That progress, he declared, was not a result of “luck.” A good deal of the gains were in sectors that Biden’s American Rescue Plan helped. Restaurants, bars and food-service outlets — beneficiaries of the restaurant revitalization fund — increased payrolls by 186,000. Meanwhile, the most extensive measurement for unemployment — U-6, which includes anyone currently searching for a job, discouraged from finding work and classified as underemployed — dropped to 10.2 percent, continuing the steady decline from the 11.1 percent mark in January. In the same vein, Biden touted the decrease in hunger, covid-19 cases, housing insecurity and mental health problems. With tens of millions more Americans vaccinated in May, Biden painted an optimistic portrait of continued improvement and reminded Americans they will also begin to get a monthly child-care credit from the stimulus package.
All of this good news is no thanks to Republicans, who unanimously voted against the rescue plan (although they continue to tout some of the benefits). Biden has no trouble casting them as recalcitrant and indifferent to the plight of Americans.
With regard to his infrastructure package, Biden improved his position in negotiations with Republicans on two fronts: He came down on the spending side and even accommodated Republicans’ aversion to hiking the corporate tax rate. Now, he is proposing that corporations at least pay something, a 15 percent minimum tax. Republicans are in the position of defending corporations that pay nothing. It’s not a good look for a party desperate to affix to themselves an economic populist label. Defending tax scofflaws is about as politically untenable as, well, opposing infrastructure spending.
Biden’s flexible approach is also designed to demonstrate to foot-dragging Democrats such as Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) that it is impossible to be bipartisan with a party that does not want to make a deal. (Republicans already showed Manchin their true colors when they voted to block even a debate on a Jan. 6 commission.) Biden is now well-positioned to turn to the reconciliation process, in which he could achieve more of his proposals than he could with a watered-down bill designed to get 10 Senate Republicans on board.
The public may soon figure out that there is nothing — not an investigation of an armed insurrection, not pandemic relief, not infrastructure investment, not ending the tax-free ride that so many corporations are enjoying — that Republican will agree to. Even Manchin must admit that 10 reasonable Republicans do not exist. He must choose to either join Republicans in preserving the filibuster and blocking the entire Democratic agenda or to alter the filibuster rule, as has been done multiple times over the past few decades.
They might start with changing the three-fifths standard for cloture (currently requiring 60 votes) by applying it only to those present on the Senate floor. If that rule were in place during the recent vote on the Jan. 6 commission, Democrats would have had enough votes to move to debate, since the vote was 54 to 35, with 11 senators skipping the vote. The bill then would have passed with the support of seven or so Republicans.
In sum, Republicans’ obstructionism is allowing Biden and the Democrats to take credit for any improvements in the economy while also helping to make the case that Manchin’s attachment to the filibuster is illogical at best. At worst, it’s a defense of Republican obstruction.
Jennifer Rubin is getting her own weekly live chat, where she’ll answer questions and respond to comments from readers on the news of the week every Friday at noon. Submit yours to her first chat, launching on June 11, here.