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Biden reveals 2024 plans and doubles vaccine goals in first press conference

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Watch: Biden's full press conference
Watch: Biden's full press conference 01:02:18

Washington — President Biden on Thursday revealed he plans to seek a second term in the White House in 2024 and he said he expects Vice President Kamala Harris would again be his running mate. Mr. Biden talked about his plans in 2024 in a roughly hourlong press conference, the first of his presidency, where he also announced he would doubling his vaccine goals to 200 million doses in his first 100 days and he will soon be detailing an infrastructure plan.

Mr. Biden has not yet filed for reelection, while former President Trump had already done so at this point in his presidency. But the president told CBS News chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes it is his "plan" to run again.

"That is my expectation," Mr. Biden said, although he added that he doesn't normally plan that far in advance.

The president fielded questions from reporters for roughly an hour on a range of topics, including the ongoing crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, the legislative filibuster and foreign policy challenges his administration is confronting.

At the start of his remarks, Mr. Biden said he is increasing his goal for vaccine doses administered in his first 100 days in office to 200 million. The nation surpassed his initial target of 100 million shot last week, on the 58th day of his presidency.

With Mr. Biden's sweeping $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress and signed into law, the president revealed the details of his next major initiative, infrastructure, will be announced during a trip to Pittsburgh on March 31. 

The proposal will address both physical and technological infrastructure, the president said, "so that we can compete and create significant numbers of really good paying jobs." Mr. Biden said "the future rests" on whether the U.S. has the best airports, ports, railroads and roadways to facilitate business. 

Mr. Biden was repeatedly pressed on his administration's plan to address the flood of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border into the U.S. and whether he favors changes to the legislative filibuster, a rule under which 60 votes are needed to end debate on a measure and move to a final vote. He was not, however, asked about the coronavirus pandemic or the economy.

Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Washington. Evan Vucci / AP
 

Top Republicans say border crisis is not just seasonal

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy responded to Mr. Biden's comments about migrants coming across the border more in winter by saying the border crisis is not just seasonal. 

"The border crisis is not just seasonal. CBP is tracking the largest surge in apprehensions in 20 years. Unaccompanied children are piling up in close quarters," McConnell tweeted. "It turns out when politicians spend a two-year campaign advertising a porous border and amnesty, people listen."

McCarthy, too, criticized Mr. Biden's remarks on the border. 

"' It happens every single solitary year,'" McCarthy tweeted, channeling the president. "President Biden claimed the dramatic increase in migrants flooding our southern border is totally normal for this time of year. → FALSE. 2015: 24k 2016: 26k 2017: 18k 2018: 26k 2019: 66k 2020: 30k 2021: More than 100k."

By Kathryn Watson
 

News conference ends with no questions on COVID-19, economy or jobs

The president's first press conference ended with no questions about COVID-19, the economy or jobs, even as many of those issues are top of mind for many Americans. 

The unemployment rate is still above 6%, which doesn't account for those who have dropped out of the workforce because they can't find work or to care for children. 

Still, no reporters asked about jobless claims, the struggling economy, and the health implications of the pandemic, even though Mr. Biden announced a new goal for COVID-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days. 

By Kathryn Watson
 

Biden says he'll reveal infrastructure initiative in Pittsburgh

Mr. Biden said he will announce details of a major infrastructure initiative in Pittsburgh, saying a "majority of the American people" are disappointed with U.S. infrastructure now. The White House said he will be traveling to Pittsburgh on March 31. 

"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," the president said. 

It remains to be seen how large the president's infrastructure proposal will be. White House press secretary Jen Psaki has thus far declined to reveal any details. 

An infrastructure proposal is one thing Republicans and Democrats might be able to work together on, although many Republicans are unlikely to be inclined to view a massive infrastructure package favorably. 

By Kathryn Watson
 

Biden says the future will be defined by "autocracy or democracy"

Mr. Biden, who said Chinese President Xi Jinping doesn't have a democratic "bone in his body," said future nations will be writing their thesis papers on who won — "autocracy or democracy."

The president said he won't let China win the race with the U.S. on his watch, and noted that Russia isn't trying communism any longer. But the future will tell the story of whether democratic nations win, or autocrats win.

