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200 Million: Biden Issues New Vaccine Goal During His 1st Press Conference

President Biden is expected to tout his early successes and press for his legislative wish list. But he is likely to face questions about immigration and mass shootings.

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President Biden is doubling his original COVID-19 vaccination goal to200 million shots in arms by his 100th day in office — which is about a month from now — he said in the first news conference of his presidency on Thursday.

When he entered office, Biden said his goal was 100 million vaccine doses in 100 days — a target many observers thought was not ambitious enough. According to federal health officials, that 100 million figure was hit on Biden’s 58th day in office.

Biden is also sticking to a goal of having all K-8 schools open full time — in person, five days a week — by that same 100-day mark. So far, he said, roughly half of them are open full time.

“Help is here,” Biden said, and “hope is on the way.”

When it comes to the influx of migrants at the southern U.S. border, Biden said the Pentagon is making 5,000 beds available at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, to increase capacity.

He blamed the Trump administration for decreasing capacity and said his administration is in the process of building back up the systems that, he said, should have been maintained and built upon, but that the former president “dismantled.”

The Biden administration has changed policy from the Trump hard-line action of refusing to admit unaccompanied minors during the pandemic. The president defended taking that action, saying what former President Donald Trump did broke from prior practice of past presidents and was, essentially, inhumane.

“I’m not going to do it,” Biden said of potentially deporting children who come to the border by themselves. “I’m not going to do it.”

He stressed that a parent’s decision to send their child to the United States unaccompanied on a dangerous journey shows desperation with their circumstances. Biden has assigned Vice President Harris to head up efforts to work with Mexico and Central American countries to stem the flow of migrants.

A solution to the immigration situation at the southern border has been elusive through Congress. When asked whether he would back eliminating or weakening the filibuster to facilitate his agenda, he delivered a potential threat.

If Republicans continue to make it a requirement for 60 votes to proceed to an up or down vote, “We’ll have to go beyond what we’re talking about,” he said obliquely. Biden has in the past signaled openness to dismantling the filibuster, if Republican opposition refuses to relent.

Biden also reiterated that he is in favor of bringing back the so-called “talking filibuster,” making it necessary for senators who want to hold up legislation to hold the Senate floor and speak.

Asked about gun violence following two high-profile mass shootings in the past week, Biden pivoted and said his next push will be on infrastructure. That’s something he said he will announce in more detail Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

“It’s a matter of timing,” Biden said.

His answer indicated Biden, who in recent days urged lawmakers to pass firearm legislation, may not believe the political will is there now to pass substantive gun restrictions. Congress has been unable to pass strong gun legislation over the past two decades, despite countless mass shootings in that time.

Biden, who’s 78 years old, also said he plans to run for reelection in 2024.

“My answer is yes,” he said, noting later that that’s his “expectation.”

It’s advantageous for a president to say he expects to seek reelection or he becomes a lame duck too quickly. In other words, if a president says he is not going to run for reelection, Congress begins to look past that president’s authority, reducing his political capital.

Biden also touted his early successes, including work to expand the coronavirus vaccination program and the $1.9 trillion relief package enacted by Congress.

His remarks come a little over halfway through his first 100 days in office — a typical benchmark used to measure a president’s early progress. Before this news conference, Biden had taken questions intermittently from reporters, but nothing at this length.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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