One of the constants of our system of governance is the prevalence of the divided goverment. It is rather difficult for one party or even a coalition to hold a lasting trifecta, particularly following the Consolidation and sweeping reforms like the introduction of list seats, the near-total eradication of gerrymandering and the Consolidation of States which has since made most Senate races far more competitive. Yet a trifecta is not a guarantee of legislative success as most legislation can be easily blocked by a filibuster or simply vetoed by a President. In truth, it is extremely difficult for a single party or grouping to control the federal government, let alone get substantial legislation and reforms passed through both chambers of Congress and signed off by the President.
The Senate, in particular, has long been the burial ground of many major pieces of legislation such as the abolition of the Electoral College and the Republican-led efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Many pundits and politicians on all sides of the political spectrum including former President Trump and progressives like Elizabeth Warren have been quick to pin this perceived political “gridlock” or dysfunction on the Senate’s structure, calling for major reforms such as the abolition of the filibuster or the reformation of the filibuster into a “talking filibuster”. Yet many would argue rather than a bug that this is a unique and ultimately beneficial feature of our system. Historically a divided government always necessitates compromise. In the words of the founding fathers, the Senate was to be a “cooling saucer”, a place that helped moderate radical legislation passed by the popularly-elected House of Representatives and slow it down, fostering compromise and bipartisanship.
This need for compromise and bipartisanship is especially true in the context of the most recent Congress, which at the time of writing this article has a 7-3 Democratic supermajority in the Senate and the House is controlled by a Republican-Green coalition by a substantial 23-14 margin. The White House also sees a return to Republican hands as former Senate Minority Leader Adith_MUSG and former Senator from Fremont RMSteve are sworn into their respective posts.
With all that being said it may be worth looking at what the 119th Congress and the 47th POTUS could achieve together and, which issues Congress could likely compromise on.
The first order of business for any Congress is to elect its leadership. Here it should come as no surprise that the respective groupings will elect their respective leadership on party-line votes, with former Governor Of Superior CitizenBarnes becoming Senate Majority Leader and Liberty Republican IthinkthereforeIflam being the favourite for the Speaker of the House. Where things may get trickier are with cabinet confirmations. To say that the current Administration doesn’t see eye to eye with progressively-minded Democratic Senate would be an understatement, if recent press activity is anything to go by. Whether cooler heads prevail and we have a functional cabinet remains to be seen.
Should they prevail it may also be possible to address the long-standing issue of immigration reform. The president has long been an advocate for immigration reform, authoring legislation like the S.19 Southern Border Immigration Reform and Overhaul Act and has recently issued a moratorium on the deportation of certain aliens. Should the President and the Senate Democrats find common ground it is plausible that we may see S.19 reintroduced and consequently passed in this session of Congress in an early victory for the administration and all 3 parties in Congress.
When considering the dynamics at play in the most recent Congress it is first worth looking at the internal makeup of the parties in question. While the Democrats may have taken a far more unified front the same cannot be said for the Green-GOP coalitions, both of which are more internally diverse with the Republicans being predominantly split between the party’s more traditionally-minded Conservative wing and the fledgling libertarian wing. The same observation can be made for the Green’s federal and various state-level parties being host to both mainstream moderate and progressive elements and a more esoteric Christian-democratic wing spearheaded by the former Superior Assembly Speaker PGF3.
While it is difficult to predict the exact outcomes of every upcoming vote it is not unreasonable to assume that more Liberty-minded Republicans may be inclined to support many Democratic and Green civil libertarian and social liberal positions, with the progressive-liberal alliance being able to perhaps decriminalize marijuana or help rein in the worst excesses of the surveillance state. Equally some degree of justice reform could be on the table assuming that enough Liberty-leaning Republicans in the House are willing to work with their progressive peers to bring such efforts to fruition. It is also reasonable to assume that the progressive members of the Green party in the House and the Senate could work with the Democrats to deliver on progressive priorities like universal healthcare, the Green New Deal and a higher minimum wage.
Similarly, the moderates may also band together, perhaps under the banner of the Problem Solver Caucus to push for moderate solutions to pressing issues such as infrastructure, climate change and healthcare policy.
One area, which arguably may see relatively little progress this term is gun control as the Republicans and their Democratic counterparts have perhaps drifted too far apart to push for a consensus solution that would garner broad support in the House. and have the backing of the President.
Of all these legislative priorities however foreign policy may perhaps be the greatest unknown. At a surface level, it may appear as if the newly sworn-in Congress may have somewhat of a pacifist bend with the Democrats being reluctant to take a more active stance in foreign affairs and the Liberty Republicans being in principle solidly committed to non-interventionism. However, there remain a few dark horses such as Atlantic’s Junior Senator Cody5200 who despite being a Liberty Republican has endorsed a number of interventionist policies, endorsing S.17 Standing against Chinese Aggression Act and calling for greater military spending. It’s also difficult to predict how some of the more moderate members of Congress would vote on any foreign policy-related legislation.
However the executive also plays a major role in our foreign policy and the new President /u/Adith_MUSG and his administration is committed to maintaining an active foreign policy outlook so, barring any major Congressional action with regards to the President’s foreign policy prerogatives it’s likely that this term will see the continuation of the past Administration’s interventionist approach to foreign policy.
In the same vein, it is also difficult to tell whether and how a potential federal shutdown could be averted. On paper, it appears as if it may be impossible to deliver a fiscally responsible budget deal that pleases everyone in the heavily polarized and ideologically fractured federal government. The progressive and libertarian wings of both parties have vastly different goals with regards to the budget and there is only so much that can be achieved with the current budget without resorting to politically inconvenient measures such as further tax raises, deficit spending or cuts to spending either to relatively popular programs or to national defence. All of these options are likely to face stiff opposition from both their detractors on Capitol Hill and the American electorate at large.
While there are certainly many unknowns it is clear that there are issues where real progress can be made in the coming in the coming weeks and months. Yet what is also certain is that it will be interesting to see how Congressional leaders try to square this circle to make that progress…