The predictions during the presidential campaign that Joe Biden would govern as a passive figurehead for the extreme liberals who dominate the Democrat Party have largely been borne out during the first two months of his presidency.
Biden’s friendly demeanor and his empty rhetoric about seeking bipartisan cooperation with congressional Republicans have been belied by the partisan reality of the legislative tactics he used to push his $1.9 trillion spending package through Congress under the banner of Covid relief.
The measure was crafted by a tiny House Democrat majority as the answer to many years of liberal dreams for new federal spending programs, while posing as an emergency public health and economic relief measure at the tail end of a pandemic. Biden’s bill was more than three times the size of a measure proposed by Republicans, which would have provided almost as much real Covid relief. It was largely unnecessary, because there was still about $1 trillion in unspent Covid relief funds which already had been approved on a bipartisan basis by Congress last year.
Biden’s bloated bill was filled with hundreds of billions of dollars of wasteful political spending earmarked for Democrat-governed states and cities across the country and assorted liberal causes. It barely passed the Senate with a 50-49 majority and was signed into law without the support of a single Republican senator.
While the Senate’s parliamentarian disallowed the $15 an hour minimum wage provision which the House bill had originally included, and moderate West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin whittled down its excessive unemployment benefits from $400 to $300 a week, Biden signed the measure into law this week with almost all its liberal spending provisions — most of which were totally unrelated to Covid relief — still intact.
Once Biden signaled he had no desire for significant Republican input into the legislation, Democrats were forced to use the Senate’s reconciliation rules to get around the normal requirement for 60 votes to prevent a vote on the bill from being blocked by the threat of a Republican filibuster.
BIDEN’S PURSUIT OF THE LIBERAL WISH LIST
Normally, reconciliation rules can be used only once during a fiscal year, and only for bills which directly impact the federal budget. However, after having tasted success through the use of reconciliation rules to pass the Covid relief bill, Democrats are talking about finding ways to use them once again for other pieces of extreme liberal legislation, or even doing away with the filibuster rule altogether, to force them through the evenly divided Senate without any Republican votes or regard for their concerns.
These include a House bill crafted by Speaker Nancy Pelosi called HR1 designed to make permanent the many changes in state election laws passed last year under the guise of emergency anti-Covid measures. Those changes enabled Democrats to defeat Donald Trump’s bid for re-election last November in three key battleground states by the narrowest of margins, and now Democrats hope to make them permanent to maintain their control over the White House and Congress permanently.
The next priority for Biden and the Democrats is the passage of another huge $2 trillion federal spending bill. Ostensibly the money would be devoted to the repair and modernization of the nation’s long neglected bridges, highways, airports, power grids and other essential infrastructure facilities. In fact, many of the major spending provisions in the bill are intended by liberals to lay the foundation for the conversion of the entire consumer and industrial sectors of the American economy to the exclusive use of expensive and unreliable “green energy” sources, while destroying American’s hard-won energy independence.
BIDEN IMMIGRATION POLICIES RECREATING CHAOS ON THE SOUTHERN
Yet another priority for Biden and the Democrats is the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill. This divisive issue has defied repeated efforts by presidents and bipartisan groups of senators over the past 15 years to find a mutually agreeable solution to the problem of how to re-establish effective government control over America’s southern border. But by immediately dismantling the wall and other measures that President Trump had put in place along the Mexican border, which had largely stanched the flow of migrants crossing the border, the Biden administration has now recreated the rapidly worsening immigration crisis that Trump had inherited from President Obama, with no idea of how to effectively deal with it.
Finally, there is the issue which Biden declared to be his top priority upon entering the White House, managing the nationwide vaccination effort while at the same time lifting the Covid restrictions which have disrupted the American economy and way of life over the past year. Biden and the Democrats insist upon claiming all the credit for the vaccines, and on dictating, based upon political rather than scientific public health considerations, the pace at which they will permit the nation’s shuttered schools, small businesses, restaurants, and sports and entertainment venues to reopen,
In the meantime, Joe Biden and those who surround him in the White House have moved rapidly to reshape the presidency in his laid back and almost reclusive public image, in sharp contrast to that of his bombastic and unpredictable predecessor, Donald Trump.
