Biden could again play ‘implementer-in-chief’ in the face of Republican obstruction

The first two weeks of 2023 dampened the already low hopes that Democrats and Republicans can work together on in the coming years.

No bother, according to one of Biden’s top economic aides. The president could again play “implementer-in-chief” like he did when he was vice president and helped to usher through major economic legislation during the Great Recession.

“Something that people should know about Joe Biden is, more than almost any other holder of high office I’ve ever worked for, he cares a ton about implementation,” said Jared Bernstein, a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy and inflation in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on January 12, 2023 in Washington, DC. Biden spoke on his Administration's actions to lower the inflation rate, reduce gas prices and create manufacturing jobs for Americans. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy and inflation on January 12 in Washington. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Speaking about big efforts from 2021 and 2022 — such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to the Inflation Reduction Act to the CHIPS and Science Act — Bernstein said Biden “has told his staff, from the cabinet on down, 2023 is about efficiently, effectively implementing these programs on behalf of the American people.”

Bernstein appeared on Yahoo Finance Live Thursday (video above) to discuss the inflation report for December as well as Biden’s economic agenda. He also reflected on his long relationship with Biden, including his time as chief economist to then-Vice President Biden during the Obama administration.

“I worked for him when he was the vice president, when he was Sheriff Joe, the implementer-in-chief of the Recovery Act,” Bernstein said in a reference to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

‘Investing in the economy’

As it stands, many of the recently passed laws have long timelines for implementation with hundreds of billions of dollars still in the process of being rolled out and injected into the economy.

The Inflation Reduction Act, as one example, had a host of new provisions come online on Jan. 1 and the CHIPS bill, meanwhile, will only begin formally distributing the $50 billion it has set aside for semiconductor manufacturers in February.

Bernstein’s argument might be an attempt to make proverbial lemonade out of lemons after early signs from Capitol Hill — from the protracted Speaker fight to partisan bills that are dead on arrival with Democrats — have tempered hopes for bipartisan compromise in 2023.

Many Republicans adamantly opposed the rollout of these bills and have promised to exhaust every avenue to repeal them. But their power to stop the ongoing rollout is limited with Democrats in control of the Senate and White House.

U.S. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 12, 2023. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol on January 12. (REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz)

In a press conference of his own on Thursday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) touted this week’s efforts from the House of Representatives and also promised that “we are going to scrutinize every dollar spent” by the Biden administration in the years ahead.

For his part, President Biden touched on implementation during remarks of his own on Thursday, but also lit into Republicans for what he describes as extreme efforts — such as a bill that would abolish the IRS and income taxes in favor of a national consumption tax.

“A national sales tax, that’s a great idea,” Biden said sarcastically.

“Come on,” he added and promised a veto in the unlikely event that the legislation ever reaches his desk.

Ben Werschkul is a Washington correspondent for Yahoo Finance.

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