Chicago Tribune (Sunday)

Dem wins may for­tify Bi­den’s reach

He must nav­i­gate deep ten­sions, slim mar­gins in Congress

- BY WILL WEISSERT US Elections · U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · Elections · Joe Biden · Washington · Republican Party (United States) · United States Senate · Democratic Party (United States) · Georgia · White House · United States of America · Donald Trump · Kamala Harris · Mitch McConnell · Kentucky · Illinois · Dick Durbin · Massachusetts · Delaware · Boston · Bernie Sanders · Vermont · Barack Obama · Charles Schumer · New York County, NY · The Roots · Jon Ossoff · Raphael Warnock · Adam Green · Marty Walsh · Christopher A. Coons · Alicia Garza

WASHINGTON— Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Bi­den’s vic­tory in Novem­ber was tem­pered by con­cerns that he would face Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion in the Se­nate that could stymie him at ev­ery turn.

Those wor­ries eased last week when Democrats Jon Os­soff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock swept two Se­nate spe­cial elec­tions in Ge­or­gia, giv­ing the party con­trol of Congress and the White House for the first time since 2011. And the bi­par­ti­san out­rage over the vi­o­lent in­sur­rec­tion at the U.S. Capi­tol by pro-Don­ald Trump sup­port­ers could, at least for a mo­ment, ease the par­ti­san ten­sions that have par­a­lyzed the leg­isla­tive process for years.

“I think it makes my job eas­ier, quite frankly,” Bi­den said Fri­day. He said “a num­ber” of Se­nate Repub­li­cans had called call him to say they “are as out­raged and dis­ap­pointed and em­bar­rassed and mor­ti­fied by the pres­i­dent’s con­duct as I am and Democrats are.”

Bi­den ran for of­fice pledg­ing to en­act the bold­est leg­isla­tive agenda since the Great De­pres­sion, pass­ing ev­ery­thing from a mas­sive stim­u­lus to com­bat the pan­demic to tril­lions ofnew spend­ing to ad­dress cli­mate change, ex­pand health cov­er­age and tackle eco­nomic in­equal­ity. To ac­com­plish even a slice of his plans, he

will have to ex­pertly nav­i­gate a Congress that, while in Demo­cratic hands, is closely di­vided.

The Se­nate will be split evenly, with Vice Pres­i­den­t­elect Kamala Har­ris casting the tiebreakin­g vote when needed. The 222-211 Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity in the House is the party’s narrowest in decades.

That means ma­jor leg­is­la­tion prob­a­bly will not ad­vance with­out at least some Repub­li­can sup­port. GOP Sen. Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky, the cur­rent ma­jor­ity leader, has shown skill in keep­ing his party united against Demo­cratic pri­or­i­ties.

Pass­ing ma­jor leg­is­la­tion is “still a chal­lenge in a 50-50 Se­nate,” said Illi­nois Sen. Dick Durbin, the sec­ond-rank­ing Demo­crat.

“We can win sim­ple ma­jori­ties, but you have to face those 60-vote mar­gins,” he said, re­fer­ring to the num­ber of votes needed to over­come a fil­i­buster.

Bi­den will also have to cope with higher ex­pec­ta­tions after Ge­or­gia’s re­sults than if he had faced a Repub­li­can- con­trolled Se­nate. That could lead to bat­tles with pro­gres­sive Democrats who want to push the new ad­min­is­tra­tion fur­ther left than it likes.

“Ge­or­gia, but ob­vi­ously the elec­tion in Novem­ber and re­ally the last year, have been the Amer­i­can peo­ple say­ing, ‘ We need more. We need more and we want more,’” said Adri­anne Shrop­shire, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Black PAC, which ad­vo­cates for eco­nomic, jus­tice and po­lit­i­cal re­form. She ac­knowl­edged, how­ever, that she does not think ma­jor change is “go­ing to be a cake­walk” for Bi­den.

