Biden Savors Much-Needed Victories. But Will the Highs Overshadow the Lows?

WASHINGTON – President Biden and his top advisers have been trying for months to move forward amid a seemingly endless stream of offensive news: rising inflation, high gas prices, a collapsing agenda collapse, the economy slows dangerously, and approval rates plummet, even among Democrats.

But Mr. Biden ended up having to take a series break. Gas prices, which peaked above $5 a gallon, have fallen daily for more than six weeks and are now close to $4. After a year-long debate, Democrats and Republicans in Congress passed the law last week invest $280 billion in areas such as semiconductor manufacturing and scientific research to strengthen competition with China.

And in an unexpected turn of events, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a Democrat who single-handedly supported Mr. Biden’s boldest proposals, agree to an agreement that puts the president in a position to make good on promises to lower drug prices, tackle climate change and make corporations pay higher taxes.

“Government work can be slow, frustrating and even infuriating at times,” Biden said at the White House on Thursday, reflecting the impatience and anger of allies and fatigue of his employees. “Then the hard work of hours and days and months from those who refuse to give up will pay off. History is made. Life is changed. “

Even for a president who has become accustomed to the highs and lows of governing, it is a moment to feel belittled. Since taking office 18 months ago, Mr. Biden has celebrated successes such as passing a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill and weathering crises like the chaotic retreat from Afghanistan. Gasoline prices skyrocketed; now they are going down. Unemployment is at a record low even as there are signs of a recession.

The president’s brand of politics dates back to a slower, pre-Twitter era, and it can sometimes pay off if there’s enough patience to wait for a final deal to emerge. But now, with congressional elections due in a few months, the challenge for Mr. Biden is to make sure his latest successes resonate with Americans who are still deeply skeptical. About future.

The significance of the Senate deal was received as cold water poured over Washington, wiping out all possibility that Mr. Biden’s sweeping ambitions could be revived this year. Republicans were quick to attack the proposal, with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, offering what he described as “huge tax hikes that would hit workers.” .

Inside the West Wing, aides were forced to scramble to come up with talking points for a deal that was barely seen by anyone. They argue that if Congress passes the compromise reached with Mr Manchin, it will put the country at the forefront of tackling climate change globally and lower drug prices even as it raises money from corporations to reduce the federal budget deficit.

The deal will allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for millions of Americans, extend health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act for three years, and require companies to pay a minimum tax rate. — something that many progressive Democrats have demanded for years.

“For months, the environmental community, President Joe Biden and Leader Chuck Schumer, and economists have shown that climate action will lower inflation and lower energy costs for Americans,” said Melinda. Pierce, the Sierra Club’s legislative director, said in a statement. after the deal is announced. “We are delighted that the Senate has recognized the opportunity they have in front of them. Climate action cannot wait another day.”

For Mr. Biden, that success can’t come anytime soon.

Elections this fall will decide which party controls the House and Senate, with many experts predicting Democrats will be exhausted. And doubts about the president’s future are growing rapidly as his popularity fades. One New York Times/Siena College Poll conducted in early July showed that 64 percent of Democrats want someone other than Mr Biden to be the party’s nominee in 2024. CNN poll at the end of the month, that number was at 75% among Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters.

Even as Mr. Biden announced the Senate deal on Thursday, his own comments underscored the darker reality he and his administration still face – a series of promises that remain unfulfilled. present, with little evidence that many unexpected victories lie ahead.

In his speech, the president himself listed many parts of his 2020 campaign agenda that remained stalled: more affordable childcare; helping the elderly and their carers; preschool is cheaper; struggling to cope with housing costs; student debt relief and community college tuition waivers; and money to pay for health care for the poor in states that have refused to expand Medicaid.

The president’s failure to make good on those promises has frustrated many of his former staunchest supporters, angered and – in some cases – even willingness to abandon him for someone else.

Alexis Steenberg, 19, a college student in eastern Pennsylvania, helped convince her father to vote for Mr. Biden in 2020 for his promise to wipe out thousands of dollars in student debt. Now, as one of the college students in debt, she’s angry that Mr. Biden hasn’t made good on that promise.

She said in an interview: “It’s frustrating because I tried, I tried my best to convince my dad to vote for someone I knew he wouldn’t do on his own. “And the reason I convinced him, it completely fell apart.”

An administration official said the president was still considering whether to cancel some student loans.

Steenberg is a Democrat and supports Biden’s priorities, she said, but she wants to vote for a different candidate.

“I’m one in 75 percent who think someone should run,” she said. “Not only because he broke his promise, but also because he can’t seem to speak his mind clearly to the public as well as the people behind the scenes who are helping him.”

Mr. Biden, she said, was “just floating around waiting for the deadline to end.”

Going forward, aides believe Mr. Biden must find a way to better communicate the progress he has made to people like Ms. Steenberg.

The stimulus plan he approved at the start of his term has distributed hundreds of billions of dollars to individuals and businesses amid the pandemic. His $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law is making big investments in clean energy, broadband and long-delayed projects to repair dilapidated roads, pipelines and bridges. .

David Axelrod, who was a top adviser to President Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter on Friday that Mr. Biden was “a victim of his own set of overly broad expectations.”

“He is quietly amassing a record of historic wins in infrastructure, guns, manufacturing— & now possibly Rx, climate and energy valuations,” writes Mr. Axelrod. “Not a New Deal but quite impressive in a 50/50 Congress.”

So far, however, Mr. Biden has struggled to ensure that his victory trumps the often harsh reports that dominate the news. Critics, including some members of his party, say his speaking style fails to convey the sense of urgency many Americans feel.

Jamie L. Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, said: “I think we were looking for a way to be inspired, who was disappointed after Mr. Biden’s speech following the Supreme Court decision. high on overturning the Roe v. Wade case.

Dakota Hall, executive director of Alliance for Youth Action, an advocacy group that advocates for youth and people of color, said Biden has failed to live up to the promises he made during the campaign about Bold changes in some areas.

Mr. Hall said he regularly saw Mr. Biden push his administration’s progress in making small, step-by-step changes.

“It was absolutely necessary,” he said. “But it’s not the change that everyone voted for and supported.”

“They want someone to express their anger, slam their hands on the podium and say enough is enough,” Mr. Hall added. “They don’t get that from Biden, do they?”

White House officials are aware of the frustration, but they say it’s out of place. They say the president has fought for all of his priorities but has been blocked by forces beyond his control: Republicans refuse to compromise, some conservative Democrats and conservatives say they don’t want to compromise. Global events such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the economic downturn from the pandemic.

They argue that Mr. Biden’s achievements are sometimes underappreciated. They point to the pressure of the negative news he’s received as gas prices are rising rapidly and the coverage is relatively smaller given the drop in gas prices following the decision to release a record amount of oil from the Reserve Bureau. National Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Derrick Johnson, chairman of the NAACP, said Democrats should direct their anger at lawmakers – including Republicans and some Democrats – who have prevented the president from making much progress more set. He urged people to vote in November to elect more supporters of Mr Biden’s agenda.

“We need a Senate to do their job,” he said.

On Twitter last weekFormer President Barack Obama, who was frequently frustrated with Congress as he pushed his own agenda, said change might be on the verge of stopping.

“I am grateful to President Biden and those in Congress – Democrat or Republican – who are working to benefit the American people,” Obama wrote. “Progress doesn’t always happen all at once, but it does happen – and it looks like this.”

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