Biden's first two years in the White House brought highs and lows

Halfway through his four-year term, US President Joe Biden has celebrated bipartisan victories and losses within his own party

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Friday marks the midway point of President Joe Biden's four-year term, with his first two years in the White House marked by some major wins and some spectacular losses.

When he was sworn in as America's 46th president on January 20, 2021, Mr Biden vowed to govern as a unifier after four divisive years of Donald Trump, during which the US became more polarised than at any time since the Civil War.

Despite the filibuster, a relic of the Jim Crow era, and no majority in the US Senate, Mr Biden managed to sign historic legislation into law.

He also had milestone achievements such as dispensing hundreds of millions of Covid vaccinations, the appointment of the first black woman, Ketanji Brown Jackson, to the Supreme Court and the galvanising of Nato after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

His election saw the return of championship teams to the White House and the release of WNBA star Brittany Griner from a Russian prison camp.

After faring better than expected in the 2022 midterm elections, an energised Mr Biden, 80, seemed set to announce another run for the White House in 2024.

But the discovery of classified documents in his Delaware home has created a scandal that could threaten that assumption.

Here is a look back at some of Mr Biden's successes and his notable failures after 730 days in the White House.

President Joe Biden signs the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law on the South Lawn of the White House in 2021. AP

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

As a long-time Washington policymaker, Mr Biden used his negotiating skills to reach across the aisle and pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, a once-in-a-generation investment in the country’s crumbling infrastructure.

The trillion-dollar investment package was passed with 19 Senate Republicans joining all Democrats and independents.

It is helping to repair and improve airports and public transport, update water systems, provide internet to underserved communities and create an untold number of new jobs.

The Pact Act

America’s veterans and their families saw the most substantial increase in benefits and services for those exposed to toxic burn pits in more than 30 years.

The signing of the Pact Act also empowers the Department of Veterans Affairs to swiftly designate illnesses as service-related, and authorised 31 new clinical sites to ensure continuing, life-saving treatments.

Climate change

Despite Republican blocking and deniers, Mr Biden set the most ambitious climate goals of any US president by taking executive action and signing legislation to advance clean energy.

He set a new bar for electric vehicle tax credits, and established guidelines to reduce pollution burdening poorer communities, with the goal of halving emissions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

Mr Biden also protected more land and water in his first year than any US leader since John F Kennedy.

Ayman Al Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden were brought to justice with Mr Biden as President and vice president, respectively. Photo: Al Jazeera

Serving up justice

On Mr Biden’s orders, the US military took key leaders of ISIS and Al Qaeda off the battlefield, including ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al Hashimi Al Qurayshi, also known as Hajji Abdullah, who, when the raid began, detonated a suicide device, killing himself and his family in Syria.

Mr Biden ordered an air strike in Kabul that killed Al Qaeda leader and Osama bin Laden number two, Ayman Al Zawahiri.

Afghanistan withdrawal

Mr Biden and his administration began their White House tenure with a slow and steady competency.

When he ordered the full withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, his long-time Democratic colleagues failed to back him, sending his more-than-capable staff scrambling.

Although he was following through on a Trump-era deal with the Taliban, the chaotic withdrawal played out in real time on televisions across the world.

The Biden administration has sought to give refuge to tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for the US during its 20-year war, but the process has been marred by bureaucracy.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the Taliban are clamping down on women's already limited freedom.

Inflation, borrowing costs and a queasy economy

Years of cheap money and a stampeding bull market came to a crashing halt in 2022 as the Federal Reserve raised borrowing costs to try to rein in rampant inflation that suddenly saw Americans paying record prices for petrol and most other things.

Financial experts expect a recession this year and the newly jobless will probably blame the Biden administration for the President's handling of the economy.

Losing the House

The Republican "red wave" of electoral wins in last year's midterms ended up being more of a splash, but the Democrats nonetheless lost control of the House of Representatives.

This all but guarantees a two-year headache for Mr Biden, who will become the subject of investigations into his and his son Hunter's conduct.

Voting rights

Ninety-two per cent of black voters cast ballots for Mr Biden in the 2020 election and many were sorely disappointed when the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act failed to be enacted into law.

Two members of his own party — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — killed the legislation in the Senate and only one Republican crossed the aisle to support the measure.

The legislation was written after the US Supreme Court in 2013 overturned the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965.

It was named after the late civil rights advocate and activist Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.

Lewis was beaten and almost killed as he marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge while peacefully advocating for voting rights in Selma, Alabama.

Document-gate

Mr Biden's aides recently found a handful of documents marked classified in a garage at his residence in Wilmington, Delaware, and at his former offices at the Biden Penn Centre on Capitol Hill.

After the documents were turned over, US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department would launch a full investigation into their origins and sensitivity, and if national security were compromised.

There is no indication that Mr Biden was aware of the documents' existence before they were turned over.

But they are surely fuel for the fire that Congressional Republicans will use against the Biden administration and his family for the next two years.

Updated: January 20, 2023, 9:40 PM
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