Five moments that mattered in Biden’s first year in the White House


President Biden took office a year ago amid a deadly pandemic and while Washington was still reeling from an attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

On the anniversary of Biden’s inauguration, the United States faces a massive new wave of COVID cases, and the country remains deeply polarized.

While central crises have remained constant, Biden has pushed his priorities — from accelerating vaccine distribution to tackling climate change — with varying degrees of success.

Here’s a look at some of the defining moments of Biden’s first year in office.

A premature declaration of independence from COVID

In the spring of 2021, things were looking up when it came to COVID. Millions of Americans had been vaccinated. In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even mask requirements lifted for fully vaccinated people.

Biden presided over a grand July 4 celebration that was meant to kick off a been back to normal.

“So today, while the virus has not been defeated, we know this: it no longer controls our lives,” Biden said from the South Lawn.

But this “freedom” was short-lived. The delta variant was already spreading rapidly. By the end of July, the CDC had reimposed mask requirements. Hospitalizations and deaths soared again.

The pandemic has disrupted supply chains and contributed to soaring inflation. And then the highly contagious omicron variant struck, once again overwhelming hospitals and disrupting school schedules.

The pandemic continues to affect the daily lives of weary Americans — and to drive down Biden’s approval ratings. “Some people may call what’s happening now the new normal,” Biden said Wednesday. “I call it unfinished business. It will get better.”

Chaos in Kabul

Biden kept his promise to withdraw his troops from Afghanistan, ending America’s longest war in August. But the withdrawal was chaotic, and scenes of Americans being evacuated from Kabul drew comparisons with the fall of saigon.

The chaos was amplified when a suicide bomber killed 13 American servicemen and about 170 Afghans. To compound the tragedy, a US drone strike intended to eliminate the masterminds behind the terrorist attack instead, he killed 10 civilians, including seven children.

Ultimately, more than 120,000 people were evacuated from Afghanistan in the weeks leading up to August 31. Biden has come under fire from both Democrats and Republicans for his handling of the Afghanistan pullout.

Still, Biden forcefully defended his decision. “I wasn’t going to prolong this war forever,” Biden said in August, “and I wasn’t prolonging an exit forever.”

Biden has sought to steer US foreign policy toward China – one of the reasons he wanted out of Afghanistan. But he has been constantly distracted by Russia, first with cyberattacks and now as Moscow appears to threaten to invade Ukraine.

Biden told reporters on Wednesday that “I guess he’s going to move in — he’s got to do something.” He has threatened to wither economic sanctions, although he admits it is difficult to keep allies behind this strategy, which will also hurt them.

Manchin sinks Rebuilding Better Dreams – Twice

After Congress passed a huge $1.9 trillion in coronavirus relief in March, Biden turned his attention to his sprawling plan to create jobs, repair infrastructure, strengthen the social safety net and tackle climate change — a massive plan he had dubbed “Building Back Better.”

It was a heavyweight, given the razor-thin majorities Democrats hold in the House and Senate — and Democrats themselves were divided on the size and scope of the package. After months of negotiations, Biden went to Congress in October, urging Democrats to support a $1.75 trillion lightened social safety net and climate change package and a separate $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

It was the eve of a major international climate summit in Glasgow, and Biden wanted to be able to show he could deliver on his promise to cut carbon emissions.

But while Biden was overseas, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin struck a blow, saying he would not support the package he complained was full of “shell games” and “budget stuff” and ignored concerns about government spending and inflation.

It wasn’t the last time Manchin blocked the bill. In December, he again said that he would not support it. And on Wednesday, Biden conceded that “we’re probably going to have to break it up” and pass bills in smaller “pieces.”

“Finally, infrastructure week”

Despite all his legislative setbacks, Biden won a rare bipartisan victory in November by securing $1 trillion in spending to rebuild crumbling roads and bridges, expand high-speed internet access and get rid of lead pipes.

“Finally, infrastructure week,” Biden said, laughing at what had become a running joke about his predecessor failing to get a deal done despite often vowing to pay attention to it.

It also gave Biden a chance to brag about his bipartisan good faith, as 19 Senate Republicans and 13 House GOP members supported the legislation.

In recent weeks, the White House has touted the new law as the government begins distributing funds to states and municipalities. These government-funded projects will likely make up a big part of mid-term campaigns this year and beyond.

In Tulsa, a moment of judgment on race

Biden traveled to Tulsa, Okla. in June to mark the 100th anniversary of a massacre in the all-black neighborhood of Greenwood by a white mob — and to speak about the inequalities that still persist in the United States today.

After the so-called racial reckoning of 2020, Biden pledged to redouble efforts to address systemic racism and make it a key part of his presidency.

His administration has ordered agencies to review and address practices that may be discriminatory. The White House has also set a goal of awarding more government contracts to minority-owned businesses.

The COVID Relief Bill’s expanded child tax credit significantly reduced child poverty in black households before it expired at the end of the year.

In his speech in Tulsa, Biden also spoke about protecting the right to vote. It was there that he announced that Vice President Harris would be in charge of efforts to roll back state legislation that makes it harder to vote.

But voting rights bills in Congress have stalled. Facing pressure from activists, Biden pushed to change Senate filibuster rules to allow legislation to pass by a simple majority. And on the eve of the anniversary of his inauguration, he was unable to win the full support of Democrats to change the filibuster to make it happen.

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