JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: mandates at the court.
The Supreme Court blocks vaccine requirements for large businesses, but permits them for most health care workers.
Then: investigating the insurrection.
A far right militia leader is arrested on the first seditious conspiracy charges issued in connection with last January's Capitol riot.
Plus: ballot battle.
Voting rights legislation advances in the House, teeing up a Senate showdown over the filibuster.
We speak to a Democratic senator about the difficult path forward.
Plus: tense talks.
The threat of Russian military escalation looms large, as diplomatic meetings with the U.S., NATO and Ukraine make little progress toward easing tensions.
All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour" (BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: President Biden's plan for fighting the pandemic has taken a hit at the U.S. Supreme Court.
He lost in his effort to knock down a challenge to one vaccine mandate today, while winning another.
William Brangham begins our coverage.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The court ruled that the Biden administration must stop enforcing a rule that employees at big companies take the COVID vaccine or undergo routine testing.
The conservative majority of justices said the administration had overstepped its authority with the rule, which would've applied to more than 80 million workers.
Separately, the court did allow the administration's requirement that most health care workers in the U.S., roughly 10 million, be vaccinated against COVID-19.
In a statement, President Biden welcomed that stance on the mandate for health care workers, but said he's disappointed the justices opposed what he called -- quote -- "commonsense, lifesaving requirements for employees at large businesses."
This news comes as a wave of new coronavirus infections strain hospitals across the country and the president called for reinforcements.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: Today, I'm announcing our next deployment of six additional federal medical teams, a total of more than 120 military medical personnel to six hard-hit states.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Those states are New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Ohio, Michigan, and New Mexico.
The White House says this is the beginning of a deployment of 1,000 service members to aid beleaguered medical staffs.
The president also announced another mass purchase of COVID tests.
JOE BIDEN: In addition to the 500 million, half-a-billion tests that are in the process of being acquired to ship to you, home for free, today, I'm directing my team to procure an additional 500 million more tests to distribute for free.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This comes after yesterday's announcement that the administration is sending 10 million more COVID tests each month to schools nationwide.
But many public health experts say the administration should've ramped up testing supply a long time ago.
On NBC's "Today," Vice President Kamala Harris was pressed on whether the administration was caught flat-footed and on when the newly ordered tests will be delivered.
KAMALA HARRIS, Vice President of the United States: They have been ordered.
We -- I have to look at the current information.
I think it's going to be by next week, but soon, absolutely soon.
And it is a matter of urgency for us.
CRAIG MELVIN, "The Today Show": Should we have done that sooner?
KAMALA HARRIS: We are doing it.
CRAIG MELVIN: But should we have done it sooner?
KAMALA HARRIS: We are doing it.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Rising infections are also causing schools in many parts of the country to close.
In New York City, home to the biggest school district in America, Mayor Eric Adams said this surge could send the city's one million kids back to some form of virtual learning.
But there are some signs of light.
New data suggests infections in some Northeastern states may have reached their peak.
Earlier this week, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said cases in New York look like they may have crested.
KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): We are not at the end, but I wanted to say that this is, to me, a glimmer of hope, a glimmer of hope at a time when we desperately need that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.
JUDY WOODRUFF: To look further at the split decision on vaccine mandates at the Supreme Court and how the Biden administration may respond, John Yang picks up our coverage.
JOHN YANG: Judy, today's opinions come less than a week after the justices heard oral arguments in these emergency cases, as well as three days after parts of OSHA's rule took effect.
First, let's look at what the justices said with Marcia Coyle, chief Washington correspondent for "The National Law Journal."
Marcia, let me start by reading some of the opinions.
This first part is from the majority opinion, written by -- or a concurring opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
He says: "The question before us is not how to respond to the pandemic, but who holds the power to do so.
The answer is clear.
Under the law as it stands today, that power rests will with the states and Congress, not OSHA."
So that was the -- supporting the majority view.
On the other side, Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan dissented.
They say that: "Today, we are not wise.
In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed."
This is on the OSHA rule, which affects far more people than the health care workers rule.
What are the justices saying here?
What are both sides saying here?
MARCIA COYLE, "The National Law Journal": I think what the majority, which -- were six conservative justices, were saying here is that OSHA does have the authority to regulate workplace dangers and hazards, but what it doesn't have authority to do is to regulate more broadly the public health.
The majority felt that, when you put a mandate on some 80 million workers who are chosen simply because they work for employers who have 100 or more workers, in that case, you're really regulating more broadly for the public health than you are for the grave danger that a specific workplace may have.
Justice Breyer led the three dissenters, the more liberal members on the court.
And he said that he felt that this mandate for workers really fit like a T. to OSHA's authority to regulate grave dangers, new hazards in the workplace.
But he also said there was a very important underlying question, and that is, who should decide?
Should it be the agency that has the expertise and has been authorized by Congress and is accountable to Congress and the executive branch, or should it be a court or courts who do not have the expertise to decide what workers' protection might be and whether they need it?
