Joe Biden threw pragmatism this Wednesday and indicated he plans to chop up his great social spending program, a legislative package that represents the largest expansion of the Welfare State in half a century, in order to unblock the approval in Congress of at least some parts important to the plan. The president of the United States explained this new strategy during a long -and infrequent- press conference to take stock of his first year in office, which marks the first anniversary this Thursday and which he arrives in the midst of a worrying crisis of popularity.
“I think we can split the package, get as much of it passed as we can now, and come back to fight for the rest later,” Biden said. The Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, has blocked the approval of the legislative project baptized Build back better for his disagreement on elements such as four-week paid maternity leave, but the president is confident in his support for measures such as universal public day care or environmental measures (already previously decaffeinated).
The 79-year-old president answered questions for more than an hour and a half in what is only his second solo press conference at the White House. He was clearly eager to speak and to take up the initiative of the story at a time when he is accused of having promised more than he could deliver, of having promoted a package of laws that is too ambitious for the fragile majority of Democrats in the Congress. Biden defended his first year in the White House, reviewed the good progress of economic indicators, aside from inflation, and legislative successes such as the first major stimulus package or the multimillion-dollar infrastructure plan, the largest in decades.
Immediately afterwards, he blamed the blockade of the Republicans for the rest of his political agenda, such as the voting law or immigration reform. “I did not promise too many things,” he said, “it is realistic,” he insisted, and, referring to the conservatives, he added: “I did not anticipate that there was going to be so much effort to get President Biden to do nothing.” “What do the Republicans stand for? What do they want? What do you think about Ukraine? What is your agenda?” he raised rhetorically, accusing them of not having another program.
Biden attributed this blockade to Donald Trump’s coercion of his own party. “I’ve talked to Republicans who agree on things I’m proposing to them, but they tell me they can’t support it because they would lose the primary,” he said. “Have you ever imagined that a single man, outside of office, could intimidate an entire party?” he stressed.
Asked if he was trying to guide the country “so far to the left” with his policies, he replied: “No, I’m not Bernie Sanders, I’m not a socialist.” But you have to make sure, he said, that Americans have enough money to fight the pandemic and keep the economy going. Regarding inflationary risks, he considered it “appropriate” for the Federal Reserve to review its monetary policy to reduce the rise in prices. It did admit some mistakes in managing the pandemic, such as the delay in launching a massive testing strategy.
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Regarding Ukraine, the most imminent geopolitical risk, he warned that it will be a “disaster” for Russia if it invades this country. “You have never seen sanctions like the ones I have promised will be imposed if you move,” he said, while sending mixed signals about what he considers moving when aiming: “a minor incursion is one thing and we end up arguing [entre aliados] how to respond, but if they do what they are capable of doing with a large force on the border, it’s going to be a disaster for Russia.”
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