Fact check: Republicans claim Biden 'failed' on a promise he never made

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President Joe Biden set two conditions that had to be met before schools could reopen safely.

Republicans have been hammering President Joe Biden for weeks with the claim that he has broken a promise to reopen schools for in-person learning within 100 days of his inauguration — even though he has been in office less than half that time.

In reality, Biden never made the promise they claim he did.

At a Senate GOP news conference on Thursday, several lawmakers demanded an immediate return to fully in-person learning, even as the coronavirus pandemic continues and public health experts have cautioned that not all communities can do so safely yet.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the third-ranking member of the Senate GOP leadership, held up a sign that read, "BIDEN REPORT CARD: F" as he addressed the press.

"If you were to grade Joe Biden's abilities to keep his promises of opening schools, Joe Biden … This is his report card. He deserves an F," Barrasso declared. "And it's a well-deserved grade for him, because he promised that he would have the schools open all across America within 100 days, and he's failed. And we're halfway there."

Barrasso is the latest Republican to claim Biden has somehow broken a promise because many local school systems are still using remote learning or hybrid models due to COVID-19.

"President Joe Biden promised that within 100 days of becoming president all schools would be open," said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in a Feb. 2 op-ed. "I agree with President Biden, all schools should be open, which is why I will be filing legislation to hold our nation to that promise."

"While President Joe Biden pledged to reopen schools within his first 100 days in office, the administration is now backing away from the original goal," wrote Arkansas Sen. John Boozman in a Feb. 24 press release.

The Republican National Committee tweeted on Feb. 25, "On the campaign trial [sic], Biden promised to reopen schools within his first 100 days in office. But that is just another promise that President Biden hasn't kept." The party later deleted the tweet, which came on day 36 of the Biden presidency.

Monday marks 47 days since Biden's inauguration; Barrasso's "report card" came just 43 days in.

Biden did not actually promise schools would reopen.

What Biden actually said, in Dec. 8 remarks, was that he would try to reopen most schools over the course of 100 days. But the statement contained two big caveats that GOP lawmakers continually omit.

"It should be a national priority to get our kids back into school and keep them in school," Biden said. "If Congress provides the funding, we need to protect students, educators, and staff. If states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that the majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days."

Congress has not yet provided the funding.

On Saturday, the Senate passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which contains more than $125 billion to help schools more safely return to in-person instruction.

The House is expected to vote on its final passage on Tuesday. House and Senate Republicans unanimously opposed the funding, and GOP senators used parliamentary stunts to delay the process as much as possible.

And rather than enhance public health measures, many GOP-run states have done the exact opposite. As the number of new cases plateaued in recent days, governors in states like Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Alabama have decided to eliminate mask requirements or allow businesses to reopen at full capacity, or both.

The GOP's repeated false claims about what Biden promised seem to have confused some in the media as well. On Sunday, the Washington Post published what it called a lengthy look "Inside Biden’s struggle to meet his school reopening promises." The article neglected to note that neither caveat has yet been met.

The story did note that 47% of American K-12 students are currently attending school in person full-time.

Polling indicates the American public is generally happy with the way schools are handling the pandemic and feel no need to rush to full reopening before it is safe to do so.

Navigator Research on Friday released the results of a poll in which they asked those who are following what their local schools are doing whether they are happy with the plan for reopening in their communities. Of those, 63% believed those plans were going well; just 24% said they were not. Even among Republicans, 68% said they believed the plans were going fine and 23% did not.

Among all voters, 75% preferred that schools reopen "the right way for the safety of students," while 18% preferred communities "reopen schools immediately."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.