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May 10, 2021

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Going big and bold is smart policy and smart politics for Democrats

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Andrew Harnik / AP

President Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus relief package, in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Washington.

President Joe Biden is a unifier, not a rogue. He wants to bring Democrats, Republicans and independents together to work on solving problems that all Americans face.

But unfortunately, bipartisanship doesn’t necessarily mean getting votes from legislators of both parties, these days.

Biden, like President Barack Obama before him, faces a wall of obstruction from congressional Republicans. As Obama’s vice president from 2009 to 2016, Biden saw firsthand the obstinacy of GOP lawmakers who would whittle away at bills during negotiations, then vote against them anyway. Often, they would vote against even their own ideas.

Harry Reid saw it firsthand too, as Senate majority leader and minority leader. And like Biden, Reid came away from the experience understanding that these days, bipartisanship no longer means gaining approval of both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, rather the approval of American voters of all political stripes. With that in mind, Reid offers his take on Biden’s first 100 days in office.

— Brian Greenspun

Thanks to the historic passage of the American Rescue Plan and President Biden’s commitment to getting 200 million COVID-19 vaccinations in arms during his first 100 days in office, we’re finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, after a year marked by tragedy and loss. After early success delivering for the American people, now is not the time for Congress to waver in confronting the dual crisis of climate change and economic recovery. There is much work to be done to build back better than before and get millions of people back to work in good-paying union jobs.

As Biden often says, when he thinks about climate change, he thinks jobs. He is exactly right. We have to meet this moment and the scale of our country’s crises with transformational investments in clean energy and infrastructure. By improving our energy, transportation, broadband and water infrastructure, we will invest in people and communities too often left behind — low-income communities, communities of color, rural and blue-collar workers, and, yes, communities that have been dependent on fossil fuels. We will get people back to work at the same time we take action on climate. I was heartened to see the largest coal miners union embrace a transition to clean energy as long as that transition satiates workers, their families and communities, which is what Biden has proposed.

If Congress goes big, goes bold and goes quickly, the possibilities for progress are immense. Investing in our dangerously outdated electrical grid to make it cleaner and more resilient against the impacts of climate change will create more than 600,000 jobs every year over the next decade. This will also save our country more than $100 billion that we would wastefully spend on coal, oil, gas and other fuel.

With 10 million fewer jobs and more than 2.5 million women and 1.8 million men having left the workforce since the pandemic began, now is the time for bold leadership to lead us to recovery.

We know it is possible to reap the benefits of big investments in our infrastructure and our people because we have done it before, such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that I helped pass in 2009, FDR’s New Deal, and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. If we have the political will, we have the opportunity to improve the lives of millions of families today and build a stronger, better and more prosperous country for generations to come.

In 2020, voters elected pro-climate majorities in Congress, and now those Democratic majorities can deliver the bold action on climate change that voters expect. The lesson Democrats should take away from 2020 is that ignoring the naysayers, plowing ahead with popular proposals and delivering the results voters want is not only good policy, but also good politics. Instead of getting bogged down in bizarre Beltway debates about the definition of infrastructure, for example, Democrats should stay the course and do what this country wants and needs. That means passing the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan.

Various polls indicate that 7 in 10 voters — Democrats, Republicans and independents — want Congress to pass the American Jobs Plan with its investments in clean energy and infrastructure. The more people hear about the Americans Jobs Plan, the more they approve. These investments are favored by the majority of our citizens, business leaders, and 1,200 state and local leaders who are making commitments plus calling for action to build a clean energy future.



America is back. The global leadership on climate led by Biden will translate to more American jobs. Congress has an essential role to play in accomplishing a clean and more productive business environment.

Harry Reid served in the U.S. Senate from 1987 to 2017 and was the Senate majority leader from 2007 to 2015.