Biden grabs CBS reporter’s hands to answer question on end of COVID emergency
President Joe Biden answered a question on ending the three-year COVID emergencies by grabbing a reporter’s hand and squeezing himself underneath her umbrella on Tuesday.
Before boarding a flight to New York, the 80-year-old walked over to CBS White House correspondent Kristen Welker when she asked: ‘What’s behind your decision to end the COVID emergency?’
She was referring to the move announced Monday night to draw down two COVID national emergencies by May 11, more than three years after they were first announced under Donald Trump.
In the bizarre encounter, a smiling Biden moved underneath the umbrella and told her: ‘The COVID emergency ends when the Supreme Court ends it’.
It was a gesture once unthinkable during the height of the pandemic at the White House when social distancing and mask-wearing were strictly enforced.
Two policies enacted under COVID emergencies are in limbo as they are considered by the Supreme Court.
Title 42, which lets border officials turn migrants away, will be considered in the coming months and the Biden’s massive student loan forgiveness plan is also in flux.
President Joe Biden answered a question on ending the three-year COVID emergencies by grabbing a reporter’s hand and squeezing himself underneath her umbrella on Tuesday
Before boarding his flight to New York, the 80-year-old walked over to CBS White House correspondent Kristen Walker when she asked: ‘What’s behind your decision to end the COVID emergency?’
The smiling Biden moved underneath the umbrella and told her: ‘The COVID emergency ends when the Supreme Court ends it’
Republicans are calling for an end to the restrictions now, but the White House wants the emergencies to wind down so plans can be put in place.
After the encounter with the press, Biden flew to the Big Apple to tout a $292 million mega grant that will be used to help build a new rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey, but didn’t find the time to drive-by or acknowledge NYC’s burgeoning migrant housing crisis in midtown Manhattan – a mere 10-minute car ride away.
With temperatures near freezing, scores of migrants have set up pop-up tents on the sidewalk outside the Watson Hotel in midtown Manhattan to protest being relocated to a Brooklyn shelter – a symptom of a much bigger problem facing NYC as the flow of migrants overwhelms city resources.
Biden was joined by the state’s Democratic political powerhouse consortium: Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Gov. Kathy Hochul, NYC Mayor Eric Adams, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, amongst others,
The money is part of $1.2 billion in mega grants being awarded under the 2021 infrastructure law. The yearslong modernization of the Hudson project started in 2013 but stalled as Trump all but blocked Schumer over funding for the project in exchange for his support for his wall at the southern border – something that Schumer refused to do.
President Joe Biden speaks about how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will provide funding for the Hudson River Tunnel project, at the West Side Rail Yard in New York City on January 31, 2023.
Only a 10-minute car ride away from Hudson Yards, President Biden did not take the opportunity to drive past the Watson Hotel in midtown Manhattan where a migrant crisis is unfolding
Biden is greeted by Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., as he arrives to speak at the construction site of the Hudson Tunnel Project in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023
The current Hudson Tunnel Project is to repair 113-year old infrastructure which goes under the Hudson River was completed in 1910. In addition to age, the tunnels were damaged by saltwater during Hurricane Sandy in 2012
The Senate Majority Leader took aim at Trump for ‘sabotaging’ the long-running Gateway Program. ‘The former president was shoveling you know what,’ said Schumer with a wry smile.
Biden’s recent trips along the East Coast corridor amount to a form of counterprogramming to the new House Republican majority as GOP lawmakers seek deep spending cuts in exchange for lifting the government’s legal borrowing limit, saying that federal expenditures are hurting growth and that the budget should be balanced.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Biden are scheduled to officially meet at the White House on Wednesday to talk about the looming debt ceiling. The freshly minted Republican Speaker will press his case for spending cuts even though White House officials say Biden won’t negotiate over the need to increase the federal debt limit.
‘I don’t think there’s anyone in America who doesn’t agree that there’s some wasteful Washington spending that we can eliminate,’ McCarthy told CBS News on Sunday.
Mitch Landrieu, the White House senior adviser responsible for coordinating implementation of the infrastructure law, told reporters on Tuesday that if Republicans are looking to ‘take away money from projects, they ought to, I think, identify which projects they don’t want.’
‘And then you can have that discussion with the American people,’ Landrieu added.
President Biden (middle) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (right) arrive at Wall St Heliport in New York City flanked by NYPD and Secret Service.
The immigrants, mostly from Venezuela and other Latin American countries, had been living in the Watson Hotel in midtown Manhattan until recently, when they were told to leave the temporary shelter.
NYC is trying to move some of them from the Watson Hotel in Manhattan to a new shelter at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, but many of the men gathered outside the hotel said they wouldn’t leave. The city sent MTA buses, but many of the people said they wouldn’t board them, adding they were concerned about the conditions at the new shelter.
To some in the Biden administration, the Hudson Tunnel Project demonstrates what could be lost if spending cuts are put into place. In total, the construction is projected to result in 72,000 jobs, according to the White House.
The project will renovate the 1910 tunnel already carrying about 200,000 weekday passengers beneath the Hudson between New Jersey and Manhattan, a long-delayed upgrade after decades in which the government underfunded infrastructure.
‘We cannot lead the world in this century if we depend on infrastructure from early in the last one,’ Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.
The grant would be used to help complete the concrete casing for an additional rail tunnel beneath the river, preserving a right of way for the eventual tunnel. In total, the project is expected to cost $16 billion and help ease a bottleneck for New Jersey commuters and Amtrak passengers going through New York City.
Biden made the case the project is critical far beyond greater New York.
‘If this line shuts down for just one day it would cost our economy $100 million,’ Biden said. ‘And the current Hudson River rail tunnel can be a major chokepoint.’
Other projects to receive mega grants include the Brent Spence Bridge, which connects Kentucky and Ohio; the Calcasieu River Bridge replacement in Louisiana; a commuter rail in Illinois; the Alligator River Bridge in North Carolina; a transit and highway plan in California; and roadways in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Mississippi.
Not everyone has been pleased by the mega grant program. Some Republican lawmakers in Arizona say it gave preference to mass transit and repair projects over expansion and new construction.
Schumer criticized Trump for slowing the project during his term as he feuded with the Democrats.
‘Get on the Joe Biden Express now because we are not stopping,’ Schumer said. ‘For four years, the former president was shoveling you know what and now we’re going to put real shovels in the ground, wielded by real American workers.’