"That's what's at stake here. We've got to prove democracy works," he said. 

Mr. Biden noted that China is investing three times as much in infrastructure as the U.S. is, noting the dilapidated state of much of the United States' infrastructure — failing bridges and crumbling roads. 

"If you think about it, it's the place where we will be able to 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," he said, pointing to damage he said was caused by climate change.

By Kathryn Watson
 

Biden lambasts GOP-led state efforts to restrict voting access

Biden calls voting restrictions "un-American"... 03:55

Mr. Biden slammed efforts by Republicans in state legislatures to pass new rules that will restrict access to voting, calling the initiative "un-American" and "sick." More than 250 bills have been introduced in 43 states that would make it more difficult to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

"This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle," Mr. Biden said in response to a question from CBS News' chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes. "This is gigantic, what they're trying to do, and it cannot be sustained."

The president said even Republican voters find the efforts by GOP state lawmakers "despicable" and pledged to "do everything in my power to keep that from becoming law."

Pressed further on his views about the Senate filibuster, Mr. Biden said he agreed with former President Barack Obama, who said at the funeral of the late civil rights icon John Lewis the filibuster was a "relic of the Jim Crow-era."

"It's been abused by the time it came into being by an extreme way in the last 20 years," he said. "Let's deal with the abuse first."

By Melissa Quinn
 

Biden says he plans to run for reelection in 2024

Biden: "My plan is to run for reelection" 01:44

Asked if he plans to run for reelection in 2024, since he hasn't yet filed for reelection like former President Trump had by this time, Mr. Biden laughed. 

"Oh God, I miss him," Mr. Biden joked of Mr. Trump, before confirming he plans to run again.

"The answer is yes, my plan is to run for reelection. That is my expectation," Mr. Biden said. 

But when Mr. Biden was pressed on it further, he still wasn't 100% definitive. 

"I said that is my expectation," the president said, adding that "I'm a great respecter of fate" and can't plan three and a half or four years in advance. 

He said he "would fully expect" Vice President Kamala Harris to remain on the ticket, calling her "a great partner."

By Kathryn Watson
 

Biden on Afghanistan: "We will leave"

Facing a May 1 deadline to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Mr. Biden said he "can't picture that being the case" that American service members will be in the country next year.

"We will leave," the president said. "The question is when we'll leave."

Mr. Biden acknowledged "it's going to be hard" to meet the May 1 deadline on the troop withdrawal but committed it will be done in a "safe and orderly way." The U.S., he said, is in consultation with U.S. allies on how to proceed in Afghanistan.

"It is not my intention to stay there for a long time," Mr. Biden said. "The question is how and what circumstances do we meet that agreement that was made by President Trump to leave."

The president was also pressed on the short-range ballistic missile launch by North Korea on Thursday and whether North Korea is his top foreign policy challenge, to which Mr. Biden responded, "yes."

The president said the launch violated a United Nations resolution, and the U.S. is consulting with allies and partners.

"There will be responses if they choose to escalate," Mr. Biden said. "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."

By Melissa Quinn
 

Biden says his administration would likely try to fly 9-year-old unaccompanied migrant home

ABC News' Cecilia Vega asked President Biden about the case of a 9-year-old boy she met, who came to the U.S. from Honduras with another young boy to the southern border. 

Vega told the president the boy's mother said she sent her son because she thought the administration isn't deporting unaccompanied minors.

The president expressed sympathy for the family, noting someone must be in dire circumstances to send a child alone. 

But eventually, Vega got the president to answer whether a child like that would be able to stay, or be sent home. 

"The judgment has to be made whether or not, in this young man's case, he has a mom at home. There's an overwhelming reason why he would get put on a plane and be flown back to his mom," the president said. 

By Kathryn Watson
 

Biden says immigration influx happens "every year" during winter

Biden discusses response at southern border 10:06

President Biden disagreed with the notion that the U.S is experiencing an influx of migrants because of his administration's policy positions. 

Asked how he resolves the tension at the border, and how he chooses who can stay, the president said it doesn't have to do with him. 

"I'd like to think it's because I'm a nice guy, but it's not," the president said. 

