Almost the whole time I was growing up, the Democrats controlled Congress. There were more Democrats in the House and more Democrats in the Senate. Unfortunately real control rested not with the Democrats but with a conservative coalition of Republicans and right-wing Manchin-and-Sinema-like Democrats. Today the Senate is in a similar situation. Technically, the Democrats are in charge but when it comes to Biden's agenda, a great deal of power rests with a conservative coalition. Manchin, for example, just ended whatever chance there was for DC statehood, as he and Sinema had done early for raising the minimum wage. When I mentioned it today some clueless Democratic political consultant, deceived into thinking she's "a liberal," praised Manchin, persuaded Democrats are lucky to have him.
Today, a top Washington Post team-- Matt Viser, Annie Linskey and Seung Min Kim-- reported that Democrats are giving up on whatever progressive vision was included in the infrastructure bill and adopting a stilted, Austeritarin GOP vision instead. Because conservative Democrats like Manchin, Sinema, Maggie Hassan, Tom Carper, Angus King, Chris Coons, Mark Warner and Jeanne Shaheen are pushing the Democrats forever right-ward, Biden and Schumer have started waving the white flag. The details will be ugly as the Democrats supposedly give up desperately needed advancements in the name of pointless anti-working class "bipartisanship."
Viser's team reported that "Among those actively talking to congressional Republicans are Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Christopher Coons (D-DE), a longtime friend of Biden’s who is in frequent contact with the White House. Buttigieg has spoken to more than 20 members of Congress about the infrastructure plan, an aide said. The new, more conciliatory strategy stands in sharp contrast with Democrats’ approach to the covid relief package, which they viewed as more urgent and pushed through quickly with no Republican votes. It reflects Biden’s strong desire to head into the 2022 midterms with at least one bipartisan achievement, as well as the anxiety of some centrist Democrats about Biden’s sweeping plans. 'We have a little more time for the consideration of this, and the percolation of these proposals, to have broader consultation and dialogue,' said [filthy corrupt lobbyist Biden buddy] Steve Ricchetti, a top White House aide. 'There’s more receptivity on the Republican side to having that dialogue, and they also see the potential to reach some common ground here.'"
The conservatives will cut the proposal to ribbons and Biden will then watch an inadequate and disappointing bill pass without any Republican votes anyway, other than maybe a one or two laughable outliers like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. "McConnell," noted the Post team, "has a history of working to deny a Democratic president bipartisan achievements." On top of that, corrupt conservatives on both sides of the aisle will do anything it takes to protect their donors from increased taxes. That's the bottom line.
Some Democrats are hunting for a framework to sell the infrastructure proposals that doesn’t sound too liberal, hoping to frame it as what they call “bold moderation,” which they hope might be less objectionable to centrists of both parties.
These early moves provide a clue as to how Biden will approach the next phase of his presidency, coming off a first 100 days dominated by the coronavirus. While his initial actions were cheered by many on the left, the new strategy reflects calls from moderate Democrats to show a greater openness to bipartisan compromise.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, along with Ricchetti, has invited moderate lawmakers to the White House for talks. And Ricchetti has been spotted in the halls of Congress meeting with top Republicans on infrastructure matters.
Some of the outreach involves contacts between individual senators on specific issues. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), for example, said she’s been in touch with GOP colleagues in search of infrastructure items they might support, like rural broadband.
“It’s a starting point,” she said of Biden’s proposals.
Biden’s new approach is driven in part by the alarm of Republicans and some moderate Democrats over the reach and scope of several of his early proposals.
Biden last week introduced a $1.8 trillion plan for a significant expansion of the federal safety net, along with an array of new taxes to pay for it.
In his recent speech to Congress, Biden argued for action to enhance racial equity, further restrict gun sales and impose new checks on police officers. That came a week after a far-reaching climate plan that would transform much of the U.S. economy.
Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a centrist Democrat [The Post notoriously uses the words "centrist" and "moderate" to describe right-wing Democrats who are completely out-of-touch with mainstream American thought], said he had concerns with the expansive vision that Biden outlined in his speech.
Regarding tax hikes, Manchin said, “you want make sure you’re competitive.” He added, “[If] there’s something you’re missing, if there’s loopholes or this or that. . . But just raising the rate-- it’d be the highest rate in the world. Not the best idea in the world.
Democrats cannot pass any legislation without Manchin’s support in the 50-50 Senate, and he has made it clear he considers Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan far too big.
“That makes me very uncomfortable,” he said. “Are we going to be able to be competitive and be able to pay for what we need in the country? We’ve got to figure out what our needs are, and maybe make some adjustments.”
Capito, his fellow West Virginian, is emerging as another critical partner for Biden. Her $35 billion water infrastructure bill cleared the Senate last week, a move that many lawmakers saw as potentially the start of a partisan thaw.
[This is a joke that only the Beltway media laughs.]
Biden spoke with Capito about infrastructure on Thursday, praising of their talk afterward. “We had a good conversation,” he told reporters, adding that he invited Capito to come to the White House as early as next week. “She seemed very serious and very positive about wanting to do something about it.”
...All this jockeying makes some liberals nervous that Biden’s overtures could lead to a significantly smaller infrastructure package than his initial $2.25 trillion proposal. A bipartisan bill-- particularly one focused on roads, bridges and Internet-- could sap the energy for a larger package containing liberal priorities like elder care and child care, they fear.
“The president has laid out so well what we need to get done to build back better and create good union jobs,” said Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI). “If the GOP wants to work with us to achieve that vision, I’m all for it. But I don’t think we should let their opposition force us to do less.”
For Biden, the stakes are higher than a single infrastructure bill. He hopes to use the next phase of his administration to help restore faith in government, a potential counter to the decades-long argument by Republicans that government always must be sharply limited.
“Being the ‘no party’ works if people are convinced government can’t do any good,” said Joe Trippi, a veteran Democratic consultant. “Then the no party actually can succeed-- and not only succeed, but elect a Donald Trump to try and take the whole damn thing down.”
But the country may be in a different place, Trippi added. Americans relied on the Trump administration to oversee the rapid development of a vaccine and the Biden team to ramp up production and distribution. There are elevated concerns about climate change and widespread support for fixing infrastructure.
“None of those are doable without the government being effective,” Trippi said. “There’s a realization that someone who knows what they’re doing and understands how government works-- maybe they can make it work in a way that’s relevant to me and my life. That’s opened up a big window for him to try and get his agenda through.”
To that end, some Democrats are pushing to undo the perception that any big program is inherently liberal. “Joe Biden is defining what it means to be a moderate in this moment, the way that Bill Clinton did in 1993,” said Matt Bennett, a co-founder of Third Way, a centrist Democratic group.
Shaheen, who hails from a swing state, said that she tries to avoid labels like “liberal” or “moderate” when discussing the infrastructure plan back home in New Hampshire. Instead, she focuses on how the money can be spent to boost local communities.
“We’re just going to talk to as many people as are willing and want to engage on this, and see if we can find strong compromises that everybody feels they can support,” Richetti said.
Ricchetti is the Rahm Emanuel of the Biden administration. When corporate America needs help or when corrupt conservatives want something, they have a friend-- one of them-- in the White House... so be ready to fight, keep your expectations low.