James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

**Please see below for a correction, marked with an asterisk.

12:50 P.M. EST

     MS. PSAKI:  Good afternoon.  We have another special visitor and guest with us here today.  The January jobs report, which we all saw came out this morning, is disappointing and underscores the need to act swiftly to deliver immediate relief to American families.  The bottom line is our economy is digging out of a hole worse than the depths of the Great Recession at a crawling — and moving at a crawling pace. 

Today we’re joined by a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, Jared Bernstein, who will walk through the numbers reported today by the Department of Labor and how they serve to underline the urgency for the President’s Rescue Plan. 

Go ahead, Jared.

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Thanks so much to Jen and the team for helping me be here today.  This morning’s employment report revealed a stall in the American job creation machine and underscores how precarious a situation our economy is in.

The lack of job growth is a result of our failure to act appropriately in response to this immense dual crisis, and our economy and our families can’t afford for us to fail to act once again.  Strong relief is urgently and quickly needed to control the virus, get vaccine shots in arms, and finally launch a robust, equitable, and racially inclusive recovery. 

Getting to the numbers of the report, the economy added 49,000 jobs in January, after losing 227,000 jobs in December.  The three-month trend — I find it useful to smooth out these monthly numbers over a few months — in the three-month trend, is a weak 29,000 jobs per month.

Downward revisions to the data in November and December totaled 160,000, so those are negative revisions to those months’ earlier gain — earlier reports.  And the economy, as I mentioned, has averaged 29,000 jobs over the past three months.

Now, if you compare that to the trend over the prior three months, that trend was closer to 1 million, so you see a really very significant downshift in the pace of job creation.

This pace is far below the rate necessary to pull us out of the pandemic jobs deficit.  There are about 10 million fewer jobs now, relative to February.  The unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent, which still remains almost 3 points above the rate in February 2020 of 3.5 percent, before the pandemic.

Over the same period, more than 4 million workers have dropped out of the labor force.  If you drop out of the labor force, you’re not counted in the unemployment rate.  And those dropouts have been disproportionately women. 

It’s clear that there’s a need for urgent and sustained action for the duration of this crisis.  In January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics today, just under 15 million people reported they were, quote, “unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic.”  This number has been about the same since October after falling in the wake of the implementation of the CARES Act from May to September.

Long-term unemployment has risen — this is a great concern of the administration — reflecting the duration of the economic crisis and the fact that the virus was unconstrained during most of last year.  Almost 40 percent of the unemployed in January had been so for half a year — 27 weeks or more.  This 40 percent — that’s an elevated rate, and it represents a shift from temporary layoffs to permanent unemployment.

Workers of color have been more likely to lose their jobs than white workers.  In January, the unemployment rate for black workers was 9.2 percent and was 8.6 percent for Hispanic workers, compared to 5.7 percent for whites and 6.6 for Asian workers.

While the unemployment rate for men and women is relatively similar, women have left the labor force in numbers that are of great concern to us.  The employment rate among what we call “prime-age workers” — women 25 to 54 — is down 4 percentage points, 2.6 million women since February.

This larger decrease for women is unusual in recessions and likely reflects both the industries that this pandemic has hit — tourism services, face-to-face industries, leisure and hospitality, restaurants — and increased care responsibilities that have been pulling women out of the labor force.

Certain industries have been especially hard hit.  As I mentioned, the unemployment rate for leisure and hospitality workers is around 16 percent.  The elevation in long-term unemployment is especially salient since benefits for these workers will expire soon without further congressional action.

Today’s report is yet another reminder that our economy is still climbing out of a hole deeper than that of the Great Recession and needs additional relief to ensure that the pandemic can be brought under control, that families and businesses can stay solvent and make it the other side of this crisis, and that workers can feed their families and keep a roof over their head. 

With that —

MS. PSAKI:  All right.  I’m going to be the moderator.

Trevor.

Q    Thanks for that summary.  So, a couple questions related to this.  First, as far as the $1,400 checks, Jared, do you think that — I mean, is there any economic argument for why those shouldn’t go to a broader group of people?  Is there any argument for raising the threshold that you would need to qualify for that?  And then I have a follow-up as well.

MR. BERNSTEIN:  I think the key argument there is that there are families throughout not just the lower part of the income scale, but in the middle part of the income scale, that have been suffering and trying — doing everything they can to get through this crisis. 

The President has been very clear on an important point here, which is that if you look at teachers; if you look at folks who are in blue-collar professions; if you look at retail workers, healthcare workers — if those folks are unemployed, they can get unemployment coverage and that helps them.  But many of those folks have kept their jobs, many of them are essential workers, yet they’ve lost hours.  They’ve lost wages.  They’re struggling to make ends meet.  They face nutritional constraints.  Often, they face foreclosure or eviction moratorium — which, by the way, forbearance, when it comes to mortgage, does not mean forgiveness.  So, many of these families are accumulating significant debt that will come due. 

Now, in terms of the parameters — you’ve asked about this — let’s do just a little bit of wonky policy analysis, if that’s okay. 

There are three parameters in play here when we’re talking about the checks.  There’s the thresholds, where they come in.  There’s the level; the President has been firm on $1,400 as a level — which, you know, plus the $600 gets you to $2,000.  And then there’s the phase-out.  And it’s the phase-out range that is a — that I would say is a variable under discussion in negotiations that are ongoing.  There hasn’t been a conclusion, but as the President has said, he is open to that discussion. 

Q    But just as far as what is the economic argument for changing that — those phase-out numbers — I mean, why shouldn’t you just go with what you originally proposed?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  I think the argument is one that we’ve heard consistently from some critics which say that those at the very top of the scale, when you get into the realm of — you know, $300,000, I think, has been mentioned — that, you know, I think it’s arguable that those folks don’t need the checks. 

I think what’s important to the President is that we don’t lose sight of people in the middle of the income scale who continue to struggle with both the health and economic fallout from this crisis.  And these checks target them effectively and efficiently. 

By the way, this is an important thing that comes from some work by the group ITEP — Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy.  If you look at the distribution — who gets the checks — it actually — virtually none of it goes to the very top of the scale, and the vast majority goes to the middle and the bottom.  Their percentage gains in income from the checks are, you know, double digits compared to those at the top of the scale. 

So, I think to — I think that we have to understand that targeting, in this case, means reaching families at the low end, at the middle end — families who have been hit and are struggling with this crisis. 

Q    Okay.  Super quick follow-up.  Can I just do one more?  Do you think that, just beyond this bill, that there needs to be more reform around automatic stabilizers, unemployment insurance?  Like, do you need to do more so that the next time we hit something like this, we have a solution?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  You know, the President has on occasion talked about this point and said that if our automatic stabler [sic] — or if our automatic stabilizers are key to economic indicators or health indicators, that is a potentially useful policy advance.  I know that Treasury Secretary Yellen has talked about that as well.

Right now, you know, we’re kind of past the stage of thinking about — right now, we’re really at a point where we have a package that is calibrated to meet the urgency of the moment, and that’s the American Rescue Plan.  So that’s what we want to focus on.  There are all kinds of interesting policy discussions we could and should have, and I think that’s one of them.  But for now, what we need to do is get this package out there and meet the urgency of the moment.

MS. PSAKI:  Kristen. 

Q    Thank you.  Thanks for being here.  I want to ask you about some of the criticism by one of your former colleagues, Larry Summers — of course, former top economic adviser to former President Obama, and former Treasury Secretary.  He has acknowledged the bailout in 2009, by his own admission, he says, “didn’t go far enough.”  But he says that this $1.9 trillion proposal is so big that it risks progressive priorities in the future and could potentially undermine the economy next year.  Is the Biden administration going too big?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  No.  I firmly would disagree with that contention.  By the way, I wouldn’t call the other thing a “bailout.”  That was the Recovery Act, and I think that also was an effective measure.  But I think that the idea now is that we have to hit back hard, we have to hit back strong if we’re going to finally put this dual crisis of the pandemic and the economic — the economic pain that it is engendered behind us.

With respect to Larry’s point, I mean, one thing is just wrong, which is that that our team is dismissive of inflationary risks.  We’ve constantly argued that the risks of doing too little are far greater than the risk of going big, providing families and businesses with the relief they need to finally put this virus behind us.

Second, I want to quote Fed Chair Jerome Powell, who strongly reiterated this view the other day — I think it was just a week or so ago — that inflationary risks are also asymmetric right now.  

When asked about this precise trade-off that you’re asking me about, he said, and I’m quoting, “I’m much more worried about falling short of a complete recovery and losing people’s careers and lives that they built because they don’t get back to work in time.  I’m more concerned about…the damage that will do not just to their lives, but to the United States economy, to the productive capacity of the economy.  I’m more concerned about that than about the possibility which exists of higher inflation.”

So, this is risk management.  This is balancing risks.  And in our view, the risks of doing too little are far greater than the risks of doing too much.

Q    And just to — one more question.  The Senate moved forward with a measure that did not include an increase in the minimum wage.  Has President Biden come to a determination that that’s not going to be a part of the final package in order to get this passed, in order to get the Democratic support that he needs?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  The President has consistently argued that a minimum wage of $15 an hour is essential to make sure that people, many of whom — millions of whom are essential workers, are not toiling at a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which is the federal minimum wage. 

This — this idea that somehow — and I’ve heard this in many questions — this idea that the minimum wage is somehow orthogonal to this package makes no sense to me, because it is a efficient and effective way to raise the pay of people who are in the bottom end of this workforce — essential workers in retail trade, in healthcare, in sanitation — people who are keeping this economy going but consistently undercompensated for it.

Q    But will it be a part of the final package?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  I’m not going to negotiate that from the podium, as they say.  (Laughter.) 

Um, wait.  I have —

MS. PSAKI:  Very good.  (Laughs.)

MR. BERNSTEIN:  I have one other point I want to make, though, getting back to the argument with Larry.  This is — this is key, from my perspective as an economist, who throughout my career has been motivated and concerned — I think the theme of my work has always been making sure that this economy, that our economy, the American economy provides ample opportunities for people from all walks of life, from all parts of the income scale, men and women, persons of color, communities of color have the opportunities they need to realize their potential. 

And right now, there is deep unused capacity in this economy, which is targeted by the American Rescue Plan.  There are 10 million unemployed people.  There are two and a half fewer women in the labor force than last year.  As I mentioned, black and Hispanic unemployment rates are 9 percent.  We’ve got a job market in stall. 

The risk is a deflationary risk, which motivates us to go home — or to go big or to go home.  And the costs of inaction, of not addressing these risks, are too steep and too costly to these vulnerable — to these vulnerable groups, relative to the likelihood of overheating.  That’s the way I think about it.

MS. PSAKI:  Kristin.

Q    Thank you.  Just one more follow-up from the other Kristen.  Is the White House’s economic team — is there anyone on the team that is concerned that the $1.9 trillion is too big, is too much?  Or is everybody in agreement?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  The White House economic team is in complete consensus on the urgency of the need for this American Rescue Plan, and in complete solidarity on the calibration of this plan, that it’s of the magnitude to meet the challenges we face. 

Again, with respect to Larry and his piece, it’s just flat-out wrong that our team is, quote, “dismissive” of inflationary risks.  Any — Janet Yellen is our Treasury Secretary, okay?  She knows a little something about inflationary risks and has tracked that kind of — you know, has tracked that economic issue forever. 

I just quoted from you, from Jerome Powell, whose job is to manage that risk against the risk of slack in the job market; against the risk of persistent unemployment; against the risk of people getting stuck in joblessness so they can’t get back out and get back into the job market; against the risk of scarring in the economy — meaning not doing enough about current damages so that they become permanent damages, and people can’t get back into the labor market.  And businesses that should and would be viable on the other side of this crisis fail because we haven’t taken the steps to get them through to the other side of the crisis. 

So the team has all of our oars in the water pulling in exactly the same direction on that.

MS. PSAKI:  (Inaudible), go ahead — be the last question.

Q    One other question on Larry Summers’s criticism, not to belabor this point, but he also raises some questions about your future agenda.  He notes that you will have committed 15 percent of GDP with this though, with basically no increase in public investments.  Is this a concern going forward?  Where will you find the money to “build back better,” as the President has promised?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  You know, I think the way President Biden talks about this is — is not just resonant, but is also — follows an economic logic that I think is very strong: rescue, recovery. 

The Rescue Plan — the American Rescue Plan gets this economy, and the families and the businesses in it, to the other side of this crisis by finally controlling the virus, producing and distributing the vaccine, and giving people the relief they need to get to the other side. 

