ATLANTA (AP) – Usually, it’s a president’s first midterm election that reshuffles the White House’s approach and political priorities. For President-elect Joe Biden, his most pivotal congressional election will come before he takes office.
Two voting rounds on Tuesday in Georgia will decide which party controls the Senate and, therefore, how far the new president can legally go on issues such as the pandemic, healthcare, taxation, energy and the environment. . For a politician who has sold himself to Americans as a unifier and a seasoned legislative broker, the election in Georgia will help determine if he is able to stick to his bill.
“It’s not that you can’t do nothing in the minority or do everything in the majority, but having the hammer, having this leadership control can be the difference in the success or failure of an administration,” he said. said Jim Manley, once senior assistant to former Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid, who held office opposite current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Georgia Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock must win Tuesday to split the Senate 50-50. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, as Speaker of the Senate, would provide the tiebreaker necessary to determine control.
To be sure, even a tightly divided Democratic Senate wouldn’t give Biden everything he wants. Senate rules still require 60 votes to advance most important laws; at the moment, there are not enough Democrats willing to change this requirement. So, regardless of Georgia’s results, Biden will have to win Republicans in a Senate where a bipartisan group of more centrist senators stand to see their stock rise.
A Democratic Senate would still pave the way for Biden’s candidates for key positions, especially in the federal bench, and give Democrats control of committees and much of the action. Conversely, a Senate led by McConnell would almost certainly deny Biden major legislative victories, as he did at the end of President Barack Obama’s tenure, by even preventing his program from gaining votes upwards or downwards. on the decline.
The Biden team is well aware of the issues. The president-elect will travel to Atlanta on Monday, the eve of the second round, to campaign with Ossoff and Warnock for the second time in three weeks. Biden’s campaign aides have helped raise millions of dollars to strengthen the infrastructure of the party that has helped Biden become the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 to carry the state. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will campaign in Savannah on Sunday.
On his last visit, Biden called Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler “roadblocks” and urged Georgians “to vote for two US senators who can say the word ‘yes’ and not just ‘no’.”
The makeup of Congress shapes any administration, but perhaps even more so for Biden, who spent 36 years in the Senate, plus eight as Obama’s vice president and senior congressional liaison. Biden used this CV to present himself to the country as a consensus builder; he also criticized the increased use by presidents of executive action to bypass Congress and insisted it would be different in his presidency.
Even some Republicans are hopeful. Michael Steel, once senior adviser to Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Obama’s leader with McConnell, blamed Obama’s problems on Capitol Hill on his personal approach to his political colleagues. Conversely, Steel said, “President-elect Biden is a lawmaker by profession, by training, by instinct, by experience in a way that former President Obama was not.”
Steel has predicted that Biden and McConnell, two former colleagues, may find “middle ground” on infrastructure and immigration – policy areas that have baffled several administrations. Steel noted that a handful of Republican senators, including Marco Rubio of Florida and Rob Portman of Ohio, could face tough re-election fights in 2022, making them potentially eager to make deals they could. boast in the countryside.
Yet there is no indication that McConnell would allow consideration of other Biden priorities, including a “public option” extension of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, which was passed without a single Republican vote when the Democrats controlled both houses on Capitol Hill. Biden’s proposed tax hikes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans are likely dead in a GOP Senate.
Biden will also need his negotiating skills to navigate his own party’s left flank. While progressives say they’ve lowered their expectations of what’s possible – even under a Democratic Senate – they still intend to push Biden.
Larry Cohen, chairman of Our Revolution, the offshoot of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential candidacy, said progressives would urge Congressional Democrats to use the “budget reconciliation” process to bypass the obstruction threshold of the 60 votes of the Senate. Cohen argued that the tactic could be used to achieve long-sought after goals, such as ending tax subsidies to fossil fuel companies and allowing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to negotiate as a single client with drug companies. .
These measures, Cohen noted, could generate significant savings, creating new revenue even if Republicans would not agree to any tax increases.
He also said progressives would push Biden to use executive power. He named two initiatives that Biden called publicly: stop new drilling on federal lands and raise the minimum wage for federal contractors to $ 15 an hour, even though Congress will not set that floor across the board. ‘economy. Another progressive priority, canceling student debt under federal loan programs, is something Biden has not said if he would be willing to attempt unilaterally.
Democrats’ limited expectations of their own power, even with a potential majority, belies exaggerated claims Republicans have used in Georgia races.
In Perdue and Loeffler’s account, a Democratic Senate would “unhesitatingly approve” a “socialist program”, “end private insurance” and “expand the Supreme Court” to the wholesale passing of a “Green New Deal” that would spend billions and raise taxes every American household by thousands of dollars every year. In addition to distorting the political preferences of Biden and most Democratic senators, this characterization ignores the reality of the Senate roster.
At a campaign stop this week, Ossoff said Perdue’s “ridiculous” attacks “amazed me.” He scoffed at the claim that his political ideas, which align closely with Biden, amounted to a left lunge. But the challenger agreed with the incumbent on the importance of the second round in Georgia.
“We have too much good work to do,” said Ossoff, “to be mired in deadlock and filibuster for the next few years.”
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[This article may have been written with information from various sources]