President Joe Biden enjoys reminding the press that some reporters were skeptical he would broker a bipartisan infrastructure deal. But Biden and congressional Democrats are running out of days to reach an agreement with holdout senators regarding their bigger, broader partisan social welfare and climate spending bill before the end of the year.


The longer Biden kicks "this can down the road, the less likely it is that it's going to pass," said Republican strategist Ralph Reed of the president's $2.4 trillion social welfare and climate bill.

"Lyndon Johnson famously said, 'The longer a fish lays on the beach, the more it stinks,'" Reed said.

For Reed, Biden will soon have to decide whether to compromise on a "slimmed down" bill with centrist Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, which may "anger and demoralize" more liberal Democrats and decrease turnout in next year's midterm elections.

"How many times does Joe Manchin have to say that he's not going to vote for something before you believe him?" Reed asked. "Or are you going to continue to deny what has been clear to everybody in Washington for months, which is you don't have the votes?"

The White House downplayed "process questions" Thursday, with spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre pointing to "productive" discussions as Biden and his congressional colleagues publicly pivot to voter access legislation amid Manchin's concerns over inflation.

"I can reiterate how important getting Build Back Better done [is]," Jean-Pierre said. "This is a priority for the president, for Americans, to lower costs again for Americans, as I just listed out, childcare, eldercare, prescription drugs, universal pre-K. All of these things are highly critical to American families, and that's what they want to see us do."

A well-placed Senate Democratic aide expressed optimism via email when prodded about the prospect of passing the bill in 2022, despite Washington typically emptying out after Labor Day in election years.

"So much of the work on this is already done, so Democrats will get this bill enacted early next year one way or the other," the source wrote.

Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright was adamant voters would reward Biden and his party for passing the bill, regardless of when that happens. Delayed is not denied, according to Seawright.

"The devil is oftentimes referred to as being in the details but, in this particular case, I think the angels will be in the results," he said.

Seawright defended Democrats from reports of growing frustrations, including from Biden, with Manchin and Sinema, adding that Democrats have to convey they are cognizant of voters' needs and that they can deliver the bill and voter access proposals.

"Democrats have to keep our eyes on the prize and understand this process may end up being a marathon, not a sprint," he said. "But direction will always be more important than speed."

Reed queried Democrats moving on to voter access measures since Sinema remains opposed to Senate filibuster reform for ballot issues. Democrats only have 50 votes in the Senate, plus Vice President Kamala Harris's tiebreaking vote, well short of a 60-person supermajority.

"You raised expectations to unrealistic heights by suggesting that Joe Biden was the second coming of FDR and that he was going to 'go big,'" Reed said of the party. "Now they can't get the reconciliation package passed. So the answer to that is to unrealistically raise expectations again?"

"I just think the miscalculation from the beginning was that this was an FDR-type moment to do big social welfare projects," he added. "I mean, FDR was elected by a landslide and had huge majorities in the House and the Senate, which he then added to in the 1934 elections."

Reed also cast doubts on whether voters would back Democrats if they virtue signaled rather than signed ideas into law, recalling Republicans failing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in 2017.


"If you're bringing this stuff to the floor just to have show votes, then it looks like you're spending all your time playing politics instead of actually trying to get something done," he said. "And for a lot of swing independent voters, they're not ideologically in either party, but they want to see things getting done."