“Instead of making the most of our FDR and LBJ moment, we are in danger of inexplicably putting an expiration date on our own legacy,” Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) said on the House floor last week, in a speech focused on the child tax credit.
“Did FDR put an expiration date on Social Security? Did Lyndon Johnson put an expiration date on Medicare?” Torres said. “Why should we put an expiration date on the Social Security and Medicare of our own time?”
At the same time, while Biden and his plans remain popular now, that can change once more details are released and Republicans have more time to wage a campaign against them — as they did with President Barack Obama’s efforts to expand health-care coverage a decade ago.
That public support “has yet to pass the test of time, the opposition onslaught,” said Bruce Stokes, a former director at the Pew Research Center who is now with the German Marshall Fund. “And we know from the [Affordable Care Act] and other things that that’s effective.”
A shift in public opinion is what many Republicans are counting on to derail the president’s agenda. With midterm elections in 2022 already looming, GOP lawmakers and party strategists are embarking on an intense public messaging campaign against the infrastructure package and the tax hikes being used to fund it — a move they hope will disrupt the united Democratic front.
One path forward for Republicans is to sow discord among Democrats, said Joe Hack, a former chief of staff to Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) who joined the Daschle Group, a lobbying firm, earlier this month.
“You just need one Democrat to get upset about a provision, and you’ve got a problem,” he said.
Even if Democrats are able to get some aspects of their infrastructure package through this year, “they could be setting themselves up for a walloping” in the midterms, said former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.). “That’s going to really stifle President Biden and anything he’s trying to accomplish.”
Still, to many Democrats, the effects of Biden’s steps so far are already here to stay, no matter whether the programs themselves are currently slated to expire. Beyond shifting public opinion to support government intervention, his relief plan is on track to accelerate the economic recovery and could help the U.S. see levels of growth this year as high as 8 percent, by some estimates, the most in decades.