12:32 P.M. EST

MS. PSAKI:  Happy Monday.  I just have a couple of things for all of you at the top.  First, over the weekend, the President’s Homeland Security Advisor, Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall, convened a coordination call with the Acting FEMA Administrator and the Director of the National Weather Service on the storm system moving toward the Mid-Atlantic region — it’s not just moving toward, I think it’s clear it’s here, if you look outside of our window — and up the Eastern Seaboard. 

Liz and her team joined the FEMA daily operations briefing yesterday, and remain in regular contact with the FEMA response team about changes in the storm forecasts and any need for federal assistance.  The White House wanted to assess the potential impact and determine any early action that the federal government could take to support communities across many states likely to be affected. 

Liz also proactively called governors of states in the storm’s path overnight and into today, and she will remain in close touch; those include Governor Cuomo, Governor Murphy, Governor Wolf, Governor Carney, as well as New York City Mayor de Blasio.  She expressed the President’s intent to ensure close coordination going forward among federal, state, and local officials in preparing for and responding to weather emergencies. 

Also, as you — many of you have noted, the President spoke with Senator Collins yesterday.  As you all know, invited her and other Senate Republicans to the White House later this afternoon.  This meeting is part of the President and his administration’s — our administration’s close and ongoing engagement with members of both parties in — on Capitol Hill and on the American Rescue package. 

Throughout these conversations, we’ve underscored the economic and health challenges that our country faces — issues he will, of course, be reiterating today — and the need to move swiftly to address them with a package that is big enough to get schools safely reopened, give financially struggling families and communities a bridge, and deliver on his promise to speed up vaccine delivery and defeat the virus.

It’s important to remember that the size of the package was designed with the size of the crisis — dual crises, as we’ve said.  And I wanted to just call out a couple of economists and some economic data that we’ve seen over the last several days. 

A new report by the Brookings Institution estimates that with the American Rescue Plan, we could boost GDP by 4 percent and return our economy to pre-COVID levels by the end of 2021.  A separate analysis by Moody’s Analytics found that the President’s plan would create 7.5 million jobs this year and double our economic growth, and return our economy back to full employment one year faster.  The IMF’s chief economist said their preliminary analysis found that the plan could boost U.S. economic growth by 5 percent over three years.

A couple of other, just, updates for you: Just today, the U.S. Conference of Mayors sent a letter to congressional leadership, urging them to take immediate action on the American Rescue Plan.  This letter was signed by over 400 mayors.  I know there’s a lot going on, so I just wanted to highlight it for all of you.  And West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, also a Republican, said in interviews today that he agrees that going big in this moment is critical. 

And last thing I just want to do before we get to your questions — I often note I’m going to “circle back.”  I hate to disappoint conservative Twitter, but I am going to circle back on a number of things, as we often do directly.  But Hurricane Maria funds, which was a question that was asked last week: The President has made clear — the status of them, I should say — that it is a priority for his administration to release this funding.  We are working to do so.  So that is in process.

On the White House fence, which a couple of people asked about, I believe it was on Friday: Our goal, the President and the Vice President’s goal, is for the Secret Service to adjust the perimeter as soon as it makes sense from an overall security standpoint.  So we’re working closely with them on that, and they are — of course, would be in the lead on that front.

And the last piece I just wanted to give a quick update on was there was a question about the White House’s support for FEMA’s requests of troops.  We, of course, support a whole-of-government pandemic response that is catering to the unique issues and needs of our states.  FEMA is working in strong partnership with states to get a handle on their needs and, accordingly, have requested the significant manpower, in some cases, for this unprecedented pandemic response effort.  I expect we’ll have more on this as the days continue this week on how they will be utilized. 

With that, let’s go.  Darlene, welcome to the briefing room.  Oh, I know you’ve been here many times before, but it’s our first engagement here.  Go ahead.

