With low approval rating, Biden faces mask mandate dilemma

They’ve been filled with confusing messages on critical topics, projecting an image of a directionless White House led by a President whose tendency to veer off message is only adding to his problems.

* A federal judge in Florida struck down the administration’s federal travel mask mandate on Monday. In response to that ruling, the Biden administration first didn’t make clear what its next steps would be. Then late in the day on Tuesday, the administration said it would appeal the ruling — if the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determines the mandate is still needed. In the midst of all of that, Biden added to the confusion, telling reporters during a trip to New Hampshire Tuesday that it was “up to them” when it came to people wearing masks on public transportation.
* The administration has a revolt on its hands over its previously announced decision to rescind Title 42, a public health measure put in place in March 2020 — in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic — that allowed border patrol officials to turn away migrants seeking asylum. Earlier this week, Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, who runs the Democrats’ Senate campaign committee, said of Title 42 that “unless we have a well thought out plan, I think it is something that should be revisited and perhaps delayed.” That follows questions raised by a number of Democrats on the ballot this year, concerned that rescinding Title 42 will lead to a flood of undocumented immigrants at the border. In the face of all of that, Axios reported Tuesday that the administration is considering “delaying the repeal of Title 42 border restrictions.”
* Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading liberal voices in the country, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times suggesting that Biden and the Democrats need to start playing offense, legislatively speaking. “Despite pandemic relief, infrastructure investments and the historic Supreme Court confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson, we promised more — and voters remember those promises,” wrote Warren. And this bit of frank talk: “To put it bluntly: if we fail to use the months remaining before the elections to deliver on more of our agenda, Democrats are headed toward big losses in the midterms.”
All of this comes as Biden is at or near his low ebb in terms of job approval during his term. In CNN’s latest poll of polls — an average of the last four national polls — Biden’s approval rating is at just 39% among Americans, with his disapproval at 55%.

In short: Biden didn’t have a lot of goodwill left with the public before this week. But the conflicting messages coming out of the White House — and the broader Democratic Party — make it look like there is no plan to turn things around in advance of the midterm elections, which are now just over 200 days off.

Perhaps in an attempt to address this sense of a lack of direction, Biden put out a series of tweets Wednesday morning blaming inflation on Covid-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine and urging Congress to take action. “I’ve called on Congress to move immediately to lower the cost of families’ utility bills, prescription drugs, and more — while lowering the deficit to reduce inflationary pressure,” Biden tweeted.

It’s not clear that there is much desire among Democrats — many of whom are eager to get home and campaign before the midterm elections — to follow through on Biden’s push.

It’s all a mess for Democrats. And a mess without any clear — or easy — solutions.

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