Biden Breaking Building Back Better?
Center Column for New Debate Friday at The Hustings
Eric Blair in the left column and Stephen Macaulay in the right column debate the prospects for Biden’s second year as president at https://thehustings.news
When President Biden took office a year ago, his emerging agenda--beyond an earnest, flailing effort to quash the COVID-19 pandemic-- centered on a burgeoning social and physical infrastructure program that could have amounted to the wholesale dismantling of the Reaganomics of the last 40 years. Progressives in the House of Representatives were energized by the plans of a fellow Democrat who ran as a moderate who sought bipartisan comity.
Pro-MAGA and never-Trumper Republicans alike applied the tag “socialism” to the policies and proposals of a president who was certain America is ready for a new chapter in the FDR New Deal/LBJ Great Society saga.
Whether a true moderate Democrat or not, Joseph R. Biden is pragmatic. When it came time on the 365th day of his presidency, with only the bipartisan infrastructure program to show for all his reverse-Reaganism, Biden admitted, “It’s clear to me that we’re probably going to have to break it up … I’m confident we can get big chunks of Build Back Better signed into law.”
That means spiking two centerpieces of BBB: Child tax credits and subsidized community college. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has supported early childhood education – universal pre-kindergarten – according to Politico, so that portion of the bill might make it well into 2022.
While Democrats’ progressive wing, led by Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York in the House and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Independent Bernie Sanders in the Senate, will have to accept their party’s wafer-thin majority and likelihood that they will lose one or both houses after the midterms for Biden’s moderation to work. Breaking up BBB may start to reverse the president’s awful poll numbers. It gives the White House the chance for a number of small victories spread through the next 10 months. The cheering for the bipartisan infrastructure plan’s passage last November was quickly overshadowed by media focus on the fight over BBB.
Voting rights reform, which Democrats consider vital to fighting a potentially permanent Republican Congressional majority this year and the prospect of Donald J. Trump overturning the presidential election in 2024, faces a tougher battle after Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) quixotic attempt to change Senate filibuster rules. The most he can count on this year is for reform of the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which Keith E. Whittington, in the right-leaning Reason calls “a cumbersome statute that has long needed reform.”
And the wild card in Biden’s 2022 agenda is Russian aggression toward Ukraine. He said this as Secretary of State Antony Blinken was on his way to Geneva for talks with his counterpart in the Kremlin: “I think what you’re going to see is Russia will be held accountable if it invades, and it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up fighting about what to do and not do, etc. But if they do what they’re actually capable of doing with their forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia. …”
Biden clarified a day later, on the first anniversary of his inauguration, that “any Russian movement into Ukraine will be considered invasion.”