In his first press conference since taking office, President Joe Biden responded to numerous questions about a rise in immigration and reports of deplorable conditions at border facilities — issues he mostly blamed on the Trump administration.
Biden also set a new administration goal of administering 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in his first 100 days in office. Biden reached his original goal of administering 100 million doses on his 58th day in office earlier this month.
Biden is the first modern American president to wait more than 60 days before holding a full press conference, though he's taken questions from press gaggles and conducted several one-on-one TV interviews.
In his nearly 90-minute long press conference, Biden was not asked any questions about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Below are the topics about which Biden was asked.
During the press conference, Biden spoke about the situation at the southern border, as there has been a startling increase in the number of unaccompanied migrant children being held by Customs and Border Protection
Biden noted that the increase in immigration was caused by poverty, corruption and gang violence in Central America and that "the way to deal with this problem" is to investigate root causes of those systemic problems. He added that the Trump administration slashed aid funding to some of those countries, making the issue worse.
Biden also defended his administration's policies by noting that "tens of thousands" of adults and families had been returned to Mexico. He noted that while some families have been able to enter the U.S. because Mexico would not allow them to be returned, he said that his administration was working with Mexican officials to end that policy.
He also defended his administration's policy of keeping children detained, saying that he would not allow a child to "starve" in the desert or send that child back to their home country on a perilous journey.
He added that he does not think the conditions in those facilities are "acceptable," and said that his administration is working to find ways to quickly process children and release them into the U.S.
He also committed to transparency at the border in allowing reporters to tour facilities housing migrant children — but only after his administration has time to "get things going." He did not offer a specific timeline.
"I can't guarantee we can solve everything, but we can make things better," Biden said.
Biden said Thursday that he supports filibuster reform rather than abolishing the process altogether. He added that he feels the filibuster has been "abused in a giant way" in the last 20-30 years and supports reinstating rules that would require Senators to stand and speak on the Senate floor.
When asked directly if he thought the filibuster is a "relic of the Jim Crow era," Biden said "yes." When asked why he then did not want to abolish the practice, he added that he is a pragmatist and believed that fighting filibuster abuse would eventually lead to further change.
Voting Rights Laws
Biden called on the Senate to pass the two voting rights bills recent passed by the House, and called Republican efforts at state levels to pass laws restricting voting rights "sick."
"These bills make Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle," Biden said.
Biden listed the passage of the voting rights bills specifically as one of the bills he planned to prioritize.
Troop withdrawal from Afghanistan
In December, as part of a series of lame-duck term moves, President Donald Trump ordered the removal of 2,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan and another 12,000 from Germany. During Thursday's press conference, Biden said he thought it would be "difficult" to make the May 1 deadline set by Trump.
Biden added that his administration was discussing ways to safely withdraw troops from Afghanistan with NATO allies and allies in the Middle East.
"We're leaving, it's just a question of when," Biden said.
When asked if the U.S. would have troops in Afghanistan next year, Biden said he found that hard to picture.
Biden was asked how he would respond to North Korea's recent missile test.
"We're consulting with our allies and partners. There will be responses if they choose to escalate."
Biden said he agreed with a warning former President Obama issued to Trump upon his inauguration in 2016, that North Korea was the gravest foreign policy threat currently facing the U.S.
Biden did not mention any forthcoming sanctions to China for their mistreatment of Muslim minority groups or the stifling of democracy in Hong Kong. However, he did shed some insight into his initial call with Chinese President Xi Jingping.
Biden says he told Xi that the U.S. would not be "looking for confrontation" with China, but added there will be "steep competition." He also said he expected a "level playing field" with China, in that they would play by the rules of international law.
Biden also framed relations with China as the fight between "democracy vs. autocracy."
"We have to prove democracy works," he said.
Biden was asked by a member of the press corps if he intended to run again in 2024, noting that Trump had already announced his intention to seek re-election by this point in his term.
He said it was his "intention" to run again in 2024, and that if he did he planned to again select Vice President Kamala Harris as a running mate, adding that she's doing a "great job."