Ronald J. Hansen | Yvonne Wingett Sanchez | Arizona Republic
(CNT) City News Talk #arizona
President-elect Joe Biden has made clear he wants to change the tone in Washington, but a new administration also begins with a chance to reset priorities, some of which may be of particular concern to Arizonans.
The viability of Biden’s priorities will depend in part on something that won’t be known for months more: control of the U.S. Senate. Georgia will have two run-off elections that will determine whether Democrats begin the Biden era with control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, or where President Donald Trump finishes the end of his, with a party split.
For now, here are five things that could have outsize significance to Arizona:
A new pandemic response
Trump’s erratic and largely decentralized response to the coronavirus pandemic arguably cost him his presidency. More than 254,000 Americans have died, including 6,109 in Arizona.
Biden, who wears masks and rejected large campaign gatherings in favor of public-health directives, has promised to follow science in bringing the virus under control. Some have called for a national mask mandate and both parties have fought for months over the shape and cost of another round of aid to Americans grappling with the economic toll of quarantine.
The pandemic will require immediate action and, given the deep partisan battle lines emerging on spending, Biden could find he has no honeymoon in the White House.
Voters showed Arizona remains split down the middle politically, and many won’t be supportive of stricter quarantine measures.
At the state level, Arizona remains in GOP control and the early days of the Biden administration will overlap with what would normally be peak tourist season in Arizona. Heading into the fall, coronavirus numbers suggest the state is susceptible to another spike in COVID-19 illnesses and deaths.
The state government, its schools, businesses and residents more broadly will want clarity and financial lifelines to survive any deeper economic restrictions.
Another try on immigration
Biden will enter office indebted to many constituencies that helped him defeat Trump. One of the most important issues to the Democratic coalition is immigration reform.
Biden is expected to seek quick action on the issue, but that only scratches the surface of a problem that has festered for decades.
Biden has said he will take action to try to reunite hundreds of children still separated from their families under the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement practices. And Biden has also said he would use his executive authority to avoid deporting Dreamers, those who are undocumented after arriving in the U.S. as children.
But Biden will find it harder to enact sweeping legislative changes that often seem to put Arizona on the front line for immigration policy. Previous efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform involving the former Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain, Jon Kyl and Jeff Flake, were unsuccessful.
Democrats will have smaller numbers in controlling the House of Representatives. Even if they win control of the Senate, their narrow margin could make it harder to muster the votes to accomplish much on an issue that has bedeviled presidents of both parties since the last major immigration overhaul in 1986 under President Ronald Reagan.
If Republicans maintain control of the Senate, it’s likely that any change in immigration would include major concessions on tightening border control, and it could be that there is simply too little political will to move ahead with permanent changes.
Biden has said on his first day in office, he will send a bill to Congress for immigration reform that will modernize the immigration system and provide a pathway for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S.
Biden may be helped by Arizona’s two Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema and, soon, Mark Kelly. But it may still come down to the overall Democratic margins in each chamber.
Arizonans to join Biden administration?
It’s possible that at least a few Arizonans could wind up playing a role in the Biden administration, giving the state a direct voice in setting tone and direction.
This is a sensitive subject that the Biden campaign avoided, but people are being sized up for jobs, short-term and longer-term.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., was a prominent national surrogate who helped the campaign’s outreach to Latino voters. It’s possible Biden could end up working in the administration in some capacity.
If he does, it would create an opening for the seat Gallego has held since the 2014 elections. That would require a special election in the safely Democratic 7th Congressional District, and introduce a new face to the state’s delegation.
Flake was a prominent crossover Republican who helped tell conservatives they could vote for Biden. Flake’s rhetoric on restoring decency to the White House could be rewarded; adding a Republican to the administration would boost its bipartisan appeal.
One person already part of the Biden transition is Cindy McCain. She is preparing to offer advice to Biden on key staffing and appointments as he prepares to move into the White House.
Apart from that, McCain could help push efforts to end human trafficking, an issue she has long championed. And her warm relations with the new president can’t hurt the long-term vitality of the McCain Institute at Arizona State University. McCain was considered for a State Department post under the Trump administration, but the human rights-related ambassador-at-large job never materialized.
Better trade prospects for Arizona
Biden’s less-antagonistic tone could help Arizona benefit from Trump’s revised trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, negotiated by Trump, went into effect in July and it includes some provisions with Mexico that may reflect the strained relations between the two nations.
Biden could help smooth matters with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a development that can only help Arizona’s trade prospects with its No. 1 international trade partner.
A greener deal for the environment
Biden has said he does not support the Green New Deal as outlined by advocates such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. But he does support taking some steps toward mitigating climate change.
Depending on what that looks like, Phoenix and Arizona as a whole could be affected.
Biden could pursue another Clean Power Plan, such as the one implemented by former President Barack Obama, that affects emissions in the production of electricity.
He also could seek tax incentives to support the manufacturing and sales of electric vehicles. That could be good news for Lucid Motors, which has a new factory in Casa Grande.
And anything that brings down rising heat, could reduce the wildfires that have plagued the West, an issue that very much affects Arizona.