'This Week' Transcript 4-30-23: Rep. Steve Scalise and Sen. Chris Coons

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, April 23.

ByABC News
April 30, 2023, 9:35 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, April 23, 2023 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.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It’s time to finish the job.

RADDATZ: Joe Biden launches his re-election bid, teeing up a potential 2024 rematch with Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We will defeat Joe Biden in 2024.

RADDATZ: We’re on the roads as concerns grow over Biden's age and record.

President Biden already targeting battleground states, like here in Pennsylvania.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get me out of bed, Joe Biden, because, frankly, it’s not working.

RADDATZ: We take it all to Biden 2024 campaign co-chair Senator Chris Coons.

Rick Klein breaks down the growing 2024 Republican field and our powerhouse roundtable covers all the fallout.

Debt ceiling deadlock.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We lifted the debt limit. We’ve done our job.

RADDATZ: Republicans pass a bill to raise the debt ceiling and cut spending as Democrats dig in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They produced a ransom note. That's not responsible.

RADDATZ: Can Congress find common ground and avoid economic catastrophe? Our exclusive with House Majority Leader Steve Scalise.

And --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to see USDA get the farmers the relief.

RADDATZ: After Congress promised billions in federal aid to black farmers, Rachel Scott investigates why so many are still waiting for relief in her series “Through the Cracks.”


ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, Martha Raddatz.

Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK.

Since taking office in 2021, Joe Biden has faced questions about whether he would seek a second term. And as the oldest president in American history, whether he could serve a full eight years. On Tuesday, he puts any doubts about his intentions to rest, formally kicking off his campaign in a three-minute video, asking voters to let him, quote, finish the job, and warning that American democracy is still at risk.

But those concerns about his age still linger. We heard it this week in Pennsylvania, where we went to take the pulse of the swing state voters. And it’s become a focal point of a tax from the Republicans vying for the GOP nomination, despite the fact that their front runner is just four years younger.

We'll cover the story from every angle this morning, along with the battle on Capitol Hill over raising the nation's borrowing limit. But we begin this morning at the White House with chief White House correspondent Mary Bruce.

Good morning, Mary.


Well, after teasing this announcement for months, President Biden made it official, asking Americans to give him another four years and setting up a potential rematch with Donald Trump.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not a time to be complacent. That's why I’m running for re-election.

BRUCE (voice over): Exactly four years after launching his successful run for the White House, the president kicked off his re-election bid, pledging to protect key American values.

BIDEN: Personal freedom is fundamental to who we are as Americans.

There’s nothing more important. Nothing more sacred.

BRUCE: Just like last time, the president is arguing we are in a battle for the soul of the nation against what he calls MAGA Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Courage, opportunity, democracy, freedom, they're under attack by an extreme movement that seeks to overturn elections, ban booked and eliminate a woman's rights to choose.

BRUCE: But there was no big rally, no road trip, and no major speech. The president softly launching his bid for re-election.

The Democratic primary will look very different. Biden is not expected to face a major opponent for the nomination. But he is facing some major challenges. According to one poll, 70 percent of Americans, including a majority of Democrats, say he should not run again. A major concern, his age. Biden would be 86 at the end of a second term. His response has always been to just watch him.

BRUCE (on camera): What do you say those Americans who are watching and aren’t convinced?

BIDEN: I respect them taking a hard look at it. I’d take a hard look at it as well. I took a hard look at it before I decided to run. And – and I feel good.

BRUCE (voice over): His bare-bone operations is staffing up slowly, starting with campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the top Latina aid at the White House, and granddaughter of iconic labor leader Caesar Chavez.


BRUCE: Now, Martha, we don’t expect the campaign to really ramp up in earnest still for several more months, in part because Biden’s team thinks their strongest argument is simply to show him doing the job, to show him being president. But there is no question that with all of these concerns about his age, the spotlight is going to be shining even more brightly on Vice President Kamala Harris. We are already seeing her take on a more prominent roles, perhaps an effort to try and boost her popularity. She is now leading the charge on the fight for abortion and reproductive rights. So we can expect her to be front and center on major issues. Martha.

RADDATZ: Thanks, Mary.

Democratic Senator and Biden Campaign National Co-Chair Chris Coons joins us now.

Good morning, Senator. Great to see you.

I know --

SEN. CHRIS COONS, BIDEN 2024 CAMPAIGN NATIONAL CO-CHAIR & (D) DELAWARE: Good morning, Martha. Great to be with you.

RADDATZ: I know it is a very big week, but – but let’s get down to it. You just heard Mary there. You’re facing some pretty difficult poll numbers. That NBC poll she references says 51 percent of Democrats – Democrats – don’t think Joe Biden should run again.

COONS: Well, Martha, the numbers we’re going to be talking about are the 12 million jobs created in the first two years that Biden’s been president, the lowest unemployment in 50 years. The 850,000 new manufacturing jobs. And I'll remind you, our president often says, don’t compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative.

When folks get polled on a head-to-head if Donald Trump should be the Republican nominee again, he wins, and he wins decisively because, two years later, President Biden is stronger. He has an incredible record to run on. And the former president is weaker. He’s been indicted. He spent years just relitigating 2020.

