Unity in the path of forward

Feb. 7

The Las Vegas Review-Journal

In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden said that “unity is the path forward” to overcoming our nation’s challenges. He said it would “restore the soul” and “secure the future” of our country and insisted that “we have never, ever, ever failed in America when we have acted together.”

If the president’s $1.9 trillion virus stimulus plan is any indication, however, that spirit of bipartisanship is purely optional for his “side.”

On Feb. 3, the House approved a budget resolution that would trigger a procedure known as reconciliation, which would allow Democrats to avoid a filibuster in the Senate and pass the stimulus bill with a simple majority — without Republican votes — in the upper chamber. The resolution came just two days after Mr. Biden met with Senate Republicans to discuss their concerns with the legislation.

As The Washington Post reported, the 10-member GOP group led by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine countered the president’s plan with a narrower $618 billion proposal that would drop several elements opposed by the GOP. The Republican effort would not include an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and would reduce the size of the next round of stimulus checks — from $1,400 per individual to $1,000 — while tightening the income limits that determine who receives checks.

Media reports noted that Sen. Collins appeared upbeat after the nearly two-hour meeting, but no deal was reached — though she said both sides agreed to “follow up and talk further.”

Don’t count on it. The meeting appeared to be all for show.

While Mr. Biden told House Democrats last week that he’s open to tweaking some elements of his plan, Politico reported that the president told those on the call that he’s unwilling to bend on the size of the $1,400 payment. He also remains committed to acting quickly. “Let’s stick together, I have your back and I hope you’ll have mine,” Biden told House Democrats later that day in his first meeting with the group since being sworn in.

The budget measure approved by the lower chamber on Feb. 3 passed in a 218-212 vote. It directs a dozen committees to begin drafting the various pieces of Mr. Biden’s bill, including $1,400 stimulus checks, $350 billion in bailouts for state and local governments and a minimum wage hike that would crush many struggling businesses — although the president began to back off that plan by the weekend after the Senate had started the process of ramming the bill through without a single GOP vote.

Mr. Biden’s swift rejection of the Republican plan, the lack of further negotiations and his call for Congress to act immediately indicates that the only unity he cares about is the unity on his side of the aisle. The downside for the president is that he and his fellow Democrats will own this giant vote-buying porkapalooza all by themselves.

By -