Each day at the White House news briefing, somebody asks press secretary Jen Psaki a variation of the same question: How can President Biden be bipartisan if Republicans do not vote for his rescue plan? The supposition seems to be that if Republicans are intransigent, we cannot have bipartisanship — so Biden “fails.”

That’s absurd on its face. All Biden can do is make a good-faith effort to include Republicans in talks and solicit input. On Monday, Psaki ticked off the outreach efforts underway: “In the last week alone, our legislative affairs team had done more than 300 calls with members and staff on the Hill, including 40 calls with Republicans or bipartisan groups,” she said.

Biden said he would reach out. He has. He said he would lower the temperature for negotiations. He has. Psaki also pointed out that he still may get GOP votes. “I will note [that] 16 of the last 21 reconciliation bills that have gone through Congress have been bipartisan,” she said.

Psaki made another point: Bipartisanship is not defined by congressional Republicans. For example, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who tried to subvert the 2020 election, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are not operating in the political realm of dealmaking. They seem more concerned with whipping up the base, trying to limit access to voting and attacking Democrats as “socialists” (did they check out the plan from Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah for a $350-per-month tax credit for every child under 6 and $250 for older kids?). But the Republicans who do care about policy outcomes can be found among those with whom Biden is talking, and they’re not all in Congress. As Psaki noted, “You can expect that the president will engage throughout the course of this week with a range of stakeholders, including business leaders, mayors and governors.”

Biden has also garnered a remarkable amount of unity around his proposal. The Post reports: “Two in 3 Americans approve of President Biden’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a poll by ABC News-Ipsos, with widespread support for his efforts to pass a relief bill.” That includes a third of Republicans, which is not bad, considering that polls show only about a third are willing to recognize he is the legitimate president. (A Quinnipiac poll had Republican support even higher, at 37 percent.)

A large plurality of Americans (49 percent, according to the ABC News-Ipsos poll) want him to deliver the bill even without Republican votes. Meanwhile, only 40 percent said they support Biden shrinking the bill to get Republicans. That is roughly consistent with other polls showing about two-thirds of the public supports the rescue plan.

By comparison, President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan (a puny $800 billion) chugged along with somewhere between 51 and 54 percent of Americans supporting it. The lessons from 2009 — do not go small, do not waste time waiting for votes from Republicans — has been internalized in this White House. But make no mistake, what Biden is proposing is far more popular than Obama’s plan at a comparable point. This is true even among Republicans: In a Pew poll in 2009, less than a quarter of Republicans liked the Obama plan.

In sum, Biden is dealing with a much more recalcitrant GOP House and Senate members, but has nevertheless achieved substantial national support — even from a share of Republicans. If Republicans in the Senate reflected the 33 percent of Republican voters who support the plan, then Biden would get as many as 17 GOP votes — an extraordinarily bipartisan achievement. Perhaps Biden is succeeding with bipartisanship, whereas the GOP is failing.

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