Analysis: The bite exceeds what is possible in divided DC

WASHINGTON (AP) – He was supposed to break through Congress’s logjam. End the pandemic. Get your finances back …

WASHINGTON (AP) – He was supposed to break through Congress’s logjam. End the pandemic. Get the economy back on track.

Days before he reaches his one-year mark in office, a stream of bad news gnaws at the basic rationale for President Joe Biden’s presidency: that he could get the job done.

Over the course of a week, Biden has been confronted with record-breaking inflation, lack of COVID-19 tests and school disruptions and the second major downturn on his domestic agenda in as many months by members of his own party. This time, it is his push for the right to vote that appears to be doomed.

Add to that the Supreme Court’s rejection of a key element in his response to the coronavirus, and Biden’s argument – that his five decades in Washington uniquely positioned him to deliver on an extremely ambitious agenda – was in danger of crumbling this week.

Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, said Biden’s sweeping promises have collided with the realities of implementing change in a divided Washington, where his party has only the slightest margins of control in Congress.

“I do not think there is any way to reach another conclusion that he is surplus here,” Engel said. “It is important to separate the politically possible from the politically desirable.”

The bite’s problems date back to August, when the administration carried out a chaotic and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan. And the president’s declared competence was already in doubt as migrants multiplied at the southern border with no clear federal plan in sight. It worsened further as inflation, which was supposed to be “transient”, only intensified at the end of the year.

“I’ve been hired to solve problems,” Biden said in March last year during his first press conference in the office. Yet they have proved persistent.

The difficulty of navigating Washington’s annoying bias and the unpredictability of the presidency should have come as no surprise to Biden, a senator for more than three decades who also spent eight years as vice president.

It is unlikely that Biden will get much sympathy from the public for his predicament.

Even with the now widespread protection of vaccination, new scenes of long virus test lines and sold-out grocery shelves lead back to the earliest chaotic days of the pandemic, dragging the nation’s psyche down.

The administration is doing everything to counter this mindset and demonstrate that it is on top of the virus.

A federal website to send free COVID-19 tests to Americans’ doorstep will be launched next week – a quick turnaround after Biden first announced the initiative in December – but one that nonetheless beat even allies to arrive far too late to dull the winter virus rise that should have been expected. And it was only after months of pressure that Biden finally came to announce Thursday that his administration will begin making “high-quality masks” available to Americans for free.

This announcement was overshadowed, on a day that brought nothing but bad news for Biden, by a Supreme Court ruling against the Biden administration’s rule requiring large employers to have their workers vaccinated or subjected to weekly COVID-19 testing. . White House officials had always anticipated legal challenges, and many in the administration believe that the very spread of the rule helped get millions of people vaccinated. Still, the verdict swirled.

The day also brought new indications that Biden’s voting rights, like his law on social spending before it, appear to have been condemned by a lack of support in his own party and his inability to attract Republicans. In each case, Biden gave an exalted speech about the need to get something done and traveled to Capitol Hill to rally his own party, only to be rejected.

Both parts of the law required all 50 democratic votes to pass the Senate – and in the case of voting rights, an obligation from the same senators to change the rules of the House to allow the bill to pass by a simple majority.

But on Thursday, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona did not even give Biden the courtesy to hear his pitch in person before saying she would not stand behind the change. She joined West Virginia’s Joe Manchin in re-empting Biden’s legislative dreams.

The two senators spent just over an hour in the White House Thursday night, but it seemed almost impossible to find a way forward for the legislation.

Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Michigan, said Biden had cultivated “sky-high expectations when he inevitably can not meet them.”

“If you want to be FDR,” Meijer added, “it’s probably a precondition that you have a mandate. On the same ballot that elected Joe Biden to office, Dems almost lost Parliament.”

The bid’s handling of the economy has brought its own set of challenges. The president has presided over record-breaking job creation, but also over renewed fears of inflation.

Biden tried to allay inflation concerns this summer, insisting that it was the predictable result of restarting the economy after the pandemic and that rising prices would soon fade.

“Our experts believe and the data show that most of the price increases we have seen were expected and expected to be temporary,” he said in July. “The reality is that you can not turn back the global economic light and not expect this to happen.”

But inflation only multiplied as summer ended and oil prices rose. That prompted the president, who has promised a future without fossil fuels, to make a record release from the U.S. oil reserve to help curb gas costs. Nevertheless, inflation in December peaked at almost 40 years of 7% annually.

The high prices cut into the public’s confidence in Biden. Only 41% of Americans approved of his economic leadership last month, down from 60% in March and below his overall approval rating of 48% in the same poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

At the same time, amid the rise of new COVID-19 variants – first delta and now omicron – Biden’s approval rating for dealing with the pandemic dropped from 70% early in his presidency to 57% in the December survey.

The White House withdrew from the setbacks as part of a president’s job is aiming high.

“You’re doing tough things in White Houses,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. “You have all the challenges laid at your feet, whether it is global or domestic. And we could certainly propose legislation to see if people support rabbit rabbits and ice cream, but that would not be very rewarding for the American people. “

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Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

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EDITOR’S NOTE – Miller, Long and Boak cover the White House for the Associated Press.

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