PBS NewsHour full episode, June 8, 2021
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff. On the "NewsHour" tonight: insurrection aftermath. The Senate releases its report on the security failures during the January 6 assault on the Capitol by a violent mob of Trump supporters.
Then: the migration message. The vice president discusses the Biden administration's immigration agenda in Central America, as the region struggles with rampant corruption. And Rethinking College. As calls for free tuition at the nation's community colleges grow louder, the benefits and drawbacks of the idea become more apparent. All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour." (BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: The first congressional report detailing what went wrong on January 6 was released this morning. The 128-page bipartisan Senate document recounts significant intelligence and security
failures leading up to and on the day of the attack, as well as a list of recommendations. We will talk with one of the key senators behind the report. But, first, Lisa Desjardins is here with me now to walk us through it. So, Lisa, this report is representing views from both political parties, we know. So give us the gist of what it says. LISA DESJARDINS: That's important. Let's get right to it.
This focuses on the security failures of that day. First, one of the things it found was that Capitol Police did have the intelligence. They had seen numerous postings online about potential violence, including, "Bring a gun," for example, but that the police did not share that widely and did not make the correct assessment about how dangerous all those pieces were.
Also, something I had not seen before, that the Pentagon, from interviews with the committee, the former defense secretary and former chief -- chairman of the Chiefs of Staff there said -- of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- said the Pentagon actually wanted to lock down D.C. two days before January 6 because they were so concerned, and that idea was rejected. Now, the National Guard, we know the problems in the communications there. The requests
did not go through. And then, when the requests did go through the Pentagon, it was delayed. All of that led to a finding in this report that the National Guard did not arrive at the U.S. Capitol until after the Capitol itself was secured. There is a main -- one of the 20 recommendations in this report that I think is most significant is that the Capitol Police be able to call on the National Guard on their own. Right now, Capitol Police is -- are overseen as what some believe is an antiquated board of three people who are appointed by Congress. They are slow to act. And it's notable that -- something that is not in this report, this report does not recommend any changes to that board's structure. And I know Capitol Police believe that they can't
do their job better until that structure changes. Something else not in this report is President Trump and any role he played on that day. That's because the whole purview of this report was limited to security failures on that day. That was the goal. JUDY WOODRUFF: He is not mentioned by name.
LISA DESJARDINS: That's right. JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Lisa, have any of the concerns that are outlined in this report been addressed so far? And what is thought to be the state of readiness right now at the Capitol? LISA DESJARDINS: Well, Capitol Police have responded to this report. And they say there was not actually intelligence that an attack was coming. They say they are trying to change their staffing, to kind of spread communications better in a way that will help them connect the dots more, better. But, otherwise, Judy, there is a fence still around the Capitol Building itself, but everything else systemically is about the same as on January 6. And the National Guard has now left. In addition, I have to say that the fencing and the future of security at the
Capitol is unknown because lawmakers themselves have not decided how much they want to spend or how they want to do it. I think this report, what I'm saying is, lawmakers' own indecision is not just symbolic, but is a factor still in the still kind of oversight of the Capitol and the security problems there. One other issue Capitol Police have right now, Judy, it's not well-known, but I talk to many Capitol Police officers. I know some personally who have left since January 6. And many officers tell me that they are not just short-staffed, but very short-staffed.
Even if the Capitol could open for health reasons, they say they don't have the personnel to do it. They're concerned. JUDY WOODRUFF: That is certainly a reason to be concerned. Lisa Desjardins, thank you for your reporting. LISA DESJARDINS: You're welcome. JUDY WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. And we hear now from a Democratic Senator. She is Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She chairs
the Rules Committee, which released today's report, in a joint effort with the Homeland Security Committee. And she joins us now from Capitol Hill. Senator Klobuchar, welcome back to the... SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Thanks, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you for being here. So, what would you say were the main failures outlined in this report? SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, the first was really echoed in the words, the haunting words of one of the officers, who said over the radio: "Does anybody have a plan?" There was just no preparation for this kind of an event, despite the fact that you had reports on social media of people posting pictures of the underground tunnels and the maps to the underground tunnels.
So, the number one thing, no preparation, no really plan for where the officers were stationed. This was not the fault in any way of the front-line officers. They valiantly defended and did their jobs. This was the leadership of the Capitol Police. You start with the fact that you have the officers, 75 percent of them were in their plainclothes. One of the platoons were not able to access their equipment because it was locked in a bus, so they could only look at it through the window.
You have got situations where only 10 percent of them had civil disturbance training. And then you have three different intelligence units within the Capitol Police. And, of course, that should be combined. On the outside, FBI, the reports that were coming in didn't get enough information to the high-level people in the Capitol Police. And, as you -- as was noted, the Department of Defense, it took quite a while for them to get the National Guard over. So, all in all, we made 20 recommendations. We have to act on them immediately. And it
was really our job to investigate, yes, but to come up with some recommendations. And it was important that this be bipartisan, so we can get them done. JUDY WOODRUFF: How confident are you, Senator, that the fixes that need to be made will be made? SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: The ones out of this report, I feel good about that. We need a new police chief. I was listening to Lisa's excellent reporting, where I -- much more in-depth than some of the other reports that I have heard, because she gets the fact that some of these changes just haven't been made. You have got understaffed department. You need a new police chief. This board has to
make a decision about that police chief. And we hope that's very soon. Two new sergeant at arms have been installed in the House and Senate with vast experience, the other ones replaced. That is a good beginning. And then we have to get the equipment and resources to the line officers. And one thing
I will note about the Capitol Police Board, a good first step we suggest immediately, which is to give the police chief the authority to be able to call up the National Guard without calling three people and desperately trying to reach them in the middle of an insurrection. That is one of the most absurd of many things that happened that should never have occurred. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa's -- part of Lisa's reporting there, Senator, was that the concern is, right now, that if there were another attack on the Capitol of this magnitude, you might not be ready, the Capitol security system might not be ready. Is that your take as well? SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I think you saw, by the way, the State of the Union, excellent security there. I think what we have seen is heightened involvement of other agencies and different approaches.
There's been some -- a new hire made who's handled these kinds of events before. But there's more that needs to be done. We know that. And our focus was on that security to convince our fellow senators and work with the House to get this done through the appropriations process for the funding and also make some legal changes as well. And there could be other changes to that Capitol Police Board, as Lisa has pointed out. I think
the number one goal is the get the new chief in place first. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Senator, on this subject, you have been in favor of a commission created, an independent, outside commission to look at what happened on January 6. Do you still think that's necessary after this report? SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Of course. I think it's more necessary. Our goal was singularly focused on the security and the failures of intelligence. But there's so much more that must be uncovered, systematic issues, rise of white supremacism, what got us to where we are. And that is why I strongly support that commission, even more than before we entered in and presented this report.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, another major issue that you are involved in, of course, is voting rights. We saw the announcement over the weekend by your fellow Democratic Senator Joe Manchin that he will oppose the big voting rights bill that's in the Senate now, so-called S.1. Without his support, the conventional wisdom is, that's dead. How do you see it? SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, I have been talking with Senator Manchin both before his announcement, during and afterwards -- well, not during it.
And it's been my impression that he has said he's going to give me a list of things, give one to Senator Schumer of things that he wants to see in a bill. He has voiced his support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which, of course, is very important to pass as well. But my argument is this. We have seen over 300 bills introduced all across the country to limit people's right to vote, to take away their freedom to vote, and they're not going to stop. They have passed major bills in Georgia and Florida and in other states. And so that is the argument that we are making right now.
And there are many changes that I made to the For the People Act that would have moderated the bill, in response to some of the issues raised by Senator Manchin and the West Virginia secretary of state. That amendment, the manager's amendment, was a major amendment, making it easier for rural areas, had the support of Mark Warner and Angus King. And, unfortunately, the Republicans voted it down. But it is still there, along with other changes we can make. So, Senator Manchin is going to have to put forth his ideas, because this was a -- is a good bill. And I'm not going to give up the right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But without significant changes in that bill, paring it down significantly, getting Senator Manchin on board, you're looking at either -- the expectation is, there's not going to be an end of the filibuster rule, and you're not going to get 10 Republican senators sign on to have 60 votes. So, I mean, the question is, how do you get this done? SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, Senator Manchin has in the past indicated he would look at a standing filibuster. And I guess, if you even look at his piece that he wrote this weekend, you could say that would, in his words, I suppose, strengthen the filibuster.
And so my argument is that these guys, if we're not going to abolish the filibuster, which, by the way, I favor, because I want to get stuff done, and I'm sick and tired of this, and people manipulating the process and using archaic procedures to do that -- well, then at least make them stand and argue that we shouldn't be giving water to voters in line or that we shouldn't make it easier for people to vote in the safe way that they want to vote, whether it's voting early or voting by mail. Make them stand and do it. So, he has still not precluded that, and I think that would be one way to go, along with working with him on listening to his concerns and making changes to the bill.
And like I said, there were significant changes made in the manager's amendment, supported by all of the senators on the committee, including moderate senators and the independent Angus King. But the Republicans voted that down. So, that's a good place to start. JUDY WOODRUFF: But are you saying you are -- you believe right now that there's a real chance this can be revived, that you can get Senator Manchin to agree to something that's a different-looking bill? SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Of course I do, or I wouldn't be standing here saying it to you. I believe so strongly in voting rights. And people stood in line in Milwaukee in garbage bags with homemade masks just to exercise their right to vote. People in Texas had to
deal with one ballot box drop-off place in Harris County, Texas, with five million people. These are outrageous stories that went on around the country. And yet eight million more people voted than -- we have seen -- you have seen Joe Biden win by that many votes. You have seen people -- record turnout in the middle of a pandemic because they cared about voting. And instead of simply chaining their policies and reaching out in different ways, the Republican Party has said, you know what, we're just going to make it harder for people to vote. And I think Reverend Warnock said it best in his maiden speech, when he said, some people don't want some people to vote. That is exactly what's going on here and why I will not give
up this fight for freedom to vote and putting things in place to make -- get the dark money out of our politics and finally get something done on ethics reform. Democrats and Republicans across the country support the provisions in this bill by overwhelming arguments, including in West Virginia. And that is the case that we will be making. This is a bipartisan bill, because Democrats and Republicans both want to see it happen. JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Amy Klobuchar.
