Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jen Psaki
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Cleveland, OH
12:39 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Sorry. Thanks for your patience — a little business happening on the early part of the flight.
Okay, welcome to our trip to Cleveland. Today, the President will deliver a speech on the economy where he will make a clear case that his economic plan is working. And he’ll discuss the economic inflection point we stand at and the opportunity before us.
His remarks will be, as you all know, at Cuyahogie [sic] Community — Cuyahoga Community College — or “Tri-C,” as it is called locally — the site of the last rally he was scheduled to hold as a candidate in March of 2020 before the pandemic shut down our country. There, he’ll note the remarkable progress we’ve made in defeating COVID-19.
During his speech, he will make the case that his economic — I already conveyed that.
Today’s positive GDP report is the latest proof that his policies are healing the economy and getting Americans back to work. We’re creating an average of 500,000 jobs a month, eight times more than before President Biden took office. And unemploy- — and unemployment insurance claims — out this morning — hit their lowest level since March of 2020.
The four-week moving average of unemployment insurance claims has dropped by nearly 50 percent since the President took office. And these weekly numbers can be volatile — as we know, and we all discuss — but we’re encouraged by the fact that the four-week average continues to trend down.
In his remarks, he will also make a forceful case that higher wages are good for American workers and good for our economy. He’ll argue that we need to make our tax code wo- — work fa- — work — ensure our tax code favors work not wealth so big corporations are incentivized to invest in America, not on stock buybacks or CEO pay.
And he’ll talk about the need to make generational investments in our economy — through the Jobs Plan and the Families Plan — and advanced manufacturing; two years of community college; roads, bridges, broadband, and a host of other areas that will create good-paying jobs and help us outcompete the world.
With that, kick us off.
Q Thank you, Jen. The President spoke briefly on the tarmac about the Republican counteroffer on infrastructure. I was hoping you could give a little bit more on that. And to confirm that he’s going to be with Senator Capito next week, if you could confirm that. And then, also, will he be meeting with the other group — this bipartisan group — that includes Senator Romney?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Did a — did the statement that was out in my name come out before you took off?
Q Yes. Yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. I just wanted to absolutely make sure of that.
So, as the President conveyed, and as it was conveyed in my statement earlier today, we are certainly encouraged to see Senator Capito’s group come forward with the kind of funding level — nearly $1 trillion — that they discussed with the President.
This is a negotiation, so the discussions will be ongoing. And, as he noted on the tarmac, and as you’ve seen in many — some of your reporting, there are a number of Republicans who’ve come forward with ideas who we are open to discussing and continuing to engage with.
In terms of the schedule for next week, it’s not quite set yet. We’re working around, of course, the President is going to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and other components of his week. But he will be closely engaged with Senator Capito’s group and with other groups as they have ideas come forward.
Q And obviously, Memorial Day is Monday, so that deadline is going to come and go. How much longer is the White House willing to go for these talks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I’ll say that the Memorial Day timeline was always an opportunity for us to make an assessment of what the path forward looked like. And now, we’re look — we’re heading into Memorial Day weekend. We have a counteroffer on the table where the number came up significantly from the prior offer, where there was an increase in proposed funding in roads, rails, and bridges.
There are some areas that we would like to see more funding in that we think are essential to the American workforce. So this is a disc- — discussion and negotiation.
As we look ahead, we think — we look at next week, we know it’s Memorial Day week; it’s going to be a work week for us. It’s going to be a week where we continue to be engaged with a range of members of Congress. And we look forward to making progress before Congress resumes on June 7th.
Q Last one. COVID relief — the COVID relief funds, is that a nonstarter using those? Is that a nonstarter?
MS. PSAKI: The — well, here’s the — here is the reason why that would be difficult to be a key funding mechanism: 95 percent of it is already allocated. Five percent of it would go towards some key areas, including boosting up small businesses, restaurants; rebuilding veterans’ hospitals — something that is of personal importance to the President. We think there are better ways to pay for it, and we think people should have a full understanding of what that is proposing.
Q You are saying 95 percent of the Rescue Plan is allocated already?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Right. Okay.
MS. PSAKI: The COVID funds, which, I think, is the same synonym.
Q Right. Right. And can I —
Q Is there a red line about the care economy? You’ve made a big deal about including funding for human infrastructure; the Republicans don’t include that at all in their proposal. So is that a red line for the President? Does that have to be in there, or is there some other way to get that funding through?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not — I’m not here to set new red lines. What I will — his only red line is inaction, but he — that has been included in our counterproposal back, even as we came down $550 billion last week. That shows how much of a priority it is to the President.
