Editorial: Can Joe Biden Succeed as President without a Democratic Senate?

The 2020 Election has been bittersweet for Democrats and others who had been hoping for a stronger referendum against Donald Trump and Trumpian politics. Joe Biden’s election as president is certainly a triumph, but as the House lost a few Democratic seats, and the Senate did not win a majority (although it could pick up two seats in Georgia runoff elections in January), our new president’s ability to pass legislation through Congress will likely be hobbled. Nevertheless, when he is president, Joe Biden can still use the power of the federal government to execute a good deal of change, as well as reverse, repair, or prevent some of the environmental, economic, and public health damage resulting from Trump’s policies and/or incompetence.

Donald Trump has governed with the executive order numerous times throughout his tenure, and Biden, as president, can use it, too.

Trump used the executive order to, among other things, overturn various Obama-era actions and policies such as withdrawing from the Paris Climate Treaty, rolling back clean energy plans and the Clean Water Rule, and rescinding the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, along with many others. Trump also used the executive order to withdraw the U.S. from the World Health Organization, place a ban on most travel from several Muslim-majority countries, and file the Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal (which could overturn the entire Affordable Care Act).

As president, Joe Biden plans to use the power of the executive order almost immediately to reverse numerous Trumpian executive actions. Biden plans to rejoin the World Health Organization, as well as the Paris climate accords. He will reinstate the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, which will allow “dreamers”— those brought to the U.S. illegally as children— to stay in the U.S., the only country they have known as they’ve grown up. He has also said that on day one as president, he will pass an executive order to establish a task force for reuniting migrant children and parents who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration, and he will stop funding for continuing construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Additionally, Biden will repeal Trump’s ban on travel from certain Muslim-majority countries.

The most pressing issue President-elect Biden must face is the global coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, he announced that he is already setting up his future administration’s own coronavirus advisory board, which will be co-chaired by former surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler.

The advisory board will not wait for Biden’s inauguration to begin meeting, and will convene a few days from now. Biden has also said he plans to “restore U.S. global leadership to fight the pandemic,” signaling his intent to begin repairing relationships with other world leaders. Though he will face a Republican-led Senate, Joe Biden has high hopes of passing a new bill for another coronavirus relief package, and will begin working on it even before he takes office.

In addition to looking to science and public health experts to address the pandemic, Joe Biden has plans to help remedy the economic impact of the coronavirus on Americans. He will have executive control of hundreds of billions of dollars left to be spent from the Cares Act, which was passed in April. Biden plans to us part of those funds to increase testing, as well as to make rapid COVID testing widely available for businesses and public gathering places, which could help curb the health and economic damage from the pandemic.

Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a longtime Biden ally, summarized Biden’s initial agenda: “Get us out of this pandemic that’s been made far worse by Trump’s bungled mishandling of it, rebuild our economy in a way that’s more sustainable and more inclusive, and deal with division and inequality.”

A Biden Administration could accomplish much of what Senator Coons calls out, even without a Democrat-controlled Senate. In addition to executive orders, Biden’s selection of Cabinet members will be instrumental to facilitating a certain amount of the Biden/Harris agenda. The Senate must confirm Biden’s cabinet appointees, and we can expect the Republican-controlled Senate to put up roadblocks. Consequently, the Biden team is considering appointing “acting” Cabinet members.

“Just by virtue of the calendar and how many positions are filled, that’s always a possibility,” said a Biden associate. “Because the Senate moves so slowly now, so much more slowly than it used to.”

Joe Biden has said that when he is president, he plans to reach out to U.S. allies and “pick up the pieces of Donald Trump’s broken foreign policy.” He will have the advantage of having already established good relationships with leaders around the world as Vice President, as well as during his time in Congress, along with the understanding of and respect for global diplomacy that Donald Trump lacks.

In addition, President-elect Biden has plans for a global Summit for Democracy where leaders of democratic nations would discuss ways to expand human rights, as well as help prevent government corruption and authoritarianism.

There is another reason to be somewhat optimistic about what Joe Biden could get done when he takes office. He is skilled at working across the aisle to get things done, even without a Democratic-controlled Senate. In today’s hyper-partisan atmosphere, many Democrats saw this trait of Biden’s as a liability early in his campaign. Now that he is facing the possibility of a Senate that remains Republican-dominated, it may prove to be a real strength.

If the January Senate runoff elections in Georgia result in Republican wins, it will be disheartening that Joe Biden isn’t likely to achieve all that he envisions, but we still have much to be hopeful and optimistic about. We can rely on the fact that Joe Biden will be a leader who is interested in the well-being of this country and its people; who will not fill his cabinet with self-serving and corporate-serving sycophants; who has already lifted, even if only slightly, the fog of ugliness. There is much that Joe Biden can accomplish as president, beginning with offering hope.

Biden transition team prepares executive orders to reverse key Trump policies | CGTN  [2020-11-09]

Biden Focuses On COVID-19 Taskforce, Executive Orders |
Fox 5 San Diego [2020-11-09]

Trump Impeached and Democrats Hold Last 2019 Debate

This week, with just 318 days till the 2020 U.S. presidential election, President Donald J. Trump was impeached. On Wednesday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 230 to 197 on the first of two articles of impeachment, abuse of power; and 229 to 198 on the second article, obstruction of Congress. Trump joins a select club of three U.S. presidents who have been impeached.

The votes on both articles of impeachment were split down partisan lines, with all Republicans voting against impeachment; two Democrats (two different ones for each article) voting with them; the remaining Democrats and the lone independent voting in support of impeachment; and one Democrat, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, voting “Present” instead of choosing either side.

“I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing. I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country.”

Some praise Gabbard’s courage, while others question it. Several Democrats who won their seats in Trump-supporting districts stuck their necks out and voted in favor of impeachment, despite the risk to their jobs come next election.

Tulsi Gabbard is right about the extreme and divisive partisanship of this impeachment process, however.

Weeks of heated debate did little or nothing to change anyone’s mind regarding whether Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses. Unlike with the previous two U.S. presidential impeachment proceedings, opinions were almost completely split down party lines.

Despite sworn testimony by reliable witnesses that Trump withheld military funds from Ukraine for a personal political favor, and despite the fact that Trump openly prevented the release of requested documents and blocked the testimony of White House staff who had firsthand knowledge of Trump’s conversation with Ukraine, all Republicans maintained that the impeachment inquiry was a “sham,” and that Trump did nothing wrong.

One must speculate as to why, if Trump “did nothing wrong,” he wouldn’t be glad to bring witnesses to testify that the conversation was “perfect,” as he claims. And with no real defense of Trump but flimsy, repetitive pseudo-defenses (“You just don’t like him” was one GOP refrain), as well as a battery of distraction techniques, one has wonder what’s keeping every last GOP lawmaker in such a lock step of loyalty to Trump and falsehood.

Following Trump’s impeachment in the House, the two articles will be sent to the Senate, who will hold a trial for Trump’s possible removal from office. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has already openly stated that he would not be impartial. As a result, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced that she will delay sending the articles to the Senate until the Senate will promise a fair trial.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, spoke out in support of Trump and criticized the Democrats for their acts of impeachment. “This is just the continuation of the internal political battle, one party that lost the elections, the Democrats, and are now trying to find new ways by accusing Trump of collusion with Russia. But then it turned out there was no collusion, this can’t be the basis for impeachment.”

Perhaps the Republican lawmakers in the House got their instructions and speaker notes from Putin.

Impeachment dominated the week, but this week also brought the final Democratic presidential debate of 2019. The list of candidates has been whittled down from the original 24 in the first debate to just seven who qualified for this one. Candidates who were onstage Thursday evening were Vice President Joe Biden; Senator Elizabeth Warren; Senator Bernie Sanders; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar; and businessmen Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer.

Assuming the Senate does not remove him from office, Donald Trump plans to run for re-election. With each demonstration of how deep Trump’s lack of integrity goes, his base seems to dig in their heels a little more in support of him. The rest of the world, however (except, perhaps, for Vladimir Putin), holds out hope that one of the Democratic presidential candidates will claim presidential victory in 2020.
Trump impeached in historic House vote | CBS This Morning [2019-12-19]

White House ready for ‘fair shot’ on impeachment in Senate: ‘We will prevail’ | Fox News [2019-12-19]