As President Joe Biden pursues his quest for a bipartisan legislative victory and Congress winds down before the Memorial Day holiday, some of the top legislative priorities for progressives are stalling in Washington as Democrats’ hopes for big bold changes collide with the limits of what Biden can achieve under a deeply divided government.
The gulf between progressive ambition and the legislative reality means there is all-but-certain friction ahead between Biden and the restive liberal wing of his party, which united behind him after he defeated Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic presidential primary and marshaled their forces to help the party flip two US Senate seats in Georgia, giving Democrats control of that chamber.
But the hopes of achieving real reforms on thorny issues like gun control, voting rights, police reform — and now even infrastructure — have proved elusive. Progressives have advocated for Biden to pressure senators in the chamber where he served for decades to jettison the filibuster so he can ease through some of the more controversial aspects of their agenda. But West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin — one of the key Senate swing votes — made it clear in an early April Washington Post op-ed that there is “no circumstance” in which he would vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.