Stop me if you've heard this one before: President Biden unveils a big, critical spending package to rescue the nation's economy. Republicans in Congress pan it as a "liberal wish list" and refuse to negotiate. The polls are all on Biden's side, with majority support from Democrats, Republicans, and independents for his proposals. Ignoring the popular will, the traditional media totally plays into congressional Republicans' hands and bemoans Biden's refusal to be "bipartisan." You have heard it before. It played out all through February and into March while Biden's American Rescue Plan worked its way through Congress.
Now it's happening all over again with Biden's big jobs and infrastructure plan. A huge majority—79%—support the federal government taking on transportation infrastructure, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling from last week. Support stays high for the various elements of the plan: 71% support extending high-speed internet to everyone; 68% support replacing every lead water pipe in the country; and 66% support tax credits for renewable energy.
Majorities also support the tax hikes on the wealthy that Biden intends to use to help fund the bill—57% of voters like the idea. The idea that has Republicans up in arms, fueling the headlines like this one in Politico: "Biden's next big bill could revive—or bury—his bipartisan brand."
"The president says he wants to work with Republicans but has found it's much easier to sidestep them," we're told. When it's Republicans who are boycotting the process, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell promising to fight Biden's plan "every step of the way." Again.
Politico, of course, runs to Sen. Susan Collins for comment, who as always is disappointed. "I believe that President Biden does want a bipartisan approach," […] I have no reason to believe that he has changed. But I think that there is a lot of pressure on him from his staff and from outside leftist groups. And I would urge him to remember his past successes in negotiating bipartisan bills."
As if none of us lived through the last 11 years of McConnell's scorched earth, the tea party, culminating in the total capitulation of the GOP to Donald Trump. To cap it all off, the attempted violent overthrow of Congress by Trump supporters and the fact that 147 Republican seditionists in Congress sided with the terrorists. Collins' concern is just a little misplaced on this one.
Some people have definitely learned from that history, including Joe Biden. He's taking his plan directly to the people who happen to like his ideas. The people who got those survival checks and maybe even their COVID-19 vaccine, or an appointment to get their shot, and thus have good reason to think maybe he's got some good ideas.
He's talking directly to Republicans out in the wild, too. "I hope and believe the American people will join this effort—Democrats, Republicans and independents," Biden said in Pittsburgh on Wednesday at the formal introduction of his plan. He tied this new effort directly to the American Rescue Plan for COVID relief. "If you live in a town with a Republican mayor, a Republican county executive or a Republican governor, ask them how many would rather get rid of the plan."
Even Politico has to admit that, no, Biden is not shutting Republicans out. They let the White House have a say in their story which quotes no less than three Republicans, with Collins taking the star turn. "The president and his administration are eager to work across the aisle, in good faith, to deliver these historic investments," Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson told Politico.
"That’s why he has already met with Republican senators himself regarding infrastructure, and why Cabinet members and White House senior staff have been frequently engaging with Republican members on this plan since before it was even announced, actively seeking their ideas." That could be the problem right there. Republicans don't have policy ideas any more. All they've got is bitching about "cancel culture."
So Biden is creating his own definition of bipartisan—Republicans and independents who support his proposals. It's a pretty good one, and one that's leaving congressional Republicans playing defense. They'll always have Politico on their side, at least.