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President Biden is set to deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, just two days before his 100th day in office. CBS News correspondent Christina Ruffini along with White House correspondent for The Washington Post and CBSN political contributor Sean Sullivan join CBSN's Lana Zak with a progress report on some of Mr. Biden's campaign promises.
LANA ZAK: President Biden will deliver his first address before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. The event comes just two days before his 100th day in office. It's a chance for Mr. Biden to reflect on the first months of his presidency and share the progress he's made towards fulfilling campaign promises.
President Biden is also expected to try and sell his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package. The House is hoping to pass a bill by Independence Day. Meanwhile, new polling from CBS News is shedding light on how Americans feel about the job that Mr. Biden has done so far. 58% say that they approve of the president's actions on the nation's top priorities.
For more on President Biden's upcoming address to Congress and a status report on his first 100 days, let's bring in Christina Ruffini and Sean Sullivan. Christina is a CBS News correspondent, and Sean is a White House reporter for "The Washington Post." He's also a CBSN political contributor.
Great to have both of you guys here. Sean, I'm going to start with you. So during remarks before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, President Biden is going to be reflecting on the first 100 days in office. What is he expected to focus on?
SEAN SULLIVAN: Well, I think we can expect to hear from him on a range of subjects. I think he's going to be promoting the sweeping COVID relief bill that he passed-- that he signed into law and helped get passed on Capitol Hill earlier this year. That's been sort of the centerpiece of the Biden agenda.
I think we can expect to hear the president talk about this infrastructure plan that he hopes to pass in the coming months in Congress and eventually sign into law. And I think we're going to hear him sort of try to make the case to the American people that they're better off now than they were when Biden took office 100 days ago.
So I think he's going to sort of make both a forward-looking case, but also reflect back over the past several months here and sort of tout the achievements that he has racked up so far in his earliest days in office. Of course, there are some questions on a range of fronts that he has not lived up to some of the promises he campaigned on or talked about early in his presidency. And I think we can expect to hear critics point out some of those things, both in leading up to the speech and also afterwards.
LANA ZAK: And Christina, on Saturday President Biden became the first US president to formally recognize the killing of 1 and 1/2 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I as genocide. You-- you told us this just before he did it. So I'm hoping you can give us some more information about what's behind the announcement and how Turkey, a US NATO ally, is responding?
CHRISTINA RUFFINI: You know, this is something we probably won't hear specifically about in his speech this week, but it does go to one of the broader ideals the Biden administration has-- has promised, and did promise on the campaign trail, to follow through in the administration, and that is being a champion for democratic principles and for human rights. You know, this has been a very controversial issue. Successive presidents have chosen not to use the word genocide, because it was so antagonistic towards Turkey, who takes deep offense at this, says there was conflict in the region on both sides, says they were not to blame for all of these deaths.
But most of the rest of the countries, including the EU and other NATO allies, have come out and said, look, this was an atrocity, and it needs to be called such. And the reason the Biden administration did this is they say they need to-- they need to speak the truth, and they need to stand up for human rights when it becomes an issue. Now, that's all good to say that, but why other administrations have avoided this is because it is a bit of a geopolitical landmine.
The Turks are very upset. They've issued several statements saying they strongly disagree with this. They called our ambassador to Turkey in for a very urgent meeting to discuss this announcement yesterday. Look, Turkey is a NATO ally, but Turkey is a problematic NATO ally, right. They've bought Russian weapons systems. We've disagreed with their actions in Syria.
So this isn't likely to make those tense relationships any easier. And it's also adding to a buffet of regional conflicts and simmering tensions that the Biden administration has to deal with. Again, we're likely not to hear about these specific issues this next week. But what we will probably hear about is the president's vision for internationalism, his desire to build alliances and work with other countries and the values and principles that he thinks democracies, including the United States, should espouse in their foreign and domestic policy.
LANA ZAK: And Sean, last week the US reached President Biden's goal of administering 200 million vaccine doses within his first 100 days. When it comes to the pandemic, where does he stand in terms of fulfilling campaign promises? And where does he go from here?
