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Biden town hall: COVID, voting rights, filibuster and other takeaways

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 7/22/2021 Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – In a town hall roughly six months into his administration, President Joe Biden faced questions from the coronavirus pandemic still plaguing the United States and vaccine hesitancy to concerns of gun violence and limits on voting rights.

Joe Biden et al. standing on a stage: President Joe Biden, accompanied by CNN journalist Don Lemon, right, speaks at CNN town hall at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) © Andrew Harnik, AP President Joe Biden, accompanied by CNN journalist Don Lemon, right, speaks at CNN town hall at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Biden took part in the CNN event in Cincinnati at Mount St. Joseph University. It came as worries about the delta variant of COVID-19 are on the rise and the economy is still recovering from the pandemic. 

Here are the key takeaways from Biden's town hall:

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Vaccinations for children under 12 coming 'soon'

Biden said that children under the age of 12 may be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 "soon."

"I do not tell any scientist what they should do. I do not interfere," Biden said when discussing the timeline of how soon children could get the vaccine. "What they're telling me, is let us decide based on scientific data and how we proceed. Do it the way we would ordinarily."

Biden said "the expectation," although scientists aren't "promising me any specific date," is for children to possibly be able to get vaccinated by the beginning of the school year in the fall.

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"My expectation talking to the group of scientists we put together, over 20 of them plus others in the field, is that some time, maybe in the beginning of the school year, at the end of August, beginning September, October, you'll get a final approval saying the FDA said 'no, this is it. It's good," Biden said.

The president also said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will possibly issue a recommendation for children under the age of 12 to "probably be wearing a mask in school. 

"That's probably what's going to happen," Biden said.

Biden believes Democrats and Republicans can work together on Jan. 6 committee

Biden was asked to respond to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision on Wednesday to reject two Republicans who were chosen by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for the House's Jan. 6 select committee, which is tasked with investigating the attack on the United States Capitol.

CNN moderator Don Lemon asked Biden, if Democrats and Republicans "can't come together right to investigate the biggest attack on our Capitol in 200 years," what makes him think that they could come together on anything.

Pointing to the crowd sitting in an auditorium at Mount St. Joseph, Biden said: "these people."

"I don't care if you think I'm Satan reincarnated," Biden said. "The fact is, you can't look at that television and say nothing happened on the 6th."

Biden went on to say that he believes that Republicans and Democrats will find common ground.

"I have faith in the American people," he said. "I really do to ultimately get to the right place. And by the way, many times, Republicans are in the right place."

More: As friction mounts between US Catholics and Biden, a visit to Ohio's Mount St. Joseph University draws fire

Voting rights versus the filibuster

Last week, Biden said the movement to restrict voting rights is the "most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War." On Wednesday, a member of the town hall audience asked the president, if he truly believed that, why he didn't end the filibuster to pass through legislation that would protect voting rights.

"I stand by what I said. Never before has there been an attempt by state legislatures to take over the ability to determine who won," Biden responded. "This is Jim Crow on steroids."

Biden went on to talk about his support for a return to the "talking filibuster," a stance he has taken in the past.

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"The abuse of the filibuster is pretty overwhelming," Biden said of the current structure.

When pressed by Lemon on "why protecting the filibuster is that more important than protecting voting rights, especially for people who fought and died for that," Biden responded by saying the filibuster isn't more important and that he wants Congress to pass the For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, so he could sign them into law.

"I want to make sure we bring along, not just all the Democrats, we bring along Republicans who I know know better, they know better than this," Biden said. "What I don't want to do is get wrapped up right now in the argument about whether this is all about the filibuster."

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Lemon added that former President Barack Obama, whom Biden served under, noted that the filibuster is a "relic of Jim Crow." Biden said he agreed, but said that if the Senate got rid of it, nothing would get done.

"There's no reason to protect it," Biden said of the filibuster. "Other than, you're going to throw the entire Congress in the chaos. Nothing will get done, nothing at all will get done, and there's a lot at stake."

Biden says chances of long term inflation are slim

When asked about rising inflation, Biden said he knows people are worried but doesn't believe it will be a long term issue in the United States.

"The vast majority of the experts, including Wall Street, are suggesting that it's highly unlikely that it's going to be long-term inflation that's going to get out of hand," Biden said.

He added: "There will be near-term inflation because everything is now trying to be picked back up."

Biden also noted that right now some businesses, like restaurants, will likely continue to struggle. He noted that some people aren't returning to their jobs because they're switching careers or might not be making enough to survive on a minimum wage job.

"I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while," Biden told an audience member, who is an owner and co-founder of a restaurant group.

Dreamers are 'good, good people'

Biden offered his support to Dreamers — people who do not have citizenship after being brought without authorization to the United States as children — moments after telling new migrants to not come to the United States.

An audience member asked about his administration's stance on immigration, noting Vice President Kamala Harris told migrants "do not come" to the United States during a speech in Guatemala last month.

"They should not come," Biden said, adding that his administration is trying to set up a system for migrants in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to apply for asylum in their home countries. Many of the migrants coming to the United States are from these Northern Triangle countries. However, there is a small portion who are coming from other countries in Latin America and other parts of the world.

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On Dreamers, Biden said, "I'm not letting this go."

Last week, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, was created illegally.

"They come here with really no choice, and they're here, and they're good, good people," Biden said of dreamers. "They should be able to stay in the United States of America."

Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_


This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden town hall: COVID, voting rights, filibuster and other takeaways



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