As Joe Biden welcomed a series of polls showing majority approval for his first 100 days in the White House, and prepared to address Congress for the first time on Wednesday, Republicans attacked his progressive record in office.
One senior senator said: “AOC said his first 100 days exceeded her expectations. That’s all you need to know.”
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was talking to Fox News Sunday about remarks by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a congresswoman and leading progressive from New York.
Speaking to an online meeting on Friday, she said: “The Biden administration and President Biden have definitely exceeded expectations that progressives had.”
Citing the $1.9tn Covid relief and stimulus bill, Ocasio-Cortez said Biden had been “very impressive” in negotiating with Congress to pass “progressive legislation”. She also voiced dissatisfaction with Biden’s $2.25tn infrastructure package.
On Sunday, speaking to CNN’s State of the Union, Vice-President Kamala Harris trumpeted the administration’s achievements.
“We are going to lift half of America’s children out of poverty,” she said. “How about that? How about that? Think about that … That’s good stuff. That’s really good stuff.”
Republicans oppose the price tag on the American Jobs Plan and priorities within it, including plans to raise taxes on wealthier Americans and proposed spending on environmental initiatives.
So do some Democrats – on Sunday the West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, a key vote in the 50-50 chamber, told CNN he favoured a slimmed down, “more targeted” bill.
Graham was not the only senior GOP figure to complain about something many on the left have praised: that Biden campaigned as a moderate but is governing more as a progressive.
Also speaking to Fox News Sunday, the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, accused Biden of “a bait and switch. The bait was he was going to govern as bipartisan but the switch is, he’s governed as a socialist”.
Graham said: “During the campaign, he made us all believe that Joe Biden would be the moderate choice, that he really thought court-packing was a bonehead idea. All of a sudden we got a commission to change the structure of the supreme court. Making DC a state, I think that’s a very radical idea that will change the make-up of the United States Senate.”
Progressives defend Biden’s commission on the supreme court as a necessary answer to Republican hardball tactics that skewed the panel 6-3 in favour of rightwing judges. However, Biden’s commission to examine the issue both contains conservative voices and is unlikely to produce an increase beyond nine justices any time soon.
A bill to make DC a state, thereby giving the city representation it currently lacks and almost certainly electing two Democratic senators, has passed the House but is unlikely to pass the Senate.
“AOC said his first 100 days exceeded her expectations,” Graham added. “That’s all you need. I like Joe Biden, but I’m in the 43%.”
Sunday brought a slew of polls. Fox News put the president’s approval rating at 54% positive to 43% negative, nine points up on Donald Trump at the same time four years ago. NBC put Biden up 51%-43%, ABC made it 52%-42% and CBS reported a 58%-42% split.
Graham also insisted Biden had “been a disaster on foreign policy”.
The South Carolina senator was once an eager ally of John McCain, the late Arizona senator, presidential nominee and a leading GOP voice on foreign affairs. Biden was a senator from Delaware for 36 years and chaired the foreign relations committee.
“The border is in chaos,” Graham said, “the Iranians are off the mat … Afghanistan is gonna fall apart, Russia and China are already pushing him around. So I’m very worried.
“I think he’s been a very destabilising president, and economically thrown a wet blanket over the recovery, wanting to raise taxes a large amount and regulate America basically out of business.
“So I’m not very impressed with the first 100 days. This is not what I thought I would get from Joe Biden.”