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Crunch time: Biden faces critical next 2 weeks for agenda

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Crunch time: Biden faces critical next 2 weeks for agenda

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is entering a crucial two weeks for his ambitious agenda, racing to conclude contentious congressional negotiations ahead of both domestic deadlines and a chance to showcase his administration’s accomplishments on a global stage.

Biden and his fellow Democrats are struggling to bridge intraparty divides by month’s end to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a larger social services package. The president hopes to nail down both before Air Force lifts off for Europe on Oct. 28 for a pair of world leader summits, including the most ambitious climate change meeting in years.

But that goal has been jeopardized by fractures among Democrats, imperiling the fate of promised sweeping new efforts to grapple with climate change. There’s also rising anxiety within the party about a bellwether gubernatorial contest in Virginia and looming Senate fights over the federal debt limit and government funding that could distract from getting the president’s agenda across the finish line.

Biden is trying to stabilize his presidency after a difficult stretch marked by the tumultuous end of the Afghanistan war, a diplomatic spat with a longtime ally and a surge in COVID-19 cases that rattled the nation’s economic recovery and sent his poll numbers tumbling.

His team has continued its strategy — one that served it well during the campaign and earlier this year — of blocking out the outside noise to stay focused on a singular mission, this time to pass the two-part package that will give Democrats a platform on which to run in next year’s midterm elections.

“These bills, in my view, are literally about competitiveness versus complacency, about opportunity versus decay, and about leading the world or continuing to let the world move by us,” Biden said Friday while pushing the legislation in Connecticut.

Yet beneath the White House’s pleas for patience — reminding people that hard things take time — is a bubbling sense of urgency that a deal needs to be struck rapidly.

For the White House, there are the explicit target dates, including an end-of-month deadline on transportation funding and Biden’s upcoming foreign trip. But there are also more abstract imperatives: proving Democrats can deliver on their promises to voters and protecting Biden’s waning political capital.

With new urgency, the administration has sent signals to Capitol Hill in recent days that it is time to wrap up negotiations, that a deal needs to be reached, according to two White House officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations. Biden himself has expressed impatience and will be increasing his own personal outreach this week to push lawmakers to find a compromise and bring the bills to a vote, the officials said.

West Wing officials are still optimistic that an agreement will ultimately be struck, but there are also fears that the messy, drawn-out negotiation has clouded the tangible benefits of what Biden aims to deliver to voters.

Biden sought to address some of that when he traveled to Hartford, Connecticut, last week to showcase initiatives to sharply reduce the cost of early childhood care — perhaps one of the only pieces of the legislation that is a lock to make the final package.

Even Democratic leaders are divided on the best way to shrink the overall price tag of the package in order to win over more votes. Biden said Friday he prefers including all of the wish-list proposals, but trimming down the length of the programs to cut costs. His thinking is that a future Congress can vote later to extend programs that the American people will find popular.

But days earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested the opposite tack — approving a narrower set of programs to last for a longer time period.

Some Democrats have pushed for passing the bipartisan infrastructure deal by Oct. 31 even if the larger social services package is not settled, a move many progressives dislike because they could lose leverage for the latter bill.

The fate of climate change provisions is particularly perilous.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s objections to a program aimed at speeding the nation’s transition away from fossil fuels threatens the heart of Biden’s plans to combat climate change just before he tries to assert American leadership on the issue at the upcoming global conference in Scotland.

The Democrats’ razor-thin margins in both houses of Congress have empowered individual lawmakers like Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, vexing fellow lawmakers and the White House. White House aides have not abandoned the clean energy program but are exploring alternate means to string together a mix of policies to cut emissions, officials said.

Abandoning the provisions could wound Biden in Glasgow, at a summit that the administration has held out as a vital opportunity not just to combat climate change but to reassert U.S. leadership on the issue after four years of retrenchment under President Donald Trump. The United States will be bringing a major footprint to the gathering — including former President Barack Obama — but it risks falling behind European nations that have taken more concrete steps to cut emissions.

