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Joe Biden's first 100 days ends this week. Why does the presidential milestone matter? – USA TODAY

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will cross the 100-day mark of his presidency on Friday, an arbitrary date on the calendar, but a decades-old standard used to judge presidents.  

The spotlight has been on the president’s first 100 days since he was sworn in and vowed to use that time to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and reverse many policies of former President Donald Trump.

Biden set a slew of goals to achieve within his first months in office, and while there is nothing in U.S. law stipulating what he must get done in that time, historically, presidents, Congress and the media have looked at the first 100 days of an administration as a benchmark of progress, to set the tone of the administration’s priorities and to judge its success so far. 

“Presidents feel compelled to stack up some points on the first 100-day scoreboard to show that they’re leaders of action, to set the agenda and what kind of leader they’re going to be,” said Terri Bimes, associate teaching professor of political science at University of California–Berkeley.

Scholars trace the importance of the first 100 days back to the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose swift action in the first months of his term to combat the Great Depression made his administration a standard by which presidents have since been held.

He passed 76 laws, according to FiveThirtyEight, rapidly pushed through legislation that gave the government the power to regulate the stock market, set the minimum wage and close American banks for a bank holiday. In a radio address after his first 100 days passed, Roosevelt used the phrase “first 100 days.”

Since then, administrations, political commentators and the media have looked at the amount of legislation a president has passed, the effectiveness of actions taken and public perception and compared it to the standard set by Roosevelt. 

Anthony Badger, a historian of American politics and presidencies, writes in his 2009 book “FDR: The First Hundred Days” that even if the measure is arbitrary, presidents have still felt the need to hold themselves to it.

“Presidents have been expected to follow FDR’s lead,” Badger said. 

President Franklin Roosevelt at his home in Hyde Park, New York, in 1937.

President Franklin Roosevelt at his home in Hyde Park, New York, in 1937.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library

Biden's first 100 days

Biden’s term began as the Senate was conducting its second impeachment trial of Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. Congress then spent weeks negotiating and passing Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus bill, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. He also introduced his $2.25 trillion jobs and infrastructure proposal, which is expected to be brought up in Congress in the coming weeks.

The president signed a slew of executive actions right out of the gate, including reversals of some of Trump’s hardline immigration policies and orders aimed at expanding resources to combat the pandemic. Biden’s stated goal of administering 200 million COVID-19 vaccines in his first 100 days was met early, the administration said. 

President George W. Bush chats with members of Congress at a pre-lunch reception to mark his 100th day in office in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 30, 2001

President George W. Bush chats with members of Congress at a pre-lunch reception to mark his 100th day in office in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 30, 2001
H. Darr Beiser, USAT

Still, Biden’s administration faced early challenges with the situation at the southern border, where a surge in migrants, including unaccompanied minors, forced Biden to tell potential migrants not to come to the U.S. as the administration prepared its strategy.

Biden plans to travel to Georgia to mark his 100th day in office in the state that swung his way in the presidential election and elected two Democratic senators. 

Why does it matter? 

Apart from being a date by which to judge the president, research suggests a president’s first 100 days are also heavy in legislative action and executive actions. 

According to GovTrack, seven laws have been enacted in the current Congress, which is low compared to the number of laws passed in past presidencies. According to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, Barack Obama signed 14 laws, George W. Bush signed seven and Bill Clinton signed 22 in their first 100 days. That compares to 76 for Roosevelt and 53 for Harry Truman.

Bimes’ research with Casey Dominguez and Dan Grushkevich shows that Biden has signed more reversals of a previous administration’s actions in the first 100 days than any president in history, she said. He has also signed the largest number of executive actions, which don’t require passage through Congress, but are tenuous because they can be withdrawn by a future president. 

President Barack Obama addresses a prime time press conference on his 100th day in office in the East Room of the White House on April 29, 2009.

President Barack Obama addresses a prime time press conference on his 100th day in office in the East Room of the White House on April 29, 2009.
Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images

Trump also boasted about signing the most executive orders in his first 100 days, Bimes noted. 

“You get the sense that they’re trying to outdo one another,” she said.

A study by professor Casey Dominguez, political science and international relations professor at the University of San Diego, found that presidents are more successful at passing legislation through Congress within their first 100 days in office compared to other times in their administrations, particularly if they are functioning in a politically divided government. 

But research by John Frendreis, Raymond Tatalovich and Jon Schaffhas of Loyola University Chicago has shown that legislative pushes have been less fruitful in modern administrations than they were in Roosevelt’s time. The authors attribute the discrepancy to changes in how a modern Congress works, including a longer process to push through legislation.

Bimes looks at a combination of laws passed, Cabinet confirmations, executive orders, reversals and other factors to determine what a president has accomplished in the first 100 days. 

President Donald Trump addresses the crowd during a rally at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on April 29, 2017, the 100th day of his presidency.

President Donald Trump addresses the crowd during a rally at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on April 29, 2017, the 100th day of his presidency.
Jeremy Long, Lebanon Daily News

Biden can’t be expected to achieve the same amount of legislative success as Roosevelt, Bimes said, given the narrowly divided Congress he faces.

“It’s an arbitrary measure, yes,” Bimes said, but “there’s so much media fanfare around the first 100 days and presidents feel compelled to rack up the points.”

