But his agenda could come apart at the seams next week as Democrats face a looming government shutdown, the threat of a federal debt default and the potential implosion of either the infrastructure bill or the $3.5 trillion spending package.
If this happens, Biden’s presidency will suffer a huge setback and the American Rescue Plan, his biggest accomplishment to date, could become a fading memory for many voters by the time 2022 rolls around.
There is no clear path forward for the administration. If Democrats can agree on a framework for reconciliation, pass the infrastructure bill, and finalize the reconciliation package, reaching whatever compromises are necessary to pass that bill as well — all before the September 30 deadline to avoid a government shutdown — the party will have accomplished a massive feat.
Any alternative would be a disaster for Biden and the Democrats. If Congressional Democrats fail to pass at least one of the bills, the uphill battle they face in the 2022 midterm elections will be difficult. Add to this the devastating possibility of triggering a government shutdown or hitting the debt ceiling, and Biden’s approval rating would likely plummet. His agenda would take a huge hit, with little opportunity to bounce back if Republicans campaign on his failures and gain control of the House or Senate (or both).
By the end of the coming week, Biden’s fate should be clearer. Whether his extensive experience as both a senator and vice president will mean anything in our dysfunctional political system remains to be seen. He is still bound by what political scientists call the asymmetries of American politics, with the GOP willing to go much further in partisan warfare even as the Democrats are intent on following the rules.
It is not clear that this is enough. Republican radicalism and Democratic divisions are immense obstacles. Even reconciliation might not be enough to finally tackle the many issues, ranging from child care to climate change, that have continued to go unaddressed decade after decade.
If the week ends badly for the President, it won’t just be his problem — it will be an ominous sign of the broader problems that afflict liberalism and the ability of our government to respond to major crises. Our planet is in demise, the systems that perpetuate racial injustice are still in place and economic inequality is only getting worse. Will Washington be able to step up and finally provide big solutions?