Biden selling vision to Republican voters, not lawmakers

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President Biden and his team are redefining bipartisanship on their own terms.

The 46th president of the United States is making it clear that he puts more stock in claiming the support of Republican voters than winning GOP votes on Capitol Hill.

“I think it is a great move by the president to try and isolate Republicans by pointing out how popular some of the stuff he is talking about is with the American public,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic consultant. “I didn’t think it was going to happen, but he is smart enough to realize he can’t waste his time in office chasing Republian votes on Capitol Hill.

“It is an interesting twist on the usual way of selling your policies,” Mr. Manley said. “The reality is that there is no cutting deals with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — at least any deals that Democrats can accept.”

Republicans, meanwhile, caution that Biden world is misreading the results of the 2020 election.

Voters may have sent former President Trump packing and handed Democrats a narrow majority in the House and the tie-breaking vote in a 50-50 Senate, but that doesn’t mean voters want them to ram through a partisan agenda, Republicans say.

Speaking to reporters Thursday in his home state of Kentucky, Mr. McConnell said, “I don’t think they have a mandate to do what they are doing.”

“I don’t think the American people gave them a mandate to drive our country all the way to the political left, but they are not deterred by that and  they are going to try to do it anyway and I am going to fight them every step of the way because I think this is the wrong prescription for America,” Mr. McConnell said.

Mr. Biden promised during the 2020 campaign to bring bipartisanship to Washington, boasting about his ability as a senator and then as vice president to find common ground with Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Biden even predicted that once Mr. Trump left town, more Republicans would see the light and be more willing to work with his administration.

Critics shook their heads. To them, Mr. Biden’s views were outdated. They said he was due for a harsh reality check when it came to the fierce partisanship and polarization that has gripped national politics.

Somewhere along the line, it appears Mr. Biden had a change of heart, adopting the mindset of his former critics and expressing confidence that a good number of Republican voters approve of his center-left vision.

“I would like Republican — elected Republican support, but what I know I have now is that I have electoral support from Republican voters,” Mr. Biden told reporters at his first formal press conference last week. “Republican voters agree with what I’m doing.”

That is the prism through which the Biden administration is viewing the battle over the proposed $2.25 trillion bill Democrats are calling the American Jobs Plan — legislation that would raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% to pay for massive investments in the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, broadband and services for the elderly.

Mr. Biden viewed the tug-of-war over last month’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in a similar fashion, and relied on a budget process known as reconciliation to pass the massive spending bill without a single Republican vote in support, in either the House or the Senate.

The Biden White House is well aware that they will likely have to turn to reconciliation again to pass his jobs plans and are cranking the public-relations push into high gear.

On Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg argued in separate interviews that voters across the ideological spectrum have embraced Mr. Biden’s latest plan.

Mr. Buttigieg said he hopes GOP lawmakers take their cues from Republican voters.

“I am not going to give up on earning Republican support for this because we know that Republicans and Democrats across America believe this is a good idea,” Mr. Buttigieg said on MSNBC. “I know sometimes Washington doesn’t mirror the American people.”

In his opening remarks in a Politico Playbook interview, Mr. Klain touted a recent poll that showed registered voters by a 2-to-1 margin backed a hypothetical $3 trillion infrastructure package. 

“That kind of support really was the driving engine around the passage of the American Rescue Plan in the president’s first 30 days,” Mr. Klain said. “I think that support is what is going to drive this plan to passage through the Congress.”

Still, Mr. Klain insisted that bipartisanship is not a prerequisite for passing the president’s plan.

“In the end, let me be clear  the president was elected to do a job and part of that job is to get this country ready to win the future,” Mr. Klain said. “That is what he is going to do.”

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