WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – President Joe Biden sat down with The Associated Press to discuss the state of the economy, his concerns about the national mood and his commitment to stand up against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
Takeaways from Biden’s first news media interview since February:
Pain at the pump
Biden blamed gas prices on Thursday for the country’s economic pessimism, saying before prices started to rise, “Things were much more, they were much more optimistic.”
The Democratic president acknowledged that Americans pay much more to put food on their table and fuel in their cars and that it puts a dent in his approval rating.
“If you want a direct barometer of what people are going to talk about at the kitchen table and the dining room table and whether it’s going well, it’s the cost of food and what the cost of petrol at the pump is,” he said.
But while Biden said his message to oil companies was “Do not just reward yourselves,” he has few tools at his disposal to bring prices down significantly in the short term.
The US has no choice but to stand up to Russia
Biden said he did not consider the domestic political impact of U.S. efforts to sanction Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, especially how it would hurt the economy.
Without such action, he said: “I fear what will happen next is that you will see chaos in Europe.” He added: “This is not about my political survival. It is about what is best for the country. “
Biden suggested he was willing to pay a political price as a result, saying his advice to young people interested in civil service: “Do not get engaged unless you know what’s worth losing over.”
Biden wants to improve the national mood
After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden said the American people are “really, really down.” He stressed that the need for mental health in America “has skyrocketed because people have seen how upset everything is.”
Biden has maintained that he is optimistic about the country’s future, and that Americans should feel it too – even if the majority of voters say the country is on the wrong track.
“Be confident, because I am confident that we are better positioned than any country in the world to own the second quarter of the 21st century,” Biden said. “It’s not hyperbole, it’s a fact.”
Yet it was not clear whether Biden’s rhetoric would have a tangible impact on the country’s gloomy outlook.
He still hopes for a domestic spending account
Biden is still working on the collapse of a massive Democratic package in December to expand the social safety net and address climate change, and has suggested he hopes a slimmed-down bill can succeed before the medium term.
Sen. West Virginia’s Joe Manchin’s objections torpedoed earlier attempts at inflation concerns. Biden needs all 50 Democrats to support a package to circumvent GOP opposition under Senate budget rules.
“There is more than one way to reduce costs for working people,” Biden said. “Prol can cost up to $ 5 per liter, but someone who has a child with stage two diabetes pays up to $ 1,000 a month for their insulin. We can reduce it to $ 35 a month and get it right.”
He added: “We have the votes to do so. We’re going to get it right. I can not do everything right. “
Biden also suggested that there is consensus on providing tax credits for winter home construction, which will help lower utility bills, and boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing to address supply chain issues that have driven up prices.
About gun control
Biden was optimistic about a two-party framework to address gun violence by tightening some background checks on young firearm buyers and urging states to introduce “red flag” laws to keep guns out of the hands of mental illnesses.
As lawmakers draft the bill, it appears to be building momentum in the Senate after decades of lack of action and mass tragedies. Biden acknowledged the progress, though limited.
“We’re going to get gun safety,” he said, adding, “we’re not going to get what I wanted.”
Biden has some thoughts on Republicans
Despite years of political differences, Biden said he still views Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell as a Republican he can work with – something he said he sees as an endangered species in today’s IDP .
The president said when he took office, he knew there were “probably 15 kinds of traditional, mainstream, conservative Republicans left. And I’ll include – and I’m going to get myself in trouble, probably get him in trouble – the Kentucky minority leader.
Biden added about McConnell, “He’s a solid, mainstream man.”
The president, who described other Republicans as “ultra-MAGA,” said examples include Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and Florida Sen. Rick Scott in.