Typically, during the first 100 days of a new presidency, the administration puts on a full-court press to drive a policy agenda with the hope of getting Congress to come along and support it.
At the time of publication, we will be halfway through those first 100 days, and what have we accomplished?
Not much, unless you count a COVID relief package, which is more reactive than proactive.
Thus far, it is clear the Biden administration is not on the same trajectory the Obama administration was at this point.
It is a unique time on Capitol Hill. With the backdrop of security fortified with National Guard troops and fencing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has led a very active caucus. Glance up at a scoreboard, and you’ll find articles of impeachment, a minimum wage hike, nearly $2 trillion in government spending and legislation that would radically change the federal government’s role in national elections.
There is very little of it that can make it through the U.S. Senate without eliminating the filibuster rule.
Unless Pelosi knows something we do not, congressional Democrats still appear to be in messaging bill mode, which you typically see before an election.
In the U.S. Senate, one would have to think Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is riding high. Even though technically, it is a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans, with the tiebreaker going to the Democrats because of Vice President Kamala Harris, any momentum gained from the 2020 election and the two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia seems to have either run out or never actually came to be.
Where is President Joe Biden while all of this is going on?
The lack of enthusiasm around the new president is predictable. Even if he had won, Trump would likely have been facing similar circumstances.
Whatever you believe happened back in November, a reasonable consensus would find the outcome was narrow, which indicates the nation is evenly divided politically.
There was no apparent mandate that came from the 2020 election. A sizable segment of 2020 Biden voters did not support the Democrat for any other reason except he was not Donald Trump.
If Trump had won, 2022 would have been a banner election for Democrats. They would have had sizeable majorities coming out of the midterms and heading into 2024. And after eight years of Trump, a Democrat, indeed, would have won the White House.
The situation would have been much like the Democrat wave in the 2006 midterms paired with a popular, newly elected President Barack Obama in 2009.
Under the current circumstances, the GOP is poised to do well in 2022. Excluding the top of the ticket, Republicans did not have a bad election. Unlike most presidential losses, the losing presidential candidate was not a drag on the party.
The playbook for Republicans now is to hold off Democrats as best as they can and hope the historical precedent of the party out of power doing well in midterms holds up. Then they can make a run at the White House with congressional majorities in tow.
Although we are only 50 days in, so far, it is working for Republicans. The $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill aside, Pelosi’s House of Representatives is fixated on passing messaging bills that have no chance of advancing beyond the U.S. Senate.
Biden is not a prominent figure in D.C. politics. He has been out of sight and out of mind, which is highly unusual at this stage of a presidency.
In his first year, Obama gave several primetime addresses promoting what would become known as Obamacare. He also passed his own stimulus bill and was able to push through financial services reform with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
While Congress and the White House are not divided, they do not appear to be united on a plan, either.
The House under Pelosi is passing all the legislation Democrats promised in the 2020 campaign. Senate Democrats under Schumer would like to follow suit, but the rules of the U.S. Senate make it difficult.
Meanwhile, the bureaucracy assembled by the Biden administration seems to be off to a plodding start.
On the other side of the aisle, even with the Trump presidency’s unceremonious ending, which included the toxic Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riots, Donald Trump remains the leader of the Republican Party. Polling shows as much and GOP candidates continue to covet a Trump endorsement.
Why wouldn’t they? Here in Alabama, in the race for the Republican nomination for the 2022 U.S. Senate election, a Trump endorsement in the primary is worth at least 10 percentage points. The same is true throughout the country.
Until that changes, Trump is the leader of the GOP. It is not Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy or any other prominent Republican on Capitol Hill. And now that Trump is not having to spend time running the country, might he be more of a force to be reckoned with if he is solely dedicated to politics?
Biden may be the president, but unless he takes a more upfront approach in the next month and a half, he creates a vacuum filled by the House speaker, who is not equipped under our system to advance policy to the next level.
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