Human Events News will thoroughly cover Biden’s first press conference in a series of pieces throughout the week.
During his first and long overdue press conference since taking office in January, Joe Biden discussed several pressing topics: the pandemic, the crisis at the border, the filibuster and even a second term.
In case you missed it, here is a transcript of the hour-long event.
Biden: Please, please, sit down. Thank you. Thank you. Good afternoon. Before I take questions, I want to give you a progress report to the nation on where we stand 65 days into office year. Vaccinations and a few other top priorities of the American people. First, on vaccinations, on December 8, I indicated that I hoped to get 100 million shots in people’s arms in my first 100 days. We met that goal last week by day 58, 42 days ahead of schedule. 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. I know it is ambitious, twice our original goal. But no other country in the world has even come close. Not even close to what we are doing. I believe we can do it. Today, we made historic investment in reaching the hardest hit and the most vulnerable communities. The highest risk communities as a consequence of the virus, by investing an additional $10 billion and being able to reach them. I also set a goal before I took office of getting the majority of schools in k-8 fully open in the first 100 days. Now, thanks to the enormous amount of work done by our administration, educators, parents, local, state education officials, and leaders, recent department of education survey shows that nearly half of the k-8 schools are open now full-time, five days a week, for in person learning. Not yet a majority. But we are really close. I believe in the 35 days left to go, we’ll meet that goal as well. As of yesterday, more than 100 million payments of $1400 have gone into people’s bank accounts. That’s real money in people’s pockets bringing relief instantly almost. Millions more will be getting their money very soon. One final note, since we passed the American Rescue Plan, we are starting to see new signs of hope in our economy. Since it was passed, a majority of economic forecasters have significantly increased their projections on the economic growth that is going to take place this year. It will exceed 6% growth in GDP. Just this morning, we learned that the number of people filing for weekly employment insurance fell by nearly 100,000 persons. This is the first time in a year that the number has fallen below the pre-pandemic. high There are still too many Americans out of work, too many families hurting and we still have a lot of work to do. I can say to the American people help is here and hope is on the way. I will be happy to take your questions. Associated Press?
>> I would like to ask you about some of the other issues facing your presidency. One of the defining challenges you face in the coming months is how to deliver on your promise to Americans on issues like immigration reform, gun control, voting rights, climate change. All of those things are facing stiff, united opposition from Republicans on Capitol Hill. How far are you willing to go to achieve those promises you made to the American people?
>> I’m, look, when I took office, I decided that it was a fairly basic, simple proposition. That is, I got elected to solve problems. The most urgent problem facing the American people, I stated from the outset, was Covid-19 and the economic dislocation for millions and millions of Americans. That’s why I put most of my focus at the beginning on dealing with those particular problems. The other problems we are talking about from immigration to guns and other things you mentioned are long-term problems. They have been around a long time. What we are going to be able to do, god willing, is one at a time begin to focus on those as well. Whether it’s immigration or guns or a number of other problems that face the country, but the fundamental problem is getting people some peace of mind so they can go to bed at night and not stare at the ceiling wondering if they have lost their health insurance, whether they are going to lose a family member, the — whether they’re going to be a position where they are going to lose their home because they cannot pay their mortgage or the millions of people who are going to get thrown out of their homes because of the inability to pay their rent. We are going to move on these one at a time, try to do as many simultaneously as we can. That’s the reason why I focused as I have. Here’s the deal, I think my Republican colleagues are going to have to determine whether or not we want to work together or they decide the way in which they want to proceed is to just decide to divide the country, continue the politics of division. I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to move forward and take things as they come.
>> Follow-up Mr. President. Can your presidency be a success if you can’t make progress on those challenges: climate change, immigration reform, gun control, voting rights.
>> I plan on making progress on all of them, but that’s going to be for the American people to decide….Growing the economy. People’s lives are changing. So, let’s see what happens. All I know, I’ve been hired to solve problems. Not create division.
