With his first 100 days in the books, President Joe Biden is telling lawmakers and the country that now is no time to slow down. But after notching a legislative win in March with the passage of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, what lies ahead is likely to be more difficult.
"Now is our opportunity to make some real progress," he said during his address to Congress earlier this week.
As part of that Wednesday night speech, he urged lawmakers to tackle police reform, strengthen gun laws, reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, increase the minimum wage and more.
His top priorities, though, are two sweeping spending plans with a combined price tag surpassing $4 trillion. The proposals are financed in part by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.
One of the proposals focuses on infrastructure, while the other deals with education, workers and families. Biden argues the measures will boost the economy and reduce racial and gender inequality.
It's an ambitious agenda for a president whose first hundred days in the White House were largely defined by crisis response.
The president’s plans require buy-in from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where partisanship is high and margins are razor thin. Democrats hold a slim advantage in the U.S. House, and the Senate is split 50-50.
In the Senate, Biden faces a choice: compromise enough to get some Republicans on board, angering some Democrats in the process, or attempt to bypass the filibuster and muscle the legislation through with only Democratic votes, generating outcry from Republicans.
Polls show significant public support for Biden’s plans, even from some Republicans. But the GOP argues that will change as people learn more.
“There's going to [be] a whole bunch of pork in there that's going to bail out pension funds and cities and things that aren't [sic] really have anything to do with infrastructure,” said Paris Dennard, national spokesperson for the RNC.
Clues From the First 100 Days
On his first big at-bat, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, Democrats flew solo, passing the bill without Republican support and using the reconciliation process to go around the filibuster rules in the Senate.
This sort of push garnered praise from some progressives.
“The active invitation and willingness and collaboration with progressives in his first 100 days … has been very impressive,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, who described Biden as “exceeding” progressives' expectations.
At the same time, Biden’s maneuvers so far have drawn surprise and frustration from some Republicans.
“Biden always struck as more pragmatic, and more moderate,” said Rep. John Katko, R-New York.
Casey Burgat, who leads the legislative affairs program at The George Washington University, said voters are not likely to punish Biden for the party-line votes if the eventual results benefit them.
“The American public doesn't really care about the procedural mechanisms,” he said. “They’re not worried about how this gets done, so that it does get done.”
If Democrats opt to go it alone on issues as complicated as infrastructure and child care, it likely will not be easy, especially with a party coalition that spans the political spectrum from Sen. Bernie Sanders to Sen. Joe Manchin.
And on other agenda items, where bypassing the Senate filibuster is not possible - such as gun control or immigration - Biden’s ideas face steep odds.
There is also another complicating factor for Biden: the clock. As 100 days turns to 200 and then 300, next year’s midterm elections will draw ever-closer.
“If they lose either - even one - chamber, their legislative agenda is basically done on Capitol Hill,” Burgat said.