I look forward to talking about the numbers based on what we’ve gotten done with President Biden in the White House, on infrastructure, manufacturing, prescription drugs. It’s a great record to run on.

RADDATZ: And he’s been talking about that record since he became president.


RADDATZ: He talks about it again and again. There are, obviously, some things he didn’t get passed, an assault weapons ban and things like that. But I want to go back to the polls.

COONS: Sure.

RADDATZ: I know -- know polls are not the thing you really want to talk about. But in that same poll, 48 percent of those polled said they didn’t want him to run again -- no elephant in the room here – because of age.

COONS: Yes, and you were with me at the White House Correspondents Dinner last night. Many of – there were thousands of folks in the room. And, Martha, he was fast on his feet. He was agile. He had great delivery. You saw the State of the Union Address, nearly an hour and a half. He was faster on his feet than most members of Congress. I think Joe Biden is agile, is capable. His record of leadership, both at home and abroad, makes him imminently qualified. And we should be focusing some on the wisdom and experience he brings to the job, in addition to the accomplishments he’s had these first two years.

RADDATZ: I know you cite the State of the Union. He had good comedic timing last night. I will give him that. A lot of that’s on teleprompter. And people have seen him stumble. These are people they talked to. Forty-eight percent said its age because they’ve watched him. The president says, watch me. And some of those people have watched him and still have doubts. So – so what would you say to them about those stumbles, about ramblings sometimes?

COONS: Martha, I’d say, compare him to the alternative. Recognize the value of experience and seasoning. Recognize that his values align better with where we want America to go. And in my meetings and conversations with him, in public, in private, I'm more often the person that goes, um, you know, the new senator from Missouri, than he does. Joe Biden is fit, capable and ready to serve another term.

RADDATZ: So, what will this campaign be like? Obviously the last one was during Covid. He didn’t have to go out a lot. Do you see him going out a lot? How will he handle this and the general election debate?

COONS: Joe Biden loves campaigning. He loves going to a coffee shop, a union hall, a fire station. I've seen no one in politics in my time who’s more energized by connecting with voters, with average people than Joe Biden. His campaigns aren’t generated rallies with a plane with his name on it behind him. They’re connecting with average people.

He, frankly, complained in 2020 that he didn’t like being disconnected from folks. On the day of his inauguration, the fact there was nobody there because of a pandemic made him feel like I want to get out there and connect. He’s been doing that as president. He’ll be doing that as our candidate.

RADDATZ: One of the things in that video, and Mary mentioned, is the spotlight being on Kamala Harris, that she will be front and center on major issues. What took so long?

COONS: Well, the vice president, like many vice presidents, has struggled to get positive press coverage and to get the credit she deserves for the hard work that she’s been doing.

I had a great opportunity to travel with her on a recent trip to Ghana and was so struck by how easy and engaging she was, by the speeches she gave, but also the significant meetings with national leaders. And I saw that this week again as we did a campaign kickoff event.

The vice president’s ready to run and ready to be president should that ever happen. I know our president has great confidence in her, and so do I.

RADDATZ: OK, I want to turn to the debt ceiling. The House vote this week, passing their debt ceiling bill, which, of course, would raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion but, of course, cuts key parts of President Biden's agenda.

What should the Senate be doing now? He says he won’t really negotiate this. He wants a clean debt bill.

COONS: We can’t default. Martha, you know what the consequences would be for your viewers and our country if we were to default.

And that’s what this is really about. The Republicans are demanding hostage negotiations, where they will crash the full faith and credit of the United States. That would raise the rates that your viewers are paying on credit cards or student loans or mortgages. It would throw our country into recession and hurt us globally.

President Biden has said he will meet with Speaker McCarthy about the things we should be discussing -- the annual spending, the appropriations process that were underway with --


RADDATZ: But he wants no spending cuts, no spending cuts. That he will not negotiate?

COONS: Well, let’s look at their records. He actually has reduced the deficits by $1.7 trillion. His predecessor ballooned the deficit with record tax cuts --


RADDATZ: But let's go forward, what do you want to do now (ph)?

COONS: -- just want to make those permanent.

Look at what just passed in the House. It would cut veterans'healthcare. We just passed landmark legislation to fund the healthcare for burn pit victims. They cut that.

If you apply the cuts across programs that they’re talking about, 30,000 states and local law enforcement officers would be laid off.

RADDATZ: So, you would let the debt -- you would let us default our debt?

COONS: No, I would not let us default.


RADDATZ: No, before any spending cuts?

COONS: No, I’d be happy to negotiate, what's the mix of revenue increases and spending cuts that make sense going forward? Look at President Biden's real record the last two years. We have reduced the deficit.

RADDATZ: Okay. Thanks very much for joining us this morning, Senator Coons.

COONS: Thank you, Martha.

RADDATZ: We appreciate it very much.

Let's turn back to those polls for a minute. Those poll numbers represent people and while Democratic leaders are rallying behind the president, there’s a definite trend.

So, we went to Pennsylvania to find out what voters in the state that helped deliver Biden the presidency think about him now.


RADDATZ (voice-over): From the Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg, to historic Philadelphia and the suburbs, Democrats are divided on whether or not President Biden should be running again.

You voted for Biden.


RADDATZ: He announced this week, what was your reaction?

