Biden’s optimistic vision: The key to this recent string of congressional wins
Supporters of the president inside and out of the administration say the roadmap he outlined dating back to the campaign trail guided Democratic lawmakers to this moment.
There’s no denying that Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia were the key players in the negotiations that formed the Inflation Reduction Act, the climate, health care and tax bill the Senate passed over the weekend.
But now that the IRA cleared its most formidable legislative hurdle in the upper chamber on Sunday and appears to be on a glide path from the House to Joe Biden’s desk by Friday, the White House has turned its attention to making sure the president receives his just due.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday morning in a Q&A with reporters said that while many skeptics believed the IRA could never come to be, President Biden wasn’t one of them. In fact, Jean-Pierre added that it was Biden’s vision, outlined in the Unity Agenda he announced during his State of the Union in March, that gave congressional Democrats the legislative roadmap that has guided them to such meaningful wins in the past few months.
A source close to the administration told me that you can trace this recent string of success all the way back to Biden’s campaign and subsequent inauguration.
“If you go back and read his inauguration or listen to his speech, a big part of that is him talking about unity and bringing people together to work on these big pressing issues, working across the aisle to get big things done,” the source said. “And it’s not just how he framed it from the beginning of his presidency but really how you saw him run his campaign, acknowledging the partisan division that people feel is pulling the nation apart and the president vowing to turn down the temperature.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, of course, agrees with this argument.
“This is happening as part of the vision that the president and I laid out during the beginning of our administration, which is about taking on the challenges of the month,” she said on Monday. “And we are seeing the progress of building a strong and prosperous America.”
White House officials and supporters of the administration also point to the fact that Biden has achieved these accomplishments with an unprecedented 50-50 Senate and four-seat margin in the House.
The source close to the administration said evenly split Senates are rare and make the volume of accomplishments within these constraints even more remarkable.
Critics of the president said early on that his almost four decades in the Senate were a liability because it slowed down his transition from master legislator to chief executive.
But I’m told that Biden’s Senate experience is actually what has made the difference.
“He knows the institution in and out. And I think what he's been really effective that over the course of his term is to know when to be really hands-on and really involved and to know when tactically it makes more sense to have leaders on the table handle the ins and outs of the negotiation with White House staff being involved,” the source said. “And I think because of his ability find that balance that's a key reason why we've arrived at this moment.”
Legislative victories aside, there’s a sense from voters that the country is no more united today than it was when Biden took office.
The source I spoke with said that while the president can play his role in working to bring the country together, leading with empathy and a willingness to work with others, the Republican Party’s extremist wing — “ultra-MAGA Republicans, as Biden calls them — is uninterested in American solidarity.
“It’s really important for us to call them out on it, whether that’s nationwide ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest, or putting Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block,” the source said. “These are things that you can't ignore. And I think it's definitely a delicate balance is both figuring out the places where you have common ground, but also knowing your values and making sure that when when there's a dangerous agenda being pushed that we're doing everything to fight back against that.”
Some voters though — especially young, brown and Black ones — are too disillusioned by what they perceive as a lack of progress on critical issues like voting rights, immigration reform, police accountability and student loan debt, which the president is expected to take modest action on before the extension of the payment pause expires this month.
Supporters of the administration tell me that President Biden has taken executive action when Congress has stalled on these issue, including signing an executive order on immigration, a policing executive order on the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder that set new standards for federal police restraining things like chokehold and the use of deadly force.
“Hopefully these are issues that continue to motivate people and they see that the President is with them and is doing everything in his power to move the ball forward,” the source close to the administration said.
Despite the limitations due to the razor-thin margins in Congress, the source added that there are enormous parts of the agenda, including the Inflation Reduction Act, that would have been impossible had Democrats lost the two Georgia Senate races, if Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire hadn’t won by about 1,000 votes in the 2016 or if Sen. Manchin hadn’t held onto his seat the last time he was up for reelection.
“So I think that’s just something that we all have to remember,” they said. “When we turn out, it’s possible to when in even what seems like the most difficult circumstances. That’s going to matter for years to come and that’s something that I wouldn’t just skate by.”
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TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing before signing the CHIPS Act into law. This afternoon, Biden will sign Sweden and Finland into NATO. He will also speak at both events and be joined by Vice President Harris.
The House and Senate are out.
BIDEN TO SIGN CHIPS INTO LAW: President Biden later this morning will sign the CHIPS and Science Act, a bill that will invest billions in American semiconductor manufacturing, research and development and supply chain resilience.
He’ll do so as companies have announced nearly $50 billion in additional investments in American semiconductor manufacturing that administration officials will tell you would have gone overseas had Congress not passed the legislation.
A White House official said up to five CEOs from semiconductor companies are expected to attend the bill signing, among many hundreds of guests — including governors and congressional leaders from both parties.
BIDEN VISITS FLOOD RAVAGED KY: President Biden on Monday returned to Kentucky for the second time after a natural disaster to survey damage from recent floods and meet with the affected families.
“People don’t realize those piles of heavy debris, it takes a lot of time, a lot of money to take it away, Biden said of the impact of the deadly floods, which he described as another sign of dangerous climate change. “As long as it takes we’re going to be here. [The federal government] are committed. There’s absolutely 100 percent coverage of cost for the next few months.”
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky said the flooding event is the most devastating and deadly of his lifetime.
“Unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” he added.
