About the only stumble in President Biden’s aggressive move toward the left during his first 100 days was when he tripped over his own feet climbing the stairs to Air Force One.
A $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, the first major test of Mr. Biden’s domestic agenda, passed Congress without a single Republican vote. Democrats can ram through Mr. Biden’s two-phase infrastructure and social safety net plan, costing another $4.1 trillion, with the same narrow partisan majority.
All but two of Mr. Biden’s highly diverse Cabinet nominees have made it through the 50-50 Senate. The exceptions are Neera Tanden, who mean-tweeted too many senators before her nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget, and Eric Lander, whose nomination to become the president’s top science adviser has stalled amid scrutiny of his meetings with Jeffrey Epstein, the notorious sex trafficker who died in prison.
“America is rising anew,” Mr. Biden told a joint session of Congress a day before reaching the 100-day mark Thursday. “Choosing hope over fear, truth over lies and light over darkness. After 100 days of rescue and renewal, America is ready for a takeoff, in my view.”
Republicans have complained mightily about Mr. Biden’s rapid and unilateral shift to the left on issues including climate policy and gun control. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, this week called it “an administration that chooses to govern like it owes everything to the radical left.”
But Republicans have been unable to modify or stop Mr. Biden’s agenda. The most significant legislative roadblock was erected instead by the Senate’s unelected parliamentarian, who ruled that Mr. Biden’s bid to raise the hourly minimum wage to $15 violated budget rules.
“By any estimate, he’s succeeded in the first 100 days in proving that he’s not just a paper tiger who simply was elected because of anti-Trump feeling,” said Pope “Mac” McCorkle, director of the Polis Center for Politics at Duke University. “He is not a prophet, but he is going big.”
The economy, aided by a COVID-19 vaccine program initiated by President Trump, gained more than 1.2 million jobs in February and March. That was the fastest pace under any new president in history.
“The economy’s going to be really good, in my opinion, for the next six to nine months,” said conservative economist Stephen Moore, who argues that there is no need for more government spending. “We’re looking at a really ferocious recovery coming.”
Indeed, the economy grew last quarter at a strong 6.4% annual rate, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said Thursday, and expectations are that the current quarter will be even better. The number of people seeking unemployment aid last week reached its lowest point since the pandemic struck, dropping to 553,000.
Although the president exceeded his initial targets for COVID-19 vaccinations, he failed to keep a campaign pledge to have most schools reopened within his first 100 days.
On immigration, Mr. Biden moved quickly to reverse Mr. Trump’s policies, such as the ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries. But he and Vice President Kamala Harris have struggled to address a huge surge of migrants at the southern border.
“Immigration is to a lot of voters, not just Trump base voters, an important test of a president,” Mr. McCorkle said. “Immigration is still the issue that he’s going to have to really watch, and I think people are giving him some room.”
The president angered supporters by announcing initially that he wouldn’t lift the government’s cap on refugees from 15,000. The backlash by the left prompted the White House to change its tune and promise a revised plan next month.
Along with the strain on law enforcement and communities at the border, the administration’s inability to control the surge has raised concerns about infected migrants bringing more COVID-19 into the U.S., and there is evidence of a rise in drug trafficking, especially fentanyl, affecting regions far from the border.
“We’re seeing an increase in illicit drug traffic, right here in Tennessee, because the borders are less secure,” Sen. Bill Hagerty, Tennessee Republican, said in a recent interview. “The ‘coyotes’ that are sending these illegal immigrant families into America on the one hand are also pushing more drugs, more cash, more guns across the border at the same time.”
Perhaps the most far-reaching part of Mr. Biden’s agenda has been climate policy, which permeates nearly every proposal out of the White House. The president rejoined the Paris Agreement and has promised to “decarbonize” the U.S. economy by 2050, putting the nation on a path to cut emissions more aggressively than President Obama planned.
With proposed tax increases on corporations, capital gains and individuals earning more than $400,000 per year, conservatives say, Mr. Biden is setting the table to drive U.S. jobs overseas.
“The first 100 days is Biden and the Democrats’ declaration of war on small business,” said Alfredo Ortiz, president of the Job Creators Network. “Small businesses create two-thirds of new jobs, and when they go away, so do the jobs.”
On policing and racial justice, Mr. Biden’s rhetoric has been prominently on the side of minorities, although he has stopped short of calls to defund police departments.
Republicans say Mr. Biden’s early pledge to work with them has been empty talk.
“I’d like to see him focus on something other than canceling women’s sports, canceling energy jobs, canceling the Keystone Pipeline, cutting back on Second Amendment rights,” Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, told reporters. “This has been 100 days that’s completely focused on his far-left radical base.”
Mr. Biden’s foreign policy has sought to reverse many of Mr. Trump’s actions, such as reengaging with Iran on nuclear talks, rescinding a move to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany, and taking a more cautious, less personality-driven approach to North Korea.
Although Mr. Biden did impose sanctions on dozens of Russians over cyberattacks and election interference, some analysts say, the president’s foreign policy on China and other challenges has been sidelined by his focus on the pandemic and domestic spending increases.
“He’s looking more and more like Lyndon Johnson — just an overwhelming fixation on a very aggressive domestic agenda, and really just trying to put foreign policy on the back burner,” said James Carafano, a national security specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “But the world doesn’t just sit back and hit the pause button while this happens. Our competitors aren’t stupid. They know exactly what you’re doing.”
A senior administration official told reporters this week that some of Mr. Biden’s work on national security and foreign policy isn’t “splashy” but added that the change from the Trump administration is no less important.
“We’ve put a ton of work into making sure our national security decision-making process is rigorous, inclusive and informed,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “We had a near-total breakdown of process in the last administration. Expertise was pushed aside. Decisions were made on an ad hoc basis without being set up by broad information and process.”
The official said examples of the shift can be found in the Biden administration’s sanctioning of Russia and the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.
“On some of these longer-term policy decisions that have been made — Afghanistan and Russia are two key examples — we did not prize instant gratification, but getting to the right answer with buy-in from key officials across our government so that these policies could be implemented in the best possible way,” the official said.