Capitol Report: What to watch for at Biden’s first news conference


President Joe Biden is set to meet the press — solo.

Sixty-four full days into his presidency, Biden on Thursday will field reporters’ questions on topics that could range from the administration’s next stimulus plan to the surge of migrants at the Mexican border to the Senate’s filibuster rule. Reporters have been clamoring for this moment, as former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama each held news conferences within their first month of being commander-in-chief.

Here are some of the issues that Biden may address in his first news conference as president:

The next big stimulus plan

News leaked out earlier this week that Biden is planning for a package of investments on infrastructure

and other domestic priorities that could cost $3 trillion. But there are lots of details to be colored in, including if Biden would support splitting such a package into two bills.

Read: Biden eyes $3 trillion package for infrastructure, schools, families

Also: Democrats face choice with infrastructure bill: climate-change action or bipartisan support

“The market

will be focused on the stimulus bill,” John Briggs, global head of desk strategy at NatWest Markets, told MarketWatch. But, suggested Briggs, the tactics of shepherding a new proposal through Congress will be just as important. One avenue could be again using the “reconciliation” process that only requires Democratic votes. Briggs said he expects Biden to talk about bipartisanship at the news conference; meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki says Biden isn’t planning to lay out details this week.

Responding to a ‘crisis’ at the border

With a surge of migrants — including unaccompanied children — at the southern border, Biden’s team is reportedly searching for new ways to slow the tide. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy recently dubbed the situation “a Biden border crisis,” as the White House has refused to use that word.

Biden is likely to face multiple questions about the border on Thursday, perhaps most intensely about children. As the Washington Post wrote, the sharpest challenge is how to deal with the thousands of children taken into custody under a policy of not turning away unaccompanied minors.

Related: Biden says ‘don’t come’ to migrants

A new vaccination goal?

Biden last week celebrated meeting his goal of 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots well before the 100-day mark he’d set. Is there a next benchmark?

See: Biden touts meeting goal of 100 million vaccine shots well before 100-day mark

As of Tuesday, Psaki told reporters there wasn’t a new goal to set, but “our team is looking at that.” She said the administration wants to put one out publicly, once its health experts have studied what is viable. “Hopefully we’ll have more on that soon,” she said.

At minimum, Biden is likely to promote his $1.9 trillion COVID-relief plan, which contains billions of dollars for vaccine distribution. The massive American Rescue Plan has been criticized not just by Republicans but even by former Clinton-era Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who calls it too expensive and charges that it risks overheating the economy. Biden’s team has hit back on such criticism.

Also read: ‘Flat out wrong’: White House’s Bernstein pushes back on Summers’ criticism of Biden’s COVID stimulus plan

Filibuster fight

Biden will likely be pressed about the ongoing filibuster fight. The president recently said he supports forcing senators who want to block bills to have to stand and talk for hours — a “talking filibuster,” in other words. “You have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” he told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.    

See: ‘Talking filibuster’? Biden wants to reinstate and not abolish the Senate filibuster

With the Senate split 50-50, some Democrats are advocating changing filibuster rules to advance Biden’s agenda. Getting rid of the legislative filibuster would allow Biden’s party to pass major bills on everything from immigration and voting rights to gun control and cannabis. The president on Tuesday called on the Senate to pass two House bills that would close loopholes in firearm background checks — but those measures almost certainly would not clear the 60-vote threshold now needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.   

China challenge

With U.S.-China relations off to a frosty start under Biden, NatWest’s Briggs says markets


will also be listening for the president’s tone towards Beijing.

American and Chinese officials’ first face-to-face meeting of the Biden era last week in Alaska underscored a wide gulf between the two countries on a range of issues from trade to human rights and Taiwan.

“While I do not expect him to announce additional sanctions or measures against China at a presser, his tone could be instructive as to the future of the relationship,” Briggs said in an email. “Worries about a Twitter-induced trade war of course have gone away, but increased acrimony there could be a simmering issue,” said Briggs.  

Now read: Contentious start to U.S.-China summit in Alaska

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