Opinion | Campaign

The Senate is where dreams go to die

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

President Joe Biden's blueprint for reinvigorating the economy, the American Jobs Plan, is a visionary attempt to break from the past and cope with the challenges of the future. It would bring the United States back into the 21st century - which is exactly why it has run into a roadblock in the U.S. Senate.

The Senate was built for comfort, not speed. With six-year terms for senators, the Founders seem to have constructed a chamber for politicians who are content with the past and reluctant to move quickly to change the status quo. 

Antiquated rules like the filibuster make it even more difficult for the Senate to act in a timely manner to meet the daunting challenges facing our nation.

The best example of the Senate's inability to deal with change is that Southerners were able to use the right to unlimited debate to block the passage of any civil rights legislation for decades after the Civil War. Now the same institutional inertia stands in the way of a vital transformation  

The House of Representatives, which has two-year terms, makes members more responsive to public opinion and, therefore, act more quickly to meet the demands of the moment. 

The House is ready to respond to the urgency created by climate change and crumbling infrastructure, but the president's proposal is bogged down in the Senate.

The president's plan is a clarion call for sweeping change in the economy. It would restore America's crumbling infrastructure, fight the ravages of climate change and reform a tax system that favors bankers and billionaires and hurts hard working families.

The crisis in Texas exposes the glaring need for the American Jobs Plan. The climate crisis has inflicted fire and ice on the Lone State State this year in the form of a deadly heat wave and winter storm. This chaotic weather pattern in turn exposes the inadequacies in Texas' energy grid.

Texas urged its residents to cut back usage of utilities in the face of a severe heat wave that has drained the power grid. The same thing happened earlier this year when hundreds of thousands of Texans were unable to heat their homes when a freakish winter storm damaged the energy infrastructure. The senators from the state, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both of whom are Republican, fail to support a presidential initiative that would ease the misery of their constituents.

Sadly, these freak weather patterns, and the human suffering that comes from them, is likely to persist unless the Senate acts aggressively. Just about every climate scientist in the world believes that fatal weather patterns increase global warming is caused by human activity. 

Passage of the American Jobs Act would supercharge the power grid in the United States and advance the fight against climate change. But unless a lightning bolt hits the Senate to jump start the body, the threat of a GOP filibuster - and the resistance of a handful of Democrats - makes the fate of the Biden proposal problematic.

Advanced technology and climate change are changing the world at light speed. But America will stand still if the Senate fails to pass this vital legislation. 

Passage of the presidential proposal would also create a more progressive tax structure that would replace the regressive system of finance that has dominated fiscal policy since Ronald Reagan was president. The Biden plan would reverse inequities in President Trump's tax law of 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which gave big tax breaks to corporate America and wealthy Americans.

The big domestic spending package and the financing for the infrastructure investments is a sharp break from Reaganomics - while wealthy Americans get big tax breaks and reap massive rewards, working families pay the price

A study of Census data released in 2019 showed that the income gap between the highest earners and everybody else was the greatest it has been in 50 years. 

The Senate is the place where dreams go to die. 

The roadblock to Biden's plan to build back America better is really an obstacle to unlocking the vast potential of the United States. The failure to pass the comprehensive American Jobs Plan would mean acceptance of a meager package of road and bridge repairs that would not meet the grave challenges United States is facing. 

The Senate would squander an opportunity to guarantee the health and future of our economic prosperity if it refuses to follow the president's lead and make fundamental changes to the way the nation does business in the 21st century.

The Senate grinds on slowly but the world is moving forward at warp speed and is not waiting for us to catch up.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast "Deadline D.C. With Brad Bannon" that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.

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