Biden 1st Inauguration Anniversary Dogged By Crises

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President Joe Biden argued early in his presidency that he had been elected to fix problems. As Biden marks the anniversary of his inauguration this week, serious misgivings exist about his capacity to carry out the vision of his presidency.

In Summary

•        The White House is dogged by the serious extent of Biden’s domestic and foreign challenges. The administration staked its reputation on vaccinations curbing the pandemic by now, but millions of Americans elected not to get their shots.

•        Biden signature social spending and climate change policies have also been stalled because of the refusal of moderate Democrats to join forces.

•        The Republican Party and conservative media are hell-bent on destabilizing his presidency. The midterm elections are limiting his window of opportunity for legislative successes.

•        Despite repeated appeals from President Biden, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, and Arizona Rep. Kyrstenaija Sinema have maintained their opposition to the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.

Biden
Biden

Biden seemingly beset by challenges both at home & abroad

The White House appears to be increasingly troubled by the serious nature of the issues Biden faces at home and abroad, harmed by some of its own strategic choices and constrained by minuscule congressional majorities. The administration gambled that vaccines would end the pandemic by now, but vaccinations got politicized, and millions of Americans chose not to receive their doses, while virus variants led to the emergency’s persistence.

The sense of an embattled presidency was heightened last week by a barrage of blows, including the toppling of Biden’s voting rights push by two moderate Democratic senators in an attack on his authority, and the Supreme Court’s repeal of vaccine and test requirements for large firms, a centerpiece of his pandemic strategy. The dual failures come as Biden’s hallmark social spending and climate change legislation, like the voting rights bills, has stalled due to opposition from moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

After comparing opponents of voting rights legislation to segregationists, Biden ended the week under fire for compromising his inauguration commitment to foster national unity. As a sign of the administration’s impotence, Monday’s official holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day will also serve as a reminder of the Senate Democrats’ missed deadline to put voting rights legislation into law. Senate votes on the measures – and the necessary rule changes to pass them – are guaranteed to fail unless Sinema and Manchin change their positions, highlighting the impasse narrative.

Biden made a mockery of his mandate.

Biden’s problem-solving quest is further complicated by his dwindling political capital, which has been damaged by his multiple visits to Capitol Hill pleading with his party to support his agenda and a series of missed deadlines to enact important legislation. Meanwhile, rising inflation means that many Americans will face increased fuel and energy bills, dimming their view of an economy that has some bright spots while the pandemic endures.

Things are just as difficult abroad. Biden’s administration is battling to defuse a crisis over Ukraine, amid fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin would invade, triggering Europe’s greatest geopolitical crisis since the Cold War. If Russia moves to defy the West, Biden’s credibility will suffer another blow.

Biden
James Clyburn, House Majority Whip

All of these crises are intensifying as the midterm elections – historically a traumatic experience for first-term presidents – take center stage, significantly reducing Biden’s path to legislative successes. A Republican Party and conservative media juggernaut hell-bent on destroying his presidency – most of it bought into ex-President Donald Trump’s anti-democratic personality cult – are exaggerating every government struggle and gaffe.

All presidencies experience downturns and political turbulence. The true measure of a president’s political ability is his or her ability to recover, reverse a narrative of failure, utilize their adversaries as effective foils, and regain control of events. The White House is likely to attempt precisely that this week, using the anniversary of Biden’s inauguration as a springboard for a reset. Americans can anticipate hearing about the Biden presidency’s accomplishments – including a bipartisan infrastructure bill, a Covid-19 relief package that helped reduce child poverty, a low unemployment rate, and the President’s efforts to repair alliances and purge the White House of its culture of lies following Trump’s presidency. On the eve of the inauguration anniversary, the President will hold a rare formal press conference at the White House on Wednesday.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, contended this week that the President’s challenges were an occupational consequence of his commitment to confront the nation’s most difficult problems and that he would continue dragging “the boulders up the hill.”

