Mere months after entering office, President Joe Biden has faced criticism as a result of his administration’s handling of a variety of important issues—such as foreign policy, a stimulus package, and immigration—not meeting the standards he set throughout his campaign. Here are some actions from Biden and his administration that differ from what they have previously committed to do:
Stimulus Package and Economic Relief
President Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus bill has now been passed by Congress, but not in the same state as it was introduced. Several large changes were made, including limiting eligibility for stimulus checks and removing a plan for a $15 federal minimum wage.
Though Biden has previously expressed a concern about doing “too little” regarding a stimulus package, changes were made to his original bill to ensure that it would pass. With moderate Democrats such as Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) appearing unsure about stimulus checks, President Joe Biden agreed to narrow eligibility.
A plan for a $15 federal minimum wage was also removed, as it was not allowed to be part of the COVID-19 relief bill based on the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling. It was determined that this provision did not meet guidelines required to pass through the reconciliation process. However, since Vice President Kamala Harris has the ability to overrule the parliamentarian’s decision, some members of Congress advocated for her to use that power. “Override the parliamentarian and raise the wage,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted on March 2nd.
The Biden administration has also been heavily criticized for what many perceive as a lacking response to human rights abuses around the world and an excessive amount of military action in the Middle East. This administration’s actions involving China, Syria, and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are particularly significant.
The Chinese government faces accusations of human rights violations as information regarding the brutal treatment of Uyghurs, an ethnic minority group, comes out. In Xinjiang, China, many Uyghurs are being forcefully held in detention camps and are experiencing violent mistreatment. However, there are few specific measures that have been taken by the Biden administration to hold the Chinese government accountable.
Military interference in Syria, a historically controversial issue, has been brought back into public view as President Biden ordered airstrikes on February 25th to retaliate against Iran-backed militias who recently attacked American and allied personnel in Iraq. Many notable Democrats criticized this action as unconstitutional, given that Congress had not been consulted before the airstrikes were launched.
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi has also proved to be an important moment for the Biden administration. Though President Biden has vowed to hold Saudi leaders accountable, he was accused of letting Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, get away with the muder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He has since received criticism for not personally sanctioning MBS, or enforcing consequences for the actions of the crown prince.
President Biden has also been unable to implement some of his own immigration proposals. For example, his 100-day pause of deportations, which was blocked by a federal judge last month, and vast reforms in the detention of migrant children.
Due to a recent uptick in unaccompanied minors crossing the border, thousands are being held in U.S. Border Control custody for longer than the 72 hours (or, three days) permitted by law. They are staying in facilities for, on average, 120 hours. The Biden administration has also reopened an influx shelter in Carrizo Springs, Texas to deal with this issue, raising concerns about potential mistreatment within this facility and others like it.
Additionally, the Biden administration is yet to end their use of Title 42, a public health order that allows migrants to be turned away during the pandemic. Many immigration advocates and prominent Democrats are opposed to the use of this Trump-era rule. Among them are Rep. Frederica Wilson (FL) and more than sixty members of Congress who signed a letter asking Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to stop this practice.
President Biden has also been unable to fulfill his campaign promise of putting an end to standardized testing in American public schools. This year, many teachers hoped that the Biden Administration would see the importance of waiving standardized testing as not only are students struggling with distance learning, but the importance of these tests have dwindled as well. Standardized tests do not accurately test students and thus they are not a useful measurement of intelligence.
Regarding the reopening of schools, it seems that the Biden Administration had been contradicting itself when it comes to how they are going to proceed. Various teachers’ unions are only willing to proceed with reopening schools after receiving funding from the American Rescue Plan. There is also a lot of concern for the mental health of students as it has been more than a year since some of them have stepped on campus. Though the federal government will be outlining the general requirements to reopen schools, the decision will be left up to the individual school districts.
Though President Biden has deviated from several of his early campaign promises, he is only in the second full month of his presidency. It is clear that he has made vaccine distribution and management of the COVID-19 pandemic his first priority, thus the Biden administration may choose to revisit many of these commitments in the future. However, only time will tell.