Biden the Dealmaker believes compromise can have consequences

Biden the Dealmaker believes compromise can have consequences

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden’s pitch during the 2020 campaign to impeach President Donald J. Trump was simple: Trade a stubborn, unwavering leader for someone with a proven track record of taking half a loaf of bread like a full unattainable is.

That approach appears to have propelled Mr. Biden to the abyss of victory on a $2 trillion deal that could define his legacy as a successful Oval Office legislative architect, one who reshapes public spending and does so on the tiniest margins. in a country with deep partisan and ideological rifts.

But the bill will certainly be much smaller than what he originally proposed, and much less ambitious than he and many of his allies had hoped. It won’t make him the one to finally secure a free community college for everyone. Seniors don’t get free dental, hearing, and vision coverage from Medicare. And there will be no new sanctions system for the worst polluters.

“Look — hey, look, it’s all about compromise,” Mr Biden said at a CNN town hall meeting on Thursday, shaking off the doubters as he tried to close the deal with lawmakers and the public.

But accepting less and calling it a victory has its limits — and consequences.

By pushing for an even bigger and more ambitious agenda in recent months, knowing he would most likely have to roll it back, Mr. Biden has disappointed some supporters who believed his surging rhetoric about the need for better higher education, expanded Medicare services and bold progress in the fight against climate change.

“To make real progress, you have to inspire people about the importance of work,” said Doug Elmendorf, dean of the Harvard Kennedy School and former director of the Congressional Budget Office. “And then any compromise is a disappointment.”

Once the spending bills are behind him, Biden still faces challenges not so easily resolved through compromise. On Thursday, he seemed to acknowledge that reality by hinting that he was open to changing the Senate’s long-standing filibuster rules if that’s what it takes to break down Republican opposition to protecting the vote and other parts of the Democratic Party. to approve the agenda.

“We’re going to have to get to the point where we fundamentally change the filibuster,” he told CNN host Anderson Cooper.

That’s a dramatic concession for a politician like Mr. Biden, who has embraced the often-mysterious Senate rules during the three decades he served there. Like other institutionalists in the room, Mr. Biden has resisted demands from liberal activists to break those rules, fearing the fallout the next time Republicans take charge.

But the Washington that Biden often reminisces about—the Washington in which Democrats and Republicans work together toward common goals—is largely a distant memory. If he is to make progress on voting rights, climate change, prison reform, an immigration law review and more, he most likely will not be able to rely on the same instincts that have inspired and shaped the brand for most of his political life. that helped him. win him the White House.

The political differences are wide: Republicans argue that the president’s spending program would burden future generations with more debt and slow down the economy. They maintain that voting rights legislation is meant to benefit Democrats, and they oppose many of the president’s climate policies because they say they are bad for jobs and business.

John Podesta, who served as former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, said Mr. Biden did “a pretty good job pushing as far as he could in the style he was a champion of.” But he said that aside from the expense accounts, “it’s hard to see how he gets that same spirit of cooperation, goodwill and honorable compromise.” The issue of voting rights is perhaps the clearest example in the coming months.

Just this week, Republicans used the filibuster to block an already watered-down Democratic voting rights bill for the third time since Biden took office. The takeaway? If Democrats want federal legislation to end what they see as an attack on voting in Republican-controlled states, they’ll have to play hard.

That most likely means that all 50 Democrats and Independents in the room should be persuaded to vote to change the filibuster rule — if he can.

“President Biden and Senate Democrats must deliver on campaign promises and defend our democracy — too much is at stake,” leaders of Fix Our Senate, a group that advocates eliminating the filibuster, said in a statement. Friday. “After three Republican filibusters of common-sense voter protection laws, it’s time to end the filibuster and protect voting rights for all Americans.”

Immigrant rights advocates are ready to make a similar argument for fixing what most agree is a broken system. The idea of ​​a bipartisan immigration review, which Biden proposed on his first day in office, has stalled amid opposition from Republican lawmakers.

An attempt to use the spending bill to provide millions of undocumented migrants a path to citizenship was blocked by special Senate rules on the budget. If Mr. Biden is to deliver on his promised immigration overhaul, it would require a separate account, and he may have no choice but to change the filibuster rules on that matter as well.

But perhaps the biggest promise Mr. Biden made during the campaign was to be the president who would finally face the environmental risks facing the planet. On Thursday, he said it in the most blunt terms: “The existential threat to humanity is climate change.”

Biden and his party are likely to face only that threat in the months and years ahead. Most Republicans have shown little appetite for aggressive action to combat environmental damage from automobiles, manufacturing and other economic activities.

And even within his own party, the president faces divisions that make it difficult to convince the rest of the world that the United States is serious about cutting emissions that cause global warming.

For Mr Biden, then the question will be: is he willing to treat the debate on core issues such as climate, voting rights and immigration as a “break the glass” moment in which he and his Democratic allies have no choice but to change the rules? , even if it means Republicans will take advantage of the opportunity to advance their own agenda once they are back in power?

Of course, the president cannot change the filibuster alone. This would bring in the votes of all 50 Democratic and independent senators, along with a casting vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. And though some of the same Democratic senators who forced him to accept less spending have said they oppose changing the filibuster.

But the president is the leader of his party, and his vote matters. If he decides it’s time to “fundamentally change the filibuster,” as he said Thursday, members of his party will be allowed to listen.

One argument at his disposal: changing the rules to allow more of the Democratic agenda to pass could be vital to the party’s success in the polls.

Strategists say enthusiasm among key Democratic voters is critical to beating the Republican Party in the 2022 midterm elections (and perhaps Mr Trump, its leader, two years later). If crucial parts of the president’s coalition remain unhappy because they are disappointed with the compromise proposal, it could threaten Democratic hopes to stay in power in Congress and the White House.

“The political costs of this will be great,” said Mr Elmendorf.

Mr Podesta, who advised Hillary Clinton during her run for president, agreed. He said it is a “big problem” if Democrats can’t deliver on the fundamental promises.

“Especially younger voters,” he said. “You see it in independents, African American and Latino voters. They just feel like these guys aren’t delivering.”

Mr Biden could reverse the enthusiasm gap by moving forward with the rest of his agenda, including voting rights, immigration and climate change.

He vowed Thursday that he would continue to push for parts of his agenda that had been left on the cutting room floor during the spending bill debate. He called raising Pell Grants for college students “a start,” but he promised to keep trying for free community college — in part to meet the demands of his wife, Jill Biden, who is a longtime college professor.

“I’m going to make it happen,” he swore, adding with a smile to his wife in the front row, “and if I don’t, I’ll sleep alone for a long time.”

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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