Biden’s Presidency Will Be Defined by These Two Key Issues

MOVING ON: With the impeachment trial over, the spotlight immediately shifted to two huge issues: can a Covid bill pass by early March — and will confusion and delays persist on vaccines and school openings? Joe Biden’s presidency will be defined by his handling of these issues.

BIDEN ENJOYS SOLID APPROVAL RATINGS, but his honeymoon will be tested as reeling Republicans look for a new issues. The Covid bill is about to become controversial, not just because of the $1.9 trillion price tag.

THE HOUSE, determined to pass its bill by late next week, will include a minimum wage hike that looks dead in the Senate, with two Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — opposing it as a death blow to small businesses.

THERE ARE OTHER CONTROVERSIES: There’s growing opposition to a grant of $350 billion to states, many of which — including California — have reported surprisingly strong revenues, thanks in part to the booming stock market and a pickup in local economies. And there’s opposition to sending $180 billion to mostly public schools, many of which have not opened.

BIDEN EVENTUALLY WILL WIN PASSAGE OF A MASSIVE BILL, costing $1.5 trillion or more, despite growing concerns about inflation. We point to this morning’s New York Times piece that quotes policymakers, saying they consider higher inflation to be an acceptable risk. So we reiterate our main theme this winter: bond yields are headed even higher.

THE OTHER HUGE ISSUE FOR BIDEN is the persistent confusion over the availability of vaccines and whether he has a clear policy on re-opening schools. Vaccinations finally are picking up; Biden appears likely to meet his goals on shots. But a showdown with teachers’ unions seems inevitable.

BIDEN’S FIRST FOREIGN POLICY CRISIS: It’s not China, where resentment will persist over Beijing’s lack of transparency over Covid; officials from the World Health Organization left China last week bitterly disappointed that they were blocked from getting full disclosure on the origin of the virus.

THE BIGGER GEOPOLITICAL THREAT that Biden will have to address soon involves Afghanistan. In a chilling piece this weekend, The New York Times reported that the Taliban has surrounded several Afghan cities, in an apparent prelude to an all-out assault; Kandahar in particular appears vulnerable.

BIDEN’S OPTIONS: He can either continue the troop withdrawal that Donald Trump started last year, or the new president can maintain — or even increase — the U.S. military presence there, staying in the quagmire.

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: Staying in Afghanistan will anger the progressive left and Trump supporters, while pleasing the U.S. foreign policy establishment. We think Biden will choose to stay.

LAST COMMENT ON IMPEACHMENT: Mitch McConnell gets it — he knows that Donald Trump’s base alone cannot win general elections and could actually become an albatross for the GOP in 2022 and 2024; the overall public clearly favored convicting Trump and does not believe the election was rigged.

SO THE SENATE MINORITIY LEADER will lead the GOP assault on Trump, and he’ll be happy to see the former president bogged down in courts for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, we’ll leave the final word to Nikki Haley, a likely 2024 GOP presidential candidate.

“TRUMP HAS FALLEN SO FAR,” she told Politico late last week. “We need to acknowledge he let us down. He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.”

Related: Washington: Let’s Spend More Money!

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