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5 things to watch for CNN’s Biden town hall in Baltimore


CNN

By Maegan Vazquez, CNN

President Joe Biden on Thursday is expected to face questions about his legislative agenda and his handling of key issues during his first year in office when he participates in a CNN town hall in Baltimore.

The event will be moderated by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and will air at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.

Here’s what to watch for during Thursday night’s town hall:

Biden’s legislative agenda

The President’s legislative agenda — specifically, how he plans to negotiate with Congress to pass his plans for the social safety net and infrastructure — is expected to be top of mind during the town hall.

The White House has expressed optimism this week in moving the bills forward and Biden has spent a large portion of this week talking to moderate and progressive Democrats to reach a deal.

Some major steps have been taken.

Biden informed House progressives Tuesday afternoon that the final bill to expand the social safety net is expected to drop tuition-free community college — a major White House priority.

However, the Biden administration maintains that the President will continue fighting for campaign promises even if they are stripped from a final social spending bill.

Other details have yet to be hammered out. And Democratic moderate Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona still have not signed onto the plan, officials say.

Democrats have less than two weeks until the President is set to attend the United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. And while Biden did not explicitly set a deadline, he made clear in meetings with Democrats this week that his goal was to have a locked-in framework agreement that would clear the way for a House vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill before he arrives at the conference, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.

Diplomacy at the G20

The town hall comes ahead of Biden’s second trip to Europe this year, where he’s expected to meet with a long list of world leaders for the first time since the administration faced a number of diplomatic challenges.

While Biden set forth to bring American diplomacy back at the start of his administration, he will return to Europe later this month in the thick of what’s arguably a new, less diplomatically optimistic phase of his presidency.

Since his first Europe trip this summer, the President has been confronted with questions about his handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, international Covid-19 vaccine sharing efforts, migrant crises, issues related to China and Russia and a dispute with France over funding for Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines.

Biden will first go to Rome for the Group of 20 meeting and then fly west to Glasgow for the major climate conference.

The Virginia governor’s race

The congressional negotiations over the social safety net and infrastructure plans are expected to loom over the upcoming November elections, which are just weeks away.

While it’s an off year for many major elections, there are still some key races, including the Virginia governors race, where Democrat Terry McAuliffe is attempting to return to office.

Although Democrats have confidence in Congress’ ability to pass the bills in some form, the possibility for those bills to pass before the November elections — acting as a boon for Democratic candidates — is becoming less likely as each day passes.

McAuliffe’s race is of concern for Democrats, given that his state is acutely attune to the federal government’s actions in neighboring Washington.

Former President Barack Obama is throwing his weight into the race, most recently cutting a campaign ad for McAuliffe. And on the same day Biden is set to appear in the CNN town hall, Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to campaign for McAuliffe in Virginia, according to a source familiar.

There’s support among Republicans and Democrats for the infrastructure proposals. A CNN Poll conducted by SSRS earlier this month found that support for an economic bill that enacts all the proposed social safety net and climate change policies is broadest among liberal Democrats (84%), but two-thirds of moderates and conservatives in the party share that view (67%).

In that same poll, Americans were divided over the President’s approval rating.

Fifty percent of individuals polled approved, while 49% disapproved — largely unchanged from a CNN poll conducted in August and September.

Covid-19 response

On Wednesday, the White House unveiled its plans to roll out Covid-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11, pending authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Last week, the White House announced foreign visitors who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be able to travel to the US starting on November 8.

And the federal rule that would mandate Covid-19 vaccinations on employers with 100 or more employees continues to be reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget.

Questions about these vaccine mandates, travel, booster shots, the pandemic’s economic impact, the newly announced plans to vaccinate younger children and plans to vaccinate the rest of the world could come up during the town hall.

Climate change

Biden’s swing through Europe over the coming weeks includes an appearance at the United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow — a major moment for the President to convene with other world leaders and make commitments on climate policy.

The social safety net legislation the President is negotiating also was originally expected to include major provisions related to climate change.

Democratic lawmakers are continuing to haggle over potential alternatives to fill the carbon emissions gap that was opened when they dropped their clean energy program from the social safety net deal.

The President could face questions about what the US would commit to while on he’s on the stage in Scotland or the state of negotiations over climate-related policies.

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