Talking Points

SCOTUS and Sinema set back Biden again

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has cast another blow against President Biden's agenda. Her Wednesday reaffirmation that she opposes changing the Senate filibuster rules to jettison the 60-vote threshold for most legislation will doom Democrats' voting rights push unless Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) can pull a rabbit out of his hat.

One reason for the party's shift to voting legislation after its failure to pass Biden's social welfare spending bill, the Build Back Better agenda, was that even if Democrats couldn't get anything done, at least they could blame Republicans. The message was all set for the midterms later this year: It's Republicans who refuse to support voting rights and constantly obstruct Biden. It's Republicans who necessitated these voting bills in the first place with former President Donald Trump's baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election and restrictive election laws being passed in red states.

Now that message won't play. Instead the focus is once again on Democratic divisions. Biden cannot even deliver Sinema and her fellow centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) when it matters, so unanimous Republican opposition can't be blamed for the vaunted Washington dealmaker's inability to govern.

The same day Sinema delivered that disappointment, the Supreme Court rejected Biden's COVID vaccine or testing mandate for large private employers. Given previous judicial setbacks, even the pen and the phone won't save the rule, another loss for the president's agenda. And elections that could erase the razor-thin Democratic majorities are fast approaching. 

These setbacks all stem from the same fundamental error: Biden has tried to govern as if he had large congressional majorities, when in reality he's within a Manchin or Sinema of Republicans controlling the Senate. (The Democrats' House majority isn't much bigger, but it is easier for the speaker to rule that chamber with an iron fist.) 

The composition of Congress demands complete Democratic Party unity for Biden to get anything done, but Wednesday was a reminder Biden usually lacks even that. He may not wind up with much to show for his New Deal dreams, especially if 2022 continues as it has begun.