New Covid variant presents challenge and opportunity for Biden White House

Tasos Katopodis
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·4 min read
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  • Joe Biden
    Joe Biden
    46th and current president of the United States

WASHINGTON — When President Biden delivers remarks Monday on the omicron variant, it will be his first speech fully devoted to the coronavirus since Nov. 3 — almost four weeks.

It’s a reminder that the Biden White House, before omicron, had moved its full attention to other topics, even as U.S. Covid-19 cases and deaths have been rising.

After Biden stated that the United States was closer than ever to declaring its independence from the coronavirus in his July 4th speech, the White House’s focus shifted to the infrastructure and social/climate spending bills.

Then to withdrawal from Afghanistan (though not in the way it originally intended). Then back to infrastructure (which became law) and “Build Back Better” (which hasn’t yet). And then to the supply chain and inflation.

And now we’re back to Covid.

The return offers the White House an opportunity to reset its Covid messaging, defend its vaccine mandate and put itself back on war footing against the virus — as well as rise above the congressional debates on funding the government and the debt limit.

Does it take the opportunity? Or does it take a pass?

Now the White House, as the saying goes, can walk and chew gum at the same time — later Monday Biden is slated to deliver a separate speech on the supply chain and inflation.

And part of being president is constantly responding to new threats and challenges.

But if you believe that Biden’s political problems — on the economy, inflation and dissatisfaction at the nation’s direction — all go back to the virus, the omicron variant becomes a chance for the White House to get back to the issue it made Priority No. 1 before July 4.

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Congress’ busy month ahead

Meanwhile, the upcoming activity on Capitol Hill is everything but the coronavirus.

“Congress will confront a packed agenda when it returns from Thanksgiving recess, from facing hard deadlines to keep the federal government running to passing President Joe Biden's $1.7 trillion safety net and climate legislation,” NBC’s Sahil Kapur writes.

“‘When I look at this drama in the next month, I break it down into a miniseries. And the first part is the defense bill and a bridge to the budget. Vast majority of senators support that. We’ll get that done,’ Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Sunday on ABC's ‘This Week.’”

“‘Second thing, the debt ceiling. If the Republicans want to scrooge out on us and increase people’s interest rates and make it hard to make car payments — go ahead, make that case. We're going to stop them from doing that,’ she said before mentioning voting rights and Biden's social spending bill. ‘And, finally, what we just talked about, the Build Back Better bill. We can get this done.’”

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

2,451,300: The number of people screened by TSA officers on Sunday, the highest since the beginning pf the pandemic.

20.9 million: The TSA screening volume over the last 10 days, which the agency says is 89 percent of what it was before the pandemic.

48,244,504: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials.

781,840: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The World Health Organization is criticizing travel bans related to the new omicron Covid variant, like the one instituted in America, and also says the variant poses a “very high” global risk.

The Associated Press looks at the “big wave” of misinformation targeted at Latinos.

Matthew McConaughey says he isn’t running for governor in Texas.

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper is suing the Defense Department, arguing that material is being improperly withheld in his quest to publish a memoir.

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