Biden’s Early Technique – The New York Occasions
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Good Morning. Here’s why Joe Biden is no longer excited about bipartisan virus talks.
To understand the back and forth over President Biden’s Coronavirus Aid Bill, it is helpful to look back at a little story.
During Bill Clinton’s first few weeks as president, he pushed for legislation to reduce the deficit, lower interest rates and stimulate the economy. It didn’t get any Republican votes in the House or Senate, and wasn’t passed until Vice President Al Gore broke a 50:50 Senate tie.
In Barack Obama’s first few weeks as president, he pushed for legislation to stop the financial crisis and revitalize the economy. It received no votes from House Republicans and only three from Senate Republicans, one of whom (Arlen Specter) soon switched parties.
This week, when I first saw the Biden government’s unimpressed response to a coronavirus proposal from the Senate Republicans, I was puzzled. Biden sees himself as a dealmaker, and a president usually benefits from forging a bipartisan compromise.
So why isn’t Biden pursuing a two-step strategy – pour it into a bipartisan deal first, and then submit a Democratic bill that fills in the parts he thinks are missing? Instead, why does it seem leaned towards a single bill that would require only democratic support to pass?
The answer has a lot to do with history: For decades, Republicans in Congress have rejected – almost unanimously – any top priority of a new Democratic president. Biden and his aides believe they will play Charlie Brown in front of a Republican Lucy if they imagine that this time it will be something different.
The parties are not the same
Democrats, of course, also tend to oppose the policies of Republican presidents, and often try to hamper them. But there has really been a difference between the parties on the matter of the legal compromise lately. (What can be difficult for us journalists to recognize: We feel more comfortable when we portray the parties as mirror images of each other.)
In 2001, George W. Bush’s tax cut was backed by 12 Senate Democrats and 28 in the House of Representatives. His education bill also received significant democratic support, as did several virus aid laws during Donald Trump’s presidency. Some Democrats saw these bills as an opportunity to make political concessions.
Republicans have taken a different route. Perhaps the clearest example is Obamacare, the final version of which did not get Republican votes despite containing conservative ideas, and Obama was keen to include more in exchange for Republican support. But top Republicans, led by Senator Mitch McConnell, believed that any support for the law would strengthen and weaken Obama.
“It’s either bipartisan or not,” McConnell told the Times in 2010 about the strategy.
Count to 10
On the surface, it seems like something different this time around, as 10 Republican senators went to the White House on Monday to talk to Biden about a compromise virus bill. But that meeting may have been about show as well as substance on both sides.
Of the 10 Republicans, some – like Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney – have on occasion sided with the Democrats on one important point. Others, however, haven’t – including Jerry Moran from Kansas, Mike Rounds from South Dakota, and Todd Young from Indiana. And Biden would take at least 10 Republican votes to beat a filibuster. With less, he would return to the same 51-vote strategy (known as reconciliation) that he appears to be pursuing now.
The Democrats’ central fear is a repeat of Obamacare in which months of negotiations in 2009 nonetheless ended with no Republican support. Biden would then have wasted his first few months in office – and the country would have gone without extra money on vaccinations, virus testing, unemployment insurance and more.
Carl Hulse, the Times’ chief correspondent in Washington, told me, “Democrats, including many who are now in the White House, remember 2009 very well and fear they would be lined up for months only to get away empty-handed . That’s not to say Republicans don’t negotiate in good faith, but keeping these 10 together could be tough. “
Biden himself made the same point in private conversations. “He was basically saying,” I don’t want to go the path we went in 2009 when we were negotiating for eight months and we still had no product, “said Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia on the morning of Joe” yesterday.
One more point: Neither side has yet committed to a strategy. If the Democrats continue with the reconciliation approach, they and the Republicans can continue negotiating the content of the law. Bush used the reconciliation for his 2001 tax cut and still got 40 votes from Congressional Democrats in the end.
The newest: Biden met with Congressional Democrats in the White House yesterday. He said he was open to restricting his proposed checks above $ 1,400 per person, but not reducing the maximum amount. “I’m not going to start my administration by breaking a promise to people,” said Biden.
THE LATEST NEWS
The House will vote today on whether Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene should be exempted from two committee seats. Prior to her election, Greene advocated calls for the execution of democratic politicians and the spread of conspiracy theories.
Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader of the House, declined to withdraw Greene’s mandate himself.
House Republicans voted secretly to keep Rep. Liz Cheney, Republican No. 3, in her leadership position. Cheney voted last month to indict President Donald Trump.
Other great stories
A morning reading: Just because an apartment costs tens of millions of dollars doesn’t mean it won’t leak or creak. Welcome to life in a supertall tower.
From the opinion: The introduction of vaccines in Europe was even slower than in the US. The French journalist Sylvie Kauffmann explains.
Lived life: Barry Lewis’ walking tours of New York City made him a local celebrity. He loathed academic jargon: the Jefferson Market Library was a punk structure for its time; The Ford Foundation building was “so purely reductionist that it was practically Zen”. Lewis died at the age of 75.
ART AND IDEAS
The #FreeBritney movement
Britney Spears is in an unusual position and not just because she is a famous pop star. Since 2008 – when she was 26 years old and in the midst of a public collapse that dominated the tabloids – she has been in a conservatory, a complex legal regime normally reserved for the elderly or the sick.
As a result, she cannot make many personal or financial decisions, including mundane purchases like a Starbucks coffee, without the supervision of court-appointed legal guardians. One of them is her father James Spears.
The singer’s fans are increasingly critical of the restrictions with the hashtag #FreeBritney. They point out that Spears is acting like a functioning adult: she toured, released albums, appeared on television and played a top hits show in Las Vegas. Some fans have visited YouTube and Instagram, arguing that the pop star is being exploited.
39-year-old Spears had rarely spoken up until last year when looking for significant changes in court. In November, a judge denied her motion to remove her father as head of her estate, although future hearings are likely.
For more: A New York Times documentary explores the strife and life of Spears. You can watch it tomorrow at 10 p.m. Eastern on FX or stream it on Hulu.
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