No honeymoon for Joe Biden

Art featuring the following copy in bold: Divided government?; COVID; Lame-duck presidency?

The US presidential election has yet to be called, but as things currently stand, Joe Biden is on track to win the 270 electoral college votes needed to clinch the US presidency. The horse race is still being closely monitored, and questions about why certain states and counties went for Trump or Biden will be addressed in the days ahead. But when all is done and dusted and the next president (likely Biden based on current projections) assumes his place in the White House on January 20, 2021, the issues he will have to tackle on day one will be as varied as they are challenging


Lame-duck shenanigans. The lame-duck interval — the 11-week period before a sitting president is replaced by a successor — is often chaotic and unproductive. In previous lame-duck periods, Congressional leaders have ignored requests from outgoing presidents, while the chief executive has issued 11th-hour executive orders and occasionally controversial pardons for some accused or convicted of crimes. (FiveThirtyEight has recorded a spike in presidential pardons towards the end of lame-duck terms.)

But if Biden wins, the upcoming lame-duck session could be more tumultuous than ever. Facing a string of legal troubles, Trump could opt to self-pardon, a move with no precedent in American history that could further inflame tensions within a deeply divided nation. He could also resign and ask acting president Mike Pence to pardon him. (There is no pardon that covers state and local tax fraud charges Trump might face in New York.)

Additionally, funding for the federal government is set to expire on December 11, requiring the Trump administration and Congress to work together to avoid a government shutdown like the one seen in 2018 when the government shuttered for 35 days. An aggrieved (and outgoing) President Trump may not be in a very cooperative mood, resulting in a shutdown-standoff that could bruise an already ailing US economy burdened with an ongoing pandemic.

A government divided. If Joe Biden wins, he will be the first president in almost four decades to take the helm without his party controlling both chambers of Congress — the House of Representatives and the Senate. (In case things don't appear complicated enough, it's worth noting that two tight Senate races in Georgia — a traditionally red state — are likely headed to run-off elections in January that could determine which party holds a Senate majority.)

As vice president, Biden saw up close the perils of divided government when the Republican-controlled Senate obstructed his boss, Barack Obama, from confirming judicial appointments and passing key legislation.

Biden's plans on tax reform (including an overhaul of Trump's tax cuts for high-earning Americans), as well as his ambitious agenda for tackling climate change, would be dead in the water under a (very likely) Republican-controlled Senate led by majority leader Mitch McConnell.

That would also undermine his ability to deliver financial aid to Americans whose pocketbooks have been hit hard by the pandemic. If Biden wins but Republicans retain Senate control, a new stimulus package is likely, analysts say, but the amount of cash doled out would be significantly less than the $3 trillion Democrats in the lower house have been pushing for.

Remember COVID? Over the past 48 hours, Americans — and non-Americans — have been fixated on vote tallies in Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. But while we were distracted, the US passed a grim milestone Wednesday, recording 100,000 new cases of COVID-19, the biggest single-day count since the pandemic started. States including Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota (mainly in rural areas) are grappling with ballooning outbreaks as the US surpassed 9 million total coronavirus cases, the most of any country in the world.

Biden has campaigned largely on Trump's failure to contain the virus and his own promise to defer to health officials on issues like how and when to reopen schools safely. But those decisions are largely made at a local level. Biden has also said that he would consider a nationwide mask mandate, but he would need to convince all 50 governors to enforce mask-wearing in their respective states — a very difficult feat at this hyper-partisan time.

In sum: Once all the votes are counted, we'll see that more than 70 million Americans voted to keep Donald Trump in the White House. The United States is more politically polarized than at any time in decades, and even as president, Joe Biden will have to negotiate and compromise to advance any of his agenda.

Over the next decade, Walmart's $350 billion investment in U.S. manufacturing has the potential to:

  • Support more than 750,000 new American jobs.
  • Avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions by working with suppliers to shift to U.S. manufacturing.
  • Advance the growth of U.S.-based suppliers.
  • Provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

A year and a half after millions poured into the streets of Santiago to protest inequality and the vestiges of the Pinochet dictatorship, Chileans voted this weekend to elect the 155 people who will rewrite the country's constitution.