Biden’s stop in Scotland early in November will follow his participation in a summit of world leaders in Rome. But Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decision to skip the gatherings — delaying the first meeting between the leaders of the two superpowers — could diminish their relevance. Still, Biden is expected to meet in Italy with French President Emmanuel Macron as the men look to repair relations after a U.S. submarine deal with Australia scuttled a French contract and led the French to briefly withdraw their ambassador from Washington.

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First snowfall of the season for many in Massachusetts could impact evening commute

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First snowfall of the season for many in Massachusetts could impact evening commute

It’s time to dig out your winter boots and snow brush for your car.

Wednesday will bring the first snowfall of the season for many across the Bay State, as meteorologists predict a widespread 1 to 2 inches of snow, with lower amounts along the coast.

While the light snowfall totals look to be minor, much of the snow will fall during the evening commute, so officials are urging people to plan for extra travel time and slow down on the roads.

“Not only will you be safer on snow if you curb your speed, you’ll have greater ability to stop if you need to,” said Mary Maguire of AAA Northeast. “Allow for more distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you. This will provide you with more stopping distance if you need to brake.”

The best chance for accumulation looks to be between 4 p.m. and midnight, and the best shot for higher snow amounts would be toward the Worcester Hills.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation advised people to clean snow off their vehicle, and to make sure their windshield wipers work and they have windshield washer fluid.

“So ask any Cop who has been on the job for few years which day normally has the most motor vehicle crashes? Answer: First snowfall of the year,” the Hanson Police Department tweeted. “Slow down, be safe, and keep your insurance rates down.”

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Biden re-election poll shows dismal 22% support; Harris even worse at 12%

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Biden re-election poll shows dismal 22% support; Harris even worse at 12%

The numbers are cringeworthy — 22% and 12%.

That’s the support for President Biden and his VP Kamala Harris in an I&I/TIPP poll that asked who would you vote for in the 2024 election. Even if you doubt the veracity of all this polling, these are poor numbers.

The only good news for Biden, the survey adds, is “no favorite has emerged among the large field of potential challengers to run against Biden in the 2024 primaries.”

But the sinking survey results are not out of the norm. A Wall Street Journal poll out Tuesday pegged Biden’s approval rating at a dismal 41%. Rasmussen had it at 42%.

Congress, however, was at 22% in the Journal poll, but that’s another story.

“It’s undeniable. Joe Biden is hurting in the polls right now and it’s due to a number of factors,” said Erin O’Brien, associate professor of political science at UMass Boston.

Those factors, she said, include the nagging pandemic, soaring inflation, lingering doubts about Biden’s foreign policy chops after the botched pullout from Kabul and lingering legislation.

The Journal adds that with Biden flatlining in the polls, he won’t be in a position to help Democrats fighting to keep their jobs in the midterms.

This comes as Democrats hold a slim majority in the House, where the split is 221-213, and in the Senate, at 50-50, but with Harris as the tiebreaker.

Support for former President Donald Trump remains strong among those loyal to him, so that also could be reflected in the polling that shows Biden needs to rebound or it will be too late to get much done in the second half of his tenure.

Now Biden faces a new challenge.

He held a video conference Tuesday with Russia’s Vladimir Putin over Russian troops heading toward the Ukrainian border.

Just hours before the call got underway, the Associated Press reported that Ukrainian officials charged Russia was continuing to escalate the crisis by sending tanks and snipers to war-torn eastern Ukraine to “provoke return fire.”

Republicans are watching to see how Biden fares, considering how poorly his administration handled withdrawal from Afghanistan.

It’s all showing in the polls, with the Journal adding 63% of voters said the country had gone off-track, with just 27% saying the nation was on the right course. Some 61% said the economy was headed in the wrong direction.

