President Joe Biden appeared in the first major news conference of his young presidency on Thursday. Biden took questions from reporters across a wide range of issues relating to hot topics and his future plans. The press conference in the East Room of the White House lasted 62 minutes with the president fielding questions from 10 reporters.
COVID-19 Response Biden Priority: Biden was quick to talk about his administration’s COVID-19 response. One of the first things that Biden spoke about during his time behind the podium was the revised vaccination goal. When taking office on January 20, Biden said that he wanted to deliver 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine during his first 100 days in office. During Thursday’s conference, he increased this goal up to 200 million.
Immigration: The ongoing influx of migrants crossing over the border from Mexico dominated much of the discussion of the news conference. Biden was noticeably defensive when asked about immigration, pointing out that the majority of the unaccompanied minors are 16 or 17 and not the babies that had been separated from their parents during the administration of President Donald Trump.
Biden faced tough questions from reporters about the growing numbers of unaccompanied minors and the restriction of press access at the border. In the end, he only promised that he was going to “make everything better.”
Filibuster: Also in the fold of much discussion was the issue of ending the filibuster. This rule requires 60 votes to approve most pieces of legislation in the Senate. With the Democrats enjoy a razor-thin majority, ending the filibuster would be game-changing for pushing through their agenda.
When asked by a reporter about the issue, Biden said that he agreed that the filibuster was a relic of the Jim Crow era, however, he stopped short of saying he would work to eliminate it. Instead, he signaled that would just look at reforming it.
Foreign Policy: Additional topics that got Biden’s ear were related to foreign policy. Biden confirmed that North Korea’s launch of two short-range ballistic missiles earlier in the week was in violation of United Nations rules. He was firm in his statement that there would be a response by the US if North Korea chose to escalate the situation.
Biden was also asked about the plans to withdraw from Afghanistan, he said that he does not want to leave the 2,500 remaining troops there in the long-term. However, he did not give a deadline to pull them out completely. The president said that the withdrawal needs to be done in a “safe and orderly way,” making it unlikely that it will happen by the previous May 1 deadline put in place by former President Donald Trump.
Infrastructure: Biden also tried to direct the conversation back to his next piece of big legislation. While it has not gone up for a vote yet, the administration is working on a massive infrastructure bill, valued at approximately $3 trillion. The president was clear that the GOP can decide to work with him on his proposed infrastructure bill or he will plow through it without bipartisan support.
Voter Rights: Biden became visibly emotional when talking about the issue of voter rights. He referred to efforts to limit voting as “un-American” and “sick.” Biden criticized efforts by Republican leaders at the state level to make it more difficult for voters to get to the polls. House Democrats have passed legislation that includes a myriad of voting reforms, however, it is unlikely to get a majority in the Senate.
Biden’s Future Plans: What many did not expect out of the news conference was that Biden would address his future plans. However, when asked by a reporter, the president did not hesitate in saying he planned to run again in 2024. Many in Democratic circles believed that Biden would be happy with one term before turning the reigns over to someone else in the party.
Biden also said that it was his expectation that he would retain Vice President Kamala Harris.