James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:15 P.M. EDT

MS. PSAKI:  Hi, everyone.

Q    Hi, Jen.

MS. PSAKI:  Happy Tuesday.  No bunny today.  I promise. 

Q    Chicks perhaps?

MS. PSAKI:  Chicks.  Maybe candy. 

A couple of updates for all of you at the top.  We provided a bit of an update on what the Jobs Cabinet has been up to since the President announced the American Jobs Plan last week, so just wanted to provide you a little more of an update.  

As we noted yesterday, they’ve been hard at work throughout the congressional recess, making calls to Democratic chairs and Republican ranking members of the relevant committees and to appropriators.  They have led briefings for major House and Senate caucuses.

Secretary Buttigieg will meet with the moderate New Dem — New Democrats caucus this week.

The Office of Public Engagement will lead calls throughout this week with private sector, rural and agricultural stakeholders, climate groups, local chambers of commerce, faith leaders, minority leaders, community college groups, and more.

And the Office of Legislative Affairs is coordinating about 30 briefings for majority and minority committee staff of committees with jurisdiction over the American Jobs Plan.

These efforts will continue, of course, when members return to Washington.  And as I noted yesterday, the President looks forward to welcoming members to the White House.  And as we have that locked in, we’ll provide more details to all of you.

Today, Vice President Harris joined the COVID Response Team’s weekly governors meeting to discuss our country’s pandemic response, the progress we’ve made, and the work to come in our fight against this virus.

The Vice President highlighted the country’s work in the pandemic response to date, including today’s announcement that the President will announce officially, later this afternoon, that we’ve reached 150 million shots in arms since entering government, and that by April 19th, all adult Americans will be eligible to get the vaccine.  That doesn’t mean they will get it that day; it means they can join the line that day if they have not already done that beforehand. 

She also noted the important work to come, in particular around ensuring access to the vaccine in every community and building confidence in the vaccine in every community.  She highlighted best practices to ensure equity remains at the cornerstone of our vaccination effort.

She also touched on the $3 billion in funding — largely from the American Rescue Plan — that will enable states and cities to support community-based organizations in launching new programs to increase vaccine access, acceptance, and uptake.  And there was some more news today about how that will be distributed and used. 

She’s also in Chicago today focusing on vaccine equity.  In Chicago alone, the CDC will invest $33 million to support efforts to increase vaccine distribution and access, with a specific focus on communities of color.

Also, today in his weekly update — part of the same call, I should say, for clarity — COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients announced there will be more than 28 million doses across channels this week.  Cumulatively, over the past three weeks, we will have sent out nearly 90 million doses of the vaccine.

He also stressed to governors that while we continue to make strong progress, it is critical that we continue to mask up and socially distance.

Josh, why don’t you kick us off.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  On the vaccine and vaccination announcement: We’ve kind of known for weeks that you’d see this ramp-up in production. 

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    And I’m curious, like, why move up the timeline now?  Is there a desire to make sure that people who are hesitant or reluctant to get a vaccine feel like they can do so?  What’s the thinking there?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, the President had already announced that he was asking states to move up their timelines.  So this is more providing clarity to the American public, who may tune in to the President’s remarks or clips that you all share on the news, that they’re all eligible.  It create — provides clarity.  It reduces confusion.  And it ensures that Americans who are not yet vaccinated, who are looking to get vaccinated, they know they are all eligible — all adults, I should say — on April 19th.

Q    And then, secondly, it’s been about a week since the President announced his infrastructure plan.  Lots of states, counties, cities are wondering how they would qualify for any money.  Do you have any details on what that process would look like?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, first, ultimately it will be up to Congress and something we’ll have a conversation with members and committees about.  That’s part of the — why it’s so important to engage at a committee level and staff level. 

And many of you who have been through a journey like this before know this, but let me just reiterate some of the pieces of the process: Funding for transportation process — for transportation projects can typically be allocated through two different types of grants — and we expect a mix to be discussed — either formula grants or competitive grants. 

So formula grants are allocated to states based on certain criteria, like the number of miles on an interstate highway or a population in a given urban area.  Most of our existing transportation funding flows through formula grants, which gives states a lot of flexibility on how to prioritize and spend their federal dollars based on what their needs are.

Competitive grants are a more targeted way to direct funds to specific policy goals, often based on criteria set by Congress.  For example, the popular TIGER grant program that was set up in the Recovery Act considered how a project can — could contribute to job creation.  And that was one of the big factors that was determined as programs were being — or states were applying for funding. 

