Beautiful afternoon: setbacks put Biden reset at risk

WASHINGTON (AP) – It was an hour President Joe Biden would no doubt like to forget.

On Friday, the Pentagon admitted that a drone strike in Afghanistan killed 10 civilians, including seven children, and not terrorists. A panel advising the Food and Drug Administration voted not to recommend COVID booster injections for all Americans over 16, dashing hope from the administration. And France has announced that it is recalling its ambassador to the United States out of anger that it was excluded from a secret deal on nuclear submarines that Biden had reached with the United Kingdom and Australia.

The punitive headlines, all in less than an hour, highlighted the dangers to any president of the uncontrollable events that can define a term.

They came as Biden saw the number of public approvals drop as the COVID-19 crisis worsened and Americans were blamed for the imperfect US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The administration had hoped to put in place stricter vaccine guidelines, a new international alliance to thwart China, and a new commitment to what Biden has done best: building on his years on Capitol Hill and his knowledge of the legislative process. to coax his fellow Democrats into spending the two away – hitting the expense bills that form the heart of his agenda.

These ambitions are now more difficult.

Biden has proclaimed that beating the pandemic is the central mission of his presidency, but the United States now has an average of more than 145,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 per day, down from a low of about 8,500 per day ago. three months.

The President has decided to blame the resurgence of cases on the more than 70 million Americans who have not received a vaccine and the GOP lawmakers who have opposed his increasingly vigorous efforts to push the people to get vaccinated. Aides had hoped for full FDA approval for the boosters, but the advisory committee only recommended them for people over 65 or with underlying health issues or special circumstances.

In recent days, Biden aides have quietly expressed their relief that the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan – like the war itself for much of its nearly two decades – has made headlines. That sentiment was shattered on Friday afternoon when the Pentagon revealed the wandering target of what was believed to be the last US drone strike of the war.

Biden had long advocated leaving Afghanistan and, even after a suicide bombing killed 13 U.S. servicemen, and told advisers the decision was correct. The president is known for his certainty, a stubbornness that flared when he rejected suggestions that he regretted the way the withdrawal came about.

Since then, Aides has been quick to note that more than 120,000 people have been successfully evacuated and claim that the quiet efforts of the United States ensure the constant departure of more from the Taliban regime.

The end of Afghanistan is part of an effort to refocus foreign policy on China, a goal that gained momentum with the surprise announcement of the agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom. Australia.

But not only was Beijing hesitating, as was Paris, as France angrily accused the United States of excluding France from the alliance and scuttling its own submarine deal with Australia.

And then France recalled its ambassador after its officials expressed dismay that they believed Biden had turned out to be as unreliable a partner as his predecessor Donald Trump.

The tension with France came just as Biden was hoping to pivot to his ambitious national agenda.

But there are strong ideological differences among Capitol Hill Democrats over the size and substance of the $ 3.5 trillion spending package to be passed in tandem with the bipartisan $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill. . And all of Congress will be forced to juggle White House legislation while being overwhelmed by looming debt ceiling and government funding deadlines.

The West Wing is recreating a legislative strategy that secured the passage of the $ 1.9 trillion COVID relief in March and passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill by $ 1 trillion. dollars in the Senate in August, according to a half-dozen White House aides and outside advisers who were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations. With Biden coaxing lawmakers, the infrastructure bill is set to pass the House along with the $ 3.5 trillion spending bill that contains many of the president’s priorities – like climate change and guarding the house. ‘children – and would pass the Senate depending on the party.

With the Senate tied 50-50 and the House Democrats’ margin only a handful of seats, few votes can be lost, and it could be a formidable task to unite moderate Democrats like Sense. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who wants a much smaller spending bill, with Liberals like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has firmly said he can’t go down.

The White House has also restarted filling the president’s agenda with events intended to highlight the need to pass the bills, including linking visits to sites of natural disasters – fires in California and Idaho, hurricanes in New York and New Jersey – to climate change funding in legislation.

And last Thursday, on what had been tentatively scheduled as a day of rest for Biden, the White House scheduled him to deliver an East Room speech in which he focused on how the Applying the tax to get big business and wealthy Americans to pay more would help fund his plan, without offering new details.

But there are roadblocks. Manchin told Biden he couldn’t back $ 3.5 trillion and White House aides began to signal that they would settle for a smaller package, even if it angered progressives.

Still, Biden’s advisers believe that while there is some dissatisfaction with the package, no Democratic lawmaker would want to be seen as undermining the centerpiece of a president’s own party agenda.

As activity returns to Washington, the White House is also reducing the president’s travel to support the Capitol Hill agenda, but this has raised concerns among some Democratic lawmakers that Biden was not doing enough to personally sell the legislation to their constituents across the country.

The White House notes that Biden’s cabinet traveled aggressively to promote the legislation, even when the president was held in Washington.

The scaled-down trip comes as assistants worry about the level of exposure Biden may have faced when he mingled with groups on a recent grueling trip to the west and his three-leg trip to mark 9/11, two officials said. Biden, 78, also didn’t take a summer vacation. His plan to spend time at his Delaware home in August was scuttled by the Afghan crisis.

Aides had finally given him a break, a long weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, along the Delaware coast. He arrived home on Friday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

Ninety minutes later, all hope of a quiet weekend faded.

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