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Biden Has Daunting To-Do List          06/18 06:23

   President Joe Biden is facing a formidable to-do list now that he's back 
from his summit-filled trip to Europe, with pressing legislative challenges, 
foreign policy follow-up and a need to steer the country's reopening as the 
coronavirus threat recedes.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden is facing a formidable to-do list now 
that he's back from his summit-filled trip to Europe, with pressing legislative 
challenges, foreign policy follow-up and a need to steer the country's 
reopening as the coronavirus threat recedes.

   His overseas tour was meant to showcase the U.S. return to global leadership 
-- a central pledge of Biden's 2020 campaign for the White House -- but he now 
faces a critical juncture for securing other planks of his agenda. From voting 
rights and immigration to his massive legislation on jobs and infrastructure, 
Biden is trying to get as much done as possible in Congress before the start of 
its August recess.

   "I think we -- the country, has put a different face on where we've been and 
where we're going," Biden told reporters on the tarmac in Geneva late Wednesday 
as he headed back to Washington. "And I feel good about it."

   It has been a start-and-stop process on many of Biden's priorities on 
Capitol Hill, where Democrats hold the majority but only by the narrowest of 
margins. He is reaching for bipartisan deals with Republicans while also moving 
along with his own party's go-it-alone strategy, a two-pronged approach that is 
particularly coming into focus on his big infrastructure investment plan.

   Other legislation, on voting rights, policing reforms and immigration, will 
need support from Republicans in the Senate, and talks are teetering on those 
and other issues as bipartisan groups of lawmakers strain to find agreements 
while the days tick off on the legislative calendar.

   Talks over immigration have all but come to a standstill, and Democrats are 
now eying putting some immigration law changes into the infrastructure 
overhaul, relying on budget rules that would allow majority passage without the 
need for Republican votes. Talks on policing reform are still going, but even 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted Thursday, "It's challenging."

   Still, Biden enters the legislative struggle from a position of strength. A 
new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 
conducted while he was abroad, found 55% of Americans approve of his handling 
of his job as president.

   The White House believes that Biden's proposals are broadly popular in the 
country, if not on Capitol Hill, and is wagering that lawmakers can be brought 
along with a combination of cajoling and the presidential bully pulpit.

   Biden is expected to resume regular domestic travel to promote the 
infrastructure legislation, and continue his behind-the-scenes engagement with 
lawmakers on other issues where his public involvement might not be as 
productive.

   The AP-NORC poll, conducted prior to Biden's summit with Russian President 
Vladimir Putin, found about half approving of his handling of foreign policy as 
well as his handling of the U.S. relationship with Russia. Sixty-eight percent 
approve of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic -- his strongest issue 
throughout his presidency so far.

   While Biden was away, a new round of bipartisan infrastructure talks 
intensified as a growing group of 21 senators fine-tuned their $1 trillion plan 
to meet the long-overlooked national priority. At the same time, Senate 
Democrats under Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders plotted a $6 trillion 
go-it-alone approach.

   Biden, who was loosely following the back-and-forth while abroad, was 
briefed on the measures Thursday at the White House, according to an 
administration official who said the president planned to assess the likelihood 
of a bipartisan deal next week.

   The White House sought to keep up momentum for the president's legislative 
agenda while he was away -- particularly the infrastructure bill -- by 
deploying Cabinet secretaries across the country and to meetings on Capitol 
Hill.

   Biden aides also held more than 130 calls or meetings with lawmakers and 
staff about the infrastructure proposal and a dozen staff briefings for aides 
in both parties.

   Meanwhile, senior Biden aides have been keeping in constant communication 
both with Democrats and Republicans working on the bipartisan deal as well as 
the progressive lawmakers working on the party's 'plan B.'

   At the same time, Biden returned to the U.S. with a pile of new initiatives 
from his talks with allies and adversaries.

   He must fulfill his commitment to sharing 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses 
with the world by the end of this month, while devising plans to meet his 
pledge to share a further 500 million over the next year. White House COVID 
coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday that the administration would be 
unveiling the recipients of those 80 million doses in the coming days, as the 
U.S. works through the diplomatic and logistical hurdles to ship vaccines 
abroad as quickly as possible.

   Having secured an agreement with the European Union to end a 16-year dispute 
over commercial airliners, Biden said he is now looking to bring about a 
de-escalation in a host of other trade tensions with the bloc as he tries to 
develop a more united front to counter China's trade practices. He's tasked 
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to step up negotiations.

   And after sitting down with Putin, Biden said the next six months would 
determine whether a constructive partnership could be formed in areas of mutual 
interest, from nuclear arms control and safeguarding critical infrastructure 
from cyberattacks to a potential exchange of imprisoned citizens. Progress on 
any of those fronts would be ironed out in the months ahead, Biden added.

   "The president was very clear yesterday that the proof of the pudding is in 
the eating," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday. "It is the 
start of the story, and how the story ends will unfold here over the course, as 
he said, of the next six months to a year."

 
 
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