We’ve also mentioned the administration’s proposal for a competitive grant program to fund 10 of the most economically significant bridges in the country.  So that type of application would be through competitive grants. 

So, again, this is something that we will be working through Con- — with Congress, with committees of jurisdiction, though it will be a mix of those two type of grants would be our expectation.  And as states who all have excellent questions, including local reporters we engage with, that is what they can expect in terms of the process.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  The FBI keeps a watchlist with information about people who are known or reasonably suspected of being involved in terror activities.  Two people on it from Yemen have been apprehended at the border.  How concerned is President Biden about terrorists possibly trying to take advantage of gaps in the border to get in and kill Americans?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, let me convey that these types of incidents are very uncommon.  And CBP and DHS can speak more to the timeline and the specifics, of course, in these particular cases and encounters.  But encounters of known and suspected terrorists are very uncommon. 

They do underscore the importance of the critical work that is done on a daily basis to vet those at the border.  DHS works not just in — at the border, as you know, but also with international partners to share intelligence and other information, including to prevent individuals on certain watchlists from entering the United States.  They adjudicate individuals encountered at and between ports of entry against several classified and unclassified databases.  So while this is rare, this is a reflection of them doing their jobs.

Q    Another quick one about the border.  The DHS Secretary is reportedly looking to finish some gaps in the southern border.  How does that fit with President Biden’s day one executive order to stop border wall construction?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, wall construction remains paused, to the extent permitted by law.  So some has already been funded through a congressional authorization and funding allocation.  But as agencies develop for a plan — it’s paused while agencies are developing a plan for the President on the management of the federal funds. 

When the administration took office, as you referenced, funds had been diverted from congressionally appropriated military construction projects and other appropriated purposes toward building the wall.  And wall construction was being challenged in multiple lawsuits — and for much of the wall, I should say; not all of it — by plaintiffs who allege serious environmental and safety issues. 

Under those circumstances, federal agencies are continuing to review wall contracts and develop a plan to submit to the President soon.

It is — it is paused.  There is some limited construction that has been funded and allocated for, but it is otherwise paused.

Q    And then, is the White House concerned that Major League Baseball is moving their All-Star Game to Colorado, where voting regulations are very similar to Georgia?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, let me just refeer [sic]- — refute the first point you made.  First, let me say on Colorado: Colorado allows you to register on Election Day.  Colorado has voting by mail, where they send to 100 percent of people in the state, who are eligible, applications to vote by mail.  Ninety-four percent of people in Colorado voted by mail in the 2020 election.  And they also allow for a range of materials to provide, even if they vote on Election Day, for the limited number of people who vote on Election Day. 

I think it’s important to remember the context here.  The Georgia legislation is built on a lie.  It’s — there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election.  Georgia’s top Republican election officials have acknowledged that repeatedly in interviews.  And what there was, however, was record-setting turnout, especially by voters of color. 

So instead what we’re seeing here is, for politicians who didn’t like the outcome, they’re not changing their policies to win more votes, they’re changing the rules to exclude more voters.  And we certainly see the circumstances as different.

But ultimately —

Q    And one quick one —

MS. PSAKI:  Sorry, let me add more thing.  It’s up to Major League Baseball to determine where they’re holding their All-Star Game.

Q    Okay.  A quick one from a colleague who cannot be here.  You’re talking about the new vaccine eligibility deadline.  Is the supply ramping up quicker than expected?  And if not, what does moving the eligibility deadline up actually do in practice?  Like, are more people going to get vaccinated faster?

MS. PSAKI:  That’s our hope.  Absolutely.  And we have expedited the supply, so there’s been nearly 90 million doses provided to states in just the last three weeks.  And that certainly is an increase over the weeks prior.  That’s part of it. 

But also, we want to provide clarity.  We’re at the point with our supply and with our distribution to states that we think, you know, it’s time to provide that level of clarity.  Now, it’s not just about the vaccine supply.  We’ve also increased the number of pharmacies — more than doubled the number of pharmacies that are distributing the vaccine. 

We’ve also increased our commitment and our funding of community health centers, of mass vaccination sites, because we also know people need to have places to go — mobile vaccination vehicles, et cetera. 

All right.  Oh, go ahead.  Go ahead, Kelly.

Q    On the vaccines, is this about leading governors to move more quickly, or is this about reacting to what governors have already done?  Because most states that already moved their eligibility, it sort of seems like the President is now affirming a date that for many people was already the real picture.