JOHN YANG: And yet, for the health care workers' mandate, they came down on the other side.
What was the difference?
MARCIA COYLE: The court generally felt -- at least, as we see in this order, there was a majority that felt the mandate here fit more closely the statutory authority of the secretary of health and human services, who is charged with protecting the health and safety of patients in Medicare and Medicaid facilities.
And, as the majority pointed out, what -- obviously, the pandemic and the infection that the virus is causing is something that affects the health and safety of the patients and the workers in those facilities.
JOHN YANG: And on the OSHA rule, the majority also said that they weren't ruling out any kind of regulation.
They were just ruling out sort of a broad-blanket regulation.
MARCIA COYLE: That's correct.
And, again, as the oral arguments proceeded, we saw how the court began to weed through the kinds of workplaces where you might have a greater hazard from the virus than others.
And I think that came out in the order today, in which they're saying, OK, OSHA you're going to have to show a tighter fit between the virus hazard and the particular workplace before you regulate it.
And I will also say, John, on the health care workers vaccine mandate, that there -- that was a 5-4 decision, and Justices -- well, Justice Kavanaugh and Chief Justice Roberts joined with the court's three liberals to make the majority here in allowing the health care vaccine mandate to go forward, at least as the appeals proceed in the lower courts.
And the dissenters there felt that the secretary did not have the authority, and that this was the kind of case that has great economic and public significance, which requires a clear statement by Congress.
And it's also an area that has traditionally been within the realm of state power.
And they just didn't see that the secretary had the authority here.
JOHN YANG: Marcia Coyle of "The National Law Journal," thank you very much.
MARCIA COYLE: My pleasure, John.
JOHN YANG: The OSHA requirement that big employers either make sure their workers are vaccinated or get tested weekly which has now been blocked by the court, was a key part of the administration's pandemic response.
Marty Walsh, who is the secretary of labor, whose department oversees OSHA, Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.
The OSHA estimated that this regulation would have covered 84 million American workers.
In your statement this evening, in response to the Supreme Court decision, you urged all employers to put in place similar requirements on their own.
But what can you do?
What can the Labor Department do to try to get employers to do that, that would have anywhere near the same coverage that the OSHA regulation would have had?
MARTY WALSH, U.S. Secretary of Labor: Well, first of all, this is a very disappointing ruling by the Supreme Court today.
And we are encouraging now companies to be able to do what we tried to do with this rule.
And, quite honestly, part of doing this is to make sure workplaces are safe around America, making sure workers who are unvaccinated are tested on a weekly basis, making sure workers that are unvaccinated that are working with people vaccinated are getting tested on a weekly basis as well.
So it's really unfortunate.
We're going to help any company in the country that wants to do this.
You know, the majority of people in America are vaccinated already, but we're trying to get to the rest of the people that either aren't vaccinated or don't want to be vaccinated.
JOHN YANG: And do you think you can do that?
Do you think you can add on to these numbers?
The people who have already been vaccinated, do you think is it -- have we hit the ceiling on that, do you think?
MARTY WALSH: Well, I don't know if we have hit the ceiling, but it's going to be very challenging.
I think a lot of people, what we wanted to do here -- this was not a mandate.
And I think some people said this is a vaccine mandate.
It was a vaccination, and, if you refused to get vaccinated, you would be tested weekly, and you would be wearing a mask inside of work to make people feel safe.
And we are going to do -- I'm going to do everything we can and we're going to do everything we can as an administration to continue to encourage people to be vaccinated.
If you look at the numbers, you look at the people that -- in the more recent days that are contracting the Omicron variant, they're not -- they're getting sick, but they're not being hospitalized, and they're not -- a lot of people haven't died in large numbers.
If you look at people that are unvaccinated, right, you are seeing people get sick, hospitalization.
Part of this as well is keeping hospitals, emergency rooms available for people that have other illnesses that need it.
What we don't want to see is go back to the day, different periods of time here during the virus, that emergency rooms were overrun and hospitals had to stop elective procedures.
JOHN YANG: You know, the court said today that this was not -- this was -- while it was a threat in the workplace, in many workplaces, it was not an occupational hazard.
What's your response to that?
MARTY WALSH: Well, certainly, the job of OSHA is to make sure that workplaces are protected and safe.
And again, that's the ruling the court has made.
So, unfortunately, we have to live with that.
But I do feel that what we were doing, making sure that workplaces all across America are safe.
And the sad thing here is, many people, medical experts, most medical experts and legal experts, said that, first of all, it was the right thing to do for the health and safety of workers, and the legal experts said we have every legal right to do that.
JOHN YANG: You know, the court also didn't shut the door entirely on OSHA regulations on this topic.
Let me read you a part of the majority decision.
They said that: "Where the virus poses a special danger because of the particular features of an employee's job or workplace, targeted regulations are plainly permissible.
So too could OSHA regulate risks associated with working in particularly crowded or cramped environments."
Will OSHA go back and try to look at workplaces and have more targeted regulations?
