that.

And then you have in Florida-- Florida is another state that we've seen, we've seen this across the country, of Republican-led state legislatures putting in election reform laws, changes, in light of the 2020 election. We saw this in Georgia and other places. In Florida what they're trying to do is put-- or what they signed into law today is to put restrictions on-- on drop boxes. They also now require you to request a mail-in ballot every cycle instead of every two.

And there are some other reforms and restrictions in there as well. It is watered down from its original proposal which, again, is why we, you know, always say we need to read the fine print of this law. But what's really striking about Florida is that this is a state that conducted its election really well in 2020, had no problems.

It's been working over the past two decades since the 2000 election to really do a better job at conducting elections. And it was a successful election. They had results on election night. And former President Trump won that state, and Republicans did well. So this is a sign, in conjunction with Arizona, how much Trump's base-- baseless claims about the election are really fueling activism in the party right now.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Right. You kind of touched on it there, Caitlin. At the root of it, how connected are these two stories about the Republican Party voting changes and the opposition to Congresswoman Cheney overall? Because, you know, the idea is these are two obviously diametrically opposed views that cannot co-exist in the same party, at least Liz Cheney is saying there is no way she can continue to call herself, you know, a part of this party without drawing attention to this, whereas other Republicans have tried to walk that line, where they may, in fact, not agree with the baseless claims of widespread fraud, but they've chosen to de-emphasize that part of their message instead.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: That's exactly right, Elaine. And what's been really striking to see is how much money people who have opposed the election results have been able to raise in an off-year election. And that really shows kind of where the base of the party is right now. And we've done a lot of reporting, talking to activists who say that this is an issue that is uniting the party like-- unlike anything else before.

And Tara was right to mention that this is a real issue within the party right now, where if you, you know, are not embracing the president in a certain way, if you are out there, you know, denouncing these claims, there's just not a real appetite for that in-- in the party right now. And the elevation of Stefanik and why her comments about the Arizona recount were so significant is that kind of shows you where they feel the base is at this point.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, Franco, turning back to President Biden, he said in Louisiana this afternoon that he has meetings with Republicans lined up and that he wants to move quickly. How far along are things realistically at this point?

FRANCO ORDONEZ: I mean, it's really tough to-- to see this going really far. I mean, Biden does plan to have lawmakers come to the White House. They're going to talk about roads. They're going to talk about bridges. They're going to talk about broadband and jobs.

You know, the plan, according to Biden, would be paid for by taxing the wealthiest Americans. And it's actually something that is popular with voters of both parties. But Republicans are really balking at this kind of a price tag. They want a much smaller package.

But at this point, Biden is not backing down. I think you're really looking at a potential big fight. I mean, just today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he's 100% focused on stopping Biden. And it was the kind of comment that was kind of reminiscent that he gave several years ago-- or many years ago about former President Barack Obama when he said he was going to make-- his goal was to make President Obama only a one-term president.

So I think we're entering into a phase where it really is hard to see the two sides coming together on an issue that is so large, on such a huge spending plan. But Biden is really banking on, and the White House is banking on, going into these communities and building support among Republican voters. And we'll see how that goes.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Yeah, it was notable, I think there was a Republican mayor, if I'm correct, Franco, that was joining a local mayor, obviously in Louisiana, that was joining the president for that event. So it's interesting to see the difference in sort of bipartisanship and what that means here for this White House moving forward. Caitlin Huey-Burns, Franco Ordonez, and Tara Palmeri, thanks to you all. Really appreciate it.