And, just finally, condolences on the loss of your father, a longtime journalist in the state of Minnesota. SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Oh, thank you, Judy. JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Thank you so much. JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: The Biden administration's Family Reunification Task Force has identified more than 3,900 children who were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration's zero tolerance immigration policy. So far, more than 1,700 have been reunited with a parent, but more than 2,100 children have not. The White House says a lack of data on the children has slowed reunification efforts. JEN PSAKI, White House Press Secretary: Everybody wants it to go faster. Everybody wants -- in
this administration, everybody wants these kids to be reunified with their family members and with verified family members. But we're working with a challenging issue related to data that we knew would be the case from the beginning. JUDY WOODRUFF: The Biden administration will review the cases of an additional 1,700 children to see if they were also separated under the zero tolerance policy. We will have more on the president's immigration policy later in the program. International law enforcement agencies today unveiled the results of a 16-country sting operation, after criminals planned drug deals and killings on a messaging app secretly run by the FBI. More than 300 criminal gangs used the app. The raids led to more than 800 arrests,
as well as seizures of 32 tons of drugs and more than $148 million. United Nations judges in The Hague upheld a genocide conviction against former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic. The 79-year-old had been convicted of crimes against humanity during the Balkan nation's war from 1992 to 1995. The judges rejected his appeals, so
that Mladic will spend the rest of his life in prison. Colonial Pipeline's chief executive today defended his company's response to a ransomware attack last month. Joseph Blount told a Senate panel that the Russian-based hackers breached their network through an account that was only protected by a single password. He said paying the ransom was the hardest decision of his career, but the right move to end fuel shortages. JOSEPH BLOUNT, CEO, Colonial Pipeline: It was our understanding that the decision was solely ours, as a private company, to make the decision about whether to pay or not.
And considering the consequences of potentially not bringing the pipeline back on as quickly as I possibly could, I chose the option to make the ransom payment. JUDY WOODRUFF: The Justice Department was able to recover much of the $4.4 million ransom payment after seizing a virtual Bitcoin wallet used by the hackers. Infrastructure talks between President Biden and the top Republican Senate negotiator are now over. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said that the president broke off their negotiations today after being unable to reach a deal over his proposed $1.7 trillion jobs and infrastructure
package. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president is now shifting his strategy by reaching out to a bipartisan group of senators and crafting an alternate proposal. The Senate is poised to pass sweeping bipartisan legislation to boost the U.S. tech industry amid growing international competition, mainly from China. The roughly $250 billion bill will invest in semiconductor manufacturing, artificial intelligence research, robotics, and a range of other technologies. It is being hailed as the country's biggest investment
in scientific research in decades. The Biden administration is also forming a task force to address disruptions in the semiconductor, construction, transportation, and agriculture sectors. It aims to boost domestic manufacturing to limit dependency on countries like China. We will take a closer look at this and the Senate's technology bill after the news summary.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased pandemic travel recommendations for more than 110 countries and territories today, including Japan, ahead of the Summer Olympics. Meanwhile, Pfizer expanded testing its COVID vaccine in children younger than 12, giving them lower doses of the shot. In economic news, the Labor Department reported a record high surge in job openings, as more businesses reopened. They were up 998,000 in the month of April to 9.3 million. Also in April, the U.S. trade deficit narrowed to nearly $69 billion, as stronger economic growth led to more sales of American exports.
And trading was light on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 30 points to close at 34600. The Nasdaq rose 43 points, and the S&P 500 added a fraction of a point. Still to come on the "NewsHour": the vice president discusses the administration's immigration agenda in Central America; calls for free tuition at the nation's community colleges grow louder; and a songwriter helps hospital workers process the pandemic through music.
This evening, the U.S. Senate, on a rare bipartisan basis, is passing a major piece of legislation designed to counter China and its global influence. The roughly $200 billion measure is also one of the largest pieces of industrial legislation ever to make its way through Congress, though it still needs to be reconciled with a House version.
Stephanie Sy has more. STEPHANIE SY: Judy, the Senate bill invests billions in innovation and critical technologies, many of which the Chinese government has made a top priority for years. And, earlier, the Biden administration announced it was taking steps to ensure the U.S. has
its own supply of essential products and components, many of which are today manufactured in China. All of this is aimed at boosting U.S. competitiveness with the world's second largest economy. Nick Schifrin joins me with more now. Nick, what steps did the White House take, and how do they fit in with the bill the Senate is voting on? NICK SCHIFRIN: This is the White House and Congress making a statement that, in order to take on China, the U.S. must focus on itself. So, first, the White House critical supply chain assessment identifies four main areas of focus. They start with semiconductors, then batteries, as well as critical minerals.
