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Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Business leaders see President-elect Biden's first six months as a make-or-break period for the economy — when he will either emerge as a promised bipartisan, centrist leader or submit to the demands of his party's progressive wing, lobbyists, top banks and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tell Axios.

Why it matters: Both Presidents Obama and Trump were able to pass big-ticket legislative items, like the Affordable Care Act and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, at the outset of their terms, thanks to having a unified government in both chambers of Congress.

  • Biden needs to do similar big things, but he currently faces a narrowly Democratic House and a Republican Senate. Even in a best-case scenario, he will operate with no better than a 50-50 Senate, making it a constant challenge to maintain his governing coalition.

What we're hearing: The business leaders say the pandemic is keeping the economy fragile, and they fear Biden will try to appease progressives, who want immediate regulatory action, through executive orders.

  • "We prefer him to legislate rather than regulate, and we'll know which path he's able to take within the first six months," the Chamber's chief policy officer, Neil Bradley, tells Axios.
  • Bradley added that the administration’s ability to get big pieces of legislation through hinges on a “policymaking center of gravity” of bipartisan legislators, similar to the group driving a compromise coronavirus stimulus package.
  • Moving — legislatively — on issues enjoying both Democratic and Republican support will allow Biden and those legislators to log some wins and build their political capital, Bradley said.

The bottom line: While Wall Street would certainly prefer a more centrist administration that doesn't take a strong line on regulation or tax increases, their main priority right now is getting a new stimulus deal passed, Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin tells me.

Go deeper

How Dems could notch tech wins even with a dysfunctional Senate

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Tech policy may be one area where Democrats will be able to smash through the logjam forming around their razor-thin Senate margin and actually pass meaningful legislation.

The big picture: Many Democrats want to hit Big Tech with new antitrust laws, updates to Section 230, privacy legislation and more. The party may be united enough on such issues — and able to peel off GOP support — to pass laws around them even as the Senate's 50-50 party-line split and shifting priorities imperil other legislative possibilities.

Jan 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Minority Mitch still setting Senate agenda

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chuck Schumer may be majority leader, yet in many ways, Mitch McConnell is still running the Senate show — and his counterpart is about done with it.

Why it matters: McConnell rolled over Democrats unapologetically, and kept tight control over his fellow Republicans, while in the majority. But he's showing equal skill as minority leader, using political jiujitsu to convert a perceived weakness into strength.

John Kerry: U.S.-China climate cooperation is a "critical standalone issue"

President Biden's special climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. must deal with China on climate change as a "critical standalone issue," but stressed that Beijing's human rights and trade abuses "will never be traded" for climate cooperation.

Why it matters: The last few years have brought about a bipartisan consensus on the need for the U.S. to confront China's aggression. But as the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, China will be a vital player if the world is going to come close to reining in emissions on the scale needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.