The first 100 days is an important milestone for any President, and Joe Biden recently completed his 100th day in office. This period within a four-year term can set the tone for the remainder of the presidency, and President Biden can point to key successes and see some areas for improvement.
American Rescue Plan
The most significant legislative victory for the President was the passage of the American Rescue Plan, one of the most expensive bills ever passed by Congress. Biden campaigned on the importance of providing additional resources to state and local governments, vaccination efforts, small businesses, direct payments to individuals, and extended unemployment insurance, among other provisions. Democrats strongly believe the Rescue Plan was necessary to confront and turn back COVID-19 and stabilize the American people and the economy. A criticism of the Obama Administration was a ‘slow’ economic recovery from the Great Recession in 2009/2010. Democrats were convinced and united in their position that passing the Rescue Plan could not wait for protracted negotiations with Republicans. Ultimately, Democrats were the only congressional members to vote for the package.
Vaccination goals in the first 100 days
Another component to the early days of the Biden Presidency has been the focus on expanding availability and administering of the COVID-19 vaccine. Coming into inauguration day in January 2021, the goal for the administration was 100 million shots in the first 100 days. While initially viewed as an ambitious target, the administration exceeded its original goal and administered 220 million vaccines in the first 100 days. COVID-19 is still a dangerous threat, but the increase in vaccines has led to several positive economic indicators in recent months, with a strong jobs report from March 2021 (916,000 jobs added to the economy) and emerging recoveries for the travel and hospitality industries. Still, a long way to go, but these positive economic indicators should also benefit furniture retailers as people return to work and the economy grows.
Most Administrations begin with a flurry of Executive Orders, and President Biden has used his powers very frequently, given the sharp contrast between former President Trump and the current administration. Executive Orders were issued ranging from government regulations to immigration to supply chain security. The HFA Government Relations Action Team (GRAT) has been engaged with congressional leaders and the administration about the ongoing supply chain disruptions impacting furniture retailers. The ability to take and fulfill orders will continue to be a significant factor facing retailers and consumers as the economy recovers.
American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan
There have been several victories for the Biden Administration, but one glaring deficiency is the lack of any bipartisanship between congressional Republicans and the administration. Another campaign promise, given Biden’s history as a Senator and VP, was bringing people and political parties together. That task became even more difficult with Democrats passing the American Rescue Plan with only their votes. As President Biden shifts focus to his new proposals, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, Democrat and Republicans are further at odds. There are moderate Democrats concerned with the cost of these new proposals, which could approach $5 trillion. There are several bipartisan issues within these two plans, including infrastructure investment, access to affordable childcare, Child Tax Credits, broadband expansion, and others. However, President Biden has proposed to pay for these provisions by raising the corporate tax rate, increasing the capital gains tax rate for high earners, and increasing individual rates for those making over $400,000 annually. There are likely other aspects of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, legislation passed with only Republican votes, which could be adjusted. All this has led to a wide gap between the parties regarding a path forward on these issues.
The next 100 days
President Biden recognizes the lack of bipartisanship could further impact other elements of his policy agenda. His administration hopes to find some common ground with Republicans over the next few weeks on infrastructure as a starting point. Republicans have proposed a smaller, more targeted infrastructure package totaling about $570 billion, far less than Biden’s $2.5 trillion Jobs Plan. There is far more pessimism in DC about a bipartisan compromise – any extensive delays will force Democrats to try and move these packages with Democratic votes again. The ultra-slim majorities in both the House and Senate complicate the path forward.
The first 100 days have not changed the political environment in DC, but the economic outlook has improved. If President Biden can bridge some of these broader political gaps in the next 100 days, that will set a different tone for the remainder of his term.