President Biden ran on COVID relief and bipartisanship. Can he have both


Will President Joe Biden be able to stick to his agenda of bipartisanship?

For my AP Research survey on politics and partisanship:

President Joe Biden entered office on January 20 with multiple priorities: restore American unity while executing a lengthy legislative agenda, including a $1.9T relief package for the American people. Right now on Capitol Hill Republicans are pushing compromise and Democrats are unrelenting, so are both mutually exclusive? Walking this tightrope may be the President’s most paramount challenge over the next four years and will answer whether bipartisanship is sustainable in modern day Washington.

The President’s first test of bipartisan capacity looms over a critically important bill, in the midst of multiple crises of unattainable magnitude. With a new Senate majority, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) now has the power to choose what hits the senate floor and Dems are itching to seize the moment. 

The newly introduced American Rescue Plan comprises $1400 payments to Americans under a certain income threshold, enhanced unemployment benefits up an additional $100/week to $400/week, assistance for small businesses and schools, a $15 hour minimum wage over five years, and arguably most substantial, adequate money and resources for vaccine distribution. 

Republican pushback centers around the notion that certain elements of this sixth relief package aren’t necessary, and will bring unnecessary debt and harm to the economy. Promptly, 10 GOP Senators have drafted a bill of their own, estimated to be worth $500-$600B. The bill replicates much of the President’s bill but at a scaled-back level, highlighted by $1000 direct payments instead of $1400. This bill totals ⅓ of the American Rescue Plan.

Direct payments to the American people are more targeted and down to $1000, and resources for schools and the $15 minimum wage are of no emphasis. Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana argued Sunday 1/31 on Fox News Sunday that “Schools already have the resources necessary to reopen, it’s a matter of teacher’s unions telling their teachers it’s safe to go back to school.” A CDC study indicated that schools are not the primary places for COVID widespread, and with Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout set to kick off, it may be a matter of time before teachers agree to return to the classroom.

We know that in reopening schools, grouping kids in cohorts is critical, so it appears that it’s a matter of location that hinders a school’s ability to reopen. Teachers in Chicago have been adamant on staying home and staying safe, and as the nation’s third most populated city it may not be as safe to return as compared to suburbs.

The pure math makes this interesting, given that the 10 GOP Senators willing to compromise, along with the 50 Democratic Senators would be enough to break the filibuster of 60 votes, accomplishing President Biden’s initiative to restore bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill. However, Senate Democrats have now taken the necessary steps to advance without GOP support, needing only 50 votes + Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on ABC This Week Sunday 1/31 said, “The issue is not bipartisanship or not, the issue is are we gonna address the incredible set of crises and pain and the anxiety which is in this country.” The President has said he’s willing to target payments more directly, but everything else must pass.

Democrats and Republicans fundamentally view government differently, and each have different approaches to handling the troubles of the pandemic. The main message coming out of the Democratic caucus seems to be that the needs of the American people in an emergency supersede all else.

As diplomacy in Washington reaches a peak, Trump’s historic second impeachment trial approaches with the potential to further divide Americans.

The former President’s team quit Saturday, over disagreements on the legal strategy. Trump persisted that the main argument be the election was stolen, but this premise has had zero legal merit or success in 60 courts nationwide including to Trump-appointed Judges and SCOTUS Justices. In fact, Fox News, Rudy Giuliani, and Sidney Powell are now being sued for $2.7B by voting technology company Smartmatic. Giuliani also faces a lawsuit from another voting company, Dominion, the price tag: $1.3B.

Pushing that there was widespread fraud without any factual basis could put the licensing of these Trump lawyers in jeopardy, which is why his team evaporated. The former President now has a new team, and the legal strategy has changed to the constitutionality of the impeachment trial.

In order to convict the President and bar him from running for office ever again, 17 Republicans would need to join the 50 Democrats at the trial’s end. All eyes are on 2022, and Republicans would like to dig into the Democrats’ control over the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives. 

This process involves identifying a base and appealing to it, and the actions of Republicans over the past few weeks have signaled that they believe the future of the party lies with Donald Trump. When voting to impeach, all but 10 Republican Congress Members voted in favor of Trump, and 90% of Senate Republicans voted that an impeachment trial after the President’s tenure is unconstitutional.

What’s remarkable is that in spite of alleging the Parkland school shooting and 9/11 were fake, and attempting to bring a gun onto the House floor, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) was rewarded with a spot on the Education Committee by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), following his visit to Florida with the newly powerless President. 

To be clear, Democrats voted to bar Greene on Thursday from her committee assignments, with 199 Republicans voting against the measure.

In retrospect, the number three House Republican Liz Cheney of Wyoming was punished with her vote to impeach the former President on the charges of incitement of insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. Her colleague, Matt Gaetz (R-FL) went out to Wyoming to campaign against her for the 2022 election. 

The midterms of 2022 will be very telling. Will Republicans pick up seats in Congress and win back majorities given that the Executive Branch is under Democratic hold, or will this new appeal blow back among the likes of suburban women, a demographic that cost Donald Trump the Presidency in November?

Should the Democrats lose seats, a more moderate approach with limited government may be necessary to regain voters. Should Republicans lose seats, the party may need to side with Liz Cheney in all this, not only for their sake, but for the country’s sake.

Please take my AP Research survey on politics and partisanship: