[guest post by JVW]
Yesterday a poll commissioned by USA Today and Suffolk University was published in the newspaper’s pages, and it does not offer comforting news for President Biden. The President, buoyed for months by fatuous media reports that he would “unify” the country and “heal” our divisions post Trump, has seen his favorable approval ratings crash; the guy who spent the first six months of his Presidency with a majority of Americans approving of his performance now finds that rate down to 41%, with 55% of respondents expressing disapproval. (At Powerline, Paul Mirengoff points out that the survey says only 32% of independents approve of the President’s performance, which would indicate that a properly weighted number which doesn’t oversample Democrats is probably lower than 41%.) The disastrous exist from Afghanistan no doubt plays heavily into this assessment, but it’s likely too that Americans have noticed the resurgence of COVID (which this Administration was supposed to conquer), the mess at our southern border (the Supreme Court yesterday refused to block a federal judge’s order that the Biden Administration reinstate the Trump “Remain in Mexico” policy), and the continued rise of inflation thanks in no small part to the Democrats’ spending orgy.
And it is the last of these that is likely to be center stage next month (with sincere hopes, of course, that the Afghanistan mess has somehow worked itself out in the end). The Democrats this week succeeded in advancing their $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation framework through both houses of Congress, setting up debate in mid-September when Congress returns from its Labor Day vacation. The framework delivers on some long-promised Democrat pledges such as universal pre-Kindergarten for children aged three and four; two years of “free” community college tuition; an expansion of affordable housing; money for “green” bureaucracies and subsidies for alternative energy companies; and, of course, and expansion of both the fiscally-unsustainable Medicare program (this time by adding new vision, hearing, and dental benefits) and the failed Obamacare program which, if you had forgotten, was supposed to by now not only be self-supporting but also was going to have saved us scads of money otherwise spent on the Medicare program. In other words, this framework codifies the notion that failed government initiatives will always be bailed out with more money rather than reformed in light of their unreasonable promises and excessive costs.
But with the sinking fortunes in the White House it isn’t entirely obvious that Democrats will find enough votes to pass their full wishlist, at least as it is currently configured. In the House, “moderate” Democrats initially held back their votes, quarreling with leftist Democrats over which unnecessary and unaffordable “stimulus” bill should be brought forth first, the bipartisan $1.2 trillion “infrastructure” bill (man, I’m using a lot of scare quotes today, aren’t I?) or the aforementioned Democrats-only boondoggle. Moderate Democrats want to first vote on a bipartisan bill to establish their credentials as cross-aisle dealmakers, before being asked to fall upon their swords for the Sandersesque multi-trillion dollar farce. Progressive Democrats fear that the moderates will abandon them on the larger reconciliation package, and in anticipation plan to hold the bipartisan bill hostage until they can negotiate a deal on the larger package which would keep the party together. The trick for Speaker Pelosi is that any concessions given to the moderates — for instance lowering the overall price tag below $3 trillion, or paring back the tax increases that leftists are demanding — risks alienating progressives and blowing the whole thing up. And this doesn’t even begin to acknowledge the power that Joe Manchin, Kristen Sinema, and, if he wants it, Jon Tester could wield in the Senate. Senators Manchin and Sinema are both on record declaring the $3.5 trillion to be too large, so it is going to take heroic efforts by the Biden-Pelosi-Schumer troika to work all of this out.
And that brings us back to the increasing unpopularity of one Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. A President with a 55% approval rating might be able to finagle a wobbly Democrat to support his agenda by promising campaign appearances during next year’s midterm elections. A President with a 41% approval rating probably doesn’t have much to offer, and might in fact actually harm an incumbent Democrat’s chances. There are some suggestions that the vulnerable House Democrats realize that they are likely to lose in 2022, so they might be willing to sell their vote in exchange for an appointment to some sort of deputy White House position or an executive desk with some Democrat lobbying firm. The Hill reported last week that polls show 72% support for the smaller $1.2 trillion infrastructure but 57% opposition to the huge leftwing $3.5 trillion spending feast, which at once strengthens the position of the moderates yet also ensures that the arm-twisting from leadership will be intense.
Anyway, September promises to be lots of fun in our nation’s capital. Frankly I think the best-case scenario is that Democrats fall completely apart over these two bills, and as a result neither one manages to pass. But I have seen enough lunacy over the past decade-plus that I fully expect both of them to slide through in one form or another, though I doubt very much that either bill will come close to attaining its stated objectives.