Joe Biden will inherit a struggling economy when he takes office in January.
Republicans may maintain control of the Senate depending on the outcome of two Senate runoff races in Georgia.
Biden could provide student debt relief, repurpose unspent federal relief funds, and raise the minimum wage for federal contractors without Congress.
President-elect Joe Biden will be inheriting a struggling economy when he takes office in January. Coronavirus infections are reaching new highs with the pandemic showing no signs of abating anytime soon.
Meanwhile, millions of people remain unemployed and permanent layoffs are rising. Small businesses are still shuttering as the recovery shows signs of weakening without additional stimulus.
A pair of Senate runoff races in Georgia will decide which party controls the Senate and the balance of power in Washington. If Republicans keep the chamber, it may be difficult for Biden to achieve many elements of his platform such as tax increases for wealthy individuals and corporations.
But here are four steps Biden could take on his own without Congress.
Biden could forgive a chunk of student debt without any help from Congress.
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren unveiled a proposal for the next president to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt.
“The President of the United States has the power to broadly cancel student loan debt, help close the racial wealth gap, and give a big boost to families and our economy,” Warren said in a statement in September. “It’s time to use this existing authority and permanently improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans.”
Schumer indicated it could form part of Biden’s early agenda in a recent interview. During the Democratic primary earlier this year, Warren said she could use executive authority to begin canceling student debt if she won the presidency.
The Massachussetts senator cited an analysis from Harvard University researchers which found the president could direct the Education secretary to cancel student debt on “a broad or categorical basis.”
Biden has proposed forgiving $10,000 in student debt for borrowers as part of a coronavirus relief package. Nearly 42 million Americans owe debt totaling $1.7 trillion.
Biden could increase the federal minimum wage for contractors to $15 an hour.
Biden can increase the hourly pay for federal contractors
The President-elect supports a $15 minimum wage nationwide, though he hasn’t unveiled a timeline to achieve it. House Democrats passed a plan last year to gradually reach that level by 2025.
Congress hasn’t bumped the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour since 2009. It’s the longest the US has gone without an increase in hourly pay for workers.
Biden could step up corporate taxes by adjusting regulations with the Treasury Department.
Biden campaigned to partially roll back Trump’s 2017 tax law and increase the tax rate on corporations to 28%. But Republicans are not likely to support the move and it may be difficult to achieve if Democrats don’t control the Senate.
He could step up corporate taxation by adjusting several regulations with the Treasury Department.
Trump’s tax law reduced the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, the biggest change to the tax code in three decades.
The Trump administration cut the tax liability for multinationals through a combination of new levies known as Global Intangible Low Taxed Income (GILTI) and the Base Erosion and Anti Abuse Tax. Biden can increase these.
Repurpose unspent federal relief funds.
Congress hasn’t spent all the relief funds from the CARES Act passed in March. Biden could repurpose some of the unspent money from the Paycheck Protection Program.
The small business relief program expired in August with $130 billion left over.
Monthslong talks between Republicans and Democrats have not produced a new stimulus package despite economists urging lawmakers to pass one and prop up the economy.
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