Biden reveals ‘greatest regret’ when pressed on Black agenda at televised town hall

EXCLUSIVE: Biden acknowledged the "overwhelming support" he received from the Black community. "The only folks who helped me more than Black men are Black women," he emphasized.

President Joe Biden‘s Build Back Better (BBB) plan remained a political focus, especially on Thursday at CNN town hall in Baltimore, a predominantly Black city. At the moment, the president’s proposal is being fiscally chopped down by Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.  

At the town hall, President Biden was pushed through questionnaires from Democrats, Independents and Republicans to explain details of BBB and other policies yet to garner official White House plans. 

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks to American public during CNN town hall with Anderson Cooper. (Photo: CNN)

One of the Democrats, who works at Morgan State University, asked the president to offer a plan on police reform and voting rights specifically. When pressed by Anderson Cooper about potentially eliminating the filibuster to move Democrats’ voting rights legislation forward, Biden acknowledged that he has to get beyond the current infrastructure negotiations before he can deal with the issue. 

Biden contends passage of Build Back Better, which is being passed through budget reconciliation, will clear the way for him to engage with lawmakers on the Hill to then focus on advancing voting rights protections. The president acknowledged acting now would get into “a debate on the filibuster” and cause him to “lose three votes” on the economic and foreign policy equation.   

Biden did, however, acknowledge the “overwhelming support” he received from the Black community. “The only folks who helped me more than Black men are Black women,” he emphasized.

The president said his “greatest regret” has been working so hard to pass his larger spending bills like the American Rescue Plan and Build Back Better — which he noted also provide needed help to Black communities — so much so that they prevented him from focusing on important other important legislative items important to Black America like voting rights and police reform.

Speaking on Republicans state legislators passing restrictive voting laws, Biden called it “the greatest assault on voting rights in the history of the United States seen since the Civil War.”

Voting Rights Rallies Held In Washington DC
People attend a pre-rally for the “March On for Washington and Voting Rights” on August 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Other topics covered during the town hall include expanding caregiving for the elderly, the child tax credit, student loan forgiveness, climate change, supply chain-inflation, children’s COVID vaccines, immigration and the Jan. 6 commission.

When it comes to the supply chain issue, President Biden said he would consider bringing in the National Guard to break the bottle neck that is linked to a rise in prices for nearly everything from food to lumber and more. 

A woman from Bowie, Maryland asked the president how red tape that limits her ability to care for both of her parents could be cut. Both of her parents, she said, are suffering with dementia. Biden revealed that his proposed 12 weeks of paid family leave was chiseled down to four weeks due to pushback during negotiations among Democrats.

Earlier on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “millions of working families are struggling to make ends meet and struggling with the cost of care. If you are a family struggling with the cost of care his plan [Build Back Better] will help.”

But on the employment side of the care industry, April Verrett, president of SEIU Local 2015, said her members who provide care professionally are significantly underpaid. Her claims make caregiving a labor component as much as it is a social aspect of the BBB plan. 

“Why should these women continue to have to live in poverty to do what is some of the most important work that I would say any one gets up to do every day? When are we going to stop devaluing the work that they do and once and for all pay them what they are worth?” Verrett asked. “I believe that their work has been devalued because it’s the work the slave woman once did. They got away with not paying us, you know, while we were enslaved to do the work.”

When it comes to the event’s initial focus on Build Back Better, the president thinks he is close to a deal. Biden said he has worked about 100 hours on this issue and has taken steps to ensure the plan is completely paid for.  

U.S. President Joe Biden (2nd L) speaks as (L-R) Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) listen during an event on the American Rescue Plan in the Rose Garden of the White House on March 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

To gather support for the policy package, the president went on the road to explain the plan that he admits is not as understandable for some.

Democrat Congressman Kweisi Mfume of Baltimore told theGrio on Thursday, before casting a vote on Steve Bannon’s contempt of Congress resolution, that lawmakers on the Hill also believe there are closing in on a deal.

“President Biden’s trip to Baltimore provided the perfect backdrop to make his final nationwide appeal to get the Congress to pass his much needed Build Back Better Act. The leadership of the House are entering the last final days of negotiations and I expect that we will get a deal done by next week,” said Mfume. 

Baltimore’s Mayor Brandon Scott told theGrio that the town hall provided “an opportunity for the nation to learn more about the president’s Build Back Agenda, which has the potential to deliver real results for vulnerable families.”

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott is interviewed by theGrio’s Gerren Keith Gaynor and Jessica Floyd outside the White House on June 23, 2021. (Photo: theGrio)

Scott along with other Democratic mayors met with Biden a few months ago offering what could be the prescription for the nation’s ills, including gun violence, poverty and related issues to the pandemic.

According to Scott, “as leaders in Washington continue negotiations around this landmark legislation, we must remember that this is an investment in the American people. Washington must lean on the insight of mayors, especially Black mayors who are in the trenches and ready to help.”

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