Saturday, December 4

Democrats face off in Washington while Americans fight

(CNN) — As Democrats battle each other in Washington, rising costs of living and a slowing economy are putting increasing pressure on Americans and worsening the political environment that will decide the fate of their party in the midterm elections.

Another day of missed deadlines, political malpractice and the emptying of presidential authority on Capitol Hill ended with Joe Biden’s coup on infrastructure and social spending stalled once again.

Even after Biden said his presidency was at stake and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned lawmakers not to “embarrass” him as he left on a big trip abroad, progressives continued. refusing to endorse a bipartisan infrastructure bill that they are using as leverage to secure the best possible conditions in a watered-down but still huge social spending plan.

As the president, whom the Americans chose to fix their problems, struggles to pass a massive agenda through tiny majorities in government, the country’s plight – which contributed to its approval ratings plummeting over the summer – continues deteriorating.

New official data, released Thursday, showed that the recovery has hit a major hurdle: growth stalled at an annualized rate of just 2% in the third quarter. The pandemic surge fueled by the delta variant, coupled with supply chain contractions, worker shortages, slow job growth, and rising inflation hampered an economy that Biden expected would now roar in a post-covid boom. 19.

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Gasoline prices, one of the most visceral indicators of prosperity for Americans, averaged $ 3.40, according to the American Automobile Association, and are much higher in some states. Not all of these problems are Biden’s fault and some are due to unique factors related to the pandemic and its impact on the global economy. But there is little indication that the president has quick answers to these chronic economic woes as he strives to enact a more fundamental overhaul of the economy to help workers.

For example, on a CNN forum last week, Biden admitted that high gas prices won’t start to decline until next year. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently told CNN that supply chain issues could spoil holiday shopping and are driving prices up as well and will persist through 2022.

This split-screen moment threatens to give Republicans an opening (and a chance) to shape a political message that may throw them off the defensive over former President Donald Trump’s complaint about the 2020 election.

“You’d think the president and congressional Democrats would avoid further sabotaging the US economy. But that’s exactly what this proposal does,” Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas said Thursday, lashing out at a bill. of spending that he considers a huge Democratic tax and spending spree.

These attacks are why Biden consistently calls the $ 1 trillion infrastructure plan and the broader spending plan, cut by moderate Senate Democrats to $ 1.75 trillion, as huge employment programs that would benefit. to almost all citizens.

“We would put hard-working Americans to work to update our infrastructure, good unionized jobs at current wages. Jobs that you can raise a family with, as my father would say,” Biden said Thursday.

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“We could have a little respite; jobs that cannot be outsourced; jobs that replace lead water pipes so families can drink clean water, improving the health of our children and putting plumbers and pipeline specialists to work.” said the president after traveling to the Capitol with a call to action that failed to unblock the impasse.

Change millions of lives

There is no doubt that, if passed, the social spending package, which makes housing, education, health care and home care more affordable, has the potential to change millions of lives. Climate proposals could unleash a new green economy, as well as help save the planet.

And Biden is likely to end up getting his return to victory in Washington. His head of homeland policy, Susan Rice, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday that the White House was “very confident” that a framework accepted by progressives in the House of Representatives would be the basis for the spending bill. that could now be approved in both houses. The two resisting moderate Democrats, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, have yet to publicly and unreservedly endorse the framework.

The question now, after another missed deadline, is when the situation will change. In recent days, the spectacle of Democrats ditching multi-million dollar programs and hastily trying to find new ways to fund the bill has left an impression of chaos that hardly improves the reputation of one of the biggest social spending bills in generations. .

The longer the stalemate lasts, the greater the risk that moderate Senate Democrats will flinch. Or that progressives resent a framework agreement that cuts many of their favorite programs, like paid family leave and free community college.

Biden’s departure for the G20 summit in Italy and the UN climate conference in Scotland was set by Democratic leaders as the last deadline for passing the infrastructure and spending bills. This Thursday, it also became the last mandatory approval date to be missed, reflecting the White House’s growing habit of setting deadlines that are not met and that erode the president’s credibility.

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As a result of this latest breach, Biden showed up in Rome looking like a president who can’t put his own house in order before meeting with world leaders to reassert America’s leadership. Biden especially wanted climate programs to be included in the spending bill sent to his table before he left, to pressure other nations to make significant cuts in carbon emissions at the climate summit.

Progressives believe the social spending bill, which offers universal preschool education, home health care for the sick and the elderly, and $ 500 billion of spending to combat climate change, is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to review the economy and ease the burden on American workers.

So his intransigence – and his willingness to use his newfound power in the House of Representatives – is understandable. But there is a growing risk that the tortuous process of passing the legislation lessens the political impact the president can expect once it is passed. Some Democratic strategists want the party to save the twin victories for Biden now, to avoid any further accidents with the legislation.

“This is why I introduced myself”

The president himself argued to progressives on Thursday that there is no perfect bill. His own credibility is at stake because he promised Americans that he could unite rival parties and strike deals to help workers. While progressives are obsessed with the spending plan, more moderate House Democrats are hugely frustrated that an infrastructure package they consider critical to their reelection results has been frozen for weeks.

Congressman Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, whose seat is on the Republican Party’s target list for next year, got angry with progressives after a further failure to pass the bill.

“It is frustrating for many of us that we are now in a game of ‘who goes first’ when all parties seem to agree on the essentials. […] The country has been asking for this, my constituents have been asking for this. “

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Biden had tried before to instill in progressives the need to act quickly. “We spent hours, and hours, and hours for months and months working on this,” Biden told Democratic lawmakers Thursday. “Nobody got everything they wanted, including me, but that’s the compromise. That’s the consensus. And that’s what I based myself on to introduce myself.”

If the bills fail to pass, Biden’s already damaged reputation for competition would take a severe hit and Democrats would have little to come forward with in 2022. But there is no guarantee that, even if the two bills become law, they are going to be a huge political dividend for the president.

Large bills that dole out spending on social programs often take years to settle and become political assets, like former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, for example. The risk is that the public will see Congress spend billions of dollars without noticing a corresponding improvement in their lives. For Democrats, that’s a headache heading into a year in which history suggests that the president’s party in his first term will take a beating.

The failure to pass the infrastructure bill, especially, may have already dealt a severe blow to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who finds himself in a hand-to-hand battle with his Republican foe in Virginia, despite that Biden won there last year by 10 points.

McAuliffe’s main problem is the apathy of grassroots voters in the suburbs. Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin’s message of economic growth, tax cuts and education spending is resonating on this critical battlefield that will decide next week’s election. The bleak economic news on Thursday provided him with another weapon on his way to the final weekend of the campaign.

But progressive Democrats, after refusing to let the infrastructure bill pass on Thursday before getting a final piece of legislation on the framework of the spending bill signed by Manchin and Sinema, insist that the delay in voting on the agenda of Biden, to make it law, is only making the final package more impressive.

“We will vote on those two bills together and the president will be able to have the victory he deserves as a chief negotiator, bringing together all parties of the party,” Representative Pramila Jayapal, president, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday. of the progressive caucus of Congress,

“But most importantly, we will offer the American people the transformative changes that he and all of us have proposed that will transform people’s lives.”

Manu Raju contributed to this article.

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