Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Aboard Air Force One en route Pittsburgh, PA
3:00 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you guys know, in Pittsburgh today, President Biden will unveil his American Jobs Plan, which will create millions of good-paying jobs, rebuild our country’s infrastructure, and position the United States to outcompete China. This is a once-in-a-century capital investment in America to transform our current and future infrastructure and fundamental change — fundamentally change life for Americans.
We will tie these investments to creating good-quality jobs that pay prevailing wages in safe and healthy work places — jobs that ensure workers have a free and fair choice to organize, join a union, and bargain collectively. And we are not going to leave behind communities of color and rural communities that have been systematically excluded for generations. Our investment will also allow us to take on the climate crisis and transition to a clean energy economy.
The plan has four parts, all of which will affect our everyday lives. The first is how we move investments in our roads, bridges, rail, and other elements of our transportation infrastructure. The second is how we live at home — investments in broadband, water, power, housing, and buildings. The third is how we care for one another — investments in home and community-based care for older family members and people with disabilities. The fourth is how we make — how we make investments in manufacturing, next-generation research and development, high-quality workforce development, and critical supply chains.
To pay for this historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure, the President is proposing to fundamentally reform the corporate tax code so that is incentivizes — so that it incentivizes job creation and investment here in the United States, stops unfair and wasteful profit-shifting to tax havens, and ensuring that large corporations are paying their fair share.
The President is proud of the plan he has laid out and looks forward to a conversation over the coming weeks about what we can do to invest in our infrastructure, boost our competitiveness, and make our tax code easier.
And one more announcement for you today: Tomorrow, the President will convene his first full Cabinet meeting, just a day after rolling out his American Jobs Plan, which will be a key topic of discussion.
The President will lift up his deeply qualified, historically diverse Cabinet as a key decision ma- — as key decision makers and voices for his administration’s agenda and key priorities.
The focus of the meeting will be working together to continue implementing and communicating about the American Rescue Plan and how it continues to deliver for working families; discussing the role Cabinet members will play in advocating for the American Jobs Plan; and ensuring we accelerate our federal COVID-19 response and that Americans don’t let their guards down. The Cabinet will be gathered in person, in the East Room, to follow social distancing and other COVID protocols.
All right. Go ahead, Jonathan.
Q Karine, on the — thank you so much. On the infrastructure proposal: So, on the American Rescue Plan, the President had his non-negotiables — right? — like the $1,400 stimulus check that had to be in there. What has to be in there, in this infrastructure and tax program, for this President? What is he going to insist, even as negotiations begin with the Hill, must be included?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Jonathan, you know, this infrastructure bill is — infrastructure, as we know, has been a bipartisan issue — right? — when it comes to Democrats and Republicans. We even saw, you know, a poll — a Morning Consult poll showing how — it was a poll that they did on a hypothetical $3 trillion plan with — had a margin of 2 to 1 with registered voters. I mean, this is — this is a piece of legislation that is — or a plan that is popular, even in a hypothetical sense.
But we’ve also seen Republicans who have been for this. You know, we’ve seen, like, in polling — like 80 percent of Republicans who have supported this infrastructure type of plan.
So, you know, we are going to continue moving forward. This is a once-in-a-generation — right? — type of opportunity that we have here. This is about creating jobs. This is about creating millions of jobs for Americans. You know, we talk about the American Rescue Plan; it was a plan to meet the moment. Right? We were in an emergency. Now we’re at a different moment.
And so he has said this — and we’re going back to Pittsburgh — right? — where he was. He’s going back to Pittsburgh, where he was two years — two years ago when he launched his campaign and he talked about how he wanted — he was running to rebuild the middle class.
And so this is it — right? — when we’re talking about rebuilding the middle class. This is the American Jobs Plan: to rebuild the middle class, to invest, to do this historic investment into this country, and also just create jobs into the — to the American people and creating jobs.
Q Is he — is he prepared to go — push this through Congress without Republican votes?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, right now — as you know, the President was a senator for 36 years. He knows how to reach to the other side and make thing — big things happen. He did that as Vice President as well.
