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Week In Politics: Cuomo's Harassment Case, Infrastructure Bill, Eviction Moratorium

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Biden this week asked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign after that state's attorney general released a report detailing how the governor had sexually harassed 11 women. And on Friday, one of those women filed a criminal complaint with the Albany County Sheriff's Department. We're joined now by NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thanks for being with us.

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

SIMON: Among other things, a remarkable turn in political fortunes, isn't it?

ELVING: You know, Scott, many a high-flying political figure has fallen but few so precipitously as this one. A year ago, Cuomo was seen as a possible presidential candidate someday. Yet here in his third term, we see polls showing nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers say he should either resign or be impeached immediately. So he's trying to insist that he's done nothing wrong, and he's being treated unfairly. But his party has turned against him at all levels.

SIMON: Let's turn to Washington, D.C. - infrastructure debates that seem like they've going on since Plutarch. Where do things stand with this $1 trillion spending package this weekend?

ELVING: You know, every dog must have his day, and every senator must have...

SIMON: Oh, I mentioned Pluto - oh, Plutarch, sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

ELVING: In addition, every senator must have his or her amendments. So big bills take time. And they take time to negotiate, days and nights of voting on amendments. But you can officially get excited now, Scott, because we expect another procedural hurdle to be cleared later today...

SIMON: All right.

ELVING: ...And final Senate passage to come in the days just ahead. That said, the bill does need approval in the House, where progressives want to know how it connects to the still larger spending package, multitrillion-dollar package that the Biden folks want to enact through the budget process known as reconciliation. And all we'll just say is the question is, will that next package include the items missing in this one that would include possibly nonbudget things like the voting rights bill?

SIMON: Nine hundred fifty thousand new jobs added in July - President Biden took to Twitter to cheer on over 4 million jobs added since he took office. But millions of Americans still struggle to pay rent. The eviction moratorium expired at the end of July. The CDC announced an extension, but it's likely to face legal challenges. Did the Biden administration make an unforced error on this?

ELVING: In short answer, yes. But the White House was not alone in fumbling this. It was caught between the high court and the disarray in Congress. The Supreme Court had clearly said that the Center for Disease Control lacked the authority to keep extending this ban without an act of Congress. But Democratic leaders did not get that done before the deadline July 31. Evictions began. Then the CDC weighed in again with a fresh 60-day ban - somewhat different justifications. That's on its way to court, too, so confusion reigns.

SIMON: Extraordinary fact I encountered this week - Ron, why hasn't a single U.S. ambassador been confirmed since this administration was sworn in in January?

ELVING: Oh, that - this is an important priority, but it's been superseded by domestic needs regarded as more pressing. Now, the White House likes to point out that they have done very well in the first six months with federal judges being confirmed. But that doesn't do much to help with the foreign relations picture, as you point out. So look. In the months ahead, the Biden administration is going to get around to filling these posts one way or the other. It matters. And it needs to happen. And it's important for foreign policy to project the president's own priorities. But let's remember the Democrats have only the merest majority in the Senate right now, really 50-50. And so the now-or-never urgency has been for those judgeships and big-ticket legislation.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.

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

Corrected: August 6, 2021 at 10:00 PM MDT
A previous introduction on this article misspelled Andrew Cuomo's last name as Cumo.