During the 2020 United States presidential campaign, Joe Biden presented himself as a healer who would bring unity to a nation in crisis and a president who would be transformative. So far he has passed the first part.
On the two most immediate challenges – ending the pandemic and fixing the U.S. economy – the new U.S. president has scored victories in his first 100 days in office. However, other items on Biden’s agenda face challenges.
Congress adopted a $ 1.9 trillion in relief for COVID-19 and the stimulus bill and looks set to approve a measure of spending on jobs and infrastructure later this year, fulfilling key Biden campaign promises.
“Biden was a targeted candidate in this regard,” said Kyle Kondik, analyst at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
“He has talked a lot about the pandemic, talked a lot about the economy,” Kondik told Al Jazeera.
Biden now faces tough challenges in increasing migration on the southern border of the United States, mass shootings and unmet demands by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party for increased taxes on the rich, police reform and racial justice. And the continued political polarization – reflected in Biden’s narrow ruling majority in Congress – means the 2022 election could bring him defeat.
“Biden had a clear strategy, theme and message” focused on the pandemic and the economy, said James Thurber, professor of politics at the American University in Washington, DC.
“But that’s not necessarily how a president will be remembered,” Thurber told Al Jazeera. It all depends on what happens in the 2022 midterm election and Biden’s ability to deliver on his promises of “unity.”
Biden reported Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading US infectious disease specialist, has re-established the US Centers for Disease Control, both sidelined by former President Donald Trump, to leadership positions in the White House.
The administration delivered more than 200 million doses of the vaccine in its first 100 days – exceeding a benchmark set from Biden. This means that more than 135 million Americans have been vaccinated or are in the process of being vaccinated. Anyone over the age of 16 can now register for a vaccine appointment.
By mid-July, every American adult who wants a vaccine will have been able to get one, and the Biden administration will face a new challenge of urging those who are skeptical or resist getting the vaccine.
Data on infections in the United States has improved, although the numbers are still worrying. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have declined and are now averaging around 60,000 per day, up from a high of 254,000 per day in January. Deaths have fallen to less than 700 a day, according to CDC data.
Jobs and economy
Congressional approval of a $ 1.9 trillion spending program to fight the coronavirus pandemic and help save the U.S. economy was a huge victory for Biden.
“The COVID-19 response bill has been its main success. It was a huge package, ”Thurber said.
Biden and congressional Democrats used special fiscal rules to overcome the Republican opposition. The bill provided direct relief payments of $ 1,400 to most American citizens, except the wealthy.
The economic stimulus and Biden’s plans to increase infrastructure spending and promote jobs have helped a rebound.
Biden offered to spend an additional $ 2 trillion on an infrastructure and jobs program, but Republicans hit back with a more targeted $ 568 billion plan that garnered praise from Sen. Joe Manchin, a key centrist Democrat .
“Biden will get something from the US employment plan. How big is it, we don’t know, ”Thurber predicted.
This year, the economy has started growing at an annual rate of 5%, according to consensus estimates. The stock market hit record highs earlier in April and unemployment is down 6%.
Biden’s actions to reverse former President Donald Trump’s sweeping immigration policies on the US border with Mexico have fueled an increase in border crossings, especially by families and children.
Biden had promised to end Trump’s harsh “family separation” and to “stay in Mexico” when it comes to asylum policy. Detention centers at the U.S. borders have been swamped by a wave of migrants, leading Republicans to criticize the management of the new administration.
Biden proposed immigration reform legislation but put no political capital behind the proposal that languished in the congressional committee process. Republicans have jumped to exploit the situation.
“Republican political leaders know that immigration and border security are mobilization issues for their supporters,” said James Henson, a pollster at the University of Texas.
There is no political incentive for Republicans to compromise with Biden and domestic players like Republican Senator Ted Cruz are more likely to blow up a deal than seek a bipartisan deal, Henson said.
Immigration is an “intractable problem” defined by “politically polarized rhetoric” and getting lawmakers in the middle will be “incredibly difficult” for Biden, Henson told Al Jazeera.
Voting rights, police reform
With much of the Democratic Party blocked agenda in Congress, Biden will deliver a formal speech to a joint session of lawmakers on Wednesday outlining his agenda. Thursday – the 100th day of his presidency – Biden will visit Georgia.
Senator Raphael Warnock, a progressive Democrat who won a special election in Georgia earlier this year by giving Democrats control of the Senate, will be reelected. Stacey Abrams, who organized the black voter turnout for Biden, will likely be the Democratic candidate for governor.
“You’ll have a very powerful one-two punch at the top of the ticket,” Charles Bullock, professor of politics at the University of Georgia, told Al Jazeera.
And they will argue for right to vote, police reform and racial justice. “It will be a very effective message for Democrats,” Bullock said.