Political pundits are excoriating President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats for failing to push through their $3.5 trillion plan to combat climate change, provide child care, pay for community college, permanently lift millions of children out of poverty, make very wealthy people pay their fair share of taxes and address other social ills that have long been allowed to fester.

Activists on the left say it will be a betrayal if Democrats fail to deliver. Washington journalists flap on about the Democrats’ disarray. Voters who cast their ballots for Biden grow disillusioned.

But hold on a minute. Here’s a question for all those who are so quick to declare Biden and his compatriots a bunch of failures: Democrats do not have a majority in the United States Senate, so what did you expect?

Yes, with the Senate split 50-50, the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris has given Democrats technical control of the upper chamber of Congress, but, because of the filibuster, it takes 60 votes to get anything done, and the 50 Republican senators, in almost all situations that count, refuse to give up a single vote, let alone 10.

Add to that the hard reality that two of the Democrats’ 50 caucus members – Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin – are balking at most of the big stuff the president wants to get done, and that Democratic “majority” becomes even more illusory.

In the House of Representatives, the progressive caucus led by Seattle’s U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal has exerted a lot of muscle to defend the Biden plan. But, from the way Jayapal has been speaking in recent days about the need to seriously lower expectations, it is clear reality is dawning for her, as well. 


A majority of American citizens support all or most of the things Biden wants to achieve. An overwhelming majority of Democrats in Congress want to make it happen. But, because every state gets two senators – even in places where there might be more cows than people – Senate power is sharply skewed to red states. The Republicans have that built-in advantage, and the filibuster gives them veto power.

If Biden gets even half of what he wants, it will not be a failure, it will be a miracle.

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