April 7, 2021
TRUENEWSBLOG – JOE BIDEN said on Tuesday that he gives MITCH McCONNELL “credit” for encouraging Republican men to get the Covid-19 vaccine. The White House twitter account has praised the Minority Leader for doing the same. Last week, meanwhile, McConnell called Biden a “friend” and a “first-rate person.” He’s never hidden his personal affection for his old Senate colleague.
But don’t mistake respectful Senate decorum as a sign that unity in Washington is materializing. McConnell and Biden may be in a period of mutual respect and mild detente. But things are about to get worse; much worse.
McConnell and Biden get along personallyand there is a level of trust among their senior staffers. Their private conversations have not leaked. But the two sides have been far less restrained when it comes to policy. And the level of pessimism about bipartisan legislative breakthroughs — at least in the short-term — among people around the two men has only grown since Biden took office.
The two camps are also at odds over which one of them is being divisive.
The White House insists McConnell is misleading in his charge that Biden’s agenda doesn’t have bipartisan support. And it brandishes polls showing their big bills have the backing of Republican voters in the country. “I urge the Congress, listen to your constituents,” Biden said today, citing said surveys.
White House deputy press secretary ANDREW BATES doubled-down on that argument in a statement to Transition Playbook. “As he promised, President Biden is governing not as a Democratic or Republican president, but an American president,” he said. As for Republicans and Democrats in Congress, Bates said that Biden “looks forward to continuing to work with them in good faith.”
But Republicans think that’s bunk. McConnell said last week that Biden’s policies are “left-wing,” the stuff of BERNIE SANDERS, and that he doesn’t “think they have a mandate to do what they are doing.”
As for the polls showing high support for Biden’s early agenda items, Senate Republicans and McConnell allies predict things will look differently by Election Day 2022. They argue that the idea of infrastructure is popular but that voters will be turned off by the other items in the bill, which proposes spending “more money just on electric cars than on America’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, and waterways combined,” as McConnell put it last week.
Other Republicans argue that there is inherent tension in the administration boasting about bipartisan support in the country while also declaring they just passed the “the most progressive piece of legislation in history,” as JEN PSAKI called the Covid-19 relief bill.
Moderate Senate Republicans in particular were peeved today after Biden said that the group of 10 Senators he met with in the Oval office on Covid relief “didn’t move an inch” off their initial $600 billion offer.
An aide to one of the 10 Senate Republicans who were in the Oval told Transition Playbook that “Republicans made a good-faith offer and were prepared to negotiate.” Biden’s comments today, the aide added, “continue to undermine his own message from the inauguration of ushering in an era of unity and stopping an ‘uncivil war.’”
Biden, however, is betting that Americans will reward action over intransigence and that they’ll appreciate the outreach (however limited) he is making to GOP leaders. The president notably called McConnell prior to introducing his “American Jobs Plan” last week, though McConnell allies counter that Biden has barely even tried to fake bipartisan outreach let alone done anything substantive.
After spending much of the Obama administration in a stalemate with Congress, many of Biden’s senior advisers are wary of repeating history. They believe those kinds of standoffs generally cause voters to blame both sides — not the Republicans who are voting against the president’s priorities and strongly signaling that they’ll do so again.
They also point to examples where Republican lawmakers already returned to their districts and touted elements of Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-relief measure, despite voting against it.
Democrats are now trying to highlight past instances where McConnell and other Republicans supported spending on “infrastructure” that look like some of the proposals they now argue don’t meet the traditional definition of the word.
Despite Biden’s repeated insistence that he’s trying, privately, the early standoffs aren’t giving either side much hope that he and McConnell’s personal relationship will mean all that much substantively. Biden doesn’t need McConnell right now.
“If I had to find a silver lining, it’s the speed at which Democrats are moving is going to be unifying for the Republican Party,” said former McConnell aide SCOTT JENNINGS. “You know, just a couple of months ago, we were all fractured and at each other’s throats.”