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As President Biden reaches the end of his first 100 days in office, partisanship is clouding the outlook for his ambitious agenda – even as policies that impact cultural resources continue to move forward.
On April 28, Biden headed to Capitol Hill for his first address to Congress. Speaking to a House chamber that was half-empty due to COVID precautions, Biden said the country "was on the move again" as he touted his administration's success in delivering vaccines. In the speech he called on Congress to pass his $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan and his $1.8 trillion social plan, as well as legislation on gun violence, policing reform, immigration and other issues. In the Republican response, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) criticized Biden for the size and scope of his spending plans.
The ”social infrastructure” plan Biden unveiled would spend $1.8 trillion on a range of education, health and safety-net programs intended to reduce economic inequality. It includes two years of tuition-free community college, universal pre-Kindergarten for 3- and 4-year olds, tuition subsidies for students from families earning less than $125,000 enrolled at historically Black institutions, tribal colleges and other minority-serving institutions for two years, up to 12 weeks of paid parental, family, and personal illness leave, and a temporary extension of an enhanced child tax credit until 2025. The plan also would raise taxes on upper income earners.
Not surprisingly, the plan received a less-than-enthusiastic response from Congressional Republicans due to its size and tax increases. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said last week that "100%" of his focus is "on stopping this new administration." Nonetheless, Biden said he hopes he can win bipartisan support for his program.
The last two weeks made clear, however, that even as the two parties battle one another, they also are battling with themselves. Democrats have been growing increasingly frustrated with two of their own, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who have steadfastly opposed curtailing the filibuster (and, in the case of Manchin, opposes parts of Biden’s proposals). With the filibuster intact, Senate Democrats will be forced either to win over at least 10 Republicans for their agenda, or use the same procedure, known as reconciliation, they used for the COVID relief plan, which requires just 50 votes to pass but also limits what legislation can be approved.
For their part, meanwhile, Republicans appear to still be re-litigating the 2020 election. The House GOP may vote this week to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) as the GOP Conference Chair, the third-ranking slot in leadership. Cheney has angered a number of Republicans, including former President Trump, for stating that President Biden won the election fairly. Trump and House GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) have thrown their support behind Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who has defended the former President and his unsubstantiated election fraud claims, to replace Cheney.
The partisan and intra-partisan squabbling may make it seem like nothing is happening in Washington. But below the surface, there are signs that on some issues, progress is possible. This includes policies that impact the CRM industry, directly or indirectly. Recent developments include:
Although there is a long road ahead for the President’s agenda, developments over the last two weeks show that it is possible to move the ball forward on issues that affect millions of Americans.
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