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Wake Up To Politics - April 26, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: FDR, Biden, and the 100-day vision
Wake Up To Politics - April 26, 2021

Good morning! It’s April 26, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 561 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,289 days away.

Analysis: FDR, Biden, and the 100-day vision

In his third fireside chat in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt coined a term that would help vault his presidency into the history books — and haunt his successors for generations in the process.

Roosevelt referred in the speech to the “crowding events of the hundred days which had been devoted to the starting of the wheels of the New Deal.” Thus, a new — if arbitrary — benchmark was established for each new president to be judged against: how much could they get done in their first 100 days?

President Joe Biden will mark his 100th day in office on Friday. So, how does he stack up? When it comes to an action-packed opening act in the Oval Office, FDR remains the gold standard. Roosevelt signed 76 bills into law in his first 100 days (a record no president has matched since), including 15 major pieces of legislation. His debut bills sought to address the economic crisis he inherited, including a measure giving him increased control over the banking system and bills creating an alphabet soup of agencies, from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to the Public Works Administration (PWA).

Biden, on the other hand, has signed only seven bills — and only one major one: his coronavirus stimulus package, also designed to address an inherited crisis. The relief bill is probably the landmark achievement of Biden’s first 100 days, sending $1,400 payments to most Americans and offering aid to parents, schools, small businesses, the unemployed, the homeless, and the hungry.

What else has Biden gotten done in his first 100 days? With legislation slow to move through Congress, much of Biden’s policymaking has come through executive action. According to CNN, Biden has signed more than 60 executive actions since taking office. Per the network, 23 of them directly reversed orders by former President Donald Trump; he has also implemented new governmental actions on climate change, health care, gun control, and other issues.

The opening period of Biden’s time in office will likely be best remembered for his campaign to vaccinate the nation against coronavirus: last week, Biden notched his goal of 200 million shots In his first 100 days. (His initial goal had been 100 million shots in 100 days, which he passed in about 60 days.)

Coronavirus cases have fallen significantly from the winter as a result, although more than 50,000 new cases were reported in the U.S. on Saturday. According to the Washington Post, the American economy has improved as well, partly due to Biden’s stimulus measure: “Hiring is picking up rapidly after backsliding in December. Hunger is decreasing. The number of families behind on rent fell by more than 2 million in March. The widely tracked S&P 500 stock market index has notched at least 21 records since Biden took office, the most seen by any president in his first 100 days since John F. Kennedy. And business optimism is rebounding in both the manufacturing and service sectors, albeit from low levels.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (AP)

Still, Biden has not done everything he set out to achieve by the 100-day mark. As the Associated Press notes, several of Biden’s 100-day promises remain unfinished, including pledges to increase the U.S. refugee cap and the asylum system. While the new president made a focus of resolving a set of sprawling crises, Biden’s first three months also saw the spawning of a new one: the crisis at the southern border. While Republicans have largely struggled to land effective blows against Biden, the border has emerged as a potent line of attack: in a Washington Post/ABC poll released on Sunday, 64% of Americans approved of his handling of coronavirus, but just 37% approved of his handling of the situation at the border.

In general, a crop of new polls out this weekend showed Biden receiving positive marks from Americans: his approval rating ranged from 52% to 58%, better than Trump at his 100-day mark but lower than most recent presidents at this point in their terms.

Biden may not have matched FDR’s initial output, but his first 100 days have also sent the unmistakable message that he is aiming for an almost Rooseveltian remaking of American government. In New York Magazine this morning, Jonathan Chait wrote that Biden’s “first 100 days reshaped American.”

“He is relentlessly enacting an ambitious domestic agenda — signing legislation that could cut child poverty by more than half, expanding Obamacare, and injecting the economy with a stimulus more than twice the size of what Obama’s Congress passed in 2009 — while arousing hardly any controversy,” Chait noted.

