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As Democrats get antsy to achieve top priorities, Biden has yet to weigh in

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.
President Joe Biden listens to comments during the EU-US summit at the European Council building in Brussels on June 15, 2021.
President Joe Biden listens to comments during the EU-US summit at the European Council building in Brussels on June 15, 2021.Francisco Seco / AP

WASHINGTON — As Democrats appear stuck on infrastructure, fret that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer might not retire, and find themselves short on Senate votes to pass voting protections, there’s still one person who’s yet to weigh in on how to move forward on these matters.

That's President Joe Biden, who’s been overseas the past week and meets today with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Don’t get us wrong: We aren’t subscribing to the “Green Lantern Theory” of politics in which a president has magical powers to persuade the political opposition to get behind his proposals.

But what we do believe is that a president has a significant influence over his party’s elected (and non-elected) leaders. And Biden — at least for now — has yet to make up his mind how to proceed on these issues.

On infrastructure, a president can have enormous sway over, say, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that Democrats don’t have the 50 votes needed to pass it via reconciliation, and that Dems need GOP votes.

Or he can tell Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., that there will never be enough GOP votes, and the only chance to pass infrastructure (and get money to West Virginia) is via reconciliation.

But Biden and the White House still haven’t made up their minds on how to move forward.

On Breyer, we remember when another president (Donald Trump) wooed another aging Supreme Court justice (Anthony Kennedy), and replaced him with that justice’s former clerk (Brett Kavanaugh).

But Biden, to the best of our knowledge, still hasn’t undertaken a similar kind of campaign/charm offensive with Breyer.

And on voting protections, look at who is meeting today with those Texas Democratic lawmakers who are asking for federal help in stopping the GOP voting restrictions (Vice President Kamala Harris), versus who is not meeting with them (President Biden).

So for all of the liberal anger at Manchin and Sen. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., all of the angst about Breyer’s future, and all of the concerns about voting, the political figure we should be watching is Biden.

Sure, it’s just June. And sure, none of these are easy issues (especially when it comes to voting protections and what to do about the GOP filibuster).

But the person who has the most influence over his party — and who’s got to figure out these tricky matters — is the president of the United States.

Let the summit begin

“President Joe Biden sits down for the first time since taking office with Russian President Vladimir Putin here on Wednesday in what’s expected to be an hours-long, contentious meeting — one where Biden has said he will lay out where U.S. red lines are, and the consequences for Russia if they're crossed,” NBC’s Shannon Pettypiece writes.

“Biden and Putin, who arrived at the summit site first, shook hands and exchanged a few brief words while posing for a photo on the red carpet outside the main entrance. As expected, neither gave remarks, and the two leaders did not respond to shouted questions from reporters. Following the greeting, the two disappeared inside, double doors closing behind them.”

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

21: The number of House Republicans who voted against a measure to award Congressional Gold Medals to Capitol Police officers and others who protected the Capitol on January 6.

10 percent: The share of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. attributed to the Delta variant.

33,641,768: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 11,069 more than yesterday morning.)

603,873: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 363 more than yesterday morning.)

311,886,674: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

40.4 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per NBC News.

54.6 percent: The share of all American adults over 18 who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

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