By Congressman James E. Clyburn (D-SC), House Majority Whip
We all have heard the popular expression, “give credit where credit is due.” After hearing numerous critics over the past 18 months, it is refreshing to see President Joe Biden finally getting the credit he deserves for what is one of the most productive starts to a presidential term in recent history.
The Financial Times’ Associate Editor Ed Luce recently wrote an opinion piece entitled, “The unexpected triumph of Joe Biden: Recent legislative successes suggest a good political system in good working order, but complacency is misplaced.”
Mr. Luce made the case for why President Biden’s star is rising, but warned that despite his impressive legislative record, voters may not give him the credit he deserves because too many people respond more to style than substance. I agree with Mr. Luce’s assessment. Our media-driven culture seems to rate words and deeds that generate headlines over those that make headway. Joe Biden, and those of us who support him, prefer putting people over politics.
When President Biden took office, the country was in the grip of a global pandemic. Businesses were shuttering, schools were closing, and people were dying. The country needed leadership. Unfortunately, we had a showman at the helm when a statesman was needed. Forty-five was pre-occupied with scoring political points and securing media hits. And when voters were given a chance to express themselves, by a margin of nearly seven million votes, they chose statesmanship over showmanship.
Joe Biden was sworn in on January 20, 2021. On that day, the country’s unemployment rate was 6.4 percent. COVID-19 was infecting 193,030 Americans a day and people were dying at a rate of 3,167 a day. From day one, Biden focused on shoring up the shaky foundation left by the previous Administration.
On March 11, 2021, less than two months after he took office, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law. It accelerated the American economic recovery by putting money in people’s pockets, getting children back in school and lifting nearly half of them out of poverty.
The ARP also prevented evictions and foreclosures for millions of America’s families, kept hundreds of large businesses open and reopened thousands of small businesses. It helped stem the deadly rampage of COVID-19 by expanding testing and access to vaccines. Republicans put their politics over people’s needs and voted unanimously against this legislation. Democrats put people over politics and started building a foundation for the country’s recovery.
The second corner of Biden’s foundation came on November 15, 2021, when he signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This legislation made historic investments in our crumbling and outdated infrastructure. It invested in high-speed internet, clean drinking water, a resilient electric grid, replacing lead pipes, making a down payment on clean energy transmission, and charging stations for electric vehicles. These infrastructure investments are creating jobs and strengthening critical links in our supply chain.
During all of this, President Biden nominated the first Black woman to the United States Supreme Court, a Black woman to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and 26 other Black women to various federal courts, more than the combined total of all previous Presidents.
President Biden continued working, away from public view, to help get the final two corners of his foundation solidified, and on August 9, he signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law. This third corner of his platform restores America’s standing as a global science and technology leader by providing the resources and tools needed to make more products like semiconductor chips here at home. It will create good-paying jobs, invest in building a more diverse workforce, and bolster our supply chains.
The fourth and final corner of the Biden platform, the Inflation Reduction Act, passed the Congress with every Democrat voting for it, and every Republican voting against it. Under this new law, signed by President Biden on August 16, Medicare recipients will see their out-of-pocket prescription drugs capped at $2,000 annually and their cost of insulin capped at $35 monthly. It reduces the cost of health care for 13 million Americans by extending the Affordable Care Act subsidies for more than three years with an average savings of $800 per year. The new law includes provisions to increase taxes on corporations, address climate change, and decrease the prices of prescription drugs.
The IRA will help cut climate pollution by 40 percent by 2030, while building a new, clean energy economy and creating nine million new jobs. It invests in environmental justice by cleaning up legacy pollution most often found in communities of color and provides tax credits to ensure nuclear energy producers can continue to provide clean energy for consumers. The IRA will require corporations to pay a minimum tax of 15 percent and reduce the deficit by $300 billion over the next decade.
As Mr. Luce warns us, “complacency is misplaced.” Voters should see this “good political system in good working order” as motivation to go to the polls to support more positive progress. President Biden is finally getting some of the credit he is due. And he and my fellow Democrats will continue putting the American people over partisan politics.