Biden’s quick jump from one bipartisan negotiation to another rankled plenty of liberal Democrats, who have long insisted that Republicans have zero interest in actually coming to any sort of negotiated compromise and instead are taking advantage of Biden’s bipartisan instincts to slow-walk important legislation for the country.
Even Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen — no liberal absolutist — clearly believes that Biden is wasting his time here.
Republican leaders are also skeptical about any sort of bipartisan deal being made. “It’s hard for me to see a scenario where even 10 Republicans would vote for something that gets very far beyond where Shelley’s discussions were with the White House,” South Dakota Sen. John Thune told CNN’s Lauren Fox this week.
So why is Biden continuing to pursue the bipartisan path when literally everyone says it’s doomed?
Two words: Joe Manchin.
And Manchin has made it crystal clear that he wants Democrats — led by Biden — to wring every single last drop of potential bipartisan compromise out of the infrastructure package (and all subsequent legislation) before he will consider going the purely partisan route.
“What I’ve seen during my time in Washington is that every party in power will always want to exercise absolute power, absolutely. Our founders were wise to see the temptation of absolute power and built in specific checks and balances to force compromise that serves to preserve our fragile democracy. The Senate, its processes and rules, have evolved over time to make absolute power difficult while still delivering solutions to the issues facing our country and I believe that’s the Senate’s best quality…
“…. Do we really want to live in an America where one party can dictate and demand everything and anything it wants, whenever it wants? I have always said, “If I can’t go home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.” And I cannot explain strictly partisan election reform or blowing up the Senate rules to expedite one party’s agenda.
“The truth is there is a better way — if we seek to find it together.”
Whether Biden agrees with Manchin’s view is immaterial. Biden knows that he has to convince Manchin that every single bipartisan avenue is blocked in order to get the West Virginia Democrat on board with passing infrastructure via reconciliation. So whether or not Biden thinks that this new bipartisan group of senate negotiators is going to be any different than the last set of bipartisan conversations were (my guess is he doesn’t), he will continue to keep an open line of communication.
And he will keep talking (and talking) until Manchin signals that he is satisfied that a) Biden has given it the old college try and b) compromise isn’t possible.
That’s the current Democratic reality — whether Biden or the liberal wing in Congress like it or not.