Impeachment is easy. Governing is hard.
That may be the lesson Democrats on Capitol Hill are about to learn as President-elect Biden prepares to take office.
While the impeachment vote got most of the publicity, the biggest news of the past few days was Joe Biden’s prime-time TV rollout of his $1.9. trillion COVID-19 spending plan. This should not be confused with Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan or his $2 trillion green energy plan — all of which he hopes to pass in his first 100 days in office.
Which means this is just the taxpayer-spending appetizer.
Giving away $800 billion in direct stimulus payments and enhanced unemployment benefits will be easy. As a Biden source told the Wall Street Journal, Joe doesn’t believe this is the time to worry about deficit spending, even as the debt approaches a gasp-inducing $30 trillion. And millions of Americans getting free money in the mail are more than happy to agree.
But the plan also includes a $350 billion bailout of state and local governments, many of them poorly governed and chronically in debt. Republicans deride it as the “Blue State Bailout, ” but politically speaking they have a point. Do taxpayers in swing states like New Hampshire, Florida and Wisconsin really want to dump billions into states like Illinois and New Jersey that have mismanaged themselves into a hole?
Donating tax dollars to shore up generous union pensions isn’t likely to play well in places like Georgia or North Carolina, either.
All of these states have Democrats in Congress who have to face the voters again in two years. Between now and then, Joe Biden is going to ask them to cast a lot of votes on a lot of hot-button issues.
For example, Biden also included a federal minimum wage hike of $15 an hour — an odd item for a plan designed to fight a pandemic. And while the minimum wage polls well, it’s a divisive issue among small business owners — many of whom are already struggling to survive the COVID economy.
Another overlooked part of the Biden minimum wage is that it eliminates the so-called “tip wage” paid in most bars and restaurants. Do members of Congress from Las Vegas, New Orleans and Orlando want to go back home and tell the hospitality industry they voted to hike their labor costs during a downturn?
Democratic congressional leaders are on board:
“We will get right to work to turn President-elect Biden’s vision into legislation that will pass both chambers and be signed into law,” Sen. Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said in a joint statement.
But swing-state Democrats greeted the Biden plan with more reserve.
“I look forward to reviewing the details of the proposal,” Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) said Thursday night, “but I am glad that President-elect Biden announced significant investments in vaccine distribution, additional direct relief to families and businesses, and much-needed aid to state and local governments that will help prevent further layoffs of teachers and public safety personnel.”
Note that Hassan, who could be in one of 2022’s most hotly-contested campaigns if GOP Governor Chris Sununu decides to run, did not endorse Biden’s plan. Neither did Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly (Ariz.) or Catherine Cortez-Masto (N.M.), who along with Hassan are on the Cook Reports list of competitive 2022 races.
And there’s more to come. According to reports, Biden considered including his $370 billion plan for student loan forgiveness in this proposal, but he’s holding off for now. Biden also has a green energy proposal that’s more aggressive than President Barack Obama’s. Not to mention proposals from their fellow congressional Democrats, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s suggestion of a commission to look for ways to “rein in” our media.
As hard as it may be to believe, Donald Trump will soon be gone. And when he is, Democrats won’t have the Donald to distract from the specifics of their policy decisions. They’ll have to defend these proposals and, eventually, vote on them.
No wonder Democrats are talking about delaying a Senate impeachment trial until months from now. Ironically, they may be the ones who want to keep Trump around.