Jacobin - June 29, 2021
... After soaking up yet more whooping acclaim for a $2.3 trillion plan he released at the end of March, Biden then killed the bill’s momentum by wasting three months repeating the exact Obama-era mistake Democrats had expressly said they wouldn’t repeat: trying to get Republican sign-on to the bill at any cost, and negotiating it down chunk by chunk until it was no longer recognizable. That process mercifully came to an end last week, when Biden stepped out to the podium with a bipartisan group of conservative lawmakers and announced a deal had been struck.
“Neither side got everything they wanted in this deal, and that’s what it means to compromise,” an elated Biden told the press, stressing that it “signals to ourselves and to the world that American democracy can deliver. […] There’s not a single thing beyond our capacity that we aren’t able to do when we do it together.”
This is consistent with what behind-the-scenes reporting has told us about this White House. Namely, that while most people reading this might view the best prospect for stopping a right-wing resurgence in the 2022 midterms and beyond as delivering on the platform Biden ran on and actually improving people’s lives, the president sees it differently. He instead believes voters will be motivated to reward him and his party if he can show that compromise and bipartisan dealmaking are still possible in Washington. Yes, really.
It calls to mind another one of Biden’s bipartisan deals, struck all the way back in 2010 as Obama’s vice president, when both unemployment insurance and Bush’s tax cuts for the rich were set to go over a cliff. Biden struck a deal with Mitch McConnell so lopsided in Republicans’ favor that even a conservative Democrat like Dianne Feinstein was outraged over what the party was being asked to swallow. Biden then pointed to the deal as proof “the process worked,” as an understandably smiling McConnell looked on.
The only reason we’re not guaranteed to watch helplessly as history repeats itself is that Democrats’ slim majorities in the House and Senate have given the party’s left wing some leverage. In order to keep Democrats from abandoning the bipartisan deal he covets, Biden has had to pledge to pass the much bigger plan he originally proposed in tandem with this deal, pushing through all the progressive priorities that have been thought cut from his deal now through the budget reconciliation process on a purely party-line vote. Biden repeated that pledge last week, stressing twice that the two bills would move through Congress together, and that he was “not going to rest until both get to my desk.”
So far so good. Biden could fool around with his irrelevant deal and pretend Washington still works, while the real work of dealing with the country’s pressing crises would be hammered out by Congressional Democrats and Senate budget committee chairman Bernie Sanders without his or the GOP’s interference. ...
Read full report at Jacobin