Biden's midterm vows collide with governing realities: The Note

He all but gave himself an incomplete when it came to grading his first year.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

President Joe Biden all but gave himself an incomplete when it came to grading his first year in office.

Even while asserting that he "outperformed what anybody thought would happen," he counseled patience and acknowledged shortcomings on COVID testing and in addressing inflation. He also conceded that he has no choice but to break up his signature social-spending bill into what he called "pieces -- big chunks."

With that as a wind-up, the president's vow to "stay on this track" and "be out on the road a lot" touting Democrats' accomplishments may not quite fit with the moment he finds himself in.

By Biden's own accounting, there's a huge amount of governing that still has to get done. His professed surprise by media polarization and a lack of Republican cooperation to date will not make that any easier in a closely divided Washington.

It may be true that Biden is the best spokesman for his agenda. It's also a fair bet that more Republicans welcome this vow than do Democrats, at least in battleground races: "I'm going to be deeply involved in these off-year elections."

Embedded in the president's stated mistrust of public opinion polls and even his critique of former President Barack Obama's salesmanship is a familiar theme: that political shortcomings come down to messaging failures more than miscalculations or policy mistakes.

Also familiar is Biden's vow to make the election a choice rather than a referendum -- demanding to know what Republicans are for and not merely what they're against. It's a question he can and will ask, but it doesn't mean the answer will matter as much as the president's own record.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Yet another attempt by Democrats to pass sweeping voting reform has failed.

During hours of debate Wednesday, many Senate Republicans suggested that their Democratic colleagues were trying to "break the Senate" by way of a Senate rule change that would have allowed Democrats to circumvent a filibuster of voting rights legislation and pass it with a simple majority rather than 60 votes.

"Our colleague from New York [Majority Leader Chuck Schumer] will try to kill the character of the institution he is supposed to protect and to serve," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said during debate Wednesday.

Others argued that dysfunction has long existed in the chamber, citing past actions by Republicans. Sen. Michael Bennet called out what he described as McConnell's "modern-day abuse, his caricature of the Senate rules."

"None of this has stopped us from cutting taxes by $8 trillion, mostly for the wealthiest people in this country. And none of this has stopped us from putting lots of right-wing judges on the court when Donald Trump was here, because you can do those things with 51 votes, and that's about the extent of Senator McConnell's legislative agenda," Bennet said. He later added, "We need a Senate that works."

The defeat comes just weeks before the first Americans are able to cast their votes in midterm primary elections. During his press conference Wednesday, Biden said breaking up the voting rights legislation into smaller bills could be another way to push the issue forward this year. He offered a muddled answer on whether Americans should trust the results of the elections without reforms.

"Well, it all depends on whether or not we're able to make the case to the American people that some of this has been set up to try to alter the outcome of the election," he said.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Yet another example of the partisan push and pull between federal and state governments emerged on Wednesday, as 16 Republican governors issued a joint letter to Biden asking to be given the power to oversee how the bipartisan infrastructure bill is put in motion across their states.

The outlined request, led by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, also appeared to take a political stand by expressing red lines regarding how the governors think the law should be executed. Their approach broadly echoes concerns discussed by many Republicans on Capitol Hill regarding the framing of the bill when it was making its way through the legislative process.

"Excessive consideration of equity, union memberships, or climate as lenses to view suitable projects would be counterproductive. Your administration should not attempt to push a social agenda through hard infrastructure investments and instead should consider economically sound principles that align with state priorities," the letter said.

Govs. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska, Kay Ivey of Alabama, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Brian Kemp of Georgia, Eric Holcomb of Indiana, Mike Parson of Missouri, Greg Gianforte of Montana, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, Doug Burgum of North Dakota, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Henry McMaster of South Carolina, Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Spencer Cox of Utah and Mark Gordon of Wyoming also signed on to the letter.

The list of signatories does not include every Republican governor -- among those not included is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who questioned whether his state would get its full share of funding following the bill's passage.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Start Here begins Thursday morning with ABC's Mary Bruce breaking down the key moments from President Biden's wide-ranging press conference. Then, ABC's Terry Moran breaks down a Supreme Court decision clearing the way for the House to get documents from the Trump White House. And, ABC's Jason Nathanson discusses the streaming wars and why Netflix is raising its prices.


  • President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris meet with members of the Infrastructure Implementation Task Force to discuss delivering results from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law at 11:15 a.m. Biden then meets with his Council of Advisors on Science and Technology at 4:15 p.m. before he and Harris deliver virtual remarks at a Democratic National Committee grassroots event at 7 p.m.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris appears on ABC's "Good Morning America," which begins at 7 a.m.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing at 1:30 p.m.
  • The U.S. Conference of Mayors 90th Winter Meeting continues at 7 a.m. with speakers including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman.
  • The House Agriculture Committee holds a hearing on the state of the rural economy with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at 9 a.m.
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