Majority in Congress gives Biden the edge, but doesn’t mean carte blanche – 09/01/2021 – Worldwide

Joe Biden, elected president of the United States, will begin his government with a good hand. He will have control over the Presidency, the House and the Senate. This increases his ability to implement his party’s legislative agenda – which includes an economic stimulus to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, support for clean energy and the possibility of the capital becoming a state.

The success of these efforts, however, will depend on how Biden plays his cards.

Democrats have already won the presidency and the House majority in the November 3 election. The Georgia Senate result was missing, as no candidate had more than 50% of the vote in that state. The tiebreaker occurred on Tuesday (5) and favored it: Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won, a blow to the Republican Party and Donald Trump.

Both the House and the Senate must sign a law. But the Senate has other prerogatives, such as the power to ratify treaties and approve the appointments of a president. It is also the Senate that gives the final say if a president is removed from office after the House votes for impeachment. It was the Senate that saved Trump, by the way – he was impeached by the House, with a Democratic majority, and the Republican Senate kept him as president.

Hence the importance of the Democratic victory on the last day 5. That and the fact that the party no longer controls the US Senate since 2014. The dispute for this House takes place every two years, when voters renew part of the votes. legislators. This is called the “midterm”, the demand for a medium term. Members of Parliament rule for two years in the United States and Senators for six years.

Alan Morrison, professor of law at George Washington University, explains that without Senate control, Democrats could hardly endorse their government program, because in practice it is necessary to control House legislative committees to vote. .

Mitch McConnell, a Republican Senate leader during the Trump administration, thwarted most Democratic attempts to legislate. He also ensured that the president’s appointments were carried through, even the most controversial ones, like that of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by Trump to the Supreme Court in September and hastily passed by the Senate, despite the Democratic protest which saw the elections approaching. presidential vote as an obstacle.

Senate control does not give Biden carte blanche, however. Mainly because most of them are delicate. The Senate will have in the next two years a wing composed of 48 Democrats and 2 Independents and another of 50 Republicans. The only advantage of the new government is that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has the casting vote, for having accumulated the post of Speaker of the House.

“We cannot overestimate the importance of having a Democratic majority in the Senate,” Morrison says. “The margin is quite small and senators do not necessarily vote the same on all questions. If a senator does not agree with a vote, or is not present, or dies, or whatever happens, Democrats will no longer have a majority.

There is also the “filibuster”. This controversial mechanism, with which lawmakers can block votes, means that in practice it is necessary to have 60 out of 100 senators to approve certain measures.

So, to implement his government plans, Biden will have to negotiate with his Republican rivals. He will have to fulfill what he promised in the campaign: to rule for both sides, which his predecessor did not do, and to advance bipartisan agendas in Congress.

Since the Republican vote “across the room” – as we say in American political jargon – will have to be counted on – Biden must seek the support of moderate figures in the rival party, such as Senators Mitt Romney (Utah ) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)). Romney, for example, voted to convict Trump in the impeachment process last year on one of the charges in question.

It’s hard to predict, in this context, what will happen in the first two years of his tenure, Morrison says. In part, he says, because Biden has a limited number of guidelines he can reach in such a short time, before his – now high – political capital runs out. “His challenge will be to choose which measures the government will start with, which will be his priority.”

A priority, moreover, is unavoidable: Biden will have to raise the American economy after a year of pandemic, closures and social isolation. This means that much of its initial political capital will be invested in approving aid and economic recovery plans.

He has already said, for example, that he would give Congress a month to present a measure to address the current crisis. One possibility is to offer emergency aid of up to US $ 2,000 (R $ 10,000) to the population, which he has promised Georgian voters – those who gave him a majority in the Senate.

The proposal to send this amount to the Americans was approved by the House, under Democratic control. The previously Republican Senate, however, rejected the idea, even with Trump’s backing. The new plans also include increasing unemployment benefits and paying for lost work days for those who have fallen ill.

With the need to focus on economic recovery, other agendas should stay in the background for now, such as the idea of ​​spending a US $ 2 trillion (R $ 10 trillion) project to encourage recovery. US transition to clean energy. , reduce carbon emissions.

Other measures that may emerge in those two years, if there is political capital for Biden, are the transformation of the District of Columbia, where Washington is located, and Puerto Rico into states and the end of the “filibuster.”

But for Morrison, the question isn’t exactly what Biden will be able to approve and what he will not be able to do, having control of both houses of Congress. The question is the degree, he said. In other words, how much the president will have to adapt to the circumstances. In the case of economic stimulus to deal with the pandemic, for example, he is likely to win – but with less money than he wanted.

One of the things that already seems ruled out, however, is the possibility that Biden will hear appeals from some of his colleagues and attempt to increase the size of the Supreme Court by adding more seats to the court, which counts today. a large conservative majority of 6 to 3.

“It will not happen. Not with that little margin, ”Morrison says. The subject, after all, is too controversial. Even Democratic senators must vote against, and there will be no majority at all. “Biden won’t buy this fight.”

The President-elect’s agenda

Legislative agenda With the election of two Democratic senators in Georgia, Joe Biden will have a majority in both houses of Congress

Covid-19 Much of the start of Biden’s tenure is expected to be spent on Covid-19. He must try to push through economic stimulus measures, including emergency aid of US $ 2,000 (10,000 reais). It can increase unemployment benefits and pay for lost work days

Environment One of the Democrats ‘plans is to approve a $ 2,000 billion ($ 10,000 billion) economic package to encourage the United States’ transition to clean energy by reducing carbon emissions.

States There is pressure from certain sectors for Washington – the US capital – and Puerto Rico to become states. Thus, these regions would elect senators, possibly for the benefit of the Democrats.

Filibuster Biden may try to eliminate the “filibuster”, a mechanism that hinders the vote in the Senate which means that in practice it is necessary to have 60 votes out of 100 to be able to approve certain measures

Supreme Court There is a lot of talk about the possibility that in power the Democratic Party will try to increase the number of seats on the Supreme Court. Biden is unlikely, however, to attempt to resolve this issue – which divides even Democratic senators.

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