Joe Biden, or whoever is pulling the strings, has an ambitious agenda. Too ambitious in a well-functioning democracy for a president who squeaked into the White House and whose party holds only half of the Senate seats. There is no mandate for the kind of sweeping change Biden and his handlers desire.
One can debate whether ours is a well functioning democracy, but I hope it still functions well enough to prevent the kind of radical change the Democrats are pushing for. I believe it probably will, for the next two years at least.
On the face of things, the filibuster is the obstacle to the Democrats’ radical agenda. As long as it’s permitted, the Democrats are quite limited in what they can get through the Senate.
The miracle of reconciliation enabled them to pass the latest coronavirus virus relief bill (which was about much more than just relief from the economic effects of the virus). And it might enable them to pass some sort of major infrastructure legislation.
I believe, however, that the Democrats’ view on the proper magnitude of coronavirus relief was more popular with voters than the Republicans’ view. This certainly seemed to be the case in Georgia. So it’s hard to indict our democracy over the passage of the Dems’ version.
As for infrastructure legislation, it’s worth remembering that this is something Donald Trump supported. Thus, bipartisan support for such legislation exists (though I can’t say I’m a fan). Only mistrust and the inability of the parties to work together stand in the way of passing some form of it.
Again, therefore, we shouldn’t get too worked up if it’s enacted via reconciliation.
Many other aspects of Biden’s agenda do not enjoy the clear support of the electorate. Fortunately, they are quite unlikely to be deemed proper subjects for reconciliation.
Which leads to the question of whether the Dems can get rid of the filibuster. I doubt that they can, mainly because some Democratic Senators (not just Sen. Joe Manchin) don’t want to be put in the position of having to vote on radical agenda items that lack broad public support.
My view on this finds support in a report by CNN. Manu Raju and Lauren Fox write:
The push by liberal Democrats to enact President Joe Biden’s sweeping agenda is running into problems beyond just Sen. Joe Manchin: A handful of Democrats are not falling in line and could limit the scope of the party’s ambitions on an array of critical issues.
Some Senate Democrats like Sen. Jon Tester of Montana are not yet sold on the House-passed bills to expand background checks on gun sales. Eight Democrats are resisting calls to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
And it’s more than just Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema who are opposed to changing Senate rules so a filibuster can be defeated by 51 votes, rather than 60: The two New Hampshire Democratic senators are resisting those calls as well, in addition to several others who are not yet persuaded that such a change is necessary.
“No,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, told CNN when asked if she would support eliminating the 60-vote threshold. “I think we should look at ways to reform the filibuster, but I don’t think getting rid of it is the best approach.”
New Hampshire’s junior Democratic senator, Maggie Hassan, who faces a tough reelection bid next year, also has “concerns about eliminating the filibuster,” a spokesperson said, though backs some reforms.
I don’t trust Sen. Tester on anything. But the rest of this passage seems sound.
I highlighted the part about Maggie Hassan facing a tough reelection bid (she trails Gov. Chris Sununu in the polls) because it’s a central point. Sen. Hassan doesn’t want to face the voters in 2022 having voted either for or against much of the Democrats’ radical agenda. The filibuster protects her from having to do so (and she need not publicly oppose eliminating it as long as Sens. Manchin and Sinema carry that water).
Speaking of Sen. Manchin, Biden has nominated the West Virginia Senator’s wife, Gayle Conelly Manchin, to serve as co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). She is the former president of the West Virginia Board of Education.
Joe Manchin has been quite clear that he doesn’t support eliminating the filibuster, either generally or for things like passing voting reform bills. It would surprise me if he changed his position on this due to the appointment of his wife. (Whether he will be more accommodating to Biden on other matters, I can’t say.) In any case, as noted above, Manchin isn’t the lone holdout on the filibuster.
Meanwhile, Al Sharpton is threatening to come to West Virginia and call out Sen. Manchin for supporting that “racist relic,” the filibuster. Somehow, I doubt this threat will keep Manchin up at night.
Sharpton might be considered credible by some Blacks and ultra-lefty Whites in certain areas of the country, but West Virginia isn’t one of them. Blacks make up less than 4 percent of that state’s population and ultra-lefty Whites aren’t much of a factor, either There’s no reason to believe that Sharpton is taken seriously by more than a handful of West Virginians.
Bring it on, Al.