From voting rights to vaccinations, Biden is feeling the limits of his government and the fragility of his presidency
WASHINGTON.- On Thursday just past one in the afternoon, President Joe Biden entered the US Capitol ready to test his powers of persuasion and push his party to avoid the rules of the Senate and approve in an express process the law on the right to vote that he had promised in the campaign.
At least that was his idea. But an hour and a half later, Biden walked out that same door having been repeatedly reminded of the limits of his government, and the current fragility of his presidency.
Even before his arrival, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema had used the Senate floor to advance her opposition to the rule change. And later, behind closed doors, Biden also failed to convince the other dissatisfied Democratic leader, Senator Joe Manchin III, with whom he had a crossroads. on the evolution of Senate rules over the decades.
And then, minutes after that failed meeting concluded, Biden received another saber blow: The Supreme Court threw out its decree of “o compulsory vaccine or testing” for the private sector, its tool of choice to combat this phase of the coronavirus pandemic. That same afternoon, six Democratic senators turned their backs on a sanctions law that government officials had been negotiating for some time.
All this occurred a day after new economic data was released confirming that 2021 inflation was the highest in four decades, and diplomatic negotiations with Russia failed, anticipating growing international tensions and greater fear to a war in the Ukraine. It is clear that Biden’s still young presidency is going through its darkest period.
If a year ago Joe Biden took office as the promise of a new era of forceful state action, last week like never before in the 50 weeks that preceded it, the problems he faces at the top became clear of his second year in office.
“Every president has times when nothing goes right for them,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former Obama aide and co-host on Pod Save America, which is hugely popular with Biden supporters, said on his Thursday podcast. “And this was one of those weeks…”
Biden has always considered himself an optimist who hopes for the best and ignores the doomsayers. But last week it became clear that at least in the current political, economic and diplomatic context, the Biden government has problems setting the agenda, and ends up running behind the events.
“It’s the context that changed, not Joe Biden’s ability,” says Ed Rendell, a former Pennsylvania governor and longtime Biden ally. “In the pre-Obama political context, Biden would get whatever laws he wanted passed.”
Biden’s difficult week comes after a month that was also forgotten: in December, Manchin warned that he would not support Biden’s spending plan, at least not in its current form, and left the government’s program practically paralyzed. President.
Biden does not have it easy: the Republican Party is basically united against him, and in Congress the Democratic majority is tiny. But that narrowness has tested his ability to hold his party together, a role he relished and already showed a knack for during stormy primary elections.
“To assess a presidency, you can’t cut out a hot week like this for the White House, you have to take everything in the narrative arc,” says Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster and strategist.
Public opinion polls for January show that Biden is still in negative territory, but they differ in terms of percentages. According to a Quinnipiac University poll published this week, Biden would have 33% approval and 53% popular disapproval, while a poll by The Economist-YouGov attributes him a 43% positive image and 50% negative image. negative. These latest figures are more in line with an average from The Washington Post of polls conducted throughout December, which shows 43% approval and 51% disapproval for the US president.
“He who dodges the tough fights is not being president,” says Andrew Bates, White House deputy press secretary, adding that Biden plans to keep pushing to get his voting rights bill passed and that he does not intend to abandon his ambitious economic agenda.
White House staff acknowledge that last week was a difficult week, but highlight previous achievements: creation of thousands of new jobs and the increase in vaccination rates among Americans. They also recognize that even if the battles are difficult, the government prefers to lose fighting.
“They talk a lot about disappointment about the things that we haven’t been able to do, but let me add that we are going to do them,” Biden said Friday, during an event to promote his infrastructure bill, which was achieved by bipartisan consensus. “This law is one of those achievements, and it is of enormous importance to the country.”
By Matt Viser and Seung Min Kim
The Washington Post
Translation of Jaime Arrambide