Biden says he no longer understands Republicans. He has a chance to understand the GOP this week.



An airport tarmac in New Orleans was hardly the setting for a full debate over his $ 2.3 trillion plan, which Republicans uniformly deemed too important. But walking away, neither Biden nor his GOP hosts thought anything was off the table.

He plans to meet with West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito and selected Republicans on Thursday to hear a roughly $ 600 billion counter-proposal to his infrastructure plan. And on Wednesday, Biden will sit down with Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to assess how well they can work together to move his agenda forward.

He and his Democratic allies in the Senate plan to use the next two weeks to lobby for a deal on a cutback plan, according to White House aides and officials. Some officials have set an unofficial Memorial Day deadline to assess actual progress.

However, during the discussions, the president believes that the opposing party is rudderless and unrecognizable compared to the one he thought he knew. Whether the Republicans’ internal divisions and their growing adherence to Biden’s predecessor prove an obstacle to cooperation remains an open question for a president and the White House still hoping to demonstrate its ability to work on the other. side of the aisle.

Biden addresses the new GOP

A coincidence of timing only underscores the dueling GOP impulses that Biden now faces. On the same day, he will meet in the White House with leaders of Congress, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy, with Republican lawmakers meeting at a conference where they seem poised to oust Representative Liz Cheney – the Republican No.3 House – from her leadership position.

It’s the development that prompted Biden this week to admit he understands little of today’s Republican Party. While he seeks even a small number of Republican votes on a possible infrastructure compromise, he is admittedly still grappling with a party he says has changed.

“It appears that the Republican Party is trying to identify what it stands for,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “And they’re in the middle of some kind of meaningful mini-revolution.”

Already, Biden has expressed more concern about the state of the GOP than almost anyone. Far from reveling in the internal schisms that seem likely to cost Cheney his place in the leadership, Biden wondered aloud what had happened to the party he spent decades working with in the Senate and later as as vice-president.

The heated debate over what role former President Donald Trump will play in Republican politics going forward would appear to give Biden an opening to push his agenda forward without too much resistance from a distracted and divided GOP. And many skeptical Democrats believe it’s a waste of time trying to poll Republicans, arguing that the approach has been unprofitable under former President Barack Obama’s tenure.

Their case was encouraged this week after McConnell, speaking to voters in Kentucky, said that “I am 100% focused on shutting down this new administration” – an echo of his comment in 2010 that his task the most important was to make Obama one ”. single term president. “

For the remainder of Obama’s tenure, his aides cited this comment as evidence of McConnell’s reluctance to work with them on anything substantive, including when people like then-Vice President Biden lobbied for bipartisanship on topics such as health care and gun control.

McConnell’s latest version of the vow first sounded alarm bells among Biden’s aides. “It’s a very disturbing thing for me to hear,” one of Biden’s top economic advisers, Jared Bernstein, said Thursday.

Biden, however, appeared to ignore McConnell’s comment.

“He said during our last administration with Barack he was going to stop everything,” Biden said. “And I was able to do a lot of things with him.”

And on Friday, press secretary Jen Psaki suggested the president wasn’t too burdened with McConnell’s rhetoric.

“The president’s opinion is that he is ready to have a clean slate,” she said, later adding: “There will inevitably be strong disagreements with the Republicans, and we know that. He has been in the Senate for 36 years. He’s certainly no stranger. for that. “

‘We really need the Republican Party’

Yet the party with which Biden spent more than three decades bargaining in the Senate is, by his own admission, no longer today’s GOP. During his first presidency, Biden openly questioned whether there would even be a Republican Party in four years. Closing a deal he cultivated as a senator, which he promised to attempt as president, is inevitably complicated when the other side rallies around the false suggestion that he did not. fairly won the election.

Even one of the senators he welcomed to Louisiana on Thursday, Senator John Kennedy, was among eight GOP senators who opposed certification of election results on Jan.6.

The Aides say the president still hopes to score a bipartisan success ahead of next year’s midterm elections, even though his fellow Democrats see the possibility in dubious ways. Biden made it clear in private conversations with Democrats that he believes there is both a path to a deal and overall value for the country in trying to come to a bipartisan conclusion, according to two people familiar with the issues. conversations.

“We really need a Republican Party. We need a two-party system. It’s not healthy to have a one-party system,” Biden said this week. “And I think Republicans are further removed from trying to figure out who they are and what they stand for than I thought at this point.”

The bipartisan push on infrastructure is still in its infancy. White House officials have held meetings with moderate lawmakers and their staff, and members of Biden’s cabinet – primarily Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg – have called on members of Congress to uncover areas of cooperation.

Far from shying away from the Democratic president’s spotlight, many Republicans seem eager to come up with at least one display of bipartisanship, including the two senators who met him in Louisiana. Prior to his speech at a dilapidated bridge in Lake Charles, Biden was presented by the city’s Republican Mayor Nic Hunter – a message of local Republican support for his plan that the White House hopes to convey to Washington.

Speaking afterward, Hunter expressed a vision of bipartisanship that would be barely recognizable in a Congress increasingly built around party and personality allegiances.

“I certainly care about what’s in the bill. But at the end of the day, I think that’s why people have to sit down and have conversations with each other. It’s so disappointing that I see some of my colleagues who want to demonize and make headlines more than just sit down and have a conversation and I don’t understand that, ”he said in an interview on CNN.

“What is disturbing is that there is not even a conversation,” he added. “There’s no more diplomacy. It’s just about throwing stones and staying on your side of the line that’s drawn in the sand and you won’t even cross a toe.”


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