This is an ongoing negotiation. We’ll continue to have discussions about how to move it forward. There are a range of mechanisms to move ideas forward in Congress, and we’re open to that as well.
Q Do you have a particular day where you want to make a call about, you know, giving up on the hope of a bipartisan deal or, you know, wanting to get to one by a particular day? Is there a go/no-go date on the calendar?
MS. PSAKI: Why would we do that now? We have a counterproposal and a range of others who want to have a discussion.
Q I’m not saying now. But, like, is it two weeks from now? Is it six weeks from now?
MS. PSAKI: I think we — our focus is on continuing to work on having these discussions and negotiations through the course of next week. Again, it will be active; it will be engaged. We will be working hard. We’ll be in touch with Republicans and Democrats through the course of the recess week. And we’ll look forward to, when they resume, seeing what our path forward looks like.
Q But at least Senator Toomey had asked also for an accounting of how the funds — the American Rescue Plan funds — have been spent already. Is that something you can or will provide to Capitol Hill?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President has been clear to his team that we should be engaged and be responsive to any follow-up questions members and their teams have. And I’m certain that will be applicable here.
Q To the timing — can we go back to the timing, just to clarify one thing? So, next week is the recess week; the meetings will go on. You mentioned, I think, in your statement June 7th week, which is the following week, as, sort of, a week that the Congress is back to do some work.
So, is that — should we look for some kind of ending point at that point — that week, at the end of that week? Is there a point that you all are talking about?
MS. PSAKI: It’s ended when the President signs the legislation into law.
Q Well, today, he said to us on the tarmac “very soon” — I think was his phrase. So I was trying to figure out what that meant — that he was wanting to get something done very soon.
MS. PSAKI: He said “the summer.” That’s very soon.
Q Can I ask a foreign policy question? So Secretary Blinken just wrapped up a trip to Egypt where he met with President Sisi — talking about Israel and Palestinian conflict, but also the Nile Dam. Was the Nile Dam a negotiation tactic or a bargaining chip to secure Egypt’s support for the Gaza truce?
MS. PSAKI: It sounds like a question for the State Department given it was the Secretary’s trip. I would point you to the State Department.
Q Jen, is the expectation that the White House will offer another counterproposal as these talks continue next week?
MS. PSAKI: I think we have to see how the discussions go. As was conveyed in my statement, there were areas where they came up; that’s encouraging. There are areas where we’d still like to see increased funding because we think it’s important to small businesses, to workers, to our clean energy economy. So that gives you a sense of what we’re looking to see more of.
Q And can I ask something on gun safety quickly after the San Jose shooting? The administration had mentioned, last month, there were still some executive actions the President was considering on this. Where does that stand? And has anything changed as a result of the mass shooting yesterday in California?
MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly, every time there’s a mass shooting — and certainly the one we saw last night — it’s heartbreaking and devastating. And this is an issue that impacts the President personally, and he certainly noted that to all of us yesterday.
We are continuing to review what additional actions we can take, even while we’re pressing Congress to move forward with universal background check legislation. There’s a legal and policy review process for that, so it’s not that it can be expedited; it’s ongoing.
But it’s a reminder to everyone — people who work in government, people in the public — about the need for additional gun safety measures.
Q On G7, Jen, can you have — give us an idea of how the strategy from the Biden administration to shore up other G7 leaders, in terms of creating a global strategy against a pandemic and vaccine sharing — how is that shaping up now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say: As you all know, we have announced that we will be donating 80 million doses to the global community. What is happening now behind the scenes is that — is there is an internal policy process to determine how we can do that in an equitable and transparent way.
I know you are all eager to know where they are going and what our process will be. We certainly understand that. We hope to have more soon. That will certainly be a point of discussion, we expect.
And certainly, any questions that come up from our partner countries in the G7 or conversations in NATO about how we can work together to get the pandemic under control, we expect it to be a large topic of conversation at the meetings.
Q Is the expectation that the G7 countries will come up with some sort of agreement that, “This is how we’re going to help the world in terms of overcoming the pandemic and vaccine sharing”?
MS. PSAKI: We’re a couple of weeks away from the G7 meeting even starting, so I’m not going to get ahead of any discussions.
Q Will the President be meeting with the Queen while he’s in the United Kingdom?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to announce at this point in time. Who among us wouldn’t want to meet with the Queen? But we’ll let them announce any invitation.
Q Can I ask you, on the G7 summit — one of the issues is also sort of the shortage of semiconductors.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Is that — do you see, like, some movement going forward — both at the G7 level, but then, you know, in a sort of broader, multilateral group, perhaps?
And then, also, you are completing the supply-chain review; I think that’s supposed to be complete next week. Can you say a word or two about that and what your plans are for releasing that? And there’s four industrial sectors that are being looked at there.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. So, certainly, the semiconductor shortage is something that we do raise with partners and allies around the world. In terms of how it will fall on the agenda, I don’t have anything to preview on that front.
But as the President has conveyed, as Jake Sullivan has conveyed, as Brian Deese has conveyed, this is a priority. It’s going to help our manufacturing workforce, jobs in the United States, and something that we’re looking to partners to help address, as, you know, we’ve seen over the past several weeks.
I don’t think I have anything to preview for you in terms of the supply chain review, in terms of what we would put out publicly on that.
Q But you are — you are expecting to complete that next week and you will release it?
MS. PSAKI: I think that’s the intention, but I don’t know what format or anything at this point.
Q Jen, can I ask you a question about the — there is some reporting that the administration plans to lift the restriction on the border with Canada on June 22nd. Can you confirm that?
And a follow-up to that is: Will the United States look at re- — lifting those together — so both southern and northern, at the same time? Or is that something that can be done separately?
MS. PSAKI: You mean Title 42 on the border? One, that — that would be —
Q There’s Canadian reporting that says it’s being lifted.
MS. PSAKI: Well, it was —
Q The northern border.
MS. PSAKI: It was just extended for about a month, I think, so that’s around that timeline. I don’t think a decision has been made, that I’m aware of, about what would happen after that point.
MS. PSAKI: And in terms of the southern border and Title 42, that’s really ro- — we rely on the CDC and their guidelines about what we need to do to continue to address the global pandemic.
Q But would one happen over the other? Or would they be simultaneous — northern and southern?
MS. PSAKI: I — I don’t — I think they assess them differently —
MS. PSAKI: — but I — I certainly would point you to the CDC and DHS about how make those —
Q Let me ask you this question a different way, Jen. I mean the Nile Dam was an issue that President Trump put in —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you on this.
Q Is the President holding out hope for a bipartisan commission on January 6th, given what we’re seeing today on Capitol Hill? And are there any Republicans he’s reached out to personally to try to encourage them to vote for it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I just talked to the President about a range of things. And certainly, he believes they should continue to move this forward, and he wants to see the commission — the bipartisan commission — passed. And he wants to make sure that’s law because that was a dark day in our history. And he thinks we should not only take a moment to recognize that, but also prevent it from happening ever in the future.
Certainly, he’ll continue to convey that publicly. You know, I also think he recognizes that, you know, some of the people who oppose it aren’t necessarily looking for his point of view, which is very public and well known.
Q Jen, can you elaborate what changed — what changed in terms of the President asking the intelligence agencies to find out the — just investigate the origins of the coronavirus?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me just take you through, quickly, the timeline here. So, back in March, the President asked his intelligence community to do an assessment — an internal assessment, which you all know happens all the time and he is presented often — often in PDBs what those assessments look like. That’s what they did. It was presented to him a couple of weeks ago.
In that PD- — or, following that PDB, he made clear — he asked them to see if we could declassify that information, make it available to the public. They came back just this week with what they would propose to be a public statement.
Happening in the backdrop of that, as you all well know, was the World Health Assembly, where the Chinese made clear they were not going to engage constructively in the second stage of this — this investigation. And he felt that it was important, given a lot of confusion out there, to make public not only what the IC had done, but also to expand the investigation for 90 days, add more components of the federal government, including our national labs and our health and medical expertise. So that’s exactly what we did.
So I would say it was just an — a process of declassifying and then a decision made to extend the — extend the investigation.
Q Is there anything you can say on the budget? Is there anything you can say on the budget — in particular, the topline reported — there was a $6 trillion topline, I believe. Is that an accurate report?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me —
AIDE: We’re about to land.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, let me first say that, one, we’re going to roll it out tomorrow, so stay tuned.
But, two, it’s important to remember the President inherited $3 trillion of spending that had already been done to help get the pandemic under control.
What the p- — budget will reflect is that he is going to continue to deliver on his priorities of getting — doing more work to get the pandemic under control, putting people back to work. And those proposals — the American Jobs plan, the American Rescue Plan, the American Families Plan — will put us on better financial footing over time.
So as you look at all the budget details tomorrow, I think you’ll have a better assessment.
Q Jen, will China face consequences if they don’t cooperate with the COVID origins report?
MS. PSAKI: We have 89 days left before we — this review is completed, and I don’t think we’re going to make any assessments before that time.
Q What’s the President’s plan for Memorial Day weekend?
MS. PSAKI: We’ll have — we’ll have more for you on that soon.
12:53 P.M. EDT