On Thursday, President Biden set a new COVID-19 vaccination goal: 200 million shots administered in his first 100 days. That’s double his initial benchmark, which the administration surpassed last week. He pointed out that the U.S. vaccination pace is the best in the world.
Biden also announced that 100 million stimulus payments have gone out since The American Rescue Plan was passed. “Help is here and hope is on the way,” the president said.
Biden said his top two priorities remain fighting COVID-19 and repairing the economy. In a response to a question from the AP’s Zeke Miller, Biden said issues like gun control, voting rights, climate change and immigration are important and will eventually be tackled. He expressed the desire to fix these issues on a bipartisan basis.
On immigration, Biden said “there’s no easy answer.”
“I guess I should be flattered because people are coming because I’m a nice guy,” Biden mockingly said when asked about an influx of migrants at the border. He explained that the recent surge is seasonal and has more to do with problems in the migrants’ home countries, as opposed to his policies. He also laid blame at the feet of his predecessor, Donald Trump, and Mexico’s reluctance to accept migrants the U.S. wants to reject.
Biden said he’s sending back the vast majority of migrants who are arriving: “They are not getting across the border,” he said.
Biden said that his administration is creating space to get unaccompanied minors out of Customs and Border Patrol facilities. The Pentagon, Biden announced, is providing 5,000 beds in Texas’ Fort Bliss for such minors.
When told that CBP facilities are overflowing and that children are sleeping on floors, Biden said the situation was unacceptable.
He said that he makes no apologies for a spate of Day 1 executive actions that rolled back Trump’s immigration policies, even if those policies contributed to the recent increase of migrants. He said journalists would eventually be allowed to visit border facilities that are currently off limits.
Toward the end of the press conference, Biden said of getting kids out of border facilities, “I want to do this as quickly as possible…and as humanely as possible.” He said things will get “a whole lot better real quick.”
With regards to the filibuster, Biden said he thinks the Senate should return to norms that existed in the early 20th century that require Senators to actually speak to hold up legislation. Today, Senators merely have to express a threat to filibuster to block legislation.
When pressed on why he wouldn’t advocate for the end of the controversial procedural stall tactic, Biden said “I’m a fairly practical guy. I want to get things done.”
He later acknowledged that the filibuster is “a relic of the Jim Crow era,” but that he won’t push for its immediate end because of the realities of electoral politics.
Biden was asked if the U.S. will meet the May 1st deadline to remove American troops from Afghanistan.
“It will be hard to meet the May 1 deadline” for tactical reasons, Biden said. Biden explained that his administration has been meeting with NATO allies to consult with them on the matter. He said it’s hard to predict when all troops will come home, but indicated that troops might not be in Afghanistan in 2022.
When asked about GOP efforts to restrict voting access, Biden asserted, “What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It’s sick.”
Biden also indicated that he plans to run for re-election in 2024, but wouldn’t explicitly commit to it. CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked if he thought Trump would be his opponent. Biden mused that perhaps there would be no Republican Party by then. He said he expects Kamala Harris to once again be his running mate.
A reporter from Bloomberg asked Biden about his relationship with China. The president said Chinese leader Xi Jinping “doesn’t have a democratic bone in his body.” He added that Jinping called him following the 2020 presidential election and Biden made clear that China would have to follow international rules. Biden said increased investments in technology – particular AI and quantum computing – will give the U.S. an advantage over the communist super power. China currently outspends the U.S. in that area.
Biden said he told Jinping that “Americans value the notion of freedom.” He warned the autocrat that the U.S. will call out human rights abuses in China. He added that China is “stiff competition” but that they won’t succeed in their ambition of “owning the future.”
Throughout his press conference, Biden stressed the importance of timing. He acknowledge political realities that might temper his agenda.
He previewed an announcement on Friday relating to infrastructure and job creation. He pointed out that America’s bridges, water systems, and highways are in need of repair.
Biden said he’d pursue “all of above” when asked about gun reform.
Biden ended the conference by saying “Folks, I’m gone.”