MARTY WALSH: Well, certainly, we're going to explore -- explore what the Supreme Court said.
You know, this ruling came down around 4:00 today.
And we have been -- our attorneys in OSHA have been looking at it.
So we're looking to see where -- I was very pleased to see that part of the ruling, to know that we can continue to do what we need to do here at OSHA to support people.
I was also happy to see that we're still going to be paying in the Medicare section of this.
So, at the end of the day, we're looking -- I'm looking at those two issues as positive, but, overall, a very disappointing ruling, very disappointing day for the safety and well-being of American workers.
We have lost over 800,000 Americans due to COVID-19.
We have lost over 5.2 or 5.3 million people in the world.
This is a once-in-a-generation pandemic.
And people are getting sick still.
And we should be doing everything to protect workers, not make it harder to protect them.
JOHN YANG: Do you worry that this is going to make it -- make employers more reluctant to put requirements in place on their own?
MARTY WALSH: No, I think most employers in this country want to make sure their employees are safe.
They want to make sure their employees get a chance to not get sick and go home at the end of the day.
And I'm hopeful that we will be able to work with -- we have worked with plenty of employers in this country.
And we're going to continue to work with employers in this country to make sure the workplaces are safe.
JOHN YANG: Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, thank you very much.
MARTY WALSH: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: The leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia was arrested in last year's attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Stewart Rhodes and 10 alleged members of his group are charged with seditious conspiracy.
It's the most serious charge yet in connection with the January 6 assault.
We will get the details after the news summary.
The top Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives is defending his refusal to cooperate with a congressional probe of January 6.
Investigators want to ask Kevin McCarthy about contacts with President Trump before -- former President Trump before, during, and after that day.
McCarthy said today that their discussion of January 6 itself would be of no help.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): My conversation was very short, advising the president what was happening here.
There is nothing that I can provide the January 6 Committee for legislation of them moving forward.
There is nothing in that realm.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, the committee subpoenaed social media giants Meta, Alphabet, Twitter, and Reddit.
The focus is on how they helped spread misinformation in the run-up to January 6.
The Republican National Committee is threatening to boycott presidential debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
The RNC said today that it will bar its 2024 nominee from taking part unless the commission addresses GOP complaints of unfair treatment.
In turn, the nonpartisan body defended its handling of the debates.
President Biden and congressional Democrats opened a new push today for voting rights legislation, but made little headway.
The House passed two bills aimed at blunting new laws in Republican-run states.
Democrats say those laws will limit voting.
Later, the president met with Democratic senators, who still lack the votes to pass their bills.
He heatedly insisted they won't give up.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: I don't know that we can get it done, but I know one thing.
As long as I have a breath in me, as long as I'm in the White House, as long as I'm engaged at all, I'm going to be fighting to change the way these legislatures have moved.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Democrats had vowed to change the Senate's filibuster rules to eliminate a 60-vote threshold for passing bills.
But that effort also crumbled when Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema affirmed that she is opposed.
SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ): I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division affecting our country.
In recent years, nearly every party-line response to the problems we face in this body, every partisan action taken to protect a cherished value has led us to more division.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Fellow Democrat Joe Manchin that said he too will oppose changing the filibuster.
We will return to this later in the show.
In Germany, a court convicted a former Syrian secret police officer of crimes against humanity.
Anwar Raslan was given life in prison for the torture of more than 4,000 detainees in Syria, before he sought asylum in Germany.
Russia and China have blocked such cases from going to the International Criminal Court.
Britain's Prince Andrew has been stripped of his military titles and royal public duties as a sexual abuse case moves forward in the U.S. Buckingham Palace announced the move today.
It said that Andrew will act as a private citizen in facing charges that he abused a 17-year-old girl in 2001.
Back in this country, Sirhan Sirhan, the man who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, has again been denied parole.
California Governor Gavin Newsom rejected Sirhan's bid today, saying that he has never accepted responsibility for his crime.
Sirhan is now 77 years old.
Thousands of inmates will begin transferring out of federal prisons this week and into home confinement or halfway houses.
It's part of a criminal justice overhaul that former President Trump authorized in 2018.
Inmates will earn time off sentences for taking part in programs ranging from anger management to drug treatment.
A major student loan collection firm, Navient, has settled charges that it misled students into running up even more debt.
The agreement with 39 states cancels debts of $1.7 billion.
It affects more than 66,000 borrowers.
In economic news, wholesale inflation rose just 2/10ths of a percent in December, after jumping a full point in November.
And, on Wall Street today, tech stocks led the way lower.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 176 points to close at 36113.
The Nasdaq fell 381 points.
That's 2.5 percent.
The S&P 500 slipped 67.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock discusses the difficult path forward for voting rights; the latest on diplomatic talks between the U.S., NATO, and Russia regarding Ukraine; a filmmaking couple discusses their cinematic examination of immigration issues; and much more.
The most serious federal charges yet in the January 6 insurrection were unsealed today.
The leader of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing paramilitary group, and 10 of his members were charged with seditious conspiracy, attempting to overthrow the United States government.
