In his first 100 days President Joe Biden has signed 11 bills into law, one being a 1.9 trillion dollar COVID relief bill, and 42 executive orders. Conservatives feared what the radical left would do with this kind of power. So what’s happened so far? This week we explain what’s happened so far in Congress and what’s coming up.
Michelle Cordero: From The Heritage Foundation, I'm Michelle Cordero and this is Heritage Explains.
Cordero: It's been a little over 100 days since the Biden administration stepped in.
President Joe Biden: In our first hundred days ... In my first hundred days ... By the end of our first 100 days ...
Cordero: In his first 100 days, President Joe Biden has signed 11 bills into law, one being a $1.9 trillion COVID relief, bill and 42 executive orders. Conservatives feared what the radical left would do with this kind of power. So what's happened so far? How much cheating will there be in our next election? Whose student loans have been forgiven? How much critical race theory has made it into our kids' curriculum? Maybe the more important question is what hasn't happened yet that conservatives should stay on top of.
Cordero: Today we're going to explain what's happened in Congress so far and what's coming up. To help us get through it we have Tommy Binion, Heritage's Vice President of Government Relations, who knows the heartbeat of Capitol Hill better than anyone in Washington. My conversation with Tommy right after this break.
Cordero: All right. The last time you and I spoke, Joe Biden had just been sworn into office. And here we are almost six months into his presidency, we just heard a State of the Union Address, what do you think is the most pivotal thing that's happened since the last time we spoke?
Tommy Binion: I think the most remarkable thing is something that hasn't happened. The most remarkable thing is that the president of the United States, President Joe Biden, has not met with the Republican leaders from the United States Congress. He's not met with Kevin McCarthy, he's not met with Mitch McConnell, the respected minority leaders in the House and Senate. Imagine giving a joint address to the United States Congress asking for support on sweeping pieces of legislation, some of the most expensive pieces of legislation that have ever been proposed and not first meeting with the leaders of the minority. It is been an extremely partisan beginning of the Biden administration.
Binion: There's been very little outreach to Republicans. There's been almost no collaboration. I have to say having studied the American presidency, this is fairly astonishing what Joe Biden is trying to do unilaterally for the Democrats and on a partisan basis. He's proposed, some of this has already been spent, two trillion of it has already been enacted by the early stimulus bill, but including that he's proposed $6.1 trillion in spending without seeking a single Republican vote. I just think that's remarkable.
Cordero: How rare is that?
Binion: I think it's unprecedented. Certainly there's been legislation that's been passed on a partisan basis in the past, but-
Cordero: At this point in time, the president would have met with the opposing party to discuss upcoming priorities.
Binion: Of course. Of course. I think that's happened in almost every single case. In fact, I would venture to say that's happened in every single case. You might find an example in American history where it didn't. Yeah, I think it's unprecedented. I think what is even more of a head-scratcher is that that's not how Joe Biden ran. He didn't go around the country saying, "I'm going to lead the Democrats. I'm going to propose partisan legislation. We're going to do everything by reconciliation and seek to destroy the filibuster so that we don't even have to deal with those Republicans." No, he ran as a uniter. He ran as somebody who would unite the country to fight the important battles of our time, and that's certainly not what's happening.
Binion: I also think it's extraordinary that this is a story that's not being told by the press. It's not being told by the media. They like to sort of fantasize that Joe Biden is a bipartisan moderate, and there's just no proof of that.
Cordero: Okay. So is there anything that conservatives can claim as a victory? Have we stopped anything from happening that could have been really bad for America?
Binion: There are three big threats, and I think the best conservatives can say is that they haven't happened yet. The three big Biden threats are S1 and HR1. That is a total makeover of election laws in this country. It's a federal takeover of election laws. All of the various prescriptive elements of registering to vote and how you vote and all those things would be managed and foretold and decreed by the federal government under HR1 and S1. That's not happened yet. It's passed the House and it is so far been stalled the Senate. It's going to committee markup soon and we'll see what the future holds on that.
Binion: The other two big threats are the so-called American Family Plan, which is a massively expensive welfare proposal, new entitlement proposal. Biden is proposing to pay for childcare, family leave, college, community college, all sorts of things. And then the third big threat is the American Jobs Plan. The so-called American Jobs Plan, which the Democrats would characterize as an infrastructure bill. And you can only do that if you think of everything the federal government could possibly spend money on as infrastructure. And so again, combine the three big spending bills and you get $6.1 trillion in spending.
Binion: I remember 10 years ago when Eric Cantor and John Boehner walked out of Barack Obama's Oval Office over, I think it was 20 or $30 billion, and we're now talking about, on top of the annual spending, 6.1 trillion. There's no way for me to categorize that for the listeners. You just have to sit there and ponder it for a second. It's an extraordinary amount of money.
Binion: Those are the three big threats. I just want to say one thing that's basically encouraging about that. None of those three can pass as long as the filibuster stands. And so far, Chuck Schumer has been unsuccessful in his number one priority, which is dismantling the filibuster in the Senate, which is what requires 60 votes to pass big sweeping legislation like that. But make no mistake that is the number one project of the Democrats in the Senate is to dismantle the filibuster, and so far they've been unsuccessful.
Cordero: Question there, what has it been that's kept the filibuster alive?
Binion: It's a really interesting story. The Republicans have not filibustered a single bill this year. The stimulus bill passed under a special process called reconciliation, which isn't subject to a 60 vote threshold, and so the filibuster didn't come into play there. And the Democrats have not gotten to the point where they've put anything else on the floor that Republicans would be interested in filibustering.
Binion: That is the practical reality of what has happened on the Senate floor. In public, a few Democrats have registered opposition to dismantling the filibuster. That would be Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. There are others I think that are more quiet about the fact that they want to protect the filibuster, but so far they haven't gotten sort of a green light. You have to align all 50 Democrat senators behind an effort and they haven't gotten there.
Binion: I think what Chuck Schumer is trying to do is he's trying to pick the perfect issue. They have racialized the election issue. They say that what Republicans want to do to secure our elections to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat, is about race. Of course, that's a false narrative. But that is an effort to say, "Well, if it's about race, then we need to exempt civil rights from the filibuster," and they're going to try to get 50 Democrats behind that effort. So far that efforts fizzled and the Democrats keep kicking that down the road. It's been the lack of ability to put 50 frogs in a wheelbarrow for Chuck Schumer.
Binion: I just want to stress to the listeners, in no way am I projecting that that's a done deal. Very smart and professional Democrats are locked in a war room somewhere in the Capitol trying to figure out how they can do this. They wake up every morning and they go to bed every night thinking about this. Our cause to defend the filibuster is going to continue as long as there are Democrat majorities in the House and Senate, and that's at least another year and a half.
Cordero: Okay. So that means we're looking at HR1 and SR1, and it's already passed in the House and we're waiting for further action in the Senate. That is, of course the election bill, the voting bill. Then we've got the American Family Plan is an entitlement plan, and then the American Jobs Act is the infrastructure plan that we've heard so much about.
Binion: That's right. Taken together, it's everything that Democrats could think of to spend money on.
Cordero: Okay. That's a lot. I know this isn't your wheelhouse exactly, but in terms of COVID recovery, what are your thoughts on how things are going with school openings, and with where we stand with masks and vaccinations, in terms of your thoughts on that? I know it's not exactly your wheelhouse, but I know our listeners would be curious to hear your opinion.
Binion: Yeah, I think this is an American success story. I think that right now we are on a down slope of cases. If you go look at your area, if you look at your state, if you look at the whole country, you'll see that right now, cases are way down. They're not quite to the bottom yet. COVID is still a very real threat within our society, but cases are way down and it is not circulating like it was for example, three or four months ago. That's partly due to the vaccines, which again are an American success story. We developed the best vaccines, the fastest, and distributed them to the most people. That's an extraordinary story you can tell about American resilience. What it means is that as Americans, we are ready, we are willing, we are eager, we are hungry to go about our lives, and you can see that.
Binion: Where that isn't happening I think there's extraordinary push back. In school districts where the schools aren't back in school five days a week, the parents are furious. They're heartbroken and they're activated, and they're putting pressure on their school boards to go back. Over this spring we've seen even in blue states, like Virginia, threats to pull school funding in districts where they weren't going to go back for five days a week in-person learning. That's what our children need and that's what they are able to have access to.
Binion: This so-called follow the science narrative has really flipped. Perhaps a year ago, the American left was using follow the science as a way of saying these lockdowns, these draconian measures are necessary. Now, the science is very, very clear. There's no reason that kids need to be learning from in front of a computer screen in their house. There's no reason that we need to be afraid to go out and see our neighbors. The hypocrisy exist on the left, where Joe Biden will go out in front of a microphone and he'll say, "It's safe to go outside without a mask on," but then he'll put his mask back on to walk inside.