The question now is not whether the people want change — clearly they do — but rather how much change their representatives can agree on. Overall, the new text is widely expected to beef up the role of the state in a country where a strong private sector made Chile one of Latin America's wealthiest yet also most unequal nations.

Here are a few things to bear in mind as the constitutional rewrite process kicks off.

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Morocco punishes Spain with... migrants: Spain has sent in the army to help defend the border in Ceuta, a tiny Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast, after more than 8,000 migrants crossed over in just two days. Spanish border guards say that Morocco facilitated the migrants' departure, most of whom are Moroccan nationals, to punish Madrid for meddling in Morocco's internal affairs over Western Sahara. Last month, Madrid allowed the leader of the pro-independence Polisario Front to seek treatment for COVID in a Spanish hospital, infuriating Rabat, which claims the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara as part of its territory. The Moroccans, for their part, deny involvement in the mass exodus. However, that seems questionable given that Morocco has traditionally overreacted to any hint of Spanish support for Western Saharan independence. But Spain won't want to rock the boat too much because it needs Morocco's help to stop African migrants from flooding Ceuta and Melilla, the other Spanish enclave in Morocco. If the spat is not resolved soon, the European Union may have to step in to mediate because once the migrants are on EU soil, they are free to travel to other EU countries.

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20 million: The US will donate 20 million doses of federally authorized COVID vaccines to countries in need. This is the first time the Biden administration has agreed to send shots approved for use in America. Washington previously pledged to send by the end of June 60 million shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which the US has stockpiled but lacks FDA approval.

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Cyber is a tool, and sometimes a weapon. Whether espionage for commercial gain or indiscriminate attacks on critical infrastructure, actions taken in cyber space affect you directly, potentially upending even the most mundane realities of everyday life.

Watch GZERO Media and Microsoft's live conversation on cyber challenges facing governments, companies, and citizens in a Munich Security Conference "Road to Munich" event recorded today, May 18.

Event link: gzeromedia.com/globalstage

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A big reason the Chinese leader is pushing harder than ever to annex Taiwan is actually quite small. The self-governing island has an outsize manufacturing capacity for semiconductors – the little chips that bind the electrical circuits we use in our daily lives. Cell phones, laptops, modern cars, and even airplanes all rely on these tiny computer wafers. Taiwanese chip manufacturer TSMC alone makes more than half of the chips outsourced by all foreign companies, which means your iPhone likely runs on Taiwanese-made semiconductors. What would happen to the world's semiconductor chips if China were to take control of Taiwan?

Watch the episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: What could spark a US-China war?

Will there be a ceasefire in Gaza? Fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas/Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants in the Gaza Strip has now entered its second week. Over the weekend, Israel intensified its bombing of the Gaza Strip, which included targeting a building that houses Al-Jazeera and AP, two foreign media outlets, causing their reporters to hastily flee the premises (Israel has so far not substantiated its claim that Hamas intelligence operatives were working in the building.) At least 42 Gazans were killed in a single Israeli strike Sunday, bringing the Palestinian death toll above 200. Meanwhile, Hamas continued to fire rockets at southern and central Israel, resulting in several casualties. On Monday, for the first time since the violent outbreak, US President Joe Biden voiced support for a ceasefire driven by the Egyptians and others. However, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has said that the operation will "take time," and a truce is off the table until Hamas' military capabilities are significantly degraded. Civilians on both sides continue to suffer.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Happy week to you. I thought we would do a quick take as we often do talk a little bit today about the latest in the fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians, still going on. Thousands now of Hamas' rockets raining down on Israel, hundreds of Israeli air sorties, also tanks and artillery hitting Gaza, as well as some violence locally in the West Bank and a fair amount across Israel Proper between Arabs and Israeli Jews living in the country.

I'm pretty optimistic at this point, if you can even use that word, that this is not going to escalate further in the near term. In other words, this doesn't become a ground war. A couple of reasons. First, the Israeli defense forces over the weekend put out a statement showing how much they had already done to degrade Hamas' military capabilities. And historically, they don't do that until they're ready to show success and wrap up their military operations in relatively short order. So that implies a quick pivot, at least to opening negotiations with the Palestinians as to a ceasefire.

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