Biden strikes optimistic tone, but acknowledges some missteps, in press conference



Biden added, “I did not anticipate that there’d be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn’t get anything done.” He vowed to spend much of the next year challenging Republicans to show what they’re for, instead of just blocking things.

But, as reporters pointed out, a key problem for Biden’s agenda lies on the Democratic side of the Senate, in Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. While he acknowledged the problem, Biden suggested that since both support significant parts of his Build Back Better agenda, he was confident he could get “big chunks” of it signed into law. He did not make clear how chunks of Build Back Better could get through if it wasn’t brought up under budget reconciliation.

Similarly, Biden addressed voting rights, highlighting increased enforcement from the Justice Department and expressing optimism that parts of the bills currently being blocked by Republicans (and Manchin and Sinema) in the Senate would end up being passed.

In short, Biden more or less admitted that both Build Back Better and voting rights legislation would be blocked in their full forms, but suggested that he was prepared to keep negotiating to get something passed. Asked what he would say to Black voters who feel he isn’t fighting for them, Biden said, “I have their back, I’ve had their back my entire career,” but—in a pause-laden answer—acknowledged that he had “not been out in the community enough,” and had not done enough to put a public face on his behind-the-scenes work on the issue. 

Asked if he was satisfied with Vice President Kamala Harris’ work on voting rights and if she would be his running mate in 2024, Biden said, “Yes and yes,” and declined to expand on the answer.

Biden also fielded a series of questions on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions toward Ukraine.

What should have been late in the press conference, before he went on to take questions from the bottom of the barrel—Fox News’ Peter Doocy, Newsmax, Yahoo’s Alexander Nazaryan appearing to audition for Fox News—Biden was asked if he thought he could have done things differently. After a brief flash of irritation, Biden expressed his confidence in his team, but said, “There’s three things I’m going to do differently.”

“Number one, I’m going to get out of this place more often,” he said, to connect with the public. Number two, “Now that some of the big chunks have been put in place, I’m going to be out there seeking the advice of more experts from outside.” And “Third thing I’m going to be doing a lot more of is … I’m going to be deeply involved in these off-year elections.”

According to Biden’s opening remarks:

  • The U.S. went from two million people vaccinated against COVID-19 to 210 million vaccinated.
  • Six million jobs were added and unemployment dropped to 3.9%.
  • Child poverty dropped by nearly 40%.
  • Health insurance premiums were reduced for millions of families and surprise medical billing banned.

Much of that, of course, is because of the American Rescue Plan. Biden also highlighted the infrastructure law that will invest in roads, bridges, ports, trains, removing lead pipes, affordable high-speed infrastructure. 

“Still, for all this progress I know there’s a lot of frustration and fatigue in this country,” Biden said, due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and the omicron surge. He acknowledged that his administration should have focused on more testing sooner, emphasizing that both in-person and at-home testing capacity is being ramped up significantly.

Some people may call what’s happening now ‘the new normal,’” Biden said. “I call it a job not yet finished.” 


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