This is a rush transcript of “Special Report with Bret Baier” on June 24, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ): No one got everything they wanted in this package. We all gave some to get some.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (D-ME): We have agreed on the price tag, the scope, and how to pay for it. It was not easy to get agreement on all three, but it was essential.
BIDEN: We’re going to do it all without raising a cent from earners below $400,000. There’s no gas tax increase, no fee on electric vehicles.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT): The president made it clear, Speaker Pelosi made it clear, Leader Schumer made it clear, and let me make it clear, there will not be a so-called bipartisan bill without a major reconciliation package.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: So, we had moderate senators agreeing with President Biden on an infrastructure package, and then you have got progressives like Senator Bernie Sanders saying we want a whole lot more, maybe as much as $6 trillion.
With that, let’s bring in our panel, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at “The Federalist,” Harold Ford Jr., former Tennessee Congressman, CEO of Empowerment and Inclusion Capital, and Jason Riley, “Wall Street Journal”
columnist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He is also the author of a new book, “Maverick, A Biography of Thomas Sowell.” Panel, welcome.
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, “THE FEDERALIST”: Great to be here.
EMANUEL: So, Congressman, Harold Ford Jr., what do we have going on on the Democratic side of things? Are they trying to keep the progressives in check while they also appease the moderates? What’s going on?
HAROLD FORD JR., FORMER TENNESSEE REPRESENTATIVE: First, thanks for having me. Congrats to Jason on a new book. I look forward to reading it.
As I listen to the parties that be, from Mitch McConnell, Senator McConnell, to even Senator Sanders, it reminded me of two things. This effort to get a bipartisan achievement around infrastructure is really a test for whether or not bipartisan remains a part of the relevant vernacular or current vernacular in politics. I think it and hope it does.
It also signals to leaders that we don’t have the luxury, leaders in Washington, they don’t have the luxury in a deeply, deeply divided country, in a country where people have lost trust and confidence in government, to just always say no. I think when you find conservatives and liberals, those on the opposite sides in each party finding issue or having difference with a compromise or some sort of bipartisan compromise, I think that’s when Americans are going to dig down and listen and hope that the Congress can move forward.
Democrats are not going to be happy with all of this, Republicans clearly are not. But the country needs to redo and strengthen our infrastructure.
And this gives us a huge down payment to do that over the next several years.
EMANUEL: I asked Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell about infrastructure. Let’s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: It can best be described as a tale of two press conferences.
After the first one, the president walks out with a bipartisan group and blesses an infrastructure bill that many of my members are quite optimistic about. And then after all of those people depart the White House, the president goes out for the second press conference and says unless you pass my tax bill, I won’t sign the infrastructure bill.
We’ve gone from optimism to pessimism as a result of president’s second press conference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: Mollie, how do you see it?
HEMINGWAY: Well, it was a very interesting day in Washington. It starts out with this very big announcement that there had been a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure. It is worth noting that infrastructure should be one of the easiest things to get bipartisan agreement on, and the fact that it’s taken this long is not a great sign. But here you had these people really operating in seemingly good faith to get together on a bipartisan bill.
Then Nancy Pelosi blows it up by saying she won’t allow it to happen unless there is this massive spending package that’s been a nonstarter for a lot of Republicans or even just people remotely concerned about fiscal responsibility, which there are few and far between be in this town.
But then President Biden gives this press conference where he says he agrees with Nancy Pelosi. It was utterly bizarre. And the press conference be in general was weird. He kept on whispering weird things, like when he blamed businesses for the problem they are having with being able to hire people. He said that they need to compete with the fact that the government is taking their money to pay people not to work, and that if they want people to work, they should just pay them more. It was very odd, and I think it was disconcerting for a lot of people to say what is going on here.
EMANUEL: Jason, do they get something done, or does this all blow up in the hot summer?
JASON RILEY, COLUMNIST, “WALL STREET JOURNAL”: I kind of hope it blows up, Mike, frankly. I think that Mitch McConnell is wise to be skeptical of this. Barry Goldwater urged Republicans to offer a choice, not simply an echo. And I think that the senators pushing for this are really offering an echo. They don’t care about how much is being spent. They don’t care whether we can really afford to pay for it. They just want to make sure the money is spent on their priorities as well as Democratic priorities. And I think the voters deserve better than that.
This is part of a much larger Biden agenda, to take us back to World War II level spending, Mike. The last time I checked we were not at war, let alone a war on the scale of what was going on 80 years ago. This is what this bill is really about, and I don’t think that the American public would have split the Senate 50-50 if this is what they wanted.
EMANUEL: OK, to Vice President Harris going to the border tomorrow to El Paso, let’s play this clip, and I will have you all respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOOCY: Was it important for the White House to have her seen at the border before former President Trump has a trip there next week?
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We made an assessment within our government about when it was an appropriate time for her to go to the border.
LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK (R-TX): She is going where she’s not really going to be seen, active crossings. I don’t think they want them crossing behind her in a camera shot.
Imagine you had a problem break out in Washington, D.C., and she wanted to get to the hotspot, and she landed in Boston. She wouldn’t be in the right spot.
If she is going to do it, do it right, and don’t laugh it off. It’s a serious situation. People are dying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: Harold, your thoughts?
FORD: So, a couple things. I think our foreign policy, we have to begin to look at the border as a national security challenge as part of a broader foreign policy challenge. And when you approach a big reform bill with its infrastructure immigration on either side of the aisle, you have got to get two things right. Number one is substance, and number two, the politics.
