I’m USA TODAY editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll, and this is The Backstory, insights into our biggest stories of the week. If you’d like to get The Backstory in your inbox every week, sign up here.
In the next 100 days, civil rights groups will pressure President Joe Biden to reform criminal justice. Activists will push him to deliver on a comprehensive immigration plan. And advocates of other social reforms, from gun control to voting rights, will argue to abolish the filibuster to push through more politically sensitive policies.
In his first 100 days, the president prioritized COVID-19 relief and the vaccine rollout. The policy debates will get sharper as the president now pushes for a wider social agenda, including Wednesday’s introduction of The American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion package focused on “human infrastructure,” including free early childhood education and community college.
At stake, says USA TODAY White House editor Annah Aschbrenner: What exactly is the role of the federal government in Americans’ lives?
“It’s a debate that’s been going on for a hundred years,” Aschbrenner said. “Biden said (in this week’s national address) that trickle-down economics have never worked well. Here’s his opportunity to show whether that’s true.
“And if he can get this bill passed early on in his presidency, he’s then got two years before he has to run for reelection to prove that he was right, that the way to grow our economy and the way to boost our nation as a whole is to invest in the middle class.”
White House reporter Courtney Subramanian said the government’s massive role in COVID-19 relief opened the door to such sweeping policies.
“The American people were very much looking for the government to step in (on coronavirus),” she said. “Can the Biden mindset around what government’s role is work beyond the pandemic, when everybody is kind of picking up their life?”
Biden is certainly trying to pick up on the momentum. At the end of his speech Wednesday, he offered this rallying cry: “Our Constitution opens with the words, ‘We the People.’ It’s time we remembered that ‘we the people’ are the government. You and I. Not some force in a distant capital. Not some powerful force we have no control over. It’s us. It’s ‘we the people.'”
USA TODAY D.C. Bureau staff, top row from left: Annah Aschbrenner, Courtney Subramanian, Joey Garrison. Bottom row from left: Deborah Berry, Rebecca Morin, Maureen Groppe (Photo: USA TODAY)
Fresh off of covering Biden’s 100-day address to the nation, some members of our White House team got together Thursday to compare notes on the next 100 days.
Their consensus: It’s going to get much harder for the Biden administration.
Many Americans feel Biden has done a good job handling the coronavirus, says White House reporter Joey Garrison. “But it increases the pressure to make progress on some of these other items, whether that’s police reform initiatives, gun control or voting rights. And the thing that’s going to be more challenging with those is, unlike the infrastructure bill and unlike the COVID relief bill, he’ll need to get 60 votes in the Senate.”
This means the measures will need to be “filibuster proof.” In the Senate, a simple majority can approve a measure, but for some actions, 60 of the 100 senators must agree to let a bill even come to a vote.
“Ending the filibuster is a question that’s going to continue to vex the administration when it comes to police reform, voting rights, gun rights,” Subramanian said. “Advocates have started framing it as ‘the filibuster is deadly and is killing lives.’ So they’re really turning up the heat.”
Aschbrenner says the Democrats may feel emboldened to end the filibuster because the policies they want to push through without it are popular with voters.
“An assault weapons ban is popular. People don’t like to hear about voting restrictions in their communities,” she said.
Fact check: Biden’s speech to Congress included claims on economy, immigration, 1994 assault weapons ban
Biden urged lawmakers Wednesday to pass police reform measures before the anniversary of George Floyd’s death in May. White House reporterDeborah Berry said supporters will hold him accountable for pushing it through.
Berry said she talked to Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who has been working with Vice President Kamala Harris “to try to figure out how they can get some Republicans on board because of how important it is and how big of a push it needs to be for the administration.”
Berry said experts she spoke with say it’s possible to get bipartisan support, but they expect Republicans to push for some compromises on the police transparency pieces of the plan.
Pressure also is coming from immigration activists who believe reform must happen in Biden’s first year, or it likely won’t happen at all, said White House reporterRebecca Morin.
Morin wrote that the surge of migrants on the southern border is “a situation that has come to define Biden’s first 100 days on immigration policy and drawn fierce Republican criticism.” That has complicated comprehensive reform measures, she noted.
But Biden said Wednesday that if Congress won’t tackle broad reforms, he’d like to see measures to help “Dreamers” – undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children – as well as farmworkers and people with Temporary Protected Status, Morin wrote.
White House reporter Maureen Groppe said Biden’s ad-libs Wednesday showed he’s trying get bipartisan support for these issues.
On immigration, she pointed out, he was supposed to say, “If you actually want to solve a problem, I’ve sent you a bill. Now pass it.” Instead, he said, “Take a close look at it.”
And soon after it, she said, he was talking about gun control. “He was supposed to say, ‘We need more Senate Republicans to join with us to pass this.’ He prefaced that section by saying he didn’t want to become confrontational.
“I thought it was interesting that he’s making an effort not to be too partisan even though he also made the point in his speech that while he wants to work with Republicans, they’re not going to string it out. They’re only going to allow so much time for negotiation.
“I think it just shows how much Biden is torn. He comes from the Senate. He wants to work in a bipartisan way, but you know, the times have changed.”
Aschbrenner’s plan is to cover these negotiations – but more importantly the outcomes.
“We will be tracking whether or not these things that Biden has said will make a difference in people’s lives are actually making a difference in people’s lives,” she said.
“Is the child care tax credit actually helping people? Are they going to be able to raise the minimum wage for care workers? I’m hoping we can offer clarity outside of just the political debates about these issues and dig into how these debates are playing out in real people’s lives.
“I’m hopeful that our readers will look to us for that.”
As am I.
The Backstory: What our journalists on the streets of Minneapolis saw and heard as the Derek Chauvin verdict was announced
The Backstory: Nancy Pelosi’s No. 1 lesson on power: ‘Nobody’s going to give it to you. You’ve got to take it.’
Nicole Carroll is the editor-in-chief of USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter here. Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free experience or electronic newspaper replica here.
Source: Read Full Article