After victory, Biden seeks political rebound
President Biden is hoping to rebound from a challenging few months that saw the American public turn negative on his presidency by building momentum on the House passage on Friday of a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The White House and its allies see the pathway to a political recovery through passing his sweeping domestic policy agenda and helping the country turn a corner on a pandemic that has exhausted and ravaged the nation.
Part one came in Friday’s vote, when the House passed the long-stalled bipartisan infrastructure bill, paving the way for billions to be spent on projects around the country.
The House also set up part two, it hopes, by approving the rule that sets up debate on the larger social spending and climate change bill, which it hopes to approve the week of Nov. 15.
Democrats, however, say the political rebound depends on more than just passing bills. They argue that it is critical for Biden and his allies to better communicate to the public how the measures help the middle class.
Quickly and effectively implementing the measures will be key as well, Democrats say, in addition to addressing voters’ concerns about inflation and other frustrations.
“There’s a lesson from the 2010 midterm elections. Democrats were in the majority and passed TARP, a major stimulus bill, the affordable care act and a blizzard of bills,” former Rep. Steve Israel said. “The problem was that people didn’t see and feel the results until after the midterm election where they were routed. So the imperative for Democrats is get stuff passed, fast-track implementation and show tangible results in alleviating people’s anxieties.”
Biden reveled in the victory on Saturday, making it clear he saw an opportunity to turn his fortunes around following a week that began badly, with Democrats losing a gubernatorial contest in Virginia and just winning the state mansion in New Jersey.
“Finally, infrastructure week,” Biden said, taking a victory lap of sorts while nodding to the Trump administration and how they were never able to pass any legislation to rebuild roads and bridges. “I am so happy to say that.”
During his remarks from the State Dining Room, the president made it clear he believes passage of the infrastructure bill was a critical moment for turning the tide electorally.
“They want us to deliver, they want us to deliver, Democrats want us to deliver. Last night we proved we can,” he said in response to a question from a reporter. “I think the one message that came across was ‘Get something done. It’s time to get something done — stop talking.”
Democrats see the success of Biden’s presidency as critical to their midterm hopes. Passing major legislation gives them something to run on in 2022 and a popular president helps put wind in the sails of his party’s candidate, even when he isn’t physically on the ballot.
Biden allies acknowledge that it’s been a grim few months for the president, between the sloppy withdrawal from Afghanistan, to the mess at the Mexican border and the gridlock on Capitol Hill.
Even as the economy has rebounded, Americans are frustrated over inflation, goods shortages, high gas prices and the pandemic.
An NBC News poll released on Sunday found that 42 percent of U.S. adults approve of Biden’s job as president, down from 49 percent in August and 53 percent in April. The same survey found that seven in 10 believe the nation is on the wrong track, including almost half of Democrats.
Ryan Clancy, chief strategist at the political group No Labels, argued that support for Biden dampened in part because he lost momentum over the summer when the infrastructure bill passed the Senate but then stalled in the House.
“The lesson here is, you pocket the win when you can get it,” Clancy said.
The White House even before the good news in the House had the chance to tout some positive news on Friday when the Labor Department released data showing 531,000 jobs were added during the month of October — evidence of a strong recovery for the labor market.
Speaking on the report Friday, Biden acknowledged elected leaders need to do more to “tackle the costs that American families are facing.” He pointed to new analyses suggesting that his domestic agenda would lessen the inflationary pressures.
With the infrastructure bill passed, Biden now has a significant, concrete accomplishment to tout while Democrats debate the separate bill, which they ultimately intend to pass without Republican support through a cumbersome process known as budget reconciliation.
Biden suggested Saturday that he would sign the infrastructure bill at a ceremony as soon as next week and also visit U.S. ports to tout the package.
Biden has embarked on a handful of trips to sell his agenda to voters across the country, but communicating about the amorphous social spending package has been difficult because Democrats were forced to cut various provisions to slim it down. One day, Biden was touting the tuition-free community college provision — a pledge he made on the campaign trail — and it was axed from the bill the next.
Biden not only needs to pass his agenda but he needs to “spend the next 12 months selling the hell out of it,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who additionally argued that Biden needs to get more aggressive when it comes to action on other priorities.
“He also needs to use every weapon at his disposal, including filibuster reform to pass federal voting rights legislation,” he added. “These will be his defining domestic policy achievements and it is the best way for Democrats to go on offense against the stiff headwinds of the midterms.”
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