Here's what policy experts want Biden to tackle next

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Experts who praised the president's first year in office say the post-pandemic economic recovery and U.S. foreign relations, among other things, hinge on what he does next.

President Joe Biden notched a number of accomplishments in his first year in office, despite being met with several legislative setbacks and rule blockades.

Among policy experts, the reviews are in.

While numerous think tanks have hailed Biden's successes in passing a landmark stimulus bill, lowering unemployment, growing the economy, and revitalizing alliances with European nations, they have also highlighted a number of additional challenges they hope the president will meet head on before his term is up.

While Biden added a record number of jobs and restored the economy to its pre-pandemic position, researchers at the left-leaning Center for American Progress have cautioned that the economy could still suffer moving forward, unless Biden is able to pass some or all of his landmark Build Back Better bill, which calls for billions in spending to combat climate change, increase education opportunities, and eradicate child poverty.

CAP pointed to a December analysis from financial outlook group Moody's, which predicted that, without Build Back Better, real GDP growth would be lower by 0.5%, full unemployment would likely become less attainable, and the economic recovery could stall.

Goldman Sachs echoed that forecast, lowering its GDP expectations after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced his refusal in December to support Build Back Better as it stood.

The fate of Build Back Better is still uncertain and Biden reportedly plans to recalibrate his legislative strategy, stepping back from day-to-day Hill negotiations this time around. He will likely have to split up the omnibus bill into separate parts, acknowledging as much on Wednesday.

"Its clear to me that we're going to have to probably break it up," the president told reporters.

Another economic issue on which experts hope to see movement is student loan debt.

In his first year in office, Biden suspended federal student loan payments temporarily, citing hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the Roosevelt Institute, a liberal think tank, is calling on Biden to cancel federal student debt altogether, arguing that it's one of the more far-reaching actions he can take sans congressional approval.

"With the stroke of a pen, the Biden administration can cancel the outstanding $1.6 trillion in federal student debt," Suzanne Kahn, managing director of research and policy, wrote on Thursday. "Doing so would correct decades of policy choices that have shifted the cost of higher education onto individual students, choices that have disproportionately affected Black and brown students and helped exacerbate and perpetuate the racial wealth gap."

The institute simultaneously commended Biden on his first-day racial equity executive action, which instructed federal agencies to uplift underserved communities, but called for more structure and accountability in their implementation.

One of Biden's signature campaign promises was restoring trust between American and European allies, following Trump's embrace of "America First" policies. However, one year in, Biden's foreign policy stance still has some transatlantic allies concerned, according to the nonpartisan German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Researchers at the think tank were critical of Biden's pullout from Afghanistan and sale of nuclear submarines to Australia, both undertaken without consultation from European allies, according to foreign officials.

The experts said there had also been a marked shift in foreign policy toward China and away from Europe, as the White House tries to counteract the superpower's growing sphere of influence.

As allies wait to see how the United States engages its allies in confronting Russia, which is currently edging closer to invading Ukraine, the researchers suggested Biden take a strong stance on the matter.

"The Russian threat to invade Ukraine poses the most immediate test of transatlantic cooperation in 2022," they wrote. "How Europe and the United States respond — their ability to stay united in resisting Moscow's demands for a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and, if necessary, their steadfastness in maintaining joint economic sanctions against Russia that will prove more costly for Europe than for the United States—could be the most significant test of the security alliance since the Cold War."

Not everyone is in agreement on the issue, but whatever Biden does, the researchers said, he must act quickly, with midterms around the corner and the possibility of political stalemate on the table.

For their part, White House staffers say Biden is mulling several possibilities as tensions ramp up.

"We have been consulting with allies and deployments and refining plans for all scenarios," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. "We have always said we would reinforce our allies on the eastern flank and those conversations and discussions have certainly been a part of what our national security officials have been discussing with their counterparts now for several weeks."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.