When the 2020 election cycle ended, Democrats had taken back the White House, maintained a majority in the House (albeit slimmer), and took back several seats in the Senate, giving them a tiebreaker with Vice President Harris. Many on the Left celebrated these victories, hoping that a clean sweep would provide them the opportunity to pass landmark legislation that addressed key aspects of the Democratic Party’s platform including spending on infrastructure, investment in family focused legislation, immigration reform, climate change initiatives, and an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some of these agenda items have been passed, at least in part, Democratic Leadership is now faced with balancing both opposition from the Republican party (especially in the Senate), and a potentially even greater obstacle: conflict within their own party.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have their work cutout for them this week as they look to avoid a government shutdown (npr.org/2021/09/27/1040509243/congress-faces-a-week-of-critical-deadlines). Congress has until Thursday to increase the debt limit or the government will shut down. This would mark the first time under the Biden Administration, and the fourth in the past decade. Even if an agreement is made, Democrats and Republicans have only agreed in principle on extending it through December 3. The biggest hurdle they face is in the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “If they want to tax, borrow, and spend historic sums of money without our input, they'll have to raise the debt limit without our help. This is the reality. I've been saying this very clearly since July."
If and when this issue is resolved, Democrats are also pushing for two large bills. The first is a $1 trillion bi-partisan infrastructure bill that generally has enough support to pass. That being said, the second bill could derail everything else. This second bill has a $3.5 trillion price tag and covers many aspects of President Biden’s domestic policy priorities including climate policy and investment in social safety nets programs. While Republicans have expressed frustrations with both the price and content of the bill, moderate Democrats are also speaking out. They are most concerned about the tax hikes that will pay for the bill, including a corporate tax rate of 26.5%, an individual tax rate of 39.6% for high earners, and a capital gains tax of 25% for those earning over $5 million. Conversely, Progressives within the Democratic Party insist that this bill must be passed if they are going to support the infrastructure bill.
Can Democratic leadership do enough to unite the party behind these measures, or will this end up becoming a missed opportunity? How will voters respond in the upcoming midterm elections? Will Democrats gain more seats by promising to accomplish more, or will Republicans regain enough spots to slow Democrats in preparation for the next presidential election? Can Democrats remain split, or will one side of the party come out on top?
Image Credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite