Congress and the President Do Something Big for a Change

One congressman said he and other longtime Democratic lawmakers feared they’d never do anything consequential in Congress again. But the American Rescue Plan (aka the Covid relief bill) will be extremely consequential. There’s much more in it than $1,400 checks for most Americans and extended benefits for the unemployed.

Paul Waldman of The Washington Post describes some of the bill’s other features, the totality of which make this an historic bill (that, unlike the only major legislation of the past four years, isn’t designed to help corporations or the rich):

If anything, we’ve underplayed how significant this bill is.

Yes, those subsidy checks are important . . . A family of four with a household income under $150,000 will get $5,600, even before other measures, such as the boosted child tax credit, are accounted for. That . . . will provide a tremendous boost of economic activity that will accelerate the recovery; the American economy is now projected to grow this year at a pace we haven’t seen in decades.

But . . . the bill is full of provisions that could have significant or even transformative effects on the country, many of which have gotten little or no attention:

The child tax credit. For the next year, the bill increases the child tax credit and makes more of it “refundable,” which means that more people with very low incomes will be able to get that credit as a refund even if they’re paying little or nothing in taxes. It will also send the child tax credit to families on a monthly basis, rather than having it as something they might or might not get as a lump sum after filing their taxes. . . . 

The Earned Income Tax Credit. The bill expands the EITC for childless low-income workers; 17 million of them could see a boost in their after-tax income.

Pensions. The bill includes a provision championed by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) that bails out a group of 185 multi-employer union pension plans that are in danger of failing. As the New York Times put it, “without the rescue, more than a million retired truck drivers, retail clerks, builders and others could be forced to forgo retirement income.”

Student loan debt. Under current law, if you have outstanding student loan debt that is canceled, the IRS treats your forgiven debt as income, which can result in a huge tax bill. Millions of borrowers on repayment plans pay a set portion of their income every month, and after 20 years the remaining balance is forgiven. The ARP would make that kind of loan forgiveness tax-free, and it would also apply to future loan forgiveness the Biden administration might undertake.

Exploitation of veteran students. The ARP closes a loophole in student-loan rules that has provided an incentive for colleges, particularly for-profit operations, to heavily recruit veterans paying for college with the G.I. Bill; these veterans are often roped in with false promises and then left without a degree or a good education.

Farmers. The ARP provides billions of dollars in assistance to disadvantaged farmers, many of whom are Black. As The Post reports, the bill would benefit “Black farmers in a way that some experts say no legislation has since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Affordable Care Act subsidies. Under the ACA, only those earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $106,000 for a family of four, are eligible for any subsidies to help afford health insurance they buy on the private marketplaces. The ARP removes that limit, meaning those at higher incomes could get some help if their insurance costs more than 8.5 percent of their income. In addition to removing this “subsidy cliff,” it also enhances the subsidies for those at lower incomes, which will mean significant premium cuts for many people.

Medicaid expansion. Twelve states have still refused to accept the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, leaving huge numbers of poor citizens without health coverage. The ARP boosts the federal contribution to Medicaid so that holdout states will actually make money if they accept the expansion. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, if Texas accepted the expansion, it would [improve] its state budget [and provide] coverage to 878,000 uninsured, low-income Texans.

Mass transit. The bill includes $30 billion to shore up mass transit systems that were hit hard by the pandemic, forestalling service and maintenance cuts. As Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute says, “Where we’d normally see the recovery worse from cuts, and financial weakness used as a cynical excuse to slash, privatize, and never restore public functions, the ARP moves to stop that dead in its tracks.”

There’s plenty more, including funds for child care, rental assistance and food assistance, among other things. Some of these provisions, including the student loan forgiveness provision, the pension bailout and the “subsidy cliff” fix, will only be in effect until 2025. Democrats are hoping that they’ll prove popular and effective enough that they can be made permanent. It’s a good bet that at least some of them will.

