Biden is talking to Republicans, but for only so long

Biden, say the aides and lawmakers, believes action is more important than bipartisanism, and believes Americans will support him in his endeavors. He acknowledges that his window on this approach can be closed until the mid-term elections. Therefore, say the aides and lawmakers, he might be willing to give up the reputation. Cultivated for decades, as a dealmaking lawmaker when he can be a transformative president making a one-off investment in infrastructure and social programs.

The president will speak to Republicans about his new proposed spending plans – a combined $ 4 trillion spending intended to spark economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic – but he stands ready to support a Congressional maneuver that will allow Senate Democrats would allow legislation to be passed without GOP support, perhaps within a few weeks, say aides and lawmakers familiar with his thinking.

“There are certainly some inside the president who were part of the Obama team who said, ‘You see, we can’t keep this going forever,” said Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), A longtime Biden Friend who has occasionally encouraged Biden to be bipartisan: “There has to be an outcome.”

Biden is expected to receive both party lawmakers at the White House this week. He also invited House and Senate leaders to come after House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy the following week complained that he hadn’t seen Biden since the election. Biden is also calling on individual lawmakers, including West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito, senior Republican on the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, to discuss the parameters of an infrastructure bill.

Since inauguration day, the White House has held more than 500 calls or meetings with members, chiefs of staff and human resources officers, as well as more than two dozen briefings from Senate and House Committee staff from both parties. In total, more than 130 members of Congress from both parties were housed in the White House in the first 100 days of administration, according to the White House.

White House staff assume they will be spending more time on the new spending plans, which they see as different from Covid’s emergency legislation.

“Getting down the aisle and bringing the American people together has always been at the core of who the president is,” said Andrew Bates, White House spokesman. “He is deeply proud of the genuine Republican engagement in Congress that he and President Obama have done for eight years, as he is of the similar, good faith work he is now doing with Republicans.”

However, Biden employees also point out that the duration of this engagement is limited in time. They say the president hopes to make progress on both spending bills – either as a couple or individually – by Memorial Day and to sign them into law this summer. And the calendar creates some urgency: by the end of its first year, members of Congress will be consumed by halftime and then by the next presidential race. The White House also knows how a lengthy legislative process can consume a presidency and a party.

“Biden and the people around him understand that there is as much to be done as possible this year,” said Republican Chuck Hagel, who served with Biden in the Senate and later as Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration. “At what point – if you weren’t making any progress on any front and were willing to compromise on some things – you’ll have to go it alone. It’s a decision you have to make. You don’t have much time.”

There are common themes that bind the Biden team to the Obama years and remind them of the attempts at bipartisanism that went unrealized. The chief among them are the employees. Biden has filled the White House with former Obama aides, including Chief of Staff Ron Klain; Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council; Susan Rice, director of the Home Affairs Council; and Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.

But there are also differences. While Obama spent much of his first term fighting bad business news and advancing increasingly unpopular health care reform, the current White House is encouraged by American support for Biden’s proposals, including those Popularity of the US $ 1.8 trillion rescue planThe coronavirus recovery law was passed without a Republican vote six weeks ago. And that includes helping Republican governors, mayors, and local officials across the country.

“What’s more important now during a crisis is that they want to get things done,” said Biden’s lead pollster John Anzalone. “If that means Joe Biden has to do it alone, they seem okay with that.”

Democratic activists also have what they saw as the scar tissue from the Obama years. you urge Biden to act without Republicans on a number of other issues – including police reform, immigration and guns restrictions – because they say the GOP cannot be trusted to negotiate. Many argue that Democrats should revise Senate rules to allow legislation to pass by simple majority. They say that during the Trump era, Republicans only got tougher, which made it even more difficult to negotiate with the party.

