It’s one thing to preach unity, another to make it happen. Joe Biden needs Mitch McConnell the way the earth needs the sun if he is to accomplish anything in the most closely divided Congress in memory. A Senate that is evenly split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris’ vote needed to break a tie, and a three-seat margin in the House create powerful incentives for Republican leaders to stall Biden’s agenda and play for the midterms two years from now.
The wiliest protagonist in this game of thrones is Mitch McConnell, adjusting to his new status as minority leader while having to figure out what he and his party do about Donald Trump, a disgraced ex-president with a cult-like following, and its media infrastructure that disseminated little lies that congealed into the big lie that the election was stolen from Trump.
As Senate leaders struggle to implement a power-sharing agreement, McConnell is threatening to block any agreement unless Democrats agree to preserve the filibuster, an early indication of how he can muck up the works. If Biden is to achieve the agenda he campaigned on, he needs some buy-in from the colleague he has known and worked with since McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984. During the eight years Biden served as vice president, he was the one charged with handling McConnell and crafting last-minute deals that helped Obama fulfill his legislative agenda while avoiding a government shutdown.