Mar 25, 2021
President Joe Biden First White House Press Conference Transcript March 25
President Joe Biden held his first formal press conference as president on March 25, 2021. He answered questions on immigration and conditions at migrant facilities on the southern border, as well as COVID relief, gun reform, and more. Read the transcript of his news briefing speech here.
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Joe Biden: (00:56)
Please, please sit down. Thank you. Thank you. Good afternoon. Before I take questions, I want to give you a progress report to the nation on where we stand 65 days into office here on vaccinations and a few other top priorities for the American people. First on vaccinations. On December 8th, I indicated that I hoped to get 100 million shots in people’s arms in my first 100 days. We met that goal last week by day 58, 42 days ahead of schedule. Now, today I’m setting a second goal and that is, we will, by my 100th day in office, have administered 200 million shots in people’s arms. That’s right, 200 million shots in 100 days. I know it’s ambitious, twice our original goal, but no other country in the world has even come close, not even close to what we are doing. And I believe we can do it.
Joe Biden: (02:05)
And today, we made a historic investment in reaching the hardest hit and the most vulnerable communities, the highest risk communities as a consequence of the virus by investing an additional $10 billion in being able to reach them. I also set a goal before I took office of getting a majority of schools in K through Eight fully open in the first 100 days. Now, thanks to the enormous amount of work done by our administration, educators, parents, local, state education officials and leaders, a recent Department of Education survey shows that nearly half of the K through Eight schools are open now full-time, five days a week for in-person learning. Not yet a majority, but we’re really close, and I believe in the 35 days left to go, we’ll meet that goal as well. As, of yesterday, more than 100 million payments of $1,400 have gone into people’s bank accounts. That’s real money in people’s pockets, bringing relief instantly almost. And millions more will be getting their money very soon.
Joe Biden: (03:24)
One final note, since we passed the American Rescue Plan, we’re starting to see new signs of hope in our economy. Since it was passed, a majority of economic forecasters have significantly increased their projections on the economic growth that’s going to take place this year. They’re now projecting it will exceed 6%, a 6% growth in GDP. And just this morning, we learned that the number of people filing for weekly unemployment insurance fell by nearly 100,000 persons. This is the first time in a year the number’s fallen below the pre-pandemic high. So there are still too many Americans out of work, too many families hurting, and they still have a lot of work to do. But I can say to you, the American people, help is here and hope is on the way. Now, I’ll be happy to take your questions. Zeke at the Associated Press.
Thank you, Mr. President. You mentioned your progress on COVID-19. I’d like to ask you about some of the other issues facing your Presidency. One of the defining challenges you face in the coming months is how to deliver on your promise to Americans on issues like immigration reform, gun control, voting rights, climate change. All of those right now are facing stiff united opposition from Republicans on Capitol Hill. How far are you willing to go to achieve those promises that you made to the American people?
Joe Biden: (05:12)
Well, look, when I took office, I decided that it was a fairly basic simple proposition, and that is, I got elected to solve problems and the most urgent problem facing the American people I stated from the outset was COVID-19 and the economic dislocation for millions and millions of Americans. And so that’s why I put all my focus in the beginning, there were a lot of problems, but all my focus on dealing with those particular problems. And the other problems we’re talking about from immigration to guns and the other things you mentioned are longterm problems. They’ve been around a long time, and what we’re going to be able to do, God willing, is now began one at a time to focus on those as well, and whether it’s immigration or guns or a number of other problems that face the country.
Joe Biden: (06:17)
But the fundamental problem is getting people some peace of mind so they can go to bed at night and not stare at the ceiling, wondering where they lost their health insurance, whether they’re going to lose some family member, whether they’re going to be in a position where they’re going to lose their home, because they can’t pay their mortgage, or the millions of people who are going to get thrown out of their homes because of the inability to pay the rent. So we’re going to move on these one at a time, try to do as many simultaneously as we can, but that’s the reason why I focused as I have. And here’s the deal, I think my Republican colleagues are going to have to determine whether or not we want to work together or they decide that the way in which they want to proceed is to just decide to divide the country, continue the politics of division. But I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to move forward and take these things as they come.
A follow-up, Mr. President. Can your presidency be a success if you can’t make progress on those four challenges, climate change, immigration reform, gun control, voting rights?
Joe Biden: (07:34)
Well, I plan on making progress on all of them, but that’s going to be for the American people to decide. I doubt whether maybe you did, maybe others did. I thought many of you thought there was no possibility of my getting the plan I got passed, passed without any Republican votes. Pretty big deal. Got passed. Growing economy. People’s lives are changing. So let’s see what happens. All I know, I’ve been hired to solve problems, to solve problems, not create division. Okay. How about, Yamiche?
Thanks so much, Mr. President. You’ve said over and over again that immigrants shouldn’t come to this country right now. This isn’t the time to come. That message is not being received. Instead, the perception of you that got you elected as a moral decent man is the reason why a lot of immigrants are coming to this country and entrusting you with unaccompanied minors. How do you resolve that tension and how are you choosing which families can stay and which can go given the fact that even though with Title 42 there are some families that are staying? And is there a timeline for when we won’t be seeing these overcrowded facilities run by CPB when it comes to unaccompanied minors?
