WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden ended the summer on a string of legislative victories, projecting victories that once seemed out of reach in this polarized capital. Now he wants to make sure voters reward him for it when they vote in November’s major congressional elections.
It’s a tall order, with gas and food prices still painfully high and the daily political news awash with controversial investigations into his predecessor and the impact on states of the Supreme Court’s abortion decision.
In an effort to cut it all, the White House is ramping up its campaign to push new laws designed to fix the economy and help consumers on a personal level, boosting critical computer chip production, lowering prescription drug prices, expanding clean energy and renewing the country’s infrastructure.
Biden, in a meeting with his cabinet on Tuesday, said his administration had passed “excellent parts of our economic agenda” and provided “proof that democracy can deliver for the people.”
His schedule is packed with trips to promote his policies — Ohio on Friday, Michigan next week — to battleground states where Democrats face tight races with Republicans. And his administration is rolling out plans to hand out hundreds of billions of dollars authorized by legislation he has signed.
The president has tapped John Podesta, a veteran of Democratic administrations, to lead the $375 billion plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change. The money is included in a massive bill — dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act by the White House — that also creates new tax revenue to reduce the deficit and contain prescription drug costs.
“People believe that legislative achievements are meaningful when they can feel them or see them,” William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who served as a domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, said in an interview.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced Tuesday that the administration is preparing to hand out $50 billion in federal aid to the computer chip industry, part of a new law known as the CHIPS and Science Act. Companies can apply until February, he said, and the money will be distributed after that.
“With this funding, we will ensure that the United States is never again in a position where national security interests are compromised or key industries are grounded because of our inability to produce key semiconductors here at home,” Raimondo said in a White Briefing House.
Many of the contracts will not pay dividends for months or years. Grant applications must be submitted and reviewed, new bridges designed, regulations written.
But Biden is taking opportunities to argue that the legislation is already having an impact. On Friday, he will travel to Ohio to break ground on Intel’s new computer chip factory, which Biden called “the largest investment of its kind ever in our country.”
The plant was announced earlier this year, but the company said in June it would be delayed because Congress had yet to pass the CHIPS Act.
“We’re finally bringing jobs home that have been overseas for a while,” he said Tuesday.
Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat running against Republican JD Vance for the US Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Sherrod Brown, plans to join Biden at the event.
Biden is making another trip on Sept. 14 to the Detroit Auto Show to talk up U.S. electric vehicle manufacturing as he tries to combine ambitious emissions-cutting goals with promises of new jobs.
His big-money deflation law includes rebates for buying electric cars, though many vehicles won’t qualify because they must include batteries made in North America with minerals mined or recycled here.
This summer’s legislative victories have helped Biden defeat the hardening narrative that Democrats have failed to achieve much of what matters despite controlling the White House and both houses of Congress. The president plans to hold yet another event to celebrate the deflationary law, even though he signed it into law last month.
However, holding voters’ attention could prove difficult. Inflation has eased somewhat, but prices remain high, eating into pocketbooks despite low unemployment and rising wages.
“Compared to where the administration was at the start of 2022, the achievements are impressive, and several of them were achieved against the odds,” Galston observed. “That said, I continue to believe that conditions on the ground, as experienced by voters and citizens, are far more influential in determining voter choice than catalogs of legislative accomplishments.”
Biden is also leaning on other issues in hopes of boosting Democratic turnout in November. He delivered a speech last Thursday in Philadelphia in which he described Donald Trump as a threat to democracy and focused on the proliferation of abortion restrictions in Republican-governed states. The new laws came into effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
At the same time, Biden’s approval rating is on the rise. The latest Gallup poll showed him with an approval rating of 44%, down from a low of 38% in July.
“Those are not good numbers,” Galston said. “But at least he’s not sinking and drowning. And there is hope that his nostrils will clear the water line in the not-too-distant future.”
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will embark on a month-long tour to tout Biden’s accomplishments ahead of the midterm elections, starting in Detroit on Thursday.
He is expected to meet with business owners and local leaders before delivering a speech. In addition to talking about modernizing the IRS and cracking down on tax evasion among the wealthy and big corporations, Yellen plans to address “the existential threat posed by climate change.”
“In the process of boosting domestic clean energy production, the law will support our energy security and insulate us from the type of fossil fuel-based energy instability we’ve seen over the past year,” Yellen will say, according to speech excerpts. provided to The Associated Press.
Yellen’s September tour includes scheduled stops in North Carolina, the Washington, DC area. Then there’s an October speech at the 157th anniversary of the Freedman’s Bank Forum to talk about how the president’s economic agenda “advances fairness and makes our economy stronger as a result.”
The Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company was created by Abraham Lincoln in 1865 to provide financial opportunity to newly emancipated slaves.
Associated Press writers Fatima Hussein and Josh Boak contributed to this report.