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Politics Chat: White House Drums Support For Economic Plans After April Jobs Report


The disappointing jobs report is either a blip on the road to recovery or a sign of how badly the pandemic is impacting the American economy and how much help is still needed. The White House is taking that last position and using it as an opportunity to drum up support for two sweeping plans. Joining me now to talk about this is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Happy Mother's Day, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Happy Mother's Day, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's start with the American Families Plan, to wit, and how the Biden administration believes it would help the economy recover.

LIASSON: The American Families Plan is this $1.8 trillion package that President Biden unveiled. It would help cover child care costs for middle- and lower-income families, would give paid leave to care for new children or an ill family member. It has universal preschool, free community college, all paid for with new taxes from the wealthiest Americans. And the administration says this kind of support would make it easier for women and mothers to rejoin the economy because millions of them lost their jobs when the pandemic hit, or they dropped out of the workforce to take care of their kids. So this is the human element of the infrastructure package.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There was a Morning Consult poll last week that showed that a majority of the public, about 58%, support the American Families Plan. I mean, if you polled Congress, I bet that percentage would be lower. What's the chance of this actually getting passed?

LIASSON: Well, getting passed with Republican support - probably very slim. Republicans have been saying that it's bad to encourage women to put their kids in child care. Some Republicans, like Mitt Romney, would rather give cash payments to parents. And, of course, there are many Democrats who want to make that expanded child care tax credit permanent. But I think that if this plan is passed, it would probably be passed through the parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation, which allows budget-related bills to get passed through the Senate with 51 votes only. And that is the exact number of votes the Democrats have, not a single one more.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I do want to go back to that Friday jobs report because only 266,000 jobs were added last month compared to 916,000 added in March. That was a disappointment. Many expected much more. But there are these competing interpretations of what that report means.

LIASSON: That's right. Both parties are seeing what they want to in April's numbers. Republicans are saying the government is paying too much in unemployment benefits, and that's why people are not going out into the workforce. Economists say there's really no evidence of that, but at least three Republican governors in Arkansas, Montana and South Carolina have cut enhanced unemployment benefits in the hopes that will get people getting back into the workforce.

Democrats say that this shows why the U.S. needs to make more investments in human and physical infrastructure because the economy still needs help, although that would really address the long-term problems rather than the short-term recovery from the pandemic recession. I think we're going to need a couple more jobs reports before we see if this was a one-off or a really bad sign. And we have to see if things change as schools reopen and more people get vaccinated.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, waiting is not something Americans do particularly well. So does April's job report put more pressure on Republicans and Democrats to sort of make a deal on the American Jobs Plan?

LIASSON: Well, probably not enough pressure to counteract the forces that are working against any bipartisanship in Washington. But in one way, it does help President Biden make the argument that we still need the American Jobs Plan. He says the economy is still suffering. It needs investments. And there's this other weird silver lining politically for Democrats, which is that Wall Street loved these April numbers because it means to them there will be no inflation anytime soon. The Federal Reserve will not be raising interest rates and kind of stepping on the brakes. And, you know, this is something that both sides are going to use to their own advantage if they can.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thank you very much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.