After a wild couple of weeks on the Hill that seems to have suddenly come to a full stop…well, don’t be fooled. It is not all quiet on the Washington front.
But rather than us bore you with an analysis of what’s not happening publicly in Washington at this moment, we’re going to give you a roundup of what we think is actually happening through a bunch of tidbits and tells we’ve been seeing in the press over the weekend (and ahead of our joint special Hacks on Tap appearance on MSNBC last night)!
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(cover photo credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images News)
Let’s get started…
Under the Beltway Pond…
The Washington political pond might seem serene right now, with a nice glassy surface, but just under the water a lot of major fish circling, darting and fighting is going on. Here are some tells I’m seeing Gibbsie: while the public battle is taking a respite, there are telling bubbles popping up to the surface. As the Washington Post’s reports in a splashy page one story yesterday quoting a voting rights activist out of Georgia, Democratic “Frustration is at an all-time high” among the grass roots for President Biden. Have no doubt there is a shot clock ticking for action and if something doesn’t happen soon, Democrat world is going to erupt in public. Another tell is the “$2 Trillion” number that was bouncing around in the media last week as an obvious trial balloon has gotten very little public love, particularly from the Progressives. They’ve tasted blood after torpedoing the infrastructure plan and don’t seem to be racing for the $2T number the WH has hoping to land on. While it could still happen – it might have to happen – it looks to me the Progs still have a bunch of fight left in ‘em and for Biden and the moderates that’s troubling news. It means everything will slow down – as the shot clock makes Biden look weaker and weaker – and the Republicans will have more opportunities to define the Dems’ big proposed spending bill not so much on its voter candy list, but on its sheer size… so big (and from a GOP point of view, so budget-busting) that even Democrats cannot all get on board. So, behind the Democratic curtain it is a world of increasing worry and pearl clutching.
Yeah, Charles Blow’s column is also making the rounds and it seems to echo activists’ concern about the future of the Democratic Party. But I think, Murphy, as I’ve been saying for the last 10,000 or so newsletters, if Biden and the Dems can get an agreement that allows the messaging to shift from overall dollars to what’s in this bill, it will make a big difference. Proof is in the new CBS News poll that says only 10 percent of voters know a lot of specifics, but close to 60 percent have heard it’ll cost $3.5 trillion. Those are warnings signs of a need to think through the marketing campaign around this quite differently.
Well, apparently, WaPo Dem columnist Greg Sargent thinks Biden’s big win will be the global minimum tax that will cure all, but good luck winning over the grass roots with that! While it would indeed be a big policy achievement and make a lot of economists happy, the Progs and Democratic base voters have other passions. They want new programs and new spending, pronto and in the trillions. I doubt Terry McAuliffe is going to try to use “globally synchronizing minimum corporate tax rates my friends, that is our battle!” as his big closer in Virginia (where the race appears to be getting tighter by the day according to the latest polling). It’s no surprise that Speaker Pelosi and others are trying to make the looming Nov. 2 election day in VA their new (and third) deadline for getting something, anything, passed to finally get a victory bump to ride. (Though with mail-in voting, they really need it days before that to have a real impact.) We’ll see if they can pull it off.
Yeah, well I will give you that one Murphy. If something did get done on the Hill, it would give McAuliffe a real boost. Here’s another read from the Washington Post on the latest frustrations there. And, unfortunately, when (and I still think it is when) something gets done on the Hill, it probably won’t be in time to help McAuliffe in his race. I’m still optimistic for a win there though, but as I wrote last week, folks are getting more and more nervous.
Yeah, well, I know last issue you mentioned coverage of the goings on in Washington in papers like the Washington Post is also having an impact on the Virginia race, particularly in the key battleground of the northern Virginia suburbs and exurbs (and I agree), but that does lead me to an observation about the media coverage of President Biden. (This one’ll set the comments ablaze.) I think one effect of the dark days of the Trump administration really screwed up the media’s compass. Most reporters and editors felt (and correctly so) that Trump was so horrible that this was a time where kid gloves were necessary when it came time to his Democratic (or even rebel GOP) opponents. I get it. But after Kabul, where Biden did get bad coverage, the stumbles in the House have not earned him nearly the walloping I think any other President would have received. It’s no small thing to have your own party zotch your key domestic agenda just months into your first-year honeymoon. If a GOP POTUS had faced such the disarray the mainstream media would have buzz sawed over all him or her. But now, with the dire specter of Trump, the Comeback flickering over Mar-a-Elba, I think the media is afraid to lay any heavy gloves on Joe Biden. My heart understands that impulse, but it’s wrong. Come on umps, call the game straight.
I half agree because, as I’ve also said before, if infrastructure were health care, we’d be way ahead of schedule. Obama signed health care reform in March 2010. By that measure, Team Biden is ahead of schedule. So, I wouldn’t call this all a mess just yet. And how sweet it will be when Biden gets Infrastructure Week actually done! I think the press covered disarray in Trumpland because it was chaotic. So, I’ll give a pass on the pass you claim the media are giving Biden.
Lastly, there’s a new letter out from Speaker Pelosi with hints on how this will end. In it, she makes two important pronouncements. First, she writes “In order to pass both the Build Back Better Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill on time, it is essential that difficult decisions must be made very soon. To Murphy’s earlier point, the Speaker knows the shot clock is ticking and the longer this goes, the less helpful this process is politically. Second, she writes that the guidance she’s receiving “from Members is to do fewer things well so that we can still have a transformative impact.” As Dems decide what stays in this budget bill and what doesn’t, Pelosi has sent a definitive signal as to where she thinks this should end up. This might make the short term more complicated, but she’s banking that the longer term benefit will far outweigh that.
On that note, we’ll be back on Friday with more of our charm and wit and Tidbits.
See you then!
Murphy and Gibbs