President Joe Biden admitted Wednesday he did not anticipate “stalwart” Republican opposition to his presidency, after repeatedly claiming during his presidential bid the GOP would have an “epiphany” during his tenure in office.
“I did not anticipate that there would be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn’t get anything done,” Biden said during a press conference on Wednesday, the day before his one-year anniversary in office.
Biden stood largely alone among top Democratic contenders for the presidency in insisting large-scale bipartisan cooperation was possible in Washington. He said multiple times the ouster of President Donald Trump would lead to an “epiphany” among Congressional Republicans.
Biden has passed bipartisan legislation — an infrastructure deal crafted by the GOP and moderate Democrats in the Senate. But the two most significant parts of his agenda — a health and social spending bill paid for by tax increases on the wealthy and voting rights and campaign finance legislation — are both stalled at the moment.
And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), with whom Biden often crafted deals while serving as vice president, has said the GOP’s major objective is stopping Biden. “One hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” he said in June.
McConnell made a similar proclamation during the early stages of President Barack Obama’s administration, during which Biden served as vice president and the GOP maintained near-uniform opposition to Obama’s major goals. Biden said Republicans had become more partisan since then.
“Did any of you think that we’d get to a point where not a single Republican would diverge on a major issue? Not one?” Biden asked at one point during the press conference, adding later: “They weren’t really as obstructionist as they are now.”
Voting rights legislation is expected to go down in defeat in the Senate sometime Wednesday night, with both West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema joining Republicans in declining to amend the Senate’s supermajority requirement. Social spending legislation is on hold as Democrats seek to win Manchin’s support.
During the press conference, Biden said it was “clear” Democrats would need to break up the social spending, climate and health care legislation into multiple pieces for it to pass Congress. He said he was hopeful provisions related to climate change and child care could make it into law, but was less optimistic about extending the child tax credit – a key part of his administration’s anti-poverty agenda.