How Joe Biden's Decisive Victory In The Senate Might Alter America And Alter His Future
To ensure that Joe Biden has a lasting legacy as president, the House of Representatives should immediately enact the Senate's major climate change and health care plans.
Democrats ultimately got their legislation through the Senate after an arduous and dramatic round-the-clock battle lasting into Sunday afternoon. This was a big accomplishment after months of Democratic infighting that carved deep divisions in the party.
It's possible that the Inflation Reduction Act won't reduce prices as promised. Some progressives had high hopes for it, but it didn't live up to them. And it may be too late for Democrats to save themselves in the midterm elections if it is finally passed. This is nevertheless a huge victory for the party that appeared unattainable just a few weeks earlier.
The proposal will, for the first time, give Medicare the authority to negotiate the price of a constrained basket of prescription medications, achieving a goal Democrats have been pursuing for decades and lowering costs. By extending subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, it may be possible to keep many more people's health insurance. Additionally, it achieves the majority of Vice President Biden's ambitious ambitions to develop a clean energy economy by spending close to $370 billion to cut emissions that contribute to climate change. By encouraging other countries to follow suit, the law may also help the US regain its position as a worldwide leader in the effort to rescue the planet.
The triumph is all the more impressive given that it was attained in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats had no margin for error, and in the face of vociferous GOP opposition. Progressives were forced to make compromises by moderate senators like Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia in order to rescue the package, while Democrats spent months bargaining amongst themselves. Senator Manchin of the coal state, who had previously opposed the bill, changed his mind late last month and agreed to support it in exchange for concessions on fossil fuels.
Biden was sometimes mired in the weeds while attempting to advance this significant portion of his domestic agenda. Overcoming barriers to big legislation that would have changed the economy was essential to maintaining his presidency's credibility. However, in recent weeks, as a result of his declining support ratings, he gave in to the Senate's demands and agreed to a compromise that fell far short of his initial goals for a Franklin Roosevelt-style revolution. Shortly after Biden was released from his second Covid isolation at the White House, the Senate ultimately passed it with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the deadlock.
All significant new laws are assessed in a variety of ways, including how they affect Americans' daily lives, how they alter the political landscape, and how they look in hindsight, many years later, in the annals of history. Therefore, even while Democrats' accomplishments might not be recognized anytime soon at the polls, it might not go unnoticed in the long run.
If this bill is enacted along party lines in the House this week, its real-world impact will be assessed by whether it lives up to Democratic assertions that it will cut carbon emissions when the terrible effects of climate change — unprecedented floods, droughts, and wildfires — become more apparent.
The GOP and White House claim the bill may help senior Americans pay for crucial medicines and enhance millions' quality of life.
This bill would lock in and prolong one of the greatest Democratic successes of the 21st century: Obamacare.
The passage of a bill that would take months and years to implement may not have instant, transformative political implications.
It's unclear if this push, which will enshrine Biden's agenda, will save the President's political fortunes. His poor approval rating threatens to hurt Democrats in November's elections. Democrats have faced a fierce political storm this year as gas and grocery costs have soared.
This legislative success could give them an opportunity to reengage with voters who have given the President low marks in recent polls. Democrats can say they've undertaken the broadest climate change investments in history, a crucial issue for generations, especially young people who will live with a warming globe.
"This is an incredible historic investment in climate change," White House Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy told CNN's Pamela Brown Sunday.
Democrats should emphasize drug price decreases to attract older voters now that Medicare can negotiate.
Democrats expect voters will turn out this fall after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion and gas prices fell. Many political analysts predict the GOP will win the House, even if base voters turn out. It might affect a number of Senate elections where Republicans need just one member to win the majority.
More broadly, Democrats' unfavorable political environment has improved, especially if Republicans choose candidates who could complicate their ability to capitalize on a favorable year.
After being plagued for most of the past year as crisis after crisis, both domestically and internationally, smashed into his White House and derailed ambitious plans, even Biden's fortunes seem to have reversed in recent weeks. Fears that the economy is set to enter a recession were reduced by a strong jobs report released on Friday. And the President oversaw the assassination of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan, helping to restore some of his reputation as a cunning commander in chief that had been damaged by the disorganized conclusion to the US war in the nation.
However, history indicates that the party of presidents in their first term, particularly those with approval ratings below 50%, tend to lose ground in the midterm elections.
Republicans also detect a gap. They see the Senate proposal as yet another huge spending bill that will make the already-rising inflation even worse. On Democratic claims that the law will lower the cost of living, economists have differing opinions. However, if prices continue to climb, it could not matter politically what the truth is since it might be believed that Biden is once again stoking inflation with a huge spending bill.
In an effort to drive home his party's message ahead of the midterm elections, Senate Minority Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of introducing "giant job-killing tax hikes" and waging "a war on American fossil fuel" at a time of high energy costs. "(Democrats') response to the runaway inflation they've created is a bill that experts say will not meaningfully cut inflation at all," said the Kentucky Republican. "The priorities of the American people are obvious. Environmental regulation accounts for 3% of all problems. The United States wants solutions for the border, crime, and inflation."
It didn't take Biden long to see Sunday's Senate vote as a positive sign for his presidential campaign.
"Senate Democrats sided with American families over special interests when they voted to lower the cost of prescription drugs, health insurance, and everyday energy costs. They also voted to reduce the deficit and make the wealthiest corporations finally pay their fair share," the President said, hinting at how Democrats, who have had trouble selling his wins as President, will sell the bill to voters.
With the Senate's approval of his health care and climate change bills, Biden will leave behind a domestic legacy that is on par with any other Democratic President in recent memory. This is on top of Biden's other accomplishments in Congress, which include a bipartisan infrastructure deal that his two most recent predecessors didn't get done, the first major federal gun safety law passed in decades, and a plan to save kids from poverty during a pandemic that the White House said lifted millions of kids out of poverty early in his presidency.
Polls show that most Americans think the country is going in the wrong direction, so it's possible that these accomplishments won't change voters' minds about Biden being president. Even though the President has done well recently, there is still a lot of talk about whether he should run again in 2024, when he will be 80 years old. Biden will have to keep answering questions about his age.
But even if the President's winning streak doesn't give him a big boost in the short term and his poll numbers don't go up a lot, the last few weeks have been very important in changing how people talk about his presidency. Most administrations are remembered for a few things that they did well. These few things become a kind of shorthand for a President's place in history.
If the global climate push is successful in preventing the worst effects on the planet in the decades to come, Biden will be remembered for taking action. He did more than any other president to deal with the threat. The same will happen if the energy bill creates a new era of electric vehicles and the US starts to turn its back on the internal combustion engine, which has been a key part of the country's freedom of movement and prosperity for decades.
Future historians are also likely to give Biden credit for building on the progress made by the Obama administration to make health care more accessible. The Inflation Reduction Act doesn't do nearly as much as was hoped when it was first proposed. For example, it doesn't change home health care, boost education funding, or add dental and vision plans to Medicare. These are some of the reasons why Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders was so critical of a bill that he later voted for, even though he had doubts about it.
"This reconciliation bill doesn't even come close to doing enough to help working families who are having trouble. But it's a step in the right direction, so I was happy to back it "Sanders said in a statement.
But political success in the United States has almost always come in small steps. This is true for everything from civil rights to social care. In recent years, this has become more true because political differences in the United States are getting worse and wider.
Because the Democrats may lose their majority in November, they may at least take comfort in knowing that they didn't give up their authority as had looked certain for months.