FULL EPISODE: 2/7/21 WH Economist Jared Bernstein, House Min. Whip Steve Scalise & Sen. Tim Kaine

2/7/21 WH Economist Jared Bernstein, House Min. Whip Steve Scalise & Sen. Tim Kaine
2/7/21 WH Economist Jared Bernstein, House Min. Whip Steve Scalise & Sen. Tim Kaine
Published: Feb. 6, 2021 at 11:16 PM EST
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Washington, D.C. – Greta Van Susteren interviewed Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) for Gray Television’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” airing Sunday, February 7, 2021.

White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein reinforced to Van Susteren he did not agree with former Clinton Treasury Secretary and Obama economic adviser Larry Summers’ op-ed criticizing the Biden stimulus plan for being too large.

“The risk is really doing too little, not doing too much,” said Bernstein. “I respectfully disagree with my old friend Larry on this point. I think if you look at just the cost of inaction, you will quickly convince yourself that a plan of this magnitude is essential.”

When asked how long the economic recovery would take, Bernstein answered: “There’s too many moving parts right now … I’m not comfortable trying to give you a date.”

Sen. Tim Kaine told Van Susteren he doubted the Senate would censure Donald Trump if his impeachment trial does not end in conviction. “We’re done talking about Donald Trump,” said Kaine. “I mean, I’ve had COVID, and one of the effects of COVID is loss of taste and smell. Here’s one for me: I’m tired of Donald Trump. I’ve lost all interest in him. What I want to do is COVID relief.”

Rep. Steve Scalise defended his vote against removing Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from committee assignments, saying she had done “a very strong job of showing contrition.”

When asked whether he would consider voting Democrats off committees if the GOP had the majority, Congressman Scalise said: “Look, clearly, they [Democrats] want to set that standard. Do they really want to be held to that same standard? I heard from a lot of Democrats, privately, in the last few days who did not want to go down that road. Unfortunately, they did. They opened this Pandora’s box.”

Interview highlights are below. Full transcript for Jared Bernstein is at the end.

Jared Bernstein Highlights

On Larry Summers’ criticism that the Biden stimulus plan is too large

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

Well, the risk is really doing too little, not doing too much. And I would say the history of these kinds of interventions, not just with the pandemic, but before that, has been fraught with precisely the problem of not doing enough to really put whatever economic shock we’re talking about behind us. The American Rescue Plan is calibrated to do precisely that. And of course, I respectfully disagree with my old friend Larry on this point. I think if you look at just the cost of inaction, you will quickly convince yourself that a plan of this magnitude is essential.

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

We have 10 million unemployed people … the job market’s in a stall, the unemployment rates of Black and Hispanic persons are 9%, that’s highly elevated. Four million of those 10 million unemployed people have been out of work for at least six months. That’s a dangerous problem because it suggests potential scarring effects where people and businesses, they just can’t get to the other side of the crisis. So the cost of inaction heightened the urgency of the moment.

On how the Biden plan is different than the December COVID relief plan

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

Well, this is a much larger plan and the design of the plan is calibrated to really finally get these dual crises behind us. The December plan was a useful piece of work. I think it came a bit late, which is by the way, one of the reasons why we’ve seen a kind of air pocket in the economy, slowing down in job creation, slowing down in consumer spending. And of course, the virus remains a very significant and a serious problem. This plan is scaled to get businesses, families to the other side of the crisis, to reopen schools, to produce and distribute the vaccine so we can finally hit COVID-19 with the knockout blow that heretofore hasn’t occurred.

On timing for another COVID relief plan

Greta Van Susteren

What would you think is the window for this particular bill? When would you likely come back with a second one? Would it be in three months, six months, nine months?

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

Well, first of all, let me just say window’s the right word, because I think one of the things that we’re trying to do here is to get ahead of these dual crises, pandemic and the economic fallout from it, really for the first time in a reliable way. And so the timing, remember the December plan, which you mentioned, that actually starts to expire, key parts, both mortgage and eviction moratoria, as well as the unemployment support, that starts to expire in March. So that’s why the urgency you hear from President Biden is so important here. In terms of the building back better, in terms of moving from rescue to recovery, that stage the President has said he will talk about in February. In terms of the political timing, I’m certainly not there yet.

