A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, January 31, 2021 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.
MARTHA RADDATZ, "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR (voice-over): Critical juncture.
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: We're in a race against the variants.
RADDATZ: While the nation waits to get vaccinated...
ANDY SLAVITT, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: We're taking action to increase supply. Even so, it will be months before everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one.
RADDATZ: Hope for a new single-shot vaccine on the horizon, as so many Americans ask when it will be their turn.
This morning, we will take you to where the rollout is working.
GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): Little old West Virginia. People thought, it's a poor state, or maybe doesn't have the smart people and everything. And it's crazy. And we're doing it.
RADDATZ: Plus: What's next for financial relief?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The COVID relief has to pass. There's no ifs, ands, or buts.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The enemy is within the House of Representatives.
RADDATZ: Concerns over safety dogging Congress on all fronts, as the GOP reckons with deep division in the aftermath of Trump's term.
We cover it all this morning with Senator Bernie Sanders and Governor Asa Hutchinson.
Plus: our powerhouse roundtable, our new White House and Hill teams covering it all.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
It's the question so many Americans are asking: When can we get back to normal? A simple question with a more complicated answer.
While COVID cases and hospitalizations have declined over the past two weeks, January, with that post-holiday surge, now ranks as the deadliest month in the pandemic. And the U.S. has surpassed 26 million confirmed infections, meaning roughly one in every 12 Americans has tested positive.
Of the nearly 50 million COVID vaccine doses distributed, less than 30 million have been administered.
This morning, we will dive into the latest on the virus, the vaccine and the push for relief from Congress.
We begin our journey in one state moving ahead of the pack with its vaccine rollout and what they're doing right.
RADDATZ (voice-over): It's what you don't see at this West Virginia convention center that's remarkable, no long lines.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the registering was very, very simple.
RADDATZ: No frustrated citizens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I have been looking forward to it.
RADDATZ: No signs saying, come back when shots are available.
(on camera): So, you would say the big difference and why it's been so successful here is just that very early planning for rollout?
DR. SHERRI YOUNG, DIRECTOR AND HEALTH OFFICER, KANAWHA-CHARLESTON HEALTH, WEST VIRGINIA, DEPARTMENT: We stood up health commands on March 13 of 2020, before we even had our first case.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Yes, they started planning nearly a year ago. And West Virginia, by most measures, has had a vaccine rollout far more successful than the rest of the country.
Dr. Sherri Young runs the local health department here in Charleston.
YOUNG: We have tried to make this a process where there's one central location for the vaccinations, get as many people immunized as we can. And then we're going to redevelop our plan, so that we can downsize and get into our smaller communities.
RADDATZ (on camera): The need for the vaccine in West Virginia is particularly urgent. The population here is among the oldest and most chronically ill in the nation.
(voice-over): One key factor? The logistic capabilities of the National Guard. When the precious vials arrive in state, the Guard distributes them to five hubs.
Within hours, they're sent to local drugstores and health clinics in each of the 55 counties.
(on camera): How big a difference has the Guard made?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Tremendous, because that's their -- logistics is their thing. Use what you have. You tell them you need something done, you tell them the time you want it done, it will get done.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Once on site, every part of the process from the check-in, to the shots, to the 15-minute wait afterwards, is constantly monitored.
JAMES MASON, KANAWHA COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA, EMERGENCY AMBULANCE AUTHORITY: We can track every half-hour or hour the speed of which we're moving people through. And it allows me to shift -- shift my sectors, so I can give people lunch breaks or just simply a break.
RADDATZ: Because of this tracking, West Virginia has been able to distribute more than 83 percent of its doses, the highest of any state.
JUSTICE: Every single vaccine that comes into this state, before the end of the week, we have got it in somebody's arm.
RADDATZ: Jim Justice has been the governor here since 2017.
(on camera): One of the things you did is go through local pharmacies.
RADDATZ: You didn't depend on the bigger Walgreens and CVS because you don’t have a lot of those.
JUSTICE: Right. Thank goodness. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, but we had to take the vaccines to the people rather than bring the people to the vaccine. And you know -- so there’s just not (ph) a lot of work but it’s just practical smarts. That’s all there is to it.
RADDATZ: More than 250 mom-and-pop pharmacies scattered across the rural areas have been tasked along with local health centers to give out the doses. More than 200,000 first and second doses have been administered here, almost 9 percent of the residents have gotten their first shot.
GOVERNOR JUSTICE: If we had an unlimited supply of vaccines, we would have every single breathing 65-year-old plus vaccinated by Valentine’s Day.
RADDATZ: There’s just one thing missing in this success story, more vaccine.
In terms of federal government, what would have been more helpful or what would be more helpful going forward?
