Analysis: Joe Biden will celebrate inaugural anniversary still plagued by crises

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The White House appears increasingly confronted with the extreme nature of the challenges Biden faces at home and abroad, undermined by some of his own strategic decisions and constrained by tiny congressional majorities. The government was banking on vaccines that would end the pandemic by now, but vaccination has become politicized and millions of Americans have chosen not to get vaccinated, while viral variants have helped prolong the emergency.

The sense of a beleaguered presidency was underscored by a volley of blows last week, including two moderate Democratic senators torpedoing Biden’s voting rights push in a swipe at his authority and the Supreme Court’s removal of vaccine and testing requirements for big companies, a centerpiece its pandemic strategy. The twin setbacks come as Biden’s signature social spending and climate protection bills have also stalled — like voting rights bills — because moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona refuse to board.
Biden ended the week accused by critics of undermining his own inaugural promise to seek national unity after comparing opponents of voting rights reform to segregationists. Symbolic of the administration’s futility, the public holiday marking Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day will also stand as a late deadline set by Senate Democrats to enshrine voting rights legislation. Senate votes on the measures — and the rule changes needed to pass them — are certain to fail unless Sinema and Manchin change their minds, which only reinforces the narrative of the standoff.

Biden’s problem-solving mission is also complicated by his own eroded political capital, punctuated by his repeated trips to Capitol Hill to urge his party to get behind his agenda and a series of late deadlines to enact key bills. has been reduced. Soaring inflation, meanwhile, means many Americans are facing higher fuel and energy bills, angering them at an economy that has seen some bright spots as the pandemic progresses.

It’s just as difficult abroad. Biden’s government is struggling to ease a crisis over Ukraine amid fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin could invade and create Europe’s worst geopolitical crisis since the Cold War. If Russia defies the West, Biden’s credibility will suffer another painful blow.
All of these crises deepen as the midterm elections – traditionally a painful experience for first-term presidents – take center stage and further narrow Biden’s path to legislative victories. A Republican party and a conservative media machine dedicated to destroying his presidency — much of it bought into ex-President Donald Trump‘s anti-democratic personality cult — amplifies every struggle and every misstep of the administration.
All presidencies go through slumps and political bumps. The test of a president’s political skill is whether he can recover, reverse a narrative of failure, use his opponents as effective foils, and begin to command events. That is exactly what the White House will attempt this week, likely using the anniversary of Biden’s inauguration as a platform for a reset. Americans can expect to hear about the achievements of the Biden presidency — including a bipartisan infrastructure bill, a Covid-19 relief package that has helped reduce child poverty, a low unemployment rate, and the president’s work to repair alliances and the Clearing out the culture of lies from the White House after Trump’s tenure. The effort includes a rare formal presidential press briefing at the White House on Wednesday, on the eve of the inauguration anniversary.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki argued last week that the president’s troubles were a professional risk to his willingness to tackle the nation’s toughest problems and that he would continue to “push the boulders up the hill.”

The problem for Biden, however, is that any tests he faces could defy a quick turnaround. The legislative backlog in the Senate seems unsolvable and is caused in part by a narrow Democratic majority in the chamber. The Social Spending Act is intended to alleviate the plight of working Americans, but the White House’s tenuous explanations lead many Americans to believe the President is not sufficiently focused on their immediate economic concerns.

The pandemic, meanwhile, has repeatedly taunted political leaders who have tried to contain it and set dates for a return to normal. Putin’s entire foreign policy project is aimed at weakening US power and undermining NATO, meaning compromise with him may be impossible without hurting US interests.

These complications mean that events often seem to control a president struggling to keep up, rather than the other way around, a dangerous perception for any commander-in-chief.

Did the White House aim too high?

Biden’s domestic political woes raise questions about whether the White House misread the nation’s political mood and the realities of a harsh balance of power in Washington by failing to deliver a massive multitrillion-dollar reform program amid the worst of the emergencies in the field public health effectively sell 100 years.

The trouble with a 50-50 Senate majority is that an objection from a single senator can derail an entire legislative agenda. This situation is not going to change anytime soon, no matter how many hours Biden spends flattering Manchin and Sinema, as he did in the White House last week. And things could get a lot worse soon. There’s a chance Democrats could lose their House and Senate majorities in November in a Republican defeat that could leave Biden isolated in the White House and unable to pass his key bills while his re-election campaign beckons.

Right now, the president’s approval ratings — in the low 40% range in some polls and even weaker in others — are well below levels that could prevent a Republican landslide in November. It is imperative for Democrats that he recovers, but the president can only do so if he can get his entire party on the same page. As a candidate, Biden was successful because he won the support of both wings of his party in a clever political positioning. In power, this bargain did not materialize.

The showdown over the Build Back Better climate and social spending bill has exposed a split between moderates like Manchin and Sinema and progressives. In retrospect, it seems obvious that this gulf would halt the effort – raising questions about the White House’s overall approach and why it believed it could pressure holdouts to drop their objections.

Key Democrats offer grim status report on Biden’s signature bills

The Senate roadblock is also responsible for the failure of Democratic attempts to counter a nationwide wave of voter-suppression legislation in Republican-led states based on Trump’s vote-rigging lies. Both Manchin and Sinema support the measures but decline to change the chamber’s filibuster rules – the custom that most major legislation requires 60 votes to pass – to enact two voting rights laws that make voting easier and make it difficult for politicized local officials to intervene in election results.

Although Biden begged both senators last week to change their minds, they only grew firmer. Indeed, Sinema delivered an extraordinary political rebuke to the president of her own party in a high-profile Senate speech setting out her position just before he arrived at the Capitol to try to sell Manchin and her the bills.

One of the President’s best allies, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, admitted on CNN Sunday that the two bills, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, are in deep trouble.

“You may be on life support,” the South Carolina Democrat told Jake Tapper on State of the Union. “But you know, John Lewis and others didn’t give up after the ’64 Civil Rights Act. … So I’m going to tell everyone, we’re not giving up.”

The prospects for the Build Back Better Act appear equally bleak. The only hope of reviving credit for Biden may be to significantly reduce the measure so it can garner support from Manchin, who says he is concerned a nearly $2 trillion bill will make inflation worse will. But a shrunken bill would infuriate progressives and could dampen Democrat turnout in the midterms.

“You’re right it’s dead; the latest version of that isn’t going to happen,” Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia told Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” But he added: “I still believe that we’re going to find a core of this bill, whatever we call it, we’re going to find the core of the bill and pass it, and it’s going to directly address some of these inflationary concerns.” “

By the end of his first year in office, Biden had hoped that the pandemic would be history, the economy would be devastated before the midterm election, and his success would consign his predecessors to history. None of that has come up. The virus is raging across the country this winter, even as the latest Omicron variant causes less severe disease. Continued and rising inflation has belied White House predictions that price hikes are “temporary”. And Trump, whose threat to democratic values ​​is even more dangerous than it was a year ago, is laying the groundwork for a new campaign.

It is true that Biden’s challenges are profound, and many would be beyond a president’s capacity. But a year into his tenure, there’s growing reason to wonder how he’s playing the hard hand he’s been dealt.

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