President Biden and his Democratic allies rise high after Congress past the vast COVID-19 relief and recovery package on Wednesday. And they deserve a victory lap, because the US bailout promises to trigger a broad economic recovery and achieves long-sought progressive goals, such as direct cash payments to parents.
Despite the bill’s messy and controversial outcome in the Senate and the lack of a minimum wage hike, the stimulus package should be seen as the icing on the cake of Biden’s first seven weeks in office. It is also, however, likely the end of easy wins for Democrats and the start of a much more difficult period of steering legislation through a tightly divided Congress.
In addition to the relief bill, the president used the Defense Production Act to boost COVID-19 vaccine production and sign a wave of executive orders, effectively vaporizing the political legacy of former President Trump by reversing, among other things, the controversial travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries, stop construction of the border wall, joining the Paris climate agreement, cancellation of Keystone XL Pipeline Project, and lifting the immigration restrictions imposed under the guise of COVID.
With a few effortless strokes of the pen, President Biden was able to erase just about everything Trump has done except the 2019 tax cuts and the successful far-right takeover of justice. federal. Obama himself tried to convince Trump of the fleeting nature of executive decision victories. Unsurprisingly, the 44th president was right and the 45th was wrong.
But these victories also mark the end of the new president’s honeymoon period. The fruit at hand was picked, eaten and squeezed. The harder work begins today and the president must soon make more difficult choices. He will never be more popular, and Democrats carry more weight today than they will for the remainder of this term in Congress. House Democrats and nearly every member of the party’s Senate caucus agree with an aggressive agenda, including strengthening voting rights and democracy with the recently passed For the People Act (HR 1), granting state status in Washington, DC, and possibly Puerto Rico. , raising the minimum wage, reinvesting in the dilapidated infrastructure of the United States, reforming immigration rules and honoring the president’s election promise to add a “public option” to the health care framework of the United States. ‘Affordable Care Act.
But the Democrats will not be able to achieve this ambitious agenda thanks to budget reconciliation, the parliamentary maneuver they used to pass the American bailout plan with a simple 50-49 majority in the Senate. If any of these policies are to land on the President’s desk in the form of legislation, the dangerously narrow Democratic majority in the Senate must abolish legislative obstruction, a bizarre American institutional arcane that is not found precisely anywhere in the Constitution, this which requires a supermajority of 60 votes for most bills. The left’s voracious appetite to bombard the filibuster with extreme prejudice cannot be overstated, but for now, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), and perhaps a handful of others, including Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) stand in the way and remain publicly committed to this absurd and unnerving rule.
President Biden himself has remained extremely timid on the subject. Considering how quickly he moved forward with the stimulus package without any Republican backing, it’s safe to assume that despite its campaign theme of unity and bipartisanship, there is no illusion about the prospect. of Republicans’ support for other priorities such as the right to vote. .
But when the stimulus contact wears off, he and the Democratic Party will find themselves at a crossroads. One path will lead to months or years of fruitless negotiations with a Republican party that could not produce 10 votes in the Senate on everything important to Biden and the Democrats. GOP leaders want nothing more than to stop the president’s agenda in the service of a MAGA restoration. If Sinema and the rest of the filibuster fan club don’t budge, that means Biden will be forced to pursue his priorities through executive action. And in theory, there are several of them it could be done that way, from relieving student debt to strengthening unions.
But it is also a project that is deeply vulnerable to the immediate rejection of conservative-dominated justice. Already a federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration’s attempt to suspend all evictions for 100 days. More judicial roadblocks are sure to occur in response to the kind of large-scale unilateral action the president has so far publicly avoided. And as Biden himself surely realizes after signing dozens of executive orders overturning the Trump administration’s policies, everything is a house of cards ready to be destroyed by the next Republican president.
The alternative path is clear. The president must take the side of good governance either by publicly supporting the abolition of systematic obstruction or by establishing clear benchmarks and guidelines on how long he is ready to tolerate the coming dalliance between the moderates. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. That doesn’t necessarily mean giving Trump nicknames to recalcitrant Democrats and berating “Killjoy Kyrsten” and “Job-Killing Joe” on Twitter, or threatening eviction from the big left tent. Biden has been around long enough not to be annoyed with Sinema thumbs down on the minimum wage, or the agony of the long dark night of the soul of Manchin. Any pressure applied specifically to these Democrats should be done behind closed doors (which may already be happening).
But that doesn’t mean the president can’t use his bully chair to make a case for what he wants to happen. And that, in the end, forces President Biden and his team to make a clear choice: either accept that nothing important comes out of the Senate over the next two years, or fight like hell to give the Democratic majorities hard-earned power to rule as they see fit, as they would any other country on Earth that won an election. If they prefer the latter, they should act proactively rather than reactively. Instead of letting party moderates err and stumble toward majority rule, President Biden, as party leader and most influential person in the country, must first unite Congress Democrats and the electorate. behind the principle of majority rule.
It’s also possible, of course, that Biden and the moderates already have a plan – let Republicans obstruct popular policies such as making Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) permanent for so-called DREAMers, then act once on filibuster reform. the public gets tired of the dead end. Although this is a misreading of public sentiment about filibustering and while it would waste many precious months of the first unified Democratic government in a decade, better than asking voters to give them a bigger majority in 2022 when they don’t have one not done enough with the power they had in the first place.