Q    Welcome back.  (Laughs.)  On the President’s meeting this evening with the senators, can you give us a sense of how he views that meeting?  Is it going to be negotiating?  Is he going to be prepared to counter any things that Republicans might offer?  Or is it just a session where, you know, they asked to meet with the President and he’s simply giving them an opportunity to voice their concerns?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, the President has been clear since long before he came into office that he’s open to engaging with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress about their ideas.  And this is an example of doing exactly that.  So, as we said in our statement last night, it’s an exchange of ideas, an opportunity to do that.  This group obviously sent a letter with some outlines — some top lines of their concerns and their priorities, and he’s happy to have a conversation with them.

What this meeting is not is a forum for the President to make or accept an offer.  So I think that’s an important — to convey to all of you.

And his view, it remains what was stated in the statement last night but also what he said on Friday, which is that the risk is not that it is too big — this package — the risk is that it is too small.  And that remains his view, and it’s one he’ll certainly express today.

Go ahead, Darlene.

Q    So what would you say is more important to the President at this point on this first legislative test: Is it going big or going bipartisan?  It seems like you can’t have both. 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think the President believes we can.  And there is historic evidence that it is possible to take a number of paths — including through reconciliation, if that’s the path that is pursued — and for the vote to be bipartisan. 

But it’s important to him that he hears his group out on their concerns, on their ideas.  He’s always open to making this package stronger.  And he also, as was noted in our statement last night, remains in close touch with Speaker Pelosi, with Leader Schumer, and he will continue that engagement throughout the day and in the days ahead.

Go ahead.

Q    You mentioned that President Biden’s proposed COVID relief package is designed to be commensurate with the crises.  This group of 10 Senate Republicans, what they’re offering, as you know, is more than a third less — the topline number; the $600 billion is more than a third less of that $1.9 trillion that President Biden says he wants.  Given that, do you see that as a serious attempt to compromise on their part?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I appreciate the opportunity to give more comment on their proposal.  I think it’s — they put their ideas forward.  That’s how the President sees it.  He felt it was, you know, an effort to engage, and engage on a bipartisan basis, and that’s why he invited them to the White House today. 

But his view is that the size of the package needs to be commensurate with the crisis — crises we’re facing — the dual crises we’re facing, hence why he proposed a package that’s $1.9 trillion.

Q    Does the President plan to invite Democrats into the Oval to have these similar conversations?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I can promise you — we’re less than two weeks in — there will be many Democrats in the Oval Office, and I’m sure this is just the — you know, part of our ongoing effort to engage directly.

Go ahead.

Q    Well, asking that again in a slightly different way: There are Democrats who see that the first meeting the President is having face-to-face with lawmakers is with Republicans and not Democrats.  I guess, why would the Dem- — why is the White House doing that?

MS. PSAKI:  Who — are there any specific Democrats you want to call out? 

Q    No.  But they’ve been — it’s been talked about.  There’s concern that, you know —

MS. PSAKI:  Just people talking about it in hallways?

Q    Yeah, something like that.  Sure.

MS. PSAKI:  Okay.  Well, I can assure you that Speaker Pelosi and Senator — and Leader Schumer, they have been in very close touch with the President directly, and members of the senior team.  He has been in touch, but also members of our senior team have been in touch with Democrats across the political spectrum, and that will continue.  And there will be definitely Democrats who will be part of conversations here at the White House.

Q    Two others on that.  You said in your statement that the scale of what must be done is large.  That’s bottom-lining.

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    Is $618 billion considered large by the White House? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think our statement last night made clear that the President believes that the risk is not being too — going too small, but going — going not big enough.  And that his view is that the size of the package needs to be commensurate with the crises we’re facing.  That’s why he proposed $1.9 trillion.  There’s obviously a big gap between $600 billion and $1.9 trillion.  I don’t think any of us are mathematicians, otherwise we wouldn’t be here, but we can all state that clearly.  And so, clearly, he thinks the package size needs to be closer to what he proposed than smaller.

Q    And in that statement, you called out $1,400 relief checks a substantial investment in fighting COVID and reopening schools, aid to small businesses and hurting families.  A lot of that isn’t in the Republican proposal.  So why have this meeting at all if they’re not even going to take seriously what he is proposing?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, this is an exchange — an opportunity to exchange ideas, to have a conversation.  That’s why he invited them over here to the White House.  He outlined the specifics of what he would like to see in the package in his speech — his primetime speech just a few weeks ago.  And there are some realities, as we look to what the American people are going through right now.  One in seven American families don’t have enough food to eat, right?  We’re not going to have enough funding to reopen schools.  We don’t have enough money to ensure that, you know, we can get the vaccine in the arms of Americans. 

