Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

Joe Biden returned to Washington this week with a blizzard that paralyzed the US capital, a fitting backdrop for a president starting the new year with several crises ranging from a surge in coronavirus infections to a came to a halt economic agenda and rising voltage with Russia.

The Omicron variant, which led to a record number of daily infections, puts the Biden administration immediately on the defensive, especially over crippling test deficits and confusion surrounding its decision to halve the amount of time asymptomatic people have to isolate, from 10 days to five.

Biden was forced on Tuesday to warn again about difficult times ahead. It was a humble moment for a president who took office almost a year ago with high hopes of destroying the virus, and who was largely elected for his promise to manage the pandemic more competently than his predecessor.

“Man, I know we are all tired and frustrated about the pandemic. These coming weeks are going to be challenging, “he said in a speech from the White House. “We are going to get through this. We are going to get through it together. ”

The resurgence of the pandemic happened just as Biden’s poll numbers began to recover from a sharp decline, which began in August around the time of the failed withdrawal from Afghanistan and continued during the second half of 2021.

On the economic front, a strong recovery was hampered by high inflation and supply chain disruption, which clouded labor market improvement and vibrant stock prices, while also hitting voter perceptions of Biden’s handling of the economy.

Meanwhile, the White House suffered a major setback last month when Joe Manchin, a crucial Democratic senator from West Virginia, walked away of negotiations to promote Biden’s flagship $ 1.75tn “Build Back Better” spending bill.

Manchin made it clear on Tuesday that he saw little prospect of reviving talks on the legislation, and told reporters there had been “no talks” since announcing his opposition to the plan. “I feel just as strong today as I did then,” he added.

James Lucier, an analyst at Capital Alpha Partners, said he thought there was still a chance Democrats could approve a spending bill worth about $ 1.5 billion, but warned: “Every week that passes without an agreement “It’s getting harder and harder to see. This is happening.”

At the same time, Biden’s foreign policy agenda was dominated by the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin would invade Ukraine, which would test alliances with Europe, and the administration’s commitment to counter authoritarian aggression.

Each of these problems threatens to make it harder for Biden and congressional Democrats to prevent Republicans from gaining control of Congress in the November midterm elections, a scenario that would significantly limit the president’s legislative ambitions in the remaining years of his term.

“Biden’s most important task is to show why America has gone from electing the president with the fewest years of management experience in history to the one with the most,” said Ben Koltun, an analyst at Beacon Policy Advisors, a Washington consultant.

Koltun said Biden should “conclude an agreement with Senator Joe Manchin on Build Back Better”, “put America in a strong position in dealing with Russia” and “provide some strategy on Omicron and inflation” ‘.

He added: “Otherwise it is a story that Biden is not led, but is led by Manchin, Russia and Omicron.”

With talks on Biden’s economic plans coming to a halt, Democratic leaders in Congress have drawn attention to legislation to protect voting rights – an attempt to counter Republican moves in many states to restrict access to the ballot box.

The pressure coincides with the January 6th anniversary of last year’s deadly attack on the US capital by a crowd supporting former President Donald Trump. Biden is expected to speak at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday on the anniversary of the assault.

But the de⁇ name of vot⁇ ing legis⁇ la⁇ tion could very well be a fruit⁇ less mis⁇ sion: Re⁇ pu⁇ bli⁇ cans are relentlessly op⁇ posed, while moderate Democrats like Man⁇ chin and Ky⁇ rsten Si⁇ ne⁇ ma, the A⁇ ri⁇ zon senator, are careful to change the Senate rules so that the measure with a simple majority of votes .

While some Democratic strategists and lawmakers say continuing with the legislation is important to fuel the party’s base, others warn that a bill that is likely to fail could be politically counterproductive.

“What Democrats really need right now is not some kind of short-term ‘supercharged’ campaign that raises expectations that they are unlikely to meet,” Ed Kilgore, a veteran Democratic political analyst, said in a New York poll this week. magazine column written.

He added: “They need a way to convey that they – and this country – are in a constant struggle between two very different concepts of America’s future, a struggle in which disengagement or disappointment by Democratic voters a defeat will guarantee. “

But the White House is still trying to keep the focus on kitchen table issues. Biden on Monday presented his administration’s plans to tame inflation in particular prices for meat. And on Friday, he is expected to address the December job report, which may give the final look at how the labor market was recovering before the economy was hit by Omicron.

Andrew Bishop, global head of policy research at Signum, a consulting firm in Washington, said Biden may be “less doomed” than his current approval ratings indicate. Signum points out that he still has higher ratings than Trump, and that the decline was less sharp than that experienced by Barack Obama during his first year in office.

“By being more generally tasteful to centrist voters than some of his predecessors were, Biden could likely have the potential to regain independent support faster,” Bishop said.

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