What’s the difference in policy between a Senate run by Chuck Schumer with 50 Democrats and one run by
with 51 or 52 Republicans? That’s the question that matters for the next two years, so it’s worth explaining the stakes with realistic specificity in Tuesday’s Georgia Senate runoffs.
Start with control of committees, which would shift markedly leftward. Republicans would lose their ability to investigate issues like FBI abuse and
China dealings. A GOP Senate is likely to approve most of Mr. Biden’s cabinet picks, but Democrats would whisk through even controversial nominees like Neera Tanden at the White House budget office or
at HHS. There would be no check on judicial nominees.
Democratic chairmen would include
who would try to gut the Pentagon at the Budget Committee.
at Banking and
on the financial institutions subcommittee would try to change rules to steer lending and capital to their priorities and punish lending to fossil-fuel companies.
who would run the tax-writing Finance Committee, wants to tax gains in capital assets each year even if they aren’t sold. The Judiciary Committee would go to Dick Durbin, who after having deposed
would target conservative nonprofits and think tanks for political attack.
Congress needs only a simple majority to repeal Trump Administration regulations under the Congressional Review Act. Say goodbye to the new rule speeding environmental reviews on public works. A 50-vote Senate (with Vice President
breaking ties) also guarantees a huge tax increase since current rules allow a simple majority to pass a budget.
That probably means an increase in the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%, plus higher rates on individuals, capital gains and dividends. Democrats will need the money to finance the trillions of dollars in additional spending they want. Buoyant financial markets don’t seem to have discounted this possibility, and the tax increases are sure to be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021. Forget about extending the temporary provisions of the 2017 tax reform.
Some of our friends think Democrats couldn’t blow up the 60-vote legislative filibuster rule with a mere 50 votes. Their confidence hangs on West Virginia’s
who says he supports the filibuster. But imagine the political and media pressure on Mr. Manchin if Republicans use the filibuster to block
agenda. He’s always been a loyal party man when it really matters.
If the filibuster stays, Mr. Biden will need to compromise to get GOP votes for an infrastructure bill, new ObamaCare subsidies or repealing Section 230 on tech liability. A public option on health care is probably out of reach, as would be much of his climate agenda.
But if the filibuster goes, so do bipartisan restraints. Statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico become possible, with four new Senate seats to cement a Democratic majority. Mr. Biden’s aggressive union agenda has a chance, including overtime pay mandates and easier organizing of franchise chains. So do nationwide mandates for ballot harvesting and mail-in voting, a ban on arbitration in business contracts, price controls on drugs, huge subsidies for green energy and perhaps a carbon tax. We could go on.
narrower majority in the House might constrain some of this. But she proved in 2010 with ObamaCare that she is willing to sacrifice swing-district Members to pass progressive priorities. She has also suggested this will be her last term as Speaker, which means she’ll care more about her legislative legacy than keeping the House in 2022.
All of this is what the candidates should be debating in Georgia. But President Trump has obscured the stakes with his claims of November vote fraud and demand for $2,000 Covid checks. The irony is that if Democrats take the Senate, Mr. Trump will have made it much easier for Mr. Biden and Mrs. Pelosi to repeal the President’s achievements. The consequences would echo far into the future.
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