Those are the voices Biden needs to keep hearing, and thankfully seem to be the voices he is listening to most closely. Because on the other side are the people like Leon Panetta, who served both Presidents Obama and Clinton, and hasn’t been keeping up with things. “The biggest danger for Joe Biden is wanting to move very fast without bringing the American people with him in terms of some of these objectives,” Panetta told The Washington Post. Where “American people” are the Republicans in Washington, D.C. that Panetta considers his friends. “That’s probably the biggest challenge that he’s got.” What a profoundly out-of-touch statement for a national figure to make after four years of Trump and a pandemic that brought the country to its knees.
Unfortunately, there are also some holdover blue dogs in the House who, along with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin in the Senate, want to play the “bipartisan” game. “There is clearly intense division—not only on Capitol Hill, but throughout the country. And frankly, that’s why we should focus our efforts on building consensus around the issues, like infrastructure,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat, told the Post. She’s joined by Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, who also is having a difficult time reading the room. “We need to be careful not to do anything that’s too big or too much in the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis,” he told Axios. Yes, he actually said that; suggested that you can act “too big … in the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis.” You can’t expect too much more critical thinking from a founding member of the “Problem Solvers” caucus, the congressional folk who spend their days talking to other people who think the real problem right now is Biden not giving Susan Collins whatever she wants.
Biden, thankfully, seems to have little interest in hearing that. When Collins and team brought their measly $600 billion COVID-19 plan to the Oval Office, he patted them on the head and told them point blank, “not good enough.” That’s because he’s cracked the code of “bipartsan”—you find it with the majority of American people as opposed to the 147 seditionist Republicans in Congress.
So far, that’s working. A new ABC News/Ipsos poll gives Biden massive support on both vaccine distribution and economic recovery. “Overall, around three in four Americans approve of how Biden is handling the distribution of coronavirus vaccines (75%) and the response to the virus itself (72%). Sixty percent approve of how Biden is handling the country’s economic recovery.”
That attitude coming from the White House is infectious, it turns out. “If someone had said to me in 2009, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this $1.9 trillion bill,’ I would have said: ‘Whoa.'” That’s Pennsylvania Democrat Sen. Bob Casey in a Post interview. During the Obama great recession stimulus debate, Casey admitted, the deficit peacocks ruled. “Our party had kind of shifted to ‘every penny must be paid for’ or you can’t even talk about it,” Casey said. “I used to be more in that camp.” He went on to say that many Democrats watched Republicans steal everything for the rich for the past four years, deficits be damned, and came to the conclusion that if they’re going to be spending like drunken lottery winners, that largesse needs to help the poor, too.
So on Wednesday Biden is going to take that attitude to Pittsburgh, where he’ll unveil the first part of his $3-ish trillion infrastructure plan. This will be the physical infrastructure part, and that’s where once again Biden is inviting Republican lawmakers to participate. “I will say that I don’t think Republicans in this country think we should be 13th in the world as it relates to infrastructure. […] Roads, railways, rebuilding them, that’s not a partisan issue,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said over the weekend. On “Fox News Sunday,” no less. A second bill, she said, will tackle the social infrastructure, “issues that American people are struggling with—child care, the cost of health care.”
That’s an open invitation for Republicans and a salvo to Joe Manchin, who has decreed that he won’t allow anything to pass if Republicans aren’t included. Biden—just like he did on the COVID-19 bill—is inviting them to help. Republicans refusing to do so will have to bring Manchin along on doing this bill by again using budget reconciliation—which requires a simple majority instead of 60 votes—to pass the bill, if they have to. Because Manchin has also called for an “enormous” infrastructure bill, one that could be paid for in part by raising taxes.
He’s got to know as well as anyone that there will not be 10 Senate Republicans who will vote to raise taxes. So the game begins.