There’s a lot more to say about this bill, especially how it represents a rethinking of fiscal policy and the incentives government provides citizens. . . . But the big picture of the American Rescue Plan is that, to paraphrase a former vice president, this is a seriously big deal. And the more we learn about it as it gets implemented, the bigger it will probably look.

Bottom Up, Not Top Down

One party wants more people to vote, while the other party wants fewer. One party helps people at the economic bottom, while the other helps those at the top. It’s almost as if we should support one party, not the other!

From The New York Times, “Biden Bets on the Poor” (and the middle):

To jump-start the ailing economy, President Biden is turning to the lowest-paid workers in America, and to the people who are currently unable to work at all.

Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic relief package, which cleared the Senate on Saturday and [will] be headed for the president’s signature in a matter of days, would overwhelmingly help low earners and the middle class, with little direct aid for the high earners who have largely kept their jobs and padded their savings over the past year.

For the president, the plan is more than just a stimulus proposal. It is a declaration of his economic policy — one that captures the principle Democrats and liberal economists have espoused over the past decade: that the best way to stoke faster economic growth is from the bottom up.

Mr. Biden’s decision to take that approach in his first major economic legislation is in stark contrast to [the former occupant of the White House and unindicted co-conspirator], whose initial effort in Congress was a tax-cut package in 2017 that largely benefited corporations and wealthier Americans.

The “American Rescue Plan” advanced by Mr. Biden includes more generous direct benefits for low-income Americans than the rounds of stimulus passed last year . . . It is more focused on people than on businesses and is expected to help women and minorities in particular, because they have taken an outsize hit in the pandemic recession.

Researchers predict it could become one of the most effective laws to fight poverty in a generation. Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy estimates that the plan’s provisions, including a generous expansion of tax credits for low-income Americans with children, would reduce the poverty rate by more than a quarter for adults and cut the child poverty rate in half.

. . . The new legislation contains provisions intended to attack the virus itself, including money for Covid testing and vaccine distribution.

But it also includes elements of longstanding Democratic priorities that will apply widely to lower-income Americans whether they are hurting financially from the pandemic or not. In addition to the tax credits, the bill increases subsidies for child care, broadens eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, and expands food stamps, rental assistance and unemployment benefits, among other provisions. . . .

Mr. Biden’s economic team is betting that a mix of $1,400 checks to individuals, more generous jobless aid and other safety-net benefits in the plan will help power a rapid increase in economic growth by aiming money at people who need help right now to pay their bills, buy groceries and stave off eviction or foreclosure — as opposed to higher earners who would be more likely to save the money.

Many economists predict that the increase in consumer spending would spur more hiring and business production, helping to lift the economy to its fastest annual growth rate since the mid-1980s. . . .

What [some] call wasteful, untargeted or counterproductive spending in Mr. Biden’s bill are, in the eyes of Mr. Biden and his allies, the key ingredients for a roaring recovery once widespread vaccine distribution restores a sense of normalcy across the nation.

“Focusing on marginalized workers,” said Janelle Jones, the chief economist at the Labor Department, “is really the way to make sure we are lifting all boats” . . .

High earners and large companies show little sign of needing government help today. On the whole, the pandemic recession and recovery have made them richer. Workers earning higher wages and those able to work remotely are far less likely to have been thrown off the job, and they have stockpiled savings in the recovery. Companies like Amazon have gained market share as consumer habits have shifted.

But at the bottom end of the income spectrum — and in particular, among Black and Latino families — millions of Americans are still feeling the deep pain of the recession. The economy remains nearly 10 million jobs short of its prepandemic peak, with women of all races and men of color struggling the most to regain employment. The unemployment rate for Black men remains above 10 percent.

Data from the Census Household Pulse survey, . . . shows that the lingering economic distress of the crisis is concentrated among low earners and those who remain out of work. Nearly half of households earning below $35,000 a year reported falling behind on housing payments. One quarter reported not having enough food.

