On January 20th 2021, Donald Trump will vacate the White House and Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States at around 5pm GMT. In November we knew that the US faced a Biden-Harris Administration for the next 4 years. How successful the Administration will be, is the question that remains in the balance.
By the end of the election period we knew that the Democrats would have 48 Senate seats and the Republicans would have 50. On January 6th, news outlets officially projected that Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock had defeated incumbent Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Chuck Schumer will now succeed Mitch McConnell as the Senate Majority Leader shortly after Biden’s inauguration once Ossoff and Warnock are sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris.
The Democratic majority in Congress means that the Biden-Harris Administration can plough ahead with their agenda if they so wish. What does the mean for the US over the next 2 years, until the 2022 House and Senate elections?
Joe Biden is known for his history of working across the aisle with Republicans, while still holding his beliefs firmly. In the early days, Biden may try to compromise with Republicans in order to hold onto his majority again in the 2022 mid-term election.
We expect to see many reforms and changes over the period of the Biden-Harris administration, already being seen with the implementation and nomination of the most diverse Cabinet and White House staff.
The first hurdle that the Democrats seek to overcome is the $2000 stimulus checks to support Americans during the pandemic, a platform which the Democrats ran with in Georgia’s recent special elections. News sources suggest that Biden will negotiate a new plan with Republicans, despite many Americans in desperate need of the relief. Although, Biden may hit a brick wall and decide against negotiating for a long period of time because his number one priority is to release the stimulus checks as soon as possible.
Barack Obama said that the biggest mishap of his presidency was the failure to secure Gun Control legislation. Just ten years after the Tucson shooting in Arizona, Democrats are reminded of the need to secure that legislation. The mass shooting left 6 dead and many wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head at point blank range. She was forced to resign from the House of Representatives to take time to rehabilitate and still struggles today. Her husband, Senator Mark Kelly defeated Republican Martha McSally in the recent Arizona Senate election to take hold of the late Senator John McCain’s seat. With people directly affected by mass shootings in the Senate, you can expect legislation to be enacted rapidly.
Joe Biden seeks to expand on the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Compared to Bernie Sander’s promise of Healthcare for all, Biden wants to implement a more fiscally prudent, Public-Private healthcare option. Essentially, this means that all of those who are unable to afford private health insurance will be provided with public health insurance for a much lower cost. The cost will most likely be incorporated into tax deductibles.
The Republicans have staunchly opposed the Green New Deal and say that it endangers jobs and livelihoods. The Republicans and the Democrats both want to run a platform of returning jobs to the people. The Republicans run on the platform of returning coal and steel jobs to rural America, whereas the Democrats run on the platform of creating new, sustainable clean-energy jobs. One such policy is regressive and the other is progressive, merely because clean energy jobs will most definitely outlast the jobs of the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. Both parties have the notion of restoring jobs but have very different notions of how to restore those jobs.
The US Supreme Court’s fate also lies untold. Amy Coney Barrett was appointed to the court in October 2020, following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The Democrats are facing a conservative Supreme Court and may 'pack the court' in order to turn it in their favour. Biden’s plans are unknown. Biden may seek Clinton-Nominated Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement as he is aged 82. Biden would likely replace him with someone younger, in order to stop the possibility of a future Republican Appointment.
These are but few of the many changes we are expecting to see.
Donald Trump was a president like no other when it came to Foreign Policy. Every President since the founding of NATO has always talked of protecting their allies and have been wary of Communist Regimes. Trump seemed to take an unconventional approach by trying to strengthen ties with Russia and North Korea. After all, he is not a conventional politician. Donald Trump also took troops out of US bases stationed in Europe (Germany) and East Asia (South Korea). When the US formed NATO they found new allies, but many of them are asking does the United States’ loyalty still lie with them as Trump questions the affordability and purpose of the alliances the US holds. With Joe Biden as President, many are probably feeling relieved, expecting the return of US troops to bases around Europe and Eastern Asia. Biden will probably continue to provide funding to America’s allies for military spending as many of these countries do not reach the Military funding expected of them. Biden was the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee three times and is experienced when it comes to International Relations.
What does a Joe Biden presidency mean for the island of Ireland as a whole? The 26 County-Republic and the 6 Counties of Northern Ireland have entered the untold waters of a Europe without the United Kingdom. Biden is an Irish-American, with his roots coming from Co. Mayo and Co. Louth. Biden is considered to be more Irish-American than President John F. Kennedy.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson found friend in Donald Trump when he became PM in July 2019. His main objective was to achieve and ratify a Brexit deal. Nonetheless he did not rule out a no-deal exit from the European Union. Johnson saw an ally in Trump, who was willing to broker a trade deal with the United Kingdom. When Joe Biden was announced as the projected the winner of the US election, Johnson quickly cut ties with Trump and ensured that he would secure a Brexit deal. The British Government probably knew that they could not risk a no-deal Brexit and then attempt to secure a trade deal with an Irish-American US President, when such circumstances would harm Ireland, North and South. The US Congress, made up of both Republicans and Democrats assured that they would not broker a deal with the UK if their actions were to place any pressure on Ireland.
Joe Biden has announced two Irish-Americans to take seats in his Administration. His Secretary of Labour will be former Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, who’s parents are from Galway. The new Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development will be Samantha Power, raised in Dublin until the age of nine when her parents decided to emigrate to the United States. Power served as US Ambassador to the UN during the Obama Administration. Biden’s Deputy National Political Director John W. McCarthy is another Irish-American working within the Biden-Harris Administration. Joe Biden’s profound desire of this Island is an indicator that we can guarantee peace and stability for years to come.
We can expect much progress over the next few years. It is doubtful that Biden will take his foot off the accelerator as he knows that a majority in the Senate and House is not guaranteed for his four year term.
Adam O'Donoghue is a 19 year old Economics and Politics student at University College Dublin from County Meath. He is interested in American Politics, Foreign Policy and Journalism. He co-hosts the Cold Takes Podcast on Belfield FM. Listen on Spotify.