Joe Biden: (08:55)
Well, look, I guess I should be flattered people are coming because I’m the nice guy. That’s the reason why it’s happening, that I’m a decent man or however it’s phrased, that that’s why they’re coming, because they know Biden’s a good guy. Truth of the matter is, nothing has changed. As many people came, a 28% increase in children to the border in my administration, 31% in the last year, in 2019, before the pandemic in the Trump administration. It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. It happens every year. In addition to that, there is a …. And by the way, does anybody suggest that there was a 31% increase under Trump because he was a nice guy and he was doing good things at the border? That’s not the reason they’re coming.
Joe Biden: (09:57)
The reason they’re coming is that it’s the time they can travel with the least likelihood of dying on the way because of the heat and the desert, number one. Number two, they’re coming because of the circumstances in country, in country. The way to deal with this problem, and I started to deal with it back when I was Vice President putting together a bipartisan plan of over $700 million to do the root causes of why people are leaving. What did Trump do? He eliminated that funding. He didn’t use it. He didn’t do it. And in addition to that, what he did, he dismantled all the elements that exist to deal with what had been a problem and has been continued to be a problem for a long time. He, in fact, shut down the number of beds available. He did not fund HHS to get people to get the children out of those Border Patrol facilities, where they should not be, and not supposed to be more than a few days, a little while.
Joe Biden: (11:04)
But he dismantled all of that, and so what we’re doing now is attempting to rebuild the system that can accommodate what is happening today. And I’d like to think it’s because I’m a nice guy, but it’s not. It’s because of what’s happened every year. Let me say one other thing on this. If you take a look at the number of people are coming, the vast majority, the overwhelming majority of people coming to the border and crossing are being sent back, are being sent back. Thousands, tens of thousands of people who are over 18 years of age and single people, one at a time coming, have been sent back, sent home. We’re sending back the vast majority of the families that are coming. We’re trying to work out now with Mexico their willingness to take more of those families back. That’s what’s happening. They’re not getting across the border. And those who are coming across the border who are unaccompanied children, we’re moving rapidly to try to put in place what was dismantled, as I said.
Joe Biden: (12:15)
For example, of all the children who are coming across the border, over 70% are either 16 or 17 years old. We’re not talking about people ripping babies from mothers arms or a little three-year old standing on the border, less than I think it’s one and a half percent fall in the category of the very young. So what we’re doing is we’re providing for the space again to be able to get these kids out of the border patrol facilities, which no child, no one should be in any longer than 72 hours. And today I went to, for example, I used all the resources available to me went to the Defense Department and the Secretary of Defense has just made available Fort Bliss, 5,000 beds. Be immediately available, 5,000 beds on the Texas border.
Joe Biden: (13:08)
So we’re building back up the capacity that should have been maintained and built upon that Trump dismantled. It’s going to take time. And the other thing we’re doing, I might add, am I giving you too long an answer, because if you don’t want the detail. No, no, but I mean, I don’t know how much detail you want about immigration. Maybe I’ll stop there.
My follow-up question is, one, if you could talk a little bit about which families, why they’re being allowed to stay, what the families that are being allowed to stay, why they’re being allowed to stay. In addition to that, when it comes to the filibuster, which is what Zeke was asking about, immigration is a big issue, of course, related to the filibuster, but there’s also Republicans who are passing bill after bill trying to restrict voting rights. Chuck Schumer’s calling it in an existential threat to democracy. Why not back a filibuster rule that at least gets around issues, including voting rights or immigration? Jim Clyburn, someone, of course, who you know very well has backed the idea of a filibuster rule when it comes to civil rights and voting rights?
Joe Biden: (14:16)
Well, look, I’m going to deal with all of those problems. The question is, the priorities as they come and land on my plate. Let’s go to the first question you asked, the first of the second questions you’ve asked, and that is, what about dealing with families? Why are some not going back? Because Mexico is refusing to take them back. They’re saying they won’t take them back, not all of them. We’re in negotiations with the President of Mexico. I think we’re going to see that change. They should all be going back, all be going back. The only people we’re not going to let sitting there on the other side of the Rio Grande by themselves with no help are children. And what we’re doing there, and it’s important point to understand, I know you understand it, I don’t mean to say it that way, an important point to focus on, the vast majority of people under the age of 18 coming to the United States come with a telephone number on a wristband or come with a telephone number in their pocket in the United States.
Joe Biden: (15:21)
A mother, a father, a close relative, a grandma, or grandpa. What was happening before is it’s taking literally weeks and weeks and maybe even months before anybody’d pick up the phone and call to see if there really was someone there. Well, we’ve set up a system now where within 24 hours there’s a phone call made as that person, that child crosses the border. And then a verification system being put in place as of today to determine quickly whether or not that is a trafficker being called, or that is actually a mom, a dad and or a close relative. They’re establishing that right off the bat if it in fact is mom or-
Joe Biden: (16:03)
Establishing that right off the bat. If it in fact is mom or dad. Dad says, to take the extreme case, “I got a birth certificate.”J Then guess what? We’re getting that kid directly to that parent immediately. And so that’s going to reduce significantly. There’s two ways to reduce child populations in circumstances that are not acceptable, like being held at a border patrol station. One is to get them to the place where they have a relative and set a date as to when the hearing can be held. The second way to do it is put them in a health and human services facility that we’re occupying now, both licensed beds around the country that exists, as well as, for example, federal resources like Fort Bliss, to get them safely in a place where they can be taken care of while they’re fate is determined.
