US President Joe Biden on Thursday promised 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine would be administered in his first 100 days in office, doubling his initial goal, as he said at his first news conference that he intended to seek another term.
Biden also said the United States would likely miss a May 1 deadline set by former president Donald Trump to pull all troops from Afghanistan, although he made clear he expected to end America’s longest war within the year.
Biden waited longer than any modern president to hold a news conference, with his aides apparently worried that the free-wheeling 78-year-old politician — who joked that he entered the Senate “120 years ago” — would veer off a carefully crafted message.
“I’ve been hired to solve problems, not create division,” Biden said, pointing to passage of a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill that sends money to most Americans.
Biden began his news conference by announcing that he planned to administer 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine in his first 100 days — the end of April.
Biden faced no questions on Covid, a sign of the changing national narrative — and a scenario unimaginable for European leaders under pressure over infections.
– Hitting back on border –
Biden pushed back on Republican charges of a crisis and voiced compassion for people from Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua who are fleeing violence and poverty.
But officials say that the number of unaccompanied children has risen, with the Biden administration racing to set up more shelters to house the youngsters.
“The idea that I’m going to say, which I would never do, if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border we’re going to let them starve to death and stay on the other side — no previous administration did that either, except Trump. I’m not going to do it.”
Biden has put Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of the border situation, for the first time giving a specific portfolio to his number two who has constantly been at the side of America’s oldest ever president.
“My plan is to run for reelection. That’s my expectation,” Biden said.
– Troops to stay longer in Afghanistan –
Biden, who as Barack Obama’s vice president was an early advocate of leaving Afghanistan, also gave his clearest indication yet that he would not meet an agreement between Trump and Taliban insurgents to pull remaining US troops by May 1, saying it was difficult due to “tactical reasons.”
Biden also promised to “respond accordingly” if North Korea escalates missile testing, after Pyongyang fired two suspected ballistic missiles into the sea, but also offered diplomacy.