On how long recovery will take

Greta Van Susteren

I don’t know if you brought a crystal ball to the White House, but can you tell me how long until recovery? And then secondly, how is that defined? How do we know when we’ve arrived?

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

Well, yeah, no crystal ball. And I’m certainly not going to make predictions about when these kinds of things play out because there’s too many moving parts right now. I will say this though, there’s some very nice analysis by Moodys.com, which gets at this question to an extent. They find that if we implement the American Rescue Plan, we will pull forward when this economy gets to full employment, which just means a much lower unemployment rate a year sooner. And the difference between the amount of jobs will be 4 million by the end of this year, that is the American Rescue Plan would add 4 million jobs to our payrolls. I think that latter number is particularly germane when you think about this job stall problem that we saw in the report from Friday. So I think together that gets you a sense of how this pulls the recovery forward, but I’m not comfortable trying to give you a date.

Sen. Tim Kaine Highlights

On the impeachment trial

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

If the end of this is Trump acquitted again, is that really good for the country? For that reason, I put an alternative on the table. Senator Susan Collins and I worked on an alternative that would be a censure of the President and two factual findings under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that the attack was an insurrection and the President gave aid and comfort to insurrectionists, that a resolution doing that could put a significant hurdle in President Trump’s way should he ever want to run for office again.

Greta Van Susteren

Do you anticipate that if there’s not a conviction, which most people do expect there will be no conviction, that there would then be a pivot to a censure or a censure off the table at this point?

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

I doubt there would be a pivot, unless it was just like immediately. Because we’re done talking about Donald Trump. I mean, I’ve had COVID, and one of the effects of COVID is loss of taste and smell. Here’s one for me: I’m tired of Donald Trump. I’ve lost all interest in him. What I want to do is COVID relief.

On COVID relief legislation

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

Traditionally, when you’re doing an impeachment trial, all of the business is set aside for the seven or eight days, and that would include the COVID Relief Bill, and it would also include votes on Biden cabinet nominees.

However, the good thing is what we did the other night on starting off with this reconciliation instruction really signals intense negotiation between the White House and congressional Democrats, but also between the White House and Republicans.

So during the impeachment trial next week, it’s going to be a very intense creative negotiation about what should be in the bill and what shouldn’t.

On the ongoing pandemic and the Defense Production Act

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

You know, I’ll get emotional talking about this, Greta. I’m talking to you from my house. My across the street neighbor right over there, Roxie Raines Kornegay Allison died of COVID nine days ago. Three days before Roxie died, another neighbor, Sheila Mant, who was a young woman, died of COVID. And three days before that, my parish priest, Father Jim’s mother Patsy died of COVID. And that brings it up to nine that I know.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

I know it touches everybody, not everybody equally, but it touches everybody.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

Here’s good news: Joe Biden is using the Defense Production Act to accelerate deployment of the vaccine. Because while we’ve done a good job, and got to give the Trump administration some credit for this, in developing the vaccine, the deployment of it and the logistics around doing a big deployment were really lacking when Biden came in office. We’ll use the DPA to increase quantity and deploy it faster.

On whether former President Trump should receive intel briefings

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

I completely agree with Joe Biden in deciding that Donald Trump shouldn’t get intel briefings.

Rep. Steve Scalise Highlights

On the vote to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments

Rep. Steve Scalise (D-La.)

Well, to get every Republican to vote the same way on everything, as you know, is just not realistic. We worked to bring those numbers down. If you look, there were estimates that there would be over 40 Republicans that might’ve thought about voting to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene, and ended up being 11. I voted against removing her.

And look, she did, I think, a very strong job of showing contrition, of saying, “Look, I’ve made mistakes in the past.” And she held herself accountable for them. She apologized for those things. And my God, if we live in a country where you can’t even apologize for things you’ve said in the past and have other people be willing to forgive you, that’s a scary place. And so I think I’m glad she did those things.

And she shouldn’t be punished by Democrats for things she said before she was in Congress, when in fact they’re not even holding themselves accountable for things they’ve done while they’ve been in Congress. Divisive statements, inflammatory statements, inciting violence against other people, sleeping with Chinese spies, for God’s sake. They haven’t even acknowledged those things, let alone held themselves on the Democrat side accountable.

On whether the GOP would consider removing Democrats from committees in the future

Rep. Steve Scalise (D-La.)

The Democrats started a very dangerous precedent with what they did with Marjorie. It had never been done in the history of Congress before, where a majority party removed members of a committee that the minority party selected. Each party selects their members. You’re given an allotment. And so if you have 25 members of a committee on the Republican side and 35 on the Democrat side, each party picks their members. It had never been done before, where they removed someone of another party. What I would like to say, and look, clearly, they want to set that standard. Do they really want to be held to that same standard? I heard from a lot of Democrats, privately, in the last few days who did not want to go down that road. Unfortunately, they did. They opened this Pandora’s box.

On whether the Republican party is fractured

Rep. Steve Scalise (D-La.)

Yeah, look, and for the last few months, this isn’t something to sugar coat. We had some real internal divisions leading up to the election, but especially after the election in the last two and a half months, where we were struggling with some issues within different factions within our conference.

And for a while, we were trying to get an in-person meeting. Unfortunately, with COVID, it’s been hard to get that done. But we finally were able to do that. And just a few nights ago, we got together in a room for four hours. And everybody was very candid, I think very respectful with each other, and very honest. The warts were all exposed. And we didn’t sugar coat anything, but we dealt with those issues. We talked through the issues. And then we walked out of that room a stronger group and a very united Republican conference that has differences.

On bipartisanship

Rep. Steve Scalise (D-La.)

There’s been no bipartisanship. And Democrats have complete control over everything, the House, Senate, and White House. They promised during the campaign, President Biden said he would work with Republicans. There’s been not a single bit of that. You look at the relief package right now that’s moving through Congress, it’s a completely partisan bill. They’re using the budget reconciliation process, which means you don’t have to have a single Republican.

Jared Bernstein Transcript

Greta Van Susteren

Can you tell me from a global context, how is this Biden plan different from the one on December 27th, that COVID relief plan? How are they different big ways?

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

Well, this is a much larger plan and the design of the plan is calibrated to really finally get these dual crises behind us. The December plan was a useful piece of work. I think it came a bit late, which is by the way, one of the reasons why we’ve seen a kind of air pocket in the economy slowing down in job creation, slowing down in consumer spending. And of course, the virus remains a very significant and a serious problem. This plan is scaled to get businesses, families to the other side of the crisis, to reopen schools, to produce and distribute the vaccine so we can finally hit COVID-19 with the knockout blow that heretofore hasn’t occurred.

Greta Van Susteren

What would you think is the window for this particular bill? When would you likely come back with a second one? Would it be in three months, six months, nine months?

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

Well, first of all, let me just say window’s the right word, because I think one of the things that we’re trying to do here is to get ahead of these dual crises, pandemic and the economic fallout from it, really for the first time in a reliable way. And so the timing, remember the December plan, which you mentioned, that actually starts to expire, key parts, both mortgage and eviction moratoria, as well as the unemployment support, that starts to expire in March. So that’s why the urgency you hear from President Biden is so important here. In terms of the building back better, in terms of moving from rescue to recovery, that stage the President has said he will talk about in February. In terms of the political timing, I’m certainly not there yet.

Greta Van Susteren

All right. We’ve all seen the op-ed by Larry Summers in The Washington Post. He says that this is too ambitious, too big, but he doesn’t... He said, but back in 2009, it was too small. We didn’t do enough. So how do we determine that sweet spot between what’s too small and what’s too big?

