The Biden presidency Chapter I

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The Biden-Harris Administration

What Biden should learn from Obamacare
By Elana Schor
the most important calendar comparison of the first two years of the Biden presidency: not whether 2021 is 2009, but how much 2022 will be like 2010.
(Politico Nightly) Biden and his party are hoping they can avoid unforeseen obstacles, beat the clock and sell their infrastructure plan — both the concrete-project component that’s wobbling ahead of a test vote later this week , and its $3.5 trillion social spending counterpart — a lot better this year than the last Democratic administration did 11 years ago.

16 July
Jonathan Chait: Biden’s FDR-size Bet
(New York) …the goal of an FDR-style presidency — shaped along the same contours, though smaller in scale — remains very much alive. That ambition came into its clearest view on July 13, when Senate Democrats announced their more or less unified support for a hugely ambitious domestic-spending package. It would come in at roughly $3.5 trillion, minus the normal congressional haggling down of the price. Tax, spend, elect.

The precise contents of the bill have yet to take final form. In general, though, it will include a clean-electricity standard and deployment of green technology, expansions for Medicaid and Medicare, subsidies for child care and community college, and a $300-per-month child tax credit. It will, in other words, be a big climate plan, a big health-care plan, a big education plan, and a big social-policy plan all wrapped in a single package. At first blush, the sheer size of the bill might appear like a political liability — how does Biden get every single Democratic senator, and almost every single House Democrat, to vote for the same thing, especially when the most moderate members are afraid to be seen as too liberal?
As it turns out, the sheer size creates a kind of protection by reducing Biden’s agenda to a single vote. Some moderate Democrats from conservative states or districts might wish to position themselves to the administration’s right, but none of them can afford to let Biden’s presidency come crashing down in Congress.

5 July
Biden’s Big Left Gamble
The president is overseeing a sea change in the world of economic policy, and so much hangs in the balance.
By Rebecca Traister
(New York) The president’s hiring at many levels of his administration has been unexpected and diverse, and not just in a Gina Haspel, Girl Torturer way. He has injected new ideological blood, much of it from the lineage of his primary opponent Warren, who has long believed that personnel is policy; Biden brought in these wonks to implement his economic agenda.
Now, the question is whether he can execute theirs. Few expected Biden would be at the helm of the Democratic Party’s biggest left turn since LBJ.In some ways, the Biden administration is edging toward something Democrats have been scared to do since the rise of Ronald Reagan: showcasing government as a salubrious force in regular people’s lives.
Biden, in contrast, regularly frames the federal government as the force that stemmed mass death and permitted economic survival through the pandemic: shots in arms, checks in bank accounts. He publicly centers equity — that government investment in housing, jobs, climate initiatives, and care work is good because it addresses racial and gender injustice — and gives speeches about employers needing to compete for workers by raising wages. Despite an unwilling Senate, he speaks with conviction about raising taxes on the wealthy, rather than bailing out banks. For the first time since 1993, Biden’s 2022 budget proposal did not include the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal insurance money to pay for abortions.
One senior member of the administration described what keeps them up at night: “This is an economic policy strategy that hasn’t been undertaken in 40 years, being undertaken in a moment that is unprecedented.” Getting that transition right, they said, “is so important.”
And there is so much — from Senate obstruction to supply-chain blockages to the logistical challenges of implementing new ideas — that could go wrong. Screwups would harm millions of Americans, the planet, and Joe Biden’s legacy. But they could also halt a crucial and overdue turn of the Democratic Party away from its compromised past and toward a more humane future. “This is an extraordinary moment,” the official said. “It couldn’t be higher stakes. But if something goes wrong, we’re going to discredit everything many of us have been working toward.”

28-30 April
Richard N. Haass: Biden’s First Hundred Days
(Project Syndicate) …the basic themes of the Biden presidency, articulated in his April 28 address to Congress, have emerged: an emphasis on tackling domestic challenges, a vastly expanded role for the federal government in both stimulating the economy and in providing basic services and financial support for citizens, and a commitment to confront racism, modernize infrastructure, increase the country’s competitiveness, and combat climate change. There is also a willingness to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for some of what these initiatives will cost. How much of this agenda can be realized remains to be seen; for now, comparisons between Biden and Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Lyndon B. Johnson are understandable but somewhat premature.

President Biden’s Address To Congress, Annotated
[T]hank you all. Madam speaker. Madam vice president. [applause] No president has ever said those words from this podium. No president has ever said those words. And it’s about time.
President Biden took a moment to acknowledge the groundbreaking nature of Vice President Harris’ position. Harris is the first woman and the first woman of color to ever serve as vice president. Tonight is also the first time ever that two women — Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi — are on the dais as a president delivers a joint address to Congress.

