WASHINGTON – President Biden said Thursday that efforts by Republicans to restrict voting rights were “sick” and “un-American” to prevent states from taking so-called “despicable” measures that undermine democracy by making it make it difficult for people to cast ballots.
Speaking to reporters in the East Room of the White House at his first official press conference, Mr. Biden said he would “do everything in my power” to pass the Senate voting law. However, when asked about the ending of the Senate rule, which requires 60 votes to pass to pass most of the bills – one of the biggest obstacles to the suffrage law and much of its rest of the agenda – the president was more cautious and suggested he be open to Changes, but don’t commit to them.
The 60-vote threshold imposed by the Filibuster has been “gigantically abused,” Biden said, reiterating his support for a proposal that would require Senators to keep talking to block the legislation – a change in practice that could discourage routine use the rule.
“I strongly support the movement in this direction,” he said.
But he also signaled more directly than before that he could potentially support wider proposals to limit or abolish filibuster if that should prove essential to passing a proxy and other key elements of his agenda in a Senate, which is currently 50-50 divided .
“If there is total lockdown and chaos as a result of the filibuster,” said the President, “then we have to go beyond what I am talking about.”
During a question-and-answer session lasting more than an hour, Mr Biden said it was his “expectation” that he would run for re-election in 2024 with Vice President Kamala Harris as his fellow campaigner.
He said for the first time that he “could not imagine” American troops remaining in Afghanistan beyond the end of the year, but reiterated that it would be difficult to remove them by the current May 1 deadline pull. And he promoted his government advances in addressing the health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which promise to have 200 million vaccinations – double what it was before – by the end of April, despite the government also receiving a large new infusion of financial aid provides.
“As of yesterday, more than $ 100 million in payments totaling $ 1,400 have come into people’s bank accounts,” the president said, referring to the $ 1.9 trillion “American bailout plan” he was making urged without Republican support from Congress. “This is real money in people’s pockets that brings relief almost immediately. And millions more will get their money very soon.”
But even as he said the pandemic remained the country’s “most pressing problem” and promised that “hope is on the way,” Mr Biden was at the fore with questions about his handling of the flood of migrants – especially children – at the US border faced with Mexico.
He sometimes emotionally insisted that his administration officials do everything in their power to humanely treat migrant children, and repeatedly blamed former President Donald J. Trump for overcrowding the border fortifications.
“The idea I’m going to say, which I would never do: ‘If an unaccompanied child ends up at the border, let’s just starve them and stay on the other side’ – no previous government has done that, except Trump,” said Mr. Biden. “I won’t do it. I won’t do it.”
Former Trump administration officials accused the president of misrepresenting his predecessor’s border policies, saying Biden’s efforts to make immigration policies more “humane” had led to an increase in the number of migrants. At the same time, they noted that the current administration was still relying on Trump-era policies that saw most of the migrants expelled because of the pandemic.
Mr Biden said his government would step up efforts to get migrant children out of the overcrowded conditions at the border. He added that this week he directed his top immigration officers to accelerate the pace at which migrant children are being placed with relatives who already live in the United States.
“They’re going to get a whole lot better very quickly, or we’re going to hear from some people leaving,” he said. “We can do this. We will make it. “
The press conference was Mr Biden’s first extensive grilling by journalists since he took office more than two months ago. Since then, his advisors have carefully controlled his interactions with the news media. This included one-on-one interviews and some limited opportunities for reporters to ask questions during brief appearances.
A seasoned politician with a long history of verbal gaffing at unwritten moments, Mr. Biden entered the presidency with more than his usual discipline regarding his message. But his decision to finally face reporters more formally – a decades-long White House tradition – was a test of his ability to keep that discipline under pressure.
The President stood in front of American flags in the stately East Room and gave detailed answers on various topics. He went over some of his responses – demonstrating a former senator’s filibuster ability – and showed anger with some of his inquisitors and humor, referring at one point to “when I came to the United States Senate 120 years ago.”
Mr Biden said he remained committed to bipartisanism, but defined it as gaining support from Republican voters for measures like the stimulus package, which polls say is popular across party lines, than gaining the votes of elected Republicans on issues like infrastructure. Gun control, climate change, immigration and voting rights.
“My Republican colleagues have to decide whether we want to work together or not, or they decide that the way they want to go about it is simply to decide to divide the country, to continue the policy of division.” he said.
The presidential advisers had postponed Mr Biden’s first press conference until after the stimulus package was passed, hoping to use the much-anticipated event as part of a winning round as it promotes the benefits of the stimulus and seeks support for an even too create more expenses.
He used his opening speech to celebrate what he called encouraging signs for the economy, citing new projections showing economic growth could reach 6 percent for the year.
But Mr. Biden’s appearance came at a time of national grief over mass shootings in Colorado and Georgia, and just hours after North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast – both a reminder that a president’s agenda is often made possible by national or global events derailed or moved.
