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Week in politics: COVID cases are once again on the decline

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And as those booster shots get offered to more and more Americans, experts hope this latest wave of the pandemic may continue to recede. And that could be political relief for the Biden administration, which would like to focus on proposals for the economy. NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

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

SIMON: As I don't have to tell you, so much attention has been focused on those Americans who say that they just will not get vaccinated under any circumstance. Does noting that and reporting on that sometimes eclipse the real picture?

ELVING: It is a glaring feature, to be sure, but certainly not the whole picture. Truth is, more than two-thirds of Americans have now had at least one shot, and the numbers are higher for adults and still higher for seniors. That is helping to get infections down, get serious illness and deaths way down. That is surely the most important part of the picture.

Now, at the same time, the Kaiser poll does tell us 1 American in 8 flat-out refuses the vaccinations. But that is a relatively small number, and exceptions - well, exceptions are always interesting. The abnormal makes better stories than the normal, and people fighting any kind of mandate are often very interested in making their case in public, whatever it is.

SIMON: Let's turn to what we learned this week about investigations by the U.S. Congress and others into the attempted insurrection on January 6. There was a - I'll call it noteworthy charge yesterday.

ELVING: Yes, it was surprising to see the charges extend to a Capitol Police officer who in the aftermath had warned a Facebook friend who had been inside the Capitol that it would be better to get the video of him inside the Capitol off of Facebook because it would be proof of a crime. Now, that may be good advice, but to do that, to urge the eliminating of proof, that could well be seen as obstructing the investigation. That is the charge.

The bigger news this week was Steve Bannon refusing to comply with his subpoena. The apparent commitment of the panel is to prosecute Steve Bannon criminally for contempt of Congress. Now, Bannon, of course, was Trump's campaign manager - one of them - in 2016. He served for a matter of months in the White House thereafter. That ended way back in 2017. And more recently, he took a very active role in the lead-up to January 6. Now, Bannon had no official connection to the White House last January, but President Trump has told him to claim executive privilege anyway. So that one's going to court.

SIMON: What will the committee do? What do they plan to do about congressional colleagues who openly supported the rioters?

ELVING: Well, they certainly want to have them testify. They want to hold them to account, especially if they helped provide guidance for people who were entering the Capitol so that they could locate certain people's offices inside. Some of the Republicans may want to tell their side of the story in some place and in some time, but they are not going to willingly cooperate with this committee. So more trips to the courthouse coming on that one.

SIMON: Ron, let me ask you about a new Gallup poll. Democrats, of course, continue to try to come to an agreement about the scale of infrastructure spending. That will be - let's remind ourselves - measured in trillions. According to this poll, 52% of Americans say the government is already doing too much, and that's up more than 10% from last year.

ELVING: Yes, that's right. The Gallup folks have been asking this question for nearly 30 years, Scott, and usually the majority says that the government is trying to do too much. There have only been two times in three decades that a Gallup majority said they wanted the government to do more. One was right after 9/11, no surprise. Many Americans were looking for greater homeland security, government protection. The other was last year, which may well have been an outlier largely because of COVID. A lot of people were depending on government for things who usually do not and expecting to need more help in the near future.

So this year, with another COVID relief package in March, all these big spending bills pending now, the Gallup reading is back to its more typical level of skepticism about government and government spending. You could say it's all part of getting back to normal.

SIMON: And President Biden made a concession - kind of - yesterday, right?

ELVING: He said that it's not going to be a $3.5 trillion package - not a big shock. Some of us have been saying that since spring. The big package was like a family leaving on a driving vacation. Everyone comes out of the house with lots of suitcases, everything they wanted to take along on the trip. Pretty soon, someone has to be making some decisions about what goes and what gets left behind.

SIMON: Ron Elving, thanks so much.

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