But simply getting back to where we were is a bar that’s far too low for the Biden-Harris administration, and that’s where Building Back Better and the Recovery Plan comes in.  These are structural changes — by the way, many of which, as the President have said, permanent program should be paid for. 

So these are structural programs that — not in a cyclical sense, dealing with them getting to the other side of the crisis, but deal with the structural challenges we face in climate, in education, in care, in poverty, in racial discrimination.  And I am — and infrastructure. 

I am wholly confident in this President and this administration’s ability to go forth and make a strong case for rescue now, get folks — get the economy to the other side of the crisis, pursue the recovery — the Building Back Better agenda.  As I say, I’m confident about that.

One point, and then I’ll stop.  Infrastructure.  I get asked about this a lot, and the implication, kind of, of the question is that, “Well, infrastructure is a Democrat thing, and you’ll have a hard time with that.” 

Let me tell you a little anecdote.  I was testifying, sometime a year or two ago, in the House.  And when I finished my testimony, a couple of Republicans — and I won’t name them because this was a private moment — pulled me aside and said, “Hey, Democrat, come here.”  And they said, “We want to do infrastructure, but we can’t do it because our boss, President Trump, doesn’t have a plan.”  The plan was really an asterisk. 

There are — I guarantee you there are politicians on both sides of the aisle who are chomping at the bit to make investments in public goods in this country — to do an infrastructure bill that repairs, not just maintenance, but gets into clean energy, into broadband, into the kinds of investments that you’ve heard the President talk about. 

So I am confident that we work on rescue now, we’ll get to recovery next.

MS. PSAKI:  Thank you.  Thank you, Jared, so much.

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Thank you.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, people often ask me what my favorite part of this job is — it’s I get to call up Jared Bernstein or Jake Sullivan and talk to them about questions, and bring them in here as often as we can.  And that’s how it should work.

I have a couple of items at the top just to go over and update you all on.

First — sorry, let’s see:

     At 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, Vice President Harris and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen will hold a virtual roundtable with participants from local black chambers of commerce from across the country to discuss the importance of passing the American Rescue Plan.  Local chamber representatives will share on-the-ground experiences during this crisis, ask the Vice President and Secretary questions, and discuss how small businesses in their community are faring right now and what they need.

A brief note on the tragic deaths of two FBI Special Agents earlier this week: Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson will lead the delegation to both Special Agent Laura Schwartzenberger’s memorial service on Saturday and Special Agent Daniel Alfin’s memorial service on Sunday.

At the request of the President, Homeland Security Advisor Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall will accompany the Acting Attorney General to Sunrise, Florida, this weekend to attend both services.

Last item: Tomorrow, the White House — sorry, and I have a week ahead.  Tomorrow, the White House will launch a new effort for the President to regularly communicate directly with the American people.  This was a question one of your colleagues asked earlier this week.  There is a time-honored tradition in the country of hearing from the President in this way — from FDR’s fireside chats to Ronald Reagan establishing the weekly presidential radio address.  President Biden will continue that tradition, and we expect it to take on a variety of forms.

The inaugural edition will be a conversation between the President and Michelle, who lives in Roseville, California, and lost her job at a startup clothing company because of the pandemic.  Look for that tomorrow on the White House digital channels.

Finally, next week, the President will be focused on engaging with bipartisan groups on the American Rescue Plan and other key priorities, including current vaccine distribution and national security.

On Monday, he will virtually tour a vaccination center.

On Wednesday, he will visit the Pentagon to meet with the Secretary of Defense.

And on Thursday, President Biden will visit the National Institutes of Health.

So, with that, Zeke.

Q    Hey, Jen.  A couple of quick questions for you.  Why is the President going to Delaware this weekend?

MS. PSAKI:  He is from Delaware and has a home there and is going to spend the weekend with his wife and family there.

Q    But the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — as you know, in the White House briefing just a couple hours ago — was a big X over airplanes; people should avoid travel.  Is there an exception to that policy?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, the key, Zeke, is ensuring that people don’t take steps to make others vulnerable in our effort to get the pandemic under control.  As you know, any President of the United States, Democrat or Republican, obviously takes Air Force One, a private plane, when they travel.  Delaware is his home, and so he looks forward to spending the weekend there and some time with his family.

Q    Changing gears a little bit — we know the President has been vaccinated.  Has he been receiving regular tests for the coronavirus while he’s been here at the White House?  We haven’t seen, since the transition, sort of, an update on his testing.

MS. PSAKI:  I’m happy to get back to you on that and provide you an update.  He has, as you know, received his second vaccination, which was done in public.

Q    And then a follow-up question from a couple weeks ago — you were asked about the President’s policies towards federal executions.  Does the President plan to put in place a blanket federal moratorium again?

MS. PSAKI:  The President has spoken about his opposition to the death penalty in the past, but I don’t have anything to predict for you or preview for you in terms of additional steps.

Q    And, finally, just one last one.  Sorry.  On this news that the President just gave —

MS. PSAKI:  It’s okay, it’s Friday.  We got to get it all out.

Q    Clean it up.  There was a very different tone from the President.  So when did the President recognize that Republican — that continuing to negotiate with Republicans wasn’t going to lead him anywhere and they, sort of, had to embrace his proposal and get on board the train before leaving the station?  It seems that the time for negotiation is over, it’s — now that the President is trying to get this thing passed.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I wouldn’t say that’s an accurate characterization of his view or the view of any of us.  Just to note, even as the package is moving through a reconciliation process, there is a great deal of time.  The process enables for time for negotiations through committee work, which will happen next week.  And also, the majority of reconciliation bills in the past have been bipartisan.

And so we certainly are hopeful that there will be opportunities for amendments from Republicans, amendments from others across the board to be a part of this process moving forward.

Go ahead, Kristen.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  If I could actually just follow up with you and just read some of what President Biden said today.  He said, “If I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation or compromising on a bill that’s not up to the crisis, that’s an easy choice: I’m going to help the American people who are hurting now.”

So has he resigned himself to the fact that he’s going to have to use reconciliation and move forward without 60 votes from Republicans?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, he wouldn’t use reconciliation, right? Congress would use that process.  It’s a —

Q    But (inaudible) going to need to be used?

MS. PSAKI:  It’s a parliamentary procedure.  And just in a “bill becomes a law” moment here, if there was a bipar- — an opportunity to move forward with a bipartisan package at any moment, that can happen.

