There are days when nothing works for President Joe Biden. The 46e President of the United States thus saw, Thursday, January 13, the Supreme Court block the vaccination obligation that he intended to impose on companies with more than one hundred employees. And the electoral reform he supports is threatened in the Senate, torpedoed earlier in the day by an elected Democrat.
In the middle of the afternoon, in a first decision, the Supreme Court blocked the decision of 46e president to impose the vaccine against Covid-19 in companies with more than a hundred employees. On the other hand, in a second decision, it validated the obligation of vaccination for the employees of the health structures which benefit from federal funds.
After months of trying to convince the reluctant, Joe Biden announced in September his desire to make vaccination compulsory for several categories of employees. This measure was immediately denounced as an abuse of power by elected Republicans and by part of the economic world.
The Supreme Court agreed with them, at least with regard to the approximately 84 million people employed in companies with more than 100 employees. The administration has “Ordered to be vaccinated against Covid or undergo tests weekly, at their own expense. It is not the day-to-day exercise of federal power, but an intrusion into the lives and health of a large number of employees.”, she wrote in her judgment.
The decision was taken with a majority of six out of nine magistrates, all conservatives, with the Court’s three progressive justices having expressed their opposition. The latter, on the other hand, received the support of two of their conservative colleagues to save the obligation to vaccinate in health centers, which concerns around 20 million people.
Joe Biden has made the fight against the pandemic one of his priorities but is facing an outbreak of contamination by the Omicron variant. The United States, where only 62% of the population is fully vaccinated due to very marked political divisions on the issue, has so far recorded more than 845,000 deaths.
US President Joe Biden issued a statement after the Supreme Court ruling: “I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block a common-sense, potentially life-saving motion”, most “I will continue to use my platform as president to call on employers to do what is necessary to protect the health of Americans and the economy”, he wrote.
Risk of failure in the Senate
The president also risks seeing the failure of a vast electoral reform protecting access to the vote for African-Americans. Joe Biden has promised to protect access to the ballot boxes for minorities and the transparency of voting operations, in the face of a multitude of reforms undertaken by conservative states, in particular in the south of the country. It is for this reason that he joined, on Thursday, the elected Democrats in the Senate, to rally them around his project.
But even before he left the White House, Kyrsten Sinema, a senator from Arizona, took the podium and dashed, for the time being, any hope of passing this legislation presented as the heir to the great civil rights struggles of the 1960s.
The elected, a centrist Democrat, is not against the legislation itself. But she opposes the parliamentary procedure imagined by the Democratic staff and the White House to break the lock of the Republican opposition. Without his voice, in a Senate where the Democratic camp has 51 votes, and the Republicans 50, the project is doomed.
To pass this law in the Senate, it would theoretically take 60 votes, to comply with a very entrenched parliamentary practice. This “filibuster rule”, meant to encourage moderation and dialogue across partisan lines, gives enormous blocking power to the opposition, especially when the parliamentary balance of power is as tense as it is today.
The Democrats have only one solution to save their electoral reform: to break this parliamentary practice and to force the simple majority. It is this passage in force that Kyrsten Sinema does not want. It would only feed the “infernal spiral of division”, estimated the elected official, in an extremely solemn intervention.
Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin
Almost since his inauguration, Joe Biden has regularly come up against Kyrsten Sinema and another Democratic senator, Joe Manchin. These two moderates are skeptical of the major projects of the Democratic president, which they consider too interventionist, too costly, too centralized, too ideological.
In December, Joe Biden found himself in exactly the same position as today: having to mobilize without exception all the votes of his majority in the Senate around a very ambitious program of social spending. After endless discussions, it was Joe Manchin alone who caused this $1.750 billion project to fail shortly before Christmas.
The only way out now for Joe Biden would be to convince some elected Republicans to follow him on electoral reform. But this seems illusory, as the Conservatives are upset, both against the content of the law and against the parliamentary method. Their leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, on Thursday accused the president of taking a path “scandalous and divisive”.
A new failure would be extremely difficult for Joe Biden, already very unpopular, and who risks losing control of Congress completely after the midterm elections in the fall.
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In the Supreme Court and the Senate, Joe Biden records setbacks