Six in six: Biden’s main wins and losses in his first six months as president

Joe Biden has made major headway on Covid vaccinations and an economic stimulus but has faced setbacks on immigration and a minimum wage increase

Tuesday marks exactly six months in office for US President Joe Biden, and Congress is expected to begin voting on his proposed bipartisan infrastructure package later this week.

It is unclear whether the president has the 10 Republican votes needed to pass the legislation, highlighting the difficulty of scoring victories in an evenly split Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote handing narrow control to the Democrats.

While it is too early to judge the success or failure of many of Mr Biden’s legislative priorities and policies, so far the Biden administration has achieved at least three significant victories — and three setbacks.


Vaccine Distribution

Mr Biden exceeded his first two ambitious Covid vaccination goals upon taking office, flying past his campaign pledge of administering 100 million shots during his first 100 days.

His administration met this goal a month early and upped the ante to 200 million shots by the president’s 100th day in April — an objective Mr Biden also met.

While the vaccine distribution campaign has allowed large sections of the country to lift the vast majority of Covid restrictions, more work remains to be done.

Almost half of American adults are now fully vaccinated — but that is a far cry from Mr Biden's third vaccine goal of inoculating 70 per cent of American adults by July 4. The rate of people receiving shots has dropped sharply amid conspiracy theories and widespread misinformation about the effects of vaccines. Covid-19 rates are again rising across the country.

Economic Stimulus

Mr Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package to combat the effects of the pandemic on the US economy.

In addition to providing $1,400 stimulus checks to many US taxpayers, the package extended a $400 per week unemployment benefit through August and provided relief to renters and mortgage holders. It also allocated billions of dollars in small business loans as well as funds for hospitals and struggling state and local governments.

The bill did not receive a single Republican vote as Democrats in Congress used a procedural mechanism called budget reconciliation to circumvent the 60-vote threshold needed to pass most legislation the Senate.

Travel Ban

Mr Biden signed a series of executive actions on his first day in office, undoing many of the policies of former president Donald Trump.

The Day One action with the most immediate effect was Mr Biden’s reversal of Mr Trump’s travel ban barring most immigration to the US from several Muslim majority countries, including Iran, Yemen, Syria, Libya and Somalia. The travel ban also prohibited most immigration from Venezuela and Nigeria.


$15 Minimum Wage

Although Mr Biden threw his support behind raising the $7.25 per hour US federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, the effort came up against a wall in Congress amid opposition from Republicans and centrist Democrats in the Senate.

Democrats had initially tried to pass a $15 minimum wage increase as part of the American Rescue Plan, but the Senate parliamentarian ruled the provision would prevent the party from passing the stimulus bill.

The progressive wing of the party urged Ms Harris to use her power as presiding officer of the Senate to overrule the parliamentarian to allow Democrats to pass it with only 50 Senate votes, but she opted not to do so after Democratic centrists such as Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin went on record as opposing the increase.

Mr Biden did sign an executive order in April that raises the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 per hour.


The Supreme Court dealt a major blow to Mr Biden’s immigration agenda last week when it struck down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, which used executive action to shield and provide work authorisation for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US by their parents as young children.

Republicans have also attacked Mr Biden on immigration as he grapples with an increase in migrants at the US-Mexico border, with 1.1 million apprehensions reported so far this fiscal year.

And while Mr Biden had pledged to end the detention of child migrants, his administration has in fact opened additional facilities to incarcerate young migrants. Democrats heavily criticised this practice under the Trump administration and Mr Biden’s decision to continue detaining migrant children has drawn ire from many in his own party.

Federal Voting Rights Protection

Mr Biden and his fellow Democrats failed to advance legislation last month to strengthen voter rights protections even as a slew of Republican states successfully continued to pass voting restriction laws.

The federal voting rights protection bill failed in the Senate after a tie 50-50 vote along party lines that did not clear the 60-vote threshold required to pass most legislation in the upper chamber under a procedural mechanism called the filibuster.

Mr Biden delivered a speech on the importance of protecting voting rights in Pennsylvania last week – the same day that Democrats from the Texas state legislature flew to Washington in order to prevent the necessary quorum Republicans in the state would need to pass a new voting restriction law during a special session.

But voting rights activists have accused Mr Biden of failing to prioritise the issue, pointing to the lack of White House effort to push for filibuster reform, which would lower the Senate vote threshold needed to pass a federal voter protection law. Several Democratic centrists in the Senate, including Ms Sinema and Mr Manchin, are on record as opposing a major filibuster overhaul.

In addition to voting rights, the Senate filibuster threatens to stymie many other major legislative initiatives championed by Mr Biden, including a major police reform bill.

Updated: July 21st 2021, 7:29 AM