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Highlights from Biden’s press conference: From Russia to vote reform

On Wednesday, President Biden marked the end of his first year in office with a marathon press conference from the White House East Room, in which he defended his record in office and made headlines on several fronts.

Why it's important: It was only Biden's second solo press while he was in office. The president said he would support the division of his flagship budget proposal, the Build Back Better Act, to pass it in stages. He also called on the Federal Reserve to do more against inflation and predicted that Russia would invade Ukraine.

About Russia:

"I guess he wants to move in," Biden said about the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and the crisis that is brewing between his country and Ukraine.

  • U.S. officials have already issued a series of warnings about Russia's looming military build-up on the border with Ukraine, with Foreign Minister Antony Blinken saying earlier in Wednesday in Kiev that Russia could invade "at very short notice”.

Biden said that Russia will be "held accountable if it invades," but seemed to suggest that a "minor intrusion" would preclude a less significant response.

  • "It's one thing if it's a minor burglary and we end up having to fight over what to do and not do, etc.," Biden said. "But if Russia launches a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, this would be a 'disaster for Russia.'
"I think he still does not want any full-blown war, number one. Number two, I think he wants to test the vest? Test the United States and NATO as significantly as he can? Yes, I think he will. But I think he will pay a serious and expensive price for what he does not think now will cost him what it is going to cost him. And I think he will regret having done so. I'm guessing he'll move in. He has to do something. "
About inflation:

After the country saw 7% inflation in 2021, Biden said fighting inflation is the task of the Federal Reserve - approving the central bank's shift to higher interest rates.

  • Our thought bubble, via Axios' Neil Irwin: The comments reflect the Biden administration's belief that keeping inflation under control is crucial to the president's political future - and that tools directly controlled by the administration are ill-suited to the job.
In the middle:

Biden said he believes in the coming 2022 mid-term periods could "easily be illegitimate" without voting rights reforms that he and the Democrats have pushed for. A bill dealt with that seemed to fail in the Senate Wednesday night.

  • "The prospect of an illegitimate [election] is in direct proportion to the fact that we can have these reforms adopted, but I do not think ... you will see the Democratic Party give up coming back. "
On BBB:

One month after the Build Back Better Act failed to obtain support from Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) - anything but guaranteeing its downfall - Biden said he still believes he can get "big chunks" of the law through Congress.

  • "I'm convinced we can get parts - big chunks - of the Build Back Better Act signed into law," Biden said.
  • "I have long been involved in public policy," Biden continued, "and I do not know many things that have been done in one fell swoop."
About COVID answers:

Biden admitted that the United States should have tested several earlier during his first year in office.

  • "Should we have done more tests earlier? Yes," he said. "But we're doing more now ... We've gone from zero home tests a year ago to 375 million tests on the market in just this month."
About Harris in 2024:

The president was unequivocal that Vice President Kamala Harris will be his Vice President in 2024, and said he was pleased with her handling of the administration's voting rights efforts. Biden gave her the task of spearheading this effort at the beginning of this administration.

  • "She's going to be my deputy, number one," Biden said. "And number two, I've given her the responsibility. I think she's doing a good job."
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