But again, I believe it’s 18 of 24 *[16 of 21] — and I can double check this — of bipar- — of reconciliation bills in the past have been bipartisan.  And a bipartisan bill has 52 votes, 54 votes, 56 votes.

But his point — and last point, and then we’ll go to your next question — is we are not going to sit here and wait for an ongoing negotiation where, frankly, we haven’t received an offer in return — right? — a response offer to what the President has proposed, because the American people need the relief now.

Q    Understood.  But it seems as though he has resigned himself to the fact that there will not be 60 votes in the Senate for whatever passes.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think the President listens to the American people who are, frankly, not too worried about what parliamentary procedure gets them relief, gets shots in people’s arms, and reopens schools.

And he is certainly hopeful that there is opportunity for this bill, whatever form it takes, to have bipartisan support.  And there’s an opportunity to do that.  History shows that’s precedent.

Q    And let me, if I could ask you, on foreign policy:  There’s going to be a principals meeting on Iran today.  President Biden, so far, has not accepted — or has not moved forward with negotiations over a new Iran nuclear deal.  When is the timeframe for that to happen?  And does he think he’ll be able to get Democrats on board with this, Jen?  They were quite critical in 2015.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first — and you asked this first — this question first, and smartly.

So, on this meeting today — and I know that the interagency process is a little foreign in this building and in the government because of the last four years.  So this is a principals committee meeting.  We’re not going to confirm every one of these, but for the sake of educating everyone — not in this room, but people who are watching — it’s — the focus is broadly on the Middle East.  I’m sure Iran will be a part of the discussion, as that’s an important issue, an important priority for the President and for many of our partners and allies around the world.

But this is not a decisional meeting, it’s not a meeting where policy will be concluded, and it’s not a meeting the President of the United States will be attending.  So this is a normal part of the interagency policy process, just as there are meetings about immigration, criminal justice, the economy every single day across government.

Q    And — but on the topic of Iran — understood — given that you say Iran will be raised in this meeting, is there a timeline for when President Biden would like to try to come back to the table and get a deal on the Iran nuclear deal?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, that’s really up to Iran.  If Iran comes back into full compliance with the obligations under the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal — just for people who don’t like acronyms; I personally hate them — but the United States would do the same, and then use that as a platform to build a longer and stronger agreement that also addresses other areas of concern.  But that will be done in partnership with our P5+1 partners and also through consultation with Congress. 

And I know I keep saying this, but we are still only two and a half weeks into the administration, so this is part of how the interagency process should work, where senior members of the national security team are meeting and engaging about a range of issues in the Middle East.  And, you know, those — but otherwise it’s in Iran’s court to comply.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  One more foreign policy question.  During President Biden’s big foreign policy address yesterday, he didn’t really mention Afghanistan.  Why not?  And where is he on the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I appreciate your question because he — it was not meant to be a comprehensive foreign policy speech, and he will have a lot more to say about foreign policy and his approach to national security in the weeks ahead.

But there were a lot of topics that weren’t discussed because it wasn’t designed to give the overarching Biden doctrine or give his comprehensive view on every issue globally, in part because there are interagency processes that will be ongoing.  Consultations with our partners and allies are a key part of our policy development, as is consultations with members of Congress.

So there’s nothing I have in terms of an update as it relates to Afghanistan at this point in time, but he will have more to say on foreign policy in the weeks ahead.

Q    Okay.  What is being done about — what is being done, what could be done to provide COVID testing to migrants at the border?  Because, right now, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is saying that they’re having to catch and release some migrants without giving them any kind of COVID test before they’re entering the community.  So what is being done?  What could be done?

MS. PSAKI:  Are you suggesting they’re letting people in across the border without testing them?  Or tell me a little bit more about what your question is.

Q    That they’re being released — they’re having to — because of the executive order that the President signed earlier this week —

MS. PSAKI:  Which executive?  Which one?

Q    Rescinding President Trump’s policy which stopped catch and release.  They’re saying that they’re having to provide — they’re having to release some migrants into the community before they know for sure that they do not have COVID, and they’re worried that it could spread in the community.  Is there anything being done at the federal level to make sure that this is not contributing to the spread of coronavirus in this country?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, certainly the reason we’ve put in a number of protections, in terms of travel and otherwise, is to keep the American people safe.  But I haven’t seen that report.  I can’t validate the accuracy of it.  But I’d certainly point you to the Department of Homeland Security for more specifics about what’s happening at the border.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  You continue to say that you’re hopeful that Republicans will still get on board, that you can achieve bipartisanship, but we haven’t seen any movement on the Republican side.  The fundamental differences remain the same. What gives you hope and optimism that Republicans are suddenly going to come around here?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think, one, the vast majority of the American people support this bipar- — this package that would bring relief to American families, that would get shots in the arms of the American people, and would help reopen schools.  Those are not Democratic ideals, they’re not Republican ideals, they are American ideals.  So, we still keep the door open to seek ideas — ideas to make the package stronger from any Republican or other Democrats who want to bring them forward.

Q    And given the President’s remarks earlier and his change of tone, it does seem that he is now okay if this does happen just with Democratic support, despite those hopes and despite his calls for unity.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first of all, the President ran on the — on unifying the country and putting forward ideas that would help address the crises we’re facing.  He didn’t run on a promise to unite the Democratic and Republican Party into one party in Washington.

This package has the vast majority of support from the American public.  This is something that people want.  They want to see it passed.  They want these checks to get into communities.  They want this funding to go to schools.  They want more money for vaccine distribution.

He is certainly not — I wouldn’t draw that conclusion.  He is somebody who is keeping the door open.  He will remain engaged with Republicans in the days ahead.  As you know from covering the Hill, there’s still several steps in the process here to move it forward.  We saw even some actions last night in “vote-a-rama,” which is my favorite term of the week, where there was bipartisan support for ensuring the checks were targeted. 

There was bipartisan — I know somebody asked a question about minimum wage earlier.  There actually was bipartisan support on that, including from Senator Bernie Sanders, for making sure that it wasn’t implemented immediately. 

There is bipartisan support for helping small businesses. There’s disagreements certainly on the size, but there is a shared view that the American people need relief.  And we are — it is our responsibility to keep the door open to any good ideas that come forward.

Q    And on the minimum wage, do you feel that this
bill is your best shot at getting this through — getting through a hike?  Does it become more difficult going forward if you can’t get it done now?

