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Here are nine of the biggest political questions for next year.
1. What legislation, if any, do Democrats in Congress get done?
Democrats are still in shock, my Post colleagues report, that Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) ended their current plan for a spending/climate change bill last week by saying he couldn’t support it.
If doing nothing is not an option, then they’ll have to figure out what Manchin will support and just pass that. It could mean they stop the expanded, monthly payments that are credited with lifting children out of poverty and fall well short on lowering carbon emissions to mitigate the most disastrous affects of climate change. Those are really hard things for Democrats to accept.
And then what about voting rights? Democrats — from Biden to the secretary of state of Michigan — say it’s important to create national standards for how people vote to push back on Republican restrictions in states. But they’re nowhere near getting that done, either.
Which brings me to:
2. Do Democrats erode the filibuster?
They’d have to change it to get a voting rights bill past Republicans. Unlike this time last year, it’s within the realm of possibility they could tweak this centuries-old Senate rule to allow legislation expanding voting access to pass with 50 Democratic votes, because they aren’t going to win over 10 Republicans. Manchin seems open to it, but Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is less so.
One new dynamic could be the president diving into this debate. Biden was originally a skeptic of changing the filibuster, but no more. He’s signaling he’s going to lobby for it hard next year.
“If the only thing standing between getting voting rights legislation passed and not getting passed is the filibuster,” he said in a new ABC News interview, “I support making the exception of voting rights for the filibuster.”
3. What does the Jan. 6 committee find?
Did a sitting president of the United States launch a coup attempt — not just against Congress on Jan. 6, but in key states — to try to stay in power? A special House committee is racing to try to answer that question. Its report, when it comes out next year, will help shape former president Donald Trump’s legacy. It even has the small possibility of leading to criminal charges against Trump. (For what? That’s still taking shape.)
4. How much does Trump’s anti-democratic push take hold?
People tracking Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 loss are worried it could morph into a successful effort to deny the winners of future elections. His allies continue to make up fraud claims out of whole cloth. Polls show a majority of Republican voters think the last election was stolen and might not believe the results of another. Meanwhile, Trump is propping up secretaries of state and attorneys general candidates across the country who could be in a position to overturn elections in 2024. Some state legislatures will try to give themselves the ability to overrule voters and determine who won elections in their state, advocates warn.
5. How bad is redistricting for Democrats?
Once a decade, states redraw the districts for Congress and state legislatures, based on new census data. That process is happening right now.
In most states, state lawmakers get to draw the lines — meaning Republicans get to do it in a majority of states. And that means they have the potential to draw themselves into power for years to come.
And that means Democrats could lose majorities in the House and some state legislatures and have to fight hard for the next decade just to get back in power. After the 2010 redistricting cycle, Democrats lost the House and didn’t regain it until 2018. They never got power back in key states.
6. Do Republicans capture the majorities in Congress?
The biggest change in politics next year will come at its end, with November’s midterm elections. Every House member and about a third of the Senate is up for election. There are lots of elections in states, too. Republicans have a really good chance of taking back the House majority. However, the Senate will be a tough fight.
If Republicans win one or both chambers of Congress, they can stop Biden’s agenda for the next two years, maybe longer — maybe for as long as he’s president.
7. If normal-ish life resumes in 2022, how much credit does President Biden get for it?
Trump lost reelection partly because of his failure to take coronavirus seriously. Biden is taking the pandemic very seriously, but there’s also not much more he can do to stop its spread.
Americans’ approval of how he’s handling the pandemic has steadily gone down this year, as new iterations of the virus sicken more people.
The coronavirus still ranks among Americans’ top issues. So if and when things do calm down, how much credit do voters give Biden for it? That would go a long way to help the Democratic Party more broadly with its popularity.
8. Is Biden going to run for president again?
He said in that ABC interview that he would — if his health is good. And then he said something else that suggests to me he hasn’t made up his mind, even if he’s healthy. If Trump runs, Biden said, “That’ll increase the prospect of running.”
If he’s going to run, why do his prospects need to be increased?
9. Is Trump going to run for president again?
I’d be surprised if he doesn’t. The Post has reported that Trump wanted to announce he’s running when Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal went badly this summer. His advisers talked him out of it, but since then, the former president has been chiming in on everything via statements blasted out to reporters. Next year, he’s making moves to get in front of cameras. He’s holding some kind of media appearance on Jan. 6 where we fully expect him to rationalize that day’s political violence, as he has been doing lately.