by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President-elect Joe Biden is about to be sworn into office, when he will immediately face the left wing of his party and large Republican minorities in both chambers of Congress pulling him in opposite directions.
Before the Nov. 3 elections, Biden appeared confident that Democrats would sweep the House and Senate. That would have made it possible for him to enact Franklin Roosevelt-esque reform to deal with the public health and economic crises.
Fast-forward to Wednesday, and Biden does have Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress. The problem is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is clinging on to power by the narrowest margin since Republicans’ majority in 2001. The Senate, meanwhile, is split 50-50 seats apiece. Democrats will only control the body from Wednesday, when Vice President-elect Kamala Harris can cast tiebreaking votes.
Biden never cast a tiebreaking vote himself during his eight years as former President Barack Obama’s second in command. And his transition has indicated he and Harris would prefer to make bipartisan pitches for their ideas rather than depending on the heavy-handed move.
At the same time, Biden is already under pressure from more liberal Democrats. So-called “Squad” leader, Democratic Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, never endorsed him. And others, such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, have vowed to drag Biden toward the far left on policy.
With President Trump poised to be removed as a common enemy, Biden will now have to woo Republicans while wrangling the more liberal factions of his party.
Republican strategist Brad Todd said the coming weeks and months would test Biden as the centrist Democrat who bested socialist Bernie Sanders for the 2020 nomination but then needed to appeal to his base for the White House.