MS. PSAKI:  You know, I don’t want to get ahead of where we are in the process, but the President believes that increasing the minimum wage is something that would help American families, and it is essential to helping people who are struggling and something that workers certainly deserve.  We will leave it to the Democrats and Republicans in Congress to see if this is possible through the parliamentary process of reconciliation.

Go ahead, Karen.

Q    Jen, to follow up on that and the quote that Kristen read — but I also want to come back to a vaccine question —

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    The President said, you know, it’s an “easy choice” between getting help to Americans who are hurting or getting “bogged down” in negotiations.  What’s his definition of “bogged down”?  What’s the timeline looking like?  For him, who’s been involved in negotiations for many years, what does “bogged down” mean?

MS. PSAKI:  It means “bogged down.”  It means — (laughs) —

Q    What would that be? 

MS. PSAKI:  I’m not going to set a timeline.  I understand the desire and interest in that, but “urgency” means he would like — he is pleased to see that members of Congress, that Leader Schumer, and that Speaker Pelosi are moving this forward rapidly.  That there is fire under the bellies — in the bellies of people in Congress to get this package through, move it through the process over the coming days and weeks. 

But that’s up to them on the timeline.  He just is going to continue to argue for urgency because the American people, until they know when they’re going to get checks, until they know when schools are going to get funding, it’s hard for them to plan. 

We know that there are timelines that are coming up.  One, we’re at the brink of — of, you know, spending out the package from December.  Six hundred billion of that has already been spent out, and a lot of it is going to be spent out in the coming weeks.  There is going to be a need for additional relief in all of these categories. 

So, hence the urgency.  But I don’t have a exact deadline or due date, other than let’s keep moving.

Q    And I had a question on vaccines.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    We’re hearing so much in our reporting about frustration across the country — the people who are trying to navigate the system.  They’re signing up on multiple websites, through multiple means, to hope to win a lottery and get a vaccine appointment.  What is the federal government doing right now to address this challenge for so many Americans?  And why can’t there be a better system so it’s easier to just sign up and wait for your turn?

MS. PSAKI:  We agree with you completely.  That is completely confusing — has been — around the country in states and localities.  The American people who are just trying to do their job, take care of their kids, homeschool — balance everything everybody is balancing right now — just want to be able to go on a website and sign up for their vaccine.

Now, one of the steps we’ve taken, we announced earlier this week, is, of course, working with pharmacies to distribute about a million doses in order for Americans to be able to do that in certain communities.  That’s — obviously, that number is going to be increased over time.  That’s one way.  There are large vax plans through FEMA to set up large vaccination sites.  That is something that is starting to be underway this week.

But our focus is very much on increasing communication — ensuring, exactly as you said, that the American people know how, when they can get their vaccine.  And we fully agree: There’s been a lack of communication, confusion.  And we are trying to work out of that hole, but we’re only two and a half weeks in here.  So we’re just — it’s in process.

Q    Could there be a Healthcare.gov, but
for vaccines?  Jeffrey Zients obviously has a lot of experience with that.  Could you do a federalized system?

MS. PSAKI:  As does Andy Slavitt.  Some people back from — back from the Healthcare.gov days.  Look, I think there are a range of options under consideration.  I have not heard them suggest that, but they are very open in discussing everyday ways to make this more accessible, clearer to the American people, and they just want to do it in a way that’s effective and efficient and reaches local communities where people are trying to get vaccinated.

Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, I know you just said that you’re going to refrain from giving a timeline on the COVID relief bill and its passage.  But outside, an hour ago, Speaker Pelosi said “absolutely” when asked if the COVID stimulus would pass by March 15th.  Is that — do you also share that confidence that it would pass by mid-March when those unemployment benefits run up?

MS. PSAKI:  Never doubt Speaker Pelosi in anything she says.  That’s kind of a lesson I’ve learned in Washington.  She is a power- — a powerful and fierce force up there. 

You know, we’re not going to set a timeline from here.  It is a bill that will be passed by Congress.  Of course, Speaker Pelosi is, you know, the Speaker of the House, so certainly I would — we would defer to her.  And the President looks forward to signing the bill when it comes to his desk.

Q    Do you feel an urgency to get it passed by that date though?

MS. PSAKI:  We feel an urgency to move it forward as quickly as possible.  And I think what you’re referring to is, kind of, the unemployment cliff that will hit in March.  But certainly we would like to see action as quickly as possible, as we’ve been saying.  But I’m not going to set a new deadline from here.  Obviously, we’re working closely with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer — or Leader Schumer, sorry — every day.

Go ahead in the way back.

Q    Thank you.  Thank you very much, Jen.  Happy Friday. 

MS. PSAKI:  Happy Friday.

Q    Two Asia questions, if I may.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    On engagement with China: Yesterday, President Biden say he will work with allies and partners.  However, also, yesterday, French President Macron said, quote, “A situation to join all together against China, this is a scenario of the highest possible conflictuality.  This one, for me, is counterproductive.”  End quote.  So what exactly does President Biden expect from the U.S. allies?

     THE PRESIDENT:  From our U.S. allies?  Well, we’re going to work in close consultation, of course, in partnership with our U.S. allies on a range of issues.  We talked about Iran a little bit earlier in the briefing.  Of course, strategic competition with China is part of that.  You know, but I can only really speak for what our policy is here, from the White House and the United States. 

This administration sees the United States as engaged in strategic competition with China, and technology is a central domain of that competition.  We should have no illusions about China’s objectives, which are to undercut America’s longstanding technological advantage and to displace America as the global leader in cutting-edge research and development and the technologies and industries of the future.  The national security and economic consequences of allowing that to happen are simply unacceptable. 

That’s certainly what the President conveys in his conversations with our partners and allies.  But this is a major reason why the President is committed to making major investments in science and technology research and development, as well as supply chain security, and we will leverage the full breadth of authorities available to us to protect U.S. national and economic security interests. 

That’s our position here, and obviously he will communicate that to allies and partners as he’s having engagements with them.

Did you have a second question?

Q    Actually, Asian American women actually have the highest jobless rates over the past six months —

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    — and reports indicate that’s because of racism during the pandemic against them.  So, other than signing the memo, what President Biden can do to reduce the racism against Asian Americans and help them to actually find a job or to deal with their current situation?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, certainly one of the things that he can do is speak out against racism of any form, but also how it impacts a range of communities — Asian Americans, of course; communities of color.  And one of the factors we’ve seen in data about COVID, of course, is that the pandemic has had an undue impact on many communities — and commu- — including, I’m sorry, many communities of color.  I don’t have the exact data on Asian American communities, specifically, though I’m happy to check on that. 

