Biden Stands His Ground

[ Posted Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021 – 17:19 UTC ]

One of the concerns many Democratic voters (especially progressives) have had about President Joe Biden was that he has had a propensity to compromise too much when dealing with congressional Republicans (as he did as vice president on several Obama initiatives) and that he just wasn't bold enough (too incremental), and would therefore prove to be a rather wishy-washy president. Well, the jury's still largely out (after all, it hasn't even been a full two weeks yet), but I have to say that the earliest indications are surprisingly good. Biden is holding firm in his first big legislative push, and he's refusing to get sidetracked into some miasmic swamp of some promised bipartisan compromise that never actually materializes.

Biden met yesterday with the 10 Republican senators who finally put forth a proposal of their own for a COVID-19 relief package. Up until the weekend, the Republicans negotiating with the Democrats had no plan, just lots of complaints about the Democratic proposal. So they got the required number (10) together (which would allow Democrats to overcome a filibuster attempt), but getting all 10 of them on board obviously wasn't easy -- because the plan that they put forward is not just laughably inadequate, it's actually an insult. Biden started at $1.9 trillion, and he's got the solid backing of economists (and the new Fed chair) who say that the only danger here is that the stimulus package might not be large enough. Republicans countered with a paltry $618 billion - less than one-third of Biden's proposal.

I'm sure they were fully expecting Biden to jump at the chance to "appear bipartisan" and that maybe he'd talk them up to, perhaps, just over a trillion dollars, but that'd be about it... certainly nowhere near the $1.9 trillion the Democrats wanted. I'm also sure they were confident that they could drag these negotiations out for weeks (if not months), following in the footsteps of Mitch McConnell, who successfully dithered for nine months last year without agreeing to anything at all (until finally forced to, at the end).

President Barack Obama's biggest failing (in my opinion) was that he was far too eager to give the store away in such negotiations. Obamacare is far weaker than it could have been, because Obama spent far too much time and energy chasing the wild goose of bipartisanship. It also took way longer than it should have, as Republicans pulled the same "agree to negotiate, but then never actually agree on anything" delaying tactic. Obama would open these negotiations by immediately moving the football from his own end zone to the 50 yard line. Republicans would counter by offering to move it to their 10 yard line. Obama would offer the 30 yard line. They'd eventually agree to somewhere between the 20 and the 25 -- and then Republicans would refuse to vote for it, even though they had gotten over three-fourths of what they had been asking for.

Joe Biden has learned his lesson, apparently. Because what he reportedly told the 10 Republicans was that he wasn't even in the mood to negotiate the price tag at all. If the GOP wanted to shift some of the money around a little bit between this program and that, perhaps he'd listen to their concerns. Perhaps he'd bend on certain details. But not on the overall size of the bill, and not on the timeline. It has to be big, and it has to pass soon -- those are Biden's two guiding lights. Which he informed the Republicans of very directly, by all accounts.

Biden knows he can pass his $1.9 trillion through budget reconciliation and thus not need a single Republican vote in the Senate. Oh, sure, the Republicans will attempt to beat him up for "lying about all that 'unity' stuff," and being too partisan, but you know what? The average person who receives a $1,400 check in the mail is not going to care what congressional Democrats had to do to make it a reality. They're going to be impressed with the speed it happened, not somehow upset because Mitt Romney couldn't find his way to vote for the final bill. Politicians in Washington are so steeped in arcane process questions about how the government works that they truly forget that most other Americans just don't really care at all. Instead, they care about results.

And the results may be far better than anyone expects. Democrats are going to push through not only all the relief they thought was necessary in the last bill (including desperately-needed aid to states and local governments), but also monumental things like a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage. The last time a bill to increase the minimum wage was passed by Congress and signed by a president was 2007 -- and it only went up to the current (and woefully inadequate) $7.25 per hour. For fourteen years, Congress has been unable to raise it again. So more than doubling it would indeed count as a gigantic and bold step forward. Plus, it is quite likely that the new minimum wage will have automatic cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) built-in -- meaning the bitter partisan fights over raising the minimum wage could become entirely a thing of the past -- and that is an even more momentous development.

