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(CNN) – Joe Biden’s increasingly radical presidency was built on a simple foundation: putting covid-19 vaccines in your arms and stimulus checks in the bank.
“When I took office, I decided it was a pretty basic and simple proposition, and that is, I was chosen to solve problems,” Biden said at his first official press conference in March. “And the most urgent problem facing the American people, I said from the beginning, was Covid-19 and economic dislocation for millions and millions of Americans.”RELATED
Had Biden stumbled upon these key tasks, his emerging and staggering multi-trillion dollar aspirations to remake America’s economy and much of the social safety net would have seemed not only ambitious but politically inconceivable.
But the president can report at the end of his first 100 days in office to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night that he has successfully embarked on a mission defining the day of his inauguration to “repair,” ” restore, “” heal, “and” build. “
It promised 100 million vaccines administered in its first 100 days and delivered 200 million. With a Democrat-controlled Congress, he sent out the $ 1,400 emergency checks that never came under former President Donald Trump and a Republican Senate.
When Biden took office, the US averaged about 195,000 new COVID-19 cases and 3,000 deaths a day. Now there are signs that the pandemic is subsiding, averaging around 57,000 new infections and nearly 700 deaths a day.
Those numbers are still dangerously high, but Biden’s claims reflect a strategy of promising less and delivering more vaccines, while his administration benefited from seizing power at a dark time in the pandemic that his predecessor had largely neglected. The president was also fortunate to inherit an effective vaccine development program from Trump, although his team argues that the previous administration had few plans for distribution.
But through his own stewardship and a bit of luck, Biden will address a nation emerging from a viral storm in a more sustainable way than ever since the onset of the pandemic.
The timing of the speech is not a coincidence
It is no coincidence that Biden’s first speech to Congress, an occasion in which he deprived himself of much of his ceremony because of social distancing, will take place later than those of most modern first-term presidents seeking. a boost to their agendas.
“I wanted to make sure that Congress had passed the economic legislation for the coronavirus pandemic. I wanted to make sure people got the $ 1,400 checks that were sent, “said Aaron Kall, director of the debate program at the University of Michigan and editor of” Mr. Speaker, The President of the United States «, on presidential speeches to Congress. The date was definitely on purpose.
Polls at the end of the symbolic first 100 days of Biden’s presidency suggest people’s satisfaction with the way the new president took control of the pandemic. An average of the six most recently conducted polls shows that 55% of Americans approve of the way you do your job, while 41% disapprove.
Biden, more popular than Trump in first April of term 2:18
In an NBC News poll released on Sunday, 69% support his handling of the pandemic and 52% view his economic handling positively. ABC News / Washington Post poll data on the same questions puts Biden at 64% and 52%.
Given the polarization of the United States in the wake of the Trump presidency, these numbers may represent a high point in its popularity. Once the president begins working on the more partisan elements of his program, impressing some Republican voters may be more difficult.
But if you were chosen to conquer the pandemic, you are off to a good start.
After taking office, Biden’s team relived public briefings by scientists that Trump scorned. It vastly expanded the vaccine infrastructure thanks to a $ 1.9 trillion covid rescue package that passed the Senate 50-50 with no Republican votes.
Biden’s scripted public appearances and a single solo official press conference ensured there were few distractions from his main focus. And while pro-Trump media experts criticize Biden’s rationing of his own visibility as an evasion, he is also showing that there is more to the presidency than the self-indulgent Twitter spiel into the wee hours.
A singular focus on the pandemic
At times, it seemed as if the administration’s dominating focus on the pandemic stifled other dramas and priorities. But gun control found its way onto the president’s plate after a series of mass shootings. And Derek Chauvin’s trial led him to step up the push for police reform. Both initiatives are hostage to the treacherous balance of power in the Senate.
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Aside from rejoining the Paris climate accord, it was many weeks before Biden finalized his foreign policy. But the pace is picking up, after he announced a full withdrawal from Afghanistan, established a hard line with China and instructed his diplomats to try to revive a nuclear deal in indirect talks with Iran.
The White House was also caught off guard by a surge in the number of migrant children crossing the southern border, which Biden’s reversal of tough Trump-era policies may have exacerbated before the administration was ready to handle the additional numbers. Anxious not to play on the right-wing media’s desire to build a narrative that fits Republican political goals, officials refused to admit that Biden was facing a “crisis.” In reality, however, the situation, with migrant children crammed into inadequate Border Patrol custody during a pandemic, looked a lot like a crisis. The president also suffered a self-inflicted political wound when he refused to raise the 15,000 refugee inflow limit this fiscal year, only to back down amid a backlash.
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There was also a sense that the president wanted to avoid any immigration issues that would distract him from his focus on the pandemic and the economy.
“Successful presidents better than me have been successful in large part because they know how to time what they are doing,” Biden said at that first press conference.
Billions more in spending
As vaccination rates have accelerated – in fact, the next problem looming is supply outstripping demand – Biden’s horizon has expanded. But he is still following his own timeline. For example, there are no signs yet that he is ready to try to force voting reform, a grassroots priority in the Democratic Party, through the 50-50 Senate.
To add to his massive covid-19 rescue package, Biden has already announced a bold infrastructure bill worth more than $ 2 trillion that significantly expands spending beyond roads, bridges and airports.
The president hopes, for example, to spend $ 400 billion on home health care and tens of billions more on building a 21st century green economy to support his plan for steep cuts in carbon emissions by 2030. This week he expects it to come up with another major social engineering effort: an “American Family Plan” that will focus on education and childcare, which The Washington Post says could reach $ 1.8 trillion.
The scale of Biden’s spending and the breadth of his ambition suggest that he is planning the most radical reform of the economy to benefit American workers and the disadvantaged in generations, and is seeking to reverse the attempts of former President Ronald Reagan and his successors to roll back the New Deal and Great Society programs of Democratic Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. His speech will be an important step in explaining what this means for the American people, with opposition within Washington to his plans to raise corporate taxes and capital gains taxes to pay for it all.
Princeton University historian and CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer told CNN’s “New Day” on Sunday that he was eager to see how far Biden goes Wednesday night in “continuing to displace Ronald Reagan’s famous adage that the problem is the government, with its own Roosevelt-like view that government is the solution to our problems. “
Biden’s powers of persuasion will have to convince more than Republican voters. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat critical of the Senate’s narrow Democratic majority, denied Sunday that it was a “roadblock,” but expressed concern about Biden’s redefinition of infrastructure to include social spending.
“I think it should be separate,” Manchin told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
“Because when you start putting so much into a bill … you make it very, very difficult for people to understand.”
It was a comment that suggested that while Biden has made significant progress on testing challenges like expanding vaccine doses and healing the wounded economy, he may have made the easy chunk of his presidency.