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Year 2: Biden plans more public outreach, less legislation

President Joe Biden entered his second year in office with a new focus on making weary Americans believe they are better off under his leadership as he adopts a pared-down agenda ahead of the midterm elections.

The lingering coronavirus, rising inflation and deadlock in Congress have taken a heavy toll on Biden’s approval rating and threaten a midterm routing for his party, but the president doesn’t see the need for a major change of direction.

Instead, Biden told members of the Democratic National Committee at a grassroots virtual event on Thursday that Democrats overall need to provide a clearer contrast to Republicans going forward. He said the contrast he hopes to paint is between the Democrats’ agenda and his absence from the Republican Party, which he said was “completely controlled by one man, who is focused on challenging the past.” – a veiled reference to former President Donald Trump and his continued false claims that he won the 2020 election.

“This is the choice we have to present to voters: between the plans we have to improve the lives of the American people, and no plan, none,” Biden said.

White House aides also planned more subtle changes to how Biden spends his time, with more emphasis on speaking directly to Americans and less time in the weeds with lawmakers crafting the bill. legislation.

“He wants to spend more time in the country and less time behind closed doors negotiating,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday. She said Biden would rely more on his aides to engage in legislative negotiations, in a bid to free up more of his time to travel and sell his policies.

The White House’s low-key response to a parade of bad headlines reflects the administration’s internal confidence that its predicament will ease in the coming months as the omicron variant of COVID-19 recedes and its policies will have time to take effect. Administration officials believe they have until the summer to back Biden’s approval rating to help salvage as many Democratic congressional seats as possible.

“The public doesn’t want me to be the ‘Senator President,'” Biden said at a rare press conference on Wednesday. “They want me to be the president and senators to be senators.” Biden acknowledged “there is a lot of frustration and fatigue in this country” and blamed it on the pandemic, “the new enemy.”

A video released Thursday by Biden’s inaugural committee to mark the end of his first year in office offered a glimpse of what was to come. The announcement highlights progress in the economy and against the virus, but acknowledges that the job is not being done.

“It’s not all the way back, but it’s getting stronger,” narrator Tom Hanks says of the economy. “We may be entering the third year of a pandemic that none of us wanted or expected, but we are moving forward.”

“I can feel the change,” says Sandra Lindsay, the New York nurse who was the first person in the United States to get an approved COVID-19 vaccine, in the video.

Get Americans to recognize that change is a priority for the White House.

The pandemic and its aftermath have altered how voters judge Biden’s performance. Its $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package launched the economy into a rapid recovery, but it also pushed inflation to a 7% rate that spooked voters. The result is an unusual schism in which voters are financially comfortable but deeply skeptical about the health of the national economy.

While 64% of Americans described their financial conditions as good, only 35% felt positive about the overall economy, according to a December poll from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Biden spent part of Thursday’s meeting with his infrastructure implementation task force, tasked with quickly turning last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law into shovels in the ground and creating new jobs. Billions of dollars have already been allocated and Biden wants to make sure he gets the credit.

While the White House did not immediately announce travel plans for Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to travel to California and Wisconsin this week to shed light on how law money is being used to fight forest fires and replacing lead water pipes.

Biden insists he is not dropping his nearly $2 trillion National Priorities Bill, but said Wednesday he hoped “pieces” would pass before midterms. Narrowing the bill would likely be necessary to win over Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she doesn’t want the legislation to lose its ambitions to tackle climate change and cut costs for working-class families.

“What the president calls ‘chunks,’ I hope will be a major piece of legislation in the future,” she said.

Eric Schultz, a former spokesman for President Barack Obama, said the administration has so far gotten too bogged down in the details of legislative negotiations. He suggested it course-correct by sending Biden out of Washington to talk more about the specifics of how his program has helped average Americans.

“Joe Biden is at his best when he speaks directly to the American people about what matters to them,” he said.

He also argued that Democrats need to be more forceful in contrasting Republicans.

“People need to understand he has his back,” Schultz said. “And Republicans don’t. And so when he makes this case, it reinforces who in Washington is working for them.”

Ben LaBolt, another former Obama spokesman, suggested that Biden’s first-year legislative struggles had a silver lining: “tempered expectations” for what’s possible, as well as a “sense of urgency.” from Democrats to do something about Congress before midterms, when they might lose control of one or both chambers.

“The accomplishments of the past year are not yet fully embedded in the average American,” he said. “And it takes time for them to become familiar with the legislation after it’s passed,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Josh Boak contributed.


The Independent Gt

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