At six months, Biden summons Cabinet but roadblocks loom

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden marked six months in office Tuesday with a crowded Cabinet meeting, a rally meant to symbolize both a return to normalcy thanks to vaccines and a demonstration of the federal government doing people’s business .

But the moment has been clouded by the uncertain fate of a key Biden legislative priority, the bipartisan infrastructure plan., and a virus that has started to spread again.

Biden crammed 25 Cabinet-level officials, along with 18 other senior officials, into the ornate West Wing space to hear the president tout his administration’s actions after taking office during a unique pandemic in his country. kind.

“At the end of the day, we keep our promises,” Biden said. “We have to keep all the promises we made because I think we are in a situation where the vast majority of the public agrees with the essence of what we are trying to do.”

Cabinet members were crowded around a table for their first full meeting in the Cabinet Room, with a group of reporters huddled shoulder to shoulder at the start to chronicle the event.

The White House held a rehearsal of the meeting several weeks ago to ensure all Cabinet officials could sit around the table and be seen in photos.

“Time flies when we’re having fun,” joked White House press secretary Jen Psaki during her briefing, previewing the six-month meeting.

Biden was flanked by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Vice President Kamala Harris sat across from the table as some of the president’s most influential aides, including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Home Policy Advisor Susan Rice, lined the walls.

The scene was very different from Biden’s first Cabinet meeting, held in March, which took place in the more spacious East Room to allow for social distancing. All participants that day, including the president, wore masks. There were none in sight on Tuesday.

The meeting did not receive exaggerated praise from the chief executive who defined the cabinet meetings of former President Donald Trump. But Biden took the opportunity to push for his two-pronged legislative plan, saying it was essential to reignite “an economic boom for some time to come.”

“The American people overwhelmingly support our plan,” the president said. “This is the part that many of our friends on the other team miss.”

While Biden is benefiting from largely positive public polls, there are clouds on the horizon.

As he summoned his cabinet, the three main aides who negotiated the bipartisan $ 1,000 billion infrastructure deal were not there, having rushed to Capitol Hill to try to salvage a deal that seemed to be on the line. point of collapsing.

Biden’s March meeting came just days after he enacted a $ 1.9 trillion COVID relief law and since then he has invested his legislative energy in the infrastructure package despite calls from some members of his own party to focus on issues such as voting rights and immigration.

And while the pandemic has receded since March, the country’s vaccination effort has stalled and a new, more contagious strain of COVID-19, the delta variant, has increased infections across the country.. It has a big impact on the unvaccinated – although the White House said Tuesday that some vaccinated staff have tested positive – and its spread has prompted several major cities to reinstate mask warrants.

The White House, so far, has not followed suit.

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Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

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