But, you know, his focus is on getting the pandemic under control in order to help provide a bridge to economic relief and recovery, and that’s one of the ways he can help address that.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  I have two rather quick questions and then a little bit more meaty one, if that’s okay.

MS. PSAKI:  I like the setup, so I can know what to prepare for.  Go ahead.

Q    Okay.  So, the first quick one: I offer it as a “yes,” “no,” or “maybe,” perhaps.

MS. PSAKI:  I never like those questions, but go ahead.

Q    Will President Biden use the power of the bully pulpit to help cajole teachers who are unwilling to go back to schools — to go back?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, one, I’m just going to reject the premise of the question.  I will say I have teachers in my family, as I’m sure many of you do.  They are the first people to tell you that being — teaching in the classroom and being able to engage with kids in the classroom — or middle-schoolers or high-schoolers in the classroom — it makes their job more enjoyable, makes them more effective at what they do.

The President is absolutely committed to reopening schools.  He wants them not just to reopen, but to stay open, and he wants to do that in a safe way.  And we’re going to rely on CDC guidance — which, again, is not officially out yet — to determine the best way to do it. 

But there are several mitigating factors that we’ve seen in data to date that will help make it safe.  Of course, vaccines are part of that, but so is masking, so is social distancing, so is ensuring that schools have the ventilation and the facilities that they need in order to do it safely.  That’s our focus.

So the President’s focus is on — and that’s one of the reasons why he’s out advocating for the American Rescue Plan.  Part of that is funding so that schools can do exactly that.

Q    So it sounded like a “yes” with an asterisk (inaudible) safely.

MS. PSAKI:  I — if you — if you are the spokesperson for the White House, you could certainly say that, but you are not.  But you can ask me another question.

Q    My second quick question is: Last year, OMB and the Justice Department made it so that three cities — New York, Seattle, and Portland — could be disfavored for federal grants.  They were deemed, quote, “anarchist jurisdictions” for allegedly tolerating rise in crime.  There were violent protests.  Has the Biden White House decided to reverse those policies disfavoring grants to those three cities?

MS. PSAKI:  This is an OMB action from the Trump administration you’re asking about?

Q    OMB and Justice Department.  Yes. 

MS. PSAKI:  Okay.  We are a new administration.  We, of course, are reviewing a range of policies and charting our own path, but I don’t think I’m going to have any comments on policies from a year ago from the prior administration.

Q    And the third — the third more meaty question, if I could just follow up on a quote from the President in December.  He said, quote, “My son, my family will not be involved in any business, any enterprise that is in conflict with or appears to be in conflict, where there’s appropriate distance from the presidency and government.” 

Just recently, there were reports that the President’s son still owns a 10 percent stake in the Chinese investment firm formed with state-owned entities.  Do you have an update on the divestment from that investment?

MS. PSAKI:  He has been working to unwind his investment, but I would certainly point you — he’s a private citizen.  I would point you to him or his lawyers on the outside on any update.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  I have two questions.  Jared Bernstein was talking about the threshold of the stimulus checks and when they should phase out, and he said people who make over $300,000, or families, should not get those checks.  We’ve seen Susan Collins and some other Republicans talk about having the checks phase out at $50,000.  What is the White House’s position today on when those checks should start to phase out and who should not be eligible for them?

MS. PSAKI:  There’s an ongoing discussion about it, and it is an active discussion.  The decision has — a final conclusion has not been made.  As Jared was saying, those conversations are happening with Democrats and Republicans. 

And as I said, kind of, the other day — but it still is the status today — the President is firm on the necessity that people receive, who are eligible, $1,400 checks.  He’s not movable on that becoming smaller.

But there is a discussion, as Jared said, about the phase-out and what that looks like.  Now, that doesn’t mean that somebody making — that it’s a dead cutoff; it means that it will be phased out to slightly less than that amount at whatever the cutoff is.  But those are ongoing discussions, and a final decision hasn’t been made.

Q    Secondly, there has been a lot of discussion today.  You know, President Biden talked about the 2009 stimulus package and lessons that he and other people learned from it.  What are some other points of economic crisis that the Obama administration dealt with that President Biden has drawn lessons from?  Is it from the auto bailout?  You know, there was so much that people were dealing with at that time.  What other economic crises did he draw lessons from?  And what are those, and how is he applying those to the situation today?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I haven’t had — it’s a very interesting question.  I have not had this in-depth discussion with him about the impacts of the Obama administration policies on his thinking. 

I can say, broadly speaking — because there are people who — of course, a number of us who had served in the prior administration — of course, there are lessons about ensuring we act swiftly when the American people need relief; looking for bipartisan support, which is something certainly the former administration also did.  There’s also lessons we’ve learned about how we sell the packages that we’re putting out there to the public. 

And that’s one of the reasons why we bring in some of our economic officials or policy experts, so that they can help lay out for all of you, and hopefully for the public, the thinking behind how packages are designed, and also that we need to continue to think about how we break down these packages for the public to ensure we’re explaining why we’re doing what we’re doing. 

It’s not just a $1.9 trillion package.  Right?  It is a package that has funding to reopen schools.  It has — is a package that it has funding to help ensure cops and firefighters can stay in their jobs.  It’s a package that will get vaccines in the arms of Americans.  And it will — it’s a package that will ensure that the one in seven Americans who don’t have enough — are concerned about putting food on the table are able to do that.

So those are some of the lessons, but, you know, I don’t have anything more about his specific — what he has specifically drawn from it.

Q    But it seems like part of that lesson is to not wait for Republicans forever.  It seems like you want to move quickly.

MS. PSAKI:  The President wants to move quickly, as he talked about back on the campaign trail too, because the American people need relief now.  And then we don’t have the luxury of waiting months to deliver that relief to them.

So that is about reacting and being — responding to the needs of the American public at this moment in time and the crises we’re facing. 

Go ahead, Kristen.

Q    Jen, thanks.  I’d like to follow up on the issue of school reopenings.  Dr. Walensky had said at a previous briefing there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that they can safely reopen without teachers getting vaccinated.  You then said the official CDC guidance is not out yet.  But there is some urgency to this because schools are making their decisions right now about how and when to reopen.  So does the Biden administration have an assessment today about whether schools can reopen with or without teachers getting vaccinated?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, the guidance will come officially from the CDC, as Dr. Walensky, who leads the CDC, would certainly convey to you. 