DR. SHERRI YOUNG, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, KANAWHA CHARLESTON HEALTH DEPARTMENT: It would be more vaccines. Because despite all the people that you see here today, even though we’re going to today do over -- almost 3,000 vaccinations -- so many more people who really need to get that vaccine.
RADDATZ: As for the rest of the country, often ridiculed West Virginia is happy to give out advice on this one.
DR. YOUNG: This operation could work anywhere because it could be upscaled and it could be downsized.
RADDATZ: What would you say to other governors in those states where this isn’t working?
GOVERNOR JUSTICE: Well, I’d say for crying out loud, if it’s not working, quit running the same play. I mean, call us up on the phone and we’ll tell you exactly what to do and exactly what to do tomorrow. I mean, this is not rocket science.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: And for more on the nationwide vaccine rollout, let’s bring in Dr. Rich Besser, former Acting Director of the CDC, now president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Always great to see you Dr. Besser.
You heard the governor say any state could do what West Virginia has done. But it’s largely rural. Could this model for vaccine distribution really work across the country?
DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: Well, I don’t want to take anything away from West Virginia, they’re doing an excellent job, but the numbers of people in West Virginia to be vaccinated -- who have been vaccinated pales in comparison with many of the states with such larger populations.
And, Martha, one of the things that I think has really gotten lost in the conversation and the discussion of can the nation do 1.2 million or 1.5 million or 2 million doses a day? The more important question to me is can we get vaccines to those people who are at the greatest risk of being infected, being hospitalized and dying? And we’re not getting a lot of that data.
But the data that we’re seeing, shows that there’s a major gap by race, by geography, by neighborhood, and if we don’t do a better job at getting vaccines to those people who are working, who are out there face-to-face everyday to put food on the table and to pay their rent, people who are going to work to keep our economy going, we could see great numbers but we could see the same kind of disparities that we’re currently seeing and the same incredible toll in terms of death.
RADDATZ: And it doesn’t look like very many states are actually looking at that. So what really has been the hold-up with the vaccine in most places? What should have happened that didn’t and do you see a plan now that will make this happen faster?
DR. BESSER: Yes, I mean, I see the pieces coming into play. What should have happened was states needed money and needed clear national direction months and months ago, when it was clear that we were on a road potentially to have effective vaccines.
These -- our public health system has been underfunded for decades. And the idea that the health -- the public health system can stand up that quickly to do something on this scale is something that just can’t happen.
So dollars are starting to flow. Hopefully, Congress will come forward and provide more money to states, not just for public health but to get schools in shape so they -- more children can have learning in place, to get this done to improve our systems.
RADDATZ: And Rich, we of course got word this week of this new Johnson & Johnson vaccine but lots of questions about its efficacy compared to Pfizer and Moderna. Why would someone want a vaccine that has about a 72 percent efficacy compared to 94 and 95 percent?
DR. BESSER: Well, I mean, at this point we only have a press release from the company. So I’m looking forward to seeing the data when it comes to FDA.
One of the things that they say in their press release and I’ll be looking closely at is that it’s much higher than that when it comes to serious infection. So that means people who were hospitalized and died. If it’s true that it truly protects from that, and that’s what our greatest concern is, the idea that you can get that level of protection with one dose will have major impact.
So I’ll be looking to see what is the Advisory Committee to CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, what do they say in terms of how do you use these two vaccines given that one has a much higher level of protection that this one?
The other point about that, Martha, though is those other trials were done before variants were starting to circulate. So we don’t know that those same high levels hold up now. That’s one of the things scientists need to look at. If someone who’s been fully vaccinated gets COVID, can you look at that strain and see, well, was it the old strain that was circulating or is it one of the newer variants?
These things are continually in play and so a vaccine that early on looked highly effective may look more like a vaccine now that’s coming out in a later trial.
RADDATZ: And a lot of concerns about those variants, as well. Dr. Besser, thanks so much for joining us this morning.
DR. BESSER: Thank you, Martha.
RADDATZ: Let's take a closer look at how another state is handling its vaccine rollout with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.
Great to see you, Governor.
You heard Governor Justice say that West Virginia's plan could work anywhere. His state is about number one in vaccine rollout with well over 80 percent administered. Your state has administered about 60 percent of the vaccines that you have.
What's the holdup?
GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Well, thanks, Martha.
And I do congratulate West Virginia. They did a great job in their rollout. And I think the message is that every state has to have flexibility, do something that works for their population.
We've actually done many of the same things they did in West Virginia, which is utilizing our local pharmacies because we're a rural state and they have access to our rural community. Secondly, we have utilized the National Guard. One thing you learn quickly, bring in the logistics experts if you're going to manage the vaccine distribution.