In the words of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman last month, Biden has signaled that “the era of ‘the era of big government is over’ is over,” adapting a famous line from Bill Clinton to show har far Biden has veered from the economic orthodoxy of his most recent Democratic and Republican predecessors. (According to Axios, Biden daydreamed about comparisons to FDR in a recent meeting with historians; indeed, his philosophy of government is molded after Roosevelt more than it is Obama or Clinton.)

Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. (Getty Images)

FDR had the New Deal, which cost about $800 billion in today’s dollars. Biden has the American Rescue Plan, the American Jobs Plan, and the American Families Plan, which carry a combined price tag of almost $6 trillion.

But of those sweeping proposals, only the Rescue Plan has passed; legislative text for the other two have yet to even be released (and even the child tax credit that Chait mentioned is, for now, only temporary).

Details of the Families Plan are expected to be outlined in Biden’s primetime address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, but both it and the Jobs Plan face uphill battles on Capitol Hill. While Roosevelt benefited from historic congressional majorities, Biden’s are as narrow as can be, and a mix of intramural Democratic Party fights, hardened Republican opposition, and entrenched congressional rules are waiting in the wings to threaten his agenda.

In Biden’s first 100 days, he articulated an ambitious vision of government in the vein of FDR. But Biden’s next 100 days — and the 100 after that — will hinge on whether he can follow Roosevelt’s lead and actually implement that vision, effecting the progressive change that he has promised but has yet to fully achieve.

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The Rundown

The top headlines to know this morning.

President Biden recognized the 1915 mass slaughter of Armenians as a “genocide,” breaking with his predecessors who stopped short of using the word. Washington Post

States across the country are administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine again after federal officials gave the green light. Reuters

The United States will send medical supplies — but not vaccines — to India amid the country’s massive Covid surge. Wall Street Journal

State Sen. Troy Carter won a House special election in Louisiana, a victory for Democrats but a blow to the progressive wing of the party. Politico

About 10,000 people gathered in Armenia to commemorate the anniversary of the 1915 genocide on Friday. (Reuters)


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern.)

President Joe Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m.

Vice President Kamala Harris will hold a virtual bilateral meeting with President Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala at 4 p.m. According to Harris’ office, “the two will discuss working together to address immediate relief needs of the Guatemalan people as well as deepening cooperation on migration.” Harris has been designated as the Biden administration’s point person for talks with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) amid the surge of migrants from those nations into the United States.

According to the Associated Press, Harris will also deliver virtual remarks on pandemic preparedness at a United Nations event.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 12 p.m. She will be joined by National Economic Council (NEC) Director Brian Deese.

The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of the nomination of Jason Miller to be Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). At 5:30 p.m., the Senate will hold a cloture vote to advance Miller’s nomination.

Miller, who is unrelated to the Trump adviser of the same name, served as Deputy Director of the National Economic Council under the Obama administration.

The House will convene at 12 p.m. for a brief pro forma session.

The Supreme Court will release orders at 9:30 a.m. The court will hear virtual oral arguments in Americans for Prosperity v. Rodriquez at 10 a.m. “The California Attorney General’s office requires that registered charities reveal the names and addresses of their major donors,” WUTP legal contributor Anna Salvatore explains. “This morning, conservative advocacy groups will argue that this policy violates the donors’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association. The 9th Circuit ruled for California last March.”

The court will hear virtual oral arguments in Guam v. United States at 11 a.m. “In the 1940s, while the U.S. military ruled Guam, the Navy constructed a toxic landfill for chemicals such as DDT and Agent Orange,” Anna writes. “Since then, Guam has become an ‘unincorporated territory of the United States,’ and the Navy no longer has sovereignty over the island. The justices will hear arguments about who is financially responsible for the hazardous, oozing landfill today: Guam or the Navy.”

— Read more on Americans for Prosperity v. Rodriquez: “How a Supreme Court Case About Nonprofit Donations Could Affect America's Elections” (TIME Magazine)

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