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As Dems Fail, Chuck Todd Laments They Don't Play Hardball with GOP

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MTP Daily host Chuck Todd lamented on Thursday that President Biden’s legislative agenda appears to be falling apart. In response to that, he plotted strategy with Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher and further lamented that, unlike Mitch McConnell, Democrats don’t know how to play hardball.

After MSNBC contributor and liberal activist Maria Teresa Kumar hoped for changes (“reforms”) to the filibuster in the next few days when it comes to “voting rights,” Todd turned to Belcher. “So Cornell, I want to take, because I’ve heard this same thing that Maria Teresa’s heard. And I’m thinking, okay, and look, this is a classic hindsight question. It looks obvious now, but at this point should voting rights have been how President Biden spent his summer and fall, and not Build Back Better?”

Todd heard last Sunday from a black journalist that forcing an end to state voter-ID laws and other anti-fraud measures was a much bigger priority, that passing other bills is “like putting a nice shiny coat of paint on a house while Republicans are lobbing fire bombs at it.”

Belcher was reluctant to criticize Biden for initially focusing on the economy, arguing that they thought, like Obama-Biden in 2009, “We have to get the stimulus package, we have to get infrastructure, we know these things are about building our economy and making us, you know, more competitive in the future.”

However, Belcher did criticize Democrats for focusing on legislative processes that the average voter either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about:

I get the inside game but outside game we got to start talking about process and start talking quite frankly you have 50 Republicans who won’t even allow the debate to start on the voting rights act which is something the vast majority of Americans want. You have Republicans lock step against all these Build Back Better measures from child care to senior health issues that the vast majority of Americans want. At some point there must be a pivot away from a conversation about Joe Manchin and what it is Republicans will not vote for.  

The “vast majority” wanted H.R. 1, the “For The People Act”? It depends on what you’re asking. Progressive pollsters found “More than 80 percent of respondents said they supported preventing foreign interference in elections, limiting the influence of money in politics, and modernizing election infrastructure to increase election security.” But the right-leaning Honest Elections Project found 77 percent favored voter-ID laws and requiring voter-identification on mail-in ballots.

A recent poll found support for BBB failed to reach a majority with only 41% supporting it. Instead of questing Belcher’s framing, Todd wondered why Democrats don’t make Republicans’ lives difficult by putting them on the record:

Cornell, do you think it’s been a mistake not to show the public that? Like, you know, Mitch McConnell loves to make Democrats take uncomfortable votes. Democrats haven’t made Republicans take a lot of uncomfortable votes, if indeed these are — and I’m talking not about in the big one package, I’m talking individually. You know, make them vote individually. That’s how he would be running things. 

Belcher naturally agreed, “I hope we as Democrats change that dynamic and actually start playing hardball and making them take tough votes so we can then run against them for not voting for these popular things.”

In reality, McConnell would probably love for Democrats to bring their agenda up for a vote, because it is not nearly as popular as Todd and Belcher think it is, but seeing it go down in defeat would be embarrassing for Democrats. 

This segment was sponsored by HughesNet. 

Here is a transcript for the December 16 show:

MSNBC

MTP Daily

1:09 PM ET

CHUCK TODD: So Cornell, I want to take, because I’ve heard this same thing that Maria Teresa’s heard. And I’m thinking, okay, and look, this is a classic hindsight question. It looks obvious now, but at this point should voting rights have been how President Biden spent his summer and fall and not Build Back Better? 

CORNELL BELCHER: Well a couple of things here. One is, I think the White House thought they needed to do some things that quite frankly on the front in around, around the economy and it is the same issue that, that, that Obama was troubled in 2008 when he came in. You know, look, our economy was in free fall. And there’s some things around the economy that we have to do. We have to get the stimulus package, we have to get infrastructure, we know these things are about building our economy and making us, you know, more competitive in the future. 

But I want to step back from this for a moment as I put on my political hack hat as I, as I don’t know a lot about budgeting and the process and I was in focus groups about two weeks ago with young voters and you know what, Chuck, they don’t know a lot about legislative process either or the ideals of filibusters. So to the point earlier, Democrats have to stop talk about the process, at least with voters. I get the inside game but outside game we got to start talking about process and start talking quite frankly you have 50 Republicans who won’t even allow the debate to start on the voting rights act which is something the vast majority of Americans want. You have Republicans lock step against all these Build Back Better measures from child care to senior health issues that the vast majority of Americans want. At some point there must be a pivot away from a conversation about Joe Manchin and what it is Republicans will not vote for. 

TODD: Cornell, do you think it’s been a mistake not to show the public that? Like, you know, Mitch McConnell loves to make Democrats take uncomfortable votes. Democrats haven’t made Republicans take a lot of uncomfortable votes, if indeed these are — and I’m talking not about in the big one package, I’m talking individually. You know, make them vote individually. That’s how he would be running things. 

BELCHER: No, that’s, that’s right. Look, look, Chuck, I think we’ve seen this play before going into 2010. I think Mitch McConnell is playing the same, is playing the same, the same hand. I hope we as Democrats change that dynamic and actually start playing hardball and making them take tough votes so we can then run against them for not voting for these popular things. 

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