Mr. Biden’s plan would shower those households with government assistance. Elizabeth Pancotti, the policy director at Employ America, . . . has calculated the benefits for several different hypothetical hard-hit Americans under the bill.

For a working single mother of a 3-year-old who earns the federal minimum wage — just under $16,000 a year — the bill would provide as much as $4,775 in direct benefits, Ms. Pancotti estimates. For a family of four with one working parent and one who remains unemployed because of child care constraints, the benefits could total $12,460.

The Tax Policy Center in Washington estimates that the direct payments and expanded tax credits in the bill would, by themselves, increase after-tax income this year by more than 20 percent for an average household in the lowest quintile of income earners in the United States. It previously had forecast that Mr. Trump’s tax cuts would raise that same group’s income by less than 1 percent in the first year.

“It is as far away as you can get from regressive, supply-side economics,” said Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, a longtime champion of an expanded child tax credit to fight poverty. “This is progressive economics that puts money in the hands of working people who will spend that money” . . . .

What the Majority Wants vs. the Minority Rule Party

The American Rescue Plan the House of Representatives passed early Saturday morning has so much in it that one amazing provision is hardly being mentioned:

President Biden and Democratic lawmakers want to fight child poverty by giving U.S. families a few hundred dollars every month for every child in their household — no strings attached. A kind of child allowance. . . . Experts say it could cut child poverty nearly in half (NPR).

It’s understandable, therefore, that polls say an overwhelming majority of Americans support the Democrats’ Covid relief bill. One poll says 76% — even 60% of Republicans — support it. But not a single Republican in the House of Representatives voted for it. 

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Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent of The Washington Post both have columns about the bill and the politics. Here’s a mixture from what they wrote:

If I asked you to explain the Republican case against the Covid relief bill, what would you say? Well, they think it’s too expensive, and they’d rather not give too much help to states and localities. But their arguments against it seem halfhearted, anemic, almost resigned. . . .

This ought to be a moment when the GOP is back in its comfort zone. It’s not a party built for governing; Republicans no longer have much of a policy agenda, their leaders have become much more skilled at obstruction than at passing laws, and they have an enormous propaganda machine with a talent for creating fear and outrage. The party’s specialty is opposition.

One of the things they’ve done in the past is cast every new Democratic or liberal move as a harbinger of an impending apocalypse. Obamacare, they said in 2010, would destroy the American health care system. If gay people are allowed to marry, they said in 2004, the result would be the end of families and the breakdown of society. Both predictions proved ludicrously wrong, but at the time, they were highly effective means of motivating opposition. Today you can still find such rhetoric, but you have to look for it. . . .

Back in 2009, [Republican congressman Paul Ryan] made a very public case against a stimulus a fraction this big, making an actual argument (if a fraudulent one) about what debt Armageddon would mean for American society.

These days it’s harder to make that case. Republicans blew up the deficit with a huge tax cut for the rich, and cheered along as the pre-Covid economy was rocket-fueled with stimulus. Economists no longer fear the long-term risks of massive deficit spending amid big crises.

As a result, there’s nothing close to the same kind of public argument this time. As Paul Krugman points out:

Republicans appear to be losing the economic argument in part because they aren’t even bothering to show up

It’s as if they know they don’t have to.

They may well fully expect Democrats to . . . get the economy booming again, even as the vaccine rollout and other policies successfully tame the pandemic.

Yet Republicans know that even if this happens, they still have a good chance at recapturing the House at a minimum, helped along by a combination of voter suppression and other counter-majoritarian tactics and built-in advantages.

[Outside of Washington] they’re racing forward with an extraordinary array of new voter suppression efforts. Such measures are advancing in Georgia, Florida and Iowa, and in many other states.

In a good roundup of all these new efforts, Ari Berman notes:

After record turnout in 2020, Republican-controlled states appear to be in a race to the bottom to see who can pass the most egregious new barriers to voting.