>> Thanks so much. You said over and over again that immigrants shouldn’t come to this country right now. That message is not being received. The perception of you that got you elected as a moral decent man is the reason why a lot of immigrants are coming to this country and trusting you with unaccompanied minors. How do you resolve that tension? And how are you choosing which families can stay and which families can go, even though there are some families that are staying. Is there a timeline for when we won’t be seeing these overcrowded facilities run by CPB when it comes to unaccompanied minors? >>
>> I guess I should be flattered. I’m a decent man or however it’s phrased, that’s why they’re coming because they know Biden’s a good guy. The truth of the matter is nothing has changed. As many people came, 28% increase in children to the border in my administration, — 31% in 2019 before the pandemic in the Trump administration — it happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. It happens every year. In addition to that, there is a — and by the way, does anybody suggest that there was a 31 percent increase under Trump because he was a nice guy? That’s not the reason they are coming. The reason they are coming is this is the time they can travel with the least likely dying in the desert. Number two, they are coming because the circumstances in country. The way to deal with this problem, and I started to deal with it when I was United States senator, I mean vice president, putting together a bipartisan plan to deal with the root causes of what people are doing. What did Trump do? He eliminated that funding. He did not use it. In addition to that, what he did, he dismantled all the elements that exist to deal with what had been a problem and continues to be a problem for a long time. He in fact he shut down the number of beds available. He did not fund HHS to get the children out of those border patrol facilities. He dismantled all of that. What we are doing now is attempting to rebuild the system that can accommodate what is happening today and I would like to think it’s because I’m a nice guy, but it’s not it’s because of what happened every year. The vast majority, the overwhelming majority of people coming to the border are being sent back. Are being sent back. Thousands. Tens of thousands of people who are over 18 years of age and single people have been sent back. We are sending back the vast majority of the families that are coming. We are trying to work out now with Mexico their willingness to take more of those families back. That’s what’s happening. For example, of all the children coming across the border, over 70% are either 16 or 17 years old. We are not talking about people ripping babies from mother’s arms or little three year olds standing at the border. It’s about one and a half percent default in the category of the very young. What we are doing is we are providing for the space to be able to get these kids out of the border patrol facilities, which no child should be in any longer than 72 hours. Today, I used all the resources available and went to the Defense Department and the Secretary of Defense made available Fort Bliss, 5000 beds to be immediately available. So we are building back up the capacity that should have been maintained and built upon that Trump dismantled. It’s going to take time. The other thing we are doing, I might add, am I giving you too long of an answer? I don’t know how much detail you want about immigration. Maybe I will stop there.
>> My follow-up question is if you could talk a little bit about which families, why the families that are being allowed to stay are being allowed to stay. When it comes to the filibuster, immigration is a big issue, but there is also Republicans who are passing bill after bill trying to restrict voting rights. Chuck Schumer is calling it an existential threat to democracy. Why not back a filibuster rule that at least gets around issues including voting rights or immigration, Jim Clyburn has backed the idea of a filibuster rule when it comes to civil rights and voting rights.
