Administration

Questions facing Biden at his second solo White House presser

President Biden on Wednesday will host just his second solo press conference from the White House since taking office, offering reporters a rare opportunity to press him on news of the day in such a format.

The event comes at a precarious time for Biden’s agenda. His Build Back Better plan and voting rights legislation are stalled, the coronavirus pandemic has persisted months after he gave what amounted to a victory lap speech and his approval ratings have steadily declined over the past several months.

Here are some questions Biden may face from reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

Is Build Back Better dead? Are you willing to urge Democrats to pass pieces of it rather than the whole proposal?

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) appeared to deal a death knell to Biden’s signature policy proposal late last year when he said he could not support the roughly $2 trillion spending package with investments in child care, family care and for fighting climate change.

The White House has denied it is preparing a “skinny” version of Build Back Better, but perhaps the only path forward is to pass individual pieces of the legislation that can garner the support of all 50 Democratic caucus members in the Senate.

You have warned for several months that Republican laws like the one in Georgia represent an attack on democracy. Why then did you wait until last week to make a forceful push to alter the filibuster? And would you support reforming the Electoral Count Act if other efforts fail?

Biden’s forceful push for Democrats to alter the filibuster to pass voting rights bills won praise from advocates and civil rights leaders last week, but it was still regarded as a belated push for legislation to counteract Republican state voting laws.

Despite Biden’s push, the effort is expected to fail this week because Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) do not support changing the filibuster. Bipartisan lawmakers have opened the door to reforming the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which sets out how Congress counts Electoral College votes that determine the winner of a presidential election. The White House dismissed the idea of reforming the law as a “substitute” for passing the other voting rights bills. 

What preventative measures is your administration looking at in order to prevent another test shortage and other pandemic-related measures should another variant arise? What do you say to criticism that your administration is reacting instead of being more proactive two years into the pandemic?

Democrats have called on Biden to step up his efforts to fight the pandemic, including purchasing more tests for Americans and providing high-quality masks to everyone. Five Democratic senators last week wrote to the president to express their concern with the pandemic response and said it has often been “reactive, rather than proactive.”

The Biden administration is launching a new website this week, through which 500 million tests will be distributed to Americans free of charge and on Wednesday it announced it will make 400 million non-surgical N95 masks from the national stockpile free to Americans.

Have you been satisfied with the messaging coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Can your administration improve the way it communicates about the pandemic to the American public?

The Biden administration has had a number of messaging missteps as the coronavirus pandemic ebbs and flows, with much of the criticism falling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency was criticized for its mixed messages on masking in the spring as millions of Americans were getting vaccinated. More recently, it came under the microscope for its messy guidance on when individuals who had COVID-19 could come out of isolation and whether it required a negative test.

The messaging troubles have contributed to a slow but steady drop in Biden’s approval rating on handling the pandemic.

You and your advisers have predicted that inflation will be transitory, but with the costs of food, housing and other essential goods rising, how can you assure Americans that your administration is focused on addressing surging inflation?

Consumer prices increased 7 percent in December from the same month the previous year, which is dismal news for a White House struggling to get surging prices under control. The price increase is the fastest in almost 40 years, but economists generally believe that inflation will decline substantially over the next year. 

High inflation is a huge political challenge for Biden and Democrats going into the midterm elections, and the White House has tried to ease concerns by stressing Biden’s plan to reduce prices by going after meat processors and directing the biggest oil reserve release in history.

Last week, the Supreme Court struck down your sweeping vaccine-or-test mandate for large private businesses. Will that be the end of your efforts to mandate vaccines or are more actions on the table?

The Supreme Court last week ruled 6-3 against Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate for employers with at least 100 employees, blocking it from taking effect while other legal challenges play out. In response, the president called on companies to require people to get vaccinated and vowed to put pressure on them to voluntarily create their own requirements.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh left the door open to more efforts from the administration to impose mandates on private companies. He said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will evaluate all options to keep workers safe in response to the high court ruling.

You recently called the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol an “insurrection” and an attempted “coup.” Do you believe the Justice Department should prosecute former President Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 riot? 

Biden has been adamant that he wants to keep his Justice Department independent and free of political influence, but that has not stopped him from weighing in on proceedings around the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

One of the major outstanding questions is whether former President Trump will face charges for his role in the riot, specifically for his weeks of false claims that preceded it and his speech urging supporters to march over to the Capitol.

Can you commit unequivocally to running for reelection? Will Vice President Harris be your running mate? If you can’t commit unequivocally, who do you think should be the nominee if circumstances ultimately cause you to decide against running?

Biden and his aides have repeatedly said the president plans to run for reelection in 2024, but Biden himself offered a qualifier when asked about the prospect last month.

“If I’m in the health I’m in now, if I’m in good health, then in fact, I would run again,” Biden told ABC News.

Biden, at 79 years old, is the oldest person ever to occupy the White House. His age and sinking approval ratings have fed the rumor mill about his 2024 plans.

Vice President Harris further added to the speculation about the next Democratic presidential nominee when she claimed to The Wall Street Journal last month that she and Biden had not even discussed the 2024 campaign.

Your press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Tuesday that Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine “at any point.” What is your administration going to do to punish Russia if it does so? Are you doing everything you can to try to force Russia to pull troops back from the border with Ukraine? 

Biden is confronting his latest pressing foreign policy crisis in Eastern Europe, where Russia has amassed 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and sent forces to Belarus to participate in joint drills in recent days. 

The Biden administration has threatened economic sanctions on Russia should it further invade Ukraine, but officials have declined to detail the sanctions in public. 

Later this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with his Russian counterpart in Geneva to urge Russia to resolve the situation through diplomatic means. 

—Updated at 10:22 a.m.

Administration