Amna Nawaz picks up the story there AMNA NAWAZ: That's right, Judy.
Stewart Rhodes is a Yale Law graduate.
He's also head of a nationwide network of anti-government militants known as the Oath Keepers.
He and many of his comrades were on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol last January 6.
The Justice Department alleges in a complaint released today that the Oath Keepers conspired to violently overthrow the U.S. government.
Joining me now to discuss the significance of these charges and the strength of extremist movements like the Oath Keepers is Kathleen Belew.
She's an assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago and the author of "Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America."
Kathleen, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
This seditious conspiracy charge is not one a lot of Americans are familiar with.
So, and tin basic terms, how often is it used?
And what is it prosecutors are -- have to prove to make it stick?
KATHLEEN BELEW, University of Chicago: So, seditious conspiracy has been used only in a handful of cases across the 20th and early 21st centuries.
We see it deployed for things like Puerto Rican nationalists who were trying to attack Congress in one case, for Islamist terror in another.
And there was a recent case in 2012 with a local sort of militia group in Michigan.
But the biggest cognate example, I think, is the prosecution of 13 activists in the white power and militant right groups of the early 1980s.
That case happened in 1987 and '88 in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
And it tells us a lot of things about how this trial could signify to people in these ideologies and to prosecutors trying to get somewhere with this.
In basic terms, what they have to prove is, conspiracy would mean that a group of activists had contact with each other, had a plan, and worked together over a period of time.
And then the sedition part has to do with their capacity and their will to violently overthrow or interfere with the function of the United States government.
AMNA NAWAZ: So what about this group, the Oath Keepers?
For anyone unfamiliar, just briefly speaking, who are they?
What do they believe in?
KATHLEEN BELEW: The Oath Keepers is a militia-styled group, which it is to say, they are an extralegal private army.
This is extralegal in every state.
And the Oath Keepers use an ideology that is very consistent with the sort of conspiratorial anti-government militia ideologies people might remember from the early 1990s.
They believe in a sort of version of the New World Order, which is to say that there is a conspiracy by the government to take rights away from citizens, and they're interested in curbing government authority.
The other important thing about this group is that they actively recruit veterans, active-duty troops and police officers in order to create a very highly trained, militarized presence at the actions that they seek out.
AMNA NAWAZ: You also mentioned previously there's a lot of overlap between Oath Keepers and white power and white supremacist movements in America.
And I want to share with you some of what prosecutors say about Rhodes, the leader, the founder and leader, what he told his group, what he told the Oath Keepers on Election Day, to -- quote -- "stock up on ammo" and to prepare for a full-on war.
He urged them to support President Trump, who he called duly elected, even after he lost the election.
And he said, according to them -- quote -- "You can call is an insurrection or you can call it a war or a fight."
In these cases, Kathleen, where is the line between sedition and free speech?
KATHLEEN BELEW: So, this is tricky.
And this has been a problem in previous cases as well.
So, in the Fort Smith case, in 1987-'88, one of the things that came up that ended up preventing a conviction, even in that case, where it was very clear that these activists were interested in seditious conspiracy -- they said that's what they were doing.
They were outfitted with high-capacity weaponry and explosives.
They -- one of them immediately after acquittal founded a journal called "The Seditionists."
So, they were not even sort of contrite about what they were doing.
And one of the things that came up in that trial was the question of whether or not a plot to interfere with or overthrow the U.S. government could possibly succeed.
This is a big question, because, in order for the answer to that question to be yes, you have to sort of be immersed in how the ideology of these groups works, because what they're operating through is the idea of sort of sabotage, guerrilla-style warfare, cell-style terrorism.
And acts like January 6 are not mass casualty attacks in this sort of a system, but acts of performative activism that pave the way to the eventual sort of violent moment.
So one of the interesting things in the complaint filed today is that Rhodes himself refers to what they're doing on January 6 not only as war, but also as an action to pave the way for future battles to come.
And there's an entire section of the complaint that has to do with the aftermath of January 6, where we see these groups continuing to acquire ammunition -- or at least we may see this in court.
The piece of paper alleges that they continue to acquire weapons and ammunition to train in a paramilitary facility and to prepare to galvanize other militia groups to interfere with the inauguration.
So whether or not those plans come to fruition is one of the sort of the challenges of this kind of a prosecution.
AMNA NAWAZ: The most serious charges we have seen so far more than a year after that attack.
We will be following it, for sure.
Kathleen Belew from the University of Chicago, thanks so much for being with us.
KATHLEEN BELEW: Thank you for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As we reported earlier, President Biden left the Capitol without the votes for the filibuster change he needs to pass voting rights legislation.
Here to help us understand what happened and what's next, Geoff Bennett from the White House, Lisa Desjardins.
She was on Capitol Hill today.
Hello to both of you.
So, Geoff, let me start with you.
As we said, the president did meet with Democrats today, hoping to make some progress on the filibuster.
Tell us what happened.
GEOFF BENNETT: He had those meetings, but he wasn't able to persuade members of his own party to support him in this effort.
I think it was a political reality best underscored by the fact that Senator Kyrsten Sinema delivered that Senate floor speech even before President Biden arrived on the Hill for that closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Democrats, she making clear her opposition to having a carve-out that would allow the two bills, those voting right bills, to move forward in the Senate.
Now, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told us today that, in that meeting, the president warned the senators of what he sees as a systematic effort to dismantle the democracy.
And he told them that right now they have an historic chance to change that.
But he came out of that meeting and spoke to reporters.
And he talked about this voting rights push, Judy, in the past tense.
It was a real acknowledgment that, at least for right now, this entire thing is on ice.
So this is a really politically fraught moment for this president, who has invested so much political capital in this issue, potentially raising expectations among Democrats, his supporters, voting rights experts, and advocates, who wanted him to be more forceful and be more aggressive on this issue, when the underlying political realities haven't changed at all, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, given that, Lisa, where does that leave -- given what Senator Sinema has said, no progress, apparently, where does that leave all this, and especially given the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer's promise to get something done by Monday?
LISA DESJARDINS: Democrats have always had a very small needle to thread.
That needle became much smaller today with Senator Sinema's announcement, even though that was somewhat expected.
Let me tell you where things stand.
Right now, we expect the Senate to pick up those voting rights bills that you reported passing in the House.
But we don't know when.
That's because one senator, Senator Schatz of Hawaii, is quarantined with the coronavirus.
We expect him to return this weekend.
So, we're still waiting on timing for when this debate over voting rights will begin, but we do expect it to.
But the big question still remains: What is the endgame here for Democrats?
I was told by multiple senators I spoke with today, as well as leadership sources, that Democrats still have not decided exactly what rules change they will vote on when it comes to it.
The deadline for that, set by Senator Schumer, was Monday.
As we know, there is not the vote to erase the 60-vote hurdle in the Senate.
But there is still talk of trying to change things, so that perhaps a talking filibuster is imposed.
There's a lot of discussion.
There is not a lot of clarity.
And, Judy, note this.
Up on the Hill, it really struck me today, no president in U.S. history has more experience in the U.S. Senate than this one, not by a long shot.
But here he is unable to convince two members of his own party that they need to change the institution for the good of democracy.
And I just don't sense those dynamics changing yet.
But we will watch closely in the next day.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, so much focus on the Democrats, and yet the Republicans there, they are united in their opposition.
What are they saying about all this?
LISA DESJARDINS: Right.
Republicans had two things they were doing today.
One was expressing relief over Senator Sinema's announcement.
The other was redoubling their own arguments on the relief front.
I want to read you something that Senator McConnell told the press corps today.
He doesn't stop and talk to us often, but he did today, no surprise.
He said: "Senator Sinema's decision was an extraordinarily important one and she has, as a conspicuous act of political coverage, saved the Senate as an institution."
Those are the words of Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
Then, on the Senate floor, we heard from Republicans on why they think the voting right acts are not going to be helpful, and why they think it's a mistake to try and change Senate rules for those, instead of focusing on other issues they have.
Here's Ben Sasse of Nebraska: SEN. BEN SASSE (R-NE): It makes absolutely no sense to try to go into nuclear partisanship now, when we should actually be talking about how we prevent another January 6 by doing the hard and actual bipartisan work, not the grandstanding for Twitter, but the hard and bipartisan work of reforming the Electoral Count Act, which is 130 years old and obviously doesn't work that well.
LISA DESJARDINS: Judy, the divide over the divide remains.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, back to you, Geoff.
We know the president has a lot riding on this.
But, meantime, he's still trying to get Build Back Better passed.
He's got a deal with COVID.
What does it add up to for him?
GEOFF BENNETT: It's a real risk of inaction on the totality of President Biden's domestic agenda.
As you mentioned, Build Back Better is now paused, mainly because of the reluctance of Senator Manchin to move forward on that.
You have got inflation.
You have got higher prices.
You have got a seemingly intractable COVID crisis.
Add to it no movement on police reform and potentially no movement on voting rights.
I asked the White House today, why move forward with these show votes when the president himself has acknowledged that this process doesn't have the votes to advance?
And Jen Psaki told me that the president believes he's right on the merits.
And he also believes that it's important to be seen trying, that it's important to invest on this issue, given the real threat to democracy, as he and so many of the Democrats see it, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Geoff Bennett, Lisa Desjardins following it all.
We thank you both.
Well, now, for more on the Democrats' push for voting rights, I'm joined by a lawmaker who is close to the issue.
He's Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia.
Senator, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
Thank you so much for joining us.
And yet, for you, for the Democrats, this has not been a good day.
We have been listening to the reporting.
The Republicans continue to be opposed.
You don't have the votes, even among Democrats, to get the rule change you need.
Is it going to be worth going through the vote on this, given that?
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): Thank you so very much.
It's wonderful to be here.
The answer is yes.
