Joey Garrison

Routine, order and a script are back in the White House


WASHINGTON – After Joe Biden signed one other raft of govt orders Tuesday, a reporter deviated from the day’s theme – racial fairness – to ask the president what he talked to Russian President Vladimir Putin about earlier in the day.

“You,” Biden replied with a smile as he walked away from a desk in the White House State Dining Room. “He sends his best.”

The trade provided a uncommon off-script second throughout the first days of Biden’s administration which have introduced inflexible scheduling and routine back to the White House after 4 years of unpredictability underneath former President Donald Trump. 

While Trump was recognized to maintain adversaries, reporters and even allies on edge into the wee hours of the night time – all questioning when the subsequent tweet would possibly come and what it would say – Biden has returned the White House to a schedule that resembles banker hours. The new president’s tweets, all the time on message, are few and far between.

The drumbeat displays Biden’s push to revive a sense of normalcy in the White House amid turmoil, weeks after the Capitol got here underneath siege by pro-Trump supporters and as the loss of life toll from a raging pandemic surpasses 435,000.

More: Undoing Trump’s insurance policies and different issues Biden did his first week as president

But it is unclear how lengthy Biden can persist with his routine amid rising partisan conflicts in Congress and a slew of monumental challenges. Lawmakers are battling over Trump’s impeachment trial, Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 reduction invoice and calls from Democrats in addition far-right Republican members from Congress.

“It will require constant work. Many forces of commerce and human nature are arrayed against him, and countless obstacles stand in his path,” journalist John Dickerson, amongst those that welcomes “boring” once more in the White House, wrote in The Atlantic. “But if the country is lucky, entire days will pass without the president’s activities agitating the public mind.”

40 govt orders, fastidiously mapped out  

The routine is intentional. It’s goal: Portray Biden as a problem-solving president centered on a convergence of crises, uninterested in not a lot else.

Biden’s schedule has began with each day presidential intelligence briefings – one thing Trump famously uncared for occasionally – throughout the 9 a.m. hour. He has then used most days to tout one among his core priorities – local weather change, the federal authorities’s COVID-19 response, well being care and racial fairness – earlier than taking govt motion on the matter.

Each rollout has been fastidiously choreographed.

More: Joe Biden rejoins Paris Agreement, requires masks on federal property in swift Day 1 directives

After orders are introduced in the morning, aides specialised in the material, together with local weather change envoy John Kerry and Susan Rice, director of Biden’s Domestic Policy Council, have taken questions from reporters. In the afternoon, Biden has spoken on the newest matter, not often ad-libbing from ready remarks on a teleprompter. He has then sat down at a desk to signal a document first week of govt orders and directives – 40 up to now with extra on faucet for subsequent week.

Perhaps the greatest variation has been the place he has signed the orders: the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office some days, an undersized desk in the State Dining Room on others.

By govt pen, he has rejoined the Paris Agreement on local weather, ended Trump’s journey ban from predominantly Muslim international locations, canceled the Keystone XL Pipeline’s allow and ended the nation’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization.

The tight ship seems to have given the White House the early narrative it hoped.

“It’s as if for the last four years, the country was left in the hands of an irresponsible teenage babysitter, where the mother and father leave and say: ‘Don’t call boys. Don’t have alcohol,'” mentioned Barbara Perry, director of presidential research at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “And now the parents are back. The father runs the household on a strict schedule with a plan.”

More: Here are all the govt orders President Joe Biden has signed up to now

Perry mentioned it seems like a return of the “No-drama Obama years,” a reference to eight years underneath Biden’s former boss, President Barack Obama. She likened the White House’s self-discipline to date to the early days of President Ronald Reagan’s time period as his administration fastidiously labored to point out him addressing a recession.

Biden, too, is making an attempt to ship a message, Perry mentioned: “Let’s get the government working again as a well-oiled machine, because if we don’t the crises are going to take us out.”

Press briefings, Dr. Fauci’s return

Continuing an strategy that allowed him to remain on message in the marketing campaign, Biden has taken questions from reporters solely a handful of instances, limiting alternatives for the gaffes he has been susceptible to make over the years.

Questions are largely confined to the return of each day White House press briefings, led by Press Secretary Jen Psaki. The White House additionally relaunched common briefings from public well being officers together with Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was successfully shut out of White House appearances in the waning months of the Trump administration.

In between the president’s temporary speeches and signings of orders, Biden has taken calls with leaders of Japan, India, Germany, France and Russia’s Putin. In one other shift from Trump, Biden reportedly raised areas of competition with Putin, in keeping with the White House. Those points embrace stories of Russia putting bounties on American troopers in Afghanistan, interference in the 2020 election and the poisoning of Putin opponent Alexei Navalny.

More: After Putin’s preliminary snub, Biden talks nukes, cyberattack and poisoning with Russian chief

Biden has had “many conversations” with members of Congress, together with Republicans, in keeping with Psaki, as he seeks bipartisan passage of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 reduction invoice, the American Rescue Act. But she declined to say which members of Congress, nor would she speculate on the location of Biden’s first international and home journeys. 