So there are some real impacts, which he will certainly reiterate, as he has publicly and privately, in many conversations.  But they’ve put forth some ideas; he’s happy to hear from them.  But he’s — also feels strongly about the need to make sure the size of the package meets this moment and feels the American people expect that of their elected officials as well.

     Q    Can I ask you a quick one on Burma?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    The statement the President just put out —

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.  

Q    — among other things, it says, “The United States is taking note of those who stand with the people of Burma in this difficult hour.”  Is that perhaps a message to China?

MS. PSAKI:  I think it’s a message to all countries in the region and countries who — you know, will be asked to respond or to consider what the appropriate response will be in reaction to the events that have happened over the past couple of days.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  On Friday, we heard the President come out and say that while he wants to pass this bill with support from Republicans, “if we can get it,” it has to pass with no — no “ifs, ands, or buts,” as he put it.  That “if we can get it” part, should we take that as a sign that the President recognizes he may have to be abandoning his hopes for bipartisanship?

MS. PSAKI:  I think it’s hardly an abandoning of bipartisanship.  We’re still at a phase where the House and Senate are working through — as you know, from covering Congress — the entire reconcili- — what the process would look like on the budgetary front this week. 

Senator — Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi have both said they would also like it to be bipartisan.  We’ll see what comes out of this meeting today.  And if there are good ideas to put forward, we’ll put forward them.  There’s still time to do exactly that. 

And even if, through the parliamentary process that the Congress will decide, it moves toward reconciliation, Republicans can still vote for that.  And there’s certainly precedent of that in the past.

Q    You mentioned that the Republicans can still vote for the bill, obviously, even if it’s done through reconciliation, but some Republican sources say that’s not really bipartisanship; it doesn’t satisfy that promise because it’s not true compromise.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think that the one in seven American families who can’t put food on the table, and the teachers who are waiting to ensure their schools have the ventilation, the PPE, the testing they need, those — they will tell you that they expect their members to meet this moment.  And we saw this as a good-faith proposal they’ve put forward, a good-faith effort to have a discussion.  The President is inviting them here in good faith, and we will see where it goes from here.

Q    And what’s the President’s message to senators like Portman and Capito, who will be here today, who have seemed to warn that if you can’t get unity on this issue, it’s going to be much harder to achieve down the road on other issues?

MS. PSAKI:  The President is confident that issues like reopening schools, getting shots in the arms of Americans, ensuring people have enough food to eat are not just Democratic issues.  He takes his former Republican colleagues at their word, of course, that they’re committed to these issues too.  And that’s why he wants to have the conversation.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  I want to ask you about GameStop.  Some lawmakers have proposed legislative reforms, like restrictions on short selling and financial transactions tax that — the latter of which President Biden supported during the 2020 campaign.  So I want to ask you now if the White House would support actions like those to address the situation.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, as we’ve noted in here several times before, but I just want to reiterate: Obviously, this is under the purview of the SEC, in terms of their review and monitoring. But this is — there is an important set of policy issues that have been raised as a result of market volatility in recent days, and we think congressional — attention to these issues is appropriate and would welcome working with Congress moving forward as we dig into these further policy issues. 

But I don’t have anything further to predict for you other than we certainly welcome the opportunity to work with members who have proposed ideas.

Q    Has there been any direct engagement with those members so far on what they’ve proposed?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have anything to read out for you on that front.  Obviously, we’re engaged at a variety of levels every day, with a range of offices, on a number of issues.  So — but I don’t have anything more for you on that.

Q    And then, lastly, one more on this.  Sorry.  Is — so there’s no confirmed members, right now, on the Financial Stability Oversight Council.  And is it the White House view that that lack of officials in place is affecting your administration’s approach to this situation?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, the SEC is looking carefully at recent activities and if they’re consistent with investor protection, and fair and efficient markets.  That’s where we think the purview is and the focus is at this point in time.

Go ahead.

