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5 Things to Watch During CNN’s Town Hall with Joe Biden

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CNN will hold a town hall with President Joe Biden at 8 p.m. ET in Cincinnati, Ohio on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET, which will be broadcast live on CNN, CNN International, and CNN Español, streamed on CNN.com and CNNgo, and available on request to subscribers via cable/satellite systems, CNNgo platforms and CNN mobile apps.

At 8 p.m. ET, Biden will take the stage at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati with moderator Don Lemon for an hour-long event expected to cover a wide variety of issues, assessing how he’s doing six months out of work. does and what’s next.

The cloud of Covid-19 still hangs over the president, following him on the campaign trail since his time. The evolving state of the pandemic will likely take center stage during CNN’s town hall.

The event comes a day after the White House admitted there had been previous Covid-19 breakthrough cases among White House staffers, alongside a fully vaccinated official who tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, according to CNN. It also comes after several vaccinated Texas Democratic lawmakers who met with Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for the virus. The vice president tested negative.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that the highly contagious Delta strain of Covid-19 now accounts for more than 80% of sequenced samples in the United States.

The White House has faced hurdles in figuring out how to successfully address vaccine hesitancy among the US population and has warned that the current pandemic is one of the unvaccinated, making up the majority of Covid-related hospitalizations and deaths.

Now the government is also faced with questions about whether more preventive measures should be taken, whether Americans need a Covid-19 booster vaccination, and when international travel will resume.

Infrastructure and Biden’s Legislative Agenda

After the Biden White House came high on the passage of the US bailout plan in March, it has since emphasized infrastructure as its top legislative priority.

During the president’s trip to the battlefield state of Ohio on Wednesday, Biden will likely try to defend his infrastructure agenda — just as he has in recent months in other key states and the Midwest, executing his so-called “Blue Collar Blueprint for America.”

Republicans in the Senate blocked a vote Wednesday to start the debate on a bipartisan infrastructure plan. But lawmakers said their negotiations will intensify in the coming days with the aim of trying again early next week to move the measure forward.

The White House had indicated that it supported Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to bring Wednesday’s vote forward. But Republicans said the New York Democrat wouldn’t get the votes if he plowed on.

Meanwhile, Democrats are well on their way to planning their own infrastructure proposal as part of the reconciliation process.

The White House has indicated that the only disagreement between the bipartisan group is pay, and discussions are ongoing. But keep in mind that disagreements over the financing of government spending are why all other infrastructure negotiations have fallen apart in the past decade.

The economy

The U.S. economic recovery from the pandemic continues to ripple, but it is not yet at pre-pandemic levels — a major challenge the president will likely face on Wednesday night.

Expect him to make an argument similar to the one he made during a speech at the White House Monday, when he directly confronted inflation concerns and praised six months of economic growth under his administration.

Biden has argued that recent price increases are temporary. He also said this week that no serious economist is suggesting uncontrolled inflation.

But economic concerns about the Delta variant and inflation are impressing investors.

Last Monday was the worst day for the Dow since dropping 943 points in late October, and it was the biggest drop this year. Since then, however, the markets have recovered.

And while the economy has recovered strongly after falling into a hole in the spring of 2020, it is still not back to pre-pandemic levels in the United States.
For example, 850,000 jobs were created from employers in June, more than economists had expected. But the US economy is still shrinking by 6.9 million jobs compared to February 2020, and the unemployment rate has risen steadily, from 5.8% in May to 5.9%.

Cybersecurity

Since Biden took office, cyber-attacks have had a major impact on major companies and damaged international supply chains, from a meat supplier to an IT software supplier to a US oil pipeline.

These hacks have had real impact on ordinary Americans. Many have seen the cost of affected goods rise or found that their private information has been compromised. And on Wednesday, the president may be asked what his administration will do to stop these attacks in the future.

In recent months, Biden’s White House has urged Russia to take action to prevent criminal actors in the country from committing cyber attacks. But on Monday, the US also launched another offensive against China, joining a coalition of international allies by accusing China of using “criminal contract hackers” to carry out malicious activities around the world — including through of a massive hack of Microsoft’s email system.

The White House has stopped punishing Beijing with sanctions or diplomatic expulsions, in stark contrast to how the government has responded to similar malicious behavior by Russia in recent months.
Now the Biden administration is internally debating whether and how China can impose sanctions for its crime in cyberspace, according to people familiar with the case.

Afghanistan’s withdrawal and foreign policy

Biden announced earlier this month that the military withdrawal from Afghanistan would be completed by the end of August.

But US intelligence, military commanders and members of Congress are all warning that the Afghan government will not be able to confront the Taliban without the backing of US firepower. The Taliban are quickly taking over districts in the northern parts of Afghanistan, giving US military commanders the prospect of civil war once US troops are gone.

The president and his administration have continued to champion the pace of US withdrawal from America’s longest war. But the decision to leave the country has become a pressure point as Afghans face the increasingly likely potential that the Taliban will overwhelm the current government and retake control of the country.

Biden may be asked about the status of the withdrawal. He could also face questions about longstanding and emerging foreign policy challenges, such as issues related to China and Russia, international efforts to share vaccines, and the ongoing disagreements in Cuba and Haiti.

CNN’s Lauren Fox, Betsy Klein, Anneken Tappe, Paul R. La Monica, Natasha Bertrand, Kevin Liptak, Jason Hoffman, Brian Fung, Alex Rogers and Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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