Six months into the presidency, Biden has faced major issues: the raging COVID-19 pandemic (including new mutations), surging numbers of illegal immigrants at the southern border, and the stalled infrastructure deal. On the foreign policy front, major decisions are pending regarding the US pullout from Afghanistan and developments in its backyard.
On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden took questions from the audience in a CNN town hall in Cincinnati, Ohio, as six months have passed since he took the oath on January 20.
Here are major topics the 46th has touched upon:
Restoring Trust in Science
Biden underlined the importance of combatting misinformation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination.
“I mean, literally listening to the scientists and not interfere. Not rush anything, just make — let the scientists proceed. They desperately want to get this right,” Biden said.
The president also said he expects children in the United States under the age of 12 to be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine sometime between the end of August and October.
“They’re [Food and Drug Administration] not promising me any specific date, but my expectation talking to the group of scientists… is that [sometimes] maybe the beginning of school: at the end of August, beginning of September, October,” Biden said at a CNN Townhall on Wednesday when asked when children in the United States under the age of 12 will be able to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Combatting Gun Violence Hard Due to Lack of Bipartisanship in Congress
“The people who are in fact using those weapons are acquiring them illegally,” Biden said, referring to criminals. ” […] So what happens is I’ve gotten ATF […] I have them increase their budget and increase their capacity along with the Justice Department to go after the gun shops that are not abiding by the law of doing background checks.”
The 46th also vowed to launch probes into illegal gun dealers who “are not abiding by the law.”
“We are going to launch major investigations to shut those guys down and put some them in jail for what they are doing, selling these weapons,” he said.
President Joe Biden announced in June that his administration will crack down on gun violence in anticipation of a spike in crime this summer. Washington DC is among the five cities that will be home to a new task force set up to combat illegal gun trafficking.
Biden Supports Right of ‘Dreamers’ to Come to America
Biden said he is not giving up on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields some young undocumented immigrants from deportation, after a judge issued an order temporarily blocking the government from accepting new applications from the so-called Dreamers.
Last week, US federal judge Andrew Hanen ordered the Department of Homeland Security to stop approving new applications for the DACA program. He said the DACA program violates federal law because a US president does not have legislative power to declare that a certain category of undocumented migrants is in the United States lawfully.
“I’m not letting this go… they [Dreamers] should be able to stay in the United States of America,” Biden said on Wednesday.
DACA was launched by the Obama administration in 2012. It permits children of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States under the age of 16 to remain in the country, provided they had arrived by 2007. The program does not currently provide permanent lawful status to its recipients but has protected some 700,000 young people from deportation.
Former President Donald Trump tried to end the program but the US Supreme Court blocked his administration’s effort. After taking office in January, President Joe Biden promised to preserve the program.
‘You Can’t Look at TV and Say Nothing Happened on January 6’
“I don’t care if you think I’m Satan reincarnated, the fact is you can’t look at that television and say ‘nothing happened on the sixth’,” Biden said. “You can’t listen to people who say this was a peaceful march”.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi received criticism from her Republican colleagues earlier Wednesday for rejecting their picks for the select committee being formed to investigate the January 6 incident at the Capitol. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the move an “abuse of power” that damages the institution.
A federal judge sentenced the first person convicted of crimes pertaining to the incident on Monday. Paul Hodgkins was sentenced to eight months in prison while 165 others face charges related to the Capitol breach.
America’s Image Damaged Due to Conspiracies Spreading
Biden expressed concerns that other states’ view of America could have deteriorated due to the spread of conspiracy theories that are indeed gaining popularity on social media, especially following the January 6 Capitol riot.
“The kind of things that are being said of late. […] We’ve got to get beyond this,” he said about the conspiracy theories.
“The rest of the world is starting to wonder about us. …Heads of state said ‘Are you really back?’…Will the country ever get it together?,” Biden said, referring to his G7 partners.
“Xi, a really tough guy; he truly believes that America is back” that’s Biden for u- what he forgot to add was- we got u back so……. pic.twitter.com/3z67YSg9MQ
— Alok Bhatt (@alok_bhatt) July 22, 2021
Biden Says Chinese President Xi ‘Truly Believes’ in Future Determined by Oligarchs
“I talked to Xi, Xi Jinping in China, who I know well, we don’t agree on a lot of things, he’s a bright and really tough guy. He truly believes that the 21st century will be determined by oligarchs, not a joke,” Biden said. “Democracies cannot function in the 21st century, the argument is, because things are moving so rapidly that you can’t pull together a nation that is divided to get a consensus on acting quickly.”
Biden added that leaders such as Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin are betting on autocracies, and that democracy must demonstrate that they can “stand up” and get something done.
The statement comes following news earlier on Wednesday that Biden intends to look for opportunities to engage with Xi, although no formal decisions have been made.
The United States has been pressing China — its number one competitor — on all fronts, accusing Beijing of alleged human rights violations, spying on Americans via TikTok and other tools, and constantly annoying it in the South China Sea (Washington rejects what it calls unlawful territorial claims by Beijing in the resource-rich waters).