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Week In Politics: Booster Shots, Haitian Migrants, Jan. 6 Investigation Committee


President Biden campaigned on wrestling the pandemic into submission and then, as he put it in his motto, building back better. Of course, that was on top of an ongoing surge in migration and then the events of January 6. We'll examine what the agenda might look like now with NPR senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, good morning.

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

SIMON: Let's hear - let's begin with booster shots. We've heard it was currently recommended to get them. But just over a month ago, the White House announced a plan developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other top health authorities to get extra doses into all Americans eight months after the second shot of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. In fact, that plan envisioned this week was to be launched. So what happened?

ELVING: It's not just what happened but what keeps on happening, that is to say change and disagreement among scientists. You're going to have both in any crisis, including a pandemic. Scientists change their thinking, and they disagree. Public health scientists will acknowledge this and perhaps recalibrate their views from time to time and change the advice they give. That seems to be what's happening here, and that may be a skill, even a willingness that elected officials might emulate.

SIMON: The Del Rio encampment of some 15,000 Haitian migrants has been cleared as we speak today. But that doesn't solve a migration crisis that spans decades and multiple presidencies, does it?

ELVING: No, indeed. First, you have the excruciating plight of these thousands of refugees. Haiti has been poor for a long time. But lately, they have been enduring the trials of Job with the hurricane, the earthquake, political upheaval. So that political crisis caused these thousands of people to desperately leave the country and try to enter the United States. That then creates something of a political crisis here, especially with the visuals of mounted agents chasing them on horseback, seeming, at least in some cases, to whip them with their reins.

This is like the pictures from Kabul airport last month, the refugees running on the tarmac. They capture human desperation and contrast it with the seeming indifference of Americans that even looks cruel. But let's take a little bit of an elevation on this. It is another instance of global realities coming to visit us here in our cocoon of privilege. We are only occasionally forced to confront what so much of the world's population confronts on a daily basis. We have to understand that climate change is going to make this kind of migration pressure a recurrent challenge from now on.

SIMON: The committee investigating the January 6 attack on democracy subpoenaed four Trump administration officials this week. President Biden said he won't shield presidential records from that investigation. What might we learn from this inquiry?

ELVING: We should reserve judgment for now to let this play out, but the expectation is that these inquiries could produce some new evidence of coordination or at least sympathy between certain Republican Congress members and the protesters and perhaps between the Trump White House and the protesters. That evidence would be meaningful to those trying to get to the bottom of what happened that day. But for those who still reject the outcome of the election, it may only mean more alienation and denial.

SIMON: Speaker Pelosi says the $3.5 trillion package of social safety net and climate programs and the $1 trillion for highway, internet and other projects - both those bills will pass. The president says talks have hit a stalemate. Who's right?

ELVING: It's possible they may both be right. These teams are still on the field. The game still afoot. It does appear that talks have hit a stalemate for the moment. At this point, we surely do not know that it will finally lead to enactment of the Democrats agenda, let alone the full wish list that adds up to $3.5 trillion. There are Democrats who will work to reduce the price tag so as to sell it better back home. They have a lot of tradition and precedent on their side.

At the same time, you have progressive firebrands pressing their case, digging the trenches to defend their lines. They have to go back to their constituents, too, and those voters have an urgent set of priorities, as well. So these are real differences. And many Democrats sense their window of opportunity may be closing.

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.