SEATTLE – During a trip to the Pacific Northwest this week, President Biden observed the construction of an earthquake-resistant runway that had been paid for with money from a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. He unveiled a plan to restore the national forests devastated by wildfires. He promoted a climate agenda that has remained largely unfulfilled.
He also said aloud what his advisers have been saying privately for weeks: the immediate demands of the presidency, including the seismic forces of a pandemic and war in Ukraine, have taken more of his time than he anticipated and removed him from the domestic agenda that he wants to sell.
As Mr Biden’s poll figures remain dismal in the run-up to the midterm elections, he appealed to supporters – some with deeper pockets than others – for support.
“We need to keep the United States Senate,” Biden said Thursday as he stood in a lavish house overlooking Lake Washington in Seattle. “We can’t afford to lose it. We cannot afford to lose the House.
“What worries me is that I’m so focused on whatever the immediate emergency is that we haven’t sold the American people what we actually did.”
The trip gave him a bit of a break from Washington and brought him back to the campaign trail style of smoozing that energizes him. In Seattle, Mr. Biden appeared before a group of major donors, including Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president.
In another fundraiser earlier in the day in Portland, Oregon, Mr. Biden lamented that two Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, had joined Republicans in much of his hopes for a more comprehensive bill. for social spending and other initiatives. Those include the core of Mr. Biden’s climate policy: a $555 billion plan to redirect the nation toward clean energy and electric vehicles, which analysts have said will hit the United States about halfway through the White House’s 2030 target. would bring.
“Forty-eight members of the United States Senate voted with me 96 percent of the time,” Mr Biden told a group of donors at a yacht club near the Portland airport as a disco ball spun overhead. “Forty-eight. Not two.”
Mr Biden told that crowd he hoped Democrats would win two more seats in the Senate in the midterm elections and bolster the party’s majority in the chamber. It was unclear which two seats he meant, but they are looking at races in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina.
The return to home affairs was a sign of things to come as the mid-season approaches.
Russia will remain a priority for the government, Mr Biden’s advisers say, but it is one that must be balanced as it faces the domestic challenges of rising prices and an unpredictable coronavirus pandemic. There is also the broader challenge of illustrating what the government has done while trying to explain why more has not been achieved with Mr Biden’s other promises, including progress on voting rights initiatives, bringing down the prices of prescription drugs and combating climate change.
Biden officials say the administration, from the president down, understands the need to recognize the sticker shock the American public is feeling as the conflict in Ukraine continues. The White House is looking to send the president into the country to promote his agenda more often as the midterm season gets underway in earnest — with the worrying caveat, they say, that the coronavirus and Russia could continue to pull him away.
“Presidents do not choose the conditions under which they govern,” Democratic strategist David Axelrod said in an interview. “You wake up every day knowing that something untoward can happen. Many of these situations are unsatisfactory.”
A senior administration official said Mr Biden should also draw more contrast to the Republican Party — especially its leader, former President Donald J. Trump — as he begins to tour the country soliciting donations and helping Democrats in vulnerable districts . During his trip, Biden said in three speeches that the Republican Party had turned into a party focused more on culture wars than on what he called “traditional” conservative doctrine.
“There’s nothing conservative about deciding that you’re going to throw Disney out of its current stance because Mickey Mouse? Do you actually think we shouldn’t say, you know, ‘gay’?” Biden said in Seattle, citing a clash between the theme park and Florida lawmakers over a law banning classroom teaching and discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in some elementary school classes.
On Friday, he also called the Trump-era Republican lawmaker a “different breed of cat” than those he knew from his time in the Senate, a reference to Republican leaders who privately said Mr Trump was responsible for inciting the deadly riot on Jan .6, 2021, and vowed to drive him out of politics, but have publicly sought Mr Trump’s favor.
“This is now a MAGA party,” Mr Biden said, referring to Mr Trump’s campaign slogan.
Before leaving the Pacific Northwest, the president also tried to draw attention to a climate agenda that advocates for concerns that have stalled. Mr Biden took office with an ambitious climate change agenda to address what he called the “existential threat of our time.”
As protesters prepared “Fight for Our Future” rallies across the country and urged the government and congress to pass climate legislation, Mr. Biden signed an executive order that he said would strengthen international forest protection commitments the United States has made. States at a climate summit in Scotland last year. He also promised that all vehicles in the United States would eventually be climate-friendly.
The Infrastructure Act at a glance
“I think we’re at one of those moments in world and American history when we’ve reached the point where the environmental crisis has become so obvious – with the notable exception of the former president – that we really have a chance to do things we couldn’t have done two, five, ten years ago,” Mr. Biden said amid the cherry blossoms in Seattle’s Seward Park on Friday.
Last year, on his first Earth Day in office, Mr. Biden pledged that the United States would lead the world in tackling climate change and pledged to roughly halve U.S. emissions by 2030. In the past year, his government has eased the path for solar and offshore wind development; regulations enacted to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas often found in refrigerants; and reinstated Obama-era restrictions on vehicle tailpipe emissions.
It has also proposed regulations on methane emissions from oil and gas wells and a measure to force companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions through the Securities and Exchange Commission. But so far his administration has failed to deliver on the core of Mr Biden’s climate policy — the $555 billion plan around clean energy and electric vehicles.
The measure has stalled in the Senate because of united opposition from both Republicans and Mr Manchin, a strong vote in the evenly divided chamber.
At the same time, rising gas prices, partly caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have prompted Mr Biden to call on oil companies to drill more. And last week, the Department of the Interior opened up more public lands for drilling, undoing one of its key environmental campaigning promises.
The White House disputes the idea that it has fallen short or that increased demand for oil would conflict with the government’s environmental goals.
“The president has climate goals and he wants to keep fighting for climate control,” Karine Jean-Pierre, a White House spokeswoman, told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday. “And he’s used the power of his office to do just that.”
Lisa Friedman contributed reporting from Washington.