No minimum wage worker in America -- whether they wear a "MAGA" hat or a "Build Back Better" hat to work -- is going to care one iota about what particular parliamentary Senate procedure was used to guarantee them a raise to 15 bucks an hour in the near future, to put this in very simple terms. It's all about results -- real, tangible, kitchen-table budget type results. And it's hard to argue that $1,400 in the mail and a $15 minimum wage don't fall into that category.

Republicans can whine all they want about Biden "betraying his promises to reach across the aisle," but it's just not going to work this time. The public will weigh such complaints against the fact that Democrats got something big and important done in record time, and it's pretty easy to see which side most of the public will come down on. Biden is actually already using this to good effect, by the White House pointing out how high all of these initiatives poll -- even in red states. Biden knows the public will be behind such bold moves, and he isn't really concerned about the hurt feelings of any Senate Republicans.

Biden essentially gave the Republicans an ultimatum: either immediately come up with something that Biden could support (with the same $1.9 trillion price tag, in other words) and that 10 Republicans would actually vote for, or be left out in the cold as Democrats get it done without them. The clock is ticking, in other words, so if the Republicans can't get their own bipartisan act together lickety-split, then they can go complain about how horrible $1,400 checks and $15 per hour all is to their constituents (and good luck with that, by the way).

Biden holds a very strong hand, because we're in such an obvious emergency that something must pass as quickly as possible. It's pretty much impossible to argue for delay, in other words. The other strong point Biden has is Chuck Schumer as Senate majority leader, after Democrats miraculously picked up both Georgia Senate seats. What is a very welcome surprise is that Biden knows it, has left Schumer alone (and not undercut him by in any way disparaging the use of reconciliation rules to pass the COVID-19 relief bill, which could have tanked the whole effort), and Biden has refused to budge on either the amount he believes is necessary or the timeline in which it must pass and be placed on his desk.

Again, this is only the first of what will likely be many contentious bills during Biden's term in office. But it is heartening indeed to see Biden play such hardball. There is simply no reason whatsoever to give in to Republican obstructionism in any way, and Biden knows it. And he also knows that the public isn't going to care one whit how it happens, just that it does.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


26 Comments on “Biden Stands His Ground”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    The average person who receives a $1,400 check in the mail is not going to care what congressional Democrats had to do to make it a reality. They're going to be impressed with the speed it happened, not somehow upset because Mitt Romney couldn't find his way to vote for the final bill.

    This is what Biden is counting on. When he talks about unity or bipartisanship, I believe he is talking primarily about the American people, as a whole, and not Congress.

    What do the polls say about support for this COVID-19 relief package and how does it break down on party lines?

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Plus, it is quite likely that the new minimum wage will have automatic cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) built-in -- meaning the bitter partisan fights over raising the minimum wage could become entirely a thing of the past -- and that is an even more momentous development.

    All the president has to do is make sure every single American knows about this!

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    May I say that this piece was an absolute pleasure to read. :-)

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    By the way, doesn't the new president look like he's finally found his calling in life! Heh. I may have perpetual smile on my face for the duration.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Been watching the lovely ceremony at the Capitol tonight and hoping that the leaders who walk those halls will sieze the opportunity it provides...

  6. [6] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    Sounds good to me. All Republican complaints about the Dems' willingness to do whatever they want with their majority, regardless of GOP hopes and dreams, can be addressed with two simple words in the English language:



  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, okay but, it's not much of a majority, yet.

  8. [8] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    If Biden follows through it will be a positive development.

    The 15 dollar minimum wage is so overdue that it is no longer a viable solution. It does make anyone with a low paying job better off but does nothing to address that there are not enough jobs for everyone. The economy has changed and the solution that we need now (not thirty or forty years too late like the 15 dollar minimum wage) is BMI.

    Right now the employers have the advantage because the supply of jobs does not meet the demand for jobs. People need to survive and are willing to work for less because they have no other choice.

    A BMI would provide a basic survival income (hence the name BMI) so people would not have to work to survive. This would level the playing field between workers and employers.

    The vast majority of citizens would still want to work to improve their station in life over basic survival but could afford to work for 8 or 10 or 12 dollars an hour and there would be no need for a minimum wage as well as many other programs that help citizens that are not making enough money to survive on (like food stamps, housing assistance) as these would all be covered under the BMI.