Think about rare earths that end up in cell phones and pharmaceuticals as well. These are many of Beijing's priorities. The administration says that it's trying to address the vulnerabilities in supply chains, many of which COVID exposed, and also strengthen U.S. resilience. And then, in the Senate, as you said, Stephanie, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, one of the largest industrial bills in U.S. history. It invests tens of billions of dollars in
what are called key technology-focused areas, basically reenergizing high-tech research and development. It also boosts semiconductor manufacturing. And it makes some diplomatic statements, a ban on U.S. diplomats going to the Beijing 2022 Olympics, and also another call for a COVID origins investigations. The sum of the parts today, Stephanie, once again an attempt to make the U.S. stronger in order to take China on.
STEPHANIE SY: And that bill is expected to pass the Senate, Nick, tonight, with bipartisan approach. But what do critics say about this approach to China? NICK SCHIFRIN: Yes, so Beijing is obviously the top critic, who says that this is evidence the U.S. is trying to contain China. On the Hill, senior Republicans say that the bill was rushed through and, therefore, isn't as strong as it should be, because it contains internal contradictions. But, in the House, I talked to progressive Democrats who say the bill goes too far, is too anti-China, and members to have the House Foreign Affairs Committee are already changing language on Taiwan and Beijing. We have talked to conservative and libertarian groups, who say that the Senate shouldn't be in the business of choosing what research scientists do, and also call the bill protectionist. But in this polarized moment, Stephanie, this is a bipartisan statement that reflects the administration's argument that the U.S. can't only go on defense against China, can't only
call out and punish Chinese behavior. It also needs to go on offense, and it needs to stay competitive in its technology. In order to take on China, it really needs to get its own house in order. STEPHANIE SY: And, obviously, some agreement that the federal government should subsidize some of those high technology companies, which is a shift. Nick Schifrin, thank you.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Thank you. JUDY WOODRUFF: Vice President Kamala Harris is wrapping up her first international trip today in Mexico. She earlier visited Guatemala, in a bid to stem migration from the countries of the so-called Northern Triangle, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Nick Schifrin is back now with a look at Harris' trip and the thorny issues she and the administration are trying to manage. NICK SCHIFRIN: In Mexico City this morning, a united front. Flanked by Vice President Harris and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the U.S. and Mexico agreed
to help develop the so-called Northern Triangle, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, home to 65 percent of migrants who try and make it to the U.S. KAMALA HARRIS, Vice President of the United States: The United States and Mexico have a longstanding relationship. NICK SCHIFRIN: Mexico and the U.S. don't always agree on the tactics, but they share a goal
of reducing migration by targeting root causes. Violence. The Northern Triangle has homicide rates among the highest in the world. Poverty. The region is among the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. In Guatemala, that's produced hunger. The country has the world's sixth highest rate of chronic malnutrition. And
so far this year, more unaccompanied Guatemalans have tried to enter the U.S. than from any other country. KAMALA HARRIS: The president and I also discussed the root causes of migration, in particular, the lack of economic opportunity for many people here in Guatemala. NICK SCHIFRIN: Harris spent yesterday with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. Whom she's not meeting on this trip reveals another root cause: bad governance and corruption. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez is considered by U.S. law enforcement to be
a key player in drug trafficking. And Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele is considered increasingly authoritarian. In Guatemala, Harris announced a U.S. anti-corruption task force, and said better governance can convince families to stay home.
KAMALA HARRIS: Hope does not exist by itself. It must be coupled with relationships of trust. It must be coupled with tangible outcomes, in terms of what we do as leaders. JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: The question is no longer, what can we do for the hemisphere? It's what can we do with countries in the hemisphere together? NICK SCHIFRIN: But Harris isn't the first vice president to try and tackle root causes. When he was vice president, Joe Biden presented the U.S. as a partner to tackling the same regional issues, and many of those issues have become more intractable.
So, on this trip, Harris also had a more immediate message. KAMALA HARRIS: I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come. Do not come. NICK SCHIFRIN: Border Patrol is detaining more people at the U.S.-Mexico border than at any point in 20 years.
Republicans criticize the Biden administration for ending Trump era programs to deter migrants, and criticize Harris for not visiting the border, which she tried to deflect today on NBC. LESTER HOLT, NBC News: You haven't been to the border. KAMALA HARRIS: And I haven't been to Europe. (LAUGHTER) KAMALA HARRIS: I don't understand the point that you're making. I'm not discounting the importance of the border. NICK SCHIFRIN: The Biden administration describes its border policy as more humane.
Today, it revealed that, from July 1, 2017, to January 20, 2021, 3,913 children were separated from their families. So far, 45 percent of those children have been confirmed reunited. Harris admits there's not going to be a quick fix to this problem. KAMALA HARRIS: We have to look at not only what is actually happening at the border, but what is causing that to happen.
NICK SCHIFRIN: For more, I'm joined by Eduardo Gamarra. He is a political science professor at Florida International University. He has served as a consultant to several heads of government in the Americas. Professor Gamarra, welcome to the "NewsHour."
