"The House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week," said Joe Biden yesterday. He then flew to Europe to attend a climate change summit without waiting to learn that the U.S. House once again postponed votes on both the massive Build Government Bigger spending package and the accompanying infrastructure bill. That's the Biden presidency in a nutshell: promise sweeping change on tiny majorities, without enough discipline and focus to ensure results.
President Biden promised the $1.75 trillion spending package won't "add a single penny to the deficit" or "raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year." Those are important things to promise, given mounting inflation and a flatlining economic recovery. But without plans to slash red tape or get Americans back to work, the only way for Biden to fulfill such promises is with magic. None of the Democrats' proposed tax increases can provide enough revenue.
"After months of tough and thoughtful negotiations," President Biden announced he had a "historic economic framework." But, as Congressman Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) said on "Washington Watch," "nobody really knows what's actually in this bill." Democrats are still writing the bill. Those long months only served to reduce the price tag from $6 trillion to under $2 trillion. Democrats accomplished this not by "getting rid of programs," but by "shrinking the time that these programs are going to be authorized," said Donalds. A program will never go away once it earns a constituency. "In future years ... Democrats will push votes in order to reauthorize the spending," he concluded.
Biden is "trying to create a legacy," said Donalds. Yet a legacy of failure is not off the table. Biden wants to achieve a domestic policy program on a level with FDR's New Deal or LBJ's Great Society without their Congressional supermajorities, or even their enthusiasm. "No one got everything they wanted, including me," admitted Biden. "But that's what compromise is, that's consensus, and that's what I ran on." What kind of pitch is that? "I know it's expensive, but at least no one likes it."
Biden campaigned as a moderate, but he has governed from the Left, making his own task more difficult by locking Republicans out of crafting legislation. He cannot afford to lose a single Democrat in the Senate, and there is plenty of squabbling to go around. It's still unclear whether his agenda will ever satisfy both Senate moderates and House progressives.
Meanwhile, President Biden desperately needs a win, which he hopes will be climate change. He is travelling to Rome and then Scotland to consult with world leaders, while America's economy is teetering, and Biden's Congressional agenda is stalled. "We are at an inflection point," he said. "The rest of the world wonders whether we can function."
What they're really wondering, Donalds retorted, is "are we actually going to get our fiscal house in order? ... Are we going to get serious about the world stage?" Congressman Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) agreed. America is "the only Western civilized nation" to "lower carbon dioxide emissions over the decade," he said on "Washington Watch." "The natural gas that we drill for here in America is the cleanest burning in the world." But President Biden's legislative agenda includes huge subsidies for electric vehicles, which rely heavily on rare metals like Cobalt mined by children in Congo and almost exclusively refined in China, "the most polluting nation on the face of the earth."