Anderson Cooper: (00:01)
And welcome. We are live in Baltimore, Maryland, at Baltimore Center Stage, it’s a CNN Presidential Town Hall with President Joe Biden, I’m Anderson Cooper, thanks so much for joining us. President Biden is at a pivotal moment in his presidency, trying to pass legislation that could bring about the biggest change to America’s social safety net in decades. Democratic leaders have less than two weeks to meet the new deadline that they themselves have said to agree on this sweeping plan. For weeks, they’ve been struggling to reach a deal. The states are certainly high for the president, for his party and for the nation. Tonight, President Biden will take questions about his agenda directly from voters here in Baltimore. Everyone in this audience is vaccinated and masked per local regulations, except when questioning the president. I’ve been vaccinated as well, tested multiple times for COVID in the past week, including today. So with that, I want to welcome the 46th President of the United States, President Joe Biden. How are you, sir?
President Biden: (01:15)
Anderson Cooper: (01:15)
So there’s a lot to get to tonight and we’ve got a lot of great questions from our audience. We wanted to get into the details of what you’re calling the Build Back Better plan. Before we into that though, I just want to know, there’s been a lot of good negotiating going on behind the scenes, as I’m sure you are very involved with, are you close to a done deal?
President Biden: (01:33)
No problem. It’s all done. No look, Anderson, I’ve probably spent well over a hundred hours. This is a big deal. We have two plans. One is the infrastructure plans, roads, highway, bridges, buses, trains, et cetera. And the other one is what I call the care economy. It has a lot of money in there for environmental remediation, as well as care economy. For example, we want to get the economy moving, but millions of women go to work because they don’t have any childcare, that kind of thing. So there’s a lot of pieces in there. There’s lots that people don’t understand. And by the way, all of its paid for, every single penny, it’s not going to raise one single cent.
Anderson Cooper: (02:19)
We’re going to get into a lot of those details. Just though, are you close to a deal?
President Biden: (02:23)
I think so. Look, I was just Senator for 370 years and I was relatively good at putting together deals.
Anderson Cooper: (02:33)
Is this the toughest deal you’ve worked on?
President Biden: (02:35)
No. I think banning assault weapons is the toughest deal I worked on and succeeded.
Anderson Cooper: (02:40)
You’re flying to Europe, I think in eight days.
President Biden: (02:43)
Anderson Cooper: (02:43)
Do you think you’ll have a deal by the time you got on Air Force One in eight days?
President Biden: (02:47)
Well, it’s like my asking you, “are you sure your next show’s going to be a success?”
Anderson Cooper: (02:51)
President Biden: (02:53)
You’re more confident than I am. Look, it’s all about compromise. Compromise has become a dirty word, but bipartisanship and compromise still has to be possible. When I ran for the presidency, I said I’m running for three reasons. Once, to restore the soul and decency in the country. Two to build the middle class and the working class they we built from the middle out. And three, to actually unite the country. And everybody’s been saying, “Well, that’s crazy. You can’t do it.” If we can’t eventually enact this country, we’re in deep trouble.
Anderson Cooper: (03:21)
Bottom line, do you think you will get a deal?
President Biden: (03:23)
I do think I’ll get a deal.
Anderson Cooper: (03:25)
All right, let’s go to the audience. This is Nicholas Vaught. He’s the coordinator of the applied liberal studies program at Morgan State University. He’s a Democrat. Nicholas-
President Biden: (03:34)
Nicholas Vaught: (03:34)
President Biden: (03:34)
All right, man.
Nicholas Vaught: (03:41)
So my wife and I have two young boys, Arthur and Teddy. However, the cost of childcare is nearly double our mortgage. We want to have more children, but even though we earn a good salary now, childcare is so expensive. So how will this new infrastructure plan help middle class families pay for childcare?
President Biden: (04:02)
Well, let me ask you, how old are your kids?
Nicholas Vaught: (04:05)
Three and a half and six months old.
President Biden: (04:07)
God love you. Well, look, there’s two pieces, there’s the childcare. Having someone take care of the, your child while you are working while you and your wife are working. Under this proposal I have, no one will have to pay unless you’re each making over 300 grand, 150,000 a piece-
Nicholas Vaught: (04:27)
President Biden: (04:29)
By the way, I’m married to one Dr. Biden right here. So you will not have to pay more than 7% of your income for childcare, 7%. And the way we do that is we provide for the ability to have childcare centers funded, to fit your income, you get 7% with the total cost. But there’s another piece here. You now are qualified to be able to have a child tax credit. It used to be that if you had enough money to pay significant taxes, you could write off 2000 bucks for every child you had and reduce your taxes. But if you were making 60,000 bucks a year, you didn’t have that much to write off, you didn’t get anything. Well, I call this a tax break for middle class people. If you’re making in the $150,000 range right now, you’re in a situation, where if you have a child under seven, $ 350, if you have a child between seven and 17, you can get $300 and you get a direct payment. The IRS sends you money.
Anderson Cooper: (05:46)
Joe Manchin wants a work requirement with your enhanced tax credit for kids. Is that something you would support?
President Biden: (05:55)
No, here’s the deal, all these people are working anyway. And by the way, why should somebody who is not working and has a million dollar trust fund, why should they get the benefit and someone making 60 grand and not working, but staying home, why should they not get anything? I don’t get that.
Anderson Cooper: (06:24)
You’re also proposing for the first time ever, federal paid parental leave.
President Biden: (06:30)
Yes, that’s a different issue. Yeah.
Anderson Cooper: (06:31)
Right. A different issue, but this is in your proposal. How much time off would parents actually get under your proposal? Because at one point you had talked about 12 weeks, now there’s reports it’s down to maybe four weeks.
President Biden: (06:44)
Yeah. It is down to four weeks. And the reason it’s down to four weeks, I can’t get 12 weeks. But look, here’s the deal, guys. How many people do you know, not a joke, or maybe yourself, have had a circumstance where you are working like the devil, you’re making seven bucks an hour, 15 bucks an hour, 20 bucks an hour, and you have a child that’s sick at home? Or you have a mother or father, husband, and wife, son or daughter, and you need to stay home to help them?
President Biden: (07:12)
We’re one of the few industrial countries in the world that does not have paid leave, so that when you stay home to help that person, to take care of that person, you’re still getting your pay. And it does not hurt the business at all. The business isn’t paying for it, the federal government is paying for it. It’s a little bit like, as I said, a tax cut for people who are not able to otherwise take care their families. And look, I’m looking out here and a lot of you are part of that families generation. You have young kids and you have aging parents. And one of the things all the polling data shows, Anderson is people are more concerned about taking care of the elderly, because they don’t know what to do than they are even their children.
Anderson Cooper: (07:54)
I want to talk about this. I want you to meet Vanessa Antrum from Bowie, Maryland. She’s retired. She’s a caregiver for her elderly parents.
President Biden: (08:00)
God love you.
Anderson Cooper: (08:00)
She’s a Democrat. Vanessa, your question?
Vanessa Antrum: (08:03)
Yes, Mr. President. My parents have been married for 73 years and both of them are dealing with dementia. My father, who is a veteran, is completely bedridden, and my mom is experiencing issues with walking. I have found the process for me to provide care for them in my home very hard. They have worked all their life, only for me to experience a lot of red tape to provide supports in a loving home environment. What is being done to support the elderly, especially for a middle class family like mine?
President Biden: (08:50)
Well, first of all, if my mom were here, she’d say you’re a good daughter, number one.
Vanessa Antrum: (08:57)
Yes. Thank you.
