Congress slowly pushes ahead on major bills
The hand-wringing by Democrats – the half of Washington that is there to govern – is a bit much.
It’s taking longer than President Biden and others hoped to move major bills on improved infrastructure, addressing climate change, getting a handle on prescription-drug costs and creating working-class jobs. Longer than hoped but not longer than other major pieces of legislation in the past. Everyone needs to exhale.
We have grown so used to a Congress doing little more than shouting and posturing that it’s easy to forget that passing significant legislation is hard. Congress used to do that regularly.
The voters on the one hand are deeply polarized and on the other hand tell pollsters that they expect the people they elect to sit down, work together and compromise to get things done and move the country forward. Democrats have been doing plenty of compromising – with each other. Progressives are getting far less than they wanted, at a far lower price tag, and that’s probably for the best.
There is no compromise – only no votes – from the other party. No to child care, no to roads and bridges, even no to lower prescription drug prices for seniors on Medicare. No engagement in the policy debate. These are ideas with widespread public support, but the answer is no.
So it’s missing the point at least a bit to blame a couple of recalcitrant Democratic senators for this legislative delay. Any one or two or 10 of the 50 Republicans in the Senate could step up and vote to move the country forward, but that won’t happen. This is the price of burn-it-to-the-ground politics. The priority is Joe Biden’s failure rather than the country’s success.
Biden will likely get some of what he wants here, and it’s likely to be the most significant accomplishment of his presidency. Even presidents who serve two terms usually keep pitching for the whole eight years, but history shows the big changes come fairly early in the first term. Every president since Clinton has seen his party lose control of Congress during his time in office, and that could well happen in 2022. Biden has a narrow window of opportunity.
This is what stagnant politics and a largely dysfunctional Washington look like.