Congress has returned from a short recess to once more allow the Democrats to try to force through their agenda in the face of opposition from Republicans and a few of their own senators. The Dems hope that they will be able to pass their spending legislation. Even more important for the Democrats is their need to enable the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.
SCOTUS confirmation battle looming
Justice Breyer must have been under a great deal of pressure to retire before the 2022 midterm elections, in which Republicans are expected to make large gains in Congress.
His departure will give President Biden an opportunity to fulfill one of his campaign promises; as a candidate he pledged to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court.
Biden is evidently sticking to that promise and, once his decision is made, it will be up to Democrats in Congress to ensure that his nominee makes it to the court.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has struggled lately in rallying enough support to pass Biden’s agenda in the Senate. He will need to do much better if he’s to ensure this confirmation.
Democrat insiders have criticized Schumer for preferring to attack dissident members of his party Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, rather than attempting to coax them back into the fold.
These attacks on the moderates are very popular with the party’s base, but have made Schumer’s current mission even more difficult.
Democrats may lose Congress in November
Manchin has opposed Biden’s Build Back Better Act, almost singlehandedly stopping a vital piece of the Biden agenda. The House passed the act in November.
Democrats will also have to pass a new budget before February 18 to avoid a government shutdown. Congress passed a short-term spending bill in December.
Now that short-term bill is nearing the end of its intended lifespan and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will be back where they started if they’re unable to pass another.
As with their Supreme Court nominee, the Democrats may be able to rely on some cooperative Republicans to arrange a new spending plan.
Republicans are negotiating with Democrats, but if their attempts to reach a compromise fall through then Biden’s hopes of accomplishing anything through legislation will be crippled.
Republicans are widely expected to regain control of at least the House in the November midterm elections. Time is limited for the Democrats in Congress who want to pass Biden’s agenda before that happens.