MUHAMMAD: Regret, disappointment, frustration.

RADDATZ: While it’s very early in the race, that disappointment and frustration was expressed again and again by young voters we talked to.

MARCELO VILLAR-OJITO, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY STUDENT: I think I would go for Biden but obviously I would prefer a fresher candidate.

RADDATZ: He announced this week, were you excited by that?

ELAINA SYMES, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Not particularly. I’m more interested in a progressive candidate.

RADDATZ: Despite having voted for Biden last time, 21-year-old Elaina Symes couldn’t point me to anything that would make her want to vote for him, except --

What do you like about Joe Biden?

SYMES: That he's not Trump.


RADDATZ: The hesitation for many is exactly what the polls say -- age.

JACKSON RENNIX, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY STUDENT: I would say that he's way too old and very unfit to be president.

RADDATZ: And when you say he's too old, do you worry about his health or the idea is just too old?

RENNIX: We want to see new ideas as a young generation.

RADDATZ: But don't tell that to 32-year-old Pennsylvania State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta.

REP. MALCOLM KENYATTA (D), PENNYSLVANIA HOUSE: We have seen the type of leader who not only deserves four more years but, frankly, I would say the American people, we need him to finish the job.

RADDATZ: As a Biden surrogate, he's working to downplay voters' fears about the president's age and rally them around his candidacy.

KENYATTA: And I think for the next, you know, year and a half of this campaign, I think our job as Democrats is to really push back against this narrative that there are too equally competent and accomplished executives in terms of the former president and the current president.

RADDATZ: At the Southwest Senior Center in Philadelphia, Biden's age is an asset, not a liability.

Do you talk about politics here?

CAROLYN SIMS-NAESMITH, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: We talk everything here. It’s life.

RADDATZ: What do you talk about when you talk politics?

SIMS-NAESMITH: We’re talking about Medicare. We’re talking about Medicaid. We’re talking about Social Security. We’re talking about living arrangements.

RADDATZ: So, when you think about your lives and all those issues, who's your candidate?

SIMS-NAESMITH: Well, that to me is a no-brainer. That would be Biden.

RADDATZ: The Biden campaign seems to be more on solid ground with older voters we spoke to, a group that helped propel Biden to victory in 2020.

Do you worry at all about his age?

NANCY GAMBLE, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: No, not at all, as long as he's getting the job done and doing what he's supposed to do in the right state of mind. That's what should be required.

RADDATZ (voice over): It’s not just the age gap Biden needs to worry about. It’s the geography.

RADDATZ (on camera): It wasn’t really the cities that powered Biden to victory in 2020, it was the suburbs that really made the difference.

RADDATZ (voice over): So, we went to North Hampton County in the Lehigh Valley, a bellwether county that voted for Obama twice, then flipped to Trump in 2016, before going blue with Biden in 2020. Propelled by voters like Steve Davis, who aren’t motivated by party, instead inspired or uninspired by candidates.

RADDATZ (on camera): When you look at Biden, you voted for him in 2020, what gives you pause if you’re having some sort of pause?

STEVE DAVIS, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: Well, obviously, his age. Obviously his age and also getting the party together to accomplish something.

RADDATZ (voice over): Comparisons is what Biden is banking on, that voters will dislike the alternatives enough to go out and vote for him.

RADDATZ (on camera): What's the single reason you would vote for Joe Biden?

MARK HELLER, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: Because I’m not going to vote for Trump. It is that easy.

RADDATZ (voice over): But there is also an enthusiasm gap. Commitment that gets people to the polls. Ad that is clearly something Biden will have to work on.

SONEYET MUHAMMAD, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: I feel so uninspired and disconnected from the work that he's been advancing that it’s – it’s not something I'm really excited about.

RADDATZ (on camera): So, in the end, if – if – if Donald Trump is the nominee and Joe Biden is the nominee, you’d just stay home?

MUHAMMAD: Probably. Get me out of bed, Joe Biden, because, frankly, it’s not working.


RADDATZ: A long way to Election Day.

Coming up, after a big week on Capitol Hill, we'll hear exclusively from House Majority Leader Steve Scalise on the GOP plan to raise the debt limit. Plus, ABC News political director Rick Klein takes a closer look at the growing Republican field.

We'll be right back.



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The choice in this election is now between strength and weakness, between success or failure, between safety or anarchy, between peace or conflict, and prosperity or catastrophe.

With your vote on November 5, 2024, we’re going to crush Joe Biden. We're going to beat him at the ballot box and we're going to settle our unfished business.


RADDATZ: Former President Trump there after President Biden officially launched his re-election bid. He's vying for a rematch, but other Republican candidates are hoping to take him on instead.

Political director Rick Klein is back with the breakdown.

And, Rick, Republicans clearly think Biden is vulnerable, but we still aren't sure how big a field we're looking at?

RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, Martha, the first debate for the Republicans is going to be at the end of August, but we don't know how many candidates are going to be on the stage, only in part because former President Trump has said he might not attend at all.

We're only seeing a small handful of Republicans get in this race. It is slow to develop, Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson, a few others. For the most part, some of the biggest names remain on the sidelines, at least formally.

Now, I'm told to expect some movement from former Vice President Mike Pence sometime in June. Senator Tim Scott might be a little bit earlier. We're going to see some movement potentially in May. The biggest question remains, when does Ron DeSantis get in, if he gets in. He has spent the last week traveling abroad on a big foreign trip, going to Japan, the U.K., to Israel. He now comes back to Florida for the final week of his legislative session. And we are told here at ABC News to expect him to announce a presidential exploratory committee sometime in the next couple of weeks.

RADDATZ: And, Rick, even though he's not in yet, it's -- it's been a rough few weeks for DeSantis. And -- and it looks like Trump, for all his legal woes, is as strong as ever?

KLEIN: Yeah, Martha, I want to hone in on the last three months of Fox News polling on the presidential primary. And you can see Donald Trump only gaining strength since February, now the choice of a -- of a clear majority of Republican primary voters.

And you look at Ron DeSantis over that same period of time, he has been dropping from 28 percent a couple of months ago down to 21 percent in the latest poll. And what's interesting is that, as he's been losing that voter share, the only candidate who seems to be gaining ground is Donald Trump, the other candidates stuck in the mid or low single digits.

And despite that fact, it is Ron DeSantis who's taking the brunt of some of the -- the harshest attacks in the Republican primary field as it's emerging. Just this past week, Disney, which is ABC's parent company, sued Ron DeSantis. This lawsuit describes a targeted campaign of retaliation involving the company's special status in central Florida. And the other candidates have been pouncing on that to portray him as anti-business, Nikki Haley even suggesting that Disney should move some of its operations to South Carolina.

RADDATZ: And, Rick, we're now seeing President Biden face perhaps his biggest governing challenge since the GOP takeover of Congress, Republicans this past week passing that debt ceiling increase that includes big budget cuts the president says are going to be non-starters.

So how do you see this fight shaping up?

KLEIN: Well, Martha, the president has to be really careful as this plays out in public. This is the last couple of months of the president's approval rating on the economy, from polling from Quinnipiac University. And you can see those numbers are just stuck in the mid-30s. So, amid all of the -- the mixed economic news we've had of late, the potential showdown over a debt ceiling that could make things worse, if this becomes a more serious economic slowdown, if it becomes a blame game, finger-pointing over who's to blame, you know that President Biden is just simply not starting in a strong position.

RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much, Rick.

Let's take all of that now to House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

Good morning, Congressman. You heard what Rick was reporting, and the bill Republicans passed on the debt limit is basically dead on arrival in the Senate. You also heard what Senator Coons had to say. He compared it to hostage negotiations. What's your reaction?

REP. STEVE SCALISE, HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER & (R) LOUISIANA: Well, Martha, good morning. Good to be with you. I think most Americans recognized that, as we're addressing the debt limit, we also have to address the problem that got us here. Look, President Biden maxed out America's credit card by spending trillions of dollars over the last two years. What Republicans said is we're willing to work with the president on addressing that, but let's also address the spending that got us here, too.

And what we put in the bill are very basic common-sense things like let's have some work requirements for able-bodied people who wants to get welfare benefits. Shouldn't they at least be looking for work, when everybody is looking for workers? You've got millions of people being paid not to work.

We talk about protecting veterans. We've heard this lie over and over again. The speaker himself has said we're protecting veterans. My boss, the chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, is a veteran himself. The only person talking about cutting veterans' benefits is Joe Biden. And I'll tell you, as the majority leader, I will not bring a bill to the floor of the House, even if President Biden wants it, I will not bring a bill that cuts our veterans.

So let's talk about how we can get our economy back moving again. We put some really good items in this bill, by the way, that cuts red tape so we can promote American energy production. That would actually help families who are struggling. Because families are paying a lot more, 40 percent in most places more, for household electricity, 50 percent more at the pump, because of Joe Biden's anti-American energy policies. We fixed that, too, in this bill.

The White House needs to ultimately get into this negotiation. The president's been in hiding for two months, Martha. That's not acceptable to Americans. They expect the president to sit in a room with Speaker McCarthy and start negotiating, not hiding...

RADDATZ: Congressman, one of -- one of --

SCALISE: Not hiding, not waiting and trying to get a debt crisis.

RADDATZ: One of the things Senator Coons said is, I’d be happy to negotiate what's the mix of revenue increases and spending cuts going forward.

I also want to say that there some veterans groups who’ve written a letter saying they aren’t happy with this bill and they are worried about that bill. What would you say to them?

SCALISE: Well, we’ve seen the secretary of the V.A. trying to scare people and put out things that they know are completely false. Show me in the bill where it says any of those things. It doesn’t.

And the president knows that, Martha. The president doesn’t want to talk about what's in the bill because ultimately, we do things like reclaim unspent COVID money. There’s tens of billions of dollars of money floating around for COVID when President Biden himself have said COVID is over. Why don't we give that money back to the taxpayers?

Again, pro-growth policies to cut red tape to help Americans with things like inflation, like their energy cost that are out of control.


SCALISE: Those are President Biden’s agenda.

RADDATZ: So, bottom line, if the U.S. defaulted on its debt, if this does go down to the wire, are you willing to let the U.S. default rather than sign onto a clean bill?