On top of that, Republicans are openly boasting that their ability to take back the House next year will gain a big lift from extreme gerrymanders. Some experts believe they can do that even if Democrats win the national House popular vote by a margin similar to that of 2020.

So is there any reason to doubt that they’re primarily counting on more of the same as their path back to power this time?

[But controlling the White House and both houses of Congress] presents an extraordinary opportunity for Biden and congressional Democrats if they can see their way clear to take advantage of it.

Right now, Democrats are tying themselves in knots trying to figure out how to increase the minimum wage, something President Biden ran on, their entire party believes in, and which is overwhelmingly popular with the public. Some want $15 an hour, while others would prefer $11.

Yet the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that a straight minimum wage increase can’t pass via the reconciliation process — the only way to pass a bill with a simple majority vote — the details of which are incomprehensible, or endlessly maddening, or both.

So Democrats have to find some kind of fiscal somersault to try to get the minimum wage increase into the Covid relief bill. 

This is no way to make laws. And what’s even worse is that it’s happening at a moment when Republicans — who in the past have been nothing if not skilled at undermining, vilifying, and sabotaging Democratic presidents — have seldom looked more feckless.

Republicans just haven’t been able to take the hatred and fear their hardcore base feels for Biden and scale it up and out, which then affects their ability to whip up frenzied opposition to the things he’s trying to do. And the broader context matters, too: When we’re caught in a pandemic and an economic crisis, only so many people will get worked up about whether a transgender girl is allowed to play softball.

That gives Democrats the chance to move forward confidently with their agenda, an agenda that is enormously popular. Yet some in the party are still in the grip of the nonsensical belief that it’s more important to retain a Senate procedure whose purpose is to thwart progress than to pass laws that solve problems.

In every American state legislature and in most every legislature around the world, if there’s majority support for a bill, it passes. In almost all cases supermajorities are only required, if ever, on things like constitutional amendments.

And every argument the filibuster’s defenders make about it — that it produces deliberative debate, that it encourages bipartisanship, that it makes for cooperation and compromise — is simply wrong, as anyone who has been awake for the last couple of decades knows perfectly well.

The Covid relief bill will pass, because it’s the only thing Democrats can do without a supermajority. It’s a vital, popular bill that could have been done in cooperation with Republicans had they wanted, but instead they’ve decided to oppose it. Which is their right, but it also shows how a simple majority should be the requirement for more legislating — which can only happen if the filibuster is eliminated.

The first weeks of the Biden presidency show the path Democrats can take: Push forward with the popular and consequential parts of your agenda, don’t be distracted by bleating from Republicans, act as though the public is behind you (because it is), and you might find that the Republican opposition machine isn’t as potent as it used to be.

But none of that will be possible unless Democrats can deliver on their promises. If they let themselves be handcuffed by the filibuster, the Biden presidency will fail and Republicans will take control of Congress. In other words, Democrats will have done the job Republicans couldn’t do themselves.

Unquote.

Neither of the columnists mentioned two key parts of the Democratic agenda.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It would protect voters from racial discrimination and voter suppression.

The For the People Act would expand voting rights, overhaul our campaign finance system, and end extreme partisan gerrymandering.

All that stands in the way of these bills becoming law is the current requirement that ten Republican senators vote for them. That’s why the 50 Democratic senators need to end or severely limit the filibuster, thereby restoring majority rule to the US Senate. That’s how we can help restore majority rule to the United States of America.

The Grand Old Party No Longer Exists — It’s Something Else Now

The future of the Republican Party is a hot topic, now that its Congressional cohort has finally and formally announced its support for insurrection. In reaction, the relatively sensible members of the party could gain more support, but it seems much more likely that the party will become more extreme as its anti-insurrection minority drifts away. America will have an even more extreme right-wing party, even though that’s hard to believe. As the number of Republicans goes down, the number of Democrats should go up. That in turn would lead to the Democratic Party winning more elections, but simultaneously shifting somewhat to the right (the conservative wing of the Democratic Party would grow).

