The Biden do-over: Democrats get a chance to try again on Obama defeats

By The Washington Post : Obama thought good policy would sell itself. Biden’s aides say he designed his package around key pieces that sell well, including easy-to-understand ideas like $1,400 stimulus payments and vaccines.

The Biden do-over: Democrats get a chance to try again on Obama defeats
The Biden do-over: Democrats get a chance to try again on Obama defeats

Barack Obama, facing pressure from both parties, worked to stay his stimulus package under $1 trillion. Joe Biden launched his presidency by spending about $2 trillion and hopes to bump it up to $5 trillion.Obama spent months negotiating with Republicans, thirsty for a bipartisan credential that never came, while Biden nodded to the opposition party then pushed his agenda without them.

Obama thought good policy would sell itself. Biden’s aides say he designed his package around key pieces that sell well, including easy-to-understand ideas like $1,400 stimulus payments and vaccines.The opening months of the Biden administration have provided the Democratic Party with a rare “do-over”  an opportunity to enact wide-ranging agenda items much more quickly and on a bigger scale than in 2009. Even Biden’s slogan, Build Back Better, aspires to enhance what came before.

Surrounded by many of an equivalent top aides who worked within the Obama White House, the Biden team is behaving almost as if it's back to figure after a lengthy sabbatical, learning where Obama left off without having to ascend a learning curve.

The Donald Trump era offered Democrats a view of their worst nightmare — a president that the majority of them saw as authoritarian and dangerous to the country’s future. Bound by that fear, Democrats say they're attempting to undo what many both inside and out of doors the administration deem the mistakes and disappointments from the Obama years.

“For them to travel back four years later, with the advantage of eight years of White House-based political experience — it’s a plus I don’t think any administration has ever had,” said Dan Pfeiffer, who was a senior adviser to Obama. “During much of the second term especially i might think, ‘Man, if I only knew then what i do know now.’ ”He added: “They actually get to try to to that and return during a machine .”

During his first formal press conference Thursday, Biden repeatedly returned to a topic of getting things done, approaching the office almost sort of a general contractor on a construction project.“I’ve been hired to unravel problems,” Biden said.

But his approach comes with risks, members of both parties say. The Obama alumni populating Biden’s West Wing are a number of an equivalent people that struggled to read the political moment in 2009. And attention on avoiding mistakes from the past, some warn, could mean they’re not seeing problems on the horizon.

“The biggest danger for Joe Biden is eager to move in no time without bringing the American people with him in terms of a number of these objectives,” said Leon Panetta, who served as Obama’s defense secretary and Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. “That’s probably the most important challenge that he’s got.”

Of the primary 50 top staff posts Biden announced, nearly 80 percent had worked within the Obama White House or on his campaign. They included senior officials like Susan Rice, Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations who now runs Biden’s Domestic Policy Council; John F. Kerry, once Obama’s secretary of state and now Biden’s climate envoy; and Brian Deese, a mid-level Obama aide who is now helming the National Economic Council.

Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, held that position for Biden when he was vice chairman and later helped Obama during the Ebola outbreak. Some Cabinet secretaries also were fixtures during the Obama era, with Janet Yellen leading the Department of the Treasury now after Obama appointed her to chair the Federal Reserve System . And Biden’s agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, returned to an equivalent job he held just over four years ago.

So far, Biden has passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package and is preparing an infrastructure measure which will also address global climate change . The new efforts could cost quite $3 trillion and can almost certainly be amid tax increases, another thorny legislative topic.

He and his aides have said they're also trying to avoid becoming mired in issues that have long bedeviled Washington, including regulation and immigration.Contrasting the 44th and 46th presidents has revealed tensions between Biden’s team and a few from the Obama years who haven't joined the administration. Many of these alumni bridle at the thought that fundamental mistakes were made, arguing that the political climate surrounding the nation’s first African American president a decade ago was dramatically different.

“The parallels between the Recovery Act and therefore the American Rescue Plan has been treated just like the Obama experience is frozen in amber from 2009 to 2010,” said Pfeiffer, pertaining to the smaller stimulus passed during the good Recession.

He said that in “the full breadth of the eight years” of the Obama administration, “politics changed and therefore the Republican Party changed.”

Biden is in some ways an unlikely leader to inaugurate sweeping changes quickly. Despite his long career in Washington, he's not related to many transformational policy wins, and a few past victories, like the 1994 crime bill, later became political liabilities.

Biden’s friendly comments about the opposition party amid a generally affable demeanor belies his determination to push the levers of power much harder than the president he served, consistent with aides.

But some Democrats worry that Biden is creating a “go-it-alone” standard which will be off-putting to moderate voters.“There is clearly intense division — not only on Capitol Hill , but throughout the country. and admittedly , that’s why we should always focus our efforts on building consensus round the issues, like infrastructure,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) said.

But two people that have recently spoken to Biden, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose conversations with the president, said that he aims to enact a bolder agenda than Obama — motivated not out of a way of rivalry but by his lifelong quest to realize the presidency.He is aided by the very fact that the political landscape on the left has changed in meaningful ways since the Obama era, with Democrats much more hospitable bigger spending and bolder ideas. So while Biden has smaller majorities in Congress, the Democrats who are in office are more ideologically aligned.

“If someone had said to me in 2009, ‘Hey, we’re getting to do that $1.9 trillion bill,’ i might have said: ‘Whoa,’ ” said Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), an in depth Biden ally.

Democrats wont to try make an attempt to make sure that new programs were purchased , Casey said. “Our party had quite shifted to ‘every penny must be paid for’ otherwise you can’t even mention it,” Casey said. “I wont to be more therein camp.”

Casey said watching Republicans enact massive tax cuts that fueled the deficit changed his views. If they might spend freely to assist the rich, he reasoned, why not put some money within the pockets of the poor?
Biden aides have said that he designed his stimulus package with the sales job in mind, pushing them to make certain there have been pieces of it that would be easily communicated to Americans.

Advisers to Biden have said his time in Washington meant it had been easy for him to dismiss the GOP opening offer to barter . After Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion package, Republicans countered with a $600 billion deal, variety that Biden allies have said he viewed as an unserious response.

“The whole way he got the American Recovery Act through is completely supported seeing what the Republicans did before in 2009,” said one longtime Biden confidant who spoke on the condition of anonymity to debate the president’s views. “If you fool me once, shame on you. If you fool me twice, shame on me.”

Lessons from his time within the Executive Office of the President came through as Biden interviewed potential Cabinet secretaries and would constantly probe candidates to measure how they might work with others on the team in issue areas that overlapped, said former senator Ted Kaufman, who headed Biden’s transition.

There are aspects of the Obama presidency that Biden has tried to mimic, Kaufman said. “Obama makes decisions and he doesn’t take forever,” Kaufman said. Biden features a long history of missing self-imposed deadlines for decision-making but has shown more discipline therein area within the youth of his term.Biden has also prioritized a warm approach to Capitol Hill and therefore the Senate, working to stay Democrats unified with slim majorities in both chambers.

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