SCALISE: We just passed a bill that addresses the debt ceiling. And for all that we hear from our Senate friends, Martha, they’ve yet to pass anything. If they got a better idea, I want to see that bill and tell them to pass it through the Senate.

We just passed the bill through the House and we’ve been very vocal. It’s been over two months since President Biden has sat down with Speaker McCarthy to have negotiations.

President Biden is clearly trying to run out the clock and create a debt crisis. That's irresponsible.

Republicans at least said if the president is going to set this one out, we’re not. We’re going to lead. We passed a bill to address the problem.

It’s time now for the president to get in this game, get off the sidelines and let's start negotiating and figuring this out -- not in June when we get into the midnight hour, but today. We have a lot of time to get this done.

RADDATZ: Congressman --

SCALISE: But we can't wait another two months like President Biden has done.

RADDATZ: Okay, we have very little time. But you brought up Kevin McCarthy. I want to ask you of your relationship with Speaker McCarthy.

You’ve been number two since 2014, but reports suggest there’s some friction there. "The New York Times" reported this month that McCarthy feels he can't rely on you, that you’re ineffective, checked out and reluctant to take a position on anything.

Your response?

SCALISE: Well, I guess they didn't follow this last week. The speaker and I talked multiple times a day in these last few days leading up to the debt ceiling vote. In fact, Kevin called me the night before the vote, at around midnight, we were still working at the Capitol, working out final details, and the speaker called me --


RADDATZ: So, how would you describe your relationship? How would you describe your relationship?

Because “The New York Times” -- that was based on interviews with three Republican lawmakers with direct knowledge of McCarthy's private comments.

Describe your relationship with McCarthy, please?

SCALISE: We have a very strong, open relationship. We don't always agree on everything, but we have a very candid relationship. And ultimately, we have been focused on working through an agenda that actually gets this economy back on track, gets the country back on track.

I know palace intrigue sells papers. People like anonymous sources. Ultimately, I enjoy working with my colleagues and we’ve had a lot of those working relationships just in the last few days to pass a major bill dealing with the debt ceiling and to put together a border security package.

Just two days ago, I rolled out a major border security package with Chairman Jim Jordan, Chairman Mark Green, and Chairman Mike McCaul that involved work from dozens of our members to secure America's border because Joe Biden opened that up, creating massive, massive problems.

RADDATZ: Congressman, let’s look forward --

SCALISE: So, let’s focus on fixing problems for those hardworking families.

RADDATZ: Let’s look forward and we appreciate your work. You’re still neutral in the Republican primary at this point.

What kind of candidate do Republicans need to beat Joe Biden? I’m sure you’ve seen those polls.

SCALISE: Yeah, what America wants is somebody who’s actually going to be fighting for them. Look, families are struggling. Joe Biden has not moved any policies to help those hardworking families who are paying more for everything.

Inflation is still the top issue, Martha, when you talk to people. The higher costs of everything, it’s not just gas at the pump or electricity, food at the grocery store. People when they look at foreign affairs, you’ve gotten major conflicts around the world -- Russia with Ukraine, China looking at Taiwan, Iran working to get a nuclear weapon.

President Biden has let this country go spiraling downward. He’s -- he hid out the last campaign. He's not going to be able to hide it out this time.


RADDATZ: So, who's the Republican?

SCALISE: Let’s get (ph) a strong leader who’s going to focus on getting our country back on track.

RADDATZ: Is that Donald Trump in your mind?

SCALISE: Well, clearly, President Trump has a solid record that is proven. He had our country back on track. We had a strong economy. And everybody was benefiting. Lower income families never saw higher wage growth.

By the way, look at what was happening around the world, we got the Abraham Accords with Israel, peace in so many parts of the world, that today are on fire. We have other great candidates that are looking at (inaudible) with a lot of the folks that are looking to running too.

But right now, I have been focused on getting our agenda moved through Congress, to fight for those hard-working families who've been left behind by Washington for too long. And we are delivering on our commitment to America in the House. And Martha, that lays out a really good road map for whoever our nominee is going to be to actually go and be able to implement real quickly how to get good, smart energy policy, how to get border security which again we are rolling out and going to be passing in the next few weeks.


RADDATZ: Quickly, sir, we are just about out of time. Will you endorse Donald Trump?

SCALISE: I have not made a decision yet. You are going to know my announcement is going to be in time. I have been focusing on our House agenda and we've been moving a really strong agenda for the American people. That's what families want, they want a Congress that works for them. It would be nice if the president was engaged in this too and would actually sit down and start negotiating. But we are going to keep doing our job in the meantime because too much is at stake for this country.

RADDATZ: OK, thanks so much for joining us this morning, Congressman. I appreciate your time.

Coming up, the Power House Roundtable breaks down Biden's announcement and path to a second term. We'll be right back.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They say I'm ancient. I say I'm wise. They say I'm over the hill. Don Lemon would say that’s a man in his prime.

ROY WOOD JR., COMEDIAN: We should be inspired by the events in France. They rioted because they didn’t want to work till 64. Meanwhile, in America, we have an 80-year-old man begging us for four more years of work.


RADDATZ: President Biden and comedian Roy Wood Jr. joking about the president’s age last night at the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington.

Let's bring in the roundtable to talk about all of this.

