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Does Biden’s Presidency Hinge on the $3.5 Trillion Spending Bill?

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Joe Biden’s short presidency has been defined by crisis after crisis. Everything he touches seems to break—gas prices, the economy, the southern border, Afghanistan, and even relations with allies have soured on his watch. Of course, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Biden promised competence and unity, and yet we’re as divided as ever, except on the fact that more people agree that Biden doesn’t have a clue.

Despite these crises, Democrat strategist Douglas Schoen thinks the fates of Biden’s presidency and the Democrats’ majority in Congress “hang it the balance” over their $3.5 trillion spending bill, which is currently plagued by Democrat infighting.

“Ultimately, President Biden must act urgently, using his influence among Democrats and moderate Republicans in the House to ensure the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, first and foremost,” Schoen writes. “Simultaneously, the president along with Democratic leaders in Congress must develop a set of principles or a framework that will convince progressives not to kill the bipartisan infrastructure plan, and then work to negotiate down the size of the $3.5 trillion bill to something that moderate Democratic Senators — namely, Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) — can get on board with.”

If this doesn’t happen, Schoen says Biden’s presidency “could be left in tatters, with nothing to show for legislatively on both traditional infrastructure and on so-called ‘human infrastructure.'”

Unfortunately for Biden, he doesn’t have much of a bully pulpit. Both the latest Gallup and Pew Research Center polls show him underwater in the past week—a first for both polling organizations. That’s not a solid foundation for convincing Democrats on the fence to join you or bring in a couple of Republicans for good measure. Even CNN acknowledges that vulnerable Democrats are trying to distance themselves from Biden.

On top of that, a potential shutdown looms, and without an increase in the debt ceiling, the U.S. is set to default on our debt in mid-October. Schoen realizes that should this happen, Biden and the Democrats will ultimately get blamed—despite history suggesting otherwise. “President Biden’s and Democrats’ political position is far too precarious — and their entire agenda is in far too much peril — for them to bet on history repeating itself,” Schoen suggests, which is true.

VIP: SHOCK POLL: An Astounding Number of Americans Believe Biden Has United Americans

One point Schoen misses in his analysis is that Joe Biden was supposed to be the uniter. He campaigned heavily on this theme and has yet to prove himself a uniter in chief. It’s true that almost immediately, Biden backtracked on this campaign theme—despite promising in his inaugural address to work with Republicans to address the nation’s problems. As polls have shown, Biden’s most significant drop in support since he took office has come from independents. If Biden had made any attempt to work with Republicans on a compromise, he’d be in a much better position. Even if efforts failed, he could blame Republicans for failing to work together in good faith. Still, Biden isn’t even trying to because, like Obama before him, compromise isn’t part of his vocabulary. Obama took office with a majority in both houses of Congress and didn’t need Republican support to plow his agenda through. Biden is in a similar situation, except with much smaller majorities. This makes it extremely difficult for him to ram his radical agenda through without some red-state Democrats balking.

And yet, the uniter in chief can’t make a deal. Or maybe the correct word is “won’t.” He’s repeatedly taken the Obama-esque “my way or the highway” approach to governing, even though that flies in the face of the unity pledge that he campaigned on. Independents notice his lack of dealmaking on such pivotal issues. Until Biden realizes that politics is the art of compromise, not the rule of a dictator, he’ll never win them back.