OPINION: Biden needs to bridge the gap between McConnell and Democrats

It’s imperative for major legislation to pass under Biden administration

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The McConnell Center welcomed Vice President Joe Biden as a part of the McConnell Center’s Distinguished Speakers series Feb. 11, 2011. Biden’s relationship with McConnell will be the key to a successful presidency, says opinion writer Jordan Parker. “Senator Mitch McConnell Welcoming Vice President Joe Biden” by McConnell Center is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Jordan Parker

As the world watches and waits for the inauguration of Joe Biden Jan. 20 with hope that the country will move toward a better future with a more unified government after four divisive years under Donald Trump, that hope might already be gone.

It’s been a trying summer and fall to say the least as the nation protested racial injustice, a judge who doesn’t believe in women’s rights was seated on the Supreme Court and the looming peril of climate change became more apparent. 

Some often don’t realize the president isn’t the most powerful person in our government. Yes, a president has the most influence and popularity among world leaders, but for policy purposes, the Senate is the engine of everything that happens. 

The Senate is one of the most important parts of our government because of its power. A bill can get passed through the House of Representatives, but when it gets to the Senate floor, it is then debated on and can be rejected without a conversation depending on which party has the majority in the Senate.

Biden is returning to the White House with a congress that is divided. The House is currently under the control of the Democrats, who have a slim majority of 219 seats, and the Senate currently belongs to the Republicans, who can hold control if they win one of the two Georgia runoff elections. 

It’s been clear over the past four years that the House Democrats and Senate Republicans can’t get along, and much of that is because President Donald Trump has painted the Democrats as too radical in their policies. I cannot overstate the fact that Biden has to find common ground with current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after Senate Democrats had a rough ride these past four years. Biden’s special knack for negotiating makes him up to the task.

However, reasoning with McConnell will be more difficult than ever, as he has taken on the role as grim reaper of the Senate. Over the years we’ve come to know the grim reaper as a representation of death, which is what McConnell represents to Democratic legislation entering his chamber. He has often stated that he will be the grim reaper to any progessive Democratic proposals and that they wouldn’t even be voted on, which would ensure socialism never landed on the president’s desk.

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Mitch McConnell is a tough nut to crack when it comes to passing bills. There are currently over 300 Democratic bills that were passed by the House into the Senate that McConnell is blocking. If that happens this time around, Biden will find himself as the scapegoat for an uneventful presidency, which I’m sure would be to McConnell’s delight.

In addition to that, McConnell has stonewalled multiple coronavirus relief bills that would’ve helped people through these tough times, but apparently it’s too much money for him. However, studies show more stimulus money would actually provide a boost to the economy. Gaining McConnell as an ally could unlock the realm of opportunity because of his relationships with high-profile senators such as Lindsey Graham, Chuck Grassley and Ted Cruz, who in turn could help legislation pass in a divided Senate. Recapturing the spirit of bipartisanship with these senators could help Biden maneuver his legislation through the GOP stonewall.

This is important to note, because a lot of people are eager to hold Biden accountable for what he promised during his campaign such as criminal justice reform, expanded healthcare and climate change legislation, but it all comes down to whether the Republicans want to make a deal or not, and the buck stops with McConnell on that decision. 

No, Biden shouldn’t back down to McConnell on everything. There are some issues that shouldn’t be partisan. When the time calls for it, Biden needs to put his foot down on immigration reform, racial injustice and climate initiatives, but it will be key to show McConnell that he cares about Republicans as well.

With the way Biden has spoken about uniting the country, he has given himself the perfect chance to mend the relationship between both parties and be a president for all Americans no matter who they supported, just as he has reiterated time and time again. I know that is easier said than done, but if we want to advance through the new term it’ll be our only way unless Democrats are able to secure both seats in the Senate in the Georgia Runoff Election.

That doesn’t mean a deal won’t get done. Biden and McConnell have spent 24 years together on the Senate floor making deals, as Biden is famous for reaching across the aisle in order to get legislation passed. During President Barack Obama’s administration, their relationship strengthened due to Biden being the main negotiator on Obama’s behalf. 

Biden was able to convince Republican senators Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania in addition to Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine to vote with the Democrats on the economic stimulus bill that ended the great recession in 2009, and brokered two budget deals with McConnell that limited debt in mid-2011 and after the 2012 election.

That is what Biden will need to do this time around, at a time when the nation is more divided than ever. If the last four years have told us anything, it’s that nothing gets done with a divided government in place. This is the time when we need to restore honor to the Senate. Trump has  convinced his GOP buddies that the Democrats will turn to socialism with their liberal policies, but the truth is the progressive wing of the Democractic party is finally going to get a chance to push through meaningful legislation that will set us up for a better future. So please Joe, work with Mitch.