Yesterday, Ashley Parker and Matt Viser quoted former Harry Reid staffer Adam Jentleson: “There is a leadership vacuum right now, and Biden’s not filling it… I sympathize with the argument that there’s very little they can do legislatively. But in moments of crisis, the president is called upon to be a leader. And when people are feeling scared and angry and outraged, they look to him for that, and they’re not getting much.” Instead, he’s allowed Joe Manchin— with Mitch McConnell lurking in the background— take over the presidency. They’re even calling his signature domestic program “Build Back Manchin.” Biden— a nice old man and, clearly the second worst president in our lifetimes. If ever there was a man not for the moment…
This is how Politico opened the day: “Biden (and Democrats) need a vibe shift — fast. They want the president to reflect their anger and angst. They want him to project strength and that he has a plan for meaningful action. They want him to pick fights at the right time with the right opponents, messaging on themes that get reinforced time and again… Perhaps no issue better encapsulates the Biden administration’s viewpoint and tactics than how it has chosen to tackle the epidemic of gun violence. The president makes no secret of his bolder legislative ambitions. … But those efforts have been stymied by Republicans in Congress, and he has had to balance dueling demands: righteous indignation of fellow Democrats and the plodding, incremental progress that comes with bipartisan compromise… [Some Democrats] fear that Biden remains trapped in a prior age of political decorum and unquestioning fealty to institutions and has been slow to recognize the existential threat felt by some of his supporters… In the view of many distraught Democrats, the country is facing a full-blown crisis on a range of fronts, and Biden seems unable or unwilling to respond with appropriate force. Democracy is under attack, they say, as Republicans change election rules and the Supreme Court rapidly rewrites America law… ‘Rudderless, aimless and hopeless’ is how one member of Congress described the White House. Two dozen leading Democratic politicians and operatives, as well as several within the West Wing, tell CNN they feel this goes deeper than questions of ideology and posture. Instead, they say, it gets to questions of basic management.”
There are a few Republican sociopaths and fascists leaving Congress in January, 2022. Madison Cawthorn (NC) lost is primary, as did Mo Brooks (AL), Jody Hice (GA) and Louie Gohmert (TX), albeit in dismally failed quests for higher office. Good riddance to these extremists! But most of the Republicans retiring— either voluntarily or because they lost their primaries— are more mainstream than fascist. David McKinley (WV), Rodney Davis (IL), Fred Upton (MI), Adam Kinzinger (IL), John Katko (NY), Anthony Gonzalez (OH), Trey Hollingsworth (IN), Chris Jacobs (NY), Bob Gibbs (OH), even Kevin Brady (TX) are all mainstream conservatives from the shrunken governing wing of the GOP.
Jordain Carney, writing for Politico yesterday looked at which Republicans willing to make deals with Democrats will be left. I don’t think there will be many of them. Carney began with North Dakota conservative backbencher (neither a fascist nor a bomb-thrower) Republican Kelly Armstrong. Carney described Tom Cole (R-OK) as “the type of old-school pragmatist now nearly extinct in Congress.” Cole told him that “Everything has to be a deal. If you can’t make a deal, you’re not going to be able to play… It will be a big test as to whether you want to govern, whether you want to make a difference or make a point.”
House Republicans may have a hard time passing Cole’s test at first. They’re set to lose some of their longest-serving members to a combination of retirements and election losses, sapping institutional knowledge. Meanwhile, the GOP’s center of gravity is shifting ever rightward.
But members of the House’s so-called mod squad say they already have a model for crafting deals: last year’s Senate-led infrastructure bill.
“One hundred percent. It’s exhibit A. You had a two-party solution— bipartisan, bicameral,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
Negotiated by a group of centrists, the bill, which provided $550 billion in new spending, passed the House despite opposition from a handful of progressives thanks to the votes of 13 Republicans.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) pointed to infrastructure as a “prototype” for tackling bigger, more politically fraught issues, including health care and border security.
“We’ve got to work with Democrats, probably water down a little of what we want to get enough Dems on board,” Bacon said.
Fitzpatrick and Bacon are two of only a handful of Republicans in Biden-won districts. Other Republicans in that camp include Reps. David Valadao (CA), Young Kim (CA) and María Salazar (FL), who will be potential deal-makers to watch if they win in November.
They have influential Senate counterparts in the ideological center, allies who can pay off in eras of divided government. But moderates in the 50-50 Senate have found their leaders remarkably open to giving them space for compromise on issues like infrastructure and guns. Things are different in the majoritarian House, where moderates have their work cut out for them winning over their leadership.
…Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), who is in line to chair the Financial Services Committee next year if the GOP takes over, wants to tackle a follow-up to a 2012 small-business law he singled out as the “only bipartisan piece of legislation” to gain momentum during the two years following the 2010 GOP wave that flipped the House.
“Something similar could happen next Congress with a Republican House driving forward and a Democrat administration willing to play ball. And I think that would be useful,” McHenry said in an interview.
Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), who wants to chair the Budget Committee in a GOP House, pointed to drug pricing as one path for bipartisanship. Republicans reintroduced their own bill last year, which he expects to be revived next year after House Democrats sidelined it.
“Our policies are different and our priorities are different, but, again, we realize that we’ve got to work with them,” Carter said.
Republicans see other areas outside of the spotlight, including data privacy, digital assets and mental health, as equally fertile ground. And there’s a laundry list of must-pass bills next year, including funding the government, the debt ceiling, a sweeping defense policy bill and a farm bill that must be reauthorized.
That won’t help Republicans with their biggest challenge: counting amenable votes.
Of the 13 Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill, only six are poised to be in the House next year. And of the 10 Republicans ranked as most bipartisan by The Lugar Center - McCourt School of Bipartisan Index, five have either died, retired or lost a primary.
The numbers are bleaker for Republicans who voted to impeach Trump: Five are poised to no longer be in Congress. A sixth, Rep. Liz Cheney (WY), is at risk of losing her primary. Three more could also lose their seats between now and November.
And some of their colleagues are skeptical anything can get done next year.
“Frankly, when it comes to policy, tell me what the Biden White House is going to work with us on. There’s nothing we agree with them on,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who is up for the Judiciary Committee gavel.
But the potential deal-makers are hoping to convince their colleagues, and even their voters, that legislative agreement is good politics.
This new ad, released yesterday by right-wing Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a candidate for Senate, is typical of what Republicans are offering instead of even make-believe bipartisan cooperation: