My fellow Democrats, we won, now let’s act like it. Joe Biden is president, Chuck Schumer is majority leader, and Nancy Pelosi is speaker, so let’s do whatever needs to be done to move our country forward.
Democrats control the agenda and need to make the most of that. President Biden is off to a great start. In the first three days he signed 30 executive orders and actions, from rejoining the Paris Climate Accords to increasing the minimum wage for federal workers to fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Some Republicans don’t like everything but screw them they lost and voting counts.
It must be understood Biden’s call for unity wasn’t a call to do things half way but rather to change the tone of the discussion. He knows there will be disagreement on issues but wants a change in what he called the ‘uncivil’ war.
Biden is what my generation called a liberal. He is moving forward the issues we all care about no matter what label anyone attributes to him. While signing executive orders is the easy part, now begins the hard part — getting legislation through Congress. Even before that begins Congress will face an impeachment trial and Biden needs his Cabinet confirmed.
The Senate is split 50/50 with Democrats having the deciding vote with Kamala Harris serving as president of the Senate. Chances are most committees will be split 50/50 but they will have Democratic chairs and Schumer is majority leader, which means Democrats control the agenda. They need to make the most of that and play hardball when it’s called for. Willingness to compromise on some issues makes sense. But if that isn’t achievable, then Democrats must be willing to end the filibuster to move forward.
Democrats must focus legislation on issues that impact people immediately. Those are neither Republican nor Democratic issues. Legislation like that will also help the party stay in the majority after the 2022 elections. The list of things to accomplish seems endless with a start being legislation to end the COVID pandemic and reopen the economy. Then they can focus on forgiving some portion of student loans; passing the Voting Rights Act; immigration reform; ensuring free community college; climate change and guaranteeing affordable healthcare with a public option. None are easy issues and Democrats will need to negotiate within their own party on these. Once Democrats agree if Republicans commit to blocking these bills in the Senate using what’s called the nuclear option, ending the filibuster, will be crucial.
Former President Trump’s impeachment trial will begin the week of Feb. 8. I hope it will last only a few days after which the mainstream media should stop mentioning Trump’s name except when it comes up in terms of criminal trials. Beyond that, let’s make him irrelevant. It’s past time to move on from our national nightmare.
Biden and Harris had a pitch perfect inauguration and got down to work the same day. According to the New York Times, which reported on Biden’s first 17 executive orders and other directives, “The moves aim to strengthen protections for young immigrants, end construction of President Donald J. Trump’s border wall, end a travel ban and prioritize racial equity.” One order extremely important to the LGBTQ+ community was reported on in the Washington Blade. It is “The executive order implementing the decision in Bostock v. Clayton County… which found anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, thus illegal in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Biden on Monday ended the ban on transgender persons serving in the military.
Biden immediately asked for the resignation of the current surgeon general and fired the head of Voice of America and asked for other resignations to ensure his views will be the views represented by government agencies.
The administration was clearly prepared to get off to a quick start. The transition team did their job well. While Biden and Harris are working hard to focus on achieving unity as the saying goes, ‘it takes two to tango.’ Their patience will and should run out sooner rather than later.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.