Speaker 1: (17:02)
[inaudible 00:17:02] filibuster.
Joe Biden: (17:02)
Filibuster. Filibuster. With regard to the filibuster, I believe we should go back to a position of the filibuster that existed just when I came to the United States Senate 120 years ago. And that is that it used to be required for the filibuster… And I had a card on this. I was going to give you the statistics, but you probably know them. That it used to be that from between 1917 and 1971, the filibuster existed, there were a total of 58 eight motions to break the filibuster, that whole time. Last year alone, there were five times that many. So it’s being abused in a gigantic way. And for example, it used to be, you had to stand there and talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapsed. And guess what? People got tired of talking and tired of collapsing. Filibusters broke down and were able to break the filibuster, get a [inaudible 00:18:05] vote.
Joe Biden: (18:06)
So I strongly support moving in that direction, in addition to having an open mind about dealing with certain things that are just elemental to the functioning of our democracy, like the right to vote, like the basic right to vote. We’ve amended the filibuster in the past. But here’s the deal. As you observed, I’m a fairly practical guy. I want to get things done. I want to get them done consistent with what we promised the American people. And in order to do that in a 50 50 Senate, we’ve got to get to the place where I get 50 votes so that the Vice President of the United States can break the tie, or I get 51 votes without her.
Joe Biden: (18:52)
And so I’m going to say something outrageous. I’ve never been particularly poor at calculating how to get things done in the United States Senate. So the best way to get something done, if you hold near and dear to you that you like to be able to… Anyway, we’re ready to get a lot done. And if we have to, if there’s complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we’ll have to go beyond what I’m talking about. Okay. Hang on. Sorry. Oh, [inaudible 00:19:36], Ms. Kim.
Ms. Kim: (19:36)
Thank you, Mr. President. To follow up on the filibuster, so do you believe it should take 60 votes to end a filibuster on legislation or 51?
Joe Biden: (19:51)
If we can ed with 51, we would have no problem. You’re going to have to… The existing rule… It’s going to be hard to get a parliamentary ruling that allows 50 votes to end the filibuster, the existence of a filibuster. But it’s not my expertise on what the parliamentary rules on how to get there are. But our preoccupation with the filibuster is totally legitimate. But in the meantime, we got a lot we can do while we’re talking about what we’re going to do with about the filibuster. Let me get here. Okay. Cecilia Vega.
I’d like to circle back to immigration, please. You just listed the reasons that people are coming, talking about in-country problems, saying that it happens every year. You blamed the last administration, sir. I just got back last night from a reporting trip to the border where I met nine-year-old Josevs who walked here from Honduras by himself along with another little boy. He had that phone number on him and we were able to call his family. His mother says that she sent her son to this country because she believes that you are not deporting unaccompanied minors like her son. That’s why she sent him alone from Honduras. So, sir, you blamed the last administration, but is your messaging and saying that these children are and will be allowed to stay in this country and work their way through this process, encouraging families like Josevs to come?
Joe Biden: (21:31)
Well, look, the idea that I’m going to say, which I would never do, if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border, we’re just going to let them starve to death and stay on the other side, no previous administrations did either, except Trump. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it. That’s why I’ve asked the Vice President of United States yesterday to be the lead person on dealing with focusing on the fundamental reasons why people leave Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador in the first place. It’s because of earthquakes, floods. It’s because of lack of food. It’s because of gang violence. It’s because of a whole range of things, that when I was Vice President, had the same obligation to deal with unaccompanied children. I was able to get it slowed up significantly by working with the heads of state of those communities, to do things like, in one of the major cities, the reason people were leaving as they couldn’t walk to the street because their kids were getting beat up or shot or in gang violence.
Joe Biden: (22:44)
Well, what I was able to do is not give money to the head of state, because so many are corrupt, but I was able to say, “Okay, you need lighting in the streets to change things? I’ll put the lighting in.” We got a contractor. We got the type of lighting. We paid directly to the contractor, did not go through the government. And violent crime significantly was reduced in that city. Fewer people sought to leave. When this hurricane occurred, the two hurricanes, instead of us going down and helping in a major way so that people would not have a reason to want to leave in the first place because they didn’t have housing or water or sustenance, we did nothing.
Joe Biden: (23:25)
We’re going to do a lot in our administration. We’re going to be spending that 700 plus million dollars a year to change the life and circumstances of why people leave in the first place. That mother did not sit around on the kitchen table and say, “I got a great idea. The way I’m going to make sure my son gets taken care of is I’m going to put a…” How was he or she?
He’s nine. I also met a ten year old.
