President Biden isn’t the only one fully embracing federal spending on infrastructure and semiconductor manufacturing over the summer, as are some of the Republicans seeking to remove him from office next year.
The White House has labeled the president’s new economic campaign as Bidenomics, an acronym that until now has been a pejorative used by Republicans and conservative media primarily to stress inflation.
But in a speech Wednesday in Chicago on the economy, Mr. Biden hung on, with a renewed focus on the two most important bipartisan legislative achievements of his tenure, the infrastructure bill and the CHIPS and Science Act. He hopes these moves will help brand him the cross-aisle dealmaker who sold out voters in 2020, appeal to the political moderates who formed a core of his winning electoral coalition, and impress voters disconnected from what he’s done in the post.
One significant benefit for Biden: Republicans helped pass those bills.
While GOP presidential candidates and the Republican National Committee continue to describe Biden’s economic stewardship as an ongoing disaster, the Republican senators who helped shape the legislation say they anticipated those gains would stack to Biden’s political advantage. as well as for your own. .
Sen. Todd Young, an Indiana Republican who helped write the massive bill aimed at revitalizing the nation’s semiconductor industry, said work on a bill he called “popular off the charts” had begun with Sen. Chuck Schumer. , Democrat from New York. during the administration of President Donald J. Trump.
“The Biden administration deserves credit for moving the proposal forward and, regardless of the timing of its origin, for helping it become law,” Young said.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, grudgingly acknowledged the president’s role in securing a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that had eluded the past two administrations.
“When senators from different parties come together to work on solutions to our nation’s problems and then the president jumps to the front of the parade, it doesn’t mean he’s the grand marshal,” Mr. Cassidy said.
Mr. Biden’s infrastructure bill won the votes of 19 Republican senators and 13 Republican members of the House. Sixteen Senate Republicans and 24 House Republicans voted in favor of the semiconductor legislation.
It will be hard for Republicans to draw criticism when they take credit for the same achievements themselves. The White House on Wednesday praised the Biden administration’s broadband spending of Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers of washington and Gus Bilirakis from FloridaRepublicans who voted against the infrastructure legislation that funded it, along with Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas.
But perhaps no Republican cheer for the infrastructure legislation brought Biden more joy than a tweet from Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville saying it was “great to see Alabama receive crucial funding.”
“To no one’s surprise, he’s bringing in some converts,” Biden said Wednesday of his bipartisan legislation. “There’s a guy named Tuberville from Alabama, a senator from Alabama, who announced that he was strongly opposed to the legislation. He now he is greeting his step ”. Mr. Biden then dryly drew the sign of the cross on his chest.
Steven Stafford, a spokesman for Tuberville, said Biden and his allies had “misrepresented” the senator’s words. “Now that the bill is the law of the land, the people of Alabama deserve their fair share,” he said.
And even as Biden on Monday gambled away the $42 billion in broadband spending in the infrastructure bill, another Republican senator who voted for it, Maine’s Susan Collins, was trumpeting the $272 million of her that goes to her state.
Of course, celebrating the White House’s Republican applause for the legislation Biden signed will matter little unless the president can persuade voters that these achievements are improving their material well-being.
Biden’s defenders have long maintained that the economic policies he highlights in the Bidenomics rebrand are wildly popular with voters. The problem, these allies say, is that few people connect them with Biden.
And Wednesday’s speech came at a time when Biden’s approval ratings on the economy are in dangerous territory.
An Associated Press/NORC poll released Wednesday found that only 34 percent of adults approved of Biden’s handling of the economy. Among Democrats, just 60 percent, and just 47 percent of those 45 and younger, approved of his economic management.
The millstone is inflation, which has eased sharply from its peak last year but remains above the norm. Whether inflation is 9 percent or 4 percent, prices remain high, which may be why the president is less vocal about the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan, which was passed last week. early in his tenure and has even been blamed by the Federal Reserve for part of the increase. This is also why Republicans continue to mock what they call the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed in 2022 with strictly Democratic votes.
“It makes sense for him to emphasize the bipartisan bills that passed that should have an economic impact rather than the all-partisan bills that fueled inflation,” said former Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, who voted for the bills. infrastructure and semiconductor bills before retirement. at the beginning of this year.
Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, made it clear that his party intended to lump all the gains promoted by Mr. Biden into the inflationary jaws, including infrastructure and semiconductor legislation.
“Both bills caused inflation, which is the biggest hurdle for Biden in the next election,” he said, “so I don’t think they did him any favors,” referring to the Republicans who helped pass the measures.
In his speech on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said that the pandemic relief plan had reduced unemployment from more than 6 percent to less than 4 percent. He suggested that his economic leadership would achieve an even broader goal that he placed at the center of his 2020 campaign: restoring America’s soul.
“It’s going to help lessen the division in this country by bringing us back together,” Biden said. “It makes it terribly difficult to demagogue something when it’s working.”
The Republicans who wanted to oust Biden were not buying the economic kumbaya. The Trump campaign said Wednesday that “bidenomics has created the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.” Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, in an appearance on Fox NewsHe said Biden’s policies mean “everyone pays more for the basics of life.”
Republicans are loath to acknowledge that the passage of two major bills makes Biden a bipartisan statesman. Those bills “are not just not iconic, they are the exception,” said Josh Holmes, a political adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, who voted in favor of the infrastructure bill.
Indeed, more bills than passed with bipartisan support in the last Congress. Mr. Biden enters the 2024 election cycle as the beneficiary of an extraordinary run of productivity that included a modest gun control law, a legal codification of same-sex marriage, and a revamp of procedures for counting votes in the Electoral College after Mr. Trump tried to hijack that dark process.
Senators from both parties have shelved their tendency to push only for the legislation they want or pocket the issue for the next election.
“We can’t get to a place in the country where you don’t vote for something that you think should pass because you think it might help the other side,” Blunt said.
Democrats point to circumstances Biden inherited in 2021: the attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters determined to overturn the election results.
“There was a sizable group of Senate Republicans who looked the death of democracy in the eye on January 6 and decided to try to show people that democracy could still work,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
But Murphy also recognized Biden’s legislative skills, honed over 36 years in the Senate.
“A lot of my progressive friends were angry that he didn’t punch Republicans in the mouth as much,” Murphy said, “but he kept the door open for Republicans to work with us on infrastructure, guns and industrial policy.”
cecilia kang contributed reporting.