One year in, Biden’s climate record is a mix of progress and inconsistency

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(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden arrived in office with lofty expectations from environmentalists who hoped that his ambitious campaign rhetoric would translate into an aggressive climate platform to match.

One year into his tenure, advocates credit Biden for setting an historically bold agenda, taking important steps to undo Trump-era rollbacks, and enacting a whole-of-government approach to combat climate change.

“President Biden is delivering,” said Margo Oge, the former director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, and current chair of the International Council on Clean Transportation.

But for others, the honeymoon has ended. Inconsistencies and broken pledges have frustrated some, and the fate of Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better proposal — which would commit $550 billion toward addressing climate change — remains in congressional purgatory.

His most fervent critics say he is failing.

“While Biden started off the year strong by undoing most of Trump’s anti-climate executive orders, Biden has stopped leading and is instead feeding us empty promises without delivering on a bold climate agenda,” said Varshini Prakash, executive director of Sunrise Movement, an advocacy group that supports political action on climate change.

The mixed reviews reflect a larger dispute within the environmental community as to what constitutes success. Pragmatists see Biden’s climate change efforts as crucial momentum in what Sierra Club legislative director Melinda Pierce calls the “incredibly plodding, deliberative pace of administrative rulemaking.” But more progressive groups like the Sunrise Movement see it differently. Biden, says Prakash, is “refusing to meet the moment we’re in right now.”

Indeed, as the Biden administration embarks on its second year in power, important climate change metrics continue their dire trend. European scientists recently concluded that the past seven years have been the hottest on record “by a clear margin.” And in 2021, America’s greenhouse gas emissions rose by more than 6%, according to the Rhodium Group global research institute.

Experts warn that the political outlook for the coming year may shrink Biden’s window for a legislative victory. Congressional gridlock shows no sign of letting up, looming midterm elections may soon complicate efforts to take bold action, and Biden’s approval rating remains on a downward trend, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

And if Democrats lose control of Congress in November’s midterms, or the White House in 2024, advocates fear the next few months may end up being the last chance for environmentalists to see major legislative action for a decade.

On Wednesday, Biden said he remains “confident [the administration] can get pieces — big chunks — of the Build Back Better law signed into law” before the midterm elections.

“Now is the time for the Biden administration to build on and accelerate the progress made in their first year,” said Abigail Dillen, president of Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental group.

‘Come out swinging’

For environmentalists, Biden’s very presence in the White House marked an important turning point in the climate fight. His predecessor, former President Donald Trump, sought to dismantle the federal government’s ability to address climate change and took a series of executive actions in line with that philosophy, including removing the U.S. from Paris Climate Accord — a move that Biden reversed on his first day in office.

Under Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency also took steps to loosen emissions standards put in place during the Obama administration — another measure that Biden has since reversed.

“We were super excited for President Biden — who ran on what was the most aggressive and ambitious climate agenda ever — to come out swinging,” said Pierce. “The level of ambition, scope, and breadth of what he was tackling was extraordinary.”

Before even setting foot in the Oval Office, Biden signaled his intent to prioritize climate issues. He committed to making the U.S. government carbon neutral by 2050, and placed fighting climate change in his pantheon of top priorities alongside strengthening the economy, ending the coronavirus pandemic, and battling racism.

The emphasis on climate reached the far corners of Biden’s transition process. A former member of Biden’s intelligence transition team told ABC News that their mandate was to focus resources toward combatting “the three C’s” — COVID-19, China, and climate change.

“Climate science demands this ‘whole of government’ approach that pursues every opportunity,” said Chase Huntley, the vice president of strategy at the nonprofit Wilderness Society.

Once in office, Biden took several organizational and bureaucratic steps to pivot away from Trump’s policies. He launched a White House Climate Policy Office to coordinate an administration-wide response to climate change, and established the White House’s first Environmental Justice Advisory Council to ensure that at least 40% of the benefits of climate investments go to communities that are disproportionately impacted by pollution.

Then came the executive actions, which environmentalists lauded for their sweeping reversal of Trump’s rollbacks. A Washington Post analysis found that Biden targeted half of the Trump era’s energy and environmental executive actions. A White House spokesperson highlighted Biden’s efforts to restore U.S. climate leadership abroad, jump-start electric vehicle development, and accelerate clean energy initiatives.

But since those early days of the Biden administration, his climate victories have been blunted by setbacks.

