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Partisan divides widen in Biden's first 100 days

Partisan divides widen in Biden's first 100 days
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When President BidenJoe BidenBiden says Beau's assessment of first 100 days would be 'Be who you are' Biden: McCarthy's support of Cheney ouster is 'above my pay grade' Conservative group sues over prioritization of women, minorities for restaurant aid MORE addresses a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, he will do so having failed to act on one of his biggest campaign promises: to unify the country and reach across party lines. 

Instead, Biden will visit Congress and speak to a country seemingly just as divided as it was during last year’s presidential campaign and the polarizing months that followed.

Biden has yet to reach a compromise with Republicans on any legislative action, including the COVID-19 relief bill, which passed earlier this year with no GOP votes after Republicans offered a bill less than a third the size of the one favored by the White House.

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There are some signs that Biden and Republicans may be able to strike a deal on infrastructure or police reform. But there is plenty of skepticism, too.

“Biden was seen as the re-unifier, someone who could bring the country back together. To some extent that’s stock rhetoric, but it wasn’t stock rhetoric to Biden,” said William Galston, a senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution and a policy adviser in former President Clinton's White House. “It turns out that as of now, the partisan divisions under Biden are more pronounced than they have ever been.”

In the lead up to Biden’s address this week, Republicans have been calling the president out, seizing on what they say is an unwillingness to reach across the aisle. 

“If I look at the 100 days, it’s more like a bait and switch,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyWarren says Republican party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' Biden: McCarthy's support of Cheney ouster is 'above my pay grade' On The Money: Inflation jumps at fastest pace since 2008 | Biden 'encouraged' on bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (R-Calif.) said on "Fox News Sunday." “The bait was he was going to govern as bipartisan, but the switch is he’s governed as a socialist.” 

The White House and Democrats reject such assertions and blame Republicans for the lack of cooperation so far. The GOP remains badly divided in the post-Trump era, with battles over the former president tearing at the party.

Biden hasn’t given up on getting deals with the GOP.

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In his speech on Wednesday night, which falls a day before his 100th day in office, Biden will emphasize his willingness to work with Republicans, though he’ll also repeat his administration’s argument that backing ideas with bipartisan support counts as bipartisanship.

“Bipartisanship doesn’t just happen in Washington,” said one longtime Biden adviser. “This doesn’t mean he’ll stop trying to work with Republicans in Washington. The White House is talking to Republicans every day. But not every Republican is in the Senate.” 

Moderate Republicans say they are open to working with Biden. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting Senate votes to repeal OCC 'true lender' rule Top female GOP senator compares Cheney ousting to 'cancel culture' MORE (R-Maine), who took the lead in trying to reach a deal with the president on a scaled-down COVID-19 relief package earlier this year, said she wants Biden to recommit himself to working with the GOP.

“I want to hear him outline clearly a commitment to bipartisanship in pursuing the remainder of his agenda,” she said. “I really liked his inaugural speech but thus far the administration has gone in a different direction and I want to see him pledge to be the unifier that he promised us he would be and outline specific steps on how he plans to accomplish that.”

Collins was one of 10 Republican senators who met with Biden on Feb. 1 to discuss the COVID-19 relief bill.

The senior moderate Republican senator later said she was encouraged by that meeting but felt Biden’s desire to work with GOP lawmakers was undercut by White House chief of staff Ron KlainRon KlainBiden sees Trump rematch as real possibility White House says Biden won't 'underestimate Trump' if he runs in 2024 House Republicans urge opposition to vaccine patent waiver MORE and Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney sideshow distracts from important battle over Democrats' partisan voting bill MORE (D-N.Y.).

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoEPA water nominee commits to 'enduring solutions' in confirmation hearing Biden meets for first time with 'Big Four' congressional leaders The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting MORE (R-W.Va.), who is now leading a similar effort to strike a compromise with Biden on a more targeted infrastructure spending package, says she wants Biden to be more specific about how far he is willing to go.

Capito noted that Biden has “said a lot on bipartisanship” but his administration hasn’t followed it up by working closely with GOP senators to produce legislation that can attract strong bipartisan support.

“Give me some specificity in this area of infrastructure if you’re really willing to look” at a Republican proposal, she said.

“I’m sure he’ll talk about bipartisanship,” she said, but added it would be interesting to see if “he does it in a specific manner” and details “where he thinks we have our best opportunities.”

Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsBiden to go one-on-one with Manchin US, Iran signal possible breakthroughs in nuke talks How the United States can pass Civics 101 MORE (D-Del.), one of Biden’s closest allies, said he expects Biden to talk about the importance of bipartisanship but he also anticipates the president will challenge the Republican critique that he hasn’t made a real effort to work across the aisle.

“I’ve seen him over and over put in the time, do the outreach, do the work. So yes, I would welcome a recognition of the importance of bipartisanship to pursuing meaningful solutions on everything from immigration to climate, but I also frankly expect him to challenge my Republican colleagues to come forward with concrete and enactable ideas,” he said.

He also noted that Democratic lawmakers don’t want a repeat of former President Obama’s unsuccessful efforts to reach a deal with Republicans on healthcare. 

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinIs the Constitution in the way of DC statehood? Biden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Joe Manchin is wrong — D.C. statehood is constitutional MORE (D-W.Va.), the toughest Democratic swing vote that Biden has to nail down in the Senate, said he expects Biden to revive the topic of infrastructure on Wednesday night, despite repeated Republican attacks on his $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal.

“I think it will be a good speech,” he said, adding that he wants Biden to pledge “we’re going to do something bipartisan.”

“It’s about time we do something bipartisan,” he added.

Asked if Biden would make such a pledge after the partisan battle over COVID-19 relief, Manchin said: “I think he will. That’s in his heart and soul.”