HOW THE MASK SYMBOLIZES BIDEN’S PRESIDENCY
Biden’s obsessive demands for mask wearing in the White House is symbolic of the hidden agenda of his presidency, which extends far beyond erasing Trump’s legacy or reviving Obama administration policies. Behind his good humor and old-fashioned, friendly demeanor, Biden’s intention, it is becoming clear, is to dramatically reshape the entire country and its public policies in accordance with the radical, race-based liberal ideologies of Nancy Pelosi, AOC, Black Lives Matter and Bernie Sanders.
Biden has issued more than 50 executive orders and other policy actions during his first six weeks in office, far more than any other new president during the same period. They reflect Biden’s radical positions on a wide range of far-reaching issues. They include measures to address America’s alleged systemic racial inequality, a doomsday approach to climate change requiring the elimination of all fossil fuels, an open borders approach to immigration, unregulated universal voting rights, the further expansion of government social welfare programs, support for organized labor at the expense of industry and the general public, re-writing the federal tax code to punish the business community and the wealthy for their success, and the return to a globalist approach for American foreign policy.
GOVERNING LIKE A DICTATOR
Biden has pursued these objectives, almost exclusively, by using his executive powers to issue edicts as president. He is also relying on the slimmest possible Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress, as well as clever legislative tricks, to rubber stamp his radical proposals and impose them on the American people.
As president, Biden has been much more inaccessible to the public than his predecessors. His direct interactions with reporters and his public appearances are invariably brief, extremely limited in scope and carefully stage-managed. Biden’s highly protective White House staff has become expert at cleaning up his frequent verbal gaffes and stumbles even when reading prepared remarks from a teleprompter.
While Biden does his homework, reading the briefing books prepared for him and paying attention during national security briefings, he does not use social media at all. The Twitter messages posted on his account are always written by other people, and, by design, almost never make news.
NOT QUITE A FIGUREHEAD
Biden is not quite a figurehead. He is still capable of delivering an effective political address, especially if it features highly emotional content. He is also capable of delivering carefully prepared answers to questions about his policies, as long his listeners are willing to tolerate a certain amount of fuzziness about the details.
The mainstream news media routinely camouflages instead of highlighting the inaccuracies which continue to pepper Biden’s public remarks. On various occasions, President Biden has had difficulty remembering what day it is, explaining what he means when he talks about the reopening of the nation’s schools, or the name of the presidential power which he has invoked, such as the Defense Production Act.
Invariably, much of the next day’s White House press briefing is devoted to patiently explaining what Biden had meant to say but didn’t. Members of the adoring White House press corps are usually willing to accept those revisions obediently, without raising any further challenges, even when the inconsistencies are obvious.
AN INABILITY TO TELL FRIEND FROM FOE
Biden and his foreign policy team also seem to be having difficulty distinguishing between America’s international friends and foes. During his first major foreign policy speech as president, Biden recited a long list of American allies around the world, notably omitting mention of Israel. It was obvious that the oversight was not accidental, nor was the fact that it took the newly inaugurated president three weeks to pick up the phone for his first conversation with Israel’s prime minister.
Meanwhile, Biden’s State Department has been maneuvering to find a way to open direct negotiations with Iran to salvage the flawed 2015 nuclear deal, without agreeing to Iran’s demands that the US abandon all its sanctions in advance of any talks. The Biden administration has also been treating both Russia and China with kid gloves, despite fresh signs of continued cyber aggression and human rights abuses by both regimes.
ONLY TOKEN EFFORTS AT BIPARTISAN COOPERATION
So far, there is little evidence that Biden is willing to follow through on one of the core promises of his presidential campaign: exploiting his proven ability, while he was a six-term US Senator, to work across the aisle with Republicans.