Two steps forward, one step back

While experts say the Biden administration has made meaningful progress on climate issues ranging from emissions standards to fossil fuel extraction, environmentalists also see inconsistencies — actions from the administration that seem to undermine the president’s own pledges and rhetoric.

On the use of federal lands and waters, for example, the administration garnered praise from environmentalists when the Department of Interior suspended its controversial oil and gas leasing program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the summer of 2021. And just last week, the White House announced plans to open up large swaths of New York and New Jersey coastal waters for renewable wind infrastructure, which experts say will eventually produce enough energy to power two million homes.

But those developments have been overshadowed by the Biden administration’s auctioning off of large swaths of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico for oil drilling, a decision that will serve to “perpetuate climate pollution from public lands instead of reduce it,” according to Huntley.

Biden pledged to end new drilling on federal lands during his presidential campaign, and just days before the lease sale in November, he encouraged every nation at the Glasgow COP26 Climate Conference to “do its part” to solve the climate crisis.

“It’s hard to imagine a more dangerous, hypocritical action in the aftermath of the climate summit,” said Kristen Monsell, a lawyer for the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity.

Administration officials justified the decision to move forward with the lease sale by citing a court order to do so, despite claims from environmentalists that they were under no such obligation. On Wednesday, environmental groups sent a legal petition calling on the administration to cease oil and gas production on public lands by 2035. The Department of Interior did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vehicle emissions have also emerged as a source of contention. The EPA under Biden recently proposed the most aggressive limits on pollution from cars and light trucks in history, mandating higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles starting in 2023. Experts welcomed the measure and took stock of its significance.

“Given that transportation is the number-one greenhouse gas contributor in the U.S., that was a pretty big deal,” said Oge.

But Biden refused to sign on to a multi-country commitment to take similar steps for buses and large trucks — some of the highest-polluting vehicles on the road. After the COP26 summit in Glasgow, 15 countries signed a pledge to make all new commercial trucks electric by 2040. The U.S. was not one of them.

“I was disappointed,” Oge said. “But it does not mean the administration can’t still take steps to reduce those emissions.”

The administration also scored points with activists when it stepped in to halt the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. But Abigail Dillen of Earthjustice points out that it failed to take action against the Line 3 pipeline, which, “from a climate standpoint, [is] equally harmful,” Dillen said.

“The Biden administration has clear authority to take back the Line 3 permit,” said Dillen. “The real difference between these two pipelines appears to be a political calculus. The Biden administration encountered unsurprising blowback in some quarters for its Keystone decision.”

Several environmentalists speculate that the Biden administration has sought to use its executive authority sparingly — doing enough to strengthen major climate priorities, but not so much as to put off moderate legislators whose votes will be needed to pass Build Back Better.

Despite those apparent contradictions, Biden’s political allies remain in his corner — particularly when his environmental record is held up against Trump’s — but they say they’re looking forward to additional progress in the coming year.

“Compared to Trump, the Biden administration has done a good job,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “But we must hold our government to a higher standard than President Trump and his cronies if we are going to be serious about taking on climate change.”

Hope and headwinds

Environmentalists and industry leaders view the next few months as crucial to Biden’s climate legacy, even as he faces political headwinds. Many seem inclined to be patient with Biden and his team, in light of their progress and pledges to date, and point to several areas where Biden can put points on the board.

Advocates say the administration can take additional executive actions, such as encouraging federal agencies, including the Pentagon, to turn toward electric vehicles for its fleets. The EPA has also signaled that it may propose tighter greenhouse gas emissions for heavy-duty vehicles starting in 2027 — which Oge said she hopes will include “strong and ambitious requirements for buses and delivery vans to be electric.”

“Looking ahead, this administration needs to be turning all the knobs under their control as far as they can go, for the sake of climate,” Huntley said.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in February in a case brought by Republican-led states that could curb the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions standards.

The most pressing issue, however, remains Biden’s signature Build Back Better plan — an enormous package that experts believe will make or break Biden’s environmental ambitions. The plan is universally opposed by congressional Republicans.

The plan is universally opposed by congressional Republicans, who have expressed concern over what its $1.7 trillion price tag would do to the national debt, and a pair of moderate Democrats, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who are advocating for a pared-down version of the bill.

But the White House indicated this week that it will press forward, even as other legislative priorities take center stage.