We have to keep moving forward on this issue.
Voting rights are preservative of all other rights.
We are at a moral moment.
And everybody has to be heard on this issue.
I come from the state of Georgia, which is ground zero these days for voter suppression.
We saw a historic turnout last election.
And it is as if the state legislature is trying to punish voters in Georgia for showing up, for participating in their democracy.
And politicians make a lot of promises when they're running for office, but the one thing I swore to do was to defend the Constitution.
This is an unabashed assault on the constitutional rights of American citizens, and we have a moral obligation to stand up and protect their voices.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I hear you saying it's a moral issue, and yet even President Biden himself said today he's not sure you have the votes to get it done.
Is there more the president could have done to advance this?
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: I think that we need all hands on deck, which is why I'm glad he made his way to the state of Georgia, stood there on the campus of Morehouse College, where I studied, where Dr. King studied, to make this -- the case.
And I have been making the case for months, and I won't stop.
Whatever the outcome this weekend -- and we will see.
Listen, I know the pundits are doing what they do.
But Dr. King, whose birthday we celebrate this weekend, said that the time is always right to do what's right.
It's not too late for any lawmaker on both sides of the aisle to do what's right in this moment.
And that is to protect the voices of the American people.
In our country, we have arguments about taxes, about health care, about climate.
But, at the end of the day, the most powerful words in a democracy are, the people have spoken.
And I am deeply concerned, because there is an architecture of voter suppression that's being built right now that will replace the voices of the people with plutocrats and politicians who are more concerned about their power than they are about democracy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Senator, I hear what you are saying, and yet it does come down to votes in the Senate, in the House in order to change these laws.
And, right now, even among Democrats, we have been reporting on what Senator Kyrsten Sinema said today.
She's for these voting rights laws that you would like to pass, but she is not for changing the rule in the Senate.
She said she's much more concerned about political division, making that worse.
What about that argument she's making?
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Well, you're not only talking to a senator.
You're talking to somebody who preaches the Gospel every Sunday morning.
And regardless of where we are in this moment, I'm going to keep preaching the gospel of democracy, because I actually believe that democracy is the political enactment of a spiritual idea, this idea that all of us have dignity, and so we ought to have a voice in the process.
I agree with my colleague Senator Sinema that we ought to come together, we ought to have conversation, we ought to have robust argument about all of these issues.
The problem with her argument is that it does not recognize that what we're dealing with in this moment is an effort to forestall the ability of some people to be at the table.
Those of us who are in the Senate, we didn't just appear here.
We were sent here by the people.
And what folks are doing in Georgia and Arizona is that they're trying to cherry-pick their voters.
How do we have conversation about health care, about the planet, about a whole range of issues, about jobs if the people's voices are squeezed out of their democracy?
That's the qualitative difference.
This is not a policy argument.
It's about the democracy itself.
And we have an obligation to protect it.
I'm going to keep pushing that issue, no matter what.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Again, I hear you, Senator, but the brass tacks of all this are that the votes are not there.
Republicans, not a single one of them is with you.
And you mentioned the Georgia law.
We heard in the last few days on the "NewsHour" the top election official in Georgia, Gabriel Sterling, told us that there's just been a lot of misunderstanding, in his words, about the new Georgia law.
He said it actually extends the number of days when people can vote, that it fixes problems from 2020.
So, how can there be such a gulf of... SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Listen, there is no misunderstanding.
We know what they're doing, and they know what they're doing.
And it's ironic that the very people who are talking about bipartisanship are passing these voter suppression bills in state legislature after state legislature, some 19 states, where they are in control, and all of these laws have been passed on a partisan basis.
And so they know what they're up to.
And the people of Georgia know what they're up to.
I have stood in those lines.
I'm not making this up.
I'm not telling you what someone told me.
I have been in those lines.
I have seen people in neighborhoods stand eight and 10 hours trying to vote.
I have gotten those phone calls.
I have seen the ways in which our state has purged hundreds of thousands of voters on a Saturday night.
And now, in this very moment, they are threatening to swoop in and take over local boards of elections.
This is anti-democratic.
And we have an obligation to stand up.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Senator, what will you do, though?
I mean, given your passion on this issue, if you don't get these laws, these bills passed, enacted into law, what does that mean for you and other elected officials around the country?
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Let's be very clear.
This is not about me.
This is about our democracy.
And we have to keep fighting the good fight.
This is a moral moment.
This is what Dr. King meant when he talked about the fierce urgency of now.
He said that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
And so we have had setbacks before.
And as the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached and where John Lewis worshipped, I don't have any right to give up.
I don't have any right to break in into tears right now.
These folk fought battles that we look back and we act as if those victories were inevitable.
The truth is, they were quite improbable.
It was improbable that John Lewis could walk across that bridge, face that kind of brute force, and somehow bend the arc of history.
We don't know when that moment comes.
It's our obligation to keep fighting the good fight, to stay in what he called good trouble.