A promising White House meeting between Biden and 10 Senate Republicans to discuss a possible compromise on Biden’s Covid stimulus legislation was never followed through, and now each side is blaming the other for the almost immediate breakdown in their negotiations.
Given the clear resentment by the 10 Senate Republicans at Biden’s rejection of their offer to work out a bipartisanship agreement on the Covid relief bill, Biden administration officials have sought to broadly redefine the meaning of the words “bipartisan support.” They now claim that public opinion polls showing that many Republican voters support Biden’s pandemic relief bill as an acceptable substitute, which excuses Biden from the need to consider constructive changes to the legislation from moderate Republican legislators.
The White House also now claims that rapid results in passing the stimulus bill is more important to most American voters than Biden’s willingness to keep his campaign promise to honestly seek cooperation with his Republican political opponents. “He has kept his promises that he made as a candidate. He is proceeding to govern the way he believes a president should lead,” senior Biden adviser Anita Dunn said. “Nobody should be surprised at how President Biden is conducting himself, because it’s exactly what he said he would do.”
On Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers, who had been willing to take the new president at his word when he was preaching “unity,” are beginning to realize they will have few opportunities to influence Biden’s policies, which are now clearly being dictated by progressive Democrat activists.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican who has already met twice with the president, still wants to give him the benefit of the doubt. “You get the distinctive sense that he wants to be an active part of getting [to bipartisan agreements],” she said. “Just because he understands how the ‘sausage’ [legislation] is made more, you could see that he could push the right buttons.” But, Capito added, she’s “not sure what’s going to come of” the meetings.
Meanwhile, Biden has continued to put off his first address to a joint session of Congress, which would be the ideal opportunity for him to publicly ask for Republican cooperation going forward, and pledge his willingness to be cooperative.
BIDEN STILL FOCUSED ON THE PANDEMIC
Biden has kept his campaign promise to focus during the early months of his presidency on managing and trying to curb the effects of the pandemic. Hardly goes a day without a White House statement on the pandemic and the progress of the vaccination effort.
On February 22, Biden marked the tragic milestone of a half-million US Covid deaths with a solemn ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, and the lining of an outside White House staircase with dozens of candles to memorialize the lost lives.
Biden has highlighted the contrast in his approach to the pandemic to that of Donald Trump by appointing Dr. Antony Fauci as the head of the new administration’s Covid advisory committee. Trump had famously demoted Fauci as his chief advisor for failing to fully back the former president’s Covid narrative.
But Dr. Fauci’s advice to the public has not always been consistent. Most recently, he created considerable confusion by recommending that members of the public begin wearing two masks at the same time to further reduce their risk of spreading the infection to others, which is the only scientifically valid reason for wearing a mask.
Fauci also warned in a CBS news interview Sunday that even though the rate of new daily Covid cases has fallen from a peak of 240,000 earlier this year to a “plateau” of fewer than 70,000 currently, it is still “not an acceptable level. That is really very high.” He also warned that “pulling back on mitigation methods” such as mask wearing could risk triggering “yet again another surge.”
Biden has made a point of wearing a mask every time he is seen in public, even though he has received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and presumably no longer poses any significant risk of transmitting the virus to those around him.
OTHER DEMOCRATS FOLLOWING BIDEN’S LOCKDOWN POLICIES
Local and state Democrat elected officials have also turned public mask-wearing into a partisan political symbol, above and beyond any real public health benefit it may offer. They still refuse to cancel old edicts requiring everyone to wear mask while outdoors, despite scientific evidence that masks are unnecessary to prevent virus transmission in an open-air environment.
Last week, Biden condemned announcements by the Republican governors of Texas and Mississippi that Covid infection rates in their states had been reduced, and the rate of vaccination has increased, to the point that they were removing all previous state Covid restrictions, including compulsory public mask wearing. The president reacted by calling the governors “Neanderthals,” instead of hailing the move as another sign of hope that the end of the nation’s year-long pandemic nightmare is now in sight.
Iowa, Montana and North Dakota are three other Republican-governed states which have done away with mandatory mask-wearing regulations, but Democrat governors are not nearly as enthusiastic about relaxing the arbitrary Covid restrictions they have unilaterally imposed upon the residents of their states.
At an Oval Office meeting with a bipartisan group of mayors and governors last month, Biden sharply rejected a suggestion from one participant on how to get the Senate to pass his pandemic relief bill. The president said he would handle the politics of the issue on his own, and that he had brought the local and state leaders to the White House to talk specifically about the response to the virus in their areas, and how the federal government could be of further help.
According to Detroit’s Democrat mayor, Mike Duggan, “Everybody laughed when they realized, ‘[the president was] right, what are we doing talking to him about the politics side?’ And everybody respected that and went back to the substance.”
That White House meeting did lead to quick results for Miami’s Republican mayor, Francis Suarez. He had expressed his concerns to Biden about slow vaccine distribution in his area. A week later, Suarez got a call from the administration to let him know that a new federal mass vaccination site would soon be opening in Miami-Dade County.
But in other areas, the president’s response to Covid-related issues has seemed to be driven by more partisan considerations. For example, the White House had done a lot of backtracking on what Biden meant when he said as a presidential candidate that the nation’s public schools must be re-opened as soon as possible. In late January, Biden’s newly appointed CDC director said that unvaccinated teachers can safely resume live instruction without significant danger of Covid infection. But to this day, the president has still not publicly urged his political allies who run the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions to stop their delaying tactics and urge their members to return to their classroom duties immediately.
CHANGING THE AMERICAN VOTING SYSTEM
On Sunday, President Biden signed an executive order directing federal agencies to expand access to voter registration, provide voting access and education to prisoners in federal custody, examine barriers to voting for citizens with disabilities, and improve ballot tracking for overseas voters and members of the military. Biden signed the order in an effort to prompt the Senate to take up and pass the bill crafted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi known as HR1, designed to give Democrats nationwide a major advantage in future elections.
“During this current legislative session, elected officials in 43 states have already introduced over 250 bills to make it harder to vote,” Biden said in a video on Sunday. “We cannot let them succeed.”
Regarding HR1, Biden said, “This is a landmark piece of legislation that is urgently needed. I hope the Senate does its work so I can sign it into law.” Biden called it “urgently needed” to protect the right to vote and to “strengthen” democracy, and vowed to work with Congress to “refine and advance” the legislation.
The House bill passed last week in a strict party line vote of 220 to 210, without a single Republican joining with the narrow Democrat majority. Republicans also fiercely opposed the legislation when it was first introduced by Speaker Pelosi shortly after Democrats won majority control of the House in the 2018 midterm election.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) last week slammed the legislation as “exactly the wrong response” to what he called the “distressing lack of faith in our elections,” saying Democrats want to use their “temporary power” in Congress to “try to ensure they’ll never have to relinquish it.”
In a Monday interview with Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo, veteran Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley condemned HR1 as unconstitutional because it seeks to strip state legislatures of their control over elections in their respective states. Bartiromo then asked Senator Grassley about other provisions of HR1 which would give the vote to people as young as 16 and do away with state requirements to verify each voter’s identity, and he seemed to share those concerns.
TWO ROUTES TO LIBERAL IMMIGRATION LAW REFORM
The Democrat-controlled House is also expected to vote this month on two standalone bills reintroduced last week that would create pathways to US citizenship for two subgroups of illegal immigrants now living or working in this country.
The American Dream and Promise Act would legitimize and make permanent the status of the so-called “Dreamers” who first entered this country illegally as small children as well as individuals who had been initially allowed to stay in the US due to conflicts or unsafe conditions in their home countries.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented farm workers and institute reform to the existing H-2A temporary agricultural work visa program.
The provisions of the two bills have broader support than the more comprehensive US Citizenship Act of 2021, which would establish an eight-year path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in this country, and significantly broaden current avenues of legal immigration. It was introduced with the support of the Biden administration on February 18, and faces an uphill battle, particularly in the Senate, where several similar Democrat-backed immigration reform bills have failed to garner enough Republican votes to reach the 60-vote minimum needed to overcome the threat of a filibuster.
