Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday November 7, 2020
Biden Agenda To Face The Challenges Of A Closely Divided Congress
President-elect Joe Biden said Friday, as ballots were still being tabulated in states across the country, that voters had spoken loudly to embrace the policies and principles he campaigned on.
“They have given us a mandate for action on COVID and the economy and climate change and systemic racism,” Biden said in a late-night speech in Wilmington, Del. “They made it clear they want the country to come together — not pull apart.”
Biden followed Saturday night by calling on Democrats and Republicans to come together after the election and pledged to join them.
“And I believe that this is part of the mandate from the American people. They want us to cooperate,” Biden said. “That’s the choice I’ll make. And I call on the Congress — Democrats and Republicans alike — to make that choice with me.”
But Biden, who secured enough votes to win the Electoral College on Saturday morning, will face a narrowly divided Congress when he takes office in January. Biden’s significant lead in the popular vote did not translate to a Democratic wave in the House and Senate, leaving Biden without the votes necessary to pursue an aggressive legislative agenda in Congress.
Democrats maintained control of the House of Representatives but the GOP made gains, picking up at least five seats in the election. Control of the Senate will remain undecided until early January following a pair of runoff elections in Georgia.
Republican reaction to Biden’s victory has been muted as focus shifts to GOP efforts to defend incumbent Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in those Georgia seats. So far, most Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have not congratulated Biden or acknowledged his victory.
But Democrats are already calling those races the linchpin that determines the success of Biden’s agenda. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., used Biden’s victory as a call to arms in the Georgia races.
Regardless of the outcome in Georgia, the victors will have a narrow majority in the Senate. And Democrats will be forced to contend with divisions within their own party on some of the biggest policy items on Biden’s list.
Among the most controversial is a plan to combat climate change. Democrats themselves are not fully unified on how to approach the issue. Divisions over how quickly and aggressively to move to limit carbon emissions have simmered within the party since progressive lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., introduced the Green New Deal — a plan to eliminate the carbon footprint by 2030 — back in 2019.
Progressive activists are also calling for Biden to move on another issue that divides the party, Medicare for All. Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., both oppose the plan and instead want Obamacare expanded with a public option. But progressives argue that the party has shifted to embrace widespread government-sponsored health care.
Biden has consistently promised that one of his top priorities will be to take immediate steps to combat and control the spread of the coronavirus, which has surged in recent weeks. His plan includes investing in expanded testing with a Pandemic Testing Board and a vast Public Health Jobs Corps as well as better tracing capacity and greater production and distribution of personal protective equipment. His plan also includes a plan to boost jobs to aid in economic recovery.
Congressional leaders say they hope to pass some COVID relief before the end of this year but Democrats have long insisted that they expect the economy will need further support in 2021. (NPR)