President BidenJoe Biden White House: US has donated 200 million COVID-19 vaccines around the world Police recommend charges against four over Sinema bathroom protest K Street revenues boom MORE is getting off the sidelines in selling his economic agenda this week after one of the most difficult periods of his presidency thus far.
Biden is down in the polls and facing a quagmire over the debt ceiling and how to get a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a reconciliation package through Congress. He spent last week largely out of the public eye as the White House navigated a battle between centrists and liberals in the Democratic Party.
But the president will now take a more active role in front of the cameras as he seeks to unify the party, pass his agenda and put Republicans on the defensive, including with a trip to the swing state of Michigan on Tuesday.
Some Democrats have been waiting for weeks to see Biden get more engaged beyond the private meetings he’s held at the White House with Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinK Street revenues boom Biden champions economic plan as Democrats scale back ambitions On The Money — Democrats eye tough choices as deadline looms MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaPolice recommend charges against four over Sinema bathroom protest K Street revenues boom On The Money — Democrats eye tough choices as deadline looms MORE (D-Ariz.), warning of the potential fallout down the road if his agenda remains stalled.
“I think it’s important that all of these things get done,” said one Democratic strategist close to the White House. “The infrastructure bill, because it’s bipartisan, is going to impact people. But I think if they don’t do reconciliation, you're going to see a lot of pissed off progressives not voting or primarying people.”
“You need those people to come out in the midterm election,” the strategist added. “I think Biden needs both, and I think most Democrats want to see him out there.”
Biden was rarely seen in public last week amid intraparty sparring about how to clear the Senate-passed infrastructure bill and get a vote on the larger reconciliation package. He made private phone calls and held closed-door meetings until Friday, when he went to Capitol Hill to urge Democrats to get both pieces of legislation to his desk but without setting a timeline.
After those largely hands-off tactics frustrated some in the party, Biden has taken on a greater sense of urgency.
“We wish he would have gotten involved in this publicly earlier because it’s what he campaigned on,” said Paco Fabian, director of campaigns at the progressive group Our Revolution.
“But now that he’s doing it, it’s great,” Fabian said. “The message needs to be, ‘We have to pass both bills.’ ”
After excoriating Republicans on Monday for their refusal to raise the debt limit, Biden will spend the rest of the week publicly promoting his agenda, starting with a trip to Michigan, a state Democrats will likely need to win in 2024 to have a chance at holding on to the White House.
White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiRegional powers rally behind Taliban's request for humanitarian aid Cawthorn, Lee introduce bills banning interstate travel vaccine mandate Biden, Democrats risk everything unless they follow the Clinton pivot (they won't) MORE told reporters Monday that Biden chose Michigan for his first stop this week because it’s a state that would benefit from both the infrastructure bill and the larger reconciliation package encompassing the rest of his economic agenda.
Psaki noted that people living in Michigan spend an extra 60 percent of their time commuting because of needs for updates to transit systems and that nearly 10 percent don’t have access to broadband and 44 percent live in what she described as “child care deserts.”
“He wants to go out there and talk about the components and the pieces of these bills that will make people’s lives better even as we are having very important conversations about the legislative logistics here,” Psaki said.
Biden’s speech on Tuesday will mark the first time in almost three weeks that he has hit the road to sell his economic agenda. His last such trip took place in mid-September and focused on highlighting the connection between recent extreme weather events and climate change to promote the environment-related provisions of his agenda. Biden had otherwise been occupied by the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan for much of August.
Psaki said Monday that Biden believed it was important over the last two weeks to be engaging with lawmakers about his agenda but that now was the time for him to remind people “what this is all about, why he is fighting so hard for it, why there’s important debates and discussions about what are in these two important packages.”
The president faces a difficult task selling lawmakers on compromise and selling voters on an expansive reconciliation bill, the size and scope of which is still a moving target amid ongoing negotiations.
Biden met virtually with House progressives on Monday and is expected to host a similar meeting with moderates later in the week.
For her part, Vice President Harris visited a Cuban cafe in Washington, D.C., to push both the infrastructure bill and the reconciliation package. She emphasized the importance of improving transit systems and expanding access to child care to help workers and small and medium-sized businesses thrive.
Some Democrats say the White House needs to streamline its messaging of the massive reconciliation bill.
“People could describe the American Rescue Plan in two words: vaccines and checks. This has to get to that too,” said Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way. “The centerpiece is middle-class tax cuts, and that should be what people know about this bill.”
“It’s an important policy and a popular policy. Own it and drive it home. Let Republicans be the ones who want to take your checks away,” Kessler said.
For Biden, the week ahead is as much about selling the public on his policies as it is about striking a deal with lawmakers. In addition to the Michigan trip, Biden will address the forthcoming September jobs report on Friday, and he is meeting with House members during the week as Democrats chart how to pass both the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that the Senate already passed and the larger reconciliation package that has yet to receive a vote in either chamber.
Some moderates in the House expressed frustration after Biden’s remarks to the Democratic caucus on Friday in which he appeared to side with progressives who have been holding out for commitments on the reconciliation deal before agreeing to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
But Biden, whom some in the party viewed as a closer in the negotiations, downplayed the fallout of his visit to Capitol Hill and argued Monday the negotiations hinged on his ability to get Manchin and Sinema on board.
“I’ve been able to close the deal on 99 percent of my party. Two. Two people. That’s still under way,” Biden told reporters. “I don’t think there’s been a president who’s been able to close deals who’s been in a position where he has only 50 votes in the Senate and a bare majority in the House. This is a process. This is a process. We’ll get it done.”