And that's what I intend to do, because I believe in democracy, and I love this country enough, a kid who grew up in public housing, now serving in the United States Senate.
I love this country enough and what it represents at its core to fight for it.
And I'm going to do that, whether that's health care, whether that's jobs and opportunity.
And the democracy gives me a framework in which to fight.
You can't do that everywhere all over the world, and that's why I'm fighting for it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, we thank you very much.
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A week of diplomacy in Europe concluded today, with the U.S. and European countries meeting with Russia over its massive military deployment on the borders of Ukraine.
But it is not clear if there is going to be a diplomatic path forward.
So, where do things stand?
For that, Nick Schifrin joins me now.
So, Nick, hello.
Tell us, how is -- what does the outcome look like from this week upon diplomacy?
NICK SCHIFRIN: No progress on the de-escalation of that massive buildup of 100,000 troops on Ukraine's borders, Judy, and each side maintaining the positions they held at the beginning of this diplomacy, which means the two sides remain very far apart.
The U.S. is trying to respond to Russian demands that NATO never include Ukraine in the future by offering to focus on arms control and military exercises.
And if you listen to the Russians, that is simply not good enough.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov talked to Russian TV today.
SERGEI RYABKOV, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister (through translator): The United States and its NATO allies are not ready to move toward our key requirements on the nonexpansion of NATO.
As for the elements for which they say, yes, let's discuss, we note that while these subjects are important and serious, they are secondary in comparison to the nonexpansion of NATO.
I can see no reason to sit and start the same discussions in the coming days again.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Now, that seems conclusive, Judy.
But U.S. officials tell me that position has not been communicated officially to the U.S., so the possibility of future talks remain.
Meanwhile, today, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan repeatedly sailed the U.S. was prepared both to continue diplomacy, but also to punish Russia if it invaded Ukraine.
He also maintained, though, that the U.S. would simply not accede to what you just heard, Ryabkov call Russia's key requirements over the future of NATO.
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. National Security Adviser: We stuck to our core premise of reciprocity.
We were firm in our principles and clear about those areas where we can make progress and those areas that are nonstarters.
NICK SCHIFRIN: So, at the end of this week of diplomacy, Russia's primary demand and the U.S. response to it, Judy, is exactly where they were before the diplomacy began.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, does that mean the threat to Ukraine is exactly what it was before all this?
NICK SCHIFRIN: Very much so, Judy.
And, if anything, it's probably going the wrong direction, because, yesterday, the Russians announced they had live-fire exercises in the exact same place that they had deployed 100,000 troops to the border for regular exercises late last year.
And the U.S. intelligence community isn't just concerned about the number of troops or how they're deployed, with advanced weaponry, artillery, electronic warfare, or even that they're effectively deployed surrounding Ukraine.
The U.S. has more intelligence suggesting Russia plans for invasion, to double the number of troops, and to release a false flag, essentially blaming Ukraine as a pretext for invasion.
Today, Jake Sullivan acknowledged that they had that extra detail and that they'd be releasing it in the next day.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, meantime, Nick, as you know, this has all been the subject of a lot of debate and voting on Capitol Hill here in Washington.
What is known to be the two -- the positions of the two political parties on this?
NICK SCHIFRIN: Yes, we saw that explicitly today, when the Senate rejected a bill that would have sanctioned the people and the companies who are behind Nord Stream 2.
That is a Russian pipeline that's more than 90 percent completed.
It would move natural gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, next to an earlier pipeline, Nord Stream 1.
The bill we're talking about today was sponsored by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
It received 50 Republican votes and Democratic votes, but it needed 60 as part of a deal between Cruz and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
Its critics said that it would unfairly punish Germany, rather than Russia, and would divide the transatlantic alliance.
But its defenders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said that it was designed to punish Vladimir Putin.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): These sanctions, like the prior Nord Stream 2 sanctions, that had overwhelming bipartisan support here in Congress, are not about driving a wedge in Europe.
The pipeline itself is the wedge.
That's the whole point.
That's been Putin's goal, decoupling Ukraine from Europe, and making Europe even more reliant on Russian gas.
NICK SCHIFRIN: So, that bill failed.
Now the Senate will focus on another bill designed to punish Russia if it invades Ukraine, specifically by sanctioning Vladimir Putin himself.
It's sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ): It would impose massive, crippling sanctions on multiple sectors of Russia's economy.
It would impose the harshest sanctions on Putin and senior Kremlin officials themselves.
It would effectively cut Russia off from the international financial system.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The administration says it's already planning at least some of those penalties if Russia invades.
And so, Judy, at the end of this week, the diplomatic divide and the tensions remain.
As Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, today put it, after meeting with the organization's 57 countries that includes Russia and Ukraine, he said -- quote -- "The drumbeat of war is sounding loud."
JUDY WOODRUFF: It is concerning.
Nick Schifrin, thank you.
And we know you will continue to report on this.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Last year's MacArthur Fellow recipients were among the most diverse since the foundation started giving the so-called Genius Awards 40 years ago.
