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]

The Difference Between What Donald Trump Did and What Joe Biden Did

Ever since a whistleblower came forward with the allegation of a quid pro quo between Donald Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump’s supporters have scrambled. According to the whistleblower’s account, Trump pressured Zelenskiy to investigate his political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden, as a condition for releasing needed military aid funds that had already been allocated to Ukraine. 

At first, Trump’s supporters quickly denied that there was a quid pro quo. Then, when it became apparent that denial was a lie, they tried to rationalize Trump’s actions with the idea that quid pro quo situations happen “all the time” between the U.S. and foreign governments. Now that the whistleblower’s story has been widely corroborated by a number of credible witnesses who found Trump’s actions “troubling,” Trump’s supporters are desperately trying to divert attention away from possible wrongdoing by equating Trump’s actions with those of Joe Biden when Biden had worked to help remove a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor.

On the November 10, 2019 broadcast of NBC’s Meet the Press, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), echoed the current GOP talking points when he said, “I think, really, what’s going to happen is people are going to say, ‘Oh, they’re impeaching President Trump for exactly the same thing that Joe Biden did.’

“He threatened the aid, if they didn’t fire someone. And supposedly, the president did, if they didn’t investigate someone. So it sounds exactly like what Joe Biden did. And if they weren’t going to impeach Joe Biden, they look like, you know, hypocrites, in a way, for going only after President Trump and having not a word to say about what Joe Biden did…It’s exactly the same scenario.”

But it isn’t.

Rand Paul was referring to the idea that (then vice president) Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, was a paid board member of the Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, during the time that then Vice President Joe Biden was working to have a Ukrainian prosecutor removed in order to, as Paul, and other Trump supporters put it, stop the prosecutor from investigating Hunter Biden’s company. This is, at best, a stretching of certain facts. 

Later in the show, Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), said, “…That has nothing to do, absolutely nothing to do with the actions of the United States president in extorting Ukraine in a way that damaged our national security.”

Joe Biden was not trying to fire a Ukrainian prosecutor to keep him from investigating his son’s company. He was trying to follow through, with the support of U.S. allies, on removing a prosecutor who was failing to investigate Ukrainian corruption, and who many agreed was himself corrupt. Contrary to damaging national security, Biden’s efforts were to strengthen security for Ukraine, as well as its allies. 

At the same time that some of Trump’s supporters have conceded that there may have been a quid pro quo, they’re also quick to try to say that Trump’s first interest was to fight corruption in Ukraine. With a president who, according to the Washington Post, has made more than 14,500 false or misleading claims during his presidency as of October 14, 2019, this is hard to imagine. What’s more, at the time Trump had decided to conditionally withhold military aid from Ukraine, the U.S. Departments of Defense and State had both certified that Ukraine had made great progress in decreasing corruption, and recommended the U.S. proceed with the aid to Ukraine. 

In resorting to “what-aboutism” as a defense against the whistleblower’s complaint and all of the testimony that backs it up, Trump’s supporters appear to be aware that they have little else to present as an argument. 

Full Himes: ‘We’ve Got To Get Off This Quid Pro Quo Thing’ | Meet The Press | NBC News [2019-11-10]

Biden defends son’s dealings in Ukraine while attacking Trump | Fox News