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Politics: Joe Biden's Winter of Discontent—Failed Bills, Terrible Polls and Now Omicron

'Boost everybody.' CEOs should mandate boosters before returning office workers, Andy Slavitt says

  'Boost everybody.' CEOs should mandate boosters before returning office workers, Andy Slavitt says The Omicron coronavirus variant will cause a "winter wave" that will complicate the return of workers to offices in the United States, according to Andy Slavitt, a former senior pandemic adviser to President Joe Biden. © Spencer Platt/Getty Images A COVID-19 vaccination pop-up site stands in Times Square on December 09, 2021 in New York City. As the fast-spreading new Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in at least 19 states, health officials are urging Americans to get vaccinated and receive their booster shots. "The beginning of 2022 will be rough," Slavitt told CNN in a phone interview.

President Joe Biden is facing his first holiday season as commander in chief while confronting a slew of problems from the new variant of COVID-19 to stalled legislation and his own unpopularity.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference in the State Dinning Room at the White House on November 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden is facing his first winter as president beset with difficulties. © Samuel Corum/Getty Images U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference in the State Dinning Room at the White House on November 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden is facing his first winter as president beset with difficulties.

The president could be bracing for a winter of discontent as the Omicron variant is expected to surge and efforts to pass the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act flounder due to opposition from Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).

Omicron Is About to Overwhelm Us

  Omicron Is About to Overwhelm Us The new COVID variant has all the makings of a massive wave.The relative virulence of the new variant is still clouded by enormous amounts of uncertainty. Only one patient has died with Omicron, thus far, and it is not entirely clear if the coronavirus was even the true cause of death. But in part this lack of severe outcomes reflects just how early in the wave we still are, even in South Africa; the variant was first identified there just three weeks ago, which means many of the early cases are still running their clinical course, and we don’t yet know what the outcomes will be.

He may also have to sacrifice the enhanced child tax credit in the new year as part of a deal to pass Build Back Better—a key achievement that could further damage his standing with voters if it's not extended.

Here are the major problems facing Biden and the Democrats as the nation heads into the holidays.

1. Stalled Legislation

There now appears to be little prospect of getting the Build Back Better Act passed into law by Christmas as originally planned. The $1.75 trillion infrastructure and social spending package had already been reduced from its earlier $3.5 trillion cost but on Sunday Senator Manchin announced he was a "no" on the bill.

Build Back Better is a central piece of Biden's agenda but without Manchin's support, there is practically no way it will be approved in the evenly divided Senate.

South Africa’s Omicron Wave Looks Like It’s Already Peaking. Why?

  South Africa’s Omicron Wave Looks Like It’s Already Peaking. Why? Virologist Trevor Bedford helps make sense of what is happening with the new variant in South Africa, and what it might mean for other countries.But this is not a phenomenon peculiar to Omicron. At earlier stages of the pandemic, in sometimes less dramatic ways, other waves have crested and declined much before crude models might’ve suggested the vulnerable population had been exhausted. Sometimes, this has led to premature predictions of early herd immunity — last summer Youyang Gu, who’d distinguished himself as a modeler of the pandemic, suggested that in parts of the U.S.

The president may have to give up an extension of the enhanced child tax credit, which Manchin opposes, if he wants to reach a deal in the new year that keeps most of the measures in the bill.

The White House sees the tax credit as a major achievement but it will likely expire in January if it's not extended.

Separately, Democrats have also so far failed to pass voting rights legislation, which Republicans have successfully opposed.

This comes at a time when GOP-led states have introduced new restrictions on voting in the wake of the 2020 election and former President Donald Trump repeated an unfounded claim that his loss was due to the election suffering from fraud and other irregularities.

Passing landmark voting rights legislation would likely require reforming the Senate filibuster, which Manchin has repeatedly ruled out.

2. The COVID-19 Pandemic

Biden came to office in the midst of the global pandemic and his administration has made efforts to tackle the virus through widespread vaccination and other measures but the crisis has rumbled on.

Propagation of the Omicron Variant: the Seine-et-Marne, the Sarthe and Paris more affected than the other departments

 Propagation of the Omicron Variant: the Seine-et-Marne, the Sarthe and Paris more affected than the other departments the Omicron Variant of the COVID-19 propagates in France. According to screening data, some departments are more strongly impacted. © Supplied by FranceInfo The variant OMICRON is progressing rapidly in several departments and according to the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, it could become majority in a fifteen days in France . Overall The Ministry of Health believes that the new VVID-19 variant represents 7 to 12% of the detected cases.

The new Omicron variant is now dominant among new COVID cases in the U.S., accounting for 73.2 percent of new cases in the week ending December 18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday that Omicron now accounts for up to 90 percent of new cases in some parts of the country.

There has been significant controversy over CDC guidance advising mask-wearing in schools for all children over 2 years old, with the CDC's international counterparts offering different advice on masking young children and some scientists questioning how the agency arrived at its decision.

The Biden administration this week made a significant U-turn when it announced the federal government would purchase half a billion at-home COVID tests and distribute them to Americans who want them free of charge. The administration had garnered criticism for earlier dismissing the idea.

And there is still a risk that Biden's vaccine-or-testing mandate for employers with 100 or more employees could be struck down. The Supreme Court is set to consider an application for a stay of the mandate and the lower courts still have to decide challenges to the requirement on their merits.

Christmas Travel Ruined As Omicron COVID Surges, Thousands of Flights Canceled

  Christmas Travel Ruined As Omicron COVID Surges, Thousands of Flights Canceled In the U.S. alone there have been hundreds of canceled or delayed flights as travellers try to get home for Christmas.In the U.S., United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have canceled or delayed hundreds of flights, with Omicron cases among flight crews being cited as a main reason behind the decision.

3. Student Debt

The Biden administration's apparent inaction on the issue of student loan debt has also created a headache for the White House in recent days and it's not likely to disappear in the new year.

The administration announced on Wednesday that an interest-free pause in repayments on federal student loans and federally held student loans would be extended until May 1. Repayments had been set to resume on February 1 and Biden had initially indicated he would not extend the pause before making a U-turn.

Nonetheless, Biden is still facing criticism for his failure thus far to fulfill a campaign promise to cancel $10,000 of student loan debt for borrowers, with some Democrats saying he has the power to do so through executive action.

Biden has expressed skepticism of his authority to cancel debt and the Department of Education was tasked with preparing a memo on the matter in April. No memo on the subject has yet been released and White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested last week that Congress should pass legislation on the matter.

4. The Economy and Inflation

The U.S economy has shown significant signs of improvement since Biden came to office in January but many Americans remain skeptical and have a gloomy outlook about the economy.

No, Joe Biden Did Not Just Surrender to the Omicron Variant

  No, Joe Biden Did Not Just Surrender to the Omicron Variant Don’t believe every five-second clip you see on Twitter.com.Biden also stipulated that the federal government’s efforts to this point were “clearly not enough.

That pessimism is partly driven by high inflation, which rose to 6.8 percent in 2021—its highest level since 1982. Prices for basic goods like gas and meat also rose in November.

There are concerns about whether the current level of inflation is transitory or lasting, with Senator Manchin among those voicing worries about rising prices. It remains to be seen if the trend will continue into January.

5. Kamala Harris

Vice President Kamala Harris has suffered a string of damaging stories amid rumors of a rift between her and Biden. She has also faced a staffing exodus in recent weeks and is losing two of her most senior communications advisers at the end of this year.

Harris is also suffering from stubbornly low approval ratings and is less popular than the president himself. Though Biden's focus may not be on his vice president at the moment, reports of dysfunction in her office may serve as a distraction from the administration's agenda.

Poll tracker FiveThirtyEight, which tracks Harris' approval using a variety of polls and its own system of pollster ratings, found the vice president enjoyed just 39.4 percent approval as of December 21 compared to 47 percent disapproval.

Harris' apparent difficulties could become a long-term concern for Biden heading into the 2024 election cycle. He has said repeatedly that he intends to run for president again despite his age, while Harris' low approval rating could diminish her chances of succeeding him if Biden chooses to bow out.

6. Low Approval Ratings

While Biden enjoys a higher approval rating than Harris, he is still underwater, with poll after poll showing most Americans disapprove of him. Nonetheless, there are indications that the president's approval is creeping up, though recent gains may be tenuous.

FiveThirtyEight gave Biden 43.4 percent approval as of December 22 compared to 51.4 percent disapproval. Biden's approval has been in negative territory since August 30—the day before the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

However, he is still in a better position than former President Trump was at the end of his first year in office.

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No, Joe Biden Did Not Just Surrender to the Omicron Variant .
Don’t believe every five-second clip you see on Twitter.com.Biden also stipulated that the federal government’s efforts to this point were “clearly not enough.

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