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Priorities

It has become customary for the major media to write or voice pieces which start by telling us that “President Biden has many issues to deal with in a short time.” Many times they will employ the beyond trite metaphor, “He has a lot on his plate.” The essence of these stories is to show Biden desperately struggling to plug up all the holes in the dike. We know that when Republicans hold the presidency, they never run such stories.

Republicans have very few policy proposals. Cut taxes on the wealthy, is the major one. Remove all impediments to businesses making profits, is another. That’s about it, outside of the cultural matters, and they do those through Executive Action, or more likely, by having states write laws to take away rights which polls show most people do not want them to do, but they do it anyway, because they are a party which represents a decided minority, rich White males who do not care what anyone else wants, and angry know-nothings of both genders. And the removing of any barriers to business doing whatever it wants, is usually a matter of letting provisions lapse, or using Executive Action to strike them out. So their only real legislative priority is tax breaks for the wealthy, and then can pass that one time during a Republican Administration, and then just leave them there for the duration.

So, very little for them to have to deal with. They don’t want to deal with any domestic issues. They don’t want to do anything about climate. Nothing about guns. No spending on anything but the military. No social assistance or protection of voting rights. They want the federal government to stay away from everything but military spending. They thus have no items on their “plate.” We saw this very clearly during the last sixty years of Republican Administrations.

It is Democrats which try to do something about serious domestic and global programs. And this is very difficult, because they get no help from Republicans, whose basic goal is to try to block them, as in some perpetual and enervating game of tic-tac-toe. Democrats write a bill, Republicans say it is too much money, and filibuster it. If Republicans control the Senate, they don’t even bring the bill to the floor. If they control the House, the bills never get out of there.

It is really a pretty easy thing under our very flawed legislative system, to just block all the bills, if that is the ultimate goal .For anything significant to get through, the Democrats have to control the Presidency, the House, and the Senate. Control even two, and it does no good. The only exception is with regard to spending bills, which can pass through Reconciliation, but only if the Democrats can get them through both Houses. At this stage, with a three vote majority in the House, and an ostensible 50-50 Senate, they can’t afford to lose one vote. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema seem determined to block all the bills on their own, or just rely on the filibuster, which they are determined to protect, to block them.

Republicans do not even pretend any longer. They are actually preparing to try to keep the government from raising the debt ceiling. This was not even considered by anybody in the past, but then the Tea Party vowed to stop Obama from raising it, which would destroy the full faith and credit of the United States, with various attendant calamities. So Obama, not knowing what to do, felt compelled to give the Republicans all sorts of things just to get them to raise the debt ceiling. Then when they got into office, of course they raised it. They then piled up two trillion dollars in additional debt, by passing a tax cut for the top half of one percent. They said, “it would pay for itself,” which was, and has always been, ridiculous. They had of course piled up immense debt under Reagan and GHW Bush, and then Clinton came in, did a small tax raise, which they said would wreck the economy, and all voted against, but of course it helped, and the deficit was gone.

Then GW Bush passed another large tax cut for the rich, which blew up the deficit again. Then Obama got the deficit halved. Then Trump and the Republicans engineered the two trillion dollar tax cut. Now McConnell, who used to mock anyone who would ever suggest that they would not raise the debt ceiling, is preparing to try to do just that.

Why? Because the Republicans want to destroy the entire Biden Administration, even if they have to wreck the economy, cause a major recession, destroy the credit of the country. They just want to ruin Biden and his agenda, render him politically impotent, win majorities in both chambers, and then put Trump or DeSantis or Pence, or Tucker Carlson in charge, and wreak havoc.

America, and its two-party system, cannot work, when one of the parties is only intent on destroying the other one. There is no longer any sense of working together, common goals with differing ideas of how to get there. The Republicans are waging war. You would think that after the debt ceiling business under Obama, the voters would never put them back in power, but I guess that they are easily misdirected, over and over again. You would think that the heads of major corporations would never want the Republicans in charge, but perhaps they don’t understand macroeconomics, or maybe they are planing to go to Mars with Musk, Bezos, and Branson. “Clean Cups!,” as the Mad Hatter and March Hare exulted at the Tea Party. Do nothing to help Planet Earth, let the people destroy it, so you gain unparalleled wealth, and then leave it forever. The ultimate in social darwinism.

Meanwhile, Biden and the Democrats, who do care about the Earth, have to try to somehow do something to ameliorate at least some of its problems. The “Build Back Better” infrastructure bill seems stalled (what else?) with “moderates” wanting to pass the Senate bill, and House liberals saying that they won’t pass it if the reconciliation package is not passed. And then we have Manchin saying that the $3.5 trillion over years is just too much, and of course he wants to protect West Virginia’s dying coal industry, even though it accelerates climate change.

There is the Voting Rights Act, but there is the filibuster. McConnell guarantees that it will not get any Republican votes. A large majority of voters are for these two bills, but the system gives the Republicans the power to ignore the popular will. Most people want Roe v. Wade’s delineations to be kept, but the radical minority works on perfecting ways to make the popular majority completely impotent insofar as making laws.

So where do we focus? We’ll never get all of it. If we passed the Voting Rights Bill, we might be able to win enough elections to get some of the rest of it passed, but Republicans know that, and not one has the decency or regard for democracy to vote for it. That obviously means overriding the filibuster. I hope the people of Maine, who could have done something about this, are happy that they re-elected Susan Collins, instead of a perfectly acceptable Democrat who would vote for the policies of the person they voted for as President, rather than block them all.

How foolish are these voters? It is not a complex assessment. If you want policies favored by Democrats, then you have to vote for Senators and Congresspeople who are Democrats. But no, they let themselves be convinced that “their” Senator is different, and somehow cares about them, even if he or she votes against their priorities. “What fools these mortals be,” or “There’s a sucker born every minute” would cover that kind of disastrous irrationality.

Can Biden and Schumer “arm twist,” so to speak? Doubtful, because West Virginia is just waiting to elect a Trumpist as Senator to replace Manchin, who would probably retire anyway. And Sinema, I really don’t know what she is about, other than her own ego. Now, it seems as if both of them might actually vote for the new pared-down voting righta bill, but they have to vote to override the filibuster. How deliberately or pathetically obtuse they must be, to think that keeping the filibuster is somehow going to help Democrats in the future, when Republicans would have taken over all the federal and state mechanisms of power, by trampling on the right to vote. Plus, the Republicans would blow up the filibuster if they needed.

The only plays are to pass the infrastructure bill and the voting rights bill. Supposedly, there are enough votes in the Senate for the first one. Then Pelosi has to get the more liberal wing in the House to understand that 80% of a loaf is far better than none, plus letting McCarthy take over the Speakership if this bill fails. As to Voting Rights, if they can get Manchin and Sinema to support the bill, then they have to convince them that letting the bill fall to filibuster will turn the Democrats into a permanent minority party, do they want that? If they don’t understand, or don’t care, then use whatever hardball tactics they have, even if it goes against Biden’s nature. “In for a penny, in for a pound,” is another old saying. So is, “Always keep your eye on the ball.”

As to the debt ceiling, there are ways around it, including using the 14th Amendment, something Bill Clinton urged Obama to do in 2011. Drastic situations call for drastic measures., as they say. Also in poker, “If you can call, you can raise” Hold the Republicans responsible for everything they do, or do not do, and never relent or let them slide away from it. “Republicans are ready to destroy the American economy, out of spite,” is a good initial raise.

5 Responses

  1. The filibuster can be abolished by a simple majority vote in the Senate. This would allow monumental legislation to be passed: infrastructure, voting rights, reproductive rights (codify Roe!), immigration reform, criminal justice reform, etc. It can be done if the political will is there. But is it? I have yet to hear Biden speak out in favor of abolishing the filibuster. Yes, I know he cannot abolish it but he can use the bully pulpit to pressure the Senate and he has not. Who is running this administration anyway? Manchin and Sinema? Give me a break.

    The number of Justices on the Supreme Court can also be changed by a simple majority vote in the House and Senate. We (Democrats) control the House and Senate, do we not? Sometimes I wonder about that. Biden has also been silent about “packing” the Court. Why? What is he waiting for? If nothing else, I should think he would be concerned about his legacy. A second term is unlikely.

    What we are going to get is GOP control of Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024 if Biden cannot get legislation passed. The buck stops with him.

    • Addendum: Abolishing/eliminating/smashing to smithereens the filibuster is priority #1. All other priorities, including expanding the Court, depend on the success of priority #1.

      • I agree. But as hired acting sheriff Henry Fonda said to aspiring outlaw gang member DeForest Kelley, who was trying to mock him about his gold-handled revolvers, in the great Western movie “Warlock,” “Yes, but who is the person who is going to take them from me?

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