  9. [9] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Obamcare is not "far weaker than it could have been because Obama spent too much time chasing bipartisanship". Obamacare is weak because Obama capitulated to the demands of the insurance companies that insurance coverage should become a universal mandate.

    In a rational national healthcare system, the insurance companies should not even have a role to play beyond perhaps providing supplemental coverage for those who desired it.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    This pandemic has made very clear how inextricably linked are the economy and public health. Don and CRS are on to something very important.

    At least, the critical conversation has begun.

    And, what's more, Biden gets it, too, and really wants to do something about it!

  11. [11] 
    ericksor wrote:

    Chris, agree with and fully endorse everything you say here, but my big concern is West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. He calls himself a Dem but is obviously so conservative that he could easily shift parties. (The only saving grace is that, as far as I can tell, he's not a Trumpite.)

    And he obviously has dreams of being a kingmaker since he knows he could shift the Senate with his single vote, making Kamala immaterial. So Schumer could be checkmated unless Manchin is mollified.

    He has already shown his stripes by being so publicly upset Kamala gave an interview to a local WV media outlet on the proposed COVID package and didn't get his permission first. “I saw [the interview]. I couldn’t believe it. No one called me [about it],” Manchin said.
    Then today, he threatened to scuttle the entire reconciliation effort unless it suddenly became bipartisan. Newsweek: Manchin deals blow to stimulus plan

    The Dem leadership has to have recognized this, even before Manchin's announcement. I wonder what they are doing about it.

  12. [12] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    in my view, the economies of individual states are so different that a national healthcare or BMI would probably not meet the demands of most communities. for both of these ideas to work, i think they'd have to be state-run programs that could meet federal guidelines, like medicaid.

  13. [13] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Good column bearing glad tidings. You're correct IMO that only us politics junkies in America know or care about government. Results is all that matters to most Americans. Full stop.

    Most people I've met don't give a hoot about politics.

  14. [14] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Just as I hoped, Joe remembers the ACA fiasco and is apparently once bitten, twice shy.

  15. [15] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Breaking news from this Politico article,

    Biden told the House Democratic Caucus that he was willing to compromise on who will be eligible for the next round stimulus checks — but remained firm on the size of the $1,400 check, according to multiple sources on the call.

  16. [16] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Hey Miss Perpetual Smile, here's a related Vox poll.

    In the poll, 60 percent of likely voters said they would support sending a $1,400 one-time payment to most Americans as part of Covid-19 relief. That’s great news — the $1,200 stimulus checks last year were shown to have reduced poverty and helped Americans stay afloat in the first months of the crisis.

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Hey, MtnCaddy! Do you like the Romantics? I just found out that they are from Detroit.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Maybe you told me that once before and I forgot?

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    60 percent seems very low for supporting COVID-19 relief ... why is that?

  20. [20] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    30% still think it's a hoax.

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  22. [22] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [7] Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, okay but, it's not much of a majority, yet.

    For the moment.

    Patience, Grasshopper
    - Master Po/King

  23. [23] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Hey, MtnCaddy! Do you like the Romantics? I just found out that they are from Detroit.

    Tonight's your lucky night! You can introduce me to your fave Romantics tunes Sunday. MixmistressDJ the Royal Canadian way. I didn't know they came from Detroit.

  24. [24] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    With Covid denial so prevalent Joe should publically call on Trump,

    "Mr. President please tell your supporters that you're so confident in your Operation Warp Speed vaccines that they should get one as soon as they can. And tell their friends, too, before they send the doses out to Nancy Pelosi's district."

    Whether Trump does so or not this is a win-win for Joe.

    1- call attention to the need for all Americans to get the vaccine. Especially as the media will push the story, because Trump.

    2- remind everybody how badly Trump bungled Covid.

    3- if Trump wont act Presidential that will remind everyone what an uncaring d-bag he remains. Cain't but hurt Trump in the Senate.

  25. [25] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Please rate the above [24] on the Scale of Evilness, 1 - 10

  26. [26] 
    Kick wrote:


    Chistoye zlo ;)

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