BIDEN, FDR AND POLITICAL REALITY
The New ‘new Deal’ That Isn’t Likely To Happen
by Rubin Rothler LL.B LL.M
Biden is unpopular due to the Afghanistan debacle and Covid resurgence. As the Guardian newspaper reports: “Biden seemed to be on course to effectively defeat the virus in early July, but has been accused of underestimating the highly contagious Delta variant and the intransigence of millions of unvaccinated Americans. The fresh wave, combined with America’s shambolic withdrawal from Afghanistan, threatens to inflict lasting political damage on Biden and derail his ambitious legislative agenda. His approval rating has dipped below 50% in opinion polls”. The President wants to expand the nation’s physical and social infrastructure along FDR proportions. Two bills encapsulate Biden’s agenda. There is the bipartisan infrastructure deal brokered in the Senate, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set a September 30th deadline to vote on. And he intends to spend trillions more on climate, safety net expansions, housing affordability, universal pre-K, an expanded child tax credit and Social Security -which the Senate Democrats have advanced a resolution for the tune of $3.5 trillion. The primary hold on Biden’s ambitions is the Senate filibuster rule that requires 60 votes to pass most legislation. There are currently only 50 Democrats in the Senate. Even if Biden is able to fully galvanise his side, he still faces an uphill battle recruiting renegade Republicans. An array of congressional committees are deliberating over what in the package’s final form will materialise, with stipulations concerning taxation and funding dividing Democrats. The White House has mostly left the negotiations with House Democrat leaders.
Biden has already negotiated with the left wing of his Party over Medicaid for all and the Green New Deal, viewing them as unrealistic goals. Diluting their demands became the central projection of his manifesto. As an article in Vox reminds us: “Biden is a mainstream Democrat, and as the Democratic Party has grown broadly more progressive in recent years, he is now running on arguably the most progressive policy platform of any Democratic nominee in history”...It’s a detailed and aggressive agenda that includes doubling the minimum wage and tripling funding for schools with low-income students. He is proposing the most sweeping overhaul of immigration policy in a generation, the biggest pro-union push in three generations, and the most ambitious environmental agenda of all time”. We need to remember that the American left is only left wing by American standards. A politician like Bernie Sanders would be able to run in the European mainstream where there already is universal healthcare and a welfare social safety net. So Biden finds himself in the enviable position of being lodged at loggerheads both within his Party and with the opposition. He has desperately been trying to forge consensus. Time is a scarce resource in Congress. This sets the rhythm of negotiations.
All this can go one of two ways from where we are. Biden could fold and accept whatever settlement he can get with the Republicans. Or, he could hunker down and attempt to scavenge what he can by executive order. As the Economist explains “...given the Democrats’ narrow margins, even small losses would put Congress in Republican control. The Republican congressional leadership could kill Mr Biden’s legislative priorities, leaving him reliant on executive orders, as his two predecessors were in the second halves of their terms. That is a long way from Rooseveltian”.