On January 20th, Joe Biden officially entered the office of president. Preceding him, one of the most exhausting election cycle in modern American history. Yet, his biggest challenge lies before him. “Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now,” Biden pronounced in his inaugural address.
In his effort to tackle the four “converging crises”, President Biden will attempt to carry out a flurry of legislation in his first 100 days not seen since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program. In Biden’s path lays a disorganized federal government and a divided Congress. Following a polarizing political time in America, Biden promised to unite a divided country. However, achieving many of his political goals may heavily rely on the one-vote majority that Democrats have in the Senate.
Here’s an overview of what Biden’s First 100 Days will look like:
Getting the Pandemic Under Control:
Despite the recent slow in coronavirus cases, the Covid-19 pandemic is still running rampant within the U.S.. In addition, new Covid variants are now spreading so fast that it led the director of the CDC to caution health officials to treat “every case as it if it’s a variant”.
A newly inaugurated President Biden has gone straight to work. So far he has re-entered the U.S. in the World Health Organization, enacted a mask mandate on federal property, and required international travelers to test negative for Covid before entering the country. However, Biden’s biggest challenge remains his pledge to 100 million vaccines in 100 days.
President Biden’s plan involves invoking the Defense Production Act in order to speed up the number of tests and vaccines, shipping out vaccines directly to pharmacies, and getting emergency use authorization for vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. Biden has called for more direct federal involvement for resource allocation, something that so far has largely been something left to the states.
In the 2 months since a Covid-19 vaccine was authorized, the U.S. has only administered 35 million doses, much less than official predicted. Vaccine rollout has been impaired by supply shortages, public confusion, and lack of communication between the federal and state governments.
Despite the tall order, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases expressed optimism on NBC’s Meet the Press: “it’s an absolutely doable thing… there’s no doubt about it that it can be done.” As vaccine production ramps and the initial “glitches” are worked out, Fauci believes the U.S. can achieve “1 million a day or more”.
Stimulating Economic Growth:
The unemployment rate remains at 6.7%, as the pandemic continues to halt economic growth. Despite a large decrease from the early days of the pandemic–when unemployment hit a staggering 15%– it is still a far reach from just a year ago (February 2020) when unemployment was 3.5%. Joe Biden’s main goal for his early presidency is to deliver on a campaign promise of $2000 direct checks as apart of a large stimulus package.
Currently, a $1.9 trillion dollar stimulus bill that includes $1400 direct checks is moving through Congress. Biden’s biggest challenge comes from Republican lawmakers who accuse Biden of bypassing negotiation and breaking his promise to find common ground. Senate Republicans proposed a $600 billion package that did not include direct checks, which Biden rejected. Democrats have the power to pass the bill, but it will probably be the only stimulus package passed without bipartisan support.
In addition, perhaps the largest part of Biden’s proposed stimulus bill is an amendment that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15-per-hour by 2025. However, it is unlikely to get Republican support and that may spell trouble for the proposal. To pass it on a majority vote, the amendment would need to be directly tied to the annual budget, which it is not. Additionally, in order to pass a separate minimum wage bill, Democrats would need to garner support from 10 Senate Republicans, which is unlikely to happen. Mitch McConnell called out Biden in a recent press release, saying that Biden “says compromise but governs left.”
Realistically, Biden’s goal to raise the minimum wage to $15 will meet an end in the Senate. It appears that to meet his promise, Biden will need much more than 100 days.
Tackling Race and Inequity:
On January 20, Joe Biden became the first president in U.S. history to condemn white supremacy during an inaugural address. Biden has promised to create major criminal justice reform in wake of Black Lives Matter protests. His main goal in this time period is to change the “political culture” in Washington.
Under the previous Justice Department, heavy-handed tactics and a pervasive “law and order” idealogy led the federal government to become less involved in racial mitigation efforts. In his first 100 days, Biden promises to invest $300 million in community policing, institute a national police commission, and ask the Justice Department to investigate reported issues of misconduct. Besides that, President Biden has promised to extend a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, apart of which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 and has been floundering in Congress ever since. Biden will almost certainly need to negotiate with Republicans in order to pass any voting legislation through the Senate.
Enacting Climate Regulation:
In November, the UN announced that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels had hit a new historical high, despite economic shutdowns caused by the pandemic. It’s yet another signal that climate change is rapidly becoming a dire problem. For President Biden, the climate is yet another issue that requires consequential and large legislative action.
In the years since Obama’s presidency, the U.S. has largely remained out of the global climate picture. In its stead, China has taken over as the world’s leader in climate change policy. Biden’s job in his first 100 days is to signal to the world that the U.S. will become a leader on climate once again. On Day 1 of his presidency, he re-entered the Paris Climate Accords that requires countries to set carbon emissions targets in order to prevent global temperatures from rising. Biden will also host an international climate summit on Earth Day to reaffirm the U.S.’s commitment to climate change.
Biden’s biggest challenge is his plan to bring the U.S. to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The plan is to invest $2 trillion over the next four years in renewable energy and sustainable processes. Inevitably, Biden would need congressional support to pass a clean energy overhaul. With a divided Senate, Biden will be lucky to pass any large-scale measures by the end of his term.