MS. PSAKI:  And he had called for them to move this date forward a couple of weeks ago.  So he had also called for the date to move forward from May 1st, as well. 

So he is certainly confirming for the public that everyone is eligible around the country.  That is a great deal of clarity.  They don’t have to go to their local state website and see when they’re eligible.  They know that they are eligible on April 19th — every American out there who is not vaccinated. 

This is also — part of the effort here and part of what he’ll be conveying later today is to communicate to seniors and people who have seniors in their community, maybe members of their family: This is the time to go now; to ensure seniors who are your loved ones, your family members, people in your neighborhood to go now because the lines are going to become longer.  There are going to be more people waiting.  So he’ll also be sending that clear message. 

Q    So this is more about public education than accomplishing a particular goal.  Is that fair to say?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we certainly wouldn’t be at this point had we not purchased enough supply to vaccinate every adult American; had we not increased our — the number of vaccinators who can distribute the vaccine, put them in shots in arms; and had we not massively increased our investment in places where people could go.

So it’s a signal that, one, we’re delivering clarity, but also, we are at a point where there are enough — there’s enough supply, there are enough vaccinators, there are enough vaccination sites that every American adult is eligible April 19th. 

That is an accomplishment for the medical field.  It’s an accomplishment for the people who are running the operational piece.  It’s an accomplishment for the — you know, the medical experts, locally, who are running these programs in different states. 

Q    Briefly, on Georgia.  When the President voiced his support for moving it, does he have any regret now that by doing that, by adding his voice, it may have contributed to the environment where MLB makes this decision and then there are these economic consequences to people in Georgia?  When he and the Vice President were there and couldn’t do the car rally, and I talked about wanting to thank Georgia.  Georgia has been important to the President and Vice President, electorally.  Is there a sense of regret that perhaps he tipped the scale with his rhetoric, even if he doesn’t have a direct cause and effect? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, he was answering a direct question during an interview with ESPN about the Opening Day baseball, something everybody — not everybody — most people in the country appreciate and enjoy.  And he was simply conveying that he would support that decision if that decision was made by Major League Baseball, just like he would support decisions made by private sector companies. 

We’re not standing here and calling for companies to boycott.  That’s not what our focus is on from the White House. 

We do believe that the focus on Georgia is a reminder that — and should be a reminder, I should say — that this is much bigger than Georgia; that Georgia was just one of the first states to act on a concerted effort to use easily disprovable conspiracy theories to fuel their attempts to make it even harder for eligible Americans to vote. 

But according to the Brennan Center, as of March 24th, 361 bills with restrictive provisions have been introduced in 47 states around the country. 

So this is not just Georgia.  This is something — we are seeing a prevalence of this, a pattern around the country of, you know, an effort to make it more difficult to vote. 

Q    Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader — still in Kentucky — said many positive things about the friendship and personal relationship he’s had with the President for a long time — a fine man, and so forth.  Also says, a moderate he is not.

Does the President still identify as a moderate within the Democratic Party, or do you feel that he has moved more — or does the President feel he has moved more to the progressive wing of his own party? 

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t think this will surprise you, but the President is not eager to be labeled by anyone in his party, or certainly even by his friend Mitch McConnell.  And he is now President of the United States.  He governs for all Americans. 

He is encouraged by — we all are encouraged by the openness we’ve heard from some who would identify as moderate Democrats or Republicans of discussing components of the package that he has proposed.  And he’s looking forward to having that conversation. 

Go ahead, Jen. 

Q    Thanks.  Two questions on the Federal Reserve Board.  Is there any update on the effort to fill a vacancy — the vacancy on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors? 

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any personnel update for you.  I’m happy to check and see if there’s any update we can provide.

Q    Thank you.  And then, also, has President Biden spoken to the Federal Reserve Chairman yet, Jay Powell? 

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any call to read out either. 

Q    So you can’t say if they’ve spoken yet at all? 

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any update on it. 

Q    Let us know, please, if you can. 

MS. PSAKI:  I absolutely will. 

Q    Okay, thank you very much.  And then, also, one other question about phone calls: Has President Biden spoken to President Obama about how to pass the infrastructure bill?  Has President Obama given him any advice on how to pass that bill? 

MS. PSAKI:  They speak regularly.  They, of course, were President and Vice President, but they are also friends.  And they share a bond of serving through eight years of the Obama-Biden administration, but also a personal friendship and kinship.  And he speaks with him regularly, but we’re not going to read out those calls. 

Go ahead.

Q    Jen, you went through some of the numbers on the increase in supply and the pharmacies.

MS. PSAKI:  Yep.

Q    But, kind of, following up on what Kelly had been asking too, do we — should we look for the President to maybe move up that July 4th circled date that he had said about Americans being able to gather in small groups?  Can that also move up now, given that the eligibility is moving up by two weeks and the pace of vaccinations is increasing? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we’re certainly encouraged by the fact that we are vaccinating, our team is vaccinating, our — experts across the country, I should say, are vaccinating an average of about 3 million people a day, which is far larger than any other country in the world. 

But we know that it’s not just about having the supply or eligibility; it’s also about people in the country, eligible adult Americans, going to their community health center, going to a mass vaccination site, going to a pharmacy to get vaccinated and get that shot in their arm.

So any changes we would make in advising the public, we would certainly do in close coordination with the advice of the CDC and our health and medical team.  I don’t have any expectation of that at this point, but we’re always looking at how we can provide clarity to the public.

Q    And you had said that, you know, the lines might start getting longer, so seniors should start getting their shots now just to make sure they’re not doing it when it gets clogged up.  Are you concerned that because the eligibility has expanded, that the supply can match that?  That you can still be on pace to vaccinate all American adults who want it by the end of May?

MS. PSAKI:  We will have enough supply by the end of May, and we certainly remain confident that we will continue to be able to provide the supply that states need to vaccinate people in their states, and we’ll continue to provide supply also independently to the pharmacies, which is a place — a program that has started out as a pilot and has been incredibly successful. 

So we are confident in what the path looks like ahead, but we also constantly contingency plan; we know things happen.  Trucks break down.  There are issues in manufacturing sites, as we saw just last week.  And we are constantly contingency planning about steps we need to take to ensure we have adequate supply out through all of our programs.

Q    But the President continues to urge Americans to be vigilant.  We expect he’ll do that today in his remarks.  But over the weekend, we saw Americans traveling for the holiday weekend.  We saw a totally packed baseball stadium in Texas yesterday.  Basically, there are Americans across the country who are doing exactly what the President is telling them not to do.  Is the message — are Americans not hearing this, or are they hearing it and ignoring it? 

MS. PSAKI:  You know, I think the President recognizes that this has been a long and difficult journey for the American public.  We’ve been — the country has been shut down in one form or another for more than a year now, and people have missed birthday parties, weddings, baseball games, going out to restaurants.  It is difficult.  It is hard.  And what he’s asking people to do is to sacrifice a little bit longer, and he will continue to make that case and make that argument.  

Now, while we saw the baseball game, as you — as you noted, and other events over the weekend — and we certainly anticipate, as the weather gets warmer, there will be a temptation — we’ve also seen communities where local mayors, businesses have conveyed to their communities that we need to hang together, we need to remain vigilant, we need to wear masks, and we will get through this together.  So we are hopeful that that’s exactly what the majority of communities in this country will do. 

Go ahead. 

Q    Thank you.  A couple of clarifying questions, just on the vaccine stuff.  One, does this change the date that all by which there is an expectation everybody is vaccinated?  I mean, does that move up?  Does the administration, sort of, have a date when they expect everybody to be vaccinated? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, getting to a point where the majority of the American public is vaccinated is about more than supply. 

So what this announcement is conveying is we are at a point with the supply we have available — the number of vaccinat- — the vaccines, vaccination sites, vaccinators — where we believe everybody in the country should be eligible, can get in line by April 19th.  Many people will have been in line or will even be vaccinated, as we’ve seen by the numbers before then.

But it is going to take the American people going — masking up, socially distancing, and going and getting vaccinated.  We’re going to make that as easy as possible.  But there are roles that we can play, and then there are roles that the public have to play.

Q    I guess my question is: Once they get in line on the 19th — by the 19th, how long that line ultimately may be.  There’s not a new update on that.

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have a new update on that.  I think it’s just important, for clarity purposes, to convey it doesn’t mean everybody will be vaccinated by April 19th, which is — I know why you were asking the question.  It means that everybody will be eligible to go to their local pharmacy, go to their community health center, mobile vaccination site, mass vaccination site on that date and moving forward.

Q    One more, unrelated to the vaccine.  Over the weekend, there was reporting that, at Guantanamo, a facility was closed and some detainees were consolidated.  Is that indicative at all of the Pentagon’s review of closing GTMO, of the President’s plan and a timeline to potentially make that proposal to the close GTMO?

MS. PSAKI:  The President remains committed.  That is his desire and the outcome he would like to see.  Obviously, that process would be overseen by the Department of Defense, so I would refer you to them for more specifics about that — those moves and that announcement.

Go ahead. 

Q    So, another foreign policy question.  President Zelenskyy of Ukraine, he has said publicly that that country needs to join NATO to avoid a war in the Donbass region with Russia.  We know that he brought that up on his call with the Canadian Prime Minister.  Did he bring that up with President Biden on their recent call?  And I guess more importantly, what is the President’s view on that issue?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, one, that has long been the aspiration of Ukraine and one that has been raised in a range of conversations with U.S. officials over the course of several years.  I would defer to them — we would, of course, defer to the Ukrainian government on reading out what they raised on the call with the President. 

But, you know, in addition to — we’re all — in addition to our reassurances that are consistently made to Ukrainian officials of our support for them and support for their sovereignty, we’re also discussing our concerns about the increase in tensions in the ceasefire violations, regional tensions with NATO Allies, and certainly would be here to hear from them, as we have for years, about their aspirations and the process they need to go through.

Q    But as far an official White House position on whether they should be able to join NATO soon, is there a position?

MS. PSAKI:  Again, it’s been an aspiration of Ukraine’s for some time.  We’ve long been discussing that aspiration with Ukraine.  We are strong supporters of them.  We are engaged with them in working to push back on the destabilizing actions.  But that’s a decision for NATO to make, and we’ll continue to be, you know, recipients of their interests.

Q    Okay.  And you said a minute ago that the Georgia voting rights law was based on a lie. 

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    We had a poll yesterday that showed that more than half of Republicans believe that the election was stolen from Donald Trump and that the Capitol riot was led by left-wing agitators.  Is there a public policy response to disinformation?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, to disinformation in general?

Q    Yeah.

MS. PSAKI:  Look, I think that the prevalence of disinformation is something that is of concern to the President.  He believes there is a range of reasons for it: some relate to the platforms; some relate to the individual actors who are promoting and provoking destabilizing activities and actions through their rhetoric.  He’s spoken to that in the past. 

You know, this is certainly an issue that the President is focused on, and he will work with his team on addressing through policy measures.  But I don’t have anything to preview for you.

Q    Okay.  Just one more quick thing on the American Jobs Plan.  There’s a Moody’s estimate that you have cited — and basically, their estimate is that 2.7 million jobs will be created over 10 years, if that plan is passed as it’s been proposed.  I think that works out to something like $850,000 per job.  Given that, are you open to ideas about a more targeted way — a cheaper way of achieving the same goal in terms of number of jobs created?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we’re always open to hearing from members of Congress and — on their ideas and what they think should be a part of the package.  At the end of the day, the President’s red line is inaction.  He won’t tolerate inaction on rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, something that has long been outdated.  He believes that we need to invest in that so we can improve the lives of ordinary Americans and make it easier to do business.  He also believes that investment — investments in long-term economic growth will create good-paying jobs. 

There was another study that showed that about 75 percent of these jobs — a Georgetown study, I should say — would go to workers who did not have college degrees.  And that is certainly a population in this country that needs extra assistance, and it would be highly targeted in helping give a leg up to people who need that help. 

He also believes that we need to invest in order to help us outcompete China and invest in our own emerging economies to do that, and that we need to invest in the American people — that the American people are the backbone of our nation’s — of our country, and that is part of our proposal in this package.

Go ahead.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Just two questions.  One on the vaccine again.  Is there any thought being given to a federally organized vaccine passport of some kind?  Does the President see that maybe as some kind of tool that could be used, or would he lean more on the side of people who have raised objections over privacy and so on?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, let me be very clear on this — I know there’s been lots of questions: The government is not now, nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential.  There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential. 

As these tools are being considered by the private and nonprofit sectors, our interest is very simple from the federal government, which is Americans’ privacy and rights should be protected, and so the — so that these systems are not used against people unfairly.

There is a movement, as you know, in the private sector to identify ways that they can return to events where there are large swaths of people safely in soccer stadiums or theaters.  And that’s something that — that’s where the idea originated, and we expect that’s where it will be concluded. 

