Biden takes defiant tone in press conference and says he didn’t overpromise

President Biden was adamant he hadn’t “overpromised” in his first year in office as he held his first press conference of 2022 on Wednesday, but he acknowledged that one of his signature pieces of legislation, Build Back Better, must be downsized  in order to get parts of it through Congress. 

“It’s pretty clear to me that we will need to break it up,” Mr. Biden said. 

During the almost two-hour press conference, Mr. Biden also defended Vice President Kamala Harris and affirmed that she would be on the ticket in 2024, despite the   rash of negative headlines she has weathered.

“I did put her in charge (of voting rights) and I think she’s doing a good job,” Mr. Biden said.

Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. Susan Walsh / AP

His press conference coincided with remarks by Senator Joe Manchin, one of the two Democrats blocking the legislation –  he was speaking on the Senate floor about his objection to a rules change that would allow Democrats to pass voting rights legislation with only 50 votes. 

In addition to his stalled legislation in the Senate, Mr. Biden’s press conference is being held as a CBS News poll released Sunday showed he had a 44% approval rating, and 50% of Americans are “frustrated” by his presidency so far. 

The president, who was  defiant during portions of the press conference, said he doesn’t “believe the polls.” On Afghanistan, which marked the start of the decline in his approval numbers, Mr. Biden said “there is no way to get out of Afghanistan after 20 years easily. Not possible no matter when you did it. And I make no apologies for what I did.” 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the midterm elections will be Mr. Biden’s “report card” on handling of the economy, immigration, and more, Mr. Biden told CBS News’ Nancy Cordes that his report card will be “pretty good.”

Mr. Biden said McConnell, who has kept all 50 Republicans in lock step against the president’s agenda, has said he would “do anything to prevent Biden from being a success.”  As for the stalled voting rights legislation, Mr. Biden said he wasn’t prepared to discuss options like executive orders in detail.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has zeroed in on voting rights legislation, which is headed toward a doomed vote on Wednesday night. While the legislation has the support of all 50 Democrats, it would need 60 votes to move forward. Schumer has said he will push forward with a rules change to lower the threshold to 51 votes if it doesn’t pass, but Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have both said they would not support the rules change, setting the vote up to fail. 

On foreign policy, Mr. Biden said his “guess” is that Putin will invade Ukraine. Mr. Biden said Putin has “never seen” sanctions like the ones that would come if Russia further invades Ukraine. 

Mr. Biden said the loss of life for Russians would be “consequential” if they further invade Ukraine. The president said he doesn’t think Putin wants a “full-blown war,” but said the Russian leader will test the U.S. and NATO as much as he can.