This is simply the time of year that migrants come across the border, Mr. Biden said. 

"Truth of the matter is, nothing has changed," the president said, noting that there was also an increase in migrants coming across the border in 2019, during former President Trump's time in office.

"It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border" in the winter months," he said. 

People are coming because of circumstances in their country, he said. 

Mr. Biden also said that all migrants should be turned back at the border, except for unaccompanied children. 

The Biden administration has been saying publicly that now is not the time for people to cross the border, but that message has not deterred migrants from arriving at the southern border. 

By Kathryn Watson
 

Biden says he's been elected to "solve problems, not create division"

Responding to the first question of his first press conference from the Associated Press, Mr. Biden appealed to Republicans in Congress to decide whether they want to work across the aisle or "continue the politics of division."

"I think my Republican colleagues are going to have to determine whether or not we want to work together," he said when asked about how his presidency can be a success if he cannot make progress on climate change, immigration reform, gun control and voting rights.

Legislation addressing those four issues will need support from Republicans in the Senate to clear the upper chamber, where it takes 60 votes to end debate on a measure and move to a final vote.

Mr. Biden declined to say how far he is willing to go to address those areas, but noted there was a negative outlook on his ability to enact a sweeping package responding to the pandemic. Immigration and gun control, he said, have "been around a long time."

"We're going to move on these one at a time," he said.

Mr. Biden said he plans to make progress on each of those issues.

"Let's see what happens," he said. "I've been hired to solve problems, not create division."

By Melissa Quinn
 

Biden increases goal to administer 200 million vaccine shots in 100 days

Biden sets new goals for fighting pandemic 03:26

Stepping to the podium, President Biden increased his administration's goal to vaccinate the country, boosting it from 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days, to 200 million shots in the first 100 days.

Meeting that goal would require the U.S. to roughly keep the current pace of vaccinations. 

"I know it's ambitious, twice our original goal, but no other country has even come close," the president said.

Mr. Biden also touted the results of the American Rescue Plan, and noted that most Americans who are receiving stimulus checks have already received them. 

"Help is here, and hope is on the way," he said in remarks before taking questions. 

By Kathryn Watson
 

Biden officials say they will "continue to provide access" to border facilities

In a conference call with reporters Thursday, senior Biden administration officials discussed the flow of migrants across the U.S. border, including the flow of unaccompanied minors. 

It wasn't until this week that the Biden administration allowed reporters into a facility where children are being kept. A senior administration official said they will "continue to provide access to the facilities" at the border. 

A senior administration official confirmed previous reporting from CBS News that the Health and Human Services Department notified Congress that it will open "emergency intake sites" at Lackland Air Force Base and Fort Bliss in Texas. The federal government is on track to open at least nine emergency housing facilities within President Biden's first three months in office. 

A senior administration official claimed that when the Biden administration began, there wasn't a system in place to test migrants for COVID-19. Biden administration officials blamed the Trump administration, saying HHS inherited "insufficient" policies and procedures. 

By Fin Gómez
 

Schumer vows to move forward on voting rights bills despite GOP opposition

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would bring a massive voting rights and government reform bill to the Senate floor for a vote, even though it is almost certain to fail due to Republican opposition. 

GOP senators claim that S. 1, known as the For the People Act, is a power grab by Democrats, while Democrats insist that they are trying to protect voting rights as several states introduce legislation that could make voting more difficult.

"Across the country, the Republican Party seems to believe that the best strategy for winning elections is not to win more voters but to try and prevent the other side from voting," Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday. "That's not America. That's not democracy. And this Senate will take action to protect the voting rights of tens of millions of Americans. The Senate will vote on the For the People Act."

The bill would establish automatic, same-day and online voter registration nationwide. It includes some measures that would require states to overhaul their registration systems. It would expand absentee voting, limit states' ability to remove people from voter rolls, increase federal funds for election security and reform the redistricting process. 

But S. 1 will likely die before it can even receive a full vote, as most legislation in the Senate requires 60 votes to advance. Democrats hold a narrow 50-seat majority, and the bill is unlikely to garner support from 10 Republicans. This method of blocking a bill from advancing to a full vote on the Senate floor is known as a filibuster, and is the biggest roadblock to Democrats achieving most of their legislative priorities.

