CINCINNATI, OH — President Joe Biden walked out onto the stage at Mount St. Joseph’s in Ohio on Wednesday night for a CNN Town Hall during a critical moment of his presidency.
Six months since taking office, Biden has passed one of his major legislative priorities, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, known as the American Rescue Plan, pass and become law despite having no Republican support. He took control of a COVID-19 vaccination program and has nearly half the country fully vaccinated and managed to reach agreements on key infrastructure proposals.
However, COVID-19 cases are spiking in parts of the country with the more contagious delta variant impacting the unvaccinated. Senate Republicans blocked a key vote on bipartisan infrastructure proposal and the President is facing other challenges such as cyberattacks and climate change.
Throughout the 75 minute event, Biden struck a familiar theme: It’s too early to give up on his pledge to unite the country.
Here are five key takeaways from Biden’s CNN Town Hall:
‘A pandemic of the unvaccinated’
The first six months of Biden’s presidency have been focused on combating the Covid-19 pandemic and getting the country back on track. While people flocked to get the vaccinations early, things have stalled and the delta variant is surging in all 50 states, leaving those unvaccinated in trouble of getting sick.
Biden was notably frustrated by this on Wednesday, suggesting vaccine misinformation plays a big part in those who still refuse to or have not been vaccinated.
“There’s legitimate questions people can ask if they worry about getting vaccinated, but the question should be asked, answered and people should get vaccinated,” Biden said. “But this is not a pandemic.”
“If you’re vaccinated, you’re not going to be hospitalized. You’re not going to be in an ICU unit. And you are not going to die,” he added.
With school starting again in the fall, Biden predicted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would recommend that every child under the age of 12 should be wearing a mask in school.
Stick to the plan
Biden spoke at the town hall on Wednesday fresh off the heels of Senate Republicans blocking a test vote on his infrastructure deal, a move the President called “irrelevant”. The White House has acknowledged the upcoming weeks will be key for the Biden agenda before the midterm election season heats up.
Many Democrats are calling for the White House to pass the bill with just Democrat support but Biden still believes in bipartisanship. He made a campaign promise to work with Republicans in Congress to show democracy is still functional but time is running out on that too. Biden knows it and so does the White House.
“I take my Republican colleagues at their word,” he said. “I come from a tradition in the Senate, you shake your hand, and that’s it, you keep your word — and I found Rob Portman does that.
“Portman is a good man,” Biden added. “I talked to him before I got here, and I really mean, he’s a decent, honorable man, and he and I are working on trying to get this infrastructure bill passed.”
All throughout the campaign, Biden said he would always be honest with the American people, even when it’s hard. The economy was a big issue at the town hall and the President did not sugarcoat things, saying the current price increases are real and urged Americans to be patient as the prices make their way back down.
When questioned by a restauranteur about hiring more waiters and staff, Biden was blunt and told him he’ll continue to struggle hiring workers for the foreseeable future. It was the type of honesty that has been missing from a President but his goal was to make the American people understand the side effects being felt right now will be worth it down the line.
Fili-BUST-er stands firm
Biden’s belief in restoring order in Washington is seen as noble but his stance on the filibuster is where he is truly scrutinized. That was on display Wednesday when host Don Lemon repeatedly pressed the President on the topic of passing his Voting Rights Act.
Progressive Democrats have said the filibuster is to blame for stalling the process in the Senate and Biden has said that he’s open to changing the filibuster but stopped short of calling for it to be abolished altogether.
“I want to make sure we bring along not just all the Democrats, we bring along Republicans who I know, know better,” Biden said. They know better than this”
“What I don’t want to do is get wrapped up … in the argument whether or not this is all about the filibuster,” he added.
That answer will likely not satisfy the incoming law student who asked the question nor Democrats watching at home who are frustrated at the President for his stance on the issue.
Those Qrazy theories
Biden was asked about his thoughts on the disagreements between Republicans and Democrats about the panel to investigate the January 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, he got blunt and took a shot at former President Donald Trump without ever uttering his name.
“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 6th,” Biden said. “You can’t listen to people who say that was a peaceful march.”
Biden criticized conspiracy theories, warning the rest of the world is watching and taking notice of these groups like QAnon.
“The idea that the Democrats or Biden are hiding people and sucking the blood of children,” he said. “We’ve got to get beyond this. The rest of the world is starting to wonder about us. This is not who we are.”
“Heads of state said ‘Are you really back?’” Biden added. “‘Will the country ever get it together?’”
“The kind of things that are being said of late,” he said. “We’ve got to get beyond this.