President Biden acknowledges the pandemic has left Americans exhausted and demoralised but insists at a news conference marking his first year in office that he has "outperformed" expectations.
A defiant President Joe Biden has acknowledged missteps over the still-raging pandemic but hailed a year of "enormous progress" on the US economy as he took stock of his first year in office.
In a rare news conference marking his first 12 months on Wednesday, Biden touted a period of unprecedented job creation, infrastructure improvements and a growing economy that he said would help counter inflation and supply chain woes plaguing his presidency.
"It's been a year of challenges," Biden told reporters in the ornate East Room of the White House, saying he "didn't anticipate" the level of obstruction he has encountered from Republicans in Congress.
"But it has also been a year of enormous progress," the US leader said.
"We went from two million people being vaccinated at the moment I was sworn into 210 million Americans being fully vaccinated today. We created six million new jobs –– more jobs in one year than any time before."
Lowering the record rate of US inflation will "be a haul," Biden said, but he insisted the price increases will subside if supply chain snarls and component shortages are resolved.
"The inflation has everything to do with the supply chain," the president said at a press conference, adding that his Build Back Better spending proposal, which is stalled in Congress, would improve the situation, but "it's going to be hard and take a lot of work."
It was Biden's first news conference of the year –– and the first formal such event at all since November.
Biden faced questions on everything from the confrontation with Russia over Ukraine and North Korea's missile tests to US inflation, Covid-19, and what he calls a threat to democracy from his predecessor Donald Trump.
Biden's press conference came on the eve of the anniversary of his January 20th inauguration, which took place in the extraordinary circumstances of a pandemic and the aftermath of a violent assault by Trump supporters on Congress to try and overturn Biden's victory.
Now, with a State of the Union speech to Congress set for March 1, Biden faces the rapidly approaching likelihood of a Republican comeback in midterm congressional elections this November.
Republicans are forecast to crush his party and take control of the legislature. That risks bringing two years of complete obstruction from Congress, likely including threats of impeachment and a slew of aggressive committee probes.
Trump, who continues to perpetuate the lie that he beat Biden in 2020 and seeks to undermine Americans' faith in their election system, is eyeing a possible attempt at another run at the White House in 2024.
Rare press conference
Biden's team hopes that good news will gradually outweigh the pandemic-related gloom, with the economy continuing to rebound, the Omicron coronavirus variant tailing off, and Americans taking notice of achievements, like massive spending on infrastructure.
As White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told Politico: "President Biden was elected to a four-year term, not a one-year term."
While Biden does frequently interact with journalists, in short, often-hurried question-and-answer sessions at the White House, his lack of full press conferences has raised eyebrows.
Wednesday's event was only the second held at the White House since he took office.