On Wednesday, President Joe Biden took to national television to address the nation about some of the country’s current issues, including COVID, inflation, tensions with Russia, and voting rights legislation.
Biden opened his press conference touting success and impact, saying, “Tomorrow will mark one year since I took office. It’s been a year of challenges. But it’s also been a year of enormous progress.”
Biden commented that only two million people were vaccinated when he took office last year, but there are 210 million vaccinated today.
“We created 6 million new jobs, more jobs in one year than any time before,” said Biden.
“The unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 percent. Child poverty dropped by nearly 40 percent, the biggest drop ever in American history. New business applications grew by 30 percent, the biggest increase ever. And for the first time in a long time, this country’s working people actually got a raise.”
Biden also highlighted the reduction in insurance premiums, a new law eliminating surprise medical bills, and his passage of a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Biden did, however, admit that his administration should have started boosting COVID-19 testing earlier.
“Should we have done more testing earlier? Yes,” he said. “But we’re doing more now.”
Biden also acknowledged testing shortages across the country and the constant frustration of Americans in the face of the pandemic. He pointed out his administration’s efforts, such as the launch of a website where Americans can request free at-home tests.
Biden acknowledged the hardship of consistently rising prices concerning ongoing inflation in the country. He admitted the stress it has caused for American families.
Biden went on to argue that his Build Back Better bill could help curtail growing inflation.
“If price increases are what you’re worried about, the best answer is my Build Back Better plan,” he said.
In December, inflation hit a 39-year high as prices jumped for everything from food to rent to cars. Biden said the way to tackle high prices is a more productive economy.
Biden said despite the economic challenges, there has been progress in the economy.
The president boasted that his administration had created 6 million new jobs, more in one year than any other president in history. He pointed out that unemployment dropped to 3.9% in the same time. He said child poverty fell by nearly 40%, and new businesses applications grew by 30%.
Biden said he does not believe he overpromised on his agenda as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and his legislation agendas are stalled in Congress.
“I didn’t overpromise. I have probably outperformed what anybody thought would happen,” Biden said.
He said he made “enormous progress” on the pandemic, stating that deaths are going down currently.
The president added that he “did not anticipate such a stalwart effort” to obstruct his agenda from opposing Republican leaders.
Biden said that he would not scale down his social-spending legislation. He noted that the passage of his Build Back Better plan could come in “pieces” or “big chunks,” despite it being stalled in the Senate.
“I’m confident we can get pieces, big chunks of the Build Back Better plan, signed into law,” Biden said.
When asked about COVID responses for education, Biden repeated his promise that schools would not close despite a record surge in infections.
“We’re not going back to lockdowns. We’re not going back to closing schools,” Biden said. He stated that the nation was better off today than just one year ago.
He highlighted that 95% of schools remained open despite media coverage. Biden insisted the administration has made funding available to sanitize classrooms, stand up testing programs, and invest in new ventilation systems.
Not every school district has used the funding “as well as it should be used,” he added.
Biden reiterated that the US would impose “severe economic consequences” on Russia should it launch a full-scale Ukraine invasion in relation to the ongoing tensions in Russia.
“I do not think he [Putin] wants a full-blown war,” Biden said when asked if Putin desired a new Cold War with the West.
In response to questions regarding the recent injunction against vaccine mandates for businesses, Biden said he thought the Supreme Court decision to strike down his vaccine-or-testing requirements was a “mistake.” He insisted that thousands of corporations have implemented the policy anyway.
Biden declined to say whether he is considering requiring vaccinations for domestic air travel.
He also pushed back against comments from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that the midterm election will be a “report card” on the Biden administration.
“My report card is going to look pretty good,” the president said.
He said that McConnell’s primary goal is to make sure Biden and his agenda do not “look good.”
“I actually like Mitch McConnell. We like one another,” he said. “But he has one straightforward objective: Make sure that there’s nothing I do that makes me look good. And that’s okay. I’m a big boy. I’ve been here before.”
Despite setbacks on his agenda and public concern over inflation and COVID-19, Biden said he’s satisfied with his team and has no plans to make changes within the White House.
Biden responded to questions from those who believe his priority to pass voting rights legislation was a “last-minute PR push” rather than a legitimate effort. He went on to say that he has always had the “back” of Black voters.
“I’ve had their back; I’ve had their back my entire career,” Biden said.
“It’s dictated by events happening in the country and around the world as to what the focus is,” Biden said.
Biden remarked that he has “not been out in the community enough” to connect with people to let them know his sincerity on the issues.
Biden declined to outline his next steps on voting rights as the Senate appears on the verge of ending two significant pieces of voting-rights legislation.
He also voiced concerns that the 2022 midterm elections could be “illegitimate” if Congress does not pass voting rights legislation.
“I think it could easily be illegitimate,” Biden said.
“The increase in the prospect of being illegitimate is in proportion to not being able to get these reforms passed,” he said.
Biden disputed a question from Fox News’ Peter Doocy asking why he is “trying to pull the country to the left.”
“I don’t know what you consider to be too far to the left,” Biden said.
Biden went on to brag about bipartisan infrastructure law and the Democrats’ COVID-19 stimulus package.
“You guys have been trying to convince others I am Bernie Sanders. I’m not. I like him, but I’m not Bernie Sanders. I’m not a socialist. I’m a mainstream Democrat, and I have been,” Biden said.
“And if you notice, 48 of the 50 Democrats supported me in the Senate on virtually everything I’ve asked,” he concluded.
Biden was asked what he had done to restore Americans’ faith and confidence in the US government in his first year. He replied that his administration has performed “remarkably well.”
Biden upheld his defense of the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. He said there was no way to easily pull out of the country after 20 years, adding that any further commitment would have required thousands of more troops.
Finally, Biden laid out his vision for the “new normal” under the coronavirus pandemic.
“I hope the new normal will be that we don’t still have some 30 million people not vaccinated,” he said. He added that he would like to see people look beyond their own interests and take advantage of COVID-19 resources.
He said he sees the “new normal” as utilizing anti-viral pills and ensuring the rest of the world is vaccinated and has equal access to the COVID resources.
Fully vaccinating the US is “not enough,” Biden said.