Here the Dems are, stuck in the middle with Biden

So far, they were right. But some lawmakers are still growing restless.

“I think the devil is in the details and we’ll see what happens,” the senator said. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in an interview. “But has he made decisions that progressives disagree with? Absolutely. We’ll see what happens next year. »

The emerging rift between the president and his progressive base provides a window into how Biden’s world views the impending presidential campaign. As Democrats adjust to a divided government, the president — who has seen Democratic predecessors, including one for whom he served as vice president, make similar machinations before — seems comfortable challenging some of the wishes of his own party.

The biggest flashpoints within the parties have come from crime, which is looming as a defining issue ahead of next year’s election.

Initially, the White House announced that it would oppose a GOP-led crime resolution for the District of Columbia on the grounds that it was an assault on the city’s autonomy. A majority of House Democrats voted against the measure. Then Biden flip-flopped earlier this month, saying he would sign the bill if it made it to his office. The president said he continues to support DC’s statehood and domestic rule, but could not support the city council’s sweeping reforms, which included reducing the maximum legal penalties for theft, embezzlement, car and other offences.

The outcry from progressives was sudden and fierce, with many saying they felt caught off guard by Biden’s decision after the House had already held its vote.

“If the president supports statehood of DC, he should govern like this,” the rep said. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted. “Many places pass laws that the president may disagree with. He should respect DC’s people’s government like he does elsewhere.

But Biden’s change echoed growing concern among Democrats who feared being labeled soft on crime. Last November, several House races in New York centered on crime issues went to Republicans. And just days before the President signaled his opposition to the DC bill, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lost her re-election bid, largely due to the perception that she had no is doing enough to fight crime in the nation’s third largest city.

Biden’s team has long been wary of accusations of being soft on the issue. He has long denounced any liberal calls to “defund the police” and has always made sure to pair calls for police reform with support for law enforcement. DC’s bill, according to White House aides, was too extreme and did not reflect the current public mood.

Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat facing his own re-election for his Virginia seat in 2024, defended Biden’s recent decision to sign legislation that would undo DC’s penal code reform. He noted that even the city’s mayor vetoed the measure when it passed through council.

“I don’t see this as a grand political strategy or an election strategy (for Biden). I just see it on the bottom,” Kaine said. “I can understand why he does these things.”

The White House played down the disagreement, saying Democrats remain aligned on important issues like Social Security and Medicare protections and noting how progressives rallied around the budget Biden unveiled last week. . Louisa Terrell, director of the White House legislative affairs office, clarified that the president “is consistent, he’s the same campaign guy in the White House.”

“We’re in constant communication with the hill,” Terrell said. “We try to be respectful, we’re all family. Sometimes we hear “it could have been done differently” and we understand that. And then we move forward and work together.

But some Democrats fear the president has also begun to veer right on the thorny issue of immigration, which also emerges as a political vulnerability. Last year, the Biden administration struggled to contain a record surge in border migration. Although illegal border crossings over the past two months have plummeted under new rules, administration officials fear the lifting of a key pandemic immigration restriction in May could fuel a new rush. towards migrants.

Some Democrats are already alarmed by the tougher rules the Biden administration plans to implement for migrant asylum seekers. Now they are unhappy that he is considering resuming family border detention, a policy the administration largely ended early in Biden’s term.

Representatives. Pramila Jayapal (D-wash.), Judy Chu (D-California), and Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.) — the chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, respectively — released a joint statement calling on the Biden administration to reject “this misguided approach.”

“We must not go back to the failed policies of the past,” the lawmakers said. “There is no safe or humane way to detain families and children, and such detention has no deterrent effect on migration.”

The White House was quick to point out that no final decision has been made on family detention. They added that Biden had not changed his stance on immigration, but was instead reacting to changing migration patterns and court orders resulting from GOP lawsuits.

Other Democrats were furious that earlier this week Biden reneged on his campaign promise to stop drilling on federal lands by approving a massive $8 billion plan to extract 600 million barrels of oil from the lands. federal in Alaska.

The Alaska site, known as the Willow Project, is believed to be one of the few drilling deals that Biden has endorsed freely, without a court order or congressional mandate. But, officials note, ConocoPhillips has held leases on the potential site for more than two decades, and administration lawyers have argued that denying a permit would trigger a lawsuit that could cost the government up to $5 billion. dollars.

That did little to quell the anger of the left.

representing Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), the first Gen Z member of Congress, said he was “very disappointed” that Biden broke his promise to environmentalists and young voters.

“Youth voter turnout was at an all time high in 2020 and young people supported it due to commitments like ‘more drilling on federal lands,'” Frost, 26, tweeted this week. “This engagement has been broken.”

Some progressives have expressed concern that one of their key ties to Biden, former chief of staff Ron Klain, has left the White House. But others believe their relationship with the White House would remain strong, with some on the left praising Biden’s decision to help Silicon Valley Bank.

“What I see the president doing is maintaining a steady hand in the midst of a financial crisis,” the senator said. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Asked by POLITICO about Biden’s decisions on crime and drilling.

The art of compromise comes naturally to Biden, a longtime senator who prioritized bipartisanship even when Democrats controlled both branches of Congress during his first two years in office. Ignoring some howls of protest within his own party, Biden often walked down the aisle and was rewarded with a few bipartisan victories, including a $1 trillion infrastructure bill and a modest gun reform agenda. fire.

The ability to pass many laws in the future was greatly reduced by November’s midterm elections, in which Republicans won a narrow victory in the House. And Biden’s budget was seen as broadly ambitious, while another Liberal priority — student loan relief — appears destined to be struck down by the Supreme Court.

The percolating progressive resentment comes as Democrats continue to wait for Biden to formalize his 2024 intentions. The president has publicly and privately told confidants that he plans to run for re-election. But the timeline for his final decision seems to be continually slipping as aides note that Biden does not face a serious primary challenger from the left as the Republican field has been slow to form.

Advisers had first considered an announcement around February’s State of the Union, or possibly next month, scheduled for campaign finance reporting deadlines. But with April still in play, members of the president’s inner circle have begun to discuss May or June for a decision.


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