‘I didn’t over-promise’: Biden defends first year in office as president’s agenda stalls in Congress

President touts declining child poverty rate and vaccination progress in press conference opening remarks

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 19 January 2022 21:55
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‘I didn't over-promise’: Biden insists his first year was not failure despite litany of issues
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President Joe Biden said his administration has made “enormous progress” in his first year in office against a “year of challenges,” pointing to millions of Americans getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and a declining unemployment rate in the economic fallout of the public health crisis.

In a press conference on 19 January, the president touted passage of the American Rescue Plan and bipartisan infrastructure spending bill, as well as a new law that eliminates surprise medical bills.

But critical elements of his agenda, including voting rights legislation and Build Back Better social spending package, face Republican obstruction and dragging negotiations in Congress, as the Capitol’s power balance braces for midterm elections. Hundreds of people continue to die of Covid-19 each day, as the emergence of the Omicron variant leads to spikes in infections.

Asked whether his agenda had promised too much in the face of such challenges, he said: “I didn’t over-promise, but I have, probably, outperformed what anybody thought would happen.”

“The fact of the matter is we’re in a situation where we have made enormous progress,” he said.

In his opening remarks, the president pointed to the more than 210 million Americans who are vaccinated against Covid-19, and the delivery of hundreds of million of shots from this point last year.

He also conceded that the administration should have expanded the nation’s testing capacity, as the White House rolls out a massive campaign to mail out free at-home rapid test kits and masks to millions of homes and public health centres.

“I know there’s a lot of frustration and fatigue in this country, and we know why. Covid-19,” he said. “Should we have done more testing earlier? Yes. But we’re doing more now.”

He also hailed the significant decline in child poverty by nearly 40 per cent – “the biggest drop ever in American history” – largely due to federal government action to support families and out-of-work Americans during the public health crisis with enhanced unemployment benefits, direct payments and an expanded child tax credit – which expired in December with lack of congressional action.

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