Wednesday, August 17

The White House works hard amid multiple crises on Labor Day

(CNN) — There is no rest for a White House under pressure this Labor Day as President Joe Biden addresses the health, economic and legislative challenges that deepened under his tenure and are beginning to erode his political position.

A worsening covid-19 pandemic, with added concern of the delta variant’s impact on children, fallout from Afghanistan’s chaotic pullout, and new concerns about job growth weighing on the administration after a difficult summer . New complications over the approval of the president’s extensive infrastructure and social program, and a shocking move by Texas to nothing more and nothing less than outlawing abortion are exacerbating an extraordinary menu of crises.

On Afghanistan and the issue of covid-19 booster vaccines, there are indications that the administration’s previously stable contact has been less certain. As the delta variant sweeps across the country and after a pullout from Afghanistan in which Biden appeared at times less than sincere and willing to pass the buck, the president’s popularity has begun to plummet. In the latest NPR / PBS NewsHour / Marist poll released last week, his approval rating fell to 43%, the lowest of his presidency so far and 6 percentage points lower than in July.

Presidents’ ratings often fluctuate. But staying in healthy territory is critical for Biden and his Democratic Party ahead of next year’s midterm elections that will decide whether his presidency is limited by Republican majorities in the second half of his term. The new decline in his position suggests that the Republican Party, which has struggled to hurt Biden’s presidency so far, may be gaining some traction. Or, possibly, the relentless crises of the past few months may now be catching up with Biden.

A difficult autumn is coming in the fight against covid-19

As the president spent months pleading with Americans to take advantage of free and safe vaccines to protect themselves, the new wave of COVID-19 cases – now reaching more than 150,000 new infections a day and more than 1,000 deaths – did not it’s the president’s fault. But whoever is in charge inevitably takes the blame when things go wrong. And the president declared that the pandemic was over during his July 4 celebration at the White House. The last issue concerns the timing of booster shots for two-dose vaccine regimens. The White House originally announced that the boosters would be available starting the week of September 20 for people who received either of the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer / BioNTech or Moderna. But top health officials warned that more time could be needed for the investigation.

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White House Secretary Ron Klain told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday that the administration simply wanted to be ready once they got the go-ahead from government regulators like the US Food and Drug Administration ( FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And he suggested that the September 20 date was still a target for at least some doses.

“I will be absolutely clear: no one will get boosters until the FDA says they are approved, until the CDC advisory committee makes a recommendation. What we want to do, however, is be ready as soon as they arrive,” Klain said.

“We are still hopeful that at least one of the vaccines will be available (on) that date,” he added.

The government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, explained that while the Pfizer data appears to have satisfied regulators, Moderna may be a bit behind schedule, which could lead to a “sequential” deployment of the drivers. .

“I don’t think that’s a major problem there, but we would have liked it to happen all together, simultaneously. But in the end the plan will be implemented, as originally laid out,” Fauci said on CNN’s “Newsroom” on Sunday.

Any confusion about vaccines at this time is not welcome. The dwindling but sizable minority of Americans who refuse to receive the vaccine may take an even more unfavorable position toward government scientific advice without clear and forceful messages.

Another unpleasant aspect of a pandemic that never seems to end concerns American schoolchildren. As more schools return to face-to-face classes, more children become infected with COVID-19. And parents are distracted by the idea of ​​their children returning to unsafe environments. In some states, mask-wearing culture wars are making the experience even more tense. The vaccines are not expected to be available for children under 12 until the end of the year, or even early next year. So a bleak fall and winter is coming. Still, Fauci said earlier on Sunday on CBS that the data so far did not suggest that delta was not more severe in children than in adults.

A confident White House despite economic storm clouds

In a moment of seemingly unintentional irony, Congress set Labor Day Monday as the expiration date for extended federal unemployment benefits, which were meant to help Americans who lost their jobs in the pandemic. The deadline coincides with more disappointing news from the job market, after new data released on Friday found the economy created 235,000 jobs last month, far fewer than expected after a strong performance the previous month. The figures were a sign that the delta variant is affecting the services sector, increasing the possibility of a slowdown in the overall recovery.

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However, the president insisted last week that the economy was prospering, noting that the unemployment rate had dropped to 5.2%. “What we are seeing is a strong and long-lasting economic recovery,” he said. But Americans still looking for work are no longer getting help from Washington. “We believe the jobs are there, and we believe that states have the resources they need to move people from unemployment to employment,” Klain said on “State of the Union.”

So far, none of the states have said they will use federal aid funds to extend those benefits, as Biden suggested they could.

Biden’s agenda back on the razor’s edge

It’s not just the economy. The White House secretary’s extensive interview with Bash underscored the breadth of challenges facing the administration.

Klain, for example, dismissed Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s warning last week that it was time to “pause” the president’s $ 3.5 trillion spending plan, as the latest natural twist on the complicated business of passing legislation. important. Given the 50-50 Senate, Biden needs the vote of the West Virginia Senator. But the package, packed with health care, social, climate and educational initiatives, is also the price that progressive House Democrats are demanding if they are to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure plan that defines Biden’s legacy.

“If I had a nickel for every time someone told me this package is dead, I would be a very, very rich person,” Klain said.

“We have worked with Senator Manchin every step of the way … We are going to work together to find a way to put together a package that can be approved by the House, that can be approved by the Senate, that can be put on the President’s desk. and that it be promulgated as law. “

A week after the United States ended its longest war, Klain said the government was in regular contact with about 100 Americans who had indicated they wanted to leave Afghanistan but could not be rescued before Biden’s deadline of 31. August for the United States to withdraw from the country. Republicans have criticized the White House for the plight of this group. But Klain promised that the administration had not given up on them, nor on the thousands of Afghans eligible for special immigrant visas (SIVs) after helping US forces for 20 years, often as translators.

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“We are in close communication with our sources and our contacts in Afghanistan to try to get those SIVs out, to get them out safely,” Klain said. “I know some are getting out on the ground. Again, we are continuing to work on efforts to get them out by air as well.”

Given the Taliban’s control over Afghanistan’s ports of exit and the fear that the fundamentalist group will retaliate against those who aided the United States, it is unclear how those Americans and Afghans will be able to leave.

A senior State Department official said last week that “most” of the Afghans who had worked for the United States since 2001 had been left behind in the evacuation.

The day after Biden delivered a defiant speech about his decision to end the war, domestic battles took over political conversation as the abortion ban took effect after six weeks in Texas. The conservative-majority Supreme Court later denied a request to freeze the law, which bans abortions at a point where many women are unaware they are pregnant. The law employs a groundbreaking device, allowing anyone to sue a person involved in performing or assisting someone in obtaining an abortion in Texas, to make a challenge more difficult, at least immediately in court.

Biden has instructed his Justice Department and his Council on Gender Policy in the White House to look for ways to respond to the law and make sure that women in Texas still have access to abortions, but so far, the details are lacking.

“We are going to find ways to make a difference for the women of Texas to try to protect their constitutional rights,” Klain told Bash.

A route that the White House and some of the leading Democrats have come up with, the codification of Roe v. Wade will likely find obstacles in Congress, where there are nowhere near the 10 Republican votes needed to overcome a filibuster on the issue in the Senate.

But like the pandemic, the unemployment situation and the fate of Americans in Afghanistan, the new confrontation over abortion is a crisis that is likely to avoid the quick and easy remedies that the White House can use to make a big difference.

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