Jay Carney, former press secretary for Obama and for Biden as vice chairman, credited the quick begin on govt motion to preparation as Trump contested the election.

“They knew they wanted to come out big early to demonstrate the change that they were bringing, and their seriousness and purpose to keep their promises and act on important things early,” he mentioned. 

Carney mentioned Biden’s crew – which incorporates a number of former Obama aides, together with Biden’s chief of employees, Ron Klain – and the president himself have benefited from their experiences confronting a monetary disaster in 2009 when Obama entered workplace.

“It has that feel, but I’d say it’s even better-executed and higher volume. They’re doing more,” he mentioned, whereas acknowledging that the “pace is hard to sustain.”

Republicans say Biden has deserted inauguration pledge

White House “lids” – the White House time period for no extra official information for the day – usually come in the late afternoon or early night. The president held no public occasions final weekend, nor did he have any on faucet for this weekend.

After the unpredictability of the Trump years, even the smallest of disruptions and detours have been magnified. As Biden spoke about his administration’s plans to buy 200 million extra COVID- vaccinations, a log toppled off the hearth, inflicting a loud bang.

At one other occasion, Biden’s two German Shepherds had been heard barking outdoors the Oval Office as he signed an govt order lifting Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the army.

More: Amid requires unity, President Biden and Republicans do not agree what that appears like

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., mentioned Biden’s strategy is “night and day” from how Trump ran the White House, applauding “the organization, the efficiency, the sincerity” in comparison with Trump, who he mentioned was “mainly in it for himself.”

“It’s kind of like the old Rolaids commercials. How do you spell relief? B-I-D-E-N,” Cooper mentioned. “The tricky thing will be, it’s not enough to return to normal. Now we have to start making sure we improve on normal, because government has not been working well enough for working folks.”

That problem is trickier as a result of Biden’s central message of unity is proving elusive. He advised Americans in his inaugural speech that “politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire” as he known as on each events to “start afresh.” Not solely a push for bipartisanship, it was additionally an attraction to return to civility and democratic norms.

Biden’s disciplined begin is supposed to underscore these themes. But Republicans have slammed Biden’s heavy use of govt motion on progressive causes, arguing it can do extra to divide than unite.

“Mr. President, we all watched your inauguration and took your words about unity and putting yourself in other people’s shoes to heart,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and 23 different Republicans senators wrote Friday in a letter to Biden, slamming his orders geared toward the fossil gasoline business. 

Arguing that Biden has put “thousands of good-paying jobs at risk,” the senators mentioned his orders have “the potential to further the divide between rural and urban America.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, tweeted Friday: “The Senate is divided 50/50. The House is almost equally divided. President Biden promised he’d work with Republicans. But he’s signed 40 executive orders and actions in nine days.”

Hands-off on impeachment

The White House desires to painting Biden as centered on what it calls 4 “overlapping and compounding crises” – the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing financial injury, local weather change and lagging racial fairness – not engaged in the political fights in Congress.

But the president’s means to stay to his routine might be examined as these decide up, notably when Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate begins the week of Feb. 8.

Biden has taken a hands-off strategy with Trump’s impeachment trial, declining to say how senators ought to vote. He mentioned the Senate can stability its “constitutional responsibilities on impeachment” whereas addressing “other urgent business of the nation.” 

After Biden, in an interview with CNN, predicted that the Senate lacked two-thirds majority to convict Trump, Psaki sought to clarify that he would defer to Senate management on the tempo of the impeachment.

“And I can promise you that we will leave the vote counting to leaders in the Senate from now on,” she mentioned. 

More: As the numbers recommend a Donald Trump acquittal, senators discover censure and brace for impeachment trial

As Biden seeks congressional approval of his signature COVID-19 reduction invoice, help is mounting amongst Senate Democrats to cross the laws through price range reconciliation if they cannot discover 60 votes, which might require help from 10 Republican senators. The reconciliation course of would wish simply a easy majority. 

Although such a maneuver would open him as much as criticism for abandoning his marketing campaign pledge of bipartisanship, Biden seems open to the concept. The president’s precedence is the invoice’s approval, in keeping with the White House, not the course of.

“I support passing COVID relief with support from Republicans if we can get it,” Biden advised reporters Friday when requested whether or not he helps reconciliation. “But the COVID reduction has to cross. There’s no ifs, ands or buts.”

More: $15 minimum wage? Another round of checks? Resistance to key pieces could derail Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan

One area the White House won’t be baited into: the controversy surrounding QAnon sympathizer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., whom Democrats have increasingly condemned for past incendiary remarks.

Pressed on the matter, Paski said the White House doesn’t have a response to possible disciplinary action for the congresswoman.

“And I’m not going to talk additional about her, I feel, in this briefing room.” Asked again the next day, Psaki said, “We don’t need to elevate conspiracy theories additional in the briefing room.”

Contributing: The Associated Press. Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.