President Biden’s much-vaunted efforts to secure bipartisan support for his coronavirus package have laid bare fault lines in the Democratic caucus and among centrist Republicans.
The White House has repeatedly said it believes the package is “designed for bipartisan support.” Still, under pressure Monday following a weekend call between top White House aides and congressional lawmakers, Biden said he was “open to negotiate” as he seeks Republican backing.
Biden predicted that talks could take a “couple of weeks,” but the bill faces political and logistical hurdles, including early pushback from lawmakers and former President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, which is expected to begin the week of Feb. 8.
“Each and every challenge faced by a Biden administration will be exacerbated by the fact that [Biden] will be the head of a coalition government,” according to Trump White House Deputy Legislative Affairs Director Michael McKenna, pointing to the different coalitions within the Democratic Party. “That means that everything will take longer and be more complicated than usual.”
Reed Hundt, a former Clinton administration official and member of the transition teams for former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, suggested the process may take a while.
“I don’t think this will be resolved until after the impeachment trial is over,” he said.
Biden’s push for coronavirus relief may depend on a coalition of centrist Democrats, such as Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and liberals such as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
The more concessions are made to centrist Democrats or Republicans, “the more consternation you will see from the progressive Democrats,” said Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve economist. “The president is trying to thread a very tough needle.”