“Yes, there is a lot one can do under executive order — but a really large portion driving the kind of investments to tackle climate change has to come from Congress,” said the Sierra Club’s Melinda Pierce. “When you look to measure what was done in Year One, clearly the piece that has to be achieved legislatively is incomplete.”

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Senate fails to change filibuster rule for passage of voting rights legislation

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(WASHINGTON) — The Senate on Wednesday night failed to change the filibuster rule to allow voting rights legislation to pass with a simple majority.

The rule change would have required 51 votes to pass but did not have the support of all Democrats, whose leader had pushed for it. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., joined all Republicans in opposing the change.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said prior to the vote that the Senate would be “saved” by the opposition.

“Tonight, for the first time in history almost an entire political party will write in permanent ink that they would shatter the soul of the Senate for short-term power,” McConnell said. “But the brave bipartisan majority of this body is about to stop them.”

President Joe Biden said in a statement following the defeat: “I am profoundly disappointed that the Senate has failed to stand up for our democracy. I am disappointed — but I am not deterred. We will continue to advance necessary legislation and push for Senate procedural changes that will protect the fundamental right to vote.”

Earlier in the evening, the Senate was unable to end debate on voting rights legislation — something that would have required 60 votes to move toward final passage.

That vote was 49-51.

“This is about the fundamental freedom to vote and what should be an unfettered access to the ballot. I am here to make a very strong statement that this is: Whatever happens tonight in terms of the outcome of this vote the president and I are not going to give up on this issue this is fundamental to our democracy and it is non-negotiable,” Vice President Kamala Harris said after the first vote.

In a rare event, the Senate convened on Wednesday morning with all Democrats instructed to be in their seats inside the chamber as they tried to move forward on voting rights legislation and on a challenge to a longstanding Senate rule.

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., was one of the last to speak before the voting began.

“Jan. 6 happened, but here’s the thing, Jan. 5 also happened. Georgia, a state in the old confederacy, sent a Black man and a Jewish man to the Senate in one fell swoop,” he said. “Our nation has always had a complicated history, and I submit to you that here’s where we are — we’re swinging from a moral dilemma. We are caught somewhere between Jan. 5 and Jan. 6. Between our hopes and our fears. Between bigotry and beloved community. And in each moment we the people have to decide which way are we going to go, and what are we willing to sacrifice in order to get there. The question today is are we going to give in to a violent attack, whose aim is now being pursued through partisan voter suppression laws in state legislatures?”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that Democrats would seek a carveout to the filibuster rule to pass voting rights legislation by replacing the current 60-vote threshold needed to break a filibuster with an old-fashioned “talking filibuster.”

“We feel very simply: On something as important as voting rights, if Senate Republicans are going to oppose it, they should not be allowed to sit in their office,” Schumer said Tuesday following an evening caucus meeting. “They’ve got to come down on the floor and defend their opposition to voting rights, the wellspring of our democracy. There’s broad, strong feeling in our caucus about that.”

“The eyes of history are upon us,” he said to open debate Wednesday, preemptively defending the effort as a moral win, if not a legislative one. “Win, lose or draw, we are going to vote, especially when the issue relates to the beating heart of democracy.”

Schumer called out McConnell directly in his speech, who has led his party to block Democrats’ election reform efforts five times in the last year, blasting him for falsely claiming that red states haven’t changed laws restricting voter access.

“Just as Donald Trump has his “big lie,” Mitch McConnell now has his: States are not engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever,” Schumer said.

He also addressed two Democratic senators who hold what Schumer thinks is a false view that the chamber’s filibuster brings greater bipartisanship — and he countered in his remarks: “Isn’t the protection of voting rights — the most fundamental wellspring of this democracy — more important?”

McConnell, in another blistering speech, said a rule change would “destroy the Senate” and warned of a “nuclear winter” if Democrats get their way and “blow up” the chamber’s rule to pass voting rights legislation, which he called a “partisan Frankenstein bill.”

“This is exactly the kind of toxic world view that this president pledged to disavow, but it is exactly what has consumed his party on his watch,” McConnell said, building on days of swipes at President Joe Biden.

McConnell accused Democrats of trying to “smash and grab as much short-term power as they can carry,” and said, “For both groups of senators, this vote will echo for generations.”

When Majority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., tried to ask McConnell a question after his speech and get him to engage in debate on the issue, the Republican leader walked away.

“I’m sorry he did not stay for the question,” Durbin said to the chamber. “Does he really believe that there is no evidence of voter suppression in the actions of 19 states?”

Democrats’ election reform bill comes at a time when 19 states have restricted access to voting fueled by false claims in the wake of the 2020 election, according to the the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. The bill at hand would make Election Day a federal holiday, expand early voting and mail-in-voting, and give the federal government greater oversight over state elections.

Schumer has proposal to reverting to a talking filibuster on the issue would allow Democrats to subvert GOP obstruction to make way for the bill’s final passage.

Under a talking filibuster, senators are required to “hold the floor” during debate, testing their stamina as they stand and speak to block bills. Once a party runs out of steam, the chamber would then pass the bill that was filibustered by a simple majority. So, in theory, Harris, as president of the Senate, would serve as a tie-breaking vote for Democrats to pass the once-filibustered bill.

But both Manchin and Sinema have repeatedly made clear their opposition to changing the filibuster rule even in order to pass voting rights, although they say they support the underlying legislation.

“I don’t know how you break a rule to make a rule,” Manchin told reporters Tuesday, shooting down the proposed talking filibuster.

Manchin defended his decision to vote against changing Senate rules in a floor speech Wednesday evening that he said aimed to “rebut what I believe is a great misleading of the American people” by Senate Democrats.

“Eliminating the filibuster would be the easy way out. It was not meant to be easy,” Manchin said. “I cannot support such a perilous course for this nation when elected leaders are sent to Washington to unite our country not to divide our country. We are called the United States, not the divided states, and putting politics and party aside is what we are supposed to do.”

Manchin made another plea for bipartisan cooperation and said he believes election reform could be achieved in a bipartisan fashion if members worked at it.

“I don’t know what happened to the good old days but I can tell you they’re not here now,” Manchin said.

The West Virginia lawmaker said he respects that many Democrats have migrated in their stance on the filibuster and asked for respect in his steadfast opposition.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., however, laid into Manchin and Sinema Wednesday evening.

“I do not understand why two Democrats who presumably understand the importance of the Freedom to Vote Act, and as I understand it, will vote for the Freedom to Vote Act, are not prepared to change the rules so that that bill could actually become law. That I do not understand,” he said. “If you think this bill makes sense and if you’re worried about the future of American democracy and if you are prepared to vote for the bill, then why are you wasting everybody’s time and not voting for the rule change that allows us to pass the bill? You know, it’s like inviting somebody to lunch and putting out a great spread and saying you can’t eat.”

Generally, senators rarely occupy the chamber while debate is open and only those wishing to speak deliver remarks to a largely empty room — but that was not the case for the high-stakes showdown Wednesday.

Among those who spoke was Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who warned Democrats that they’re embarking on a “slippery slope” in attempting to carve out an exception to the filibuster to pass a piece of legislation.

“They’ll soon find themselves rueing the day their party broke the Senate,” he said. “The next Republican-controlled Senate can make the 2017 tax cuts permanent, ensure that blue state millionaires are required to pay their fair share of federal taxes,” he went on, listing GOP platforms including implementing a 20-week ban on abortion and establishing concealed carry of firearms nationwide.

Both parties have supported filibuster carveouts in the past decade for judicial nominees — first under then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who lowered the threshold for judicial nominees to 51 votes to make way for then-President Barack Obama’s nominees in 2013. McConnell, as Senate majority leader in 2017, also used the so-called “nuclear option” to confirm then-President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

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Supreme Court paves way for Trump White House document review by Jan. 6 committee

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(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court has denied President Donald Trump’s request for a stay of a lower court mandate that hundreds of pages of his presidential records from Jan. 6 be turned over to the congressional committee investigating the attacks.

The vote was 8-1.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Supreme Court Justices Sotomayor, Gorsuch dispute having COVID mask flap

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(WASHINGTON) — Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not ask her colleague and seatmate on the bench, Justice Neil Gorsuch, to wear a mask during the omicron surge, according to a rare joint statement issued Wednesday.

The justices, addressing swirling media reports of discord, insist they remain “warm colleagues and friends” despite recent headlines suggesting Gorsuch had defied a request to mask up, forcing Sotomayor, who, because of her diabetes and her age — 67 — is at heightened risk of COVID, to retreat to her chambers.

“Reporting that Justice Sotomayor asked Justice Gorsuch to wear a mask surprised us. It is false. While we may sometimes disagree about the law, we are warm colleagues and friends,” they said in a rare joint statement.

