White House press secretary Jen Psaki boasted the $1.9 trillion covid-19 stimulus Biden signed into law on Thursday is the “most progressive bill in American history.” But Biden did not campaign on a promise to be the most progressive president in American history. That was Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) pledge. Biden campaigned on a promise to bring Republicans and Democrats together. He not only failed to do so, he didn’t even try.
Democrats are now trying to redefine what Biden meant by “bipartisanship,” saying that his stimulus is bipartisan because polls show it has support from some Republican voters, if not their elected representatives. Sorry, but that’s not what Biden promised. During the campaign, Biden pledged to work “across the aisle to reach consensus. I did it when I was a senator. … It’s what I will do as your president.” After his election, he declared: “Refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another. It’s not some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a decision, a choice we make. If we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.”
Well, on his first major initiative as president, Biden made a decision not to cooperate. Ten Senate Republicans led by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — enough to give him the 60 votes needed for a bipartisan, filibuster-proof majority — answered his call for cooperation. Biden didn’t even make a pretense of pretending to negotiate. He held one meeting with them and then effectively told them he didn’t need their votes.
Why? Because Democrats knew that time was running out to use covid-19 as a pretext for an unprecedented miasma of government spending. Cases are declining across the country. The economy is reviving. We now have three approved vaccines and should have enough doses to vaccinate every American adult by May. That means the pandemic emergency is almost over — and with it, the need for “emergency” action. So Democrats had to act fast if they were going to use the pandemic as a justification for a massive expansion of the welfare state.
This was not about covid-19 relief. Even parts of the bill Democrats claimed were about the pandemic really are not. For example, Biden said the $170 billion for education was necessary to reopen schools. But as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), one of the 10 Republicans who offered to work with him, pointed out, the Congressional Budget Office found only 4 percent of the money for K-12 schools will be spent this year, and some won’t be spent until 2029. Democrats cynically used the desperation of American parents to get their kids back in school as a ruse to pay off their teachers union allies.
The irony is that Biden not only failed to advance the cause of unity in Washington, but he actually set it back. Until now, every one of the relief bills passed since the pandemic began had been a bipartisan effort. Biden took that exercise and made it partisan. Yet in his address to the nation on the passage of his legislation, Biden had the temerity to say, “beating this virus and getting back to normal depends on national unity.”
The Democratic spending juggernaut is not over. Biden campaigned on a $2 trillion infrastructure-climate plan, but Democrats now want to spend as much as $4 trillion. Before the relief bill, Biden would have found a willing partner with Republicans for a large infrastructure package. Indeed, he could have countered the GOP senators’ $618 billion initial offer by suggesting they include infrastructure spending in his plan, which could have allowed him to get to his top-line number in a bipartisan way. But that would have crowded out his other special interest giveaways and obviated the need for phase two of the Democrats’ planned spending spree.
It’s now clear Democrats aren’t interested in working “across the aisle to reach consensus.” They intend to use their historically narrow congressional majorities to ram through as much big government spending as they can before the 2022 midterm elections. And if Senate Republicans try to block them, they will use their “obstreperousness” as a pre-text to get rid of the filibuster, which would permanently eliminate the need for bipartisan compromise whenever one party controls the levers of power.
If we continue down this path, there is no coming back. And Joe Biden — the president who promised to restore bipartisanship — will preside over its burial.