The last few years in the United States have been marked by the advancing polarization of society and the struggle of women and blacks for a greater presence in power. These two trends mark the new US Congress, which took office this month and is expected to bring challenges to Joe Biden’s presidency.
This legislature, the 117th, is the most diverse ever elected: there have never been so many women and blacks in the makeup of Congress. There are 144 female members of Congress, or 27% of the total. Representation, however, is still low, as they represent 50.8% of the company. Blacks represent 63, or 13% of the total. Despite this advance – there were 55 to date – white males remain the vast majority of members of Congress.
At the same time, US politics have reached a high level of tension, the culmination of which was the invasion of Congress itself by supporters of Donald Trump two weeks ago. This division results in internal party fights and further escalation between the two legends, which will make Biden’s government more difficult.
In the last election, Democrats won a majority in the House and Senate, but by a narrow margin: 222 to 212 in the House and 50 to 50 in the Senate. In the latter, the country’s future vice president, Democrat Kamala Harris, has the power to break the tie, if necessary.
Without Republican support, it will not be possible to pass far-reaching reforms, which require a two-thirds majority in the Senate. And simple majority voting will require the full unity of Democrats.
“These narrow margins require absolute cohesion within the Democratic Party, which is not very cohesive”, underlines Carlos Gustavo Poggio, professor of international relations at Faap. “The union during the Biden campaign was for convenience.”
Among Democrats, there is a clash between the moderates and the far left, which advocates incisive action to fight social inequalities and climate change. Biden defended these flags during the campaign, but, when composing his office, he preferred to bet on centrist names who were part of the leadership of Barack Obama (2009-16), of which he was the vice.
“It is quite possible that internal conflicts within the Democratic Party will develop to define which agendas will be put forward and which sector will define the political agenda of the Biden government,” said Pedro Brites, professor of international relations at FGV-SP.
One of the symbols of the left wing, Senator Bernie Sanders – he’s actually an independent – was Biden’s main rival in the Democratic presidential race. At the same time, he has become a target of Trump, who describes him as a dangerous leftist and capable of bringing communism to America.
Sanders will play an important role. Appointed as head of the Budget Committee, with decisive powers over two key issues – how to raise and spend tax money – he has already made it clear that he will fight for more money to help families, more investments in green energy and less military spending.
“There is a lot of waste in this budget [militar], and nobody cares. But when it comes to mothers and fathers who suffer to put food on the table, oh my God! “We are concerned about the deficit,” “the Vermont congressman joked in a video released on Saturday (16).
In power, he will be able to use a device called “budget reconciliation” to make changes to the budget and taxes with simple majority approval, without the need for Republicans.
It was one of the ways other presidents used to deflect opposition from Congress. Obama has faced a Republican majority in both chambers for six of his eight years in office. Trump has always had an advantage in the Senate, but spent the second half of government with a Democratic majority in the House, which approved two recall requests against him.
Obama and Trump’s other response to legislative blockades has been to rule by executive order, equivalent to the Brazilian interim measure. Biden has signaled that he should use this option early in government, especially to reverse Trump’s decisions, such as vetoing travelers from certain Muslim countries, and to toughen measures to fight the coronavirus.
For Congress, there will be two main agendas at the start of the Biden administration: approving a new economic aid package and Trump’s impeachment decision, which will be voted on in the Senate.
Defending Trump or not is the issue that divides Republicans. Supporters go on to say he lost his re-election due to fraud, unproven, while critics inside the caption argue the businessman must be punished because he threatens democracy , because it triggered the invasion of the Capitol.
In the House vote last week, ten Republican MPs voted in favor of impeachment, while 197 others did. “If we fought off all the politicians who make fiery speeches, this capital would be empty,” said Tom McCkintock, a California MP.
The Senate Obstacles vote, which could bar Trump from running for president again, depends on the support of at least 17 Republicans, as it requires a two-thirds majority (67 senators).
Some Democrats say the impeachment vote should be postponed for a few months, to facilitate approval of crucial issues early in government, such as the new $ 1.9 trillion economic aid package and coronavirus.
Some Republicans consider that the government has already spent too much on this aid and are seeking to reduce the amounts paid, as happened in December. Trump himself advocated offering $ 2,000 in aid to each person, but Republicans in Congress ended up lowering the figure to $ 600.
Biden says his 27 years of experience as a senator will help him resolve parliamentary blockages and that “every seasoned Republican knows I’ve never cheated on them.” “I’ll be able to solve environmental problems that you won’t believe, and that I couldn’t have done six years ago.”
Biden, however, failed to break down Republican obstacles during Obama’s day. In contrast, 31 of the current senators were colleagues of Biden, who served in the House between 1973 and 2009. Renovation is slow: only 7% of current parliamentarians are in their first term. A sign that the noise of the streets is still struggling to generate major changes in traditional politics.