Since early January, Sotomayor has not joined her colleagues for any in person proceedings or private meetings due to health concerns. At the same time, her peers began wearing masks while together — with one notable exception: Gorsuch.

NPR’s Nina Totenberg reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed source, that Chief Justice John Roberts had encouraged his colleagues “in some form” to mask up during omicron. She indicated that Gorsuch defied that request.

Fox News’ Shannon Bream reports, citing a separate unnamed source, that’s not true and that no request went out from Roberts and that Sotomayor never asked Gorsuch herself.

Roberts later out his own statement, saying, “I did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other Justice to wear a mask on the bench.”

He indicated he will have no further comment.

All the justices are boosted and tested daily before meeting together, per the court.

From October through December, all nine justices convened on the bench together — and only Sotomayor wore a mask at that time. She sat next to a maskless Gorsuch and Justice Stephen Breyer, among others.

In January, when they reconvened, most justices started wearing masks — with sole exception being Gorsuch. Sotomayor started dialing in from chambers.

The implication has been the appearance that Sotomayor is not comfortable sitting next to unmasked Gorsuch — with whom she’s been friendly and appeared with jointly in virtual events.

Her chambers has not specified the reason for her remote participation.

Everyone else in the courtroom who’s not a justice must be masked and must be tested, per court rules.

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Biden holds rare solo news conference ahead of 1-year mark in office

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(WASHINGTON) — On the eve of the one-year anniversary of his inauguration, President Joe Biden held a formal news conference at the White House Wednesday, answering reporter questions on his handling of the pandemic, the economy and legislative agenda.

“It’s been a year of challenges, but it’s also many years of enormous progress,” Biden said to begin, ticking through his administration’s successes before fielding questions from reporters.

With Biden facing the limits of what he can accomplish with an evenly-divided Senate, unable to get either his signature social spending package or major voting rights reform through Congress in recent weeks, and with the pandemic still raging well into its second, his approval rating in polls has hit an all-time low. A Jan. 12 Quinnipiac poll found his approval rating to be 33%, a 3-point drop from November.

Still, Biden touted wins over the year to kick off the news conference, including administering more than 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses and hitting record-low unemployment rates in many states.

“Should we have done more testing earlier? Yes,” Biden said in his opening remarks. “But we’re doing more now. We’ve gone from zero at-home tests a year ago to 375 million tests on the market just this month.”

He said the bottom line on COVID-19 is the country is “in a better place than we’ve been and have been thus far” and reiterated his position not to go back to lockdowns and school closures.

“Some people may call what’s happening now a new normal. I call it a job not yet finished,” Biden said with confidence. “We’re moving toward a time that COVID-19 won’t disrupt our daily lives or COVID-19 won’t be a crisis, but something to protect against and a threat. Look, we’re not there yet. We will get there.”

The first question to Biden was on whether he believes he overpromised to the American public what his administration could achieve in office one year in.

“Look, I didn’t overpromise,” a defensive Biden replied. “I have probably outperformed what anybody thought would happen. The fact of the matter is that we’re in a situation where we have made enormous progress.”

Then, he acknowledged a weakness.

“One thing I haven’t been able to do so far, is get my Republican friends to get in the game of making things better in this country,” Biden said. “I did not anticipate that there’d be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn’t get anything done.”

In an answer to ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce, Biden said there’s no need to scale back his agenda despite the appearance that Democrats aren’t getting their priorities through.

“I’m not trying to — I’m not asking for castles in the sky,” Biden replied. “I’m asking for practical things the American people have been asking for for a long time, a long time. And I think we can get it done.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, one day earlier, set up a preemptive defense for the president, telling reporters, “You don’t get everything done in the first year.”

“But what we feel good about … is that coming into an incredibly difficult circumstance, fighting a pandemic, an economic a massive economic downturn, as a result, an administration that was prior to us that did not effectively deal with a lot of these crises, that there’s been a lot of progress made,” she added.

“We need to build on that. The work is not done, the job is not done, and we are certainly not conveying it is, so our objective and I think what you’ll hear the president talk about tomorrow is how to build on the foundation we laid in the first year, Psaki said.

White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield cited the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief law, the American Rescue Plan, and a major, bipartisan infrastructure package as two achievements Biden will highlight in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday. But she also acknowledged the president can do more on other issues.

“He has been laser-focused on taming COVID and growing the economy. He would be the first to say we’re not where we need to be on those,” Bedingfield said.

