President Joe Biden is facing a dual crises — one at home with his bipartisan infrastructure bill, and one abroad with the collapse of Afghanistan.
Critics say he’s failing at both.
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On the domestic front, Biden’s radical agenda is suddenly facing serious resistance. With his bipartisan infrastructure bill facing resistance in the House of Representatives by far-left Democrats, his massive multitrillion-dollar Democratic wishlist is now facing fierce resistance by moderate Democrats.
Both groups are trying to upend the president’s plan and outmaneuver the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The House meets Monday in what the White House is hoping will be just a two-day interruption of lawmakers’ August recess. They want quick approval of a budget resolution setting up future passage — maybe this fall — of legislation directing $3.5 trillion in new government spending.
That huge measure, financed in part by new debt and tax increases, comprises the heart of Biden’s transformative vision for the role of government in American lives.
The moderates have threatened to oppose the budget resolution unless the House first approves a $1 trillion, 10-year bipartisan package of road, power grid, broadband and other infrastructure projects that’s already passed the Senate. With unanimous Republican opposition expected to the fiscal blueprint, moderates’ nine votes would be more than enough to sink it in the narrowly divided House.
The moderates want Congress to quickly send the bipartisan infrastructure measure to Biden so he can sign it before the political winds shift. That would nail down a victory they could tout in their reelection campaigns next year.
“The House can’t afford to wait months or do anything to risk passing” the infrastructure bill, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., said Friday. He’s a leader of the nine moderate mavericks who each released statements reaffirming their desire that the infrastructure vote come first.
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With most of Biden’s domestic agenda at stake, it’s unimaginable that Pelosi, D-Calif., would let her own party’s centrists deal him an embarrassing defeat. That’s especially true with the president already under fire over his mishandling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and Democrats’ prospects uncertain in the 2022 elections for control of Congress.
Chaos has engulfed American efforts to evacuate those fleeing a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, resulting in at least one more death on Monday.
Under Biden’s watch, Afghanistan’s security forces collapsed in the face of the Taliban advance, despite 20 years of Western aid and over a trillion dollars spent.
Gunfire broke out near an entrance to the airport, where at least seven Afghans died a day earlier in a panicked stampede of thousands of people. The circumstances of the shooting, which occurred around dawn, remained unclear.
The tragic scenes around the airport have transfixed the world. Afghans poured onto the tarmac last week and some clung to a U.S. military transport plane as it took off, later plunging to their deaths. At least seven people died that day, in addition to the seven killed Sunday.
The Taliban have violently suppressed protests and beat people with batons as they try to control the crowds outside the airport perimeter. There have also been reports in recent days of the Taliban hunting down their former enemies.
Since Aug. 14, the U.S. has evacuated or facilitated the evacuation of more than 30,000 people on military and coalition flights. Tens of thousands of people — Americans, other foreigners and Afghans who assisted in the war effort — are still waiting to join the airlift, which has been slowed by security issues and U.S. bureaucracy hurdles.
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Biden said Sunday he would not rule out extending the evacuation beyond Aug. 31, the date he had set for completing the withdrawal of U.S. forces. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to press Biden for an extension.
But Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, in an interview with Sky News, said Aug. 31 is a “red line” and that extending the American presence would “provoke a reaction.”
There remain concerns that a local affiliate of the Islamic State group might target the crowds outside the airport with suicide bombers or fire missiles at U.S. aircraft. Military planes have been executing corkscrew landings, and other aircraft have fired flares upon takeoff — both measures used to avoid missile attacks.
Criticism of Biden has grown so loud critics called the Sunday political talk shows a “bloodbath” for his administration.
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"'Al-Qaeda is gone from Afghanistan.' That's not true. 'We haven't been criticized by our allies.' That's not true. 'Americans can make it to the airport without being harassed.' That's not true." pic.twitter.com/sDcY9Co2Hu
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) August 22, 2021
The Associated Press contributed to this article