As we mentioned in the piece, this is not a new approach, trying to tackle the root causes of migration. Do you think there's anything that distinguishes Vice President Harris' approach from previous attempts? EDUARDO GAMARRA, Florida International University: Well, I think the fact that the causes are recognized at the beginning is something new, and that we're not just dealing with a very, very quick response, trying to get, more than anything, a political response to this major crisis. So, addressing the root causes is important as a policy statement. The problem is that the root causes cannot be solved overnight, they can't be solved during one administration. And, as we know, this kind of goes back even as far back as President Reagan. NICK SCHIFRIN: Absolutely.
The vice president has talked a little bit about the private sector, emphasizing that, but, at the end of the day, this plan, this approach requires working with the governments of the Northern Triangle. Are those governments reliable partners? EDUARDO GAMARRA: Well, the fact is that democracy in Central America is facing some very serious challenges. It has challenges that are both structural and, as we might say in Spanish, conjunctural, right? They're crises of the moment. So you have everything from climate change, to the problems of violence, to the problems of low growth, and the problems of the pandemic. And on top of that, you have declining confidence in governance, declining confidence in institutions, and declining confidence, above all, in the politicians that are governing those countries. NICK SCHIFRIN: More specifically, as we mentioned, she chose Guatemala because, basically, it was the only government that she could be seen with.
Are there people in Guatemala who will work with her, compared to some of the real problems at the very top that we have seen in Honduras and El Salvador? EDUARDO GAMARRA: Guatemala has a private sector president who has made some overtures to the United States and who has been at least open enough to allow the vice president to arrive there and even push the idea that the assistance to Guatemala should not be to the government, but to the private sector and to civil society. NICK SCHIFRIN: Do you think these leaders, whether Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, are willing to achieve the structural reforms that we all know are necessary to tackle the root causes? EDUARDO GAMARRA: Well, to address those structural reforms, what needs to occur is a long-term investment by the United States and others. This is not something that those countries have the capacity to do. So, structural reform
means, for example, creating productive economies. To create productive economies, you need long-term investment, primarily from the American private sector or from the Europeans. That isn't going to occur if the conditions aren't right there. NICK SCHIFRIN: Talk to some experts who say this discussion, what the vice president is focused on, is all well and good, but if you are going to tackle the immediate crisis of migrants at the border now, the Biden administration needs to do better to enforce U.S. law to create a deterrence.
Do you agree? EDUARDO GAMARRA: I agree. And I think the vice president went down there with part of that message: Don't come to the United States because we, in fact, do not have open borders. But yet, at the same time, we do have a crisis on the border, and people keep coming. And
so there is a need to address those structural issues that are generating this enormous move of people all the way from that as well, by the way. They're coming up. They're using Central America to arrive in the United States. But at the same time, we also need to work with those governments in those countries in the development of better ways to enforce whatever is immigration law there and immigration law here. NICK SCHIFRIN: And I wonder if, in this moment, there's another approach, another thing that the U.S. can also focus on to try and achieve this relationship the vice president's talked about, and that is vaccines, COVID vaccines, something that she has discussed with every leader in the region. EDUARDO GAMARRA: And I think that this is an opportunity for the United States.
The U.S. has essentially lost leadership in Latin America over the last couple of decades. And I think that the COVID pandemic, in fact, gives the United States a unique opportunity to regain leadership in the region, and beginning in Central America might be the right place to do it. NICK SCHIFRIN: Eduardo Gamarra, thank you very much.
EDUARDO GAMARRA: It's a pleasure. JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the debate over providing free tuition for community college. Seventeen states already do so, and existing programs cover tuition for many students. but President Biden wants to make that happen nationwide. His plan starts with $109 billion
to cover full tuition for community college. States would be asked to match a dollar for every three allocated in federal money. His plan also includes an $85 billion investment in Pell Grants for students in need at both two- and four-year colleges. And there's another $62 billion for resources to help students
complete their degree, money for transportation and tutoring, for example. We are going to get different takes over the next two nights for our series on Rethinking College. To begin, I'm joined by Margaret Spellings, the former U.S. secretary of education under President George W. Bush, and the former head of the University of North Carolina system.
She's now president and CEO of Texas 2036. It's a policy group to make Texas successful after its bicentennial. Margaret Spellings, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
Thank you for joining us. I'm looking at something that President Biden said when he was making this proposal. He said: "It's not enough to restore where we were before the pandemic. We need to build
a stronger economy that does not leave anyone behind." What about that rationale for this? MARGARET SPELLINGS, Former U.S. Secretary of Education: Well, it makes all the sense in the world.
And I commend him really for investing in American higher education. We know that most of the jobs of today and certainly the future require higher levels of education. And, right now, we're following -- falling woefully short of having all our people with the skills needed to really access the economy. So, at the top line, I really commend that goal.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me just go beyond that, then, because what the president has pointed out and the people who advocate for this point out is, the people who have most benefited from community college are people at the lower income scale, people who haven't had the opportunity. In other words, it's a way to target those individuals who had the least opportunity in the past, as an argument for putting this kind of money into it. MARGARET SPELLINGS: Well, and we know that so many of our -- the majority of our community college students really are taking remedial education, levels of basic literacy and math that should have been learned in high school. And so, sadly, our completion rates towards an associate's degree or to something, really a meaningful credential, are not very encouraging at community colleges. And when students are well-matched, they really do better in comprehensive universities, like our minority-serving institutions, HBCUs. So, to me, I'm a fan of the Pell Grant. I think one of the greatest assets of American
higher education is for the ability for a student to take that purchases power to a place that suits them. And, certainly, that can be a community college, but isn't necessarily. JUDY WOODRUFF: But the question is, why not go ahead and give these individuals who -- I looked at a number -- it's something like 94 percent of total family income, on average, has gone toward education for the most disadvantaged students. Why not direct the money to who need it the most? MARGARET SPELLINGS: Well, because I think, often, they're going to be better off with a comprehensive university, like an HBCU. They're going to be on track to complete and
they will have a trajectory into a livelihood and, frankly, often doesn't exist when students are educated in community colleges. Too many of our students in community colleges are taking what we call basic education, which is really kind of literacy and math, not that they don't need that, but, really, it's we need to empower consumers with information and purchasing power to go where they see fit, including community colleges. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the administration has shared with us a number of studies that show this kind of outside financial aid does help these students toward completing their two-year degree.
So, this would be a way of at least -- for those students who can't go, for whatever reason, to a historically Black college, which you have mentioned, or to another four-year institution, at least this gets them off to a solid beginning. MARGARET SPELLINGS: And that's why 17 states, as you rightly say, have invested in that. But there's also states who have invested in additional supports for four-year institutions, for technical schools, for other types of institutions. So, I think, in terms of bipartisan support, I think there will be a lot of support for the Pell Grant. That will obviously inure to the benefit of community colleges and to families. But let's be agnostic about the kinds of places that students might select, adult learners, those who are going straight from high school, to really chart their own path. What we really
need is information as well for students to really understand, what are they getting in those community colleges? Are they a ticket to a good job or not? JUDY WOODRUFF: Is your argument that it's a waste of money? MARGARET SPELLINGS: No, not at all. My argument is, let's give students financial support, especially those who need it the most, through a Pell Grant, and allow them to chart a path to their own -- around their own needs, including community colleges. But let's not limit it to community colleges. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as we reported, there's a lively debate around this -- around this issue. And we're so grateful to you, Margaret Spellings, for joining us. Thank you very much. MARGARET SPELLINGS: Thanks, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, tomorrow night, we will hear the case for providing free community college. That will come from another former secretary of education, John King, who served under President Obama. As COVID cases are dropping in most parts of the U.S. now, many front-line workers are now reckoning with how the pandemic has impacted their lives. It turns out that a few medical professionals are collaborating with Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier to weave their profound experiences into song.
Special correspondent Jared Bowen of GBH Boston reports that Gauthier, who will release a new book in July, "Saved by a Song: The Art and Healing Power of Songwriting," says the effort to make these caregivers whole couldn't be more important. The story is part of our ongoing arts and culture coverage, Canvas. WOMAN: It was a tough year. JARED BOWEN: This is a moment to heal the healers. Five members of the emergency department
at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital gather on Zoom to write a song. MARY GAUTHIER, Singer-Songwriter: And what my goal with you today is -- to do is to just kind of get what's going on and find a common thread that you all share. JARED BOWEN: In a two-hour session, they will revisit what they ultimately describe as the darkest, most uncertain year of their lives. WOMAN: It just keeps going. JARED BOWEN: Contending with the virus that ripped through their E.R. Walking them back through it is Nashville-based singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier.
MARY GAUTHIER: What's it been like? And just kind of throw some words out or experiences out. DR. DA'MARCUS BAYMON, Brigham and Women's Hospital: It was a year of a lot of dualities. It's like, we were close, but we were supposed to be alone. MARY GAUTHIER: Fear. WOMAN: I had a lot of fear. I remember walking up the hill some days and think, give me the
courage to get through this day. MAN: I think a lot of us are, in some ways, kind of sad by the fact that it may not ever go back to normal. MARY GAUTHIER: Now, that is a great place to start. I really resonate with, will it
ever be normal again? JARED BOWEN: The effort is called Frontline Songs, and, since September, has been happening across the country, as small groups of first responders and health care workers process the pandemic in music. DR. RON HIRSCHBERG, Co-Founder, Frontline Songs: So, the process is really therapeutic, in the sense that people are coming together as a group.
JARED BOWEN: A physician specializing in trauma, Dr. Ron Hirschberg is one of the co-founders of Frontline Songs. DR. RON HIRSCHBERG: I find that, when someone's words are reflected back to them, and there's that validation through a song, it can be powerful. MARY GAUTHIER: I always say that songs are what feelings sound like. JARED BOWEN: After decades of recovery, songwriting, and nine studio records, Mary Gauthier is a living testament to the power of music.
