He had once hoped the money would be approved by the time he arrived in Europe last week for two high-profile international summits – timing that could also boost Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s late campaign for governor of Virginia.
He tried to force the case in the hours leading up to his departure. As he flew over the Atlantic towards Italy, it became clear that the bet would not work. Making her flight home on Tuesday, the future of her plan was no more certain than when she arrived.
By the time he landed, McAuliffe had lost.
Biden’s second overseas trip has been overshadowed on both sides by halting efforts to push through a far-reaching national agenda. After arriving in Europe without being able to get a vote, he left with new doubts about the position of a key senator.
Feeling invigorated in in-person meetings, he says it can’t be reproduced on a screen, Biden has found a level of cooperation in Europe that has become elusive at home.
“Two world leaders came to see me today and said, ‘Thank you for your leadership. You make a big difference here, “” he said at a closing press conference in Scotland before returning to Washington.
“They listened. Everyone looked for me,” he said earlier in the trip. “They wanted to know our views. And we helped direct what happened here.”
Biden has long relished international peaks for his many backslapping opportunities. Although he skipped a few lighter photo ops, including a raffle at the iconic Trevi Fountain in Rome, and looked tired as he listened to other leaders deliver their climate statements, he was mostly in his element. During the six-day trip, the White House listed meetings on the sidelines with more than a dozen of its counterparts – and one with Prince Charles.
“It never ceases to amaze me, when you look someone straight in the eye, when you try to do something. They know me, I know them,” Biden said on leaving the G20.
Two leaders he couldn’t look down on were Chinese Xi Jinping or Russian Vladimir Putin, whose absences from either rally only seemed to cement the impression they had little. of interest in global cooperation. Biden said the no-shows had “disappointed” him.
“We introduced ourselves. We showed and by showing up we had a profound impact on how I think the rest of the world views the United States in this leadership role,” he said on Tuesday. . “I think that was a big mistake, quite frankly, for China, in terms of China not showing up.”
“For me, it’s just a huge problem,” he continued. “And they left.”
The franchise took some of its own associates by surprise, although most agreed it was a necessary step towards mending a much-needed relationship.
“Our reaction to this was not Trump-y,” a senior administration official said afterwards. “It was, you know, an effort to basically say, ‘OK, let’s get this on the right track.'”
For Biden, acting “not Trump-y” abroad is more than just styling. On the trip, he also rolled back Trump-era tariffs on steel and aluminum and spoke to European leaders about the possibility of reviving the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump brought forward. destroyed by withdrawing American support.
Biden’s challenge this week was to convince his fellow leaders that he and the United States remain committed to various causes, like climate change, which have been mostly ignored over the previous four years. He went so far as to apologize for the decision of former President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, a decision, according to him, to “put us behind the 8 ball”.
It was a sentiment that appealed to other leaders, even as they sought out Biden to make his actions on climate change, the Iran nuclear deal, and global security durable enough to resist a Republican president – potentially Trump himself.
“I think our allies think we need to lock in progress as much as possible as long as there is a president who is a deeply committed transatlantic in power,” said a senior administration official midway through the trip.
Manchin throws an adjustable wrench at Biden’s pitch
The ongoing lockdown has proven difficult.
Democrats have largely ignored Manchin’s concerns and are pursuing plans for a vote anyway, potentially even this week. Even the progressives have indicated they are ready.
Still, Manchin’s comments came at an inopportune time for the president. He has spent the previous five days citing the plan in public and private as evidence of the United States’ credibility in the fight against climate change.
Sitting in the art gallery among other leaders, Biden heard a sharp – and timely – message from the official summit host.
“For my part, I hope this conference will be one of those rare occasions where everyone has the chance to rise above the politics of the day and gain a real sense of the state.” Queen Elizabeth said in a video message.
White House officials quickly ignored Manchin’s appearance and quickly issued a statement saying they were confident the plan would win Manchin’s support.
Biden said on leaving Scotland that he was confident West Virginia would return: “I think Joe will be there,” he said.
Some of his advisers have said it is time for the process to move forward.
“Senator Manchin has been part of the discussion for a long time,” said Gina McCarthy, the national climate adviser accompanying the president to Scotland. “The president has negotiated with him and others, and it’s time to move on. I think Senator Manchin is going to do what he needs to do, and I’m pretty sure the president knows that we let’s get the voices we need to get this passed. “
Biden did not speak to Manchin within 24 hours of the senator’s press conference, although White House officials have been in contact with him.
Biden’s aides insisted ahead of the trip that he would have ample time to lobby lawmakers by phone overseas, but while he was here officials said his main focus was on his foreign policy meetings.
On his flight home, however, politics loomed.
“I’m going to land at one in the morning Eastern Time,” he said when asked about a tighter-than-expected race for governor of Virginia. “It’s probably around then that we’ll hear what the end results are.”