WASHINGTON (AP) — A year into a presidency defined by lofty ambitions and sometimes frustrating shortcomings, President Joe Biden will try to speak to anxious Americans about the challenges of completing his long to-do list as he holds a rare press conference and asks for patience with the pace of progress.
Ahead of the session, set for 4 p.m. EST Wednesday, his 365th day in office, Biden gave no indication that he believed a reset was in order. But his appearance came on the same day that protracted efforts by Democrats to overhaul the country’s election laws looked set to collapse on Capitol Hill and as Biden’s massive social spending agenda stalled.
The East Room event will provide Biden with the opportunity to highlight his accomplishments in front of a national audience, and he was sure to highlight the bipartisan infrastructure law enacted under his watch, a roaring economy and the country’s progress against COVID- 19.
Still, it’s a perilous time for Biden: The nation is grappling with a disruptive new wave of virus cases and inflation is at a level not seen in a generation. Biden’s approval rating has fallen sharply in his first year in office and Democrats are bracing for a potential midterm rout if he can’t turn the tide.
Biden has held just six solo press conferences in his first year in office. The continued threat of the coronavirus will be evident in the very setup of Wednesday’s rally: a limited number of journalists will be allowed to attend, and all will be required to be tested for the virus and wear masks.
The White House said Biden would use his appearance to highlight progress but also to “align” with the public on the challenges ahead.
“The job isn’t done, the job isn’t done, and we certainly aren’t passing it on,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. “So our focus, and I think what you’ll hear from the president tomorrow, is how do we build on the foundation that we laid in year one.”
When it comes to voting rights, she said, Biden’s view “is that it’s never a good idea not to shoot for the moon with what your proposals are and what you’re for.” you fight. And the alternative is to fight for nothing and to fight for nothing hard.
The lasting impact of COVID-19 has become a burden on Biden’s presidency, despite his best efforts to rally the country in common purpose to defeat the virus. As a candidate, he promised to restore normalcy to a pandemic-torn nation, but overcrowded hospitals, grocery store shortages and fierce divisions over vaccination mandates and face mask requirements abound.
In the Senate, meanwhile, Democrats are poised to lose a vote to change chamber rules to pass voting reform legislation due to opposition from Democratic sensei Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe West Virginia Manchin. It will underscore the strains on Biden’s influence just a week after he delivered an impassioned speech in Atlanta comparing opponents of the measures to segregationists and urging senators to action.
And just a month ago, Manchin blocked Biden’s roughly $2 trillion legislation to tackle climate change, reduce child poverty and expand the social safety net, funded by many. new taxes on the rich. That bill, which contains much of what Biden hopes will form a lasting national legacy, is now on the back burner as Democrats await Biden’s guidance on how to proceed.
The bill was once seen as a catch-all for various progressive priorities, but now Democrats feel the need to offer another achievement to midterm voters and are beginning to accept a slimmed-down package that can overcome Manchin. reluctance.
“I’m open to anything that gets us across the finish line,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told CBS News on Tuesday. “We just have to get what we can across the finish line.”
Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin encouraged Biden to be “honest and realistic” in his comments to Americans, especially on the stark realities of what’s possible in a 50-50 split Senate where any lawmaker can block Biden’s agenda.
“We need to have an agenda that’s not just appealing to voters, but realistic on Capitol Hill,” Durbin, D-Ill, said Tuesday. “It’s good to have an ambitious agenda, but it has to come down to the harsh reality of producing votes.”
Recent Democratic presidents have developed course corrections in their first terms after facing blame in the midterm elections. President Bill Clinton took a more moderate direction after being pushed around in 1994; President Barack Obama was forced to recalibrate after acknowledging he was “roughed up” mid-term in 2010.
Biden, for his part, is signaling he’s not ready for a major leadership change after recent political setbacks. Instead, his White House promises hard work to keep promises made.
His words will be closely watched both at home and abroad, as the United States seeks to rally an international coalition to defuse a perilous situation in Eastern Europe.
“We are now at a stage where Russia could, at any time, launch an attack in Ukraine,” Psaki said on Tuesday, reiterating that the United States and its allies would impose heavy economic sanctions on Russia if it seizes other Ukrainian territories.
Former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs called on Biden to acknowledge Americans’ concerns about the future.
“President Biden needs to reassure Americans that he understands their economic concerns, particularly around inflation, and that his administration is focused on getting the country back to normal by increasing the availability of testing, working of keeping schools and businesses open and giving clearer guidance on COVID,” he mentioned.
“He should resist the idea of a victory lap or try in one event to reframe the current narrative by proving what he has already achieved and instead live where anxious Americans are, talk the way to go and less of the distance already travelled,” Gibbs added.
PA Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.