Two of the recent grantees are married Latino filmmakers who focus on immigration and U.S. border policy.
Jeffrey Brown visited them at their California home for our ongoing arts and culture series, Canvas.
GIRL: My mom belongs to the Society of Martha Washington.
JEFFREY BROWN: A documentary that examines an unexpected slice of Mexican-American life, an annual debutante ball, in the border city of Laredo, Texas.
The 2014 film, titled "Las Marthas," was directed by Cristina Ibarra.
CRISTINA IBARRA, Documentary Filmmaker: There was something else going on here.
There was this deep history that was playing out still today.
I felt like it needed to be told in this new way.
JEFFREY BROWN: A sci-fi thriller set in a near future that looks at the tangled web of technology, migration and labor.
"Sleep Dealer," from 2008, was directed by Alex Rivera.
ALEX RIVERA, Filmmaker and Media Artist: Science fiction has always been used to sort of talk about the fears in our society, fears in our economy.
And "Sleep Dealer," I hoped, was kind of part of that tradition.
JEFFREY BROWN: Ibarra and Rivera met on a film project 25 years ago, and have been making films, mostly separately, ever since.
CRISTINA IBARRA: I'm Cristina Ibarra.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now they have become the first married couple to be named MacArthur Fellows in the same year for their individual work, both recognized for exploring borderland issues and socioeconomic injustices.
CRISTINA IBARRA: From the outset was this idea of, how can I help my family?
JEFFREY BROWN: Ibarra grew up in the border city of El Paso, watching both Mexican and American television, but feeling invisible.
CRISTINA IBARRA: And I discovered the power behind images.
And I started to get this turmoil inside of me, because I realized I had never seen myself.
And if I could grab a camera and just go and tell stories that resonated with me when I was a child growing up, then I feel like I would have been a different person.
So, in some ways, my filmmaking is a way of going back home to speak to that young girl.
JEFFREY BROWN: Rivera grew up in an immigrant family in New York.
His father is from Peru.
ALEX RIVERA: When I started to think that I might make films, I had the question, what are you going to make the films about?
And this was in the mid-1990s.
And there was anti-immigrant vigilante movements here in California.
There was anti-immigrant proposals at the state level.
And so I sort of felt like, wow, these people that are being talked about in the news, these immigrants, these aliens, that's me.
And that's us.
So, I'm going to make films right there.
I'm going to go and intervene in that conversation.
And I thought it would be a film.
Instead, it's been a life.
JEFFREY BROWN: She, 49, has focused more on documentaries.
He, 48, has mixed in dramas and video collaborations with immigration advocacy groups.
MAN: Most immigrants pass or kind of purgatory on the way out of the country, a detention center.
JEFFREY BROWN: In 2019, they came together to co-direct an unusual hybrid, part-documentary, part-dramatic reenactment called "The Infiltrators."
MAN: One question.
How can I get in?
JEFFREY BROWN: Again, immigration was the focus.
The film followed a group of undocumented activists who infiltrated a Florida detention center to bring attention to detainees awaiting deportation.
It featured actors, plus interviews with the real people they're playing, the documentary part of the film outside the detention center, the dramatic portion inside.
ALEX RIVERA: When you start to think about immigration in our society and really look at immigration enforcement, there's so much of it that we're expected not to see, that we're not allowed to see.
CRISTINA IBARRA: But it was a form that was born out of necessity, not necessarily out of wanting to be an art film, but out of wanting to create a powerful story.
JEFFREY BROWN: There are rules about these things, right, but there are also ways to creatively break them sometimes?
It sounds like what you're describing.
ALEX RIVERA: The creativity of it was balanced by research and just really trying to confirm the facts everywhere we could.
And so we're going to have to go into uncharted terrain, perhaps, in terms of documentary filmmaking.
And we have never seen a film that operated the way this one started to.
When we were building it, we're like, wow, that's really weird, like taking observational footage of a real person who walks away from the camera into detention and turning them into an actor who's going to continue their journey?
And we don't know if we're going to make it, premiere it and get attacked, and fail.
But we felt like it was exciting to us to see that.
JEFFREY BROWN: They also want to challenge the status quo in the film industry and bring new voices behind and in front of the camera.
CRISTINA IBARRA: To stay on your path and try to do something that's bold and creating almost like a new cinematic language is incredibly difficult.
But I do see that there are opportunities to impact the system with this knowledge that we're building as we're struggling to tell our stories.
ALEX RIVERA: Our whole generation of Latino filmmakers in this country has really been shut out of Hollywood.
It's a consequence of living in a country where our realities are not reflected in the mass culture.
So that's been our situation, is trying to build this culture, build a cinema without support from the film industry.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, in this double-genius household, both filmmakers are working on new projects, Cristina Ibarra on a more personal documentary about her own family history in El Paso, while Alex Rivera is set to write and direct a drama called "Zorro 2.0," updating the masked avenger to a contemporary undocumented hacker.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown in Pasadena, California.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Two MacArthur Geniuses.
And that's 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.