Q    If I can ask one follow-up on the meeting with the Republicans and then a follow-up on the Burma question as well.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    What is the timeline that the President sees for these negotiations to end?  What is the — I mean, how urgent is this?  If these benefits are going to end in the middle of March, how much time is there to have these types of meetings, as you say, with Democrats and others that may want to take part?

MS. PSAKI:  It’s incredibly urgent.  And as you noted, there is — you know, there are — there are not — there are timelines coming up, I should say, in terms of when the Americans who are applying for unemployment insurance will no longer be able to get access.  As I noted earlier, one in seven American families doesn’t have enough — can’t put food on the table. 

We need to plan for how we’re going to get more vaccines in the arms of Americans.  We need to have funding to help public schools have the preparations needed to reopen.  So there is urgency.  This is what the President is spending his time on, as evidenced by the meeting later today, and what the majority of our senior team is focused on at this moment.

But there is still time to make changes, to continue to have a discussion.  And that’s why he’s — we’re, kind of, escalating the number of meetings and engagements we’re having through the course of this week.

Q    And on Burma, if I can: On the President’s statement that he put out, he says, “The reversal of progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanctions, laws, and authorities followed by appropriate action.”  Is the “appropriate action” related solely to sanctions?  Or what other type of response may be on the table?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think that’s why the Pres- — that was called out in the President’s comments, as you know.  We removed sanctions — the United States, I should say, removed sanctions on Burma over the past decade based on progress toward democracy.  “The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanctions, laws, and authorities followed by appropriate action.”  So that’s why he called it out.  I don’t have anything — any additional steps beyond that to predict for you at this point in time.

Go ahead.

Q    Some Democrats are hoping to repeal the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions in the COVID bill.  Does the President support those insertions?  And more broadly, does he support a general repeal of that deduction?

MS. PSAKI:  You know, the President supports Democrats and Republicans putting good ideas forward and having a discussion about them, and determining how we move forward with urgency to get this plan passed.  But I’m not going to negotiate from here.

Q    Sure.  Senator Manchin was a little upset with some comments the Vice President made on a local television show.  Has the White House reached out to him in any way to, kind of, clear the air?

MS. PSAKI:  We’ve been in touch with Senator Manchin, as we have been for many weeks, and will continue to be moving forward.  And not only is he a key partner to the President and to the White House on this package, but on his agenda.  And we will remain in close touch with him.

Q    And my last question on Burma.  In regards to Myanmar, what, if any, efforts are being made to coordinate a response with allies such as Japan, EU, and Britain?  And has there been any context with China to discuss the situation?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we have had intensive consultations at multiple levels with allies and partners in the region and around the world.  I would expect many of those would come through the State Department.  So I’d certainly defer — refer to them for more specifics.


Q    Yeah.  Can I just follow on Burma?  In your statement last night when you said you might “take action,” you referred to it as “Burma” and “Myanmar.”  And in the President’s statement just now, he only uses “Burma.”  Is that indicative of a formal shift of the United States government on how you’re to refer to that Southeast Asian country?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, our official policy is that we say “Burma” but use “Myanmar” as a courtesy in certain communications.  So, for example, the embassy website refers to Burma — Myanmar because they are by definition dealing with officials and the public.  The State Department website uses “Burma (Myanmar)” in some places and “Burma” in others.

Q    So there’s no official change?  U.S. might use both, and the President goes four times with “Burma.”  Was he meaning to be discourteous?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t think that’s the conclusion you should draw.  Certainly he is watching this closely, as is evidenced by his statement.

Go ahead.

Q    When you said there is still time for negotiation, can you be a little bit more specific?  Is the President trying to give this one week, two weeks to try to come up with a bipartisan solution? 

And then, secondly, the CBO said this morning that the economy should return to pre-pandemic levels by about midyear, even if there is not additional legislation.  So how does assessment affect what your — affect the negotiations?

MS. PSAKI:  So, on the first, I’m not going to give a deadline here other than to say that it is urgent we move forward for all the reasons we’ve already been discussing, including the need to ensure families can put food on the table; the need to ensure we have time to plan for getting schools the necessary funding to reopen; the need to ensure we can get vaccines in the arms of Americans. 

