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Opinion: Biden's pledge likely to be tested by Democratic House, Senate

President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. [AP Photo/Andrew Harnik]
President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. [AP Photo/Andrew Harnik]

President-elect Joe Biden has tried to assure Republicans and conservatives that their concerns about his administration veering leftward are overwrought. His $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal, however, likely will not do much to assuage the other side.

The proposal is loaded with items sought by the most progressive Democrats, such as a $15 federal minimum wage. This idea would only hurt small businesses such as restaurants and bars, which have been battered by lockdowns and policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the president-elect’s plan includes additional money for schools, jobless insurance supplements, and billions for vaccine and vaccine distribution, it also seeks $350 billion for states and local governments, something Republicans have rejected and surely will again.

Other pieces of Biden’s proposal have little to do with true coronavirus relief. And this proposal comes only a month after Congress approved roughly $900 billion in relief following the $2.9 trillion package in the spring.

One wag said the new proposal shows how expensive the Republicans’ loss of the U.S. Senate will be. There's some truth to that.

Republicans needed to win one of two runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5 to keep Senate control. Instead they lost both, which means the chamber is split 50-50 and Vice President Kamala Harris will break any ties.

Democrats already controlled the House of Representatives, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has shown that progressive ideas will carry some weight. One new rule change, for example, allows “pay-as-you-go” budget provisions, which in theory require that new spending gets offset elsewhere by cuts, to be exempted on climate change spending. In the Senate, only 51 votes will be needed to approve budget bills that are exempt from pay-as-you-go. Thus, these are a near certainty to be green-lighted.

Biden also is getting tugged by major players within his party. Sen Bernie Sanders called Biden’s aid package a good first installment. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, soon to be the majority leader, said Democrats winning two Georgia Senate runoff elections would allow the party to “change America.” He’s got big plans, clearly.

Republican loss of the Senate means changes in committee chairs, no small thing. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, loses his top spot on the Armed Services Committee, where he has done great work for the state and the country.

The Georgia results were frustrating for Republicans because the party came within a whisker on Nov. 3 of retaining Senate control. Incumbent Sen. David Perdue defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff by more than 88,000 votes, but missed getting 50% plus one vote — and thus avoiding a runoff — by three-tenths of a percentage point. Perdue lost the second time by a similar margin.

Biden assumes office Wednesday vowing to be a president “for all America.” Here’s hoping he follows through, although his early moves give reason for pause.


Opinion editor Owen Canfield is in his 18th year writing editorials for The Oklahoman and has spent nearly 40 years in journalism. Email Owen at or call him at (405) 740-7624. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a print or digital subscription at

Owen Canfield III

Owen Canfield has written editorials for The Oklahoman since 2003. Prior to that, he spent 19 years with The Associated Press in Oklahoma City. He is a 1981 graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He and his wife, Lori, have four children. Read more ›