First 100 Days: 2020 Post Election Analysis Issue by Issue
As President-elect Biden stands poised to assume the office he has aspired to for the past three decades, he inherits a national crisis not unlike the one he stepped into as vice president nearly 12 years ago. Just as President Obama did in early 2009, Biden will have to subordinate his agenda to the immediate needs of the country. Unlike Obama, he’ll have to do so with a narrowly divided Senate, a diminished House majority, and, in all likelihood, a divided federal government.
Then-Vice President Biden was charged with leading the Obama administration's effort in crafting and ultimately enacting a stimulus bill to boost an economy reeling from the Great Recession. Biden's intimate knowledge of the institutions of Congress, and his deep well of relationships and goodwill on Capitol Hill served him well then as they should now. Expect the first 100 days to be punctuated by an effort to unite and heal a divided country, beginning with a "Recovery Act"-style health and economic relief package, complete with policies and resources to distribute an anticipated COVID-19 vaccine. Other topline items that the campaign has committed to tackling early in its tenure include strengthening the Voting Rights Act, immigration reforms and gun control measures.
That said, any range of legislative motion for the Biden Agenda will hinge on the fate of the Senate. As run-off elections loom in Georgia early next year, control of the majority hangs in the balance. Should Republicans manage to win at least one of the two pending races, the scope and scale of a COVID stimulus package or any other top shelf Biden priority would be significantly limited. A bare, 50-seat Democratic majority would be able to organize the Senate, confirm Biden’s nominees, repeal regulations under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), and pass a limited range of taxing and spending measures under the Budget Reconciliation process. Beyond that, they would be depending on Republican cooperation that may or may not be forthcoming.
But regardless of the run-off outcomes, there is a great deal that President-elect Biden can and will seek to do on Day One, beginning with reversing the Trump administration’s myriad executive actions. On the regulatory front, there are hundreds of possibilities – including revoking Trump executive orders, guidance documents or regulations that are not yet complete or still facing court challenges. He has said he would reverse Trump’s rollback of 100 public health and environmental rules put in place by the Obama administration. He has clearly signaled his intention to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and re-engage with the World Health Organization, among other international efforts President Trump has spurned on issues ranging from trade to security. He has also committed to Day One action on social and economic justice, ethics in government and foreign policy, as evidenced by the range of contacts with foreign heads of state already underway.
With Republicans faring far better across the board than expected, legislative ambitions for a Biden agenda have been cut down to size before the transition has even begun. Carbon tax? Forget about it. Green New Deal? Not even the lite version. Legislative compromise is definitely not off the table, even in areas of partisan disagreement like energy, environment and natural resources. Republicans and Democrats alike may be tired of the last Administration’s constant rancor, and Biden himself possesses considerable knowledge of the personalities and politics of the Senate. He’ll need it. Even in the event of a 50-50 Democratic majority, pending the outcome of Georgia’s run-off elections in January, every vote – from cabinet selections to a hypothetical reconciliation package – will be hard won and subject to veto by more conservative Democratic Senators. Most of the real action will be of the executive variety, or in scarce areas of potential bipartisan agreement, such as targeted COVID relief, infrastructure or retirement and savings.