Joe Biden Just Had the Best Week of His Presidency

President Joe Biden may just have had the best week of his presidency so far with three months to go until crucial midterm elections.

The Biden administration scored a major victory against the Al-Qaeda terrorist group with the killing of leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike on July 31, while also racking up wins at home.

It now appears highly likely that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will be passed by the Senate and House of Representatives next week, while the president's own popularity seems to be ticking up.

Here's a look at Biden's successful week.

Defense Policy Victories

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone strike ordered by President Biden this week in a landmark moment in the fight against the group responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Al-Zawahiri was one of the masterminds of the 2001 attacks and was Osama bin Laden's deputy, succeeding him as leader of the organization. The drone strike in Kabul also bolstered the administration's case that withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan has not hindered the nation's ability to fight terrorism.

There were also multiple reports this week about the successful use of U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) by Ukraine against Russian forces.

President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the U.S. for its military support and said a new defense assistance package "is bringing us closer to victory."

In a related development, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved NATO membership for Finland and Sweden after both countries were prompted to apply to the military alliance following Russia's attack on Ukraine.

Biden Agenda Breakthroughs

After a tense few days rife with speculation, it now appears that Democrats will be able to pass the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 after Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) agreed to support it with minimal changes on Thursday.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) surprised many when he came out in support of the bill, which is a repackaged version of Biden's Build Back Better agenda and also aims to reduce the national deficit by $300 billion in an effort to bring down inflation.

Sinema's vote is essential in getting the bill passed using the budget reconciliation process in the evenly divided Senate, and she has agreed to back the legislation after a provision on the carried interest loophole was removed, along with some other tax-related changes.

The Senate will begin voting on the bill on Saturday in the so-called vote-a-rama and could approve the legislation by Monday, with the Democrat-controlled House likely to pass it next week.

The bill will provide $369 billion in spending on energy and climate change.

The Senate also passed a $280 billion bill to address the healthcare needs of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans exposed to burn pits. Senators voted for the bill 86 to 11 after Republicans ended their opposition to the legislation amid significant pressure from more than 60 veterans groups and public criticism from comedian Jon Stewart.

The veterans bill, which had already passed the House, is the latest bipartisan victory for the administration following the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in June and the CHIPS Act in July.

Joe Biden President
In this combination image, US President Joe Biden salutes before delivering an address at the 153rd National Memorial Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in Arlington, Virginia on May 31, 2021, background image of the The Stars and Stripes, United States of America flag. Biden has had a number of successes over the past week iStock / Getty Images

Polls and Prices

President Biden's approval rating has been in negative territory since August 31, according to poll tracker FiveThirtyEight, and though it remained low this week there are signs his popularity is improving.

FiveThirtyEight found Biden's approval stood at 39.3 percent as of Friday and his disapproval was 55.6 percent. That represents an upward trend since July 25, when the president's approval was just 37.7 percent and his disapproval stood at 57.1 percent. It remains to be seen if his approval rating will continue to rise.

Other polling showed some good news for Democrats as they face crucial midterm elections. A recent Monmouth University poll found that Biden's party enjoyed 50 percent support when respondents were asked who they preferred to control Congress.

Republicans were preferred by 43 percent of those surveyed, though it remains to be seen if this is part of a broader trend. Democrats are expected to struggle to retain control of the House and Senate in November.

One of the major issues in the midterm elections is expected to be the cost of living and inflation but there was also good news for Democrats on that front, as the cost of a gallon of gas has fallen after reaching record highs.

"More than half of all gas stations across the United States now offer gas for less than $4 a gallon," Biden's official Twitter account wrote on Wednesday.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) found that the national average price for a gallon of gas was just over $4.08 as of Saturday, a decrease on the previous day.

Friday also saw the release of hiring figures for July as the country saw 528,000 jobs added that month—another positive economic indicator that could suggest the U.S. is not heading for a recession despite two quarters of negative GDP growth.

Abortion and the Midterms

Abortion could also emerge as a major issue in the midterm elections after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark precedent that found a constitutional right to abortion.

Kansas voters on Tuesday delivered a surprise win for abortion rights activists when they rejected a measure that would have removed abortion protections from the state's constitution by a vote of 59 percent to 41 percent.

President Biden appeared to acknowledge the potential for abortion to become an election issue when he signed an executive order designed to facilitate out of state travel for those seeking abortions on Wednesday.

"I don't think the court has any notion for that matter or the Republican party for that women are going to respond. They don't have a clue about the power of American women," Biden said.

"Last night in Kansas they found out," the president added.

Biden's Best Week?

Political experts who spoke to Newsweek said that this was undoubtedly a good week for Biden but also sounded a cautious note.

"No question that this was the best week of Biden's presidency," said Robert Singh, a professor at the Department of Politics at Birkbeck, University of London. "But everything is relative.

"It stood out largely because the prior year and a half has been so lousy. It also begs the question, especially on the legislative front: why did this take so long? Had Biden's much vaunted LBJ-style skills been true, he could and should have achieved all of this in his first six months. Instead, he leaned in to the left of the Democratic Party and came up with measures that were impossible to win broad support," Singh said.

Singh said people "should be cautious about irrational exuberance."

"Al-Zawahiri's targeted killing was a major success - but it begs the question, why did he think he could relocate to downtown Kabul and venture on his balcony with impunity? What does this say about the Taliban's promise not to harbor terror groups that were planning attacks on the West?" he said.

"It seems that we are back to September 10 - al Qaeda and others are now in a safe haven, reconstituted and planning anew. Similarly, whether and when the Inflation Reduction Act works is a moot point. Given the ongoing crisis over energy prices, and commodities, and this before any China action on Taiwan, it seems unlikely that Biden's approval ratings will experience a sustained uptick," Singh warned.

Inflation and Approval

Thomas Gift, founding director of University College London's Centre on U.S. Politics, told Newsweek that the White House might be encouraged by this good week but more needed to be done.

"For most voters, one word, inflation, is still at the top of mind. Unless Americans see sustained relief from sticker shock every time they pull into the gas station or buy groceries at the store, Biden isn't likely to see a big uptick in his approvals," Gift said.

"Even if the Inflation Reduction Act lives up to its name—and there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical—any benefits likely wouldn't come in the near-term," he added.

Running Out of Time

With midterms approaching and the possibility of major Republican victories, Biden may not have much time left to achieve his first term goals.

Paul Quirk, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, told Newsweek that "the events of this past week will represent a major part of his legacy, and go far towards making him a successful, consequential president."

"Whether Biden's legislative successes will help him or the Democrats politically is less clear," Quirk said. "When policy moves to the left, the public usually moves to the right, and vice versa—in effect, keeping the policy direction reasonably stable over time."

Quirk said that former President Barack Obama's successes in his first two years, such as the Affordable Care Act, "helped produce devastating Democratic losses in the 2010 midterm elections."

"What will help Democrats in the 2022 midterms, and possibly in 2024, is rather their extraordinary defeats at the hands of the Republicans on abortion policy. In politics, nothing succeeds like failure, properly done," he said.

"For many, Biden is running out of time on the most important matters on the agenda for his first two years - ensuring that those who attempted to overturn the 2020 presidential election are brought to justice, and passing legislation to bolster the defenses against similar efforts in 2024 and beyond," Quirk added.

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