Big Government Is Back, And 3 Other Takeaways From Biden’s Address To Congress
1. Era of big government is back, and Biden is all in
(NPR) Former President Bill Clinton notably declared in his 1996 State of the Union address that “the era of big government is over,” marking a shift for Democrats then trying to show attention to fiscal responsibility. But Biden, in unabashedly rolling out new, liberal federal programs, rejected that and instead argued government was the solution.
Biden, Calling for Big Government, Bets on a Nation Tested by Crisis (with video clips)
The president’s speech laying out trillions of dollars in new economic proposals plays to voters’ warm feelings toward federal aid in the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden’s Workmanlike Love Song to the Middle Class
By Ed Kilgore
In the tradition of such addresses, Biden eventually covered the waterfront of issues. But the placement of topics very clearly reflect public opinion, and likely Biden’s priorities:
Two issues on which he made a rare reference to the GOP were gun safety and immigration, where he quite accurately called out Republicans for obstructing legislation popular with voters from both parties. But while scoring some points, you didn’t get the sense he thinks anything will change, with the possible exception of relief for Dreamers, which many Republicans in theory support.
From the point of view of traditional presidential addresses, the foreign-policy sections were unusual. His main reference to national defense was to call an end to the Afghanistan War far overdue. Other foreign-policy subtopics were climate change and trade, with the latter subject bringing forth some additional warnings toward China. And then there was this amazing sentence: “The investments I’ve proposed tonight also advance a foreign policy that benefits the middle class.” Here as elsewhere Biden never strayed far from a love song to the middle class that probably had focus groups nodding approvingly.
Biden pitches his ambitious investment and tax plans as he recasts role of government
Biden’s 100-day strategy: Under-promise and over-deliver
(Brookings) The secret sauce then is that Biden actually knows how to govern. His experience stands in stark contrast to his predecessor who had no governing experience, but it also stands in stark contrast to the two other 21st century presidents whose federal governmental experience was thin compared to Biden’s. Behind Biden’s victory lap is governing competence.
The strategy so far is to speak softly and rarely and spend the time solving problems. This is not typical of the modern presidency. As political scientist Sam Kernell showed, in recent decades American presidents have spent a great deal of time talking and travelling, often at the expense of governing.[1] In its first 100 days, the Biden White House seems to have broken that habit. By concentrating on governing, Biden is taking the presidential model back to an earlier time where problem-solving mattered. Perhaps this change is driven in part by preference and in part because the traveling presidency is hindered by COVID restrictions. Regardless, the contrast with Trump could not be more stark. As Andrea Risotto discussed in a recent piece, Biden is content to let surrogates carry the messaging load. He doesn’t feel that he has to dominate the news every day, and when he does speak it is to announce something he has done.
Here’s What You Need To Know Ahead Of Biden’s Address To A Joint Session Of Congress
(NPR) President Biden is set to address a joint session of Congress for the first time on Wednesday night, on the eve of his 100th day in office.
What will Biden talk about?
Biden made a number of promises ahead of the 100-day mark, from rolling out a vaccination plan to establishing the U.S. as an international leader on climate change. Wednesday’s speech will allow the president to reflect on his achievements — like pushing his signature $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package through Congress and getting 200 million shots in arms in his first 100 days.
Biden is expected to use the address as an opportunity to pitch his newly unveiled American Families Plan, which focuses on child care and education largely paid for by higher taxes on wealthy Americans. That’s in addition to his $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, which has sparked debate among lawmakers about what should be included under the infrastructure umbrella.

