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Week in politics: Biden balances tackling inflation and working on his spending bill


NPR senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks for being with us.

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

SIMON: And to say the least, there were some significant developments in the congressional inquiry this week into the attempted insurrection. We will talk about that in a moment. But first, your reaction to what we just heard there. Inflation is not just a political problem. It's as personal as the price of food, as we just heard. This happens just as President Biden hopes to rally support for an enormous long-term public spending bill while lots of Americans are worried about paying today's bills.

ELVING: Serious business, this inflation, Scott. A few decades ago, inflation did in a string of presidents before super-high interest rates eventually reined it in. Those high rates, of course, also clobbered the economy and the housing market and crippled investment and job creation for several years. It was a bad time.

Now, this current inflation, we're told, is largely the result of the pandemic. If we get our transportation issues and other supply chain problems resolved, it's possible prices could ease. You know, we also see worker wages going up, and that's not a bad thing. That's a good thing - long overdue, in fact. So there's a variety of workplace issues that need to get sorted out. And the big question is where we'll be six months from now.

SIMON: And, of course, just offstage, the president's $1.75 trillion social spending package. The Congressional Budget Office is trying to resolve how much it would add to the deficit. Do you think the economic picture, Ron, that we've just been talking about will also affect the political fortunes of that bill?

ELVING: Hard to imagine it won't. We have seen two budget watchdogs from the private sector come out with estimates of how much the big package is going to add to the deficit. It's not that much in relative terms over 10 years, but it's enough to suggest that the big package is going to have big trouble with the CBO later this month. And when you combine that with this inflation news, it means more pressure to cut back, more pressure on that delicate internal balance that the Democrats are trying to maintain if they're going to pass this thing.

SIMON: Let's turn to the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack. Steve Bannon has been indicted for failing to comply with their subpoenas. Does this turn the heat up on other potential people they want to hear from?

ELVING: Yes. In simple language, it definitely does. And it's probably going to mean bigger costs for them to hire the lawyers they're going to need. Now, let's remember, at the time of the insurrection, Steve Bannon had been out of the administration for 3 1/2 years. So it's very hard to see how he would be covered by executive privilege. So his claim seemed spurious from the outset.

But someone who was in the White House at the time of the insurrection, such as former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, that person might have a better shot at winning in court. But Meadows has simply failed to show up, defying the committee entirely. So he might be having some second thoughts after those Bannon charges came down.

SIMON: A hindrance for the committee yesterday - an appeals court blocked the release of some Trump-era White House records that relate to January 6. This is a continuing court battle, doesn't it?

ELVING: Oh, it's just getting started. Trump lost the first round at the trial court level, and then he got a temporary reprieve this week while the next level up, Court of Appeals, considers his case. But most court observers expect this is going to go all the way to the Supreme Court later this year, if they decide they want to go fast, or early next year. You know, back in 2000, the Supreme Court took that Bush v. Gore case in just a matter of five weeks, so we shall see how eager the court is to tackle this one.

SIMON: And a quick last question, Ron - President Trump's supporters, in some ways, may not be displeased by these subpoenas.

ELVING: The committee, thus far, has issued about three dozen - roughly - subpoenas. But there's a far longer list of people who have received requests to testify, and some of them are trying to decide how to deal with that request. The threat of a subpoena is certainly - this is the mind and, for many people, will resolve whether or not they should testify.

SIMON: Ron Elving, thanks so much.

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

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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