Biden holds first presidential news conference

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Melissa Mahtani and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 10:10 p.m. ET, March 25, 2021
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4:31 p.m. ET, March 25, 2021

9 key lines from Biden's first solo news conference

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

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.

4:09 p.m. ET, March 25, 2021

Here's how much time Biden and White House reporters spent talking about different topics

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

President Biden spent much of his first presidential news conference today facing questions about the crisis on the southern border, promising conditions for unaccompanied minors arriving in the US will improve and blaming the prior administration and the cooler weather for the spike of migrants at the border.

The President faced a wide-ranging set of questions from reporters about other pressing issues, including the Senate's filibuster rules, working with Republicans on Capitol Hill and voting rights issues in states. Foreign policy was also a central topic as the President faces a slew of diplomatic hurdles with North KoreaChina and Afghanistan.

But it was the crisis at the southern border that dominated the news conference. His administration has faced scrutiny over the growing number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border and the limited press access to border facilities.

Here's a look at how much time Biden and White House reporters spent talking about different issues today:

4:32 p.m. ET, March 25, 2021

CNN's Daniel Dale fact checks Biden's claim that a "vast majority" of migrants are being sent back home

On-air analysis from CNN's Daniel Dale / Written by CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

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.

Watch more:

4:24 p.m. ET, March 25, 2021

Fact check: Biden says no other country "has even come close" on vaccinations

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand

While discussing his goal to reach 200 million Covid-19 vaccinations in the first 100 days of his administration, President Biden repeated his claim that “no other country in the world has even come close, not even close to what we are doing” on the vaccine front.  

Facts First: It's true that no country has vaccinated more total people than the US, though it's worth noting that there are some smaller countries that have vaccinated a larger share of their total population. So far, the US has administered vaccines to more than 130 million people, a higher number than any other country in the world. However, 16 countries and territories including Chile, Israel and the United Kingdom have administered vaccines to more people per capita. It should be noted that these countries and territories have much smaller populations. 

3:14 p.m. ET, March 25, 2021

Biden says he will work with any Republican who wants to "make the situation better"

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

As he wrapped up his first news conference since becoming President, Biden made clear that he is willing to work with any Republican who wants to make the situation better.

His comments came in response to a question from Univision's Janet Rodríguez about the situation at the border.

"If I may ask one last question, have you had any talks with Senate Republicans who are threatening this administration with not considering the immigration legislation that was passed in the House until the situation at the border has been resolved?" Rodriguez asked.

"No," Biden responded. "Because I know they have to posture for a while. Just for the guys to get it out of their system."

"But I am ready to work with any Republican who wants to help solve the problem or make the situation better," the President added.

Watch Biden's response:

5:33 p.m. ET, March 25, 2021

Biden pledges the border problem is going to get "a hell of a lot better" soon

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden today said the situation at the US-Mexico border was already improving under his leadership and pledged the situation would get a "a hell of a lot better" soon.

"They are already getting better but they are going to get a whole hell of a lot better real quicker, you are going hear some people leaving," he said. "We can get this done."

As a spike of migrants continue to show up at the border, Biden said he was under no illusion he would be able to solve all of the problems at the border, but suggested he would be able to dramatically improve conditions for many migrants.

"I can't guarantee we are going to solve everything," he said. "But I can guarantee we can make everything better. We can make it better. We can change the lives of so many people. "

4:33 p.m. ET, March 25, 2021

What we know about the $3 trillion jobs and infrastructure proposal Biden is expected to unveil

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

White House advisers are expected to present a two-part, $3 trillion jobs and infrastructure proposal to President Biden as soon as this week, CNN reported on Monday.

Biden said in his news conference today that he expects to announce his next major initiative during his upcoming trip to 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 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.

3:02 p.m. ET, March 25, 2021

Biden says US must "hold China accountable to follow the rules"

President Biden spoke at length today 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 today.

More background: 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.

Watch Biden's response:

2:42 p.m. ET, March 25, 2021

Biden says he expects he will run for reelection in 2024

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

President Biden said he expects to run for reelection in 2024.

"Yes, my plan is to run for reelection. That's my expectation," Biden said to CBS' Nancy Cordes during his first news conference since his term began.

Former President Trump had announced his plans for reelection soon after starting his first term.

Biden later noted to CNN's Kaitlan Collins: "I'm a great respecter of fate. I've never been able to plan four-and-a-half, three-and-a-half years ahead for certain."

Asked who would be his running mate, Biden said he expects it would be Vice President Kamala Harris, "She's doing a great job. She's a great partner."

Watch the exchange: