Ousting Republicans From Senate Is Vital For Biden

Joe Biden

Joe Biden

If Joe Biden is elected, he will face the same intransigence from the GOP that Barack Obama did. Just as soon as Biden is sworn in, Republicans will do everything in their power to defeat his policies and hamstring his presidency.

They will suddenly remember long-forgotten conservative principles, such as fiscal restraint. They will refuse to compromise. Even though they ignored mind-boggling corruption for the last four years, they will show a passionate and determined interest in any whiff of scandal among Democrats.

That's why a Biden administration will need a Democratic Senate. Without it, he will not be able to drag the country out of the mess that it's in.

This is not the time for complacency, even though polls show Biden leading nationally and in several critical battleground states. It's the time for Democratic activists to redouble their efforts to boost not only Biden, but also Senate candidates in Colorado, Arizona, Maine, North Carolina and even Georgia.

If Democrats cannot take the Senate, Biden's agenda hardly stands a chance. Remember the pledge Mitch McConnell made during Obama's first term? McConnell couldn't prevent Obama's reelection, but he did make his second term one of precious few accomplishments. The Senate majority leader and his claque blocked virtually every one of Obama's proposals.

And the GOP will be even more stubborn during a Biden presidency because they will view their death grip on the Senate as their last tenuous hold on power, their last chance to turn back the tide of cultural changes sweeping across the nation. You think they were obstinate during Obama's presidency? They will be even more mulish about Biden's judicial nominees. They will refuse to confirm Biden's appointees for top roles in his administration. They will fight his efforts to undo the damage they have done to countless pillars of the federal government, from Justice to Interior to the State Department.

A GOP-controlled Senate will also hamper Biden's efforts to dig the country out of the economic wreckage left by the coronavirus. The federal government's fiscal response should be broad and deep, targeted to middle-class and working-class families. Biden has pledged to raise the federal minimum wage substantially, to fund college tuition for most students and to expand the Affordable Care Act, which the GOP is still trying to kill.

While Biden has not said much about tax increases, Congress needs to raise taxes on the wealthy and roll back the loopholes that allow them to escape paying their fair share. Republicans, of course, would vote in lockstep against any such proposals.

There is also much unfinished business from the Obama years -- comprehensive immigration reform, providing affordable housing, and tackling climate change. A GOP-controlled Senate would dedicate itself to blocking any effort to fix those problems.

The U.S. Senate is one of the nation's least democratic (small "d") institutions. Because each state elects two senators, regardless of its population, the interests of the majority of voters are often ignored. Given the ways the nation has changed since its founding, it hardly makes sense that Utah and Idaho have as much clout in the Senate as California and Texas. (The same argument holds for the Electoral College.)

And the population imbalances will only sharpen over coming decades as rural states such as North Dakota lose population while states such as Georgia gain residents. Political scientist Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute tweeted this a couple of years ago: "By 2040 or so, 70 percent of Americans will live in 15 states. Meaning 30 percent will choose 70 senators. And the 30 percent will be older, whiter, more rural, more male than the 70 percent. Unsettling to say the least."

In the coming decade, Americans need to get down to the business of amending the U.S. Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College and rebalance the U.S. Senate. Any such effort will take years of work by Congress and state legislatures; it won't come to pass anytime soon.

But Democrats now have a good chance to give Biden a Senate that he can work with. They should do everything possible to see that he gets it.

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