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

Well, the risk is really doing too little, not doing too much. And I would say the history of these kinds of interventions, not just with the pandemic, but before that, has been fraught with precisely the problem of not doing enough to really put whatever economic shock we’re talking about behind us. The American Rescue Plan is calibrated to do precisely that. And of course, I respectfully disagree with my old friend Larry on this point. I think if you look at just the cost of inaction, you will quickly convince yourself that a plan of this magnitude is essential.

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

We have 10 million unemployed people. I told you a second ago, the job market’s in stall, the unemployment rates of Black and Hispanic persons are 9%, that’s highly elevated. 4 million of those 10 million unemployed people have been out of work for at least six months. That’s a dangerous problem because it suggests potential scarring effects where people and businesses, they just can’t get to the other side of the crisis. So the cost of inaction heightened the urgency of the moment.

Greta Van Susteren

Do you have anything baked into this bill so that we address the fact that some of those 10 million jobs that you lost may be permanently lost? They’re not just lost because of the pandemic, some of them may just be gone forever.

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

Well, I think the way to think of that, it’s a good question, is somewhat in the issue of relief versus stimulus versus recovery, building back better. Relief is what you provide to people when you’re in the midst of an economic shock that’s characterized by in this case, a pandemic. That is in many parts of the country because the virus is still so problematic, people can’t get back to work safely, even if they wanted to. Now, we’re trying to do what we need to do in terms of virus control and vaccine distribution to reopen schools, but it has to be done safely.

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

So you need to think in terms of relief versus the kind of stimulus which is in do what you can to get people back in the workforce as fast as possible. Certainly getting to the other side of the crisis is going to help set the stage for the recovery or the building back better part of the agenda. There we can talk about precisely your question in the areas of clean energy, education, childcare, poverty reduction, housing, racial equity. There’s lots of really important new opportunities there that we will be certainly leaning into when the time comes.

Greta Van Susteren

I don’t know if you brought a crystal ball to the White House, but can you tell me how long until recovery? And then secondly, how is that defined? How do we know when we’ve arrived?

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

Well, yeah, no crystal ball. And I’m certainly not going to make predictions about when these kinds of things play out because there’s too many moving parts right now. I will say this though, there’s some very nice analysis by Moodys.com, which gets at this question to an extent. They find that if we implement the American Rescue Plan, we will pull forward when this economy gets to full employment, which just means a much lower unemployment rate a year sooner. And the difference between the amount of jobs will be 4 million by the end of this year, that is the American Rescue Plan would add 4 million jobs to our payrolls. I think that latter number is particularly germane when you think about this job stall problem that we saw in the report from Friday. So I think together that gets you a sense of how this pulls the recovery forward, but I’m not comfortable trying to give you a date.

Greta Van Susteren

The job market in the last year, I suspect has changed rather rapidly and while many of us have been working remotely. What are we doing and what can be done to re-skill workers to meet a very changing job market?

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

This is again part of both the rescue plan and the recovery plan. Again, the recovery plan is yet to be trotted out and that’s work that the team is engaged in as we speak. But President Biden has actually long been engaged, back in the Obama White House, he was engaged in a very important exercise, which was evaluating all of the different kinds of training and apprenticeship programs that exist. And one of the thing that I know he thinks a lot about is that as we try to get to, not just get back to the other side of the crisis, but to build back better when we get there, we’re going to have to think about the issue you raised earlier.

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

Some sectors will look different on the other side. There’ll be new sectors, there’ll be old sectors that reflect the dynamics we’re describing. So that’s going to mean a role for re-revamping these programs, making sure that they’re meeting the needs of workers who are transitioning from older sectors to newer sectors. Clean energy and infrastructure are two good examples of what I’m talking about.

Greta Van Susteren

I don’t know how much it’s part of the government’s responsibility, but we’re going to have a tremendous amount of commercial real estate now that’s vacant. People have been working from home. I don’t know what happened, especially in our urban communities. Any thought on that?