“Everyone’s talking about it, can I do something non-partisan?” Biden said at a meeting with television presenters at the White House last week. “Well, I need to find out if there is a party to deal with. We need a Republican Party. … We need another party, whatever you call it, that is united – not completely fragmented and fearful of each other. “

Recent polls give Biden a net job approval rating with relatively high marks from both Democrats and Independents, but he has yet to gain a lot of support from Republicans. According to a recent poll by POLITICO and Morning Consult, only 14 percent of Republicans gave Biden an “A” or “B” rating for his first 100 days in office. 85 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Independents gave Biden the same marks.

Some Republicans say that, like Obama, Biden is ready to talk but not necessarily committed to making major concessions. “I was surprised at how blatantly partisan he was from day one,” said Joe Grogan, who worked in the Trump and George W. Bush administrations. “It’s not the way he fought. That’s not how he served in the Senate. They said he’d reach across the aisle. It was an important topic of conversation.”

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), perhaps the most moderate Republican in the Senate, said Sunday she was “disappointed” with Biden’s efforts to secure a bipartisan treaty to ease Covid and viewed the infrastructure package as an important “test for” whether President Biden is really interested in bipartisanism. “

“The Joe Biden I knew in the Senate was always interested in negotiating. I really appreciated him, “said Collins. “I like him. I’ve worked with him.”

For more than three decades in the Senate, Biden was known as a dealmaker who wasn’t afraid to negotiate and make friends with either party. When he was Vice President, Biden served as Obama’s main liaison with Congress and was one of the people who urged Obama to speak to Republicans.

“Joe Biden himself was one of the people who encouraged Obama to be such a bipartisan negotiator because he believed in the Senate as an institution,” said a former Biden aide who is in contact with the White House. “Biden was a very loud voice in an Obama Oval Office and said, ‘No, we can get the Republicans, I believe in it. “

Biden was sent to the Senate to try and do business with minority leader Mitch McConnell on tax cuts and spending only to anger then-majority leader Harry Reid and other Democrats. At the time, Democrats complained that Biden had undermined their leverage and signed treaties that overshot Bush’s tax cuts and ignored the need for economic incentives. They point to the belated passage of the Affordable Care Act as evidence that the party was foolish to expect GOP support for important actions.

“We just have to go back in the summer of 2009 to see Republicans playing against Democrats for months with no intention of ever endorsing a healthcare reform bill for millions,” said Zac Petkanas, senior advisor to Invest in America Action, a group supporting public investment.

But Phil Schiliro, who served as Director of Legislative Affairs early in Obama’s tenure, argued that Obama – backed by Biden – was successful in gaining Republican support on a range of issues, including equal pay laws, children’s health insurance, and an additional $ 350 billion. Dollar bailouts in 2009 and 2010 when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, as they do now. The Obama administration still had to work with both the GOP and a number of Conservative Democrats, who in some cases pushed them to negotiate further.

“It seems to me that they are taking the same approach,” said Schilliro. “They want to become non-partisan when they can, but when they can’t, they don’t want to stop them from doing what is in the best interests of the country.”

In his first address to Congress last week, Biden outlined a laundry list of Democratic priorities – from $ 4 trillion in new federal spending over the next decade, to roads and bridges, childcare and kindergarten, calls for police reform, racial justice, gun restrictions, and how he put it, “to end our grueling war over immigration”.

“I would like to meet with those who have other ideas – they think they are better.” I welcome these ideas, ”he said. But he added, “I just want to be clear: from my point of view, doing nothing is not an option.”

Biden’s speech contained only a few allusions to bipartisanism, though he praised Republicans for posting their own counter-offer for his $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure plan. Republicans, raising concerns about the high price, proposed tax hikes and new programs, and rolled out a leaner $ 568 billion proposal that focused most of the funding on more traditional elements of infrastructure such as bridges, highways and roads.

After Biden’s speech last week, Capito said the Republicans had been left out. But after he called her, she tweeted that she “had a constructive and substantive appeal. ”

However, Biden made it clear to reporters the day after his address to Congress that a small Republican package would not be enough. “If, like last time, they come in with a quarter or a fifth of what I ask and say this is our last offer … then no, no, go,” he said.

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