WASHINGTON. He was supposed to break out of the impasse of Congress. End the pandemic. Get the economy back on track.
Days before he reaches his one-year mark in office, bad news gnaws at the fundamental rationale behind Joe Biden’s presidency: he can get his job done.
Within a week, Biden faced record inflation, COVID-19 test shortages and school breaks, and the second major blow to his domestic agenda in months from members of his own party. This time, his voice seems doomed.
Add to that the Supreme Court’s rejection of a central element of its response to the coronavirus, and Biden’s argument that his five decades in Washington provided him with unique opportunities to pursue an extremely ambitious agenda could collapse this week.
Jeffrey Engel, director of Southern Methodist University’s Center for Presidential History, said Biden’s sweeping promises clashed with the reality of bringing change in a divided Washington, where his party has little control over Congress.
“I don’t think you can come to any other conclusion other than that he missed here,” Engel said. “It is important to separate the politically possible from the politically desirable.”
Biden’s troubles date back to August, when the administration carried out a chaotic and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan. And the declared efficiency of the president was already in question, since migrants multiplied on the southern border without a clear federal plan. The situation worsened even more as inflation, which should have been “transient”, only intensified at the end of the year.
“I was hired to solve problems,” Biden said last March during his first press conference on duty. However, they proved to be persistent.
The difficulty of coping with Washington’s annoying bias and the unpredictability of the presidency shouldn’t have come as a surprise to Biden, who has been a senator for over three decades and has served as vice president for eight years.
Biden is unlikely to generate public sympathy due to his predicament.
Even with vaccine protection now widespread, new scenes of long virus testing lines and sold-out grocery store shelves take us back to the chaotic early days of the pandemic and depress the psyche of the nation.
The administration is doing everything it can to counter this thinking and demonstrate that it is at the top of the virus.
A federal website to send free COVID-19 tests on Americans’ doorsteps will launch next week – a quick turnaround after Biden first announced the initiative in December – but nonetheless, it wowed even allies with that came too late to blunt the winter outbreak that was to be expected. It was only after months of pressure that Biden finally dared to announce Thursday that his administration would begin providing “high-quality masks” to Americans free of charge.
The announcement was marred on a day that brought nothing but bad news to Biden by a Supreme Court ruling against the Biden administration’s rule requiring major employers to vaccinate their workers or get tested weekly for COVID-19. White House officials have always foreseen legal problems, and many in the administration believe the rule has helped millions of people get vaccinated. However, the ruling stung.
The day also brought new signs that Biden’s electoral rights advance, like his social spending bill before it, appears to be doomed due to a lack of support within his own party and his inability to attract Republicans. On each occasion, Biden made an exalted speech about the need to do something and traveled to Capitol Hill to rally his party, only to be rebuffed.
Both pieces of legislation required that all 50 Democratic votes be passed by the Senate, and in the case of voting rights, a commitment by those same senators to change house rules so that the bill would be passed by a simple majority.
But on Thursday, Democratic Senator Kirsten Cinema of Arizona did not even honor Biden with the courtesy of listening to his proposal in person before reiterating her long-standing position that she would not support change. She joined West Virginia’s Joe Manchin to challenge Biden’s legislative dreams again.
The two senators spent just over an hour at the White House Thursday night, but it was nearly impossible to find a way to pass the law.
Rep. Peter Meyer, Michigan, said Biden cultivated “sky-high expectations where he inevitably fails to live up to them.”
“If you want to be Roosevelt,” Meyer added, “it’s probably imperative that you have a mandate. In the same vote when Joe Biden was elected, Democrats nearly lost the House of Representatives. “
Biden’s handling of economics brought with it a number of problems. The president has led the creation of record jobs as well as a resurgence of inflation fears.
This summer, Biden tried to allay inflation concerns by insisting that it was the predictable result of restarting the economy after the pandemic and that price increases would soon stop.
“Our experts believe, and the data show, that most of the price increases that we saw were expected and temporary,” he said in July. “The reality is that you can’t turn the global economic light back on and expect it to happen.”
But with the end of summer, inflation only increased and oil prices rose. This prompted the president, who has pledged a fossil fuel-free future, to make a record release of US oil reserves to help lower the cost of gasoline. Nevertheless, inflation in December reached an almost 40-year high of 7% per year.
And on Friday, for the first time in six months, families were left without a monthly deposit from the child tax credit, which was seen as a legacy program for Biden, but instead became a hot spot over who was worthy of government. Support service.
High prices have undermined public confidence in Biden. Just 41% of Americans approved of his economic leadership last month, up from 60% in March and below his 48% overall approval rating in the same poll by the Associated Press-NORC Public Relations Research Center.
At the same time, amid the emergence of new COVID-19 variants – first the delta and now the omicron – Biden’s approval rating in the fight against the pandemic fell from 70% at the beginning of his presidency to 57% in a December poll.
The White House has disregarded setbacks as part of the president’s job of striving for lofty goals.
“In the White Houses, you do the hard things,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday. “You have all the problems at your feet, be they global or internal. And we could certainly propose a law to see if people support rabbits and ice cream, but that won’t bring much satisfaction to the American people. “
Miller, Long and Boak cover the White House for the Associated Press.
Associated Press authors Alexandra Jaffe and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.