Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Biden’s first week: flurry of decrees and frustrations with governing

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Joe Biden had just signed a final round of executive orders on Thursday when he revealed his impatience with an aspect of his fledgling presidency.

After putting down his quill, the new president tapped four times on the Resolute desk in the Oval Office to stress the urgency of his $ 1.9 billion coronavirus stimulus package, the fate of which remains in Congress. “We have a lot to do. And the first thing I have to do is get this Covid package passed, ”Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden is barely more than a week into his presidency and already faces the foreseeable difficulties and frustrations of governance at a time of multiple overlapping crises and a noxious political climate.

His most visible actions – punctuated by fairly scripted daily public appearances – have been a series of executive orders fulfilling the campaign’s promises to completely break with his predecessor Donald Trump.

On issues ranging from environmental regulations to the social safety net, the United States’ participation in the multilateral world order and the ban on transgender servicemen in the military, Biden has taken steps to overturn some most controversial policies of the past four years, mostly satisfying its base.

But on the pandemic and the economy, the two issues on which Mr. Biden’s success will be measured, the new president still faces big hurdles. Mr Biden is under tremendous pressure to speed up the rollout of vaccinations, even beyond the goal of delivering 100m injections in the first 100 days, before the disease variant spreads further.

The budget package – which Mr Biden unveiled two weeks ago before taking office, remains stuck in a political impasse – with no easy solution or compromise in sight.

“While much of the country is relieved that the Trump administration’s turmoil is starting to fade, that doesn’t mean Democrats and Republicans are about to unite to adopt sweeping policy change Said William Howell, professor of American politics at the University of Chicago. “He’s going to face real resistance so the question is, you know, how is he going to answer?”

Mr Biden’s preference is still to go the bipartisan path for now – a goal he has repeatedly emphasized in recent days. Yet he is encountering difficulties on this front. Republicans want him to water down and break down the relief bill to make it more palatable to them, lowering the price and removing a number of measures, including an increase in the minimum wage.

This would put the new president at an impasse with the left of his party, which would be deeply disappointed with such a result. Instead, now that Democrats control the United States Senate, although thanks to the decisive vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, Mr Biden could try to pass the stimulus bill with Democratic votes alone – which many of his party advocate.

“Members of Congress – these are not wallflowers. They have different points of view. They have a lot of ideas. They will present them, ”said Jennifer Psaki, the White House press secretary, defending Mr. Biden’s approach but not showing his cards. “We hear them and we look forward to getting things done as quickly as possible. But we’re on day eight, so we’re confident we’re still on a pretty fast pace here, ”she said.

Mr. Biden begins his presidency with fairly good graces with the American public, given the fierce divisions in the 2020 campaign. Fifty-four percent of Americans approve of Mr. Biden’s work, while 30% disapprove of him, according to a Monmouth University poll released Thursday.

That’s a better performance than Mr. Trump’s anytime he was in the White House. Meanwhile, 68% believe Mr Biden will come up with policies that are “very likely” or “fairly likely” to help the middle class, a better score than MM. Trump and Obama never achieved.

Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic strategist in Boston, said Mr Biden had made a good start. “The more he shows people that he keeps his word, the more he keeps his promises, the more people will trust him. And when the inevitable hiccups arise, they’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Among Republicans, however, the new president is already being criticized for not being conciliatory enough.

“I think there were some missed opportunities. I think the order in council for the Keystone XL pipeline was wrong. I think it would have been great to see at least an effort to get a Republican into the cabinet, ”Michael Steel, former Republican congressional aide now at Hamilton Place Strategies, a consulting firm. “And I think I’d like to see a more concerted effort to work with Republicans on additional Covid relief legislation.”

Mr. Biden’s early days in power certainly represented a big stylistic change from the chaos of the Trump years, as the president and his team sought to project calm and competence over disruption. Since his inaugural address, Mr Biden has made few memorable public speaking engagements but that may not suit him.

“The rest of the country has plenty to keep them entertained and busy. They don’t need their leaders in Washington to be part of their entertainment regime, ”said Jay Campbell, partner at Hart Research, the polling company. “I think people are looking for predictability, I think they are looking for stability.”

Mr. Howell of the University of Chicago added, “He is not a great speaker and he is not going to impress you with his rhetoric. But where Democrats will be judged, frankly, depends less on his style and more on what he’s actually capable of accomplishing.

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