Biden talks southern border, voting rights, filibuster and Afghanistan in first press conference

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President Joe Biden on Thursday held his first official press conference since taking office in January.

Biden faced tough questions on his administration's response to a rise in unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. The president said his administration is working to safely house children, calling the conditions they face in overcrowded facilities "unacceptable."

Biden said he would grant media access to the facilities, but declined to give an exact date. He dismissed questions about whether his policies were encouraging families to send their children on the perilous journey.

Biden said the increase in migration is rooted in difficult conditions in Central America, and blamed the overcrowding at U.S. facilities on former President Donald Trump.

The president also suggested he would support ending the Senate filibuster if Republicans completely block his legislative agenda. Democrats are currently trying to pass sweeping legislation to expand voting access. Biden condemned Republican efforts to restrict access as "un-American."

On foreign policy, the president said the U.S. likely wouldn't meet a May deadline to withdraw from Afghanistan. However, Biden said he didn't see troops remaining there for another year.

The president also indicated that he intends to run for re-election in 2024. He would be 81.

You can watch the press conference below.

Here's what you need to know:

Joe Biden says he expects to run for reelection in 2024

President Joe Biden gestures as he answers a question during his first formal news conference as president in the East Room of the White House in Washington, March 25, 2021.
Leah Millis | Reuters

President Joe Biden expects to run for reelection in 2024, signaling for the first time that he will seek a second term in the White House.

"My plan is to run for reelection. That's my expectation," Biden told reporters on Thursday during his first news conference as president. He later reaffirmed that it's his "expectation" he will try to serve a second term as president. Biden will be 81-years-old at that time.

It was the first time Biden has publicly addressed questions on whether he will make another run for the White House. He took office in January as the oldest president at the time of his first inauguration.

— Brian Schwartz

Biden says he will talk infrastructure 'in detail' next week

Construction workers build the “Signature Bridge,” replacing and improving a busy highway intersection at I-95 and I-395 on March 17, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images

The president said he will be offering the public more details on his forthcoming infrastructure overhaul next week.

His administration is expected to unveil a once-in-a-generation plan to rebuild America's infrastructure on March 31 when he travels to Pittsburgh, the birthplace of his 2020 presidential campaign.

The president, who has called on lawmakers to approve a multitrillion-dollar proposal, backed a massive overhaul to the nation's roads and bridges, a dramatic expansion of electric car charging stations and stricter fuel efficiency standards in the months leading up to the 2020 election. Also expected to be included in his "Build Back Better" legislation are subsidies for wind and solar power generation, an expansion of broadband access and remedies for income inequality.

"Global warming has already done significant damage. Roads that used to be above the water level ... now you've got to rebuild them three feet higher. It will only get worse unless we stop it."

Thomas Franck

Biden says the world is in a battle between democracy and autocracy

Putin has cultivated cordial and even warm relations with the leaders of India and China, with President Xi Jinping calling Putin his "best friend" in 2019, as their relations deepened while those with the West soured.
Mikhail Metzel | TASS | Getty Images

President Joe Biden shared his view that two major forces, autocracy and democracy, are battling for global dominance in a world being rapidly re-formed by unprecedented technological advancement.

"I predict to you, your children and grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral theses on the issue of, 'Who Succeeded: Autocracy or Democracy?' Because that is what is at stake," Biden said.

"Look around the world. We're in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution, of enormous consequence," the president said, offering broader thoughts after initially being asked how his administration aims to deal with China and other authoritarian foreign powers.

"Are democracies equipped, because all the people get to speak, to compete?" he asked rhetorically.

"It is clear, absolutely clear," he added, "that this is a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century, and autocracies."

"We've got to prove democracy works," Biden said. — Kevin Breuninger

President Biden on relations with China: We have to prove democracy works
President Biden on relations with China: We have to prove democracy works

Biden hopeful on denuclearization talks as North Korea resumes missile tests

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un guides a target-striking contest of the special operation forces of the Korean People's Army to occupy islands in Pyongyang on Aug. 25, 2017.
KCNA | Reuters

WASHINGTON – On the heels of a string of North Korean missile tests, President Joe Biden said that he hopes Pyongyang will return to nuke discussions with Washington.

"We are consulting with our allies and partners and there will be responses if they choose to escalate," Biden said. "We will respond accordingly," he added.

"I am also prepared for some form of diplomacy but it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization."

On Wednesday, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, the first tests of this kind under a Biden administration. Over the weekend, Pyongyang launched a cruise missile off of the nation's west coast.