President Biden: (08:58)
Number two. I was in a situation like you are. I was making more money. I was making $42,000 a year as a Senator at the time, although I was listed to poorest man in the Senate for 36 years, but I still made more money than most people because Senate salaries kept going up. And what happened was my dad got sick and he was in hospice, so Jill and I took my dad home and we took care of him in our house. But we were lucky because I have a sister who’s an angel and a brother who’s a wonderful guy. And we all took turns in our house taking care of him. But here’s the deal: right now under Medicaid, there are 860,000, I think it’s 860. Don’t hold me to the exact number.
President Biden: (09:41)
It’s over 800,000 who qualify for home healthcare aid for their parents, but there’s no money there. There’s no money there. So what we do is we provide the funding for Medicaid to allow you to be able to keep, if your parents had their home, keeping them in their home if you want it, or get help in your home with home care from professionals helping you take care of them. And in many cases where you’re not taking care of them in your own home and they’re staying in their home. You’re going to be able to have the ability to have someone come in and make their meals for them. They don’t have to be there 24/7.
President Biden: (10:18)
So there’s a lot of things we’re doing. In addition to the process, we’re going to be able to train up those home care workers who are usually minority women and women of color, as well as immigrants. And they have the capacity to learn more as they go along to move to the point where they can become practical nurses and things like that. So it makes a lot of sense and it’s cheaper than it is to not do it.
Anderson Cooper: (10:42)
One of the other things that Democrats are looking to do is to expand Medicare, to include dental, vision and hearing as well. Given all the negotiations that are going on will all three of those still be covered?
President Biden: (10:55)
That’s a reach. And the reason why it’s a reach … I think it’s a good idea. And it’s not that costly in relative terms, especially if we allowed Medicare to negotiate drug prices. But here’s the thing, Mr. Manchin is opposed to that as is, I think Senator Sinema is opposed-
Anderson Cooper: (11:16)
Opposed to all of them?
President Biden: (11:17)
Opposed to all three, because he says he doesn’t want to further burden Medicare so that because it will run out of its ability to maintain itself in X number of years. There’s ways to fix that, but not interested in that part either. But look, Joe’s not a bad guy, he’s a friend and he is always the end of the day, come around and voted for it. But here’s the point: we’re in a situation now where if you are in a circumstance that you’re not able to provide … Let me cut to the chase, I’m taking too long.
President Biden: (11:55)
One of the things we’re able to do in the meantime is the most expensive of these things would be dental. Now we’re talking about, I don’t have a deal on it yet, maybe getting an $800 voucher from Medicare for dental or that you may need. And the hearing is a very important thing because as Kyrsten Sinema, who supports this points out, hearing is directly related to dementia. When you can’t hear, you have a problem and it impacts on dementia. And it’s cheaper to be able to take care of the hearing. But I think I’ve been able to take care of that without changing Medicare, because what’s happening is now you have these hearing aid companies, you’re no longer going to have to go to the doctor and spend five grand and get … you can go and buy Walgreens and buy over the counter hearing aids. The harder one though, is we haven’t gotten a consensus yet on how to deal with seeing and glasses. So it’s not done yet, is the answer.
Anderson Cooper: (13:02)
All right. I want to get into the question. And this is Ben Frederick. Ben is a realtor, lifelong resident of Baltimore. He’s an independent serves on the Maryland Multi Housing Association-
President Biden: (13:12)
By the way, Ben, the Bidens all hail for in Baltimore beginning in 1850. I don’t know how the hell they kicked me out, but I’m [crosstalk 00:13:19].
Anderson Cooper: (13:20)
Ben, what’s your question?
Ben Frederick: (13:21)
IRS status shows that the top 5% of income earners pay 60% of the income taxes in this country. I hear you repeatedly say that the wealthy are not paying their fair share of income taxes. What is the percentage of income that you believe is fair?
President Biden: (13:38)
Well, I think what’s fair is that the present tax code, the highest tax rate is 35%, number one. Number two, you’re in a circumstance where corporate America is not paying their fair share, and I come from the corporate state of the world, Delaware. More corporations in Delaware than every other state in the Union combined. Now here’s the deal though: you have 55 corporations, for example, in the United States of America, making over 40 billion, don’t pay a cent, not a single little red cent. Now, I don’t care, I’m a capitalist. I hope you can be a millionaire or a billionaire, not a problem, but at least pay your fair share. Chip in a little bit.
Anderson Cooper: (14:22)
Well, let me follow up because Kyrsten Sinema, who you mentioned, Senator Sinema is opposed to any tax rate hikes for corporations and for high earners. Speaker Pelosi suggested today, she could accept that. Question is A, would you accept that? No rate tax rate hikes for corporations or high earners? And if so, how would you pay for this plan otherwise?
President Biden: (14:45)
Look, here’s the deal. The corporate tax rate was 37%. Barack and I thought it should come down. We thought it should come down to 28%. In the process, it came down to 21% under Trump, which even the corporate leaders, and you know if you’re in real estate, major real estate, ask them, they know they should be paying a little more than 21%. Because the idea that if you’re school teacher and a firefighter, you’re paying at a higher tax rate than they are as a percentage of your taxes. But here’s the deal: I believe that we can pay for this whole thing. I have it written in a card here, but I won’t bore you with the detail. But for example, if you, in fact, made sure that you paid a minimum 15%, that’s over almost 400 billion over 10 years.
Anderson Cooper: (15:37)
So you would be willing to go along with what Senator Sinema, and it seems like Speaker Pelosi is willing to consider, no tax hike for corporations or for high earning individuals?
President Biden: (15:46)
Here’s what I’m willing to do. I’m willing to make sure that we pay for everything without an anyone making less than $400,000 paying a single cent more in taxes. That’s my objective. And so there’s ways to do that. For example, you covered it on your show, the minimum international tax at 15%.
Anderson Cooper: (16:04)
But actual rate hikes?
President Biden: (16:06)
No, I don’t think we’re going to be able to get the vote. Look, when you’re in the United States Senate, and you’re President of the United States and you have 50 Democrats, every one is a president.
President Biden: (16:20)
Every single one. So you got to work things out. But where I am is I’ll turn on the news and I’ll hear that, “Biden’s caved on such a …” Look, Biden’s a simple proposition. Biden’s going to get all the elements of these two bills have profound impact on economic growth, reduce not create inflation, don’t add a penny to the debt as well as grow the economy. I have 17 Nobel laureates in economics sent me a letter recently saying that my proposals were, would actually reduce inflation, diminish. But here’s the point: the point of it all is that I can’t think of anything that was consequential and changing the circumstance for the middle class and working class in America that came as a consequence of a single piece of legislation.
President Biden: (17:11)
I’ve got a portrait of Roosevelt to my office. Social Security is not anything like it is today when he passed it, it evolved, it moved, it grew. So I’m prepared to do the things that can get done now that can begin to change the lives of ordinary Americans to give him a fighting chance and come back and try to get others later.
Anderson Cooper: (17:31)
Let’s talk about another one of those things. This is Sandra Gutman, an English professor at Loyola University, also a Democrat. Sandra, what’s your question?
President Biden: (17:40)
And by the way, you got another English professor who teaches writing here.
Sandra Gutman: (17:44)
Thank you for taking my question, Mr. President. We’ve heard in the news that the proposal for two years of free community college may be cut from your economic package. An educated citizenry is absolutely crucial to solving complex problems like climate change and the systematic inequities in this country. We hope that this is not cut from the package, but if it is, what can you do to ensure that all Americans can get the education that they need to face these issues?