22-23 April
OK Boomer (video)
Bill Maher: A funny thing happened on the way to the old-age home. Biden slayed the Orange Dragon and with an approval rating of 59%. He got better at 78. Writing someone off simply for their age is the last acceptable prejudice. The younger generations hate every ism except ageism.
Biden sees record approval among college-age Americans in Harvard poll
(The Hill) Overall, 59 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds approve of Biden’s job as president, with 65 percent approving of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and 57 percent of his handling of race relations specifically, according to the poll released on Friday.
Sixty-three percent of college-aged adults surveyed approve of Biden’s job in the White House, higher than any figure recorded in the 21-year history of the poll.
At 100 days, where does President Biden stand with the public?
(Brookings) By most measures, Joe Biden has gotten off to a strong start. His overall job approval has been rock-solid at 53% while disapproval has stabilized at around 41%. According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of Americans give him high marks for the manufacture and distribution of the Covid vaccine, and 67% approve of his COVID-19 aid bill, which Congress enacted in March. Other high-quality surveys have yielded similar results.
Overall, a recent Monmouth survey finds, 46% of Americans believe that the country is heading in the right direction, the highest share in more than a decade. This is a promising foundation for the Biden administration’s future initiatives.
Now for the clouds. The flipside of party unity is partisan division. The gap between Democratic and Republican approval of Mr. Biden is a record-high 86 points, compared to 77 points for Trump, 56 for Obama, 57 for Bush, and 50 for Clinton. The gender and education gaps also stand at record levels, and Mr. Biden is the only president in recent polling history—perhaps ever—to hold the support of less than half of white Americans at this point in his administration. If these gaps persist, it will be hard for the president to redeem his campaign promise of reunifying the country.

15 April
Democrats Were Lukewarm on Campaign Biden. They Love President Biden.
Joe Biden never captured the hearts of Democratic voters in the way Barack Obama once did. But now that he is in office, he is drawing nearly universal approval from his party.
(NYT) Mr. Biden has avoided taking up liberals’ most politically thorny proposals — like expanding the Supreme Court or canceling $1 trillion in student debt — while sticking to a public posture of bipartisan outreach and measured language. But his policy agenda has given progressives plenty to cheer, including the dozens of executive orders he has signed and the ambitious legislative agenda he has proposed, beginning with the passage of one of the largest economic stimulus packages in American history.
He began his term this winter with an approval rating of 98 percent among Democrats, according to Gallup. This represents a remarkable measure of partisan consensus — outpacing even the strongest moments of Republican unity during the presidency of Mr. Trump. … And as Mr. Biden nears his 100th day in office, most public polls have consistently shown him retaining the approval of more than nine in 10 Democrats nationwide. In separate polls released on Wednesday by Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University, Mr. Biden’s approval was at 95 percent and 94 percent among members of his own party.

31 March
Beyond bridges: Biden redefines infrastructure to add people
(AP) — Beyond roads and bridges, President Joe Biden is trying to redefine infrastructure not just as an investment in America the place, but in its workers, families and people.
The first phase of his “Build Back Better” package to be unveiled Wednesday in Pittsburgh would unleash $2 trillion in new spending on four main hard infrastructure categories — transportation; public water, health and broadband systems; community care for seniors; and innovation research and development, according to people familiar with the proposal.
The next phase would focus on soft infrastructure investments in child care, family tax credits and other domestic programs.
… Taken together, the administration’s approach is transforming the old ideas of infrastructure investment into a 21st century concept that includes developing the human capital of America’s population.

18 March
Becerra Confirmed As HHS Secretary in Closest Vote Yet
By Ed Kilgore
Becerra’s confirmation leaves just three Cabinet posts unfilled: secretary of Labor (former Boston mayor Marty Walsh is the nominee), director of the Office of Science and Technology (Biden has nominated pioneering geneticist Eric Lander), and director of the Office of Management and Budget. Withdrawn OMB nominee Neera Tanden represents the only casualty Biden has suffered in Cabinet confirmations, and he hasn’t named a replacement yet.

15 March
Biden under pressure to tap fewer political ambassadors than Trump, Obama
Donors are growing impatient as Biden delays naming coveted ambassador posts.
(Politico) The State Department is still waiting on the White House to signal which posts will be reserved for career diplomats, according to two current and former U.S. officials. The administration has yet to nominate people for an array of top State Department positions, including assistant secretaries and undersecretaries.
“We continue to engage in conversations with the White House and we’ve been gratified that our counterparts understand and value the importance of career professionals in senior roles, including ambassadorships,” a senior State Department official said when asked about the status of the situation.
During the Democratic primary, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on her rivals to pledge not to reward donors with ambassadorships. Biden refused to rule out the practice but said that anyone he appointed would be qualified and would not receive the nod based on their contributions.

11 March
Biden Tells Nation There Is Hope After a Devastating Year
In his first prime-time address from the White House, the president said that he would order states to make all adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1 and that a return to normalcy was possible by July 4.
President Biden signed a historic $1.9 trillion economic relief package into law Thursday afternoon, a day earlier than the White House had planned, ushering in new federal aid across the country amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Biden had originally been scheduled to sign the bill on Friday, after it had been reviewed again and printed. But the president and his advisers, aware that low- and middle-income Americans are desperate for the round of direct payments that the bill includes, moved up the timeline to Thursday afternoon.
David Brooks: Joe Biden Is a Transformational President
We’re seeing a policy realignment without a partisan realignment.

10 March
Congress Clears $1.9 Trillion Aid Bill, Sending It to Biden
The sweeping legislation had no support from Republican lawmakers, who called it bloated and unaffordable. It will deliver emergency aid and broader assistance to low- and middle-income Americans.
By a vote of 220 to 211, the House sent the measure to Mr. Biden for his signature, cementing one of the largest injections of federal aid since the Great Depression.
Merrick Garland Is Confirmed as Attorney General
The federal judge will take over a Justice Department battered during the Trump administration and confronting the threat from domestic extremism.
Marcia Fudge, Biden’s Pick to Lead HUD, Is Confirmed by Senate
Ms. Fudge faces as tough a task as any cabinet secretary: rebuilding a neglected agency central to the fight against racial inequity and poverty.
Representative Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio was confirmed as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday, becoming the first Black woman in decades to run an agency that will be at the forefront of the Biden administration’s efforts to fight racial inequity and poverty.
Senate Confirms Biden’s Pick to Lead E.P.A.
Michael S. Regan has said he intends to act aggressively in carrying out the president’s agenda of fighting climate change.
The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Michael S. Regan, the former top environmental regulator for North Carolina, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and drive some of the Biden administration’s biggest climate and regulatory policies.
As administrator, Mr. Regan, who began his career at the E.P.A. and worked in environmental and renewable energy advocacy before becoming secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, will be tasked to rebuild an agency that lost thousands of employees under the Trump administration.

25 -27 February
House Democrats pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan despite setback on minimum wage
The president’s wide-ranging relief bill clears the House over unanimous GOP opposition, heads to Senate
The House approved President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan early Saturday and sent it to the Senate, as Democrats defied united GOP opposition to advance the massive relief package aimed at stabilizing the economy and boosting coronavirus vaccinations and testing.
The legislation, Biden’s first major agenda item, passed 219-212. Republicans unanimously opposed the bill, a strikingly partisan outcome just a month after the new president was inaugurated with calls for bipartisanship and unity. All but two Democrats voted in favor.
The action in the House came after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the $15 minimum wage in the legislation is not permitted under Senate rules. House Democrats included it anyway, and it’s not clear how the issue will get resolved.
Ahead of the vote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pledged that even if the Senate takes out the minimum-wage increase — the No. 1 priority for many liberals — the House will “absolutely” pass the revised legislation and send it to Biden to sign.
Top Senate Official Disqualifies Minimum Wage From Stimulus Plan
(NYT) The parliamentarian ruled that the provision, which would gradually increase the wage to $15 an hour, violated the strict budgetary rules that limit what can be included in the package. … Ms. MacDonough told Senate offices on Thursday that the provision as written violated the strict budgetary rules that limit what can be included in a reconciliation package. …reconciliation ensures speed, but it also comes with stringent rules that aim to prevent the process from being abused for policy initiatives that have no direct effect on the federal budget.

20 February
Biden’s top doctor nominee made more than $2 million doing pandemic consulting, speeches
Tapped to be surgeon general, Vivek Murthy’s financial entanglements draw scrutiny before his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday
(WaPo) Murthy, whose Senate confirmation hearing is scheduled for Thursday, is expected to narrowly win confirmation to return to the role of surgeon general, six years after his first grueling confirmation battle as President Barack Obama’s nominee — and four years after President Donald Trump abruptly fired him, shortly after taking office. Murthy’s financial disclosures could complicate his candidacy given strong conservative opposition to him on other grounds — such as his longtime advocacy of treating gun violence as a public health problem. But Republicans have thus far stayed away from his finances and it’s unclear whether Democrats will raise the issue, despite repeatedly chastising Trump’s health nominees for their corporate ties

14 February
Biden Takes Center Stage With Ambitious Agenda as Trump’s Trial Ends
President Biden’s has said he hopes for bipartisan support, but his prospects are complicated by the fact that much of his agenda is aimed at dismantling the policies of his predecessor.
The president plans to quickly press for his $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, and then move on to infrastructure, immigration, climate change and other major priorities.
Mr. Biden has so far succeeded in pushing his agenda forward even amid the swirl of the impeachment, trial and acquittal of former President Donald J. Trump. House committees are already debating parts of the coronavirus relief legislation he calls the American Rescue Plan. Several of the president’s cabinet members have been confirmed despite the Trump drama. And Mr. Biden’s team is pressing lawmakers for quick action when senators return from a week-long recess.