Clearly, there’s urgency.  As you know, and as many of you know who cover Congress, there’s a process that’s ongoing this week.  There’s still some time here as that process works its way through for changes to be made.  So that was what I was referring to.

On the second question, you — sorry, can you repeat the second question one more time?

Q    Yeah.  The CBO — their projection this morning is the economy is going to return to pre-pandemic size by the middle of the year, and that’s without any additional stimulus. 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, the President’s plan, as we’ve been discussing in here, was designed to achieve certain basic goals: getting shots in the arms of Americans, helping the one in seven families who are going hungry and the nearly 7 million Americans who are facing possible eviction during a pandemic. 

The CBO projections for next year’s growth isn’t a measure of all of these things.  Right?  It’s not a measure of how each American family is doing, and whether the American people are getting the assistance they need or whether we’re able to get vaccines in the shots of people. 

So, you know, we’ve — of course, it answers a different question, I should say.  So our focus is on what the American people need to get through this crisis, which is why we are pushing for this piece of legislation.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  On school reopening: The Democratic mayor of Chicago has said that it’s safe to reopen schools.  They’ve invested $100 million into safety measures.  But the teachers there remain on the verge of striking.  Does the White House agree with the mayor that if enough funding has been put into place and safety measures have been taken, that kids should return to schools?

MS. PSAKI:   Well, let me first say the President has been — has enormous respect for Mayor Lightfoot, and he has also been a strong ally to teachers his entire career.  Of course, as you know, Dr. Biden, his wife, is a teacher — so even in his home. 

He trusts the mayor and the unions to work this out.  They’re both prioritizing the right things, which is ensuring the health and safety of the kids and teachers, and working to make sure that children in Chicago are getting the education they deserve. 

So he’s hopeful, we are hopeful they can reach common ground as soon as possible.

Q    Does the White House have a role to play here, though, in Chicago and other cities in terms of mediating these negotiations and getting kids back to school? 

MS. PSAKI:  We certainly remain in touch with a range of parties, but again, we hope that they can come to common ground soon.

Q    And just, lastly: On the overall COVID relief package, in terms of understanding what, you know, the White House means by “bipartisan,” would you consider a bill bipartisan if it doesn’t have any Republican support in Congress but it has, you know, support among Republican voters?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think you touched on an interesting point, which is that 74 percent of the public, according to recent polls, supports this package and the key components of this package. 

Q    So is it considered bipartisan?

MS. PSAKI:  Democrats and Republicans — we just saw the Republican governor of West Virginia come out earlier today and advocate for a big package. 

So, you know, when the President talks about unifying the country and bringing the country together, he’s not suggesting that he is going to make one party out of the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress.  But he is meeting with Republicans today — 10 Republicans who have sent this letter — because he feels they made a good-faith effort to put a — the top lines of a proposal forward, and he wants to have that engagement and encourages that sharing of ideas. 

So I don’t think it’s an either/or, but I think it’s a both.  And we certainly feel that the components that are in this package are the basis of what should garner bipartisan support. 

Q    So based on the polling you cited, if there’s not enough Republican support in Congress, would that be considered bipartisan, based on the measures he’s setting for himself?

MS. PSAKI:  I will let you be the judge of that.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you very much, Jen.  I have a question for one reporter who couldn’t be here because of social distancing.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    This is a question from Cleve Wootson from the Washington Post: What kind of preparations went into Vice President Harris’s interviews in the West — with West Virginia stations yesterday — or last week?  What kind of preparation —

MS. PSAKI:  I’m not sure what your question is.

Q    What kind of — what preparations went into Vice President Harris’s interviews with local stations in West Virginia?

MS. PSAKI:  Like how did her team prepare her?  Or can you be more —

Q    Was it part of a larger White House strategy to put pressure on politicians in West Virginia?

MS. PSAKI:  Our focus — the bottom line is, our focus is communicating with the American people about how the American Rescue Plan can help put food on the table, can help ensure we can get vaccines in the arms of Americans and help send kids back to school.  That’s our overarching objective with all of the communications we do.

