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Joe Biden's presidency 100 days on: What's been achieved?

April 29, 2021

Since President Biden entered office in January this year, he has had to take on unprecedented challenges that no president has seen since the Great Depression, but has he lived up to his ambitious goals?

Joe Biden at lectern
A busy first 100 days for the 46th president of the USImage: Evan Vucci/dpa/AP/picture alliance

The 100-day marker, which was first used during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, has been the standard to gauge a president's immediate progress. President Joe Biden entered office in January with the goal to tamp down a raging pandemic, fix a broken economy that left millions unemployed and reestablish the trans-Atlantic relationship.

1. COVID-19 pandemic response

President Biden's first major promise was to ensure that he would administer 100 million shots in his first 100 days. Once seen as an overly ambitious goal, he passed that mark after 58 days in office. In March, he raised the target to 200 million shots in arms, which he reached seven days before the 100 day-mark. In the US, 29% of the population has been fully vaccinated and over 40% have at least been given one shot.

The administration, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, were able to turn 21 sporting arenas, community centers, and convention centers in California, Florida, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and Texas into mass vaccination sites. Due to the comprehensive and quick rollout, the US is now the most vaccinated country in the world, but the presence of new variants, vaccine hesitancy, and concerns that the US has not contributed to the global community effort, means that some of those successes could be short-lived.

2. Immigration

Biden has taken some prompt action from his desk, signing at least three different executive orders in March to address issues regarding immigration. One was to set up a task force that would identify separated families at the border with Mexico — a policy that was criticized as inhumane during the Trump administration. Biden will have to rely on Congress to make any major changes. He currently has a razor-thin majority in the Senate, which could work against him. At present, it thus seems unlikely that he will live up to those promises.

Biden has struggled to handle the influx of migrants coming to the US-Mexico border. In March alone, more than 172,000 migrants were detained attempting to enter the United States. Shelters with unaccompanied minors are filled to capacity, and the administration's answers to these questions have quickly turned the situation into a major political issue that has not done him any favors in polling.

The administration has also reversed course on a cap on refugees. In February, Biden promised to lift the cap on how many refugees fleeing danger in their home countries can come to the US from the record low Trump-era cap of 15,000 to over 62,000. In April, the White House announced that they were going to keep the cap at the level set by Trump, angering members of Biden's own party.

Republicans have already used this as a talking point against Biden for the next election cycle and for the 2024 presidential election, but voters can have a short-term memory so that the issue might not have an impact on Biden's political future.

US overhauls immigration policy

3. Foreign policy

Biden has had to walk a tightrope when it comes to foreign policy. The stormy relationship that the Trump administration had with longtime allies has been more fluid since he entered office in January. Biden has put an emphasis on reconnecting with the US's previous allies, like the EU. Biden's remarks at the Munich Security Conference and Secretary of State Antony Blinken's two separate trips to Brussels to meet with NATO allies have been an indication that they are making serious attempts to reconnect the trans-Atlantic alliance.

While on the campaign trail Biden talked tough on Saudi Arabia saying he would take swift action against the nation and going as far as calling it a pariah state. The rhetoric has changed since — Biden now speaks of a "recalibration" of the relationship with the Saudis. Despite a US intelligence report indicating that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Biden administration stopped short of holding bin Salman personally accountable.

Biden has had a much tougher approach towards Russia than the previous administration. In March, Biden effectively called Russian President Vladimir Putin a killer and implemented tough sanctions for Russia's interference in the 2020 US election cycle. He directly spoke with Putin and warned him to stop Russia's military action in Ukraine.

4. Climate Change

Biden moved quickly by sticking to his promise to reenter the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which President Trump announced the US would withdraw from in 2017. As part of the pact, Biden has committed the US to cutting greenhouse gases in half by 2030. However, it is below the commitments made by the European Union and the United Kingdom.

For Biden to achieve any of his climate goals, it will be up to whether a divided Congress can pass his multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that is making its way through the Capitol. The plan will see investment in electric vehicles and clean-energy technology.

5. Economy

The first weeks of Biden's presidency were focused on an economy that was in danger of collapsing due to the coronavirus pandemic. With unemployment and jobless claims at record highs, he was able to push through — without Republican support — the trillion-dollar rescue plan, which sent $1,400 (€1,150) checks to the pockets of each American household.

Due to the vaccination rollout and the implementation of the American Rescue Plan, the job market added nearly 1 million jobs in March, bringing down the unemployment rate to 6%. Last April, the unemployment rate was hovering around 14%. Still, the employment numbers are still below pre-pandemic numbers and there are concerns about inflation rising as a result of the rescue plan, and the American people are likely to start holding the president accountable going forward.

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