President Joe Biden has not held an open news conference since he took office Jan. 20, the longest stretch of any president over the past 100 years.
On Wednesday, Biden appeared in a virtual event along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic Caucus. Biden was speaking to lawmakers on COVID relief and the ongoing vaccine rollout. He closed his remarks by saying he was happy to take questions from the lawmakers.
The White House feed was then cut, with no explanation.
CNN White House reporter Kevin Liptak shared this note with colleagues Wednesday: “As we await word on when President Biden will hold his first solo press conference, an analysis of the past 100 years shows he is behind his 15 most recent predecessors, who all held a solo press conference within 33 days of taking office.”
Thursday, March 4, is Biden’s 41st day in office. His old boss, Barack Obama, held his first news conference 20 days into his first term, while the man Biden ousted from the Oval Office, Donald Trump, took questions 27 days into his one and only term, according to the New York Post.
“While he has taken questions from reporters on a few occasions, including during sprays and a more formal Q&A session following an event in January, he has not held a formal press conference,” Liptak wrote. “That includes both a solo press conference or a 2+2 news conference during his two virtual ‘bilateral’ meetings with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.”
Biden’s administration has resumed daily White House briefings with press secretary Jen Psaki, who told CNN Wednesday night, “We look forward to holding a full formal press conference, but in the meantime the president takes questions from the reporters covering the White House regularly, including this morning. And his focus day in and day out is on getting the pandemic under control and putting people back to work. That’s what people elected him to do.”
At the same time, Biden and Democrats in Congress are jamming their agenda forward with a sense of urgency, an unapologetically partisan approach based on the calculation that it’s better to advance the giant COVID-19 rescue package and other priorities than waste time courting Republicans who may never compromise.
The coronavirus pandemic is driving the crush of legislative action, but so are the still-raw emotions from the U.S. Capitol siege and the hard lessons of the last time Democrats had the sweep of party control of Washington. Republicans are mounting blockades of Biden’s agenda just as they did during the devastating 2009 financial crisis with Obama.
Democrats, in turn, are showing little patience for the GOP objections and entertaining few overtures toward compromise, claiming the majority of the country supports their agenda. With fragile majorities in the House and the Senate, and a liberal base of voters demanding action, Democrats are operating as if they are on borrowed time.
The start of the first congressional session of the Biden administration was supposed to be a new era of bipartisan deal-making. The Senate evenly split, 50-50, and the House resting on a slim majority for Democrats set prime conditions for Biden to swoop in and forge across-the-aisle compromises.
But the rush through Biden’s first 100 days is shaping up as an urgent era of hardball politics, with Democrats prepared to go it alone, even if that means that changes to the Senate filibuster rules are needed to work around Republican roadblocks to legislation.
“We said we’re going to do X, Y and Z, but we didn’t say we were going to be magicians,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland. “We can’t magically make the Republicans be for what the people are for.”
Days before Biden entered office, White House chief of staff Ron Klain highlighted the urgency with which the incoming administration would seek to act. “We face four overlapping and compounding crises: the COVID-19 crisis, the resulting economic crisis, the climate crisis, and a racial equity crisis,” he wrote in a memo. “All of these crises demand urgent action.”
From his first hours in office, Biden sought to take deliberate steps to deliver relief but also to raise awareness about those and other priorities on the theory that moving urgently would increase public support and raise pressure on Republican lawmakers who might stand in the way.
Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is coursing ahead on party line votes under budget rules that will allow Senate passage by a simple 51-vote threshold, denying Republicans the ability to block the bill with a filibuster that would take 60 votes to overcome.
House leaders have reworked this month’s schedule for legislation to include voting rights, gun background checks and immigration in the queue — many of them do-overs of bills blocked last session by Trump and Senate Republicans. They still face a long haul to becoming law without GOP support in the Senate.