MARY GAUTHIER: When we're dealing in trauma, we can feel very removed. JARED BOWEN: Well, what is it that music can do to help on that front? MARY GAUTHIER: Melody is so powerful. I think it comes into our ears and then radiates through our heart and soul. I think it's a matter of feeling seen. JARED BOWEN: Back in the songwriting session, the memories continue and begin to coalesce. DR. DA'MARCUS BAYMON: Because we all experienced the hero aspect of it in the beginning, but
then, after a certain number of months, when everyone got used to it, we then became, like, people who were exposed to it all the time. And so you wanted to change your scrubs just so that, if you left the hospital, people wouldn't look at you and say, like, are you carrying it, or do you have it on you? MARY GAUTHIER: Oh, so, let me see. They called us heroes. We were looked up to and revered, and then we were looked at as contaminated, removed and feared.
JARED BOWEN: It looked a lot like therapy. DR. DA'MARCUS BAYMON: Yes. JARED BOWEN: Was it therapy? DR. DA'MARCUS BAYMON: Yes, it became therapy, I think. JARED BOWEN: We spoke with chief resident Dr. Da'Marcus Baymon after the songwriting session. A sometime songwriter himself, he says the process was a revelation.
DR. DA'MARCUS BAYMON: To really step back and say, oh, my gosh, I didn't know you experienced that, like, I experienced something similar, and connecting to that just made me really appreciate how hard it is to wake up every day, be a great human and be a great colleague, but then also have your own personal experiences. JARED BOWEN: That is a refrain Gauthier has heard before. She collaborated with war veterans for her 2018 Grammy-nominated album "Rifles & Rosary Beads," stemming from the similarly-minded program, Songwriting With Soldiers.
How did that begin to shape your approach to this and what you really gleaned from that? MARY GAUTHIER: I think learning how to listen, learning how to not insert myself in the story. I have no more experience as a soldier than I do as an emergency room doctor. JARED BOWEN: Does it ever become hard for you to have to ask these questions? MARY GAUTHIER: There's a line. I can tell, by feeling it out, where to go and where to be really careful. JARED BOWEN: And then, suddenly, a tailwind. An anthem emerges, as the group steers the song into a hoped-for return to normalcy.
DR. DA'MARCUS BAYMON: I was listening to her play the chords, and she switched it up, and she really found, I think, the essence of what we were all looking for, but didn't know. And that was her brilliance. JARED BOWEN: In under two hours, the group finishes the song. Like other Frontline songs, it's been recorded by Gauthier to live online for the public and to be an enduring marker for its co-writers.
DR. DA'MARCUS BAYMON: For me, even if I have to cry or get through it, it is a way for me to really identify and process how I'm feeling. (MUSIC) DR. DA'MARCUS BAYMON: Wow. WOMAN: That was really nice. JARED BOWEN: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jared Bowen in Boston, Massachusetts.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We welcome that song, and we look forward to her book. And we will be back shortly with exciting stories to engage with online. But, first, take a moment to hear from your local PBS station. It's a chance to offer your support, which helps to keep programs like ours on the air. There is a shortage of skilled tradespeople in the U.S., a problem even before the pandemic. Paul Solman reports for our series Work Shift on navigating a post-COVID economy.
PAUL SOLMAN: Superstar Seattle, where the high-tech young make six figures and up. But you can make that much in low-tech too, says plumber Vinnie Sposari. VINNIE SPOSARI, Owner, Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Seattle: Drain cleaning, light plumbing repairs and that kind of thing, we have got guys making over $100,000 a year. PAUL SOLMAN: Sposari owns Seattle's Mr. Rooter franchise.
VINNIE SPOSARI: I have got plumbers that work for me today that make $200,000-plus a year. PAUL SOLMAN: And they're what age? VINNIE SPOSARI: Any age, in their 30s, 40s. PAUL SOLMAN: Making $200,000 a year or more? VINNIE SPOSARI: Absolutely. PAUL SOLMAN: That's because there simply aren't enough plumbers, not in boomtowns like Seattle, not anywhere.
VINNIE SPOSARI: Manpower is one of the most frustrating parts of my job, filling all the spots, I could hire six, eight experienced plumbers right now. PAUL SOLMAN: But they're just not out there? VINNIE SPOSARI: They're just not out there. Guys that are my age, they're aging out. PAUL SOLMAN: But why aren't they being replaced with the young, given their historically low participation rate, made worse by the pandemic? There are all these kids who either aren't working at all or are working in dead-end, low-wage jobs. Why can't you just say to them, hey, by age of 25 or 30, you could be making
six figures; just come with me? VINNIE SPOSARI: I would love to. I have gone to some career days. The kids, you're waiting for them to come talk to you. And they just don't. PAUL SOLMAN: So, why no takers? TREVOR CALDWELL, Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Seattle: First and foremost is the perception of plumbing. PAUL SOLMAN: Trevor Caldwell is Vinnie Sposari's right hand man. TREVOR CALDWELL: There's this stigma that goes along with getting your hands dirty, just a plumber, not a person, just a plumber. And I don't want to be that guy. PAUL SOLMAN: Or that gal.
SARAH SCHNABEL, LaMorte Electric: You're doing manual labor. Some people tend to look down on that. And that makes people not want to go into it, clearly. PAUL SOLMAN: Sarah Schnabel isn't a plumber, but an Ithaca, New York, electrical apprentice, another well-paying trade which can't find good help these days, a frustration for Schnabel's boss, Brian LaMorte, and for his colleagues. BRIAN LAMORTE, LaMorte Electric: I know lots of guys in the trade who are contractors, and they're looking for help. PAUL SOLMAN: And willing to pay for it.
BRIAN LAMORTE: We have recently raised our rates as a business to $90 an hour, and we are not pushing the envelope. We were $75 a little while ago and $65 a little while before that. It's getting to the point where you probably pay us more to come fix your light switch than you do to go to the doctor.
PAUL SOLMAN: So, again, why no takers? SARAH SCHNABEL: I do think, for people my age, it's definitely more glamorous to think of the tech job, where you're in a really nice cushy office building. We're the kind of people who are going to hire someone to go change a light bulb, let alone go into the trades. That's kind of where my generation is right now. ADRIENNE BENNETT, Owner, Benkari Plumbing: I can't give them a power tool. They might kill themselves with it. They have never held a power tool in their life. PAUL SOLMAN: Yes, says Detroit master plumber Adrienne Bennett, whose firm is currently helping to revitalize Michigan's Central Station, it takes a non-cushy mind-set.
ADRIENNE BENNETT: This is physical work. You need to be there on the job site every day. And you got to be on time. And a lot of the young people today, they don't have work ethics. PAUL SOLMAN: But, of course, plenty do. Determined to breed new plumbers, Vinnie Sposari runs his own year-long training program, paying young people from the get-go to learn the trade. VINNIE SPOSARI: We're paying our trainees $15, $16, $18 an hour. And then, when you're done with the program, you're not a full licensed plumber, but you're a service technician who's able to snake drains and to do the kind of small plumbing repairs and whatnot and get close to that six-figure income. You're getting paid to learn that.
PAUL SOLMAN: After a certain number of hours and possibly an exam -- the requirements vary by locality -- you can become a licensed plumber, a quality credential in an economy where only 11 percent of employers think colleges and universities are doing a good job of preparing people for the work force. Says Sposari of his apprenticeship program: VINNIE SPOSARI: It's open for everybody. I would welcome anybody. PAUL SOLMAN: But, says Sposari: VINNIE SPOSARI: You would be amazed how many people we want to hire, but our insurance company won't insure them because of driving violations, drugs, can't keep a job.
You see some applicants come in here in a ripped T-shirt, hasn't shaved. You go out, look at his car and it's full of garbage. It hasn't been washed in a month. Those are the things we look at. PAUL SOLMAN: But, hey, plenty of young folks have intact T-shirts, clean faces, clean cars. Maybe they realize, or learn, that you need an apprenticeship to get licensed, says plumber Adrienne Bennett.
ADRIENNE BENNETT: And the apprenticeships are five years. And you start out at maybe $15, $16 an hour, and to get to $40, $50 an hour is going to take you five or six years. PAUL SOLMAN: Plus, to get a job, isn't it who you know? And few potential candidates know tradespeople, it seems.
MANUEL RIOS, Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Seattle: I didn't knew nobody. PAUL SOLMAN: Manuel Rios, a Mr. Rooter trainee, used to work on electric motors for $18 an hour, with little prospect of making much more. But, by chance, he met some plumbers
there. MANUEL RIOS: They say that they make a lot of money. And I realized that the plumbing is never going to end, because you are always going to need a plumber. So the business is always going to be there. PAUL SOLMAN: The final barrier to entry in the trades is a familiar one, says electrician LaMorte. BRIAN LAMORTE: There is a certain feeling that it's kind of like a white man's game, I hate to say it. So, people who are LGBTQ., minorities are a little bit intimidated by
the boys club that exists. PAUL SOLMAN: And, of course, women. Added together, that's about two-thirds of the country. In the late 1970s, Adrienne Bennett was recruited as a union plumbing apprentice under a federal program targeting women. Similar
programs exist today. ADRIENNE BENNETT: This is something that will keep food on the table. It will keep clothes on your back. It will keep a roof over your head. I'm living proof. PAUL SOLMAN: Living proof, as CEO of her own industrial contracting plumbing business since 2008. For the "PBS NewsHour," Paul Solman.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And join us online to explore and engage with a few of this week's top stories. Scientists are hunting for signs of life on Mars. Read more about how Perseverance, the latest rover, is on a mission to answer questions about the past and future of the Red Planet. You can find that on our Web site. That's PBS.org/NewsHour. On Instagram, today, there are 21 lesbian bars across the country, a dramatic drop from a decade ago. Owners across the country tell us about the significance of protecting these
spaces. And tomorrow, at noon, join our Amna Nawaz for an Instagram live with the founders of the Lesbian Bar Project, who are tracking these issues and directing owners toward resources. And, finally, with one in five teens living with a severe mental disorder, the pandemic is highlighting the emotional challenges facing adolescents. A new podcast, "On Our Minds,"
from our Student Reporting Labs offers a unique opportunity to show what mental health really looks like for young people, what kind of services are available to them, and the real stories behind the statistics. Listen wherever you get your podcasts. And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Judy Woodruff. Join us online and again here tomorrow evening.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.