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President Biden returns to Washington on Thursday fresh from a high-stakes summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin and friendlier confabulations with European allies — and he will land in the middle of high-stakes battles between centrist and progressive Democrats and Senate Republicans whose No. 3 leader just said he wants to “make Joe Biden a one-half-term president.” While Biden was gone, there was progress on infrastructure and voting rights negotiations, but it leaves some of his big priorities up in the air and significant slices of his party threatening to bolt.
“This is the headache that awaits the president after he gets back from Europe, and there’s no simple political Excedrin that can relieve it,” Michael Grunwald writes at Politico.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), upon whose vote much of Biden’s agenda rests, is circulating a list of proposed changes to the Democrats’ main voting reform package, the For the People Act. “The list of demands is, on one hand, good news for congressional Democrats, who have been seeking a way forward by perhaps passing a narrower piece of legislation more closely targeted to the GOP-passed state voting restrictions,” The Washington Post reports. “But Manchin’s demands — particularly his support for mandatory voter ID laws — could alienate fellow Democrats,” and they’re probably null anyway unless Democrats end the filibuster, which Manchin won’t do.
On infrastructure, Manchin is one of 21 senators — 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats — who signaled Thursday they would support a compromise infrastructure bill “that provides an historic investment in our nation’s core infrastructure needs without raising taxes.” The roughly $1 trillion bipartisan framework includes $579 billion in new spending over five years, but the centrist coterie is still haggling over how to pay for it.
Biden told reporters in Geneva on Wednesday he hasn’t seen the details of the infrastructure plan but “I know that my chief of staff thinks there’s some room.” Progressive Democrats had their own message, Grunwald reports: “No Climate, No Deal.”
“The climate crisis may be urgent,” but “addressing it through legislation requires rounding up the votes,” Grunwald writes. “Whether the bipartisan negotiations on the Hill produce a deal, whether Democrats pursue their own bill that requires only 50 votes, the president won’t get everything he wants for the climate. But it’s quite likely that he’ll get something. And then the left will have to decide whether that’s better than nothing.”