US President Joe Biden on Thursday held his first news conference since entering the White House in January, addressing subjects ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to immigration:
Biden set a new coronavirus vaccine goal of 200 million shots within his first 100 days.
"As of yesterday, more than 100 million payments (of) $1,400 have gone into people's bank accounts. That's real money into people's pockets, bringing relief instantly and millions more will be getting their money very soon."
Migrants at US-Mexico border
Biden defended his handling of a rise in migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, saying the vast majority are turned back and that some families had been allowed into the country because Mexico would not accept them.
He said there was always a seasonal increase in people arriving at the U.S. border at the start of every year.
“We are building back up the capacity that should have been maintained and built upon that Trump dismantled,” he said, referring to his predecessor, President Donald Trump.
He described as "totally unacceptable" overcrowding of unaccompanied minor immigrants in border facilities.
"All the (Trump) policies that were under way were not helping at all, did not slow up the amount of immigration. Rolling back the policies of separating children from their mothers - I make no apologies for that."
"We're starting to see signs of hope in our economy," he said. "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% growth in GDP."
"I think my Republican colleagues are going to have to determine whether or not we want to work together, or decide that the way in which they want to proceed is to, is to just decide to divide the country," Biden said.
Biden said he could not picture U.S. troops being in Afghanistan next year, although it would be hard to meet the May 1, 2021, exit deadline set by Trump. He said the withdrawal must be safe and orderly.
"So what we've been doing, what I've been doing and what Secretary (of State Antony) 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."
"We are consulting 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 conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization" Biden said.
"What I'm worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It is sick," Biden said when asked about Republican lawmakers' efforts to impose voter restrictions across the country.
Asked if he would seek a second term, Biden said: "The answer is yes, my plan is to run for re-election, that's my expectation." He said he would "fully expect" Vice President Kamala Harris to be his running mate if he runs in 2024.
Biden said China was "out-investing us by a long shot."
"We're not looking for confrontation," Biden added when speaking about his foreign policy. "Although, we know there will be steep, steep competition ... but we'll insist that China play by the international rules, fair competition, fair practices, fair trade."
"The second thing we're going to do is we're going to re-establish our alliances and I've been very clear with it. It's not anti-Chinese."
“We are going to hold China accountable to follow the rules,” he said, citing the South China Sea and Taiwan among a range of other issues.
"Thirdly in order to compete effectively. ..we're going to invest in American workers and American science."
"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 the United States is going to continue to grow and expand,” Biden said.
“How many schools where the kids can’t drink the water out of the fountains? How many schools are still in a position where there's asbestos. How many schools in America are we sending our kids to that 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 it leaks through the widows that are so porous? It's amazing. There is so much we can do that's good stuff, makes people healthier and creates good jobs," he said.
"We can put as many pipefitters and miners to work capping those wells at the same price that they would charge to dig those wells."
When asked why he won’t abolish the filibuster outright after saying it was a legacy of the Jim Crow era, Biden said: "successful electoral politics is the art of the possible."
He said: "Let's figure out how we can get this done, and move in the direction of significantly changing the abuse of 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."