KEY POINTS

  • Joe Biden's pre-inauguration Mass saw leaders from both parties in attendance
  • Cooperation between the parties has been a focus of Biden, but many Democrats remain skeptical
  • Mitch McConnell has requested the Senate filibuster remain in place, setting the stage for a political clash

A nation anticipating sharp divisions in the years to come received a hopeful sign before Joe Biden’s inauguration: political leaders from both sides of the aisle coming together with the president for Mass. 

Many have looked forward to a return to civility as Biden takes office, and the religious ceremony suggested congressional Republicans might as well. Both Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy were in attendance, NPR reports. 

Reconciliation and unity have been constant refrains from Biden throughout his election efforts, much to the chagrin of party hardliners. Wednesday’s attendance of politicians who disagree with Biden politically and don’t share his Catholic religious beliefs, however, could be a sign that he won’t face the universal rejection as Barack Obama. 

McConnell famously said that his number one priority was to make Obama a one-term president, rebuffing the vast majority of policy efforts for both of Obama's terms.

After weeks of silence on the issue, US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in Congress, has acknowledged Joe Biden as president-elect after he defeated President Donald Trump in the November 3, 2020 election After weeks of silence on the issue, US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in Congress, has acknowledged Joe Biden as president-elect after he defeated President Donald Trump in the November 3, 2020 election Photo: POOL / KEVIN DIETSCH

Public appearances and gestures aside, how much hardball to play will undoubtedly be one of the central arguments of Biden’s presidency. The president may talk about unity, but years of obstruction and the toxic attacks of Donald Trump have left congressional Democrats chomping at the bit to pass policy goals. 

The debate has already begun: McConnell has demanded the Senate filibuster remain in place to preserve minority power even after he removed it to approve Republican Supreme Court appointees by simple majority vote, AP reports.

Progressives in the Senate have scoffed at the proposition. That dynamic is expected to play out repeatedly at different levels for the next four years, with Biden attempting to unite political bodies that assume the other is acting in bad faith.