WASHINGTON – In an attempt to align his unity speech with his quest for a bold agenda, President Joe Biden has been selling his $ 1.9 trillion Covid-19 package as a bipartisan.
But that message became a harsh reality early Saturday morning when the House passed the bill, without a single Republican vote.
In recent weeks, Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, has organized the White House courier apparatus to argue that the president’s aid package is bipartisan, not because no Republican lawmaker has signed, but because polls show which has the support of a large majority of the public, and because some Republicans mayors and officials outside of Washington have backed him.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where it also has no support from the Republican Party.
Klain has repeatedly cited polls in the face of criticism for pursuing a partisan line approach.
White House Chief Digital Officer Rob Flaherty saying On Wednesday, that Covid’s plan is “extremely bipartisan,” citing a Morning Consult poll that showed 76 percent public support, including 60 percent of self-identified Republicans.
While the Democrats can pass it without the Republicans if they stick together, the dynamic points to a bigger fight for Biden: The Republican “epiphany” he predicted shows no signs of materializing. And his agenda is likely to run up against the kind of full-blown partisan opposition that hounded Barack Obama as president.
When asked at a recent CNN town hall how he will heal a divided nation, Biden cited polls that found significant support among Republican voters for his Covid-19 plan. He said they show that the United States “is not as divided as we think.”
But those pleas did not move Republican lawmakers. His task is complicated by the fact that large numbers of Republican voters falsely say he lost the 2020 election and, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll, want their leaders to confront him rather than close deals.
“That’s an interesting approach,” said former Senate Republican budget staff Bill Hoagland. “What they are saying is that the Republicans here are not representing their constituents at home, and therefore we must listen to the constituents.”
Hoagland, now at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said that bipartisanship in Washington has historically meant winning votes from the other party. He said he has never seen it defined by polls during his 25 years working on Capitol Hill, calling Biden’s version “an interesting twist in the legislative and democratic process.”
But many progressives like the new approach, including those who criticized Biden’s speech on unity.
“I think he’s super smart,” said Adam Jentleson, former aide to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. “If you let Mitch McConnell define what is bipartisan, nothing will be. Defining it based on public opinion is precise and opens the door to do great things. “
‘You can’t have both’
Frustration has spread to Republicans on Capitol Hill who expected Biden to cut his $ 1.9 trillion package to win their support, but those conversations dissolved after Biden decided his $ 618 billion plan was too small. to address the crisis.
“No matter how many times they tweet about it, unelected White House employees cannot change the definition of ‘unity’ on their own. At some point, just have the courage to admit what you’re doing – pushing a partisan bill through a partisan process, ”said a Republican aide familiar with the bipartisan Covid-19 aid talks. “You can’t have both.”
Matt Gorman, a Republican consultant and campaign operative, called Biden’s approach “too smart in the middle.”
As a candidate, Biden was often nostalgic about cross-party cooperation during his time in the Senate and said he would be a president working to revive that spirit. His tenure dates back to the 1970s and 1980s, an era when the two parties each had a broad mix of Liberals and Conservatives in their ranks, paving the way for bipartisan coalitions. That is not the case today.
“President Biden promised unity, but Democrats are delivering on one-party rule,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, said before two Democrats joined his entire group to vote against the bill.
In his inaugural address last month, Biden used the word “unity” eight times and said, “We have never, never, failed in America when we have acted together.”
On February 2, Klain aforementioned a Yahoo News / YouGov poll showing that more than two-thirds of Americans support the policies of its American Rescue Plan. “This IS a bipartisan agenda,” he tweeted.
In a recent meeting with union leaders in the Oval Office, Biden said that “according to poll data,” Americans “want everything in the plan, not a joke.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has received questions from reporters in her daily reports about whether Biden’s promise to pursue a Covid-19 bill in a party line vote breaks her promise to find. common ground.
“He did not deliver on his promise to unite the Democratic and Republican Party into one party in Washington,” Psaki said on February 5. “This package has the vast majority of support from the American public.”