White House officials, as they push President Joe Biden‘s agenda through Congress, are giving new meaning to the phrase ‘bipartisan support,’ arguing it doesn’t mean winning Republican votes on Capitol Hill.
‘If you looked up ‘bipartisan’ in the dictionary, I think it would say support from Republicans and Democrats,’ Anita Dunn, a senior Biden adviser, told The Washington Post. ‘It doesn’t say the Republicans have to be in Congress.’
And Rahm Emanuel, the former Chicago mayor who served as Barack Obama‘s chief of staff, argued Biden redefined bipartisanship.
‘What’s become crystal clear is that Biden has redefined bipartisan,’ he said.
‘It isn’t how many Republicans I’ve got,’ he added. ‘It’s about how many Republican voters or mayors and governors can I get to support my stuff. And Washington is slow to catch up to the Biden definition.’
As administration officials work to move the $2.9 trillion infrastructure bill through Congress – and look ahead to gun legislation, the budget, and healthcare reform – officials are looking outside of Washington D.C. for GOP approval.
The White House has trotted out Republican voters, Republican mayors and Republican governors to express support for their agenda.
And they argue that is enough.
‘I would like Republican — elected Republican — support,’ Biden said at his first presidential news conference in March. ‘But what I have now is, I have electoral support from Republican voters. Republican voters agree with what I’m doing.’
President Joe Biden argues Republican voters support his agenda even if Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill won’t vote for it
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin cautioned the White House about not having any Republican votes for its legislative agenda
President Biden with his senior adviser Anita Dunn, who argues bipartisanship doesn’t mean Republican votes in Congress
But some Democrats have cautioned the president about his approach. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat whose vote the White House needs, is one of them.
‘Senate Democrats must avoid the temptation to abandon our Republican colleagues on important national issues,’ Manchin wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that ran last Thursday. ‘Republicans, however, have a responsibility to stop saying no, and participate in finding real compromise with Democrats.’
And Republicans have called on Biden to live up to the unified vision of America he offered in his inaugural address and work with them on compromise legislation that would garner their votes.
Biden will hold a bipartisan meeting with lawmakers at the White House on Monday to discuss his infrastructure bill, including both senators and representatives.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Biden was willing to negotiate on the specifics of his plan and that was why he’s holding the sitdown.
‘He looks forward to hearing their ideas, and his objective is to find a way forward where we can modernize our nation’s infrastructure so we can compete with China,’ she said in her daily press briefing ahead of the meeting.
‘He’s proposed a way to pay for it, which is what he thinks the responsible thing is to do. And he hopes they’ll come to the table with ideas,’ she noted.
Republican lawmakers have said they would support a smaller bill that was focused solely on traditional infrastructure items.
But administration officials argue items like clean water, affordable housing and caring for the climate contribute to the overall infrastructure of the nation – and have bipartisan support among voters.
‘These are things, remarkably, that command the support of the majority of the American people, Democrats and Republicans,’ Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ on Sunday.
And when pressed on criticism from GOP lawmakers that the infrastructure bill had outlier items like elder care and child care, Buttigieg shot back: ‘I want to point out that childcare and eldercare command a lot of support among Republican voters, just maybe not at the moment among Republican legislators here in Washington.’
‘This package in – as a whole and in its pieces, already has bipartisan support, already has most Republicans saying we ought to do it, just not here in Washington,’ he added.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg argues Biden’s infrastructure proposal has support among Republican voters
In February, President Biden held an Oval Office meeting with Republican governors and mayors to discuss his American Rescue Plan, which passed Congress without a single GOP vote for it
To help pass his $1.9 trillion America Rescue Plan, Biden brought in a bipartisan group of mayors and governors to meet with him in the Oval Office in February to demonstrate the support it had outside the D.C. beltway.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Republican, came to the White House briefing room afterwards to praise Biden and the bipartisan tone.
‘The president was extremely thoughtful; listened to every single one of the elected officials — both governors and mayors from both parties; listened to our comments and concerns,’ he said.
That plan passed Congress – without a single Republican vote.