At a press conference marking his first year in office on Thursday, US President Joe Biden confirmed that if he runs for re-election in 2024, he will nominate Vice President Kamala Harris as his running mate again, even as he blamed Republican obstructionism for stalling progress in his first year and pledged to increase public outreach in his second year to explain the administration’s work.
The president praised his administration for making success against Covid-19, but recognising that the task was far from done and that unemployment remained at 3.9 percent in December. Biden detailed efforts he was taking to combat inflation, focusing on supply chain difficulties and implying that the Federal Reserve may have a role in monetary policy.
For the first time, he expressed a willingness to break up his centrepiece bill, the $1.9 trillion Build Back Better plan, into smaller pieces and pass whatever was feasible at the time. He also reaffirmed his commitment to passing voting-rights legislation, despite the Senate’s failure to collect the necessary votes the same evening.
“Yes and yes,” Biden answered when asked if he was satisfied with VP Harris’s work on voting rights (Biden has assigned her to the thorny issue) and if he would pick her as his running mate again if he ran in 2024.
His comments, while not surprising given that a sitting president would rarely criticise his vice president, take on added significance in light of recent critical reports in the US media about Harris’s working style, as well as potential challenges from other party candidates if she runs for president in 2024. In 2024, Biden will be 82 years old.
However, the focus of Biden’s remarks on domestic US politics was on criticising Republicans: he repeatedly asked what they stood for, claimed they had been far more obstructionist than even during Barack Obama’s presidency, and claimed that the entire party was afraid of “one man” who had lost office, implying Donald Trump.
“Did you ever suppose that one individual out of office could frighten an entire party into voting against what he believes should be voted for fear of being defeated in a primary?” I’ve had five Republican senators talk to me, bump into me, or sit with me, and they’ve all said they agree with everything I’m suggesting they do. ‘But, Joe, I’m going to lose in a primary if I do that,’ he added.
The president, who is facing low approval ratings, stated that in his second year in office, he would do three things differently.
“For starters, I’m going to get out of here more often. I’m going out to chat to the general populace… Second, I’ll be soliciting assistance from professionals outside of academia, such as academics, editorial writers, and think tanks,” he stated. “And the third thing I’ll be doing is getting heavily active in these off-year elections.” We’ll be raising a substantial sum of money. “We’ll be out there making sure that we’re assisting all of those candidates,” Biden added. He was referring to the November elections for the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate seats.
The Democrats now hold a majority in the House, with a 50-50 split in the Senate. The outcome of the midterm elections, according to observers, will have a significant impact on the remaining two years of Biden’s presidency.