Biden is trying to capitalize on Democrats’ perception that after a once-a-century pandemic and severe economic crisis, the country is ready to radically change its attitude towards ambitious government solutions.
But the reality of a 50:50 Senate means it can’t even guarantee that its entire party will be on the side of its greatest goals.
The perception of the economy – always an important driver of the political mood and the key to a president’s authority – is caught in a strange limbo. Some signals point to an upswing on par with the 100s 100 years ago, but other data on jobs and inflation offer an opening for GOP claims that Biden’s big government policies are causing trouble.
A critical moment
During his first 100 days in office, and in a largely successful attempt to scale the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines he inherited from Trump, Biden saw a spate of public support based on the fact that a president finally saw the pandemic in earnest. Now, however, as he sets out to implement a partisan agenda, his political task becomes far more complicated. It is in the nature of a presidency born in crisis to see successive tests of authority and political skill. And Biden is facing someone else.
The president has made the quest to find common ground for infrastructure reform the acid test of his vow to bring together the country that anchored his 2020 campaign and is at the core of his entire presidency.
“I’m proud of the United States today. I’m proud of our political system today, the United States Congress. I’m proud today that Democrats and Republicans stood up together to say something,” said the president.
However, Biden is possibly the only person in Washington who believes in a system characterized by bitter partisanship, attacks on democratic norms by Trump and a fundamental separation from the purpose of government. Some Democrats believe the president is wasting time negotiating with Republicans who they believe will never come up with a counter-proposal anywhere near progressive hopes.
However, Biden’s belief – or a desire to at least show voters that he has not given up the aspirations that funded his appeal to more moderate voters – led him to play a key role in talks with a small group of Republican senators that began with encouragement Noise, but seems to fail due to the irreconcilable divide between the parties. If the president’s attempt to get a bipartisan infrastructure deal fails, it is hard to see any other problem where his vision of unity has a chance of materializing.
Republicans oppose both Biden’s sweeping vision of infrastructure, which includes significant social spending, and, in part, reducing Trump’s corporate tax cuts to pay for it.
However, the White House insists that the cut in the package from $ 2.2 trillion to $ 1.7 trillion is a good faith offer to keep the GOP on board. In Washington it is noticeable that the moment of crisis for the plan is approaching.
The problem for Biden is that trying to go it alone – trying to pass a law based on democratic voting with intricate parliamentary maneuvers in the Senate – could break the aura of unity and centrism with which he has his presidency camouflaged and was important for the passage of his Covid-19 rescue law.
Biden’s relationship with progressives is about to take a major test
The president must be increasingly concerned about his left flank as well as deteriorating hopes of infrastructure talks with Republicans on his right.
Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, chairman of the Senate Budgets Committee, sent a clear signal of the growing impatience among progressives for bipartisan efforts, which many of them consider to be in bad faith.
“We want bipartisanism,” Sanders told CBS’s Face the Nation.
“But I don’t think the Republican leadership is serious about addressing the major crises in this country and if they don’t move forward we will have to move forward on our own,” said Sanders, whose praise for Biden’s Covid-19 aid package offered the president Cover for Liberals earlier this year.
Relations between progressives and Biden have been further strained, however, by the behind-the-scenes role the president took on last week in mediating the fighting between Israel and Hamas as the number of Palestinian casualties increased.
Progressives feel that although the president has launched a liberal economic agenda, he is not firmly in control on all issues.
“The progressives don’t like me because I’m not ready to take what I would say and they would say it’s a socialist agenda,” Biden said.
Such a worldview could explain why Biden is interested in expanding the social safety net with measures that will help working Americans and tip the balance of the economy back towards the less affluent, but be reluctant to extend the Supreme Court or end it of the law employ Senate filibusters.
The coming weeks will clearly define whether Biden’s assessment of the political moment offers a path for his preferred path forward or whether he has no choice but to turn to a more partisan approach in order to maximize the potentially narrow window to get big things done when the midterm elections loom.
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