White House

Biden’s first press conference tackles filibuster, immigration, COVID-19

9 key lines from Biden's first solo news conference

Two of the topics the press and Biden did not address at length were the coronavirus variants and gun control


President Biden said the U.S. might not meet a May 1 deadline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, signaled support for changes to the legislative filibuster and said his administration would double its goal for the number of Covid-19 shots administered in his first 100 days. In a wide-ranging hourlong press conference Thursday, his first since taking office, Mr. Biden said he didn’t expect U.S. troops would still be in Afghanistan in 2022, but he was equivocal about the timeline for a withdrawal.

Two of the topics the press and Biden did not address at length were the coronavirus variants and gun control, which has taken on added significance over the past two weeks following mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado.

Here are some of the most important lines on topics Biden did discuss:

On immigration:

Biden claimed the current surge in migrants at the US southern border is not unprecedented. "Truth of the matter is nothing has changed. ... As many people came, 28% increase in the children in the border in my administration, 31% in the last year in 2019 before the pandemic in the Trump administration. It happens every single solitary year," he said. Biden said he wants to rebuild the immigration system, adding that the US is sending back the "vast majority" of families showing up at the border.

On unaccompanied children at the border:

"The idea that I'm going to say, which I would never do, if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border we're going to let them starve to death and stay on the other side, no previous administration did that either, except Trump. I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to do it," Biden said.

On the conditions at a border protection facility in Texas:

"[W]e're going to be moving a thousand of those kids out quickly. That's why I got Fort Bliss opened up. That's why I've been working from the moment this started happening to try to find additional access for children to be able to safely, not just children, but particularly children to be able to safely be housed while we follow through on the rest of what's happening," Biden said. The President called conditions at packed migrant facilities such as the one in Donna, Texas, that houses migrant children "totally unacceptable."

On administering the Covid-19 vaccines:

Biden formally said his administration has set a new goal to get 200 million coronavirus vaccine doses into arms by his 100th day in office. "I know it's ambitious. Twice our original goal. But no other country in the world has even come close, not even close to what we are doing. I believe we can do it," Biden said.

On reopening schools around the country:

Biden cited a report out this week from the Department of Education that shows nearly half of K-8 schools are open – a step toward his goal of getting a majority of K-8 schools fully open in the first 100 days. “[W]e’re really close, and I believe in the 35 days left to go we’ll meet that goal as well,” Biden said.

On stimulus payments:

"As of yesterday more than 100 million payments of $1,400 have gone into people's bank accounts. That's real money in people's pockets bringing relief instantly, almost. And millions more will be getting their money very soon," Biden said. Approximately 127 million stimulus payments worth around $325 billion have been sent to Americans under the American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration announced Wednesday.

On infrastructure:

Biden said he expects to announce his next major initiative on Friday in Pittsburgh that will aim to rebuild both the "physical and technological infrastructure in this country so we can compete and create significant numbers of really good-paying jobs."

On filibuster reform:

Biden expressed support for filibuster reform, suggesting he was willing to bend or even abolish the arcane Senate rule on certain issues, in order to accomplish his agenda. The President first said he believed senators ought to have to hold the floor in order to delay action in the Senate. The filibuster is being "abused in a gigantic way," Biden added.

On running for reelection in 2024:

"Yes, my plan is to run for reelection. That's my expectation," Biden said.

CNN's Daniel Dale fact checked President Biden's claim that a "vast majority" of migrants at the US Southern border are being "sent back" home. Dale noted that according to official statistics from February, while a vast majority of single adults were being sent back home, 79%, only 41% of migrants coming as part of family units were being sent back under the pandemic-related rule, Title 42.

Dale also caution that "we don't have full data for March. It's possible things have changed."

"Biden made a more accurate claim about the overall group of migrants but for families in particular, for this particular claim, his claim is not true," Dale told CNN's Jake Tapper.

White House advisers are expected to present a two-part, $3 trillion jobs and infrastructure proposal to President Biden as soon as this week. Biden said in his news conference today that he expects to announce his next major initiative on Friday in Pittsburgh that will aim to rebuild the "both physical and technological infrastructure in this country so we can compete and create significant numbers of really good-paying jobs."

The proposal, which Biden's top advisers have been deliberating over for weeks, would be segmented into two separate parts:

· One focused on infrastructure and clean energy

· A second focused on what's being termed the "care economy" with a focus zeroed in on key domestic economic issues

In full, it would mark a sweeping move toward enacting the key elements of the "jobs" agenda that Biden laid out in large part during his campaign for president, with a suite of potential tax increases on corporations and the wealthy as options to finance any longer-term spending in the final proposal.

The package will explode spending and is also expected to raise taxes on individuals earning more than $400,000 a year, as well as increase the corporate tax rate.

White House officials stressed that no final decisions about the final path forward have been made at this point.

Biden still has to review the proposals and plans to consult heavily with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the scale and legislative sequencing of the next key pillar of his agenda.

President Biden spoke at length about what the US must do in order to hold China accountable regarding imports, exports, and human rights issues.

"Earlier this month, and apparently got the Chinese attention, that's not why I did it, I met with our allies and how we're going to hold China accountable in the region; Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, the so-called quad. Because we have to have democracies working together. Before too long, I'm going to have — I'm going to invite an alliance of democracies to come here to discuss the future, and so we're going to make it clear that in order to deal with these things, we are going to hold China accountable to follow the rules; to follow the rules," Biden said.

There is currently a tariff on the majority of the goods being shipped from China into the United States. The average rate is 19% — more than six times higher than before the trade war began in 2018, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics. American importers pay those duties.

The taxes have raised the price for items such as baseball hats, luggage, bicycles, TVs, sneakers and a variety of materials used by American manufacturers.

The tariffs on Chinese-made goods have cost American importers more than $82 billion so far, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

Biden also addressed lingering human rights issues plaguing China.

"Americans value the notion of freedom. America values human rights. We don't always live up to our expectations but it's a value system. ... And as long as you and your country continue to so blatantly violate human rights, we're going to continue in an unrelenting way to call to the attention of the world and make it clear, make it clear what's happening," he said.

The US announced sanctions Monday against two Chinese officials for "serious human rights abuses" against Uyghur Muslims, a step coordinated with allies including the European Union, Canada and the United Kingdom, which imposed sanctions on the same individuals and others, the Treasury Department said.

The announcement was part of a broader show of unity by the US and its international allies, all voicing condemnation for Beijing's repression of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province.

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