Negotiation is essential in a democracy
Under President Biden’s administration, America faces a major public policy challenge. Two major bills are seeking congressional support. One is a $1 trillion infrastructure bill and the other is a now $1.85 trillion Build Back Better bill to combat climate change and provide citizen benefits such as universal pre-kindergarten. The budget proposals are for 10 years, but no complete system for raising the necessary revenue has been approved as yet.
In order to become law, the bills have to be approved by both the House and the Senate and be signed by the president. The infrastructure bill has been approved by the Senate, but the Democrat-controlled House will not vote to approve until the Senate passes the Build Back Better bill. Two nominal Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have both withheld their votes which are necessary for a Democratic victory in the Senate.
With the nation’s bridges, roads and airports in such need of repair, conservatives were more than willing to approve the necessary funds. Also that money would be paid to businesses that had contracted to perform the reconstruction and would not be a direct benefit to citizens.
The original size of the bill was $3.5 trillion, but Biden had to cut it down to $1.85 trillion to get the support of the two dissenting senators who were Democrats. In that reduction, $555 billion remained to finance climate change programs. The liberal House Democrats accepted the change, but they still refused to vote on the infrastructure bill until the recalcitrant Senate Democrats voted for the Build Back Better bill. Consequently, Biden left for Europe last week without a victory in hand.
Some journalists have called this conflict a failure of democracy. On the contrary, it is a good example of how the system works. There can be disputes on policy even within political parties. And complex issues can be debated with the observation of the press to assure that the public becomes informed. There is every reason to believe that once drafts of the bills are prepared, differences of the conflicting parties will be resolved.
However, there are issues that threaten the viability of American democracy. Republicans just opposed a measure to debate a bill to assure there is no impediment to the right to vote. While the states have the right to establish voting procedures, the U.S. Constitution assures that citizens cannot be prevented from voting. It is certainly appropriate for Congress to determine whether such impediments exist in any state.
Another concern is resistance to the efforts of the select committee of Congress to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection. The violent attack on the nation’s Capitol was inspired by Donald Trump’s unsupported assertion that President Biden’s victory was fraudulently attained. Not one legal opinion nor one audit of election returns has given any support to this often-repeated claim. It is time to stop the repetition of an unsubstantiated claim that is diminishing public confidence in America’s democracy.
Over the years, African Americans have been among the most stalwart supporters of the American principles of freedom, justice and equality. Some of the Black forefathers having been oppressed, it is difficult for their progeny to imagine America under the leadership of an incompetent anarchy. Blacks are among the most committed patriots. Black faces were not visible in the videos of the Jan. 6 insurrection.