What a Biden presidency might mean for the inland Northwest

Joe Biden was elected the 46th president of the United States through a campaign that sought to balance promises of a return to civility and bipartisanship with the ambitious proposals of a Democratic Party that has been champing at the bit to enact reforms after four years under President Donald Trump.

The Associated Press and other outlets called the race Saturday after wins in Nevada and Pennsylvania gave Biden 290 electoral votes, above the 270 needed to reach the White House. For Biden, a former vice president and 36-year veteran of the U.S. Senate who will be the oldest president inaugurated, it marked a triumphant culmination to a long political career.

A Biden presidency will have major implications for the inland Northwest, including policies affecting agriculture, natural resources and the environment, immigration and more. But while Joe Biden’s win came on the back of historic voter turnout — and he won the popular vote by an unprecedented 4 million votes, and counting — Democrats farther down the ballot fared worse, potentially leaving the Senate in the hands of Republicans, who also gained ground in the Democratic-majority House.

Control of the upper chamber may ultimately come down to an extraordinary runoff election Jan. 5 for two Senate seats in Georgia, where Democratic underdogs could bring the Senate to a 50-50 tie. In that case, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris could cast the tie-breaking vote, giving Democrats the slimmest of majorities.

“We’re going to have divided government again,” said Cornell Clayton, director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute of Public Policy and Public Service at Washington State University. “Unfortunately, I think it will leave them where they’ve been for most of the last 20 years, and that’s that we’ll have more gridlock.”

Barring a double upset by Democrats in the Peach State, Congress will remain divided between the two parties. That could allow Senate Republicans to block many of the new Biden administration’s policy goals.

“I don’t expect you’re going to see any major policy breakthroughs,” Clayton said. “You’re not going to see major immigration reform or major health care reform bills getting through a divided Congress.”

Assuming the president-elect and his allies succeed in implementing his policy priorities, here’s what a Biden presidency could mean for the inland Northwest:

Tribal nations

The first paragraph of the Biden-Harris plan for tribal nations, unveiled Oct. 8 when the running mates met with tribal leaders in Arizona, acknowledges that the promise of equality on which the country was founded “has been denied to Native Americans who have lived on this land since time immemorial.”

Carol Evans, chairwoman of the Spokane Tribe, said that recognition sets the tone for what a Biden administration could mean for Native…