And what we’re all conveying, and what I just did a few minutes ago, is convey that there’s a lot of data that shows that it is — of course, we’re looking at vaccines; that’s an important part of keeping teachers and the American public safe.  But we also need to look at other mitigation steps, I should say — including masking, social distancing, proper ventilation in schools. 

And the urgency should prompt Democrats and Republicans — many Democrats are — to come together to support the American Rescue Plan so we can get schools the funding they need.  Schools are planning, but many of them don’t have the funding they need to take the steps necessary to reopen.

Q    Do you know when the CDC specifically is going to put out that guidance?

MS. PSAKI:  I would certainly point you to the CDC for more specifics on that.

Go ahead, Anita.

Q    Thank you.  Do you have a sense at this point of when the Cabinet nominations will go through?  Obviously, we’re right up against the impeachment trial.  This is what you all didn’t want to happen, which is this delay.  We don’t know how long the trial will last.  I’m specifically curious about the Attorney General.  I know you’re eager to get him in.  So any sense of that?  And I assume that the President has spoken to Senate leaders about that.  Can — is there anything that can be done?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we are certainly hopeful that there — more of our Cabinet nominees can move forward.  We have seen a number of them move forward in the last couple of weeks, many with bipartisan support, with bipartisan votes. 

But you’re right that getting the Attorney General through — Merrick Garland — is vital not only to the President, but should be vital to Democrats and Republicans in Congress in order to have a leader at the head of the department who can oversee an independent Justice Department and, you know, ongoing eff- — and review any ongoing efforts or investigations that are happening there. 

This is an issue broadly — the confirmations in general — he has raised in the past with members of Congress, and certainly there’s an understanding about the importance of having his people in place leading agencies.  But I don’t have anything specific for you to update on the Attorney — on the timeline of an Attorney General being confirmed.

Q    And is — generally, there’s sort of no specific timeline on when these might be done?  Just as soon as possible?  No timeline?

MS. PSAKI:  Certainly, Anita, as soon as possible.  You know, we are confident that the Senate can walk and chew gum at the same time.  As you well know, there was a delay in part because of the need to agree on a power-sharing agreement.  Obviously, we’re past that.  And certainly, given many of the comments, including from many Senate Republicans, about the qualifications of our Attorney General — the President’s Attorney General nominee — and the value that I think and hope we all share to have an independent Justice Department, we’re certainly hopeful they can move forward as quickly as possible.

Q    And then, really quick housekeeping — excuse me, sorry —

MS. PSAKI:  Sure, go ahead.

Q    — about next week.

MS. PSAKI:  You mentioned a couple things that he’s doing next week.  One, on the Pentagon visit, should we be expecting speeches like we saw yesterday at these?  I think Jake mentioned that he’ll be doing a round of visits.  So should we be expecting a speech at that event next week?

MS. PSAKI:  That’s a great question.  I don’t think we’re fully there — fully cooked yet in the process.  Certainly, part of his effort is to thank civil servants and members of the military, of course, for their — the work they do every day protecting the American people. 

But in terms of what format the event will take, we’re not quite there yet in our planning process.

Q    And the other thing about next week: You mentioned a couple things, but you didn’t mention meeting with members of Congress on the bill.  I assume some of those meetings are going to happen next week.  Can you tell us about any of those specific things?  Will they come over here, or —

MS. PSAKI:  Well, they will be — many of them will be on recess, so — but he will be engaged, of course — continue to be engaged with members of Congress.  Often, those come together the day before, the night before, and we will of course keep you updated as those engagements happen — or are planned for next week.

Go ahead.

Q    Yeah.  So we know the President is doing an interview before the Super Bowl on Sunday.  I mean, I’m guessing that’s going to be an opportunity to reach a huge audience with your recovery. 

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    But is that going to be what he’s going to use it for?  And I guess also, I’d like to know how will the President be watching the game, and who he’ll be rooting for.

MS. PSAKI:  Who he’ll be rooting for?  (Laughter.)  Oh, boy.  That’s my first way to get hate mail from one part of the country.  There’s a division among our senior staff, I will admit, on this particular question, but I won’t name names. 

You know, the President will be watching the game in Delaware with his family, of course — his wife, Dr. Biden. 

In terms of the interview — and as you know, CBS is hosting the Super Bowl this year, and there’s a long tradition of networks doing an interview with the President, so that will certainly be part of what you will see on Sunday. 

He, of course, will — the anchor who is doing the interview will ask whatever the anchor wants to ask.  That’s how these things occur.  But his objective is certainly to convey to the American people that he knows this time is difficult; he knows it requires a great deal of sacrifice.  He’s incredibly grateful to the healthcare workers, to the frontline workers, to people who are working every day to keep us safe. 

And, hopefully, he will have the opportunity to reiterate the measures that we can take: masking, social distancing, of course ensuring that people are getting the vaccine when they’re eligible to get the vaccine, and update the public on his efforts to do exactly that. 

Q    If I might just ask a second one for a colleague who can’t be here because of —

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    — COVID restrictions.  From Brian Karem of Playboy: I mean, we saw a break with Saudi policy yesterday in the Middle East.  So will the Biden administration openly condemn or implement sanctions against the Saudi government for the death of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi?

MS. PSAKI:  So, first, let me say and reiterate: The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was a horrific crime.  We are prepared to release an unclassified report with full transparency for Congress.  This is the law, and we’ll follow the law.  Of course, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would have further details, and I would refer you to them for additional specifics. 

We, of course, expect Saudi Arabia to improve its record on human rights — that includes releasing political prisoners — such as women’s rights, advocates for Saudi jails.  We’re encouraged by the release yesterday of two dual national American-Saudi citizens.  We hope to see further progress over the next coming months.

And as noted in a couple of areas we’ve talked about, there’s an ongoing review, of course, of our policies.  You saw the President make an announcement yesterday about our engagement in Yemen, which, of course, is directly connected. 

But again, there’ll be ongoing discussions and reviews by our national security team.  I don’t have any posi- — any policy decisions to read out for you or predict for you at this point in time. 

Go ahead in the back. 

