Thank goodness President Joe Biden had a front-row seat to GOP obstruction in the Obama administration. In every instance, from negotiations over the stimulus to health care reform, Republicans proved untrustworthy, unmovable, and insufferable. Biden’s main takeaway—as proven by Democrats’ swift action on pandemic relief—was to never ever wait for Republicans.
That axiom appears to be guiding the White House on Biden’s next initiatives too, and there’s absolutely no reason to rethink it. The overwhelming popularity of the American Rescue Plan both before and after passage was proof positive that when government benefits starts flowing, no one sits around and thinks, “I wonder if this was passed through reconciliation.” Or, “I wonder how many Republicans voted for this.” In fact, Biden’s rescue plan continues to be so popular now that GOP lawmakers are busy trying to take credit for the relief they uniformly tried to kill.
So yeah, when the same Republicans who obstructed your last effort are busy trying to reap the benefits of your work, you can be assured that your instincts were exactly right—you had a good plan and they’re not honest brokers.
“The lesson that this team learned, beginning with President Biden, from that experience is that there is a cost to waiting too long,” the former press secretary to Obama, Jay Carney, told Politico. “I think everyone is much more realistic about whether bipartisan cooperation is possible.”
In essence, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
According to Biden’s top aides, the president is convinced that delivering real results for voters is more important than any symbolism associated with getting a few token GOP votes on any given bill. President Biden also appears to be painfully aware that the window of opportunity he has now to accomplish things will likely close rather quickly.
For now, Biden is keeping talks open with Republicans about the roughly $4 trillion in investments he’s proposing while keeping a party-line reconciliation vote at the ready. In fact, Politico reports that Biden could pull the trigger on that plan “within weeks.”
So far, Republicans have made a counter offer of less than $600 billion, which is a mere fraction of what Biden is proposing. And frankly, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell likely made Biden’s process a lot easier Monday when he told reporters in Louisville that Republicans were “open to doing a roughly $600 billion package,” but nothing more. McConnell added that Republicans wouldn’t sign on to anything that included rolling back their 2017 tax cuts (i.e. windfall for the rich).
Given the White House’s stated priorities, McConnell’s remarks were tantamount to declaring the deal dead.
So as the White House hosts Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the coming weeks to discuss Biden’s next big plan, the truth is the bigger negotiations may be taking place right now with Democratic holdouts like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
While the White House has acknowledged that the president’s next priorities will take longer to push through than pandemic relief did, Biden and his aides also know that letting any of that effort bleed into 2022 is a mistake. By early next year, everyone in Washington will be eyeing the midterms, and that can give lawmakers cold feet—particularly on big-ticket items that could reshape the economy for decades to come.