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Best thing to do about the presidential debate is to 'shake it off’: Bipartisan Policy Center President

Jason Grumet, Bipartisan Policy Center President, joins Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade with Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi to discuss Monday night’s presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: Last night's presidential debate is leading to big questions this morning over the race and the future of our country. The candidates spent the night beating up on each other, and even when they tried to talk substance, it quickly devolved into all out name calling, including this exchange over changing the tax code.


DONALD TRUMP: Why didn't you do it over the last 25 years?

JOE BIDEN: Because you weren't president screwing things up.

DONALD TRUMP: You were a senator.

JOE BIDEN: You're the worst president America's ever had. Come on.

DONALD TRUMP: Let me just say, Joe, I've done more in, in 47 months, I've done more than you've done in 47 years. Joe. We've done things that you never even thought of doing, including fixing the broken military that you gave me.


DONALD TRUMP: Including taking care of your vets.

CHRIS WALLACE: We're talking, Mr. President, we're talking about the economy.

BRIAN SOZZI: OK, then, Jason Grumet heads up the Bipartisan Policy Center, and he joins us now. Jason, certainly we can all agree last night was really an all-out disaster. What do you think this means for the fate of the stimulus talks, which did renew this week? You know, just looking at it through the prism of the stock market, we're seeing a remarkable reversal today, perhaps on some optimism this stimulus gets passed.

JASON GRUMET: Yeah, Brian, I think it's a good insight and it's good to be with you. There's been this big argument about whether Congress is going to step up and assert its Article 1 authority, not keep delegating all of its powers to the executive branch. And if last night showed us anything, it's Congress better step up. I actually think it did provide a little bit of impetus for Pelosi and the White House to think about trying to get something done, because this is probably our last shot. It certainly doesn't look like the lame duck is going to be a productive period for legislation.

And I think as we heard last night, the uncertainty about when in fact, we're going to understand who the government is and accept who the government is, could also extend for a while. So I think it actually, not that we needed any more imperative, but I think it added even a little more urgency. But it's going to come down to the next 36 hours. And this is the last window of opportunity they have to find some space between the $1 and $3 trillion negotiation positions.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Jason, was there anything that you heard last night that makes you think the two sides can work together, that there are some issues that are bipartisan? In the past, you've seen them talk about infrastructure and trying to fight COVID-19. Are those two areas that you think going forward could be bipartisan?

JASON GRUMET: So, look, the best thing to do about last night is just shake it off. It was I think, the extension of what has been an unfortunate unraveling of our deliberative discussion for the last several months. But yes, fundamentally, Congress can still govern a divided nation. I think you're absolutely right. Infrastructure has been the best idea that never happens. If you do the kind of after action report on the first six months of the Obama presidency, first six months of the Trump administration, I think most people would say they should have done infrastructure.

And so I believe that there is really some movement there there. There was legislation that moved through the Senate, a bipartisan basis to try to advance the surface transportation system. And there was a pretty decent agreement there on how you accelerate permitting and try to invest more in green decarbonization technology. So I think the impetus for infrastructure is there.

Health care, health care, health care. Yes, there is going to be an opportunity to invest in our public health systems. I think that we'll obviously see if Biden is president, more of an effort to kind of reform and strengthen the Affordable Care Act. If Trump gets a second term, I honestly don't think we know what's going to happen. But yes, I think health care, infrastructure, tax code investments for earned income tax credit, child tax credit, I mean, there's a number of things that even this Congress can get together behind.

BRIAN SOZZI: Jason, from what we learned here from Joe Biden on the economic policy front, do you think what he has put forward is favorable to the US economy? I can tell you, we talk to so many folks on Wall Street, they are fixated on him raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%, which he reiterated last night.

JASON GRUMET: So I think one of the most important statements last night, and it was a little bit of a cliche, is, I am the democratic party. A little bit of Joe Biden's kind of Al Haig, I am in charge here moment. But what that was suggesting was, he is not onboard for the Bernie Sanders agenda and he was interested in making it clear that he was not supporting Medicare for All, he was not supporting the kind of AOC vision of what a Green New Deal is.

But when it came to tax policy, I think that was probably the one, if you were trying to take notes on what they said, 21% to 28% was about the clearest single nugget of data that came through that debate. And so I do believe, as we would move into a Biden administration, if that were to happen, you would see a reconciliation process, which is what allows the Senate to move forward with 50 votes on kind of economic issues, making some changes to the tax code.

There'll be a real debate about the timing of that. I think there are going to be some who argue that in the first instance, we should be just investing more and we should hold off on the kind of tax rate adjustment until a little farther into the recovery. But that's going to be one of the key debates.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I think we can all agree [INAUDIBLE] but if you had to pick a winner, did one person do better than the other?

JASON GRUMET: Look, if you're worried about the kind of American entrepreneurial spirit, you can get T-shirts now that say, Shut up, man, and stand up and stand by. So somehow, Etsy has already leapt forward into the breach. But look, I think what we learned last night, is that the president's internal polling matches the external polling. They think that he's losing. And so they did what they could try to do to just change the arc of the debate by knocking Biden kind of off his emotional foundation. And that didn't work.

So a tie clearly went to Biden. And I think frankly, that if you just step back, I watched my kids watching the debate. They just thought Trump was kind of a jerk. I mean, this is a 12 year old's perspective. Whether a 12 year old's perspective reflects the general voting public or not, I'm not sure. But I don't think President Trump came across as a good guy. At some level, a lot of people do vote on, who would you rather have a drink with. I don't think a lot of people would want to go drinking with President Trump after that debate, though I think many probably wish they were drinking during the debate.