What a Biden Presidency Could Still Accomplish With a GOP-Controlled Senate

Even with an obstructionist GOP Senate, there’s a lot a Democratic White House could do

Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2016. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Though nothing is official yet, the odds look good that Joe Biden will win the presidency when all the votes are counted. At the same time, the odds that Democrats will seize control of the Senate are vanishingly low. Should Biden win, a continued GOP Senate would hamper the new Biden presidency and likely force him to table policies on the progressive wish list in favor of infrequent bipartisan legislative wins and an executive order-centric term similar to what we saw in Obama’s second term.

Even so, there’s a lot a President Biden could still do in his first 100 days. Below, a brief overview of what we might expect to see:

Get Covid under control and make a plan for vaccine distribution

The most pressing issue for Biden would surely be a Covid-19 pandemic that’s already killed over 230,000 Americans. A Biden White House would need to implement a new nationwide plan for dealing with the coronavirus, and fortunately, he appears up to that job: He’s already released a pandemic response blueprint that includes doubling the number of testing sites in the U.S and the creation of a Pandemic Testing Board to monitor test production.

Help get the economy back up and running

Federal lawmakers were unable to pass a second Covid relief bill before the election. Given that jobless claims are once again trending up, a new relief package to the tune of several trillions of dollars will likely be a day-one priority. Biden has already released his Emergency Action Plan to Save the Economy proposal, which includes more direct stimulus payments and would boost unemployment benefits and Social Security payments.

End the chaos at DHS

Though Trump never built his wall, the U.S. is on track to admit half the number of legal immigrants this fiscal year as it did in 2016. A Biden administration’s first immigration policy priorities may very well be ending family separations, reversing the Trump administration’s travel bans from Muslim-majority countries, and expanding DACA. Jump-starting the visa application process and fixing the immigration court system would seem likely longer-term goals.

Rejoin global partnerships

Over the last few months, Biden has pledged to rejoin the World Health Organization, the Paris Agreement, and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and is expected to push to extend the New Start treaty arms agreement with Russia. And speaking more broadly, he’ll also be doing some image control: Global opinion of the U.S. has taken a huge plunge these last four years; a Biden White House would begin restoring America’s reputation and rebuilding global confidence in the U.S., especially with its historic allies, a big priority.

Repair a broken government

People tend to forget the extent to which Donald Trump decimated the bureaucratic machine: Even now, four years into his presidency, over 130 key government positions remain unfilled. That would mean a Biden White House, in addition to installing a new attorney general and trying to sort out the mess that is the post office, would need to focus on getting the nuts and bolts of government working again. Dismantling D.C. was part of Trump’s “drain the swamp” mantra; Biden will need to focus on helping keep the Capitol afloat.

Writer and editor. Previously at Medium, Pacific Standard, Wired

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