Biden says nation weary from COVID-19 but rising with him in White House
U.S. President Joe Biden acknowledged Wednesday that the pandemic has left Americans exhausted and demoralized but insisted at a news conference marking his first year in office that he has "outperformed" expectations in dealing with it.
Facing sagging poll numbers and a stalled legislative agenda, Biden conceded he would likely have to pare back his "build back better" recovery package and instead settle for "big chunks" of his signature economic plan. He promised to further attack inflation and the pandemic and blamed Republicans for uniting in opposition to his proposals rather than offering ideas of their own.
This is a perilous time for Biden: The nation is gripped by a disruptive new surge of virus cases, and inflation is at a level not seen in a generation. Democrats are bracing for a potential midterm rout if he can't turn things around.
Biden insisted that voters will come to embrace a more positive view of his tenure -- and of his beleaguered party -- in time. His appeal to voters for patience came with a pledge to spend more time outside of Washington to make the case to them directly.
Biden also addressed the brewing crisis on the Ukraine border, where Russia has massed some 100,000 troops and raised concerns that Moscow is ready to launch a further invasion.
The president said his "guess" is Russia may move further but he believes President Vladimir Putin doesn't want full-blown war. He declared Russia would pay a "dear price" if Putin launches a military incursion.
"He has to do something," Biden said of Putin. "He is trying to find his place in the world between China and the West."
Biden suggested a "minor incursion" might elicit a lesser response than a full-scale invasion of the country, a comment that drew immediate condemnation from some corners.
"President Biden basically gave Putin a green light to invade Ukraine by yammering about the supposed insignificance of a `minor incursion,"' said Republican Sen. Ben Sasse.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated in a subsequent statement that that wasn't necessarily about tanks and troops.
"President Biden also knows from long experience that the Russians have an extensive playbook of aggression short of military action, including cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics. And he affirmed today that those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response," she said.
Biden held forth for 1 hour 50 minutes in the East Room of the White House, appearing to relish the opportunity to parry questions from two dozen journalists with doses of wit and a few flashes of anger. At several points, he looked at his watch, smiled and kept calling on reporters.
He fielded questions about inflation, nuclear talks with Iran, voting rights, political division, Vice President Kamala Harris' place on the 2024 ticket, trade with China and the competency of government. Those questions showed the multitude of challenges confronting the president, each of them as much a risk as an opportunity to prove himself.
The president began by reeling off early progress in fighting the virus and showcasing quick passage of an ambitious bipartisan roads-and-bridges infrastructure deal. But his economic, voting rights, police reform and immigration agenda have all been thwarted in a barely Democratic-controlled Senate, while inflation has emerged as an economic threat to the nation and a political risk for Biden.
Despite his faltering approval numbers, Biden claimed to have "probably outperformed what anybody thought would happen" in a country still coping with the coronavirus.
"After almost two years of physical, emotional and psychological impact of this pandemic, for many of us, it's been too much to bear," Biden said.
"Some people may call what's happening now `the new normal," he added, his voice rising. "I call it a job not yet finished. It will get better."
On his nearly $2 trillion economic agenda that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has blocked from moving forward, Biden said he'll pass the parts of the package that can net sufficient votes. This likely means not extending the expanded child tax credit or providing financial support to community colleges, Biden said.
"I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now, come back and fight for the rest," he said, later adding that he would apply the same strategy to his voting reform agenda.
The social spending bill was once viewed as a catch-all home for various progressive priorities, but now Democrats are sensing a need to deliver a solid accomplishment to voters in the midterm year and are beginning to come to terms with a slimmed-down package that can overcome Manchin's reticence.
The White House and congressional Democratic leaders are expected to refocus their attention on it beginning next week, after the all-but-certain collapse of the Democrats' push on voting rights legislation. Talks to craft a new bill that meets Manchin's demands and can garner the virtually unanimous Democratic support needed to pass Congress will likely take weeks.
The Democrats' goal is to have a package -- or be on the cusp of one -- that Biden can highlight in his March 1 State of the Union address.
If Biden seemed to have one set of regrets so far, it was his inability because of the coronavirus to connect with more Americans outside the capital. He noted that this challenge was most acutely felt by Black voters who wanted him to push more aggressively on expanding access to voting.
"I don't get a chance to look people in the eye because of both COVID and things that are happening in Washington," he said.
Speaking as Democrats were mounting a doomed effort to change Senate rules to pass the voting measure, Biden said he still hoped that it would pass in some form and wasn't prepared yet to discuss possible executive actions on the issue. The vote spotlighted the constraints on Biden's influence barely a week after he delivered an impassioned speech in Atlanta suggesting opponents of the measures were taking a historical stance alongside segregationists and exhorting senators to action.
Still, he said he understood that civil rights groups were anxious and frustrated about the lack of action, particularly Black voters who question why he didn't press the issue harder and earlier.
There are at least 19 Republican-backed laws in states that make it harder to vote, and Jan. 6 insurrection supporters are filling local election posts and running for office.
It was Biden's seventh solo news conferences as president. The ongoing threat from the coronavirus was evident in the setup of Wednesday's gathering: A limited number of reporters were allowed to attend and all had to have been tested for the virus and wear masks.
The president used the event to pay heed to growing anxiety about rising prices. Staring down an inflation rate that has gone from 1.7% at his inauguration to 7%, he called on the Federal Reserve to lessen its monetary boosting of the economy by raising interest rates, which would in theory help to reduce inflation.
"Given the strength of our economy, and the pace of recent price increases, it's important to recalibrate the support that is now necessary," Biden said. "Now, we need to get inflation under control."
Despite it all, Biden said he's convinced the country is still with him -- even if they don't tell that to pollsters.
"I don't believe the polls," he said.
MORE WORLD NEWS
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The police official blamed for not sending officers in more quickly to stop the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting is the chief of the school system's small police force, a unit dedicated ordinarily to building relationships with students and responding to the occasional fight.
Speakers at the National Rifle Association annual meeting assailed a Chicago gun ban that doesn't exist, ignored security upgrades at the Texas school where children were slaughtered and roundly distorted national gun and crime statistics as they pushed back against any tightening of gun laws.
Fifty-eight-year-old Vivian Ketchum is set to receive her high school diploma at a graduation ceremony at the University of Winnipeg next month. It is a moment that is decades in the making.
The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos was met with justifiable criticisms and unfounded conspiracy theories.
An 11-year-old survivor of the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas, feared the gunman would come back for her so she smeared herself in her friend's blood and played dead.
Students trapped inside a classroom with a gunman repeatedly called 911 during this week's attack on a Texas elementary school, including one who pleaded, 'Please send the police now,' as officers waited more than an hour to breach the classroom after following the gunman into the building, authorities said Friday.
Fragments of a comet broken nearly 30 years ago could potentially light up the night sky Monday as experts predict an 'all or nothing' spectacle.
A new report says Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto rank among the top 20 cities around the world when it comes to work-life balance.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says the federal government is working with groups on the ground to resolve air travel 'bottlenecks' in time for a busy summer.
The Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling allowing the Quebec City mosque shooter to be eligible for parole after 25 years is raising concern for more than a dozen similar cases.
With 26 cases of monkeypox now confirmed in Canada, health officials warn that number will likely grow in the coming days and weeks. However, one expert says the outbreak can be stopped if the country works quickly to get it under control.
Canada's highest court has ruled that Alexandre Bissonnette, who murdered six people at the Quebec City mosque in 2017, will be eligible for parole after 25 years.
A lawyer for families of victims killed in the Nova Scotia mass shooting says an 18-hour delay in finding five bodies of those murdered is a sign of "deficient" policing.
A judge has denied bail for a man charged with conspiracy to commit murder at a border blockade in southern Alberta.
For 70 years, Andre Hissink has held a grudge against the Dutch government, but this week, the 102-year-old Second World War veteran’s persistence paid off – the Dutch king granted his wish for a rare dual citizenship.
A California woman who punched a Southwest Airlines flight attendant in the face during a flight, breaking her teeth, has been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.
A mother and sister known for baking decadent pastries. A restaurant worker buying his 3-year-old's birthday cake. A father and die-hard Buffalo Bills fan who worked as a school bus aide.
Fire that killed 11 newborn babies in Senegal hospital may have been started by short circuit, says minister
A hospital fire that killed 11 newborn babies in Senegal may have been caused by an electrical short circuit, the country's health minister said Thursday.
Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino will table new firearms legislation on Monday, according to his colleague Justice Minister David Lametti. In an interview with CTV's Question Period that will air on Sunday, Lametti pointed to the advance notice given to the House of Commons, and confirmed the plan is to see the new bill unveiled shortly after MPs return to the Commons on May 30.
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, more commonly known as 'broken heart syndrome' or stress-induced cardiomyopathy, is an actual medical condition triggered by severe emotional or physical stress and is different from a heart attack.
The World Health Organization says nearly 200 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 20 countries not usually known to have outbreaks of the unusual disease, but described the epidemic as 'containable' and proposed creating a stockpile to equitably share the limited vaccines and drugs available worldwide.
Circumhorizontal arcs put on a colourful show in parts of the Maritimes Thursday.
Paris Hilton has recently embraced two buzzy but speculative trends in tech: the metaverse, a vision for an immersive virtual world that still does not exist; and non-fungible tokens, known as NFTs, which refer to pieces of digital content linked to the blockchain, the digital ledger system underpinning various cryptocurrencies.
As Johnny Depp's high-profile libel lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard wound down, Heard took her final opportunity on the stand to comment on the hate and backlash she’s endured online during the trial.
Jedi master 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' is getting his own moment in the suns with a new six-part Disney+ series starring Ewan McGregor.
Defence lawyers told a Toronto jury Friday that Jacob Hoggard may have been cavalier and disrespectful towards women, but the Canadian musician is not a 'sadistic serial rapist.'
Moscow pressed the West on Thursday to lift sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame for a growing food crisis that has been worsened by Kyiv's inability to ship millions of tons of grain and other agricultural products due to the conflict.
Dropping consumer confidence numbers show that Canadians are growing increasingly anxious about the direction of the economy, said Nanos Research pollster Nik Nanos.
Aurora Cannabis Inc.'s share price fell by about 40 per cent, after the company announced it sold US$150 million worth of shares.
Crossword-loving grandma who thought she won $5,000 realized her lotto prize was actually a lot larger
A recent lottery winner excitedly told her daughter she was suddenly $5,000 richer. She was wrong.
Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League have reportedly settled a lawsuit with a woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted by eight members of the 2018 Canadian world junior hockey team.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers released veteran receiver Jalen Saunders earlier this week after investigating an allegation of sexual assault against him.
Wimbledon women's singles champions will now be listed on the All England Club's honour boards in a Centre Court hallway simply by their first initial and last name -- the way the men's title winners always have been -- instead of preceded by 'Miss' or 'Mrs.'
Jeep has come out with a new three-row large SUV, the Grand Wagoneer. It dusts off a nameplate not used since the early 1990s and stands as the brand's most expensive and luxurious model.
IndyCar will become the first North American racing series to use 100 per cent renewable fuel in its race cars.
At Indy, where culture is traditionally steeped in bricks more than bitcoin, the shift to cryptocurrency sponsorship may still be a curious concept to the almost 300,000 fans who will pack the track Sunday. But inside the paddock -- and locker rooms around the sports world - new forms of digital money help pay the bills and salaries for teams and athletes.