Republicans want to block Biden

President Biden should be under pressure from investigations, budget blocks or even impeachment. However, the modest conservative majority in the House of Representatives is holding back the planned offensive.

There may soon be an even tighter majority in the Capitol in Washington than before.

Mariam Zuhaib / AP

Democrats have used their two-year autocracy in Washington to approve big spending programs: $1.9 trillion in coronavirus aid, $1 trillion in infrastructure projects, about $500 billion in climate protection and health insurance cuts, and $200 billion in support for the semiconductor industry. . With the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives, there are unlikely to be more packages of this kind. Not all votes have been counted yet. But according to the latest forecasts, the Conservatives are likely to win around 220 seats in the upper house, and the Democrats 215.

However, it will be more difficult for Republicans to reverse already decided government spending or tax increases. Despite their majority in the House of Representatives, they have virtually no legislative power. Because Democrats were able to hold the Senate, the small chamber should bury any conservative bill. Therefore, President Joe Biden will hardly have to veto the bill in the next two years. And if so, Congress could only override it with a two-thirds majority.

The debt ceiling becomes a means of leverage

But to force the White House and Democrats to make concessions, conservatives could reject raising the debt ceiling next year. Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who is expected to take over the House Speakership, has already signaled that his party intends to use that leverage.

The second means of coercion could be financial aid and arms supplies to Ukraine. So far, Congress has appropriated a total of $60 billion to provide economic, humanitarian and military support to the country. McCarthy announced in an interview that taxpayer money will no longer just flow to Kyiv. Ukraine is important, but the government must also invest elsewhere – for example, in better protection of the border with Mexico.

So far, Republicans have largely avoided presenting specific austerity proposals. Probably also because there is no agreement within the party. Reforms to old-age and disability insurance are being discussed, as well as Medicare, the government’s health insurance system. One proposal seeks to raise the age limit for these benefits. Another wants to limit the duration of programs so that they are regularly approved by parliament. McCarthy is so far non-committal about the possible connection between the debt ceiling and social security reform: He does not want to “anticipate anything”. For now, however, these ideas appear to be minority views in the Republican Party, which Democrats have used as a weapon in their campaign.

Regardless, Americans must prepare for a nerve-racking showdown over the debt ceiling next year. A budget freeze could lead to a partial shutdown of the federal administration and, in the worst case scenario, the insolvency of the US. However, this tool is a double-edged sword, as negative consequences could also anger many Republican voters.

Withholding aid to Ukraine would also be a risk for Republicans. Among their voters, the willingness to support Kyiv is lower than among the Democrats. But overall, roughly 60 percent of Americans would still accept higher energy prices to help Ukraine. But a new survey by the University of Maryland shows that support for Kiev depends on perceptions of Ukraine’s chances of success in this war. If President Zelensky’s troops gain territory, the payment morale in the US will also improve.

The election result casts doubt on the offensive strategy

While the legislative powers of the Republican majority are limited, conservatives can also use the House of Representatives as a platform to influence public debate. Ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans were expected to drop a House investigation into the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. In doing so, Republicans appeared to be pushing for their own investigations into various areas: for example, possible tax wrongdoing and the shady dealings of the president’s son Hunter Biden, the chaotic withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the protection of the Mexican border, the origin of the coronavirus or the FBI’s search of Donald Trump’s residence in Florida.

Some right-wing conservative Republicans — like Christian nationalist Marjorie Taylor Greene — have even threatened to impeach President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Two Republican senators recently accused Mayorkas of “gross dereliction of duty” in a letter. His lax handling of the border with Mexico has led to a record high number of illegal immigrant crossings. “We’re going to reserve a parking spot (at the Capitol) for Secretary Mayorkas, he’s going to have to testify so many times,” Republican Congressman Steve Scalise said in September.

However, the result of the midterms calls this offensive strategy into question. With the Republican majority in the House of Representatives only narrow, Trump’s wing will gain more weight. Therefore, some of its members have already announced that they will not elect McCarthy as the new speaker. However, if right-wing Republicans take their demands too far, a few moderate conservatives could join forces with Democrats against them. That’s why Taylor Greene called on her colleagues to stand united behind McCarthy: “Otherwise we’ll open the door to the Democrats.”

The midterm results are also a clear signal from voters to politicians for a more constructive debate. They want more moderation and less extremes from both parties. To ensure this, cross-party analysis and consensus on an attack on the Capitol would be necessary. But that doesn’t seem to be a priority for Republicans right now. With the threatening investigation, conservatives primarily want to further damage President Biden’s image until the 2024 election.

There are certainly reasons for legitimate criticism of current government policy. However, if the constant attacks turn out to be just an insignificant show, moderate swing voters in particular will not appreciate it.

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