Former DNC Chair Donna Brazile, former Republican Congressman Will Hurd, “Politico's” senior political columnist Jonathan Martin, and NPR's White House correspondent Asma Khalid.

That’s who we were honoring last night, you White House correspondents.

But, Donna, I'm going to start with you. You said in February you didn't think President Biden should announce for a second term yet. Surprise, he did it. What do you think?

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, he's -- he’s fired up and ready to go. I wasn’t surprised that April 25th was the date. The video announcement, of course. More to come.

But, look, this is a president who's in a hurry. He has a long view of history to invest in America's future, to ensure that the job that he started two years ago will be completed. And I do believe that this president is going to run as if he's ten points behind, understanding that the American people would like to make – would like to see him deliver, not just on the economy, but on those basic freedoms and the – and democracy that he promised a couple years ago.

RADDATZ: And, Will, that's – that’s what he concentrated on. He really didn't talk about his accomplishments in that video. He talked about January 6th. He talked about democracy. Is this the way to beat Donald Trump if Trump’s -- Donald Trump’s the nominee?

WILL HURD, (R) FMR TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: Well, Joe Biden is operating as if Donald Trump is going to be the nominee. And his future success depends on Donald Trump being the nominee. When you have seven out of 10 Americans doesn’t want to see Joe Biden run for re-election and six out of 10 Americans not want ting to see Donald Trump run as well, this is a potential rematch in 2024 that nobody wants to see.

And, unfortunately, whether we like it or not, age is going to be a factor in this campaign because, guess what, Donald Trump’s no spring chicken either. And so this is something that’s -- that both candidates are going to have to deal with through their primaries and – and – and President Biden in the general election.

RADDATZ: And, Asma, I – I suppose you would agree about – about -- all of you, I mean, age is clearly an issue in this campaign.

ASMA KHALID, NPR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is. And you heard that from voters. Yes.

RADDATZ: You cannot ignore it. You heard those – you heard those, especially young voters talking about that. But – but the roll-out was – was pretty low key.

KHALID: It was. It was. It was a video and then later in the day the president addressed kind of the legislative accomplishments that he’s achieved. And I kind of see that, from the White House's standpoint, you really hear them focus on two visions. One is this broad idea of freedom, and protecting freedom, whether that means, you know, abortion rights with the situation in Dobbs in the Supreme Court, and the other factor of this then is promoting legislative accomplishments. I mean it is very difficult for this White House to ignore the president's approval ratings are still underwater.

They have been underwater for more than a year, ever since the withdrawal from Afghanistan. It would be, under any normal circumstances, very difficult for a president to have those approval ratings and win re-election. But this is not normal times.

RADDATZ: But, Jonathan, he had those same approval ratings before the midterm.


RADDATZ: But this is different.

MARTIN: Well, and, precisely of what happened in the midterms, the Biden folks have the same strategy for his re-elect, which is "Make the focus on them, not us."

It's hard to recall, in modern political history, a sitting president who was so eager to turn the attention away from him and his office toward the opposition. But that is the story, repeatedly, for this president and his administration.

And I get the politics, OK, because, for them, it makes more sense to point to Donald Trump, and let's talk about them, because his numbers are terrible, in fact. So I get the politics of it. But it's remarkable that he puts out a video, gives a speech that nobody really pays attention to...


... later that day. And that's the entirety of his re-election for a sitting president? But that's what we're in here. It's going to be a -- a Rose Garden campaign, to put it mildly. And the idea of, sort of, him engaging in the hurly-burly of the campaign is just never going to happen. He's going to be low-key, avoid the press and trying to keep the focus on Trump and the GOP, which, since 2019 when he entered the race for the first time, has been the entirety of his strategy. And I think their thought, Martha is, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But those numbers, though, are problematic, under the hood. There's a lot of folks in his own party who don't want him to run again. And if the nominee is not Trump, then I think that calculation starts to change a little bit.

RADDATZ: And, Donna, let me ask you about that. And you say, "Oh, yeah, he's going to be out -- he's going to be out there campaigning." The end of my piece, the young voter...


RADDATZ: ... African-American voter, who said, "Get me out of bed, Joe."


MARTIN: Set an alarm.


RADDATZ: "Do something to make me want to go to the polls."

What does he do about that?

I mean, as much as, you know, you hear Chris Coons talking, and you're going to hear all the surrogates saying this, people have been watching him, and they -- they are not sure.

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, let me just quote the chair of the Republican Party, something I rarely do. And she said, you know, "Focusing on Joe Biden's age is not going to be a winning issue."

Joe Biden just received a very good report from his doctors about his overall health. So that's important. But this is a president who is totally focused on investing in America's future, whether it's investing in our energy sector, making sure that we can compete globally, this is a president who is totally focused on ensuring that every child gets a head start and a healthy start in life.

So I'm not worried about Joe Biden's ability to go out and campaign. I am worried about the Democrats, of course, being energized because that's a problem we always face.

Let me just -- another Republican -- Will, you must -- you're going to like me. I...


... I'm giving Republicans some love. Ronald Reagan -- Ronald Reagan in 1983, he waited very late. His approval ratings was even lower than Joe Biden. And he went on to whip us -- and I say "whip" because I worked on that season.


