As Democratic voters begin to consider who to make their standard-bearer in the 2020 election, Joe Biden has held an early, commanding lead in the polls, fueled by the belief that he’s the best Democrat to take on Donald Trump. The former vice president spent the closing weeks of the 2018 midterms in what Politico called a “working class whisperer tour” to the midwestern states that Trump carried. Emphasizing his Scranton, Pennsylvania, roots, Biden styled himself in stop after stop as “ Middle-Class Joe ,” savoring praise from fellow Democrats as the “kind of guy you could have a beer with.”
This version of “folksy Joe” even touted himself as “labor from belt buckle to shoe buckle.” There’s only one problem with this carefully cultivated image: Joe Biden’s entire career.
In more than four decades of public service, Biden has enthusiastically championed policies favored by financial elites, forging alliances with Wall Street and the political right to notch legislative victories that ran counter to the populist ideas that now animate his party. If he declares for the presidency, Biden will face a Democratic electorate that has moved on from his brand of politics.
Feuding With Ted Kennedy Biden first came to the nation’s capital in 1973 as the junior senator from Delaware, one of the few bright spots for Democrats in a disastrous 1972 election. Like most new members of Congress, he exercised little influence in his early years. At 30, he was barely eligible for Senate service, even younger than Ted Kennedy had been when he took over his brother’s Senate seat in 1962.
An inexperienced Biden looked up to Kennedy, revering him almost as an older sibling.
But as Kennedy ascended the Democratic Party ranks, the two men clashed over the party’s economic agenda.
“When the Senator from Massachusetts moved up to the chairmanship of the judiciary committee this year, the hearts of antitrust activists beat faster,” The New York Times noted in 1979. Kennedy had his sights on a sweeping piece of legislation that would block corporate mergers based on the total size of the resulting company ― even if the company was a conglomerate of unrelated businesses, and the merger did not increase a firm’s share of business in a particular market.
But Kennedy almost immediately ran into problems with Biden.
When Coca-Cola urged Congress to exempt the soft drink industry from these antitrust regulations, Biden joined Republicans to pass such a bill over the objections of Kennedy and Department of Justice antitrust expert Ky Ewing, who concluded that the bill was “special interest legislation” with “no evidence” to support it.
Antitrust law was an early salvo in what became a quarter-century struggle to shift the Democratic Party’s base of support away from organized labor toward large corporations. The Biden-Kennedy split carried symbolic connotations beyond the policy implications of their individual votes.
Where Kennedy wanted to use the Judiciary Committee to continue the old New Deal-era attack on corporate power, Biden became an advocate for corporate interests that had previously been associated with the Republican Party.
As Biden fought Kennedy on the Coca-Cola bill, he was also trying to thwart a Kennedy effort that would have empowered consumers to sue over a broader swath of antitrust violations.
In 1977, the Supreme Court issued a controversial ruling that only those who directly purchased products could sue companies for antitrust violations. That meant that manufacturers who sold their goods through wholesalers could only be sued by the wholesalers, not consumers.
Kennedy prepared a bill that would have reversed the court’s decision, but Biden, in the words of The New York Times , “vexed” him by siding with Republicans. Biden was going out on a limb by bucking leadership. Only two of the committee’s 10 Democrats opposed Kennedy on the bill, and the other was Howell Heflin, a conservative Democrat from Alabama.
The bill narrowly made it out of committee after Kennedy made some desperate last-minute concessions to win over Republican Sen. Charles Mathias (R-Md.), but the bill never got a floor vote. Kennedy’s broader antitrust ambitions died with it.
Biden wasn’t a lone wolf.
President Jimmy Carter and many of the younger Democrats who filed into Washington after Watergate were eager to break with the liberal orthodoxy that had dominated their party’s thinking since the era of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Even Kennedy had successfully pressed Carter to deregulate the airline industry in 1978, beating Ronald Reagan to the era of deregulation by nearly three years.
“A lot of us sit around thinking up ways to vote conservative just so we don’t come out with a liberal rating,” Biden told Washingtonian in 1974 . “When it comes to civil rights and civil liberties, I’m a liberal but that’s it. I’m really quite conservative on most other issues.”
If Biden wanted low marks from liberal groups, he got them.
By 1978, Americans for Democratic Action, the preeminent liberal watchdog group of the time, gave Biden a score of just 50 , lower than its ratings for some Republicans. Kennedy typically scored in the 90s.
Biden’s ratings recovered in the 1980s, fueled by a liberal foreign policy record. But on domestic policy ― from school integration to tax policy ― he was functionally allied with the Reagan administration.
