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News / Opinion / Columns
The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Leubsdorf: Biden notches bipartisan successes

By Carl Leubsdorf
Published: January 9, 2023, 6:01am

In the two years since Joe Biden entered the White House with a vow to restore “the soul of the nation” and pursue bipartisan solutions, many of his most publicized efforts often seemed in danger of failure.

His campaign to stem COVID-19 by vaccinating millions encountered new strains of the virus and political resistance to some containment strategies. Though the number of employed Americans remained high, the aftermath of the pandemic produced the worst inflation in four decades.

Biden ended the 20-year U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, but botched the withdrawal and overestimated the government’s strength, resulting in the Taliban’s unexpectedly fast return to power. And his administration remains unable to stabilize the Southern border amid bipartisan fighting over how to balance competing concerns of security and asylum.

But voters in November rejected some prominent Republican challengers of Biden’s election, and the president’s Kentucky appearance Wednesday with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell spotlighted his success in passing key bipartisan measures —notably a long-delayed infrastructure bill.

As a result, the nation’s oldest president is entering his third year on a political high after a midterm election in which the Democrats avoided the Republican tsunami many forecasters expected.

Open party resistance to his renomination has vanished, though many Democrats still believe he should retire. Biden’s reelection prospects have improved as Republicans struggle over how to manage their new House majority and Donald Trump’s continuing political presence.

Inflation is declining, and the president’s job approval is slightly up, though still in perilous sub-50 percent territory. And Biden had one of the most productive congressional sessions in years, despite minimal majorities and continued partisan resistance.

In an achievement with long-term impact, the 46th president followed through on his goal of restoring U.S. global leadership. After an uncertain start, he took the lead in mobilizing Western nations to resist Russia’s brutal effort to subjugate Ukraine.

Biden also made significant domestic progress, starting with the successful management of a far-ranging effort to immunize millions against the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the nation’s economy in the final year of Trump’s presidency.

Meanwhile, Biden has achieved an array of legislative successes, including both bipartisan and partisan measures. Besides the bill to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure — including highways, bridges, railroads, airports and sewer systems — his bipartisan successes included a measure challenging China’s domination of the global semiconductor market by investing billions to revitalize domestic chip manufacturing.

Republicans also helped expand health care for veterans, protect same-sex marriages, pass the first gun control measure in 30 years, and enact a $1.7 trillion bill to fund the federal government until Sept. 30, 2023.

Biden also pursued a three-part Democratic legislative agenda to spur post-pandemic growth and meet some resulting economic needs. Enough passed to give Democrats a platform that helped them hold down expected Republican midterm election gains.

Historically, an administration scores its major domestic successes in its first two years. Republican recapture of the House makes significant new domestic legislation unlikely. But the Democratic Senate will be able to confirm many additional Biden nominees, including dozens of judges.

Given the prospect for domestic gridlock, Biden’s focus will continue abroad, seeking to counter Chinese advances and helping Ukraine’s resistance to Russia. He could face a severe domestic challenge if the Federal Reserve’s efforts to contain inflation produce a recession.

Nothing comes easy for Joe Biden, who reached the White House at 78 on his third try after 44 years in federal elective office.