>> I’m going to deal with all of those problems. The question is the priorities as they come and land on my plate. Let’s go to the first and second question. That is what about dealing with families? Why are some not going back? Because Mexico is refusing to take them back. They are saying they will not take them back. Not all of them. We are in negotiations with the president of Mexico, I think we are going to see that change. They should all be going back. The only people we are not going to let sitting there on the other side of the Rio Grande by themselves with no help are children. What we are doing is an important point to understand, I know you understand, I don’t mean it to say it that way. The vast majority of people under the age of 18 coming to the United States come with a telephone number on a wristband or, with a telephone number in their pocket in the United States. A mother, a father, a close relative. What’s happening is it’s taking weeks and weeks or maybe even months before anyone would pick up the phone and call to see if there really was someone there. We’ve set up a system now where within 24 hours, there is a phone call made. As that child crosses the border. A verification system put in place as of today to determine quickly whether or not that is a trafficker being called or that’s actually a mom, a dad, and/or a close relative. If it is in fact mom or dad, dad says to take the extreme case. I’ve got a birth certificate. Guess what? We are getting that kid directly to that parent immediately. That’s going to reduce significantly — circumstances that are not acceptable, like being held at a border patrol station. Get them to the place where they have a relative. Set the date as to when the hearing can be held. The second way to do it is put them with a health and human services facility that we are occupying now, licensed beds around the country as well as federal resources to get them safely in a place where they can be taken care of while their fate is determined. The filibuster. With regard to the filibuster, I believe we should go back to position when the filibusters existed when I came to the Senate 120 years ago. There used to be required for the filibuster. I was going to give you the statistics. It used to be that between 1917 and 1971, the filibuster existed. There were a total of 58 motions to break the filibuster, that whole time. Last year alone, there were five times that many. It’s being abused in a gigantic way. For example, it used to be that you had to stand there and talk and talk and talk until you collapsed. Guess what? People get tired of talking and tired of collapsing. The filibuster broke down and they were able to break the filibuster to get a vote. I strongly support moving in that direction. 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. Like the basic right to vote. We have amended the filibuster in the past. Here’s the deal. As you observe, I’m a fairly practical guy. I want to get things done. I want to get them done consistent with what we promised the American people. In order to do that in a 50-50 Senate, we have got to get to the place where I get 50 votes so that the vice president of the United States can break the tie or I get 51 votes without her. So, I’m going to say something outrageous. I have never been particularly poor at calculating how to get things done in the United States Senate. The best way to get something done — if you hold it near and dear and you would like to be able to, anyway. We are ready to get a lot done. If we have to, if there is complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we will have to go beyond what we are talking about. Ok. Hang on. Sorry. Oh. Kim.
>> Thank you, Mr. President. To follow-up on the filibuster. Do you believe it should take 60 votes to end a filibuster on legislation or 51?
>> If we could end with 51, we would have no problem. The existing rule, it’s going to be hard to get a parliamentary ruling that allows 50 votes to end the filibuster. It’s not my expertise what the parliamentary rules and how to get there are, but our preoccupation with the filibuster is totally legitimate but in the meantime we got a lot we can do while we are talking about what to do with the filibuster. Ok, Cecilia Vega.
>> I would like to circle back to immigration, please. You just listed the reasons that people are coming, talking about in country problems. Saying that it happens every year, you blamed the last administration. I just got back last night from a reporting trip to the border where I met nine-year-old Josel, who walked here from Honduras by himself along with another little boy. He had that phone number on him and we were able to call his family. His mother says that she set her son to this country because she believes that you are not deporting unaccompanied minors like her son. That’s why she sent him alone from Honduras. So, sir, you blamed the last administration, but is your messaging in saying that these children are and will be allowed to stay in this country and work their way through this process encouraging families like Josel’s to come?
>> Well look. The idea that I’m going to say, which I would never do, that an unaccompanied child ends up at the border we are going to let them starve to death. No previous administration did that either except Trump. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it. That’s why I have asked the vice president of the United States yesterday to be the lead person on dealing with focusing on the fundamental reasons why people leave Honduras, Guatemala, all Salvador the first place. It — El Salvador in the first place. It’s because of earthquakes, floods, lack of food, gang violence, a whole range of things that when I was vice president, had the same obligation to deal with unaccompanied children. I was able to get it slowed up significantly by working with the heads of state in those communities. The reason people were leaving is the could not walk in the street because their kids were getting beat up or shot. Well, what I was able to do is not give money to the head of state because so many of them are corrupt. I was able to say, you need lighting in the street to change things? I will put the lighting in. We’ve got the contractor. We did not go through the government. Violent crime significantly was reduced in that city. Fewer people sought to leave. When this hurricane occurred, instead of us going down and helping in a major way so that people would not have a reason to want to leave in the first place because they didn’t have housing or water or sustenance we did nothing. We are going to do a lot in our administration. We are going to be spending that 700 plus million dollars a year to change the life and circumstances of why people leave in the first place. That mother did not sit around on the kitchen table and say I’ve got a great idea. I’m going to make sure my son gets taken care of. I’m going to put, how old was he?
>> He was nine. I also met a 10-year-old.
>> A nine year old, I’m going to send him on a journey across the desert and up to the United States because I know Joe Biden is a nice guy. What a desperate act to have to take. The circumstances must be horrible. So we can do something about that. That’s what the vice president is going to be doing. What I did, when President Obama asked me to come and deal. I was in Turkey at the time. He said you have to come home and take care of this. We put together a plan and it had an impact. The question here is how we go ahead and do this. What do we do? There’s no easy answer.
>> Quick follow-up. Do you want to see these unaccompanied minors staying in this country? Or should they be deported?
>> Judgment has to be made whether or not, and in this young man’s case, he has a mom at home, there’s an overwhelming reason why he’d be put on a plane and flown back to his mom.
>> You mentioned circumstances that must be horrific. The customs and border protection in Donna, Texas, I was there, is at 1556% capacity. There are kids sleeping on floors. They are packed into pods. They said some of the children have not seen the sun in days. Is what’s happening inside acceptable to you? And when is this going to be fixed?
>> Is it acceptable to me? Come on. That’s why we are going to be moving a thousand of those kids out quickly. That’s why I’ve been working from the moment this started to happen to try to find additional access for children to be able to safely, not just children, particularly children to be safely housed while we follow through on the rest of what’s happening. That is totally unacceptable.
>> Thank you, Mr. President. I want to ask you about Afghanistan. You faced a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of troops from that country. As a candidate, you wrote that it is past time to end these forever wars. Can you commit to the American people that by May 2, the U.S. will no longer have forces in Afghanistan?
>> The answer is that it is going to be hard to meet that May 1 deadline in terms of tactical reasons, hard to get those troops out. What we will do, what I’ve been doing and what Secretary Blinken has been doing is been we are meeting with our allies, those other nations that have NATO allies that have troops in Afghanistan as well. If we leave, we are going to do so in a safe and orderly way. We are in consultation with our allies and partners. Secretary Blinken is meeting in Brussels this week with our NATO allies, particularly those who have forces there. General Austin just met and I am waiting for the briefing on that. He is the leader in Afghanistan and Kkabul. There is a U.N. led process that is beginning shortly on how to mechanically get people, how to end this war. It’s not my intention to stay there for a long time. The question is how and under what circumstances do we meet that agreement that was made by President Trump to leave under a deal that looks like it’s not being able to be worked out to begin with. How is that done. But we are not staying long time.
>> Do you think it’s possible?
>> The question is when we leave.
>> Do you believe it’s possible we could have troops there next year?
>> I can’t picture that being the case.
>> Thank you very much, Mr. President. Given the conditions that were just laid out at the migrant facilities at the U.S. Border, will you commit to allowing journalists have access to the facilities that are overcrowded moving forward?
>> I will commit when my plan very shortly is underway to let you have access to not just them but other facilities as well.
>> Be able to have access to the facilities. We have obviously been allowed to be inside one, but we have not seen the facilities in which children are packed together to really give the American people a chance to see that. Will you commit to transparency?
>> I will commit to transparency as soon as I am and up position to be able to implement what we are doing right now. And one of the reasons I have not gone down, my chief folks have gone down. I don’t want to become the issue. I don’t want to be bringing all of the Secret Service with me to get in the way. This is being set up. You will have full access to everything once we get this thing moving.
>> Just to be clear, how soon will that be, Mr. President.
>> I don’t know, to be clear.
>> I hear you talking a lot about the past administration. You decided to roll back some of those policies. Did you move too quickly? Did you move too quickly to roll back some of the executive orders of your predecessor?
>> First of all, all of the policies underway were not helping at all. Rolling back the policies of separating children from their mothers, I make no apology for that. Rolling back the policies of remaining in Mexico sitting on the edge of the Rio Grande with not enough to eat, I make no apologies for that. I make no apologies for any of the programs that did not exist before Trump became president that have an incredibly negative impact on the law, international law, as well as on human dignity. I make no apologies for that.
>> Can I ask you about for policy? Overnight we learned that North Korea tested two ballistic missiles. What, if any, actions will you take? What is your redline on North Korea?
>> Number one, Human Resolution 1718 was violated by those particular missiles that were tested. We are consoling with our allies and partners and there will be responses if they choose to escalate. We will respond accordingly. I am also prepared for some form of diplomacy, but it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization. That’s what we’re are doing right now.
>> Just very quickly. Diplomacy. Can you define what you mean? Former President Obama warned the incoming President Trump that North Korea was the top foreign-policy issue he was watching. Is that how you assess the crisis in North Korea?
>> Thank you, Mr. President. Republican legislatures across the country are working to pass bills that would restrict voting, particularly Democrats fear impacting minority voters and young voters, the people who helped to get you elected in November. Are you worried that if you do not manage to pass voting rights legislation, that your party is going to lose seats and possibly lose control of the House and Senate in 2022?
>> What I’m worried about is how un-American his whole initiative is. It is sick. It is sick. Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line, waiting to vote, deciding that you are going to end voting at 5:00, when people are just getting off work, deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances. It is all designed, and I’m going to spend my time doing three things. One, trying to figure out how to pass the legislation passed by the House, number one. Number two, educating the American public. The Republican voters I know find this despicable. Republican voters. Folks outside this White House. I’m not talking about the elected officials, I’m talking about voters. Voters, and, so, I am convinced we will be able to stop this because it is the most pernicious thing. This makes Jim Crowe look like Jim eagle. This is gigantic what they are trying to do, and it cannot be sustained. I am going to do everything in my power, along with my friends in the House and Senate, to keep that from becoming law.
>> Is there anything else you can do about it besides passing legislation?
>> The answer is yes, but I am not going to lay out a strategy in front of the whole world and you now.
>> On a related note, have you decided if you are going to run for reelection in 2024? You have not set up a reelection campaign as your predecessor had at this time.
>> [Laughter] My predecessor needed to. My predecessor, oh God, I miss him. My plan is, yes, that is my expectation.
> On bipartisanship, your old friend, Mitch McConnell, says you have only spoken to each other once since you took office, and that you have moved far-left since taking office. Do you see it the same way he does? Have you rejected partisanship?
>> No, I have not at all, when is the last time a president invited the opposite party down at least half a dozen times to talk about issues, everything from how we work, working in a group of 20 members of the Senate right now and house on how we reestablish our ability to make computer chips and how we get ahead of the game, how we can work together, and we are working together on a bunch of things, but, look, I know Mitch well, Mitch knows me well. I would expect Mitch to say what he said, but this is a matter of I would like Republican, elected Republican support, but what I know I have now is I have electoral support from Republican voters. Republican voters. They agree with what I’m doing. Unless Mitch says the last piece of legislation I did was so far left, well, he ought to take a look at his party. Over 50% of them must be over that edge as well because they support what I did. Ok. Where am I here? Let me see.
> Thank you, Mr. President. I have a question for you, but first, I would like to follow up on a question
>> That counts as a question, but go ahead.
> I will make it quick. Regarding the filibuster, at John Lewis’ funeral, Barack Obama said he believed the filibuster was a relic of the Jim crow era. Do you agree?
> If not, why not abolish it if it is a relic of the Jim crow era?
>> Successful electoral politics. Let’s figure out how we can get this done and move in that direction of significantly changing the filibuster rule first. It has been abused from the time he came into being, by an extreme way in the last 20 years, let’s deal with the abuse first.
> It sounds like you are moving closer to eliminating the filibuster. Is that correct?
>> I answered your question.
> You also just made news by saying you are going to run for reelection.
>> I said that is my expectation.
> So that is a yes that you are running for reelection?
>> I don’t know where you guys come from. I am a great respecter of faith. I have never been able to plan for 3.5 years ahead for certain.
> If you do, will Vice President Harris to be on your ticket?
> I would expect that to be the case. She’s doing a great job. She’s a great partner.
> Do you believe you will be running against former President Trump?
>> Come on, I don’t even think about it, I have no idea. I have no idea if there will be a Republican Party, do you? I know you don’t have to answer my question, but do you? Look, the way I view things, I become a great respecter of fate in my life. I set a goal in front of me to get things done to the people I care most about, which are hard-working, decent American people who are having it stuck to them. I would like to change the paradigm. I would like to change the paradigm. I would like to change the paradigm. If you noticed, didn’t you find it interesting that my Republican friends are worried about the cost and dealing with the act we just passed, which puts ordinary people — which puts money in ordinary people’s pockets? When they passed close to a tax cut, many go to the top 1%. Did you talk about that at all? I love the fact that I found this whole idea of this concern of the federal budget is kind of amazing. The federal budget is saving people’s lives. They don’t think it is such a good idea. When the federal budget is feathering the nest of the wealthiest Americans, 90 of the fortune 500 companies making billions and not paying a cent in taxes, reducing taxes to appoint where if you are a husband or wife, a schoolteacher, and a cop, you are paying at a higher rate than the average person making $1 billion a year is. Something is wrong. There are newfound concerns. I am concerned — look, I meant what I said when I ran, and a lot of you still think I’m wrong. I respect that. I am running for three reasons, to restore the soul, dignity, honesty, transparency to the American political system. Two, to rebuild the backbone of this country, the middle class. Hard-working people, people struggling in the middle class. They build America, and unions build them. The third reason I said I was running was to unite country, and, generically speaking, all of you said, no, you can’t do that. Well, I have not been able to unite Congress, I’m uniting the country based on polling data. We have to come together. We have to. From my perspective, you know, Timmy, it is about just getting out there, putting one foot in front of the other and trying to make things better for people. Just hard-working people. People get up every morning and want to figure out how to put food on the table for their kids and have really room, being able to make sure they go to bed, not staring at the ceiling wondering what happens if mom gets sick or died get sick without health insurance. These are basic things. Basic things. And I am of the view that the vast majority of people, including registered Republicans by and large, share that same view, that same sense of what is appropriate. Justin? Bloomberg.
> Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to talk about your relationship with China now that you’ve been in office a couple of months. There was a meeting in Alaska that was a little theatrical, and there are continued human rights abuses. Are you more likely than you were when you came into office to maintain tariffs on China? Are you considering banning imports of forced labor products? Would you consider cutting off U.S. Investment or Chinese access to international payment systems?
>> Look, to each specifically, legitimate questions, but they only touch a smidgen of what the relationship with China is really about. I have known Xi Jinping for a long time. Allegedly, by the time I left office of the vice president, I had spent more time with Xi Jinping than any other world leader had because President Obama and the Chinese president decided we should get to know one another since it is inappropriate for the president of the United States to spend time with the vice president of another country, but it was obvious he was going to become the new leader of China. So I spent hours upon hours with him alone with an interpreter. Mine and his. Going into great detail and very, very straightforward. Did not have a democratic with a small D bone in his body, but he is a smart, smart guy. He is one of the guys like Putin, who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future government — thanks democracy is the wave of the future government in any complex world. When I was elected, he called to congratulate me. I think to the surprise of the China experts who were his people on call, we had a two hour conversation, for two hours. We made several things clear to one another. I made it clear to him again and what I’ve told him in person on several occasions, that we are not looking for confrontation, although we know there will be steep, steep competition. Two, that we will have strong competition, but we insist China play by international rules. Fair competition, fair practice is fair trade. Thirdly, in order to compete effectively, I indicated, that we are going to deal with China effectively. And we are going to need three things to do that. Telling our people, first, we are going to invest in American workers and American science. I said that all through the campaign, I say it all again, and I’m setting up my administration to be able to do that, which is that back in the 1960’s, we invested a little over 2% of our entire gdp in pure research and investmentin science. Today it is .7%. I’m going to change that. We are going to change that. The future lies in who can own the future as it relates to technology, quantum computing, a whole range of things, including the medical fields. So, what I’m going to do is make sure we invest closer to percent , one of the reasons why I have set up the president’s board of scientists and the like, again, is we are going to invest in medical research, cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, industries of the future, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotech, and we are going to make real investments. China is out investing us by a longshot because their plan is to own that which are. The second thing we are going to do is reestablish alliances. I have very clear, it is not anti-chinese. We have talked about it. I want to make sure that, for example, shortly after this, which is fine, we are going close to one hour. I am happy to go longer, but one of the things that I’m going to be doing is I’m going to be speaking with 27 heads of state in Europe within the next hour or so. I don’t know the exact time. And earlier this month, apparently, it got the Chinese attention. That is why I did it. I met with our allies and how we are going to hold China accountable in the region. Australia, India, Japan, united States, the so-called quad, because we have to have democracies working together. Before too long, I’m going to invite an alliance of democracies together to discuss the future. We are going to make it clear that in order to deal with these things, we are going to hold China accountable to follow the rules, follow the rules, whether it relates to the south China sea or the north sign achieve — for the north China sea and a whole range of things. And the third thing, and the thing that I admire about dealing with XI is he understands and makes no pretense about not understanding what I’m saying, anymore than I do him. I pointed out to him no leader can be sustained in his or her position unless they represent the values of the country. I said, Mr. President, as I have told you before, Americans value the notions of freedom. America values human rights. We don’t always live up to our expectations, but it is a valued system. We are founded on that supple. As long as you and your country continues to blatantly violate human rights, we are going to continue to call to attention to the world and make it clear, make it clear what is happening, and he understood that. And made it clear that no American president, at least one did, but no American president ever backed down from speaking out of what was happening in Hong Kong, what is happening in the country. That is who we are. The moment a president walks away from that, as the last one did, is a moment we begin to lose legitimacy around the world. It is who we are. So, I see stiff competition with China. China has an overall goal, and I do not criticize him for the goal, but they have the overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. That is not going to happen on my watch because the United States is going to continue to grow and expand.
> Just a follow-up on the meeting of democracies, is that where you expect in a multilateral way to make decisions about sanctions?
>> Well, that is not where I make a decision but make sure we’re all on the same page. Look, I predict to you, your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded, autocracy or democracy? That is what is at stake, not just in China. Look around the world. We are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution of enormous consequence. Will there be a middle-class? How will people adjust to these significant changes in science and technology? The environment? How will they do that. And our democracies equipped because all the people get to speak to compete? It is clear, absolutely clear that most of the scholars I dealt with agree with me around the country, that this is a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies. If you notice, you don’t have Russia talking about communism anymore. It is about autocracy. Demand decisions made by a leader of a country. That is what is at stake.
> Mr. President, I’m sorry, I know you have another chance to address the tragedy in Georgia and Colorado. You had said to stay tuned for actions you might take on gun control. I am wondering if you made a decision on sending the manufacturer liability bill you promised on day one to Capitol Hill or executive actions like going after ghost guns or giving money to cities and states to battle gun control?
>> All of the above. It is a matter of timing. As you all observed, successful presidents better than me have been successful in large part because they know how to time what they’re doing, order it, decide priorities, what needs to be done. The next major initiative is, and I will announce it on Friday in Pittsburgh in detail, is to rebuild the 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. Some of you have been around long enough to know that used to be a great Republican goal initiative. I still think the majority of the American people do not like the fact that we are now ranked 85th in the world and infrastructure. I mean, look, the future rests on whether or not we have the best airports that can accommodate air travel, ports you can get in and out of quickly. Some of you, if you are local reporters, and you found your governor or mayor trying to track business to your community, or what is the first thing the business asks? What is the closest access to an interstate highway? How far am I from a freight rail? Is there water? Is there enough water available for me to conduct my business? All of the things related to infrastructure. I asked the staff to write it down for me, and they did. Not for this, but for a longer discussion, we have some work in terms of infrastructure. We rank 13th globally in infrastructure. China is investing three times more in infrastructure than the United States is. More than one third of our bridges, 231,000 of them need repairs. Some are physical safety risks or preservation work. One in five miles of our highways and major roads are in poor condition. That is 186,000 miles of highway. Aviation, 20% of all flights. 20% of all flights are on time, 1.5 million hours lost in reduction. 6 million to 10 million homes in America still have lead pipes servicing their waterlines. We have over 100,000 wellheads that are not capped, leaking methane. What are we doing? By the way, we can put as many pipefitters and minors to work capping the wells at the same price that they would charge to dig those wells, so, I just find it frustrating, frustrating. Last point I will make on infrastructure. I apologize for spending more time on it, is that if you think about it, umm, it is the place where we will be able to significantly increase American productivity, at the same time providing really good jobs for people. But we cannot build back to what they used to be. We have to build, globally it has already done significant damage. The roads that used to be above water level, did not have to worry about where the drainage was. Now you have to rebuild them three feet higher because it is not going to go back but only get worse unless we stop it. There is so much we can do. Look at all the schools in America. Most of you live in the Washington area now, but in your hometowns, I don’t know where you all from, how many schools where kids cannot drink water out of the fountain? How many schools are in the position where there is asbestos? How many schools in America are we sending our kids to don’t have adequate ventilation? How many buildings, office complexes, are wasting billions of barrels of oil over time because they cannot hold in the heat or the air-conditioning because it leaks through the windows that are so porous in connections? It is amazing. There is so much we can do that is good stuff, makes people healthier, and creates good jobs. I think that, one more question here.