We will be providing some guidance, which will look like an FAQ — a frequently asked question; I hate acronyms — but that provides important answers to questions that Americans have, in particular around concerns about privacy, security, or discrimination, soon.  I don’t have an exact date for that yet.

Q    Okay.  And if I might, another question.  On Iran: It’s pretty clear what the carrot is for Iran; that’s obvious.  But given that the previous administration, you know, just battered them with pretty much everything it had, apart from war, what’s left in terms of the stick when you’re in — when entering these negotiations?  What — you know, what is left actually apart from war?

MS. PSAKI:  What it — what would Iran want out of it?  Is that what you’re asking?

Q    No, I’m saying, what’s the stick?  You’re coming with a carrot — right? — which is, you know, “We’ll bring you back in and so on, if you dismantle all this stuff.  And, you know, we’ll eventually give you sanctions relief.”  That’s pretty clear.  But they withstood the sanctions under the Trump administration.  And, you know — and they — the effect only increased the activity in the nuclear field.  So what — what is left?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, if you — if you go back — if you go back historically, just a few years before the Trump administration, to the Obama-Biden administration, sanctions were put in place which incentivizes, in many ways, getting them to the table to have the discussion about the Joint Plan of Action. 

So, look, I would say at this point: Today is the first day of discussions.  As you know, these discussions are happening in Geneva [Vienna], and they are happening through our European counterparts and partners.  We expect them to have difficult portions.  We expect this to be a long process.  And we, you know, continue to believe that a diplomatic path is the right path forward, and there are benefits to all sides. 

When the Trump administration pulled out of the Joint Plan of Action, what they left us with is a far-decreased visibility of Iran’s nuclear capability, of what — of inspections at their sites, of an understanding of how close they were to acquiring a nuclear weapon.  That’s not in anyone’s interest, certainly not the American people.

Go ahead. 

Q    Jen, Senator Schumer’s office said last night that the Senate parliamentarian had ruled in favor of additional reconciliation bills.  I wondered if the administration has any view upon that ruling.  And in light of this ruling, is this the likely path that the President will take with the Senate, in terms of getting this infrastructure bill across the finish line?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, the President continues to believe — less than a week after he announced the plan, I’ll say — that there is a bipartisan path forward.  And we are encouraged not just by 80 percent of the public that believes that we — it is long overdue to invest in infrastructure, that — not just roads, rails, and bridges, but there is a way we should — the federal — a role the federal government can play in rebuilding the infrastructure of our economy and helping support American workers for the 21st century. 

This is a mechanism — as you know, reconciliation is a mechanism for passing budgetary bills in Congress.  We will leave the mechanisms and the determination of the mechanisms to leaders in Congress. 

But, right now, less than a week after he announced the American Jobs Plan, our focus is on engaging with Democrats and Republicans, with staff, with committee staff, inviting members to the White House next week.  And we are encouraged by some of the statements that have been made about components of the package where we could find agreement.

Q    On infrastructure, some Republicans have quibbled with the way infrastructure should be defined in the bill.  Does the President feel he has to convince Republicans of what should be used in an infrastructure bill before he could actually persuade them to vote for it?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I’ll give you a little bit of a homework assignment.  There are some Republicans who have previously called for investment in workforce development as part of comprehensive infrastructure investment.  Some have called for that.  Some have previously called for investing in broadband and the expansion of broadband as a means of expanding infrastructure.  Some even have referenced to replacing pipes as a means of infrastructure. 

So I would suggest that many of their constituents would be surprised to hear that those are not infrastructure projects.  And I’m sure with a little Googling, you can all figure out who those all are.

Go ahead, in the back.

Q    Hi.  At his press conference, the President said our children and grandchildren will be writing doctoral theses about whether democracy or autocracy succeeded.  What’s his own measure for success there?  Is it American GDP versus Chinese GDP, ultimately?  Or is it the sphere of influence of both countries around the world?

MS. PSAKI:  That’s a big, broad question — a good one.

Look, I think the President is — when he talks about that, he’s not just talking about economic growth and development; that certainly is part of it.  He’s also talking about our values and what message we send to the world and to our children, and so it has quite a broad meaning.  And that’s, I think, reflective in — reflected, I should say, in how he has approached his presidency and identified the crises we’re facing. 

You know, I think he wants — he has grandchildren now, so maybe he wants the rest of us to be able to tell our grandchildren: What role did we play in addressing racial injustice?  What role did we play in addressing the climate crisis?  What role did we play in helping rebuild the workforce of the future?  And what role did we play in standing up for our values around the world?

