Today, I would like to thank Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson for reminding us of the positive things that have happened since January 20th. Yes, we have much to worry about, such as the For the People Act, gerrymandering, voter suppression, the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, racism in both police and populace, the end of the eviction moratorium, but … to have been in office only 206 days, President Biden and the U.S. Congress have actually accomplished a lot! There’s still a lot of work to be done, but let’s take heart in what has already been done.
Maybe it’s time for doubting Democrats to press pause on the angst
Yesterday at 4:01 p.m. EDT
It’s time to entertain the possibility that President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi actually know what they’re doing and are really good at their jobs.
Their fellow Democrats seem to have doubts, because, well, Democrats always have doubts. Dwelling on worst-case scenarios is somehow wired into the party’s DNA. Every victory must have some downside; every step forward must lead toward some potential pitfall. If worrying had been an Olympic sport in Tokyo, Democrats would have swept gold, silver and bronze.
This angst is richly nourished by voluminous news media analysis and commentary adhering to the convention of anticipating what might go wrong. What if progressives in the House won’t swallow hard and vote for the “hard infrastructure” bill passed by the Senate? What if House moderates insist on a quick vote on the Senate measure and threaten to withhold their votes on the budget with its huge “human infrastructure” spending? What if an asteroid strikes before Biden can sign these transformational pieces of legislation into law?
Let me suggest that Democrats squelch their inner Eeyore for just a moment to appreciate, and celebrate, what their party has accomplished.
There was no way, said the conventional wisdom, that Schumer (D-N.Y.) was going to get Republicans to support any kind of meaningful infrastructure bill. There was no way the bipartisan gang of senators trying to craft a compromise measure would succeed. There was no way Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would allow anything on infrastructure to pass, thus giving Biden a win. There was no way more than a handful of Republican senators would defy all the threats streaming from Mar-a-Lago and collaborate with Democrats on anything.
Yet here we are. Nineteen Republicans — including McConnell — joined every Senate Democrat in approving $1 trillion worth of desperately needed infrastructure spending. Included are not just funds to fix roads and bridges, but also big money to provide broadband Internet to Americans who can’t afford it; upgrade the power grid in ways that facilitate the switch to renewable energy; and create a coast-to-coast network of electric-vehicle charging stations.
Okay, but there was no way (according to the conventionally wise) that the whole Senate Democratic caucus, from Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on the left to Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) on the right, would agree on a budget framework. Yet they did, and the massive $3.5 trillion resolution — which Democrats can pass through the reconciliation process, without GOP votes — addresses all the party’s major spending priorities, including the urgent need to address climate change.
Well, said worrywarts, there was absolutely, positively no way that the creaking, dysfunctional Senate could possibly do both those things — infrastructure and the budget — at the same time, as Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats were demanding. Yet, again, that is precisely what Schumer accomplished. Done and done.
So now we’re hearing that the hard part actually lies ahead, because Pelosi will inevitably face an uprising by her progressives, her moderates or both. Indeed, this could happen. But I would submit that Pelosi’s record demonstrates she knows a lot more about how to get the House to do what she needs than any of the Cassandras predicting her certain failure.
I would also submit that Democrats in both chambers are acting quite pragmatically, regardless of what they might be saying. Sanders’s first hope was for $6 trillion; he settled for $3.5 trillion. Manchin now says even that smaller amount is too much — but he voted for it anyway. Progressives in the House are vocal in their demands — they pushed Biden into extending the eviction moratorium — but thus far, at least, they have given Pelosi their votes when it counted.
Democrats should realize that if you add in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which gives unprecedented support to low- and middle-income families with children, Biden is steering the most progressive sea change in U.S. governance in half a century. And he, Schumer and Pelosi are doing this with a 50-50 Senate and just a single-digit majority in the House. I, for one, am impressed.
All right, if you must worry about something, worry about voting rights. Schumer is now working with Manchin, Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) and a few other senators to draw up a voting rights bill the whole Senate Democratic caucus will support. There may come a point when Manchin has to decide whether to let the Republican minority filibuster — and kill — a measure he himself wrote. He could make the wrong choice.
But for now, Democrats, give yourself at least a few days to admire all that is being accomplished. For a change, take yes for an answer.
Note to readers: I was unable to respond to your comments yesterday, for I was very much under the weather. After 12 hours of sleep, I’m about 50% better today, and I will try to get to all your comments, but if I am not able to, I apologize.