I think Vice President Harris has gotten some of the substance and not a lot of it right with the way she has looked at the root causes. But the politics she has not gotten right. Hopefully this acts as accelerant, her traveling to the border and visiting there, because it is a crisis at the border.
But I might add in just a moment of levity here and perhaps lightness here, if visiting the border would solve our border challenge and border immigration challenge, then we would have solved this problem a long, long time ago. President Trump visited. Even Cruz and Graham and all the senators who do all this big complaining, they have all gone down and we have not solved anything.
This has to be viewed as part of a long-term solution, a big solution to a long-term problem. Remember, the last time we had immigration reform in this country was 35 years ago, and that president was Ronald Reagan. A lot has changed. A lot has gotten worse. And we are going to need a big package to get it right.
EMANUEL: So, the vice president is going to El Paso. She is not going to the Rio Grande Valley or to the holding facility in Donna, Texas. Mollie, your thoughts?
HEMINGWAY: That’s exactly right. It is good to go to the border. It’s good that she was finally pressured into going to the border because President Trump is visiting. But it’s not sufficient to go down there, have a laugh, and keep things goings the same way that they are. It would be better if she visited Fort Bliss, one of these contractor facilities, where 2,000 teenagers are being held where there are lice outbreaks and strep and flu and COVID-19 and the food is substandard, where she actually saw the pain caused by the policies of the Biden administration.
And what’s happening is because of the Biden administration, a series of executive orders, a decision not to turn anyone away, and even now welcoming people, not just unaccompanied minors but single people, families. And making a visit to a place where there is not much of a problem isn’t going to do anything. You need to actually have her understand the problem, the pain and all of the problems caused by having an open, porous border, or else it’s not worth a trip at all.
EMANUEL: Jason, do you see a policy change coming soon?
ROBERTS: I’m not so sure. I think this is more about optics. I see this as part of what was going on earlier this week with the administration’s sudden discovery that we have a violent crime problem in many of our big cities. This president came in and thought he would do the opposite of everything Donald Trump was doing. So if Trump had played up violent crime, he would play it down. If Trump played up a border problem, he would play it down. But these are real problems, and now he is suddenly realizing that, and he has to do something about them. So, I think they are playing catch up here.
EMANUEL: All right, to the voting rights bill, I asked Senator McConnell about that. Let’s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: If the president wants to keep on talking about it, we would like to keep on talking about it, too, because there is no voter suppression going on in any state in America, and the bill they were trying to pass would have taxpayer dollars spent on political campaigns, would turn the Federal Election Commission from a judge into a prosecutor, in other words, make it unbalanced, and prevent photo I.D. at the polls, something supported by 80 percent of Americans. So, if the president wants to keep on talking about this bill, so do we.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: All right, we’ve got less than a minute left. Let’s see if we can go around the horn real fast. Harold, your thoughts?
FORD: Look, we had the biggest turnout. We had the least problems ever in a federal election. Why we would make any changes, these states are making changes and the federal government is trying to correct or trying to prevent those changes from hurting voter turnout. It’s unfortunate, and hopefully they figure this thing out.
HEMINGWAY: It is not true that this was an election without problems. And in fact, as people have moved to mail-in balloting, people need to have confidence that it’s not just that people are free to vote but that also that it is difficult to cheat. So this is a very salient issue, and Republicans are finding that despite all of the propaganda press in favor of Democrats plan, it’s not very popular with the people. And so they are happy to keep talking about it because they know that the voters really do prevent basic election integrity measures such as voter I.D.
EMANUEL: Jason, final thought from you?
RILEY: There is no voting rights problem in this country. There is record turnout among Asian and Hispanic in 2020. Among blacks it was the third highest turnout after 2008 and 2012. And of course, Barack Obama was on the ballot. This is not about voting rights. This a power grab from the federal government.
EMANUEL: All right, we need to leave it there.
When we come back, tomorrow’s headlines.
EMANUEL: Finally, tonight, a look at tomorrow’s headlines. Mollie, lead us off.
HEMINGWAY: It’s been more than two years since the Trump-Russia collusion story fell apart, and no one has been held accountable. But in federal filings this week, all five of the alleged sources of that Trump-Russia dossier said that they had never said what was attributed to them or what was based on supposedly their claims, and that in some cases they think it was made up and just complete lies.
EMANUEL: Harold, go for it.
FORD: From the terrible tragedy in Sunrise, Florida, to senseless killings of kid by gun violence, and even police officers, my headline is America is at her best during agony and disaster when we come together, when we help fellow citizens pray, and then act to fix the problems.
EMANUEL: Amen. Jason?
RILEY: I think we are going to find out that Hunter Biden, who uses the “n”
word and insults Asians, also belongs to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s all white boat club in Rhode Island. And all of the media, except for FOX News, will completely ignore the story.
EMANUEL: All right, panel, thanks very much. Great job tonight.
Tomorrow on SPECIAL REPORT, Vice President Kamala Harris goes to the southern border, and our “Whatever Happened To” segment deals with U.S.- Cuba relations. Is President Biden following the Trump or Obama playbook?
Thanks for watching SPECIAL REPORT. I’m Mike Emanuel in Washington. FOX NEWS PRIMETIME hosted by Will Cain starts right now. Will?
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