2021-02-04 11:21:52 | Biden’s Early Strategy – The New York Times


Story by: David Leonhardt The New York Times World News

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So why isn’t Biden pursuing a two-step strategy — first pouring himself into a bipartisan deal and then following up with a Democratic bill that fills in the pieces he thinks were missing? Why does he instead seem to be leaning toward a single bill that would need only Democratic support to pass?

The answer has a lot to do with history: For decades, congressional Republicans have opposed — almost unanimously — any top priority of an incoming Democratic president. Biden and his aides believe they will be playing Charlie Brown to a Republican Lucy if they imagine this time will be different.

Democrats, of course, also tend to oppose Republican presidents’ policies and often try to obstruct them. But on the question of legislative compromise, there really has been a recent difference between the parties. (Which can be a difficult thing for us journalists to acknowledge: We’re more comfortable portraying the parties as mirror images of each other.)

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In 2001, George W. Bush’s tax cut was supported by 12 Democrats in the Senate and 28 in the House. His education bill also received significant Democratic support, as did multiple virus relief bills during Donald Trump’s presidency. Some Democrats saw these bills as opportunities to win policy concessions.

Republicans have a taken different tack. Perhaps the clearest example is Obamacare, the final version of which received no Republican votes even though it included conservative ideas and Obama was eager to include more in exchange for Republican support. But top Republicans, led by Senator Mitch McConnell, thought that any support of the bill would strengthen Obama and weaken them.

Of the 10 Republicans, a few — like Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney — have occasionally sided with Democrats on a major issue. Others, however, have not — including Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Todd Young of Indiana. And Biden would need at least 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster. With any fewer, he would be back to pursuing the same 51-vote strategy (known as reconciliation) he now seems to be pursuing.

Democrats’ central fear is a repeat of Obamacare, in which months of negotiation in 2009 nonetheless ended without Republican support. Biden would have then wasted his first months in office — and the country would have gone without additional money for vaccination, virus testing, unemployment insurance and more.

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As Carl Hulse, The Times’s chief Washington correspondent, told me: “Democrats, including many now in the White House, remember 2009 very clearly, and they fear being strung along for months only to come away empty-handed. That’s not to say Republicans aren’t bargaining in good faith, but holding that 10 together could be difficult.”

Biden himself has made the same point in private conversations. “He said, basically, ‘I don’t want to go down the path we went down in 2009, when we negotiated for eight months and still didn’t have a product,’” Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said on “Morning Joe” yesterday.

One more point: Neither side is committing itself to a strategy yet. If Democrats proceed with the reconciliation approach, they and Republicans can continue negotiating over the substance of the bill. Bush used reconciliation for his 2001 tax cut and still received 40 votes from congressional Democrats in the end.


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Source References: The New York Times World News

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