Will Bunch of The Philadelphia Inquirer isn’t looking that far ahead. For now, he thinks “bipartisanship is dead — and so is the immoral Republican Party”. This is most of his latest column, with my italicized modifications [note: a certain person’s name doesn’t appear below and if I’m careful, will never again appear on this blog]:

The Republican Party was born on March 20, 1854, the green shoots of a political spring. Unlike America’s other parties that were often shotgun weddings of convenience, the Republicans burst forth around moral ideas that were so powerful — ending slavery and making America a world industrial power — that the tail of this supernova lasted for more than 166 years and inspired its eventual nickname, the Grand Old Party.

That GOP died — morally, if not officially — in the late afternoon gloaming of a grey and bitterly cold winter’s day, Feb. 13, 2021. After 43 Republican senators who’d been given a green light to “vote their conscience” on impeachment still managed to come up empty — thus enshrining the notion that an end-of-term president can foment a deadly insurrection to thwart a peaceful transition of power and not face any consequences — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell strolled to the well of the Senate. He was presumably holding the bloody knife with which he’d repeatedly stabbed American democracy for a dozen years hidden behind his back.

It turns out that McConnell’s past moments of political shamelessness — the years of hurting America’s recovery just to electorally thwart our first Black president, the theft of a Supreme Court pick from Barack Obama so it could be made by a dangerous demagogue whom the Kentuckian then helped pack the judiciary — were just an audition for Saturday’s GOP eulogy.

“There’s no question — none — that President [so and so] is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” said McConnell, referring to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol that had endangered McConnell’s colleagues, his staffers and himself. “No question about it.” But his faux moment of moral clarity was all a sham, as shown by leading the Feckless 43 in acquitting [Dear Leader] as well as his pretzel logic to justify his vote, a lie-based misreading of the U.S. Constitution that he’d already shredded into 10,000 pieces as he turned the Party of Lincoln into an authoritarian cult with no moral standing and no ideology beyond realpolitick to protect white identity politics.

But McConnell’s effort to obfuscate was in fact one of the most revelatory moments in the long, muddled history of American politics. The unbearable nothingness of his failure — and that of most of his party — to hold [their boss] to account for a full-frontal assault on America’s core ideals was the final flatlining in the long slow death of a political party that is no longer grand, just old. On paper, the Republican Party may live on — but the GOP as an idea and a moral force is deader than a parrot in a Monty Python sketch, nailed to its perch in a gross caricature of what it once was.

And it’s time for the rest of us — the 57%, the rough number who support the launch of the President Biden era, equal to the percentage of senators who voted to convict — to act accordingly. There is no place for bipartisanship when half of that proposed arrangement is no longer a functioning political party within a working democracy.

“I think our country needs a strong Republican party — it’s very important,” a visibly shaken House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday, crashing a news conference of House impeachment managers to rebut McConnell and his intentionally misleading account of how the process went down. But Pelosi was only partially right. America will indeed need a vigorous two-party (if not multiparty) system to have real, honest debates about how to defend democracy and advance the interests of a forgotten working class. But today’s Republican Party jumped the guardrails of that highway a long time ago.

In many ways, the buffoonery, corruption, and incitements to mob violence that was [the ex-president and unindicted co-conspirator] was just a gross symptom, a massive tumor that resulted from the disease that has been coursing through the Republican Party for decades. In the Nixon and Reagan eras, the GOP abandoned any and all former principles for a self-preservation ethos of tax breaks for a wealthy donor class and stirring up the social resentments of the white working class . . . “the Southern strategy” that barely hid its white-supremacist roots.

The energy that was needed to keep [the strategy going] — including a lie-based media infrastructure of talk radio and Fox News that eroded trust in fact-based journalism and eventually even the science needed to fight pandemics or climate change — was a road map to first demagoguery and, when unchecked, dictatorship. . . .