President Donald Trump on Saturday marked his 100th day in office by claiming historic action on his agenda, renewing promises on health care and taxes and attacking the news media for misleading Americans.

Time

Published
11:49 am UTC Apr. 25, 2021

Updated
11:49 am UTC Apr. 25, 2021

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Belarusian President signs decree to amend emergency transfer of power

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has signed a decree allowing the transfer of presidential power to the security council if he is murdered or otherwise unable to perform his duties, state Belta news agency reported on Saturday.

Lukashenko said in April he was planning to change the way power in Belarus is set up.

Previously, if the president’s position became vacant, or he was unable to fulfil his duties, power would be transferred to the prime minister until a new president took oath.

 

(Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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Scottish nationalists vow independence vote after election win

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By Russell Cheyne

GLASGOW, Scotland (Reuters) -Pro-independence parties won a majority in Scotland’s parliament on Saturday, paving the way to a high-stakes political, legal and constitutional battle with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the future of the United Kingdom.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the result meant she would push ahead with plans for a second independence referendum once the COVID-19 pandemic was over, adding that it would be absurd and outrageous if Johnson were to try to ignore the democratic will of the people.

“There is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson, or indeed for anyone else, seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our own future,” Sturgeon said.

“It is the will of the country,” she added after her Scottish National Party (SNP) was returned for a fourth consecutive term in office.

The British government argues Johnson must give approval for any referendum and he has repeatedly made clear he would refuse. He has said it would be irresponsible to hold one now, pointing out that Scots had backed staying in the United Kingdom in a “once in a generation” poll in 2014.

The election outcome is likely to be a bitter clash between the Scottish government in Edinburgh and Johnson’s United Kingdom-wide administration in London, with Scotland’s 314-year union with England and Wales at stake.

The nationalists argue that they have democratic authority on their side; the British government say the law is with them. It is likely the final decision on a referendum will be settled in the courts.

‘IRRESPONSIBLE AND RECKLESS’

“I think a referendum in the current context is irresponsible and reckless,” Johnson told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Alister Jack, the UK government’s Scotland minister, said dealing with the coronavirus crisis and the vaccine rollout should be the priority.

“We must not allow ourselves to be distracted – COVID recovery must be the sole priority of Scotland’s two governments,” he said.

The SNP had been hopeful of winning an outright majority which would have strengthened their call for a secession vote but they looked set to fall one seat short of the 65 required in the 129-seat Scottish parliament, partly because of an electoral system that helps smaller parties.

Pro-union supporters argue that the SNP’s failure to get a majority has made it easier for Johnson to rebut their argument that they have a mandate for a referendum.

However, the Scottish Greens, who have promised to support a referendum, picked up eight seats, meaning overall there will be a comfortable pro-independence majority in the Scottish assembly.

Scottish politics has been diverging from other parts of the United Kingdom for some time, but Scots remain divided over holding another independence plebiscite.

However, Britain’s exit from the European Union – opposed by a majority of Scots – as well as a perception that Sturgeon’s government has handled the COVID-19 crisis well, along with antipathy to Johnson’s Conservative government in London, have all bolstered support for the independence movement.

Scots voted by 55%-45% in 2014 to remain part of the United Kingdom, and polls suggest a second referendum would be too close to call.

Sturgeon said her first task was dealing with the pandemic and the SNP has indicated that a referendum is unlikely until 2023. But she said any legal challenge by Johnson’s government to a vote would show a total disregard for Scottish democracy.

“The absurdity and outrageous nature of a Westminster government potentially going to court to overturn Scottish democracy, I can’t think of a more colourful argument for Scottish independence than that myself,” she said.

(Writing by Michael Holden and Andrew MacAskill;Editing by Gareth Jones, Helen Popper, Christina Fincher and Giles Elgood)

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Canada promises two Arctic icebreakers in pre-election job boost

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Canada on Thursday promised to build two Arctic ice breakers and create hundreds of jobs in two politically influential provinces that will help decide an election considered likely this year.

The Liberal government, citing the need to increase Canada‘s footprint in the resource-rich Arctic as global warming opens up the region, said at least one ship would be ready by 2030.

“(This) will give Canada a year-round presence in the Arctic to help … safeguard our marine environments, ensure the safe and efficient movement of ships, and protect our borders,” Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in a statement.

Ottawa said each ship will generate 300 jobs and create another 2,500 positions in various supply chains. One vessel will be built in Quebec’s Davie shipyard and the other by Seaspan in British Columbia.

The two provinces together account for 120 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons and are crucial to the fortunes of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who aides say is likely to call an election by end-2021.

Yves-Francois Blanchet, leader of the opposition Bloc Quebecois, dismissed the announcement as electoral politics, saying polls suggested some senior Quebec Liberals could lose their seats.

The ice breaker project has been hit by several delays since the previous Conservative government first announced it in 2008.

Officials declined to say how much each vessel would cost but said it would exceed the most recent estimate of C$1.3 billion ($1.1 billion), which was made in 2012.

The 150-meter (490 feet) ships will weigh 23,700 tonnes and – unlke Canada‘s sole existing ice breaker – are designed to operate year-round throughout the Arctic.

Russia and the United States are the other major Arctic players while China says the region is of strategic interest.

($1 = 1.2193 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by David Gregorio)

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