He voted for a landmark Reagan tax bill that slashed the top income tax rate from 70 percent to 50 percent and exempted many wealthy families from the estate tax on unearned inheritances , a measure that cost the federal government an estimated $83 billion in annual revenue . He then called for a spending freeze on Social Security in order to reduce the deficits that tax law helped to create.
“While this program is severe,” Biden said on the Senate floor , “it is the only proposal that will halt the upward spiral of deficits,” which supposedly threatened “an economic and political crisis of extraordinary proportions” within 18 months.
By the time Biden first ran for president in 1987, he had adopted much of Reagan’s anti-government message in his pitch to Democratic voters.
“Government can do many things, but in the final analysis, government can act little more than as a catalyst,” Biden said on the stump. “We must demand more of ourselves … our managers, our workers, our consumers are needed to change their attitudes in order to revitalize this society.”
A Soldier For The Clinton Revolution Biden dropped out of the 1988 presidential race after just a few months, unable to deal with a speechwriting plagiarism scandal that today seems quaint. But his ideas would make their way to the presidency in the persona of Bill Clinton. “I was one of those guys in 1987 who tried to run on a platform that Clinton basically ran on in 1992,” Biden told National Journal in 2001.
He dismissed criticisms of the Clinton years as empty “class warfare and populism.”
One of the central planks of that platform was welfare reform ― a policy that exacerbated severe poverty by kicking people off of public assistance if they didn’t get a job. The plan ignored the constraints facing most poor families, who often didn’t have access to transportation needed to hold down a job, had small children to care for, or simply couldn’t find work (a particularly serious problem during a recession). The 1996 welfare reform vote divided the party ― 23 Senate Democrats voted against it and 23 voted for it, including Biden. Clinton signed it into law with support from a unified Republican Party.
Biden was a steadfast supporter of an economic agenda that caused economic inequality to skyrocket during the Clinton years. While the poor and middle class made modest gains as a percentage of their income, a pay increase of 2.
5 percent wasn’t terribly meaningful for people who didn’t make much money to begin with. The fortunes of the rich, by contrast, swelled as Clinton cut taxes on capital gains from real estate and financial investments. While Clinton’s 1993 budget raised the top income tax rate from 36 percent to 39.6 percent, the economic gains from his 1997 tax cut were heavily concentrated among the rich . As a result, the top 1 percent’s share of the national income grew dramatically. Biden voted for all of it.
At the same time, landmark banking deregulation further concentrated the nation’s wealth in the hands of a few big players.
Biden voted for the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking Act, which allowed banks to expand across state lines.
He voted to repeal Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law that barred traditional commercial banks from engaging in risky, high-flying securities trades. These laws encouraged Wall Street mega-mergers that created too big to fail and too big to manage behemoths like Citigroup and Wells Fargo . He voted to bar federal or state supervision of credit default swaps, which later became become ” financial weapons of mass destruction ″ during the 2008 financial crisis.
The Democratic Party’s Changing Face These were not controversial votes in the 1990s, a time when Democrats were happy to accept anything that looked like a policy victory over an unhinged Republican opposition. Only three senators opposed Clinton’s 1997 tax cut, and just eight opposed the repeal of Glass-Steagall. But the Wall Street crash discredited the entire agenda. In 2016, Biden himself called his vote to repeal Glass-Steagall the biggest regret of his career .
Biden also spent roughly a decade pursuing an overhaul of American bankruptcy law to discourage debt-strapped households from discharging their financial obligations in court.
As then-academic Elizabeth Warren warned at the time , Biden’s bankruptcy law boosted revenues for credit card companies at the expense of families struggling with job losses and medical bills. Unlike the Clinton-era deregulation, the bankruptcy bill was unpopular with Senate Democrats, who voted against it 31 to 14 .
Biden partially atoned in the Obama years, intervening to get presidential support to prohibit banks that benefit from taxpayer perks from speculating with risky securities. But Obama also dispatched Biden to try to ink a “grand bargain” with the House GOP in which Democrats would accept long-term cuts to Social Security in exchange for modest tax increases on the rich .
Like just about everything Biden supported in his congressional career, that measure enjoyed tremendous support with centrist elites in both parties.
Biden’s regular Joe credibility is based entirely on his personal background, as someone who grew up working class and speaks with the rough masculinity that Washington interprets as authenticity. But his politics have always relied on elite assumptions about the economy: Deficits are bad, deregulation is smart and the government is at best a clumsy steward of economic prosperity.
Biden struggled to shake off this thinking once it was discredited by the financial crisis, but Democratic Party voters did not.
Today, the unapologetic liberalism that Biden began to turn against in the 1970s is so resurgent that its proponents sometimes even call themselves ” democratic socialists .” All of the policy energy in the party has moved past conventional thinking of even the Obama years ― from a Green New Deal that shrugs off questions about deficits, to Medicare for All to various attacks on the political power of the billionaire class . Biden’s record is out of step with the party’s current priorities.
Will that matter to Democratic primary voters?
“I don’t think the issues mean a great deal in terms of whether you win or lose,” Biden told Washingtonian back in 1974 .
“I think the issues are merely a vehicle to portray your intellectual capacity to the voters . . . a vehicle by which the voters will determine your honesty and candor.”
He’ll have another opportunity to test that theory in 2020.
Trump Puerto Rico aid: president’s comments about relief funds spark scathing response from island’s governor – CBS News
Puerto Rico governor slams Trump for relief funds comments: “We are your citizens” By Camilo Montoya-Galvez March 27, 2019 / 2:11 PM / CBS News Puerto Rico faces food stamp cuts Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló slammed President Trump for opposing further disaster aid to the island and reportedly telling Republican senators he believed the…
Puerto Rico governor slams Trump for relief funds comments: “We are your citizens” By Camilo Montoya-Galvez March 27, 2019 / 2:11 PM / CBS News Puerto Rico faces food stamp cuts
Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló slammed President Trump for opposing further disaster aid to the island and reportedly telling Republican senators he believed the U.S. territory received too many federal relief funds compared to states like Texas and Florida, which have also been battered by storms in the past two years.
“The comments attributed to Donald Trump today by senators from his own party are below the dignity of a sitting President of the United States,” Rosselló wrote in a statement. “They continue to lack empathy, are irresponsible, regrettable and, above all, unjustified.”
“Mr. President: Enough with the insults and demeaning mischaracterizations.
We are not your political adversaries; we are your citizens,” the governor added in his most stinging rebuke of the president so far.
Mr. Trump reportedly told Republican senators at a policy lunch Tuesday that federal relief funds sent to Puerto Rico were “way out of proportion to what Texas and Florida and others have gotten,” according to the Associated Press.
In both public and private comments, Mr. Trump has repeatedly expressed opposition to increased disaster aid for Puerto Rico. The island, home to approximately 3.2 million U.S.
citizens, continues to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane María, which killed nearly 3,000 people — as well as decades of financial instability .
The president’s reported comments and continued opposition to more federal aid to the island will likely precipitate another tense standoff with Congressional Democrats, who now control the House. The Senate will soon vote on a multi-billion dollar disaster assistance package that includes aid for Puerto Rico and states like California, Georgia, North Carolina and Alaska. House Democrats have vowed to reject any measure that does not include funding for the island.
Rebuffing the president’s “disgraceful” comments, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged his Republican colleagues to make sure the package guarantees federal relief funds allocated for Puerto Rico are released.
“Help us pass a disaster package that addresses the needs, not of some, but of all disaster survivors; that addresses the needs of all Americans who are affected, not just those that president says come from a state or area that he happens to like,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. President @realDonaldTrump is continuing to try to block disaster aid for fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and “doesn’t want another single dollar going to the island.”
These political games must stop.
pic.twitter.com/coChwyXsQg — Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 27, 2019
The president has repeatedly clashed with Rosselló and other Puerto Rican officials over federal assistance to the U.S. territory. His administration’s handling of recovery efforts in the aftermath of María and Irma have been sharply criticized by some local residents, leaders and most Democrats in Congress.
Recently, Rosselló has denounced the White House for considering diverting disaster relief funds to finance the president’s long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and opposing $600 million in food assistance funding , which the White House called “excessive and unnecessary.” First published on March 27, 2019 / 2:11 PM © 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Trump just started a new Obamacare fight with Democrats and it could come back to haunt him in 2020
Trump just started a new Obamacare fight with Democrats, and it could come back to haunt him in 2020 Bob Bryan President Donald Trump is reigniting the fight over Obamacare, which may not work in his favour. President Donald Trump declared Tuesday that the GOP would become “The Party of Healthcare!” The pronouncement came the…
Trump just started a new Obamacare fight with Democrats, and it could come back to haunt him in 2020 Bob Bryan President Donald Trump is reigniting the fight over Obamacare, which may not work in his favour. President Donald Trump declared Tuesday that the GOP would become “The Party of Healthcare!” The pronouncement came the day after the Trump administration sided with a judge’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, should be struck down in its entirety. Democrats are embracing the healthcare fight with good reason, as a slew of polling shows Americans dislike Trump’s handling of healthcare and favour Democrats on the issue. If the fight drags into 2020, it could be bad news for Trump and the GOP.
President Donald Trump wants Republicans to go all in on healthcare, but there’s a lot of data showing the president’s new policy focus might not be the best idea for the GOP.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Trump declared that the GOP would reform its image around the healthcare issue.
“The Republican Party will become ‘The Party of Healthcare!’” the president said.
The tweet came the day after the Department of Justice said in a filing that the Trump administration supported a judge’s recent decision that the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, should be struck down.
If Obamacare is struck down, an estimated 20 million more Americans would go without health insurance, popular provisions like protections for people with preexisting conditions would be gone, and a huge portion of the US healthcare system would be faced with a chaotic scramble to adapt.
Read more: Experts think the ruling that declared Obamacare unconstitutional is ‘insanity in print’ and will likely be overturned
Given the ramifications of the repeal, the Trump administration’s decision to support the decision sent shockwaves through Washington and the healthcare policy world.
“From pre-existing condition protections to premium subsidies to expanded Medicaid to closing the Medicare doughnut hole to breastfeeding breaks to menu labelling,” Larry Levitt, the senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan healthcare think thank, tweeted. “Undoing the ACA, as the Trump administration is arguing in court, would affect almost everyone.” Getty Images/Pool Trump is taking another whack at his predecessor’s signature law.
Following the Justice Department decision, Trump kept the focus on healthcare during a meeting with GOP senators on Tuesday.
According to reports , Trump applauded the DOJ move and told Republicans that the party should once again focus on health policy in Congress.
But neither the administration nor Republicans in Congress have drafted a new healthcare plan to replace the ACA.
At the same time, House Democrats rolled out a sweeping bill meant to solidify preexisting-condition protections and strengthen the ACA.
Read more: Trump keeps claiming the GOP will ‘protect people with preexisting conditions.’ But he’s been trying to gut those protections for almost 2 years.
The flurry of activity has brought renewed attention to the healthcare fight, which could pose a serious problem for Trump and become a boon for Democrats.
In fact, here are a few reasons that healthcare in general, and the Obamacare suit specifically, could come back to bite Trump: A majority of Americans now support Obamacare: Polls over the past year have shown Obamacare getting a record level of support, with a majority of Americans on board with the law . The GOP’s previous attempts to replace the ACA were incredibly unpopular: The last time the party attempted to repeal and replace the ACA, every iteration of its replacement was deeply unpopular . So unless there is a substantial change in the party’s approach, a new attempt at replacement is likely to be a political loser. Americans are very concerned about healthcare: Healthcare typically ranks among the most important issues to voters in polling, and the looming possibility of a major upheaval in the healthcare industry could make the issue even more of a factor in 2020.
Healthcare was a winning issue for Democrats in the 2018 midterms: Before the 2018 midterms, Democrats went all in on healthcare messaging.
The party attacked opponents over their support of the GOP repeal-and-replace bills, especially highlighting the replacements’ undermining of protections for people with preexisting conditions . Based on exit polling from that election, the attack worked. Healthcare was the top issue for midterm voters, and a majority of voters trusted Democrats’ ability to handle healthcare changes more than the GOP’s ability.
Additionally, a slew of deep-red states voted to expand Medicaid under the ACA – another piece of the law that the lawsuit would repeal. Americans don’t like Trump’s handling of healthcare: While Americans generally trust Democrats’ handling of healthcare, the same cannot be said for the president. In a November 2018 Gallup poll , only 36% of people said they approved of Trump’s handling of healthcare policy, while 58% disapproved. A Fox News poll published Sunday also showed that just 37% of people approved of Trump’s handling of healthcare versus 52% who did not.
In both of the polls, healthcare was Trump’s weakest issue. The timing of the Obamacare lawsuit could be bad for Trump: Given the timing of the lawsuit, there is a chance that the Supreme Court could decide on the Obamacare repeal in the fall of 2020, just before the presidential election. This means many voters could cast their votes within weeks of hearing that the Trump administration allowed a lawsuit to go forward that would force 20 million Americans to lose coverage while undermining preexisting-condition protections. Business Insider Emails & Alerts
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Poll: Three-Quarters Want Full Mueller Report Made Public : NPR
Enlarge this image Special counsel Robert Mueller after attending church on March 24, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images Special counsel Robert Mueller after attending church on March 24, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images Days after Attorney General William Barr released his four-page summary of…
Enlarge this image Special counsel Robert Mueller after attending church on March 24, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images hide caption
toggle caption Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images Special counsel Robert Mueller after attending church on March 24, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images Days after Attorney General William Barr released his four-page summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation report, overwhelming majorities of Americans want the full report made public and believe Barr and Mueller should testify before Congress, according to a new NPR/ PBS NewsHour /Marist poll.
Only about a third of Americans believe, from what they’ve seen or heard about the Mueller investigation so far, that President Trump is clear of any wrongdoing. But they are split on how far Democrats should go in investigating him going forward.
“People clearly want to see more about the report,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll. “They want it released publicly, are eager to see the principals — Mueller and Barr — testify, because they want to see how the sausage was made. They want to see how we got to this point.
At the same time, 56 percent said Mueller conducted a fair investigation, and 51 percent said they were satisfied with it. That included 52 percent of independents who said they were satisfied with the investigation. It’s one of the rare questions in the first two years of the Trump presidency in which a majority of independents sided with Republicans instead of Democrats on a subject.
Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.
The other prominent area where independents have sided with Republicans is on impeachment. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll last year found that pushing impeachment would not be a winning issue for Democrats.
The summary “could be somewhat of a blessing in disguise for Democrats,” Miringoff said, “because there’s no massive pressure saying, ‘Look at this report, look at this summary — we have to move forward with impeachment.
Americans: The Barr letter is not enough
Overall, three-quarters said the full Mueller report should be made public. That included a majority of Republicans (54 percent).
Just 18 percent overall said Barr’s summary is enough.
Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.
Two-thirds (66 percent) also said they want Mueller to testify before Congress, and 64 percent said the same for Barr.
Trump not in the clear with the public
Enlarge this image President Trump speaks to supporters during a rally Thursday in Grand Rapids, Mich. Scott Olson/Getty Images hide caption
toggle caption Scott Olson/Getty Images President Trump speaks to supporters during a rally Thursday in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Scott Olson/Getty Images Almost six in 10 (56 percent) said that questions still exist, with just 36 percent saying Trump is clear of any wrongdoing. That latter figure is close to where Trump’s approval rating has been throughout his presidency.
In this poll, Trump’s approval rating is 42 percent. That’s up slightly (but within the margin of error) from January, when it was 39 percent and unchanged from December.
Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.
But that doesn’t mean the public wants Democrats to go far down the collusion or obstruction-of-justice rabbit hole of investigations.
Politics Trump Takes A Post-Mueller Victory Lap At Michigan Rally On the issue of obstruction, the Mueller report, as summarized by the Barr letter, noted that Mueller did not come to a conclusion on whether charges should be brought against the president. But Mueller said his report did not “exonerate” the president either.
Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided against charging the president.
The country was split 48 to 46 percent on whether Barr’s decision not to charge the president should stand or if Congress should continue to investigate obstruction of justice by the president.
Politics Democrats Demand Full Mueller Report, Lay Out Argument For Continued Investigations What’s more, the country was similarly split, 48 to 45 percent, on whether Democrats should hold hearings to further investigate the Mueller report or end their investigations.
“I think they’re on safe footing to want the full report released” and to bring in Barr and Mueller, Miringoff said, adding, “But don’t start saying there’s still collusion, don’t go for obstruction of justice, because then they’re barking up the wrong tree.”
Views of Mueller spike with Republicans
Mueller enjoys an overall positive rating among Americans, with 38 percent favorable, 25 percent unfavorable and roughly a third (37 percent) unsure or never heard of him.
That’s a big change from December, when Mueller was viewed more negatively (33 percent) than positively (29 percent).
Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.
That change is largely due to Republicans viewing him far more favorably now, after Barr’s letter was released. In December, just 8 percent of Republicans viewed him favorably, while 58 percent viewed him negatively. After the Barr letter, the proportion of Republicans viewing Mueller positively jumped to 32 percent.
Politics Bolstered By Mueller Synopsis, Republicans Go On Offense Over Investigations Overall, views of Trump are generally where they have been. In addition to the consistency of his approval rating, about the same percentage of people compared to last July think he did something either illegal or unethical in his dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin — 57 percent now compared to 53 percent then .
Analysis Impeachment Just Got Less Likely And 6 Other Takeaways From The Barr Letter What’s more, 54 percent of registered voters said they are definitely voting against him in 2020.
That is about where it was in January, when 57 percent of registered said so. And, remember, in the 2016 election, 54 percent of people voted for someone other than Trump.
Of Trump’s standing and the political climate, Miringoff put it this way: “Despite the two years of attention, focused on Russia and the convictions and all that, it pretty much is exactly where it was.”.
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