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Politics Chat: Vaccination Rates Grow In Some Conservative States

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

So the White House is monitoring vaccination rates in states where infections are spiking due, in large part, to that more transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus. And the good news is that in some states like Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada, people are now getting vaccinated at rates higher than the national average. And that's a good place to start our conversation with NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We know almost all aspects of this pandemic - the masks, the lockdowns, getting vaccinated - have been heavily politicized. Is there a political reason for an uptick in vaccinations in red states like Missouri?

LIASSON: Well, there certainly was a political reason why there were so many fewer vaccinations previously in those red states because, as you said, vaccinations have become politicized. We know that you're much less likely to be vaccinated if you live in a county that voted for Trump than Biden. And COVID rates started to follow that partisan divide. So we are a long way away from when Jared Kushner dismissed COVID as a blue state problem. And what you've seen recently is conservative Republican leaders, like the governor of Alabama, encouraging their constituents to get vaccinated. Kay Ivey went so far last week as to say it's time to blame the unvaccinated because we now have a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And these leaders are getting public health briefings, and they know that when you have a wave of positive tests, sickness and death can follow. And that could affect their constituents - in some places, only their constituents. So that's why I think you're seeing an uptick now in vaccinations in red states.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, you mentioned Jared Kushner there - a name we haven't mentioned here for a while. What about his father-in-law and former boss?

LIASSON: Well, that is the big question. Donald Trump has talked about Operation Warp Speed. He got the vaccine online. He wants, legitimately, to take credit for that. But he has decided not to lead the charge to encourage his own supporters to get vaccinated. He has been remarkably silent about this. He had a rally in Arizona last night. He did mention the vaccine in passing, but he has not decided to kind of capitalize on his crowning achievement - getting the vaccine online - and encouraging his base to get it. It sounds like he wants to follow them rather than lead them.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mara, I want to turn to another divisive issue, which is the January 6 commission. The hearing is on Tuesday. That's happening at the same time prosecutions are winding their way through the justice system. Which path, the House Select Committee or the court cases, do you think will reveal the most about the attack on the Capitol?

LIASSON: Well, I think either of these avenues could uncover a lot of what we still don't know. They'll be calling witnesses, and there'll be court cases. But I think that the January 6 investigations really illustrate the deep divide that we have in this country. Nothing illustrates it better, actually. We have the worst attack on the Capitol since 1812, and the decision about whether or not to investigate it has become completely partisan. We have Republicans voting against the independent commission and against the special select committee. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, appointed two Republicans to that committee, both of whom disagreed with the committee's existence in the first place. And then you have the former president, Donald Trump, who doesn't want an investigation. You have polls showing that big numbers of Republicans, up to 30%, sympathized with the rioters. So I don't think we're ever going to get a kind of bipartisan effort to get to the bottom of this. And we also have Republicans who've said, quite openly, that looking into January 6 is simply bad for their message in the 2022 elections because it was a riot of Trump supporters trying to overturn the results of the election.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And just briefly, it wouldn't be Sunday if I didn't ask you about infrastructure. What's the latest?

LIASSON: (Laughter) The latest is that the first procedural vote - test vote - failed on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, otherwise known as BIF. But the negotiators promise that they'll be ready to move forward, possibly by tomorrow. So I think the bottom line is this is either going to come together or fall apart completely very soon.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thank you very much.

LIASSON: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.