Many parts of this bill may or may not make good policy, but how directly and immediately tied to the coronavirus pandemic are they? Aren’t these measures significant enough to warrant debate and consideration on their own? Perhaps more importantly, is it worth it to the Biden White House that this happened on such an acrimonious basis, risking poisoning the well ahead of future votes on Democratic priorities when the reconciliation option may not be available to them? As a 40-year congressional staffer and lobbyist told me, “In theory, Congress could pass three reconciliation bills for each fiscal year … one for revenues, another for spending, and a third for debt limit. Usually, Congress combines all three in one bill.” Bottom line: There aren’t many of these reconciliation arrows in a president’s quiver.
A former chief of staff to a Republican senator told me, “I was awed by Biden’s inaugural speech. His insistent appeals to unity and his pledge to ‘work just as hard for those who didn’t support [him] as for those who did’ were political music. It was a rhetorical moment that could have been cultivated into a theme and a reservoir of goodwill for his presidency. [But] he, or at least his staff, dropped it like a hot potato.”
Biden may have, in the early moments of his term, crippled his ability to do grand bargains.