SEAN SULLIVAN: Well, we're at sort of a little bit of an inflection point potentially right now in the ongoing battle against COVID-19 and this pandemic. And the president has touted in recent days, in recent weeks the success that public health officials have had getting people vaccinated at a pace that surpassed some of the goals that he set at the outset of his administration, in some cases even before he took office.
The challenge right now is, are we at a point where demand is becoming a bigger problem than supply? And we saw last week the Biden administration trying to take some steps to spur more people who have not gotten vaccinated to do so. They rolled out a plan to press employers to give paid time off for people to get vaccinated, and if they need to recover from those vaccines for them to get paid time off to do that as well.
So I think this administration recognizes now we're at a point where the pace of these vaccinations might depend more on demand than supply. For a long time, the problem was one of supply. You had long lines of people trying to log in online, over the phone, and otherwise to try to sign up for these vaccines. And there just weren't enough spots.
Now as the process has gotten more open, what this administration is looking at is an issue of how to get the people who haven't gotten vaccinated yet vaccinated, how to reach those people, how to break through with people who have decided that they don't want to or have been skeptical about doing so. So that's where we are right now in the overall picture.
And I think the Biden administration from day one has made combating the pandemic sort of their number one priority. You see it in the amount of times the president talks about it. You see it in where they focus their energy on Capitol Hill. And I think we can expect him to make that a big part of his address when he goes to Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
LANA ZAK: And Christina, during his campaign President Biden also promised to end what he called America's forever wars in the Middle East. He's set to deliver on part of that promise, ordering a complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by September 11. But why is that move now raising questions over the military prison at Guantanamo Bay?
CHRISTINA RUFFINI: You know, it's a risky proposition, because the problem with pulling out of Afghanistan was always what happens when you have this power vacuum? And what happens when you have these insurgents and these terrorists, what do you do with them, right? And that's something the administration is going to have to figure out.
Democrats historically have promised to close Guantanamo Bay. You know, President Obama, that was one of his big campaign issues. And then when he got into office, he realized the logistics of it and the reality of it was he couldn't get it done. So that goes back to this-- this foreign policy with-- with the Biden administration wanting to follow through and wanting to do these things that it promised to do on the campaign trail. But as any president finds once you get into office, they're always a little bit harder.
Now, CBS News has some new polling that shows that the withdrawal in Afghanistan is generally supported by the public, and most people think it's-- it's time to get out, it's a no-win situation. But also, we saw what happened when the US withdrew precipitously from other-- other theaters, including the rise of ISIS, right? And then we ended up having to go back in.
So the national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, said last week, you know, President Biden has no intention of going back into Afghanistan, but he's also going to keep his eye on the ball. And that's-- it's another issue that the president is going to have to watch and keep an eye on. And they're going to have to figure out the ramifications of this policy, what it means if you pull all these forces out, what you do with the bad guys that are in our custody, and how you juggle all of this in a very interconnected world where a threat in Syria or a threat in Afghanistan or a threat in Iraq can very easily become a threat to our allies in Europe or a threat to the homeland here.
And it's not lost that this is on the anniversary of September 11. You know, Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan hurt the US once before. And if there is no one there keeping those groups in check, there is a chance that it could happen again.
LANA ZAK: Sean, there's a weak poll in the president's public approval ratings. In our CBS News poll, 57% of people said that they disapproved of President Biden's handling of immigration. What's contributing to those low marks? And did president do-- did President Biden actually do what he said he would do on this issue?
SEAN SULLIVAN: Well, I think right now when you look at this first 100 days for President Biden, we see that the situation on the border right now that he's dealing with has emerged as sort of the biggest both policy and political problem that he's had to deal with. His administration has struggled to address the situation. We've seen an increase in the number of migrants arriving at the border.
We've seen the administration struggle to deal with the number of unaccompanied children arriving at the border. They made a decision that they were not going to turn these children away, but it's taken time, and sometimes more time than people had hoped, to process them, to get them into longer-term housing. And so this has been a challenge and a problem for this administration.
They've struggled about how to talk about it. For a long time, we heard administration officials refuse to use the word crisis to describe what's going on at the border. And then recently, we heard the president himself use that very word. So we've gotten mixed messaging from the administration, and a sense, I think, of unease among not just critics of the president, but also Democratic allies. They wonder, does he have this situation under control? What are the long-term ramifications of this?
