Biden’s first year: US president faces press to defend record

Joe Biden will face the media on Wednesday afternoon for his first formal press conference in several months, as the US president seeks to sell his accomplishments and battle declining public approval ratings one year into his presidency.

Biden’s press conference at the White House comes on the eve of the first anniversary of his inauguration, at a time when he is facing several crises at home and abroad, including the lingering coronavirus pandemic, a sharp rise in consumer prices and the ongoing threat of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The latest Gallup polling shows 40 per cent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing, with 56 per cent disapproving. That compares to a 38 per cent approval rating for Donald Trump one year into his presidency, and 49 per cent approval for Barack Obama at the same point in his tenure.

Democrats fret that the low approval ratings could spell disaster for their party in this year’s midterms, when control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate will be up for grabs. Biden’s party at present controls both chambers of Congress by the slimmest of margins.

Biden started his presidency with broad public support, but his approval rating started slipping over the summer amid a chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan that tested US alliances abroad and cast doubt in the eyes of many Americans.

More recently, the White House has struggled to project a strong handling of the economy, with rising petrol prices and record inflation. The latest official figures showed US consumer price growth rose at the fastest pace in almost 40 years in December.

At the same time, Biden’s legislative agenda has stalled on Capitol Hill, after the president and congressional leaders failed to shore up support for his Build Back Better social safety net package and voting rights legislation. Democrats’ voting rights ambitions are likely to fail at a key procedural hurdle on Wednesday evening, just hours after Biden’s press conference wraps up.

Supporters argue Biden and the White House have failed to effectively sell their accomplishments to date, including a $1.9tn Covid relief bill and a sweeping $1.2tn infrastructure package.

Biden has held relatively few press conferences compared to his predecessors, according to data compiled by the American Presidency Project at the University of California Santa Barbara. One year into his four-year term, he has held nine press conferences, either alone or in a joint setting with other world leaders, according to UCSB. By comparison, Trump held 21 press conferences in his first year in office and Obama faced the press 27 times.

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