WASHINGTON (AP) – It was an hour President Joe Biden would no doubt want to forget.
On Friday, the Pentagon acknowledged that a drone attack in Afghanistan killed 10 civilians, including seven children, not terrorists. A panel advising the Food and Drug Administration voted not to recommend COVID booster shots For all Americans over the age of 16, this is a hope of the administration. And france announced that he was withdrawing his ambassador to the United States. out of anger at being barred from a secret nuclear submarine deal that Biden had struck with the UK and Australia.
The punishment headlines, all within an hour, underscored the dangers to any president of the uncontrollable events that can define a term in office.
They came as Biden has seen a downward trend in public approval numbers as the COVID-19 crisis has deepened and Americans are blamed for America’s flawed withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The administration hoped to implement stricter vaccine guidelines, a new international alliance to thwart China, and a recommendation of what Biden has done best: leveraging his years on Capitol Hill and knowledge of the legislative process to coax his fellow Democrats into passing. both. – Reach the expense bills that are at the heart of your schedule.
Those ambitions are now more difficult.
Biden has proclaimed that defeating the pandemic is the central mission of his presidency, but the United States now averages more than 145,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases per day, up from a low of around 8,500 per day three months ago.
The president has moved to blame the resurgence of cases on the more than 70 million Americans who have not received a vaccine and on Republican lawmakers who have opposed his increasingly forceful efforts to pressure people to take it. vaccinate. Attendees were waiting for full FDA approval for the boosters, yet the advisory panel only recommended them for people over 65 or with underlying health conditions or special circumstances.
Biden’s aides in recent days had calmly expressed their relief that Afghanistan’s chaotic pullout, like the war itself for much of its nearly two decades, has receded from the headlines. That sentiment was shattered Friday afternoon when the Pentagon revealed the errant target of what was believed to be the last American drone strike of the war.
Biden had long advocated getting out of Afghanistan and, even after a suicide bombing, killed 13 US militaryand told the advisers that the decision was correct. The president is known for his certification, a stubbornness that shone through when he rejected suggestions that he regretted how the recall happened.
Since then, attendees have been quick to point out that more than 120,000 people have been successfully evacuated and claim that the silent efforts of the United States are ensuring the steady departure of others from the Taliban regime.
The end of Afghanistan was part of an effort to refocus foreign policy on China, a goal that was accelerated with the surprise announcement of the agreement between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.
But not only Beijing resisted, so did Paris, as France angrily accused the United States of excluding France from the alliance and scuttling its own submarine deal with Australia.
And then France withdrew its ambassador after its officials expressed dismay that, in their view, Biden had proven to be as unreliable a partner as his predecessor Donald Trump.
The tension with France came just as Biden hoped to turn to his ambitious national agenda.
But there is sharp ideological divisions among Democrats on Capitol Hill on the size and substance of the $ 3.5 trillion spending package that must be passed alongside the $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. And all of Congress will be forced to juggle White House legislation as it is inundated with Looming deadlines on the debt ceiling and government funding.
The West Wing is recreating a legislative strategy that worked to secure passage of the $ 1.9 trillion COVID relief in March and pushed the $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill through the Senate in August, according to a half-dozen aides from the the White House and outside advisers who were unauthorized to discuss internal deliberations. With Biden cajoling lawmakers, the infrastructure bill will pass the House alongside the $ 3.5 trillion spending bill that contains many of the president’s priorities, such as climate change and child care, and the Senate would approve along party lines.
With the Senate at a 50-50 tie and the Democrats’ margin in the House of Representatives only a handful of seats, few votes can be lost and it could be a formidable task to unite moderate Democrats, such as Senators Joe Manchin. from West Virginia and Kyrsten. Sinema of Arizona, who wants a much smaller spending bill, with liberals like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has firmly said he couldn’t shrink.
The White House has also begun to fill the president’s calendar again with events aimed at highlighting the need to pass the bills, including linking visits to natural disaster sites (fires in California and Idaho, hurricanes in New York and New Jersey) with the weather. change funding in legislation.
And last Thursday, in what had previously been tentatively planned as a day of inactivity for Biden, the White House scheduled him to give a speech from the East Room during which he focused on how taxing to get big companies corporations and rich Americans pay. More would help fund your plan, without offering any new details.
But there are obstacles. Manchin told Biden that he could not support $ 3.5 trillion and White House advisers have begun to indicate that they would settle for a smaller package, even if it draws the ire of progressives.
Still, Biden’s advisers believe that even if there is some discontent with the package, no Democratic lawmaker would want to be perceived as undermining the centerpiece of a chairman’s own party’s agenda.
As activity returns to Washington, the White House is also reducing the president’s trips to support the agenda on Capitol Hill, but it has raised great concern among some Democratic lawmakers that Biden was not doing enough to personally sell the legislation. yours. constituents across the country.
The White House notes that Biden’s cabinet has been aggressively traveling to promote legislation, even as the president has been retained in Washington.
The shortened trip comes amid some concern from attendees about the level of exposure Biden may have faced when he mixed in groups during a recent grueling trip west and his three-stop trip to mark the 9/11 anniversary. two officials said. Biden, 78, also did not have a summer vacation. His plan to spend time at his Delaware home in August was thwarted by the crisis in Afghanistan.
The aides had finally scheduled him a break, a long weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, on the Delaware coast. He arrived home on Friday shortly after 1:30 p.m.
Ninety minutes later, any hope for a quiet weekend was dashed.