Biden's honeymoon is ending

If Democrats end a senator's ability to block legislation by endless speechmaking so they can accomplish their agenda, will it backfire when the GOP retakes power?

Posted: Mar 21, 2021 11:50 PM
Updated: Mar 21, 2021 11:50 PM

The honeymoon is about to end for President Joe Biden. He has sailed through his first two months in office, accomplishing a number of his goals with minimal backlash. But now the going is about to get tough and every new proposal is going to come up against Senator Mitch McConnell and the dreaded filibuster.

The Biden administration has successfully ramped up the vaccine rollout, hitting the President's goal of administering 100 million shots in his first 100 days several weeks ahead of schedule. And while Republicans were stirring up outrage over Mr. Potato Head and Dr. Seuss, Democrats won a huge legislative victory with the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The measure, which is massive in scope, included stimulus checks for the vast majority of American households as well as an expansion of the child tax credit and the Affordable Care Act.

Unlike former President Barack Obama, Biden didn't waste much time searching for elusive Republican support and instead gave the green light to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to use the reconciliation process so Democrats could pass the bill with a simple majority. That strategy has paid off -- polls show the majority of Republican voters support the bill and Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi went so far as to laud the American Rescue Plan's funding for small businesses, despite voting against the bill himself. Although some key provisions were lost along the way, such as a $15 minimum wage, the factions within the Democratic Party forged ahead and put on a united front.

But now Biden faces an uphill battle. Without reconciliation, which can only be used for certain tax, spending and debt limit bills, Biden confronts a legislative wasteland. Any major initiative, whether it addresses voting rights or climate change, is likely to face McConnell, who has proven he is willing to do whatever is necessary to obstruct the Democrats' agenda, even if this means damaging the strength of the Senate as a deliberative institution. With the current 50-50 split in the Senate, Democrats will find it all but impossible to meet the 60-vote threshold to advance legislation.

Democrats must seriously consider reforming or abandoning the filibuster if they want a chance at staying in power, building on the success of the American Rescue Plan and tackling the rest of Biden's agenda. While McConnell threatened to pursue a scorched earth policy if Democrats end the filibuster and block all of Biden's initiatives, Democrats should recognize that that's exactly what he's going to aim to do anyway.

The filibuster is not enshrined in the Constitution. It is a tradition adopted in the 19th century that allows the minority to block bills. Filibusters were primarily used to block civil rights legislation until the 1970s -- which is why the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights considered ending the filibuster one of its key goals in 1951, alongside criminalizing lynching and ending segregation. While filibusters often conjure images of politicians holding the floor of the Senate for hours, the mere threat of a filibuster is now enough to thwart legislation.

Liberal Democrats have been calling for reform for decades and support has only intensified after Republicans, under Mitch McConnell, rapidly accelerated the use of the filibuster during the Obama years. Former Democratic leader Harry Reid jettisoned the filibuster for federal judges and executive nominations in 2013 before McConnell went on to do the same for Supreme Court nominations in 2017.

Doing away with the filibuster— or reforming it by restricting it or requiring a lower threshold to end debate -- would also allow Congress to pass HR1, a bill that would counter state-level Republican efforts to restrict voting access and allow more Americans to participate in the upcoming elections. Between gerrymandering and the fact that the president's party usually does poorly in its first midterms, Democrats would face an even more difficult 2022 midterm election if the GOP is successful in its efforts to purge voters from rolls, limit early and absentee voting and eliminate automatic and same-day voter registration.

If Democrats manage to reform or do away the filibuster and hold onto power in the midterm elections, they will be able to move forward with a bold mandate to enact Biden's version of a New Deal or Great Society. Even though progressives and moderates will continue to disagree on the finer points, the shared goal of producing substantive legislation would be enough to hold the Democratic factions together.

If Democrats fail to do this, Biden's only recourse will be to use his executive power. He will have to follow the path of his predecessors by using executive orders to make changes within existing laws -- rather than relying on Congress to craft new ones. The problems with this, however, are multifold. As every president in modern history has learned, governing by executive power is transitory, given how easily the next administration can roll back those orders. Ultimately, it is not an effective way to deal with the long-term challenges that our nation faces.

