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Biden needs to follow his own advice: Compromise

Biden needs to follow his own advice: Compromise
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To the chagrin of Robert Frost fans, when President BidenJoe BidenMellman: Trump voters cling to 2020 tale FDA authorizes another batch of J&J vaccine Cotton warns of China collecting athletes' DNA at 2022 Olympics MORE had a chance to choose the path less traveled, he went the other way. 

Despite issuing 40 unilateral presidential directives in ten days that curried favor with his base, President Biden had a real opening to prove “unity” was not just a campaign slogan but a governing philosophy.

Once again, like his leadership partners Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Energy: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process Wednesday | Bipartisan bill would ban 'forever chemicals' in cosmetics | Biden admin eyes step toward Trump-era proposal for uranium reserve GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress MORE (D-N.Y.) and Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrat says he won't introduce resolution to censure Greene after her apology Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe 21 Republicans vote against awarding medals to police who defended Capitol on Jan. 6 MORE (D-Calif.), Joe Biden defaulted to time-worn habit instead of acceding to a fresh opportunity for change and progress.

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Monday afternoon, in a meeting between a President wielding majority power, and ten Republican senators armed only with pluck and purpose, a worthy GOP compromise to an unconscionably stalled stimulus package was discussed, then dismissed.

All agreed that fast relief to cash-starved individuals and job-threatened businesses was imperative. All concurred more funding for vaccines, testing, and personal protective equipment was needed.

The scope of the Republicans’ $618 billion proposal may appear smaller than the $1.9 trillion package fashioned by Senate Democrats, but in reality both provide a major shot of economic adrenalin for tens of millions of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of businesses. They differ in detail but not intent.

The GOP plan calls for $1,000 checks per adult targeted to lower incomes; the Democrats want $1,400 checks, but that includes higher income families and those with “mixed immigration status.” There’s clearly room here to negotiate.

Both want to extend unemployment benefits, but for different lengths of time (the GOP through June, Democrats through September). Both strive to provide more time for Americans out of work to get back to work.

And while both plans invest similarly in a national vaccine program, testing, and PPEs, Democrats call for hiring 100,000 more public health workers, while Republicans seek to replenish a depleted National Strategic Stockpile while increasing reimbursements to hospitals and providers on the front line.

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The biggest differences: Democrats are pushing for a $15 minimum wage hike despite small businesses on the ropes warning this would put them OUT of business; and while Democrats don’t want to include unspent COVID funds in calculating the total package, Republicans do (because we, the people, are the bank funding this relief).

Differences aside, this summit could have proven historic, with a compromise fashioned and shared purpose declared. Instead, the post-meeting headlines decry how the discussion proved futile because the result was foregone, a done deal.

That’s a bloody shame, given what this could have been and would have meant to Americans wearied by nearly a year of COVID and decades of political stubbornness.

While led by some of the familiar suspects – centrists Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process Wednesday | Bipartisan bill would ban 'forever chemicals' in cosmetics | Biden admin eyes step toward Trump-era proposal for uranium reserve Bipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to ban 'forever chemicals' in cosmetics as study finds them prevalent Cosmetic chemicals need a makeover MORE (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) – this merry band of “let’s get something done” Senate Republicans included down-the-line conservatives like Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungThis week: Democrats face fractures in spending fight Bipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua Senate passes long-delayed China bill MORE (R-Ind.), Bill CassidyBill CassidyHow Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress Pelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals What the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship MORE (R-La.), and Shelly Moore Capito of (R-W.Va.).

Together, they were ready to serve as “Exhibit A” in the President’s trial run of forging a more unified, civil, and purpose-driven society where the best ideas aren’t Democrat or Republican, but American, where compromise is a virtue and forgiveness not a sin.

We get it.

When confronted by change or challenged by progress, old line pols normally defer to old habits, that any new wrinkle — like independent thought, collective conscience, or hands across the political aisle — can be ironed out just by waiting it out.

The prevailing narrative is that if Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his partisan Senate allies don’t get their way — or Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisDemocrats learn hard truths about Capitol breach Harris calls for pathway to citizenship for Dreamers on DACA anniversary Abbott says he'll solicit public donations for border wall MORE’s, judging by her recent media missives aimed at wavering Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) – the Democrats will vote for their plan anyway, without ANY Republican support. None.

Do that, and all the president’s bravado about bipartisanship becomes self-serving blather. Declare that, and you declare there’s no room at the table for non-believers and non-conformists. Dish that, and all the bluster about achieving big things to overcome big challenges gives way to a realization nothing has changed but the name on the White House door.

Compromise, Mr. President, because the American public will rally to the cause. Listen and learn, Mr. President, and rediscover how great ideas don’t bear a political color but an American one.

It’s time for freedom to flourish again, breath again, inspire again, where the right to think, discuss and debate can be undertaken without dissing, demonizing and diminishing. 

Call the ten Republican senators back to the Oval Office, Mr. President. Tell them that while you’re still not on the same page, you will work around the clock to fashion something that will.

Take that path less traveled, Mr. President.

You’ll find you’re not alone.

Adam Goodman is a national Republican media strategist and columnist. He is a partner at Ballard Partners in Washington, D.C. He is also the first Edward R. Murrow senior fellow at Tufts University's Fletcher School. Follow him on Twitter @adamgoodman3