That headline is not hyperbole or exaggeration. The next few days in Washington will either see the salvation of Joe Biden’s presidency or its ending.
Washington Democrats are walking around Capitol Hill with a perpetual frown on their faces. None of them are happy with the current state of affairs that has brought the presidency of Joe Biden — and the Democratic majority — to the brink of disaster.
The question to be answered this week: Can Joe Biden govern?
As of Sunday, the answer would have to be “no.”
Congress is three days out from a vote on a key plank of the president’s agenda — a massive $1.2 trillion infrastructure package (BIF) — and President JOE BIDEN and House Democratic leaders haven’t even started the whipping process, we’re told from sources across the Democratic spectrum.
Our colleagues Natasha Korecki and Laura Barrón-López reported Sunday night that the president was making calls and doing Zoom sessions from Camp David over the weekend on BIF and the larger reconciliation package. But the seeming lack of urgency so far — given the sheer scale of the task and mere days to complete it — is alarming some House Democrats going into a critical week, multiple people involved told us Sunday night.
“I don’t understand why the president isn’t whipping his own historic bill,” said one moderate House Democrat.
Like everything else with Biden’s presidency, the whipping process appears to be going in slow motion. And this is one issue where the Democrats need the Road Runner in charge and not Cecil the Turtle.
So much to do, so little time to do it. The BIF (Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework) vote has been delayed while radicals hold a gun to the heads of moderates, demanding their $3.5 trillion budget bill be considered in tandem with the bipartisan bill.
Unfortunately for the radicals — fortunately for the rest of us — the massive “Build Back Better” bill is nowhere near being finished and may not be for several weeks. Democrats can’t even agree on a topline number. There are arguments about who and what gets taxed. There are debates on how to divvy up the goodies. Who is rewarded? Who gets shafted? These are very delicate political matters and take time — even under the best of circumstances — to resolve.
But the radicals continue to insist that the House vote on the budget bill before even considering the BIF.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal is leading the charge over the cliff.
“What we have said is we need the entire reconciliation bill,” Jayapal told reporters. “Some framework that can still take another couple months to get done, that the Senate hasn’t agreed to, that hasn’t been voted on, that’s not going to do it for us.”
Jayapal’s thinking had not changed after Pelosi’s shift to decouple the two spending bills.
“We are going to vote for both bills after the reconciliation bill is done,” she said after the caucus meeting.
If the spending legislation wasn’t problematic enough to deal with this week, the Democrats must also bite the bullet and pass a temporary budget bill and a suspension of the debt limit.
With a Thursday deadline looming to fund the government — and the country moving closer to a catastrophic debt-limit breach — the stalemate in the Senate reflected a bid by Republicans to undercut President Biden and top Democrats at a critical moment, as they labor to keep the government running and enact an ambitious domestic agenda.
Republicans who had voted to raise the debt cap by trillions when their party controlled Washington argued on Monday that Democrats must shoulder the entire political burden for doing so now, given that they control the White House and both houses of Congress.
We should thank the New York Times for their efforts in trying to explain why the GOP is not doing what the Democrats did when the GOP was in charge. It’s actually a little more complicated than the Times would have their readers believe. In fact, Republicans were trying to dig the United States out of an economic hole dug by a Democratic president.
The only hole the Democrats are digging is a grave for the Constitution.
The Democrats will probably be able to paper over their differences. After all, they’re politicians and that’s what politicians do.
But Democrats are only deluding themselves if they don’t realize that their failures to deal with the critical issues of the president’s agenda and their reluctance to accept responsibility for funding the government and raising the debt limit won’t have profound effects going forward.