So we've continually increase our --
HUTCHINSON: -- ours about 60 percent.
RADDATZ: Governor -- Governor, let me just stop you there.
You -- you talk about the National Guard. Aren't they just helping with -- with PPE and contract-tracing? They aren't really helping with distribution, are they?
HUTCHINSON: No, that's correct, although they might down the road when we start doing some of the more mass distribution efforts. But right now they're in the logistics planning of it.
Now, let me make a point that's very important. If you want to be efficient and just get all the vaccine out very quickly, you go to your population center and have a mass distribution effort. That is efficient. That gets it out.
But you have to be equitable about it as well and you have to balance efficiency with equity. We're a rural state. And we don't want to do it just in our population center. And that slows the rollout somewhat. Not as efficient, but it is fair because it gets it into the minority populations, the rural areas of our state, it's more fair, and that's what we're trying to accomplish.
RADDATZ: But where are the vaccines you already have? And -- and why aren't they getting into the arms of your people in an equitable way, which I know Governor Justice would say his are?
HUTCHINSON: Well, our -- ours is moving in that direction. We are working in our rural communities, as well as in our urban centers. And whenever you're at 60 percent, you're asking, where's the 40 percent of the vaccines. When we receive them, the first dose is in people's arms within 72 hours. That's our goal. That's what we did last week.
Secondly, you have to allow for the second dose. And when you do that, you're always going to have some inventory there to make sure that you have the second dose that's available for those that receive the first dose. And that's important because that's the FDA approval. You don't want to jump ahead of that. You don't want to just have one shot, you want to have the booster shot as well that the FDA requires. And that allows for some excess inventory that exists.
RADDATZ: And -- and you were on this show last summer, urged President Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase testing capability.
Do you think Joe Biden is doing enough? Do you see any change thus far?
HUTCHINSON: Well, in terms of the vaccine distribution, it's been seamless. And I was delighted that we had a -- what was it, 14 percent increase in vaccine supply last week. This is going to be very, very important for us.
They said they're going to invoke the Defense Production Act. I don't know the details on that, but anything they can do to speed up the production, which they're dependent upon our supply chain, our pharmaceutical manufacturers. And so they're leaning on them.
But this is not just a state shortage, a national shortage, but a global deficit in supply. Thank goodness we have that partnership which is good with the federal government. And President Biden and his team is -- is working to assure that partnership and not tear it apart, which I'm very grateful for.
RADDATZ: And, Governor, I want to make a -- kind of a sharp turn here to the state of your party, the state of the GOP.
You were in the House for about six years. You recently said your party is going to have to do some soul searching about Trump's influence going forward. But it's just been about three weeks since there was a siege on the Capitol. You know what President Trump did during that period. It almost seems like the party has forgotten this.
House Leader McCarthy goes to visit President Trump -- former President Trump just eight days after he left office, refusing to say Joe Biden -- that the election wasn't stolen. Forty-five senators saying impeachment is unconstitutional, censuring those who say otherwise and others refusing to say the election was not stolen.
It seems Republicans have already searched their souls and are backing Donald Trump's Republican Party.
What do you think about that?
HUTCHINSON: Well, I -- well, I think there's a lot of different voices. And the Republican leadership has said very clearly, including Kevin McCarthy, that President Trump has -- bears responsibility for what -- he bought to people to the Capitol. He brought them to Washington. They went to the Capitol. He bears some responsibility there. The Senate trail is going to emphasize --
RADDATZ: And yet he goes to visit him in a smiling photo opportunity.
HUTCHINSON: The Senate trial is going to refocus what happened on the attack on the Capitol and it's going to call all Republicans to take a position more clearly. President Trump has helped build the party in the last four years. I hope he does not help to destroy the party in the coming four years. And we need to have a level of accountability. We also need to make sure that we don’t tear ourselves apart as we go into the midterm elections next year and beyond that.
RADDATZ: And -- and one more question about a member of Congress, a new Republican member of Congress, Trump loyalist Marjorie Taylor Greene. She’s long embraced conspiracy theories like QAnon, voiced support for executing Nancy Pelosi.
Does she -- is she fit to serve and should she be on the Education Committee?
HUTCHINSON: Well, that’s -- first of all, the people of her district elected her and that should mean a lot. They elected her and she’s going to run for re-election and she’ll be accountable for what she said and her actions.
And then I think it's -- it's really --
RADDATZ: Given her history, is she fit to serve?
HUTCHINSON: I’m not going to answer that question as to whether she’s fit to serve because she believes in something that -- that everybody else does not accept. I reject that. But she’s going to stand for re-election. And I don’t think we ought to punish people from a disciplinary standpoint or party standpoint because they think something a little bit different.
