Dems Urge Biden To Start Swinging at Republicans, But There’s A Problem

7 mins read

(Politico) Inside the White House a debate rages over how hard the president should attack Republicans heading into the midterms.

Joe Biden spent much of his first year in office proving he could still work across the aisle. Now, with the second year approaching, Democrats want him to turn up the heat on Republicans.

WIth the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law, Democratic lawmakers and party leaders say Biden needs to relentlessly hammer GOP lawmakers for opposing his economic priorities and hampering progress on the pandemic and inflation.

“The president is in an awkward position [because] to get things done outside of reconciliation will require Republicans,” said Robert Gibbs, who served as press secretary under former President Barack Obama. “But sooner or later, Joe Biden has to make this more than a referendum on himself and his presidency and instead make this a stark choice between two very different ideas and philosophies. Contrast with Republicans’ positions will be central to having a chance in the 2022 midterms.”

White House officials say they’re eager to make that contrast. In the coming weeks, Biden and administration officials will “make the case that Republicans are unanimously opposed” to the president’s social spending bill, said Kate Berner, deputy White House communications director. The administration also plans to label Republicans as being on the side of oil and gas companies that “are padding their profits” and a party “rooting” for price increases spurred by inflation “because [they] think it will help them politically,” Berner added.

“We’re moving into a new phase,” said Berner, referring to the high stakes surrounding the passage of Biden’s social services bill in December. “We are going to make the stakes clear. And we’ll make it very clear who is on the side of cutting costs, combating price increases, and fighting inflation, and who is not.”

It has long been a point of tension within the president’s orbit as to how negative to go. A number of senior advisers in the West Wing, including chief of staff Ron Klain, have at times urged Biden to embrace more partisan political combat and call out Republicans when needed, according to three aides not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.

But Biden has largely shied away from leveling broadsides at Republicans on Capitol Hill, though he’s been less sparing with his predecessor and GOP governors who’ve stood in the way of federal aid to combat the pandemic. Long-time Biden observers and confidants aren’t sure that the attack dog role suits him, or that he will commit to it.

“It’s not [Biden’s] style” to lambast Republicans, said John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s former White House chief of staff and founder of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. “I think for the president it’s not where he’s comfortable.”

How Biden balances the pressure to go after Republicans harder and his inclination to play the role of unifier could very well determine his party’s fate in the midterm elections. A taste of his approach came a little more than a week ago when Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), head of the Senate GOP’s reelection arm, called inflation and the possibility of rising interest rates a “goldmine” for Republicans in their pursuit of Senate control.

The White House saw an opening to accuse Republicans of political callousness. But Berner cautioned that Biden was not going to take pot shots at the opposing party just for kicks. “Being president is different than being an MSNBC commentator,” Berner said.

“We believe, the president believes, that his presidency will be measured on what he gets done for families, not on what political line that hits Republicans garners the most retweets on Twitter,” Berner continued. “That doesn’t mean that he’s not going to be strong and aggressive and call out Republicans.”

Outside of the White House, Democrats argue that Biden’s willingness to make more aggressive attacks against Republicans will be key to their success in 2022. Not only do party members want Biden to highlight GOP opposition to popular components of his social spending plan, they want him to go after Republicans for pushing voter restriction laws and embracing former President Donald Trump’s lies of election fraud and revisionist Jan. 6 history.

The White House has defended Biden’s tactics in pursuing voting rights and election reform legislation, arguing that every time he talks about the subject he notes the GOP’s blockade and its attempts across the country to restrict voting access. But Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), a longtime Biden ally, said it’s not enough. “The time on voting rights is very precious now,” Casey said. “I think we should message more on voting rights because it actually has an urgency.”

“This is about taking away the right to vote for millions of Americans, and that’s unacceptable. And so there’s got to be a way to have a carve out for the filibuster,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), adding she hopes and expects Biden himself to weigh in on the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. “I’m confident he’s gonna do everything he can.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Send this to a friend