Nevertheless, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler told NBC that he thinks that “the Biden comprehensive immigration proposal is important and serious. . . I see no reason why we wouldn’t mark it up when we reconvene in April.” Democrats have described the bill as a starting point for a more general discussion of immigration reform options, but if the Senate rejects it once again, the two smaller immigration bills introduced last week could offer a solution to the problem facing at least some of the illegal aliens now living in this country.
INFRASTRUCTURE SPENDING ON BIDEN’S AGENDA
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden made another largely symbolic effort to suggest that he was interested in bipartisan support for his infrastructure spending program, by arranging a meeting March 4 with Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House.
The meeting was about “what we’re gonna do to make sure we once again lead the world across the board on infrastructure,” Biden said. “It not only creates jobs, but it makes us a lot more competitive around the world if we have the best infrastructure.”
When he was running for president last year, Biden proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure package which emphasized “accelerated” investments to shift the country to the use of cleaner energy, by building a nationwide chain of charging stations for electric vehicles, in addition to increased support for public transit. While he also promised that much of the money would be spent on repairing roads and bridges, his plan emphasized the need to create more unionized construction jobs and more federal support for “green energy” projects primarily intended to address the issue of climate change.
A PARTISAN SOLUTION TO A REAL NATIONAL NEED
On March 3, the American Society of Civil Engineers released a report card on the nation’s infrastructure, grading it as a barely acceptable “C-” level and calling for the investment of $5.9 trillion over the next decade to restore the nation’s roads, bridges and airports to acceptable safety standards. That is about $2.6 trillion more than the current rate of government and private sector infrastructure spending combined.
While there has long been a broad consensus among financial experts recognizing the need for large-scale spending to repair and update the nation’s long-neglected infrastructure, markets are growing concerned that Democrats may try to tack that cost onto the federal deficit, which has now reached $28 trillion, fueled by the Covid relief spending over the past year.
While the goal of addressing the country’s infrastructure needs is bipartisan, the details are not. They include how much to spend, what specific programs deserve to be included under the broad category of “infrastructure” spending, and, most important, whether to raise federal taxes to pay for it.
Republicans say they want to invest in infrastructure, but disagree with Biden’s focus on the environment and the possibility of financing any program with debt after the federal government has already spent so much borrowed money to combat the economic fallout from the pandemic. Their main concern is that the infrastructure bill will in fact would become a partisan legislative instrument for the implementation of the Democrat-proposed Green New Deal, whose main goal would be to accelerate the country’s move away from the use of fossil fuels.
Missouri Congressman Sam Graves, the ranking Republican on the House transportation committee, left the March 4 meeting at the White House with a series of demands the Biden infrastructure proposal would need to meet to win bipartisan backing.
“First and foremost, a highway bill cannot grow into a multi-trillion dollar catch-all bill, or it will lose Republican support,” Graves warned. “Second, a transportation bill needs to be a transportation bill that primarily focuses on fundamental transportation needs, such as roads and bridges. Republicans won’t support another Green New Deal disguising itself as a transportation bill.”
However, the House Transportation Committee chairman, Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio, told reporters that during the same White House meeting, there was a “productive and refreshing conversation” about how to pay for the plan, but declined to go into specifics.
AN ARTIFICIAL SENSE OF URGENCY
Now that the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill has been signed into law, the president is calling upon Democrats in Congress to act quickly to pass a massive infrastructure proposal without significant input from Republicans.
Biden’s sense of urgency for fast legislative action is due to the fact that the American economy is responding so quickly to the fiscal stimulus measures already approved by Congress, that a burst of new infrastructure spending can no longer be justified to the American people as necessary to sustain and accelerate the post-pandemic recovery.
On the contrary, a sharp recent rise in interest rates for benchmark long-term US Treasury securities is being seen in financial markets as a warning that the economy may be overheating. There is growing fear of a rapid rise of inflation that the Federal Reserve may not be able to bring under control before it becomes a problem for consumers and the business community alike.
