Even before a bipartisan group of senators unveiled the text of a foreign aid and immigration overhaul bill on Feb. 4, it faced significant opposition from former President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders. We’ll explain what was in the legislation and the facts on two popular talking points.
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Never mind luxury travel, now some airline passengers pay extra just for the basics. But getting your money back when a flight gets canceled or significantly delayed is one effort the Biden’s administration’s Transportation Department has tried to address as part of a new tough stance on the airline industry, especially after multiple instances of air travel gone awry.
Organizations that fall victim to hacks often keep tight-lipped about what happened due to fear of legal liability or brand damage. But cybersecurity experts have long warned that the country will never break free from an endless cycle of computer breaches unless companies and government agencies become more transparent about how they got infiltrated. The danger was underscored in 2020 when a sophisticated Russian hack breached nine federal agencies.
Biden came into office after having promised to slash oil production on public land. Canceling the Keystone XL pipeline during his first week in office seemed to confirm the image of him as a president who would happily throttle the country’s oil industry while showering the renewable energy industry with government dollars. But things turned out a little differently.
Successive presidents tried for so many years to pass infrastructure legislation that it became a running joke in Washington. Maybe that’s one reason polls show that voters don’t know that Biden finally broke that logjam, and did it with support from lawmakers of both political parties. It was the kind of historic investment — following years of deferred needs — that previous presidents had tried and failed to achieve.
Biden inherited messy interagency fights jeopardizing U.S. leadership in 5G wireless technology, which imperiled the government’s ability to auction off valuable spectrum ranges used for commercial wireless technology. Agencies feuded over how to use different chunks of these airwaves during the Trump administration, often pitting the Federal Communications Commission against the Pentagon, Transportation Department and other departments who have their own increasing demands for spectrum to operate military radars, aviation equipment and other systems. These fights continued into Biden’s term, fueling anxiety over U.S. economic competitiveness and its ability to vie against global rivals like China, which is seeking to dominate the wireless ecosystem and subsidizing telecom giants like Huawei.
Federal labor law has been essentially frozen since the Taft-Hartley Act passed over President Harry Truman’s veto in 1947, leaving Republicans and Democrats to engage in decadeslong trench warfare at the National Labor Relations Board to nudge legal precedents and enforcement standards in their preferred direction. The result has been an ever-escalating series of policy shifts when the balance of power in Washington flips from one party to the other that puts the fate of disputes between employers and workers in the balance.
South Korea and Japan have a mutual antipathy that goes back decades, linked to Japan’s brutal colonial rule of Korea from 1910-1945 as well as long-simmering territorial disputes in the East China Sea. That has fueled such acrimony in South Korea that until relatively recently public opinion polls in the country have rated Japanese leaders only slightly more popular than North Korea’s.
During Biden’s first six months in office, government agencies and critical companies were beset by cyberattacks. These incidents included the SolarWinds hack, which involved Russian government hackers infiltrating around a dozen agencies for at least a year. Ransomware attacks were also a major source of concern, with the administration forced to reckon with Colonial Pipeline, the source of almost half of the East Coast’s fuel supply, shutting down operations in May 2021. In the years since, cybersecurity concerns have only increased, including a Chinese-linked breach last year that impacted email accounts at the Commerce and State departments, skyrocketing new vulnerabilities opened up by the use of artificial intelligence technologies, and new geopolitical-linked targeting of critical systems.
Rebels in eastern Congo and the Congolese army have been fighting since the 1990s. The fighting escalated in 2022 as Rwanda-backed rebels, known as M23, invaded and took over several villages. The violence escalated further last summer when M23 moved closer to the area near Goma, one of the largest cities in the region. A war between Congo and Rwanda would not only be a humanitarian disaster, but it would upend the administration’s efforts to get into the cobalt market — a key component for electric vehicle batteries. Congo is home to about 70 percent of the world’s cobalt reserves, and China, one of Washington’s biggest trade competitors, is its main producer and is supporting M23 with drones.
The Covid pandemic sharpened bipartisan fears in Washington about U.S. reliance on microchips produced overseas — primarily in China or Taiwan. As factories shut down in Asia and supply chains snarled, U.S. automakers and other manufacturers were unable to get the chips they needed, idling their plants and spiking prices for cars and other goods. That led the Biden administration and lawmakers from both parties to consider policies to bring production of the most advanced microchips back to the U.S.
For decades, the federal government has gone back and forth on the best way to solve the problem of workers who struggle to earn a living after graduating from the country’s for-profit colleges or career training programs. The Obama administration first laid out specific metrics requiring schools who want access to a lucrative stream of government funds to prove that its graduates are prepared for “gainful employment” and don’t end up with lots of student debt relative to their income. But Obama’s team never fully implemented its rules after lengthy legal fights. The Trump administration eventually scrapped the effort. Then Biden won office, and revived Obama’s plan — with a twist.
Since the Nixon administration, marijuana has been classified in federal law in the same category as LSD and heroin — drugs categorized as having a high propensity for addiction and no known medical value. In October 2022, as more and more states have moved to legalize cannabis, Biden issued an executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a review of all available cannabis science and recommend whether the classification of marijuana should be changed.
Soaring food prices and supply chain crunches for meat and other staples during the Covid-19 pandemic drew attention to the highly consolidated agriculture sector, in which key sectors like meatpacking are dominated by a handful of “Big Ag” behemoths. Biden entered office promising to crack down on food monopolies and support small and midsize U.S. farmers, whose numbers have cratered in recent decades.
Trump got personally involved in negotiations for Boeing’s Air Force One replacement soon after he took office, bragging on Twitter that he had successfully reduced the price of the contract with Boeing by “over $1 billion.” Soon after, Boeing agreed to a $3.9 billion contract with the Air Force stipulating the company would be responsible for any cost overruns on the planes. But Trump’s involvement in the project didn’t stop there. In 2019, he told ABC News he wanted a new red, white and blue paint scheme, which bore a striking resemblance to his private 757. When Biden took office, he was faced with a decision on whether to keep Trump’s paint scheme, or go back to the traditional colors.
Agriculture produces about 10 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, and it’s been a priority of Biden’s climate plan to nudge the nation’s farmers and ranchers toward greener, less carbon-intensive ways of producing food.
Biden touted his campaign to eliminate so-called junk fees — the hidden charges that often come as a surprise to the consumer, taking aim at the fees levied by airlines, cable companies, concert ticket-sellers and hotels, among other businesses. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2022 launched an initiative to expand the crackdown to target financial fees, training its scrutiny in particular on credit card late charges and the insufficient-fund fees that banks impose.
Biden entered the White House putting climate change and job creation from the expansion of a clean energy economy at the top of his agenda — an about-face from energy policy during the Trump administration. At the time, renewable energy sources were already on the rise and the industry was optimistic about its future, especially buoyed by promises from the new president to invest trillions of dollars into clean energy development and research, and the global trend toward cleaner forms of power.
President Barack Obama late in his second term oversaw a regulation that called for workers making up to $47,476 to be automatically entitled to time-and-a-half overtime pay. The move infuriated businesses and Republicans, who sought to block the rule in both Congress and the courts. Donald Trump’s election and a Texas judge’s ruling in 2016 led the Labor Department to revisit the matter and set a significantly lower threshold of $35,568.
Both political parties are spinning the facts on whether the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act would raise taxes.