The multiple tests come as Pyongyang ignores invitations from Washington to discuss denuclearization and as the U.S. and South Korea resume large, joint military exercises.

Last week, a top North Korean official said Pyongyang will not respond to numerous invitations to restart nuke talks until the United States drops its "hostile policies."

Under Kim Jong Un, the reclusive state has conducted its most powerful nuclear test, launched its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and threatened to send missiles into the waters near the U.S. territory of Guam.

Since 2011, Kim has launched more than 100 missiles and conducted four nuclear weapons tests, which is more than what his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung, launched over a period of 27 years.

– Amanda Macias

Biden blasts Republican efforts to make voting more difficult as 'un-American' and 'sick'

Biden on GOP voting restrictions: This makes Jim Crow look like 'Jim Eagle'
Biden on GOP voting restrictions: This makes Jim Crow look like 'Jim Eagle'

An angry President Joe Biden blasted Republican efforts to make it more difficult to vote in a number of states as "un-American."

"It's sick," Biden said at his first press conference as president as he ticked off a list of proposals by GOP lawmakers around the country, which critics say are targeted at suppressing turnout from minorities and other constituencies considered favorable to Democrats.

"Deciding in some states that you can not bring water to people standing in line waiting to vote? Deciding that you're going to end voting at 5:00 when working people are just getting off work? Deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances?"

Biden said that the "the Republican voters I know find this despicable."

"The folks ... outside this White House. I'm not talking about the elected officials," Biden said. "I'm talking about voters."

— Dan Mangan

Biden says committed to transparency, doesn't know when media can access crowded migrant facilities

Migrants crowd a room with walls of plastic sheeting at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary processing center in Donna, Texas, U.S. in a recent photograph released March 22, 2021.
Office of Congressman Henry Cuellar | via Reuters

President Joe Biden said that journalists will soon be able to look inside the overcrowded migrant processing facilities on the U.S.-Mexico border, which had previously been closed off to the press.

"I will commit when my plan, very shortly, is underway, to let you have access to not just them but the other facilities as well," Biden told a reporter at the White House.

Pressed on the issue, the president said he "will commit to transparency, as soon as I am in a position to be able to implement what we're doing right now."

But he added, "I don't know" when exactly that will be.

Biden also said that he has yet to visit the southern border because "I don't want to become the issue."

"I don't want to be bringing all the Secret Service and everybody with me to get in the way," he said. "This is being set up, and you'll have full access to everything once we get this thing moving." — Kevin Breuninger

Biden says he’s working to safely house unaccompanied children, calls situation unacceptable

A Border Patrol agent holds an asylum-seeking child as his mother gets off the vehicle at the bus station after being processed through immigration in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. March 15, 2021.
Veronica G. Cardenas | Reuters

Biden, asked to address the horrific conditions in which some children who arrived unaccompanied at the U.S.-Mexico border are being held, said the situation was unacceptable and that he was working to swiftly transfer the kids to new housing.

"That's a serious question right? Is it acceptable to me? Come on. That's why we are going to be moving 1,000 of those kids out, quickly," Biden said. The Biden administration has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help transfer and shelter the migrants.

Biden also cited the recent decision to use military property, including Fort Bliss, an installation near El Paso, Texas, to help shelter the minors.

"I've been working from the moment this started to happen to try to find additional access for children to be able to -- not just children, but particularly children -- to be able to be safely housed while we follow through on the rest of what's happening," Biden said. "That is totally unacceptable."

-- Tucker Higgins

Biden on border: Migrant increase seasonal, Trump dismantled system

Asylum-seeking migrants from Central America, who were airlifted from Brownsville to El Paso, Texas, and deported from the U.S., walk near the Paso del Norte international border bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico March 16, 2021.
Jose Luis Gonzalez | Reuters

President Joe Biden attributed an increase in migrant encounters at the southern border to annual seasonal migratory patterns and a system dismantled by the Trump administration.

"The reason they're coming is that this is the time they can travel with the least likelihood of dying on the way because of the heat in the desert," Biden said. "Number two, they're coming because the circumstances in country."

Biden said the 28% increase in unaccompanied migrant children at the border mirrors a 31% increase in 2019 under the Trump administration.

Under a CDC policy during the Covid pandemic, the U.S. is currently expelling the vast majority of single adults and families who arrive at the border. But due to U.S. law, the country is not turning away unaccompanied minors.

Processing challenges have led to overcrowding at Border Patrol facilities for migrant children. NBC News reported Border Patrol had 5,200 children in custody last week, with hundreds held past the three-day legal limit.