The latest public remarks by Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell promising that the Fed will continue to keep short term interest rates at artificially low levels until the national unemployment rate is reduced to pre-pandemic levels has further spooked investors. They had already noted the spiraling market prices for crude oil, grains and other commodities with growing concern.
ROLLING BACK TRUMP’S TAX CUT
During his presidential campaign, Biden suggested that the $2 trillion he proposed to invest in improvements for transportation, water and sewer lines, and the restructuring of the national energy sector to significantly reduce carbon emissions, could be funded by tax increases on multinational companies and high earners, reversing many of the provisions of Donald Trump’s 2017 federal tax cut. That alone is sure to provoke strong opposition from conservative lawmakers and powerful business groups in Washington.
According to a recent Washington Post report, Biden’s infrastructure proposal has become even more expensive, and now would spend up to $3 trillion on investments and measures to combat climate change, revitalize the US manufacturing sector, as well as major improvement to housing, education and health care.
Given the insistence of progressive Democrats on the inclusion of major elements of their Green New Deal proposals in Biden’s infrastructure plan, and their willingness to impose stiff new taxes on the rich, including a 3% “wealth tax” on their total assets rather than their yearly income, the chances for generating any significant bipartisan support for that kind of infrastructure proposal, especially in the Senate, are slim at best.
These considerations may give Biden and his fellow Democrats determined to push their progressive agenda no alternative but to repeat the strategy they adopted for the latest Covid stimulus package. Democrats used the Senate’s budget reconciliation rules, which would shield the bill from being blocked by a filibuster and allow it to pass with support from just the 50 Senate Democrats plus Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote. Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, is already on record favoring such an approach to pass the infrastructure measure.
MANCHIN NOW INSISTING ON A BIPARTISAN APPROACH
However, West Virginia’s moderate Senator Joe Manchin went on the record Sunday in an interview with Axios declaring that he will not support another piece of major spending legislation using the same political tactics that they employed in crafting Covid relief bill, which deliberately excluded any Republican input. “I’m not going to do it through reconciliation,” Manchin said. “I am not going to get on a bill that cuts them out completely before we start.”
If Manchin holds to that position and votes to oppose an infrastructure bill laden with extreme liberal measures, Democrats will only be able to muster 49 Senate votes, enabling Republican senators to defeat the such a bill by 50-49 if they all stick together. On the other hand, Manchin said in the same interview he believed he could win the agreement of the 10 Republican senators needed to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill without resorting to the use of special senate rules, if the bill also included a reasonable set of tax increases to fully pay for its cost, without adding to the federal deficit.
Manchin said that the infrastructure could be as large as roughly $4 trillion, as long as it’s fully paid for with tax increases, including raising the corporate tax rate to 25% from 21% “at least” and repealing portions of Trump’s 2017 tax cut that disproportionately benefitted wealthy Americans.
He also said that unless his opening bargaining position was a demand that the package be 100% paid for, the final measure would likely include so much more deficit spending that it could trigger “a tremendous deep recession that could lead into a depression if we’re not careful.”
ONE VOTE MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
The ultimate fate of these liberal proposals remains up in the air, because of the extremely delicate 50-50 Republican-Democrat political balance in the Senate. Just one honest person of principle in just the right political position — in this case, Senator Manchin — will decide the fate of Biden’s entire legislative agenda, calling for major policy changes and the addition of trillions of dollars of debt to the budget deficit, with serious long-term fiscal and policy consequences for the entire country.
Democrat political analysts understand that the unexpected strength of down ballot Republican candidates across the country in the November election means that they are likely to lose control over both houses of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections. That has only added to the urgency of efforts by Biden and his liberal Democrat allies to force their partisan agenda through Congress any way they can before their thin majorities in the House and Senate are swept away by the voters.
Stand by for more bitter partisan battles in Washington as Biden’s liberal agenda for this country begins to emerge from behind the Democrats’ artificially extended pandemic emergency smokescreen.