How Biden could look to exploit divided GOP in 2023

Kevin McCarthy, Elise Stefanik
FILE – House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., joined by Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., left, talks to reporters about the appropriations process by the majority Democrats to fund the government, at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. Scott Applewhite/AP

How Biden could look to exploit divided GOP in 2023

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President Joe Biden will face a divided government for the first time in office in 2023, but with Republicans holding a bare majority in the House of Representatives and facing internal tensions, he may be able to use the opposing party’s rifts to his advantage.

Biden used a low-key campaign strategy to keep the focus off himself and on the GOP last fall, which resulted in the loss of just nine House seats and the momentum-defying gain of one Senate seat for the Democrats. He may look to echo that tactic in facing a narrowly Republican-led lower chamber during the next two years.

REPUBLICANS ENTER 2023 DIVIDED FROM WITHIN

Republicans seem to be floundering after an expected red wave failed to materialize on election night and a host of new issues cropped up in the ensuing weeks.

The party will officially take the House majority next Tuesday, but it remains up in the air who they’ll elect as House speaker. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has positioned himself to take the gavel, releasing his “Commitment to America” platform during the midterm elections and promising to implement it once he became speaker.

But McCarthy faces growing opposition from within his own party, with at least five GOP lawmakers saying they won’t back his speakership bid. He can’t afford to lose more than four votes, and the struggle to accede to the speakership could make it more difficult for him to focus on bucking Biden’s agenda once he gets there.

Biden mostly focused on another GOP proposal on the campaign trail, Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) 12-point “Rescue America” plan, which claimed under point six that “all federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.” The president referenced this endlessly last fall, claiming it would “put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block” as part of a wider effort to shift the focus away from himself.

Biden can also use the GOP-led Congress as a kind of foil in the next Congress, blaming Republicans for any legislative inaction that occurs because of the divided government as he begins looking toward 2024 and a potential reelection bid.

Republicans have the power to conduct oversight investigations with their new majority to ramp up pressure on the president but will need to be selective in doing so if it comes at the expense of doing the hard work of policymaking.

Ahead of the midterm elections, Biden worked hard to brand the GOP as a band of “MAGA” extremists who were loyal to former President Donald Trump and may not accept the outcome of elections.

“They look at the mob that stormed the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, brutally attacking law enforcement, not as insurrectionists who placed a dagger to the throat of our democracy, but they look at them as patriots,” Biden said during one of many speeches outlining threats to democracy. “And they see their MAGA failure to stop a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election as preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections.”

This sets up another internal point of contention for Republicans. Trump has already announced a third run for the White House, creating headaches for GOPers who’d rather move on to a new face. Deciding who to get behind will loom as an ongoing issue for the party even as it tries to trip up Biden and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Outside the halls of Congress, Republicans are also considering a slew of leadership changes after their lackluster performance in the midterm elections.

Specifically, the midterm elections have led conservatives to question Ronna McDaniel’s leadership openly over the Republican National Committee. The GOP’s failure to capture the Senate has prompted some Republicans to consider challenging McDaniel for the top RNC position and others to call for new leadership.

For his part, Biden has done a bit of a two-step when it comes to working with the opposition party. Biden came into office promising unity and delivered a similar “Kumbaya” message at Christmas.

“I hope this Christmas season marks a fresh start for our nation because there is so much that unites us as Americans, so much more that unites us than divides us,” he said Dec. 22. “We’re truly blessed to live in this nation. And I truly hope we take the time to look out for one another.”

This contrasts sharply with his “ultra-MAGA” criticisms on the campaign trail, such as the infamous Philadelphia speech he gave before Marines and a blood-red background outside Independence Hall.

“MAGA Republicans have made their choice,” he said. “They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies.”

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Following the midterm elections, Biden promised he’d change “nothing” about his approach during the next two years, and a divided Republican Party may help that strategy succeed.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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