Biden blamed the lack of infrastructure on President Donald Trump's administration.

"We're building back the capacity that should have been maintained," Biden said.

Hannah Miao

'We will leave, the question is when we leave,' Biden says on troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

U.S. Soldiers and Airmen from Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul return to base after a quality assurance, quality control patrol near the city of Qalat, Zabul province, Afghanistan, Nov. 1, 2010.
Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson | U.S. Air Force

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden told reporters that while he wants to end America's longest war, he could not yet commit to the May 1 deadline.

"It's going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline," Biden said, adding "it is not my intention to stay there for a long time," Biden said.

In February 2020, the Trump administration brokered a deal with the Taliban that would usher in a permanent cease-fire and reduce further the U.S. military's footprint from approximately 13,000 troops to 8,600 by mid-July last year.

By May 2021, all foreign forces would leave Afghanistan, according to the deal. The majority of troops in the country are from Europe and partner nations. There are about 2,500 U.S. service members currently in Afghanistan.

When asked if U.S. service members would remain in Afghanistan another year, Biden said he did not see that being the case.

"We are not staying a long time. We will leave, the question is when we leave," the president said, adding that his administration was in consultations with NATO allies and partners in the region.

The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.57 trillion collectively since Sept. 11, 2001, according to a Defense Department report. – Amanda Macias

Biden backs reforming the filibuster — but says he would go further 'if we have to'

President Joe Biden answers a question during his first press briefing in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 25, 2021.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden signaled he may support scrapping, rather than reforming, the Senate filibuster if his priorities get held up in Congress.

"If we have to, if there's complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we'll have to go beyond what I'm talking about," he told reporters.

Biden has said he backs going back to a so-called talking filibuster, where lawmakers have to actively hold the Senate floor to block legislation. As of now, the Senate needs 60 votes to move ahead with a bill — which means Republicans can block the vast majority of bills in a chamber divided 50-50 by party.

The president did not explicitly say whether he thought it should take a simple majority to advance legislation in the Senate.

Democrats will have a hard time getting voting rights, climate change and gun safety bills through the Senate with the filibuster in place. They passed their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan this year through budget reconciliation, which requires only a majority vote.

However, the Senate can only use the process once per fiscal year, and restrictions govern what lawmakers can put in reconciliation bills.

— Jacob Pramuk

Biden plans to focus 'one at a time' on immigration, guns, other problems after Covid

President Biden: Hope to start focusing on gun control and immigration
President Biden: Hope to start focusing on gun control and immigration

With the U.S. making progress against the coronavirus pandemic, President Joe Biden said he plans to shift his focus "one at a time" to other hot-button issues.

"I got elected to solve problems," he said, the most urgent of which being Covid and "the economic dislocation for millions and millions of Americans."

"The fundamental problem is getting people some peace of mind," Biden said. "That's the reason why I focused as I have."

But now, Biden said, his administration will prepare to address more "long-term" issues, such as immigration and gun reform.

"What we're going to be able to do, God willing, is now begin one at a time to focus on those as well," Biden said. — Kevin Breuninger

Biden aims to sell $1.9 trillion Covid relief plan as economic boon

President Joe Biden talks to reporters during the first news conference of his presidency in the East Room of the White House on March 25, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

President Joe Biden aimed to promote Democrats' $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan as a boost to the economy while his administration pushes for broader vaccine deployment.

The president pointed to the roughly 127 million payments of up to $1,400 that have gone out to Americans.

"Help is here, hope is on the way," Biden told reporters. He acknowledged that there are "still too many Americans out of work, too many families hurting."

In touting an improving economy, Biden pointed to initial jobless claims falling to the lowest level in more than a year. Still, the data show nearly 19 million people are receiving some form of unemployment benefits.

Biden plans to make stops around the country to promote the pandemic aid package.

— Jacob Pramuk

From the war in Afghanistan to North Korean nuke talks, Biden faces a slew of foreign policy challenges

Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division gather their equipment before boarding a CH-47F Chinook that serves with the Task Force Flying Dragons, or 1st General Support Aviation Battalion., 25th Avn. Regiment, 16th Combat Avn. Brigade, in the Nawa Valley, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan,
Photo: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston | FlickrCC

WASHINGTON – From mending a contentious relationship with China to the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan to North Korea's latest provocations, President Joe Biden's administration faces a host of challenging foreign policy issues.

Biden's first formal news conference comes as Washington aims to address trade and political issues with the world's second-largest economy.

The tension between Beijing and Washington soared under the Trump administration amid a trade war and the coronavirus pandemic. Biden, who spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping last month, has previously said that his approach in dealing with Beijing would rely on alliances rather than unilateral measures.

