President Biden Holds First Major Press Conference
Photo by Chip Somodevilla

This month marks more than two months since the Biden-Harris Administration took office. On Thursday—day 65—the commander-in-chief held his first major press conference in the East Room of the White House. He spoke for about an hour. Here are 10 key takeaways.

1. COVID-19 vaccinations:

More than 500,000 people in America have died amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In December, President Biden indicated that he hoped to get 100 million shots in people’s arms in the administration’s first 100 days. “We met that goal last week by day 58—42 days ahead of schedule, “ he said. “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.”

2. Schools Reopening:

President Biden set a goal before taking office of fully opening a majority of schools with grades K-8 within the administration’s first 100 days. “A recent Department of Education Department survey shows that nearly half of the K-through-8 schools are open now full-time, five days a week, for in-person learning,” he said. “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.”

3. Economy:

Congress recently passed Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which he signed into law on March 11. Stimulus checks are one element of the sweeping plan. “As of yesterday, more than 100 million payments of $1,400 have gone into people’s bank accounts,” said the president. “That’s real money in people’s pockets, bringing relief instantly, almost. And millions more will be getting their money very soon.”

4. Immigration:

The administration is grappling with mass arrivals at the border, including thousands of unaccompanied minors and reports of what Biden himself termed “God awful facilities.” He spoke extensively on the issue, saying “what we’re doing now is attempting to rebuild—rebuild the system.”

While he indicated “most—tens of thousands of people—at the border are being sent back,”

the exception is unaccompanied children, a reversal of Trump-era policies. The president said the administration is trying to house the children and contact their families as “quickly as humanly possible and as safely as possible.”

More than 70 percent are either 16 or 17 years old, he said. “We’re not talking about people ripping babies from mothers’ arms or little three-year-olds standing on the border. Less than—I think it’s one and a half percent fall in the category of the very young.”

Biden recently announced that Vice President Kamala Harris will be the lead point person “focusing on the fundamental reasons why people leave Honduras, Guatemala, and 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.”

5. Voting rights:

Republican legislatures across in Georgia, Arizona and other parts of the country are pushing bills that would restrict voting. “What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It’s sick. It’s sick.”

He vowed to work with lawmakers in Congress, and the House has recently passed the For the People Act.

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“And so I am 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.”

6. Gun Control:

Deadly mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado less than a week apart have shaken the nation. 

Biden was asked about sending a manufacturer liability bill he promised on day one to Capitol Hill, or executive actions such as going after ghost guns or giving money to cities and states to battle gun control.

“All the above,” said the president. “It’s a matter of timing.”

7.  Rebuilding Infrastructure:

Biden said his next major initiative is rebuilding America’s infrastructure—both physical and technological infrastructure in this country—“so that we can compete and create significant numbers of really good-paying jobs. Really good-paying jobs.”

8. Investing in American workers:

“First, we’re going to invest in American workers and American science,” said the president.

“The future lies in who can, in fact, own the future as it relates to technology, quantum computing, a whole range of things, including in medical fields….We’re going to invest in medical research, cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, the things—industries of the future—artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotech. And we’re going to make real investments.”

9.  Ending the Senate filibuster:

A filibuster is a longtime procedure used in the Senate to prevent a bill from being brought to a vote. With the Senate split 50-50 (VP Harris can break any tied votes), Democrats believe Republicans will use it to block the Biden-Harris legislative agenda. 

The filibuster is “being abused in a gigantic way,” said Biden. The president didn’t outright call for its demise, but leaned towards change if necessary. He expressed support for a talking filibuster would force lawmakers  “to stand there and talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapse,” after which time votes could proceed. 

10. Running for reelection in 2024:

“The answer is “yes,” Biden said when asked about re-election in 2024. “My plan is to run for reelection. That’s my expectation.”

Biden was further asked would Vice President Kamala Harris be on his future ticket. POTUS replied: “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.”