President Joe Biden, at his first solo press conference since being sworn in, sought to defend his administration’s handling of the border crisis, touched upon Senate procedures such as the filibuster, and commented for the first time on whether he planned to run for reelection.
The conference itself—65 days into his presidency—came after mounting pressure from critics and journalists wondering why Biden was taking so long to hold a briefing. Biden waited longer than any other president in four decades to hold the formal briefing on March 25.
Before taking questions, he announced a new goal: a plan to administer 200 million vaccines by his 100th day in office. Biden blamed the surge at the border on his predecessor and claimed the vast majority of illegal border-crossers “are being sent back.”
He said the surge of illegal immigrants, the largest in two decades, happens “every single” year and that “nothing has changed.”
“Thousands, tens of thousands of people who are over 18 years of age and single have been sent back, sent home,” he told reporters. “We are sending back the vast majority of families that are coming—we are trying to work out now with Mexico their willingness to take more of those families back.”
Biden defended his move to reverse the “Remain in Mexico” policy implemented by President Donald Trump—a move critics have said has encouraged a surge in illegal immigration. Biden said it wouldn’t stop the number of people arriving at the border. An ongoing immigration policy tracker by the Heritage Foundation found that Biden has rolled back almost all of Trump’s immigration policies.
A total of 16,513 unaccompanied illegal alien minors were in the custody of either Customs and Border Protection or the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as of March 23, according to the HHS Administration for Children and Families.
Biden said there will be a military facility at Fort Bliss in Texas to hold 5,000 beds for unaccompanied minors that would be open this week at the border.
“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,” he told reporters.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) responded to Biden’s defense of his administration’s immigration response, accusing the president of spreading “misinformation.” Border Patrol apprehended 100,441 illegal border-crossers along the southern border in February, according to Customs and Border Protection.
“With all due respect, this press conference is hard to watch,” Graham wrote on Twitter. “It’s clear he does not have the situational awareness he needs to understand what is going on at the border or how to fix it.”
During the hour-long conference, Biden took questions from 10 journalists. The press office excluded questions from The Epoch Times, OANN, Fox News, Just the News, and the Washington Times, according to Charles Herring, the president of OANN, who called for “balanced and diverse representation in the Briefing Room.”
West Wing aides have dismissed questions from journalists and critics in recent weeks about the news conference as a Washington obsession. Behind the scenes, however, aides took the event seriously enough to hold a mock session with the president earlier this week.
When asked if he planned to run again in 2024, Biden said yes, although he failed to fully commit.
“I plan to run for reelection. That’s my expectation,” he said.
If he does run for a second term, Biden said he would “fully expect” for Vice President Kamala Harris to run again with him. When asked if he would run against Trump, he said he hadn’t thought about it and has “no idea if there’ll be a Republican Party.”
On foreign policy, Biden said that North Korea would be the top issue facing the United States.
Biden also suggested he is open to making significant changes to the Senate filibuster if key agenda items aren’t passed.
“I strongly support moving in that direction,” Biden said about re-implementing the old talking filibuster, “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.”