President Biden adopted a governing-by-polls strategy to circumvent the GOP but claims he is fulfilling his pledge to bring bipartisanship back to Washington.
The strategy, however, exposes Mr. Biden to a powerful reversal in the long-term, according to Republicans who say polling also shows a broad spectrum of support for ideas that make Democrats’ heads spin.
“If he wants to use voter support as an indication of bipartisanship, then he should be strongly and enthusiastically supporting voter ID laws, protecting our borders and not spending us into oblivion and a whole lot of other things that most American agree with,” said Charlie Gerow, a Pennsylvania-based Republican consultant and member of the American Conservative Union.
Mr. Biden put his twist on bipartisanship as part of a public relations push for his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which muscled its way through Congress using a budget process known as reconciliation that allowed it to pass without the support of a single Republican vote.
“I would like Republican — elected Republican support, but what I know I have now is that I have electoral support from Republican voters,” Mr. Biden said recently. “Republican voters agree with what I’m doing.”
He is relying on the same logic in the debate over his proposed $2.25 trillion American Jobs plan, reeling off polls that suggested Republican voters like what they see.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Mr. Biden is open to negotiating the size and scope of the package and wouldn’t be meeting with Republicans if he weren’t serious about cross-party cooperation.
Republicans, though, remain skeptical.
“This infrastructure bill is a debacle, and Democrats want to ram it through without any cooperation by Republicans, without any discussion, without any compromise,” Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, said on Fox News.
The White House has stared down the critics by highlighting a Morning Consult poll that found registered voters by a 2-to-1 margin backed a hypothetical $3 trillion infrastructure package and a recent Invest in America and Data for Progress survey that found 73% of voters backed the American Jobs Plan, including 57% of Republican voters.
“The evidence is unanimous that the American people support the president’s vision of rebuilding our economy and his plan to pay for it by asking big corporations to pay their fair share,” Ms. Psaki said last week.
Challenged on whether governing by polls was a smart idea, Ms. Psaki fired back: “Do you not think the American people’s view is important as it relates to what elected officials do on the hill?”
Republicans say Democrats should look in the mirror.
For starters, they say, Democrats seem to forget they muscled the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, into law even though it struggled to garner broad backing across the political spectrum, rarely eclipsing 50% in overall support.
Other ideas, however, flourish in the polling world, Republicans say.
An Economist/YouGov Poll released last month showed that 62% of adults think a photo ID should be required to vote in-person, compared to 24% that think people should be able to vote without a photo ID.
More than half of the respondents also said a photo ID should be required to vote absentee.
Democrats have long opposed voter ID laws and denounced them as a form of voter suppression. Mr. Biden himself called a Georgia law that includes such a provision “Jim Crow on steroids.”
Just as Ms. Psaki has touted liberal-leaning pollsters, Republicans could do the same by highlighting a recent poll from the Senate Opportunity Fund that found a majority of voters — by a 71% to 19% margin — now say they want the government to finish construction of Mr. Trump’s border wall.
Mr. Biden halted construction of the border wall on his first day in the Oval Office, the same day he canceled the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The same Morning Consult outfit that the White House has relied on to sell the American Jobs Plan also released a poll showing that just 42% of voters supported Mr. Biden’s decision to pull the permit on the Keystone XL pipeline, including just 33% of Independents and 14% of Republicans.
Taken together, Republicans say it shows Mr. Biden’s pledges of bipartisanship have been a smokescreen.
“Here is Joe Biden’s definition of bipartisanship: As long as no one believes in anything but what I’m selling — then that is bipartisanship,” said Patrick Griffin, a Republican political consultant.
Mr. Griffin said the public is giving Mr. Biden the benefit of the doubt so far because of the success the administration has had distributing vaccines, but predicted things will get harder for him once voters wake up to the reality of his agenda.
“This thing is going to snap back and when it does people are going to look around and say, ‘What is happening right now?” he said.
Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster, said enacting public policy based on polling is “not leadership.”
“Sometimes you have to make tough decisions based on what is right,” Mr. Bolger said. “The other problem with Biden’s redefining bipartisanship as whatever he chooses it to mean is that a Humpty-Dumpty approach to language will hurt him in the long run.”
“The more the White House dissembles about words, the less credibility they will have in the long run with the people, even if the left-wing media plays along with him,” he said.
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