Joe Biden: (23:54)
“A nine year old. I’m going to send him on a thousand mile journey across the desert and up to the United States, because I know Joe Biden’s a nice guy and he’ll take care of him.” What a desperate act to have to take. The circumstances must be horrible. So we can do something about that. That’s what the Vice President’s going to be doing, what I did when President Obama asked me to come and deal. I was in Turkey at the time. He said, “You got to come home and take care of this.” So we put together a plan and it had an impact. And so the question here is whether, how we go ahead and do this, what we do. There’s no easy answer.
A quick follow, if I may. Do you want to see these unaccompanied minors staying in this country? Or should they be deported eventually?
Joe Biden: (24:50)
Well, the judgment has to be made whether or not, and in this young man’s case, he has a mom. There’s an overwhelming reason why he’d be put in a plane and flown back to his mom.
Final follow, sir. You mentioned circumstances that must be horrific. The customs and border protection facility in Donna, Texas, I was there, is that 1,556% capacity right now with mostly unaccompanied minors. There are kids that are sleeping on floors. They are packed into these pods. I’ve spoken to lawyers who say that some of these children have not seen the sun in days. What is your reaction to these images that have come out from that particular facility? Is what’s happening inside acceptable to you? And when is this going to be fixed?
Joe Biden: (25:40)
That’s a serious question, right? Is that acceptable to me? Come on. That’s why we’re going to be moving 1,000 of those kids out quickly. That’s why I got Fort Bliss opened up. That’s why I’ve been working from the moment this started to happen to try to find additional access for children to be able to safely, not just children, but particularly children, to be able to safely be housed while we follow through on the rest of what’s happening. That is totally unacceptable. Ken.
Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to ask you about Afghanistan. You face a May 1st deadline for the withdrawal of us troops from that country. As a candidate in foreign affairs, you wrote that it is past time to end these forever wars. Can you commit to the American people that by May 2nd, the US will no longer have forces in Afghanistan?
Joe Biden: (26:46)
The answer is that it’s going to be hard to meet the May one deadline, just in terms of tactical reasons. It’s hard to get those troops out. So what we’ve been doing, what I’ve been doing, and what Secretary Blinken has been doing has been, we’ve been meeting with our allies, those other nations that have NATO allies who have troops in Afghanistan as well. And if we leave, we’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way. We’re in consultation, I say, with our allies and partners and how to proceed, and Secretary Blinken is meeting in Brussels this week with our NATO allies, particularly those who have forces there. And General Austin just met with Kayani and I’m waiting for the briefing on that. He is the leader, quote, in Afghanistan and Kabul.
Joe Biden: (27:44)
And there’s a UN led process that’s beginning shortly on how to mechanically get people… How to end this war. But it is not my intention to stay there for a long time. But the question is how, and in what circumstances do we meet that agreement that was made by President Trump to leave under a deal that looks like it’s not being able to be worked out to begin with? How’s that done? But we are not staying a long time.
You just said, “If we leave.” Do you think it’s possible that we-
Joe Biden: (28:23)
We will leave. The question is when we leave.
Sorry. Do you believe though, it’s possible we could have troops there next year?
Joe Biden: (28:33)
I can’t picture that being the case. Okay. Kristen.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. Given the conditions that were just laid out at the migrant facilities at the US border, will you commit to allowing journalists to have access to the facilities that are overcrowded moving forward?
Joe Biden: (29:03)
I will commit when my plan very shortly is underway to let you have access to not just them, but to other facilities as well.
How soon will journalists be able to have access to the facilities? We’ve obviously been allowed to be inside one, but we haven’t seen the facilities in which children are packed together to really give the American people a chance to see that. Will you commit to transparency on this issue?
Joe Biden: (29:30)
I will commit to transparency, as soon as I am in a position to be able to implement what we’re doing right now. One of the reasons I haven’t gone down, my chief folks have gone down, is I don’t want it to become the issue. I don’t want to be bringing all the Secret Service and everybody with me to get in the way. So this has being set up and you’ll have full access to everything once we get this thing moving.
Okay. And just to be clear, how soon will that be Mr. President?
Joe Biden: (30:02)
I don’t know, to be clear.
[inaudible 00:30:07] responsibility for everything that’s happening at the border now. I hear you talking a lot about the past administration. You decided to roll back some of those policies. Did you move too quickly to roll back-
Joe Biden: (30:17)
To roll back what, I’m sorry?
Did you move too quickly to roll back some of the executive orders of your predecessor?
Joe Biden: (30:25)
First of all, all the policies that were underway were not helping at all, did not slow up the amount of immigration, and as many people coming. And rolling back the policies of separating children from their mothers? I make no apology for that. Rolling back the policies have remaining in Mexico, sitting on the edge of the Rio Grande in a muddy circumstance with not enough to eat? I make no apologies for that. I make no apologies for ending programs that did not exist before Trump became president that have an incredibly negative impact on the law, international law, as well as on human dignity. And so I make no apologies for that.
[inaudible 00:31:12] ask you about foreign policy, Mr. President. Overnight, we learned that North Korea tested two ballistic missiles. What, if any, actions will you take? And what is your red line on North Korea?
