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Biden understands there is 'more work to be done' in 2024, says Karine Jean-Pierre

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, pictured at a press briefing in November, spoke to NPR's <em>Morning Edition</em> about Biden's priorities and challenges in the year ahead.
Evan Vucci
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, pictured at a press briefing in November, spoke to NPR's Morning Edition about Biden's priorities and challenges in the year ahead.

Updated January 4, 2024 at 10:39 AM ET

President Biden is both running the country and running for reelection, in a campaign that is expected to enter a much more public phase in the days ahead.

Among the challenges he faces are concerns about his age (81), low approval ratings (around 39%), a fracturing of the Democratic base over his support for Israel, voters' negative perceptions of the economy and growing pressure to do more to fix what his own administration has described as a broken immigration system.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended Biden's record in an interview with NPR on Thursday.

She pointed to the administration's passage of historic efforts to invest in infrastructure, semiconductors, and climate, lower prescription drug prices and ban 'junk fees,' among others. Gas prices have dropped below $3 a gallon in more than half of states. She noted that consumer sentiment soared 14% in December — the largest one-month increase in over a decade — calling it a sign that Americans are starting to feel the positive impact of "Bidenomics."

However, polls suggest Biden isn't getting credit for the achievements the White House is citing. Jean-Pierre acknowledged there is "more work to be done" to address Americans' concerns — and said that's something Biden very much understands.

Biden vowed to "finish the job" in his State of the Union address last year. That means continuing to tackle high-priority issues — including advancing agenda items he believes should appeal to both Democrats and Republicans — while also safeguarding the strides the administration has already made, Jean-Pierre told Morning Edition's Leila Fadel.

"We want to continue to build on the successes that this president has had these past three years," she added.

Separately, campaign officials have said Biden is running "like the fate of our democracy depends on it." They are expecting a rematch with former President Donald Trump, who is facing four criminal indictments, including one over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Biden plans to mark the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by delivering a speech about the stakes for freedom and democracy on Friday near Valley Forge, Pa., one of George Washington's Revolutionary War-era encampments. Next week he will visit Charleston, S.C., to give a speech at Mother Emanuel AME Church, the historically Black church that was the site of a white supremacist shooting in 2015.

She says House Republicans are obstructing Biden's agenda

While the Biden administration's track record may not be resonating with all voters, Jean-Pierre contended that Republicans aren't providing better solutions.

She said Republicans in Congress are focused on tax cuts for wealthy individuals and big corporations.

"There is a contrast there, what we're trying to do and what Republicans are trying to do," she added.

Jean-Pierre also rejected Republican criticism of Biden's handling of immigration, another key campaign issue amidst a sustained surge of migrants crossing the southern border and being bussed into northern cities.

She said Biden has made immigration a priority since the first day of his presidency (though Congress has not passed comprehensive legislation during his presidency) and believes bipartisan agreement is needed to address "the root and the cause and how to deal with what's happening at the border."

A bipartisan group of senators has been negotiating new border security legislation for weeks, after congressional Republicans said they would not approve Biden's request for aid to Israel and Ukraine without border security measures.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, who led a congressional delegation of some 60 Republicans to the border in Texas on Wednesday, blamed the Biden administration for what he called a "catastrophe" and expressed doubts about the viability of a bipartisan compromise.

House Republicans also announced on Wednesday that they would formally resume impeachment proceedings against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the border, which his department has dismissed as having "no valid basis."

The reality, Jean-Pierre said, is that House Republicans "continue to obstruct."

"Right now, instead of ... doing what we expect them to do and find a common ground — that's what the American people want them to do — instead, they're doing these political stunts," Jean-Pierre said.

The broadcast interview was produced by Lilly Quiroz and Ben Abrams, and edited by Jan Johnson.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.