Given the magnitude and breadth of this initiative, it will solidify Biden’s historic position in overseeing the country’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. According to journalist Ezra Klein, despite last-minute compromises to satisfy moderate Democrats on Friday night, “This still looks like the most ambitious and progressive economic package Congress has passed in my lifetime. It will do more to cut poverty, and push full employment, than anything else I’ve covered.”
So far, Biden seems to have learned some valuable lessons in dealing with the new Republican Party. After witnessing congressional Republicans obstruct Barack Obama’s agenda, Biden saw Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, expose the GOP’s radicalization. Trump’s presidency was capped off with a violent insurgency against Congress.
Although Biden has emphasized the importance of bipartisanship and unity, he has given Republicans little time to play their “Lucy and Charlie Brown” football game. The President is concentrating his efforts on issues that have strong Democratic support and is putting pressure on Congress to pass them. He seems to recognize that pandering to Republican interests would, in many ways, stymie his attempts to pass bold legislation and frustrate his own party.
Biden sent signals to Democratic leaders to press forward after an initial meeting with a group of ten Republicans who suggested a $600 billion counterproposal to his relief package. The House of Representatives passed an ambitious bill with clauses that appealed to both progressives and centrists. Biden has paved the way in the Senate by approving reconciliation, a blunt instrument that removes the possibility of a filibuster and allows a bill to pass with a simple majority in the Senate.
Defeats were unavoidable along the way. The proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025 was defeated. Senate Democrats eventually won over Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat who had threatened to derail the relief bill, by withdrawing a proposal to raise unemployment insurance from $300 to $400 per week on Friday night. To appease moderate Democrats, Biden decided to limit the income qualifications for the $1400 stimulus checks, except couples earning more than $160,000 or individuals earning more than $80,000. However, the majority of the kit has remained undamaged.
Other aspects of President Biden’s agenda are also going forward. In his first weeks in office, President Trump used executive orders to overturn some of Trump’s most divisive actions. He lifted the travel ban aimed primarily at Muslim-majority countries, re-entered the Paris Climate Agreement, and reversed restrictive immigration policies enacted by the Trump administration. He’s also going ahead with a bold immigration reform bill that, for the first time in many years, reinstates a path to citizenship. In other words, he isn’t letting Republican opposition influence his plans.