Friday, June 25, 2021
Biden's threat was news to Republicans,
even some of the ones who had been negotiating the bipartisan proposal. On one hand, the president sang the praises of bipartisanship, leading Republicans to think he might actually work with them, and then Biden, citing a plan devised by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, reneged on the whole thing.
Republican anger followed. Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer "literally pulled the rug out from under their bipartisan negotiators," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. As for the president, McConnell said, "It was a tale of two press conferences -- endorse the agreement in one breath and threaten to veto it in the next."
GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, who was one of the bipartisan group of 21 negotiators, was much more blunt. If Biden is going to tie the two bills together, Graham told Politico Playbook, "He can forget it! I'm not doing that. That's extortion! I'm not going to do that. The Dems are being told you can't get your bipartisan work product passed unless you sign on to what the left wants, and I'm not playing that game."
Graham said most GOP senators, and even some inside the bipartisan group, did not know the Biden-Pelosi-Schumer plan. "Most Republicans could not have known that," he told Politico. "There's no way. You look like a f---ing idiot now. I don't mind bipartisanship, but I'm not going to do a suicide mission." And that was that. The bright, shining bipartisan deal instantly became much less than it seemed.
For a brief moment Thursday, it appeared that Biden had adopted the old -- and successful -- practice of Bill Clinton's called "triangulation." He would bypass the fringes of both parties in order to reach an agreement with the middle on a type of spending that is generally popular with many Americans. But it soon became clear that it was just a ruse for Biden to lay claim to bipartisanship while keeping the progressive wing of his party happy.
In his first press conference Thursday, Biden, who spent 36 years in the Senate, stressed the importance of honesty in negotiations. "You know, a lot of us go back a long way, where we're used to doing one thing: Give each other our word and that's the end," Biden said. "Nobody questions it. They have my word, I'll stick with what they proposed, and they've given me their word as well. So, where I come from, that's good enough for me."
On the infrastructure deal, Biden's word lasted about two hours.
This is no way to run a railroad.