What’s next: civil rights, voting rights, immigration, infrastructure?

By Peter Rosenstein - April 21, 2021 6:02 pm
Biden administration, gay news, Washington Blade

President Joe Biden

The Biden administration is getting attacked from the left and the right over what they are doing and not doing. They are attacked over what to do first: Should it be civil rights, voting rights, gun rights, immigration, or infrastructure? In one week the Washington Post attacked Biden in four editorials; twice on his handling of refugees, once on climate change and once on his dealings with Russia. He has been attacked for not moving on gun control.

The public, particularly Democrats and independents, support his $2.2 trillion infrastructure proposal but contrary to what the administration is claiming Republicans don’t support it based on a Marist poll. Other polls show Republican voters do support some of what congressional Republicans want to strip out of it calling these parts not infrastructure. Insider reports: “The CNBC poll illustrates the catch for Republicans: the nontraditional aspects of Biden’s plan are very popular. This could prove pivotal for its future, as the White House has stressed that its definition of bipartisanship doesn’t focus just on what Republican politicians favor, but on what Republican voters favor as well.” So the road forward for Biden’s infrastructure plan won’t be easy but it is possible.

Then there are all the mass shootings, with more than 45 reported in the last month. This has pushed the administration to move more forcefully on gun control and there is a demand Biden make this a priority. After a recent shooting, “Biden calls U.S. gun violence an ‘international embarrassment’ as he outlines executive actions.” But when it was suggested he wasn’t focused enough on it he responded curtly saying he has a history of always focusing on it. The question is can he get Congress to do anything about it. The House of Representatives has passed two bills on background checks which look like they will both languish in the senate. The problem for the administration is Congress is as unlikely to act on this issue now as it has been in the past.

For the administration the question has to be what can they get done now in preparation for 2022?

Clearly, Republicans are helping with that with their party nutcases like Marjorie Taylor Green, and Matt Gaetz calling for the formation of an America First caucus promoting “common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”

Now that has been abandoned because even Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy “indirectly referenced the congresswoman’s new caucus, tweeting, “The Republican Party is the party of Lincoln & the party of more opportunity for all Americans—not nativist dog whistles.”

But Democrats do need to have some legislative successes beyond the stimulus package and the Biden administration has to decide what can get passed. When it comes to civil rights it appears the Equality Act, which would grant LGBTQ+ rights and has passed in the House will likely die in the Senate. The same can be said of the Voting Rights Act if Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) can’t be moved to act on the filibuster.

So things will not be easy for the administration as it moves forward. The basis for some hope on the infrastructure bill is that eventually it can be passed using reconciliation and since Manchin agreed to that once with the stimulus bill there is some hope he will agree again. As I wrote in a previous column he is an egomaniac and a hypocrite, but one we must deal with because until we elect more Democratic senators unfortunately we need him.

What Biden and Harris have going for them are a host of incredibly talented people working in the administration. They are rooting out all the Trump regulations that need to be gotten rid of and dumping all the left-over Trump staffers who tried to bury themselves in the bureaucracy and in advisory boards and commissions. From the EPA, to Interior, to State, to Defense good people are doing good things. Yet reality is such that it is the legislation passed that will make the real difference in 2022 because it makes the biggest obvious difference in people’s lives.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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