Mar 16, 2021

Joe Biden ABC Interview Transcript March 16

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President Joe Biden did an interview with George Stephanopoulos for ABC News on March 16, 2021. They discussed the COVID relief bill, immigration, the filibuster, and more. Read the transcript of the interview speech here.

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George Stephanopoulos: (00:00)
So you’ve set out your goals for the country, 100 million vaccine doses by next week, $100 million dollars out the door, every American eligible for the vaccine by, adult American, by May 1st, something close to normal on July 4th. But tell everyone, when is everything going to be normal for Americans?

President Joe Biden: (00:18)
Well, first of all, I won’t even be able to meet the July 4th deadline unless people listen, wear masks, wash their hands, and socially distance, because not everyone by July 4th will have been vaccinated.

George Stephanopoulos: (00:38)
How do you get the politics out of this vaccine talk?

President Joe Biden: (00:41)
I honest to God thought we had it out. I honest to God thought that once we guarantee we had enough vaccine for everybody, things would start to calm down. Well, they have calmed down a great deal, but I just don’t understand this sort of macho thing about, “I’m not going to get the vaccine. I have a right as an American, my freedom to not do it.” Well, why don’t you be a patriot, protect other people?

George Stephanopoulos: (01:05)
How about emphasizing the positive? How has life changed for you since you got the vaccine?

President Joe Biden: (01:10)
I can hug my grandkids now. They come over to the house. I can see them. I’m able to be with them. I’ve had the vaccine. Secondly, it has changed my life in the sense that I’ve been able to demonstrate to other people that, I doubt whether people expected me to take it if I didn’t think it was safe, to make the case that it is safe to take the vaccine. It’s important to take the vaccine.

George Stephanopoulos: (01:34)
Let’s talk about the crisis at the border. Some heartbreaking scenes down there right now. A lot of the migrants coming in saying they’re coming in because you promised to make things better. It seems to be getting worse by the day. Was it a mistake not to anticipate this surge?

President Joe Biden: (01:50)
Well, first of all, there was a surge the last two years. In ’19 and ’20 there was a surge as well.

George Stephanopoulos: (01:57)
This one might be worse.

President Joe Biden: (01:58)
No. Well, it could be, but here’s the deal. First of all, the idea that Joe Biden said come because I heard the other day that they’re they’re coming because they know I’m a nice guy and I won’t do what Trump did.

George Stephanopoulos: (02:09)
They’re saying this.

President Joe Biden: (02:10)
Yeah. Well, here’s the deal. They’re not. The adults are being sent back, number one. Number two, what do you do with an unaccompanied child that comes to the border? Do you repeat what Trump did? Take them from their mothers, move them away, hold them in cells, et cetera. We’re not doing that. What we’re doing is we have brought in HHS and also brought in FEMA to provide for enough safe facilities for them to get out of the control of the border patrol, which are not designed to hold people for long periods of time, particularly children, get them out of those facilities.

President Joe Biden: (02:44)
Most of them come with a phone number. What we’re doing is we’re putting together an entire organizational structure so that within seven days they’re able to get on the phone, contact that number, find out whether there is a mother or a father, whether it is safe, whether it’s a secure circumstance to get the child to that adult.

George Stephanopoulos: (03:08)
It’s going to take some time though to get those policies in place again. Do you have to say quite clearly, “Don’t come.”?

President Joe Biden: (03:15)
Yes. I can say quite clearly, “Don’t come.” What we’re in the process of getting set up, and it’s not going to take a whole long time, is to be able to apply for asylum in place. Don’t leave your town or city or community. We’re going to make sure we have facilities in those cities and towns run by DHS and also access with HHS, the Health and Human Services, to say you can apply for asylum from where you are right now. Make your case. We’ll have people there to determine whether or not you are able to meet the requirement you qualify for asylum. That’s the best way to do this.

President Joe Biden: (03:54)
In addition to that, while we also change the circumstances on the ground in those communities, you’re going to diminish the reason why people want to leave in the first place.

George Stephanopoulos: (04:07)
You’re out here selling your COVID relief package. You’re executing the COVID relief package now as well. What’s next on your legislative agenda?

President Joe Biden: (04:13)
If you notice the criticism of the COVID relief package, my Republican friends, is they say it spends too much money and it gives too many tax breaks. All these tax breaks go to the bottom 60% of the population. Guess what? They need it, the $1,400 check, childcare tax credit. They don’t like it because in fact their idea of a tax cut is to give the Trump tax cut where 83% went to the top 1% of the people in America.

