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'Bipartisan' doesn't mean you need support from both parties, according to Team Biden

"We’re overwhelming bipartisan support with Republican – registered Republican voters"

Updated: April 12, 2021 - 4:11pm

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "bipartisan" like this: "marked by or involving cooperation, agreement and compromise between two major political parties."

But that's not what the White House thinks.

Biden senior adviser Mike Donilon has offered a new definition from the president of "bipartisan" as "an agenda that unifies the country and appeals across the political spectrum."

"I think it’s a pretty good definition to say you’re pursuing an agenda that will unite the country, that will bring Democrats and Republicans together across the country," Donilon told The Washington Post. "Presumably, if you have an agenda that is broadly popular with Democrats and Republicans across the country, then you should have elected representatives reflecting that."

Senior President Biden adviser Anita Dunn seconded the new definition.

"If you looked up ‘bipartisan’ in the dictionary, I think it would say support from Republicans and Democrats," she told the liberal-leaning paper. "It doesn’t say the Republicans have to be in Congress."

Other top party leaders agree. 

Former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel told the paper: "What’s become crystal clear is that Biden has redefined bipartisan. It isn’t how many Republicans I’ve got," but "about how many Republican voters or mayors and governors can I get to support my stuff."

"And Washington is slow to catch up to the Biden definition," said Emanuel, a former Illinois congressman who has also served as mayor of Chicago.

Since the first day he took office, Biden has been acting unilaterally without support from Republicans, cranking out a slew of executive orders. He's also helped push legislation through the Senate, which is split 50-50 among the two parties.

In a speech in March, Biden offered his own definition of "bipartisan" as he discussed his American Jobs Plan in Pittsburgh.

"When I wrote it, everybody said I had no bipartisan support. We’re overwhelming bipartisan support with Republican – registered Republican voters," Biden said. "And ask around. If you live in a town with a Republican mayor, a Republican county executive, or a Republican governor, ask them how many would rather get rid of the plan. Ask them if it helped them at all."

The president added: "I hope Republicans in Congress will join this effort."