Joe Biden wants to complete his goals on civil rights, taxes, and social services if he’s reelected

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has a simple reelection pitch to voters — let him "finish the job."

So what does that mean? What's left for him to get done?

Unlike Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination who has been releasing videos and statements detailing his agenda, Biden hasn't formally released his plans as part of his campaign.

But his ambitions are no secret, and his goals for child care, community college and prescription drugs have been laid out in detail during the Democrat's first term. He also has unfulfilled promises on civil rights, such as protecting access to the ballot box, preventing police misconduct and restoring the nationwide right to abortion. Banning firearms known as assault rifles remains a priority as well.

The result is a second-term agenda that could look a lot like Biden's first-term agenda, with some of the same political challenges. Almost none of this can get done without cooperation from Congress, and many of these goals already have been blocked or pared down because of opposition on Capitol Hill.

Biden has achieved bipartisan victories on infrastructure projects and public funding for the domestic computer chip industry. But Democrats would need to win wide majorities in both the House and the Senate to clear a path for the rest of his plans.

"We're going to finish as much of the job as we can in the next year," said Bruce Reed, Biden's deputy chief of staff. "And finish the rest after that."

Biden's campaign expressed confidence that the president's agenda would stack up well against Republicans in next year's election. Kevin Munoz, a spokesman, described the election as "a choice between fighting for the middle class or shilling for rich special interests" and he said "it's a contrast we are more than happy to make."

One other difference between Biden and Trump doesn't fit neatly into policy white papers, but it's core to their political foundation. Biden has made defending American democracy a cornerstone of his administration, while Trump tried to overturn his election loss in 2020.

The result of the 2024 campaign could reshape not only government policy but the future of the country's bedrock institutions.


Biden's plans are expensive and he doesn't want to increase the deficit, so that means he's looking to raise taxes on the wealthy.

He already has succeeded in implementing a 15% minimum tax on companies with annual income exceeding $1 billion.

Biden has proposed raising the top tax rate to 39.6%, the corporate tax rate to 28% and the stock buyback tax to 4%.

He wants a minimum tax of 25% on the wealthiest Americans, a levy that would be applied not only to income but unrealized capital gains. The idea, which Biden called the "billionaire minimum income tax," could prove difficult to put in place, not to mention extremely hard to push through Congress, given Republican opposition to higher taxes.


Biden's original signature plan was known as Build Back Better, a cornucopia of proposals that would have dramatically changed the role of the federal government in Americans' lives.

It was pared down because of resistance from Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who is a key vote in the narrowly divided Senate and announced this past week that he will not seek reelection. The result was the Inflation Reduction Act, which included financial incentives for clean energy and limits on prescription drug costs, but not many other programs.

Biden will want to bring back the ideas that were left on the cutting room floor. That includes making two years of community college tuition free, offering universal preschool and limiting the cost of child care to 7% of income for most families.

He also wants to resuscitate the expanded child tax credit. The American Rescue Plan, the pandemic-era relief legislation, boosted the credit to $3,000 for children over six and $3,600 for children younger than age 6. The expansion lapsed after a year, returning the credit to $2,000 per child, when his original package stalled.

More work is left on prescription drugs. The monthly cost of insulin was capped at $35 for Medicare recipients. Biden wants the same limit for all patients.


The White House recently announced a new office dedicated to preventing gun violence. Biden also signed legislation that's intended to help officials keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and other dangerous people.

But Biden's biggest goal, a ban on so-called assault weapons, remains out of reach because of Republican opposition. Such a ban was in place from 1994 to 2004, but it wasn't extended after it expired. Although the proposal hasn't been spelled out in detail, it would likely affect popular high-powered weapons such as the AR-15, which can shoot dozens of bullets at a fast pace.

Another item on the wish list is universal background checks, which increase scrutiny of sales conducted through gun shows or other unlicensed avenues.