Mr Biden had previously signaled that the United States was unlikely to withdraw its 2,500 remaining troops from Afghanistan by May 1, as set out in an agreement Mr Trump had made with the Taliban. But he had left open the question of whether the troops would stay indefinitely, as many at the Pentagon have argued is necessary.
The stimulus payments would be $ 1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $ 1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $ 75,000 or less. For householders, the adjusted gross income should be $ 112,500 or less, and for married couples filing together, that number should be $ 150,000 or less. To be eligible for a payment, an individual must have a social security number. Continue reading.
Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become much cheaper. Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, COBRA generally lets someone who loses a job purchase coverage through their previous employer. But it’s expensive: under normal circumstances, a person must pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the Relief Act, the government would pay the full COBRA premium from April 1 to September 30. An individual who qualified for new employer-based health insurance elsewhere before September 30th would lose their eligibility for free coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would also be ineligible. Continue reading
This loan, which helps working families offset the cost of looking after children under the age of 13 and other dependents, would be significantly extended for a single year. More people would be eligible and many recipients would get a longer break. The bill would also fully refund the balance, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill were zero. “This will be helpful for people on the lower end of the income spectrum,” said Mark Luscombe, chief federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Continue reading.
There would be a big one for people who are already in debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on debt relief if you qualified for loan origination or cancellation – for example, if you’ve been on an income-based repayment plan for the required number of years, if your school cheated on you, or if Congress or the President whisper $ 10,000 debt gone for a large number of people. This would be the case for debts canceled between January 1, 2021 and late 2025. Read more.
The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility benefits to people who are struggling and at risk of being evicted from their homes. About $ 27 billion would be used for emergency rentals. The vast majority of these would replenish what is known as the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which is created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local, and tribal governments. according to to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. This is on top of the $ 25 billion made available through the aid package passed in December. To get financial support that could be used for rent, utilities and other housing costs, households would have to meet several conditions. Household income cannot exceed 80 percent of area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or residential instability, and individuals would be at risk due to the pandemic. Support can last up to 18 months. according to to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families who have been unemployed for three months or more would receive priority support. Continue reading.
“If we leave, we will do so in a safe and orderly manner,” he said, adding moments later, “I don’t mean to be there long.”
The president also said North Korea’s decision to fire missiles was in violation of United Nations resolutions and promised to “act accordingly”. But it opened the door to negotiation, “depending on the final outcome of denuclearization,” which North Korean officials had previously said they would never agree to.
In the mass shootings of the past two weeks, the president has downplayed the urgency of swiftly passing the gun protection laws.
“Successful presidents, better than me, have succeeded in large part because they know how to schedule their activities,” Biden said when asked what action to take after the back-to-back mass shootings which killed 18 people.
“Order it. Set priorities,” he said before quickly moving on to another topic: his desire to spend up to $ 3 trillion more to “rebuild infrastructure – both physical and technological – in this country ”.
In response to this week’s mass shootings at a Boulder, Colorado grocery store, Mr Biden had urged the Senate to pass a ban on assault weapons and fill gaps in its background check. So far, however, his administration has done nothing to suggest that it plans to spend large amounts of political capital on proposals that Republicans have immediately confronted with a blockade of the opposition.
Mr Biden’s criticism of attempts by Republican-controlled lawmakers to impose new voting restrictions has been extremely fierce. He compared the efforts – including limiting early and absent voting – to Jim Crow-era laws that prevented black Americans from voting in southern states by imposing election taxes, literacy tests, and other restrictions.
“I am convinced that we can stop this because it is the most damaging thing,” said Biden at his first official press conference. “It makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle. I mean this is gigantic what they are trying to do and it cannot be sustained. “
However, the political reality of a deeply divided Congress can make it difficult for the president to succeed. Just as Mr. Biden expressed his support for Democratic laws blocking Republican efforts, Senator Joe Manchin III distanced himself. From West Virginia – a member of his own party – from the current version of the most significant revision of the federal election a generation, including a significant extension of the voting rights.
A day after Democratic leaders used the Senate first hearing to overhaul to put the nearly 900-page giant high on their legislative agenda, Mr Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the chamber, called for a sharp cut in the proposal and with Republicans renegotiated. He said there were “legitimate” concerns about some of its provisions.
“We can and must reform our federal elections together – not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans, to restore confidence in our democracy,” Manchin said in a statement.
Mr Biden’s promise to double the number of vaccinations during his first 100 days followed the President’s pattern: target low, and when it is clear that the original target is being exceeded, adjust it up to another achievable one Goal to achieve.
The nation is already on track to hit the 200 million mark. By Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that overall 130 million shots was given and that 14 percent of the American population was fully vaccinated.
The coverage was contributed by Thomas Kaplan, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Annie Karni, Jim Tankersley, Nicholas Fandos and David E. Sanger