He whipped us, beat us, in every -- all but, you know, Minnesota and the District of Columbia. So don't tell me about Joe Biden's age. Don't tell me about his approval rating. Tell me what he's going to do to help the American people lower costs, like he's doing with prescription medication, making sure that America have jobs. That's what Joe Biden...

MARTIN: Joe Biden was older on his first day as president than Ronald Reagan was on his last day. He's not going to escape the age issue. And it's going to spill over to the focus on his vice president. And that announcement video was so striking, because...

RADDATZ: Because she was in it more than in...


MARTIN: So much, yeah.

RADDATZ: That was -- that was very striking.

KHALID: It was, but...

RADDATZ: It's almost like what Nikki Haley said, she didn't know whether he'd survive, so...

HURD: There's an opportunity for Republicans in 2024, if we have the right candidates. But we can't continue the mistakes that we made in 2016 and 2018 and 2020 and in 2022. And -- and we need to put -- put someone forward that has a vision for the future that shows how we can deal with inflation, how we make sure our allies around the world like us, how our enemies are going to fear us, how do we deal with technology and make sure our kids are ready for jobs that don't exist today.

When somebody puts forth that message, we have an opportunity in 2024. But too many people, and Republican voters know this, Donald trump has too much baggage that is going to prevent us from winning in -- in this next upcoming election, like we've lost the House in -- in '18, the Senate and -- and the White House in 2020.

RADDATZ: I -- I want to -- I want to talk about the GOP field. But, Asma, just -- just, finally, on this point and the Biden run. Kamala Harris has not been front and center. And now they're, it seems, pushing her front and center and -- and giving her...

KHALID: I will say, she has been front and center, though, on one key issue that Democrats are trying to run on, and that is abortion rights. You know, that is an issue that the White House has been eager to put her front and center on.


KHALID: And when I talk to, you know, folks inside the White House and outside in the Democratic Party, she seems to have a sense of credibility on that issue, and I would say, a sense of legitimacy, perhaps even more so than the president has, right? She's more comfortable speaking that issue.


KHALID: And I would say that, no matter if -- you know, you talk about Trump is older. Biden is also older. I actually think there's an assumption that policy never matters in election cycles, and that is probably always true, until we came to abortion. I have not seen an issue in any recent election cycle that has galvanized the public in this way. And I think that Republicans will face an insurmountable challenge if they cannot figure out how to deal in an effective way with that issue, with where the public is.

RADDATZ: Will, you want to go on that one?

HURD: Look...

RADDATZ: I mean, the Republicans really don't want to talk about it.

HURD: Sure, there's -- I think policy does matter. And I think what's what people see. Why do we only have 23 percent of the country voting in primaries? Because the rest of the country is, like, "We don't care what these -- what these jokers are doing."

And so I think, when you -- when you put together these -- the things that people actually care about -- and guess what? I don't care if you're in a ruby-red town or a deep-blue city. You care about putting food on your table, a roof over your head, and taking care of your loved ones. And -- and if -- when you talk about those issues, we have an opportunity. But if you're doing things like, you know, fighting businesses and trying to curb economic advancement and using the power of the government to stop businesses from operating, like, you're going to have a big problem.

RADDATZ: I -- I think we know who you're talking about.


Ron DeSantis...


BRAZILE: Can I say something about this vice president? She's been a very strong governing partner with this president. That's why she was included in the video. And she's not a one-issue person. She's someone who has really spent a lot of time on maternal healthcare, on climate. She has spent a lot of time traveling across this country, talking about voting rights, going across the globe talking about investing in America's future. So she's going to be a strong governing partner, and I think she's going to be a true asset to this candidate.

MARTIN: Her numbers are terrible, and that's why the Biden folks know they have to build her up. Because they know that the attacks coming are not going to be just about him. It's going to be a vote for Joe Biden is actually a vote for Kamala Harris. And that's the urgency that the Biden folks now, after two and a half years, are finally trying to help her, build her up some.

BRAZILE: Gen Z, 61 percent of Generation Z -- I love that generation -- they gave her strong approval ratings. You know what? She may not have been elected president.

MARTIN: Right.

BRAZILE: Instead, she's vice president. And again, her job is to be a governing partner with this president.

RADDATZ: Jonathan, I want to -- I want to turn to the GOP and -- and Ron DeSantis. And I want you to pick up...


RADDATZ: ... there. As -- as Rick Klein noted, ABC's parent company Disney legally fired back after a year...

MARTIN: Right.

RADDATZ: ... the Florida governor openly feuding with Disney. Is that a -- a good strategy there?

MARTIN: Look, I think his larger challenge -- I think he is going to run. He's putting together, I think, a pretty impressive campaign structure around him. I think his larger challenge is two-fold. One is how to engage with Donald Trump, if to engage at all. Donald Trump does total war, as they used to say in the military. And I think the governor of Florida has never encountered that kind of a campaign assault. That's number one.

Number two is, I think perhaps his larger challenge than how to engage with Trump, it's "How do I put together a coalition of folks in my party who are, sort of, conservatives kind of like me, but also bring along the people who don't like Trump but also don't like him that much?"

That's the challenge, Martha. How does he get, kind of, the post-Trump party conservatives and the kind of Bushy, pre-Trump party together?

