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Two years in, Biden’s record of accomplishments rivals Obama’s

Does Joe Biden’s record over his first two years in the White House top Barack Obama’s record from the same period? It’s a close call.


Barack Obama’s first two years in the White House were an underappreciated triumph. By some measures, the former Democratic president’s list of accomplishments from this period is more impressive than the records belonging to any modern American president.

In just two years, Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, in addition to the Recovery Act, which rescued the country from the Great Recession. There was also the rescue of the American auto industry. And Wall Street reform. And a major overhaul of student loans. And the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” And ending the war in Iraq.

And the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. And the ratification of the New START treaty. And the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. And new consumer safeguards on credit card companies. And an overdue expansion of stem cell research. And repairing the United States’ international reputation and global standing. And the confirmation of two great Supreme Court justices.

That’s the sort of list a capable president might put together over the course of eight years. Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and their many Democratic allies managed to do all of this in just two years. It was, to my mind, the stuff of legend.

More than a decade later, as President Joe Biden celebrates the second anniversary of his inauguration, can Obama’s vice president tell a rival success story? The Washington Post highlighted the Democratic White House’s positive message:

Today, on the second anniversary of his arrival in office, President Biden welcomed a bipartisan group of mayors to the White House, where he highlighted legislative accomplishments and talk about the benefits to cities. “Today is two years since I was sworn in as president and with your help, we have gotten a lot done,” Biden said.

That has the benefit of being true.

As I see it, there are three broad categories of Biden’s successes over his first two years. The first includes the accomplishments that Democrats — including Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — were able to rack up largely on their own on Capitol Hill: the American Rescue Plan; the Inflation Reduction Act, which included a critically important response to the climate crisis; and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation immediately come to mind.

The second is the even longer list of bipartisan legislative accomplishments, which includes the infrastructure package, the CHIPS and Science Act, an expansion of veterans benefits in the PACT Act, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (the first major legislation to address gun violence in nearly three decades), the Postal Service Reform Act, the Respect for Marriage Act and the omnibus spending package that included reform of the Electoral Count Act.

But let’s not brush past the third category, which includes successes that occurred away from Capitol Hill. We finally saw a competent White House policy on Covid. And American leadership abroad in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And the end to the longest war in American history. And student loan forgiveness. And 11 million new jobs alongside the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. And the lowest uninsured rate ever recorded.

Does Biden’s record over his first two years in the White House top Obama’s? It’s a close call, which given the circumstances, is itself something for the incumbent president to feel good about.