Biden has set very high expectations. Can he meet them?

WASHINGTON — At a time when the election was getting tighter and just a week away, Joe Biden got big.

He flew to Warm Springs, the Georgia town whose thermal waters once brought solace to Polio’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and pledged to remake America’s economic and political fabric unparalleled since FDR’s New Deal. .

Evoking some of the nation’s noblest reforms helped Biden unseat President Donald Trump, but left him with towering promises to keep. And he will try to deliver against the backdrop of a searing national divide and a pandemic that has killed nearly 400,000 Americans and upended the economy.

Such a change would be difficult to imagine under any circumstances, let alone now.

He leaves with Democrats clinging to very thin control of the House and Senate and after winning an election in which 74 million people voted for his opponent. And even if his administration achieves most of its key legislative or executive action goals, those actions risk being overturned by a Supreme Court now controlled by a 6-3 conservative majority.

Even so, the effort is soon underway. Washington is bracing for dozens of back-to-back executive actions starting Wednesday and spanning the first 10 days of Biden’s administration, as well as legislation that will begin making its way through Congress on disaster relief. pandemic, immigration and much more.

Has Biden promised more than he can deliver? Not in his estimation. He suggests he can accomplish even more than he promised. He says he and his team “will do our best to exceed all the expectations you have for the country and the expectations we have for him”.

Some Democrats say Biden is right to set high expectations while realizing he will have to compromise, rather than starting with smaller goals and having to scale them down further.

“You can’t tell a nation that is starving, insecure, scared in some places, whose economy has stalled…that you had to cut demand from their government because you have narrow room to maneuver “said former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Biden’s former primary Democratic presidential rival.

Incoming presidents typically enjoy a honeymoon period that helps them in Congress, and Biden’s chances of securing one have been boosted by Democratic victories this month in two special Senate elections in Georgia. He may also have been helped by a public backlash against the murderous, armed insurgency in the United States Capitol by Trump supporters.

Biden’s advisers have acknowledged that they will have tough fights ahead. One approach they have in mind is one familiar in Washington — consolidating some big ideas into what’s called omnibus legislation, so that lawmakers who want popular measures passed must also swallow more controversial ones. .

Another approach is to pursue objectives through executive orders. This completely bypasses Congress but leaves the measures more easily challenged in court. Trump has used executive orders extensively for some of his most controversial actions, on border enforcement, the environment and more, but federal courts have often gotten in the way.

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Biden’s top priority is Congressional approval of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan to administer 100 million vaccines by his 100th day in office while also providing $1,400 in direct payments to Americans to stimulate the economy hammered by the virus. It’s not a slam dunk, although everyone likes to receive money from the government.

Any such payment is likely to be associated with measures that many members of Congress oppose, perhaps his proposed mandate for a $15 national minimum wage, for example. And Biden’s relief package will have to clean up a Senate engrossed in approving his top Cabinet picks and driving Trump’s potential impeachment trial.

Nevertheless, the flood is coming.

On the first day alone, Biden promised to extend the pause on federal student loan repayments, to get the United States to join the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord, and to ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing a mask. He plans to use executive action to reverse the Trump administration’s ban on immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries and eliminate corporate tax cuts where possible, while doubling the levies that American companies pay on foreign profits.

On the same day, Biden pledged to create homelessness task forces and reunite immigrant parents with separated children at the US-Mexico border. He plans to send bills to Congress to impose stricter background checks on gun buyers, remove liability protections for gun manufacturers and provide eight-way years toward citizenship for approximately 11 million people living in the United States without legal status.

The new president also wants to immediately relax limits on federal workers’ unionization, reverse Trump’s removal of about 100 public health and environmental rules the Obama administration instituted, and create rules to limit the influence of companies on its administration and guarantee the independence of the Ministry of Justice.

He also pledged to have 100 vaccination centers supported by federal emergency management personnel operational in his first month in the White House.

Biden says he will use the Defense Production Act to boost vaccine supplies and ensure the pandemic is sufficiently controlled after his first 100 days in office for most public schools to reopen nationwide . He also pledged to have created a police oversight board to tackle institutional racism by then.

Other major initiatives to quickly address include: joining the US-Iran nuclear deal, a $2 trillion climate package to take the US to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, a plan to spend $700 billions of dollars to boost manufacturing, research and development, and build on the Obama administration’s health care law to include a “public option.”

However, the fact that some of the more than 80 million voters who backed Biden may have done so to oppose Trump, not because they are thrilled with an ambitious Democratic agenda, is perhaps be obscured in this parade of promises. The president-elect’s victory may not have been a mandate to pull a country that emerged from the last election mostly centrist so far to the left.

Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak predicted early Republican support for Biden’s coronavirus relief and economic stimulus plans, but said that could quickly evaporate if they “issue a bunch of leftist executive orders on day one. “.

“You can’t be bipartisan with one hand and left with the other,” Mackowiak said, “and hope Republicans won’t notice.”

Biden had a front-row seat as vice president in 2009, when Barack Obama took office, with crowds jamming the National Mall, and vowing to transcend partisan politics. His administration used bigger majorities in Congress to oversee slow economic growth after the 2008 financial crisis, and he passed the health care law that Biden is now seeking to expand.

But Obama has failed to pass major legislation on climate change, ethics or immigration. He also failed to close the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which remains open to this day.

Breaking his promises didn’t make Biden more chastened today. He acknowledges that doing even a small part of what he wants will require huge deficits, but he argues that the United States has an “economic imperative” and a “moral obligation” to do so.

Kelly Dietrich, founder of the National Democratic Training Committee and former fundraiser for the party, said the divisions instigated by Trump could give Biden a unique opportunity to move forward immediately and ignore conservative critics who “will complaining, crying and making things up” and arguing that socialists are “come kicking your pup”.

Biden and his team would do well to weed out anyone who doesn’t think they can aim high, he said.

“They shouldn’t be distracted by people who think it’s disappointing or it can’t happen,” Dietrich said. “Overwhelm people with action. No administration, when it’s over, says, “We’ve accomplished too much in the first hundred days.”

–By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press