Political

Biden holds first formal news conference, facing questions on pandemic, migrant surge

Official White House Photo by Adam SchultzBy MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden was holding the first formal news conference of his presidency Thursday — a tradition that came later than in previous presidencies and looked dramatically different because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He waited until the 64th day of his presidency to take extended questions from reporters, longer than his 15 predecessors over the past 100 years.

While Biden was expected to tout passing his $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan and advances in vaccinations for Americans, he’ll also have to contend with questions about the growing challenges that have taken some focus away from his effort to sell his legislative victory.

Likely to be center stage is the issue of immigration, as a migrant surge at the southern border could pose a significant political challenge to his agenda.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has struggled to handle the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, which is only expected to increase in coming months, and media access to the facilities housing children has been extremely limited and tightly controlled.

Also likely to be asked about is the politically fraught issue of gun control, after a mass shooting in Atlanta left eight people dead last week and 10 were killed during a shooting in a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, on Monday.

Biden has called on Congress to take action on the issue, but has yet to put forth his own legislation on guns — despite a campaign pledge to send a bill to Congress on his first day in office to repeal liability protections for gun manufacturers and close background check loopholes.

Another topic expected to come up is foreign policy. In his first two months in office, Biden has seen escalated tensions with Russia and China, renewed missile tests from North Korea and a looming May 1 deadline to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

The late date for the event is not the only change from previous administrations. As the country continues to contend with the coronavirus pandemic, the event looked sharply different.

While previous press conferences saw rooms packed with the White House press corps, Biden’s news conference had only 30 reporters socially distanced in the White House East Room.

While this will be the first official press conference for Biden as president, it’s not the first time he has faced the press.

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