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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: bipartisan deal

'Flubs And Blunders': Beltway Press Desperately Stirs Controversy Around Biden

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

It was the kerfuffle that fizzled.

Anxious for some tension to jolt the No Drama Biden era, and missing the nonstop, frantic news cycles of the Trump years, the Beltway media just spent a week in hyperventilation mode. In the end, the story they desperately wanted to push — bipartisan negotiations for the proposed infrastructure bill were unraveling thanks to a Biden "blunder" — went nowhere, and the press once again revealed how it chases over-hyped Democratic White House controversy instead of straight news.

The overheated media excitement for a ho-hum story was the latest proof that the press, five months into Biden's term, is still struggling to adjust from the Trump era tumult. With clicks and views down this year and more news consumers embracing the return to news cycle 'normalcy' under Biden's steady, non-psychotic hand, reporters, editors, and producers are leaning into any attempt to create headlines and conflict.

It also marks the return to process journalism, which Beltway reporters love, as they focus on the theatrics of lawmaking, often at the expense of the substance.

For the infrastructure story, the Washington Post excitedly announced that Biden "flubbed" the "rocky rollout" of the preliminary bipartisan deal that had been struck in the Senate when he said he wouldn't sign it unless a simultaneous and larger bill favored by Democrats didn't land on his desk. "If they don't come, I'm not signing," Biden said. "Real simple."

Republicans immediately launched into outrage mode, insisting the president had blind-sided them with a new demand. (Fact: He had discussed it for months.) And when the GOP goes into outrage mode, the press quickly falls in line, loudly amplifying the claims of foul play, along with lots of coverage about how Biden supposedly messed up the Democrat's legislative agenda.

"White House Scrambles to Manage Fallout of Biden's 'Tandem' Remarks" Politico announced. Bloomberg dubbed it his "blunder," followed by this from Financial Times: "Biden Seeks Support for Infrastructure Deal After Bungled Rollout." At CNN, they breathlessly claimed Biden's comments had set off a "48-hours chaos" cycle inside the Beltway, and "exposed Biden's continued ability to throw his agenda for a loop with a few misplaced words." (Gaffes!)

What's actually in the infrastructure bill? That was of less interest to most news outlets, as they myopically focused on the process and would-be horse trading that was underway on Capitol Hill. That included insomnia-inducing bouts of process questions during White House press briefings, as reporters asked the same question over and over about Biden's comment and whether he'd sign the bipartisan bill without the Democratic one.

All of it was driven by Republican posturing and the mainstream media's public assumption that they were acting as honest brokers. "The tantrum clearly wasn't rooted in good faith," noted MSNBC's Steve Benen. "And yet, much of the political world went along with the theatrics anyway, as if there was some degree of sincerity in Republican complaints about Biden and Democratic leaders having gone too far."

Added the Post's Jennifer Rubin: "The Republicans routinely play the mainstream media, which indulges them by creating controversy. "Biden may have blown it" banter filled the cable TV shows. Instead of closely examining whether Republicans' outburst was illogical, and pointing out that any threats were empty, they ran with the story for days."

It was hard to watch the cringe-worthy coverage and not think a lot of it was driven by a media desire to gin up controversy for an extremely uncontroversial president. With the nation no longer locked into Trump news cycles that horrified millions of voters, demanded attention, and sparked genuine outrage, there's a temptation now to widely overplay middling stories.

On Wednesday Reuters hyped the results of its latest presidential polling and presented the results as sweepingly bad for Biden. "Support For Biden Erodes Among Democrats," read the headline. Yet the piece noted that Biden today is nearly 20 points more popular than Trump was at this juncture of his presidency. That's one of the biggest polling jumps in modern American history.

This approach to Biden coverage isn't new. Back in May, the press pushed the strange narrative that the Biden White House was being overrun by "a flurry of crises" that threatened to stymie the new, popular president. The administration was "struggling to find a clear narrative." "Multiple Crises at Home and Abroad Provide a Reality Check for Biden's White House," a CNN headline declared, while NBC's Meet the Press announced, "Biden Battles New Crises as Honeymoon Fades." And from The Hill: "The Imminent Crises Facing Joe Biden."

But journalists often strained themselves trying to construct the new narrative. In an effort to paint the picture of mounting "crises," several pointed to the already-fixed Colonial Pipeline shutdown from the previous week as proof Biden was facing "new" calamities.

This followed a silly March media outburst of gotcha stories: Biden travels during the pandemic! Biden rides an expensive exercise bike! Biden wears a Rolex! Biden hasn't given a press conference! Biden hasn't credited Trump for the vaccine! Biden hasn't "united" the nation!

Not only were the attacks dopey, but they lacked all context. Biden's predecessor waged war on free and fair elections during his final months in office and inspired a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. Yet the press spent days treating a stray, misdirected Biden sentence regarding infrastructure negotiations as "chaos"?

The press really struggles with the new drama-free White House.

Republican Senate Negotiator Now Ready To 'Move Forward' On Infrastructure Bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A lead Republican negotiator on an infrastructure deal on Sunday welcomed President Joe Biden's withdrawal of his threat to veto a $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill unless a separate Democratic spending plan also passes Congress. Ohio Senator Rob Portman said he and his fellow negotiators were "blindsided" by Biden's comments on Thursday after he and senators announced a rare bipartisan compromise on a measure to fix the nation's roads, bridges and ports. "I was very glad to see the president clarify his remarks because it was inconsistent with everything that we had been told al...

Senate Republicans Whining Over Biden’s ‘Two-Track’ Infrastructure Plan

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Senate Republicans are upset that President Joe Biden plans to enact other spending legislation after striking a deal with them on infrastructure.

The infrastructure deal calls for about $579 billion in new spending on transportation, water systems, power, and broadband infrastructure. It does not include most of the climate change, child care, and caregiving funding — described as "human infrastructure" — that Biden requested in his original $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan.

Democrats plan to enact some of these priorities separately — as well as the health care, paid leave, and educational investments from Biden's American Families Plan— through the budget reconciliation process, without any GOP support.

Biden, who ran on campaign promises to enact such legislation, said Thursday he plans to sign the packages together. While most bills — including the bipartisan infrastructure deal — require a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, a loophole allows passage of some taxation and spending legislation to pass with a simple majority.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lamented soon after that Biden was "caving completely" to the "left-wing base" by doing both.

"Less than two hours after publicly commending our colleagues and endorsing the bipartisan agreement, the president took the extraordinary step of threatening to veto it," McConnell (R-KY) complained, referencing Biden's statement that he would not sign one bill without the other. "It was a tale of two press conferences — endorse the agreement in one breath and threaten to veto it in the next."

McConnell was not part of the bipartisan negotiations or the infrastructure deal that was eventually struck. His endorsed GOP negotiating team — led by West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito — was unable to reach an agreement previously after they offered only a fraction of the new spending Biden had requested.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) had similar complaints. "Democrat [sic] leaders, including the president, have undermined their own negotiators and the Republicans who've been negotiating in good faith," he tweeted. "They're holding bipartisanship hostage for partisanship."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) suggested that the deal was really "no deal" because Biden also planned to enact a reconciliation package. And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Politico he would oppose the infrastructure plan because Biden's decision to push other legislation separately somehow amounted to extortion.

"The Dems are being told you can't get your bipartisan work product passed unless you sign on to what the left wants, and I'm not playing that game," he said.

Biden, meanwhile, has been clear throughout the process that the infrastructure package is not his only priority and that this deal did not preclude a reconciliation package.

In initial remarks after meeting with the bipartisan group on Thursday morning, Biden told reporters "there is going to be a two-track system" for the two spending plans.

In an afternoon press conference, he noted that this had always been the plan.

"The bipartisan bill, from the very beginning, was understood there was going to have to be the second part of it," he said. "I'm not just signing the bipartisan bill and forgetting about the rest that I proposed. I proposed a significant piece of legislation in three parts. And all three parts are equally important."

"The question is: How much can we get done? And the bottom line is: When all is said and done, does what you agree to preclude, forever, you getting the things you really want?" he added. "Well, I'm not for that. I'm not going to vote for one of those deals."

As long as Democrats stay united, the GOP will have little power to stop those plans.

Democratic senators from across the political spectrum have indicated that they are on board with passing a major "human infrastructure" bill through the reconciliation process.

"I've come to the knowledge, basically, that budget reconciliation is for reconciling budgets. So it's money matters," West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a staunch holdout on many of Biden's more progressive-leaning policies, told NBC News, while endorsing such a package.

"I think we can, we can make that happen. It's going to be either both or nothing," Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders told reporters, noting that the reconciliation package must address "the needs of working families, climate change and progressive tax reform."

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) concurred. "Ultimately there's two tracks, and both trains have to arrive at the station at the same time," he said, according to NBC News.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Biden Reiterates Support For 'Two-Track' Infrastructure Deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- President Joe Biden spoke with Arizona Democratic Senator Krysten Sinema on the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, the White House said Friday, and reiterated his support for a "two-track" legislation process that includes a second reconciliation bill. "The President reiterated strong support for both the bipartisan Infrastructure bill and a reconciliation bill containing the American Families Plan moving forward on a two-track system, as he said yesterday when meeting the press with the bipartisan group of ten Senators," the White House said in a statement. After House of...