Adam Green, co-founder of the Pro­gres­sive Change Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, which is closely aligned to lead­ing voices on the left, in­clud­ing Demo­cratic Sen. El­iz­a­beth-War­ren of Mas­sachusetts, said that while ac­tivists will not get ev­ery

“Ge­or­gia, but ob­vi­ously the elec­tion in Novem­ber and re­ally the last year, have been the Amer­i­can peo­ple say­ing, ‘We need more. We need more and we want more.’” — Adri­anne Shrop­shire, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Black PAC, which ad­vo­cates for eco­nomic, jus­tice and po­lit­i­cal re­form

thing they want right away, “the ceil­ing has just been raised on the pos­si­bil­ity of ev­ery pro­gres­sive is­sue.”

Bi­den, who rep­re­sented Delaware in the Se­nate for 36 years, said he was aware of the chal­lenges. In in­tro­duc­ing Bos­ton Mayor Marty Walsh as his choice for la­bor sec­re­tary, Bi­den noted that he gave “se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion” to Sen. Bernie San­ders, I-Vt.

But the pres­i­dent-elect added that he and San­ders de­cided against that, lest it cost Democrats a vi­tal vote in a 50-50 Se­nate, even tem­po­rar­ily.

Demo­cratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a Bi­den con­fi­dant and some­one the new ad­min­is­tra­tion is count­ing on to help co­or­di­nate its leg­isla­tive strat­egy, said an evenly di­vided Se­nate makes some pol­icy goals cham­pi­oned by the party’s most pro­gres­sive wing “very hard to do.”

“I think the mes­sage that was just sent to the peo­ple of Ge­or­gia and to the Se­nate and to the peo­ple of the United States by these elec­tions” was “folks wanted to stop the divi­sion” and “work to­gether” in Congress, Coons told CNBC this past week.

Even when Democrats had larger con­gres­sional ma­jori­ties after Pres­i­dent Barack Obama took of­fice in 2009, they usu­ally needed some Repub­li­can sup­port in the Se­nate for leg­is­la­tion. Even then, they failed to get ma­jor ini­tia­tives ap­proved on other is­sues Obama cam­paigned on, in­clud­ing cli­mate change, im­mi­gra­tion and scores of tougher lim­its on cor­po­rate in­flu­ence in gov­ern­ment.

Pro­gres­sives also have clam­ored for Democrats to scrap the Se­nate fil­i­buster rule, which would make things even eas­ier for Bi­den’s leg­isla­tive agenda. But Bi­den has op­posed do­ing that, and Demo­cratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, poised to be­come the new ma­jor­ity leader, was non­com­mit­tal this past week.

That prob­a­bly means his cau­cus will have to com­pro­mise with Repub­li­cans.

Oth­ers, though, say now is the time to put ma­jor pol­icy ini­tia­tives above bi­par­ti­san­ship, es­pe­cially in an era of such deep po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions.

Ali­cia Garza, head of the Black to the Fu­ture Ac­tion Fund, said the scene of Trump sup­port­ers storm­ing the Capi­tol “blows out of the wa­ter this idea of any kind of ‘Kum­baya’-ing be­tween par­ties.”

“Just aweek ago, wewere hear­ing a lot of con­ver­sa­tion about mod­er­a­tion and work­ing across the aisle,” Garza said. “I think what we ac­tu­ally need to be re­ally clear about is that we’re not deal­ing with the par­ties of the 1990s and we’re not even deal­ing with the par­i­ties of the 2000s.”

 ?? SUSANWALSH/AP ?? Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Bi­den leaves after at­tend­ing Mass at a Catholic church in Wilm­ing­ton, Delaware, on Satur­day.
SUSANWALSH/AP Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Bi­den leaves after at­tend­ing Mass at a Catholic church in Wilm­ing­ton, Delaware, on Satur­day.
 ?? AL DRAGO/GETTY ?? The flag flies at half-staff in honor of a slain Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cer as con­struc­tion con­tin­ues for the in­au­gu­ra­tion on theWest Front of the U.S. Capi­tol.
AL DRAGO/GETTY The flag flies at half-staff in honor of a slain Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cer as con­struc­tion con­tin­ues for the in­au­gu­ra­tion on theWest Front of the U.S. Capi­tol.

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