The US Senate is living through intense days of hectic negotiations that grace the old rules that fuel the myth of the House of Representatives, as it prepares to approve a massive stimulus package for the economy hit by the Coronavirus. This is President Biden’s first legislative priority. Spending $ 1.9 trillion, with provisions to speed up vaccination, a new round of checks for citizens, help the unemployed, as well as investments in infrastructure. The expected approval of the text, without Republican support, would be Biden’s first great victory and, at the same time, a sign of the difficulties he will have to implement his agenda.
This Friday is expected to be another marathon day in the Senate, in the process of approving the massive $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package for the economy. The zigzag handling of what constitutes Joe Biden’s first major legislative initiative leaves at least three clues about what awaits the president to implement his reform agenda, while preserving this fragile democratic majority in both houses of the Capitol. The first is that whatever his legislative experience, regardless of the president’s moderation, his goal of achieving consensus and building bridges between the two parties will not be an easy task. The second is that even without Republican support, in a chamber divided into 50 senators from each party, the Democrats would be able to implement a large portion of their plans thanks to the cut-off vote for Vice President Kamala Harris. And the third is that if Democrats continue to resist legislation to overturn measures such as blocking, as the progressive sector demands, Republicans will be able to boycott much of that agenda or, at the very least, turn legislative measures into slow and diabolical ones. Cumbersome process.
On Wednesday, President Biden approved new restrictions to determine the recipients of the next round of direct payments to citizens, which is the focus of the legislation. It is the second major concession within four days regarding the text approved by the House of Representatives last week, and the second priority component of the progressive sector that was abandoned for the sake of consensus. On Thursday morning, the Senate agreed, thanks to Vice President Harris’ break-in vote, to press ahead with the debate on the law. In the afternoon, Republican Senator Ron Johnson relied on the old rules governing the hearings and decided to require House employees to read 628 pages of the bill letter by word.
That’s what workers did, reading aloud for hours, in shifts of 20 or 30 minutes, in front of a practically empty room on the Capitol building alerted to the possibility of a new attack by Trump radicals. They started reading at 3:21 PM and finished after 2 AM. “This will get a little more than a few votes from Senate employees,” said Chuck Schumer, leader of the Democratic majority.
The republican maneuver had no goal other than delaying the inevitable approval of a law, with broad bipartisan support in society, which is considering urgent allocations of hundreds of billions of dollars to distribute vaccines, aid to schools, unemployment benefits supplements, direct payments to citizens or aid to the cultural sector. Democrats at all costs want the law to be ready for the president to sign it before March 14, the date the unemployment benefits approved in the previous package expire. For Republicans, this is a waste of public money at a time when the vaccination campaign and a gradual return to activism are already painting a horizon for recovery. Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell said: “Our country is now ready for a massive recovery, and the Democrats have inherited a tide that was already shifting.”
The proceedings will continue next Friday, with three hours of debate followed by a series of votes on several of the proposed amendments, suggesting that the session will continue again until dawn. The first amendment calling for the vote is an amendment by left-wing Bernie Sanders that, along with the Democratic leadership, wants to include in the law an increase in the minimum wage from $ 7.25 to $ 15 an hour. And the Senate legal team indicated last month that doing so through the procedure, which requires only a simple majority, is inappropriate. But the Democrats could reverse the decision, something the White House has already ruled out in a gesture to the moderates.
The Republican efforts are unlikely to have an effect on the bottom line. The Democratic Senators carried out an extensive review of the text approved by the House of Representatives, and it is expected that it will serve as a bloc in the final vote, as Republican supporters were not expected either. The passage of one of the largest and most ambitious bills in Congressional history, which appeared inevitable yesterday, will be the Biden administration’s first major legislative achievement. But it will also be a sign of the difficulties that await us.