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Biden addresses the pandemic, economy, Russia in press conference

Joe Biden
Posted at 10:55 AM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 23:15:56-05

President Joe Biden held a nearly 2-hour press conference at the White House on Wednesday.

The president discussed a range of topics that included the pandemic, the economy, bipartisanship and tensions along the Russia-Ukraine border.

COVID-19 Pandemic

Biden noted that 75% of adults are vaccinated in the U.S. However, he admitted that the omicron variant has caused problems.

In an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 variant, Biden launched a website where Americans can order free at-home tests.

During the press conference, Biden admitted that testing could have been ramped up sooner, but he said he is confident that things are moving in the right direction.

“Some people may call what’s happening now a ‘new normal.’ I call it a job not yet finished," Biden said. "It will get better, we’re moving toward a time when COVID-19 won’t disrupt our daily lives.”

Biden has also instituted a program to provide 400 million free surgical-grade N95 masks at pharmacies across the country.

The Economy

Biden tried to paint a rosy picture of the economy despite concerns about inflation.

"I often see empty shelves being shown on television, 89% are full. Which is only a few points below what it was before the pandemic," Biden said.

Biden said his Build Back Better agenda, which has stalled in Congress, would help the economy. Biden said he is open to breaking up part of the bill to get some of it passed.

"I'm confident we can get pieces, big chunks of the Build Back Better law signed into law," he said.

Bipartisanship

Biden campaigned on unifying the country. However, several of his highest priority agenda items have stalled in Congress.

Biden said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has a goal of making "sure that there’s nothing I do that makes me look good."

Biden has also faced opposition from his own party. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema have essentially derailed any hopes of getting a voting rights bill passed because they don't support bypassing the filibuster.

During the press conference, Biden was asked whether his stalled agenda is a sign that he is not fighting hard enough for certain voters, in particular those in the Black community.

"I've had their back, and I've had their back my entire career. I've never not had their backs," Biden said.

Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin would face the toughest sanctions he's ever seen if he invaded Ukraine. However, Biden appeared to say the scope of Russia's aggression could impact how the U.S. reacts.

"Russia will be held accountable if it invades, and it depends on what it does," Biden said. "It's one thing if it's a minor incursion and then we have to fight about what to do and not do."

Biden was later forced to clarify his remarks. He said he was not giving Russia the green light to move forward with any type of conflict.

Getting out of Washington

In an attempt to sell what his administration is doing and fighting for, the president said he will be getting out of Washington more often in his second year in office. That includes campaigning for Democrats in the midterm elections.

Biden said he wants to pose a question to voters, "What are Republicans for?" He was referring to Republicans blocking his agenda but providing him with few alternatives.

Biden-Harris 2024

Biden was asked about his working relationship with Vice President Kamala Harris. He said Harris would be his running mate in 2024. He also said she is doing a "good job" on leading efforts to reform voting rights.