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The White House is ramping up its push to get more Americans vaccinated. CBS News senior White House and political correspondent Ed O'Keefe and CBS News Capitol Hill reporter Rebecca Kaplan join "Red and Blue" to discuss the latest efforts.
ELAINE QUIJANO: Hi, everyone. I'm Elaine Quijano. It is good to be with you. Thanks for joining us. The Senate could take up the president's COVID-19 relief package as early as tonight. Mr. Biden is working to rally support for the plan. The House passed the $1.9 trillion measure last week, but the bill has yet to receive any Republican support in either chamber.
MITCH MCCONNELL: House Democrats are bristling and publicly pushing back if our Senate Democratic colleagues even try to make their mark on this partisan bill in small ways. The Democrats had a choice. They chose to go it alone, tacked to the left, the family's top priorities on the cutting room floor.
ELAINE QUIJANO: We are already seeing changes to the house plan. Earlier, President Biden agreed to limit who qualifies for $1,400 stimulus payments, phasing them out for those who make over $75,000. CBS News has learned unemployment benefits are expected to remain untouched at $400 a week. Other parts of the package we're keeping an eye on include money for vaccine distribution, rental assistance, and schools.
Reopening classrooms is a top priority. Today, First Lady Jill Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona visited schools in his home state of Connecticut. They discussed the administration's plan to get back to in-person learning, and a push to get teachers vaccinated.
CBS News has learned the CDC is expected to release new guidance Thursday on what is safe to do and what isn't after you get your shots. It includes recommendations for vaccinated Americans to still limit their social interactions and to wear masks in public.
Soon, President Biden will participate in a virtual event with the House Democratic Caucus. He's expected to discuss the party's agenda moving forward. We will bring you there live when it starts.
Meanwhile, we are learning more about a threat of another attack on the US Capitol. Police have new intelligence about a plan by militants for Thursday, March 4. We will have more on that later this hour. But first, Ed O'Keefe and Rebecca Kaplan join me now. Ed is CBS News's Senior White House and political correspondent. And Rebecca is a CBS News Capitol Hill producer.
Welcome, it's good to see you both, aka the dynamic duo. Ed, let me start with you. Let's talk about this vaccine, first of all. The president is promising enough vaccine for every adult in America by the end of May. So how is the administration's vaccine rollout effort actually going?
ED O'KEEFE: Well, I mean, this is a pretty remarkable pledge. He's reduced the time now by two months thanks to Johnson & Johnson and the plans that J & J has to work with Merck to pump up the amount of vaccinations that can be produced and shipped out across the country. So you know, they continue to get vaccinations out as quickly as they can from the three companies.
And the notable thing that he did yesterday is notable, but maybe not as big a deal as some might think by asking the states, or basically mandating, that they put teachers on the priority list and make sure that each of them has at least one shot by the end of March. That's a bold goal. But already 30 states are doing that, or they have teachers on the priority list for frontline workers and others that need to get their vaccinations.
It's in essence kind of putting a bit of a political priority on the vaccination distribution as he continues to face pressure from parents, from city and state leaders, from Republicans, to step up the reopening of schools, something that generally-- it's generally agreed can't really happen until the adults that work in those schools are vaccinated.
So the process continues. But you know, if you look week over week over week, the administration tries to demonstrate forward momentum. And the steps that have been taken in the last 24 hours certainly would suggest that. It'll just be on us to call them out if they don't meet those marks.
ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, Rebecca, COVID relief is now in the Senate's hands. Since the Senate parliamentarian has nixed the $15 minimum wage increase, where does the fight for that go from here?
REBECCA KAPLAN: Well, Elaine, we have to be upfront about this. The fight for a $15 minimum wage is going to the future for Democrats now, and that's because we haven't seen really any sign from the Democratic leadership in the House or the Senate that they're willing to try to challenge the parliamentarian just to essentially overrule her and say, no, we're going to try to add this in any way.
And that's because, frankly, they don't have the votes. Republicans aren't going to get on board with this effort. They are looking at a potentially-- you know, they're interested in potentially raising the minimum wage but they say it should be a smaller increase, looking at something closer to maybe $11 an hour. So none of them are going to get on board.
And to actually really challenge the Senate parliamentarian or to move forward on this, Democrats would need all 50 of their members, plus Vice President Kamala Harris to get band together on this effort. And we have consistently seen Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who is really running a lot of the Senate's business right now, say he has no interest in going that high on a minimum wage increase.
Now, we will see Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, who is a big proponent of this policy, offer an amendment at some point during the voting process to raise the minimum wage. He's going to want to put his colleagues on the record about this issue. But again, with Manchin uninterested, then we're just not going to see the votes there.
So Speaker Pelosi promised yesterday that we would see there would be other reconciliation bills. That's this budgetary measure where they can pass something with only 50 votes in the Senate as opposed to the usual 60 vote threshold that's needed. So we're going to see this pushed off to a future fight. I don't think we're going to see Democrats give up on this by any stretch of the imagination. It is a big priority.
And this is also adding more fuel to the fire for progressives who are saying it's time for the Senate to end the filibuster so they don't have to rely on Republican votes for some of these measures. Once again, I have to warn you, Senator Manchin's not interested in ending the filibuster. So that's a potential problem standing in their way there as well.
ELAINE QUIJANO: And so Rebecca touched on it there, Ed, but as the Democratic House Caucus meets Wednesday, what potential tensions between the more liberal and moderate wings of the party are starting to take shape?
ED O'KEEFE: Well, all sorts. I mean, as Rebecca just adroitly laid out there, a lot of this, you know-- how do you solve a problem like Joe Manchin, is essentially the question they're going to have to answer if they want to get some of their most ambitious legislation through. Because once the American Rescue Plan is passed and sent to the president's desk, there's a big question here in Washington of what's next.
Is it a multitrillion infrastructure plan? Is it more COVID related rescue or development money? Is it a focus on climate change to some extent? Do you find a way to work in legislation that addresses concerns about racial inequities in this country, criminal justice reform? Where do you fit in the minimum wage fight? All of these things, yet to be decided.
And we expect that by the end of this month, we may have some sense of where the White House would like congressional Democrats to head next. But all of it involves spending a lot of money, enacting things that may be popular across the country in theory, but are going to struggle to get through Washington with both chambers so closely divided and with the big tent nature of the Democratic party.
That includes, you know, everyone from progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or, you know, others who push for some of the most progressive, boldest proposals that are out there from Democrats, and moderates like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema over in the Senate who say, can't go there, don't want to move that quickly or that boldly to address that concern.
So a lot yet to be determined. It requires threading a very careful needle among Democrats, and an even thinner one among-- for anyone who has aspirations of finding a way for Democrats and Republicans to work together. I think if you're looking to do that, you probably head next into a conversation about infrastructure. But then, they are going to be questions about how you pay for it.
If you want to sort of fulfill a big Democratic promise, you go after things like infrastructure and find ways to address climate change while you're at it. And that's the kind of thing that is going to cause many Republicans and moderate Democrats to go, that's not necessarily the way to do this. We'll see. A lot to be determined here in the coming weeks.
ELAINE QUIJANO: All right, well, speaking of Republicans Rebecca, not one Republican has come out in support of President Biden's relief package yet. But a new Monmouth University poll found that COVID relief is widely popular. Nearly 70% of Americans say stimulus checks should remain in the package, even if it means passing the bill with no support from the opposite party. So how are Republicans explaining their opposition to constituents who may want it?
REBECCA KAPLAN: Well, in a way we are seeing here a throwback to 10 years ago, when Republicans were the party of fiscal responsibility after the Tea Party movement. That's been the line that we heard all along is that they're not necessarily opposed to COVID relief-- in fact, many of them will say, we support COVID relief, we want money for vaccinations, we want money to get children back in schools. But they're saying too much of this package goes to unrelated priorities and that it's too big and too bloated.
You've seen Republicans go through this bill and pull out line items that they demonstrate what they see as wastefulness. In particular, we've seen them targeting two projects-- this bridge in upstate New York, and a subway project in the Bay Area in San Francisco. Trying to tie those, of course, to the leaders in the Senate and the House, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
Now, these two measures ironically have now been pulled from the bill. So they are out, trying to deny Republicans of this talking point. And indeed, an aide to Speaker Pelosi yesterday once confirming that this Bay Area transit project had been pulled said, Republicans now will have no excuse not to vote for this bill. And so you know, we are seeing some of these conversations around trying to target these stimulus checks better.
And you'll see Republicans saying, you know, we don't want money going to people who doesn't need it-- who don't need it. We want this money going to the people who do need it. And we want to make sure there is enough money there for those who do without passing on debt to future generations. Like I said, we're getting back to fiscal responsibility here.
But there's no question this could be tough for them, because those stimulus checks are popular. It's a populist measure. That's why you saw former President Trump say he wanted to do $2,000 stimulus checks for Americans because of COVID. And do you know who blocked that from happening? It was Republicans in his own party. So there is still not an interest in spending all that much money. So they're going to make this argument for targeting this relief.
ELAINE QUIJANO: All right, let's talk about President Biden's cabinet, Ed. The White House accepted Neera Tanden's withdrawal of her nomination to run the Office of Management and Budget, though they said she would serve in some capacity. But besides that position, how is President Biden's cabinet filling out?
ED O'KEEFE: Slowly. You know, you saw Miguel Cardona, the new Education Secretary, get confirmed this week. Gina Raimondo, the former Rhode Island governor-- now former Rhode Island governor-- got confirmed as the Commerce Secretary. But there's still several more to go-- Marcia Fudge to lead HUD, Xavier Becerra to run Health and Human Services, Bill Burns to run the CIA. And a handful of others yet to come-- Deb Haaland at Interior.
The decision by Tanden to withdraw is not surprising if you've been tracking her fate here in Washington over the last several weeks, because there was bipartisan concern about things she had said or tweeted in the past about members of both parties. And for some reason, suddenly tone is a concern for members of both parties. And so she pulled back.
The White House says they'll find something else for her to do that doesn't require Senate confirmation, in essence giving her a job like Susan Rice or Biden advisor Bruce Reed, people who-- they've gotten enough signals from Congress to know that they couldn't necessarily put them up for some kind of a confirmable position, but can still work in the administration.
And now, the fight is on to see who potentially replaces her as the president's lead budget writer. Notably today, our Nikole Killion was first to obtain this letter from the Congressional Black Caucus calling support for a woman named Shalanda Young, who used to work on the House Appropriations Committee and is somebody who was instrumental in, among other things, ending the big government shutdown back in 2019.
She had her confirmation hearing this week-- one of them, because you have to have two when you're running the Office of Management and Budget, one hearing for Budget, one hearing for Management. And senators told her, you're great, in fact, if you were being nominated for the top job, we'd be for you. And it was members of both parties saying so.
So if the White House is looking for an easy win and a somewhat, you know, stress free, drama free confirmation process for their budget writer, she'd be the one. But Jen Psaki over at the White House today said it's going to be not this week necessarily that we hear about his pick. That could always change, but it signals they're going to at least think about this a few more days.
ELAINE QUIJANO: All right, we'll continue to watch that. In the meantime, Rebecca, I know there's some developing news. I want to turn to the ongoing security threat at the Capitol after the January 6 attack. Law enforcement officials revealed a possible plot by an unidentified militia group to breach the building on Thursday, March 4. What do we know about the plan, and what's being done about it?
REBECCA KAPLAN: So this is interesting. It's actually been a very interesting 24 hours for this because just yesterday morning, we obtained an email from the House Sergeant at Arms-- he's responsible for security of members in the Capitol-- to all members of Congress saying that there had actually been a decrease in interest of this March 4 date as the potential for a date when militias might attack the Capitol.
Just 24 hours later, he sent out another bulletin saying, now we are watching this because of new intelligence. And that is because there was this bulletin that was issued by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security late Tuesday evening saying that there is still the possibility there is interest by militia groups, including one called the Three Percenters in possibly carrying out an additional attack on the Capitol.
These people are still motivated by this lie about the election being stolen and they think, interestingly, that former President Trump will actually be inaugurated on March 4. Why that date? That is actually the historical date that presidents used to be inaugurated before the inauguration was moved to January 20.
There's this other theory among people who subscribe to the QAnon conspiracy theory that perhaps on May 20, he will take over the government with the help of the military. That's why law enforcement officials are still watching this March 4 date with a lot of interest. And there is apparently still some chatter about that, and that's actually caused house Democrats to make the decision to wrap up their legislative work for the week tonight.
They were supposed to stay in session for the rest of the week at least one more day to vote on this police reform bill, the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act. That was going to come to the floor on Thursday. They're now actually going to move those votes up to tonight in order to get members out of the Capitol to keep them safe.
So there are just fewer members and staff in the area just in case tomorrow. Democratic sources confirm that to us, that that's why they're making that move to change the vote schedule. And the police chief-- the US Capitol Police-- is planning on a heightened police presence around the Capitol in the coming days just to be safe. And we should also note that there are still miles of fencing-- razor wire topped fencing around the Capitol, and National Guard presence to protect people in Washington. So this is very much still a fortress here on Capitol Hill.
ELAINE QUIJANO: Really troubling to hear about these latest developments. All right, Ed O'Keefe, and Rebecca Kaplan in Washington, thank you both.