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How does Joe Biden plan to reform US if he is elected president?

The former vice president has unveiled some ambitious policies but could meet with some resistance on all sides.

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Joe Biden says he wants to address health care disparities, toughen gun control, overhaul policing, provide free community college, erase student loan debt, invest in green energy and improve the nation’s infrastructure.

But that is just the start.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has also proposed measures to help Americans buy their first homes, raise the federal minimum wage and boost taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

That is to say nothing of his massive plans tied to coronavirus.

The reams of proposals reflect Mr Biden’s belief that the nation faces immense challenges that require a far-reaching government response not seen since the New Deal.

It marks a contrast with President Donald Trump, who has struggled to articulate his second-term plans and has sometimes said the coronavirus will simply go away.

But such ambition may inevitably lead to disappointment.

At a time of unprecedented gridlock, even some fellow Democrats warn Mr Biden’s lengthy to-do list faces long odds in Congress.

“I think there is considerable bipartisan support for many of the principles,” said Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

“The higher priority for the Republicans, should they be in the minority, is to prevent Biden from being an effective president.”

Democrats already control the House, but much of Mr Biden’s agenda could come down to the Senate.

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Air Force One (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Air Force One (Andrew Milligan/PA)

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Air Force One (Andrew Milligan/PA)

If Democrats win the White House, they would need to pick up three seats in the Senate to retake the majority.

Mr Biden has predicted the party could end up with as many as 53 seats.

That’s still short of the 60 votes required to past most bills in the Senate.

Mr Merkley is a leading voice calling for the removal of that threshold, known as the filibuster, and instead pass legislation with a 51-vote majority.

As a 36-year veteran of the Senate, Mr Biden has been reluctant to end its traditions.

But he has hinted his position may shift.

“You have to just take a look at it,” he told journalists this month, adding that his decision would depend on how “obstreperous” Republicans become.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pointed to the prospect of a Democratic-run chamber to warn donors that it was vital for the party maintain its majority.

Don Stewart, a former top aide to Mr McConnell, said the Republicans can still slow major legislation even if they are in the minority.

He pointed to President Barack Obama’s struggles during his first term as an example of the playbook Republicans will use.

Mr Obama came into office with a significant House and Senate majority, and Democrats still underwent months of legislative wrangling, sometimes among themselves, to hammer out a health care bill that would clear the Senate.

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Joe Biden in the Oval Office with Barack Obama during a visit by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall (Chris Radburn/PA)

Joe Biden in the Oval Office with Barack Obama during a visit by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall (Chris Radburn/PA)

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Joe Biden in the Oval Office with Barack Obama during a visit by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall (Chris Radburn/PA)

“It’s so hard to get an agreement on something that big and broad, because of all the little things in it and all the little ways that minority can attack every little piece,” Mr Stewart said.

“Between Obamacare and the stimulus, by July of Obama’s first year, he went from walking on water to completely upside-down.”

Beyond the health care overhaul and the economic stimulus, Mr Obama won passage of a new financial regulatory regime early in his administration.

But other top first-term priorities, such as cap-and trade legislation and immigration reform, languished.

Mr Biden’s aides say overlapping crises — the pandemic, the economic downturn and the demand for criminal justice reform — lend an urgency to reform that did not exist when Mr Obama was in office.

“The acuteness of the elements of this crisis just creates a different set of political winds, and we think those winds blow in the direction of fast, decisive action,” said Biden senior campaign adviser Jake Sullivan.

Still, Mr Biden may face a simple time pressure.

New presidents typically have just 12 to 18 months to pass legislation before political considerations of the midterm elections take over.

After that, attention quickly turns to the president’s own reelection.

That dynamic will be especially intense for the 77-year-old Mr Biden, who has faced questions about whether he would seek a second term because of his age.

More fundamentally, Mr Biden would face resistance from most Republicans, and some Democrats, because of the steep cost of his proposals.

This month alone, Mr Biden has rolled out plans that include a 700 billion US dollar  investment in research and development in US tech firms and purchasing American goods, two trillion US dollars on a green energy jobs and infrastructure plan and 775 billion US dollars in spending on care for children, older people and those with disabilities.

While Mr Biden and other Democrats frequently point out that Republican tax cuts have blown a hole in the nation’s deficit, and typically noisy Republican deficit hawks are notably silent with Mr  Trump in the White House, that will not likely be the case if Democrats take back control of Washington.

Mr Biden’s aides believe his decades of experience on Capitol Hill and reputation as a deal maker will help him broker compromises and build coalitions.

But Mr Biden will face the same challenge within his own caucus that complicated and sometimes sunk many of Mr Obama’s legislative pursuits: competing pressure from progressives and moderates.

Progressives like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been outspoken in pressuring Mr Biden on key issues such as climate change and education.

But moderates, like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, could hold the real key to passing legislation.

The red-state Democrat has routinely been a key swing vote in major legislative negotiations and said he expects to be in a “great position for common sense” in the next Congress.

“I’ve never been a blank check for anyone,” he said in an interview.

“I’ve always said if I can’t go home and explain it, I’m not going to vote for it.”

Mr Manchin is already hitting the brakes on two of Mr Biden’s major campaign promises — his support for a federally funded health care option and Mr Biden’s proposal to eliminate carbon pollution from the energy sector by 2035.

But Mr Manchin did give Mr Biden some credit.

“The one thing I know about Joe Biden, he’s always been willing to sit down and negotiate,” Mr Manchin said.

“That type of a person I know I can work with, which is all I can ask for in today’s toxic environment.”

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