Defining old terms may bring Biden new deals: The Note

"I am prepared to compromise," President Biden has said on an infrastructure.

April 20, 2021, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

There may yet be deals to be reached. The question for President Joe Biden is whether he can afford to cut them -- or whether he can afford not to.

Much of what comes next could rest on how Biden chooses to define his terms. Words including "bipartisanship" and "infrastructure" may seem to have relatively straightforward meanings, yet whether the White House is comfortable scaling back ambitions could be the biggest factor determining the success of the Biden agenda from here.

"I am prepared to compromise," the president said in opening a bipartisan meeting with members of Congress who were chosen for the get-together because they used to be governors or mayors.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks about foreign policy at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 4, 2021.
President Joe Biden speaks about foreign policy at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 4, 2021.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Biden wouldn't have to say that unless he needed to. But even as Democrats clearly lack the votes for the kind of sweeping infrastructure-plus package the White House put on the table, glimmers of ideas that have GOP buy-in continue to percolate.

Bipartisan groups of lawmakers are huddling to discuss issues including the minimum wage, immigration reform, corporate taxes and, of course, infrastructure. Not all of those groups will get bills passed -- and maybe none will -- but a presidential boost could be consequential along the way.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden holds a bi-partisan meeting on the American Jobs Plan at the White House, April 19, 2021.
President Joe Biden holds a bi-partisan meeting on the American Jobs Plan at the White House, April 19, 2021.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Pitched partisan battles and mistrust between the parties suggest the difficulty of the tasks ahead. So do the limitations inside both parties as defined by some of the louder voices and the hot-button issues they advocate around.

But if Biden truly wants compromises, they may be available to him to a surprising degree at this moment. If "inaction is not an option," as the president reiterated on Monday, the action has to start somewhere.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

As restrictive voting legislation makes its way through statehouses across the country, lawmakers on Capitol Hill will gather for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled, "Jim Crow 2021: The Latest Assault on the Right to Vote."

Among the prominent figures slated to testify is Stacey Abrams founder of Fair Fight Action, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock. A scholar from the Peach State and a Georgia state lawmaker are expected to participate as well, indicating that the state's sweeping voting legislation passed earlier this month will be a focus.

PHOTO: In this Oct. 29, 2020, file photo, people wait in line to vote at Tarrant County Elections Center on the last day of early voting in Fort Worth, Texas.
In this Oct. 29, 2020, file photo, people wait in line to vote at Tarrant County Elections Center on the last day of early voting in Fort Worth, Texas.
Montinique Monroe/Getty Images, FILE

H.R. 1, the extensive voting reform package called the "For The People Act of 2021," passed the House in March but hasn't yet been taken up in Senate where it faces challenges from Republicans.

Biden has called for the passage of the bill along with a restoration of the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court struck down provisions that required federal approval for changes to voting in areas that have historically discriminated against people of color in 2013. In an exclusive interview with ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas, Attorney General Merrick Garland signaled that the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice would take action on voting rights, if necessary.

"I think that we do best in America when we let everybody who's eligible vote," said Garland. "That is the way we ensure a true democracy and that's the way we ensure a respect for democracy and the Justice Department will do everything within its authorities to ensure that that is the case."

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

The 2021 special election calendar racked up a sixth contest on Monday with GOP Rep. Steve Stivers' retirement announcement. In a series of tweets, Stivers said he plans to retire from Congress by May 16 and go on to become the president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

Stivers -- a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, who was also one of the first Republicans to condemn former President Donald Trump over the Jan. 6 riot -- now leaves behind a largely red pickup opportunity for future hopefuls. His new endeavor also means the longtime Ohio congressman won't compete for the highly sought-after Senate seat opening in his home state created by Sen. Rob Portman's planned departure, which currently features a slate of Trump-friendly Republicans.

PHOTO: Rep. Steve Stivers speaks at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C., June 20, 2019.
Rep. Steve Stivers speaks at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C., June 20, 2019.
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The still to-be-announced contest for Ohio's 15th Congressional District will be the second Buckeye State special election this year. The race to replace Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge in the state's solidly blue 11th Congressional District is already underway and will feature an August primary before the final matchup in November.

Although it's unlikely that either of the contests will present competitive opportunities for flipping districts, Stivers' departure offers congressional Democrats a small reprieve in terms of legislative math. Following his exit, the House lineup will include 218 sitting Democrats against 211 Republicans, leaving Speaker Nancy Pelosi a three-vote margin of error for passing legislation.

ONE MORE THING

Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, a liberal icon who in 1984 lost one of the most lopsided presidential elections after bluntly telling voters to expect a tax increase if he won, died Monday. He was 93. Mondale followed the trail blazed by his political mentor, Hubert H. Humphrey, from Minnesota politics to the U.S. Senate and the vice presidency, serving under Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. In a statement, Carter said he considered Mondale "the best vice president in our country's history."

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features ABC News' Matt Stone and ABC News Chief Legal analyst Dan Abrams -- the two break down closing statements in the Derek Chauvin trial as the jury begins deliberations. ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas tells us about his exclusive interview with Attorney General Merrick Garland. And ABC News' Anne Flaherty explains why vaccine hesitancy is the next battle in the fight against the coronavirus. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

FiveThirtyEight's Politics Podcast. The idea of the celebrity politician isn't going away just because former President Donald Trump is out of office. Caitlyn Jenner says she's in the process of deciding whether to run against Gavin Newsom in California's gubernatorial recall election this fall. Matthew McConaughey leads incumbent Greg Abott in a hypothetical matchup for Texas governor, according to a recent poll. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight politics podcast, the crew talks about the appeal of celebrity candidates and what it tells us about our politics.They also discuss the politics of reparations after a Democratic proposal in the House to study reparations for slavery was voted out of committee for the first time since it was introduced in Congress in 1989. https://53eig.ht/2M0rQx6

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas had the first network one-on-one television interview with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland since his confirmation in March. Portions of the interview will continue to air across ABC News on Tuesday.
  • President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris receive the president's daily brief at 10:15 a.m. They meet with leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the Oval Office at 11:15 a.m. And the president participates in a virtual tour of the Proterra electric battery facility in South Carolina and then delivers remarks at 2:45 p.m.
  • The House Rules Committee will consider the District of Columbia statehood act at 9:30 a.m.
  • The House Oversight and Reform committee will hold a hearing 9:30 a.m. on "Restoring Independence: Rebuilding the Federal Offices of Inspectors General."
  • Gen. James Dickinson, commander of the U.S. Space Command, and Adm. Charles Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m.
  • The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee holds a hearing at 10 a.m. to examine COVID-19 recovery, specifically focusing on supporting workers and modernizing the workforce through education, training and employment opportunities.
  • At 10 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a full committee hearing examining voter suppression. The two panels will include Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, Stacey Abrams, the founder of Fair Fight Action, Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Carol Anderson, chair and professor of African American Studies at Emory University, New Hampshire's Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Speaker Pro Tempore of Georgia's House of Representatives Jan Jones.
  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge appear before the Senate Appropriations Committee for an infrastructure hearing at 10:30 a.m.
  • The House. Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on national security challenges and U.S. military activities in the greater Middle East and Africa at 11 a.m.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds the daily press briefing at 12:30 p.m.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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