> Thank you, Mr. President. We have been reporting that at the border, we just ran into a pair of siblings who were detained, had the phone number for their mother, who lives in the U.S. We contacted the mother. That is the only way she knows her kids are here because they have not contacted the mother. When can we expect your promise of things getting better with expediency?
>> They are getting better, but they are going to get a hell of a lot better. We can get this done. We are going to get it done. I had a long meeting with the entire team and several cabinet level officers the other night. We are going to be moving within the next week, over 100,000 — I mean, 1000 people out of the border patrol into safe, secure beds and facilities. We are going to significantly ramp up, we are already out there contacting everyone from getting some of the employees and HHS. A lot of them are making those calls. We are in the process of rearranging and providing for the personnel needed to get that done. I admire the fact you were down there and making the calls yourself. It is real. The next thing that has to happen, as you know, there has to be some certitude that this is actually mom, dad, whomever. There are ways to do that. There are ways to do that, like determining whether or not you got the right code for your credit card, you know? What was your dog’s name kind of thing? I am being a bit facetious, but not really, and also seeking harder data from DNA to birth certificates, which takes longer. I want to do this as quickly and as humanly as possible and safely as possible.
> Treating the root causes in Latin America doesn’t change things overnight. How do you realistically and physically keep families coming from the U.S. When things will not get better in their countries right away?
Well, I cannot guarantee that, but I know that old thing, the journey of 1000 miles starts with the first step. You know as well as I do, you cover it, it is not like somebody sitting in a table in Guatemala, I mean in somewhere in Mexico or in Guadalupe saying I have a great idea. Let’s sell everything we have, give it to a coyote, have them take our kids across the border into a desert where they don’t speak the language. Won’t that be fun? Let’s go. That’s not how it happens. People do not want to leave. When my great grandfather got in a coffin ship in the Irish sea, the expectation was, is he going to live long enough on the ship to get to the United States of America? They left because of what the Brits had been doing. They were in real trouble. They did not want to leave, but they had no choice. I cannot guarantee we are going to solve everything. I can guarantee we are going to make everything better. We can make it better. We can change the lives of so many people. The other thing I would like to point out, and I hope you point out, I realize it is much more heart-wrenching, and it is, to deal with a five and six and seven-year-old, but you went down and you saw the vast majority of these children, 70% are 16 years old, 17 years old, mostly males. It does not make a big and better difference, but the idea that we have tens of thousands of kids in these god-awful facilities that are really little babies crying all night, and there are some, that is true, and yesterday, I asked my team, both the director of two agencies and others, I asked them would they in fact, and I asked their opinion because they are the experts, but I said, focus on the most vulnerable immediately. There is no reason why in the next month as people cross the border, that phone call cannot be made in the first 48 hours.
> May I ask one last question? Have you had any talks with Senate Republicans who are threatening this administration with not considering the immigration legislation passed in the House until the situation at the border had been resolved?
>> No because I know they have to posture for a while. They have to get it out of their system [Laughter] This is a — but I am ready to work with any Republican who wants to help solve the problem and make the situation better. Folks, I am going. Thank you very much