President Joe Biden’s pledge to restore a tradition of bipartisan deal-making in Washington is facing an early test as a divided Congress weighs his ambitious pandemic relief plan.
The $1.9 trillion “rescue” package Biden rolled out last week — a big-ticket bid to revive a coronavirus-ravaged economy — is getting the cold shoulder from Republicans. And some Democrats, anxious to act quickly, are beginning to question whether there is any point in trying to win their support.
For Biden, who as a candidate branded himself the Democrat best positioned to break Capitol Hill gridlock, the story of his presidency could well be written over the coming weeks, as the work of crafting the bill and wrangling votes for it begins in earnest. But even in the face of Republican opposition and Democratic anxiety, Biden is betting on himself and a team of seasoned negotiators to deliver not only a massive aid package, but also a victory that would vindicate one of the core premises of his political life — that there is always room and reason to negotiate with partisan foes.
The legislation Biden described will, under the Senate’s current rules, require at least 10 Republican votes and a unified Democratic caucus to pass. If that fails, the White House and Senate Democrats are poised to pivot to a process called budget reconciliation, which would allow for a pared-down package to pass with a simple majority. To get the full package without GOP support, Senate Democrats would likely have to go “nuclear” and change or end the legislative filibuster, a move that former President Barack Obama endorsed last year.
Biden’s stance is less clear. He has supported retaining the filibuster in the past but hedged in comments last summer, saying his posture could change depending on “how obstreperous (Republicans) become.
” Asked on Friday where Biden currently stands, White House press secretary Jen Psaki would say only that his “position has not changed.”
Moving to the budget reconciliation or getting rid of the filibuster would put a dent in Biden’s claim of being a master negotiator. But it might be the only way, Democrats argue, to deliver relief to Americans desperate for it, foreign media reported.