Emboldened moderates and centrists from both parties can be a harbinger of success for Joe Biden's presidency

Joe Biden will be taking the helm of this country at a time of extraordinary division. When Biden is sworn in as president on January 20, 2021, the Democratic party will have a thin majority in the House and in the best case scenario, the Senate will be split 50-50, providing Vice President-elect Kamala Harris with the tiebreaking vote.

At the same time, President-elect Biden will also be starting his term with a Congress where moderates and centrists from both parties find themselves emboldened. Centrist Democrats are emboldened because Biden is himself largely seen as a moderate figure and a statesman putting in an honest effort to bring the country together. Moderate Republicans, now that Donald Trump will not be around 24/7 to strangle any attempt at compromise, may find that bucking their own House and Senate leadership on occasion will make them more relevant and more powerful in their respective chambers, as long as enough Democrats were willing to do so as well.

That part may be getting a head start. This morning, a group of centrist and moderate lawmakers from both parties and both chambers of Congress came together to announce a framework for emergency COVID relief legislation. Led by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia (who's been assailed by socialists in the House), Republican Sen. Susan Collins from Maine, as well as members of the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House, they stressed that their framework was meant only to provide emergency relief between the end of this year and March 31, and as is the nature of compromise, neither Democrats nor Republicans got all they wanted.

A big concession from Democrats appears to be that the framework will not provide a second stimulus check. Such assistance would have been a lifeline for many, as well as a major boost to the economy. As people at the press conference announcing the compromise framework noted, however, their measure is not a stimulus measure but an emergency relief one.

Republicans, on the other hand, acquiesced to $160 billion in funding to state and local government, something their party had derided as "bailing out" blue states and cities. Republicans also gave on nutrition assistance, student loan relief, rental assistance, and post office funding. Both sides agreed on $300 a week in additional unemployment insurance benefit, and temporary, limited coronavirus-related liability protection (which was once again a Democratic give).

The package is a classic compromise measure, and it, by all accounts, is an inadequate form of relief and stimulus Americans badly need. It - or something like it, if enacted - will, however, keep the bottom from falling out. It will keep Americans from being thrown out of their homes in the January cold. It will give those struggling to find employment - or those who simply cannot risk getting COVID from employment - a temporary but much-needed reprieve. It will give cash-strapped states and municipalities money that they need to continue to manage a dire budget situation, and it will allow small businesses to keep their employees on their payrolls instead of sending them to the unemployment line. It represents a pragmatic approach to policymaking that has become endangered in Washington.

On the heels of this development came news from Mitch McConnell's office that he is readying another COVID relief package, which according to The Hill contains funding in all of the above categories, though likely in a skimpier package. But that could not just be another game, an emboldened Susan Collins quipped. If McConnell's new proposal is similar to his skinny bill in September, Collins said, "it is not going to become law."

The ray of hope isn't that a core group of senators and House members committed to compromise will dictate the terms of every legislation for the next two years. But the fact that the people willing to make these compromises are getting bolder, willing to call out the more extreme members of their own party (including, if need be, leadership), and proverbially willing to take the bull by the horn means that they are willing to make their own parties uncomfortable. Whichever party rejects compromises like this without a plan to pass their own plans will - correctly - appear to be the one at fault for letting ideology get in the way of helping people. That's good.

That can also help the administration of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris. They will not have to be pulled by the socialist left, and at the same time, if the problem solvers do their job, the radical right's legislative sabotage just for the sake of sabotage - as they did to President Obama - can also be kept to a minimum.

I don't know that it is going to play out this way, and one should never underestimate the power of a party to set the agenda. The senate races in Georgia remain critical for both that reason and the reason that if elected, both Osoff and Warnock will be moderate Senate Democrats who will work in the mold of the group that is advancing this framework. Loeffler and Purdue, on the other hand, are radicals who will seek to diminish the power of the centrists.

But Joe Biden does have a path to legislative success, and today's development highlights that.

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