In his first formal news conference since taking office, President Biden spent over an hour today fielding questions from the press on topics ranging from immigration to the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines.
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 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." The White House confirmed that Biden is traveling to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, March 31.
- On voting rights: Biden called Republican efforts to restrict voting in many states, "un-American" and "sick" and compared the efforts to Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation in the South. "What I'm worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is," said Biden of Republican efforts on a statewide level to implement rules that would make voting more cumbersome for many voters and especially minority voters.
- 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.