To the extent President Biden commented about the seemingly endless negotiations over the spending bills on Capitol Hill, he has offered generic, optimistic assessments: “I believe that Joe [Manchin] will be there.” “I think we’ll get this done.” “I feel confident we’re going to get done what we have to done — do at home in order to deliver.” There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but it’s the leadership equivalent of standing on the sidelines, clapping, and cheering, “let’s go!”
Beyond that, Biden insists, “I’m not going to talk about the specifics of my conversations.”
That’s all well and good, and a certain amount of ambiguity about the president’s red lines is probably a strategic necessity. But that also means that the Democrats on Capitol Hill don’t really know what the president thinks must be in the bill and what the president thinks would be nice to get into the bill. There’s certainly no sense of what kind of bill Biden would find not worth the effort. The administration has set no ceilings or floors for overall spending, or given much sense of whether Biden really thinks it is a good idea to expand the state and local tax deduction. Biden appeared willing to give up on changing how Medicare pays for prescription drugs, and it appears he’s willing to give up on paid family leave.
The end result is no one is entirely sure what Biden really wants, leaving Congressional Democrats periodically fuming, “Where’s Joe Biden? This is his agenda, why isn’t he more involved in the negotiations?’” and observing that Biden has demonstrated no ability to persuade reluctant Democrats over to his position — “there’s no magic in the Oval Office right now.”
Now, Politico offers some vivid anecdotes that Democrats are steamed that they’re stuck with an opaque nonentity in the White House:
That Biden needed to take a more aggressive role in pushing through his economic agenda was a sentiment reiterated again and again in interviews with nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers, operatives and pollsters — the majority of whom declined to go on record for fear of further complicating Democrats’ legislative efforts. Some said they wanted Biden to execute easy policy victories that would quickly alleviate voter struggles, such as forgiving student loan debt, a move the president has pushed off since taking office to the chagrin of party members.
“I’m a loyal Democrat, but if I have to start paying my student loans again come January I’ll be ready to throw up my hands and chant ‘Let’s go, Brandon,’” said a Democratic campaign aide, using the now popular euphemism on the right for “f— Joe Biden.”
Today Biden declared, “I’m asking every House member, member of the House of Representatives, to vote yes on both these bills, right now. Send the infrastructure bill to my desk. Send the Build Back Better bill to the Senate… Let’s show the world America’s democracy can deliver.”
Terry McAuliffe may be wondering why Biden couldn’t say that a month ago.
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