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Analysis

Why the next 100 days will define the Biden presidency more than the first 100 days

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden.Evan Vucci/Associated Press

As President Biden marks his 100th day in the White House, he’s likely feeling pleased. The mistakes were few. Americans are seeing progress against the pandemic and restrictions are being lifted. Job creation is soaring, and his approval rating is strong.

However, historians may look back on these first few months and realize that they turned out to be the easy part. It is much more likely that Biden’s presidency will be defined by the second 100 days instead of the first.

And it is genuinely unclear how this next phase of the Biden presidency will go. Here are three reasons why it could be critical.

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1. Will America continue to make progress on the pandemic?

The biggest reason why Biden’s presidency has so far as gone relatively well is that America, generally, is on the upswing in the fight against the coronavirus. Millions of Americans are getting vaccinated every day, and the virus itself is in retreat. As a result, the government is in the process of easing mask-wearing and gathering advisories. Put another way: Americans are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and this happened during the Biden presidency.

But what if things start to go the other way?

One thing that should be obvious is that the rate of vaccinations will go down, especially among adults. This has already begun happening in many parts of the country. The influx so far has been made up of those who want a vaccine. In the next few months the challenge will be much harder: convincing those hesitant to get the vaccine to sign up.

In addition, there are places across the globe where variants of the coronavirus are raging. Luckily, the current group of vaccines has been working against these variants, but what if a new variant emerges that erodes the vaccine’s effectiveness? Further, even under current conditions, it remains unclear what the latest rounds of re-opening announcements will mean for case counts around the country.

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The point is that if things take a turn for the worse, it will fall squarely on Biden’s shoulders, and Americans may become especially angry, especially if other countries find a way to get herd immunity and America lags.

2. Will Congress do anything or is all momentum lost for the rest of his term?

Whether you agree with it or not, there’s no denying Biden and the Democrats have gotten a lot done since they took power in January. Then again the marquee item on that list was a COVID relief bill that didn’t get a single Republican vote.

Looking ahead, it is hard to see how Democrats can get any points on the board legislatively for months. To be clear, items like gun control, immigration reform, voting rights and police reform are dead in the Senate without a change in the filibuster rule, which is something that does not appear likely any time soon.

Instead, Biden and Democrats appear focused on budget-related items like infrastructure spending bills, which don’t require 60 votes to break a Senate filibuster. But even this is no easy path. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would like the House to pass something on infrastructure by July 4th, and then the process of getting a bill to the floor for a vote starts over again in the Senate.

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For progressives, who are pressing hard for bold action now on many fronts, frustration could settle in with Biden. And lengthy infrastructure negotiations will give Republicans more time to condemn elements of the plan — even if they cannot stop it outright.

Biden is a man of action now, but let’s see where things stand in 100 days.

3. Economic expectations are sky-high, how can he live up to them?

By all accounts, 2021 is supposed to be a banner year for the American economy. One serious estimate suggests that it could be the best year economically in four decades. But who knows if that ends up being true?

While there is no doubt that Americans should spend more money than they did in lockdown in 2020 and many will find jobs, it is unclear if economic growth after the pandemic will continue to be in overdrive like it was in the first quarter of this year. If it slows down, will that also slow down Biden’s ability to lead? If so, then the sugar high of a first 100 days fueled by not being Donald Trump and getting shots into willing arms could come crashing back down to Earth.


James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.