In the fall of 1966, Democratic members of the historic 89th Congress were eager to return home to begin midterm election campaigning. But President Lyndon Johnson insisted they stay in session to complete the final legislative pieces of his Great Society.
Johnson knew that, when the next Congress met in January, inevitable midterm losses would cut the massive Democratic majorities stemming from his 1964 landslide. He wanted to get as much as possible passed while he had the votes.
Fifty-five years later, President Joe Biden faces a similar challenge, amplified by his far smaller congressional majorities. The current Congress – the 117th — is his opportunity to pass an ambitious legislative agenda, and it seems he will spare no effort to do so.
Step one was last month’s enactment of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, an array of programs to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and revive the economy. Step two is his even larger $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan to restore the country’s physical infrastructure. Step three, which he calls the American Families Plan to meet long-pending social welfare needs, is coming soon.
Republicans, who unanimously opposed the initial measure, greeted the president’s newest plan critically, especially his proposal to trim some of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts for corporations and wealthier Americans. Many want a smaller infrastructure package and no tax increases.