It’s Monday, So It Must Actually Be Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Week!

Congress

The Senate completed work on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal Sunday, and everyone's thrilled about its bipartisanship. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer boasted, "We haven't done a large, bipartisan bill of this nature in a long time," and Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona said, "We know that this has been a long and sometimes difficult process, but we are proud this evening to announce this legislation."

Hey, they should be proud. It's a big achievement. But then Sinema had to go and spoil it by saying something stupid like how the bipartisan deal demonstrates "we can put aside our own political differences for the good of the country." Ahem no. A few Republicans have grudgingly agreed to help Democrats rebuild our crumbling infrastructure while blocking voting rights legislation and an investigation into the Trump-inspired insurrection on January 6. It's safe to assume that whatever Republicans do is because they've determined it's in their own best interests, not the country's.

The Washington Post detailed how Joe Biden, a real president, expertly managed the deal behind the scenes. There were no public Twitter tantrums or common gangland threats. He regularly called Republican senators while presidential counselor Steve Ricchetti kept in close contact with Republican negotiators. Biden empowered Ricchetti during the home stretch to pair up with Senator Rob Portman, the chief Republican negotiator, and hammer out final details. The previous counselor to the previous president was Hope Hicks, and that's just one of many reasons Donald Trump never delivered an actual Infrastructure Week.


Biden pissed off Republicans when he suggested he'd only sign a bipartisan deal if Congress also passed a separate one focused on “human infrastructure," such as subsidized child care, home caregiving, and climate change. These are supposedly partisan initiatives because only Democrats apparently care about kids, old people, and breathable air.

The president personally reached out to Senator Portman and asked how he could calm the backlash. Once again, this is actual presidential leadership and despite what they might say on Fox News, Republicans understand that Biden is good at his job.

"You can tell the difference between an adversarial negotiation and a collaborative one," said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). "In this case, when one side had a problem, the other side tried to solve the problem, rather than to walk away from the table."

This is a sharp contrast to the former White House squatter who was incapable of imagining a successful deal where one side wasn't screwed and humiliated. It's why Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord and kept talking about leaving our NATO allies to rot. Trump barely managed not to bungle the negotiations within his own damn party for the 2017 GOP tax scam bill.

Republicans who worked with Biden in their closest approximation of good faith believed their influence could help them avoid a more liberal infrastructure package. That's true to a degree, although progressives still hope the Democratic reconciliation bill won't get Sinema-ed at the the last minute. She's already stated her opposition to the reconciliation bill's current $3.5 trillion price tag, for surely very important reasons. Never one to risk losing the spotlight, Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia has also expressed concerns. West Virginia is one of the most federally dependent states in the nation, so if the senators from California and New York are willing to keep picking up the tab, Manchin has no reason to complain about the federal government's spending.

Oh, this passage from the WaPo's article is just adorable:

Biden viewed Portman, who is not seeking reelection, as a good-faith negotiator, and the White House has long paid considerable attention to the enigmatic Sinema, a vital swing vote for the president's agenda.

Wow, a reputable news source just described a sitting senator as “enigmatic." She's the Sam Spade of senators: there's never any telling what she'll say or do next but it's bound to be astonishing, like when she awkwardly praised Susan Collins's appearance during a press conference Friday. You'd think she was applying for a position as her daughter-in-law.

And when Sinema and Portman took questions, Sinema said, “Hard ones to Rob," because self-deprecating “dumb blonde" jokes are so enigmatic! Sinema also told Schumer not to count on her if either the bipartisan and reconciliation bills aren't ready for a vote before her scheduled vacation plans, which she won't cancel or postpone. Presumably, she booked the cheaper, non-refundable resort packages.

The bipartisan bill still has to survive the House, where progressive Democrats are set to take the fall if anything goes wrong. But Biden's team is probably already reaching out to the liberals who don't think the current bill is adequate. He knows how to negotiate. Uncle Joe's got this.

[AP / Washington Post]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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