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Joe Biden’s Biggest 2020 Problem Is Joe Biden

As Democratic voters begin to consider who to make their standard-bearer in the 2020 election, Joe Biden has held an early, commanding lead in the polls, fueled by the belief that he’s the best Democrat to take on Donald Trump. The former vice president spent the closing weeks of the 2018 midterms in what Politico…

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Joe Biden’s Biggest 2020 Problem Is Joe Biden

As Democratic voters begin to consider who to make their standard-bearer in the 2020 election, Joe Biden has held an early, commanding lead in the polls, fueled by the belief that he’s the best Democrat to take on Donald Trump. The former vice president spent the closing weeks of the 2018 midterms in what Politico called a “working class whisperer tour” to the midwestern states that Trump carried. Emphasizing his Scranton, Pennsylvania, roots, Biden styled himself in stop after stop as “ Middle-Class Joe ,” savoring praise from fellow Democrats as the “kind of guy you could have a beer with.”
This version of “folksy Joe” even touted himself as “labor from belt buckle to shoe buckle.” There’s only one problem with this carefully cultivated image: Joe Biden’s entire career.

In more than four decades of public service, Biden has enthusiastically championed policies favored by financial elites, forging alliances with Wall Street and the political right to notch legislative victories that ran counter to the populist ideas that now animate his party. If he declares for the presidency, Biden will face a Democratic electorate that has moved on from his brand of politics.
Feuding With Ted Kennedy Biden first came to the nation’s capital in 1973 as the junior senator from Delaware, one of the few bright spots for Democrats in a disastrous 1972 election. Like most new members of Congress, he exercised little influence in his early years. At 30, he was barely eligible for Senate service, even younger than Ted Kennedy had been when he took over his brother’s Senate seat in 1962.

An inexperienced Biden looked up to Kennedy, revering him almost as an older sibling.
But as Kennedy ascended the Democratic Party ranks, the two men clashed over the party’s economic agenda.
“When the Senator from Massachusetts moved up to the chairmanship of the judiciary committee this year, the hearts of antitrust activists beat faster,” The New York Times noted in 1979. Kennedy had his sights on a sweeping piece of legislation that would block corporate mergers based on the total size of the resulting company ― even if the company was a conglomerate of unrelated businesses, and the merger did not increase a firm’s share of business in a particular market.

But Kennedy almost immediately ran into problems with Biden.

When Coca-Cola urged Congress to exempt the soft drink industry from these antitrust regulations, Biden joined Republicans to pass such a bill over the objections of Kennedy and Department of Justice antitrust expert Ky Ewing, who concluded that the bill was “special interest legislation” with “no evidence” to support it.

Antitrust law was an early salvo in what became a quarter-century struggle to shift the Democratic Party’s base of support away from organized labor toward large corporations. The Biden-Kennedy split carried symbolic connotations beyond the policy implications of their individual votes.

Where Kennedy wanted to use the Judiciary Committee to continue the old New Deal-era attack on corporate power, Biden became an advocate for corporate interests that had previously been associated with the Republican Party.
As Biden fought Kennedy on the Coca-Cola bill, he was also trying to thwart a Kennedy effort that would have empowered consumers to sue over a broader swath of antitrust violations.

In 1977, the Supreme Court issued a controversial ruling that only those who directly purchased products could sue companies for antitrust violations. That meant that manufacturers who sold their goods through wholesalers could only be sued by the wholesalers, not consumers.
Kennedy prepared a bill that would have reversed the court’s decision, but Biden, in the words of The New York Times , “vexed” him by siding with Republicans. Biden was going out on a limb by bucking leadership. Only two of the committee’s 10 Democrats opposed Kennedy on the bill, and the other was Howell Heflin, a conservative Democrat from Alabama.

The bill narrowly made it out of committee after Kennedy made some desperate last-minute concessions to win over Republican Sen. Charles Mathias (R-Md.), but the bill never got a floor vote. Kennedy’s broader antitrust ambitions died with it.
Biden wasn’t a lone wolf.

President Jimmy Carter and many of the younger Democrats who filed into Washington after Watergate were eager to break with the liberal orthodoxy that had dominated their party’s thinking since the era of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Even Kennedy had successfully pressed Carter to deregulate the airline industry in 1978, beating Ronald Reagan to the era of deregulation by nearly three years.

“A lot of us sit around thinking up ways to vote conservative just so we don’t come out with a liberal rating,” Biden told Washingtonian in 1974 . “When it comes to civil rights and civil liberties, I’m a liberal but that’s it. I’m really quite conservative on most other issues.”
If Biden wanted low marks from liberal groups, he got them.

By 1978, Americans for Democratic Action, the preeminent liberal watchdog group of the time, gave Biden a score of just 50 , lower than its ratings for some Republicans. Kennedy typically scored in the 90s.
Biden’s ratings recovered in the 1980s, fueled by a liberal foreign policy record. But on domestic policy ― from school integration to tax policy ― he was functionally allied with the Reagan administration.
He voted for a landmark Reagan tax bill that slashed the top income tax rate from 70 percent to 50 percent and exempted many wealthy families from the estate tax on unearned inheritances , a measure that cost the federal government an estimated $83 billion in annual revenue . He then called for a spending freeze on Social Security in order to reduce the deficits that tax law helped to create.

“While this program is severe,” Biden said on the Senate floor , “it is the only proposal that will halt the upward spiral of deficits,” which supposedly threatened “an economic and political crisis of extraordinary proportions” within 18 months.
By the time Biden first ran for president in 1987, he had adopted much of Reagan’s anti-government message in his pitch to Democratic voters.
“Government can do many things, but in the final analysis, government can act little more than as a catalyst,” Biden said on the stump. “We must demand more of ourselves … our managers, our workers, our consumers are needed to change their attitudes in order to revitalize this society.”
A Soldier For The Clinton Revolution Biden dropped out of the 1988 presidential race after just a few months, unable to deal with a speechwriting plagiarism scandal that today seems quaint. But his ideas would make their way to the presidency in the persona of Bill Clinton. “I was one of those guys in 1987 who tried to run on a platform that Clinton basically ran on in 1992,” Biden told National Journal in 2001.

He dismissed criticisms of the Clinton years as empty “class warfare and populism.”
One of the central planks of that platform was welfare reform ― a policy that exacerbated severe poverty by kicking people off of public assistance if they didn’t get a job. The plan ignored the constraints facing most poor families, who often didn’t have access to transportation needed to hold down a job, had small children to care for, or simply couldn’t find work (a particularly serious problem during a recession). The 1996 welfare reform vote divided the party ― 23 Senate Democrats voted against it and 23 voted for it, including Biden. Clinton signed it into law with support from a unified Republican Party.

Biden was a steadfast supporter of an economic agenda that caused economic inequality to skyrocket during the Clinton years. While the poor and middle class made modest gains as a percentage of their income, a pay increase of 2.

5 percent wasn’t terribly meaningful for people who didn’t make much money to begin with. The fortunes of the rich, by contrast, swelled as Clinton cut taxes on capital gains from real estate and financial investments. While Clinton’s 1993 budget raised the top income tax rate from 36 percent to 39.6 percent, the economic gains from his 1997 tax cut were heavily concentrated among the rich . As a result, the top 1 percent’s share of the national income grew dramatically. Biden voted for all of it.
At the same time, landmark banking deregulation further concentrated the nation’s wealth in the hands of a few big players.

Biden voted for the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking Act, which allowed banks to expand across state lines.

He voted to repeal Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law that barred traditional commercial banks from engaging in risky, high-flying securities trades. These laws encouraged Wall Street mega-mergers that created too big to fail and too big to manage behemoths like Citigroup and Wells Fargo . He voted to bar federal or state supervision of credit default swaps, which later became become ” financial weapons of mass destruction ″ during the 2008 financial crisis.
The Democratic Party’s Changing Face These were not controversial votes in the 1990s, a time when Democrats were happy to accept anything that looked like a policy victory over an unhinged Republican opposition. Only three senators opposed Clinton’s 1997 tax cut, and just eight opposed the repeal of Glass-Steagall. But the Wall Street crash discredited the entire agenda. In 2016, Biden himself called his vote to repeal Glass-Steagall the biggest regret of his career .
Biden also spent roughly a decade pursuing an overhaul of American bankruptcy law to discourage debt-strapped households from discharging their financial obligations in court.

