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A sense of urgency grips the White House with Biden facing crises on many fronts
The coronavirus pandemic Biden thought he tamed this spring continues to deny Americans a return to normal life and is disrupting the economic recovery by dampening job growth, even as it fuels higher-than-expected inflation. Afghanistan’s heartbreaking pullout has also raised doubts about its international leadership at a time of growing tensions with China.
All of this has eroded the president’s public reputation, slowed the momentum of his national program in Congress, and made the 78-year-old president appear ineffective. Capitol Hill leaders insist they can unite the party behind its infrastructure, social policy and climate change goals by the end of the month, but Biden’s worried aides want a more outcome fast.

“We’re going to finish it this week or deploy a new approach” to do something, a senior administration official told CNN.

The White House’s impatience is fueled by the specter of losing the ability to achieve its goals for the remainder of Biden’s tenure. Democratic political strategists warn that the collapse of its legislative platform would end the party’s bitter struggle to protect its very slim majorities in the House and Senate in next year’s midterm elections. The president’s main collaborators know that time is not on their side.

Two months of struggles brought Biden’s public approval ratings below the 50% mark he had consistently surpassed during his first months in office. By historical standards, the decline is not dramatic.

But the partisan polarization of contemporary politics hardly ever produces large swings in the polls. Biden’s decline so far – from the low 50s to the mid-1940s – could mean the difference between a presidential tailwind and an anchor for Democratic candidates under fierce attack from Republicans if she does. persists next year.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki played down concerns inside the White House when pressed by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on how Biden views the range of challenges facing his administration is facing.

“We are not too gloomy here even if the going gets tough. Our point of view and his is to keep moving forward and meeting the challenges facing the American people,” Psaki said.

Neither a short-term decline in approval nor even the loss of Congress condemns a presidency. Bill Clinton was re-elected in 1996 after Republicans put him on the ropes by sweeping both houses of Congress two years earlier. Barack Obama, of whom Biden was vice president, won a second term after the Tea Party-fueled Republican landslide in 2010.

But regaining a foothold depends on Biden restoring public confidence that he’s up to the job. Even more than passing its economic program, it means consolidating what had been its fundamental asset: the belief that its constant focus on economic relief and vaccinations against Covid-19 was restoring calm, stability and normalcy after the turmoil and the resentment of Donald Trump’s presidency.

The erosion of this force underscores the importance of a judgment that could prove to be more politically important than any other he has made this year, from legislative strategy to withdrawal from Afghanistan: the decision to slow down vaccination requirements to avoid inflaming Republican opponents.

By the time persistent resistance to voluntary vaccinations pushed the White House towards terms of office in mid-summer, the Delta variant had begun to obscure the light at the end of the long pandemic tunnel.

“The Biden administration should have adopted proof of vaccination early on,” said Dr. Leana Wen, the former Baltimore public health chief who is now a health analyst at CNN. “We would be in a very different place right now.”

The hope for Biden and his party now is that the possibility of an inflection points to his two main challenges.

In recent weeks, Biden’s tougher approach to vaccinations for government and private business has started to pay off. The drop in infections, hospitalizations and deaths suggests that the Delta variant could follow the same cycle of decline as previous outbreaks of Covid.

Former US Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb even speculated that the “pandemic phase” would end by the end of the year.

At the same time, the recognition that Democrats will sink or swim in unison produced a movement in the legislative negotiations behind the scenes, even as Congress was on vacation. Discussions now focus on a $ 2,000 billion prize for the Democrats-only economic package that Biden associated with the $ 1,200 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was passed by the Senate in the past. summer.

A letter that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released publicly on Monday hinted at the resolution of a critical decision – to focus, as ambitions of the Democrats’ package dwindle, on sufficient funding for less. goals rather than scattering money over more of them.

Negotiators are touting positive signals from Sens. Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, the two recalcitrant Democratic senators who remain the biggest headache for Biden and party leaders.

“People working on this are optimistic,” an assistant to the Democratic House leadership told CNN. “The two say in private that they want to support the second bill.”

“We will have a bill,” added a Democratic senator, although getting a compromise may not come as quickly as the White House wants. “I don’t think the end of the week is likely or necessary.”

Virginia Democratic candidate for governor Terry McAuliffe shares Team Biden’s urgency for a demonstration of governance proficiency. His close battle against Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin ends in three weeks.

“This is my message to everyone in Washington: Pass this infrastructure bill. We are desperate in the United States,” McAuliffe told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday.

“We need these roads and bridges fixed.… Walk into a room, here’s what we need and here’s what it’s going to cost. It shouldn’t be that hard.”

Democratic political strategists don’t see this week as a critical milestone for 2022. What matters, they say, is success as the mid-term campaigns begin in earnest.

“Things are not going very well at the moment,” admitted Mark Mellman, one of the main Democratic strategists. “But things are changing. If by next year the pandemic subsides, Democrats look like legislative geniuses for passing two transformative bills with a slim majority, and the money is flowing through the economy, the picture will be much brighter. “

Yet change cannot come quickly enough for a White House under increasing pressure. This is what motivates Biden’s assistants to search for a potential Plan B.

When asked what would happen if Democrats couldn’t come to a compromise deal this week, the senior administration official only replied, “Let’s see what happens next.”