Joe Biden: (31:29)
Let me say that number one, UN Resolution 1718 was violated by those particular missiles that were tested, number one. We’re consoling with our allies and partners. And there will be responses if they choose to escalate. We will respond accordingly. But I’m also prepared for some form of diplomacy, but it has to be-
Joe Biden: (32:03)
Form of diplomacy, but it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization. So that’s what we’re doing right now, consulting with our allies.
And just a very quick follow-up-
Joe Biden: (32:16)
You only got another hour now, okay?
Diplomacy, can you define what you mean? And former President Obama warned the incoming President trump that North Korea was the top foreign policy issue that he was watching. Is that how you assess the crisis in North Korea?
Joe Biden: (32:33)
Yes. Okay. Hang on a second here. Nancy, CBS?
Thank you very much, Mr. President. I want to go back to voting rights. And as Yamiche mentioned, Republican legislatures across the country are working to pass bills that would restrict voting, particularly, Democrats fear, impacting minority voters and young voters, the very people who helped to get you elected in November. Are you worried that if you don’t manage to pass voting rights legislation, that your party is going to lose seats and possibly lose control of the House and the Senate in 2022?
Joe Biden: (33:19)
What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It’s sick. It’s sick. Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line waiting to vote, deciding that you’re going to end voting at five o’clock when working people are just getting off work, deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances, it’s all designed, and I’m going to spend my time doing three things. One, trying to figure out how to pass the legislation passed by the House, number one, number two, educating the American public.
Joe Biden: (34:06)
The Republican voters I know find this despicable, Republican voters, the folks outside this White House. I’m not talking about the elected officials. I’m talking about voters. Voters. And so I’m convinced that we’ll be able to stop this because it is the most pernicious thing. This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle. I mean, this is gigantic what they’re trying to do and it cannot be sustained. I’m going to do everything in my power, along with my friends in the House and the Senate, to keep that from becoming the law.
Is there anything else you can do about it besides passing legislation?
Joe Biden: (34:53)
The answer is yes, but I’m not going to lay out a strategy in front of the whole world and you now.
Then, on a related note, have you decided whether you are going to run for reelection in 2024? You haven’t set up a reelection campaign yet as your predecessor had by this time.
Joe Biden: (35:09)
My predecessor needed to. My predecessor, oh God, I miss him. No, the answer is yes, my plan is to run for reelection. That’s my expectation.
And on one other note, on bipartisanship, your old friend, Mitch McConnell, says you have only spoken to each other once since you took office and that you have moved far left since taking office. Do you see it the same way he does? Have you rejected bipartisanship?
Joe Biden: (35:39)
No, I haven’t at all. I’ve been meeting… When’s the last time a president invited the opposite party down at least a half a dozen times to talk about issues, everything from how we work? We’re working with a group of 20 members of the Senate right now and House on how we reestablish our ability to make computer chips and how we get ahead of the game, how we can work together. And we’re working together on a bunch of things.
Joe Biden: (36:04)
But look, I know Mitch well, Mitch knows me well. I would expect Ms to say exactly what he said, but this is a matter of making sure that I would like Republican, elected Republican support, but what I know I have now is I have electoral support from Republican voters. Republican voters agree with what I’m doing. And so unless Mitch says the last thing I did, this last piece of legislation is so far left, well, then you ought to take a look at his party. Over 50% of them must be over that edge as well because they support what I did.
Joe Biden: (36:47)
Okay. Where am I here? Let me see. Caitlin?
Thank you very much, Mr. President. I have a question for you, but first I’d like to follow up on a question from Yamiche, and that’s on the filibuster.
Joe Biden: (37:02)
That counts as a question, but go ahead.
Okay. I’ll make it quick. It’s a good question.
Joe Biden: (37:08)
No, no you can.
Regarding the filibuster, at John Lewis’ funeral, President Barack Obama said he believed the filibuster was a relic of the Jim Crow era. Do you agree?
Joe Biden: (37:17)
And if not, why not abolish it if it’s a Relic of the Jim Crow era?
Joe Biden: (37:28)
Successful electoral politics is the art of the possible. Let’s figure out how we can get this done and move in the direction of significantly changing the abuse of even the filibuster rule first. It’s been abused from the time it came into being by an extreme way in the last 20 years. Let’s deal with the abuse first.
It sounds like you’re moving to eliminating the filibuster. Is that correct?
Joe Biden: (38:01)
I answered your question.
You also just made some news by saying that you are going to run for reelection.
Joe Biden: (38:08)
I said that is my expectation.
So is that a yes, that you are running for reelection?
Joe Biden: (38:12)
Look, I don’t know where you guys come from, man. I’ve never been able to travel. I’m a great respecter of fate. I’ve never been able to plan four and a half, three and a half years ahead for certain.
And if you do run, will Vice President Harris be on your ticket?
Joe Biden: (38:26)
I would fully expect that to be the case. She’s doing a great job. She’s a great partner. She’s a great partner.
And do you believe you’ll be running against former President Trump?
