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Biden achieves historic gains during his first year in office, but America remains divided

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Congressional Democrats need to stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. President Joe Biden has already led them to historic achievements that will benefit every American. But the news has been dominated by seemingly endless Democratic internal feuding and fighting in the Capitol over how much to spend and how to spend it.

The poor performance of Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey in state elections earlier this month shows that elected officials in my party must show they can get things done for the American people to keep control of the House and Senate in the 2022 elections and the White House in 2024.

Enough already!

The Build Back Better Act passed by Democrats in the House of Representatives on a 220-213 vote would provide enormous benefits to most Americans.

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The bill would make child care more affordable, create universal pre-K, give most families with children hundreds of dollars each month through tax credits, make paid family leave available to most workers, expand Medicare for senior citizens and Medicaid for low-income people, fight dangerous climate change and create millions of jobs. And there are many more benefits, too numerous to list here.

Now the bill goes to the Senate, which is expected to reduce the size and scope of the measure that would invest about $2 trillion over 10 years in a better America.

Earlier this month, the federal government reported that the U.S. economy is roaring back to life after the crippling effects of the coronavirus pandemic. America added 531,000 jobs in October, cutting the national unemployment rate from 4.8% in September to 4.6%.

The Biden burden: Low approval ratings, soaring inflation and a COVID-19 culture war

Biden deserves much of the credit for the jobs recovery because he has now made coronavirus vaccines available to all Americans as young as 5 and his administration is seeking to require COVID-19 vaccinations or testing for millions of workers.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have opposed elements of Build Back Better and have already cut the price tag from $3.5 trillion over 10 years, now have the power to determine whether the bill will become law or whether it will die. We can expect them to offer amendments. But failure to enact Build Back Better is not an option.

If Republicans gain majorities in the House, the Senate or both next year, they will do everything they can to hurt the American people by opposing virtually everything Biden proposes. They are more interested in serving defeated former President Donald Trump than serving the folks who elected them, and more committed to partisanship than patriotism.

President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi push fractious House Democrats on a revised domestic policy bill and a related bipartisan infrastructure plan.
President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi push fractious House Democrats on a revised domestic policy bill and a related bipartisan infrastructure plan.

In a triumph for Democrats, President Biden and, most important, the American people, the House voted 228-206 to give final legislative approval to Biden’s plan to spend $1.2 trillion to improve the nation’s aging infrastructure, including roads, bridges, mass transit, railroads, ports and the electric power grid. Biden signed the bill into law on Nov. 15. Only 13 House Republicans voted for the legislation, while a group of far-left Democrats known as “The Squad” voted against it.

Nineteen Senate Republicans joined all 50 Senate Democrats to support the infrastructure bill in August. The House should have passed it quickly. The progressives who held the bill hostage in the House hurt Democrats on the ballot by giving Republicans ammunition to attack Democrats as being paralyzed by an intraparty civil war.

Even before the final passage of the infrastructure bill, Biden and Democrats in Congress had already accomplished a great deal. The biggest achievement was the historic $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that Biden signed into law in March that put money in the pockets of most Americans, funded coronavirus vaccinations and aided state and local governments hit hard by the pandemic.

Politics ahead of patriotism

Not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted for the coronavirus relief bill. Sadly, most congressional Republicans are more interested in seeing Biden fail than seeing America and the American people succeed. They are putting politics ahead of patriotism.

Two new challenges facing Biden and Democrats will come in December, starting this week, when funding to keep the government open must be approved and the national debt ceiling must be raised. Republicans have made it clear that they won’t support these measures, so it will be up to Democrats to line up the necessary votes.

In order to do any of this, the Biden White House needs to sell its agenda more effectively. They’re working in an atmosphere of partisan rancor and outright lies almost unparalleled in American history. Further success will hinge on the president’s skill and commitment in pushing his agenda through a chaotic legislative environment. He has already shown that he has the stuff needed.

Biden was elected with more votes than any president in U.S. history. Every new president faces tough challenges, but none has ever had to deal with a predecessor who falsely claims the new president was put in office by election fraud. Millions of Americans believe defeated President Donald Trump’s "Big Lie," which led to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, continuing threats of violence and Republican obstructionism in Congress.

Overcoming the Big Lie and uniting the nation remain the biggest challenges facing Biden for the remainder of his term. Trump and his supporters in Congress aren’t content to wage war on Democrats. They’re waging war on democracy itself, seeking to make it harder for Black people and others who support Democrats to vote and to return Trump to the White House against the wishes of a majority of voters by rigging future elections.

Against such unhinged and frankly amoral intransigence, Democrats under Biden have to somehow govern in the real world. Aiding their quest is the fact that their agenda is overwhelmingly popular among the American people. Poll after poll shows Americans want prudent measures to deal with COVID-19, dramatic action to Build Back Better and historic investments in the future of this country and its people.

The difficulties of the road ahead are dwarfed by the opportunities available there. What’s needed now is political skill and iron will.

Donna Brazile (@donnabrazile) is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, an ABC News contributor, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and the King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University. She previously served as interim chair of the Democratic National Committee and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute, and managed the Gore campaign in 2000.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden's accomplishments in first year overshadowed by partisan politics

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