Immigration and border security have long been two of the most divisive political issues. They divide people along party lines. This is not a front where we've seen a lot of room for agreement in recent years. And so it's not surprising to see a lot of criticism for the president among the public on this front.
And the question is in the coming months is, can he reverse those trends? When we look toward the midterm elections right now, and it may seem like a long ways away but we're already seeing both parties kind of gear up for that, we're seeing Republicans run heavily already on the issue of immigration and on the issue of border security. They're blaming Biden. They're saying he's keeping the country unsafe.
They're seizing on this as a political issue. I think this White House recognizes that. And the question is, can he change people's minds? Can he convince the public, by the time people are voting next year, that he has this situation under control, that he's handling this in a way that people can accept? And if he can't do that, that could be a significant liability for the president's party in the midterm elections next year.
LANA ZAK: And we all know that those midterms will be here in the blink of an eye. Before I let you go, I want to actually, as we're talking about 100 days, and I want to go back to day one and play some of what President Biden said during his January inaugural address.
JOE BIDEN: Let's begin to listen to one another again, hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another. Politics doesn't have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn't have to be a cause for total war.
LANA ZAK: I'm curious to know what both of you think. Sean, you heard the president describe politics as a raging fire burning down everything in its path. Was that political rhetoric? Or has President Biden actually been successful in trying to bring down the temperature in Washington?
SEAN SULLIVAN: Well, when you look at the legislative battles that we've seen unfold on Capitol Hill, he has not been able to forge the kind of bipartisanship that he talked about during the campaign last year. And one of the central arguments he presented even before that speech was, look, if you elect me, if we bring a new administration into this country, we can turn the page on the Trump years, and I'll be able to work with Republicans. Republicans who otherwise said, eh, you know, I don't want to work with Democrats, they'll work with me once Trump is out of the picture.
But the reality is, not a single Republican voted for the COVID-19 relief package that the president shepherded on Capitol Hill. We have not seen a single Republican yet express public support for this big infrastructure bill that he's pitching next. And a lot of the partisan divisions that we saw during the Trump years are still there. A lot of the disagreements, a lot of the nasty back and forth, a lot of this is still there.
And so while the president sort of promised to bring down the temperature, or at least try to bring down the temperature, a lot of the partisanship, a lot of the strident partisan warfare and divisions that we've seen time and time again over the last few years have still been there during this first 100 days. And so that's a question going into Wednesday's speech is, how does he explain that? How does he explain the fact that a lot of these old battles have not subsided, they're still there? And I think a lot of people will be interested to see how the president addresses that development and how he explains it.
LANA ZAK: Christina, what's your reflections when it comes to this question of bipartisanship and political vitriol?
CHRISTINA RUFFINI: Yeah, I think it's still a little flamey here in Washington. I think I've got some singe marks on my sweater from the last couple of months. Look, I think Republicans would say-- well, first, let me say I think Democrats would say, look, the president reached across the aisle. He invited Republicans in to confer on these bills and Republicans are being obstructionist and aren't having it.
I think Republicans would say, we're willing to talk to the president, we went to these meetings, but they don't want to hear what we have to say. It was lip service. It was a big show and they weren't really serious about negotiating. So that doesn't really sound like two sides who have made any more progress towards holding hands and singing and-- and having a joyful, productive political environment here in Washington.
The rhetoric on both sides is still very high. It's on almost every issue. And these parties are deeply divided. And it's going to come to where the rubber meets the road, because the president has announced he has this big legislative agenda he wants to get done. He wants to get done infrastructure. He wants to push through things on health care.
He wants-- he wants to show the potential of democracy and what democracy can do for the people. The way he wants to do that is through these big bills. But he's going to have a heck of a time, even among his own party occasionally, of getting these through this very divided Congress. And it doesn't look like anything he's going to be able to say this week is going to turn down the temperature in Washington all that much.
LANA ZAK: Yeah, all right, Christina Ruffini, Sean Sullivan, thank you.