President Biden has vowed to bridge the partisan political divide but, struggling to gain Republican support for big bills, his administration appears to be changing the rhetoric by redefining what “bipartisan” means.
First, Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed without a single GOP vote, and now his massive infrastructure package faces strong Republican opposition in Washington. Biden, however, insists he has the support of both sides, pointing to Republican voters and officials outside the Beltway.
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“If you looked up ‘bipartisan’ in the dictionary, I think that would indicate support from Republicans and Democrats,” Biden senior adviser Anita Dunn told the Washington Post. “It doesn’t say Republicans have to be in Congress.”
Biden’s senior adviser, Mike Donilon, pointed to the president’s new definition of “bipartisan” as “an agenda that unifies the country and appeals to the entire political spectrum.”
“I think it’s a pretty good definition to say that you are pursuing an agenda that will unite the country, that will bring together Democrats and Republicans across the country,” Donilon told the Post. “Presumably, if you have a program that is widely popular with Democrats and Republicans across the country, then you should have elected officials reflecting that.”
Former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel commented on the change, telling the newspaper: “What has become clear is that Biden has redefined bipartisanship.” The former Chicago mayor explained that “it’s not how many Republicans I have,” but “how many Republican voters or mayors and governors can I get to support my affairs.”
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“And Washington is slow to catch up with Biden’s definition,” he added.
Biden acknowledged the shift towards the public and away from Republican officials when discussing his US employment plan in Pittsburgh at the end of March.
“When I wrote it, everyone said I had no bipartisan support. We are overwhelming bipartisan support with registered Republican voters,” Biden said. “And ask around. If you live in a city with a Republican mayor, Republican county executive, or Republican governor, ask them how many would rather get rid of the plan. Ask them if that helped them.”
The president then added: “I hope the Republicans in Congress will join in this effort.”
The changing definition of “bipartisan” comes at a time when Democrats were vindicating the substance of the infrastructure bill by redefining the meaning of the term “infrastructure.”
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, DN.Y., was the first to gain attention when she tweeted: “Paid time off is infrastructure. Child care is an infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure.
This has led to a chorus of criticism and mockery from lawmakers and experts on both sides of the political spectrum.
“Abortion is infrastructure. Gun control is infrastructure. Forced unionization is infrastructure. All the left wants is infrastructure. You know what isn’t? bridges. “, Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted, stating that only 5% of the infrastructure bill was actually about roads and bridges.
Keith Olbermann, the former liberal MSNBC host, said that while he agrees that the issues Gillibrand listed are important, they are decidedly not infrastructure.
“[W]When you empty a word of its meaning, you damage its impact, your cause and the value of language, ”Olbermann said.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm continued the trend on Sunday, telling ABC’s “This Week” that lawmakers need to rethink the meaning of infrastructure.
“It’s not static. In 1990 we wouldn’t have thought broadband was infrastructure because it wasn’t yet on the scene, but of course we have broadband in every pocket of the country, ”said Granholm. She then added that “we don’t want to use past definitions of ‘infrastructure’ when looking to the future.”
On the same day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Told CBS “Face the Nation” that Democrats would not limit the infrastructure bill to cover roads, bridges and waterways “because that the infrastructure is – it’s about education, health of children in school with separation, sanitation, ventilation. It’s also about investments in housing. “
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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told NBC’s “Meet the Press” last week that the Biden administration would like bipartisan legislative support for the infrastructure bill, but said his absence would not stop them.
“We can’t let politics slow this down where it isn’t happening,” he said.
Fox News’ Peter Aitken contributed to this report.
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