WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is set to hold his first solo press conference from the White House on Thursday, his 64th day since taking office.
The president has taken questions from and interacted with reporters on other occasions, but his first press conference will be an arena for the media to ask pressing questions on the situation at the border, the coronavirus pandemic, recent gun violence and more.
All eyes will be on the president as he has the opportunity to strike a different tone with reporters than his predecessor, Donald Trump, who frequently sparred with the media and deemed them “the enemy of the people.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that Biden is “looking forward to the opportunity to engage with a free press.”
Here are some of the topics reporters are likely ask Biden to address on Thursday:
Gun control legislation
In the wake of two deadly mass shootings in the last week, in Georgia and Colorado, the country has renewed its longstanding, heated debate over gun control legislation. Biden has signaled support for legislation that passed the House and will likely be asked about whether the White House is considering proposing new policy of introducing executive actions.
On March 16, a gunman in Georgia killed eight people, six of whom were Asian American women. On Monday in Boulder, Colorado, a man killed 10 people, including one police officer, when he opened fire at a grocery store.
More:As Democrats press for national gun control, GOP states move to expand firearm access
Biden said on Tuesday that the Senate should “immediately pass the two House bills that would close loopholes in the background system. He has also said he supports banning firearms.
The two measures passed by the House would expand background checks on people seeking to purchase or transfer firearms and close a gap in federal law that lets gun sales proceed without a completed background check if three business days have passed.
So far Psaki has said the White House is focused on legislative options to increase gun control, but has not taken executive action off the table.
Migrant children at the border
Another early challenge for the Biden administration that will likely be raised at his press conference is the number of migrants coming to the southern U.S. border, which the administration has said is “closed” while resisting calling the situation a “crisis.”
The number of unaccompanied minors at the border has led to overcrowded conditions in short-term, jail-like facilities. Photos released this week show children in immigration facilities sleeping on mats under foil blankets, separated in groups by plastic partitions.
More:Texas congressman releases photos of children sleeping on mats in Border Patrol facility
Biden has taken heat from Republican lawmakers who blame the increase on the president’s reversal of some of the hardline immigration policies enacted by former President Donald Trump. While spring increases in migrants coming to the border are typical, Democrats have also criticized the administration over the issue and the refusal to allow much media access to facilities.
The White House announced Wednesday that Vice President Kamala Harris would lead the U.S.’s efforts to curb migration, working to establish a partnership with Mexico and the northern triangle of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
“While we are clear that people should not come to the border now, we also understand that we will enforce the law, and that we also — because we can chew gum and walk at the same time — must address the root causes that cause people to make the trek,” Harris said on Wednesday.
“It’s a huge problem. I’m not going to pretend it’s not. It’s a huge problem,” Harris said. “Are we looking at overcrowding at the border, particularly of these kids? Yes. … This is, however, not going to be solved overnight.”
Biden may be pressed by reporters on Thursday to label the situation a crisis.
Biden is soon expected to reveal a robust infrastructure plan to follow his legislative win with the passage of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. The infrastructure plan could hit resistance from Republicans, though, with some of the priorities Democrats may focus on, including climate change prevention.
The president may have to answer questions about the inevitably high price tag of the package. It would include money for roads, bridges, the cellular network and other infrastructure needs, which he’s signaled he’ll help pay for by undoing Trump’s tax breaks for high earners.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is scheduled to appear before the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on Thursday to lay out the administration’s priorities in what will be a first step in a monthslong negotiation with Congress.
The state of the pandemic
Biden’s press conference comes after his first televised address earlier this month, during which he announced that every American adult will be eligible to receive a vaccine beginning May 1.
The president has been touring the country to promote the $1.9 trillion relief plan passed by Congress that includes $1,400 checks to individuals and money to expedite vaccinations and support school reopenings.
Biden may be asked about reports that vaccine rollouts are hitting snags in some states, and that the signup process to get a vaccine in some places makes it difficult for elderly or disabled Americans to get an appointment.
And while some states are lifting their vaccine eligibility requirements and more people are getting vaccinated, there are also states lifting mask-wearing and business restrictions. The nation has also seen its rate of COVID-19 infections stop falling.
How to watch Biden’s first press conference
Biden’s press conference is scheduled for Thursday, March 25 at 1:15 p.m. ET from the White House.
You can watch a live stream at USATODAY.com and follow along with the Washington team’s updates using our live blog and Twitter feed, @USATODAYDC.