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Democrats' double victories in the Georgia Senate runoffs have tipped the balance of power in Washington. When President-elect Joe Biden takes office in less than two weeks, his party will control the White House and both chambers of Congress.
That's what Massachusetts' all-Democratic congressional delegation hoped for, but it also could add new pressure.
For years, Democratic lawmakers have had a ready-made explanation if their proposals fail to become laws: "Over 400 bills are collecting dust on Mitch McConnell's desk," said Assistant Speaker of the House Katherine Clark, who represents Massachusetts' 5th Congressional District.
Clark has been frustrated by McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and the Senate majority leader since 2015. He's often refused to formally consider Democrats' proposals.
On the other hand, McConnell's blockade has meant Democrats didn't have to craft legislation that was likely to pass, since many of their bills would never get a vote, anyway. That's about to change, and Clark says it's reasonable for voters to hold Democrats to a higher standard of getting things done.
"I think it is very fair pressure to demand urgency in addressing climate change, to demand urgency in addressing this pandemic, and to demand that we meet this moment of racial reckoning in this country," she said.
Democrats may be in the majority, come Inauguration Day, but that doesn't mean their most ambitious ideas, like the Green New Deal, are a done deal. Most Senate bills will still require some Republican support to avoid filibusters. And some Democrats are more liberal than others, which means there may be disagreements within the party.
Asked about the lingering challenge of passing the Green New Deal he coauthored, Sen. Ed Markey said he is optimistic about the more modest climate proposal offered by Biden.
"We can begin the process of making that legislation a reality," Markey said. "And my hope is that not only a green infrastructure bill but many other green initiatives will be made possible by this incredible victory in Georgia."
A key question is whether Democrats can manage expectations, or whether some supporters may be disappointed by anything less than passage of the most progressive items on their wish list.
"The Democrat Party reminds me of the barking dog that chases the bus and finally catches up with it, and what does he do with it now?" said Tom Mountain, vice chairman of the Massachusetts GOP.
Republicans like Mountain are banking on Democrats falling short and losing some of their voters' enthusiasm by the next election cycle.
"They control both houses of Congress, and they will soon control the presidency," Mountain said. "And the question is — now they have to govern — what are they going to do with it?"
Mountain hopes Democrats won't be able to do much with their majority, but he acknowledged that, at least for now, they're in a much stronger position than his own GOP.
This segment aired on January 7, 2021.
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