In private, however, Biden’s cabinet played something that was more like hardball. When the Minister for Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, she urged lawmakers not to ask too much in the end. The meeting was described as a “tough”, open “family talk”. But it was also strict.
Fudge claimed that the Democrats tried to include too much in their sweeping electoral and police reform laws and got nothing, according to a lawmaker in the room. Fudge warned Democrats not to ask for anything in the social spending package or else they couldn’t get anything, including a bill for physical infrastructure, the member said. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) Confirmed the report, saying that after Fudge spoke for about five minutes you could “hear a pin drop”.
Cleaver said the “revolutionary” advancement of the as-yet-unfinished social spending bill would sell itself over time, claiming the programs it contained couldn’t be compared to anything he’d seen in nearly two decades. “As soon as they get a clear picture of what is in this law,” he said of the public, “they will adopt it.”
But America will have to wait for the Democrats to iron out their differences.
Biden’s decision to remove key provisions from the Social Expenditure Act was intended to act as a catalyst to bring his party together and create a launch pad to rally allies behind a plan that will be the cornerstone of their case in the interim phase.
“You have to measure it against zero – do against nothing,” said Matt Bennett of the centrist group Third Way, who along with other external White House allies said it was time for the Democrats to let go of politics, the Biden out the frame or risk self-sabotage.
“And the difference between zero and … investing in climate and working-class families is really what we’re talking about here,” added Bennett. “You will have to put that aside and decide that it is much more important to highlight the positive for both political and substantive reasons.”