So this is something that he wants to have bipartisan support. He’s willing to have those conversations with Republicans and, clearly, with his Democratic colleagues, and really trying to work this through because this is so critical and important for the American people.
And so — but here’s the thing: This is going to — this is about the American people, right? This is who he’s going to put first for — first in all of this.
And, you know, we’re talking about, you know, roads. We’re talking about — you know, we’re talking about highways. We’re talking about investment in this country that has — we haven’t seen since the 1960s. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about children being able to not drink water that has lead in it. We’re talking about, you know, caregiving for families who really need to be able to take care of ailing parents who they can’t get caregivers for. I mean, this is what we’re talking about to help families during this time.
Q Does — excuse me, does he have a timeframe on when he would like to get this passed and —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, this is — so, as I mentioned, the American Rescue Plan was to meet that moment — that crucial moment. And along, you know, with the help of Congress, he was able to do that. We passed that. It’s — we’re seeing already the effects, in a big way, of how that one point — trillion-dollar plan is affecting American families as far as getting shots in arms, COVID response, and people getting that $1,400 check.
With this one, he’s — you know, it’s going to take some time, and we’re willing to, like, go with the process and have those conversations on the Hill, which we were already having. We’ve already been having those conversations with Republicans and Democrats. And so we’re just going to see how this goes. But he is zeroed in, laser-focused on this plan. You’re — that’s what you’re going to — you’ll hear him talk more about this later today.
Q What’s the message to Democrats who, right now — some progressives who are saying “This doesn’t go far enough”? And are you concerned about keeping Democrats together on this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Like I said, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that we’re seeing here to invest in our country, invest in America — you know, to invest in the American — the American families, the American people; to create millions of jobs; to actually fix our roads; to actually, you know, have a commitment to manufacturing and all of the things that he has been talking about for the last two years. And so this is what we’re talking about.
And so, look, he put his plan forward, and now we’re going to have that conversation — right? — with Democrats and Republicans. And if they have something to propose, we’ll have those conversations with them as well.
Q Do you know (inaudible) estimate of how many millions of jobs this plan will create?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have that number with me right now, but in the coming days —
Q Is there a reason why the administration didn’t roll out a big number like that at the beginning? I believe that they did during the campaign with the Build Back Better program?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think this is — no, it’s a good question. I think this is part one — right? — of the plan. As we’ve mentioned, there’s going to be a second plan coming up in the next couple of weeks that the President will talk about. And so this is the beginning of the process. We’ll have that for you.
Q Leader McConnell said that he spoke with the President yesterday. Can you provide some more information about what they discussed? And did the President have any other conversations with Republican senators?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can’t — I — you know, we don’t preview conversation that’s had, especially with folks on the Hill.
Q And is he planning to have Republican leadership over to the White House to try to discuss this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you know, the last couple of weeks, he had meetings with both Republicans and Democrats on infrastructure. And so he did — there was outreach that was had. There’s outreach that’s done by staff, as we know. And so we’re just going to continue, kind of, that cadence and making sure that we’re reaching out and having those conversations — because this is a critical bill for the President.
Q I wanted to ask one question on the immigration front. Reporters did just get into one of these detention facilities and the conditions were pretty bleak. It’s at, I believe, 1,700 percent capacity. Is there a plan to alleviate this overcrowding? And by what point should conditions down there be better?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. As we have said repeatedly, you know, a Border Patrol facility is no place for a child. And we have been working around the clock, in coordination with HHS, to quickly move unaccompanied children out of these crowded Border Patrol stations and into the care of HHS so they can be placed with family members or other sponsors. We’ve — we even put the ORR staff and HHS staff embedded into D- — into CBP to make this happen, to expedite that process.
We deployed FEMA to help HHS quickly build additional capacity to shelter unaccompanied children. We also developed and deployed a plan for HHS to more quickly place unaccompanied children with family members.
We are seeing progress, but it’s going to take time. And so, you know — but let me be clear: We are tr- — we are putting out the message, “The border is not open. People should not make the dangerous journey. And we will continue to expel individuals and families.”
