Dispute over reform agenda: Biden travels to Europe weakened domestically

Bevor president Joe Biden landed in Rome, he learned that his most recent attempt to rally his party behind his reform agenda had also failed. He had put the Democrats under public pressure and had thus taken a personal risk: There had to be an agreement on the social and climate package before his trip to Europe. Since it did not materialize, he bears the damage.

Majid Sattar

Political correspondent for North America based in Washington.

In the Democratic group meeting in the House of Representatives, Biden himself told MPs on Thursday what it was all about: he believes he can say without exaggeration that what happens next week will be decisive for the majorities in both chambers of congress and for his presidency . It was clear that if the party broke down on its core reform agenda, Republicans would be in control of Congress in a year. Then his presidency would be effectively over – at least legally. Biden’s message: Will the left be responsible for this, including all consequences for the 2024 presidential election?

“A historical economic framework agreement”

The White House believed they had to rely on the risky print campaign, since all other options had been exhausted. After the parliamentary group meeting, Biden went public and spoke of a “historic economic framework agreement” with a view to his social and climate package, which had been cut to around 1.8 trillion dollars. Nobody got everything they wanted. That is what makes the compromise. At the same time, the leadership of the Democrats put the vote on the infrastructure law already passed in the Senate on the agenda of the House of Representatives. Nancy Pelosi, the “spokeswoman” of the first chamber, had already appealed to the MPs in the parliamentary group meeting that if the president got off the plane in Rome, they wanted him to have a vote of confidence in the Congress. She even warned against “embarrassing” Biden.

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Indeed, the question of whether MPs would agree to the $ 1 trillion bridge, road and rail package based on a mere framework for the second, more important social package, was about trust. The “Progressive Caucus”, the 95-member group of the parliamentary left in the Democratic Group, faced two challenges: On the one hand, they had to swallow the toad that many promises had been deleted from the social package under pressure from the two right-wing deviants in the Senate, including continued payment of wages for educational or medical reasons. On the other hand, one was faced with the question: Do you trust Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema? Would both actually agree to the slimmed-down social package after the infrastructure law was passed?

“Fantastic speech” by the President

In the end, Pelosi had to cancel the vote for the second time in a month. Manchin and Sinema had continued tacting after the president’s appearance: The ball was now in the field of the first chamber, said Manchin. Like his colleague, he avoided binding commitments to support the social package in a new form. So they made it easy for the left: You need both laws at the same time, said Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the progressive wing. Therefore, you cannot vote for the time being.

Since the MEP wanted to dispel the impression that her left wing was leaving Biden out in the rain, she added: The President had made a “fantastic” appearance in the group. It was not he who called for a vote on Thursday – it was Pelosi. It is also evidence of the President’s “fantastic speech” to the parliamentary group that the left wing had backed his framework agreement. In short: if both laws were in place, everything could go very quickly. Their contrite message: The problem is not Biden, but Manchin and Sinema. And Pelosi wasn’t helpful either.

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Dispute over reform agenda: Biden travels to Europe weakened domestically