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The GOP, as usual, is intent on obstruction
But Democrats have thrown them off their game. They need to stand strong because it's working.
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After falling into the GOP’s framing out of the gate, some of the corporate media political reporters in the Beltway bubble are slowly beginning to realize President Joe Biden’s call for “unity” in his inaugural address didn’t mean bowing to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
As Daily Kos’s David Nir noted, “unity” doesn’t mean “bipartisanship” with senators in Washington. Or, as Biden adviser Anita Dunn put it to CNN’s John Harwood, Biden “has the opportunity to build broad bipartisan support — not necessarily in Congress but with the American people.”
Biden’s initiatives are popular with a substantial majority of Americans, which should scare the GOP leaders in DC, who are probably just beginning to understand what’s happening after first believing they could get the Biden agenda stalled or even halted. The GOP strategy, certainly under President Obama, was to force major concessions — and then not even vote in any substantial number for a completely compromised, truncated bill.
Biden and Democrats in Congress aren’t playing that game now. Over the weekend, I distilled in a Twitter thread what had occurred so far regarding Biden’s coronavirus relief and stimulus bill, and how the GOP had been stymied.
In what was a typical McConnell move, rather than come back with a counter-proposal after rejecting Biden’s initial $1.9 trillion dollar bill, which includes lots of money for cities and states devastated by Covid and a federal $15 minimum wage — both of which many Republicans are staunchly opposed to — the GOP did nothing. They expected Biden to come back with another, pared down bill, thinking we were still living in 2009.
But Biden didn’t do that. Senate Democrats instead indicated they’d be ready to pass Biden’s bill via budget reconciliation, which requires 51 votes to pass, a simple majority. Biden then signaled that, though he wants a bipartisan bill, if that’s how it’s got to be, so be it, as people are hurting and the relief bill must pass, “no ifs, ands or buts.”
This action by Democrats seemed to jolt Republicans even though it shouldn’t have, as the vast majority of Americans want relief and they want something big, including the items in Biden’s package. But again, Republicans seemed to be living in 2009.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine fainted on the couch, running to Politico to raise the heat along with other GOP senators who were in high drama and who talked of being “betrayed.” Betrayed by what? By not having a Democrat bow to them?
That, too, didn’t work. Collins, as Joe Sudbay, who’s studied her meticulously for years, tweeted, is doing McConnell’s bidding, trying to make it look like she’s serious about a deal while actually attempting to stall any progress and make sure Biden’s agenda fails.
Collins worked with Democrats to help pass the paltry $900 billion relief bill in December clearly only because McConnell directed her. After resisting for months he suddenly realized something needed to be passed, according to several reports, in order to save the two Republican senators challenged in a runoff on January 5th, with Senate control hanging in the balance. Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock were pointing to the GOP’s callousness in the face of the pandemic and laying it at their opponents’ feet. (The Democrats eventually won, despite the $900 billion bill, by calling that bill pathetically small and promising much more relief.)
So, with Collins’ and others’ media drama not working either, very concerned Susan wrote a letter over the weekend to Biden with nine other faux-moderate GOP senators, finally offering a counter-proposal. This is because they’re desperate, their plan backfired and they surely don’t want to be seen not signing a relief bill.
But the proposal is laughable and not a serious offer or negotiation — it’s 70% smaller than Biden’s plan.
The clear indication of their desperation, however, was the fact that the GOP senators let it be known Democrats can go ahead and pass the GOP plan with them to have a bipartisan bill, and then Democrats could pass the rest of their package items later on their own, via budget reconciliation.
Now, why would Democrats do that? Why would Democrats help give these faux-moderate GOP senators some cover by passing something less than adequate so that they can say they passed something, and then do the rest via budget reconciliation?
Well, Collins and her gang are hoping to channel the old Joe, the Biden they knew, the former senator who connected with senators and who compromised with them in the Senate — their old pal, Susan’s old pal.
But we’re in a whole different era. How could Democrats possibly trust the GOP by passing something meager and then trying to pass the rest via budget reconciliation, only to find that maybe even some Democrats might not want to pass the rest later? That’s an especially important consideration since Susan might get to the other Joe, her other pal, Manchin (West Virginia Democratic senator), who’s known to cave to the so-called moderate GOPers. This scheme gives the GOP time to make sure nothing else happens.
Biden is meeting with the 10 GOP senators to hear them out. But the discussion is on his terms now and they’re the ones on the defensive. We’ll see what comes of it. There are some areas in which he’s indicated he would negotiate, such as lowering the income threshold on who gets $1400 checks. But Senate Democrats have been fanning out on cable TV indicating that there’s not much they’ll compromise on — certainly nothing near what these 10 GOP senators propose — and that the urgency of getting relief warrants going via budget reconciliation.
So the Democrats are breaking old habits and doing something great here, and we need to encourage them to continue to do so. They and Biden are doing what's right for the American people and what the majority of Americans want. And that, rather than “bipartisanship” with a small and unrepresentative group of DC politicians hellbent on obstruction, is actual unity.