We have got to make sure that we don’t divide our party. I’m more troubled by someone going in and apposing Liz Cheney because she took a different position than many others in the party. That’s the kind of thing that tears our party apart.
We need to not start primaring everyone just because we don’t like how they handled things during the -- the last two or three weeks post-election. Let’s focus on our ideas and our policies.
RADDATZ: But, Governor, you -- you say you shouldn't -- you shouldn’t go after someone because they think of something a little bit different. She believes in conspiracy theories, that there are pedophiles running Washington. That’s not just a little bit different.
HUTCHINSON: I reject that and I -- I would not vote for her. I would not vote for her.
The second question is, should the House of Representatives make a disciplinary call on her? I’m not going to get in the middle of that. They’re going to have to make that -- that judgment. But, you know, whenever you have a broad diversity of the party, you reject the extreme elements. It’s not mainstream GOP. And that’s what we’ve got to get back to.
We’ve got to have a regard for those people that supported Donald Trump. We want -- because they have a message. They have a concern. But at the same time, we don’t want to gloss over the terrible actions that happened at the Capitol. We need to hold people accountable for that. That is critically important.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks for joining us this morning, Governor. We really appreciate it.
HUTCHINSON: Thanks, Martha.
RADDATZ: Up next -- up next, the latest on negotiations over President Biden's COVID relief plan with the incoming chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Bernie Sanders.
And, later, a very special edition of our roundtable.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: How long are you willing to get sufficient Republican support before you would greenlight Democrat attempts to use reconciliation?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The decision to use reconciliation will depend upon how these negotiations go. It's not enough for me just to come up to you and say, "I like this; I expect you to support it."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I support passing COVID relief with support from Republicans if we can get it, but the COVID relief has to pass. There's no ifs, ands or buts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: A significant shift in tone there from President Joe Biden, seeming to admit bipartisanship might not be possible in passing his proposed COVID relief bill.
Incoming Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders has been leading that charge, and joins us now.
Good morning. Senator.
The Democrats seem prepared to pass Biden's COVID relief package with or without Republican support, which has been shrinking in recent days.
Did the president overestimate the appetite for bipartisanship?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Look, Martha, we all want bipartisanship.
And I think you're going to see more of it as we move down the pike. You're going to see bipartisanship on infrastructure. There are a lot of Republicans who are outraged by the high cost of prescription drugs in this country. We pay 10 times more than other countries do for certain drugs. We are going to look forward to working with Republicans.
But, right now, this country faces an unprecedented set of crises. We have families who are watching this program right now who cannot feed their kids. We have millions of people who face eviction. We are in the midst of the worst pandemic in 100 years. We have got to act, and we have got to act now.
RADDATZ: And you...
SANDERS: And we just don't have -- I'm sorry.
RADDATZ: Senator, you've said you can't reach out to Republicans indefinitely and Democrats should use the majority.
But, this morning, we're hearing 10 GOP senators have a new plan. So, is it a mistake for Democrats to consider abandoning bipartisanship negotiations so soon?
SANDERS: Well, Martha, the issue is not bipartisanship or not.
The issue is, are we going to address the incredible set of crises and the pain and the anxiety which is in this country?
You know what? I don't care what anybody says. We have got to deal with this pandemic. We have got to make sure that we are producing the vaccines that we need and get those vaccines into the arms of the people. We cannot have children in America going hungry, people being evicted, schools not open. We need to open our schools in a safe way. That's what we have to do.
So, the question is not bipartisanship. The question is addressing the unprecedented crisis that we face right now. If Republicans want to work with us, they have better ideas on how to address those crises, that's great. But, to be honest with you, I have not yet heard that.
RADDATZ: Does your party have the votes to pass the relief package through the reconciliation process, if you decide to go that route?
SANDERS: Yes, I believe that we do, because it's hard for me to imagine any Democrat, no matter what state he or she may come from, who doesn't understand the need to go forward right now in an aggressive way to protect the working families of this country.
Look, all of us will have differences of opinion. This is a $1.9 trillion bill. I have differences and concerns about this bill. But, at the end of the day, we're going to support the president of the United States, and we're going to come forward, and we're going to do what the America people overwhelmingly want us to do.
The polling is overwhelming, Republicans, Democrats, independents. They know this country is in trouble.
RADDATZ: Senator -- Senator, you say you're confident about the Democrats.
But I saw Joe Manchin from West Virginia this weekend, and he has made remarks after watching Kamala Harris being interviewed about this relief package, saying: "No one called me about that. We're going to try to find a bipartisan pathway forward. I think we need to do that. We need to work together. That's not a way of working together."
Are you still confident?
SANDERS: Yes, I am absolutely confident.
And I will tell you also why. Joe Manchin is a chairman. I'm a chairman. Democrats have majority because of the fact that we won two seats with great candidates in Georgia.
And, obviously, those candidates won the support of the people of Georgia, but that campaign, in many ways, was a national campaign.
And what those candidates said is, yes, we are going to provide checks of $2,000, $1,400 on top of the $600. Yes, we're going to extend unemployment benefits. Yes, we are going to address the needs of working families.
The entire Democratic Party came together behind the candidates in Georgia. We made promises to the American people. And if politics means anything, if you're going to have any degree of creditability, you know what? You can't campaign on a series of issues, and then, after the election ,when you get power, say, oh well, you know what, changing our mind.
That's not the way it works.
SANDERS: ... promises to the American people. We're going to keep those promises.
RADDATZ: And, Senator, speaking of Georgia, I want to talk about Marjorie Taylor Greene. We've been talking about her this morning.
Do you believe she's fit to hold office? And should she be on the Education Committee?
SANDERS: Look, I think the idea that you're talking about -- members of the U.S. House of Representatives are talking about violence? That is -- you know, it is almost beyond comprehension.
I think this is something the Republican Party has got to deal with.
Look, the Republic -- I’m not going to give the Republicans advice. They don’t want my advice. But ultimately, they will continue being a conservative party that believes in democracy or an authoritarian party based on big lies, conspiracy theories, and, in fact, a movement toward violence. And I hope the Republicans make the right decision and come down on the side of democracy.
RADDATZ: And Senator, we only have about 15 seconds left, but there was a big story this week about the Robinhood app and GameStop. Some of your colleagues were very critical of Robinhood’s decision to block its users from purchasing more GameStop stock on Thursday.
What do you say to them? What do you think needs to happen? Quickly, if you can, sir.
SANDERS: Well, in one sentence, I have long believed that the business model of Wall Street is flawed. I think we have to take a very hard look at the kind of illegal activities and outrageous behavior on the part of the hedge funds and other Wall Street players.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks very much. Very succinct. I appreciate it.
Up next, Nate Silver runs the numbers on the chances Dems could claim Ohio's new open Senate seat. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUBTITLE: The U.S. Senate has held 16 impeachment trials. Which trial was the first to not hear from witnesses?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ON SCREEN TEXT: The U.S. Senate has held 16 impeachment trials. Which trial was the first to not hear from witnesses?
Former President Donald Trump's first impeachment trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT (January 31, 2020): Shall it be in order to consider and debate under the impeachment rules any motion to subpoena witnesses or documents? The yeas are 49, the nays are 51. The motion is not agreed to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: And our own powerhouse White House and congressional team joins us live on the roundtable.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): I'm announcing today that I have made a decision not to run again in 2022. It's gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantiate policy issues. And that has contributed to my decision.
We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties were pushed further to the right and further to the left and there are too few people who are actively looking for that common ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Ohio's Senator Rob Portman's decision to retire shocked the Republican establishment and opened a major new battleground in the fight for Senate control in 2022. But after Donald Trump easily carried the buckeye state last November, do Democrats have a shot at flipping the seat?
We asked FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver for an early forecast.
NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: If you still think of Ohio as a purple state, well, you're a little out of steps with the past few years.
Last November, despite polls showing a close race in Ohio, Donald Trump wound up winning the buckeye state by 8 points. That's a big win in an election where Joe Biden won the popular vote by 4.5 points nationally.
That means Ohio was 12.5 points more Republican than the country overall, making Ohio as much of a red state as Illinois or Oregon or New Jersey are blue states.
One counterpoint is Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, who was re-elected in Ohio in 2018, but he's more the exception than the rule. Republicans won every other statewide office that year and held all their seats in the House. And keep in mind that 2018 was a very good year for Democrats nationally.
Parties usually have trouble in midterms when they control the presidency, as Democrats will in 2022. One ray of hope for Democrats is that Ohioans tend to elect pretty moderate, business-friendly Republicans like Portman or current Governor Mike DeWine or former Governor John Kasich.
It's not clear how well a more Trumpist right-wing Republican would do, like U.S. Representative Jim Jordan, although Jordan himself has said he won't run.
We work in probabilities here. So if you're being super-literal, I buy Democrats have a chance, it's just not a very good chance, way under 50 percent. And it probably depends on the GOP having a really weak candidate or Democrats a very strong one. Has anyone asked Lebron James what his plans are for 2022?
RADDATZ: Not me. Thanks to Nate for that. The roundtable is up next. We're back in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: What are you saying to your members about protecting themselves?
NANCY PELOSI, (D-CALIF.) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We will probably need a supplemental for more security for members when the enemy is within the House of Representatives, a threat that members are concerned about, in addition to what is happening outside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Speaker Nancy Pelosi's startling remarks about threats of violence facing lawmakers in the wake of January 6th's deadly riot at the Capitol.
It's just one of the many things to discuss with our new ABC team covering the White House and Congress, chief White House correspondent Cecilia Vega, senior white house correspondent Mary Bruce, congressional correspondent Rachel Scott and weekend White House correspondent MaryAlice Parks.
It's great to see all of you this morning.
And, Cecilia, I want to start with you. I want to start with unity. Unity was the focus of Joe Biden's campaign, the reason he said voters should turn to him. He predicted a GOP epiphany after the election. But the lack of even gaining one Republican vote so far for COVID relief, what -- what does that mean going forward in terms of unifying the country?
CECILIA VEGA, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and this is something he campaigned on. It's something that was a huge part of his inaugural speech. It's something we've heard almost every day since he's been in office for the last few days.
He said that there would be this epiphany by Republicans if Donald Trump left. He also, on a conference call, told supporters at one point that he would -- could end up eating his words but that he believed Republicans essentially would come around.
Martha, we may end up seeing the president eating his words on this.
The Biden team is at a crossroads right now. They've got to decide whether it is bipartisanship and unity that prevails or whether they're going to potentially go at it alone and just forego this effort of unity and -- you know, and how long they're going to wait it out in the name of bipartisanship.
It is looking more and more like they're going to end up going at it alone. We saw that remarkable shift in tone -- you played it right there -- from the president. It was subtle but it mattered, where he said, "We have to pass this bill." And they firmly believe that COVID relief is their number one priority right now. They've got to get this passed.
So the question is, how long are they going to end up waiting it out, especially since we're seeing so little budge on Republicans at this point?
RADDATZ: And, Mary, we did hear Biden say he wants Republicans' support. And we mentioned those 10 GOP senators who now have a new plan. What -- what do you know about that new plan and will it go anywhere?
MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are seeing some movement, finally, this morning. Ten Republican senators have sent a letter to the president asking to meet with him and essentially putting out a counter-offer, citing areas where they think they can actually come together and achieve some of that bipartisanship.
And there are areas of agreement here. Republicans say they support $160 billion for vaccinations and testing, extending unemployment relief and more targeted direct payments to most Americans. That's something the White House seems to be able to get on board here.
Now, it's not clear if the White House is going to actually respond positively to this.
But what is clear is that, if they don't work, look, Democrats are ready to go it alone here. And, you know, after talking to White House sources and Republican sources on the Hill, what's also very clear here is that both sides have a very different definition of bipartisanship.
You have heard the White House argue that, even if they try to do this just with their Democratic majority, well, Republicans could still back that bill.
Republicans I talk to say, that's not bipartisanship. That's just not going to cut it. That's not going to fulfill the president's promises of unity here.
And I think, when you take a step back and look at the big picture -- and you heard Senator Sanders getting to this point -- that Democrats are banking on the fact that, even if Joe Biden isn't able to fulfill that promise with this COVID relief bill, that Americans simply want help.
They want relief from Washington. They are far more interested in that than they are in the political process of trying -- being able to achieve reaching across the aisle, Martha.
RADDATZ: And, Rachel, Kamala Harris was out there talking about passing this COVID relief package, which came as a surprise to Joe Manchin, a Democrat, who says he's still looking for that bipartisan compromise.
RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It came as a surprise to him. He said that he did not receive a call.
And he is now asking for more of a targeted approach from the White House. And he says that Biden's economic team met with a group of bipartisan lawmakers and that, at the end of the day, they ended up walking away and doing what they thought was best.
He is asking now for Biden, the president, and the White House to meet with bipartisan lawmakers, to work with Democrats and Republicans. And we mentioned that letter that those 10 GOP senators sent over to the White House.
Well, in the first line, they actually quote from Biden's inaugural address calling for unity. Now they're asking for him to back it up.
RADDATZ: And, MaryAlice, Biden really is anxious to advance his agenda quickly. We saw all those executive orders.
What's happening here?
MARYALICE PARKS, ABC NEWS WEEKEND WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He wants something to get done.
Those numbers that you started off the show with, 10 million jobs lost since the beginning of the pandemic, 23 million adults who say they are struggling at times to feed their families, there's a sense of urgency here.
He wants to show that he is turning the lights of government back on across every single agency, but also interesting that he is admitting straight out of the gate that his powers are limited. pivoting back to Congress and saying: In a time of crisis, I need your help. There's only so much that I can do with executive orders.
