Tracking President Biden’s progress on COVID-19, Afghanistan, and his legislative agenda
When President Biden took office in January 2021, pundits were divided on predictions about him: some called him a “new FDR” while others doubted his ability to lead the nation well. Now that the presidential “honeymoon” phase is over, the public can take a survey of three areas where Biden has expended significant time and energy: COVID-19, Afghanistan, and congressional legislation.
Biden has made fighting COVID-19 one of his top priorities since taking office. On January 15, days before his inauguration, he unveiled the 1.9 trillion dollar “American Rescue Plan,” which he signed into law on March 11. This plan sent direct payment of 1,400 dollars to millions of Americans, extended federal aid for unemployment by 300 dollars a week until September, expanded the child tax credit, and even funded vaccine distribution, according to the White House.
Biden also has sought to fight the pandemic by issuing a mask mandate on federal land and property on his first day in office and by encouraging Americans to get vaccinated. Indeed, he oversaw the largest vaccine rollout in this country’s history according to the Associated Press, with 183 million Americans fully vaccinated according to the CDC. Furthermore, Biden has used extra vaccines to enhance American diplomatic efforts by donating over 110 million doses to nations around the world, per a White House press release. Indeed, public polling reflects a majority approval of the president’s actions against the pandemic—52 percent to 42 percent—according to the polling aggregation site fivethirtyeight.com.
However, Biden is encountering some significant roadblocks in his fight against COVID-19. The first has been the rise of the Delta variant, which has led many areas to extend COVID-19 restrictions and has heightened anxiety about the pandemic, according to a poll from AP-NORC. Even so, Biden’s biggest challenge has been with the unvaccinated: 70 million Americans remain unvaccinated, according to NBC News, mostly represented in the South, Midwest, and Great Plains. Despite both an abundance of vaccines and repeated encouragement from Biden —who announced that he would be requiring large federal contractors to have their employees vaccinated—many Americans still remain unvaccinated.
Another focus of the Biden presidency has been the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The president withdrew the last American troops from Afghanistan on August 31, fulfilling his campaign promise to do so. Indeed, according to Gallup, the vast majority of Americans support a total withdrawal from Afghanistan. According to that same poll, however, the majority of Americans disapprove of how Joe Biden handled the withdrawal, with only 25 percent approving of how Biden handled the situation. Indeed, the American public has seen the collapse, in just over a month, of the government that the United States supported with trillions of tax dollars and thousands of American lives, an evacuation that left thousands of Americans and allies trapped, and, most recently, a rare admission of a drone strike that killed only civilians, including seven children.
Finally, Biden has spent significant time trying to pass large pieces of legislation through Congress. Besides the American Rescue Plan, he has also expended significant energy to get legislators together to draft a bipartisan 1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure bill. Despite opposition from both progressive Democrats and Republican leadership, the bill has already passed the Senate and is set for a vote in the House on September 30. The other bill on Biden’s agenda—a 3.5 trillion dollar “Build Back Better” budget resolution that would expand educational opportunities, healthcare access, and clean energy investments—is looking less tenable, with moderate Democrats in both the House and the Senate balking at such a large spending bill, especially in the face of inflationary pressures.
The coming weeks will be full of political maneuvering centered around these two bills. Adding to the pressure are the needs to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a government shutdown, which will take place on October 1 if a spending bill is not passed. With Biden’s overall job approval rating hitting a new low of 43 percent in a recent Gallup poll, many news outlets, including CNN and The Hill, are calling this Biden’s “make-or-break” week.
Sam Delmer is a senior studying economics, philosophy, theology, and constitutional studies. He is originally from San Antonio, Texas, and currently resides in Dillon Hall. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: President Joe Biden walks through the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, on his way to deliver remarks on COVID-19. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)