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Brent Budowsky: Biden, McConnell and a Don Corleone plan

As Prime Minister Winston Churchill rallied the people of Britain to defeat the deadly scourge of Nazi Germany, President-elect Joe Biden seeks to rally the American people, working in concert with Democratic leaders around the world, to defeat the deadly scourge of the COVID-19 virus. And to protect our people against the depression-like economic conditions that many of them face today that will worsen by spring.

Because many of the most important aspects of Biden’s Churchillian mission must involve Congress, let me begin by directly and honestly confronting the most important political relationship in Washington, between the president-elect and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Republicans.

Twelve years ago today, as President Obama was beginning his transition, McConnell was already plotting to destroy his presidency and make him a one-term president. I have no doubt McConnell is already conducting similar meetings today, with the added purpose of planning a strategy also designed to win Republican control of the House and Senate after the 2022 midterm elections.

McConnell will give Biden nothing, zero, because it is moral or right or patriotic. He is not a red state blue state senator. He is a red state hyper-partisan who wishes President-elect Biden will fail. But he has reason to be concerned about the Georgia runoff elections that will decide which party controls the Senate, and a number of Senate Republican seats likely to be vulnerable in 2022.

It is possible for Biden to formulate issues in such a manner that McConnell might conclude that it is in his cold-blooded political interest to work with Biden on his Churchillian project to defeat the virus and reduce economic pain, and against his cold-blooded political interest to act in a manner that allows the virus to kill more Americans, Kentuckians, and Georgians and inflict more economic pain on Americans, Kentuckians and Georgians.

I began working for the House Democratic leadership when Tip O’Neill was speaker and Ronald Reagan was president. They battled each other fiercely but worked together at times for the national interest. This has never been McConnell’s style.

The only way for Biden to collaborate effectively with McConnell is what I call the Don Corleone plan. Make him an offer he cannot refuse because accepting the offer benefits McConnell, as McConnell sees it, and sabotaging the offer hurts McConnell, as he sees it.

Biden’s tone should continue to be bipartisan and high-minded but the realpolitik of dealing with McConnell must be clear and could be effective.

There are GOP governors, members of the Senate and House, business leaders, campaign donors and Trump voters who would favor lame-duck action to provide relief checks, small business support, along with aid to state and local governments. The funds would provide enormous help to police and firefighters, and policies to prevent more people from dying and more people becoming jobless or homeless during a double dip recession that is likely before any vaccine becomes widely available.

With Georgia runoff elections in January, would Peach State voters favor or oppose receiving substantial COVID-19 relief checks before they vote?

Would Georgia small business people favor or oppose receiving federal support that allows their businesses to survive and succeed before they vote?

Would McConnell prefer sharing credit with Biden for a bipartisan success, or be viewed by many Georgians as an enemy of their people by thwarting it and increasing the odds he leads a minority party of Republicans in the next Senate?

With the COVID-19 virus accelerating nationally at exponential rates, many red state governors are now championing the wearing of masks, greater social distancing and beginning targeted shutdowns. Many elected Republicans, business leaders and Trump voters worry about recession and support substantial virus relief funding — now.

Does McConnell want to oppose support for state and local governments that would leave Republicans in many states vulnerable to the charge they are effectively defunding police and firefighters who would lose their jobs without this funding?

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.

Tags Bipartisanship coronavirus relief Joe Biden Mitch McConnell Pandemic

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)
In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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