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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.

Chauvin defense closing: "Does not have to prove his innocence"

Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson opened his closing argument on Monday by reminding the jury that Derek Chauvin "does not have to prove his innocence."

Why it matters: The jury's verdict in Chauvin's murder trial is seen by advocates as one of the most crucial civil rights cases in decades.