“The National Guard airlifted out over 1,300 people” and state police and other agencies rescued thousands of others, Beshear said. Nine days out, “We’ve got power to everybody but about 200 homes. That is incredible. Water to more people than we ever thought was possible in this period of time, cell phone service.”
Although thousands of people are staying with friends and relatives and the region has over 100 travel trailers on site, Beshear said that it would take the state some time to stabilize people with needs for housing.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden joined the president on the visit and was spotted in the gym of a local elementary school sorting and folding donated clothes with volunteers.
The death toll is at 37, but Gov. Beshear said the tally would likely rise to 38. Kentucky lost 81 people to tornadoes less than a year ago.
VP HEARS FROM COLLEGE ADMINISTRATIONS ON ABORTION RIGHTS: Vice President Harris on Monday afternoon met with college and university presidents to discuss the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion care on students.
“Our colleges and universities are doing extraordinary work,” she said before the meeting. “And I know of work that is happening, in particular, around considering ways to protect students access to care by instituting, for example, flexible attendance and leave policies so that students can seek care, by creating emergency funds so that students can afford care, and by clarifying confidentiality and privacy policies for campus health services.”
The vice president noted that the majority of the women who will be impact by the decision are college-age or will be attending college and said that Americans must trust pregnant people to make intimate decisions like whether to seek abortion care without government overreach.
She added that women in college are uniquely impacted by restrictions on reproductive rights due to the fact that they’re three times more likely to experience sexual violence and often lack the resources to travel for abortion care.
“Students and others now have a new set of barriers to accessing health care,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said at the meeting.
Roberta Cordano, president of Gallaudet University, a higher education institution for the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington, DC who delivered her remarks in American Sign Language, mentioned the heightened sexual assault threat women with disabilities face, which she said is further complicated by the court’s decision.
American Council on Education President Ted Mitchell said that college students and staff feel “confusion and uncertainty” by the Supreme Court’s decision and the different state laws that have been enacted as a result.
“This is a real issue for campuses,” he said. “This is a real issue for our students.”
OMAR MAKES THE CASE FOR IRA: Congressional progressives are often criticized for allowing perfect to be the enemy of good when it comes to legislation that advances the movement’s policy priorities in increments instead of in a sweeping fashion.
But when the House breaks recess on Friday to vote on the Senate-passed Inflation Reduction Act, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a member of “The Squad,” a group of six House progressives on Monday said she’s on board with sending it to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
“Is it perfect,” Omar rhetorically asked in a statement. “No.”
She said she opposes the expansion of fossil fuel leasing and is disappointed that certain provisions of the corporate minimum tax were nixed in a last-minute deal between Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republican Sen. John Thune of North Dakota. Omar is also frustrated the insulin cap for private insurance was removed from the final bill.
But what survived Republican opposition and millions of dollars in lobbyist spending, isn’t too shabby from Omar’s perspective.
With the Senate’s passage, we are one step closer to passing the biggest climate bill ever, lowering drug prices, taxing wealthy corporations, and more,” she said. “[T]he bill is a massive step forward for Minnesotans and I’m extremely proud of the role the Congressional Progressive Caucus played in pushing for the best deal possible in the face of conservative resistance.”
AHMAUD ARBERY’S KILLERS RECEIVE FEDERAL SENTENCES: The father and son who earlier this year were convicted and sentenced to life in state prison for the felony murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was jogging in a Georgia neighborhood when he was chased down and shot to death in 2020, received additional life sentences from a federal court for violating Ahmaud’s civil rights. The third defendant, already sentenced to 35 years, received an additional 35-year federal sentence, which will be served at the same time as his state sentence.
“Ahmaud Arbery should be alive today. The tragic murder of Mr. Arbery reminds us that hate-fueled violence targeting Black people remains a modern-day threat in our country, and we must use every tool available to hold perpetrators accountable,” Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, said in a statement. “We hope that this sentencing ends one painful chapter for the family of Ahmaud Arbery, the Brunswick community and the nation as a whole.”
US SENDS UKRAINE $1B MORE IN ASSISTANCE: The Defense Department announced an additional $1 billion in security assistance, representing the largest single drawdown of US arms and equipment under this authority.
The package provides additional ammunition, weapons and equipment acting Pentagon Press Secretary Todd Breasseale said has helped Ukraine defend itself from the Russian invasion that’s now into its fifth month.
TWC OFFERS PEAK HURRICANE SEASON SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS: The Weather Channel on Monday posted a Twitter thread with recommendations on how to prepare for hurricane season, including stocking your emergency kit with essentials, talking with your fam about an evacuation plan and confirming what’s covered by your insurance provider.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the government agency that forecasts weather, last week announced that it expects an above-normal hurricane season as the US enters the peak months of August through October.
The NOAA’s 2022 outlook calls for 14 to 20 named storms, of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes. Of those, three to five could become major hurricanes.
The season has seen three named storms and no hurricanes so far. NOAA says it’s 70 percent confident in these ranges.
US SUPPORT FOR IMMIGRATION DIPS FROM THE PREVIOUS TWO YEARS: After reaching its all-time high in 2019, Americans’ support for expanding immigration dipped from 34 percent to 27 percent in 2022, according to a new Gallup poll.
It’s no surprise that surging Republican support for less immigration has fueled this downtick. But Democratic opposition to expanded immigration among Democrats and independents is up four points and five points, respectively.
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