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Republicans feared President Joe Biden would be relentless in enacting liberal policies with his congressional majorities, but Democratic division has thwarted him from turning that into a reality.
Now Biden, a 36-year Senate veteran and two-term vice president, must bring bickering Democrats together or his party's candidates may have no achievements to campaign on in the 2022 midterm elections. But so far, the president has had little success.
Biden and Democratic colleagues have "painted themselves into the proverbial corner" as centrists seek to appease liberals, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, according to former Republican Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp.
"If they are unable to pass the Biden-Bernie-AOC agenda, they will infuriate their radical, leftist base. But if they do pass their massive big government socialism scheme, they risk enraging the rest of America and set the stage for an election blowout in 2022," the ex-Tea Party Caucus chairman told the Washington Examiner.
"Democrats in disarray" has become a punchline to mock liberal dysfunction on Capitol Hill, according to political strategist Juven Jacob. But clearing comprehensive legislation is a challenge for any party "under the best of circumstances," he said.
"Add Democrats' narrow margin in the House and Senate, and it makes that task even more onerous," he added.
Jacob described Democrats as "a diverse, inclusive party." But he was confident they would coalesce behind the signature piece of Biden's so-called "Build Back Better" pitch: his $3.5 trillion social welfare and climate spending package.
Democrats are divided over the partisan proposal — which funds liberal initiatives, such as universal prekindergarten programs and free community college — particularly over its scope and price tag. Democratic dissension is delaying consideration of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bricks-and-mortar infrastructure deal.
Liberals have demanded that the bipartisan measure be tied to its reconciliation counterpart so that they have leverage to pressure centrists into supporting the latter.
"If any president can get these bills across the finish line, it's President Biden," Jacob said.
Politics and policy are "messy," according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki when asked how Biden was managing negotiations to keep the federal government open and ensure the country does not default on its loans.
"We're in the middle of navigating and weathering storms and dealing with crises. That's what a president should do, that's what an administration should do," Psaki told reporters Thursday. "We're not going to shy away from that, and that's what people elected him to get through."
Biden invited a range of liberal and centrist Democrats to the White House this week to find common ground. Afterward, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced the White House and Capitol Hill Democrats had agreed on "a framework that will pay for any final negotiated agreement." But Schumer did not provide details on what the arrangement entailed.
The White House welcomed the announcement. Press secretary Psaki heralded it as "progress" but referred reporters to Schumer for specifics. She also conceded there was "a lot of work ahead that will proceed over the rest of the day and the days ahead."
While some Democrats who attended the meetings praised Biden for having "a calming effect on people," others quipped about his negotiation approach.
“It’s Biden, so you know Joe does a fair amount of talking," one told Politico.
Biden has admitted to not understanding Republicans after former President Donald Trump. But the president's relationship with Democrats has been tested, with tensions over issues like his refugee cap and federal eviction ban. He also stepped on his accomplishment of brokering a bipartisan infrastructure pact this summer by threatening to veto it if it was not incorporated into a "two-track" strategy with reconciliation.
The delta variant COVID-19 case surge appears to be plateauing after Biden signed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus spending package into law. But congressional allies piled on to the president's responsibilities this week when New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker announced bipartisan police reform negotiations had broken down.
"The White House will continue to consult with the civil rights and law enforcement and civil rights communities, as well as victims’ families to define a path forward, including through potential further executive actions I can take to advance our efforts to live up to the American ideal of equal justice under law," Biden wrote in response.
Biden's preparations to roll out booster COVID-19 vaccines backfired when the Food and Drug Administration delayed its decision to approve the shots. The FDA then approved booster jabs for a narrower segment of the population than the president had planned.
Biden's domestic problems coincide with his foreign policy experience being undermined by his botched Afghanistan withdrawal and decision to exclude France from a new national security alliance with the U.K. and Australia.
France lost its billion-dollar diesel-electric submarine contract with Australia because of the alliance, wanting the president to acknowledge he could have communicated better with his country's oldest ally. However, the White House apportioned blame to Australia.
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Original Author: Naomi Lim
Original Location: Biden's reverse Midas touch threatens Democratic agenda