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In 2009, Barack Obama came into office with a filibuster-proof Senate supermajority—255 Democrats in the House to just 179 Republicans. Obama ended up frittering away his time those first two years trying to pass Obamacare — an ill-advised move that ended up quickly costing him his majority.
For Joe Biden and the Democrats in 2021, there is no margin for error. A 50-50 Senate and a margin of just three House seats has required a nearly unprecedented level of partisan cohesion. To get anything passed in a Congress with a united Republican Party in opposition means that virtual unanimity of opinion is necessary to achieve the party’s lofty — and ruinously expensive — goals.
Perhaps a more energetic president would have made a difference. Perhaps a smarter president would have been able to pass something from the party’s wishlist.
Alas for the Democrats, Joe Biden isn’t energetic or smart. As a result, his presidency is failing.
It’s beginning to dawn on Democrats in Congress that Joe Biden is not the sort of leader who can wrangle a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill through both chambers.
“If any member of Congress is not concerned that this could fall apart, they need treatment,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who warned his party “will pay for it at the polls” if it fails in enacting Biden’s agenda. “Our caucus has the feeling of freedom to support or oppose leadership.”
Those headwinds threaten to sap the momentum from this summer, when Biden clinched a bipartisan infrastructure deal in the Senate and found support from all corners of his party for a budget setting up his sweeping spending bill. Now, Manchin is calling for a pause, moderates are resisting key components of the legislation and a new fiscal fight over the debt limit is heating up.
Those dynamics have Democrats essentially looking for an internal reset from a monthslong debate over Biden’s agenda that keeps publicly playing out through leaks, lines in the sand and fights over the topline number.
Leadership in the Democratic Party is failing at all levels. The befuddled Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have the juice to keep the moderates or the radicals from tearing at each other. Senator Chuck Schumer has gone AWOL, leaving moderates like Senator Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema holding the whip hand.
And Joe Biden? One columnist, Spectator USA’s Stephen L. Miller, wonders what the president is succeeding at?
I survey all of this and I ask: what is Joe Biden getting right at the moment? Where is his presidency succeeding? What is he delivering? According to (another) Jill Biden New York Times puff profile, uniting the country has now fallen to her. It appears that America, which was willing to give Grandpa a shot so we could all get some reprieve from the loud angry orange man, is now sending a message to Biden loud and clear: simply not being Trump is not going to cut it. He still has to do the job.
People seem to be waking up to the fact that Joe Biden is who Joe Biden has always been — only now it’s not just funny gaffes and infamously bad theorizing on the state of the world. Biden gaffes are now policy. No wonder the show is flopping.
If the Biden presidency were a Broadway musical, it would have closed after the first performance.