President Joe Biden arrived in Ohio on Wednesday, aware that the days of bipartisan rule in Washington are rapidly dwindling.
Throughout his CNN mayoralty, he has repeatedly reiterated his belief that Republicans will come, even if some are poisoned by plots and others, he said, “lie” on his record.
He was confronted with the open skepticism of some of his interlocutors, in particular on the question of the right to vote. But he went ahead, elevating his belief in two-party politics as nothing less than a quest to prove that democracy can work.
It was a reflection of where Biden is six months after starting his presidency. It is too early for him to renounce his promise to unite the country. Still, the window to do something with Republicans is closing.
Here are five takeaways from town hall:
The first six months of Biden’s presidency have been overwhelmingly focused on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. Until about a month ago, the president and his team naturally felt good about their progress as cases collapsed alongside a successful vaccination campaign.
But the vaccination effort has stalled. And the number of cases, fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant, is increasing. Biden was visibly frustrated with his predicament on Wednesday, which he said was fueled by vaccine misinformation proliferating in conservative circles.
“There are legitimate questions people can ask if they are worried about being vaccinated, but the question should be asked, answered and people should be vaccinated,” Biden said. “But it’s not a pandemic.”
“It’s frustrating,” he continued, seeking to downplay the current increase as a pandemic only for those who have refused to be vaccinated.
Amid the surge in cases, Biden’s aides have sought to highlight the real progress they have made on the pandemic, aware that his ability to contain the crisis will be how overwhelming voters judge him. They resisted returning to previous levels of crisis messages, understanding the effect this might have on national impressions of progress.
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Still, Biden has acknowledged that some restrictions in the pandemic era are expected to persist, although he applauds the progress he has made since taking office in January. He predicted that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will recommend that anyone under the age of 12 “should probably wear a mask at school.”
Biden entered mayoralty on Wednesday just as a test vote failed on his much-vaunted bipartisan infrastructure plan, a blow that Biden said “irrelevant.”
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Still, he and his aides have signaled that the coming weeks will be critical to implementing his broad agenda before the midterm election season heats up. Likewise, time is running out to keep his campaign promise to work with Republicans to prove that democracy is still working.
Biden acknowledged that this was a question he was receiving from foreign officials, who asked him if the United States would “ever get along.” And he said a proliferation of conspiracy theories made the collaboration more difficult, citing one that “Biden hides people and sucks the blood of children.”
Still, the president insisted that working together remained his northern star, including when asked by a member of the public about the “utopian need for bipartisan support.”
“I might not be the right guy to talk to,” Biden warned, a recognition he had no plans to give up anytime soon by insisting Republicans and Democrats can work together.
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He said he was haggling with Republicans and Democrats, saying the compromises were “real” and noting that there had to be compromises within his own party “between the far left and the center and some of the most conservative people “. And without a prompt, Biden verified the name of Republican Senator from Ohio, Rob Portman, 25 minutes after the start of the event. Portman is among the senators negotiating the bipartisan infrastructure plan, and Biden’s flattering message matched his expectations.
“I come from a tradition in the Senate, you shake hands, and that’s it, you keep your word,” he said. “And I found out Rob Portman was doing that.”
Politicians are generally reluctant to break bad news. Biden insisted he wouldn’t water down the facts. And on Wednesday, he delivered somewhat intrusive economic news in two separate responses.
He admitted the current price increases were real when asked about an overheating economy. And he candidly told a restaurant chain owner he would continue to struggle to hire workers for the foreseeable future – and suggested the restaurant owner raise wages.
It was a difficult economic love. But Biden was trying to take stock of the major changes he was trying to affect on the lives of working Americans during his first year in office, convinced that the side effects he is feeling right now are pale compared to the larger benefits. future.
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“There will be short-term inflation because everything is now trying to pick up,” he said, explaining how his economics team had informed him that the current price increases will not last until demand returns. at normal levels.
Biden has been criticized by Republicans for pumping trillions of dollars into the economy at a time when inflation fears are creeping in. But he pointed to economists who say the two plans he is proposing to Congress would actually lower prices.
When the restaurant owner stood up to ask how to get workers back to work amid a nationwide fight to retain employees, Biden acknowledged it could take some time.
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“I think it’s really a question of people deciding now that they have the option of doing other things. And there is a shortage of employees, people are looking to make more money and to negotiate. And so I think your business and the tourism business is really going to be at an impasse for a little while, ”Biden said.
When asked if the expanded unemployment benefits enacted during the pandemic were playing a role in worker shortages, Biden conceded that they could be: “Suppose it is, but this is coming to an end. ”
But he said raising workers’ wages would prove to be a safer thing, suggesting that an hourly rate of $ 15 could attract a more reliable workforce.
“But you can already pay for this,” he said.
Nowhere is Biden’s respect for Washington traditions more scrutinized than on filibuster, which progressives accuse of blocking progress on all manner of articles – but especially law bills. votes that failed to gain traction among Republicans.
RELATED: Biden Slams Attempts To Restrict Voting Rights But Says He’s Not Ready To Call For An End To Filibuster
Biden lamented the fact that the two elements – voting rights and filibuster – have become so intertwined, although legislative progress is intrinsically tied to the existence of a rule requiring a 60-vote threshold on the most bills.
Biden said he was ready to change the filibuster to force senators to speak in the Senate as they delay bills. But he did not support calls by some Democrats to eliminate him completely.
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It was probably an unsatisfactory response to the new law student who asked Biden about the logic of getting rid of filibuster to “protect our democracy and guarantee the right to vote.”
But Biden appeared to suggest changing the rules now would prevent his legislative agenda from being passed – and although he insists voting rights are his top priority, more progress is likely in Congress on his plans for it. infrastructure and family.
“The abuse of filibuster is pretty damning,” Biden admitted Wednesday – but later said the gutting “would throw the whole Congress into chaos and nothing will be done, nothing will be done.”
The last time Biden attended a CNN town hall, he compared living in the White House to residing in a “golden cage,” telling Anderson Cooper he was not used to being served by the staff.
Things haven’t changed much since then: he said on Wednesday that he missed being able to get out of his room for breakfast in a bathrobe in the morning. And he would like to put on shorts and a T-shirt to take a walk outside.
The moment it sank that he is now president – the leader of the free world – was during his trip to Europe in June, Biden said, as he sat across from leaders like the Russian president. Vladimir Putin on an equal footing.
“He knows who I am. I know who he is, ”he said.
Indeed, Biden appeared in his element abroad, seizing the four decades he had spent climbing the ranks of American foreign policy to finally run the nation’s affairs.
Still, he admitted that it took a while for him to get used to hearing “Hi, Chief” when he walked into events.
“I went, ‘Where is he?’ He said of the first time he heard the first sounds. “It’s a good tune but you feel a little embarrassed.”
This story has been updated with additional takeaways.