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Cam Talbot shines as Wild top Oilers 4-1 for seventh straight win

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Cam Talbot shines as Wild top Oilers 4-1 for seventh straight win

EDMONTON — The last time Cam Talbot faced the Edmonton Oilers, he was throwing punches at center ice with Oilers goaltender Mike Smith in an infamous brawl in a Battle of Alberta between the Calgary Flames and Oilers, two seasons ago that made highlight reels all across North America.

On Tuesday night, Talbot made the highlight reel for all the reasons he’s paid for. Stopping pucks.

The former Oilers goaltender was spectacular, making 38 saves as the Wild beat Edmonton 4-1 at Rogers Place.

Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno, Victor Rask and Dmitry Kulikov tallied for the Wild, while Jesse Puljujarvi scored the lone marker for the Oilers as Minnesota extended its win-streak to seven games, while the Oilers have dropped three straight contests.

The Wild improve to 18-6-1 and remain in top spot in the Central division.

“I’ve been back in this building a couple of times, but never got the start,” Talbot said. “It’s nice, this place will always have a place in our heart, we started our family here and it was a great building to play in and I still have a lot of great friends here. It’s one of those things where you look to come back here every time and it’s even more fun when you get a big win.

“I can’t say enough about the way we closed out the game. You don’t want to have lulls in the game, but give the guys credit, they just found a way to battle and win the hockey game.”

The Wild’s special teams haven’t been great this season, but they clearly won the special teams battle against Edmonton, which boasts the league’s best power play and its penalty kill is in the top-5.

Minnesota scored once on the power play and denied the Oilers potent power play on all five of their opportunities.

“Our penalty kill was outstanding tonight, I can’t say enough about them,” said Talbot, who is 2-0 in three appearances since being dealt away from the Oilers two seasons ago. “We weren’t giving them those Grade A chances that they’re accustomed to, and with the statistics coming in you wouldn’t think the power-play match-up would favor us, but we got a big one (power play goal) early, and our penalty kill did a great job, so give our special teams a ton of credit tonight.”

The Oilers have been notoriously slow starters out of the gate, giving up the first goal in 14 of the team’s first 23 games, and the Wild made it 15 as Eriksson Ek scored a power-play marker just 1:11 into the contest.

They went up 2-0 just 6:03 later as Foligno buried a cross-ice feed from Matt Dumba.

Edmonton’s high-octane offence, led by superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl got rolling in the second period as they put all kinds of pressure on the Wild, who continue to play without top defenseman and captain Jared Spurgeon, but the Oilers were only able to cut their deficit in half, despite outshooting Minnesota 20-6 in the middle frame.

“They played really well in the second period, but we really liked our regroup and how we played in the third period. We did a lot of real, real good things,” said Wild coach Dean Evason. “They’re going to get shots and to not give that second and third gritty ones to them. Obviously Draisaitl and McDavid are special players. They’re going to get their opportunities to shoot pucks, but it’s that second and third one, that not only did Cam do a good job of smothering, but our second forward, we got pucks the heck out of that area, so they didn’t have more opportunities like that.”

Talbot made several big saves in the second period. He robbed Draisaitl with a left pad save as the former Hart Trophy winner tried to beat him with a one-timer, backdoor. In the final minute of the period, he stretched out to make a right pad save off of Tyson Barrie, who was wide open in the slot.

But his best save came early in the third when he dove across to deny Darnell Nurse of the tying goal.

“I knew that he was there, but obviously you have to stay patient with the guy in the slot first,” recalled Talbot. “But our guy did a good job of going down and taking away the lower part of the net, and I was able to see the pass right away and I knew Nurse was down there and I just tried to get everything in front of it.”

Moments after the big save off Nurse, the Wild scored on a delayed penalty as Victor Rask scored his fourth goal of the season to give Minnesota some breathing room and then Kulikov showed off some slick hands on a breakaway goal to give the Wild a 4-1 lead with 5:03 remaining to put the game away.

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