Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent argues that Democrats need to get in gear when it comes to telling people what's actually in the Biden Build Back Better plan rather than harping on the cost.
A big problem Democrats face right now is that congressional sausage making is so repellent and ugly that it risks alienating voters precisely when Democrats need them to be open to the details of their proposals.
In this regard, new polling released this week should light a fire under them — and prompt them to pass President Biden’s agenda as quickly as possible.
A new CNN poll released Wednesday, for instance, finds that only 25 percent of Americans believe they and their family will be better off if the two bills making up Biden’s agenda pass. Meanwhile, 32 percent say they’ll be worse off, and 43 percent say they’ll be about the same.
Among independents, who may be souring on Biden, only 20 percent say the bills will make them better off. While those numbers are grim, the poll does find some good news for Biden: 50 percent of Americans approve of his performance.
Yet the poll finds that only 41 percent of Americans want the bills to pass in their current iteration, which would include the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion social policy reconciliation bill. Another 30 percent want them in scaled down form, with less spending.
In one way, that’s not necessarily bad news. That such a large majority wants something to pass — and that large percentages are agnostic on whether it will help or hurt them — both suggest that only a small minority are dug in against it.
So many Americans might be open to approving of it once it passes and they learn more about it. But that means Democrats should hurry up and make that happen.
Their basic dilemma is also underscored in a new CBS News poll. It finds soaring support for individual provisions in Biden’s agenda, with 88 percent of Americans supporting the government negotiating down prescription drug prices, 84 percent supporting expanding Medicare to cover dental, eye and hearing treatment, and 73 percent supporting paid family and medical leave.
The CBS poll also finds general support for the two big Biden bills is in the low-to-mid 50s — good, but not nearly as good as the individual provisions. And only 36 percent say the Build Back Better social policy bill will help them or their families.
Sean McElwee, who polls regularly for the progressive group Data for Progress, thinks the message for Democrats is clear.
“The longer they sit these bills out there, and let them get attacked not just from Republicans but from the center of their party, the more difficult it is to claim these as unifying bills,” McElwee told me, adding that this clouds the case that “Biden is doing stuff for you.”
The problem remains that President Manchin and Vice President Sinema continue to call the shots, and they will continue to make sure nothing is passed, especially Sinema.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema, the moderate Arizona Democrat who has objected to the size and scope of President Biden’s sweeping legislative agenda, has been trailed all over the country by progressive activists seeking to pressure her. They have followed her into a bathroom in Arizona, on an airplane and even to the Boston Marathon.
But this week, with the Senate out of session, those activists would have had to travel even farther to press their case with Ms. Sinema in person — she’s in Europe on a fund-raising trip.
A spokesman for Ms. Sinema said she had participated in fund-raising for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee but declined to say where or provide any additional details. One person briefed on the matter said an event had occurred in Paris. It was not clear whether her trip to Europe was at the urging of the party committee.
The chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, is also in Europe this week and headlined a dinner on Wednesday in London, with contribution levels as much as $36,500, according to a copy of an invitation. Ms. Sinema’s name does not appear on that invitation.
A spokesman for the Senate committee declined to comment on the events in Europe or on Ms. Sinema’s role.
Although political campaigns and parties cannot raise money from foreign nationals, American citizens living abroad can and do regularly contribute.
Ms. Sinema’s office declined to say how long she would be abroad, what countries she was visiting, how the trip was being paid for and whether she was doing any additional fund-raising for her own campaign. Her political team had reached out to set up meetings in London and Paris, according to two people familiar with the matter.
John LaBombard, a spokesman for Ms. Sinema, said she remained engaged in the negotiations in Washington.
“So far this week, Senator Sinema has held several calls — including with President Biden, the White House team, Senator Schumer’s team, and other Senate and House colleagues — to continue discussions on the proposed budget reconciliation package,” Mr. LaBombard said. “Those conversations are ongoing.”
Sinema knows what her priorities are. Passing any Infrastructure bill isn't one of them.