President Joe Biden promised to show the world that democracies can work to meet the challenges of the 21st century. As he prepares to spread that message at a couple of world summits, his case could hinge on what is happening in Washington, where he was fighting to finalize a major national legislative package.
After an intermittent day of conversations about the fate of the twin infrastructure laws and social spending that chose between “leading the world or letting the world pass us by,” Biden landed in Rome aboard Air Force One in the dark on Friday. in the morning. with the answer still undetermined.
Aimed first at a Group of 20 summit in Rome and then to Glasgow, Scotland, for a UN climate summit, Biden will be pressured to come up with concrete ideas to stop a global pandemic, boost economic growth and stop the acceleration. of climate change. Those stakes may seem a bit high for a couple of two-day gatherings attended by the global elite and their entourages. But it is written directly in the motto of the meeting in Rome: “People, Planet, Prosperity.”
It was a reflection of his promise to align American diplomacy with the interests of the middle class. This has linked any successes abroad to his efforts to get Congress to advance its environmental, tax, infrastructure and social policies. It could be more difficult to get the world to commit to its stated goals if Americans refuse to fully embrace them, one of the risks of Biden’s choice to merge his domestic and foreign policies.
Before leaving Washington, Biden proposed to House Democrats to endorse a reduced “framework” of $ 1.75 trillion that he believes could pass in the Senate 50-50. It remained to be seen whether lawmakers would accept the package or send Biden back to the negotiating table, as some key priorities, such as paid family leave and steps to reduce prescription drug costs, were removed from the bill. , to be paid for with high taxes on the nation’s wealthiest and corporations.
“The rest of the world is wondering if we can function,” Biden told lawmakers, according to a source familiar with his comments.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invoked the trip as she tried to rally Democratic votes around the separate $ 1 trillion infrastructure package, trying, unsuccessfully, to generate support for a vote Thursday before Biden arrived at Rome.
“When the president gets off that plane we want him to have a vote of confidence from this Congress,” he said. “For us to be successful, we must be successful today.”
While Biden was on the air, Pelosi, facing opposition from progressives who also want assurances that the reduced social spending plan will pass, ditched in a vote Thursday and instead set out to pass another interim funding measure for a variety of transportation initiatives.
Biden’s trip abroad comes as he faces an increasingly pessimistic nation at home and bitter opinions about his handling of the nation’s economy. According to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, only 41% of Americans now approve of Biden’s economic administration, up from 49% in August and a sea change from March, when 60% approved. .
Americans are divided on Biden overall, with 48% approving and 51% disapproving of his handling of his job as president. Only about a third of Americans say the country is heading in the right direction, also a significant decline from earlier this year, when about half said so.
Domestic politics, global implications
One consequence of Biden’s decision to link his domestic and foreign policies so closely is that both are now at the mercy of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, whose votes are essential in a Senate evenly divided between Democrats and Democrats. Republicans. . Biden’s aides have expected, among other things, an investment of more than $ 500 billion to combat climate change in the United States, which would aid efforts to persuade China and other nations to make their own investments in renewable energy.
“It would be very, very positive to do it before the trip,” Biden said Monday.
But as the talks progressed, administration officials began to downplay Biden’s spending plan that was still in limbo. White House press secretary Jen Psaki emphasized that the president can still work with telephones from Rome, the city that gave rise to the word “Senate.” She suggested that foreign leaders can look beyond the ongoing secret talks with US lawmakers to judge Biden’s compromise.
“They don’t see him through the prism of whether there is a vote in a body of the legislative body before he gets on a plane,” Psaki said.
Yet national security adviser Jake Sullivan has framed the bills as vital to the nation’s security. “Making these investments in American strength will be very important to our national security in the future,” he said.
Coming to terms that has had a dangerous journey thus far, the president begins his journey abroad with an expert on the power of prayer. Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, will meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday on a visit that is part personal for the intensely religious and part political commander-in-chief, particularly on issues of climate and confrontation of autocracies. .
Biden will also visit the Italian hosts of the G20 summit before sitting down with French President Emmanuel Macron. Biden is trying to bridge a rift with France created when the US and UK agreed to supply nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, replacing a French contract in the process.
Biden is also expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who a few days ago retracted threats to expel Western diplomats and whose purchase of Russian surface-to-air missiles has reversed his country’s participation in the program. fighter F-35.
At those and other meetings, Biden is expected to address the Iranian nuclear threat and Iran’s announcement that he could return to talks next month in Vienna.
He is also willing to continue to pressure America’s wealthiest allies to step up their commitments to share Covid-19 vaccines with low- and middle-income countries. Some nations have been slow to deliver on their ambitious promises, and others have largely stayed on the sidelines. Biden will argue that the pandemic cannot be ended until vaccines are widely available, and that democracies cannot allow China and Russia’s vaccine diplomacy, which often comes with strings attached, to take root globally.
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Biden will have little interaction with the two biggest American rivals, as Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia participate in the summits only virtually due to the threat of a pandemic. Those two leaders are critical to broader climate issues at a time of rising energy prices. China has vowed to increase coal mining before winter, while Russia’s natural gas reserves give it a degree of political power over parts of Europe.
Beyond the politics and personalities that will be prominent on Biden’s trip, the president will attempt to defend democracy itself, arguing that the essentials – fair elections and representative government – are superior to autocracies in good times and bad.
Heading to Scotland on Sunday night for the climate summit, Biden will lead a large US delegation that he hopes will showcase America’s plans to address the threat of climate change. It’s a sea change from former President Donald Trump, who withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accord.
Biden is ready to deliver a meaningful speech on climate change and attempt to regain the mantle of American leadership. One of the key objections to moving away from oil and other fossil fuels has been cost, but the president has been claiming that nature is already taking a toll in extreme weather due to climate change.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)