Read more here.

By Grace Segers
 

U.S. adding 16,000 emergency beds for record-high number of migrant children

By repurposing convention centers, camps for oil workers and military bases, the Biden administration has launched an unprecedented effort to open more than 16,000 emergency beds for migrant children in response to historic numbers of unaccompanied minors entering U.S. border custody.

More than 16,500 unaccompanied migrant children were in federal custody as of early Wednesday. More than 11,500 of those children were being housed in shelters and emergency housing sites, while another 5,000 were stranded in overcrowded Border Patrol facilities, which the Biden administration has said are not appropriate for minors.

U.S. agents along the southern border are on track to apprehend more than 16,000 unaccompanied children in March, which would be an all-time high, according to an analysis of government records reviewed by CBS News. The previous record-high came in May 2019, when more than 11,000 unaccompanied minors entered U.S. custody along the southern border.

To respond to the unprecedented spike in arrivals of migrant children traveling without parents or legal guardians, the U.S. government is on track to open at least nine emergency housing facilities within President Biden's first three months in office. The Trump administration operated three influx housing facilities over four years, and only one of them is currently active.

The facilities the Biden administration has opened or plans to open include two convention centers in Dallas and San Diego, as well as an arena in San Antonio. A camp for oil workers in Midland, Texas, has been converted into a makeshift shelter, while another in west Texas is set to start receiving children in April. On Wednesday, an emergency housing installation for up to 500 children was erected near Carrizo Springs, Texas, where a Trump-era influx facility was reopened last month.

The Pentagon also announced late Wednesday it will allow HHS to use a dormitory at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and land at Fort Bliss in west Texas to house migrant children. The Lackland facility will be able to house 350 children, while Fort Bliss has capacity for up to 5,000, the administration told Congress on Thursday. Peterson Air Force base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is also being evaluated as a potential site to house migrant children, the Pentagon confirmed.  

Read more here.

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez
 

North Korea missile launches pose a "daunting challenge" to Biden White House

Beijing — North Korea test-fired what U.S. officials believe were two short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday. It was Kim Jong Un's first such launch since Mr. Biden took office, and it came just hours before his first scheduled solo news conference as commander in chief.

The projectiles, the launch of which would be a violation of United Nations sanctions on North Korea if they're confirmed to have been ballistic missiles, flew approximately 270 miles and landed in the Sea of Japan, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

"It is a clear statement of intimidation," retired South Korean Lieutenant General Chun In-bum told CBS News. He said North Korea wanted to show the world they "are not bound by any outside rules. The two short range ballistic missiles could easily have been intermediate or longer-range missiles if [North] Korea intended on doing so. This is going to go on and on until North Korea goes too far, and that's what I am afraid of." 

The Biden White House is currently conducting a review of its North Korea policy, with an update expected in the coming weeks. 

"It is a daunting challenge to the Biden administration," said Won Gon Park, a professor of North Korean studies at South Korea's Ewha Women's University. "Before finalizing its review on the North Korean policy, the Biden administration is forced to answer the North Korean provocation."

Read more here.

By Ramy Inocencio
 

Biden administration commits $10 billion to fight COVID vaccine inequities

The Biden administration is committing $10 billion to efforts designed to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are being equitably distributed and boost confidence in the shots as the pace of vaccinations continues to accelerate, the White House announced Thursday.

The $10 billion in funding comes largely from the American Rescue Plan, the sweeping coronavirus aid package passed by Congress this month, and will be used by the Department of Health and Human Services to reach communities of color, rural areas, low-income populations and other underserved communities, according to the White House.

Of the $10 billion investment, $6 billion will go toward community health centers to expand COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and treatment for vulnerable populations, deliver health care services to populations at higher risk of serious illness from the coronavirus and boost the centers' operational capacity. The money will begin flowing to nearly 1,400 centers nationwide in April. Community health centers participating in a federal vaccine program can also expand eligibility for the shots, including to front-line essential workers and people over the age of 16 with high-risk medical conditions.

Read more here.

By Melissa Quinn
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