Q    And after Senator Manchin’s criticism of that interview, did President Biden personally speak with Senator Manchin?

MS. PSAKI:  As I noted before to an earlier question, we’re certainly in touch with Senator Manchin and his team, as we have been for some time, and we’ll continue to be.  And he’s an important partner as we look to move forward on this package and, of course, all of the President’s agenda.

Q    And I have a question about the meeting with Republican senators today.  The proposal that they put forward would take the over $300 billion in aid to states and local governments that Biden has put forward and zero that out.  There would be no aid in that proposal to state and local governments.  Is that a non-starter for President Biden?  I mean, can he even move forward with a proposal like that?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, there is a reason that that funding was in the initial proposal, including — you know, sometimes the definition of calling it “state and local” means people don’t know what it means.  Right?  It is — and I’m not suggesting you’re doing that.  We’ve probably shorthanded it too.  You know, that is funding for firefighters, for, you know, local communities, for enabling them to help get through this period of time. 

I’m not going to outline for you what the red lines are from the podium when there’s discussions that are ongoing.  But again, the reason that each component was put in the package was because economists, health experts, many that the President and others consulted with felt there were essential components to help get the American people through this period of time.

Q    Can I follow up on that state and local —

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    Republicans are pointing to a JP Morgan report that most states haven’t had a drop in tax revenues and some states have seen an increase in tax revenues as an example of why that state and local tax relief — or state and local relief isn’t needed in this latest package.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, I think our objective is to focus on not JP Morgan reports, but what state, local governments and others are telling us they need to ensure that the people in their districts, the resources in their districts, the people who are making government function in their districts have the funding and resources they need. 

Go ahead.  Hi, Yamiche.

Q    Hi.  How are you?  Two questions.  The first is, does the President support House Democrats moving forward with the process of reconciliation?  Today, there’s some reporting that they’re waiting for guidance from the White House.

MS. PSAKI:  The President, as was noted in the statement last night, is grateful for the urgency and the pace at which they’re moving.  And, as you know, this process can take a little bit of time, but he certainly supports them moving forward to move a package ahead. 

But again, you know, this — the process through — the mechanics through which they move is up to them; he’s leaving it up to them.  And he believes that there is still room for bipartisan support for this package, which is why he’s having this meeting today and why he’ll remain very engaged himself, and why he’s asked his senior team to remain very engaged in the days ahead.

Q    And a follow-up to that.  With reconciliation, is there a timeline that this White House is looking at as, “Okay, now we have to move forward with reconciliation”?  You keep talking about how urgent it is.  I’m wondering if there’s a deadline in the White House’s mind or in the President’s mind to say, “Okay, we have to move forward at this date.”

MS. PSAKI:  Again, urgent means urgent.  It means this is going to be the focus of the President, the Vice President, his senior team; hence he’s having a group of Republican senators here later today.  He will continue to be closely engaged with not just Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer, but a range of Democrats, as will members of our team.  And the fact that he’s spending so much time on it, and our team is, shows you how much of a priority it is here. 

Q    And then, can I ask you about COVID?

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    I know there was a COVID briefing today, but one statistic that really stood out to me and probably to a lot of Americans is: About 47 percent of vaccinations are coming in with no — with racial data.  That means more than 50 percent don’t have racial data.  I’m wondering if the President has a fix for that, if there’s a legislative or policy change that’s going to be made, because I’m wondering how you ensure that the virus — that the vaccine is given equitably if you don’t know who’s getting it.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, you know, the racial disparities and the impact of this pandemic are not lost on the President, and that’s one of the reasons he asked Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith — who was, of course, part of the briefing this morning — to lead this taskforce, and why he campaigned on the need for response rooted in addressing the disproportionate impact on communities of color. 

There are a couple of steps that we are taking substantively.  One includes standing up and supporting additional venues for vaccinations, targeted — reaching those at the highest risk and the communities hardest hit by this pandemic.  So, going into communities and meeting people where they are and not expecting, you know, every community to go out and seek and search where they can find the vaccine; meeting with states to discuss their plans for ensuring equitable vaccine distribution, and offering assistance in achieving that goal.