Biden’s economic point man draws praise — and pushback
Allies laud Brian Deese’s leadership on the stimulus negotiations, but he’s rubbed some the wrong way.
The 42-year-old head of the National Economic Council, Deese has emerged as a major player in the early days of the administration. … Some GOP lawmakers have said they’d like to see other Biden administration officials get involved in the coronavirus relief talks, as well. Several noted that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin worked productively with Democrats to craft Congress’ previous coronavirus relief packages and said they’d be open to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen playing a similar role.

27 January
Biden, Emphasizing Job Creation, Signs Sweeping Climate Actions
The array of directives — touching on international relations, drilling policy, employment and national security, among other things — elevate climate change across every level of the federal government.
Biden Team Rushes to Take Over Government, and Oust Trump Loyalists
(NYT) When President Biden swore in a batch of recruits for his new administration in a teleconferenced ceremony late last week, it looked like the country’s biggest Zoom call. In fact, Mr. Biden was installing roughly 1,000 high-level officials in about a quarter of all of the available political appointee jobs in the federal government.

26 January
Antony J. Blinken is confirmed as secretary of state.
Blinken Takes Over at State Dept. With a Review of Trump’s Policies
The Senate confirmed Antony J. Blinken as secretary of state. He is looking to reverse the Trump administration’s confrontational approach to diplomacy.
Biden’s Cabinet and Senior Advisers
President Biden’s nominees are slowly making their way through Senate confirmation.
The Biden plan to be boring – programming the news coverage of their opening weeks in office through thematic days based around executive orders — each day involving “a slate of unilateral actions, a background briefing with reporters and a press appearance by a top aide, or, perhaps, the head honcho himself.”

24 January
Biden is firing some top Trump holdovers, but in some cases, his hands may be tied
The Biden team, showing a willingness to cut tenures short, moved quickly last week to dump several high-profile, Senate-confirmed Trump appointees whose terms extended beyond Inauguration Day — in some cases by several years. [Biden Has Already Fired Three of Trump’s Worst Appointees]
But other, lower-profile Trump loyalists, some of whom helped carry out his administration’s most controversial policies, are scattered throughout Biden’s government in permanent, senior positions. And identifying them, let alone dislodging them, could be difficult for the new leadership.

White House installs new leadership at federally-funded international broadcasters

Three days into the Biden administration and lots of commenters are noting the return of calm in the media, and the return of a sense of stability in the government. People are sleeping so much better that the word “slept” trended on Twitter the day after the inauguration.
Biden, a long-time institutionalist, seems to be trying scrupulously to restore the precise functions of different branches of government, as well as the nonpartisan civil bureaucracy that, so far, has protected our democracy from falling to a dictator.

22 January
Who is Lloyd Austin, America’s first Black defense secretary?
Austin’s confirmation followed back-to-back votes in the House and Senate Thursday that granted him a waiver to hold the position, as federal law requires individuals to wait seven years after retiring from active-duty service before holding the role of defense secretary

21 January
These are the executive orders Biden has signed so far
The new president signed 17 executive orders and other directives on the first day of his presidency in what administration officials have said is an initial wave of actions Biden will take in his first 10 days in office. Among them:
Executive order reversing U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO)
Executive order rejoining the Paris Climate Accords
Executive order revoking permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and stopping oil and pausing gas leasing at Arctic refuge
Proclamation cutting off funding for the border wall
Memorandum strengthening the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program
The Defining Battle of Biden’s Presidency Is Already Raging in the Senate
(New York) When the Democratic party lost Congress back in 2010, many of its core constituencies were left holding IOUs. Labor left the Obama era without card check, climate hawks got neither “cap” nor “trade,” immigrant-rights groups never collected on their promised path to citizenship, and advocates for gun control and myriad other progressive causes were similarly stiffed.
In the years since, the party’s debts to its coalition have only mounted. Among other things, Joe Biden enters office having promised to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, enact a wide array of collective-bargaining reforms, pass a new voting rights act, grant statehood to Washington, D.C., and put the U.S. on a path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
But he will do none of this unless all 50 Senate Democrats agree to abolish the legislative filibuster.
Democrats shoot down McConnell’s filibuster gambit
Democrats are shooting down an effort by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to include protections for the legislative filibuster as part of a Senate power-sharing deal.
Biden ousts controversial head of US Agency for Global Media
Pack drew fire from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike for ignoring a subpoena to testify before a House panel over several controversies, including his widespread firings of the heads of multiple broadcast agencies and halting funds for the U.S. Open Technology Fund

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