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

I think that’s an area where there’s really room for creative thinking. And it’s not just, as I suspect you agree, this is not just a government play. This is going to be very much a market play. And we’re going to have to look carefully at helping workers. I think the role that the government can play here is helping workers transition, once again, from sectors that are compressing to sectors that are expanding. This is the type of thing that often takes place over years and decades, but because of the pandemic, some of these changes will be hastened. So I think it’s going to be incumbent upon us to meet the market.

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

By the way, one area where I think that’s really interesting is in clean energy, again. You may have noticed that recently the Chairwoman of General Motors said we’re going to be moving towards electric car production exclusively by 2035. That calls for changes in skills, changes in supply chains. One of the things that the President has talked about is making sure that we stand up these international supply chains so we can gain a global edge in newly competitive industries. That I think is a really important work for us to do going forward.

Greta Van Susteren

Does this new COVID relief bill have anything in it about food security? Never in my... When I was a kid, my father used to talk about food lines during the Depression, and of course we’ve had them my whole life I’ve seen food lines, but nothing like I see now with food lines. Are we doing something to help people who frankly need food in this country?

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

Absolutely, unquestionably and yes. And I’ll tell you, the way you teed up the question is exactly right. I think about this in terms of the K-shaped recovery, meaning that there’s two legs of the K, one points up, one points down. Lots of people are drawing paychecks, you’ve got people in the stock market who are doing fine. And then you have the bottom leg of the K with tens and tens of millions of Americans who are waiting in food lines with the stock market going up and poverty rates going up, with folks stuck in unemployment, as I described before, and many folks who are in other sectors who’ve never missed a paycheck.

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

In terms of nutritional insecurity, 24 million families, according to the most recent... I should say 24 million people, according to the most recent data I’ve seen suggests that food insecurity remains rampant in this country. And we get to it both by expanding SNAP, which is the... Used to be called food stamps, and making sure that people can access ample SNAP benefits, but also providing extensive relief through enhanced unemployment benefits and through direct impact payments or checks as they’ve been called that disproportionately help those at the bottom of the scale.

Greta Van Susteren

One last question. President Biden says he wants Congress to take the first look at student loan relief before he considers doing anything. But what do you say to Americans who say, “Look, I paid off my student loans,” and now we hear about these significant amounts of money going to students or possibly going to students to pay off loans?

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

I think the President’s sensitive to all sides of this. And I think that his position is crafted with those sensitivities in mind. He has talked about working with Congress to allow people to discharge $10,000 of student loans, and I think that’s part of the solution. He has consistently leaned into that. But I think what’s key about the President’s agenda here is that it’s only part of the solution. You can’t just put a bandaid on this for one quarter, one year, and say you’re done. You have to look at the broader educational agenda that both the President, and by the way, the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, have long been committed to.

Jared Bernstein, White House Economic Adviser

And this means making sure that everyone has the opportunity to achieve their educational potential. Something that doesn’t occur right now, particularly for those in the bottom half of the income scale, and particularly for persons of color. This means not only wrestling down student debt in terms of the current stock of debt, but it means making sure college is affordable. One of the proposals that the President’s consistently talked about is free college for folks up to 125,000 at public universities. And these are the kinds of building back better ideas that we’ll be working on in weeks and months to come.

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About Greta Van Susteren:

Greta Van Susteren is the Chief Political Analyst for Gray Media and host of Full Court Press. Ms. Van Susteren is a veteran of Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN. Her prime-time Fox News Channel Show, “On the Record,” was number 1 in its time slot for 14 1⁄2 years. Before joining Fox News, she hosted CNN’s prime-time news and analysis program, “The Point with Greta Van Susteren,” and co-hosted the network’s daily legal analysis show, “Burden of Proof.”  Her legal analysis for CNN’s coverage of Election 2000 earned her the American Bar Association’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Journalism.  She continues to host the weekly 30-minute program “Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren” on Voice of America, which broadcasts exclusively outside of the United States.

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