Now that we got the polite introductions out of the way, let’s talk some politics!
It could not be a more crucial week to do that for both sides of the aisle with the huge $1T+ bipartisan infrastructure deal hanging in the balance.
We’ll preview what’s happening from the White House to the Hill ahead of what is supposed to be first real vote on the bill this week and then dive into all the other unrelated items on the Biden administration’s plate that make it even more crucial to get something done ASAP.
We hope you’ll leave comments and feedback as we get this thing going.
INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK, FOR REAL THIS TIME?
Going back to the days of Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan, a double win like this infrastructure deal was always doable. Why? There is a juicy win in it for both sides. GOP pols get to cut ribbons back home, brag about jobs and tell their voters that “yes, we can get things done in DC and in fact, I (insert incumbent name here) personally made this a far better bill, bringing things like this fine new bridge here to Barneyville!” Meanwhile the opposition pols can do the same. The biggest winner, naturally, is the pol with the biggest job and biggest microphone: the POTUS.
So why is this infrastructure bill – the biggest and juiciest ever – now wobbling? Greed. There are many on the GOP side who would rather deny President Biden a big win than enjoy a medium-sized one themselves. On the Democratic side, it’s ideological greed. The infrastructure bill ($1.2ish Trillion) isn’t big enough and doesn’t do enough “soft” infrastructure spending on lefty social programs. (Note: $1.2 Trillion is about ¼ of the entire cost of WW2 to the U.S. government in inflation adjust dollars. It ain’t small.)
There is a big win here, especially for Joe Biden, but for all incumbents, if the tribal warfare on each side can tamp down and slog through the details of getting this passed. (Which is never easy.)
So, with Senate Majority Leader Schumer targeting a procedural vote on the deal this week, to paraphrase Warren Buffett, the tide is going out this week and we’re going to finally see who is swimming naked. That said, if the negotiations are going well at the last minute – and we know that all these things are always close at the last minute – there could be a delay to put the last pieces of the puzzle in place. The CW media will call that a huge setback, but often it's a sign of imminent victory, just more time is needed to do the final politics. This will be a very telling week.
I agree this week is big and I’ll go even further. This is probably the most important week of the President's first year because a lot of stuff has to start coming together. As you said, the talking is over and the voting begins, or at least that is Majority Leader Schumer’s hope. As of now, we are still in the framework stage with details (like how to pay for it) still to be worked out. The vote could very easily slip from Wednesday. But, I believe Democrats are potentially on the cusp of a big win (though there’s a LOOONG way to go), because the bipartisan deal is the key to getting something even bigger as part of budget reconciliation. And so, I think Democrats are on the precipice of a potentially big victory that really goes to fulfilling a lot of what they'd hoped to get done in infrastructure: roads and bridges as well as soft infrastructure needs and important movement on tangible climate action. As an observer, the worry I have going into this week is not that the Democrats are somehow going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Instead, I think there will be a real challenge to find 10 Republicans who will actually vote for this in the Senate because the powers that be will recognize exactly what you just said, which is, while everybody wins, the President wins bigger and the GOP leadership may just decide that they'd rather prevent a big win for the President than get a pretty big win for their own members – such is politics in 2021.
I agree with that and I think the temptation for the toughest partisans on the Republican side to try to torpedo the entire thing in the name of denying the President the presidential-sized slice of any political victory that comes with passage of the first big bipartisan legislation in years is that they smell trouble for Biden with the resurgence of COVID. The President had a great initial run being perceived as far more competent and effective at beating back COVID than President Trump was, but now with COVID surging – you can thank the morons who won't take the vaccine for this – these partisan Rs fear that a big infrastructure victory could give Biden a powerful way to change the big national narrative away from the politically hazardous COVID resurgence and focus it on the big infrastructure program and the big economic stimulus that comes with it. That could help fend off any economic slowdown that a worsening COVID 2.0 crisis could trigger if the Delta variant goes into wildfire mode.
I think crafty Senate Leader McConnell had hoped the snarling Left would blow up the infrastructure deal on ideological grounds so the Republicans could gleefully have their political cake (“we really, really wanted a bipartisan deal, new highways and broadband”) and eat it too (“but the radicals in the Democratic party blew it up over a huge trillion dollar welfare boondoggle for them and higher taxes for you!”). That could still happen.
The challenge for Republicans is if they can't come up with the votes and they end up blowing up the bipartisan deal, they're empowering Joe Manchin and others to actually walk away from a bipartisan deal and into a more partisan one because his test has always been both parties have to work together. There's no doubt the Democrats in the bipartisan negotiations have given significant concessions to get to this point, so if you can't find literally 20% of Republicans to vote for what 100% of Republicans already support, it's a tell to Manchin, to Sinema and others that the jig is up and I think that's what Republicans are going to have to figure out how to modulate since, as you said, McConnell had hoped that Democrats might blow this up, but I think the greater potential is that the Republicans will.
Yeah, if the Republicans manage to make Deputy President Manchin into a harder party line partisan, they will have made the biggest single strategic mistake of the year for a more conservative, moderate agenda in the Senate.
Right. And, that may extend well beyond issues of infrastructure.
Yeah, and for fiscal conservatives who are weary of some of these multi-trillion dollar Biden spending plans, like me… without Manchin, it’s going to be a very grim time indeed. So, the Republicans are playing with fire here… they need to tread carefully. We’re going to find out if a good old fashioned big win for the President and a medium-size win for the opposite party can actually survive the tribal politics of the Trump era.
Wait, Murphy, what's a fiscal conservative?
At four Trillion and counting, they are lost to history it seems (both now and during the Trump presidency for that matter). That's our damn problem!
THE PRESIDENCY IS THE WORLD’S TOUGHEST BATTING CAGE, EVERYTHING IS COMING AT YOU!
The past 10 days have really shown (again) what life is like in the White House. You can have a carefully laid out narrative, strategic and tactical plans for governing and a set of priorities you know the American people are desperately concerned with that you can solve. Then, the world intervenes. Celebrating a summer free of the dread of COVID has given way to a huge spike of cases caused by a far more contagious new strain of the virus. Freedom protests in Cuba break out in a way not seen before. A destabilizing assassination in Haiti (with a request for U.S. military troops to keep the peace) happens literally at your front door. A federal judge rules that Deferred Action for immigrant children is ruled unlawful, leaving Congress and the President to find a long-term solution in an issue area where political polarization is on steroids. Don’t forget cybersecurity threats from Russia and China or voting rights legislation in states that threatens the ability to easily cast a vote. And that’s all in addition to the work Capitol Hill and the White House already have going (see above). In the White House, the best laid plans are necessary, but often/always get overturned by interceding events. Successful Presidents navigate those turbulent waters while maintaining a focus on their priorities and the bigger political picture. Failed ones are doomed to a cauldron of chaos.
Yup. It’s like the White House is the world’s toughest batting cage. You stand there and it never ends; one hundred balls thrown at you at once, many from out of nowhere. Biden’s been working towards this infrastructure bill, but he’s got to thread the needle with all the other brewing crises that have bubbled up seemingly all at once.
On DACA, I actually see it as also a political opportunity for the Democrats because the voters are not as polarized on DACA. Only Republican primary voters hate it. So, it’s an opportunity for the Democrats, if they’re smart about this, and don’t overplay their hands, to thwart their suburbs versus their primary voters, which is the great recipe for Democratic victory in the midterms.
Speaking of midterms, we talked a lot on the podcast today with former DCCC chairman Steve Israel about the 2022 landscape and what reapportionment means politically. If you want to hear even more from us – and I’m sure you do – take a listen!
And with that, we hope you had as much fun reading this issue as we did writing it. Coming Friday, we’ll be back with our recap on what happened during the infrastructure negotiations this week plus some new features to the newsletter, including what we’re calling… “Tips and Rants.”
Don’t forget to leave comments and feedback below. Hope to see you then!
Murphy and Gibbs
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nice job, guys. I listen to every episode of the podcast (and have followed Murphy for a long time, incl. Radio Free GOP). I'm not sure I'm reading anything that you haven't covered thoroughly in the podcasts. I'll give you a few more newsletters to se…
Just like your podcast, this is an entertaining, informative, and thought provoking read! I wanted to ask you guys for a bit of an expansion on the premise that both sides win during a bipartisan infrastructure deal. This concept, it seems to me, rel…