Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Democrats could sweep the 2024 elections — and make major policy changes

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., right, and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., outside the White House in February.
By Ramesh Ponnuru</p><p>washington post

In the media, most of the discussion about the stakes of the election concerns what Donald Trump will do if he wins the presidency again. But major policy shifts will also come if the Democrats make gains in Congress.

The difference in attention is understandable. Trump is a more interesting and less predictable figure than President Biden, and many of his plans are either secret or inchoate. And the public follows changes in occupancy of the White House more closely than changes in the identity of the speaker of the House.

But there is a wide range of plausible election outcomes to consider. To take control of the House, Democrats need only win all the districts where they are favored in the Cook Political Report’s ratings and then four of the 11 Republican-held toss-up seats. Senate Democrats can withstand losing a seat in West Virginia and still keep a majority in the upper chamber – provided they keep their other seats and Kamala D. Harris remains vice president to break ties. A Democratic trifecta – keeping the White House and Senate, and picking up the House – is unlikely but well within the realm of possibility.

This trifecta would be considerably to the left of the one that Democrats enjoyed in 2021-2022. The two most important moderating influences on that governing majority – Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III – would be gone. They backed many Democratic priorities, voting for almost all of Biden’s judicial nominees and for the American Rescue Plan spending bill. But opposition from one or both of them kept Democrats from raising tax rates on corporations or individuals, and forced Democrats to pare back the spending they had sought in their Build Back Better agenda. Their support for the filibuster also thwarted Democratic efforts to enact liberal policies on election laws. But both of them are leaving the Senate rather than running for re-election this year.

With unified control of the elected branches of the federal government, Democrats in 2025 would still have to operate within political constraints. They would not be able to enact Medicare-for-all, or the 32-hour work week (with no pay cuts!) that is the latest fantasy of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Packing the Supreme Court is also unlikely, given that many Democrats either oppose it or recognize its political folly.

But a lot of progressive victories would be within reach. Inertia would help Democrats secure large tax increases: Many of the tax cuts that Trump and a Republican Congress put into law in 2017 will expire in 2025. Biden already signed into law a temporary expansion of subsidies for Affordable Care Act plans; he could extend it or even make it permanent.

Democrats would probably have the votes to discard the filibuster, at least for the two fundamental issues they have said should be immune to it: voting rights and abortion. (For the filibuster to survive intact, some Democrats would have to either develop new misgivings about abolishing it or become more willing to express those misgivings.)

They would then be able to federalize election law, limiting states’ ability to require that voters show photographic identification.

Most Democrats have supported a sweeping abortion rights bill that would, among other things, erase states’ parental consent laws. With majorities and no filibuster, they could pass it. Federal Medicaid funding for abortion, which Biden no longer opposes, might also have enough votes to pass.

Almost all Democrats also support the Equality Act, which enshrines progressive views about outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, including in school locker rooms, and curbs religious organizations’ ability to act on contrary views. Surely, Democrats would consider these policies matters of fundamental rights, too, and abolish the filibuster to secure them.

Each waiver of the filibuster would make the next one easier. Legislation to promote unionization, to grant legal status to illegal immigrants, to make Puerto Rico and D.C. states – aren’t all these issues of basic rights, too?

You might favor most of these policies or oppose them, as I do. Either way, they would be substantial changes in American government and society, and we could see them sooner than most people think.