October 22, 2021, 8:29

Democrats still confronting limits of narrow majorities: The Note

Democrats still confronting limits of narrow majorities: The Note

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It’s been a theme of 2021: Democrats frustrated with their fellow Democrats — and even seeing members of their own party as impediments to progress.

Right now, the Biden agenda is stalling because of political math problems that fall into two main buckets: There are things Democrats can’t do even though they have 50 votes in the Senate, and things they can’t do because they can’t get to 50.

MORE: Biden enlists CEOs to pressure GOP as potential US default looms

The former category is why wrangling continues around the debt ceiling and why any agreement now will only delay difficult decisions still to come. It’s also why voting-rights reform is stalled, to cite just one example that’s fueling progressive and even some moderate calls to limit or eliminate the filibuster.

The latter category is why progress is slow and frustrating on the infrastructure and social-spending bills. Sen. Bernie Sanders can complain anew about two senators holding a veto power over 48 — and we can even see shades of that argument make its way into what President Joe Biden is saying — but as long as those votes are needed to get to 50, that’s the reality.

Bloomberg via Getty ImagesPresident Joe Biden speaks during a meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, Oct. 6, 2021.

There’s another problem reflected in numbers for Democrats, too. With three weeks left before the latest deadlines for the infrastructure bill and the social spending bill, Biden’s polling isn’t helping Democratic unity.

A Quinnipiac University poll out this Wednesday found 55% of the public thinks Biden has not been competent in running the government — a government that, yes, is controlled by Democrats in Washington. It’s pushing Biden’s approval rating to new lows in the FiveThirtyEight poll tracker.

Recent months have been dominated by crises — in Afghanistan, at the border, about COVID-19 and in spending fights — that undercut the image of calm competence that’s a Biden hallmark.

Partisan divides have come out in all those areas and more. But Democrats continue to get in their own way with disagreements about how to proceed.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

The Department of Education announced changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program that will affect about 22,000 borrowers.

The overhaul will grant thousands of previously ineligible borrowers student loan forgiveness. The changes include an expansion of kinds of payments included the program and an appeals process to review past denials. With the new modifications, the program is expected to forgive $1.7 billion in loans.

The changes come as the Biden administration works through intraparty squabbles to pass the Build Back Better plan, which includes a multi-billion dollar investment in higher education — in its current form at least.

Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILEThe U.S. Department of Education building stands in Washington, Aug. 18, 2020.

The plan includes free community college, an increase in Pell grants and investments in HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.

The initial price tag of the $3.5 trillion spending plan is likely to come down in hopes of getting the likes of Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema on board. It’s a reality even President Joe Biden has acknowledged.

But it’s unclear if the aforementioned investments in higher education will make the cut or if the ideas will be feasible in a pared-down plan.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Gov. Greg Abbott expressed condolences for the victims of the Timberview High School shooting from the border, where he and nine other Republican governors held a press conference Wednesday to admonish the Biden administration over immigration policy.

Abbott was joined by governors from Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wyoming, some of whom took to the microphone to blame the president for challenges with crime in their states that they claim stem from surging undocumented immigration. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey — who was among 25 other state executives to sign a letter last month asking to meet with the president by this week — said President Joe Biden is turning away from Republican governors.

Joel Martinez/APTexas Gov. Greg Abbott, joined by 10 other governors, arrives at a press conference at Anzalduas Park in Mission, Texas, Oct. 6, 2021.

“We’ve tried to meet with the president and be part of the solution, but he refuses. No, worse — he ignores us, just like he’s ignoring the border and the well-being of the American people,” Ducey told reporters.

It remains to be seen whether the Republican governors and the White House can open a working dialogue over one of the nation’s thorniest issues, but immigration continues to loom over the president’s legacy. According to Quinnipiac, 67% of U.S. adults disapprove of his handling of immigration and the situation at the Mexican border.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Thursday morning’s episode features ABC News Legal Analyst Kate Shaw on a federal judge’s temporary injunction barring enforcement of Texas’ controversial new abortion law. Then, ABC News’ Anne Flaherty talks about the future of COVID-19 testing in the year ahead. And, ABC News’ Kayna Whitworth reports on the Colorado River water shortage and its impact on farmers in Arizona. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Joe Biden receives the president’s daily briefing at 9:30 a.m. He will then depart for Chicago, where he’ll visit the Clayco construction site at 2:10 p.m and give remarks on the importance of COVID-19 vaccine requirements at 2:45 p.m. The president will return to the White House at 7:20 p.m.
  • The House Committee on Oversight and Reform will hold a hearing to assess the election “audit” in Maricopa County, Arizona, at 10 a.m.
  • The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing to review the state of the livestock industry at 12 p.m.
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