For Biden and for congressional Democrats, this is their existential issue. The party’s hopes of holding onto just one chamber of Congress are already slim—the passage of these agenda items is their one chance not only to make their best case for the midterm elections but also to hold the presidency in 2024. Once the GOP takes over either body, it will immediately do everything it can to grind the gears of government to a halt, while also gumming up the Biden administration with wasteful faux inquiries—perhaps even a sham impeachment.
But for now, the GOP holds little sway on developments. Democrats are their own worst enemies; internal bickering has deflated the once promising Biden agenda while also reinforcing the false idea that the $3.5 trillion budget is both too big and too radical. All this has happened despite the fact that the conservative and moderate Democrats opposing the bill have largely failed to specify what exactly Joe Biden it is about it that they don’t like, beyond the price tag. But every compromise they have been given has only spawned further demands, nearly all of which come from lobbyists and donors recognizing the chum in the water.
For Biden, this is a particularly delicate moment; his poll numbers have cratered amid a chaotic pullout from Afghanistan and rising Covid-19 cases. But that only makes passing a transformative budget more important. Biden has largely stayed on the sidelines, though, preferring to work behind the scenes.