So as you all know — and we’ve talked about it in here — governors are obviously overseeing the distribution and efforts to ensure that the vaccine is getting into communities across the country.  We are closely engaged with them and looking for ways to help assist in that front and think strategically and creatively about how to do that.  And we’re also working with CDC to identify and explore ways to urgently improve the quality of vaccination data reporting by race and ethnicity.  There’s no question it’s not the level that we need it to be at.

Q    But is there a directive that’s going to happen, or a message to the people that are giving out the vaccines, “We need this data”?  I just wonder how that actually gets changed on the ground level.  Is it — I don’t know if it’s a presidential memorandum or policy change.  I’m just wondering if someone walks into CVS, how does that person taking their data say, “Yes, the White House needs me to get this data from this person”?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, this is — equity is essential and a priority in all — everything we do, including addressing COVID and the pandemic, which is the President’s top priority.  I would certainly defer to our health and medical experts who I know spoke to this a bit this morning.  And I think Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith will be out more in the next 24 hours or so talking more about steps we can take on this front.

Go ahead.

Q    I have a follow to Yamiche’s great question about reconciliation, and it’s that the Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell, back in 2017 famously said, “Winners make policy; losers go home.”  Given that, why shouldn’t Democrats, why shouldn’t President Biden be as tactically ruthless as Republicans have been in pushing priorities that he champions?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think the President has been clear that he is encouraged by the pace and — the rapid pace, I should say, that Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer are moving this package forward at. 

At the same time, as you know, there is time — because this process can take a bit — to make changes as needed.  And he wants to be a part of those conversations; hence he invited Republicans to do that exactly here today. 

I can’t speak to Senator McConnell’s role or commitment or point of view or anything.  He’s certainly not asking me to be a spokesperson, Lord knows.  But, you know, President Biden ran on a commitment of, of course, unifying the country but also of hearing from all sides and giving — having — engaging and having an opportunity to have discussions.  And today is part of doing that.

Q    And, quickly, can I circle back — to use that phrase — to a question I asked during the transition?  (Laughter.) 

MS. PSAKI:  Anyone can steal it.  It just means you have to get back.

Q    So I’ll circle back to this: Has the White House made a determination about whether it will continue to extend the privilege of intelligence briefings to former President Trump, given the concerns among some Democrats that he’ll either misuse it or leverage it to enrich himself?

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.  This is a good question.  I’ve raised it with our intelligence teams — or our national security team, I should say.  It’s something, obviously, that’s under review, but there was not a conclusion last I asked them about it, but I’m happy to follow up on it and see if there’s more to share.

Go ahead, in the back. 

Q    All right.  Thank you, Jen.  Last Friday, a few dozen men from the white supremacist group Patriot Front were filmed marching on the National Mall toward the Capitol.  What is the administration’s latest threat assessment on white supremacist groups like this coming to Washington?  Is the threat seen as increasing?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think the fact that there was a tasking done through our national security team on domestic violent extremism that is going to review all activity that could pose a threat, including the activities of white supremacists, tells you what a priority it is and tells you that we believe that there is more that needs to be done and a greater assessment. 

So that review is ongoing.  As soon as it’s concluded, I’m sure we’ll have more to share with all of you about our view at this point in time.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  On just a bit of a housekeeping matter: Since the Senate delayed its confirmation vote on Alejandro Mayorkas, does that mean that the immigration rollout that you guys have linked to that confirmation is going to be pushed back as well?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we are certainly hopeful he will be confirmed tomorrow, and we have every intention of moving forward tomorrow with the immigration executive actions that we have discussed in here a bit.

Go ahead in the back.

Q    Thank you.  Last week, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was desecrated, vandalized in city of Davis in California.  There’s (inaudible) among of Indian Americans and others — followers of Gandhi in this country.  Does the President knows about it?  Does he has any thought?  And this for the third time this has happened in this country in last one year.  The last two times it happened in this city itself, in Washington, D.C.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we certainly would have concern about the desecration of monuments of Gandhi.  And I — you know, that’s certainly what we would express. 

Were you ask — sorry, what was the last part of the question you were asking?

Q    Does the President know if — knows about it, and what are his thoughts on it?

MS. PSAKI:  If there’s more to share on the President’s point of view on it, I’m happy to get back to you on that.  But certainly we would, you know, condemn that desecration and watch it closely.

Q    One follow-up on Burma — a (inaudible) question.  Do you — do you recognize the new army leadership in Burma, or you don’t recognize that (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think our statement makes clear what our view is on the events of the last few days and where we stand with the — you know, declared new government.

Q    As you know, President Trump has been barred from a lot of social media sites.  I was curious whether you think his absence has made your job any easier, or the White House’s job any easier, as it kind of goes forward on these COVID negotiations?

MS. PSAKI:  In what way?

Q    He’d create a lot noise.  Right?  He would have certain gravitational pull with Republicans who may be — may be more inclined to take a harder position.  I wonder if that’s been anything that you guys have thought about or, kind of, considered?

MS. PSAKI:  This may be hard to believe: We don’t spend a lot of time talking about or thinking about President Trump here — former President Trump, to be very clear.

I think that’s a question that’s probably more appropriate for Republican members who are looking for ways to support a bipartisan package, and whether that gives them space.  But I can’t say we miss him on Twitter.

Q    Does President Biden support the continuing ban of President Trump on their sites? 

MS. PSAKI:  I think that’s a decision made by Twitter.  We’ve certainly spoken to, and he’s spoken to the need for social media platforms to continue to take steps to reduce hate speech, but we don’t have more for you on it than that.

Q    Is there a particular way that the President is trying to keep in touch with basic American — everyday Americans, such as getting a sampling of letters that are sent to him, as some of past Presidents have done, especially as it relates to the pandemic?

MS. PSAKI:  That’s such a good question.  You know, he is looking to remain engaged.  It’s hard when we haven’t done any travel yet, and we’re certainly hoping to do that at some point in time to engage with Americans more directly.

I don’t have anything specific.  He does receive, of course, letters.  It takes some time for them to come in.  As you know, they kind of go through a process once they are — arrive at the White House.  That’s something he’s eager to have access to. 

Obviously there’s also, you know, many ways to provide feedback or input to the White House, which he’s eager to receive too.  But let me see if I can get more detail for you on that.

     Go ahead, Darlene.

Q    Another housekeeping question.  Do you know if all 10 senators are coming to the meeting this evening? 

MS. PSAKI:  It’s a great question.

Q    I know they were all invited, but are they all coming?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have an official manifest, but we will venture to circle back with all of you on that after the briefing.

Q    And if I can ask another one on Burma: The President’s statement that just came out, he’s calling on the international community to come together in one voice to press the Burmese military to reverse what they’ve done.  But do the events at the Capitol on January 6th make it harder for the United States to be part of this international community that he’s calling on?

MS. PSAKI:  Look, I think President Biden — I don’t think the international community sees President Biden as a root of the events on January 6th.  And certainly he has made every effort through conversations directly with partner and alli- — partners and allies, through how he has spoken publicly in disgust about the events on January 6th, and through his own commitment to restoring rule of law, democracy here in the United States.

The United States remains a country in the world that is looked to for, you know, leadership.  And it’s going to take some time, but he’s certainly committed to doing that.

     Go ahead. 

Q    Another housekeeping related to the Capitol.  Does the President or anyone else here plan to visit Wednesday to pay respects to Officer Sicknick?

MS. PSAKI:  I will check on his schedule for you, Ed, on if there’s more to outline for you.

Go ahead, Hans.

Q    You may get into this tomorrow if we have an immigration preview early, but if — for unaccompanied migrants arriving at the border now, after the appeals court decision, are they being turned away right now?

MS. PSAKI:  We’re going to have a briefing tonight for all of you on our actions tomorrow, and the President will have more to say.  So we’ll — I’ll refer to that.

Q    Is that going to be one of the subjects — one of the items that’s going to be discussed?

MS. PSAKI:  We didn’t — I’m not going to preview it more for you.  We’re still, kind of, doing the final review, believe it or not.  But we’ll have a briefing tonight in advance of our announcement tomorrow.

Q    Thanks, Jen.

MS. PSAKI:  Great.  Thank you, everyone.

                                       END                     1:10 P.M. EST

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