President Joe Biden’s first solo press conference on March 25 included an extensive conversation on immigration and media ban at the border, declared successes with COVID-19 vaccination goals and expressed a strong conviction to maintain voting rights for young and minority voters.
Topics such as reelection plans, the removal of the filibuster from the Senate, United States troops in Afghanistan, Biden’s relationship with China and the nation’s infrastructure were also discussed by the president and White House reporters.
Biden called COVID-19 the most urgent problem facing citizens and pointed to administering vaccines as his first presidential priority.
He confirmed the completion of 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots within the first 68 days of his presidency, and said his administration anticipates hitting the 200 million mark on his 100th day in office.
Under his American Rescue Plan, Biden said there has been a 6% growth of American GDP and a decline of unemployment filings by nearly 100,000 people.
“This is the first time in the year that numbers have fallen below a prepandemic high,” Biden said. “I still have a lot of work to do, but I can say to American people that help is here and hope is on the way.”
As the third round of stimulus checks roll in, Biden said more than 100 million citizens have received $1,400 checks, and said millions more will be getting their money very soon.
Biden faced pressing questions from reporters regarding the immigration crisis and the media ban at the border. He defined immigration as a long-term problem that increases every year.
The full-capacity border facilities and lack of resources, Biden said, are due to a lack of funding from the previous administration. Biden made goals to open more facilities, more beds and to implement a more efficient verification system to connect migrant children to families.
He placed Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of research surrounding the causes of refugee immigration — research Biden said was defunded under the Trump administration.
“It’s gonna take time,” Biden said, “rebuilding the capacity that should have been maintained and built upon, that Trump dismantled.”
Biden also committed to transparency with the media as soon as changes in the border facilities and processes are implemented, but would not provide a time estimate on when the media ban will be lifted.
In terms of the latest Republican propositions to create more restrictions on the voting process, Biden said it was un-American to target young voters and minority voters.
He cited real and potential voter restrictions such as the prevention of water distribution in voting lines, poll locations closing at 5 p.m. and a lack of voter education as unsustainable, but did not provide a strategy to oppose such propositions.
Biden also supported removing the filibuster from Congress on grounds that the filibuster system has been abused in the Senate.
Previous promises about removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May are going to be hard to meet, Biden said.
“It is not my intention to stay [in Afghanistan] for a long time,” Biden said. “We will leave, the question is when we leave.”
Biden said his administration met with allied countries that also have troops in Afghanistan, and the allied countries are coordinating a safe and orderly withdrawal of troops.
Though Biden did not provide a date for withdrawal actions, he said he cannot picture a case in which U.S. troops are not removed within the year.
North Korea was declared the top foreign policy issue after a missile launch violated United Nations (UN) Resolutions. Biden confirmed he is consulting with allies and UN partners regarding repercussive actions and diplomacy toward denuclearization.
“There will be a response if they choose to escalate,” Biden said. “But I am also prepared for some kind of diplomacy.”
Biden announced he plans to run for reelection and said he would fully expect Harris to be on his ticket.
In response to events like the Hong Kong riots and Chinese oppression of the Uighers, Biden promised to hold China accountable for keeping the rules surrounding democracy, and to foster economic competition with China without confrontation.
“China must represent the values of the country,” Biden said. “As long as [Chinese President Xi Jinping] and your country continues to so blatantly violate human rights, we are going to continue in an unrelenting way to call the attention of the world.”
Biden expressed an intent to work on the nation’s infrastructure, such as road repair, the replacement of lead pipes servicing domestic water lines and uncapped wellheads leaking methane.
He pointed to climate change as a leading cause of damaged infrastructure, and promised to put citizens to work capping wells rather than digging them.
In other orders of infrastructure, Biden said he intends to increase funding toward science and medical research from .7% of the budget to 2%, to reestablish foreign alliances and implement more gun control policies.
President Biden’s first press conference received mixed reactions. Harris tweeted a confirmation statement surrounding Biden’s statements about the COVID-19 vaccination and stimulus checks.
Benny Johnson, host of “The Benny Report”, called the press conference a mistake.
“[Shame on] the people who put a man in clear mental decline in this office,” Johnson said, while Scott Dworkin, executive director of the Democratic Coalition, tweeted it was the best press conference in four years.
While Biden told White House reporters during the press conference that he was uniting the country, the various responses to the conference indicate the versatility of opinion more than unity.