GOP's contradictions complicate Biden's vaccine politics: The Note

The TAKE with Rick Klein

President Joe Biden wants and needs Americans to listen to public-health experts on COVID-19.

He’ll talk about vaccines Tuesday afternoon, but the people he most needs to reach right now are among the least likely to listen to him or the experts he’s citing. Prominent Republicans not only know that, but appear to be seeking political advantage out of those facts.

PHOTO: A 21-year-old receives a shot of COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination drive organized by St. John's Well Child and Family at the Abraham Lincoln High School in Los Angeles, April 23, 2021.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has now ended all local COVID-19 restrictions and mandates in his state, arguing that that’s “the evidence-based thing to do.” The way-too-early 2024 contender added a twist: If you think government needs to be “policing people at this point,” DeSantis said, “then you’re really saying you don’t believe in the vaccines.”

That just might be a dig at Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Last week, the decision to hold the president’s speech before Congress in a sparsely attended and fully masked setting — with an audience of mostly vaccinated adults — drew commentary about counter-productive messaging.

But suggesting that Democrats don’t believe in vaccines because they’re advocating mask-wearing? It’s Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who is questioning why vaccinated individuals should “care if your neighbor has one or not,” and it’s Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who is advising Biden to “burn his mask” in public — after months of sharply questioning whether masks matter at all.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks during an event in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, March 10, 2021.

The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, is attacking Biden for continuing to wear a mask outside, calling that “unscientific.” The RNC is simultaneously fundraising off of skepticism of Dr. Anthony Fauci, with an appeal promising to “always hold government officials like Dr. Fauci accountable for giving conflicting statements.”

The politics of the vaccination push has been caught up in intraparty sniping, including critiques of Biden for not fully recognizing former President Donald Trump’s role in vaccine development.

But with vaccination rates slowing and herd-immunity timelines slipping, convincing the vaccine-hesitant population amounts to an enormous challenge — one bigger than party-line divisions for the nation and unlikely to be tackled in Biden’s speech Tuesday.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Divisions within the Republican Party were on full display Monday with Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaking out against Trump.

After Trump issued a statement aimed at whitewashing the term “the big lie,” used to refer to the misinformation campaign waged by Trump and his supporters to cast doubt on the outcome of November’s election, Cheney took to Twitter.

“The 2020 presidential election was not stolen,” Cheney wrote. “Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”

PHOTO: Rep. Liz Cheney waits for the arrival of President Joe Biden, before he addresses a joint session of Congress, at the Capitol, April 28, 2021.

Trump shot back with a statement calling her a “big-shot warmonger” and saying that Wyomingites “never liked her much.”

Support for Cheney within Republican ranks has dwindled since she spoke out against Trump in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol and voted in favor of Trump’s subsequent impeachment. And in February, standing with House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Steve Scalise, the second-ranking House Republican, she said of Trump, “I don’t believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country.”

Cheney’s steadfastness has put her on shaky ground within the party. She could be ousted from Republican House leadership and down the line, if Trump-backed efforts to challenge her succeed, she could lose her seat all together.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

The nation’s next showdown over state voting rights has been brewing in Texas over the last month and it could come to a head as early as this week.

In the lead up to what is expected to be a contentious floor vote in the House, on Monday, voting rights and criminal justice organizations, including the Texas American Civil Liberties Union and the Texas Anti Defamation League, sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan voicing their “opposition to bills criminalizing voting activities.”

PHOTO: Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference in Austin, May 18, 2020.

“Election offenses are extremely rare, and unlawful activities that alter the outcomes of elections are even rarer in modern history. Voter suppression, on the other hand, is extremely common and disparately impacts voters of color, voters with disabilities, and first-time voters,” the letter said.

The move comes after Republicans on the House Election Committee voted last week to replace the language of the Texas Senate’s voting bill, SB 7, with that of the House’s legislation, HB 6. Although that development opens the door for potential intraparty divisions over which bill’s language is ultimately enacted, in broader terms, it also showed that the GOP-backed push to revise the state’s voting parameters are set to be included in the final weeks of the Texas legislative session.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Tuesday morning’s episode features St. Petersburg, Florida, Mayor Rick Kriseman — he tells us more about his response to the relaxation of state coronavirus emergency orders. Then ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman brings us the latest on the dire situation in India. And ABC News’ Elizabeth Schulze breaks down the arguments in a court case between Apple and the makers of “Fortnite.” http://apple.co/2HPocUL

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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