Once the legislating slows down, tensions that exist within the Democratic Party will inevitably surface and intensify. Moderates will inevitably urge Biden to take a page from the Clinton years and focus on small, narrow measures that might win a handful of Republican votes. Progressives, on the other hand, will push the President to continue taking bold strides, pressure centrists such as Senator Joe Manchin to stick with the party and try to build public consensus for ambitious changes. If Congress is stalled, the odds that these fights will intensify and spill out into the public will only increase.

Democrats can't afford to leave the filibuster in place. It's devastating to the institution of Congress because it has created a supermajority requirement on every piece of legislation. In an era of intense polarization, and a Republican Party determined to obstruct, getting bills through the upper chamber is essentially impossible. The filibuster also cripples the ability of Senators to deliberate and govern, while also benefiting a Republican Party that is content to see Washington in gridlock.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 468498

Reported Deaths: 9100
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison31907468
Hinds30552569
DeSoto29532342
Jackson22868335
Rankin21016355
Lee14393214
Madison13961263
Jones13053215
Forrest12879231
Lauderdale11244292
Lowndes10148171
Lamar9972122
Pearl River8569208
Lafayette8008136
Hancock7110107
Oktibbeha6764117
Washington6756146
Neshoba6350200
Monroe6304156
Warren6267159
Panola6036122
Pontotoc599292
Bolivar5960143
Marshall5917115
Union558885
Pike5424133
Lincoln5192127
Alcorn509388
George454766
Scott447392
Leflore4377138
Tippah431780
Itawamba429192
Prentiss429074
Copiah423883
Simpson4238108
Wayne419663
Tate418999
Adams4174109
Yazoo411486
Sunflower4057104
Covington404891
Marion399699
Leake389784
Coahoma385996
Newton360273
Grenada3489100
Stone342657
Tishomingo320987
Attala318285
Jasper308261
Winston298191
Clay282672
Chickasaw277464
Clarke271784
Holmes257685
Calhoun256939
Smith241546
Yalobusha215447
Tallahatchie213849
Walthall203457
Lawrence202431
Greene202045
Perry195053
Amite191251
Webster191141
Noxubee173437
Montgomery168652
Jefferson Davis164041
Carroll158936
Tunica146533
Benton137531
Kemper136538
Claiborne124134
Choctaw123824
Humphreys122036
Franklin114127
Quitman100925
Wilkinson98335
Jefferson85832
Sharkey61620
Issaquena1916
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 757893

Reported Deaths: 12784
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1082301712
Mobile694251158
Madison47738562
Baldwin35347420
Shelby34758281
Tuscaloosa32576495
Montgomery32249645
Lee21576200
Calhoun19621363
Morgan19061307
Etowah18363413
Marshall17028252
Houston15881337
St. Clair14724270
Limestone13908178
Elmore13812239
Cullman13756228
Lauderdale12909263
Talladega12124200
DeKalb11705220
Walker10047303
Autauga9371119
Blount9272146
Jackson8970132
Coffee8550150
Colbert8229160
Dale8162142
Escambia632298
Tallapoosa6255165
Covington6214153
Chilton6152128
Russell586753
Franklin558292
Chambers5155127
Dallas4569173
Marion4490114
Clarke447070
Pike439188
Geneva415999
Lawrence4002101
Winston399982
Bibb388975
Barbour334667
Marengo317778
Monroe306844
Butler305878
Pickens296166
Henry288550
Randolph288255
Hale282981
Cherokee275649
Fayette268569
Washington241844
Crenshaw226962
Clay219260
Macon211154
Cleburne205746
Lamar184638
Conecuh173337
Lowndes167856
Coosa160031
Wilcox153033
Bullock145642
Perry132430
Sumter122635
Greene117941
Choctaw71925
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 75°
Columbus
Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 74°
Oxford
Cloudy
72° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 72°
Starkville
Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 74°
Lots of tropical moisture leftover from Nicholas, along with some bits and pieces of low pressure will combine forces to give our area some good chances for some showers and thunderstorms over the next several days.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather