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Week In Politics: Biden Addresses Congress

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

In the U.S. Capitol in a socially distanced House chamber, President Joe Biden this week rebuked a longtime Republican doctrine.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked. And it's time to grow the economy from the bottom and the middle out.

SIMON: President Biden wants to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund programs to help the middle class and those the economy has left behind. We're joined now by NPR's Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: The - Ron, the American Jobs Plan, also known as infrastructure, now the American Families Plan, these - this is a big ticket, which is to say big money initiatives and transformational in the life of this country conceivably, and certainly the role of government if he can get Congress to pass it. How likely is that? How are Republicans responding?

ELVING: You know, this is quite a moment. You have this morning, The New York Times calling Joe Biden the reverse Ronald Reagan in a headline. Tonight in Atlanta, they're unveiling a new documentary called "Carterland." And it's a very positive reassessment of Reagan's predecessor, Jimmy Carter. In fact, the Bidens even visited with the Carters this week down in Georgia after that speech you mentioned. So yes, trillions of dollars in new spending paid for by tax increases on corporations and people making over $400,000 a year. That's the reverse of trickle-down.

And by the way, $400,000 a year, that's nearly six times more than the average American household earns. But Republicans argue income disparity is not the issue or shouldn't be the issue. They say any higher taxes on anyone would constitute an imposition on liberty and a drag on the economy. And in the Senate, they can stop the Democrats cold if they stand together in opposition.

SIMON: The party response to the president's speech on Wednesday was not delivered by a member of the senior Republican leadership, but Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the one Republican senator who is African American. How did he present the case for his party?

ELVING: Oh, he did well. He delivered a heartfelt personal message, as well as a classic conservative critique of Biden's program, calling it a big-government power grab and so on. But he also left an opening to negotiate with Democrats on some issues - police reform, primary among them. And in the process, he raised his own profile a great deal, becoming an overnight focal point for conflict on social media. And yesterday was the last day of reporting period for campaign contributions, and Tim Scott's name was on several separate rounds of fundraising appeals that went out to the Republican's national donor lists on behalf of the party.

SIMON: Also this week, Ron, America's mayor at one time, one-time organized crime-fighting U.S. attorney Rudy Giuliani was the object of a pre-dawn raid. And it wasn't just a "Law & Order" episode.

ELVING: That's right. The FBI was knocking at the door. It's not just that he's the former mayor of New York. Rudy Giuliani, of course, is the personal attorney for former President Trump. And the Justice Department is apparently looking for evidence that Giuliani's activities in Ukraine during the Trump years broke the law. And yes, this does relate to some of the same activities that led to Trump's first impeachment back in 2019. The FBI impounded cell phones and other devices. And the last time they did something like this to one of Trump's personal attorneys, it was a fellow named Michael Cohen, who wound up going to jail.

SIMON: Yeah. And of course, Mr. Giuliani was also a big voice in Trump's battle against the results of the 2020 election.

ELVING: Yes, he was. And he has been sued in connection with that by the makers of some of the vote counting equipment, a company called Dominion Voting Systems. And we should note that yesterday the conservative news outlet Newsmax announced it was retracting its stories about one particular individual who worked for Dominion. They now say there was no evidence that anything was amiss and that the certification of the results from all those states were fine.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.