For Biden, who promised to put his “whole soul” into uniting Republicans and Democrats, passing a bipartisan covid bill should have been a layup. I mean, Trump did it five times. But instead, the president has turned unity into division by using covid relief as a pretext to pass all sorts of liberal spending projects that have nothing to do with the pandemic. He did so even after 10 Republican senators, led by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), came to the White House and offered him a path to a filibuster-proof bipartisan majority. Not only did the president reject their offer, last week he actually tried to blame the senators, saying that “they didn’t move an inch” from their initial proposal of $619 billion. That’s a lie, the senators responded: Biden never gave negotiation a chance. “Fewer than 24 hours after our meeting in the Oval Office, the Senate Democratic Leader began the process of triggering reconciliation which precluded Republican participation,” all 10 Republicans explained in a statement, adding that the White House “roundly dismissed our effort . . . in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy.”
Now, Biden is trying to do the same thing when it comes to infrastructure. There has long been strong support among Republican leaders for an infrastructure package of as much as $1 trillion. But instead of uniting Republicans and Democrats around a bipartisan deal, Biden is using infrastructure as a pretext to spend more tax dollars on things that have nothing to do with infrastructure. A Politico analysis of his $2.25 trillion proposal found that only $821 billion, or 37 percent, is focused on traditional infrastructure items such as transportation, electricity and Internet. Add another $111 billion for clean drinking water, and that comes to $932 billion — almost precisely the amount Republican leaders are on record supporting. Biden could easily win enough GOP support for an infrastructure package of this magnitude and pass it by a bipartisan, filibuster-proof majority.
But instead, he has loaded up his bill with another $1.32 trillion in spending that has little or no relation to infrastructure. For example, his proposal includes $400 billion to support expanded home care for seniors. This might be a worthy social program, but what does it have to do with infrastructure? On Fox News Sunday, Biden’s National Economic Council director, Brian Deese, justified it as “the infrastructure of care” — which is ridiculous. He’s not alone. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) recently tweeted, “Paid leave is infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure.” This is Orwellian. If Republicans had tried to tack on a $400 billion boost in defense spending as part of an infrastructure package and claimed that “defense is infrastructure,” Democrats would have howled.
But Biden does not seem to care. Just like his covid package, he is trying to ram his infrastructure plan through Congress using the budget reconciliation process, which requires no Republican votes. The only obstacles he faces are within the Democratic caucus, from moderates who oppose the tax increases he has proposed, and progressives who think he does not spend enough.
How does Biden justify the hyperpartisan start to his presidency? Just as Democrats redefined “infrastructure,” the president is now trying to redefine “bipartisanship.” Biden recently declared, “I would like . . . elected Republican support, but what I know I have now is that I have electoral support from Republican voters.” First, that is flat untrue — in a recent Gallup poll, just 8 percent of Republicans approved of Biden’s job performance. Second, that is not what Biden promised. He pledged to work “across the aisle to reach consensus.” Instead, he’s making the Trump presidency seem like a golden age of unity by comparison.