Biden|Harris administration in a divided government


par Carlo W. Paul

December 4th 2020 ((– It’s easy to imagine ways Joe Biden’s presidency might open very badly. Covid-19 may still be spiking. The economy could slip back into recession. Mitch Mc Connell might still control the Senate. Donald Trump will be unleashed as national narrator of the Republican Party.

Things don’t get much better in the unlikely event Democrats capture both of Georgia’s Senate seats to achieve a 50-50 tie, broken by the vice president. Republicans, freed from all responsibility, will go into full opposition made, and nothing will pass when 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster. Democrats will try to govern with a razor-thin majority controlled by several relatively conservative Democrats. So Democrats will have ownership of the government without the means to deliver.

How can Biden and his team deal with this challenging set of circumstances? One way: Use executive orders to make big and expensive unilateral policy changes. But we must be very careful, opening the Biden era by stiff-arming Congress and ordering all sorts of big policy changes by presidential diktat could knock the legs out from the Biden presidency.

As the political novice that I am, I think a better approach would be about finding policy measures that can win 60 Senate votes and this is actually not that hard. There are areas where many in the Republican Party can work together with Democrats for example: fixing prescription drug pricing and end surprise billing, an immigration measure that helps the Dreamers, an expanded child credit, green energy measures, expanding national service, student debt forgiveness, a middle class tax cut, an infrastructure bank, reshoring U.S supply chains so we’re not so dependent on China, expanding non-college career pathways, industrial policy to benefit manufacturing base.

Finding areas of agreement is easy as you can see; getting them to the Senate floor for a vote under McConnell would be harder. His priority has always been winning GOP majorities, not necessarily governing but deal-making and moderate senators could form bipartisan gangs around issues and try to force McConnell’s hand. Many senators of both parties are already frustrated by how many possibly successful bills simply get bottled up and never reach a vote.

At this point the threat of executive orders comes in handy. If the White House makes a good-faith effort to work in a bipartisan way, if senators come together to craft legislation, and still nothing passes, the Biden will have more justification for using executive orders.

Given the likely division of power, Biden is not going to have an easy first year in office, but there is a path for him to pass important pieces of legislation that would help millions of Americans. We just have to do our part by applying pressure on our legislators to pass bills that favor all of us.

Carlo W Paul


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