A GOP Senate Will Make Biden Live Up to His Promise
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because this will be the most consequential relationship in Washington.
Susan Del Percio
Susan Del Percio is a New York–based Republican strategist and senior advisor to the Lincoln Project.
The 2020 election was a near-perfect reflection of the past four years. It was chaotic, deeply divisive and has left us exhausted. As much as I had hoped for a complete repudiation of President Trump and Trumpism, it didn’t turn out that way.
I am pleased that Joe Biden is on track to have a solid win over Donald Trump with as many as 306 electoral votes, and I am left completely dissatisfied that so many Trump enablers were reelected to the Senate.
But as the fictional Mr. Dooley, a Chicago pub pontificator created by writer Finley Peter Dunne, said: “Politics ain’t beanbag.” No one knows that better than Biden and Mitch McConnell. Both understand divided government and know each other well. They served together in the Senate for more than 20 years, and Biden was President Barack Obama’s key negotiator when he was vice president.
Now, unless Democrats sweep a pair of runoff elections in Georgia in January, McConnell will remain as majority leader. Of course, Biden would have preferred a Senate led by Democrat Chuck Schumer, but having to work with McConnell may just help him achieve the most important promise he made on the campaign trail: to be the president for all Americans.
In the end, they both have to deliver, even if that means taking some hits from the extremes of their parties.
To all of the super progressives and Trumpsters out there — just stop reading right now, because the rest of this column will only upset you further.
There are those on the right and the left who believe the only way to govern this country is to dig in on their beliefs and not budge an inch. Well, how’s that been working out? What have we achieved?
While our division as a nation was not caused by Donald Trump, he certainly made it run deeper. His “us versus them” approach meant someone had to lose. The word “compromise” became a synonym for weakness. This is no way to govern, and both Biden and McConnell know this well.
Biden will need some early wins to put on the board and McConnell will have to show that he will fight for Republican values (although I’m not exactly sure what those are right now). In the end, they both have to deliver, even if that means taking some hits from the extremes of their parties.
They must start by passing a COVID-19 relief package. Winter is coming and the virus is hitting us harder every day. Recently, when referring to the surge of cases, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “There’s gonna be a whole lot of pain.” There will also be a whole lot of economic pain if we do not inject the economy with a stimulus bill.
Talks will be tough, but at least they both know they can take each other on their word. Unlike dealing with President Trump, who went back and forth so much that McConnell refused to take a position until Trump put his forward. Schumer summed it up perfectly: “Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O.”
It is very likely the progressives will be after Biden to do a much bigger spending package and include an immediate tax increase. This will be a tough balancing act for Biden, as Republicans will balk at spending trillions of dollars and a tax hike. This is also where Biden gets to use the Republicans as the perfect foil.
Biden knows that he will almost immediately have to fight both the left and the right. His best argument will be: What do you want me to do? In order for me to get anything done over the next two years, I have to work with the Republicans.
Ironically, this is also how he can potentially show America how government can work for them — all of them.
Make no mistake about it: I am being overly optimistic. I usually am at the beginning of every administration, always having a glimmer of hope, thinking maybe, just maybe, this president will get us back on track.
I hope Biden will keep his promise to be a president for all Americans. Moreover, I hope McConnell will be satisfied with shepherding in the most conservative Supreme Court in our lifetime, and recognizes that it is time to govern.
I believe Biden will make a good-faith effort to work with Republicans. However, when dealing with McConnell, it would also be wise to for him to remember another quote from Finley Peter Dunne: “Trust everybody, but cut the cards.”