Democrats are running out of time

Democrats have to get rid of the Senate filibuster and stop worrying about bipartisanship.

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SOURCERobert Reich

The political window of opportunity for Joe Biden and Democrats to deliver on their promises to the American people and pass the legislation the country needs, could close at any time. 

We must understand how rare it is that the Senate and the House and the presidency are all under the control of the Democratic Party.

That’s happened in only 4 of the past 28 years

The Democrats’ current Senate majority would end with the shift of a single seat from Democrats to the Republicans. That could happen even during this session of Congress. In 27 of the 38 Congresses since World War II, the party in control of the Senate has changed during the session.

Not to be morbid, but we also need to consider that this Senate has six Democratic senators, over the age of 70, who are from states where a Republican governor would be free to replace them with a Republican should a vacancy occur.

Five other Democratic senators are from states in which a Democratic vacancy would go unfilled for months until a special election was held to fill the seat — which itself would hand the G.O.P. control of the Senate at least until that special election.

It would be foolish to count on the Democrats increasing their numbers in the Senate or the House in the midterm elections of 2022. The president’s party rarely, if ever, picks up more seats during midterm elections. The last time a Democratic president has not lost Democratic seats in Congress in his first midterm election was 1934.

Meanwhile, state Republicans — who, not incidentally, control a majority of state governments — are proposing an avalanche of bills to make it harder for likely Democratic constituencies to vote, including people of color, young people, and low-income people. Some states, like Georgia, have already put these voter suppression measures into place.

And with these state Republicans in control of the upcoming once-in-a-decade redistricting process, we could see even more gerrymandering in these states — meaning an even greater likelihood that Republicans gain ground in the House.

If Joe Biden and the Democrats are going to accomplish what a majority of Americans want them to — such as raising the minimum wage, expanding health care, strengthening unions, raising taxes on big corporations and the wealthy, providing free public higher education, and strengthening voting rights with the For the People Act — they’ve got to get it done, now. 

That means Democrats have to get rid of the Senate filibuster and stop worrying about bipartisanship. 

The window of opportunity is already tiny. And it’s closing fast.

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Robert Reich
Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fourteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "Saving Capitalism." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, co-founder of the nonprofit Inequality Media and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, Inequality for All.

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