With the special election in Georgia concluded, Democrats completed their unlikely journey to total control of the government in Washington. Joe BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Democrats' struggle for voting rights bill comes to a head David Weil: Wrong man, wrong place, wrong time Biden's voting rights gamble prompts second-guessing MORE soon will be sworn in as our next president, and Democrats have retained narrow control of the House and — surprisingly, with their sweep in Georgia’s elections — now control the Senate by the narrowest of margins as well.
So now the question remains, once they resolve the debate over whether to impeach President TrumpDonald TrumpClyburn says he's worried about losing House, 'losing this democracy' Sinema reignites 2024 primary chatter amid filibuster fight Why not a Manchin-DeSantis ticket for 2024? MORE for his role in the breach of the Capitol, what will be their agenda — and most importantly, what issues will they begin with? I say “most importantly” because an incoming president usually has three or four months of a honeymoon, when it is slightly easier to get things on his agenda passed into law.
You may say that honeymoons don’t exist anymore. Polarization has become so intense in American politics that having a government that pushes aside partisanship, even for a short period, sounds impossible. That may have been so, but I believe the events of Jan. 6 were so horrific that it will create an environment in which elected officials of both parties will want to show the public they can act together and agree on some things that are vitally important to the short-term interest of the country.
At this crucial time, we can have no better president who is equipped to take advantage of this environment than Joe Biden, who has many friends across the aisle and has expressed a desire to work with Republicans to make progress on major issues facing our country. With the post-Jan. 6 environment and Biden’s leadership, I believe it is a great opportunity for Democrats to get important things done in his first 100 days.
What should be on their list? Well, Biden gave us a few clues about where he intends to start in his news conference on Friday. He indicated that his first priority will be a comprehensive COVID-19 bill, one that includes not only a $2,000 check to needy Americans but also money for vaccine distribution, aid to the states, a moratorium on evictions, and other things. I believe the president-elect is correct to start with such a comprehensive bill because addressing the pandemic is our country’s greatest need. He will be helping the neediest Americans get through this difficult winter, and a robust bill will be a great jump-start to our sagging economy.
I believe the next item on his agenda should be raising the minimum wage to $15. That would have the same effect as a COVID-19 stimulus bill: help our most challenged workers and create significant new, spendable income to spur economic growth. As the Biden team said during the campaign, we called many of our workers “essential” and now the time has come to not just praise them but to pay them. This is the overwhelming sentiment of most Americans. In a referendum on a $15 minimum wage, 61 percent of Floridians supported it, even though Trump carried the state by 5 points. Republicans, Democrats and independents support it. It almost is certain to pass; with Democratic control of Congress, roll call votes will force Republican members to vote for the legislation or go on the record opposing what most Americans think is fair and long overdue.
The next thing I would put on Democrats’ agenda is an amendment to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to drive down the cost of prescription drugs. Given the pandemic, it will be difficult for Republicans to vote “No” on a public roll call vote of this because Americans so overwhelmingly support it. Some might suggest that the incoming president’s agenda should have more comprehensive changes to the ACA, but that would be so complex and controversial that it could never pass in his first 100 days. Lowering costs for prescription drugs is achievable and would bring relief to many Americans. Remember, part of Biden’s goal should be to bring about needed change with victories that almost all Americans agree on, and that will create for his administration a sense of momentum and a belief in their ability to get things done.
The last part of his immediate agenda should be a robust bill to revitalize America’s infrastructure. This bill could have a dramatic and, in this case, long-term effect on the U.S. economy starting as early as July. There seems to be almost unanimous belief in the House and Senate that we need to address infrastructure problems. Of all of the issues in Washington, this has been — and remains — the one that is least partisan. Progressives such as Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerLobbying world Congress to take up marijuana reform this spring Your must-read holiday book list from members of Congress MORE (D-Ore.) favor significant spending on infrastructure, but surprisingly, so do conservatives. When I testified in the Senate about how to fix our crumbling infrastructure, Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeRepublicans say Mayorkas failed to deliver report on evacuated Afghans Pelosi faces pushback over stock trade defense Overnight Defense & National Security — Senate looks to break defense bill stalemate MORE (R-Okla.), considered to be perhaps the most conservative voice in the Senate, said to me on the record, “Governor, I believe the most important thing that government can spend money on after defense is infrastructure.” So, a significant infrastructure bill could be a tremendous win for our economy and another significant victory for Biden.
To pass a significant COVID-19 relief bill, a $15 minimum wage, a reduction in prescription drug costs, and an infrastructure revitalization bill would be a great start for the Biden administration and a win for our country. Let’s do it!
Edward G. Rendell was the 45th governor of Pennsylvania. He is a former mayor of Philadelphia and former district attorney in that city. He served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 presidential election. Follow him on Twitter @GovEdRendell.