Earlier this week, the Biden administration slapped fresh sanctions on two Chinese officials, citing their roles in serious human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

The sanctions come on the heels of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan's contentious meeting with China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and State Councilor Wang Yi in Alaska.

Turning to the Middle East, Washington is mulling a departure from America's longest war. As of Thursday, the United States has less than 40 days before American and foreign troops are slated to fully withdraw from Afghanistan.

Biden has not yet made a decision of whether the U.S. will leave the war-torn country.

In Asia, Biden is working to repair strained relationships with crucial military partners in the region in order to mount pushback on North Korea.

On Wednesday, North Korea fired a pair of ballistic missiles, the first launch in nearly a year. The short-range ballistic missiles came on the heels of another test carried out over the weekend.

The string of tests comes as Pyongyang ignores invitations from Washington to discuss denuclearization and as the U.S. and South Korea resume large, joint military exercises.

– Amanda Macias

Biden and Democrats eye sweeping voting rights legislation, filibuster reform

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) touts Senate Democrats legislative accomplishments as he holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 25, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Pool | Reuters

Democrats in Congress have made voting reform legislation a top priority. The For the People Act was the first bill introduced in the House and Senate: H.R. 1 and S. 1, respectively.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said "failure is not an option" for Democrats to pass the legislation, which the House passed on March 3. President Joe Biden called the bill a "landmark legislation" that is "urgently needed" to protect the right to vote.

But the Senate filibuster stands in their way. The legislation requires a minimum of 10 Republican votes to defeat a filibuster and move to a final vote on passage.

Biden said on March 16 that he supports revising the Senate filibuster to require the minority to talk on the floor to block legislation, after previously indicating he did not support efforts to eliminate the filibuster completely.

Hannah Miao

Biden and Democrats consider tax hikes as part of next policy push

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, speaks during a hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.
Samuel Corum | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress are considering how much to change tax policy as part of their next major legislative push.

Biden is expected to focus on infrastructure and the U.S. economic recovery after passage of his top priority, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. The legislation is set to include tax increases on corporations and the wealthiest individuals to fund efforts to improve transportation, combat climate change and expand paid leave and early childhood education.

Democrats will need to decide how to structure tax hikes or how much of the plan they want to finance with increases. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., aims to increase the corporate tax rate to the pre-2017 level of 35% and set a progressive estate tax on the wealthiest Americans — two proposals which go further than many Democrats would want.

Biden has proposed increasing the corporate-tax rate to 28% and raising the top individual income-tax bracket to 39.6%, the level in place before Republicans passed their 2017 tax law. If Democrats divide the recovery proposal into two phases, each could include separate tax increases.

— Jacob Pramuk

Recent mass shootings push Biden's gun-reform agenda front and center

Andrew Sanchez places flowers next to crosses at a makeshift memorial for the victims of a mass shooting outside a King Soopers grocery store on March 24, 2021 in Boulder, Colorado.
Michael Ciaglo | Getty Images

President Joe Biden may have planned for his first solo presser to be focused on the pandemic, the economy and the southern border — but multiple mass shootings within the past 10 days have put a spotlight on the new administration's gun-reform agenda.

On March 16, a 21-year-old suspect was charged with opening fire at three Atlanta-area spas, killing eight people. Less than a week later, another 21-year-old alleged gunman was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder following a mass shooting at a Colorado grocery store.

In remarks at the White House on Tuesday, Biden shared his condolences and said he would not speculate about the latest alleged killer's motivations "until we have all the facts." But he nevertheless urged Congress to pass new gun restrictions, including a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammo magazines.

"I don't need to wait another minute, let alone an hour to take common sense steps that will save the lives in the future," Biden said.

Earlier Tuesday, Biden had for the second time in a week ordered that flags be flown at half-staff.

Kevin Breuninger

Biden expected to propose climate and infrastructure package next week

Construction workers build the “Signature Bridge,” replacing and improving a busy highway intersection at I-95 and I-395 on March 17, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Following the passage of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, Biden is expected next week to propose a major package focused on climate change and infrastructure that could total nearly $3 trillion.

The proposal aims to achieve Biden's broader goal of reaching carbon-free power generation by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

Biden issued a slew of climate executive orders in January, including suspending new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and directing the federal government to conserve 30% of federal lands and water by 2030.

On his first day in office, Biden brought the United States back into the Paris climate accord and cancelled the permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The administration is also set to host a climate summit with world leaders on April 22.

— Emma Newburger