Joe Biden: (38:35)
Oh, come on. I don’t even think about it. I have no idea. I have no idea whether there’ll be Republican party. Do you? I know you don’t have to answer my question, but I mean, you know, do you?
Joe Biden: (38:47)
I mean, look, the way I view things, I’ve become a great respecter fate in my life. I set a goal that’s in front of me to get things done for the people I care most about, which are hard-working decent American people really having it stuck to them. I want to change the paradigm. I want to change the paradigm where we start to reward work, not just wealth. I want to change the paradigm.
Joe Biden: (39:14)
If you notice, didn’t you find it kind of interesting that my Republican friends were worried about the cost and the taxes that had to be had, if there is any tax to be had as they talk about it, in dealing with the act that we just passed which puts money in people’s pockets, ordinary people, to hear them complain when they passed a close to $2 trillion Trump tax cut, 83% going to the top 1%. Do you hear them talk about that at all?
Joe Biden: (39:47)
I love the fact that they found this whole idea of concern about the federal budget, it’s kind of amazing. When the federal budget is saving people’s lives, they don’t think it’s such a good idea. When the federal budget is feathering the nest of the wealthiest Americans, 90 of the Fortune 500 companies making billions of dollars, not paying a cent in taxes, reducing taxes to the point that people who are making, you know, if you’re a husband and wife, a school teacher and a cop, you’re paying at a higher rate than the average person making a billion dollars a year is. Something’s wrong. There are new found concern. I’m concerned.
Joe Biden: (40:35)
Look, I meant what I said when I ran, and a lot of you still think I’m wrong and I respect that. I said I’m running for three reasons, to restore the soul, dignity, honor, honesty, transparency to the American political system, two, to rebuild the backbone of this country. The middle-class, hard-working people and people struggling to get in to the middle class, they built America and unions built them. The third reason I said I was running was to unite the country. And generically speaking, all of you said no, you can’t do that. Well, I’ve not been able to unite the Congress, but I’ve been united in the country, based on the polling data. We have to come together. We have to.
Joe Biden: (41:26)
So from my perspective, to me, it’s about just getting out there, putting one foot in front of the other and just trying to make things better for people, just hard-working people, people who get up every morning and just want to figure out how to put food on the table for their kids, to be able to have a little bit of breathing room, being able to make sure that they go to bed not staring to see like my dad did wondering whether, since he didn’t have health insurance, what happens if mom gets sick or he got sick. These are basic things, basic things. And I’m of the view that the vast majority of people, including registered Republicans by and large share that same view, that same sense of what’s appropriate.
Joe Biden: (42:18)
Justin, Justin [inaudible 00:42:24], Bloomberg.
Thanks, Mr. President, I wanted to ask about your relationship with China now that you’ve been in office for a couple of months. There’s obviously the meeting in Alaska that was a little theatrical and there’s the continued human rights [inaudible 00:42:39]. So today I’m wondering are you more likely than you were when you came into office to maintain tariffs on China? Are you considering banning imports of forced labor products? And would you consider cutting off US investment or Chinese access to international payment systems?
Joe Biden: (42:58)
Well, look, they’re each specifically legitimate questions, but they only touch a smidgen of what the relationship with China really is about. I’ve known Xi Jinping for a long time. Allegedly by the time I left office as Vice President, I had spent more time with Xi Jinping than any world leader had because President Obama and the Chinese President Hu decided we should get to know one another since it was inappropriate for the president of United States to spend time with the vice president of another country, but it was obvious he was going to become the new leader of China.
Joe Biden: (43:46)
So I spent hours upon hours with him alone with an interpreter, my interpreter and his, going into great detail. [inaudible 00:43:56] very, very straightforward. He doesn’t have a democratic with a small D bone in his body, but he’s a smart, smart guy. He’s one of the guys like Putin who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future and democracy can’t function in an ever complex world.
Joe Biden: (44:17)
So when I was elected and he called to congratulate me, I think to the surprise of the China experts who were his people on the call as well as mine listening, we had a two hour conversation for two hours, and we made several things clear to one another. I made it clear to him again what I’ve told them in person on several occasions, that we’re not looking for confrontation, although we know there will be steep, steep competition. Two, that we’ll have strong competition, but we’ll insist the China play by the international rules, fair competition, fair practices, fair trade.
Joe Biden: (45:07)
Thirdly, in order to compete effectively, I indicated that we’re going to deal with China effectively, and we’re going to need three things to do that [inaudible 00:45:20] our people. First, we’re going to invest in American workers and American science. I said that all through the campaign, I say it again, and I’m setting up my administration to be able to do that, which is that back in the ’60s, we used to invest a little over 2% of our entire GDP in pure research and investment in science. Today it’s 0.7%. I’m going to change that. We’re going to change that.
Joe Biden: (45:49)
The future lies in who can in fact own the future as it relates to technology, quantum computing, a whole range of things, including the medical fields. And so what I’m going to do is make sure we invest closer to 2%. One of the reasons why I’ve set up the [inaudible 00:46:12], the president’s board was scientists and the like, again, is we’re going to invest in medical research, cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, industries of the future, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotech, and we’re going to make real investments. China is out-investing us by a long shot because their plan is to own that future.
