© 2024 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Politics Chat: 559,000 Jobs Added In May, But Pace Of Growth Still Concerning


The May jobs report released on Friday show that the U.S. has added 559,000 jobs. It was stronger than April's report but still fell short of expectations. While more jobs and less unemployment is a positive trend, it's the pace of recovery that is concerning. In other words, our economy is rebounding from the pandemic, but it's not booming. We're joined now by NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Hi, Mara.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So we did not add the anticipated 675,000 jobs in May. That's what had been projected. But I guess adding over half a million jobs ain't so shabby. The markets responded positively, but Republican lawmakers are underwhelmed.

LIASSON: Right. When the jobs report is bad, the White House says, see, we really need more investment. And Republicans say, no, it's bad because you're spending too much money on unemployment benefits, and people are staying home, not looking for a job. When the jobs report is good, Republicans say we don't need to invest in the economy because the economy is doing great by itself. So I think this jobs report, because it was in the middle of the road, wasn't fabulous, wasn't terrible, is probably the best thing politically for the Biden administration.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And those job numbers are going to have an effect on the very drawn out battle for that infrastructure bill between the White House and Senate Republicans, right? Because there's still - what? - $800 billion apart?

LIASSON: Yes, they're far apart on how much to spend. They're far apart on how to pay for it. Republicans want user fees, but the White House says user fees are the same thing as a tax on middle class people. I think the strategy here is to keep talking in the hopes that maybe you could get a bipartisan deal, which is something President Biden really wants, or at least not be blamed for walking away from one. But also, if that bipartisan talks fail, he's going to need all 50 Democrats. That means convincing Joe Manchin, the only Democrat in the Senate to come from a super-Republican state. And Manchin is going to want many of the same concessions that Biden is already making to Republicans.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Biden gave a big speech in Tulsa on Tuesday on the centennial of the race massacre there with the most aggressive comments he's made to date about voting rights. He took aim at the voting laws Republicans are trying to pass all around the country. But to get his agenda passed on voting rights, he's going to have to overcome the filibuster, can he?

LIASSON: Not right now because all 50 Democrats, which is what it would take to change the rules on the filibuster, to abolish it or amend it, are not on board. And what you have left is the harsh reality that like that song in the musical "Hamilton," Democrats don't have the votes. They don't have the votes to alter or amend the filibuster. They don't have the votes to pass voting rights. And at least right now, they don't have the votes to pass infrastructure on a bipartisan basis or with all 50 Democrats.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, where does that leave his agenda then?

LIASSON: Well, I think it's a work in progress. They're trying hard, and they're going to see what they can do. And maybe they can over time convince enough Democrats to alter the filibuster, but they're not there yet.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's look at what's happening on the other side of this. Former President Donald Trump shut down his blog, which lasted about a month. And Facebook said it had extended his suspension for two years. But last night he was invited back to the political stage at a North Carolina Republican convention. He was there for 90 minutes. What did he talk about?

LIASSON: No surprise there. His speech was a list of oldie but goodie grievances. He continued to push the lie that the 2020 election was somehow stolen from him. He attacked Dr. Fauci. That's the right's new punching bag. He complained about his press coverage. He also bragged, though, about his administration's role in getting a vaccine developed very quickly. And on that, he's actually on solid ground. But Trump is planning to play a more prominent role, giving more speeches, holding more rallies, making Republican primary endorsements. And in private, Republicans are very divided about whether his reentry to the political scene is going to help them or hurt them in the next election cycle.

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

LIASSON: You're welcome. 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.