“HThis is what I know to be true, Mr. President, ”Vice President Kamala Harris said Monday, addressing Joe Biden. “You are a believer and a builder in equal measure. And because you are, we are all better. “
Biden it is a believer in the ability of the American people, American democracy, and Democrats and Republicans to work together and get things done. It was the theory of his candidacy for the presidency.
But his faith has been sorely tested since he took office.
Reality keeps haunting Biden and yet he comes back for more, his seemingly unshakable convictions. He refuses to be disappointed in the United States. His payoff came Monday when he signed into law a bipartisan, trillion-dollar bill to repair roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
The president said at a meeting of about 800 mayors, governors and workers on the South Lawn of the White House: “The bill that I am about to sign is proof that, despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can unite and deliver results. We can do this. We can deliver real results for real people. “
Only the harshest cynics would deny him this victory lap over the biggest public works bill since former President Dwight Eisenhower created the interstate highway system in 1956. “Joe! Joseph! José! ”Supporters shouted as the sun set, shedding their light on him but leaving most of the crowd in the shade as cold winds blew.
But it didn’t take a cynic to pick up the clues that Washington still has a long way to go to heal its deep and dysfunctional divisions and live up to Biden’s idealism. This could be a new dawn of bipartisanship. Or it could be your last gasp.
Infrastructure, after all, is a low bar to clear. Foreign visitors to the US are surprised to find the most powerful nation the world has ever known, littered with bumpy roads, collapsed bridges and crushed airports. China and other countries are ahead. America had to act because it couldn’t stop acting.
Six years ago, when Congress last approved a significant renovation of federal highways and other transportation programs, it was backed by nearly all Democrats and a solid majority of Republicans.
This time, the $ 1.2n infrastructure bill He passed the Senate 69-13 with Republican support, but made it through last week in the House with just 13 Republican votes. And they have paid a political price.
Donald Trump, the former president, lashed out at them. Marjorie Taylor Greene, an extremist member of Congress, called them “traitors” while tweeting their names and office phone numbers.
Michigan Congressman Fred Upton said his offices received dozens of threatening calls after he voted for it. That included an obscenity-filled spiel in which the caller repeatedly called Upton a “traitor” and expressed hope that he, his family and his aides would be killed.
If the Maga wing (“Make America Great Again”) of the Republican party hoped to intimidate party members into staying away from Biden’s party, it appears they have succeeded. Only a few Congressional Republicans were present to hear this hymn to bipartisanship.
Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate who voted for the bill, was notably not among them, apparently unwilling to enhance Biden’s political victory (the president thanked him in his absence, anyway).
Instead, there was Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who is not running for reelection and therefore has nothing to fear from the revenge of the Maga world.
Biden joked: “Senator Rob Portman is a really good guy. I’m not hurting you, Rob, because I know you won’t run again. “
This was not a Trumpian celebration of fireworks, roaring military planes, and tanks parked on the grass. However, the colonnades of the rose garden were adorned with the stars and stripes and the flags of all 50 states were lined up on the south portico.
Portman, Senator Kyrsten Sinema (neither wore a coat despite the cold), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi walked across the South Lawn as a fanfare played. a music band.
Sinema, a centrist Democrat from Arizona, said at the meeting: “How many times have we heard that bipartisanship is no longer possible or that major politics can only happen on one party line? Our legislation proves otherwise and the senators who negotiated this legislation show how to do things. “
But his prominent role summed up the ambiguity of the moment. Sinema has infuriated many on the left with his enigmatic and uncompromising approach to the second part of Biden’s agenda, known as Build Back Better, which proposes $ 1.75 trillion in social and environmental spending. Republicans are uniformly opposed.
That stalemate isn’t helping Biden’s approval rating, which hovers around the 40% mark despite job growth, nor does it do much to allay fears that rot has finally settled in the body politic.
But for an afternoon at least, Biden could be Biden, thanking absent friends and reaffirming his faith in America.
“I ran for president because the only way to move our country forward is through compromise and consensus,” he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism