WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden is entering a crucial two weeks to implement his ambitious agenda, seeking to end controversial congressional negotiations ahead of both domestic timelines and a chance to showcase his administration’s accomplishments on the global stage.
Biden and fellow Democrats are struggling to bridge the inner-party divide by the end of the month to pass a bipartisan infrastructure law and a larger social service package. The president hopes to solidify both before the BBC travels to Europe on October 28 for a couple of world leaders’ summits, including the most ambitious climate change meeting in years.
But that goal has been jeopardized by a split among Democrats, which has jeopardized the fate of promised new ambitious efforts to tackle climate change. There is also growing concern within the party about an ongoing gubernatorial competition in Virginia and an impending Senate battle over a federal debt and government funding cap that could divert attention from running the presidential agenda across the finish line.
Biden is trying to stabilize his presidency after a difficult period marked by a tumultuous end to the war in Afghanistan, a diplomatic squabble with a longtime ally, and a spike in COVID-19 cases that have undermined the country’s economic recovery and led to a drop in his polls.
His team continued with their strategy – one that served them well during the campaign and earlier this year – of blocking out outside noise to focus on one single mission, this time to adopt a two-part package that will give Democrats a platform on which to go. run in next year’s midterm elections.
“These bills, in my opinion, are literally about competitiveness versus complacency, opportunities versus decline and how to lead the world or continue to let the world move with us,” Biden said Friday, pushing the law in Connecticut.
Yet behind the White House’s calls for patience – reminding people that difficult things take time – lies a seething sense of urgency that a deal must be struck as soon as possible.
There are clear target dates for the White House, including a month-end deadline for funding transportation and Biden’s upcoming overseas trip. But there are more abstract imperatives: to prove that Democrats can deliver on their promises to voters and to protect Biden’s dwindling political capital.
In recent days, the administration has sent renewed signals to Capitol Hill that it is time to end negotiations and that an agreement needs to be reached, according to two White House officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to do so. publicly discuss private conversations. Biden himself has expressed impatience and will expand his personal contacts this week to nudge lawmakers to seek a compromise and vote on bills, officials said.
West Wing officials remain optimistic that an agreement will eventually be reached, but there are also fears that messy, protracted negotiations have clouded tangible benefits from what Biden is seeking to convey to voters.
Biden tried to address some of these issues when he traveled to Hartford, Connecticut last week to showcase initiatives to dramatically reduce the cost of early childhood care – perhaps one of the few pieces of legislation that is holding back the final package.
Even Democratic leaders are divided over how best to lower the overall package price in order to get more votes. Biden said Friday that he prefers to include all offers on the wishlist, but is cutting program duration to cut costs. He thinks future Congress may later vote to expand programs that the American people deem popular.
But a few days earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested the opposite approach – to approve a narrower set of programs designed for a longer period of time.
Some Democrats are pushing for a bipartisan infrastructure deal by October 31, even if a larger social service package is not settled, which many progressive supporters dislike as they could lose leverage over the latest law.
The fate of climate change clauses is particularly dangerous.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s objections to a program to accelerate the nation’s fossil fuel transition jeopardize Biden’s plans to tackle climate change shortly before he attempts to assert American leadership on the issue at an upcoming global conference in Scotland.
Razor-thin margins for Democrats in both houses of Congress have made it possible for individual legislators, such as Senator Kersten Cinema Manchin and Arizona, to irritate fellow legislators and the White House. White House aides have not abandoned the clean energy program, but are exploring alternative ways to harmonize policies to reduce emissions, officials said.
Dropping the clauses could hurt Biden in Glasgow at the summit, which the administration used as a vital opportunity not only to tackle climate change, but also to restore US leadership on the issue after four years of downsizing under President Donald Trump. The United States will be a big contributor to this gathering, including former President Barack Obama, but it risks falling behind European countries that have taken more concrete steps to cut emissions.
Biden’s stop in Scotland in early November will follow his participation in the summit of world leaders in Rome. But Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decision to skip the meetings – to postpone the first meeting between the leaders of the two superpowers – could diminish their importance. Nonetheless, Biden is expected to meet in Italy with French President Emmanuel Macron, as the men seek to mend relations after the US submarine deal with Australia violated the French contract and forced the French to briefly recall their ambassador from Washington.
Also looming is Virginia’s November 2 governor election, which is seen as a referendum on the chances of Biden and the Democrats to regain control of Congress next year.
Terry McAuliffe, former governor of the state, finds himself in a tighter than expected race with Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin in the state, which Biden won with 10 points last year.
McAuliffe has been surprisingly public in his criticism of the administration’s legislative strategy, urging Democrats to pass the infrastructure bill before election day to give it something to show voters. White House officials privately expect McAuliffe to come out with a small victory and believe they can ignore fears of a smaller-than-expected victory.
But Yangkin’s harsh outcome or victory could raise doubts among Democrats about Biden’s political standing, potentially making it less likely that risky votes would be adopted for his agenda, as well as pushing Republicans into midterm elections.