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For Biden, 2021 was a year of big accomplishments — and big disappointments

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
President Biden Signs Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
President Biden signs the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act during a ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House on Nov. 15, 2021.Alex Wong / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Wednesday’s news that Senate Democrats are set to miss their self-imposed deadline to pass President Biden’s $1.7 trillion social safety net by the end of the year caps a 2021 filled with ups and downs for the new president.

Biden’s accomplishments this year include:

  • The $1.9 trillion Covid relief deal.
  • The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
  • Getting 72 percent of American adults fully vaccinated.
  • Getting federal judges appointed and confirmed.
  • An economy where the unemployment rate has dropped to 4.2 percent.

But here are the 2021 disappointments for Biden:

  • No “Build Back Better” passed by the Senate and signed into law.
  • Ditto on voting-rights legislation.
  • A vaccination rate that still trails much of the world.
  • The big political losses in Virginia last month.
  • Inflation that keeps going up and up.

And when you look at Biden’s approval rating — averaging in the low 40s and bleeding with independents — it sure seems like the disappointments have outweighed the accomplishments.

One possible reason why is that two of Biden’s main promises were: 1) to get Covid-19 behind us, and 2) to get rid of Donald Trump.

Well, Covid cases are once again surging as we head into Christmas. And Trump’s power inside the GOP has only gotten stronger since Jan. 6.

Another reason for the disconnect is that Biden’s accomplishments — Covid relief, infrastructure, the unemployment rate — only go so far.

Especially for those who view (take your pick) democracy/climate/economic security as being pivotal to the country’s future.

Tweet of the day

All about that base

As Biden begins to turn his attention to next year, he and his team need to answer this important question: Which base of Democratic voters is more important for them to please heading into the midterms — progressives who are pining for “Build Back Better,” or Black voters and civil-rights organizations pushing for new voting rights?

Yesterday, Biden — for the first time we can remember — appeared to signal it was the latter.

“There's nothing more important, domestically, than voting rights,” Biden said. “It's the single biggest thing.”

That’s a significant reversal since the summer, when the White House prioritized the infrastructure and “Build Back Better” bills over voting rights.

Then again, it’s not clear how Democrats can pass any voting-rights legislation in the Senate.

The problem? Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., "supports the elections reform bill that Democrats are considering a year-end push to pass. She doesn't support a shortcut around the filibuster to get it done," Politico writes.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

30: The number of events GOP candidates and groups that the Washington Post identified being held at Trump properties this year.

66 percent: The share of Generation Z that believe their generation is “motivated to make positive change,” per a new MTV/AP-NORC poll.

190 mph: The estimated peak winds during last weekend’s EF4 tornado that hit Kentucky, according to the National Weather Service Paducah.

805,149: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 2,094 more since yesterday morning).

50,392,576: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 143,686 more since yesterday morning.)

488,296,089: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 1,721,614 more since yesterday morning.)

56,080,165: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 958,632 more since yesterday morning.)

61.1 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

72.2 percent: The share of all Americans 18-years and older who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act, authorizing $770 billion in defense spending. The bill now heads to Biden’s desk.

Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan's text to then-chief of staff Mark Meadows was among those released by the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, per NBC News.

The New York Times dives into the six Republican lawmakers, including Jordan, who were part of Trump’s “band of loyalists” working to keep the former president in power.

North Carolina state Sen. Jeff Jackson is expected to drop out of the Democratic Senate primary, WRAL reports.

The Washington Post has an interactive map detailing how redistricting has shaped the battle for the House so far. Spoiler alert: There are more Trump seats and fewer competitive districts.