Responding to a reporter question, Biden defined unity as “trying to reflect what the majority of the American people—Democrat, Republican and independent—think is within the fulcrum of what needs to be done to make their lives, and the lives of Americans better.”
And by that definition, getting GOP buy in for something like a coronavirus relief package would be nice, but those votes certainly aren’t worth crippling the legislation if a better bill can be passed solely with Democratic votes.
“If you pass a piece of legislation that breaks down on party lines, but it gets passed, it doesn’t mean there wasn’t unity, it just means it wasn’t bipartisan,” Biden offered, drawing a clear distinction between unity and bipartisanship. He added that he would “prefer” passing bipartisan bills because he would like to find some consensus that takes “the vitriol out of all this.” But bottom line: the goal is uniting Americans around his agenda and that doesn’t necessarily equate to getting Republican votes.
Biden’s remarks further clarify the vision for unity he laid out within his inaugural address last week. Conjuring up some the nation’s darkest eras such as the Civil War and the Great Depression, Biden said, “In each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.”
Biden—perhaps more than almost anyone Washington—seems very clear-eyed about the closeness of the nation’s brush with fascism and the peril that still hangs over the country. And if that’s the framework he’s working within, then getting a few GOP votes here and there isn’t enough to save the republic. If, however, Biden is able to convince the vast majority of Americans that his style of executive leadership is far superior to Donald Trump’s because it made their lives immeasurably better, that’s a recipe for preserving this fragile experiment in democracy.
But Republican votes aside, if Biden doesn’t deliver the goods he has promised, then all bets are off. And his biggest problem may not be Senate Republicans, but Democratic senators like Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona who have sworn off eliminating the filibuster. But at least for now, the matter of the Senate organizing rules seems to be solved. On Monday night, GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was willing to move forward with the power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats, citing the fact that both Sinema and Manchin have “publicly confirmed” they won’t end the filibuster. That’s a win for Senate Democrats and the Biden agenda. Onward.
Watch Biden below: