CNN town hall with President Biden

By Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 10:23 AM ET, Thu July 22, 2021
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11:37 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Biden says the world is wondering about America as conspiracies spread

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

President Biden warned tonight that the US' reputation is suffering abroad as conspiracy theories like QAnon continue to run rampant through American culture.

"The kind of things that are being said of late," said Biden of conspiracy theories. "...We've got to get beyond this."

He said leaders of nations he spoke with at the G7 Summit in June were incredulous when he tried to tell them that, "America is back."

"The rest of the world is starting to wonder about us," said Biden. "...Heads of state said 'Are you really back?'...Will the country ever get it together?"

8:54 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

State lawmakers have enacted nearly 30 laws since the 2020 election that restrict ballot access

From CNN's Janie Boschma

President Biden was just asked about voting rights, and his administration's efforts to make sure Americans have access to the ballot.

State lawmakers have enacted nearly 30 laws since the 2020 election that restrict ballot access, according to a new tally as of June 21 by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

The 28 total laws in 17 states mark a new record for restrictive voting laws since 2011, when the Brennan Center recorded 19 laws enacted in 14 state legislatures.

Biden referenced the tally during a voting rights speech in Philadelphia earlier this month, saying that "the 21st century Jim Crow assault is real."

More than half of these new state laws make it harder to vote absentee and by mail, after a record number of Americans voted by mail in November.

The legislative push is part of a national Republican effort to restrict access to the ballot box following record turnout in the 2020 election. Republicans currently control both chambers of 30 state legislatures.

State lawmakers are expected to attempt enacting additional laws this year.

11:36 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Biden expresses optimism in bipartisan infrastructure framework advancing Monday

From CNN's  DJ Judd and Maureen Chowdhury

President Biden said he believes that the current infrastructure bill will move forward after Monday's procedural vote.

"I'm not being facetious. You had up to 20 Republicans sign the letter saying. 'We think we need this deal,'" Biden told CNN's Don Lemon.

The President called Wednesday’s vote, which failed to clear the 60-vote threshold required to proceed, “irrelevant,” telling Lemon he does think legislation will advance Monday.

“What happens is the vote on Monday is a motion to be able to proceed to this issue, then they're going to debate the issue of the elements, the individual elements of this plan to make sure we're going to fix that damn bridge years going into Kentucky,” Biden added, to applause.

"I think it's going to get done," Biden said. "Remember last four years we had infrastructure week every week — we didn't do a thing, but it's necessary, you know, I really mean it, it's going to not only increase job opportunities, but increase commerce, it's a good thing and I think we're gonna get it done,” the President said.

Watch the moment:

8:46 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Biden says he's working with GOP Sen. Portman to pass the infrastructure bill

From CNN's DJ Judd

President Biden offered praise for Republican Sen. Rob Portman, telling CNN’s Don Lemon the Ohio senator is “a good man."

“Portman is a good man,” Biden said. “I talked to him before I got here, and I really mean, he's a decent, honorable man, and he and I are working on trying to get this infrastructure bill passed.”

Biden expressed the bipartisan infrastructure framework would pass a motion to proceed on Monday, telling voters at a town hall in Cincinnati, “I take my Republican colleagues at their word. I come from a tradition in the Senate, you shake your hand, and that's it, you keep your word — and I found Rob Portman does that.”

Biden's comments on the senator come after Senate Republicans blocked a vote today to start debate on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, as they push for more time to strike a deal with Democrats and write the legislation.

8:47 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Biden says long-term inflation is "highly unlikely"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

President Biden said fears about inflation are legitimate but added that he believes the chances of long-term inflation are slim. 

"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," he said at tonight's CNN town hall.

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

When pressed later by CNN's Don Lemon, Biden said he in fact believed the US would soon "reduce inflation."

"We're going to be providing good opportunities and jobs for people who, in fact, are going to be reinvesting that money back in all the things we're talking about, driving down prices, not raising prices," he said.

Surging demand for everything from lumber and gasoline to used cars has driven inflation in recent months. The consumer price index, the nation's key marker for inflation, saw the largest one-month jump in 13-years in June. Prices were up 5.4% over the past year, also the largest jump in 13 years.

Watch the moment:

11:30 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Here's how the White House is working to tackle vaccine misinformation, according to Biden

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

President Biden said the White House is working to combat vaccine misinformation that is spreading through social media and certain media outlets.

