Biden celebrates bipartisan agreement on infrastructure 2:28
The fact that Joe Biden's cherished bipartisan infrastructure plan was nearly destroyed by some of his own poorly chosen words highlights both the fragility of the deal and his own hopes for a productive presidency.
Biden's extraordinary weekend effort to walk in his own footsteps in his comment Thursday, interpreted as a threat to veto the bill if it didn't make it to his desk alongside a multi-trillion dollar Democratic spending plan, seems, for now, to have been successful. Republican senators publicly accepted that their comment linking the two bills - "If this is the only thing I get, I won't sign it" - was a mistake. But the president still gave other Republican opponents a chance to present the two measures as a deceptive double step.
Biden's damage control added to the mountain of problems for a presidency born amid multiple crises, including the pandemic. On Sunday, US forces carried out airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias on the Iraq-Syria border, accused by the Pentagon of threatening US facilities and personnel in Iraq. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Europe building the US front against China. And former President Donald Trump's savage Saturday night rally in Ohio added fuel to the delusional claims of voter fraud dominating the Republican Party and further sharpened hopes for bipartisanship in Washington.
As for the infrastructure bill, much will now depend on whether Republicans who support spending more than $ 1 trillion on infrastructure repairs also perceive a political advantage in its continued support.
It's unclear whether 10 Republican votes are needed to save the Senate filibuster measure and send it to an uncertain fate in the House, where progressives believe it is insufficient.
The parallel tracks of the two bills add to a complicated formula built to get a 60-vote Senate majority of 50-50 for infrastructure, while offering an incentive to those Democrats who think the deal is too small. .
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It reflects the fact that the political balance in Washington is too tight for Biden to secure the passage of big bills.
He faces problems from the right between Republicans and moderate Democrats in the Senate and from the left of his own party, which has the ability to break a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.
Still, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told CNN's Jake Tapper - on "State of the Union" Sunday - that he now believed Biden would sign the infrastructure bill if only it went through a complicated journey through The congress.
"I trust the president," Romney said, referring to the highly unusual statement Biden issued over the weekend, which nearly won the support of Republican senators against his Democratic "Family Plan."
Of course, here are some classic Washington smoke screens.
"I'm not just signing the bipartisan bill and forgetting about the rest," is what Biden had said Thursday.
But despite his efforts to back down, everyone understands that the president will seek to pass a second bill - the White House has mentioned a figure of US $ 4 trillion - that contains much of the social spending on "human infrastructure", taken from the more narrow agreement to appease Republicans.
But the illusion that they are not linked is necessary to protect politically the Republican senators who have stood up as Biden seeks a bipartisan agreement that is critical to honoring a central thematic axis of his administration: uniting the country and not treating opponents. as enemies.
The president almost inadvertently deprived his Republican partners of the denial they need.
The positioning is also necessary to woo moderate Democratic senators like Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who are already concerned about the cost of a companion bill that some progressives want to reach $ 6. trillions.
Several other Republican senators joined Romney in attesting to the president's sincerity after his weekend effort.
"It was a surprise, to say the least, that those two were linked, and I'm glad they are now unlinked," Ohio Senator Rob Portman said on ABC's "This Week."
However, Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy was less emphatic on NBC's "Meet the Press," saying he "hoped" it was enough for Biden to back down.
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A hectic summer looms at the Capitol
The problem for the president is that semantic nuances cannot disguise the fact that there is no room for error in a hectic summer as Democrats try to maximize what could be a narrow window of power.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi already insists that if there is no new Democratic spending bill, there will be "no" an infrastructure bill.
His comments reinforced the impression that Biden was telling the liberal Democrats the truth by bringing the two measures together.
The episode in which the infrastructure bill seemed to be on the brink of destruction was all the more surprising given that the perpetrator of the threatened disaster was none other than the president, a lone pro-bipartisan voice who spent months trying to build a coalition that many believe is unworkable.
Thus, the feeling of celebration for a rare agreement between two parties, which have migrated to increasingly radical poles, lasted only a few hours.
The comment alarmed Republicans who spent days talking to the White House and Democrats about an infrastructure deal covering roads and bridges, train travel, clean energy, and replacement of lead water pipes in schools and homes.
They were exposed to claims from the right that they were agreeing to a massive "socialist" Democratic plan to raise taxes.
The situation was especially upsetting as the president was using words like "trust" and "friends" to refer to his fellow negotiators and held a joint photo shoot with them outside the west wing of the White House on Thursday.
In addition to releasing his statement on Saturday, the president called the group's senators to repair the damage.
It is a testament to their sincerity in seeking bipartisan solutions that many of them are willing to give it another try.
But the group will face a forcefield of pressure from conservative media and activists who would like to deprive Biden of a victory and voter approval if he keeps his promise to work with the other side.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is highly motivated by an effort to win back the Senate for his party next year, was quick to use Biden's comment to portray the president as a hostage to left-wing Democrats.
Such a strategy may allow you to derail the infrastructure package within your own conference if you think it is not politically advantageous, while blaming the Democrats.
Any bill that makes the torturous passage through a divided Congress needs luck and will live near death moments.
The longer a measure waits to pass, the more Washington's inherent divisions and external political incentives erode its chances.
So this may just be the first existential moment for the infrastructure project.
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Biden also has work ahead of him with the Democrats
In this case, trust is not just a sum between Biden and the Republicans.
One consequence of this difference may be that there has to be a greater separation between the Democratic spending bill and the bipartisan infrastructure package than the party leaders would like on Capitol Hill.
That will require progressive Democrats, who warned they will not vote for infrastructure without trillions in new spending, to develop their own faith in the ability of a more moderate president to sign a bill that they see as a vital payment for their trifecta of power in the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most visible progressives in the House of Representatives, offered Biden some coverage on Sunday, though some might read a hint of political pressure in her comments.
"I think it's very important for the president to know that ... the Democratic caucus is here to make sure he doesn't fail, and we are here to make sure he succeeds in making sure we have a bigger infrastructure plan," Ocasio said. -Cortez in »Meet the Press».
It also offered a small wiggle room in the size of the package that Biden hopes to use to secure spending on items like home health care for sick and elderly Americans.
While Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, submitted an opening offer for about $ 6 billion, Ocasio-Cortez said the exact dollar figure was not the problem.
"Although I think there is a level where we are too small," he said.
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There were also signs of flexibility Sunday from Manchin, who refused to link the two bills when the infrastructure talks concluded.
The West Virginia congressman, without whom Democrats can't pass anything in the Senate, signaled openness to some capital gains and corporate tax increases.
A frenzied weekend underscored how despite celebrations for a rare bipartisan deal at the White House last week, the fate of Biden's domestic agenda remains vulnerable.
His senior adviser, Cedric Richmond, insisted, however, in "State of the Union" that "people have underestimated President Biden from day one."
«We approved the Rescue Plan.
We are going to approve the Employment Plan and the American Family Plan.