Press "Enter" to skip to content

A policy win, an economic hit: Turbulent week reflects Biden’s challenge

President Biden notched a series of unexpected policy wins just hours after emerging from his covid-19 isolation. Democrats announced a startling breakthrough on his long-stalled climate agenda. But the economy contracted for a second straight quarter. Now the question is whether Biden’s run of legislative wins will be enough for Biden to help overcome the stubbornly high inflation that has helped sink his approval ratings. Democrats are at risk of losing their narrow Senate and House majorities in November's midterm elections, and operatives on both sides say the president's popularity will be a major factor. Still, the action in Congress has the potential to change the narrative of Biden's presidency, which has been widely seen to change his first two years.

Republicans say the economic package will do little to assuage voters regardless. Democrats plan to highlight many Republicans’ votes against both the semiconductor bill and another popular measure that would help military veterans who have been exposed to toxic burn pits. Republicans have hammered Biden on rising fuel prices all year, and gas surpassed $5 a gallon in June for the first time ever. Even many Democrats concede privately that while the White House may have little choice but to stress that the country is not in a recession, that is hardly politically desirable turf. Republicans are increasingly out of step with most Americans on hot-button issues such as abortion and gun control, these Democrats say, and the GOP has not presented its own plan to deal with inflation and high gas prices, which have fallen considerably in recent weeks.

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes climate action, prescription drug negotiations and the minimum corporate tax. It would allow Medicare to negotiate the price of some drugs, cap seniors’ out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $2,000 per year. The bill also includes the largest investment in fighting climate change in U.S. history, aiming to boost clean-energy technology even as it delivers some of the support that Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) sought for fossil fuels. The measure would also extend Affordable Care Act subsidies for three years, avoiding premium hikes right before the November midterm elections. Biden and other White House officials have repeatedly cited economists who have said the bill would help reduce inflation.