When Obamacare became law then Vice President Joe Biden was caught on mic saying that “This is a big freakin’ deal” as he embraced the President. Only he didn’t say “freakin’.”
Last week the Supreme Court upheld the right of a would-be high school cheerleader to use the same word. Free speech advocates were heard to say that it was a freakin’ good ruling.
Coincidence? I think not. That’s because Biden may want to apply the word again when he signs the infrastructure bill that is likely now to get to his desk in the next few weeks.
Yes, there was a hiccup as there always is in any negotiation on a major piece of legislation. In talking about the Democrats’ two-pronged strategy of passing an infrastructure bill with Republican support and a much larger social services bill on their own, Biden explicitly linked the two and said he wouldn’t sign one without the other. The President probably felt compelled to say it because he wanted to assure his left flank that the spending wouldn’t stop at roads and bridges.
In reality, and assuming Democrats can keep their own houses in order, Biden should be able to sign both bills this summer. But to threaten a veto of the infrastructure bill if he didn’t get the social spending bill put the moderate Republicans who worked with the White House in an awkward position. They want to be seen as delivering concrete, not day care — though why that’s the case is a question for another blog, as expanded child care seems like a pretty good idea to me.
In any event, Biden backed off and said that he never intended to say what he clearly said. That now appears to be enough to get things back on track.
Beyond the obvious benefits of building and rebuilding stuff, here’s what makes this freakin’ good.
- It’s a step toward showing that democracy can work. Biden gets the big picture. He understands that liberal democracy is in a competition with totalitarianism, most importantly the Chinese variety, that is almost as intense as the Cold War. It’s easy to get stuff done when you don’t have to worry about public opinion, opposition parties or a free press. Continued gridlock in Congress could make that system look more appealing.
- It further weakens Donald Trump. Trump promised a big infrastructure bill but never delivered anything beyond the press release event he called “Infrastructure Week.” In truth he was infrastructure weak. Trump touted what a great deal maker he was and yet he never worked out an agreement with Democrats on any significant issue.
- It undercuts Mitch McConnell. McConnell welcomed Biden to office by saying that his only job was to defeat the new President’s agenda. Not work to find common ground where they could. Not compromise when it was in the interests of the American people. No. Just stop anything Biden wanted to do. This deal will show that McConnell doesn’t have an iron lock on his caucus.
- It strengthens the middle. It was centrist senators from both parties who hammered this out in negotiations. You would expect that they enjoyed making public policy and you would hope that it would give them the taste to do more on other issues.
- It restores some faith in normal politics. Voters are jaded about politicians’ promises. Biden said he’d work with the other party. Now he has and he’s pulled off a major piece of progress. And he’s done it the old fashioned way, using the normal processes, both formal and informal, of American democracy.
- It improves chances for Democrats in 2022. Infrastructure is tangible. Well before the November, 2022 elections, voters will see resurfaced roads, new bridges, expanded broadband and more. Unlike Obamacare, where the Democrats inexplicably ceded the narrative to Republicans, Biden seems to understand that he’s got to keep selling his legislation even after it becomes law. The message needs to be simple: when Democrats are running things, stuff you like gets done.
Add it all up and what you’ve got here is a one big freakin’ deal. Nice goin’, Joe.
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