“A hundred days since I took the oath of office, lifted my hand off our family Bible and inherited a nation — we all did — that was in crisis. The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War. Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation, America is on the move again. Turning peril into possibility, crisis into opportunity, setbacks to strength.”
President Joe Biden delivered the statement above in a speech to Congress on April 28, 2021, just one day shy of his hundredth day in office. As presidents often set ambitious agendas, the first hundred days of every presidency can be understood as the first major yardstick by which to measure a president’s success.
Biden’s approval ratings after his first hundred days are at 57%, notably higher than the 41% that former President Trump had after the same period. This high approval rating makes a lot of sense, given how successful he’s been on the most salient policy areas. Perhaps most importantly, he’s already fulfilled most of his pandemic-related campaign promises. His goal to administer 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days was reached in only 60 days; in fact, by April 21, we had already reached 200 million vaccinations. Over half of American adults have already gotten at least one dose, and the United States has been averaging over two million vaccines per day. His promise to pass a COVID relief bill has also been successful, with the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan providing stimulus checks and economic assistance to millions of Americans.
In addition to the American Rescue Plan, Biden has fulfilled several other economy-related promises, including an extension of the student loan payment pause and the 0% federal student loan interest rate. He’s made great strides on climate issues too, as the US rejoined the Paris Agreement, hosted a world climate summit, and issued executive orders to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Biden also has a historically diverse cabinet: 47% of his confirmed cabinet appointees are women and 33% are people of color.
While these statistics give a rather positive view of Biden’s first hundred days, he has enjoyed much less success in other policy areas. In fact, according to a report by the Associated Press, Biden has kept only 28 of his 61 campaign promises. For example, he has yet to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal and has not enacted any of the gun control measures he had previously touted. He has also not made many strides toward criminal justice reform and has done very little to protect the rights of marginalized groups.
Biden’s success on immigration has been mixed. While he has rolled back or overturned some of Trump’s immigration policies— including the infamous travel ban— he hasn’t raised the refugee cap to 125,000 like he had promised. He has also drawn a lot of criticism from both sides of the aisle for the way he has handled the huge influx of migrants in the past few months. Border facilities have been overcrowded and children have even been kept in “jail-like facilities,” concerning Democrats and Republicans alike.
Going forward, Biden needs to turn his attention to the policy areas he’s been overlooking. While pandemic recovery is obviously our most pressing problem at the moment, policies that consider immigration, gun control, and inequality are just as important and need the President’s attention. One thing in particular that needs action is the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Although Biden was the one who introduced the bill back in 1994, it hasn’t been reauthorized since 2013. This reauthorization is especially vital during the COVID-19 crisis, since domestic violence cases have risen dramatically. The VAWA reauthorization passed the House in March, but has yet to make it through the Senate, necessitating a concerted effort on behalf of the Biden Administration to reprioritize the Senate’s agenda.
The most important thing for the President to focus on, however, is reaching across the political aisle and building a coalition from both parties. In his acceptance speech, Biden promised to be a “president who seeks not to divide but unify, who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States.” But he has been largely unsuccessful in bridging the partisan divide, evidenced by recent roll call votes and approval ratings. For example, The American Rescue Plan did not receive a single Republican vote in either house of Congress, despite being largely favored by the general public. There is also a huge partisan gap in Biden’s approval ratings, with 96% approval by Democrats but only 11% by Republicans. However, there is reason to be optimistic; 140 different House Republicans, including even some of the staunchest Trump supporters, have voted for at least one piece of Biden-supported legislation since he took office. Coalition-building is always important for a president with a very narrow majority in both houses of Congress, but it is especially important in the wake of a global pandemic, a contested election, and an attack on the Capitol.
Looking back on Biden’s first hundred days, it is obvious that he has done a lot of good for the American people, especially when it comes to pandemic recovery. Nonetheless, Biden still has a long way to go to fulfill all of his lofty campaign promises. Over a year into the pandemic and over a hundred days into the Biden presidency, we are on the road to “building back better,” but we still have a lot of work to do.
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