Well, President Biden came to play “Let’s Make a Deal,” and it looks like he might actually be on track for a win. But we’re smart enough to not make any bold predictions just yet on where this all ends up. We give our take on the politics of the politics around meeting Speaker Pelosi’s third deadline for a deal and then offer up some tidbits.
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(cover photo cred: Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images News)
The Looming Democratic Deadline (Again)
Well, President Biden is trying to land this shaky plane and he might finally be nearing the runway as we approach Speaker Pelosi’s third “we mean it this time” deadline for a deal. We’ll see. I haven't heard the Progressives saying they're on board with $2 trillion or less number (Sen “Boss” Manchin is still talking $1.5T)…
but I haven't seen them out growling in the media saying they're not either. In the first itineration of this, the Progs certainly were not shy to immediately rule something DOA. So, their silence this week is both a little eerie, but also encouraging because they're not shy about making trouble in the press. Thoughts, Gibbsie?
I believe Progressives realized when President Biden sat them down and said it’s not going to happen at $3.5T because the votes weren’t there, they understood it. They don’t like it, but I believe they recognize that even at the $1.5-2T level, the impact on helping people could be enormous. Since then, they've spent most of their time and energy trying to make sure that they can get the most policy outcomes in whatever compromise ends up happening, and have made an interesting decision around doing a lot of things for shorter periods of time than even Speaker Pelosi first declared.
Plus, now Senator Manchin is saying a deal on a framework could be in hand this week, which is a change from where he had been by asking everyone what the rush was. So, I think that gives you a sense that this may finally be the deadline that holds or close to it. Deadlines in Congress are like deadlines in college – forcing mechanisms to finally get the negotiation done (or start that paper you had a month to get done!).
Yeah, and they finally brought in the Closer, (no not Kyra Sedgwick) from the White House!
I also had to grin when I saw the latest bit of Kabuki business they’re running where the press spin is all about President Biden gravely warning troublesome Democrats that a deal must be had now, because, “You can’t embarrass me in front of the world leaders at the big climate summit in Scotland!” That does create a very useful deadline on the calendar. I’m not ready to confidently predict success, but I think the odds the House D’s and Biden get something done in the next week or so are higher than the odds that they do not.
Yeah, I think Biden is genuinely sincere on wanting and needing something in hand before the climate change meeting in Scotland. By all scientific accounts, the timeline and emission reduction goals that were set for forth in the original Paris agreement we now know will make progress, but regrettably not do enough to avoid catastrophe. The impact that's needed to slow or stop climate change from happening has only gotten greater. So, Joe Biden knows if he's going to galvanize the world to take even stronger action than just a few years ago, his words have to mean a lot more than just talk. He has to show the willingness of the United States, a country that for four years of the Trump Administration walked off the world stage and left China in charge, to take demonstrable action. It’s a big moment for the U.S. and the world.
Yeah, that's a fair point, but there's still a real kabuki element to all this. It's not like the Dutch Prime Minister is going to walk up to Biden, arch his eyebrows, slap Joe twice and say, “We Dutch are now abandoning climate change because your seven Progressives won't settle on $1.75 trillion!” Still, I take your larger point; I just thought that it was a slick little bit of business there.
If Biden comes to this meeting empty handed it will strike many as us not being serious enough to meet the importance of the moment. True, the Dutch can’t walk away mostly because scientists will tell you without action the Dutch will be underwater! Beyond the Europe trip deadline, for Democrats, this doesn't come a moment too soon. Biden’s approval average is at its lowest point and its disapproval is at its highest point. We have had seemingly endless debate and negotiation around this, but very little of it has lived where people are in their daily lives. The messaging around this bill has gotten lost in process, deliberation and distrust and it's not dissimilar to what I watched happen in 2009 and 2010 around healthcare reform. Democrats need to get quickly to a message that wraps what's in this bill with what's happening in the economy right now. Because without it, Biden's ratings are going to continue to slip at a time in which the party needs him to be stronger. That is not to say that it can't be turned around. The economy is a living, breathing organism and people can be pessimistic about it one month and optimistic about it several months later, but I think it's a perilous time for Democrats and the White House.
I totally agree. This thing has been a train wreck, and we'll see if they can untangle it. Odds are they will, but much of the damage has already been done. The other risk, which I've talked about in earlier newsletters, is if this deal finally happens and Terry McAuliffe is in as much trouble as it looks, this alone is not likely enough to save McAuliffe. Then McAuliffe’s loss could be interpreted by the overthinking media as a negative referendum on the Biden plan. That gums up the whole restart caper for Biden. So, it's a mess, but the great thing about politics is no matter how much trouble you're in, tomorrow's a new day to try to for a needed restart (as the Clintons will tell you). So probably better to pass it than not.
No doubt. It's easy to clean up on aisle seven, but the good news is there are a few mops and the store stays open. So, yes, there's always another day.
If I were them, I would still do the double deal and right now. I’d tell the Progressives look, we’ve proven that you can trust us. So pass infrastructure today and give the D’s a big, clean, historical political win ahead of Virginia and then AFTER you Dems win or perhaps still lose Virginia you then pass the spending spree Bill and move forward, doubling down with a much more tightly messaged $1.5 or $2 trillion bill that you sell based on the popular new middle class entitlements you’ve just passed.
My guess if they get a framework this week, Biden and others will quickly want to vote on infrastructure because it not only provides him with a win, but it cements the handshake part of the deal. Terry McAuliffe wants it badly with a week to go in the Virginia Governor’s race. I’m not entirely convinced all of this can happen in (checks watch) a couple of days, but the best news is that for the first time in a while Democrats feel like the negotiations have some actual momentum. I’ll save this part for another newsletter, but the key once a deal is done is to spend exponentially more time messaging what’s in this bill and the good it will do than time spent lamenting what isn’t in it. Sounds simple and obvious, but there will be many who spend the time they have complaining about what didn’t happen. Again, more on that later.
Totally, and it's a nice nod to the moderates and is the best thing for the ailing McAuliffe. A clean, simple, politically obvious win.
So, I know we’re all focused on Virginia, but looking ahead to next year, one of the most fascinating midterm races is going to be the Senate contest in Pennsylvania, where Republican Senator Pat Toomey is retiring, leaving an open seat in a blue tilting state that nonetheless went for Trump in 2016. The outcome in Pennsylvania next year is critical; it could determine control of the Senate. With such high stakes the cast of characters on the Democratic side is particularly interesting; with Western Pennsylvania congressman, Marine, and up and comer Rep. Conor Lamb facing Progressive heartthrob, and intriguing un-politician, Lt Gov John Fetterman.
Our HIA stoolies report that Prog cat-nip Fetterman is easily beating Lamb in early fundraising due to an avalanche of moolah from small progressive donors, which is causing concern among Pennsylvania Democratic regulars who clearly see Lamb as the far stronger general election candidate against the Republicans. Meanwhile the GOP is yet to land on an electable candidate. It looks like the primary will be a slugfest between different varieties of Trump cranks, but there's still time for former GOP Rep Charlie Dent (a respected moderate), or another grownup to get in. But watch the certain to be amusing Fetterman vs. Lamb primary (there are also several other candidates, one from the key Philly suburbs, the other a young rising star from the city.) Here’s a good tour of the D primary race. The stakes for the D’s could not be higher.
My tidbit does go back to Virginia and my continued obsession with the suburbs there. Next week, it’s not just about the governor’s seat, but it's also the legislature that's up—with the suburbs playing a key role in determining the control of the Virginia legislature.
We’ll be back on Friday and see if we get a deal on the Hill by then. Plus, our take on what will happen next week in Virginia.
Murphy and Gibbs