WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will attempt to speak to anxious Americans on Wednesday about the challenges of completing his long to-do list as he holds a rare press conference on his first year in office and asks for patience over recent setbacks in his noble agenda. .
Ahead of the meeting, scheduled for 4:00 pm EST on his 365th day in office, Biden gave no indication that he thought a reset was necessary. But his appearance played out on the same day that the Democrats’ long-running effort to overhaul the nation’s voter laws looked set to burn out on Capitol Hill, with Biden’s massive social spending package still stalled.
The East Room event will give Biden the opportunity to speak about his accomplishments to a national audience, and he will be sure to highlight the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed before his eyes, the booming economy, and the country’s progress in the fight against COVID-19.
However, this is a dangerous time for Biden, as the country is in the grip of another devastating spike in virus cases and inflation is at levels not seen in a generation. Biden’s approval rating has plummeted in his first year in office, and Democrats are poised for a potential mid-term rout if he fails to turn things around.
Biden held just six individual press conferences in his first year in office. The lingering threat from the coronavirus will be evident in the very organization of Wednesday’s gathering: a limited number of reporters will be allowed to attend and all will be required to be tested for the virus and wear masks.
The White House said Biden would use his appearance to highlight the progress being made, as well as “talk” to the public about the challenges ahead.
“Job not done, job not done, and we’re certainly not reporting it,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. “So our goal, and I think you’ll hear the President speak tomorrow, is how to build the foundation that we laid in the first year.”
On voting rights, she said, Biden believes “it’s never a good idea to not chase your proposals and what you’re fighting for. The alternative is to fight for nothing and fight hard for nothing.”
The enduring impact of COVID-19 has weighed heavily on Biden as president, despite his best efforts to rally the country towards the common goal of fighting the virus. As a candidate, he has pledged to restore normalcy to the pandemic-torn country, but overcrowded hospitals, grocery shortages in stores, and bitter divisions over vaccine mandates and face mask requirements abound.
Meanwhile, on the Senate floor, Democrats could lose a vote to change the House rules to pass voting reform legislation due to opposition from Democratic Senator Kirsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. It will highlight the limitations of Biden’s influence just a week after he delivered an impassioned speech in Atlanta comparing anti-measures to pro-segregationists and calling on senators to act.
And just a month ago, Manchin blocked an estimated $2 trillion in Biden legislation aimed at tackling climate change, reducing child poverty and expanding a safety net paid for with new taxes on the rich. That bill, which contains much of what Biden hopes will be a lasting domestic legacy, is now being sidelined as Democrats await Biden’s guidance on how to proceed.
The bill was once seen as a one-stop-shop for various progressive priorities, but now Democrats feel the need to give voters another medium-term achievement and are starting to agree on a simplified package that could outperform the Manchin plan. restraint.
“I’m open to anything that will help us cross the finish line,” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren told CBS News Tuesday. “We just need to deliver what we can across the finish line.”
Senate Democratic whip Dick Durbin urged Biden to be “honest and realistic” in his comments to Americans, especially on the harsh realities of what’s possible in a 50-50 Senate where any legislator could block Biden’s agenda.
“We need to have an agenda that is not only appealing to voters but also realistic on Capitol Hill,” Durbin, Illinois, told reporters Tuesday. “It’s okay to have an ambitious agenda, but it has to come down to the harsh reality of getting votes.”
Recent Democratic presidents have corrected course in their first terms after being rebuked in the midterms. President Bill Clinton changed in a more moderate direction after being hit in 1994; President Barack Obama was forced to reconsider his stance after admitting that he “lost out” in the 2010 midterm elections.
Biden, for his part, is making it clear that he is not ready for a major change in direction after recent political setbacks. Instead, his White House promises to work hard to deliver on those promises.
His words will be scrutinized at home and abroad as the US seeks to rally an international coalition to defuse the dangerous situation in Eastern Europe.
“Now we are at a stage where Russia can launch an attack on Ukraine at any moment,” Psaki said on Tuesday, reiterating that the US and its allies will impose tough economic sanctions on Russia if it seizes more Ukrainian territory.
Former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs urged Biden to acknowledge American concerns about the future.
“President Biden should reassure Americans that he understands their economic concerns, especially those related to inflation, and that his administration is focused on getting the country back to normal by increasing testing availability, working to keep schools and businesses open, and giving clearer guidance regarding COVID,” he said. said.
“He should resist the idea of a victory circle, or try in one event to reformulate the current narrative, proving what he has already achieved, and instead live where the anxious Americans are, talk about the path ahead and less about the path already traveled,” Gibbs. added.
AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.