However, Biden’s issue is that all of the tests he faces may challenge a speedy reversal. The Senate’s legislative impasse appears to be unbreakable, owing in part to the chamber’s thin Democratic majority. The social spending bill is intended to ease working-class Americans’ situation, but the White House’s inadequate effort has many Americans believing the President is not adequately focused on their immediate economic difficulties.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has repeatedly mocked political authorities who have attempted to bring it under control and set targets for a return to normalcy. Putin’s entire foreign policy initiative is targeted at undermining US power and NATO, making a deal with him unlikely to benefit US objectives.

Due to these problems, events frequently appear to control a President who is straining to keep up, rather than the other way around, a dangerous perception for any commander in chief.

Biden
Sen Tim Kaine

Was the White House biting off more than it could chew?

Biden’s domestic difficulties raise the question of whether the White House misread the nation’s political mood and the realities of a difficult Washington balance of power by failing to effectively sell a massive, trillion-dollar reform program amid the worst public health crisis in a century.

The challenge of a 50-50 Senate majority is that a single senator’s disagreement can destroy an entire legislative program. That position is not likely to change anytime soon, regardless of how many hours Biden spends cajoling Manchin and Sinema, as he did last week at the White House. And it is likely to deteriorate further soon. There is a possibility that Democrats could lose their House and Senate majority in November in a Republican rout, leaving Biden isolated in the White House and with no chance of passing his critical legislation as his reelection campaign approaches.

At the moment, the President’s approval ratings – which are in the low 40% area in some polls and considerably lower in others – are significantly lower than the levels that could avert a Republican landslide in November. For Democrats, he must recover, but the President can only do it if he can unite his party. As a contender, Biden flourished because he successfully courted support from both wings of his party through savvy political maneuvering. That agreement has unraveled in power.

The fight over the “Build Back Better” climate and social spending bill showed a schism between moderates such as Manchin and Sinema and leftists. In retrospect, it is clear that this division would bring the effort to a standstill, raising questions about the White House’s overall strategy and why it assumed it could compel holdouts into withdrawing their objections.

Biden
White Press Secretary Jen Psaki

A depressing status report on Biden’s signature legislation

The Senate stumbling block is partly to blame for Democratic efforts to resist a statewide wave of voter restriction bills in Republican-led states based on Trump’s voter fraud allegations. Both Manchin and Sinema support the measures but oppose changing the chamber’s filibuster rules – the practice that requires most major legislation to pass with 60 votes – to enact two voting rights bills that would make voting easier and make it more difficult for politicized local officials to intervene in election results.

Despite Biden’s entreaties to both senators last week, they grew even more entrenched. Indeed, Sinema issued a stunning political rebuke to her own party’s President in a high-profile Senate address outlining her views just before he visited in the Capitol to try to sell Manchin and her on the bills.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, one of the President’s closest allies, said Sunday on CNN that the two bills, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, were in grave danger.

“They may be on life support,” the South Carolina Democrat said on “State of the Union” alongside Jake Tapper. “However, as you know, John Lewis and others did not relinquish their fight following the 1964 Civil Rights Act. As a result, I’m going to inform everyone that we are not going away.”

The Build Back Better Act’s prospects appear to be similarly bleak. The only way to reclaim any credit for Biden may be to severely scale back the plan to get the backing of Manchin, who has expressed concern that a near-$2 trillion bill will exacerbate inflation. However, a scaled-back bill would enrage leftists and possibly depress Democratic turnout in the November elections.

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia told CBS’ “Face the Nation” correspondent Margaret Brennan that Build Back Better is dead, and the most current version of it is not going to happen. However, he continues to believe that they will find a core to the bill, whatever they call it, and pass it, and it will directly address some of the inflation issues.

Biden thought that by the end of his first year in office, the pandemic would be over, the economy would be roaring ahead of the midterm elections, and his success would consign his predecessor to history. None of that has come to pass. This winter, the virus is wreaking havoc across the country, even if the current Omicron version causes less severe sickness. Persistent and growing inflation has confounded the White House’s forecasts that price increases would be “temporary.” And Trump is setting the framework for a new campaign, his threat to democratic norms far more deadly than it was a year ago.

Biden indeed faces major issues, many of which would be beyond the capacity of any president to address. However, one year into his term, there are mounting concerns about how he is handling the difficult hand he was dealt.

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