The Election of Joe Biden: Democrat Perspective
The election of Joe Biden brings a Democrat into office even as the Republicans maintain control of the Senate, which could slow or moderate policymaking in Washington. To understand the current situation, GLG sat down on November 12 with Jeff Ziarko, GLG Council Member and former Senior Economic Policy Advisor to the House Ways & Means Committee, for a teleconference titled “Post-Election Legislative Outlook — Democratic Perspective.” Prior to that conversation, we had the opportunity to send him a few questions shortly after the decision was announced for Biden.
What do you expect to be at the top of President-elect Biden’s agenda come January 20?
I expect a Biden administration to be focused on fighting COVID and supporting the economy through Inauguration Day and for as long as it takes to stabilize both. After that, the President-Elect has signaled that addressing climate change and racial justice will be overarching areas of focus.
How should we think about differentiating between a candidate’s campaign strategy and their policy agenda once they’re in office?
As the saying goes, you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. The realities of divided government are likely to materially complicate the policymaking process. The big aspirational priorities like health, stimulus and infrastructure, climate, and racial justice will remain, but the actions taken will be more modest and more moderate. Incoming presidents are traditionally afforded a degree of deference, particularly where they campaigned on an issue and are perceived as having a mandate. Time will tell how much of a honeymoon President Biden gets and how long it lasts.
While a thorough analysis of the election will take some time, are there any immediate takeaways that come to mind?
Despite not winning, the President’s observation that he won more votes than any sitting President seeking reelection is correct. He remains enormously popular in large sections of the country and has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to mobilize his supporters. I think there’s every reason to expect that he will remain a force in Republican politics for the foreseeable future.
What are some legislative agenda items that you expect to be top of mind for congressional Democrats as we head into the post-election phase?
Like the Biden administration, I expect the agenda for congressional Democrats to be focused on COVID and the economy for as long as it takes. That includes an infrastructure/stimulus package, though I think the fate of that effort is materially more uncertain with a Republican Senate. Other legislative priorities will include prescription drug prices, climate, election reform and voting rights, equal pay, gun control, immigration, and police reform.
What do you think folks aren’t paying enough attention to, but in reality is quite important when thinking about the legislative outlook for 2021?
One overarching observation and one very specific one. First, this is likely to be the most pro-union administration in at least a generation, which will significantly color its actions on many fronts. Second, the debt limit will be reinstated in July absent congressional action, which could be challenging.
About Jeff Ziarko
Jeff Ziarko is the Founder of Economic Policy Strategies and was Senior Economic Policy Advisor to the House Ways & Means Committee from 2005 to 2012. In this capacity, he was a member of the Committee tax staff and was responsible for policy analysis and legislative strategy with respect to tax reform, extension of the 2001/2003 tax cuts, job creation, municipal finance, the debt limit, and macroeconomic policy. During his time on Ranking Member Levin’s staff, Jeff led successful initiatives to promote access to capital for small businesses and communities, promote domestic manufacturing, support deployment of alternative energy technologies, and improve the fairness of the tax code. After leaving the public sector, Jeff from 2012 to 2015 was Director of Government Relations for Enhanced Capital, an asset management firm focused on providing capital to underserved small businesses and communities.