Joe Biden has staked his presidential campaign in a pledge to restore "normalcy" if he unseats President Trump in the November election, even as some Democrats pledge to make radical changes should they win control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.
Biden has repeatedly pushed back against Republican efforts to tie him to the party's progressive wing — "I am the Democratic Party right now," he declared Tuesday night during the first presidential debate in Cleveland — yet other Democratic leaders have endorsed policies that have the potential to reshape the country, including eliminating the filibuster, granting statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., and expanding the Supreme Court.
"As far as the filibuster, I'm not busting my chops to become majority leader to do very little or nothing," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday during an interview with MSNBC. "We are going to get a whole lot done. Everything, everything is on the table."
The question of eliminating the filibuster has created new fissures within the Democratic Party that are not along the familiar progressive-moderate faultline.
For instance, Sen. Jon Tester, a moderate Democrat from Montana, signaled last week that he would be open to eliminating the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, a marked reversal from a position he held just last year.
“I didn’t come here to not do anything. I came here to get things accomplished,” Tester told National Review. “I think the filibuster’s very important, and I think it makes for better legislation, and I still believe that. I still support the filibuster, but, like I said, we’ll see what happens with the other side. Who knows what’s going to happen?”
But Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., still reject the idea of filibuster reform.
“I think the filibuster serves a purpose,” Feinstein, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said last week. “It is not often used, it’s often less used now than when I first came, and I think it’s part of the Senate that differentiates itself.”
Other stances that were once viewed as fringe are becoming popular among left-leaning lawmakers, including declaring statehood for Washington, D.C, which historically votes Democratic. Over the summer, the House, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, passed legislation that would make Washington a state, granting it one representative in the House and two in the Senate.
“The fact is people in the District of Columbia pay taxes, fight our wars, risk their lives for our democracy and yet, in this state they have no say, they have no vote in the House or Senate about whether we go to war and how those taxes are exacted,” Pelosi said at the time.
(Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed Washington statehood as "full-bored socialism.")
If Democrats control a majority of the House and Senate next year, it's likely that legislation could become law.
Schumer reiterated on Wednesday that he wanted to see Washington and Puerto Rico become states, likely tilting the upper chamber in favor of Democrats for years to come.
"I'd love to make them states," he said.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death in September and Republicans' subsequent nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court have only served as a catalyst to the push for deep structural change among Democrats, including progressives and some moderates.
One proposal that's garnered traction in the wake of Ginsburg's death is the notion of adding more justices to the nation's highest court in order to shift the ideological makeup. If Barrett is confirmed, the court would lean 6-3 in favor of conservatives.
“If Republicans confirm Judge Barrett, end the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court,” Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., tweeted on Saturday.
Yet the push for structural change among some Democrats also puts them at odds with Biden, who has largely rejected calls to eliminate the filibuster and dodged questions on whether he supports adding more members to the nation's highest court (before Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, Biden was a staunch opponent of doing so).
California Rep. Karen Bass, who was in the running to be Biden's vice presidential pick, told The New York Times that calls for transformation changes to government stem from Democratic frustration. Biden, who served as a Delaware senator for nearly four decades before becoming vice president, has repeatedly said he could work across the aisle. But Bass rejected that notion, saying the Senate has become too dysfunctional.
“I would guess that he would say that ‘this Senate is not the Senate that I served in,’” she said.
Republicans are fighting to hold a slim 53-47 majority in the Senate as Democrats target several GOP-held seats they believe are competitive. In order to take back the Senate, Democrats would need to pick up three additional seats and win the White House.
Republicans are hoping to win back the Alabama seat held by Democratic incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, who is considered to be one of the most vulnerable senators. But Democrats are going after Republican senators in a growing number of states, including Maine, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Montana, North Carolina and South Carolina.