Joe Biden used to have a reputation as a legislative genius, a dealmaker who could convince most anyone to come to his side. During the 2020 campaign, Politico referred to him as “a true master of the art of the deal, a son of a car salesman who knows how to get to yes, a relentless consensus-builder who can work across the aisle to bring Americans together.”
Even the campaign seems like a long time ago because Joe Biden appears to have lost that ability. And the Democrats have noticed.
The Hill published an article about the Democrats’ growing dissatisfaction with Biden over his attempts to convince Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.) to fall in line with the Democrats’ massive reconciliation bill:
Biden met one-on-one with Sinema on the morning of Sept. 15 and then with Manchin later that day. He also held separate meetings with the two senators on Sept. 28.
Little news came out of any of the meetings other than a report that Sinema issued an ultimatum to Biden, warning him she wouldn’t back the reconciliation bill if the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill was delayed or failed in the House.
“If [Biden] had been able to walk away and say, ‘I have a commitment to $2 trillion from both [senators] and now we’re working on the details,’ it would have been like a sense of momentum. ‘The president’s magic of the Oval Office comes in once again.’ But instead it was like, ‘There’s no magic in the Oval Office right now,’” the senator who spoke to The Hill said of the meetings.
For the Democrats, Biden’s “magic” is gone. And many Democrats believe that the president’s glad-handing tactics with Sinema and Manchin have led the senators to remain stubborn.
Philip Klein writes at National Review that, oddly enough, Biden treated his meetings with Manchin and like a triumph:
Biden himself spoke as if he were taking a victory lap at the end of marathon talks.“I want to thank my colleagues in the Congress for their leadership,” he said from the East Room. “We’ve spent hours and hours and hours over months and months working on this. No one got everything they wanted, including me, but that’s what compromise is. That’s consensus. And that’s what I ran on.”
He went to Capitol Hill to meet with House Democrats in what was supposed to be a speech followed by a vote passing his infrastructure bill.
Instead, Biden took off to Rome and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed the vote yet again.
To be fair, the Washington that Joe Biden presides over is a different place than it was when he was a senator and when he was VP. An increasingly radical cadre of Democrats takes an all-or-nothing approach, while compromise between the two major parties is nonexistent these days.
And, as Jim Geraghty points out, Biden’s “magic” tended to work on legislators of a bygone era:
One factor that probably doesn’t get enough attention is that Biden’s decades in the Senate really means that he spent years cultivating great relationships with fellow senators who are now either retired or dead. Sure, Patrick Leahy and Chuck Grassley and Mitch McConnell are still around, and Biden’s relationship with Bernie Sanders is generally amiable and not antagonistic, even if Sanders feels like he never gets enough of what he wants.
But 26 senators took office since January 2017, arriving in Washington as Biden was leaving. In the 2018 midterms voters sent a lot of new Democrats to Congress, folks who hadn’t been in Washington before and who probably had never met Biden, never mind had much of a working relationship with him. This includes members of “The Squad” — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — as well as other progressive leaders in the House such as Pramila Jayapal and Ro Khanna who have never worked with Biden before.
I don’t want to give Biden too many excuses, but it’s remarkable that Democrats are laying the blame for their legislative failures solely at his feet. There’s no self-awareness and no realization that their all-or-nothing, compromise-be-damned attitude may have something to do with the fact that they can’t get anything done.
Then again, we on the right should rejoice that Biden the Magnificent seems to have forgotten how to perform his magic tricks.