Politics

Biden has a major economic decision to make and he can’t seem to pull the trigger

Going slow can be the Biden way.

In the Senate and as vice president, he would hold long deliberations with aides before coming to a decision. He famously wavered for months about running for president in 2016 before ultimately deciding against doing so. Before launching his 2020 campaign, he again hemmed and hawed before announcing his candidacy, which meant some possible staffers had already taken jobs with rivals.

But even some political opponents see the wisdom in a process that, while lengthy, allows both sides to have time to honestly size up each other.

“Biden’s chief virtue as a negotiator is the understanding that ‘Look, you have politics on your side, I have politics on my side, we both have to live within our political constraints,’” said Rohit Kumar, former deputy chief of staff to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who was in the room when Biden, as vice president, held lengthy negotiations with GOP leaders.

Biden’s pitch, Kumar added, is often simple: “‘I know there are certain things you can’t do and I am not going to make them deal breakers. We have to get a deal I can sell, a deal you can sell.’”

As president, Biden is known to pepper his advisers with questions, demanding extra calls with policy experts and academics. He seeks out minutia but loathes jargon, flashing anger at aides who don’t deliver information in methods easily translatable for voters. His “Socratic journey,” as some aides call it, can wreak havoc on the West Wing schedule, with decisions stretching weeks beyond their due date.

Meetings with health experts around vaccine distributions and mandates ran hours past their allotment. Preparations for his June summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin stretched into multiple sessions in the Situation Room. As he pushed his two-part legislative agenda through Congress, he has been overly deferential to lawmakers on the Hill, allowing them to run point on negotiations. Biden even made two trips to the U.S. Capitol without making a demand for the Democratic caucus to vote on his infrastructure proposal.

Some members of his own party — including Michigan Reps. Debbie Dingell and Elissa Slotkin — both went on TV to call for Biden directly to play more of an assertive role in getting a deal. But the White House and other Biden allies have continued extolling the mantra that the end result, no matter how messy the process, is all that matters. And that the same thing will be true once the Fed chair decision is made.

“This is not indecisiveness. This is deliberateness,” said Adrienne Elrod, a senior aide on Biden’s transition team and aide to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. “He took the time necessary to get to the best outcome. He didn’t rush the process, he took the time to have conversations with key lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.”

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