Day of defeats threatens Biden’s attempt at second year reset

The president was met with a standing ovation among members of his party when he arrived for their meeting in the Kennedy conference room. But when he reappeared 70 minutes later, the president’s anger at the predicament was palpable.

“Governmental and legislative bodies continue to change the law not as to who is entitled to vote, but who is entitled to count the votes. Count the votes. Count the votes,” Biden said, his voice rising to a shriek and hesitation on the roof of the Russell Rotunda, before briskly walking to his car.

A conservative majority blocked his attempt to force companies to require their workers to be vaccinated, an outcome that aides were preparing for after the president reluctantly issued the authorization order last fall. Biden was informed of the decision upon his return inside the Oval Office.

Setbacks at the hands of Congress or the courts are part of any president’s life, as Biden likely remembers from his eight years in the Obama White House. But the streak of disappointments within two hours on Thursday was stark — and likely also dire given Biden’s long history with both institutions. Combined with his faltering domestic agenda, the volatile crisis on the Russian-Ukrainian border and declining approval ratings, Thursday’s developments only exacerbated the impression that the president is faltering as he enters his second year in office.

The White House looks at the situation differently. Aides point to a vaccination campaign that began last year, registering job growth, rebuilding foreign alliances and two major legislation — a COVID-19 relief package passed in March and a bipartisan infrastructure bill approved in November — as evidence of the project’s success. presidency so far.

They frame the current setbacks as signs that Biden is willing to try hard rather than compromise easily.

“Having worked in the White House before, you do difficult things in the White Houses. You have all the challenges that you face, whether global or local,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday after a day of hardship. “We could certainly propose legislation to see if people support bunnies and ice cream bunnies, but that wouldn’t be very rewarding for the American people. So, the view of the president is that we’re going to keep pushing for the hard stuff and we’re going to keep pushing the boulders up the hill to get that done.”

The rock push continued Thursday night at the White House, where Biden met with Cinema and fellow Democrat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The trio planned to discuss voting rights, though final statements by both senators opposing the suspension changes led to an unclear path forward.

However, the hopeful approach – also adopted by Biden, declaring himself an “innate optimist” – does not mask the growing frustration with the state of the president’s agenda. This week’s government figures showing inflation still at a 40-year high have led to another round of questions about the president’s economic ambitions. Talks with Russia aimed at defusing the crisis with Ukraine ended with little hope of de-escalation.

Biden’s frustrations revealed

Ahead of a major speech in Atlanta this week about voting rights, Biden faced anger from activists who boycotted the address and said they wanted to see more concrete plans to get something done. Even some of those who attended the speech said afterwards that they wanted to see the president redouble his efforts.

“While President Biden delivered an exciting speech today, it is time for this administration to match its words with action, and for Congress to do its job,” NAACP President Derek Johnson wrote in a statement. “Voting rights shouldn’t just be a priority – they should be a priority.”

On Covid, some of Biden’s former top advisers last week announced his call to change course on the pandemic, saying it was time to adopt a strategy more geared toward the “new normal” for living with the coronavirus permanently. More than 50 Democrats wrote to the White House this week encouraging a more aggressive testing strategy.

Biden’s frustration with both has become palpable.

He has publicly stated that a large percentage of Americans refuse to vaccinate, prolonging the epidemic. And on Thursday, he infuriated him at the prospect of his fellow Democrats thwarting attempts to pass bills promoting voting rights, which he said is the most important issue currently facing the nation.

“As long as I breathe inside, as long as I am in the White House, as long as I am ever busy, I will fight to change the way these legislatures move,” he declared.

Behind the scenes, Biden has expressed concern that some of the problems he currently faces cannot seem to be resolved.

Alongside the voting laws reforms, Biden envisioned a massive expansion of the social safety net and billions of new spending on climate change, all made impossible not only because Republicans globally oppose it but also because two Democrats are holding out.

He envisioned a country on the road to recovery after divisions were exacerbated by his predecessor, whose unwavering influence over the Republican Party and his lies about Biden’s electoral history continued to exceed Biden’s expectations.

He once hoped this would be the year the country returns to normal after nearly two years of life hit by the pandemic, but the current surge caused by the Omicron variant has surprised the White House, prompting Biden to say publicly that he wishes he had previously considered asking for more. of the tests.

Court dismantles cornerstone of Biden’s vaccination campaign

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling was not unexpected among Biden’s team, who had been preparing for the outcome. But it has already exacerbated the debate among his team about how to aggressively pursue vaccine mandates as a strategy to end the pandemic. When Biden resorted to the new rules last year, it came after months of delays in fear that states would isolate vaccine resistance.

“The court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to order this action, but that does not prevent me from using my voice as president to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect Americans’ health and economy,” Biden said in a statement afterward.

Psaki objected when asked Thursday if Biden was considering any changes to overcome current challenges, such as a change in his legislative strategy or a change in his leadership in the West Wing.

“Our effort is to do hard things, to try hard things, and to keep going,” she said. “We don’t look at it from the same perspective.”

Entering his second year, Biden hopes to regain the lead by drawing sharper contrasts with Republicans and resetting expectations that even some of his allies believed were too large when he took office.

Beginning last week’s anniversary of the January 6 uprising, he took a sharper tone to describe the Republicans who helped former President Donald Trump perpetuate the lie that the 2020 presidential election was marred by fraud.

And on Thursday, before traveling to Capitol Hill, Biden made a “special appeal” to the media and social media platforms to take action to prevent the spread of bad information about the pandemic.

“Please deal with the misinformation and misinformation your shows show. It must stop,” he said.

This approach has not been universally welcomed, even among Democrats. Biden’s impassioned call for new voting rights bills Tuesday in Atlanta included a particularly sharp clip — written with the help of presidential historian John Meacham — asking whether lawmakers want to “be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace.” John Lewis or Paul Connor” or “Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis.”

Pressing those comparisons Wednesday, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin acknowledged that the language has fallen out of fashion.

“Maybe the president went a little too far in his speech,” he said. “Some of us do.”

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Phil Mattingley contributed to this report.


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