So, it has quite a broad meaning.  But, you know, I think that’s a reflection of his approach to his presidency.

Q    Is he using the competition with China point as a, sort of, key starting point with Republicans on infrastructure, and perhaps in a way that appeal in other areas is not going to work, the idea that there’s a danger of falling behind China?  Does he hope, pragmatically, that will strike a chord?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, there is agreement across Democrats, Republicans — frankly, the American people — that we need to do more to invest here at home in order to compete with China.

And he has conveyed too that his — and I have, I guess, as well — that our approach to our relationship with China is to come to that relationship from a position of strength, and that includes investing at home, ensuring that our workforce, our infrastructure, our broadband access is at a rate where it would — it would strengthen our own infrastructure and workforce here so that we can compete globally.

There’s also been proposed legislation — I’m not sure if it’s been formally dropped yet, but to — by Senator Schumer and others that is focused on how we can better invest in our workforce to compete with China.  We anticipate there’s an opportunity for that to be bipartisan, because investing in workforce — in our workforce here is something that Democrats and Republicans can agree on.

Q    Just one quick, on another thing.  Is the President disappointed by the pace of vaccine distribution in the District of Columbia, and does it potentially strengthen the argument for statehood?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, he’s spoken about statehood in the past. But I would say that, you know, we track every community; we track every state and locality, and how distribution is going, and how to improve it and make it more effective.  And we work very closely with leaders.  One size doesn’t fit all.  And some — in some cases, that means we increase distribution to pharmacies; we increase distribution to mobile vaccine sites. And so that’s certainly something that’s ongoing with leaders around the country including, of course, with leaders in the District of Columbia.

Go ahead, in the back.  Oh, go ahead, Nadia.

Q    Oh, thank you, Jen.  I want to follow up on the Vienna talks.  So is the White House satisfied or content by this first round of talks between what they call the P4+1 and Iran?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we’re only on the first day, so I will — I will allow the team that is negotiating on the ground to give more of an assessment of how they feel the talks have gone.

Q    Can you explain, if these talks are in direct between the Europeans, the Russians, and the Chinese, and Iran, why do you have a high-ranking U.S. official in Vienna since you don’t want to talk directly with the Iranians?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think it’s important to convey to the — our partners — our P5+1 partners, too — that we believe diplomacy is the best step forward, is the most appropriate step forward.  And Rob Malley — who is somebody who is experienced, who has been a part of negotiations in the past — is certainly an appropriate level individual from the government to be there.

Q    So is the White House position, until now, that no lifting of any sanctions until Iran is compliant?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think — we expect that, as I conveyed yesterday, that a big part of the conversation will be how Iran can come back into compliance and what would be required of the United States.  But we’ve been clear that we are not taking — not anticipating any steps at this moment.  We’ll allow the negotiations to continue.

Q    And allow me, on Iraq: Tomorrow, you’re going to hold the strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq.  As you know, the President has been talking about reviewing troops numbers all over the world, including Iraq.  Is this a topic that, obviously, is high and center on these talks?  What do you expect from these talks?  How are they different from the previous one under the previous administration?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, one, these meetings will further clarify that coalition forces are in Iraq to — at the invitation of the Iraqi government and solely for the purpose of training and advising Iraqi forces to ensure that ISIS cannot reconstitute.

And I think that’s a difference from how it was described previously. 

This will also be an important opportunity to discuss our mutual interests across a range of fields, from security to culture to trade and climate.  And obviously, these are proceeding soon, and I’m certain we’ll have a readout once they — once the discussions conclude.

Q    Thank you. 

MS. PSAKI:  Thank you.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Bloomberg reported earlier today that President Putin plans to take part in the virtual climate summit later this month.  Has the Kremlin reached out to confirm his attendance?

MS. PSAKI:  I’m sorry, say the last part one more time?

Q    Has the Kremlin reached out to confirm his attendance?

MS. PSAKI:  We’ve invited about 40 heads of state to attend the climate summit, and I expect as we get closer we’ll have confirmation about who will be participating in the summit.

