Even though the Democratic Party is controlling all branches of the U.S. government, President Joe Biden will start his second year in office without making any important progress regarding the key initiatives he laid out during his campaign. These include issues conneted to voting rights, the economy, climate change, police and immigration reform, as well as the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, the president is having his lowest approval ratings yet his agenda remains mostly stalled in Congress. This is mostly because he is unable to unify his own party – something which is making Democrats afraid as they cling to their narrow majorities in Congress right before the November midterm elections this year.
According to Critics, his news conference last Wednesday at the White House didn’t help. One of them even called it a “total disaster.”
Biden vowed to protect Americans’ voting rights while he was on his campaign trail. However, his federal voting rights proposal, which would diminish voter ID requirements that individual states have approved, failed in the Senate on Wednesday night because of moderate members of the Democratic party who are against getting rid of the filibuster precedent.
Apart from this, moderate Democrats also got in the way of the president passing the Build Back Better Act, which includes $555 billion worth of proposed climate action. The said bill was named after is 2020 campaign slogan, but it is now everything but dead following Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) refusal – despite months of negotiations and arguments within the party – to support several provisions included in the bill as well as its total price tag of $2 trillion.
The White House has supported the passing of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. This gave $1,400 checks to most Americans. It also supported a bipartisan infrastructure law worth $1 trillion. These are some of Biden’s major legislative achievements. However, more Democrats are being vocal, saying they feel disappointed in the turnout of what could have been a productive and transformative year.
“People are feeling like they’re getting less than they bargained for when they put Biden in office. There’s a lot of emotions, and none of them are good,” Young Democrats of America President Quentin Wathum-Ocama told The Associated Press. “I don’t know if the right word is ‘apoplectic’ or ‘demoralized.’ We’re down. We’re not seeing the results.”
“We need transformative change — our very lives depend on it,” Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) also said. “And because we haven’t seen those results yet, we’re frustrated — frustrated that despite everything we did to deliver a Democratic White House, Senate and House of Representatives, our needs and our lives are still not being treated as a top priority. That needs to change,” Bush went on to say.
When he first stepped into office, Biden revealed a list of “immediate priorities” for his administration. Included in the list is delivering “criminal justice reform” racial equity, which is also a pledge supported by progressive politicians like Bush and even a lot of Republicans. However, the president distanced himself from his original plan in March to establish a national police oversight commission. In its place, he threw his weight behind the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The said legislation managed to pass the House of Representatives even without support from the Republican Party. However, it did not advance in the Senate. With this, Democrats stopped negotiations without a deal back in September.
Additionally, during his first year in office, the president “barely mentioned” the cash bail system, according to PolitiFact, even though he promised to end what he called “modern-day debtors” while he was on his campaign trail. Also, he has not taken steps to carry out his promises of decriminalizing marijuana at a federal scale.
Biden also mentioned another significant priority during his campaign, which is “quickly to contain the COVID-19 crisis by expanding testing” and “safely reopening schools and businesses.” Many have slammed the president for the way he’s handling the pandemic as the omicron variant spread across the nation and closed schools in a lot of Democratic-led cities while many also wait hours in queues just to get a COVID test.
Last week, the White House has announced that 500 million rapid tests that people can do at home would be available to order online starting Wednesday for free. However, one household can only get four tests from a government website that is already riddled with problems. On top of this, shipping via the U.S. Postal Service would take 7-12 days.
The current administration also plans to distribute 400 million N95 masks for free, which will be coming from the Strategic National Stockpile. These will be distributed through pharmacies and community sites nationwide, per a White House official who confirmed this on Wednesday.