Joe Biden has no mandate. With slim margins in the House, and an equal number of senators to Republicans, Democrats don’t have support for the sweeping changes pushed by the radical wing of the party led by Bernie Sanders in the Senate and “The Squad” in the House. As the realization has slowly dawned on Biden and Democrats that they aren’t as powerful as they’d hoped to be, their spending and taxing plans have been shrinking. Daniel Henninger writes in The Wall Street Journal of “The Incredible Shrinking Biden:”
One of Mr. Biden’s first acts as president was to meet with Democratic congressional leaders to discuss his legislative plans. He told them: “Go big.” Less than a year later, he’s gone small.
The original Build Back Better proposal had a price tag of $3.5 trillion, but more realistic assessments said the sticker shock looked greater than $5 trillion. In early October, Mr. Biden said maybe it could be $2 trillion. Now it’s looking like $1.5 trillion. On Tuesday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her caucus, “This is not going to be fun.”
Among the mysteries that will have to wait for White House chief of staff Ron Klain’s memoir is what explains Mr. Biden’s deadline madness. Both the president and Mrs. Pelosi obsessively set deadlines, which come and go, eroding their credibility. Stranger still, they often peg their political deadlines to holidays, ensuring that everyone will notice. That part is working.
Mr. Biden set a Fourth of July deadline to have 70% of U.S. adults vaccinated at least once against Covid-19. It failed.
The president set a Sept. 11 deadline for U.S. troops to be out of Afghanistan, then moved it to Aug. 31. Advisers on all sides told him to push back the deadline to avert catastrophe. The chaos damaged his foreign-policy standing.
Speaker Pelosi set a Sept. 30 deadline for a vote on both the infrastructure bill and the then-$3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill. Official Washington stopped to watch this political equivalent of a total solar eclipse—and nothing happened.
Then, citing the expiration date of the Surface Transportation Authorization, Mrs. Pelosi reset the deadline to Oct. 31 . . . Halloween! Thanksgiving and Christmas await their Biden-Pelosi moment.
Last week, the Senate’s dour No. 2 Democrat, Sen. Dick Durbin, said in the Hill, “We should have stuck with four or five basics and said these are our goals we’re going to try to reach.”
Sound advice, but like the Kabul evacuation, the president didn’t want to hear it. Now the Biden presidency is shrinking by the day on nearly all its major goals—domestic welfare expansions, new entitlements and climate.
His approval rating with independent voters, who put him in office, is over the cliff. In the 2020 election, he won independents by 9 points. His approval rating among them now is 34%.
Build Back Better is starting to look like a condemned building, with chunks falling off almost daily. The “free” community college entitlement is almost certainly gone. The entitlement subsidy for paid leave fell to four weeks, then got dropped completely on Wednesday. Sen. Joe Manchin said this week that expanding Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision care should be put off until Medicare’s current finances are stabilized. What a novel thought.
The bill’s “pay-fors,” or tax increases, have encountered predictable opposition, notably Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s objections to raising rates on individuals, capital gains or corporations.
Now the Build Whatever We Can bill is sifting through Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden’s cats-and-dogs list of alternative revenue raisers. This week’s Hail Mary is an annual tax on the unrealized capital gains of billionaires. The idea that a wealth tax on some 1,000 or so Americans will pay for the Biden spending is ludicrous. The only proven reality of welfare spending on this scale—as in Europe—is that eventually the broad middle class will pay for it with a value-added tax and/or carbon taxes.
No priority stood higher on the Biden “go big” list than climate. It too has shrunk. The BBB’s $150 billion clean electricity plank is out. Six progressive climate groups said Tuesday restoring those billions somewhere else is a litmus test of Mr. Biden’s commitment to “environmental justice.” At this hour, the House Progressive Caucus is refusing to vote for Mr. Biden’s infrastructure bill merely to meet Speaker Pelosi’s Halloween deadline.
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