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Robert Reich: How Biden Can Get His Mojo Back – OpEd

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This week may be a nadir for the Biden administration. After Krysten Sinema’s very public refusal to budge on the filibuster, voting rights legislation is stuck. Senate Democrats plan to go through the motions, but it will be an empty gesture as long as the filibuster remains. Similarly, after Joe Manchin’s refusal to agree to Biden’s “Build Back Better” package, Biden’s social and climate measure is also stalled (last Friday was the first time since July that millions of American families with children didn’t receive a monthly child benefit; further payments are stymied).

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Meanwhile, the Omicron variant continues to surge in most of the country, increasing public anxieties about the pandemic. Yet the Supreme Court rejected Biden’s vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers. Inflation continues to accelerate due to supply bottlenecks — which are likely to worsen as China locks down to avoid Omicron — thereby eroding real (inflation-adjusted) wages.

To put it bluntly, Biden is in deep trouble. So is America.

How can Biden regain momentum? Here are ten steps he should take, starting this week:

1. Reach out to Murkowski, Collins, Romney, and any other possibly principled senate Republican, to gain support for any reasonable compromise on the filibuster (even a “talking filibuster” would be better than the current standoff).

2. Accompany this with a speech about how often the filibuster has been used to block popular legislation, especially over the last dozen years, why it’s fundamentally anti-democratic, and what it’s blocking now — voting rights and highly popular measures in “Build Back Better” (reducing prescription drug prices, universal pre-K, the addition of hearing and dental insurance to Medicare, subsidized childcare, the expanded child tax credit, paid leave, and measures to reduce climate change).

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3. Urge Schumer to initiate separate votes on these popular measures. Let the public see how Republicans use the filibuster to stop them.

4. Urge Democrats to run next November against a Republican Party that refuses to get anything done for the working class.

5. Issue an executive order on drug pricing, such as requiring Medicare to obtain the lowest possible drug prices.

6. Issue an executive order to roll back Trump’s Medicaid work requirements and boost funding for groups helping people enroll in ACA plans.

7. Issue an executive order relieving former students of up to $10,000 of college loan debt owed the federal government.

8. As to Omicron, provide clear public health guidance around masking and testing. Explain when and where rapid tests and masks can be obtained free of charge.

9. Ask OSHA to immediately redraft its vaccine-or-testing mandate to focus on large employers with the highest incidence of COVID.

10 Meanwhile, remain upbeat but realistic. Remind the public of the economic successes so far — record job growth, new businesses forming at record rates, poverty below its pre-pandemic levels, the start of $1 trillion in infrastructure investments, the speed of your vaccination rollout, your stimulus package last spring that helped many who receive health insurance in individual marketplaces and offered enticements for states to expand Medicaid. Celebrate the recent victories of unionized workers and call for more and stronger unions. And reassure the public of your commit to continue fighting for a democracy and an economy that work for everyone — against the resistance of the moneyed interests that have never done as well as they’re doing now.

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at robertreich.substack.com. Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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