Biden took office at a time of national upheaval over the role of racism in policing and the future of democracy. George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, was murdered by a white police officer, and Trump tried to overturn Biden's election victory, leading to the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.

Biden promised to address both of these issues through landmark legislation, but he came up short of his goals.

On policing, bipartisan negotiations on Capitol Hill failed to reach a deal, particularly when it came to making it easier to sue over allegations of misconduct. So Biden instead crafted an executive order with input from activists and police. The final version changes rules for federal law enforcement, but it does little to alter how local departments do their jobs.

He similarly issued an executive order on voting rights that aims to expand registration efforts. But Democratic legislation intended to solidify access to the ballot box failed to advance when some members of the party refused to sidestep Senate filibuster rules to pass it.

Biden's presidency was upended by the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed nationwide access to abortion. It's proved to be a potential campaign issue for Democrats, but they have had less success in Congress. Biden said that if his party picks up more seats, he will push for legislation codifying the right to abortion.


On Biden's first day in office, he sent Congress his proposal for overhauling the country's immigration system. The idea went nowhere.

But the president would want to take another swing at the issue in a second term. It will prove an especially urgent topic as migrants continue crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and the country looks for the next generation of workers to achieve its economic goals.

Biden wants to allow people who are in the United States illegally to apply for legal status and eventually citizenship. He also wants a smoother and expanded visa process, particularly for foreign graduates of American universities. These steps would be paired with additional resources for border enforcement.


Biden is facing two wars on two continents, and the fallout from each conflict will shape a second term even if the fighting ends before that.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been going on for almost two years, and Israel and Hamas began their latest clash about a month ago. Biden wants to send military support to Ukraine and Israel, something that he describes as "vital" to U.S. national security interests.

"History has taught us when terrorists don't pay a price for their terror, when dictators don't pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction," he said in a recent Oval Office address.

His plans will require challenging congressional negotiations. Some Republicans are resisting more assistance for Ukraine after Congress has already approved $113 billion in security, economic and humanitarian resistance.

Both conflicts will likely require years of U.S. involvement. For example, Biden is looking for a new opportunity to push for a two-state solution in the Middle East, creating an independent Palestinian country alongside Israel.


Fighting global warming is one of the areas where Biden has had the most success. The Inflation Reduction Act includes nearly $375 billion for climate change, much of it going toward financial incentives for electric cars, clean energy and other initiatives. Biden is also pushing stricter regulations on vehicles and power plants.

But the U.S. is not yet on track to meet Biden's ambitious target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to independent analysts. And there's a lot of work ahead to ensure new programs reach their potential.

One hurdle is red tape for energy projects. The White House argues that it's too hard to build infrastructure such as transmission lines, but legislation to address the issue would likely require compromises with Republicans, who see an opportunity to grease the skids for additional fossil fuel development.

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President Biden issues flurry of new executive orders commanding action on climate

The executive orders that President Joe Biden signed today demonstrate his seriousness on the climate crisis. Adding to the fact that he has already appointed more people to positions with “climate” in their title than any president before him and has rejoined the Paris climate agreement, Biden today moved to prohibit more drilling for gas and oil on public lands, make climate change a top national security matter, conserve 30% of federal lands and oceans by 2030, cut greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector to net-zero by 2035, reach net-zero carbon emissions for the whole economy by 2050, form a civilian climate corps, and host a climate leaders summit on April 22, Earth Day. These moves, among many others including a focus on environmental justice, will mark the most significant change in U.S. environment and energy policies since the first Earth Day in 1970. 

In a speech prefacing the signing of the orders today, Biden delivered a climate message from the White House that we have not heard with such fervor ever before. His focus on well-paying jobs, people’s improved health from the elimination of fossil fuel pollution, and the transformation of our crumbling, outdated infrastructure into a green economy ought to bring smiles nationwide. But as serious as Biden is showing himself to be on this matter, as bold as the changes he has put forth are, as encouraging as the appointments are, and as much as he should be applauded for moving rapidly and early in his administration with these actions, they still aren’t enough. Many additional steps will need to be taken. Biden was, of course, right today when he said, “We have already waited too long” to address the climate crisis, which is a “existential threat.” What a difference it makes to have this kind of talk from the White House after four years of malicious idiocy on the subject.

