Thursday, November 05, 2020

Compromise, No Progress

Recounts. Faithless electors. GOP legislatures fielding a Republican slate of delegates in states won by Biden. Challenges in federal court to mail-in ballots and other voting procedures.

This opera isn't over until the fat lady sings. However, in one of the first ridiculous takes on the incoming Administration- assuming Joe Biden takes office sometime next year- is that from William Saletan, who writes "the conservative tilt of this electorate, particularly amid such high turnout, bodes ill for Democrats. But the exit polls also hint at opportunities for compromise and progress."

In this hyper-partisan environment, "compromise and progress" is right up there with summer and winter, poverty and wealth, devil and angel, or good and evil.

Ryan Lizza notes "this campaign was always a referendum on Trump, rather than an affirmative endorsement of Biden and his agenda," an observation perhaps most accurately reflected in Biden's promise to unite the country. Thus, it is unsurprising that, as Axios' Nichols and Allen report

Republicans' likely hold on the Senate is forcing Joe Biden's transition team to consider limiting its prospective Cabinet nominees to those who Mitch McConnell can live with, according to people familiar with the matter.... A source close to McConnell tells Axios a Republican Senate would work with Biden on centrist nominees but no "radical progressives" or ones who are controversial with conservatives.

Or a President Biden could decide to exercise power and, in an upset for recent Democratic Presidents, leadOne possibility:

That won't happen because it would be breaking a norm and as we have learned, breaking all norms and intentionally causing the death of roughly 200,000 Americans will please no more than roughly 48% of the electorate.

Less radically, the President could make a deal with McConnell in which the Majority Leader's wife, Elaine Chao, remains Secretary of Transportation. However, McConnell would be unlikely to agree, given that the President can fire cabinet members at will, and McConnell probably could not be so easily appeased.

There is a third- and at least a little more realistic- option, one which wouldn't break new ground. The ground already was broken by President Trump, with nary a peep from GOP senators or from more than a very few in the GOP establishment. As of July, 2019

the current deputy Labor Secretary, Patrick Pizzella—will have plenty of temporary company. By NPR's count, Pizzella will become the 16th person in the Trump administration who is serving as the acting head of a federal agency, or in some other vital executive branch role. At the Department of Defense, Mark Esper has been on the job since June 18; at the Department of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan recently celebrated his three-month work anniversary. Between January 2 and today, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has apparently not done enough to convince Trump to make his appointment permanent.

Ordinarily, Cabinet secretaries and designated Cabinet-level officials are subject to the Constitution's advice-and-consent provisions, and must be confirmed to their positions by the Senate. But the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, or FVRA, allows presidents to designate "acting" replacements in the event of a Senate-confirmed individual's death, resignation, or incapacitation. By law, substitutes may retain that designation and the powers of their office for up to 210 days—more than six months—without having to answer to lawmakers in a confirmation hearing setting. If the Senate rejects a nomination for a permanent replacement during that time, the 210-day grace period restarts.

So Joe should take Nike's advice- just do it. There will be no fever broken, no unity created by giving in to Mitch McConnell. It would merely confirm the contempt of Republicans and some others that Democrats are determined to shed "lib tears" and shrink from standing up to their opponents. It would be, as Saletan years for, compromise. But it also means that after four years of extreme conservative governance, the status quo created by Trump and McConnell would remain unchallenged. That would not sit well with voters- and would mean no progress.


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