At last, will Biden finally score legislative victories?
President Biden is on the cusp of several major legislative victories — if the Senate makes it to the finish line, and senators don't spend too much time on the sidelines because of COVID-19 infections.
Among the president's victories could be the biggest prescription drug bill in 20 years. Senators are finalizing a measure that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with drug manufacturers for the first time. The bill could bring down prescription drug bills, particularly for seniors.
Also nearing the finish line is a bill to infuse $52 billion into the US semiconductor industry. The legislation would provide tens of billions to the National Science Foundation and regional tech start-ups. Senators say the semiconductor bill is critical for the U.S. to maintain its lead over China in tech manufacturing.
More unexpected — and still perhaps unlikely — is a bill that would codify same sex marriage rights into law, ensuring that states where same sex marriage is legal will remain legal under federal law, even if the Supreme Court decides to backtrack on gay marriage rights. A surprising 47 Republicans voted for the bill in the House. Democrats say it is necessary to ensure that same sex marriages remain secure, in the wake of the Supreme Court retracing its steps on abortion rights.
The Medicare drug bill will also allow a two-year extension of Affordable Care Act subsidies that were set to expire. The semiconductor bill may also ameliorate some stress in the car industry around chips, which have caused cars’ sticker prices to rise.
“Democrats now seem to be hitting a stride where they’re about to rattle off three meaningful victories in a short amount of time, and for really the first time have an open field to politically gain from that,” Kurt Bardella, a former Republican who now consults for Democrats, told the Washington Post. “On the health-care bill, this is stuff everybody generally understands. This is not a complex, nuanced policy situation where you may not feel the benefit for 5 to 10 years.”
Democrats may still fail to get the bills passed. Several senators have been absent due to new COVID-19 infections, including Sen. Lisa Murkowkski (R-AK) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). Democrats have also struggled to keep their members fully on board with their own proposals — the party controls a mere 1-vote majority, when Vice President Kamala Harris is called to vote on tied measures.
Political analysts say the bills may improve Biden’s standing. The president’s approval rating has sagged in the face of the highest inflation in 40 years. His legislative agenda has largely been stalled by Republicans and members of his own party in the Senate who refused to go along with large spending measures.
Noted the Post, “The legislative victories that Biden has secured so far — a coronavirus relief package, a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that he signed in November and a modest gun control package that broke a 30-year logjam on the issue — have quickly been overtaken by events, or have been dismissed by many liberals as too small to meet the moment.”