But despite this tremendously encouraging change of direction, despite these first steps, Biden rejected Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s call for him to declare the climate crisis a national emergency, because it most certainly is. Biden should reconsider his opposition. "I think it might be a good idea for President Biden to call a climate emergency," Schumer said. "Then he can do many, many things under the emergency powers of the president that he could do ... without legislation."

Executive orders, as we saw in the Trump regime, can have large impacts. But they are reversible by a future president and, while they matter, they aren’t sufficient to achieve all that is necessary. And Congress—still brimming over with climate science deniers and other lawmakers who don’t deny the scientific consensus but nevertheless have for years dragged their feet on addressing climate—is going to be a major obstacle on legislation, despite Democrats being in charge in the Senate. 

This will be especially the case when it comes to investing federal funds to accomplish the necessary transformation of our transportation, agricultural, and energy systems away from dependence on burning fossil fuels that are also burning up the planet. That opposition, if congressional Democrats cannot overcome it, may eventually sway Biden to follow Schumer’s good advice.

Among the executive orders issued today is the assigning of Avril Haines, the newly installed director of national intelligence, to oversee the crafting of the nation’s first National Intelligence Estimate on climate change.

Biden is also imposing a one-year freeze on new federal oil and gas leases. The immediate impact on greenhouse gas emissions of that will be relatively small. For one thing, companies have stockpiled leases, with 26 million acres of public land now under lease, although the vast majority of that is not being drilled. Lawsuits can nevertheless be expected under the century-old Mineral Leasing Act that requires oil, gas, and coal on public lands be leased for auction. "I suspect there will be litigation if they try to cancel all future oil and gas sales," Mark Squillace, a law professor who served in the Interior Department during the Clinton administration, told E&E News.

Getting to net-zero emissions in the electricity sector in 15 years is possible, but it will take a massive effort. A report released in December by Princeton University researchers—"Net-Zero America: Potential Pathways, Infrastructure, and Impacts”—laid out potential paths on this conversion. "The transformation of our national energy infrastructure ... is not going to be easy," Jesse Jenkins, one of the Princeton analysts, told the meeting of the steering committee of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). "The good news is it looks like we have the tools. It's technically feasible." The Princeton study estimates that the nation needs to add an average of 60,000 megawatts of wind and solar generation a year for a decade to reach carbon goals, nearly twice the level gained in 2020.

Another executive order issued today establishes a "Civilian Climate Corps Initiative" that will work to restore public lands and waters and address climate change. This is a modern version of the Great Depression’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a reinvention that some congressional lawmakers have proposed recently. The original CCC provided employment and job training to 3 million Americans between 1933 and 1942. 

In a statement, National Wildlife Federation President and CEO Collin O'Mara said, "What better way to put millions of Americans to work and build back better than by restoring our forests, grasslands, wetlands, and coastal areas to bolster resilience, sequester carbon, and recover imperiled wildlife populations through a revitalized 21st century Civilian Conservation Corps and a commitment to restore 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030?"

Just a week after swearing the oath of office, President Biden has given climate hawks and other environmental advocates good reason to be pleased Wednesday even if some matters—such as repeating that he will not end fracking—caused clenched teeth in some quarters. With such exceptions, the Biden-Harris team is assertively steering us down the right road to address the climate crisis with a comprehensive transformation of our economy and environment. 

That’s a huge switch after 30 years of obstruction and dilly-dallying by lawmakers in both parties. Grassroots climate activists still have a big task ahead of us in helping to expand, hone, and achieve the goals the White House is setting forth. And that will mean a tough, continuing fight with some of the same foes whose past actions have put us in the dire climate circumstances we find ourselves in. We can do it. We have to.