Wednesday’s session marks just the second time Biden has held a solo formal press conference at the White House. The first such news conference was held March 25, 2021.

Since then, he held five news conferences on foreign trips, and three in partnership with other foreign leaders at the White House, for a total of nine news conferences. While Biden often answers questions shouted by the press at other events, his tally of formal news conferences is the lowest for any president since Ronald Reagan, according to data from University of California Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project.

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Biden to hold rare solo news conference ahead of one-year mark in office

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(WASHINGTON) — On the eve of the one-year anniversary of his inauguration, President Joe Biden is set to hold a formal news conference at the White House Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, and is bound to face questions on waning public support for his handling of the pandemic, the economy and legislative agenda.

With Biden facing the limits of what he can accomplish with an evenly-divided Senate, unable to get either his signature social spending package or major voting rights reform through Congress in recent weeks, and with the pandemic still raging well into its second, President Biden’s approval rating in polls has hit an all-time low. A Jan. 12 Quinnipiac poll found his approval rating to be 33%, a 3-point drop from November.

Still, Biden is expected at the news conference to tout his successes over the year, including administering more than 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, and hitting record-low unemployment rates in many states.

“You don’t get everything done in the first year. But what we feel good about … is that coming in to an incredibly difficult circumstance, fighting a pandemic, an economic a massive economic downturn, as a result, an administration that was prior to us that did not effectively deal with a lot of these crises, that there’s been a lot of progress made,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

“We need to build on that. The work is not done, the job is not done, and we are certainly not conveying it is, so our objective and I think what you’ll hear the president talk about tomorrow is how to build on the foundation we laid in the first year,” she added.

White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield cited the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief law, the American Rescue Plan, and a major, bipartisan infrastructure package as two achievements Biden will highlight in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday. But she also acknowledged the president can do more on other issues.

“He has been laser-focused on taming COVID and growing the economy. He would be the first to say we’re not where we need to be on those,” Bedingfield said.

Wednesday’s session marks just the second time Biden has held a solo formal press conference at the White House. The first such news conference was held March 25, 2021.

Since then, he held five news conferences on foreign trips, and three in partnership with other foreign leaders at the White House, for a total of nine news conferences. While Biden often answers questions shouted by the press at other events, his tally of formal news conferences is the lowest for any president since Ronald Reagan, according to data from University of California Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project.

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Senate braces for showdown over voting rights, filibuster rule

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(WASHINGTON) — In a rare event, the Senate will convene on Wednesday morning with all Democrats instructed to be in their seats inside the chamber when the business begins as they try to move forward on voting rights legislation and a challenge a long-standing Senate rule, efforts poised to fail without the support of a single Republican and likely even some Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that Democrats will seek a carveout to the filibuster rule to pass voting rights legislation by replacing the current 60-vote threshold needed to break a filibuster with an old-fashioned “talking filibuster.”

“We feel very simply: on something as important as voting rights, if Senate Republicans are going to oppose it, they should not be allowed to sit in their office,” Schumer said Tuesday following an evening caucus meeting. “They’ve got to come down on the floor and defend their opposition to voting rights, the wellspring of our democracy. There’s broad, strong feeling in our caucus about that.”

“To anyone who says, ‘Oh, well you may not win.’ Don’t do it. Look at history,” Schumer added, preemptively defending the effort as a moral win, if not a legislative one.

Under a talking filibuster, senators are required to “hold the floor” during debate, testing their stamina as they must stand and speak to block bills. Once a party runs out of steam and gives in, the chamber would then pass the bill that was filibustered by a simple majority. So, in theory, Vice President Kamala Harris, as president of the Senate, would serve as a tie-breaking vote for Democrats to pass the once-filibustered bill.

But both Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have repeatedly made clear their opposition to changing the filibuster rule to pass voting rights, although they say they support the underlying legislation.

“I don’t know how you break a rule to make a rule,” Manchin told reporters Tuesday, shooting down the proposed talking filibuster.

And without the support of every single Democrat, it’ll be a non-starter in the chamber.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell gave a highly critical speech on the floor Tuesday of the effort after weeks of warning of “scorched earth” if Democrats made a filibuster carveout.

“Does the Senate exist to help narrow majorities double down on divisions or to force broad coalitions to build bridges?” McConnell said. “This fake hysteria does not prove the senate is obsolete it proves the Senate is as necessary as ever.”

