- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Democrats, having seized control of all the levers of power in Washington, are pushing Joseph R. Biden and Congress to quickly declare the District of Columbia a state, pass a $4 trillion stimulus package and implement other demands from the party’s emboldened left wing.

“The age of incrementalism is over,” declared Sen. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat.

The Democrats’ sweep of two Senate runoff elections in Georgia this week put them in the driver’s seat in the upper chamber, removing Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, as the majority leader and the biggest obstacle to advancing liberal causes.

With Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, poised to become majority leader, Democratic lawmakers and activists said the guardrails are off.

They can push through Mr. Biden’s judicial nominations and Cabinet picks — and possibly major legislative initiatives if they follow through with the far left’s plan to eliminate the filibuster.

Stasha Rhodes, campaign director for the D.C. statehood group 51 for 51, said members are confident that Democrats’ newfound grip on power will make statehood a reality.

“The only viable path to enacting D.C. statehood is bypassing the filibuster, a Jim Crow relic that has been used to block hundreds of racial justice bills,” Ms. Rhodes said. “We expect and demand that the House and Senate act within the next 100 days to make D.C. a state and correct this historic injustice.”

Statehood also would help cement the party’s hold on the Senate by giving the overwhelmingly Democratic city two senators to boost the Democratic majority.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats will push for a new economic relief package immediately after Mr. Biden is sworn into office.

“The people of Georgia went to the ballot box to vote for transformational, Democratic-led change,” said Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat.

Mr. Schumer said pushing for direct $2,000 payments for millions of Americans will be one of the first items he plans to tackle in the new Congress.

Some liberals want more than that.

Maura Quint, executive director of the group Tax March, said voters clearly want “real change.”

“We have a simple demand: Pass at least $4 trillion in COVID stimulus to end the pandemic and revive our economy,” Ms. Quint said. “We cannot wait. The time for action is now.”

Congress authorized $900 billion in COVID-related spending last month, including direct payments of $600 for millions of Americans.

The Democrat-led House passed legislation to increase the checks to $2,000, a level President Trump supported. Senate Republicans blocked the bill, saying too much of the money would flow to wealthier Americans.

Congress sent out $1,200 checks as part of an earlier coronavirus relief package.

Mr. Biden said he will try to build bipartisan support for major agenda items such as COVID-19, economic relief, climate change, and voting rights.

“Georgia’s voters delivered a resounding message [Tuesday]: they want action on the crises we face and they want it right now,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. “They want us to move, but move together.”

The problem for liberals is that more moderate Democrats such Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia are not on board with a far-left agenda of abolishing the legislative filibuster, packing the U.S. Supreme Court or granting statehood to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“With tight margins in the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans are faced with a decision to either work together to put the priorities of our nation before partisan politics or double down on the dysfunctional tribalism,” Mr. Manchin said.

Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris will break 50-50 ties in the Senate, giving Democrats control over the floor proceedings and committee lineups.

The effective majority also means Democrats can jam Mr. Biden’s Cabinet and judicial nominees through the chamber if they can avoid defections.

Mr. Biden said nominees such Antony Blinken, his pick for secretary of state, and Janet Yellen, his pick for Treasury secretary, have bipartisan support and have been confirmed by the Senate for other positions.

“They need to be in their jobs as soon as possible after Jan. 20,” Mr. Biden said.

With a Democratic majority, however, nominees such as Neera Tanden, Mr. Biden’s pick for director of the White House budget office and a woman whom Republicans consider a liberal bomb-thrower, can more easily win approval.

Beyond confirmations, Democrats would have to abolish the legislative filibuster to fully enact their far-reaching legislation dealing with climate change, gun control and immigration.

Sen. Christopher A. Coons of Delaware, a close ally of Mr. Biden, said adding states to the union might not be in the cards.

“If we have a Senate that’s divided 50-50, that makes it very hard to do some of the things … like recognizing Puerto Rico as a state,” Mr. Coons said on CNBC.

Democrats also hold a diminished majority in the House, giving them little margin for error if they try to force through the far-reaching Green New Deal to address climate change or a universal “Medicare for All” health care scheme.

“There are less people that we can lose on a given margin. That may incentivize some watering-down of legislation a little bit more,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, told The Washington Times recently. “But I also think that it’s a blessing that this narrow margin is really going to force us to work together as a caucus a lot more.”

Republicans said the voices of the left wing like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s will ultimately carry the day.

“The socialist Democrats just can’t help themselves,” said Mike Berg, a spokesman for House Republicans’ campaign arm. “They are openly pushing for a socialist agenda that will raise taxes, destroy our economy and leave communities less safe.”

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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