Biden is entering the “always be closing” phase of his first term

“There’s just so much at stake here,” said an adviser to senior party leaders, describing how a sense of enormity was added to the immediate schedule overnight.

In the coming weeks, the President will need to land key pieces of his domestic political agenda aimed at boosting the country’s global competitiveness and overhauling entire parts of its economy. Important decisions about student loans and extending abortion rights are at stake. It’s also about containing two outbreaks of monkeypox and the coronavirus, the last of which Biden personally fought off in just five days.

As if that weren’t enough, he’s also juggling a number of foreign policy challenges — spearheaded by longer-term efforts to secure a nuclear deal with Iran and negotiate the release of a basketball star and another American jailed in Russia.

It’s a huge political to-do list amid a midterm election that will likely cost the Democrats full control of Washington. And within a White House that often feels under siege, there is widespread recognition that how Biden executes it will mean the difference between a historic first term and a tragic missed opportunity.

White House officials are approaching the moment with cautious optimism, fueled by the renewed impetus for Biden’s top priorities in Congress. itself underscored by the passage of a bill on Thursday designed to boost semiconductor production and better compete with China.

However, they are also aware that many elements are well beyond their control.

The prospect of an 11th-hour breakthrough on the Democrats’ climate, tax and health care packages after more than a year of stumbling has particularly caught the White House’s imagination. After Wednesday’s deal with Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), a senior aide claimed the legislation could turn the tide for Democrats trying to persuade voters to keep them in power, leaving Biden and his party could strike a sharper contrast with Republicans, who they say offer no alternative agenda.

“It changes a lot how Democrats are going to view the first half of this first term” if the law passes, said Tobin Marcus, a former Biden adviser and currently senior policy and policy strategist at investment bank Evercore ISI. “Democratic voters will feel a lot better about what all this has done.”

The deal also vindicated Biden’s advisers in their patient approach to the negotiations — a strategy that has consisted of sticking to an administration-wide muzzle even as the White House faced mounting criticism and doubts from within the party. It was a lengthy approach, which one senior staffer described as a “ton of phone calls.”

Still, there are concerns about embarking on much preemptive celebration, particularly for a government hitherto defined by outsized ambitions that it has largely failed to deliver. To that end, officials opted not to allow Biden to comment even late Wednesday after Manchin announced the agreement, instead issuing a statement backed by caveats that suggested the deal was still falling apart could.

On Thursday, Biden took pains to point to the broad coalition of early supporters of the bill, from former Obama economist Larry Summers to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The bill, Biden conceded, “is far from perfect.”

“It’s a compromise,” he added. “But this is how progress is made: from compromises.”

In a statement, White House spokesman Chris Meagher called the reconciliation bill a “unique opportunity to fight inflation and cut costs like prescription drugs, energy and health care.”

“And we’re not done yet — the president will remain focused on growing our economy from the bottom up and down the middle, lowering costs for families, making our communities safe and protecting important rights,” he said .

The progress Democrats have made so far has come as Biden has taken a hands-off approach and caved in to Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — despite the West wing’s close collusion with Schumer.

At times, Biden grumbled about the senator’s reluctance to commit to a deal, though he said he understood Manchin needed to play before West Virginia voters. Skepticism spread in some White House circles when Manchin signaled his willingness to resume negotiations.

Still, there was a persistent belief that Manchin would eventually return to the table — even after the senator signaled two weeks ago that he could only back a tenuous health bill.

With an agreement in hand, the White House is now expected to play a more significant role in convincing a handful of remaining Democrats to achieve the victory that lies ahead.

And those who have worked with Biden at the White House and on Capitol Hill say the former senator is enjoying the role of legislative partner for seven terms, though he may have stayed away from the weedy negotiations in the process.

“Traditionally, it’s certainly something he was good at,” Marcus said, pointing to the 2013 fiscal cliff deal Biden struck with Republican Senate Chairman Mitch McConnell. “[H]e closed [that] when I think not many other people would have been able to.”

However, the lingering question for Democrats is whether passing the bill will be enough. Biden still has to fight an ongoing pandemic that will require more resources to fight — even dependent on votes from Republicans in Congress, who are now muted over what they see as a Manchin-Schumer sleight of hand. And while he oversaw an economy that hit the lowest unemployment rate in decades, the reward was persistently high inflation and poll numbers nearing historic lows.

These fierce economic headwinds are unlikely to abate before November, angering voters at the party’s overall performance and drowning out more encouraging signs of progress.

On Thursday, new data showed the economy shrank for a second straight quarter — an added blow in an environment many voters say already feels like a recession, even as White House staffers have been grappling with it for the past week spent arguing about whether the country is technically in one.

The government is also likely to face increasing pressure in the coming weeks to come up with plans to forgive student debt, protect access to abortion and contain the monkeypox outbreak — sensitive issues that, if mismanaged, could pose a threat to the Democrat coalition to break and bring a quick end threaten party of the current era of good feelings.

Biden officials have seen signs that the oil supply crisis that drove up gas prices in the spring is finally easing, hoping that relatively lower costs at the pump might buy them some goodwill. Although Covid continues to rise, deaths have not done the same – leading aid workers to take this as evidence their strategy of vaccines and treatments is working.

But, particularly for some longtime, more jaded employees who have watched the administration suffer crisis after crisis, the tide of good news has prompted them to prepare for the other shoe to be dropped. Even after Biden quickly recovered from his own Covid case, a senior official said it would be fitting of White House bad luck if he spoiled the round of positive press by becoming a minority of patients seeking a second suffer “rebound” disease.

“The president will recover,” the official said, half-jokingly. “It just happens to us.”

Biden is entering the “always be closing” phase of his first term

Source link Biden is entering the “always be closing” phase of his first term

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