As President Joe Biden faces the lowest approval ratings of his presidency so far in the aftermath of a military withdrawal from Afghanistan, he hopes to shift focus to domestic policy in September and get wins on major infrastructure and social spending legislation.
But Republicans’ intense focus on Afghanistan, as well as moderate Democrats who oppose the price tag of his $3.5 trillion social spending bill, threaten to block or delay Biden claiming domestic wins and a planned pivot away from foreign affairs.
Speaking on a weaker-than-expected jobs report on Friday, Biden called the country to “stick together” to achieve his September goals of increasing COVID-19 vaccinations and seeing Congress pass his economic agenda.
“It takes a lot of nerve to give a lecture about ‘sticking together’ when you just left hundreds of Americans behind enemy lines and your only plan is to change the subject,” Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, shot back in a Friday statement.
BIDEN TO REVIVE ECONOMIC CAMPAIGN AND PROMISES TO PIVOT AWAY FROM AFGHANISTAN, AIDES AND ALLIES SAY
Republicans have sent numerous signals that they will keep their focus on Afghanistan and remaining humanitarian and diplomatic issues.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy attempted to bring up a bill demanding answers on equipment left behind in Afghanistan and deals made with the Taliban during a pro forma session last week, despite the House not being scheduled to return to floor business until Sept. 20. Top Republicans sent a letter to Biden asking to preserve records about the Afghanistan withdrawal, saying they “plan to vigorously investigate” his administration’s decisions.
A wave of Republicans has called for Biden or other administration officials to resign or be impeached. Former President Donald Trump’s Save America PAC last week released an ad criticizing Biden’s handling of the withdrawal, indicating hopes of keeping the issue alive through campaign season.
Republicans have also brought their concerns about Afghanistan to committee markup sessions for Biden’s spending proposals.
“This committee is going to spend the day discussing electric vehicles for the federal government instead of discussing the thousands of vehicles we just abandoned in Afghanistan,” Kentucky Rep. James Comer, ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, said last week as the panel considered measures that will be included in the final bill.
Republicans offered amendments relating to Afghanistan, such as directing reports on the number of Americans stranded there, but they were ruled not to be germane to the legislation.
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September is a critical month for Biden’s legislative agenda.
The House aims to pass and send to Biden’s desk the bipartisan $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which largely addresses physical infrastructure, by Sept. 27. Left-wing Democrats, though, say that they will not vote for the legislation until they also pass a go-it-alone $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that includes money for free community college, green energy initiatives such as a “civilian climate corps,” an extension of the child tax credit, and a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.
But centrist Democrats complicate Biden’s hopes of pushing the two-track plan to his desk in the next few weeks.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, called for the party to ”hit a strategic pause” on the $3.5 trillion plan, writing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that he will not support “anywhere near that level of additional spending” without additional clarity. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, has also expressed her opposition to the high price tag. Support from all 50 Senate Democrats is necessary to push the reconciliation package through the evenly-divided Senate.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain downplayed the roadblock posed by Manchin on CNN on Sunday, insisting his concerns about inflation and debt could be addressed in the legislation.
“If I had a nickel for every time someone’s told me this package has been dead, I would be a very, very rich person,” Klain said. “It was dead back in May when there was initial opposition to it. It was dead in June, the day the president went to Europe. It was dead in July again. All I have heard is how this package is going to be dead. And yet, amazingly, it continues to advance.”
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The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on Saturday may also prolong attention on the Afghanistan withdrawal and its aftermath.
“This September 11, the Taliban will be stronger than ever before,” McCarthy said in a tweet. “They will have a larger airforce than a third of NATO. They will be better armed than some of our closest allies.”
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Tags: News, Joe Biden, Congress, Republican Party, Joe Manchin, Afghanistan
Original Author: Emily Brooks
Original Location: GOP and centrist Democrats threaten Biden pivot to domestic issues