Is it any wonder, then, to see the mainstream of such a Republican Party come up morally bankrupt, as in the acquittal votes by the likes of McConnell or Ohio Sen. Rob Portman? Portman is the epitome of the last era of “serious Republicans” as a former acolyte of George W. Bush (who, as Bush’s budget chief, presumably at least believes in math) and yet the kind of politician who ultimately can’t see past himself — famously supporting gay marriage only after his own son came out. Today, Portman is walking away from the Senate but is still too fearful of the angry mob that he helped create to vote his own conscience on Txxxx. His cowardice is typical of the Feckless 43.

. . . The 17 Republicans (10 in the House, and seven Saturday in the Senate) who voted to impeach or convict [the orange creep] for the most heinous high crime ever committed by a president. But in today’s climate they are islands in the stream, not the makings of a new or revived Republican Party, whose implosion matches the slavery-tied collapse of the Whig Party in the 1850s. There is, arguably, a large opening for a completely new second political party — one that actually promotes the economic interests of a multiracial working class and some of its social conservatism, but embraces ethics and eschews racism — but the stench of the GOP’s corpse may have to get worse before that can happen.

In 2021, the only hope for American salvation is not bipartisanship with a dead body but instead a Democratic Party that is every bit as bold as the Republicans are cowardly. That is easier said than done . . .

But let’s look at this glass as half-full rather than half-empty. Since Biden took office, the push to use the controversial 51-Senate-votes reconciliation process to move full steam ahead on coronavirus relief for everyday Americans, and Democrats’ bold move to strip GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments over her dangerous pro-QAnon statements, are signs that the Democrats know they must govern for the 57%.

Now, in the wake of the Republicans’ blocking of accountability for [their party’s cult leader], Democrats must see the light and go even deeper. The failure to get 60 votes, let alone 67, in the open-and-shut case of the ex-president’s insurrection incitement, should not only be the death knell for the GOP but also for the filibuster. Without the ability to represent the 57% of Americans who believe in a morally good and progressive nation on a straight up-or-down vote, Republicans will block voting rights reforms — which is their best hope for gaming the elections of 2022 and 2024.

What’s more, a failure to enact laws backed by a majority of the public — most notably, the $15 minimum wage — [could] open the door to [another Republican president]. Saturday’s vote — and McConnell’s acknowledgement of likely criminal conduct by the ex-president — should be a green light for incoming Attorney General Merrick Garland to finally bring [this world-class scoundrel] to justice in our criminal courts.

That truth may be a hard pill for the likes of President Biden, who was raised on the quasi-sacred altar of bipartisanship. But the only way to save the country from the American carnage of 2021 is for the Democrats to use their narrow majority to push for what is right — politically, economically, morally — and invite any principled Republicans like Sen. Mitt Romney or Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler to join them. Real aid for struggling, regular folks, and the bloody shirt of Jan. 6, could help Democrats defy the political wisdom and gain more seats in 2022. And that would speed the inevitable — to declare the Republican Party legally dead, and move on with our lives.

A Great Opportunity for the Democrats

Having fifty votes in the Senate and the Vice President gives the Democrats a chance to make real progress and seriously damage the radical right. From Greg Sargent of The Washington Post:

In the early morning hours on Friday, Senate Democrats passed a measure laying the groundwork to move President Biden’s big economic rescue package via the reconciliation process, by a simple majority. Republicans are already thundering with outrage.

The move does indeed pose a serious challenge to Republicans. But it’s one that runs deeper than merely moving toward passing this one package without them. It also suggests a reset in dealing with GOP bad-faith tactics across the board — and even the beginnings of a response to the . . . ideology loosely described as “Trumpism.”

First, the new move suggests a growing recognition that the conventional understanding of how “bipartisanship” works has things exactly backward — and that Republicans have manipulated the public debate on this topic for far too long.