I think it's interesting. He's asking the country and Congress to engage in a lot of these economic issues, asking the country to debate the prospect of a $15 minimum wage, putting in such a Democratic priority in that initial bill.
A lot of people at the time said that maybe that was just one thing put into maybe be taken out. But he wants people to grapple with these questions. He's asking Congress to grapple with, what is the appropriate amount of unemployment benefits? Should we be getting more checks, reoccurring checks, to people who maybe stepped away from their jobs because they didn't feel safe?
He's asking the country to have these debates and asking Congress to step up and have the debates too.
RADDATZ: And, Cecilia, I want to move to impeachment.
Trump's entire five-person legal team is now gone. We're about a week away. He's lawyerless. What were the differences? Why did that team walk away? What were their views of how to help Donald Trump?
VEGA: Yes, Martha, what we're hearing, it came down to a disagreement over strategy, that President Trump remains fixated on this false notion that he won the election.
He wanted the lawyers to really focus in this impeachment hearing -- impeachment trial on voter fraud, widespread voter fraud claims, which we have been reporting for months ad nauseum are completely baseless and false.
The argument that you're hearing from the lawyers, however, is that they wanted to go in there and reflect what you're hearing from so many Republicans in the party right now, which is, they believe impeaching a former president post-presidency is unconstitutional. That ended up being this disagreement over strategy and over focus.
But you said it. It's a mess. Here we are, a little more than a week out from this trial. The president has no lawyers. The lawyers who had represented -- the former president, I should say -- who represented him during the first impeachment trial have declined to participate in this.
Rudy Giuliani, who wanted to do it, says that he can't because he is now considered a witness in this because of his role at that rally on January 6 before the insurrection.
And, really, what it kind of comes down to is, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The president is still down in Florida fixated on this notion that he did not actually lose the election that he actually lost.
RADDATZ: And, Rachel, on this impeachment trial, with all but five Republicans saying the outcome is unconstitutional, it's really a foregone conclusion what's going to happen, lawyers or no lawyers.
SCOTT: It was the strongest signal yet that we have seen that former President Donald Trump is likely to be acquitted in his second impeachment trial.
Forty-five GOP senators voted to not move forward with the trial at all, declaring it unconstitutional. Senator Rand Paul is now saying that the trial is dead on arrival.
Senator Collins says, do the math here, you need at least 17 Republicans in order to convict, 45 are saying the trial is unconstitutional. The numbers just are not there.
And Republicans wanted this delay, this two-week long delay in order to give former President Donald Trump more time to prepare his defense. So, it is striking this morning that he's waking up without a defense team as Democrats are working to build their case. They're still pressing forward with this. They said this is about holding Donald Trump accountable.
RADDATZ: And, Mary, Mitch McConnell had signaled his openness to convict Trump, but he voted against even holding the trial. Is there any chance he now supports conviction? And what does this say about him going forward?
BRUCE: Well, it says there isn't a really good chance here. That it certainly is not a good sign for those who are holding out hopes that Republicans may join Democrats in voting to convict the former president.
I mean, you know, McConnell has been really interesting to watch over the last couple of weeks because, of course, he came out very sharply, saying that the president flatly provoked the mob, the violent mob that stormed the capitol. He said the former president fed lies to his supporters.
We knew he was open to the possibility of conviction. But then he goes ahead and votes not to move ahead this trial.
Now, I’m told that he is still leaving open that door. He wants to hear the evidence. He wants to see what's presented. But it certainly seems like it's going to be an uphill battle to convince McConnell, and, of course, he sets the tone for his members here.
I think when you look at the big picture here, I think you are likely to see a lot of Republicans who even though they may condemn former President Trump will say this trial simply can't stand because of the constitutional aspects here, and that will allow them sort of walk a little fine line and I think Mitch McConnell may very well be one of them.
RADDATZ: And, MaryAlice, this is all kind of force Democrats to look at the possibility of censure instead. How likely is that?
PARKS: I think it's been considered. I talked to senior Democrat aides on the Hill that said they’re looking at this as a real possibility. We’ve seen a handful of senators, both Democrat and Republican, start floating.
But, look, the question comes down to, would Republicans actually get onboard with that as an alternative?
Democrats are going to want a trial still, they want to lay out their evidence. They want to document what they saw happen on January 6th. But they don’t want to have a vote that they know is just going to fail.
So, if they got into indications from Susan Collins of Maine, from others, that they actually had ten Republicans that would seriously a vote for a censure, I think they might bring it up as a possible alternative vote.
You know, Republicans could use that as an off-ramp. We heard this conversation from Republicans. they're not interested in the impeachment trial because they don't find it constitutional -- I mean, that's a process argument. But they're not offering an alternative.
So, does censure become an alternative for Republicans, too, so that they’re a part of some response from Congress about the offense on January 6th?
RADDATZ: And, Cecilia, aside from unity, Joe Biden really did build his campaign around saying that Donald Trump was unfit to hold office, and yet, he said almost nothing about impeachment. Can he really stay out of this?
VEGA: Well, they're certainly trying. The little bit that he has said, he does believe that impeachment has to happen, but aides for the most part has tried to side step this, they want to let this issue be sorted out on the Hill. They want it to be fought out there.
But, you know, privately, Martha, everyone will tell you that this is a concern that's what's happening with impeachment could override the agenda. They're focused on getting this COVID relief package passed. They know that impeachment is going to alienate Republicans even further. So, they really want to keep President Biden isolated from this debate that's happening over how and when and how much to go for.
But I don't know how much longer he can continue to stay out of it, given, as you said, he needs these Republicans. He wants to continue on with this message of bipartisanship and unity. And yet, here you got impeachment sort of threatening to blow all that up.
RADDATZ: And, Mary, meanwhile on the House side, we’ve got -- we've got Kevin McCarthy down in Florida. We’ve been talking about this morning, posing with Trump.
How do you explain former President Trump's hold on the Republican Party and really just go forward and what do you see here?
BRUCE: Well, I think that's the big question going forward here in Washington. I think, look, the shift in Republicans over the last month has been nothing short of remarkable. I mean, just over two weeks ago, you had Kevin McCarthy on the House floor saying that President Trump bears some responsibility for the attack on the Capitol.
And yet now, he's down in Florida, deepening his ties with the former president, courting his supporters as they look ahead to and regain the House in the next midterm elections.
And, look, this comes down to just a real cold political calculus here, and it is a very risky one at that. Republicans are well aware that Donald Trump won 74 million votes, more than 74 million votes, in the last election. They are banking on the fact that he will continue to wield significant political power. They see what happens when you cross President Trump. I mean just look at how we've seen many calling for -- for punishment for Liz Cheney after she voted to impeach the president.
But this is also a move that could really backfire on Republicans. And they're well aware of that, too, especially as you see President Trump continuing to have close ties to people, like conspiracy theorist Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.
And I do think it's important to note that while you see Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans turning back to President Trump, there are certainly top Republicans who disagree with this strategy. I mean Mitch McConnell certainly doesn't see the future of his party running through President Trump and it is just going further in exposing the deep divides in the Republican Party and raising a lot of questions about what on earth they are going to do going forward.
RADDATZ: And, Rachel, I want to ask you the same thing. You're up on The Hill every day now and Marjorie Taylor Greene has certainly become a flash point. No one's really disavowing her.
So what happens with her now? They -- they've given her a seat on the Education Committee.
SCOTT: A spot on the Education Committee and apparently the backing of former President Donald Trump. She says the two of them spoke this weekend and that she is so grateful for his support.
We know that House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is going to try to pull her aside this week to speak with her. He has condemned some of her previous comments. But it's really unclear what he could possibly say to get through to her. She is as defiant as ever. She says she is not going to back down. She says that she is not going to apologize.
This is an elected member of Congress that has pushed some of the most outlandish conspiracy theories. She says that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has committed treason and that -- suggesting that she could even be executed for that. Speaker Pelosi is now calling for greater security for members of Congress. She says that they're now facing an enemy within the House of Representative.
RADDATZ: And -- and -- and, Cecilia, I -- I want to go back to -- to unity here for a minute. You -- you covered Donald Trump. You're covering -- you're a chief White House correspondent for -- for Joe Biden. What have you seen Joe Biden do to reach out to some of those Trump voters, reasonable conservatives, to try to bring them into the fold?
VEGA: Well, I think, Martha, you're hitting on the complaint that we're hearing from so many Republicans right now, that they haven't seen a lot. You know, we're told that the president is very much in touch with people on Capitol Hill, Republicans, leaders on The Hill. His team is actively involved in these negotiations with Republicans as well.
But this is the complaint right now from conservatives, from Republicans in this town who say, you ran on unity, you mentioned in your inaugural address that you're going to reach out to everyone who didn't vote for you, but they're waiting to see the proof in the pudding.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks, Cecilia, and thanks, all of you. It's great to see you here this morning.
Before we leave you this morning, we want to take moment to celebrate our own Bob Woodruff's 15 alive day. Hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2006, he has made a remarkable recovery, continuing to report from around the world. And he and his wife Lee continue to raise millions for our veterans. We are so grateful for all you do, Bob, and for all those involved in your recovery.
Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us and have a great day.