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Biden’s Agenda Hangs in the Balance if Republicans Take Congress

After a decade of elections with health care near the top of voter priorities, the big federal health programs are less central in this election. Republicans are not focused on repealing the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare, or making major changes to Medicare and Medicaid in the short term. If Republicans retake majorities, they plan extensive oversight of Mr. Biden’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, and much of the spending that accompanied it. They also hope to consider smaller initiatives, such as expanding access to telemedicine in Medicare and improving price transparency in health care, building on Trump administration initiatives that many Democrats also embrace. Without a president who can sign their more conservative-leaning bills or large enough majorities to overcome a veto, Republicans are likely to focus on legislative efforts that at least some Democrats can support.

If Democrats retain control, they are likely to pursue a similar set of less polarized issues. Mr. Biden already tried and failed to pass major structural changes to Medicare and Medicaid as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, the new law meant in part to bring down prescription drug prices.

— Margot Sanger-Katz

After a record-breaking start at filling vacancies on the federal bench, the Biden administration’s aggressive push to remake the courts would be slowed considerably — if not entirely stalled — by a Republican takeover of the Senate.


How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the current and likely future Republican leader, has demonstrated his skill at thwarting judicial nominations. “If it did happen, Senator McConnell has made it pretty clear that he would not be very eager to confirm President Biden’s nominees and would do anything he could to delay filling seats until he could get a different president,” said Russ Feingold, a former Democratic senator from Wisconsin and head of the American Constitution Society. “He usually follows through on those statements and threats.”

To date, the Senate has confirmed 84 judges nominated by Mr. Biden, including a Supreme Court justice, 25 appeals court judges and 58 district court judges — the most in decades in the first two years of a president’s term. The White House has advanced a diverse set of candidates, focusing on underrepresented ethnicities as well as those with less typical professional backgrounds like public defenders and civil rights lawyers.

Even if Republicans make package deals to advance judicial nominees as has been done in the past, nominees who are considered more progressive would encounter extreme difficulties in a Republican-controlled Senate. Bracing for a slowdown, Mr. Feingold’s organization is urging Senate Democrats to confirm at least 30 more judges before the newly elected Congress takes office.

— Carl Hulse

Mr. Biden has promised to enshrine into law the national abortion protections that were repealed when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade if voters increase the Democratic margin in the Senate. “The only way it’s going to happen is if the American people make it happen,” he has said in his appeals to the public.

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