Jan 19, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Highlights from Biden's marathon 2-hour press conference

President Biden answers questions during a news conference in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 19. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday marked the end of his first year in office with a marathon press conference from the White House East Room, during which he defended his record in office and made headlines on several fronts.

Why it matters: It was only Biden's second solo presser while in office. The president said he would support splitting his flagship budget bill, the Build Back Better Act, to pass it in increments. He also called on the Federal Reserve to do more against inflation, and predicted that Russia will invade Ukraine.

On Russia:

"My guess is he will move in," Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the crisis brewing between his country and Ukraine.

  • U.S. officials have already issued a series of warnings about Russia's threatening military buildup on the border with Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying in Kyiv earlier Wednesday that Russia could invade "on very short notice."

Biden said that Russia will be "held accountable if it invades" but appeared to imply that a "minor incursion" would illicit a less significant response.

  • "It's one thing if it's a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera," Biden said. "But if Russia launches a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, this would be a "disaster for Russia."
"I think he still does not want any full-blown war, number one. Number two, do I think he'll test the West? Test the United States and NATO as significantly as he can? Yes, I think he will. But I think he'll pay a serious and dear price for it that he doesn't think now will cost him what it's going to cost him. And I think he'll regret having done it. My guess is he will move in. He has to do something."
On inflation:

After the country saw 7% inflation in 2021, Biden said fighting inflation is the job of the Federal Reserve — an endorsement of the central bank's shift toward higher interest rates.

  • Our thought bubble, via Axios' Neil Irwin: The comments reflect the Biden administration's conviction that getting inflation under control is crucial to the president's political future — and that tools the administration directly controls are ill-suited to the job.
On midterms:

Biden said he believes the upcoming 2022 midterms could "easily be illegitimate" without voting rights reforms that he and Democrats have pushed. A bill addressing that seemed destined to fail in the Senate on Wednesday night.

  • "The prospect of an illegitimate [election] is in direct proportion to us being able to get these reforms passed, but I don't think ... you're going to see the Democratic Party give up on coming back."
On BBB:

A month after the Build Back Better Act failed to garner the support of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — all but guaranteeing its downfall — Biden said he still believes he can get "big chunks" of the legislation through Congress.

  • "I'm confident we can get pieces — big chunks — of the Build Back Better law signed into law," Biden said.
  • "I've been engaged a long time in public policy," Biden continued, "and I don't know many things that have been done in one fell swoop."
On COVID response:

Biden conceded that the U.S. should have done more testing earlier on during his first year in office.

  • "Should we have done more testing earlier? Yes," he said. "But we're doing more now. ... We've gone from zero at-home tests a year ago to 375 million tests on the market in just this month."
On Harris in 2024:

The president was unequivocal that Vice President Kamala Harris will be his running mate in 2024, and said he was satisfied with her handling of the administration's voting rights efforts. Biden tasked her with spearheading that effort at the start of this administration.

  • "She's going to be my running mate, number one," Biden said. "And number two, I did put her in charge. I think she's doing a good job."
Go deeper