Aug 11, 2021 - Podcasts

$1 trillion infrastructure bill clears the Senate

Yesterday was dominated by political news, with the bipartisan win on infrastructure and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's resignation. We unpack why these matter with Axios' political team.

Guests: Axios' Alayna Treene, Glen Johnson, and Margaret Talev

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, and Ben O'Brien. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected] You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, August 11th. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re watching today: New York suddenly gets its first female governor. Plus, the year’s best meteor shower.

But first, bipartisan victory on infrastructure is today’s One Big Thing.

I was talking yesterday with Axios co-founder and frequent Axios Today guest Mike Allen about the day’s news, and he said to me "this was a day when politics consumed all of us in a way that it normally doesn't.” So true, especially in the sleepier summer months. There was big news at the national and the state level that took all our attention, from the Senate passing a long-awaited infrastructure Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York stepping down after allegations of sexual misconduct.

We’re going to spend today talking about why these political stories matter, starting with Biden’s big win on infrastructure. Managing editor for politics Margaret Talev, politics editor Glen Johnson, and congressional reporter Alayna Treene are all here with me. Good morning!

ALAYNA TREENE: Good morning.

MARGARET TALEV: Morning, Niala.

GLEN JOHNSON: Morning, Niala.

NIALA: Can we start first with the vote? What we heard yesterday was how many Republicans voted for this - do we see this as a win for bipartisanship?

ALAYNA: It's a massive win and especially in a Congress and a Senate as divided as this one. I mean, 50 Democrats, 50 Republicans for them to come together on this is a big deal. I mean, 19 Republicans voted for it, 50 Democrats. And then also, I mean, it was really created in a bipartisan way. You had a group of 10 senators - five Republicans, five Democrats - who were the ones who really did the heavy lifting and hashing out and writing certain sections of this bill and they were integral to this, as was the White House. And so it really, I think was a massive victory for President Biden, but also for both parties and bipartisanship overall.

MARGARET: You know, I think Alayna's really touched on something when she says it was also a big victory for Joe Biden. This in so many ways vindicates, what was at the core of his argument for why he should be president - the return to that kind of old school politics, his, you know, insistence that compromise is possible, that bipartisanship still exists if you look for it. So he walks away from this not just with a potential policy outcome that's huge but to major political leverage at a time when he really needs it.

NIALA: Alayna, can we get into that 1.2 trillion? In all of this conversation about bipartisanship, I don't want people to forget the details of what's actually in this.

ALAYNA: No, it's a great point. So it'll be $1.2 trillion over eight years and will offer more than 550 billion in new spending. And that's broken down into a bunch of different areas - 110 billion of that will go for what we consider traditional infrastructure, roads, bridges, major projects like bridge repairs and things like that. Tens of billions of dollars going toward the electric grid and power structures, 65 billion for broadband, and again, this is really the most spending we've seen toward infrastructure in modern history.

NIALA: We're talking about this as if it is a done deal. How close are we to this actually being a done deal?

GLEN: This is really just the end of the beginning for this whole process. We're now moving over to the House where the Democrats have a clear majority, but it's so narrow and there's so many divisions within that chamber that there's going to still be a pretty long road to go for this legislation. We have differences between moderate Democrats and progressive Democrats. We have Nancy Pelosi saying flat out that she's not even going to move forward with the bill that passed the Senate until the reconciliation package makes its way over to the House. So there's still quite a long road to go before any shovel even gets in the ground here.

NIALA: Axios’ Glen Johnson -- and we'll be back in 15 seconds with more politics and yesterday's big New York story that’s bigger than just New York, with Glen, Margaret and Alayna.

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NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Yesterday, the other big news, the governor of New York Andrew Cuomo resigned after an investigation found he had sexually harassed multiple women. We're talking about this with some of the Axios’ political team, our congressional reporter, Alayna Treene, our politics editor, Glen Johnson, and managing editor, Margaret Talev. Alayna, I feel like we have to go from thinking about how quickly over the past year... last year at this time we were all watching Governor Cuomo with his COVID briefings all over the country to... yesterday.

ALAYNA: It's pretty stunning just to see him being at really the pinnacle of power, I would argue, at the start of the pandemic. And most of the country watched him in his daily briefings because New York was such a hotspot in the beginning, and was lauded for the way that he... publicly answered questions. And then to see him a year later, now, voluntarily resigning is huge. It's astonishing and I think it-it's going to be...evaluated, I'm sure, by people within the party for time to come.

GLEN: Picking up on Alayna’s point a little bit. You know, one thing that just shocked me was the complete reversal as well from a communications front. Last year, Andrew Cuomo's news conferences were a masterclass in political communications and crisis communications. PR professionals could really see here with somebody in control of information and able to convey it effectively and compellingly to the public. The last couple of weeks was almost the exact opposite. He and his lawyer were out there, basically saying I've done wrong, but taking everybody down with them. So that raises the specter of sort of somebody that could not face the reality of this precipitous decline in his stature over the past year.

NIALA: Margaret, does this say anything new about where the Me Too movement is at this point?

MARGARET: I mean, fundamentally, this is a story about a huge political personality who did wrong, but it's also about the context of the moment. The Me Too movement, four years of Donald Trump, and Joe Biden's very candidacy and election, where he essentially said, "Yes, I am an older white man, but I'm here to empower women, people of color, women of color. They are going to be my vice president, top cabinet officials." And record numbers of women elected in Congress in recent years, and also by the way, in the New York State Assembly. That is fundamentally important to understand because when the share of women in elected office is large enough, it affects what is acceptable political behavior.

ALAYNA: Another really interesting thing to note is that the Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul will become the first female governor of New York. And she's also a former House member as well so, it'll be a new first for the state.

NIALA: We started this whole conversation, the beginning of this podcast, talking about the victory lap President Biden took yesterday, literally hours after this announcement. What is the fallout for the Democratic Party from all of them?

MARGARET: [laughing] Democrats are moving very quickly to distance themselves from Cuomo. And part of the reason is ideological. It's about what the party stands for, part of it's very tactical. They're going to have a very difficult year trying to hang on to bare majorities next year, especially in the House of Representatives. There are two states that are considered vital through redistricting for Democrats to save themselves. And guess what state one of those is? New York State.

NIALA: Thanks to Margaret Talev, Glen Johnson, and Alayna Treene. Thank you all!


GLEN: Thanks, Niala.

ALAYNA: Thank you.

NIALA: Before we go: there’s a great reason to head outdoors at night this week, with the annual Perseid meteor shower reaching its peak today through Friday. NASA says The Perseids are “the best meteor shower of the year” -- with bright colors and long tails. And this year there won’t be much moonlight, making it especially easy to see the show in the sky. Of course for the best view, head out of the city, give your eyes time to adjust and then look up.

That’s all for today. I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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