For instance, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is already denouncing this move. The minority leader railed that Democrats have “set the table to ram through their $1.9 trillion rough draft,” adding: “notwithstanding all the talk about bipartisan unity, Democrats are plowing ahead.”

McConnell’s underlying claim is that Democrats should allow their plan to be subject to a supermajority requirement via the filibuster [of 60 Yes votes] to facilitate bipartisanship. The idea is this: If a partisan majority [in this case, the 50 Democrats plus the Vice President] can’t pass things by itself, it must reach out for bipartisan support [from at least ten Republicans] . . .

This is a scam. The reality is the other way around: In McConnell’s hands, the filibuster has actually made bipartisanship less likely.

By preventing a partisan majority from passing things, McConnell has created the conditions for withholding the support necessary to enact them, for the instrumental purpose of casting Democratic presidents (such as Barack Obama) as failed conciliators.

This has worked as follows: GOP senators have withheld support regardless of the concessions made to win them over, because they calculate the president’s party will take the political hit for failing to make bipartisan deals.

The paradox here is that using reconciliation — moving to pass something by a simple majority — actually could bolster the conditions for good-faith bipartisanship. GOP senators who might be gettable will no longer have a built-in incentive to oppose a particular bill. It’s likely passing anyway, so the lure of helping [their own] party by opposing it — because the Democratic president will get blamed for failure — isn’t nearly as strong.

Under those conditions, Biden actually would have an opening to negotiate with Republicans in the quest for bipartisan support. In the conditions McConnell wants, the incentives for moderate GOP senators point in the other direction.

Whether Biden actually will end up negotiating down to win a few Republicans is an open question. But the point is, in McConnell’s cynical scenario, this would be nothing but a fool’s errand, because it would be far less likely to work.

McConnell’s other basic idea — that a supermajority requirement protects the minority — is also nonsense. Adam Gurri makes a key distinction between protecting the rights of the minority party and protecting those of minorities of voters. The latter are protected by many other veto points in the system. Protecting the minority party’s rights by subjecting all Senate business to a supermajority requirement is only about facilitating its ability to obstruct.

Senior Democrats have begun to articulate the idea that the true way to revitalize faith in government — and in democracy — is by successfully delivering on big-ticket items. Achieving bipartisan cooperation for its own sake will do far less to address deep civic division and disillusionment than robust and effective action on behalf of the common good.

The Biden plan now will be written by Congress. But the new move lays the groundwork for passage of a package that could spend as much as $1.9 trillion. . . .

In an interesting column, David Brooks suggests that such large-scale spending could begin to accomplish “social repair.” We should spend far more than what’s merely needed to fill the “output gap.” We should spend to address the deep inequalities and injustices revealed by the pandemic and longer-term structural ills such as flat wages and regional stagnation. Undershooting here, Brooks notes, carries far greater moral and civic risks than overshooting.

I’d go further: Such an approach also contains the seeds of a broader answer to Trumpist populism. Success in using robust government action to charge up the recovery and get the coronavirus under control — including sinking medical resources into rural America — could clear political space for Biden to restore humanity to our immigration system and sanity to our international climate efforts.

Spending effectively toward the common good might begin to defang destructive zero-sum nationalist appeals. That could pave the way for a “new synthesis” that combines bolder progressive economics with a refusal to backpedal on issues that Democrats have long seen as politically perilous in the face of right-wing populist demagoguery. Biden’s ambitious actions so far on immigration and climate suggest just this understanding of the moment.

All this might sound overly optimistic. And there are countless ways Democrats can screw this all up. But the early returns suggest they are constructively breaking with old ways of thinking. And that could portend a serious long-term challenge to the Trumpified [Grotesque Old Party].

Unquote.

Senate Democrats can change the Senate rules whenever they want. They just need the courage to do so (and the cooperation of their least progressive members).