Has Rubio achieved something in the Senate

What Would a Republican Senate Do With Biden? : The shackles of office

Should Joe Biden actually win the election and be elected 46th President of the United States, he has promised to unite the country. But he may well have to rule with a divided Congress if the Republicans can defend a majority in the Senate.

The division of the country is reflected in Congress - not an easy task for President Biden, even if he gained a reputation as a bridge builder for decades during his time as Senator and Vice President. The Americans were apparently willing to give the Democrat a chance after four chaotic Trump years. But they wanted to make sure that the policy change wasn't too radical.

What are the chances that Republicans will continue to have a majority in the Senate?

The Democrats had hoped to take the majority from the Republicans there. So far this is 53 out of 100 seats. Each state sends two senators to serve for six years. In this year's election, 35 seats were available.

As things stand, it doesn't look like the Democrats can crack this majority. However, the decision is still pending in four states. One of them, the one in Georgia, will not be decided in a by-election until January. After all, the Democrats continue to have the majority in the House of Representatives. This is important for tax and budget policy. However, both chambers are involved in the legislative process.

What could the Senate block?

In order to enforce decisions in important policy areas such as health and climate policy or an economic stimulus package in view of the corona crisis, President Biden would have to rely on the approval of the Senate. Before the election, both sides could not agree on the urgently needed Corona aid, that would now have top priority - and would require Biden's “deal maker” skills right from the start.

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Ambitious plans by the Democrats in the areas of migration, health policy, environmental and economic policy could have a hard time. Only compromises stand a chance. "The Republicans in the Senate will have a very strong steering function," said Republican Senator John Barrasso from Wyoming of the "New York Times". Without the support of the conservatives, no legislative proposal will be able to be implemented.

The politicians in Washington would then have a choice: They can finally start again to work together across party lines. Or they continue with the blockade policy that has been paralyzing Congress for years. That will be crucial to the question of how successful a Biden presidency can be.

"To make matters worse, Trump will remain on the sidelines and accompany politics with his tweets," says Jamie Fly, who previously advised Republican Senator Marco Rubio and now works for the German Marshall Fund. “The Senate will also be filled with many Republicans who are considering running for president in four years,” says Fly. They would then probably be less inclined to compromise that could help a democratic government.

How would that affect personnel issues?

When it comes to filling important positions, the Senate has a say - and can therefore always put obstacles in the way of a president. It starts with the composition of the cabinet. As the news site "Axios" reported, the old and probably new majority leader Mitch McConnell is already planning to prevent a President Biden from appointing politically left-wing ministers.

In the case of moderate candidates like Biden's foreign affairs advisor Tony Blinken, who acts for the State Department (or as a national security advisor), a Republican Senate would offer cooperation.

The Senate must also approve the appointment of federal judges, including those for the Supreme Court. Plans by the Democrats to change the composition of the Supreme Court, that is, to expand it, require a majority in the Senators.

It is hard to imagine that Biden would get this with the help of the Republicans: the Conservatives have had a majority of six to three in the court since the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett as the successor to the liberal judge icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg - they will not want to endanger them.

What does this mean for the strong left wing of the Democratic Party?

The hopes of the party left that, for example, Senators Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) or Bernie Sanders (Vermont) move into Biden's cabinet, could be disappointed. That, in turn, does not have to be bad news for Biden: if Sanders became Minister of Labor and Warren Minister of Treasury, for example, the Republican governors of their home states would decide who to fill the Senate - the Democrats could then lose two more Senators.

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It will be exciting to see how the progressives, who had postponed their criticism of the moderate presidential candidate Biden during the election campaign, would react.

Could Biden, as announced, rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement?

At midnight on Wednesday night, the time had come: the USA, the world's largest economic power and the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, finally withdrew from the 2015 Paris Agreement. That this happened at the same time as the American presidential election, which is known as the fateful election, is almost symbolic. Because the Democratic candidate Biden had promised to reverse this step in his first 100 days as president. That's what the world hopes for.

This announced return of the United States to the climate agreement would only be indirectly affected by a divided Congress. Since under Barack Obama the Senate had not approved the American accession, Biden could definitely restore the pre-Trump state without the Senate.

Other important foreign policy decisions, such as membership in the World Health Organization (WHO), which Trump ended in the middle of the pandemic, or the approval of disarmament treaties, he could make in this way - by foregoing ratification in the Senate.

This is important, for example, for New Start, the last remaining nuclear disarmament agreement between the nuclear powers USA and Russia. As things stand, the contract expires on February 5, 2021.

Foreign policy expert Fly points out that the European allies could, after the experience with Trump, insist that Biden secure the support of Congress in such important agreements so that policy does not change every four years. "Because Biden will probably only rule for one term," said Fly.

What other options would Biden have to govern despite the Senate blockade?

The power of a US president is enormous and goes far beyond that of other western heads of government. The President is both Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

He has a largely free hand in foreign policy. He can order military operations and impose (or lift) punitive tariffs. Biden could also intervene at least temporarily in policy areas that are otherwise subject to the legislative function of Parliament via executive orders. Even if he ultimately needs Congress for measures that will cost money or change laws.

In the past four years, Donald Trump has often ruled through regulations, also to overturn the decisions of his unloved predecessor. And Obama himself had already used this instrument as president in his second term in view of a divided Congress. He also had to do with a Republican Senate from 2014 - under majority leader McConnell.

Biden could also quickly reverse the regulations of his predecessor Trump. In view of his decades of experience in the Senate, however, the Democrat will first try to make more cross-party cooperation possible again.

Time and again, in the internal party primaries, he wanted to differentiate himself from competitors who had less hope that the Republicans would become sensible again after Trump was voted out.

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