The Covid relief plan meanwhile stretches the unity that Democrats concealed in their election year zeal to beat Donald Trump, with a broad division including a minimum wage hike in the huge plan.
The internal democratic struggle raises many questions, including, when will Biden step in and impose his authority? How willing is he to appease moderate Democrats who want to water down certain aspects of the package? And any Democrat – no matter how furious they are about compromises made on the right or on the left – would he dare to break with his new president who is testing his power in a 50-50 Senate?
The party separates
The Republican Party is even more divided than the Democrats. While some senators like Mitt Romney work through principled objections to Biden’s policies and candidates, Trump loyalists like Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Ron Johnson perform for their exiled leader and, possibly be more critical, its base of supporters. They are forcing their party to engage in what could turn into a four-year fight against Trump’s lies about an election he lost.
The president of the Center for American Progress fell in love with overwhelmed Republicans by her outspoken tweets and some progressives like Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders with whom she argued as Hillary Clinton’s senior campaign assistant in 2016. After West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat walking the tightrope of his deeply conservative state, said he could not support Tanden, his prospects for confirmation looked grim. But the White House is not yet willing to fold and is looking for a Republican to push Tanden over the line.
“We feel good about Neera,” Biden senior adviser Cedric Richmond told CNN. “If it has to be a Republican, it will be a Republican.”
“Why not just let these workers keep their jobs?” Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso has asked Haaland, as part of an emerging Republicans’ strategy, to use the hearings to highlight their own political goals.
Washington Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell captured the underlying dynamics of the audience. “I almost feel like your appointment is this proxy fight for the future of fossil fuels,” she told Haaland.
“Yet she is the first Aboriginal woman to be at Cabinet Sec. Is this where Manchin finds his discomfort? Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
“I raised a question about partial birth abortion which he chose not to answer. It’s obviously a concern,” Romney said, raising additional concerns about Haaland and Tanden.
The hearings also reflected another dominant theme of the new administration. Although there is fierce debate over their credentials, the ethnicity of Tanden, an American Indian, Haaland, a Native American, and Becerra, who is Hispanic, reflects the diversity at the heart of Biden’s administration.
Imminent clash over the Covid package
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Republican senators worked on the intricacies of the budget process known as reconciliation, which Democrats plan to use to ease the Covid bailout bill after the obstruction attempts.
During their weekly conference lunch, the GOP caucus also strategized on how to challenge Democratic unity during the package debate, CNN’s Lauren Fox reported. In a possible muddle that would double points on the board ahead of the Congressional election in November 2022, Romney and Republican Senator from Arkansas Tom Cotton are working on a plan to increase the minimum wage to $ 10 per hour provided that there are mandatory requirements on companies to discourage the hiring of undocumented migrants.
Their scheme followed Manchin’s proposal to raise the rate to $ 11 an hour over two years. Neither of these suggestions will likely be acceptable to progressive Democrats seeking to include a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour in the Covid bailout. All of this could be moot – at least for now – as both sides await a decision from the Senate parliamentarian on whether the inclusion of minimum wage changes is allowed under the reconciliation rules.
The White House added to the sense of uncertainty on Tuesday by declining to say whether Biden would sign a bill that included the $ 11 an hour figure.
“The president has offered $ 15 because it is what he thinks is fair for American workers,” said press secretary Jen Psaki.
The tensions of economic policy and the form of relief legislation – and ideological fault line issues like abortion – are necessary features of the adversarial democratic process. But some Republicans, who encouraged the ex-president’s assault on fraud in the US political system, can’t break the habit
Hawley hit back Tuesday to reporters who asked him if he was complicit in the riot after challenging Biden’s election victory. “I would say this is absolutely outrageous and an absolute lie and no one, I think, who knows any of the facts is alleging such a thing,” he said.
Also at Garland’s hearing, Texas Senator Cruz complained about the politicization of the Justice Department under the Obama administration, ignoring the role of former Attorney General William Barr by acting almost as a Trump’s personal lawyer under the previous administration.