Gabe Fleisher - Four challenges facing Biden this summer.​

Four challenges facing Biden this summer
The rest of the summer will be a tough slog for President Joe Biden, who faces a series of uphill battles — many of them outside of his direct control. Here are the main challenges facing Biden in the weeks ahead:

Challenge #1: Infrastructure. The Senate returns to Washington today after a weeklong recess. The House will be back next week, and Democrats in both chambers — as well as the White House — will set off on their all-out sprint to pass not one, but two, sweeping infrastructure packages.

As a reminder, Democrats are working on infrastructure along "two tracks": one with bipartisan support (the $973 billion proposal put together by senators from both parties) and one to be passed along partisan lines (a package to accomplish Biden's other "human infrastructure" priorities, which will proceed through the filibuster-proof reconciliation process).

Neither legislative proposal has been finalized; both entail fragile negotiating processes, as Democrats have a lot of constituencies to please and few votes to spare. Nevertheless, lawmakers are hoping to get as far along as possible on both "tracks" before leaving for their August recess; according to Politico, the bipartisan bill could even receive a floor vote next week.

Members of Congress are hoping to preserve their cherished month-long August break, which will mean a jam-packed next few weeks. "Please be advised that time is of the essence and we have a lot of work to do," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a letter to his colleagues last week. "Senators should be prepared for the possibility of working long nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington into the previously-scheduled August state work period."
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are sparring over the size and scope fo the Democratic reconciliation package. (Ernesto Hernandez Fonte/U.S. Navy)
Challenge #2: Voting rights. As difficult as it will be to get two infrastructure packages through a thinly divided Congress, it is probably Biden's legislative priority with the greatest chance of passage this summer.

The rest of his agenda is a list of dead ends, and voting rights are at the top of it. Biden met with civil rights leaders last week to discuss his next steps; on Tuesday, he will heed their calls to make more use of his "bully pulpit" and deliver remarks on the issue in Philadelphia.

The chief obstacle standing in the way of progress on voting rights remains the Senate filibuster, which requires most bills to be backed by a 60-vote supermajority.

As their frustration rises, Biden's allies are exerting more pressure on the president to speak out against the procedural roadblock: House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), whose 2020 endorsement of Biden was critical in the Democratic primary, publicly urged Biden to call for filibuster reform this weekend.

Challenge #3: Low vaccination rates. Coronavirus cases are surging in many states, spurred on by the more infectious Delta variant — which now the dominant strain of the virus in the United States — and dwindling vaccination rates.

Biden's main challenge here is finding a way to persuade residents of "Red America" to take the vaccine. According to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the vaccination rate in counties that voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020 stands at 35% — a widening gap with the rate in Biden counties, which is 46.7%.

It is the states with lower vaccination rates that are experiencing the brunt of new Covid cases, underlining how crucial vaccine uptake is to getting the pandemic under control, which Biden has identified as his administration's top priority. He unveiled a new push to that end last week, announcing a plan for door-to-door outreach to encourage vaccinations, which was immediately met with conservative backlash.
A woman receives the Covid vaccine in Philadelphia. (Rachel Wisniewski/New York Times)
Challenge #4: Afghanistan. Biden announced last week that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31, just before the September 11 deadline he had previously set.

In fact, Pentagon recently said that the withdrawal is already more than 90% complete. But ending "America's longest war" will be full of complications: the Taliban has made significant territorial gains in recent weeks, now controlling roughly a third of the 421 districts in Afghanistan.

Biden will have to manage the fallout from the U.S. exit and is likely to face pressure to stray from his course in the coming weeks as the understaffed Afghan air force is left largely unassisted to combat the Taliban's gains.

The stakes are high: according to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that the Afghan government could collapse as soon as six months after the U.S. withdrawal is complete.

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