Q    Okay.  And one more.  Senator McConnell’s comments yesterday to encourage Republican men to get — to go get a vaccine, was the White House in touch with Senator McConnell as part of the effort to address vaccine hesitancy, or was the President in touch with him before he made those comments?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any private conversations to pre- — or to communicate about, but certainly we see it as a positive for any member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, to be out there advocating for their supporters — people who follow them, who listen to them — about the safety and the efficacy of the vaccine.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Following up on, sort of, what Ken was asking about on reconciliation —

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    — for there to be a, sort of, second bite at the reconciliation apple, so to speak, it would have to be by the end of this fiscal year.  And considering what you just said about President Biden — that the only red line is inaction — does President Biden see there being any deadline for Congress to move on the draft plan?  Would he like to see it by the end of the fiscal year or by the end of the calendar year?

MS. PSAKI:  He’d like to see progress by May and certainly a package through by the summer.

Q    And then, on Afghanistan, we’re getting very, very close to the May 1st deadline to pull out the remaining 3,500 troops.  It doesn’t, frankly, look like the White House is going — or the administration is going to meet that deadline.  Why, at this point, should the American people have confidence in your ability to finally end this war if you’re not going to meet, sort of, this initial deadline?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, it wasn’t a deadline we set.  But the President — this President has conveyed that it would be difficult operationally to meet the timeline of getting all troops out by May 1st. 

He has also consistently, over the course of the last decade, spoken out about his concerns about the war, and that has consistently been his view — even back when he was Vice President and it wasn’t aligned with everybody else in the administration.  So that should hopefully give people confidence about his commitments.  But it’s also an important decision — one he needs to make in close consultation with our allies and also with our national security team here in this administration.  And we want to give him the time to do that.

Go ahead, in the back.

Q    Good afternoon.  What does the President, who we know is Catholic, say to Catholic doctors, Catholic institutions who are fearful that if the Equality Act passes, it has the potential to trample on their conscience rights?  What does the President say to those people who are concerned about that?

MS. PSAKI:  He has a difference of opinion, and he respects their difference of opinion, but he has been a supporter of the Equality Act, and he also is a practicing Catholic and attends church nearly every week.

Go ahead, Kelly.

Q    So, what — if I can —

MS. PSAKI:  Oh, go ahead.

Q    Separate question here.  Chicago saw 131 homicides through March of this year; last year at this time, 98.  The White House’s reaction to that number?  And then, is there anything the federal government is planning or willing to do to step into the city of Chicago and tamp down the deadly violence? Just recently, a 13-year-old boy was shot and killed there.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I appreciate you raising the fact that there’s a prevalence of violence, sometimes at the hands of guns — something the President has fought for throughout his career, which is ensuring that we put in place more gun safety measures. We work with communities to invest in community violence prevention.  He’s actually proposed funding to do exactly that — something that many groups support because they believe, in order to reduce violence, in order to address the prevalence of violence in communities like some in Chicago, that we need to spend the money from the federal government to do exactly that.

Q    Can the federal government put any resources, right now, immediately, rather than waiting for laws and waiting for community events, or what have you, to take place?  People are dying on the streets by the day.

MS. PSAKI:  Again, I appreciate you raising it because some — one thing we don’t talk about enough is the fact that beyond mass shootings, there are additional people who die in cities — sometimes young kids — nearly every single day, as a result of violence.  He has proposed funding.  We would support acting on that, and that’s what we’ll continue to advocate.

I think we’ve got to move on.  Go ahead, Kelly.

Q    Is the administration looking at how you’re going to talk about the number of jobs created from the infrastructure package?  Because citing the Moody’s numbers from Secretary Buttigieg and Brian Deese talking about 19 million —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    — when that was really talking about a much longer timeframe.

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    So since you aren’t giving us administration-centered numbers, how — can you add some clarity to where the numbers for jobs should be if the Secretary and Mr. Deese overshot in their comments?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think, as the Secretary said in an interview yesterday, it is important to be clear and to be specific about jobs numbers to provide clarity to the American people.  And it will be hard to have state-by-state — we’ll have state-by-state factsheets out soon, I think, but it will be hard to have state-by-state job creation numbers because we won’t know the specifics because of all of the bidding processes that will take place as it relates to infrastructure.

But Moody’s ran an analysis that showed that the economy would create 19 million jobs over the next decade if Congress passes the American Jobs Plan — almost 3 million more than if it doesn’t.  So that is the — that is what the impact would be of the American Jobs Plan: 2.7 million, to be totally clear.

These are millions of jobs that won’t be created if Congress doesn’t act to pass this plan.  We see that as a positive, but we also will be very clear and articulate exactly what numbers of jobs it will create.

Q    Thanks, Jen.

MS. PSAKI:  Thank you, everyone.

12:59 P.M. EDT

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