Binion: So there is that element of virtue signaling then I think is going to be with us for quite some time mainly from the left, but I think the science is telling us it's past time to resume our normal lives with caution in mind.
Cordero: So maybe not so much of an American success story; can we briefly talk about the crisis at the border?
Binion: Yeah. I mentioned the three big Biden threats, and this is the one big Biden failure. Early on in his administration, Joe Biden made it clear that his administration was not going to enforce our border security and interior enforcement immigration laws. That means if someone is apprehended at the border, they aren't going to be arrested and sent home. They may be arrested and processed into the country.
Binion: All of the renewed enforcement efforts that the Trump administration put in place have been summarily reversed. And so that knowledge is known to folks in Mexico, folks in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, who want to come here for a better financial insecurity situation. They know that they can get to America and they can be legally processed into this country with some hearing date, let's say two years into the future that they may or may not have to show up for.
Binion: What that has caused is tens and tens of thousands of people showing up at the border. Some of them sneak through. Our border is still quite porous, and so some of them just walk across and are in the interior of the United States. Some of them are apprehended, briefly processed by the border patrol, and then they are allowed the interior of the country with access to work here. And the more that is known, the more the pressure on the border goes up.
Binion: You would think that the response to this would be to go back to enforcing our immigration laws, to go back to enforcing our border, but instead the Democrats have done things like in the House, they passed an Access to Counsel Act, which means every interaction any one of these illegal immigrants have with the government down on the border needs to be facilitated by a lawyer, which is logistically impossible, extraordinarily expensive, and will only guarantee that they are able to come into this country.
Binion: The crisis at the border is caused by the Biden administration. The Democrats do not intend to fix it; they intend to facilitate it. This is where the president is weakest in his popular support. This is where his numbers are the worst. A few months ago, I think it was 45 days ago now, President Biden asked Vice President Harris to head up the administration's response to this. She's not been down to the border. She's not held a press conference on this issue. She's not really done anything in 45 days. That is a very clear signal that nothing is going to happen here.
Binion: This is a tale as old as time. When amnesty, whether it's legal amnesty or de facto amnesty, meaning you're welcome in the country even if you are breaking the law by coming over the border illegally, is on the table. Then the pressure will go up on the border. It becomes impossible to secure. In the United States of America we believe in the rule of law, and this is a functional failure of the rule of law caused by the highest levels of power in the White House.
Cordero: All right. In conclusion, when you and I spoke last, and you may or may not remember this, but you said that your wish for conservatives in terms of what they should focus on was not policy, that it was cultural, and it was how we respond to the civil unrest due to COVID and protests from racial tension. Do you think in your opinion that we've made any progress there?
Binion: It's a hard question to answer because I'm so disappointed in American leadership in intentionally dividing us. We, as the American people do not want to judge each other by the color of our skin. All of us learned in school or lived through it, the Civil Rights Movement, and we learned in school about the scars of American slavery, and we were taught, it is a fundamental American value not to judge each other by the color of our skin and with the advent of critical race theory and with the political salience of racializing, everything of saying that election reform bills amount to Jim Crow of saying that police are all are as a racist and, and, and murderous individuals. The effect of all of that is to re-inject the idea that Americans ought to be judging each other by the color of their skin.
Binion: That's the heartbreaking thing. I don't think that's in our character as Americans, but I think we're being fed a steady diet of that by our leaders and the media. What I'd like to see, and maybe I'll amend that statement and say, what's important is that we reject that, is that Republicans and Democrats come together, those of us in the interior of the country, those of us that aren't working at the White House and the Capitol come together and reject that and say, "Don't put that into our lives, into our society. We don't see each other as skin color. We see each other as fellow citizens and that's how we're going to live, and that's how we want to be governed."
Cordero: Thank you so much as always Tommy. I always really enjoy our check-ins. I hope the next one is all about how radical liberals have lost and how much we love America and what she stands for.
Binion: I love the podcast. Can't wait to come back. Maybe July 4th would be a great time to have that conversation.
Cordero: That's a great idea.
Binion: Talk to you soon.
Cordero: That's it for this week's episode. Thank you so much for listening. And if you enjoyed this episode, I'd love it if you could share it with your friends and family. Word of mouth and social media is the top way people are learning about podcasts. Conservative podcasts, like Heritage Explains really need your help to combat our liberal competitors, so share us with your people. Thank you so much, and we'll see you next week.