WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden started this week by saying “It is victory that is at stake” as two bills defining its national agenda collided in Congress.
But after days of intense negotiations that failed to secure a deal until the weekend, Biden faces mounting pressure to show Democrats can keep their promises.
Biden proposed the most radical national legislation in decades – spending billions of dollars aimed at transforming the economy. His efforts to dramatically extend the social safety net and embrace major climate initiatives drew comparisons with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society.
But to get there, there’s still work to be done to unite all Democrats in Congress – including convincing progressive Democrats that adopting a smaller package is better than none at all. Pundits say if the pair of bills succeed, it would not only be a necessary victory for Biden, who has struggled in recent polls, but it could be a boost for Democrats in the next election.
âUltimately, your legacy is determined by what you actually do, not how something turns out, but what you actually accomplish,â said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. . “So the larger the amount, probably the more it would be done and attributed to the Biden administration.”
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Biden to Progressives: Must Go Down $ 3.5 Trillion
With his legacy faltering, Biden came to Capitol Hill on Friday afternoon to help negotiate a deal between House moderates who wanted a bipartisan infrastructure bill passed immediately and progressives who are delaying the bill. in exchange for a firm commitment of several billion dollars. -a dollar bill to expand social protection programs.
Biden expressed confidence that Congress will approve his two top priorities. Progressive House Democrats relayed that Biden had told them to be prepared to drop their demands for a $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation plan.
“We will get there,” the president told reporters as he left. “It doesn’t matter when. It doesn’t matter whether it’s six minutes, six days, or six weeks. We’re going to do it.”
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Doing so could be important for Biden.
Nine months after starting his presidency, Biden is experiencing a drop in approval ratings that, for the first time, has seen the majority of Americans disapprove of his performance at work. More recently, as cases of COVID-19 increased, Biden came under fire for a chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan and a wave of Haitian migrants who gathered at the southern border, leading to a violent confrontation with border officials.
Republicans have taken hold of the struggles, planning a line of attack in the 2022 midterm election when Democrats face an uphill battle to retain control of the Senate and House. Sabato said the search for a deal could cost Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s attempt to take over the governor’s mansion in Virginia next month.
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âIt’s been humiliating, embarrassing, day in and day out,â Sabato said. “It created the image that Democrats can’t get along. Biden and both Housesâ¦ If they don’t deliver in the next few days. I think McAuliffe has big problems.”
Weekend update: Moderates in the spotlight as Democrats rally for infrastructure and social care bills
“He needs a win here”
Next week, Biden plans to “travel across the country” to sell his “Build Back Better” plan, the White House said on Friday. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the tour was not a concession and a deal could not be reached over the weekend.
“It shows that the president is going to have to keep going out there and advocating to the public about what’s in these packages no matter when it passes,” she said.
On Sunday, the White House announced that Biden would be traveling to Howell, Michigan on Tuesday. Other trips are still unclear.
If Biden fails to rally support from his fellow Democrats for proposals that generally unite the party – climate, business taxation, childcare, and other welfare programs – then Democrats risk undermining their own electoral hopes in 2022. .
“He needs a win here – he needs something,” said Todd Belt, professor and director of the political management program at George Washington University. “He needs Democrats to be able to return to their districts and states in 2022 for re-election to show they have performed.”
Belt said Biden campaigned to be âthe adult in the roomâ – the âproven politicianâ who could get things done after four years under former President Donald Trump.
âIt’s really essential that he gets something for the American people to show that they can rule,â Belt said.
White House: “historic” legislation whatever the price
Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona remain Senate resistant to the social safety net and Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion climate program. In the Senate, Biden needs the votes of all 50 Democratic members to pass the bill in a process known as reconciliation, but the two moderate senators said they would not support such a high price.
âWhile I hope that common ground can be found that translates into another historic investment in our country, I cannot – and will not support – trillions in spending or an all-or-one approach. nothing that ignores the brutal fiscal reality facing our country, âsaid Manchin, who said he did not want to go over $ 1.5 trillion.
Meanwhile, progressive House Democrats have refused to support Biden’s other plan on the national agenda – a bipartisan infrastructure bill with $ 550 billion in new spending – unless the reconciliation plan vaster does not go forward.
Biden has presented his proposals as “generational investments” to help the United States compete with China. But cutting the $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation package would mean slashing legislation filled with liberal priorities on climate, child care, preschool, free community college and national paid holidays.
“It’s going to be tough,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash, head of the House Progressive Caucus, relaying Biden’s challenge to compromise on the higher number. âWe’re going to have to lower our number.
Psaki said the two sides are “closer than ever to a deal” and agree on a dollar figure.
âSome came down, others came into the numbers,â Psaki said, though she stopped before saying whether Biden would accept Manchin’s $ 1.5 trillion cap.
She has sought to ensure that whatever has happened will be transformational.
âNo matter where we end up, if we can do something here, we will have an historic bill passed by Congress that will have a huge impact on the American people,â she said.
Biden’s priorities face a tough road compared to other big bills
Although the spending proposed by Biden represents a smaller share of the U.S. economy than Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, it marks a return to the investments in social safety nets that have defined the Democratic Party for decades.
The infrastructure bill, which was passed by the Senate in August with bipartisan support, includes $ 109 billion for road and bridge repairs, $ 66 billion for passenger and freight rail transport, $ 49 billion for public transportation and $ 25 billion for airports. There is $ 73 billion for electrical and electrical infrastructure, $ 65 billion for broadband expansion, and $ 55 billion for water and sewer projects.
The larger reconciliation package, laden with liberal priorities, consists of what Biden called “human infrastructure.”
This includes $ 250 billion for expanded care for the disabled and the elderly, $ 200 billion for universal preschool, $ 225 billion for subsidized daycares, free community colleges, national paid family leave, and childcare credits. extended child tax. There are also an assortment of environmental initiatives, led by a new clean energy standard forcing power companies to phase out carbon monoxide emissions and clean energy incentives like wind and power. electricity.
It would be a feat rivaling FDR’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society, but going through a much narrower needle due to the very slim margins Democrats have in the House – where they can’t afford more than three. defections – and the equally divided Senate – where they cannot lose a single member – Sabato said.
âWhatever Biden gets in Congress is more important in his legacy because it’s been a lot harder for him,â he said. âWhen Roosevelt submitted much of his New Deal agenda early on, a congressman stood up and said, ‘I don’t want to hear any debate, the house is on fire and the President of the United States says that this is the way to put out the fire. ‘ Boom! They adopted it. I mean they haven’t had a chance to read it. “
While Biden doesn’t have that luxury, the White House has said it’s just part of the process.
“It’s healthy to have discussions. It’s healthy to push. It’s healthy to be there to defend your point of view,” Psaki said. “I think there is a misunderstanding about how democracy works and about policymaking.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Infrastructure, Budget Bill Outcome May Be ‘Critical’ for Biden, 2022