Biden’s agenda faces early hurdles in a divided congress


Efforts by the Democrats to swiftly approve President Biden’s cabinet candidates and advance his legislative agenda clashed with the reality of a tightly divided Congress in which Senate Republicans refused to approve a power-sharing deal unless the Democrats did promise to maintain a threshold of 60 votes ahead of most of the bills.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY) remain in conflict, and it is unknown when they will next meet for the Negotiate an organizational resolution to continue setting out the guidelines and committee assignments for the new meeting. The Democratic and Republican factions each have 50 members, although the Democrats hold the Senate majority because they are Vice-President

Kamala Harris

can break any bond.

The stalemate comes as Democrats seek to confirm Mr Biden’s cabinet selection, woo Republicans to back another Covid-19 aid package and broad immigration law, and Prepare for a second impeachment proceedings of the former president

Donald Trump.

In the power-sharing talks, the Republicans in the Senate want the Democrats to agree Keep the legislative filibuster—A long-standing rule that allows the minority party to block most laws – for at least the next two years. Democrats say such demands do not belong in an organizing treaty. But without one, the Republicans technically remain in control of most of the Senate committees, even though they are now the minority party.

President Biden emphasized the need for unity and recovery after he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, while Kamala Harris made history as the first black woman and the first of Indian descent to become vice president. Photo: Rob Carr / Getty Images

Right now, the only way to get things done in the Senate is through the GOP-held committees, or through a unanimous motion for approval, to take a candidate or bill directly to court – a move any individual Senator can block. Some Senate Republican chairmen cooperate with the Democrats until an organizing resolution is passed and hold hearings or votes on some candidates.

The lack of a power-sharing agreement caused unexpected confusion in the early days of the new Senate majority. Senator Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), Who is supposed to chair the judiciary committee, said its chairman could be one of three people in the current talks, with Republicans also switching the top GOP slot between two lawmakers. Committee aides emailed reporters saying the new Democratic Chairs have not yet secured that title.

Another controversial issue is the awaited Senate trial of Mr Trump after the House of Representatives indicted him for incitement to riot earlier this month, citing his to supporters who stormed the Capitol.

One option was to split the Senate Day and use only half for the impeachment process so that other business can still be conducted. Several Democratic and Republican aides have said this would require GOP approval. So far, the Republicans have not approved a division of the Senate. House Speaker

Nancy Pelosi

(D., Calif.) Declined to indicate Thursday when it would send the count to the Senate.

Late Thursday, McConnell suggested starting the impeachment process in mid-February to give Mr. Trump’s legal team and Democratic impeachment executives time to prepare. A spokesman for Mr Schumer said he would look into the proposal. Mr Trump told staff that he had selected Butch Bowers, a South Carolina attorney, to represent him in the trial, according to someone familiar with the matter.

At the head of the Democrats’ legislative agenda, Mr Biden has proposed a $ 1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan that requires a round of $ 1,400 per person direct payments to most households, an unemployment insurance surcharge of $ 400 per week through September, an increase in paid vacation and an increase in the child tax deduction.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden will step up his commitment to Congress now that his inauguration is behind him.

“I assume he’s rolled up his sleeves and pretty involved,” she told reporters on Thursday.

Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, plans to meet with lawmakers in the coming days on the president’s coronavirus relief proposal, she said.

Mr. Biden too sent a far-reaching immigration law on Wednesday in Congress, which provides an eight-year path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in the US who do not have permanent legal status. Past presidents have failed to pass comprehensive immigration laws, and Mr Biden’s proposal is likely to face opposition from many Republicans.


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Mr Biden scored an early win on Wednesday night as the Senate confirmed his first election at the cabinet level, Avril Haines, as Director of National Intelligence. On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee, still led by Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, approved Lloyd Austin’s nomination for the act as ministers of defense through bipartisan voting. The Senate and House of Representatives then passed a resolution allowing the Army General to to hold this civil postclearing the way for his confirmation.

In a speech in the Senate on Thursday, Schumer emphasized the importance of confirming more cabinet secretaries as soon as possible, especially defense, state, homeland security and finance ministers.

“Let the first week of this Congress be a collaboration between our two parties to confirm President Biden’s cabinet,” he said.

He later pointed to a 2001 power-sharing agreement as a model for 2021, and repeated to reporters that the Democrats were “firmly against any redundant provisions.” The 2001 agreement granted the parties equal seats in committees and allowed candidates and bills to have their say in committee even if the votes were tied.

Georgia Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff and California’s Alex Padilla took the oath of office in front of Vice President Kamala Harris in the Senate Wednesday.


Senate television / Reuters

Mr McConnell, in his own submissions, agreed that the 2001 agreement is a good guide, but said it needs to add protection for the filibuster.

“Twenty years ago there was certainly no question of abolishing longstanding minority rights in legislation,” he said. “I cannot imagine that the Democratic leader would rather uphold the power-sharing agreement than simply affirm that his side will not break this standing Senate rule.”

The legal filibuster rule It takes 60 votes for most of the bills to get into the Senate, which means some Republicans would have to support the move. But there is momentum among some Democrats and progressive activists to get rid of the law filibuster, which would lower the threshold for passing laws to a simple majority, or 51 votes. A handful of Democrats said they would be wary of such a change.

The organizational decision itself is subject to the filibuster, so it needs at least 60 votes to move forward without a bipartisan agreement. The Democrats said the Republicans had overdone their hands.

“It’s an absolutely unprecedented, insane, counterproductive request,” tweeted Senator Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii). “We won the Senate. We’ll get the hammer. “

Ms. Psaki told reporters that Mr. Biden spoke to lawmakers on both sides Wednesday about a quick endorsement of his cabinet. “The desire to get his cabinet in place and reassign his team is central to the president,” she said.

Although the Senate’s approval is often required in order to accelerate the examination of nominees, it can overcome procedural hurdles with a simple majority.

Senator Rob Portman (R., Ohio) said he spoke to some of Mr. Biden’s team and reached out to the president regarding the nominees. Portman, who will soon be the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said he thought it might be a week before Alejandro Mayorkas confirmed in the office of the Secretary for Homeland Security.

At the Biden administration’s first press conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki asked questions about President Biden’s efforts to combat misinformation and work with Congress on a Covid-19 relief bill, as well as his stance on the impeachment of Donald Trump. Photo: Stefani Reynolds / POOL / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

However, the Senate needs unanimous approval to expedite the nomination of Mr. Mayorkas for a plenary vote, and Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) said he would appeal. Mr Portman said the delay means Mr Mayorkas must first complete a committee vote that has yet to be planned.

Mr Biden is also facing an unclear path to adopting additional coronavirus aid this year – at least with bipartisan support. The new administration has made it clear that it will first try to pass new stimulus measures with GOP votes before moving on to other strategies that require a lower threshold and could only be passed with Democrats.

Republicans this week signaled some unease about the $ 1.9 trillion price tag for Mr Biden’s new proposal so soon after the last package.

“I suspect the whole package is a non-runner, but it contains a lot of starters,” said Senator Roy Blunt (R., Mon.) on Thursday. “We are ready to look at what it takes to move forward with vaccine distribution as effectively and quickly as possible,” and other issues, he said.

Mr Durbin said a bipartisan group of 16 senators was discussing what the next stimulus package should look like and whether there should be new, more targeted criteria for another round of direct payments.

Write to Lindsay Wise at [email protected], Kristina Peterson at kristina.p[email protected] and Andrew Restuccia at [email protected]

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