President Biden this week offered a new path forward for his signature policy proposal based on a harsh truth: Not all of it will survive.
The president’s concession that some of the social spending and climate change package will need to be jettisoned marks a clear turning point for Democrats, some of whom have been insisting that something is better than nothing in a midterm year.
“It’s clear to me that we are going to have to probably break it up,” Biden said during a nearly-two-hour Wednesday press conference.
Now, the clock is ticking for the White House to revive talks with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to see what a revamped and pared-down Build Back Better bill will look like.
“This is almost like an overtime period, because the hope really was that this would be done in December,” said Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way.
Biden is planning to step away from the central role he has played thus far in the policy negotiations, a shift in strategy that will see him trading Oval Office phone calls for more engagements with the American public as Democrats look to boost their fortunes in the midterm elections.
Up until this point, Biden has been directly involved in negotiating with Manchin by phone and in person, even hosting him and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) at his Wilmington, Del., home.
Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, said that Biden has been one of the most involved modern presidents in legislative negotiations.
“No one is suggesting that he is not going to engage with members,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday. “What we’re conveying, and what you heard from him the other night, is that as you look at the time he is going to spend over the next couple of months, it’s not going to be hours and hours behind closed doors in the Oval Office.”