The Issue Is: Anthony Rendon, Toni Atkins and Ted Lieu

This week in 2020, there were 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, and President Donald Trump had just been acquitted in his first Senate impeachment trial.

A lot can change in a year.

Despite more than 60 million vaccine doses having been administered, the United States has now recorded more than 28,000,000 cases of coronavirus, and is on the precipice of its 500,000th death.

That fact, as this week, now former President Trump was acquitted in his second impeachment trial.

To explore these issues, and more, Elex Michaelson is joined by Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA), Speaker of the California State Assembly Anthony Rendon (D), and President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate Toni Atkins (D).



BACKGROUND: This week, California legislators released SB86, also known as the "Safe and Open Schools" plan. The nearly $6.6 billion plan sets April 15 as the date by which K-6 schools in the state’s "red tier" counties are to reopen for in-person instruction. Schools in the state’s more restrictive "purple tier," in which there are more than 7 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, will be allowed to reopen for in-person instruction for vulnerable students. While calling the proposal a "step in the right direction," Governor Gavin Newsom criticized the plan, which he said on Thursday "doesn’t go far enough or fast enough."

ATKIN’S CENTRAL TAKE: "[The proposal] doesn’t mean they can’t go back sooner, we are just putting a date there by which schools should have a plan to go back, a number of districts have already reopened, we haven’t said they couldn’t… We’re just listening to all of the stakeholders, whether it’s parents, administrators, teachers, in terms of trying to craft something that does exactly what [Speaker Rendon] says, get kids back to school as quickly as we can, but also as safely as we can…"

RENDON’S CENTRAL TAKE: "This is the best plan forward because it helps to get kids in the classroom as soon as possible, it also helps to make sure it’s done so safely, it also focuses on those kids who are most in need…  April 15 is the maximum deadline, that’s the last day for kids to go back, not the first day. It’s also important to keep in mind that Los Angeles Unified School District is supportive of this proposal, San Diego Unified, Fresno, Oakland, Long Beach, six of the largest school districts in the state are in support of this plan…"



BACKGROUND: While there remains disagreement between the legislature and the Governor on the reopening of schools, this week the two came together for a new $9.6 billion economic relief package. Among other things, the "Golden State Stimulus" Plan will provide some 5 million low-income Californians with $600 relief checks, it will also provide $25,000 grants for some small businesses impacted by the pandemic-induced closures.

ATKIN’S CENTRAL TAKE: "When people file their taxes, and even if they don’t have to pay taxes, if they file, they can file previous years, they’ll have access to that $600, as well as i-10 filers, those who may not have access to the federal stimulus but who work in California, are going to be able to get the checks as well, so we’re trying to make sure we’re reaching the most vulnerable Californians… Many among us are hurting, so this stimulus that we’re able to put forward, we think is very bold, and adds to what the federal government is doing to help Californians a little bit more…

RENDON’S CENTRAL TAKE: "It’s not going to mean more taxes for folks. What’s been great about this year thus far is that we’ve had a significant budget surplus this year, we’re about $25-26 billion ahead of where we thought we would be when we did our budget predictions in June, so this sort of one-time funding is going to come in handy and is going to be very helpful to Californians…"



BACKGROUND: Last week, following a vote of 57-43 in the Senate, former President Donald Trump was acquitted in his second impeachment trial. The acquittal came after a historically fast trial, just five days, in which no witnesses were called. 

LIEU’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I would have loved to have been able to call witnesses. Here is the problem, for any non-friendly witness, such as Kevin McCarthy or Vice President Pence, or so on, they would have objected to the subpoena, and then we would have to litigate in court for literally months or years… from a timing perspective it would have been impossible for us really to call witnesses unless they would agree to come, and they weren’t agreeing to come… The only witness that would have made a difference is if we had resurrected one of the Founding Fathers, and had Benjamin Franklin tell the Senate Republicans that ‘no, there’s no January exception to the Constitution’…"



BACKGROUND: Before taking office, President Joe Biden announced his proposal for The American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package that would follow in the footsteps of March’s $2.2 trillion CARES Act and the $920 billion package passed in December. Lacking much bipartisan support, the American Rescue Plan has been making its way through various House committees in a piecemeal fashion via the practice of budget reconciliation.

LIEU’S CENTRAL TAKE: "So the various committees of the House of Representatives have been working on the American Rescue Plan. I sit on one of the committees that wrote a section of it, I’ve been briefed on all the other sections. It is a really good bill that’s going to provide $1,400 of stimulus checks, billions of dollars for vaccine distribution, as well as money to school districts and cities and states… The House will vote this out essentially next week, and then we’ll send it to the Senate, and hopefully they can work quickly on it, and then we should get it to the President’s desk sometime in March, well before the expiration of unemployment benefits."


The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to

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