Updated Aug 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden's BFD

President Biden giving a speech
Photo: Evan Vucci — Pool/Getty Images

Joe Biden has defied expectations, earning a legacy as a president who got big things done with a deeply divided Congress.

The big question for Democrats: Can the same man whose dismal approval ratings have dragged them down all year now rescue their House and Senate majorities?

Driving the news: The Inflation Reduction Act is expected to clear the House later this week on a glide path to President Biden's signature.

  • "I ran for president promising to make government work for working families again, and that is what this bill does — period," President Biden said after Sunday's Senate passage.

Why it matters: It will join a list of hard-fought legislation shaping the U.S. economy, society and foreign policy for decades to come:

  • The American Rescue Plan (COVID stimulus)
  • The Infrastructure and Jobs Act
  • Confirmation of the first Black female Supreme Court justice
  • Gun safety legislation
  • CHIPS (semiconductor manufacturing and U.S. competitiveness with China)
  • NATO expansion to include Finland and Sweden
  • Veterans' health care expansion

Between the lines: While some of that was accomplished with bipartisan support, some has relied on close party-line votes and testing the limits of the budget reconciliation process.

The big picture: The Senate's passage Sunday of the $740 billion bill — with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote — also follows a string of non-legislative successes for Biden.

But, but, but: Context is key.

  • Biden's approval rating has been stuck below 40%, dragging down Democrats facing challenges in November.
  • Inflation is still very real.
  • Some of the effects of the reconciliation bill — including lower prescription drug prices for a broad number of Americans — may take months or years to be felt.
  • And, as Obamacare showed Dems in their 2010 "shellacking," getting major legislation through Congress doesn't always help the party in power — at least not in the short run.

Zoom in: The legislation opens the door to Medicare negotiating lower prescription drug prices and is expected to push the nation toward clean energy by making it cheaper.

  • It's the largest investment in clean energy and emissions cuts the Senate has ever passed, Axios' Andrew Freedman notes, with incentives for electric vehicles, wind and solar electricity and direct air capture and hydrogen production.

What's next: The political challenge for Biden and his party now turns in large part to messaging — from the bully pulpit and in a campaign advertising blitz between now and November.

  • The abortion vote in Kansas underscores the impacts targeting messaging and advertising can have ahead of an election.
  • Republicans are vowing to counter Democrats' victory lap by raising concerns about higher spending, taxes, inflation and one-party legislation.
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