Washington (AFP) – For five decades in Washington, Joe Biden has known the way to influence is to be in the room where it happens. But in the second year of his presidency, he achieved some of the most striking legislative victories that defined a legacy by staying out of it.
Summer Blitz Maker campaign sent bipartisan bills to address gun violence Strengthening the high-tech manufacturing sector in the country to Biden’s desk, and the president is now on the cusp of securing what he called the “last part” of his economic agenda with the sudden revival of the Democrats-only climate and drug deal. And in an unexpected turn for a president who has touted his decades of experience on Capitol Hill, Biden aides credited his victories to the fact that he was playing the cheerleading leader rather than the legislative linebacker.
“In the Senate from 50 to 50 years, it’s quite true that when the White House takes ownership of a subject, it frightens a lot of Republicans,” said Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Conn. “I think all of this is purposeful. When you step back and let Congress lead, and then apply pressure and help at the appropriate times, it can be a much more effective strategy to get things done.”
Democrats and the White House are hoping for legislative victories, bipartisan or not, just four months before the November elections. It will help revive their political fortunes by showing voters what they can achieve with even the smallest majorities.
Biden opened 2022 with his legislative agenda in a dead end, and poll numbers are in decline and an open admission of that He made a “mistake” in how he performed the role.
He said, “The public doesn’t want me to be the ‘President-Senator.’ They want me to be the president and let senators become senators.”
Allowing senators to be senators was no easy task for Biden, whose political and personal identities are rooted in his formative years in that room.. He spent 36 years as a senator from Delaware, and another eight years as president of the Senate when he was appreciated for his connections on Capitol Hill and his views as Vice President Barack Obama.
With Biden taking a step back, he left it to his aides to do a lot of direct negotiations. Instead, his legislative strategy has focused more on using his role as president to provide urgent strategic shakeups for his agenda with both lawmakers and voters.
In the esteem of many of his aides and advisors, leaving the Senate behind was key to his subsequent success. The rising expectations of Democrats, who enjoy a perilous majority in Congress but nonetheless united to control Washington, dragged Biden down among his supporters who wanted more ambitious action.
The sometimes obnoxious trade-off required to gain consensus often puts the president deep in the weeds and lacking in inspiration. The dramatic negotiating breakdowns en route to a final deal proved all the more exciting because Biden himself was a party to the talks.
In the spring of 2021, Biden made a grand offer to negotiate directly with Senator Shelley Moore Capito, of Virginia, on an infrastructure bill, only to have talks break down about the package’s scope and how to fund it. At the same time, a separate bipartisan group quietly met alone, discussing how to reform the country’s transportation, water and broadband systems. After the White House gave its approval, that became the version that was turned into law.
The president then tried to strike a deal on a comprehensive social spending and climate package with Senator Joe Manchin, going so far as to invite a West Virginia lawmaker to his home in Wilmington, Delaware.until the conservative Democrat suddenly pulled the tide On the conversations in an interview with Fox News. Manchin would later work to get the negotiations going again, this time with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DNY, and the two would eventually come to an agreement. This is now on the verge of Senate approval after more than a year of legislative wrangling.
In late 2021, White House aides persuaded the president to talk about his conversations with Hill, as part of a deliberate shift to move negotiations on his legislative agenda away from the public eye. The West Wing was silent, after rushing with news that Biden had called this lawmaker or invited that partisan group to the White House for a meeting.
The new approach drew criticism from the press, but the White House bet the public wasn’t invested in the details and would reward the results.
White House spokesman Andrew Bates said Biden and his team “use the bullying platform and work closely with Congress to fight for policies that reduce costs for families and fight inflation, strengthen our competitiveness against China, act against gun violence” and help veterans. . “He also directed Cabinet, senior staff and the legislative team to consistently engage with key legislators as we work together to achieve what could soon be the most productive legislative record of any president” since Lyndon Johnson.
White House aides said some of the shift also reflects the changing dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has kept Biden in Washington for most of 2021. His meetings with lawmakers were one of the few ways to show he’s working. As the pandemic subsides and Biden has been able to return to holding more in-person events with voters and interest groups, he has been able to use these settings to get his message across directly to the people.
The subtle shift didn’t pay off immediately: Biden’s approval rating continued to decline amid legislative deadlock and rising inflation.
However, over time, Biden’s decision to embrace the role of facilitator rather than lead negotiator — which with mixed success — began to bear fruit: the first substantive arms restrictions in nearly three decades, a measure to boost domestic production of semiconductor computer chips, and caring for veterans prone to toxic burn pits.
White House officials credit Biden’s emotional speech after the school shooting in Ovaldi, Texas, while helping to motivate lawmakers to act on gun violence — and even push it to take more sweeping measures that made it into the bill while giving the GOP space to compromise. They point to a steady rhythm of speeches over months emphasizing the need to lower prescription drug costs or act on the climate while keeping these issues in the national conversation amid legislative frenzy and beginnings.
In contrast, Democratic lawmakers and the Republican Party say that getting Biden himself straight out of the negotiations has enabled the senators to reach consensus among themselves, without the distraction of the White House that may have pushed again and again for something that would not be achievable with the Republicans or could be considered. Bargaining by some Democrats.
“The president kind of said we’re going to be staying out,” Senator Rob Portman, a Republican senator from Ohio, said, referring to gun-related talks earlier this year. “I think this was helpful.”
However, a show of hands in no way meant that management was absent.
Instead of being in the room as an arms deal neared, White House aides stayed on the phone, explaining how the administration would likely interpret and regulate the law the senators were drafting. Murphy spoke with White House officials every day, and when the Connecticut senator personally met with Biden in early June to provide an update, the president never gave him an ultimatum about what he was or wasn’t willing to sign — and continued to defer to lawmakers.
At another point during the arms negotiations, rumors spread that the administration was considering preventing the Pentagon from selling certain types of surplus ammunition to arms dealers, who sell ammunition commercially, according to two people familiar with the deliberations. But Republicans, led by Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, have urged the White House to scrap those plans because they would conflict with the standards of what negotiators had discussed, the people said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details. from private negotiations.
The White House eventually did, issuing a statement to a conservative publication that no such executive order was under consideration.
Regarding the semiconductor package that Biden plans to sign on Tuesday, the administration has organized classified briefings for lawmakers that emphasized how China is gaining influence in the computer chip sector. and national security implications. Republicans have been in regular contact with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, a Biden government official who has developed friendly relations across the corridor.
Regarding the Democratic Party climate and the health care package, Manchin emphasized that it was impossible to craft legislation of this magnitude without the intervention of the White House, although he did not deal with Biden directly until near the end, when he called the president to tell Manchin that the White House would support his agreement with Schumer, According to an official familiar with the call.
Biden also stayed out of last-minute deliberations involving Senator Kirsten Senema, Democrat of Arizona. She and the president did not even speak as Democrats finalized an agreement that would meet her demands.
“At his heart is Joe a US senator,” said Senator John Tester, a Mont-Democrat, the senior Democratic author of the scorch-drilling legislation that also helped popularize the Infrastructure Act last year. “So he understands that letting this work is how it gets done.”