Crunch time: Biden faces critical next 2 weeks for agenda
WASHINGTON (AP). — President Joe Biden enters a critical period for his ambitious agenda. He must finish contentious congressional negotiations before the deadlines in Washington and showcase his accomplishments on a world stage.
Biden is battling with his fellow Democrats to reach an intraparty consensus by the end of the month to pass a bipartisan bill as well as a larger package of social services .. The president hopes to nail down both before Air Force One lifts off for Europe on Oct. 28 for a pair of world leader summits, including the most ambitious climate change meeting in years.
But this goal has been undermined by divisions among Democrats, which threatens the fate of promised new sweeping efforts to address climatechange .. The party is also experiencing increasing anxiety about a bellwether contest for gubernatorial in Virginia , and the looming Senate battles over the federal loan limit and funding. These could hinder the president from achieving his goals.
Biden is trying to stabilize his presidency after a difficult stretch marked by the tumultuous end of the Afghanistan war, a diplomatic spat with a longtime ally and a surge in COVID-19 cases that rattled the nation’s economic recovery and sent his poll numbers tumbling. His team continued the strategy that worked well during the campaign. It was one that helped it to focus on a single mission. This time, they are trying to pass the two-part package to give Democrats a platform to run for the midterm elections next year.
” These bills are, in my opinion, about competitiveness and not complacency. They also deal with opportunity and decay. It is about leading the world, or letting the world move by you,” Biden stated Friday as he pushed the legislation in Connecticut.
Despite the White House’s appeals to patience, reminding people that difficult things can take time, there is an overwhelming sense of urgency that a quick deal must be reached.
The White House has set the target dates. These include a deadline at the end of the month for transportation funding and Biden’s upcoming overseas trip. There are other imperatives, however: protecting Biden’s political capital and proving that Democrats can keep their promises to voters.
The administration has signaled to Capitol Hill that it is now time to conclude negotiations and that a deal must be reached. Two White House officials spoke under condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to discuss private conversations. Biden has expressed frustration and will increase his personal outreach to lawmakers this week to try to reach a compromise and bring the bills up for a vote, officials stated.
West Wing officials remain optimistic that an agreement can be reached, but there are concerns that the long-drawn negotiations may have obscured the tangible benefits that Biden wants to deliver to voters.
Biden tried to address these concerns when he visited Hartford, Connecticut last week to show initiatives to dramatically reduce the cost for early childhood care, which is perhaps the most important piece of legislation that will be included in the final package.
Democratic leaders are split on how to reduce the overall cost of the package to win more votes. Biden stated Friday that he favors including all the wish-list suggestions, but reducing the program length to reduce costs. Biden believes that a future Congress could vote to extend programs that are popular with the American people.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had suggested the opposite approach, approving a smaller number of programs that will last for a longer period.
Some Democrats have pushed for passing the bipartisan infrastructure deal by Oct. 31 even if the larger social services package is not settled, a move many progressives dislike because they could lose leverage for the latter bill. The fate of climate change provisions is especially perilous.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s opposition to a program that would accelerate the nation’s shift away from fossil fuels is threatening the heart of Biden’s plans to combat climate changes just before he attempts to assert American leadership at the forthcoming global conference in Scotland.
The razor-thin margins of the Democrats in both houses have given individual legislators such as Manchin and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema power, which has been frustrating fellow lawmakers and even the White House. Officials said that while the White House has not abandoned its clean energy program, they are looking for other ways to combine a variety of policies to reduce emissions.
Biden could be hurt in Glasgow by the abandonment of the provisions at a summit the Obama administration considers a crucial opportunity to not only combat climate change, but also to assert U.S. leadership after four years under President Donald Trump’s retrenchment. Although the United States will bring a significant presence to the gathering, including former President Barack Obama, it could fall behind European countries that have taken concrete steps to reduce emissions.
Biden will be visiting Scotland in November, following his participation at a summit of world leaders held in Rome. However, the Chinese President Xi Jinping has decided to skip the gatherings which delayed the first meeting between leaders from the superpowers. This could reduce their importance. Biden and Macron will meet in Italy to try to repair relations following the cancellation of a French submarine contract with the U.S., which led to the French temporarily withdrawing their ambassador from Washington.
The Nov. 2 gubernatorial elections in Virginia are also a key event that will be a referendum on Biden’s and the Democrats chances of retraining Congress control next year.
Terry McAuliffe, who previously served as the state’s governor, is locked in a closer-than-expected race with Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin in a state that Biden won by 10 points last year.
McAuliffe was surprising in his criticisms of the administration’s legislative strategy. He urged Democrats to pass the infrastructure bill prior to Election Day to give him something tangible to show voters. White House officials privately expect McAuliffe to emerge with a narrow win and believe they can ignore worries about a smaller-than-expected margin of victory. A close outcome or a Youngkin victory could upset Democrats who are uncertain about Biden’s political stances. This could make them less likely to vote for his agenda, and would boost Republicans going into the midterm elections.