President Joe Biden speaks about COVID-19 on the North Lawn of...

President Joe Biden speaks about COVID-19 on the North Lawn of the White House in Washington on Tuesday. Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON — On his first day in office, President Joe Biden was already looking toward his 100th day — promising to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots in that time frame and laying out dozens of executive orders that would reverse Trump-era actions on immigration, the environment and the economy.

"We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility," Biden said in his Jan. 20 inauguration speech.

Presidents have long used the first 100 days of their presidency as a bench mark to measure their action and to highlight their legislative priorities. The tradition dates back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first 100 days, where he passed a flurry of measures to combat the Great Depression.

"What we've seen is a very solid start to the Biden presidency that has been focused, on message, calm, attentive to action over rhetoric, and a desire to move forward policy plans," said Meena Bose, director of Hofstra University’s Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency.

The coronavirus

Biden’s first 100 days have been largely defined by the pandemic that he vowed would be his top priority.

Since taking office, Biden delivered on his vaccination promise, ultimately doubling his goal to reach more than 200 million vaccines by his 100th day in office. With more than 50% of the country now having received at least one dose of three federally approved vaccines, the Biden administration’s next challenge is reaching those Americans reluctant to get vaccinated.

When Biden took office, states grappled with meeting demand as supply shortages plagued the distribution of vaccines. The Trump administration, via Operation Warp Speed, sought to ramp up production of vaccines by entering into contracts to purchase millions of doses from the five pharmaceutical companies with viable vaccine contenders. Biden dramatically increased distribution efforts, organizing federal mass vaccination sites, deploying mobile health clinics to aid in the vaccination effort and partnering with local health clinics to distribute the vaccines.

"Joe Biden is at his heart a pragmatist, he's not a guy who's going to set lofty and unachievable goals," said former Long Island Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who previously served as a Biden campaign adviser. "He makes decisions based on data and what his experts tell him."

Jobs and the economy

Biden spent the first weeks of his administration pressing Congress to pass his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which provided the majority of Americans with $1,400 direct cash payments.

The president met with Republican lawmakers who pitched a slimmer $618 billion counterproposal, but Biden ultimately rejected the plan, arguing that Congress needed to "go big" to rev up the economy. Biden’s American Rescue Plan passed Congress without a Republican vote.

The United States has experienced a steady improvement in jobs numbers, adding nearly 1 million jobs in March, compared with 379,000 new jobs in February. But the country’s unemployment rate still remains about 2.5 points higher than where it was before the pandemic. The nation’s unemployment rate was at 3.5% in February 2020, before a series of coronavirus closures. It was 6% according to the latest federal data released in March.

Biden is expected to continue his push for a sweeping two-part infrastructure plan that he contends will add millions of jobs, especially in clean-energy industries.

The president’s $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, which focuses on physical infrastructure such as repairing roads, bridges and tunnels, and the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which focuses on what the White House has described as human infrastructure needs such as universal prekindergarten and free two-year community college tuition, has faced pushback from congressional Republicans who argue the cost is too high and oppose a series of proposed corporate tax hikes and tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans to pay for it.

"Some issues maybe you can't reach bipartisan agreement. Infrastructure is made for bipartisan agreement," said former Long Island Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford). "If he wanted to get a good sized infrastructure bill and do it bipartisan, he could do it, but I think that he wants a massive infrastructure bill, and that is always going to preclude bipartisanship"

Foreign policy

Biden, through a series of executive actions, has largely reversed Trump’s "America First" foreign policy doctrine, which saw the United States pull out of past multinational agreements and coalitions, including the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and the World Health Organization, in favor of an isolationist foreign policy.

"America is back. Diplomacy is back," Biden said in his first speech to European allies at the virtual Munich Security Conference in February. "I know the past few years have strained and tested the trans-Atlantic relationship. The United States is determined to reengage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trusted leadership."

Biden’s posture toward China and Afghanistan has not veered far from Trump’s, but his approach has, favoring diplomatic talks over Twitter spats.

Biden has said he views China as the nation’s leading foreign threat, an assessment backed by the U.S. intelligence community, which earlier this month listed the country as America’s top national security challenge followed by Russia and North Korea.

The president in February directed the Department of Defense to launch a China task force aimed at redefining the U.S. approach to China on national security matters.

Biden last month announced the United States will withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, in keeping with an agreement negotiated by the Trump administration with the Taliban to pull out by May 1. Biden said the United States instead would start withdrawing some 2,500 remaining U.S. troops on that date. NATO allied nations followed suit, announcing they would withdraw alongside the United States, but have not set a definitive deadline for their withdrawal.

Biden also has taken a more aggressive tone with Russian President Vladimir Putin than Trump, who largely embraced the leader. Biden has spoken by phone with Putin twice, using the exchanges to confront Russia’s leader on a number of points of tension, including Russia’s attempts to interfere in the U.S. electoral process, massive cyberattacks linked to Moscow, and Russia’s increasing military presence along its border with Ukraine.

Beyond the 100 days

Biden is expected to continue pushing a host of other legislative priorities, including getting Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would institute a number of policing reforms, and will "continue to charge forward on addressing the climate crisis," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday when asked about Biden’s next steps.

"We certainly believe we're still going to be at war with the virus, and there's more work to be done to get the virus under control, to meet people where they are, to get people vaccinated who may not be confident in the efficacy at this point in time," Psaki said. "That will continue to be a priority."

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