Biden Has Daunting To-Do List 06/18 06:23
President Joe Biden is facing a formidable to-do list now that he's back
from his summit-filled trip to Europe, with pressing legislative challenges,
foreign policy follow-up and a need to steer the country's reopening as the
coronavirus threat recedes.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden is facing a formidable to-do list now
that he's back from his summit-filled trip to Europe, with pressing legislative
challenges, foreign policy follow-up and a need to steer the country's
reopening as the coronavirus threat recedes.
His overseas tour was meant to showcase the U.S. return to global leadership
-- a central pledge of Biden's 2020 campaign for the White House -- but he now
faces a critical juncture for securing other planks of his agenda. From voting
rights and immigration to his massive legislation on jobs and infrastructure,
Biden is trying to get as much done as possible in Congress before the start of
its August recess.
"I think we -- the country, has put a different face on where we've been and
where we're going," Biden told reporters on the tarmac in Geneva late Wednesday
as he headed back to Washington. "And I feel good about it."
It has been a start-and-stop process on many of Biden's priorities on
Capitol Hill, where Democrats hold the majority but only by the narrowest of
margins. He is reaching for bipartisan deals with Republicans while also moving
along with his own party's go-it-alone strategy, a two-pronged approach that is
particularly coming into focus on his big infrastructure investment plan.
Other legislation, on voting rights, policing reforms and immigration, will
need support from Republicans in the Senate, and talks are teetering on those
and other issues as bipartisan groups of lawmakers strain to find agreements
while the days tick off on the legislative calendar.
Talks over immigration have all but come to a standstill, and Democrats are
now eying putting some immigration law changes into the infrastructure
overhaul, relying on budget rules that would allow majority passage without the
need for Republican votes. Talks on policing reform are still going, but even
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted Thursday, "It's challenging."
Still, Biden enters the legislative struggle from a position of strength. A
new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research,
conducted while he was abroad, found 55% of Americans approve of his handling
of his job as president.
The White House believes that Biden's proposals are broadly popular in the
country, if not on Capitol Hill, and is wagering that lawmakers can be brought
along with a combination of cajoling and the presidential bully pulpit.
Biden is expected to resume regular domestic travel to promote the
infrastructure legislation, and continue his behind-the-scenes engagement with
lawmakers on other issues where his public involvement might not be as
The AP-NORC poll, conducted prior to Biden's summit with Russian President
Vladimir Putin, found about half approving of his handling of foreign policy as
well as his handling of the U.S. relationship with Russia. Sixty-eight percent
approve of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic -- his strongest issue
throughout his presidency so far.
While Biden was away, a new round of bipartisan infrastructure talks
intensified as a growing group of 21 senators fine-tuned their $1 trillion plan
to meet the long-overlooked national priority. At the same time, Senate
Democrats under Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders plotted a $6 trillion
Biden, who was loosely following the back-and-forth while abroad, was
briefed on the measures Thursday at the White House, according to an
administration official who said the president planned to assess the likelihood
of a bipartisan deal next week.
The White House sought to keep up momentum for the president's legislative
agenda while he was away -- particularly the infrastructure bill -- by
deploying Cabinet secretaries across the country and to meetings on Capitol
Biden aides also held more than 130 calls or meetings with lawmakers and
staff about the infrastructure proposal and a dozen staff briefings for aides
in both parties.
Meanwhile, senior Biden aides have been keeping in constant communication
both with Democrats and Republicans working on the bipartisan deal as well as
the progressive lawmakers working on the party's 'plan B.'
At the same time, Biden returned to the U.S. with a pile of new initiatives
from his talks with allies and adversaries.
He must fulfill his commitment to sharing 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses
with the world by the end of this month, while devising plans to meet his
pledge to share a further 500 million over the next year. White House COVID
coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday that the administration would be
unveiling the recipients of those 80 million doses in the coming days, as the
U.S. works through the diplomatic and logistical hurdles to ship vaccines
abroad as quickly as possible.
Having secured an agreement with the European Union to end a 16-year dispute
over commercial airliners, Biden said he is now looking to bring about a
de-escalation in a host of other trade tensions with the bloc as he tries to
develop a more united front to counter China's trade practices. He's tasked
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to step up negotiations.
And after sitting down with Putin, Biden said the next six months would
determine whether a constructive partnership could be formed in areas of mutual
interest, from nuclear arms control and safeguarding critical infrastructure
from cyberattacks to a potential exchange of imprisoned citizens. Progress on
any of those fronts would be ironed out in the months ahead, Biden added.
"The president was very clear yesterday that the proof of the pudding is in
the eating," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday. "It is the
start of the story, and how the story ends will unfold here over the course, as
he said, of the next six months to a year."