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Mike Donilon. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

One of President Biden’s closest advisers, Mike Donilon, believes swing voters want Congress to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, and embrace solutions where the two parties "meet in the middle,” according to a memo first reported by Axios.

Why it matters: While Biden has faced doubters — especially in his own party — about his ability to work with Republicans, a core group of advisers, including Donilon, is convinced the president’s political fortunes rest on his ability to transcend partisanship.

  • “President Biden ran on the message that we need to bring people together to meet the challenges facing our country and deliver results for working families,” Donilon writes in his memo.
  • “While a lot of pundits have doubted bipartisanship was even possible, the American people have been very clear it is what they want.”

Driving the news: After months of negotiations, the Senate voted 67-32 Wednesday on a procedural measure to move forward on the bipartisan agreement to repair roads, bridges and waterways.

  • The actual text of the bill still needs to be drafted, and receiving the 60 votes needed for final Senate passage is not assured. A vote could come at the end of the week.
  • The Senate bill would then face an uncertain future in the House, where progressives like House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) have all but declared it dead on arrival.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she won’t hold a vote on the Senate bill until the upper chamber also moves on a separate $3.5 trillion package for “human” infrastructure, including big-ticket items like universal preschool, free community college and paid leave.

The big picture: Biden’s campaign strategy, as well as his theory of the presidency, is that the American people want to see Washington function again by defeating COVID-19, lowering unemployment, increasing wages and improving health care.

  • On Wednesday, he traveled to a truck factory in Pennsylvania — a state that helped deliver the presidency for him — to announce new “Buy America” provisions, talk up the economy and tout the bipartisan deal.

But, but, but: Biden’s economic and infrastructure message has been overshadowed by concern over the Delta variant, with America deeply divided on the new CDC guidance that vaccinated Americans should wear masks indoors in large parts of the country.

  • Republicans are unloading on the president and accusing him of backtracking on vaccine mandates and mask requirements.
  • On Thursday, Biden will announce plans to force unvaccinated federal workers to undergo rigorous testing if they aren’t vaccinated.

Go deeper: Donilon cites a variety of public polls to make his case that “a majority of voters in battleground congressional districts want a new infrastructure bill passed with bipartisan support."

  • He also argues that "voters see political polarization as the leading challenge for the country.”

The bottom line: Biden’s top advisers were willing to compromise with Republicans on the specifics of the infrastructure package to prove the broader point that bipartisanship isn’t dead.

  • Now, he needs to convince members of his own party — some of whom think he compromised too much and received too little.

Read the memo.

Go deeper

Sep 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate leaving without finalizing reconciliation bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer addresses reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate leaders are planning to hold final votes for the week on Tuesday night so members can fly home early for Yom Kippur, three aides familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: Senate Democrats, who returned on Monday from their monthlong recess, are planning to leave town one day before Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) "soft" deadline for the House and Senate committees to finish drafting their portions of the $3.5 trillion infrastructure reconciliation plan.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The precarious White House climate posture

President Biden at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado on Sept. 14, 2021. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The White House is stepping up its PR push for strong climate measures on Capitol Hill even while arguing it can make lots of progress with executive powers.

Driving the news: President Biden yesterday called for congressional action in remarks at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.

20 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats plot debt-limit options

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer leave the U.S. Capitol this week. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Democratic leadership in the House and Senate are working on a short-term funding bill — which needs to pass before Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown — that includes a debt-limit increase.

Why it matters: The country will default on its debt in October for the first time in U.S. history if Congress doesn't increase the federal debt limit. Republicans and Democrats have entered a standoff — daring the other side to blink.