The agreement to avert a financial crisis, which should be ratified by Congress, puts Joe Biden in a strong position for 2024.
The president had promised not to negotiate under threat, but everyone knew he would have to make concessions to the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
What we didn’t know was that he would get away with it. This is further proof that in politics, Joe Biden masters the “art of the deal” better than his predecessor and main opponent.
A modest agreement
The agreement reached between Biden and Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is nothing spectacular. Biden said he didn’t want to concede anything at all.
He conceded a bit. McCarthy had enormous and totally unrealistic demands. He conceded a lot.
Notably, the deal reverses unrealized post-pandemic recovery plan spending and freezes most discretionary spending for two years, while leaving military, health and social security spending largely untouched.
Republicans won by cutting new funds for the IRS and tightening some welfare eligibility criteria. They couldn’t overturn Biden’s student loan amnesty or scuttle his green plan. The Democrats failed to get the tax loopholes they were calling for closed.
Politically, the most significant gain for Biden is the two-year extension of the debt ceiling. This is what provokes the ire of Trumpists, who openly wanted to hold Biden “hostage” in 2024, cynically judging that a crisis caused by a default would be an electoral asset for Trump.
The theater of purists
It is clear that by signing the agreement, the leaders of both parties in Congress knew that they would have enough votes to counter the opposition of purists on the right and left who rejected any compromise in advance.
Since then, radical right-wing Republicans have staged condemnation of the deal and vilification of McCarthy. For their part, the left democrats oppose it, because they refuse to ratify cuts in social programs, obtained under threat.
This opposition suits favorable Republicans, who will be able to say that if the Democratic left condemns the agreement, it must not be that bad.
A campaign ad for Biden
The agreement is a victory for the president, but unlike his Republican rival, Biden is too clever a strategist to boast.
As we approach 2024, this deal will help deepen the schism between Republicans who still believe in responsible governance—an endangered species—and far-right populists whose sole agenda is to seize and hold the power.
Above all, this episode will have those who insist that Joe Biden is incapable of serving as president swallow their words. For the past few weeks, Biden has led this marathon of negotiations masterfully while hitting a round trip to Japan. Not bad for a man his detractors call senile.
Even Kevin McCarthy acknowledged that the president had been “very professional, very intelligent and very firm”. The Republican leader may have unexpectedly provided an unexpected advertising clip for Biden’s campaign.