Those folks don't want Trump, the latter crowd, but they're uneasy about him. And that's the real pirouette. Can you put together those two wings of the party, neither of which are excited about Trump, but one of which has doubts about DeSantis?

RADDATZ: OK. Thanks very much. It's a long road to the White House. We're going to be doing this for a long time. It will be great fun. Thanks very much.

Coming up, Rachel Scott follows the money and the promises made to black farmers after decades of discrimination. We'll be right back.



SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK, (D) GEORGIA: While there is more work left to be done to reverse the impact of decades of discrimination against Black farmers and other farmers of color -- today, we gather and we pause to recognize this important first step toward leveling the playing field and righting some of these injustices.


RADDATZ: That was Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock on a bill passed by Congress to provide debt relief to farmers of color, after decades of discrimination. More than two years later, many of the intended recipients are still waiting for relief. In the latest (inaudible) series "Through The Cracks", ABC's Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott found out why.


RACHEL SCOTT, ABC SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sunrise in rural Keysville, Georgia, is normally when 70-year-old Lucious Abrams starts tending to his crops. But nothing is operational on his 600-acre farm.

LUCIOUS ABRAMS, GEORGIA FARMER: We used to go (inaudible) cotton before we were unable to farm. This is the devastation that had happened to most Black farmers.

SCOTT (voice-over): Lucious is one of thousands of Black farmers across the country who were assured they would receive debt relief from the federal government.

SCOTT: How much debt have you acquired over the years?

ABRAMS: Well, to answer (inaudible), probably $1.2 million.

SCOTT: $1.2 million?


SCOTT: And have you received any assistance?


SCOTT (voice-over): In 2021, Congress approved $4 billion in loan forgiveness for farmers of color and a program aimed to write historic discrimination acknowledged by the USDA, but it was stopped in its tracks. Halted by a lawsuit from White farmers who claimed they were being excluded because of their race.

SID MILLER, (R) TEXAS AGRICULATURAL COMMISSIONER: If you weren't a minority, you were excluded. Now, the problem I have is, I am all for helping minority farmers, all farmers. But are you, as constitution forbids discrimination.

SCOTT (voice-over): To avoid the legal fight, Democrats rewrote the plan from removing references to race and splitting up relief into two funds.

SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D) NEW JERSEY: Look, it was what it was. We have a legal system dominated by a lot of conservative jurors who would not let that program go forward. And we knew that would put more farmers in peril.

SCOTT (voice-over): Lawmakers like Senators Cory Booker and Raphael Warnock have been pushing for relief and say time is running out.

SCOTT: What more do you want to see from USDA?

WARNOCK: I want to see USDA get the farmers the relief that we passed through legislation. It is taking entirely too long. Another planting season has come and gone.

SCOTT (voice-over): Leaving farmers like Lucious in limbo with staggering debt.

ABRAMS: In a word (ph), wait (inaudible).

SCOTT (voice-over): In 1920, 14 percent of all farms were operated by all Black farmers. But by 2017, that figure had plummeted to 1.7 percent. More than 19,000 distressed farmers have received aid from the relief programs. But the USDA is not tracking loan recipients by race, making it difficult to see the impact.

SCOTT: Why not put the data out there, be transparent, release it by race at some point?

DR. DEWAYNE GOLDMON, USDA SENIOR ADVISOR FOR RACIAL EQUITY: We have decided to focus on following the mandate of the law. Right now, we are focused on implementing it and getting people back to farming and participating in program as fully as they can.

SCOTT (voice-over): Dr. Dewayne Goldmon oversees efforts to address racial disparities at the USDA and acknowledges the distrust.

SCOTT: Do you understand why some Black farmers out there could be skeptical though?

GOLDMON: Absolutely. Our task is to move forward as boldly as we can and make sure that we do the work that is required.

SCOTT (voice-over): After ABC News asked the USDA about Lucious' case, he received notice from the Department on the day of the interview with the USDA that his debt had been forgiven.

SCOTT: What would that moment be like for you, when you are back out here, farming on this land?

LUCIOUS ABRAMS, GEORGIA FARMER: Excited because I love to see things grow. I love to just see, smell the fresh dirt. This time of the year, when you till the dirt, it is a feeling that you can't describe.

SCOTT (voice-over): For "This week," Rachel Scott, ABC News, Washington.


RADDATZ: Our thanks to Rachel. Her full report airs this Monday on "ABC News Live Prime with Linsey Davis." We'll be right back.



UNKNOWN: The white people of this nation are sick and tired.

UNKNOWN: My mission was to go inside the KKK for the FBI.

UNKNOWN: The KKK wanted to cut my son in pieces.

UNKNOWN: If it came out that Joe was working with the FBI.

UNKNOWN: You’ll pay with your blood.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: How do you go from a cross burning at night to having breakfast with your kids the next morning?

UNKNOWN: I can’t quit. That’s not an option.

UNKNOWN: “Grand Knighthawk: Infiltrating the KKK” now streaming only on Hulu.


RADDATZ: That’s all for us today. Be sure to check out “Grand Knighthawk: Infiltrating the KKK” streaming now on Hulu from George Stephanopoulos Productions. The documentary is a first time collaboration between ABC News Studios and the Associated Press following a former Army sniper undercover inside the KKK.

Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us and have a great day.