A review of Biden's legislative and policy successes over united GOP opposition
Landmark legislation enacted during the first two years of President Joe Biden’s first term has invested billions of dollars in infrastructure and jobs.
In the first two years of his presidency, President Joe Biden has successfully enacted significant legislation affecting millions of Americans, while also implementing progressive changes in policy affecting such issues as health care, climate change, and racism.
After Biden was elected in 2020, Democratic wins in runoff elections in Georgia in January 2021 gave the party full but narrow control of the executive and legislative branches. Vice President Kamala Harris became the tie-breaking vote in an equally divided Senate; however, Democrats remained unable to reach the 60 votes needed for most legislation to pass in the chamber.
Despite those headwinds, Biden and congressional Democrats were able to pass two key pieces of legislation, the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act, using the reconciliation process available to advance bills primarily focused on taxes and spending. The two laws represent over $2 trillion in direct spending and tax incentives.
Biden was also able to secure passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act with some Republican votes; however, a majority of Republicans in the House and the Senate voted against them.
American Rescue Plan
The American Rescue Plan contained $1.9 trillion in stimulus funding to assist the recovery of the U.S. economy following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Biden signed it into law on March 11, 2021, less than two months after he was sworn in.
$350 billion that was sent to states has been used to pay essential workers, assist nonprofits, extend Medicaid, assist fire protection, upgrade water infrastructure, fund police departments, and provide grants for small businesses.
A key provision of the plan expanded the child tax credit, sending direct monthly payments to qualified families for each child. As a result of those payments, the U.S. Census Bureau reported, child poverty fell to 5.2% in 2021, its lowest recorded level. The provision ended that year.
Since the implementation of the plan, the unemployment rate has gone from 6.3% in January 2021 to 3.4% in January 2023, the lowest rate since 1969. Since Biden took office, over 10.7 million jobs have been added to the U.S. economy.
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Nov. 15, 2021, following years of promises (particularly by former President Donald Trump) of “infrastructure week.” The $1.2 trillion bill is focused on upgrading transportation infrastructure across all U.S. states and territories.
Billions of dollars are currently being spent to upgrade and replace roads and bridges, in many cases addressing issues that have been a concern for years. The law is also funding the deployment of half a million electric vehicle chargers along the 53,000 miles of the interstate highway system.
Inflation Reduction Act
The $739 billion Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law by Biden on Aug. 16, 2022, and contains $369 billion in investments in slowing climate change, the biggest spending on dealing with the issue in U.S. history.
Environmental advocates have projected that the law will put the U.S. on a path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. The law mandates credits that can be used by qualified consumers for the purchase of electric vehicles; Tesla and Ford have recently cut prices on some of their vehicles, expanding the pool of potential buyers.
The law also included a cap on insulin prices for some Medicare recipients that is projected to cut their out-of-pocket costs by $500 a year. The Inflation Reduction Act allows Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices with manufacturers.
Additionally, the law also funds efforts by the IRS to improve and update enforcement, allowing the agency to potentially recover billions of dollars in revenue from wealthy earners that have gone uncollected due to tax evasion.
CHIPS and Science Act
Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act on Aug. 9, 2022, providing $280 billion to grow the U.S. semiconductor industry through research and development, invest more in domestic supply chains, and diversify the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce.
Following passage of the law, the companies Micron, Intel, and Qualcomm said it was a vital component of their current and future plans to build facilities forecasted to create thousands of jobs. The law also has been used to increase STEM funding at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and at a college primarily serving Native American students.
Bipartisan Safer Communities Act
The law extends background checks to gun purchasers under the age of 21 and funds “red flag” laws, violence intervention programs, and school safety programs and mental health services.
Executive orders, rule changes and policies
Biden has also used his executive power as president to change federal policies on a host of issues.
Following the Supreme Court decision in June 2022 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned the constitutional right to abortion affirmed in Roe v. Wade, Biden signed executive orders in July and August that instructed federal agencies to protect legal access to abortion care, including access to such medications as mifepristone and misoprostol.
In March 2021, Biden signed an executive order affirming the court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County that LGBTQ people are protected against discrimination on the basis of sex in dealings with the federal government.
Changes to federal rules implemented under Biden have expanded the availability of subsidized health insurance plans; allowed stores to sell hearing aids over the counter; regulated “ghost guns” as firearms; and tightened the criteria for products to qualify as “Made in America.”
Under Biden, the Environmental Protection Agency formed an Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights, dedicating at least 200 staffers across the agency’s 10 regions to add environmental justice principles, civil rights, and equity into policy.
Reversing course from the Trump administration, Biden has used his office and other agencies to promote the availability of health insurance during sign-up periods under the Affordable Care Act, breaking records for new enrollments in both 2021 and 2022.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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