George Stephanopoulos: (04:40)
You’re going to be raising those taxes.

President Joe Biden: (04:42)
Yes. Anybody making more than $400,000 will see a small to a significant tax increase. If you make less than $400,000, you won’t see one single penny in additional federal tax.

George Stephanopoulos: (04:53)
But, let’s talk raw politics here. You didn’t get a single Republican vote for tax cuts. How are you going to get a Republican vote for a tax increase?

President Joe Biden: (05:00)
Oh, I may not get it, but I’ll get the Democratic votes for a tax increase. If we just took the tax rate back to what it was when Bush was president, the top rate paid 39.6% in federal taxes, that would raise $230 billion. Yet, they’re complaining because I’m providing a tax credit for childcare, for the poor, for the middle class, keeping people, and by the way, my proposal in the relief plan I put forward, it creates seven million jobs according to a whole range of people, including Moody’s on Wall Street, number one. Increases the GDP by over a trillion dollars. Actually raises, raises income in America and diminishes debt in America. I mean, what are these guys talking about?

George Stephanopoulos: (05:52)
By your own admission, just so you’re not likely to get Republican votes for the tax increase, you’re not likely to get Republican for H.R.1, expanding voting rights or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Aren’t you going to have to choose? I know you’ve been reluctant to do away with the filibuster. Aren’t you going to have to choose between preserving the filibuster and advancing your agenda?

President Joe Biden: (06:10)
Yes, but here’s the choice. I don’t think you have to eliminate the filibuster. You have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days when you used to be around there. That is that a filibuster, you had to stand up and command the floor. You had to keep talking alone. No one could say quorum call. Once you stopped talking, you lost that and someone could move in and say, “I move the question of,”. You got to work for the filibuster.

George Stephanopoulos: (06:39)
You’re for that reform. You’re for bringing back the talking filibuster.

President Joe Biden: (06:42)
I am. That’s what it was supposed to be. Look, don’t hold me to the numbers, George, but I think between 1960 and 2000, there were like, I’m making this number up, I don’t know. There were like 50 filibusters. Now there are like 200 since then, since that rule changed.

George Stephanopoulos: (06:57)
Just put a hold on it, that’s it.

President Joe Biden: (06:58)
Yeah. I mean, the idea, it almost is getting to the point where democracy is having a hard time functioning, a hard time functioning. Look, I’m not saying this is going to be easy, George, but I do believe there’s enough Republicans over time who are going to have, look you’re-

George Stephanopoulos: (07:20)
They haven’t had that epiphany you said you were going to see in the campaign.

President Joe Biden: (07:23)
No, no. Well, I’ve only been here six weeks, pal. Okay. Give me a break. I’ve been here six weeks. I think the epiphany is going to come between now and 2022. There’s 78% of the people say they support this program, 52% of Republicans. Let’s assume it’s off by 15%. You’re going to go home and campaign. Republican voters want that $1,500 because they’re in trouble. Republican voters want to be able to choose between being able to go to work and send their kid to a daycare that they can afford. Republican voters want to be able to take care of a childcare tax credit. I mean, it’s not like every Republican voter is a billionaire. By the way, I’m not saying I’ll do it again, but I want those Republican voters in suburbia.

George Stephanopoulos: (08:16)
Director of National Intelligence came out with a report today saying that Vladimir Putin authorized operations during the election to denigrate you, support President Trump, undermine our elections, divide our society. What price must he pay?

President Joe Biden: (08:31)
He will pay a price. We had a long talk he and I. I know him relatively well. The conversation started off I said, “I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared.”

George Stephanopoulos: (08:44)
You said you know he doesn’t have a soul.

President Joe Biden: (08:46)
I did say that to him, yes. His response was, “We understand one another.” I wasn’t being a wise guy. I was alone with him in his office. That’s how it came about. It was when President Bush had said, “I’ve looked in his eyes and saw his soul.” I said, “I looked in your eyes and I don’t think you have a soul.” He looked back at me and he said, “We understand each other.” Look, the most important thing in dealing with foreign leaders in my experience, and I’ve dealt with an awful lot of them over my career, is just know the other guy.

George Stephanopoulos: (09:14)
You know Vladimir Putin. Do you think he’s a killer?

President Joe Biden: (09:17)
Mm-hmm (affirmative). I do.

George Stephanopoulos: (09:18)
So what price must he pay?

President Joe Biden: (09:20)
The price he is going to pay, well, you’ll see shortly. By the way, we ought to be able that old, that trite expression and walk and chew gum at the same time, there are places where it’s in our mutual interest to work together. That’s why I renewed the START agreement with him. That occurred while he’s doing this, but that’s overwhelmingly in the interest of humanity that we diminish the prospect of a nuclear exchange.

George Stephanopoulos: (09:49)
President Trump reached a deal with the Taliban to have all American troops leave by May 1st. Are they going to leave?

President Joe Biden: (09:56)
I’m in the process of making that decision now as to when they’ll leave. The fact is that that was not a very solidly-negotiated deal that the former President worked out. We’re in consultation with our allies, as well as the government. That decision’s going to be, it’s in process now.

George Stephanopoulos: (10:24)
Likely to take longer?

President Joe Biden: (10:25)
I don’t think a lot longer.

George Stephanopoulos: (10:27)
But May 1st is tough.

President Joe Biden: (10:28)
It could happen, but it is tough. Because, look, one of the drawbacks, George, and this going to be like Sanskrit to people listening here, but it is the failure to have an orderly transition from the Trump presidency to my presidency, which usually takes place from election day to the time you’re sworn in, has cost me time and consequences. For example, we didn’t realize how bad things were in terms of lack of vaccines. We were not able to get access to this information. That’s one of the issues we’re talking about now in terms of Afghanistan.

George Stephanopoulos: (11:16)
Let me ask you about Governor Cuomo of New York. I know you’ve said you want the investigation to continue. If the investigation confirms the claims of the women, should he resign?

President Joe Biden: (11:25)
Yes. I think he will probably end up being prosecuted too.

George Stephanopoulos: (11:29)
But, how about right now? You said you want the investigation to continue. You saw Chuck Schumer, Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, a majority of the congressional delegation don’t think he can be an effective governor right now. Can he serve effectively?

President Joe Biden: (11:42)
Well, that’s a judgment for them to make about their state where they can be effective. Here’s my position. It’s been my position since I wrote the Violence Against Women Act. A woman should be presumed to telling the truth and should not be scapegoated and become victimized by her coming forward, number one. But there should be an investigation to determine whether what she says is true. That’s what’s going on now.

George Stephanopoulos: (12:06)
You’ve been very clear. If the investigation confirms the claims, he’s gone.

President Joe Biden: (12:10)
That’s what I think happens. By the way, it may very well be that there could be a criminal prosecution that is attached to it. I just don’t know. I don’t know what it is, but I started from the presumption it takes a lot of courage for a woman to come forward. The presumption is it should be taken seriously and it should be investigated. That’s what’s underway now.

George Stephanopoulos: (12:31)
You probably walked into the oval office as president with about as much experience, if not more experience, than any other president who has ever served, more than three decades in the Senate, eight years as vice president. What is it about the job that surprised you that even you didn’t know?

President Joe Biden: (12:53)
What has surprised me is that I’m not as surprised as I thought I might be. I don’t know if that makes any sense. It’s like sitting when I was vice-president, the big, big difference is that famous expression of Harry Truman, “The buck stops here.” For eight years, I had a great relationship, and still do with Barack. I’d always be the last person in the room. I’d say, “Throw the pass,” or, “Run the ball.” I’d give my opinion. I was the last guy and I get to leave, but he’s all by himself to have to make that decision. That’s the big difference.

George Stephanopoulos: (13:30)
Is Vice-President Harris the last person in the room?

President Joe Biden: (13:33)
Most of the time, yes. As a practical matter, yeah, she is.

George Stephanopoulos: (13:41)
One final question.

President Joe Biden: (13:42)

George Stephanopoulos: (13:42)
Is Major out of the doghouse?

President Joe Biden: (13:44)
Yeah, the answer is yes. Major was a rescue pup. Major did not bite someone and penetrate the skin. The dog is being trained now with our trainer at home in Delaware. He was going home. I didn’t banish him to home. Jill was going to be away for four days. I was going to be away for two so we took him home.

President Joe Biden: (14:05)
But, you turn a corner and there’s two people I don’t know at all. They move and he moves to protect. But, he’s a sweet dog. 85% of the people there love him. He just, all he does is lick them and wag his tail.

George Stephanopoulos: (14:21)
You’ll see him tonight?

President Joe Biden: (14:22)
I’m going to see him tonight, yeah.

George Stephanopoulos: (14:24)
Mr. President, thanks for your time.

President Joe Biden: (14:25)
Thank you, George. I appreciate it.

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