Q Hey, Karine, is he — is — on the Derek Chauvin trial, is the President watching it up there like we’re watching it back here? Does he plan to reach out to Floyd’s family? Has he had any conversations with them since they were at the DNC?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don’t have anything to read out on if he’s going to reach out to him, but, you know, the President has spoken in personal terms about the death of George Floyd, as you know.
It affected him in a way that it affects so — affected so many Americans last year, and he redoubled his commitment to advancing racial justice. You know, he — everything that he has done as President — when you look at even — when you look at the American Jobs Plan, when you look at the American Rescue Plan — has had equity at the center of it.
And when he signed the executive order, back on January 6th, on racial equity, he said, “Those 8 minutes and 46 seconds that took George Floyd’s life opened the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people…all over the world. It was the knee on the neck of justice, and it wouldn’t be forgotten. It stirred the conscience of tens of millions of Americans, and, in my view, it marked a turning point in this country’s attitude toward racial justice.”
So he’s watching just like millions of Americans are, and, you know, we’re keeping an eye on it.
Q You had said you were going to do part two coming soon, that this is part one. Why should — why do it in two parts? And should people look at that as: These are the most critical priorities right now and this is what the President wants to get done, and you’re less confident about part two?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There are multiple pillars in this, and one is not — you know, one is not more important than the other. This plan — the American Jobs Plan — is critical, as I’ve mentioned before, and it’s important. It’s going to — it’s an investment, as I’ve said, into the country and American workers and American families.
So there’s — no one is more equal or better than the other. And just like the — in a couple of weeks, he will talk about the second part of his plan.
Q When Jake Sullivan meets with the Japanese and South Koreans on Friday, in Annapolis, is he going to brief them on the President’s policy review toward North Korea?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So this was — this was released by NSC last night, so let me just inform everyone what’s happening on Friday.
So this Friday, April 2nd, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will welcome his counterparts from Japan and from the Republic of Korea for a trilateral dialogue at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
This trilateral meeting, which follows the visits of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to Japan and the Republic of Korea, provides an opportunity for our nations to consult on a wide range of regional issues and foreign policy priorities, including maintenance — maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and combating climate change.
This meeting with Japan and the Republic of Korea is the first national secretary/advisor-level multilateral dialogue of the Biden administration, reflecting the importance we place on broadening and deepening our cooperation on key issues and advancing our shared prosperity across a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Q So I — is the review done on North Korea? Is it completed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let me see if I have anything for you on that.
So we are in the final stages of our intensive multi-stakeholder North Korea police [sic] — policy review. This has been a thorough interagency review of U.S. policy towards North Korea, including evaluation of all available options to address the increasing threat posed by North Korea to its neighbors and the broader international community.
This process has integrated a diverse set of voices from throughout the government and incorporated inputs from think tanks and outside experts. We have consulted with many former government officials involved in North Korea policy, including several from the previous administration.
So we look forward to discussing our review with the national security advisors of South Korea and Japan at our trilateral dialogue in Annapolis, on Friday. So there you go.
Q Thank you. (Laughter.)
Q So the President’s plan includes taxes over 15 years to pay for spending over 8 years. Would he be open to, you know, not paying for some of this — for some of this to be, you know, deficit spending? Is that something that he’s open to if that’s what Democrats, in particular, want to do, as we’re already hearing from some progressives?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, he believes this should be paid for, which is why he included this in his plan.
AIDE: The airplane has (inaudible) for landing.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, all right.
AIDE: So brace yourselves, I guess.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. (Laughs.)
Q Grab hold of something.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my gosh.
(Air Force One lands.) (Laughter.)
So, Jen, he basically has always said that this should be paid for.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, an investment like this, it should be paid for. I mean, that’s what he believes, and he’s willing to have conversations with Congress — clearly that’s what he wants to do — and to see what they can offer.
But then the question would be to them: Then how do you pay for it? Right? And so that’s why he has the — in this first plan, he has the corporate tax reform, which is a way to pay for this. And this — there’s fairness, right? If you think about it, there’s fairness in this — in this piece of legislation, which is why, you know, they — we put in the corporate tax reform. It’s important for that process to happen as well — the fairness part of it.
Q Thank you.
Q Thank you so much.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, thanks guys.
Q Appreciate it.
3:17 P.M. EDT