President Joe Biden gave the first formal press conference of his term Thursday afternoon, taking questions for about an hour. The president unveiled his new goal for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks, and surprisingly, there was little further discussion of the pandemic. Instead, journalists questioned Biden on his administration's strategy for addressing the surge of migrants at the southern border, filibuster reform, the war in Afghanistan, and the push for new voting-rights legislation.
Here are the key moments from the event.
Biden Defends His Immigration Policy
Biden was questioned extensively on the situation at the southern border, where there has been a significant increase of migrants, particularly unaccompanied minors, seeking asylum in recent weeks.
The president defended his administration's efforts to tackle the situation by addressing the root causes of migration from Central America and expanding shelter space for migrants who are already at the border. The White House just announced that Vice-President Kamala Harris will be taking the lead on diplomatic efforts to stem the rise in migration.
Biden pushed back on the criticism that his overturning of Trump-administration policies and hesitancy to send back unaccompanied minors is to blame for the increase of migrants at the border.
He asserted that no parent sends their child "on a thousand-mile journey across the desert and up to the United States because 'I know Joe Biden's a nice guy and he'll take care of him.'"
Biden added, "What a desperate act to have to take. The circumstances must be horrible. So, we can do something about that. That's what the vice-president's going to be doing."
The president said there won't be any quick fixes, blaming his predecessor for cutting resources to handle the influx of migrants at the border. "What we're doing now is attempting to rebuild," Biden said. "We're building up the capacity that should have been maintained and built upon, that Trump dismantled. It's going to take time."
Biden Backs Changing the Filibuster
Biden signaled again that he is open to changing the Senate filibuster, which he said is being "abused in a gigantic way."
The president reiterated that he would be in favor of returning to a talking filibuster. "It used to be you had to stand there and talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapsed," he said. "And guess what? People got tired of talking and tired of collapsing. Filibusters broke down and we were able to break the filibuster, get a quorum, and vote."
"I strongly support moving in that direction in addition to having an open mind about dealing with certain things that are just elemental to the functioning of our democracy, like the right to vote. Like, the basic right to vote. We've amended the filibuster in the past."
The president also hinted that he would be open to other changes to the filibuster if Republicans block his agenda. "If we have to, if there's complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we'll have to go beyond what I'm talking about," he said.
Meeting the Afghanistan Troop-Withdrawal Deadline Will Be 'Hard'
When asked whether his administration will be able to meet the upcoming deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan, which was set by President Trump, Biden said, "It's gonna to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline, just in terms of tactical reasons, hard to get troops out."
He said the U.S. has been meeting with their allies on how to proceed and that when they leave, it'll be in a "safe and orderly way."
"It is not my intention to stay there for a long time," Biden said, adding, "We will leave. The question is when we'll leave."
As for whether there could potentially still be troops in Afghanistan next year, Biden said, "I can't picture that being the case."
Biden Slams GOP Efforts to Limit Voting Rights
Biden said he's strongly opposed to the proposed changes to voting and electoral laws being promoted by Republican state lawmakers across the country, and reiterated his commitment to enacting the voting-rights legislation that was recently approved in the House.
"What I'm worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It's sick. It's sick. Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line, waiting to vote. Deciding that you're gonna end voting at five o'clock when working people are just getting off work. Deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances," Biden said.
He added, "I'm convinced that we'll be able to stop this because it is the most pernicious thing. This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle. I mean, this is gigantic, what they're trying to do, and it cannot be sustained. I'll do everything in my power along with my friends in the House and the Senate to keep that from becoming the law."
Biden Plans to Stick Around
When asked about his plans for 2024, Biden said, "Yes, my plan is to run for reelection. That's my expectation."
Nia Prater, New York Mag, March 25, 2021
March 28, 2021
Voices4America Post Script. Here is a great summary of Joe Biden's first #PressConference. #Decent #ForThePeople #Sane #Wise #Truthful #NotThe FormerGuy #ILoveJoe Share if you agree!