Biden braced for two big congressional victories


The first major prescription drug legislation in nearly 20 years. More than $50 billion to support computer chip manufacturing and research. A bill would enshrine protections for same-sex marriage.

After a turbulent period in which much of President Biden’s legislative agenda appears to be faltering, the president and his party may be on the cusp of important congressional victories that the White House hopes will provide at least a modest political boost.

The most politically resonant is a bill Let Medicare negotiate drug prices, a hugely popular idea that Democrats have been pursuing for more than 20 years. Even sooner – perhaps in a matter of days – Congress is likely to pass Bill provides $52 billion For the US semiconductor industry, which aims to boost the US economy and stop China’s influence. “We’re close, so let’s get it done,” Biden said of the bill Monday. “A lot depends on it.”

Democrats hope these measures will yield more political payoff than, say, the Biden Infrastructure Act, which appeared to have little effect on voters.

said Kurt Bardella, a former Republican who is now consulting with Democrats. In the healthcare bill, these are things that everyone generally understands. This is not a complicated and subtle policy situation where you may not feel the benefit for 5 to 10 years.”

The legislative gains come at an uncertain time for the president and Democrats in Congress, who have struggled to overcome poor public views of the economy due to persistent inflation as well as Biden’s low approval rates. While several recent polls have shown that Democrats in Congress have slightly improved their standing against Republicans, they are still at grave risk of losing their majorities in the House and Senate in November.

Last-minute mistakes could derail upcoming bills, not least the Senate coronavirus outbreak that has temporarily sidelined key figures like Senator Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The semiconductor bill A A watered down version of a broader bill It aims to strengthen the competitiveness of the United States against China, which some Republicans opposed.

The prescription drug bill is particularly notable, although it covers only some drugs, as it represents the most important drug pricing legislation since 2003. Surveys show that health care, and the cost of prescription drugs in particular, rank high on the voters’ ladder. The bill would also provide a two-year extension of the enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies that would prevent health insurance premiums from rising dramatically for many people.

Rep. Spanberger joins Biden on prescription drugs

The Prescription Drugs Act has tremendous bipartisan support, with more than 90 percent of Americans saying a March 2022 Kaiser Family Foundation Poll Allowing the government to negotiate with drug companies for a lower price for prescription drugs should be a “high priority” or “top priority” for Congress.

The semiconductor bill will also save tens of billions of dollars for the National Science Foundation and emerging regional technology companies. Semiconductors are vital to a range of technology products, and China has invested billions to make itself a leader in this field. While strategists said the bill would be difficult for Democrats to deliver because its impact would be felt over years rather than months, the legislation could eventually help address car price hikes fueled in part by a chip shortage.

Deficiency hammers in semiconductor automakers

Biden, who remains in isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus last week, appeared during a virtual event on Monday with CEOs and labor leaders urging Congress to pass the bill. “China is way ahead of us in producing these advanced chips,” Biden said. “No wonder China is monitoring this law very carefully, and actively lobbying American companies against this law.”

Meanwhile, a bill introduced by Democrats to legalize same-sex marriage Recently attracted 47 votes from Republicans In the House, he surprised leaders of both parties and ignited a push by Senate Democrats to pass the legislation in their House as well.

Biden’s advisers said the bills, if all passed, would help the president compare the Democrats’ agenda with what they portray as an increasingly radical Republican party that does not align with most Americans on issues ranging from abortion to same-sex marriage to gun control. But those advisers said they had not yet assumed the bills would become law, and cautioned that work awaited them.

Middle-class families need breathing room and reduce disability [the health-care bill] “It achieves that and it will also help fight inflation,” said Andrew Bates, deputy press secretary for the White House.

Regarding chips and same-sex marriage bills, he added, “Passage of China’s landmark competition law that will create manufacturing jobs across the country and defend the basic right of every American to marry those they love would be a profound victory for a bipartisan boycott.”

However, various legislation could help bolster Biden’s public standing, which has suffered as he has faced crisis after crisis over the past year and a half. Biden took office at a time when the coronavirus pandemic was raging and killing thousands of people daily, and he watched much of his coronavirus agenda be scrapped by the Supreme Court.

