Joe Biden legislative agenda going nowhere 1 year into presidency

leeannad sambel • 16 January 2022

President Joe Biden, who ran on his deep relationships in Senate and ability to build bridges, will cap off his first year in office with his legislative agenda at a standstill – unable to get his Democratic Party fully united and facing steep opposition from Republicans.

Biden's major legislative priorities are in limbo after Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona didn't cave to Biden's pressure and refused to roll back the filibuster to pass legislation without GOP support.

Joe Biden legislative agenda going nowhere 1 year into presidency

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Biden will mark the one-year anniversary of his Jan. 20 inauguration with no clear path forward on passing high-priority voting rights legislation and his Build Back Better social spending plan. He candidly acknowledged his struggles Thursday after a meeting with Senate Democrats at the Capitol.

"The honest to God answer is I don’t know whether we can get this done," Biden said of his voting rights agenda.

"I hope we can get this done, but I’m not sure," he added.

Biden is grappling with razor-thin Democratic majorities in the House and Senate which have proved problematic to passing some sweeping reforms the Democratic base wants. Just one Democratic senator has the power to scuttle his plans in the 50-50 split Senate.

A group of Republicans was willing to go along with Biden's $1 trillion infrastructure bill that he signed into law in November to rebuild the nation's crumbling roads, bridges, ports and more. It was a major legislative win and realization of his promise to bring the two parties together.

But the comradery was short-lived.

Now Republicans say Biden's agenda is out of touch and too extreme to garner their support.

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"It is really telling that there were Americans that voted for President Biden hoping that he could somehow emerge as a leader," Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told Fox News Digital. "And he has proven that he does not have the capabilities to be a strong leader."

Ernst blames Biden for rising inflation, the deadly and hasty withdrawal fromAfghanistan and a surge of migrants at the Southern border. She says Biden's priorities are out of step with what Iowans want.

Asked how his legislative agenda was faring, Ernst replied: "I'm glad that you reminded me that President Biden has an agenda, because I have forgotten he had one. It really has gone out the window."

Biden further alienated himself from Republicans with a heated speech in Atlanta this week when he urged the Senate to get rid of the long-standing filibuster to pass voting rights bills and implied those who didn't support the legislation were on the side of racists like Bull Connor and George Wallace.

A fuming Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blasted Biden's speech as "profoundly unpresidential" and "deliberately divisive."

"I have known, liked, and personally respected Joe Biden for many years," McConnell said Wednesday. "I did not recognize the man at that podium yesterday."

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Aside from the bipartisan infrastructure package, Biden's other major legislative win last year was the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill he signed into law in March without any GOP support.

The package included a $1,400 check for many Americans, an extension of a $300 weekly unemployment aid supplement through Sept. 6, as well as a one-year expansion of the child tax credit. It also provided hundreds of billions of dollars in funding for state and local governments, vaccine distribution efforts and small businesses still reeling from the pandemic.

Ten months later, the pandemic is far from over. And Biden's other main legislative vehicle to boost the economy and expand the social safety net is on ice.

The $2 trillion Build Back Better social spending and climate change bill has effectively died in the Senate with Manchin announcing in December that he couldn't support it.

Biden had a history of working productively with Manchin and affectionately called him Jo-Jo. Biden even appointed his wife, Gayle Manchin, to serve as federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission. The job pays roughly $163,000, according to a federal database.

Unable to convince Manchin to support his agenda, Democrats Friday turned to touting the benefits of the previously passed infrastructure bill as a way to move on.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he thinks Biden has been working very hard to pass the voting rights and Build Back Better bills, but he faults Republicans for the setbacks.

"In order to get things done … you need two parties," Hoyer said when asked about the Biden agenda by Fox News Digital. "It takes two to tango."

He said Republicans are trying to deny Biden any more victories for political reasons, which he says is "sad."

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"No matter how hard the President of the United States works, if one party is determined, for political reasons, to oppose something because it would give a success or a victory to the President of the United States, that is very shortsighted and harms the country," Hoyer said. "You're not harming Joe Biden personally. What you're harming is the country."

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of Biden's inauguration. Republicans are planning to mark the occasion by highlighting Biden’s first year of "failure" and arguing the GOP is better equipped to lead.

NOTE: Is Biden's presidency doomed?

President Joe Biden is struggling politically. Recent polls have shown that his approval ratings continue to fall. According to CNN's Poll of Polls, the President stands at 42%, while Quinnipiac's January poll placed him at 33%. Those are the kinds of numbers that would leave any White House unsettled.

The fate of the Build Back Better legislation remains precarious, while the President's emboldened words about the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act were tougher than ever. On Tuesday, he asked elected officials, "Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?" in what appeared to be a question implicitly targeting Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who still refuse to accept the filibuster carve-out that would allow the voting rights legislation to overcome Republican opposition. Even worse, Omicron has driven up hospitalizations and left huge swaths of the population despondent about when the pandemic will come to an end. "It's déjà vu all over again," as the baseball legend Yogi Berra liked to say.

Others complain that the President isn't even doing a good job showcasing his many accomplishments. "Jobs, jabs, infrastructure, prosperity and peace," one columnist urged in a piece criticizing Biden for failing to boast enough about what his administration has done.

Then there is inflation. Rising prices are overwhelming all good economic news in recent days, including low unemployment and a buoyant economy. Although initially many economists thought that the price increases would be "transitory," the widely accepted outlook is that inflation will remain high for a while. One Nevada voter, Laura Godinez, who told CNN she used to lean Republican but had shifted toward the Democrats in recent elections, commented: "I don't want to say this, but when Donald Trump was here, it was nothing like this."

Does this all add up to a doomed presidency? That question will naturally enter into the minds of Democrats as they speculate about where this is heading, particularly with the distinct possibility that Trump could run again in 2024.
Those who are worried should find some solace in the fact that contemporary presidents have been able to come back from difficult moments like these. Challenging first terms don't inevitably put a commander in chief on path toward a one-term presidency. It's possible to struggle in the polls, deal with difficult economic challenges and criticism from different factions of one's own party and still go on to be considered a successful two-term president.

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