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Biden arrives in Europe with his presidency hanging in the balance back home

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive at Rome-Fiumicino International Airport on October 29.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive at Rome-Fiumicino International Airport on October 29. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Joe Biden is in Europe for his sophomore trip abroad, but it’s a markedly different trip than his first.

In June, Biden was riding high on his election victory, where he sought to assure the world that “America is back.” But now he’s arrived in Europe with that initial glow having worn off and as a massive domestic agenda — and his entire presidency — hangs in the balance.

Biden’s first stop is Rome, where he’s meeting leaders of the world’s richest nations at the annual G20 summit. There, he’ll attempt to unify US partners against the world’s most pressing challenges. But he’s struggled to effectively referee back at home, having left Washington on Thursday after House Democrats again delayed a major vote on a sweeping infrastructure and spending bill amid party divisions.

Since the last time he went abroad, Biden’s political fortunes have suffered as Americans grow weary of the coronavirus pandemic and economic side-effects begin having an effect on everyday life. The President’s approval ratings have fallen below 50% for the first time.

Officials said the principal objective of the G20 was to cement support for a global minimum tax, another key element of Biden’s domestic economic agenda. Biden also plans to focus intently on supply chain issues and energy prices with leaders at the G20.

The stalled infrastructure and spending vote however, remains a significant setback for Biden’s trip, as he had hoped the package, filled with social programs and climate protections investments, would have passed before arriving at the UN Climate Conference in the UK. The framework includes $555 billion in measures to combat climate change.

Biden was hoping to use that package as leverage to push other nations to make significant cuts to carbon emissions at the climate summit.

But now, it looks like he’ll be showing up to COP26 in Glasgow next week empty handed.

Still, the White House believes that Biden’s foreign counterparts are astute enough to recognize that the president is trying to secure new climate action, even if he doesn’t do so by the time he arrives in Scotland.

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