Mitch McConnell’s Playing the Media for Saps

Newsletter 58: But more important than media credulity is whether Biden has the will to implement his majority’s will

On Tuesday night, Mitch McConnell and his corporate pals celebrated; with the Senate in hand, their fears of higher taxes, new climate policy, and more were all put to rest. Of course, the results of the upcoming runoffs for Georgia’s two Senate seats are far from certain, putting this victory lap solidly in the category of “counting chickens before they hatch.”

More than just getting ahead of itself, however, K Street is getting its facts wrong too. Corporate America is assuming that, in addition to crushing Biden’s legislative ambitions, McConnell will be able to halt all executive action by blocking all but the swampiest nominees. No matter how confidently they assert this, the fact of the matter is, it’s just not true. 

As we laid out in a joint memo with Demand Progress today, “If McConnell refuses to confirm a Cabinet that reflects the country’s desire for an aggressive response to the pandemic and economic crisis, Joe Biden has tools to ensure he still fulfills his presidential mandate:

  • Biden can use the Vacancies Act. The Vacancies Act provides an indisputably legal channel to fill Senate-confirmed positions on a temporary basis when confirmations are delayed. The Act has been used extensively by presidents of both parties, including by Trump to an unprecedented degree, despite facing a friendly Senate.

  • Biden can adjourn Congress and make recess appointments. Section 3 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution gives the President the power to adjourn Congress ‘to such time as he shall think proper’ whenever the House and Senate disagree on adjournment. And after 10 days of recess, the President may make recess appointments to fill positions requiring Senate confirmation.”

This is far from an exhaustive list, and it will be incumbent on the Biden transition to search out additional avenues. Even without further items, however, it is clear that the Biden administration has options to implement its considerable electoral mandate. 

It’s nearly certain that approximately 80 million people, more than in any prior presidential election, cast their ballots for change. If McConnell -- leader of a Senate Majority representing a minority of American voters -- resolves to undermine Biden by blocking his nominees, tools like the Vacancies Act will be Biden’s means for making good on his promises. 

Acting appointees can propel a transformative agenda. In July, our Max Moran combed through the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force proposals to identify the 277 policies within that were possible via executive action alone. There are surely even more possibilities that those recommendations didn’t explore. Many won’t be possible, however, unless Biden is willing to stand up to McConnell’s obstructionism. 

Failing to do so will spell political disaster. Any appointee McConnell approves will be loath to enact these policies or any others that undermine the corrupt status quo, meaning that Biden will approach the midterms having delivered next to nothing of value. Democrats up and down the ballot will surely suffer in this scenario.

In contrast, by abandoning unthinking fealty to one-sided norms and employing all legal tactics, Biden can make an affirmative case for his administration and his party. 

Don’t believe corporate America when they tell you this fight is over before it has even begun. We at Revolving Door Project, along with many others, are working to ensure that it’s just getting started. 

In that vein, we’re pleased to announce a new initiative we’ll soon be launching:

From the movement to get out the vote to postal service workers to election officials collecting mail-in ballots, ordinary people are saving our democracy. As we edge closer to a Biden victory and build the case for a bold executive branch, we must bridge the gap between grassroots demands and executive branch action. The American public cannot afford Mitch McConnell approved policies to dig our way out of a pandemic, economic recession, and prepare for what is likely more crises to come.  

At the Revolving Door Project we are gearing up to host public education panels to explore the intersection between progressive policies and executive branch action. We hope to generate a platform for progressive leadership to set an agenda for a bold executive branch action.

If an activist group with whom you work wishes to be in touch with us about participating in such panels, please contact Mariama Eversley (eversley@cepr.net) and Eleanor Eagan (eagan@therevolvingdoorproject.org).

Want more? Check out some of the pieces that we have published or contributed research or thoughts to in the last week:

No, Mitch McConnell is Not the 46th President

We Don't Have To Live In Mitch McConnell's World

If Joe Biden wins, he must play hardball against GOP obstruction. Here’s how.

Biden Can Still Govern Without the Senate. Here's How.

A Lame Duck Trump Admin Will Do All It Can To Pilfer Before Jan. Dems Must Be Ruthless In Thwarting It.

Politico Morning Money, 11/5

Bankers, fearing Democrats' 'worst ideas,' unite in support of divided government

October 2020 Update on the State of Independent Federal Agencies

The Finance 202: The 2020 election has an early winner: Fed Chair Jay Powell

We're Just at the Beginning of a Long Struggle for Justice

The Majority Report with Sam Seder, November 5 

Jared Bernstein and the Fight Over Joe Biden's Personnel

Note to Biden: A President Can Do a Lot Even Without the Senate

EPA Veterans Eyed As Potential Picks To Lead The Agency If Biden Wins

Facebook is infuriating Republicans. So why isn’t that helping with Democrats?

Working Life with Jonathan Tasini October 28 

Climate Progressives Eye Treasury As Key Post If Biden Wins

Warren wants Treasury, but who does Biden want?

Elizabeth Warren eyeing position as Biden's treasury secretary

Jockeying underway for jobs in a Biden administration

Biden reconsiders Cabinet dream team after Democrats' lackluster Senate gains. Stock sinking for progressives like Bernie, Warren

Bank of America exec sends over $600,000 to GOP, even as most bankers pull back

America’s Panic Attack Could Soon Be Over — But It’s Just The Beginning

Filling Positions: The Meaning of Biden and a GOP Senate (Part 2)

Meltdown