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Week in politics: Biden and January 6, Senators negotiating border legislation


President Biden says that, this year, democracy is on the ballot.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: After all we've been through in our history - from independence to civil war, to two world wars, to a pandemic, to insurrection - I refuse to believe that, in 2024, we Americans would choose to walk away from what's made us the greatest nation in the history of the world - freedom, liberty.


BIDEN: Democracy is still a sacred cause.

SIMON: President Biden at Valley Forge yesterday - a campaign stop that is pegged to today's date, January 6.

Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks for being with us.

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

SIMON: From civil war to an insurrection - a reference, of course, to the violence of January 6, 2021. The president is invoking the awful memories of that day in his campaign for reelection, just as the question of Trump's responsibility kind of heads to the Supreme Court, but in a roundabout way, right?

ELVING: Yes. The first case to bring this issue before the top federal court will be from Colorado. That's where the state Supreme Court had barred him from that state's primary ballot. Well, the Colorado Supreme Court found Trump had engaged in insurrection on January 6, 2021, interpreting the language of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that was passed after the Civil War. And Trump has appealed, and now it seems unlikely, perhaps, that the court would bar Trump from the ballot. Still, the language of the 14th Amendment is not easily ignored. And of course, the real question is whether Trump can be on the November ballot in Colorado or in other states. But the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to get involved now, and that's a welcome development, Scott. It's time to clear the air on this issue.

SIMON: Ron, in conversation elsewhere on this program today, we'll hear that there is some longing among Black voters for the economy as it was under former President Trump because of the lower food prices then. And food prices, of course, are not figured into inflation. Yesterday, there was another very rosy jobs report. The president's speech was, of course, about democracy. Does he seem to be giving up on the slogan Bidenomics (ph)?

ELVING: You know, some advertising slogans work. Others do not. And as a slogan, Bidenomics does not appear to have been much of a hit. But on the numbers, Biden's economic program, along with the actions of the Federal Reserve Board, has managed to slow the rate of inflation rather dramatically without bringing on a recession. It looks like the so-called soft landing many economists doubted could happen. The new jobs report on Friday showed a robust job growth, even better growth in wages, a steady and historically low unemployment rate and a longer streak of low jobless numbers than we've seen in decades.

Now, of course, unemployment affects relatively few voters, while far more pay for gas and groceries. And we'd all like to go back to pre-pandemic prices. But before - back before the mammoth spikes in government spending and the inflation that followed, that's when those prices were lower. And given all that has followed, we have to say the economy has performed far better than expected.

SIMON: Senators have been negotiating on measures to try to stem crossings at the southern border, which last month saw a 23-year high. What's on the table? Any chance of passage?

ELVING: Well, Republicans in the House would like to force Biden to sign their version of an immigration overhaul. It would commit him to building a wall along the lines of what Donald Trump imagined. It would curtail the current asylum program, and it would make it easier to deport recent arrivals. You know, much in their bill is anathema to Democrats and others sympathetic to the plight of immigrants, but this is an issue that divides the president's party - and increasingly so - as the numbers of new arrivals escalate. The administration argues that the crisis would ease if the Republicans would just pass the spending bills to pay for more border security or if the House would commit to supporting a bipartisan compromise from the Senate. But right now, the chances of that kind of cooperation seem remote.

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

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

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.

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