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Week In Politics: Biden Meets With Putin, ACA Sees Another Supreme Court Victory


Meeting this week in Geneva between the leaders of two rival superpowers.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It's clearly not in anybody's interest, your country's or mine, for us to be in a situation where we're in a new cold war.

SIMON: President Joe Biden speaking to reporters after his three-hour summit meeting with Russian President Putin. Meanwhile, a new federal holiday commemorates the end of slavery in this country. And joining us now to talk about the week in politics is NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe. Happy Juneteenth.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: And let's start, please, with that Juneteenth legislation. Just seemed like that rare thing at the Capitol. It happened so quickly. The president signed the bill into law under general consensus, and it took effect, really, within hours. How's the creation of this new federal holiday being received?

RASCOE: In many places, there's been celebration. Let's not forget that this holiday was something that Black lawmakers had been pushing for for decades. And for the most part, this was extremely bipartisan, which we know is unusual. But I do have to note there are some civil rights activists who have raised concerns. They don't want federal action addressing the effects of slavery and Jim Crow and institutionalized racism to end at making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

SIMON: President Biden signed this bill right after he returned from a meeting with Vladimir Putin that he characterized as good and positive. No big breakthrough reported on one big issue between the two countries - that's cyberattacks. There did seem, I guess, to be some consensus over what the president called guardrails for cybersecurity, on the return of ambassadors and formal talks in updating arms control agreements. Any actions we know about on these issues?

RASCOE: Right now, there's not a lot of concrete action. President Biden said the proof of the pudding would be in the eating, which is a common phrase that I now know. I didn't know it before (laughter). But basically, he and his national security advisers are taking a wait-and-see approach to Russia. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that the ambassadors from both countries will be heading back to their respective posts. And Sullivan said that Russia's Putin is committed to making sure that the U.S. mission is properly staffed or allowed to be properly staffed through issuing these visas or adjusting local regulations.

SIMON: There does seem to be some movement in Congress, right? And is that in any way connected to the kind of unusual amity we saw on the Juneteenth vote?

RASCOE: Not exactly. You do have this bipartisan group of 10 senators - five Democrats and five Republicans - who are working on a more narrow package that would fund physical infrastructure like roads and bridges. This is after the talks with President Biden and Republicans fell apart. But at the same time, you also have Democrats working on a backup plan that would be extremely expansive, reportedly as much as $6 trillion, including lowering the age for Medicare to 60 and expanding benefits for all Medicare beneficiaries to cover dental, hearing and vision.

And so this is a moment where you have two very different tracks going forward. The problem for both of them is that trying to get 60 votes in the Senate - which is a very high standard. And then also, even if they tried to do it through reconciliation, the Democrats - they have to get at least 50, so every single Democrat on board, and there are some moderates who have raised some concerns. So neither side has raised the amount of support that they would need to get anything done at this point. And it remains to be seen what will actually be able to get through Congress at this point.

SIMON: NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe, thanks so much.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.