President Biden is being told that, in the interest of “unity and bipartisanship,” he must cooperate with Senate Republicans who engaged in a seditious scheme to overturn his 2020 victory and who are now hellbent on preventing him from delivering on the campaign promises that won overwhelming support from the American people.
That’s absurd. Biden does not have to bargain away his mandate in order to pass the $1.9 trillion relief package he has proposed to address the coronavirus pandemic and the economic turbulence that extends from it. He is in a position to secure direct payments to American families, a $15 minimum wage, and aid to local government without the votes of either January 6 insurrectionists or austerity-inclined obstructionists.
Biden and the Democrats can proudly, and effectively, govern without the votes of Republicans who have already proven that their party loyalty trumps any commitment to serve the country—let alone the common good. The voters empowered the new president and his congressional allies to work without the Grand Old Partisans. Senate rules allow it. And history tells us that an uncompromising approach will strengthen the Democratic Party’s position—just as it did when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt responded to those who objected to bold governance by declaring, “I welcome their hatred.”
It is no secret that Biden is, by background and inclination, inclined toward negotiation across lines of partisanship and ideology. But Senate Republicans aren’t interested in negotiation to improve his $1.9 trillion proposal. They’re determined to gut it—as the 10 Republican senators he met with Monday propose—or to block it entirely. The worst of the Republicans—call them the Sedition Caucus—want him to fail. Supposedly more “reasonable” Senate Republicans—call them the Obstruction Caucus—simply want him to renew the corrupt bargain that invariably delivers bonuses for the wealthy and austerity for everyone else.
Biden was elected to break the pattern of compromise and concession that has called into question the ability of either party to govern in an effective and meaningful manner. He can’t negotiate with the seditionists or with the obstructionists and expect to secure even the bare minimum required to provide continued care for Americans who are diagnosed with the virus, to meet the massive expense of producing and distributing vaccinations, to keep state and local governments up and running, to assure that unemployed and under-employed Americans will be able to feed their families and remain in their homes, and to begin to get the US economy up and running after some of the most severe setbacks since the Great Depression.
The president has to recognize that the default position for many, perhaps even a majority, of Senate Republicans is that of Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who claims—falsely—that relief packages passed in 2020 were “way more than we needed and more than enough.”
Republicans like Johnson will never be sincere negotiating partners. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the truth Biden and Senate Democrats must recognize—along with the truth that it is no longer necessary to provide a “seat at the table” for the seditionists who sought to overturn Biden’s election or to the obstructionists who now seek to overturn his mandate.
Democrats have the power, using the budget reconciliation process that permits the Senate majority to thwart filibusters, to pass Biden’s Covid-19 relief package without a single Republican vote. As incoming Budget Committee chair Bernie Sanders reminds us, a united Senate Democratic Caucus can, with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris, win this fight. Will Republicans scream? Of course; they’re not used to losing. But the point is that they did lose—in November—and Democrats won.
Biden was elected president with a margin of more than 7 million votes over Trump. Running against an incumbent who shamelessly exploited all the advantages of his position, Biden secured a higher percentage of votes than any challenger to a sitting president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt upended Herbert Hoover in 1932.
Biden flipped five states that had voted for Trump in 2016 and won the Electoral College with a comfortable 306 to 232 advantage. Trump bragged when he prevailed in 2016 by a similar margin that he was “winning the Electoral College in a landslide.” Trump’s political counselor, pollster, and chief White House apologist Kellyanne Conway amplified that remark with a tweet that announced, “306. Landslide. Blowout. Historic.”
The landslide claim was debatable. But Biden did secure a higher level of Electoral College support—57 percent—than George W. Bush got in 2004 or 2000, than Jimmy Carter got in 1976, than Richard Nixon got in 1968, or than John Kennedy got in 1960. Indeed, Biden’s finished with a better Electoral College percentage than a dozen presidents who were elected over the past 231 years, including John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
Biden’s Democratic Party have won control of the House and Senate. While gerrymandering in the House and the disproportionate influence of small and often conservative states in the Senate obscures the advantage, the last several election cycles have made it clear that voters want Democrats in charge and governing. In the House, Democratic candidates won almost 5 million more votes in 2020 than Republican contenders. In the Senate, though the chamber is split 50-50, the members of the Democratic caucus represent 41.5 million more Americans than the Republican caucus.
Despite Biden’s overwhelming victory, a substantial number of Republicans in the House and Senate sought to deny the will of the people—by promoting conspiracy theories and engaging in seditious abuses of their positions. Johnson actually chaired a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee that amplified the big lies about the 2020 election that President Trump would, on January 6, use to incite an insurrectionist mob to attack the US Capitol. Others, such as Missouri Senator Josh Hawley and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, supported objections to the certification of Electoral College results.
Those three senators joined 42 of their Republican colleagues in voting last week for a resolution to block Trump’s impeachment trial, making it clear that they will continue to reject the will of the people.
Negotiating with these charlatans will achieve nothing of value. Indeed, it will harm Biden’s ability to deliver on the mandate that the American people gave him to clean up the mess that Trump left behind.
Biden and the Democrats need to flip the script. They don’t need the votes of Johnson, Hawley, Cruz, or any of the other Republicans who use words like “unity” and “bipartisanship” to demand untenable concessions. Democrats need to reject compromises with seditionists and obstructionists. In so doing, they can prove that elections really do matter—and that a Democratic president and Congress can deliver for the American people.