Both parties have supported filibuster carveouts in the past decade for judicial nominees – first under then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who lowered the threshold for judicial nominees to 51 votes to make way for then-President Barack Obama’s nominees in 2013. McConnell, as Senate majority leader in 2017, also used the so-called “nuclear option” to confirm then-President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

The Senate rules change vote is expected in the early evening.

Across Pennsylvania Avenue, President Joe Biden – one day shy of one year in office – will hold a press conference from the White House around the same time, where he’ll likely take questions on his stalled legislative agenda.

The election reform bill at hand in the Senate would make Election Day a federal holiday, expand early voting and mail-in-voting, and give the federal government greater oversight over state elections. And would come at a time when nearly 20 states have restricted access to voting fueled by false claims in the wake of the 2020 election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

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Biden’s report card: One year in, accomplishments and stalled priorities

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(WASHINGTON) — With the United States facing many of the same crises that Joe Biden took on when he took office one year ago, the president has been taking stock of his legislative accomplishments — including major infrastructure and coronavirus relief packages — and has stayed upbeat even as his popularity plummets and key priorities remain unmet.

“There’s a lot of talk about disappointments and things we haven’t gotten done,” Biden said last week. “We’re going to get a lot of them done, I might add.”

From fighting the pandemic and rebuilding the economy, to dealing with racial strife and combating climate change, Biden faces a mixed report card of what he’s been able to accomplish, as the limits of his office — and political realities he’s had trouble overcoming — launch him into a challenging second year in the White House.

On COVID, shift to science gives way to ‘reactive’ policies

From his first day in office, Biden set a different tone on COVID-19 from his predecessor, President Donald Trump. He embraced science and his top medical advisers — like Dr. Anthony Fauci — donned face coverings, and expressed sympathy for lives lost to the virus.

Biden pushed a $1.9 trillion relief package through Congress, oversaw a testing program that ramped up exponentially in his first months in office, and encouraged or mandated masks where he could, including on planes and other public transport.

Sixty-three percent of Americans are now fully vaccinated and nearly all schools have in-person instruction. And while the Supreme Court this month blocked his administration from requiring large businesses to mandate their workers get vaccinated or test weekly, many companies have instituted vaccine and testing requirements regardless.

But after Biden predicted that the Fourth of July last year would “begin to mark our independence from this virus,” the delta and omicron variants drove up cases, hospitalizations and deaths — and overwhelmed U.S. hospitals.

Shifting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a testing shortage amid the omicron surge led public health experts to criticize his administration. A group of Senate Democrats said “far too many measures” his White House had taken “have been reactive, rather than proactive.”

And fewer Americans than ever now approve of the way Biden is handling COVID.

“If you take a look,” Biden said earlier this month, “we’re very different today than we were a year ago, even though we still have problems.”

On Tuesday, a White House official said, the Biden administration would make 400 million non-surgical N95 masks available to Americans for free and a government website went live allowing them to order free at-home tests.

Economy surges, but inflation hampers economic recovery

Biden delivered on two key economic promises: a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package and a $1.2 trillion infrastructure law that passed with bipartisan support.

He presided over the economy’s resurgence last year, with a record 6.4 million jobs created, rising wages and low unemployment — dropping to just 3.9% in December.

But inflation was up a record 6.8% over the course of the year, outpacing wage growth for many Americans.

The White House initially labeled rising prices temporary in nature, and this month said they expected price jumps to moderate this year.

Global supply chain headaches have also led to shipping delays, although most packages reached consumers on time for the holidays.

Legislative priorities stalled

While his infrastructure bill marked a major win, Biden ended his first year in office with two top domestic priorities, his nearly $2 trillion “Build Back Better” social plan and a pair of voting rights bills, stalled in the Senate despite passing the House.

That’s in large part due to the intransigence of two key Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

The pair’s opposition to changing Senate rules — over Biden’s pleas — has allowed Republicans to block legislation that would widen access to voting and federal oversight of elections.

Meanwhile, the president’s negotiations with Manchin on the social spending plan — which includes universal preschool, expanding the child tax credit, an historical investment in climate policies and more health coverage, among other policies — hit a roadblock last month.

Biden had pledged to take on climate change and racial equity as key priorities, and while he has signed executive orders aimed at both, legislative pushes — climate action in the “Build Back Better” bill, and police reform measures — have failed to garner bipartisan support despite Biden’s pledge to soften political divisions.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that Biden would continue to “advocate for both” voting rights and the “Build Back Better” bill.

