Biden Compares Xi to Putin, Republican Voting Restriction Plans to Segregation-Era Laws

President Joe Biden vowed on Thursday to push China to play by international rules, criticized his Republican opponents and defended his policy to provide shelter to children crossing the U.S. border from Mexico at his first solo news conference since taking office, Reuters informed.

Appearing before reporters for more than an hour, Biden seemed well-prepared, read from written papers occasionally, and calmly took questions, a sharp contrast to the often raucous, combative news conferences held by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.

Amid the worst U.S.-Chinese relations in decades, Biden compared Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling them both supporters of autocracy.

But he said the United States was not looking for confrontation with China over differences on trade, Beijing’s rollback of democracy in Hong Kong, treatment of minority Uighurs and military buildup.

“He’s one of the guys, like Putin, who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future, (and) democracy can’t function in an ever-complex world,” Biden said of Xi. “He doesn’t have a democratic – with a small ‘d’ – bone in his body, but he’s a smart, smart guy.”

He said he would insist the Chinese leader “play by the international rules, fair competition, fair practices, fair trade.”

Biden also criticized Republican-backed measures in many state legislatures to restrict voting rights, saying they were worse than “Jim Crow,” referring to laws put in place in Southern states in the decades after the 1861-65 U.S. Civil War to legalize racial segregation and disenfranchise Black citizens.

Struggling to contain a surge in unaccompanied children seeking asylum at the U.S. southern border, Biden suggested his Republican critics who say his policies are at fault were inhumane.

No previous administration had refused care and shelter to children coming over from Mexico, except that of Trump, Biden said. Rather than leaving those children to “starve to death” at the border, Biden said his administration would care for them.

Biden noted that he had selected Vice President Kamala Harris to lead diplomatic efforts with Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to stem the flow of migrants.

Biden faces opposition from congressional Republicans to his ambitious plans for what could end up being a $3 trillion plan for infrastructure and other priorities and tax increases to pay for it.

He said he believed the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate should make it harder for Republicans to use a parliamentary blocking maneuver called the filibuster that requires 60 votes to advance most legislation in the 100-seat chamber, saying it is being abused.

He called for a return to the “talking filibuster” – a tradition from decades ago that required senators to occupy the floor and make their case against legislation if they opposed it.

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