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Democratic insistence on linking infrastructure and budget bills has been costly for Biden

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
White House Aides Leave Senate Talks Without Infrastructure Deal
President Joe Biden walks out of the West Wing following a meeting with Democratic and Republican senators on June 24, 2021.Sarah Silbiger / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — More than 70 days ago, the U.S. Senate handed President Biden his biggest bipartisan victory yet — an infrastructure bill providing $550 billion in new spending, and $1 trillion overall, for highways, transit, water and broadband.

“This historic investment in infrastructure is what I believe you, the American people, want — what you’ve been asking for for a long, long time. This bill shows that we can work together,” Biden said on Aug. 10.

But since then, the bill has languished in the House, as progressives demanded that it not become law before the more expensive, and far more partisan, human infrastructure bill — for child care, universal pre-K, health care and climate spending.

All as a leverage play.

But with that second bill’s compromise price tag now down from $3.5 trillion to as low at $1.75 trillion, with a key climate provision now apparently jettisoned, and with Sen. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., balking at higher taxes for corporations and the wealthy to pay for it all, we have to ask:

Has delaying that bipartisan victory on hard infrastructure been worth it?

Did it really strengthen progressives’ hands in the negotiations?

Or has it ensured that the last two months have been as much about congressional process as policy?

As we’ve said before, one of the important realities in this entire debate is the Democrats enjoy the narrowest of majorities in the Senate and House — which always was going to give Sens. Sinema and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., outsized roles in these negotiations.

“Lyndon Baines Johnson won election in 1964 with a 155-seat majority in the House and 69 Democratic senators. And in 1965, they passed 70 major pieces of legislation,” conservative writer John Podhoretz told one of us on “Meet the Press” last Sunday.

“If you go to the Johnson Library, there are 70 pens lined up. That's the Great Society. Joe Biden has a majority of, nobody even knows. Is it three? Is it five? Is it four, in the House, and a 50-50 Senate.”

The other important reality for Democrats is that failure isn’t an option; Democrats need to pass something — on hard infrastructure, as well as on climate, education and health care.

The question we have this morning, however, is whether this dual-track process has been worth it.

Bolting to Baltimore

A day after touting both legislative bills — hard infrastructure and human infrastructure — in his hometown of Scranton, Pa., President Biden participates tonight in a CNN town hall in Baltimore to discuss these measures.

The televised event begins at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Virginia and Biden’s approval rating

Is Democrat Terry McAuliffe ahead in Virginia’s contest for governor by 5 points, as last week’s Fox News poll showed? Or is it tied as Monmouth had it?

Or is it somewhere in middle? Or all of the above — given the margins of error, different samples and different pollsters?

Our advice: Be sure to look at where President Biden’s job rating is in each of these polls.

In the Fox poll, Biden’s job rating in Virginia was above water at 51 percent among registered voters and 50 percent among likely voters. And what was McAuliffe’s ballot number in the poll? Answer: 51 percent among likely voters.

But in the Monmouth poll, Biden was under water at just 43 percent among registered voters — in a state he won by 10 points in 2020, 54 percent to 44 percent. McAuliffe’s ballot number in this survey? 46 percent.

Bottom line: For McAuliffe in this race, as well as for Democrats in next year’s midterms, a lot is riding on where you have Biden’s job rating.

The higher it is, the better McAuliffe performs. And the lower it is, the worse it is for Democrats.

So come Election Night, pay attention to where Biden’s approval rating is in the exit poll.

As for today’s campaign activity with less than two weeks to go, McAuliffe appears with Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and his wife at 1:15 p.m. ET in Richmond as they vote early, and then McAuliffe holds an event this evening with Vice President Harris in Dumfries, Va.

And the Youngkin campaign has announced that they will be kicking off a bus tour on Saturday night in Henrico County (outside of Richmond).

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

200 percent: The increased exposure to global extreme heat across 13,000 cities studied from 1983 to 2016.

1021: The year that new evidence shows Vikings settled in North America — Newfoundland.

More than 1 billion: The number of Covid vaccinations administered in India, a country that initially stumbled out of the gate it its vaccine distribution.

45,267,809: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 91,747 more since yesterday morning.)

735,052: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 2,162 more since yesterday morning.)

410,189,737: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 750,750 more since yesterday morning.)

11,246,668: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 320,104 more since yesterday morning.)

57.1 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

68.6 percent: The share of all Americans 18-years and older who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

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