US politics has certain steadfast traditions. Evaluating a new president 100 days into their job is one of them, a custom that began when Franklin D. Roosevelt took the helm as the 32nd president in 1933. Many a time, these evaluations tend to pit the new president’s performance against their previous contemporaries. Fortunately for Joe Biden, the bar that Donald Trump had set was so low that it would have been impossible to not best it, even with a mediocre performance.
How Joe Biden Looks at the World
President Biden has proved that he is a shrewd politician, even if he is not the charismatic orator that Barack Obama was, in whose administration Biden served as vice-president from 2009 to 2017. To properly gauge the Biden administration, in addition to comparing the president’s performance against that of his predecessors, one must also evaluate him against his own campaign promises.
Bipartisan Politics Redefined
Without a doubt, the most significant achievement thus far for Biden has been the passage of his $1.9-trillion stimulus package, dubbed the American Rescue Plan. The bill was passed in both chambers of Congress without the support of a single Republican senator or House representative. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy summed up the Republican sentiment: “This isn’t a rescue bill; it isn’t a relief bill; it is a laundry list of left-wing priorities that predate the pandemic and do not meet the needs of American families.”
Even Obama, a political novice compared to Biden, managed to get three Republican senators to cross the aisle when he pushed through his American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009. That bill, in response to the global financial crisis, consisted of $787 billion in government spending, which later rose to $831 billion.
A detailed analysis of a draft version of Biden’s plan did show meaningful Republican support for many aspects of the bill, including the all-important $1,400 stimulus payment per person. Despite this, and the seasoned politician that he is, Biden could not make meaningful headway in his efforts to rekindle bipartisan politics, a campaign promise he mentioned in his inaugural address to the nation.
Talking about President Biden’s bipartisan politics, Utah Senator Mitt Romney tweeted: “A Senate evenly split between both parties and a bare Democratic House majority are hardly a mandate to ‘go it alone.’ The President should live up to the bipartisanship he preached in his inaugural address.”
Facing stiff GOP resistance, Biden, the astute politician that he is, has done the next best thing: He has redefined bipartisanship to go beyond elected Republican officials. When asked, “Have you rejected bipartisanship?” in a recent White House press conference, he responded: “I would like Republican — elected Republican support, but what I know I have now is that I have electoral support from Republican voters. Republican voters agree with what I’m doing.”
A Flurry of Executive Actions
Biden has signed a flurry of executive orders, presidential memoranda, proclamations and notices. Signing these presidential decrees at a pace eclipsing his recent predecessors, Biden’s executive actions reversed many of the decisions made by Trump in the areas of immigration, economy, equity, environment and the coronavirus pandemic. Of noteworthy significance are the ones related to gun control, gender equity, the prison system and the pandemic.
Calling gun violence a public health epidemic, the Biden administration announced specific actions to tackle the proliferation of “ghost guns.” In addition, Biden will nominate David Chipman to serve as the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, an organization that has not had a confirmed head since 2015.
On March 8, celebrated worldwide as International Women’s Day, Biden signed an executive order establishing the White House Gender Policy Council. The aim of the council is to promote gender equity by combating systemic bias, discrimination and sexual harassment. On the same day, he signed an executive order guaranteeing an educational environment free from all forms of sexual discrimination.
In many of her speeches, Angela Davis, the outspoken, firebrand activist, has described the American prison system as a business proposition to incarcerate black people and profit from it. In 2003, Davis talked about “slavery and the prison industrial complex” at the fifth annual Eric Williams Memorial Lecture that she delivered at Florida International University. On January 26, Biden signed an executive order to eliminate for-profit prison centers as a step toward reforming the nation’s flawed incarceration system.
It was heartening to read Biden’s executive order that acknowledges the fact that a disproportionate number of people of color are in prison, that mass incarceration does not make our communities safe, and incarceration levels will decrease if the federal government’s reliance on privately-operated, for-profit criminal detention centers is reduced. While it is a far cry from the criminal justice system reform the country sorely needs, it is a laudable step in the correct direction.
In stark contrast to the woefully inadequate response from the Trump administration, Biden has taken several decisive actions to address the coronavirus pandemic. He halted the US withdrawal from the World Health Organization and mandated wearing masks on federal property for 100 days. He also boosted the supply of vaccines and personal protective gear. Finally, Biden ensured that the response to the pandemic is equitable, data-driven and that care and treatment are accessible to everyone.
Time Is of the Essence
Coming off the high of passing the American Rescue Plan, Biden has launched the even more ambitious American Jobs Plan worth $2 trillion in spending over eight years. This initiative aims to invest in the country’s infrastructure and create new jobs. The hefty bill would be footed by reversing many of Trump’s tax cuts. These include raising the corporate tax rate to 28%; Trump slashed taxes from 35% to 21% in 2018, the biggest corporate cut in US history. Biden also aims to eliminate tax breaks for fossil fuel companies and block loopholes that allow for tax havens and offshoring jobs. Finally, the administration has proposed increasing the global minimum corporate tax rate to 21%.
Relying on a strategy to fund his ambitious infrastructure and jobs plan by primarily taxing large corporations will not pass muster with Republican lawmakers. It may even face resistance from centrist Democratic senators, such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
With a razor-thin majority in Congress, Joe Biden has accomplished more than what I had expected in his first 100 days. Yet there is no guarantee that the Democratic Party can hold onto the House and Senate majority in November 2022. If recent history is any indication, the House majority does usually switch party after midterm elections, as it happened for Trump, Obama and Bill Clinton during their first terms in office.
Whether the president’s redefinition of bipartisanship gains acceptance or not, time will tell. But as the savvy politician he is, Biden knows that he has limited time to advance his key agenda items in the next 20 months.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.