US President Joe Biden set out to find defining legacy wins | world news

For five decades in Washington, Joe Biden knew the way to influence was to be in the room where it’s happening. But in the second year of his presidency, some of the most striking and defining legislative victories in Biden’s legacy have come while staying out of it.

A summer legislative blitz has sent bipartisan bills addressing gun violence and boosting the country’s high-tech manufacturing sector to Biden’s desk, and the president is now on the verge of getting what he called the “final piece” of his economic agenda with the Senate passing a Democrat-only climate and prescription drug deal once considered dead.

And in a counterintuitive twist for the president who has long promoted his decades of experience on Capitol Hill, Biden aides attribute his victories to him publicly playing the role of cheerleader rather than quarterback. legislative.

“In a 50-50 Senate, it’s just plain true that when the White House takes ownership, it scares a lot of Republicans,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

“I think it’s all helpful. When you step back and let Congress lead, then apply pressure and help at the right time, it can be a much more effective strategy for getting things done.

Read also | The US Senate is set to pass Biden’s seminal climate and health bill

Democrats and the White House are hoping the string of legislative victories, bipartisan or not, just four months before the November election will help resurrect their political fortunes by showing voters what they can accomplish with even the tiniest of majorities. .

Biden opened 2022 with his legislative agenda stalled, poll numbers down and a candid admission that he had made a “mistake” in the way he performed in the role.

“The public doesn’t want me to be the president-senator,” he said. “They want me to be the president and senators to be senators.”

Letting senators be senators was no easy task for Biden, whose political and personal identities are rooted in his formative years in this chamber.

He spent 36 years as a senator from Delaware and another eight as president of the Senate when he was valued for his connections and ideas on Capitol Hill as Barack Obama’s vice president.

In the opinion of many of his aides and advisers, leaving the Senate behind was key to his later success.

Heightened expectations for Democrats, who hold shaky majorities in Congress but nonetheless have unified control of Washington, drew Biden among his supporters who wanted more ambitious action.

In the spring of 2021, Biden put on a big show negotiating directly with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va., on an infrastructure bill, only to have the talks fall through.

Read also | Biden hails Gaza ceasefire after days of violence, 44 dead | High points

Meanwhile, a separate bipartisan group had been meeting quietly to discuss how to overhaul the country’s transportation, water and broadband systems.

After the White House gave its initial approval and then ironed out the final details with senators, it became the version that was signed into law.

The president then attempted to strike a deal on a social and climate spending package with Sen. Joe Manchin, going so far as to invite the West Virginia lawmaker to his home in Wilmington, Delaware, until the conservative Democrat interrupted. abruptly the talks into a Fox News interview.

Manchin would later resume negotiations, this time with just Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and the two would eventually reach a deal that the Senate approved on Sunday after more than a year of legislative wrangling. .

In late 2021, White House aides persuaded the president to shut up about his conversations with the Hill, part of a deliberate shift to move negotiations over his legislative agenda out of the public eye.

The new approach drew criticism from the press, but the White House bet the public was not invested in the details and would reward results.

Biden and his team “used the bullying pulpit and worked closely with Congress,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said. The goal is “to achieve what could soon be the most productive legislative record of any president” since Lyndon Johnson.

Some of the change, White House aides said, also reflected the changing dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic, which kept Biden in Washington for most of 2021; his meetings with lawmakers were one of the few ways to show he was working.

Over time, Biden’s decision to take on a role of facilitator rather than chief negotiator – which had had mixed success – began to bear fruit: the first substantial restrictions on guns in near of three decades, a measure to stimulate domestic production of semiconductor computer chips, and care for veterans exposed to toxic combustion sources.

White House officials credit Biden’s emotional speech after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, with helping to galvanize lawmakers into action on gun violence — and even his push for broader measures than those included in the bill by giving the GOP space to reach a compromise.

And they point to a steady cadence of speeches over the months emphasizing the need to cut prescription drug costs or climate action by keeping these issues in the national conversation amid legislative jolts.

Lawmakers say Biden pulling out of negotiations directly allowed senators to build consensus among themselves, without the distraction of a White House that may have repeatedly pushed for something that would be unattainable with Republicans or could be seen as compromising by some Democrats.

On the semiconductor package Biden plans to sign into law on Tuesday, the administration held classified briefings for lawmakers that highlighted how China is gaining influence in the computer chip sector and the national security implications.

Republicans were in regular contact with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, a Biden cabinet official who developed a warm relationship across the aisle.

“At his heart, Joe is a U.S. senator,” said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., the Democratic lead author of the burn pit legislation who also helped draft the fire pit legislation. infrastructure last year.

“So he understands that allowing that to work is how you do it.”

Kevin E. Boling