Q    Thanks, Jen.  And I have two questions as well.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    In keeping with the economic theme of the day, my first question: Given the most recent job numbers and the continued unemployment and what you have to say today about particularly how minority communities have been affected, is this the right time to increase the number of refugees coming into the country and to also ease immigration and border restrictions?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, the President fundamentally believes that having a humane and moral immigration system in place strengthens our country, strengthens our economy.  And many, many business leaders across the country have said exactly the same thing.

The most powerful step that can be taken now is to pass the American Rescue Plan because that is a step that economists across the board have said would help expedite economic recovery, help expedite getting people back to work.  And without it, we will be years behind by — according to a lot of economic data — where we need to be.

Q    And then on the — from the public health aspect of it, considering the coronavirus numbers are still where they are, the President has enacted more restrictions on travel restrictions, including South Africa.  How does that play into it with immigration and refugee policy? 

MS. PSAKI:  Sorry, I don’t — I’m not sure I’m understanding your question.

Q    Well, I mean, considering the coronavirus numbers where they are and that we’re doing more restrictions on travel, does that not also then affect refugee policy and immigration — bringing more people into the country — sort of, following up on Kristen’s question?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, the refugee policy is increasing the cap.  It doesn’t change what our travel restrictions or our travel policies are.  And, of course, those are put in place to keep the American people safe, but those are not meant to do anything other than take necessary steps, at this moment in time, based on the advice of health and medical experts on where we need to restrict travel from. 

Obviously, when it’s safe to undo those restrictions, our health and medical team will advise us on exactly that. 

Q    And then my second question — this is going to the Pentagon.  This week, the Secretary of Defense announced a stand-down for the military to discuss extremism and extremist ideology.  Why would the military need to stand down from enemies foreign and abroad to have these discussions?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, my bet is that Secretary Austin and my friend John Kirby would disagree with your assessment there.  But the President has tasked an overview and a review of domestic violent extremism in the country.  That’s coming directly from him, happening in the White House. 

I know that my friend John Kirby has a briefing later this afternoon, and I’d certainly encourage people to ask them more about those plans. 

Q    And then, just further on that: There was — Jake Sullivan mentioned the focus on domestic terrorism yesterday, of this administration.  I think a lot of people want to know: How does this administration define the term “domestic terrorist”?

MS. PSAKI:  In what way?

Q    Well, does that include Antifa, specifically?  What — how do you set those parameters for domestic terrorists, especially as we see, you know, a lot of focus on the January 6?  Maybe not as much focus on some of the extremism and violence in the North- — the Northwest. 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I’ve answered a version of this question a couple times before, but I know everybody is not in the briefing room every day. 

The reason we have the review — which is not a political review, but is a review done by our national security team, something tasked — again, to take a review of domestic violent extremism, it will cover incidents across the board.  When they have concluded that review, I’m sure they’ll have more to say on it. 

Okay, go ahead, Trevor.  And I think I’ve been skipping you unintentionally.  I’m sorry.

Q    Just one quick foreign policy question.  You know, just talking about Iran and China, and the need to have allies that are willing to go into those kind of thorny issues with you, there’s been some reporting that the EU Commissioner is going to have a phone call with President Biden and propose a six-month truce on trade tariffs.  And I’m just wondering if he’s open to that and whether that would give you a united front going into some of these issues. 

MS. PSAKI:  I know there’s a lot of interest in trade tariffs, and that’s also under review now.  I don’t have anything to preview for you.  I can follow up with our team on plans for a call with the EU Commissioner.  And if that’s being planned, we will of course provide you with a readout. 

Go ahead. 

Q    Yeah, following up on the several questions about school reopenings, does the White House believe — you know, schools are contemplating this right now: whether to go back and reopen their schools.  Does the White House believe that they should hold off on reopening until the CDC guidelines are out and until the American Rescue Plan is passed?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think some schools are looking for that guidance and also looking for funding.  Obviously, different jurisdictions make decisions, but we are hopeful that when the CDC guidelines are out, that will provide some advice, or from a medical — more than that, specific guidance from our health and medical team — the expertise of Dr. Walensky and her team — on exactly what mitigation steps can and should be taken to reopen schools safely.

Q    But for schools in the moment right now, weighing whether they should reopen, you don’t have a recommendation one way or the other?  Just to wait for the guidelines?  Or — just trying to clarify that. 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we’ll have — I’m not going to get ahead of what the guidelines are.  I think there are different jurisdictions that make different decisions.  A lot of school districts are certainly waiting for those guidelines but also waiting for additional funding so that they can reopen schools safely; make sure teachers are safe, students are safe, and families can feel confident in their kids being at school. 

Go ahead. 

Q    Thank you.  Following up on one of the questions from earlier, and then I have a foreign policy question too.  But is there any update on the state of a large-scale, public, sort of, PR media campaign supporting the vaccination effort?  Or is it difficult to do that without knowing whether or not the inventory is sufficient enough to actually tell people to go to CVS or Walgreens or wherever they may be supposed to go?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, certainly part of our commitment is to launch a massive public affairs campaign, which is something we’ve talked about a little bit in here.  It takes a little bit of time to get all your ducks in a row to get that going. 

But part of what we’re also trying to do is utilize our experts to be out there publicly.  We do these briefings three times a week to, as Karen was asking about earlier, provide more accurate and clear information to governors so that they can also communicate with communities; empower local medical experts and doctors so that they can communicate more clearly with their communities, which are some of the most trusted sources.  We’ve had a lot of officials out on local television doing local television interviews. 

So even as we’re preparing for more of a widespread — or “broad-scale,” I should say — public campaign, we’ve also had a number of members of our team doing everything we can to communicate effectively and efficiently on this particular issue.

Q    And the foreign policy question: Sometime overnight, during the “vote-a-rama” in the Senate, there was a —

MS. PSAKI:  You just wanted to use that word.  I know it.

Q    Of course, I did.  (Laughter.)  There was a — but there was a 97-to-3 vote in favor of supporting the location of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.  Is there a position, in terms of the Biden administration, as to whether or not the Trump administration’s actually implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act should be maintained or whether it might move back to Tel Aviv?

MS. PSAKI:  It’s a great question.  I have not talked to our national security team about it.  I will venture to do that and circle back with you directly. 

Q    Thank you, Jen.

MS. PSAKI:  Thank you, everyone.  Happy Friday. 

                             END                1:53 P.M. EST

Stay Connected

Thanks for signing up!

We'll be in touch with the latest information on how President Biden and his administration are working for the American people, as well as ways you can get involved and help our country build back better.

Scroll to Top
Top