President Biden: "Unity" Does Not Necessarily Mean "Bipartisan" | Video | RealClearPolitics

President Biden: "Unity" Does Not Necessarily Mean "Bipartisan" But "It Gets Passed"


President Joe Biden clarified what he meant when he said during his inauguration address last week that his goal was "unity."

"If you pass a piece of legislation that breaks down on party lines - but it gets passed - that doesn’t mean there wasn't unity. It just means it wasn't bipartisan," he said.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you a little bit about one of the sort of major themes of your campaign and how you sort of intend to measure and enact it, and that is the idea of--of unity, if you could talk a little bit about what you see unity is being. There are some people who are defining it as being bipartisan. Others are saying it is what most of the people in the country defined by some poll might believe, or any sort of number of--or perhaps it's 50 plus 1 or 50 plus 2 or 75 percent. So, given that it is such a key part of your message and your promise, can you talk and reflect a little bit more about what is unity when you see it and as you define it?

BIDEN: Well, Annie, I think it makes up several of the issues--points you made. One is unity requires you to take away--eliminate the vitriol, make anything that you disagree with about the other person's personality or their lack of integrity or they're not decent legislators and the like. So, we have to get rid of that. And I think that's already beginning to change, but God knows where things go, number one.

Unity also is trying to reflect what the majority of the American people, Democrat, Republican, and independent thinking is within the fulcrum of what needs to be done to make their lives and the lives of Americans better. For example, if you look at the data, and I'm not claiming the polling data to be exact--but if you look at the data we have--I hope I'm saying this correct. You may correct me if I get the number wrong, I think it's 57--58 percent of the American people, including Republicans, Democrats and independents think that we have to do something about the COVID vaccine. We have to do something about making sure the people who are being hurting badly, can't eat, don't have food, are in a position where they are about to be thrown out of their apartments, et cetera--being able to have an opportunity to get a job--that they all think we should be acting. We should be doing more.

Unity also is trying to get at a minimum if--if you pass a piece of legislation that breaks down on party lines but it gets passed it doesn't mean there wasn't unity it just means it wasn't bipartisan. I prefer these things to be bipartisan because I'm trying to generate some consensus and take sort of the--how can I say it--the vitriol, out of all of this. 'Cause I'm confident. I'm confident from my discussions. There are a number of Republicans who know we have to do something about food insecurity for people in this pandemic. I'm confident they know we have to do something about figuring out how to get children back in school.

There's--there's easy ways to deal with it. One if you're anti-union you can say it's all because of teachers. If you want to make a case though that--that it's complicated you say well, what do you have to do to make it safe to get in those schools? Now, we're going to have arguments. For example, you know, I propose that we--because it was bipartisan I thought it would increase the prospects of passage. The additional $1400 in direct cash payment to folks. Well, there's legitimate reason for people to say do you have the lines drawn the exact right way? Should it go to anybody making over X number of dollars or Y? I'm open to negotiate those things.

That's all I--I picked it because I thought it was rational, reasonable and it had overwhelming bipartisan support in the House when it passed. But this is all a bit of a moving target in--in terms of a precision in which this goes. You're asking about unity--51 votes bipartisan, et cetera.

The other piece of this is that the one thing that gives me hope that we're not only going to sort of stay away from the homonym attacks on one another is that there is an overwhelming consensus among the major economists at home and in the world that the way to avoid a deeper, deeper, deeper recession moving in the direction of moving our competitive capacity is to spend money now. From--from--from across the board every major institution has said if we don't invest now we're going to lose so much altitude in terms of our employment base and our economic growth it's going to be harder to re-establish it. We can afford to do it now. As a matter of fact, the I think the response has been we can't afford not to invest now. We can't afford to fail to invest now.

And I think there's a growing realization of that on the part of all but some very, very hard edged partisans maybe on both sides. But I think there is a growing consensus whether we get it all done exactly the way I want it remains to be seen. But I'm confident that we can work our way through--we have to work our way through 'cause as I've said 100 times there's no ability in a democracy for it to function without the ability to reach consensus. Other--otherwise it just becomes executive fiat or battleground issues that are--get us virtually nowhere.

I--I don't want to hold the--my colleague may know, the vice president, but, you know, I think there were very few debates on the Senate floor the whole last year on almost any issue. Well, that benefits no one. Doesn't inform anybody. Doesn't allow the public to make judgments about who's they think is right or wrong. So I am--I am optimistic that it may take some time.

But over the year the way if we treat each other with respect and we're going to argue like hell. I'm confident of that. Believe me I know that. I've been there. But I think we can do it in a way that we can get things done for the American people.
Show comments Hide Comments

Latest Political Videos

Video Archives