With a fragile majority in the United States Senate, the Democratic Party must unite progressives and moderates so as not to lose its political prominence and remain at the forefront of Congress in the legislative elections of 2022.
Parliamentarians allied with President Joe Biden largely agree on the measures they want to see approved at the start of this government, but they have opened wide differences when it comes to conducting negotiations on an agenda considered strategic .
If they escalate, the fractures could weaken the acronym, which sealed an internal armistice during last year’s campaign to defeat Donald Trump.
The first big test of the Democratic gear – which now controls the White House, the House and the Senate – was the economic relief plan, in the face of the pandemic that has already killed nearly half a million Americans.
Biden and his moderate allies wanted time to win Republican support in a bipartisan vein, while the more progressive – led by Sen. Bernie Sanders – are striving to pass a robust measure as soon as possible, with no possibility of obstructing the opponents.
This week, Democrats have moved in the direction of what the Sanders Group wants, but not without setbacks.
At dawn on Friday (5), the Senate passed a resolution that paves the way for the approval of Biden’s proposed economic relief plan, worth US $ 1.9 trillion (R $ 10 trillion). , without the support of the Republicans. After nearly 15 sitting hours and around 800 table amendments, Vice President Kamala Harris gave her first decisive vote to approve the measure, on a scorecard that boosted the Senate’s polarization from 51 to 50 votes.
There are currently 50 Republican senators in the House, compared to 50 Democrats (including two independents). In the event of a tie, the casting vote is Kamala’s, which guarantees control of Biden’s party. In the House, most government acronyms are a bit looser; there are 221 seats, against 211 by the opposition.
The economic aid plan has yet to be approved by MPs, but it is expected to go smoothly. But when he returns to the Senate for the final seal, Democrats will have to decide whether Kamala will use his casting vote again or if there will be a bipartisan build on the package.
So far, the first option is the most likely. On Tuesday, Democrats had already adopted a resolution that authorizes the use of a special mechanism to vote on the economic package, without obstruction from opponents. Known as “conciliation,” the arrangement only requires a simple majority of 100 senators for budget action and prevents it from interrupting the vote.
Despite this, moderate Democrats have said they will still work for a bipartisan deal, which could take longer than expected. Sanders’ group, meanwhile, don’t want to wait.
An independent senator from Vermont and linked to the strengthened wing of the Democratic left, Sanders will chair the Budget Committee, one of the largest and most influential in the Senate, and aims to make the House an autonomous body, not just an arm of the White House.
On the other end are Senators Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona), considered moderate and to the right of Biden. On Tuesday, the two voted to use conciliation in the economic package case, but Manchin was quickly made public that he would pursue a deal with the opposition – without using the special mechanism, Democrats must win ten Republicans to pass unhindered. laws, with 60 of the 100 votes in the House.
Manchin is also against including in the package a rule that would raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour by 2025 – an idea championed by Sanders, but which was not approved on Friday.
Among them is the Senate majority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, who has broad power over the priority and deadlines of projects that will be voted on in plenary.
Behind the scenes, Schumer (who is a senator from New York) said there was not enough time to approach the economic package in two different ways and that consensus was needed on the acronym.
Next week, Trump’s impeachment trial begins in the Senate, which is expected to dominate debate with charges against the Republican of inciting the invasion of Capitol Hill on Jan.6.
“We hope that Republicans will work in a bipartisan fashion to support assistance to their communities, but the American people cannot afford to delay any further, and Congress must act to avoid further unnecessary suffering,” Schumer said in a statement. attempt to balance the dishes. .
Sanders argues Democrats won the White House and Senate majority in part because they promised swift changes in pandemic relief policy and resources, and that they did not support the full package as soon as it means betraying their constituents and undermining trust in the government and party.
“If that’s the case, if that’s what we’re doing, we’re definitely going to be in the minority two years from now,” Sanders said.
Discussion over the size of the package intensified this week, after a group of 10 Republican senators proposed alternative measures, worth $ 618 billion (less than R $ 3.3 trillion) – less than a third of Biden’s suggestion – and the president agreed to receive them for a meeting on Monday (1st), which lasted two hours at the White House.
Despite the lack of consensus on how to act at these seals, Democrats are uniting around action against the pandemic. The question for analysts is whether, from now on, Biden supporters will turn every discussion into an internal stalemate.
Once the economic package phase is over, issues that historically oppose Democrats must be on the agenda, including the proposal to end “obstruction” – the mechanism that blocks the vote.
Under Schumer’s tutelage, different parts of the party must find a balance in differences if they are not to lose ground in the face of opposition that shows no sign of acting only in the background.