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Biden: Nation is weary of Covid but US now ‘in a better place’

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President Joe Biden checks his watch as his press conference over-runs its hour-long slot at the White House, Washington, yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque

President Joe Biden checks his watch as his press conference over-runs its hour-long slot at the White House, Washington, yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque

President Joe Biden checks his watch as his press conference over-runs its hour-long slot at the White House, Washington, yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque

President Joe Biden acknowledged last night that the pandemic has left Americans exhausted and demoralised but insisted at a news conference marking his first year in office that he has “outperformed” expectations in dealing with it.

He said he would likely have to settle for “big chunks” of his signature economic package to break an impasse in Congress and further attack inflation and the pandemic.

Mr Biden said he believes important parts of his agenda will be passed before the 2022 midterm elections and voters will back Democrats if they are fully informed — an assignment he said he will pursue by travelling the country.

The president began the news conference by reeling off early progress in fighting the virus and quick passage of an ambitious bipartisan roads-and-bridges infrastructure deal.

But his economic, voting rights, police reform and immigration agenda have all been thwarted in a barely Democratic-controlled Senate, while inflation has emerged ias an economic threat to the nation and a political risk for Biden.

Despite his faltering approval numbers, Mr Biden claimed to have “probably outperformed what anybody thought would happen” in a country still coping with the coronavirus.

“After almost two years of physical, emotional and psychological impact of this pandemic, for many of us, it’s been too much to bear,” he said.

“Some people may call what’s happening now ‘the new normal,’’ he said, his voice rising. “I call it a job not yet finished. It will get better.”

Mr Biden seemed to relish yesterday’s encounter, extending what was expected to be an hour-long press conference to nearly two hours. At several points, he looked at his watch, smiled, and kept calling on reporters for questions.

On his nearly $2 trillion economic agenda that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has blocked, the president said he’ll pass the parts of the package that can net sufficient votes.

This likely means not extending expanded child tax credit or giving financial support to community colleges, he said.

The president also acknowledged that he had underestimated how strong the GOP resistance against him would be, as his bipartisan infrastructure deal increasingly appears to be the main exception to a fierce and unyielding partisan divisiveness that now defines US politics.

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“I did not anticipate that there would be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn’t get anything done,” he said.

This is a perilous time for Joe Biden: the nation is gripped by another disruptive surge of virus cases, and inflation is at a level not seen in a generation. Democrats are bracing for a potential mid-term rout if he can’t turn things around.

President Biden has held just six solo news conferences during his first year in office. A limited number of reporters were allowed to attend yesterday’s event, and all had to have been tested for the virus and wear masks.


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