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Pelosi hilariously scolds media for not 'selling' $3.5T spending bill: 'Do a better job'

The Hill logo The Hill 10/15/2021 Joe Concha, Opinion Contributor
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gestures as she speaks at a news conference © Getty Images Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gestures as she speaks at a news conference

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) scolded the press on Tuesday, insisting that journalists do a better job of selling President Biden's $3.5 trillion spending bill to the public.

"You all could do a better job of selling this, to be frank. Every time I come here, I go through family medical leave, climate, the issues that are in there," she said during a briefing when asked if she and the White House could better explain what's in the massive social spending bill to the American people.

Yup. Pelosi says it's the job of journalists to sell the bill (which is really $5.5 trillion after removing obvious gimmicks) to skeptical or uninformed voters. The speaker should be happy that reporters aren't reporting on the actual content of the bill while they focus on Democratic holdouts Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

Because upon closer examination, voters would learn that it includes nearly $80 billion for the IRS to expand tax enforcement, billions for a tree-planting program that increases "tree equity," a billion for an "electric vehicle charging equity program," $7.5 billion to launch the "Civilian Climate Corps" and $7 billion for the Postal Service to convert all its vehicles to electric power. There's also $200 billion more for free community college and an additional $200 billion for universal pre-kindergarten.

The bill is (checks notes) 645 pages, so there's much more than that, but you get the point: If "60 Minutes," the Washington Post or New York Times did a true deep dive into these programs and these numbers, the first question many Americans would have is: Okay, this all sounds nice, but how does this wish list get paid for?

The math here has never remotely added up. And repeating the line over and over again that Pelosi and the president and his press secretary have been selling - that trillions in new spending will cost the American taxpayers "zero dollars" while reducing taxes for the middle class and reducing the national debt - is mathematically impossible.

Pelosi expects reporters to sell that? Even a friendly press won't take that bait.

"The Build Back Better is 3 baskets," the speaker later added during Tuesday's presser. "It's climate ... health, jobs, security and moral responsibility."

Five is the new three, apparently.

As even Democrats would privately admit, the messaging has been patently horrible in selling this bill, prompting a messaging reset from the White House. But once an impression is made, it's hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Time is not healing the divisions within the Democratic Party, either. And the longer this goes on, the shorter the president's coattails get, particularly among the voting blocs that decide elections in swing states such as Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Per Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen:

"Biden's numbers with independents continue to crater. His 5-poll average among I's [independents] from this morning's RCP [RealClearPolitics] is 34.2 [approval], -57 [disapproval]," Olsen observed on Wednesday. "Minus 23 among independents is ten points worse than just a week and a half ago when I sounded the alarm. He's gone from +13 [approval] in 2020 to -23 [disapproval] in 11 months."

For those keeping score at home, Biden-Harris has dropped 36 points among independents. Overall, they're 10 points lower than President Obama was at this point in his presidency.

A somewhat popular president could likely ram through the kind of social spending bill most Democrats are trying to do here. But unlike ObamaCare, which originally passed along party lines on a 220-215 vote in the House in 2009 before going on to the Senate and eventually the 44th president's desk, hitching a wagon to the current president isn't politically wise.

Among Biden's problems: rising inflation, crime, gas prices, Afghanistan under Taliban control, a U.S. southern border completely out of control, a supply chain crisis that is threatening Christmas shopping and consumer prices, and a worker shortage. The positives are getting harder to find for Biden-Harris just ten months in.

The president needs to do what his old boss, Obama, did: Get out and sell the hell out of this bill. But Biden (outside of an event here and there) isn't exactly engaging with the public. As for doing a one-on-one interview with a major broadcast news outlet, the president has done exactly one of those in the past 83 days.

"To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; credible, we must be truthful," the great Edward R. Murrow of CBS News once said.

At this point, Biden and Pelosi are not believable on cost, not credible on execution, not truthful about how this bill gets paid for.

And until the messaging somehow improves, this bill will end up being worth the paper it's printed on.

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.


Video: Schumer, Pelosi announce tentative revenue deal for Biden's social agenda (Reuters)

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