As then-academic Elizabeth Warren warned at the time , Biden’s bankruptcy law boosted revenues for credit card companies at the expense of families struggling with job losses and medical bills. Unlike the Clinton-era deregulation, the bankruptcy bill was unpopular with Senate Democrats, who voted against it 31 to 14 .
Biden partially atoned in the Obama years, intervening to get presidential support to prohibit banks that benefit from taxpayer perks from speculating with risky securities. But Obama also dispatched Biden to try to ink a “grand bargain” with the House GOP in which Democrats would accept long-term cuts to Social Security in exchange for modest tax increases on the rich .

Like just about everything Biden supported in his congressional career, that measure enjoyed tremendous support with centrist elites in both parties.
Biden’s regular Joe credibility is based entirely on his personal background, as someone who grew up working class and speaks with the rough masculinity that Washington interprets as authenticity. But his politics have always relied on elite assumptions about the economy: Deficits are bad, deregulation is smart and the government is at best a clumsy steward of economic prosperity.
Biden struggled to shake off this thinking once it was discredited by the financial crisis, but Democratic Party voters did not.

Today, the unapologetic liberalism that Biden began to turn against in the 1970s is so resurgent that its proponents sometimes even call themselves ” democratic socialists .” All of the policy energy in the party has moved past conventional thinking of even the Obama years ― from a Green New Deal that shrugs off questions about deficits, to Medicare for All to various attacks on the political power of the billionaire class . Biden’s record is out of step with the party’s current priorities.
Will that matter to Democratic primary voters?
“I don’t think the issues mean a great deal in terms of whether you win or lose,” Biden told Washingtonian back in 1974 .

“I think the issues are merely a vehicle to portray your intellectual capacity to the voters . . . a vehicle by which the voters will determine your honesty and candor.”
He’ll have another opportunity to test that theory in 2020.
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US Senate votes to terminate Trump’s border order

US Senate votes to reject Trump’s emergency declaration, setting up President’s first veto 15 Mar, 2019 7:52am Don’t auto play Never auto play Some Senate Republicans will support a Democratic resolution to terminate the President’s national emergency declaration to build a wall along the US border with Mexico. / CNN Washington Post Share on Reddit…

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US Senate votes to terminate Trump’s border order

US Senate votes to reject Trump’s emergency declaration, setting up President’s first veto 15 Mar, 2019 7:52am Don’t auto play Never auto play Some Senate Republicans will support a Democratic resolution to terminate the President’s national emergency declaration to build a wall along the US border with Mexico. / CNN Washington Post Share on Reddit reddit In a stunning rebuke, the Republican-controlled Senate has voted to terminate President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the US-Mexico border. The disapproval resolution passed the House last month, so the 59-41 Senate vote will send the measure to the Trump’s desk. Trump has promised to use the first veto of his presidency to strike it down, and Congress does not have the votes to override the veto.

But the Senate vote stood as a rare instance of Republicans breaking with Trump in significant numbers on an issue central to his presidency – the construction of a wall along the southern border. Advertisement Advertise with NZME. For weeks Trump had sought to frame the debate in terms of immigration, arguing that Republican senators who supported border security should back him up on the emergency declaration.

But for many GOP lawmakers, it was about a bigger issue: The Constitution itself, which grants Congress – not the president — control over government spending. By declaring a national emergency in order to bypass Congress to get money for his wall, Trump was violating the separation of powers and setting a potentially dangerous precedent, these senators argued. “It’s imperative for the president to honor Congress’ constitutional role,” Senator Rob Portman, said on the Senate floor as he announced his vote in favor of the disapproval resolution. “A national emergency declaration is a tool to be used cautiously and sparingly.” Republicans who voted with Trump and against the disapproval resolution said the president was acting within his authority under the National Emergencies Act, and taking necessary steps to address a humanitarian and drug crisis at the border that Democrats had ignored. “There is a crisis at the border and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have prevented a solution,” said Senator Cory Gardner, naming the House speaker and Senate minority leader. “It should never have come to this, but in the absence of congressional action, the President did what Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer refused to do.

” Many GOP senators agonized at length before deciding how to vote, with significant numbers of them – including Portman and Gardner, who is up for re-election next year – waiting until Thursday to announce their positions.

Senator Thom Tillis, another senator up for re-election in a politically divided state, had announced last month that he would vote for the disapproval resolution. He wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post at the time arguing there would be “no intellectual honesty” in supporting executive overreach by Trump that he had opposed under President Barack Obama. But today Tillis flipped and cast his vote with the President, saying he was reassured by indications that Trump would support changes to the National Emergencies Act itself, to rein in presidential powers going forward. Tillis’ flip-flop highlighted the political pressure Republicans felt over potentially crossing the president. In the end only one Republican who is up for re-election next year Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted for the disapproval resolution. Thursday’s vote followed numerous failed efforts at compromise by vacillating GOP senators, including a dramatic incident Wednesday evening where a trio of GOP senators — Senators Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and Ben Sasse – showed up nearly unannounced at the White House, interrupting Trump at dinner in a last-ditch effort to craft a compromise.

Their efforts failed, and Graham, Cruz and Sasse all ended up voting against the disapproval resolution. “I said thank you for meeting with us. Sorry we ruined your dinner. And again, if it’d been me, I would have kicked us out after about five minutes,” Graham said later. Ahead of the vote, Trump took to Twitter to goad his critics and insist that defectors would be siding with Pelosi. “A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!” Trump wrote. The president said he would support GOP efforts to update the National Emergencies Act at a later date – something that’s been under discussion as a way to rein in presidential powers going forward – “but today’s issue is BORDER SECURITY and Crime!!! Don’t vote with Pelosi!” Pelosi herself told reporters: “The Senate will hopefully vote for the Constitution of the United States to uphold the oath of office that we all take by voting to reject the president’s measure that does violence on the Constitution.

. . . We’ll then send the bill to the president.” Concern among GOP senators has focused on Trump’s use of the National Emergencies Act to grab $3.6 billion appropriated by Congress for military construction projects nationwide – and use it to build barriers along the border instead. Graham declined to specify what exactly was discussed when he and the others showed up to interrupt Trump’s dinner Wednesday night, but said it focused on satisfying those concerns.

The attempted last-minute intervention by Graham and the others was just the latest attempt by Republicans to find some kind of compromise, as they choose between siding with Trump or crossing him on Thursday’s vote. But Trump repeatedly shot down the GOP’s attempts at dealmaking, calling Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, during a private GOP lunch Wednesday to reject a proposal to curtail presidential powers under the National Emergencies Act. Shortly after that, Lee announced he would be voting for the disapproval resolution. The vote on the disapproval resolution came a day after a Senate vote to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, marking unusual twin rebukes from a Senate that has mostly bowed to Trump’s wishes.

Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered contrasting takes on the Senate floor Thursday morning about what is at stake. “This is not a normal vote,” Schumer said. “This will be a vote about the very nature of our constitution and the separation of powers.” But McConnell argued that Trump was acting well within his powers and consistently with previous invocations of the National Emergencies Act. “Let’s not lose sight of the particular question that’s before us later today, whether the facts tell us there’s truly a humanitarian and security crisis on our Southern border and whether the Senate, for some reason, feels this particular emergency on our own border does not rise to the other national emergencies current in effect,” McConnell said. – With AP.

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Border wall: Senate votes to end Donald Trump’s national emergency

WASHINGTON – In a major rebuke to President Donald Trump on his signature domestic policy issue, the Republican-controlled Senate voted Thursday to block the national emergency the president declared to free up money for his border wall. A dozen Republicans joined all Democrats backing a resolution to rescind Trump’s effort to tap into more than…

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Border wall: Senate votes to end Donald Trump’s national emergency

WASHINGTON – In a major rebuke to President Donald Trump on his signature domestic policy issue, the Republican-controlled Senate voted Thursday to block the national emergency the president declared to free up money for his border wall. A dozen Republicans joined all Democrats backing a resolution to rescind Trump’s effort to tap into more than $6 billion that Congress set aside for other programs, most of them at the Pentagon.
Trump vowed to use his veto power for the first time to kill the resolution, which passed the House last month. There’s probably not enough opposition to override that veto, but the Senate vote was nevertheless a significant political setback for Trump.
The president, who had lobbied hard in recent days to keep Republicans in line, responded with a single-word tweet after the vote.
“VETO!” was all he wrote..

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Trump faces Senate revolt in vote on border emergency – World News Gateway

Senate Republicans revolt against Trump over border 14 March 2019 These are external links and will open in a new window Close share panel Image copyright AFP Image caption President Trump says the situation on the southern border constitutes a national crisis Rebel members of President Donald Trump’s party have helped pass a vote to…

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Trump faces Senate revolt in vote on border emergency – World News Gateway

Senate Republicans revolt against Trump over border 14 March 2019 These are external links and will open in a new window Close share panel Image copyright AFP Image caption President Trump says the situation on the southern border constitutes a national crisis Rebel members of President Donald Trump’s party have helped pass a vote to reject his declaration of an emergency on the US-Mexico border.
Twelve Republican senators broke party ranks to side with Democrats, approving a proposal to revoke the proclamation by 59-41.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives last month backed the measure.
Following Thursday’s vote, Mr Trump tweeted: “VETO!”
Congress needs a two-thirds majority of both chambers to override a presidential veto, which is viewed as unlikely in this case.

Nevertheless, the vote will be seen as an embarrassing loss for the president on his signature domestic issue.
On Twitter, Mr Trump slammed the vote, calling it a “Democrat inspired Resolution which would OPEN BORDERS while increasing Crime, Drugs and Trafficking in our Country”. Skip Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump I look forward to VETOING the just passed Democrat inspired Resolution which would OPEN BORDERS while increasing Crime, Drugs, and Trafficking in our Country. I thank all of the Strong Republicans who voted to support Border Security and our desperately needed WALL! Report End of Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump
It comes just a day after the Senate rebuked him on foreign policy by approving a bill to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen .

The Republican rebels on Thursday were Mitt Romney and Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rob Portman of Ohio, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
Thom Tillis of North Carolina changed his mind minutes before the vote and said he would oppose it.
The Republican president declared the emergency on 15 February after Congress refused funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border, a key campaign pledge.
He aims to circumvent Congress and build his long-promised barrier by raiding military budgets.

It could free up almost $8bn (£6bn) for the wall, which is still considerably short of the estimated $23bn cost of a barrier along almost 2,000 miles (3,200km) of border, but far more than the nearly $1.4bn begrudgingly allotted last month by Congress. Where authority ends and overreach begins
Gary O’Donoghue, BBC News, Washington
By any standards this is a big rebellion by Republicans in the Senate and therefore a significant embarrassment for the president.
But what it’s not, is a repudiation by them of his border wall policy which many of them support with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Which begs the question: what were they bothered about?
In straightforward terms, the use of national emergency powers was seen as overreach by the president in two ways:
First, it is a pretty blatant attempt to bypass Congress’s power of the purse – its constitutional right to raise and spend money.
The president had demanded billions for the wall, Congress hadn’t agreed it; the government shutdown; and eventually the White House backed down. So going after the cash by this route was seen as not playing by the rules.
Second, Democrats and some Republicans regard this as a power grab that could set a dangerous precedent.
In the past, a constant refrain from Republicans was that former President Barack Obama regularly abused executive powers to do things he should have won congressional backing for.
And many of the current batch of Republican Senators will be in situ long after President Trump has departed. They might find it harder, if they’d backed the president now, to argue that a future Democratic president couldn’t use emergency powers to, say, move on gun ownership or climate change.
So these rebellious Republicans get to have their cake and eat it.

A marker has been laid down, but, with no chance of a veto override, the president still gets his way.
Or at least for the time being. Ultimately it will be the nine justices of the Supreme Court who will decide where legitimate authority ends and overreach begins.
Earlier on Thursday Mr Trump called Democrats “border deniers” and said any Republican opposing him would be casting “a vote for Nancy Pelosi”.

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