Biden said first, the White House is attempting to restore America's faith in science by listening to the scientists.

"I mean, literally listening to the scientists and not interfere. Not rush anything, just make — let the scientists proceed. They desperately want to get this right," Biden said.

Biden also explained how the White House is using "every avenue we can, public, private, government, non-government to try to get the facts out, what they really are."

The President addressed how some networks who are "critical" of him are "all of a sudden they're out there saying, 'Let's get vaccinated. Let's get vaccinated.'"

Biden said that this turn in rhetoric is "good."

"We just have to keep telling the truth," he said.

More on this: Earlier this week White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that the White House has had conversations with Fox News over its pandemic coverage.

11:28 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Biden's infrastructure agenda continues to face roadblocks in Congress. Here's where things stand.

From CNN's Alex Rogers and Manu Raju

While President Biden answers questions from a stage in Cincinnati about his infrastructure agenda, back in Washington, DC, the bipartisan infrastructure legislation is facing hurdles in Congress.

Senate Republicans blocked a vote Wednesday to start debate on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, as they push for more time to strike a deal with Democrats and write the legislation.

The vote was 49-51, short of the 60 votes needed to advance the measure.

But lawmakers said their negotiations will intensify over the next few days with the goal of trying again to advance the measure by early next week.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer defended his decision to set up the vote despite Republican opposition, pointing out that the bipartisan group has spent more than a month negotiating. He said Wednesday that bipartisan negotiators are "close to finalizing their product" and that GOP senators "should feel comfortable voting to move forward today."

"We all want the same thing here: to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill," said Schumer. "But in order to finish the bill, we first need to start."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the push to advance the bill was a "stunt" that is "set to fail" because negotiators have not finalized an agreement.

Some background: Despite the finger-pointing among their party leaders, the bipartisan group could draft the bill and advance it in the coming days. Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said Wednesday that she and 10 other GOP senators are sending Schumer a letter committing to advance the bill on Monday if a deal is finalized.

In June, the White House and a bipartisan Senate group agreed to a $579 billion in new spending to build roads, bridges, railroads and airports, along with water, power and broadband infrastructure projects.

11:16 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Students under the age of 12 will likely need to wear masks at school, says Biden

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

President Biden said tonight that students under the age of 12 will likely need to wear masks when schools reopen in the autumn, as they are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine. 

"Everyone under the age of 12 should probably be wearing masks in school," he said, answering a question from a Democrat currently running for her school board.

"That's probably what's going to happen," he added.

Biden also warned that the situation in schools could get "tight" as parents will have to rely on mutual trust on who is or is not vaccinated for those students who are eligible to receive the shot. 

"Are mom or dad being honest that Johnny did or didn't get vaccinated?" he said. "That's going to raise questions. I think what's going to happen is you are going see this work out in ways that people are going to know in the community."

"I think it's a matter of community responsibility and I think you're going to see it work through," he sad.

12:00 a.m. ET, July 22, 2021

Biden says he believes children under 12 will be able to get vaccinated "soon"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Asked when children under the age of 12 will be able to get vaccinated, President Biden said it would be "soon, I believe."

When pressed on how soon this would be, Biden went on to say “soon, in the sense that I do not tell any scientists what they should do. I do not interfere. So, they are doing the examinations now, the testing now, and making the decision now,” he said, adding that scientists will make a decision “when they are ready” and have “done all the science that needs to be done” to determine the appropriate vaccination for different age groups.

"Children 5, 6, 7, 8, they all have different makeups. They're developing. They're trying to figure out whether or not there's a vaccination that affects one child that is at such and such an age, and not another child. That's underway," the President said during the CNN town hall.

In May, the US Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine to include people ages 12 to 15. Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine.

Biden also indicated that he expects the Covid-19 vaccines, which currently are approved under emergency use authorization, to get full approval Food and Drug Administration “quickly.”

The FDA granted priority review to Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine last week, with CNN reporting that an FDA official suggested a decision on full approval is likely to come within two months. Moderna has also begun submitting data for approval of its two-dose coronavirus vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson is expected to seek FDA approval. 

“They’re not promising me any specific date, but my expectation, talking to the group of scientists we put together… plus others in the field, is that sometime, maybe in the beginning of the school year, at the end of August, beginning September, October, they’ll get a final approval,” he said.

Watch the moment: