It is February 19, 2021 and welcome to First 100. You can sign up to receive First 100 by email by click here.
The left looked at Joe Biden with skepticism throughout his presidential campaign and time in the White House. But a popular story in recent weeks has been this idea that Biden tamed the left, through raising awareness and hiring some staff and passing certain items on the agenda. I think the transition went relatively smoothly and the massive relief program sort of overshadowed everything else.
But this marriage, if you could even call it that, was never going to last. Progressives just want more than Biden is willing to give. Yes, Biden is positioned in the center of the party, and that center has shifted to the left. But that won’t be enough for many people, and there are still decades of reflective pushback from aggressive politics to get through.
We’ve seen it more directly in the student debt cancellation debate, which I think we can say Biden really doesn’t want to do. He is obviously unwilling to write off up to $ 50,000 in an individual’s debt, which has been raised to the left pole of the debate since Elizabeth Warren convinced Chuck Schumer to go with him. But when Biden brought it up to Milwaukee City Hall, you can tell from his arguments that he’s not interested. He opposes the idea of canceling the debt of people “who went to Harvard, Yale or Penn”, who would be eligible whether the threshold is $ 10,000 or $ 50,000. (By the way only 2% of Harvard students have federal student loans; they have scholarships based on need.) He would make the $ 10,000 if Congress gave him a bill, but he knows Congress won’t; even if the filibuster is abolished, it would be risky in the current Senate.
I think there’s a concern that the general public might get excited about the special breaks for elite college students, but the kind of people who take on student debt are kids of middle-class families. The left is quite invested in this issue, and there has been a lot of hindsight. The latest is that Biden ask his Ministry of Justice to examine the legality of the action of the executive. But it will take many months, and this is traditionally how politicians make them disappear.
But there are other painful ruptures looming.
Senators released Biden-backed draft comprehensive immigration reform bill this week. But he appears to be dead on arrival, and defenders are mainly wondering if there is a strategy to get him through. There has already been rumors of piecemeal fixes, which doesn’t exactly signal a strong negotiating position.
This is to be expected. But the bigger problem is with Trump’s border policy, where Biden is trying to thread a sharp needle between the defenders of a more humane system and the moderates living in fear of the accusation of “open borders”. Notably, Biden did not put tougher enforcement measures in the immigration bill, but he deported immigrants, especially black immigrants, to similar rates like its predecessor. By an account more than 26,000 were evicted since the day of the inauguration.
Biden tried to institute a 100-day moratorium on evictions, but was blocked by a Texas judge. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released yesterday temporary directives for execution and deletion. The guidelines will be target resources threats to national security and public safety, and put in place a pre-approval system for cases outside this framework. But that’s obviously not a moratorium, and advocates believe Biden could go much further while respecting the judge’s order, such as refusing to deport asylum seekers who may be injured in their home country. origin, or by expanding the temporary protection status for refugees from countries in times of disaster or civil war.
The ACLU says the guidelines “continue to give ICE agents significant discretion to conduct operations that harm our communities and tear our families apart.” In particular, the presumptions of what constitutes “national security” or “public security” are too broad, argues the ACLU, because they assume that “all cross-borderers are threats”.
You can’t talk about a split between Biden and the left without making room for the $ 1.9 trillion bailout that’s about to go through Congress. This includes a lot of long-sought progressive policies like a child allowance (although it could be better structured), strong funding to support child care and expanded broadband infrastructure, and larger grants for the Affordable Care Act trade. Administration officials were lobby for the biggest bill possible.
But even here, a few movements are worrying. Biden keeps saying, in public and now in private, that the minimum wage of $ 15 an hour will be taken off the bill. He always divulges this by saying that he really wants the increase, but there’s no way at all how things are going to play out. (Certainly, setting up a parallel passage process would be tantamount to removing it from the bailout bill.) Biden also floating a smaller number like $ 12 or $ 13. Also, with a cap of $ 1.9 trillion in the reconciliation instructions, you start to see negotiations. who would cut the programs such as paid sick leave at the federal level or health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers.
No one should have expected Biden to turn into a daring progressive overnight. And ambition still falters on the shores of government. But a lot of these things are under Biden’s personal control, and the rest under the control of the Democrats, without Republican interference. The Biden team has consistently spoken about the need for tangible progress. Obviously, a successful resolution of the pandemic will go a long way. But in 2022 and 2024, people are going to wonder what else has been done to improve their lives. We know that complaining about “obstacles” does not work in an electoral context. There’s room to get things done, and Biden better figure out how to do it.
What day of Biden’s presidency is it?
Day 31. Biden will be at the Pfizer vaccine plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan today.