President Biden on Thursday will face reporters in a press briefing for the first time as president after weeks of media outlets clamoring to get a chance to grill him in the White House briefing room.
The press conference will come on the 65th day of his administration, following the passage of a massive $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, an impeachment trial for former President Trump and the confirmation of several of the president’s Cabinet secretaries.
It also comes amid a contentious situation at the southern border, an effort in the Senate to pass a major election reform bill and tensions between the Biden administration and progressive senators.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden is looking forward to speaking with the press during a briefing earlier this week.
“It’s an opportunity for him to speak to the American people, obviously directly through the coverage, directly through all of you,” Psaki said in a briefing with reporters earlier this week. “And so I think he’s thinking about what he wants to say, what he wants to convey, where he can provide updates, and, you know, looking forward to the opportunity to engage with a free press.”
Here are some of the questions Biden could face in his first extended interaction with reporters since assuming office.
Given the situation at the southern border, should you have done anything differently during the campaign, the transition and your early days in the White House?
Biden and his administration have steadfastly refused to call the situation on the southern border a crisis even as there are 16,513 unaccompanied minors in government custody as of Wednesday and surging numbers of single aliens and family units.
Republicans have blamed Biden’s campaign rhetoric and policies for creating incentives for migrants to travel to the southern border, and Biden could be asked if he thinks he could have reduced those pull forces. The president may also be asked if he feels his administration was underprepared for the border situation.
Biden also could be asked about the fact Vice President Harris, who he’s put in charge of the southern border situation, laughed when reporters asked her if she’d visit the border. Another possible topic is the difference between the border facilities his administration is putting children in and those that the previous one put children in, which were called “cages” by Democrats.
What piece of legislation in the Senate would you want the filibuster to be reformed for? In other words, what priority warrants breaking the tradition in the Senate?
Many Senate Democrats are itching to get rid of the legislative filibuster — the 60-vote hurdle bills must clear to get to a final vote.
The filibuster’s defenders say it promotes compromise. Its detractors say it stunts big actions they want to take to change the government.
Biden has said he supports a reform of the filibuster to a “talking” filibuster, which would force filibustering senators to talk incessantly in order to stop a bill. This would theoretically allow a determined majority to wait out a minority that’s blocking major legislation.
Biden may be asked by reporters what bill — if any — warrants Democratic senators taking that action, which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned would be the end of any “comity” in the Senate.
You called in your inaugural address for unity. What specific actions have you taken during your presidency that have fostered unity?
Biden gave lip service to the idea that Democrats and Republicans in Congress should work together, but he rebuffed a group of moderate Republicans who attempted to negotiate with him on the coronavirus stimulus package. Congressional Democrats then jammed through the bill with no Republican support using a procedural tool that allowed them to go around the Senate filibuster.
Many Republicans have voted for multiple Cabinet nominees of the president, even if they had some qualms about their policies. But they nevertheless feel spurned by the fact there was never any real effort from Biden to reach out to congressional Republicans on the massive $1.9 trillion spending bill. Some in the GOP warn if Democrats don’t change course there may not be any common ground to be had at all for the next two years.
Will you commit that there will be nine Supreme Court seats when you leave office?
In addition to aiming to get rid of the Senate filibuster, many Democrats want to pack the Supreme Court under Biden’s presidency. Packing the court means expanding the number of seats on the court in order to appoint justices that would give the party in power an advantage.
Biden refused to take a stance on court-packing on the campaign trail, saying he would tell people his opinion after the presidential election. But he still has not taken a firm position for or against court-packing.
Is a mandatory buyback of assault weapons on the table for President Biden? Would the president veto legislation passed by Congress that includes a mandatory buyback of assault weapons no matter what else is in the bill?
Biden’s official position is that he supports a voluntary gun buyback program for assault weapons — or else Americans will have to register guns like AR-15s under the restrictive National Firearms Act.
But many in Biden’s administration have previously supported mandatory gun buybacks for assault weapons, which is the same thing as gun confiscation. Some Democrats in Congress, who are now clamoring to take action on gun control, want to do that as well.
Reporters may ask Biden if mandatory buybacks are on the table for him. Fox News asked the White House this question Wednesday and it declined to answer.
Have you had any conversations with the Justice Department about the investigation into your son Hunter Biden?
Biden promised before entering office that he would not interfere in the Justice Department’s investigation into his tax affairs, and he may be asked if he has stuck to that pledge.
Biden also could be asked if he is still committed to leaving Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who is running the investigation into Hunter Biden, in place as he replaces a swath of other federal prosecutors.
The president may also be asked if his son has finally divested from the Chinese equity company Bohai Harvest RST (Shanghai) Equity Investment Fund Management Co. (BHR Partners).
Biden pledged in October that his family would not own any foreign investments during his presidency, but Psaki said in early February that Hunter Biden was still attempting to “unwind” his investment in the Chinese firm.
In December 2019, you released a comprehensive report on your health that said you were a “healthy, vigorous 77-year-old male.” Can we expect a similar report again in the near future?
Biden stumbled multiple times and fell while climbing the stairs to Air Force One last week. Multiple past presidents have also stumbled on the stairs to their executive jets — including the much younger former President Obama, and former Vice President Mike Pence last year.
But Biden is 78 years old and also fractured his foot late last year. Health questions were regularly raised about former President Trump and it can be expected that they will come up in regard to Biden as well.
Why the delay in facing the media in this setting? Do you plan to hold these briefings regularly from here on out?
The media was hounding the administration for access to the president in the setting of a White House briefing for weeks and will likely want Thursday’s briefing to become a regular practice. Reporters may try to get Biden on the record about how often he will be going on the record.
You said Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “killer.” Chinese president Xi Jinping has been widely accused of brutally oppressing his people. Do you also consider him a killer?
Biden came under fire on the campaign trail for often deferential rhetoric toward the Chinese, at one point saying “they’re not bad folks, folks.”
But Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the Chinese government committed genocide against the Uyghur Muslims. Then Blinken and National Security adviser Jake Sullivan held a highly combative meeting with their Chinese counterparts in Anchorage, Alaska, last week.
The press may test whether Biden is will join his top officials in taking a tough stance against China — as he did against Putin.
Any reaction to comments from Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., about not supporting White and straight nominees, which she later backtracked on?
The aborted threat from Duckworth to vote against every one of Biden’s nominees who is not a minority or gay underscored that there is still some daylight and tension between Biden and congressional progressives. This is despite the fact Biden has gone big and far-left with many of his presidential actions so far.
The president may also be asked if Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley Dillon apologized to Duckworth for the comment the senator said “triggered” her — citing Harris as a reason why the administration is diverse.
Fox News’ Peter Hasson, Keith Koffler, Alex Pappas, Catilin McFall, Kelley Kramer, Morgan Phillips, Brittany De Lea, Sam Dorman and Griff Jenkins contributed to this report.