Since then, he’s dealt with record inflation, baby milk shortages, several mass shootings, increasingly transmissible coronavirus variants, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the ultra-conservative Supreme Court that overturned the constitutional right to abortion, and curbs on the power of the Environmental Protection Agency. The ability of states to implement arms control measures is declining.

Biden’s legislative victories so far — a coronavirus relief package, a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill he signed in November, and a modest gun control package that shattered a 30-year crisis on the issue — were quickly overtaken by events, or dismissed by Many liberals are considered too young to face the moment. The gun law, for example, came amid a series of mass shootings, including the July 4 massacre at a parade in Highland Park, Illinois, and the Supreme Court also struck down a law in New York limiting residents’ ability to carry a gun.

Both the bipartisan semiconductor bill and the Democrats’ prescription drug bill would represent major and politically meaningful achievements, but each represented a rollback of larger, more comprehensive proposals. Biden’s push for voting rights and police reform legislation has collapsed, while a much-regarded climate measure related to reviving life has collapsed.

As a result, many Democratic lawmakers, activists, and ordinary voters see the pending bills as a bitterly disappointing half of a loaf rather than a victory.

“This is a pretty big deal, and if Democrats try to do it, it will be seen as a massive achievement,” Phil Schliero, who was President Barack Obama’s chief legislative affairs for the health care sector, said of the health care sector. law Project. “Because it’s been tied to other things that wouldn’t be included, a lot of people look at what’s not in it, versus what this achieves and what it does for people.”

Several Democrats said privately that the White House was too quick to set heightened expectations when the party took over the presidency and Congress in 2021, given their historically narrow majorities. For example, a prescription drug bill could be all that remains of a once sweeping $2 trillion domestic policy package known as Build Back Better, which some Democrats have compared to the New Deal and great society in its size and scope.

Democrats scrambled last summer to set the financial benchmarks for rebuilding better, passing a budget that cleared the way for $3.5 trillion in new spending that would include free, affordable pre-kindergarten care, support for home care for the elderly and the disabled, and creating the largest investment in Clean Energy and Climate Programs in American History, expanding access to community colleges and offering monthly tax credit payments to the vast majority of American families with school-age children.

But this agenda may have been more overwhelmingly suited than the 50-50 split of the Senate between parties with Vice President Harris casting playoff votes. Manchin and Senator Kirsten Senema (Democrat from Arizona) regularly threatened to defect; Sinema has been privately opposed to many of the tax increases funding the package, and Manchin has had a laundry list of financial and policy concerns, showing consistent skepticism about climate provisions and insisting that the bill refrain from financial “gimmicks.”

These warnings increased in late 2021 as inflation soared. Shortly before Christmas last year, Manchin publicly declared that he could no longer support Rebuilding Better as a massive political program. Efforts to rebuild a deal faltered again this month when Manchin backed away from supporting any climate or tax provisions, leaving only the health care parts.

The semiconductor bill has gone through a similar, albeit less dramatic, contraction. The US Innovation and Competition Act has its roots in a bipartisan effort to completely reformulate the federal government’s approach to supporting science and technology research.

With more than $100 billion in attached funding, as well as a number of trade provisions, the bill passed the Senate in June 2021 with the support of 19 Republicans. But an accompanying House bill moved much more slowly as Democrats there sought to capitalize on their own priorities, such as renewing federal aid for workers disadvantaged from foreign trade. Mediation efforts between the two houses ended in deadlock last month, leading to the stripped-down bill now due to pass in the Senate this week.

The White House hopes a legislative wave will rewrite the story of Biden’s legislative record. The current push has gained additional urgency because agents in both parties expect Democrats to lose control of the House and possibly the Senate in November, meaning the window for Biden’s agenda is rapidly closing.

Party strategists say that if Biden and Democrats benefit from passing the bills and bolster the message to voters that they are passing policies that help lower their costs, Democrats can help shift the narrative that they have little to show for their consolidated control of government. .

“These legislative victories will be very important because they address the voters’ most important concerns, which are inflation and the cost of drugs,” said Ben LaBolt, a Democratic strategist. “The best thing a president can do – the most effective thing he can do politically – is to make progress on what Americans say is their top priority.”