Joe Biden: (46:39)
The second thing we’re going to do is we’re going to reestablish our alliances. And I’ve been very clear with him. It’s not anti-Chinese. And we’ve talked about it. I want to make sure that, for example, later today, after this, and a matter of fact, shortly after this, which is fine, we’ve been going close to an hour, I’m happy to go longer, but one of the things that I’m going to be doing, I’m going to be speaking with 27 heads of state in Europe, and very shortly, I think within the next hour or so, I don’t know the exact time.
Joe Biden: (47:12)
And earlier this month, and apparently it got the Chinese attention, that’s not why I did it, I met with our allies and how are we going to hold China accountable in the region, Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, the so-called quad, because we have to have democracies working together. Before too long, I’m going to have, I’m going to invite an alliance of democracies to come here to discuss the future. And so we’re going to make it clear that in order to deal with these things, we are going to hold China accountable to follow the rules, to follow the rules whether it relates to the South China Sea or the North China Sea or the agreement-
Joe Biden: (48:03)
The South China Sea, or the North China Sea, or their agreement made on Taiwan or a whole range of other things. And the third thing, and the thing that I admire about dealing with Xi is he understands, he makes no pretense about not understanding what I’m saying anymore I knew him. I pointed out to him, “No leader can be sustained in his position or her position unless they represent the values of the country.” And I said, ” Mr. President, as I’ve told you before, Americans value the notion of freedom, America values human rights. We don’t always live up to our expectations, but there’s a value system. We are founded on that principle. And as long as you and your country continues to so blatantly violate human rights, we are going to continue in an unrelenting way to call it to the attention of the world and make it clear, make it clear what’s happening.”
Joe Biden: (49:03)
And he understood that. I made it clear that no American president, at least one did, but no American president had ever backed down from speaking out of what’s happening in the Uyghurs, what’s happening in Hong Kong. What’s happening in-country. That’s who we are. The moment a president walks away from that as the last one did, is the moment we began to lose all legitimacy around the world. It’s who we are. So I see stiff competition with China. China has an overall goal, and I don’t criticize them for the goal, but they have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world and the most powerful country in the world. That’s not going to happen on my watch because United States is going to continue to grow and expand.
All right, just to follow up on the meeting of democracy, is that where you expect in a multilateral way to make these decisions about sanctions or?
Joe Biden: (50:11)
No, that’s not going to make the decision. That’s where I make sure we’re all on the same page. All on the same page. Look, I predict to you, your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded autocracy or democracy, because that is what is at stake, not just with China, look around the world. We’re in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution of enormous consequence. Will there be middle class? How will people adjust to these significant changes in science and technology? The environment? How will they do that? And our democracy is equipped because all the people get to speak, to compete. It is clear, absolutely clear. And most of the scholars I dealt with at Penn agree with me around the country, that this is a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies. If you notice, you don’t have Russia talking about communism anymore, it’s about an autocracy. Demand decisions made by a leader of a country. That’s what’s at stake here. We’ve got to prove democracy works.
Mr. President, sorry. I know you haven’t had a chance to address the tragedies in Georgia and Colorado. You had said to stay tuned for actions that you might take on gun control. Wondering if you’ve made a decision either about sending the Manufacturer Liability Bill that you had promised on day one to Capitol Hill or executive actions like going after ghost guns or giving money to cities and states to battle gun control.
Joe Biden: (52:08)
All the above. It’s a matter of timing. As you’ve all observed, successful presidents, better than me, have been successful in large part because they know how to time what they’re doing. Order it, decide and priorities, what needs to be done. The next major initiative is, and I’ll be announcing it Friday in Pittsburgh in detail, is to rebuild the infrastructure, both physical and technological infrastructure of this country so that we can compete and create significant numbers of really good paying jobs. Really good paying jobs. And some of you have been around long enough to know that used to be a great Republican goal initiative.
Joe Biden: (53:15)
I still think the majority of the American people don’t like the fact that we are now ranked what, 85th in the world in infrastructure. I mean, look, the future rests on whether or not we have the best airports that are going to accommodate air travel. Ports that you can get in and out of quickly. So businesses decide. Some of you if you were ever local reporters and you find your governor or mayor trying to attract business to your community. What’s the first thing that business asked? What’s the closest access to an interstate highway? How far am I from a freight rail? Is there water? Is there water available? Is there enough water available for me to conduct my business? All the things that relate to infrastructure. We have somewhere, I asked the staff to write it down for me and they did. Not for this, but for a longer discussion.
Joe Biden: (54:12)
We have somewhere in terms of infrastructure, we rank 13th globally in infrastructure. China is investing three times more in infrastructure than the United States is. Bridges more than one-third of our bridges, 231,000 of them need repairs. Some are physical safety risks, or preservation work. One in five miles of our highways and major roads are in poor condition. That’s 186,000 miles of highway. Aviation, 20% of all flights, 20% of all flights weren’t on time resulting in 1.5 million hours lost in production. Six to 10 million homes in America still have lead pipes servicing their water lines. We have over a hundred thousand wellheads that are not kept, leaking methane.
Joe Biden: (55:17)
What are we doing? And by the way, we can put as many pipe fitters and miners on us to work, capping those wells at the same price that they were charged to dig those wells. So I just find it frustrating, frustrating and talk about. Last year point I’ll make in the infrastructure and I apologize for spending more time on it, but is that if you think about it, it’s the place where we will be able to see significantly increase American productivity. At the same time, providing really good jobs for people. But we can’t build back to what they used to be. We have to build the environments are… Global warming has already done significant damage. The roads that used to be above the water level, didn’t have to worry about where the drainage dish was. Now you got to rebuild them three feet higher because it’s not going to go back to what it was before, only get worse unless we stop it.
Joe Biden: (56:45)
There’s so much we can do. Look at all the schools in America. Most of you live in the Washington area now, but in your hometowns, I don’t know where you’re all from. How many schools where the kids can’t drink the water out of the fountain? How many schools are still in a position where there’s asbestos? How many schools in America we’re sending our kids to don’t have adequate ventilation? How many schools, buildings, office complexes are wasting billions of barrels of oil over time because they can’t hold in the heat or the air conditioning because there’s leaks through the windows that are so porous and the connections. It’s amazing. So there’s so much we can do that’s good stuff. Makes people healthier and creates good jobs. And I think that I got one more question here. And Janet from Univision.
Thank you, Mr. President. We do have to be reporting at the border. And just like to Celia, we run into a pair of siblings who came in on Monday, were detained by CBP, had the phone number for their mother who lives in the U.S. We have contacted the mother. That’s the only way they know her kids are here because CBP today, Thursday has not contacted that mother. So when can we expect your promise of things getting better with contacting and experiencing-
Joe Biden: (58:19)
Well, they’re already getting better, but they’re going to get real, I got a whole hell of a lot better real quicker. We’re going to hear some people leaving. Okay. We can get this done. We’re going to get it done. I had a long meeting with the entire team and several cabinet level officers the other night. We’re going to be moving within the next week, over a hundred thousand, I mean a thousand people out of the border patrol into safe, secure beds and facilities. We’re going to significantly ramp up, we’re already out there contacting everyone from getting some of the employees at HHS. And there’s a lot of them doing other things and move them into making those calls. We’re in the process of rearranging and providing for the personnel needed to get that done. But I admire the fact that you were down there.
Joe Biden: (59:15)
You’re making the calls yourself. It’s real. The next thing that has to happen though, as you well know, has to happen, there have to be some certitude that this is the actually mom, dad, or whomever. And there’s ways to do that. There’s ways to do that a little bit like determining whether or not you got the right code for your credit card. What was your dog’s name kind of thing. I’m being a bit facetious, but not really. And also seeking harder data from DNA to birth certificates, which takes longer. So I want to do this as quickly, as humanly possible and as safely as possible.
As we all know, treating the root causes in Latin America doesn’t change things overnight. How do you realistically and physically keep these families from coming to the U.S when things will not get better in their countries right away?
Joe Biden: (01:00:11)
Well, I can’t guarantee that but I know that all thing, the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. You know as well as I do, you cover it. You have serious… It’s not like somebody sitting on a Hanuman table in Guatemala, I mean somewhere in Mexico or in Guadalupe said, “I got a great idea. Let’s sell everything we have, give it to a coyote. Have them take our kids across the border into a desert where they don’t speak the language. Won’t that be fun? Let’s go.” That’s not how it happens. People don’t want to leave. When my great grandfather got in a coffin ship in the Irish Sea expectation was was he going to live long enough on that ship to get to the United States of America. But they left because of what the Brits had been doing. They were in real, real trouble.
Joe Biden: (01:01:10)
They didn’t want to leave, but they had no choice. So we can’t, I can’t guarantee we’re going to solve everything, but I can guarantee we can make everything better. We can make it better. We can change the lives of so many people. And the other thing I want to point out to you, and I hope you point out, I realize it’s much more heart-wrenching and it is to deal with a five and six and seven year old, but you went down there and you saw the vast majority of these children. 70% are 16 years old, 17 years old and mostly males. That make it good or bad or different. But the idea that we have tens of thousands of kids in these God off of facilities that are really little babies crying all night, there’s some, that’s true. That’s why we got to act.
Joe Biden: (01:02:01)
And yesterday I asked my team both the director of the two agencies, as well as others. I asked them what would they in fact, and I asked their opinion because they’re the experts. But I said, “Focus on the most vulnerable immediately.” But there’s no reason why in the next month, as people crossed the border, that phone call can’t be made in the first 48 hours and began.
If I may I ask one last question, have you had any talks with Senate Republicans who are threatening this administration with not considering the immigration legislation that was passed in the house until the situation at the border has been resolved?
Joe Biden: (01:02:41)
No, because I know they have to posture for a while. They sort of got to get out of their system. This is a… But I’m ready to work with any Republican who wants to help solve the problem or make the situation better. But folks, I’m going. Thank you very, very much. I appreciate it, thank you.