President Biden: (18:21)
First of all, professor, you made a very profound point, I’m not being sarcastic. And that is, and Jill uses a slightly different phrase, any country that out educates us will out compete us. Any country that without educates us will I’ll compete us. You have the vast majority of the 37 major countries in the world, economies, we rank 35 in our investment in education. We’re in a situation where, if you think about it, what caused us to move ahead and dominate the 20th century in the late 1900s and the early 1900s, late 1890s, we came up, we said, “12 years of free education.”
President Biden: (19:03)
… we came up, we said, 12 years of free education. That was revolutionary at the time. I mean, seriously.
President Biden: (19:08)
Now, if we were sitting down today and saying, “Oh, we got to put together an education system,” raise your hand if anybody thinks 12 years is enough to compete in the 21st century?
President Biden: (19:16)
So, that’s why what I propose is: free school for every three and four-year-old in America, no matter what their background.
President Biden: (19:27)
All the data shows that no matter what home they come from, they increase exponentially their prospects of succeeding all the way through 12 years of school. You know all the statistics.
President Biden: (19:38)
The statistics go that if you come from a home where there’s no books in the home and a single mom or a single dad, they’re not well educated, they don’t talk a lot, the kid from the average middle-class home versus that home will go to school having heard 1 million more words spoken than the child who didn’t. A gigantic disadvantage.
Anderson Cooper: (19:58)
Mr. President, the question was on community colleges-
President Biden: (20:02)
No, I know. I’ve-
Anderson Cooper: (20:03)
… which was a big campaign promise that you made. You talked about that a lot on the campaign trail.
President Biden: (20:08)
Yeah, and I’m going to get it done. And if I don’t, I’ll be sleeping alone for a long time.
President Biden: (20:14)
But here’s the deal: So far, Mr. Manchin and one other person has indicated they will not support free community college. So what I think we can get done is we can significantly increase the amount of money by 500 bucks a payment for Pell Grants. And Pell Grants are available, and they can apply for up to 30% of the cost of community college and/or college help tuition.
President Biden: (20:45)
So, it’s not going to get us there. It’s not going to get us the whole thing, but it is a start.
President Biden: (20:50)
I’m convinced, absolutely, positively convinced that we’re going to be able to… By the way, we have in the legislation, money for community colleges dealing with apprenticeships, dealing with teaching people particular skills that will not get you a two-year degree but will teach you the skill. So, I think we can get all of that done this time out.
President Biden: (21:18)
But I promise you, I guarantee you, we’re going to get free community college in the next several years and across the board.
Anderson Cooper: (21:25)
What was that conversation when you realized you weren’t going to be able to get it in this bill at this time, and you had dinner with Dr. Biden that night, what was that conversation like? How did you break that news?
President Biden: (21:38)
Well, the White House has a lot of bedrooms. And she went like this. Down the hall.
Anderson Cooper: (21:45)
President Biden: (21:45)
No, look, it really makes a gigantic difference. And think of this: You have more countries in the world providing college… I mean, providing professional education beyond 12 years. We rank like, I think it’s… Don’t hold me to the number. I think it’s 16 or 17 in the world. The United States of America, for God’s sake. This is about putting us in the game.
Anderson Cooper: (22:14)
This is John Meche. He’s a doctoral candidate at Morgan State University and an independent. John, welcome. What’s your question?
President Biden: (22:19)
Where are you?
Anderson Cooper: (22:19)
John Meche: (22:19)
Kobi Khong: (22:19)
I know all these Morgan men, man.
Kobi Khong: (22:28)
I’ve spoken there a couple times. And, by the way, the guy who runs my operation is a… Anyway. I keep talking about Delaware State, but they keep saying about Morgan State. You know what I mean?
John Meche: (22:39)
John Meche: (22:42)
President Biden, I had so much faith in your election win, but based on history, the bipartisan efforts of the Democratic Party are held hostage by rogue moderates and Republicans. Why not do like the Republicans and usher through the Democratic agenda?
President Biden: (22:59)
Well, two reasons. If you notice, the Republicans haven’t passed a single, solitary thing. Zero. So ushering through their agenda, their agenda right now is just stop Biden, although I shouldn’t make it so personal. Stop my administration. That’s what the agenda is. It’s much easier to stop something than to start something.
President Biden: (23:24)
And look, what we did is, when I wrote… I’m going to back up just a second. I apologize. Personally, during the campaign, before I got elected, I wrote the infrastructure bill relating to what we do to highways and all that kind of thing. Hard data. And I wrote what’s now called the care economy piece and has a gigantic piece of environmental pieces in it too.
President Biden: (23:52)
I went before the joint session of Congress, and I laid out exactly what I was for. And so, I made it clear what I was for. Initially what happened was, I got no support for anything from our Republican friends. And then they said, “Maybe we can work out a bipartisan deal on infrastructure.” And we did. We worked on it. It didn’t give me everything I wanted. It didn’t have as much money in there for the environment, although it has tens of billions of dollars in there, but didn’t have what I wanted in it. But we made a bipartisan deal.
President Biden: (24:22)
Now, what’s coming along is this reconciliation, they call it a fancy word, for the other pieces that have the childcare pieces, have the economy that relates to allowing people, women to go back to work. It has about $450 billion for environmental remediation, and so on.
President Biden: (24:44)
And that’s the one that is the issue.
Anderson Cooper: (24:47)
Well, let me ask you, just getting to his question. We’ve talked a lot about Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema. You seem relatively confident you can get Senator Manchin on board.
Anderson Cooper: (24:58)
There’s a lot of Democrats in the House and Senate who are confused about where Senator Sinema actually stands on things. And I know she’s been negotiating directly with you and the White House. What is your read on her? Obviously, you need her to remain positive in your direction, so I don’t know what you’re going to say, but what is your read on her? Do you know where she stands?
President Biden: (25:20)
First of all, she’s smart as the devil, number one. Number two, she’s very supportive of the environmental agenda in my legislation, very supportive.
President Biden: (25:31)
She’s supportive of almost all the things I mentioned, relating to everything from family care to all those issues.
President Biden: (25:39)
Where she’s not supportive is she says she will not raise a single penny in taxes on the corporate side and/or on wealthy people. Period.
President Biden: (25:48)
And so, that’s where it sort of breaks down, and there’s a few other issues it breaks down on. But what we’re trying to do is reach a point here where I’m able to present to the Senate, they’re able to vote on, and the House, a serious, serious piece of legislation that changes the dynamic for working-class folks in America and middle-class folks, and begins to have the very wealthy and corporations just begin to pay their fair share, not a lot.
President Biden: (26:18)
How we get there, we’re down to four or five issues, which I’m not going to negotiate on national television, as you might guess.
Anderson Cooper: (26:25)
We’d be interested-
President Biden: (26:25)
No, no, no.
Anderson Cooper: (26:25)
… in hearing them, if you want.
President Biden: (26:27)
No, no, no. I know. But, all kidding aside, I think we can get there.
Anderson Cooper: (26:32)
You talked about the environmental piece. You said Senator Sinema is on board with that. Certainly, Senator Manchin is not. It gets to our next question.
Anderson Cooper: (26:40)
This is from Kobi Khong. He’s originally from Anaheim, California. He’s a Sophomore Class President at Johns Hopkins University, a Democrat.
Anderson Cooper: (26:47)
Kobi, what’s your question?
President Biden: (26:52)
Kobi Khong: (26:52)
One of the largest issues that people have trouble comprehending the severity of is climate change. Many legislators and politicians today are lenient, as they won’t have to live with the future effects. Without the legislative support for the climate aspects of your budget proposal and the earth rapidly approaching the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees limit, what other backup plans do you have to ensure a future for the next generations?
President Biden: (27:22)
Mr. President, you got it right. The existential threat to humanity is climate change. And when President Trump pulled out of the Paris Accord, which, when I was with the Obama administration, we helped negotiate, the agreement was that we could not… If we reached beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in temperature, we’re gone. Not a joke. Not a joke.
President Biden: (27:48)
And so, we decided that… He pulled out. First thing I committed to do is rejoin that accord, number one.
President Biden: (27:56)
But number two, number two, what you have to do is you look at… There’s multiple ways in which we can deal with climate. I’m going off to COP26 in Scotland in… I don’t know, I guess it’s two weeks or a week. I’m losing track of time.
President Biden: (28:15)
And I’m presenting a commitment to the world that we will, in fact, get to net-zero emissions on electric power by 2035 and net-zero emissions across the board by 2050 or before. But we have to do so much between now and 2030 to demonstrate what we’re going to… that we’re going to do.
President Biden: (28:35)
Let me give you a couple examples.
Anderson Cooper: (28:36)
Let me just follow up, though, very quickly on that, because the key climate provision that was in the Build Back Better plan, as you call it, the Clean Electricity Performance Program, that’s been dropped now from this spending bill. Reported-
President Biden: (28:51)
No, it hasn’t.
Anderson Cooper: (28:51)
It has not?
President Biden: (28:52)
No, it hasn’t. Look-
Anderson Cooper: (28:52)
But Senator Manchin is opposed to that.
President Biden: (28:54)
He’s opposed to it, but here’s the deal. That is only one of well over, well over a trillion dollars’ worth of expenditures for climate change. It’s $150 billion. It’s important.
President Biden: (29:06)
And what it says is that if, in fact, the utility doesn’t pull back and continue to reduce the amount of carbon that they admit, that what will happen is they will end up paying a penalty. And so, there’s a penalty incurred.
President Biden: (29:21)
Joe Manchin’s argument is: Look, we still have coal in my state. You’re going to eliminate it eventually. We know it’s going away. We know it’s going to be gone, but don’t rush it so fast that my people don’t have anything to do.
President Biden: (29:33)
I think that’s not what we should be doing, but the fact of the matter is we can take that $150 billion, add it to the $320 billion that’s in the law now that he’s prepared to support for tax incentives, tax incentives to have people act in a way that they’re going to be able to do the things that need to be do. For example, if you got windows that are the wind is blowing through, you get an incentive to put new windows in your home. You get help, get it paid.
President Biden: (30:06)
We’re going to significantly reduce the cost of solar panels on your roof. We’re going to continually… And, for example, there’s new battery technologies that are being… I went out in Silicon Valley; there’s a battery that’s about that wide and about that thick. If you have solar power, you put that in your basement and if the sun doesn’t shine for seven days, you still have all the power you need.
Anderson Cooper: (30:27)
But the concession has been agreed to for Senator Manchin-
President Biden: (30:30)
No, no, no.
Anderson Cooper: (30:30)
… about coal in his state. Is that true?
President Biden: (30:32)
Nothing has been formally agreed to. The negotiation is: I’ve been saying to Joe, “Look, I’ll take… If we don’t do it in terms of the electric grid piece, what we’ll do is, give me that $150 billion. I’m going to add it to be able to do other things that allow me to do things that don’t directly affect the electric grid in the way that there’s a penalty, but allow me to spend the money to set new technologies in place.”
President Biden: (31:03)
For example, we can save significant amounts of money and, as a consequence of that, significant amounts of energy, if in fact, we are able to put the high-tension wires underground. It costs a hell of a lot more to do it. It creates real good jobs; it creates a hell of a lot more to do it. But, in fact, it would do a lot to keep things from happening that are dangerous. Half the forest fires out West are those towers coming down, setting fires, et cetera.
President Biden: (31:33)
So there’s a lot of things Joe is open to my convincing him that I can use it to increase environmental progress without it being that particular deal.
Anderson Cooper: (31:45)
We’re going to take a quick break. When we get back, we got a lot more questions for President Biden.
Anderson Cooper: (31:49)
And welcome back. We are live at a CNN Town Hall event in Baltimore, Maryland, with President Joe Biden.
Anderson Cooper: (31:49)
So, before we get to our next question, I want to just bring up the current labor market shortages. Millions of jobs are unfilled, businesses are struggling to meet demand. Is there anything you can do to either encourage people to go back to work or make jobs more attractive that they want to go back to work? Is there a role for the federal government?
President Biden: (32:28)
First of all, we’ve created more jobs in the first eight months of my administration than any president in American history, total number of jobs created.
President Biden: (32:38)
But the problem for the people not going back to work is twofold. Number one, they’re reluctant to go back to work because they’re afraid of COVID, many of them. So they don’t want to go back and they don’t want to be exposed to either the customers because they’re not required to wear masks or not required to have shots, or they don’t want to go back because they’re not sure of the people waiting on them at the table, or the people coming up in the food market. So, a lot of it has to do with COVID. Number one.
President Biden: (33:09)
Number two, and that’s why we were able to go from… When I first was elected, there were only 2 million people who had COVID shots in the United States of America, had the vaccine. Now we got 190 million, because I went out and bought everything I could do, and buy in sight, and it worked. But here’s the deal: The second thing, the second thing that has happened, Anderson, is that people are now using this as an opportunity to say, “Wait a minute, do I want to go back to that $7-an-hour job?”
President Biden: (33:40)
I won’t name the particular restaurant chain, but they found out when they couldn’t hire anybody. When they found out, they started to pay 20 bucks an hour, everybody wanted to go back to work. Not a joke.
President Biden: (33:53)
So what you see is wages are actually up for those who are working, because for the first time in a long time, employees are able to bargain. “You’re the boss? You want me to work for you? What are you going to pay me? How are you going to do it?” I’m not being facetious.
President Biden: (34:08)
The third thing that’s out there is there’s a circumstance that exists where people are really worried about what they’re going to do… I mean, how can I say this?
President Biden: (34:21)
How many people do you know, and maybe some in this audience, who because of what you’ve been through, a loss of a husband, wife, brother, mother, father, son, whatever, or you’ve had something that’s really impacted you with COVID that you really find yourself just down? I mean just down. And so, there’s a lot of people who are just down. They’re not sure how to get back in the game. They’re not sure whether they want to get back in the game.
President Biden: (34:50)
Think of this. If you’re graduating from Morgan State, okay? Well, guess what? You didn’t have those great dances the last four years that you’d had before you went out at Morgan. No, I’m not joking. Graduated from high school, you don’t have your prom, you don’t have your graduation, you don’t have all the things that matter to people that go into things they look forward to. So, a lot of it has to do with us getting back on our feet and getting back on our feet in terms of our attitudes about what the future looks like for us.
Anderson Cooper: (35:24)
What do you say to someone who’s down? Because-
President Biden: (35:26)
What I say-
Anderson Cooper: (35:26)
… there’s a lot of people watching tonight who are.
President Biden: (35:27)
Well, there are. And I tell you what. There’s plenty of help. Look, being down, having some problem in terms of needing some advice, if you have a broken spirit, it’s no different than a broken arm. You shouldn’t be ashamed of it. You should seek the help. There’s a lot of people who can help. But I really mean it. I’m not saying that’s the whole problem, but I’m saying it is an element in terms of attitude about people, what they want.
President Biden: (36:01)
Look, how often I get asked the question, “What’s Christmas going to be like? How about Thanksgiving? Is it going to be okay? I mean, what’s going to happen? I mean, how will I be able to buy gifts for my kids?” There’s a lot of anxiety people have.
Anderson Cooper: (36:16)
Yeah. I want to ask a question along the lines of concern about Christmas and holidays and the supply chain.
Anderson Cooper: (36:21)
Anna Hirsch is here, a student at Loyola University, who is originally from Connecticut. She’s a Democrat. Anna, what’s your question?
President Biden: (36:28)
Anna Hirsch: (36:31)
President Biden, growing up in a small town, I’ve been surrounded by small-business owners, including my mom who owns her own interior design business. With the current supply chain crisis, small businesses are in jeopardy of not being able to get products that they need because priority is given to large businesses. Does your administration have any policies or plans in place to aid the current supply chain problem and/or to help small businesses that are affected by this?
President Biden: (36:53)
Yes on both, but you have it exactly right. We have a significant supply chain problem. In the Obama-Biden administration, all of American businesses made sense. It was just on time. You wanted to make sure that you didn’t waste any money and/or time between producing whatever you’re producing and having it done. That’s how you saved money. You didn’t buy the material six months ahead of time and then keep it in your inventory and then… It was on time.
President Biden: (37:28)
Now, that’s a big problem. People can’t do it. They want to get out ahead. What I’ve recently done, and people said, doubted we could get it done. I was able to go to the private… 40% of all products coming into the United States of America on the West Coast go through Los Angeles and… What am I doing here?
Anderson Cooper: (37:54)
Is it Long Beach or?
President Biden: (37:55)
Long Beach. Thank you.
President Biden: (37:56)
And I know both the mayors. So I went to them and I said, “What can we do?” So I met with… And they’re privately owned, these ports-
President Biden: (38:03)
What can we do? And they’re privately owned, these ports, these two. So I met with the business people. I met with all their major customers, the Walmarts of the world, and all the rest of … There are 70 ships waiting out there, unable to get unloaded. And because the longshoreman don’t always get along with the business folks in there, I have a relationship with them, and I brought them together. And I said, “You got to be open 24/7.” No port there was open five days a week, 40 hours a week. 24/7. They’ve all agreed to it. They’ve agreed to it.
Anderson Cooper: (38:38)
Would you consider the National Guard to help with the supply chain issue?
President Biden: (38:41)
Yes. Absolutely. Positively. I will do that. But in addition to that, what you got to do is you got to get these ships in and unloaded. And one of the things in my infrastructure plan, there’s $16 billion for port expansion. We have to be able to move things along, because what’s happening is when a product your mother may need free for interior design in terms of drapery or colors or something that is imported from somewhere else. Well guess what a lot of these places, particularly in South Asia, are closing down because of COVID, the business is just flat closing.
Anderson Cooper: (39:17)
So would you consider the National Guard for trucking? Because there’s a lot of problems with not enough truck drivers right now.
President Biden: (39:23)
Yes. And that’s why what we’re doing now-
Anderson Cooper: (39:25)
Do you have a timetable for them?
President Biden: (39:27)
Well, I have a timetable to … First of all, I want to get the ports up and running and get the railroads and the railheads and the trucks in port, ready to move, because I’ve gotten Walmart and others to say, “We’re going to move stuff off of the port, into our warehouses. We’re [crosstalk 00:39:43]-
Anderson Cooper: (39:43)
You’re actually talking about having National Guard’s men and women driving trucks?
President Biden: (39:47)
The answer is yes, if we can’t move … increase the number of truckers, which we’re in a process of doing. If we did it at this moment, we’re not … But the whole point is we’ve got to get to small business as well, because the big guys are in trouble. And a lot of the product that your mother makes, the products, the thing she does in her interior design building, the material she buys from the larger outfits. I assume. I don’t know that. My whole point is small businesses need to help badly. Small businesses make up 60% of all the revenue coming from business out there.
Anderson Cooper: (40:23)
I want to bring in Linda Harris. She’s from Elkridge, Maryland. She’s a software project manager, Democrat. Linda, what’s your question?
Linda Harris: (40:30)
Hey, President Biden.
President Biden: (40:31)
Linda Harris: (40:32)
My middle-class family of four lives on a pretty tight budget. My husband and I both work full-time at well-paying jobs, but we still struggle some months to make the ends meet. With rising gas prices and utility prices and grocery prices, we’re feeling our discretionary income gets squeezed and reduce. What plans does the administration have to help ease this kind of current crunch we’re feeling?
President Biden: (40:54)
Well, there’s a number of things that have already been done, and it’s hard, and people don’t think about it. The American Rescue Plan has provided for an awful lot, the $1.9 billion we passed, right after I got elected. So what you got is you got that $1,400 check in the mail. You got a lot of things that help ameliorate some of the concerns and costs, because we knew what we were coming into. We knew we had inherited the wind and things were going to get worse before they got better.
President Biden: (41:24)
But in terms of being able to have what my dad used to say, a little breathing room, just a little … My dad busted his neck. He didn’t have a good paying job. My dad was a well-read high school educated guy, who thought his greatest sin in the world was he didn’t get to go to college. But my dad was one of those guys that worked like hell, come home for dinner. And then he’d go back and finish up work and close the shop. And the whole point of it was that all we want to give … All he talked about is, “Joey, all I need is just a little breathing room, a little space, a little space.”
Anderson Cooper: (42:02)
Let me ask you about that, just in terms of inflation, because you had told us at a town hall, I think it was in July, that it was just near-term inflation. The Wall Street Journal recently talks of 67 financial experts who said that they saw high inflation going all the way or deep into 2022. Do you think it’s going to last for awhile?
President Biden: (42:24)
I don’t think so. I don’t think it will last, depending on what we do. If we stay exactly where we are, yes. If we don’t make these investments, yes.
Anderson Cooper: (42:33)
What about gas prices? Because sometimes we’re seeing-
President Biden: (42:35)
Gas prices relate to a foreign policy initiative that is about something that goes beyond the cost of gas. We’re about three 30 a gallon, most places now, when it’s down in the single digits, I mean, a dollar plus. And that’s because of the supply being withheld by OPEC. And so, there’s a lot of negotiation that is … There’s a lot of Middle Eastern folks who want to talk to me. I’m not sure I’m going to talk to them. But the point is it’s about gas production. There’s things we can do in the meantime though.
Anderson Cooper: (43:14)
Do you have a timeline for gas prices, of when do you think they may start coming down?
President Biden: (43:18)
My guess is you’ll start to see gas prices come down as we get by and going into the winter … I mean, excuse me, into the next year in 2022. I don’t see anything that’s going to happen. In the meantime, it’s going to significantly reduce gas prices.
President Biden: (43:33)
But for example, for natural gas to heat your home, since winter is coming, there’s a lot of … What people don’t realize. We put in billions of dollars in what they call LIHEAP. LIHEAP is the provision whereby you’re able to get funding from the federal government based upon your need to heat your home and is subsidized in a significant way. And there’s billions of dollars. We have passed in the legislation I got passed in March of this year, because we anticipated that would be a problem as well. But the answer ultimately is, ultimately, meaning the next three or four years, is investing in renewable energy.
President Biden: (44:12)
What I was able to do by … By the way, I really … I mean, I’m being literally when I say this, what was able to do when I ran, and you remember Anderson, because I was on your show a couple of times. And the issue was whether or not I could ever get the labor unions to support my environmental programs. And I went out and I went to the IBW as well to the auto workers. And I laid out my plan. They fully embraced it. Why? Because now … And I spent time at General Motors and other companies, and I got General Motors … I didn’t get them. General Motors decided after a long time spent talking to me, they were suing California because at a higher standard mileage standard, they dropped the suit and agreed that they would be 50% electric vehicles by 2030, by 2030.
President Biden: (45:07)
And now you have all three major manufacturers saying the same thing. So what’ll happen is you’re going to see a dramatic drop, a dramatic drop, in what’s going to happen in terms of gas prices as we go into the next two or three years, even if we’re not able to break the monopoly price keeping it up because … Anyway, so there’s … I must tell you, I don’t have a near term answer. There’s two things I could do. I could go into the petroleum reserve and take out and probably reduce the price of gas, maybe 18 cents or so a gallon. It’s still going to be above three bucks. And one of the things that I refuse to have happen, because I didn’t want anybody …. I made a commitment. If you pass the stuff I’m talking about, not one single penny in tax would go against anybody making less than 400 grand.
President Biden: (46:04)
And so, if you notice, these highway bills are not paid for by gas tax, they’re paid for by direct expenditures in other areas. So the average person doesn’t have to pay more, but it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be hard. There’s a possibility to be able to bring it down. Depends on a little bit on Saudi Arabia and a few other things that are in the offing.
Anderson Cooper: (46:26)
Let me take a quick break. We’ll have more from President Joe Biden.
Anderson Cooper: (46:28)
Welcome back to our CNN Town Hall with President Joe Biden. Got a lot more questions to get to. I want to introduce Neijma Donnor, a professor and social worker at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She’s an independent and mother of two young boys. We’re going to be talking about COVID. Neijma, what’s your question.
Neijma Donnor: (46:54)
Thank you for taking my question. President, when will the vaccines for young children be ready? And how accessible will they be once released?
President Biden: (47:03)
I believe, and I want to make it clear, unlike past administrations, science will dictate this. I’m not telling anyone … No, I really mean it. But I do ask my COVID team what the expectations are. The expectations are to be ready in the near term, meaning weeks, not months and months. Okay? That’s number one.
President Biden: (47:28)
Number two, there are over 800,000 sites right now that exists in America, where you can go get a vaccine. And you’re going to be able to do that with your children. Particularly, we’re going to try to work it out to deal with childcare centers, make it available there as well as your pediatricians and the docs and finding places where you can do it. Some places are talking about doing that in churches on the weekend and that kind of thing. So there’ll be plenty of places to be able to get the vaccine if and when it is approved.
President Biden: (48:05)
And it’s likely to be approved. I’ve spent a lot of time with the team on these things. It’s likely to be approved. And whether it’s Moderna, or whether it’s Pfizer, or whether it’s J & J, it’s going to be approved. And it’ll be much smaller dose, the same dose with a smaller dose. And they’re doing a lot of tests on it right now. And those of you who have children or brothers or sisters who are in that age category above 12, get the vaccine for them. Get the vaccine. Get it now
Anderson Cooper: (48:39)
Let me ask you, Mr. President … Mr. President-
President Biden: (48:44)
By the way, there’s two famous guys in this audience here I just noticed, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and the mayor. Holy mackerel. This a busman’s holiday for you guys, having to come and hear me, but thank you.
Anderson Cooper: (49:07)
Mr. President, [inaudible 00:49:07] me ask you about that. As many as one in three emergency responders in some cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, right here in Baltimore, are refusing to comply with city vaccine mandates. I’m wondering where you stand on that. Should police officers, emergency responders be mandated to get vaccines? And if not, should they be stay at home or let go?
President Biden: (49:29)
Yes. Yes. By the way, I waited until July to talk about mandating, because I tried everything else possible. The mandates are working. All this stuff about people leaving and people [inaudible 00:49:51]. You have everyone from United Airlines to … All these airlines, we’re not going to get … All 96, 97% of the people have gotten the vaccine. All the talk about all these folks who are going to leave the military, if they’re mandated. Not true. You got about a 90 some percent vaccination rate.
President Biden: (50:11)
The idea is that look, the two things that concern me, one are those who just try to make this a political issue. Freedom. I have the freedom to kill you with my COVID. Come on, freedom. Number one, number two. The second one is the gross misinformation that’s out there, like what they’re saying about my buddy, Colin Powell.
President Biden: (50:41)
And he was my friend, passed away. Colin Powell was vaccinated, and he still died. Well, he knew he had serious underlying conditions, and it would be difficult. He clearly would have been gone earlier, had he not gotten the vaccine, had he not gotten the shots. But my generic point is there’s so much misinformation.
President Biden: (51:02)
You know what I find fascinating? I turn on Fox to find out how popular I am, but-
Anderson Cooper: (51:09)
How are you doing there?
President Biden: (51:10)
I’m doing very well. I think I’m at 3% favorable. But all kidding aside, one of the things I find, you realize they mandate vaccinations?
Anderson Cooper: (51:20)
At Fox headquarters?
President Biden: (51:21)
Yeah. I find that mildly fascinating.
Anderson Cooper: (51:25)
President Biden: (51:26)
Anderson Cooper: (51:28)
I want to bring in Thaddeus Price from … This is Thaddeus Price that from Randallstown, Maryland. He’s a program coordinator at Morgan State University and [inaudible 00:51:44]. Thaddeus, Welcome.
Thaddeus Price: (51:49)
Good evening, Mr. President. You received overwhelming support from the black community and rightfully so, rightfully so. But now many of us are disheartened, as we watch a Congress fail to support police reform. We watch our voting rights vanish before our very eyes. Mr. President, my question is what will you do over the next three years to rectify these atrocities, secure our democracy and ensure that freedoms and liberties that all Americans should be entitled to?
President Biden: (52:38)
First of all, you’ve stated the proposition accurately, in my view. I did get overwhelming support from the African-American community. Only folks in Maryland understand Delaware is the eighth largest black in America, as a percent of population. It’s been a source of my support. The only folks that helped me more than black men are black women. I tell you what my greatest regret is. My greatest regret is I have these had these three major pieces of legislation that are going to change the circumstances for working-class folks and African-Americans as well, that I’ve been busting my neck trying to pass. But what it’s done is prevented me from getting deeply up to my ears, which I’m going to do once this is done, in dealing with police brutality, dealing with the whole notion, of what are we going to do about voting rights? It’s the greatest assault on voting rights in the history of United States, for real, since the Civil War.
Thaddeus Price: (53:39)
President Biden: (53:41)
For example, when I was in the chair, when I was chairman of the judiciary committee, I thought I had done something really important. And I was able to get passed and extended the Voting Rights Act for 25 years and get everyone on that committee, including the Southern Senator from South Carolina and others, to vote for it. I thought we had moved. The point I’m making is this. We’re in a terrible place right now. And so, when this gets done … And in the meantime, here’s what I’ve done. I have the authority to deal with federal law enforcement. So federal law enforcement, we’ve issued mandates. No choke holds number one. Make sure that we’re going to be able to have no no-knock warrants in a position, where we’re going to be able to see to it that we are able to go look at, and we’re doing it in four cities right now, patterns of abuse and patterns of misconduct of police departments, making sure that we have access to police records in terms of what’s happening to this. A lot I’ve been able to do by executive order, in essence.
Anderson Cooper: (54:47)
Let me ask, on voting rights. If it is as important to you, as you say, I think there’s a lot of Democrats who look at the filibuster and would like to see it changed, even if it’s just on this one case. Why do you oppose that?
President Biden: (55:04)
By the way, I think they make a very good point. Here’s the deal.
President Biden: (55:11)
If in fact, I get myself into, at this moment, the debate on the filibuster, I lose at least three votes right now, to get what I have to get done on the economic side of the equation, the foreign policy side of the equation. So what I have said … You’re shaking your head, no, but let me tell you something, Jack, it’s the truth. Number one. Number two, number two, what I have for proposed in the meantime is it used to be the filibuster, the way it worked, and we have 10 times as many, more than that, times the filibuster has been used since 1978.
President Biden: (55:53)
It used to be, you had to stand on the floor and exhaust everything you had. And when you gave up the floor and someone else sought the floor, they had to talk until they finished. You’re only allowed to do it a second time. After that, it’s over, you vote, somebody moves for the vote. I propose we bring that back now immediately.
President Biden: (56:13)
But I also think we’re going to have to move to the point, where we fundamentally alter the filibuster. The idea that for example, my Republican friends say that we’re going to default on the national debt because they’re going to filibuster that and we need 10 Republicans to support it, is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard. I think you’re going to see unless they get pulled again, I think you’ll see an awful lot of Democrats being ready to say, “Not me. I’m not doing that again. We’re going to end the filibuster.” But it still is difficult to end the filibuster beyond that. That’s another issue.
Anderson Cooper: (56:54)
Are you saying once you get this current agenda passed on spending and social programs …
Anderson Cooper: (57:03)
Asked on spending and social programs that you would be open to fundamentally altering the filibuster or doing away with it?
President Biden: (57:10)
Well that remains to be seen exactly what that means in terms of fundamentally altering it, whether or not we just end the filibuster straight up. There are certain things that are just sacred rights. One’s a sacred obligation that we’re never going to renege on a debt we’re in the only nation in the world. We have never ever reneged on on a single debt.
Anderson Cooper: (57:31)
But when it comes to voting rights-
President Biden: (57:32)
Voting rights uniquely is consequential.
Anderson Cooper: (57:35)
When it comes to voting rights, just so I’m clear though, you would entertain the notion of doing away with the filibuster on that one issue. Is that correct?
President Biden: (57:43)
And maybe more.
Anderson Cooper: (57:44)
And maybe other issues. Okay, just a short time ago, the full house voted to hold former Trump ally, Steve Bannon, current Trump ally as well, in criminal contempt of Congress. A week ago, you said the department of justice should prosecute those who defied subpoenas from the January 6th committee. Was that appropriate for you to weigh in on?
President Biden: (58:11)
No, the way I said it was not appropriate. I said, “They asked me, would I?” Do I think that they should be prosecuted for not showing up at the committee. And I said yes. Now I made a commitment, one of the things I was committed to do when I ran was reestablish the reputation and integrity of the justice department. It has become the most… It was corrupted under the last administration. I should have chose. My words were wisely. I did not, have not, and will not pick up the phone and call the attorney general and tell him what he should or should not do in terms of who he should prosecute. But I answered the question honestly, and I think that anyone who does not respond to that kind of question from a legitimate committee in the house of representatives of the United States Senate should be held accountable. So that’s as much as I can say without coming and looking like I’m telling… I have yet to talk to the attorney general about anything.
Anderson Cooper: (59:25)
The attorney general put out a statement saying that they would make the decision on their own.
President Biden: (59:28)
And they will. I guarantee that.
Anderson Cooper: (59:30)
You’ve decided not to exert executive privilege to shield the former president in the house’s investigation to January 6th. Why?
President Biden: (59:37)
Well again, I’m leaving that to them to tell me what… And it’s not a blanket. I will not release the information. It’s I’m asking him to take a look at what is legitimate, what would legitimately fall in the position that future president’s authority would be compromised by that. And what is, I don’t think there’s much legitimacy in the claim. So that’s being looked at right now.
Anderson Cooper: (01:00:00)
We’re going to take another quick break. We’ll have more with president Joe Biden.
President Biden: (01:00:03)
How much more time…
Anderson Cooper: (01:00:08)
And welcome our seated town hall with President Joe Biden. We’re taking questions from the audience on a range of topics. I want to bring in Megan Crawford from Towson, Maryland. She’s a law student at the University of Baltimore and a Republican. Megan, welcome.
Megan Crawford: (01:00:26)
Throughout your campaign, you’ve criticized former President Trump for his treatment of illegal immigrants and the Southern border. Given that has nearly been a year into your campaign. Why haven’t you been to the Southern border of our country? And why did your stance on allowing immigrants suddenly revert to Trump era policies?
President Biden: (01:00:45)
Well they’re legitimate questions. Number one, the remain in Mexico policy, which I oppose, the court said I had to maintain it, so we’re repealing it. That’s one of the reasons why we haven’t changed it. We have made a gigantic change. There were over 5,000 children, children in the custody of the border patrol. There are now 504. We are making more progress than you think and we have a circumstance where one of the things that is going to bear fruit, I believe, is I put together a program when I was a Senator and the vice president helping initiate it now where we provide for funding to change the circumstances on the ground in the countries and central America. For example, you’re in a circumstance where people don’t just sit around their hand you in table and say, “I’ve got a great idea. Let’s sell everything we have, give it to a coyote. Then take us across the border, drop us in the desert, a place they don’t want us. Won’t that be fun?”
President Biden: (01:01:54)
People do it because they’re desperate. They’re desperate. And what I’ve been trying to do, and I’m trying to do in this legislation as well is get funding so we have funding for immigration officers to be able to hear cases immediately of whether or not they justify having asylum granted to them. We don’t have that.
Anderson Cooper: (01:02:15)
You have kept in place, under public health authority known as title 22, which is a Trump error policy, which allows immediate or very quick return to people who have crossed over the border based on COVID protocol.
President Biden: (01:02:29)
Yes, and we’ve maintained that because of the continued extent of COVID in those countries from which people are coming. It’s very, very high. And so we’ve maintained the policy. We are not sending back children. We send back adults and we send back large families, but we don’t send back children in that circumstance. And so that’s why I have a proposal to provide for over a billion doses of COVID vaccine to the rest of the world, including a significant portion to Latin and Central America.
Anderson Cooper: (01:03:10)
Do you have plans to visit the Southern border?
President Biden: (01:03:12)
I’ve been there before and I know it well, I guess I should go down. But the whole point of it is I haven’t had a whole hell lot of time to get down. I’ve been spending time going around looking at the $900 billion worth of damage done by hurricanes and floods and weather and traveling around the world. Now my wife Jill has been down, she’s been on both sides of the river. She’s seen the circumstances there. She’s looked into those places. You notice you’re not seeing a lot of pictures of kids lying on top of one another with tarps on top of them. We’ve been able to deal that we’ve been able to significantly increase funding through the HHS, health and human services, to provide shelter for these kids and people, but there’s much more to be done.
President Biden: (01:04:11)
And I realize, it’s a thing that concerns the most about being able to get control of it because I’ve got to, number one, get enough funding to provide for immediate determination of whether or not someone that is in fact legitimately claiming a right to stay in the country because of legitimate fears and if purely for economic reasons to get in line, but not get in the country. So what we’re doing is bringing a lot of folks are coming in and they’re doing ankle bracelets instead of people being sent back, depending on whether or not their claim appears to be legitimate.
Anderson Cooper: (01:04:51)
Let me ask you about two other issues in the news. In less than two weeks, Minneapolis voters are going to decide whether or not to replace the police to department in Minneapolis with what they would call a public safety department. What do you think of it?
President Biden: (01:05:04)
Well it depends what they mean by that. Look, I grew up in a neighborhood-
Anderson Cooper: (01:05:09)
They said the public safety department would have a more comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions of public safety and could include licensed peace officers, police officers.
President Biden: (01:05:20)
Well it could. I think you need police officers. I think we need police officers to protect us. I think they have to be under certain circumstances, but I think we have to provide for them more opportunities… I call for more money for police to go to community policing as well as dealing with additional help for psychologists and others working with the police departments.
Anderson Cooper: (01:05:43)
You’ve never been a fan of defunding police.
President Biden: (01:05:46)
No, I haven’t. I’ve never supported it, but I have been a fan of controlling police and making sure they’re held accountable. They’re two different issues. And one of the things… Look, when we had community policing initially in the late ’90s, violent crimes dropped significantly, significantly. And the reason it did is because we had significant number of police. What I did, I eliminated the LEAA funding, law enforcement assistance act, and I put in place the proposal that required community policing. What that meant was if you were… This is going to take a second, but it’s important if. What that meant, if your city had authorized police force of 100 people, you could not take the money for community policing and fire 50 people and rehire 50 so now you just had the federal government paying for half, and you didn’t increase the number of police.
President Biden: (01:06:38)
You had to increase the number of police beyond your whatever… So I remember my son Bo was the chief law enforcement officer of the state of Delaware as attorney general in the state of Delaware. And he used to do what I did. He’d go down the east side where you can find the best basketball in the city, every town has those places. And he’d sit there on the bench with my son, my grandson Hunter, who’s now 16, who was then five sit on the bench and he’d get to know these guys and he’d walk over and he knock on the window of a police car that was sitting there, the cop not getting out of the car and said, “Get the hell out of the car and meet these folks.” No, I’ll give you one example. What we required initially was every community policeman, there were two assigned… They were assigned in groups of two.
President Biden: (01:07:26)
They had to know the neighborhood. I remember getting a call, you’ve been to Delaware. You go down that road. As you’re heading down to the station, Martin Luther king Boulevard, there’s a woman who lived in one of those apartments in the second floor that sort of had an outcropping. It was a Victorian, it was a two story place. But the cops made sure she had their phone number. So when the drug deal was going down, she’d pick up the phone and call and say to the police officer with a cell phone that the drug deals going down, knowing she would never be fingered, knowing that she would never be the one told it happened. And so crime began to drop. They had to know who the local liquor store, they had to know and walk in and shake hands with the local minister. They had to know… That’s community policing.
President Biden: (01:08:11)
Let me try to get in a couple other questions from our audience, but before we do, just another quick news question. New York City is removing a statute of Thomas Jefferson from its legislative chamber because of Jefferson’s history as a slave holder. Do you support that decision?
President Biden: (01:08:26)
Well I think that’s up to the locality to decide what they want to do on that. Look, there’s a lot of people that have no social redeeming value historically, and there’s others who have made serious mistakes in terms of what exists now in terms of what we should be talking about, but have done an awful lot. And so the very thing, for example, I just spoke at the Martin Luther King dedication and I pointed out that we were right across from the Lincoln Memorial and then the Jefferson Memorial and what are we doing? I talked about how they said we’re unique in all the world as a nation. We’re the only nation founded on an idea. We hold these truths to be self evident that all men and women are created equal. No nation has ever been founded on an idea. Have we ever lived up to it? No, but it’s a pretty big idea that somebody wrote that down and got the rest of the country to agree to it. So it depends. It depends.
Anderson Cooper: (01:09:33)
Let me bring in Glen Niblo, a student at Loyola University, originally from Connecticut, he’s a Republican Glen, welcome.
President Biden: (01:09:39)
Where in Connecticut are you from.
Glen Niblo: (01:09:41)
President Biden: (01:09:41)
Glen Niblo: (01:09:44)
China just tested a hypersonic missile. What will you do to keep up with them militarily and can you vow to protect Taiwan?
President Biden: (01:09:52)
Yes and yes. We are… Militarily, China, Russia, and the rest of the world knows we have the most powerful military in history of the world. Don’t worry about whether they’re going to be more powerful, what you do have to worry about is whether or not they’re going to engage in activities will put them in a position where they may make a serious mistake. And so I’ve spoken and spent more time with Zi Xing Ping than any other world leader has. That’s why you hear people saying, ” Biden wants to start a new cold war with China.” I don’t want a cold war with China I just want to make China to understand that we are not going to step back, we are not going to change any of our views.
Anderson Cooper: (01:10:39)
So are you saying that the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense if China attacked?
President Biden: (01:10:44)
Yes, we have a commitment to do that.
Anderson Cooper: (01:10:46)
All right, we’re going to take another quick break. We’ve got more questions from the audience. We’ll be right back. Welcome back, we are live with President Joe Biden here in the city of Baltimore. In the few minutes we have left, the country lost, and I know you lost somebody who you consider a close friend, general Colin Powell. What’s something about him that people didn’t know.
President Biden: (01:11:09)
He had enormous integrity. They knew that, but he’s one of the few serious, serious players I’ve dealt with over these years. When he made a mistake, he acknowledges it. He said, “I was wrong about that.”
Anderson Cooper: (01:11:23)
That’s rare these days.
President Biden: (01:11:24)
No, it’s rare. It’s been rare. It’s rare in human nature for someone in a powerful position to say they are wrong, they are wrong. “I made a mistake.” That’s a hard thing to do. And I’ve had to do about a half a dozen times lately, but all kidding aside. And the second thing about him was he had a lot of serious… He had real compassion. I’ll tell you afterwards, but because we only have a few minutes, he and I went out to the secret service racetrack. He had a brand new Corvette his kids bought him and I have a ’67 327 350. And we raced, we raced. And the only reason… I’m serious, it was on Jay Leno. Check it out. Jay Leno Live. He’s a hell of a guy.
Anderson Cooper: (01:12:11)
President Biden: (01:12:13)
Well I won only because he was worried I was going to crash into him because I don’t have posi traction. So I was burning rubber the whole way out there and I could see him going, “Whoa.”
Anderson Cooper: (01:12:24)
All right, so just my final question is you famously, at the signing ceremony I think it was for Obamacare, you famously leaned in to the then president and I’m not going to say a direct quote, but off mic you said, “This is a big effing deal.” And I’m wondering the build back better plan, is it a bigger effing deal than that?
President Biden: (01:12:57)
60 seconds, we got in the car to go over to the department of education after we did that.
Anderson Cooper: (01:13:03)
Oh, I thought you were talking about drag racing still.
President Biden: (01:13:05)
No, no. He got in the car and he was laughing like hell. I said, “What’s so damn funny?” He told me, I whispered in his ear this way. I look to see where it was, “And this is a big deal.” And I didn’t realize the guy behind me was lip reading. You could see it. No, I’m serious. The answer is, yes, this is bigger. No, it is bigger, not because what he did wasn’t enormous. He broke the ice. Enormous. But part of what I have in here is we also increased access to the affordable care act and we reduced the price in average of 60 bucks a month for anyone who’s in the affordable care act. Plus on top of that, we have another $300 billion worth of healthcare in it. So I would say this is a bigger darn deal.
Anderson Cooper: (01:13:52)
Mr. President, thank you very much. Appreciate your time. We want to thank our audience for being here and for their questions. We also want thank Baltimore Center Stage for hosting us. [crosstalk 01:14:08] primetime starts right now.