“You don’t get everything done in the first year,” she said.

‘America is back’

The president traveled twice to Europe last year, declaring to allies that “America is back,” reaffirming traditional relationships and returning the U.S. to international organizations and agreements like the World Health Organization and Paris climate accord.

Seeking to end America’s involvement in Afghanistan, he withdrew troops from the country before the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks — but in the chaotic final days, a terror attack killed 13 American service members.

He has found it difficult to bring Iran back to the agreement over its nuclear program, which Trump scrapped, while North Korea has continued to test missiles despite U.S. misgivings.

As he juggles long-term competition with China and bringing about worldwide consensus on fighting climate change, Biden has in recent months found one of his most acute foreign policy challenges to be Russia’s military build-up on its border with Ukraine.

Biden has threatened severe consequences — economic and otherwise — should Russian President Vladimir Putin decide to invade.

Hope of unity hits political reality

Just two weeks after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Biden stood on the building’s steps for his inauguration and preached about the need for unity.

Biden predicted Republicans would have an “epiphany” after Trump left office, but that has not materialized. In an ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted in late December, 71% of Republicans said they sided with Trump’s false claims that he was the rightful winner of the 2020 election.

Trump’s lies about the election — and politicization of the pandemic — continue to guide Republicans, both in Washington and across the country.

And Biden this month used his strongest language yet to describe Republicans opposed to passing voting rights bills, comparing those opposed to his measures to notorious racial segregationists.

ABC News’ Karen Travers contributed to this report.

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Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Rudy Giuliani, obtains phone records for Eric Trump, Kimberly Guilfoyle

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(WASHINGTON) — The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack on Tuesday subpoenaed former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell, who pushed unfounded claims of widespread election fraud and pushed to overturn the 2020 election results on former President Donald Trump’s behalf.

“The Select Committee’s investigation has revealed credible evidence that you publicly promoted claims that the 2020 election was stolen and participated in attempts to disrupt or delay the certification of the election results based on your allegations,” the panel wrote in letters to Giuliani, Ellis, Powell and Trump aide and attorney Boris Epshteyn.

Within the last week, the House Select Committee also subpoenaed the phone records of Eric Trump, former president Trump’s second eldest son — a source with direct knowledge has confirmed to ABC News. The subpoena was sent to a cell phone provider of Eric Trump.

The group subpoenaed Tuesday worked with Trump to contest the results of the election in the fall of 2020, traveling to key states and huddling with Trump and other White House aides in the Oval Office as the president weighed how to overturn the results.

“The four individuals we’ve subpoenaed today advanced unsupported theories about election fraud, pushed efforts to overturn the election results, or were in direct contact with the former President about attempts to stop the counting of electoral votes,” Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in a statement. “We expect these individuals to join the nearly 400 witnesses who have spoken with the Select Committee as the committee works to get answers for the American people about the violent attack on our democracy.”

Ellis also circulated two legal memos urging former Vice President Mike Pence to reject or delay the count of electoral votes on Jan. 6, the committee said.

Giuliani urged Trump to seize voting machines after being told the Department of Homeland Security lacked the authority to do so, the committee said, pointing to a report from the news website Axios and documents obtained by investigators.

The former mayor of New York City, a close Trump confidant, spoke at the Jan. 6 rally outside the White House, urging for “trial by combat” over the election results before Trump supporters marched to the Capitol.

Powell, according to the committee, reportedly urged Trump to seize voting machines to find evidence that foreign hackers had altered the election results.

Powell, Giuliani, Ellis and Epshteyn did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Dominion Voting Systems, a Colorado-based voting machine company, has filed defamation lawsuits against both Giuliani and Powell and is seeking billions of dollars in damages over their unfounded claims of election fraud. A federal judge denied both Powell and Giuliani’s efforts to have the suits dismissed.

Giuliani’s law license was also suspended in New York state last year over his claims of election fraud.

ABC’s John Santucci, Olivia Rubin and Will Steakin contributed to this report.

 

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Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Giuliani, other Trump allies who pushed election fraud claims

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(WASHINGTON) — The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack on Tuesday subpoenaed Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Elllis, who were among those who pushed claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election and for GOP officials to disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.

The committee, which is seeking records and testimony from the witnesses in early February, also subpoenaed Trump aide Boris Epshteyn and lawyer Sidney Powell.

To date, the committee has issued nearly 60 public subpoenas for records and testimony.

 

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