Joe Biden and his team have vowed to extend the bipartisan olive branch like no previous administration in a move that, on the surface, appears to coincide with the new president’s long political history of seeking Republican support.
Since taking office, the Biden administration has emphasized its willingness to work with Republicans on its major initiatives, such as a Covid relief bill. Behind the scenes, he has started a broad push to reach as many Congressional offices as possible, reaching out to former and current Republican lawmakers and their staffs, and hosting a high-visibility meeting between nearly a dozen Republican senators and Biden. the same.
But, it seems the president’s reach, perhaps to the relief of the party left and observers used to cynical Republican obstructionism, has its limits when it comes to actual decision-making.
Republicans warn that Biden and his team may not be keeping their promises. They complain that most of the interactions have taken place at the staff level. These Republicans say the initial flurry of executive orders issued by Biden in the early days of the president’s new administration suggests an underlying go-alone approach.
They also say that if the Biden administration passes a Covid aid bill through a legislative maneuver known as reconciliation, it will send a signal of the real limits of how willing Democrats are to negotiate broad bipartisan deals. And Republicans complain that the Democratic interest in using a Covid relief bill to pass a minimum wage increase is another example of how disinterested the ruling party is in working with Republicans.
“Biden talked about the unit. He had that meeting with the 10 but is being aggressively pushed by his so-called progressives, “said former Mississippi Senator Trent Lott, a Republican. “Your first real test will be what they end up doing in the Covid package if they don’t agree to drop the $ 1.9 billion, if they don’t agree not to include things like the $ 15 minimum wage, then don’t be too bipartisan. In fact, it could fail. “
Tensions may be brewing, but there has yet to be a big public party explosion. Biden regularly speaks with Republican lawmakers in person and over the phone, a Biden official noted. Some of those interactions are publicly known, including discussions with Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Susan Collins of Maine.
“President Biden made good on his promise to unite Americans to address the challenges facing our country, and in office he has made clear his willingness to find common ground with Republican lawmakers to achieve this,” said the House spokesman. Blanca, Mike Gwin, in a statement. .
Republican lawmakers still express their willingness to speak and work with the Biden administration. After a group of nine Republicans met with Biden to discuss a compromise on a comprehensive Covid relief bill, Collins, one of the more centrist Republicans in Congress, said they had not reached a compromise but would continue to speak. .
“I wouldn’t say we got together in a pack tonight. Nobody expected that in a two-hour meeting, ”Collins told reporters after the meeting in early February. “But what we do agree to is to follow up and talk more at the staff level and with each other and with the president and vice president about how we can continue to work together on this important issue.”
There was no ostentatious march by the Republicans. There are no condemnations about how ridiculous the other side was being. The channels were still open.
Biden also met with a bipartisan group of senators last week to begin talks on an infrastructure initiative.
Earlier this month, members of the White House legislative affairs team were scheduled to meet with Republican Senate chiefs of staff during their regular lunch for an unofficial meet and greet, according to three sources with knowledge of the lunch. The White House team warned that there could be some scheduling hurdles due to legislative events that day and on the morning of the meeting, the team said they had to cancel and reschedule.
Some chiefs of staff interpreted the cancellation as if the Biden White House rejected the Republicans. But other officials stressed that it was a sincere time conflict and that the appearance would be rescheduled. The legislative team also emphasized to Republican officials that they were eager to meet with them.
“It’s important that we get people to come and, frankly, I think some of us want to have a constructive relationship with these people,” said a Republican official. Since then, the meeting has been rescheduled.
Notably, Republicans are eager to express their respect for Louisa Terrell, the White House’s chief legislative affairs officer, and Reema Dodin, a congresswoman in that office.
“I can tell you as far as they are concerned, they want to work with us,” the official said. “We’re all a bit bummed to see them crush us with this reconciliation, but whatever it is, it’s not about that.”
Still, both Republican and Democratic officials are pessimistic about a major bipartisan deal in the foreseeable future.
There have not been some of the usual, and often ceremonial, bipartisan gestures that normally occur between an administration and the leaders of the opposing party. Biden has not had a publicized meeting with the top four Republican and Democratic Congressional leaders. Former Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who served as the Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate from 2001 to 2003, has urged White House officials to host one such summit.
At the White House daily press conference Tuesday, press secretary Jen Psaki was asked if the administration hoped to be able to work with a Republican party as adversarial as it has been in recent years.
“The country is looking for action, the country is looking for progress, solutions, in Covid, in the economy. The package that the president has proposed has the support of almost three-quarters of the public in most polls, “said Psaki.
Daschle said it was still early for Biden and that he deserved “high marks for his reach to date.” Daschle added that this is not the same Senate that Biden worked for.
“You have to build relationships and rebuild the relationships you had before with people like Mitch McConnell,” Daschle said.
Daschle added that Biden will also need to offer an agenda “that if he wants a bipartisan job, he will need bipartisan involvement. That is probably not possible with Covid’s first aid package because it has very ambitious aspirations for what that bill should look like. I don’t think he’s likely to get Republican support for his aspirations. “
He said, “So you have to decide between a major accomplishment in which you have invested so much of your personal actions or getting bipartisan buy-in, and I think you will choose the former over the latter.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism