Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, June 21, 2021
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:06 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi everyone. Good morning — or good afternoon. Okay. A couple of items for all of you at the top.
Today, the Biden-Harris administration has launched Child Tax Credit Awareness Day to educate the public and encourage non-filers to sign up for the largest Child Tax Credit in history.
The American Rescue Plan increased the Child Tax Credit to $3,000 for families whose children are between 6 and 17 years old, and $3,600 for families with children under 6 years old, and allows half of that tax credit be paid to families in advance through a monthly check or direct deposit.
So, starting July 15th, almost all families who have filed taxes in the last two years will receive this monthly payment automatically. This means most families with two young children would receive a monthly payment of $600 starting in July.
But we want to make sure that everybody who is eligible signs up, hence we have launched a website: ChildTaxCredit.gov — very easy to remember. And if anybody is not sure — maybe they haven’t filed taxes because they — they don’t — they’re not required to — they can go there and learn if they’re eligible for this incredible benefit.
Second, today, the United States — in coordination with our allies and partners in Canada, the European Union, and the United Kingdom — has taken a number of actions to impose costs on the Lukashenko regime in Belarus for a variety of egregious acts.
Last month, we said we would develop a list of targeted actions against key members of the Lukashenko regime associated with ongoing abuses of human rights and corruption, the falsification of the 2020 Election, and the forced diversion of the Ryanair flight.
Today, we are following through and holding the regime accountable. So, earlier today, the Department of State and the Department of Treasury designated 62 Belarusian individuals and 5 entities in response to continuing repression in Belarus.
Importantly, we did this alongside our partners and allies. And with these coordinated actions on both sides of the Atlantic, we are demonstrating our deep and shared concern regarding the Lukashenko regime’s activities.
Finally, today, the Biden-Harris administration announced the distribution list for the remaining 55 million of the 80 million doses of America’s own vaccine supply President Biden has pledged to send out globally and allocate by the end of June in service of ending the pandemic.
Already, we have sent millions of doses to the world, including 2.5 million doses that arrived in Taiwan this weekend.
And, in addition, sharing doses fr- — in addition to sharing doses from our vaccines — own vaccines supply, the Biden-Harris administration is committed to working with U.S. manufacturers to produce more vaccine doses to share with the world.
And we’ve purchased, as we announced last week, half — or the week before that — half a billion Pfizer doses to donate to 92 low- and middle-income countries and members of the African Union. In total, the G7 agreed to provide an additional more than 1 billion doses starting in the summer of 2020 .
With that, Alex, why don’t you kick us off?
Q Thanks. I have a few. The first is on that vaccine allocation. The President promised to distribute those 80 million by the end of the month, but he’s obviously falling short of that goal. So, is there any indication that the red tape in this distribution is costing lives at this point? Why is it taking so long?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me say we’ve — we’re committed to allo- — we’re committed allocating those doses; we’ve done exactly that. What we found to be the biggest challenge is not actually the supply — we have plenty of doses to share with the world — but this is a herculean logistical challenge. And we’ve seen that as we’ve begun to implement.
So, you know, as we work with countries, we need to ensure that there’s — safety and regulatory information is shared. Some supply teams need needles, syringes, and alcohol pads. Transportation needs — teams need to ensure that there are proper temperature storage, prevent breakage, and ensure the vaccine immediately clears Customs.
So, this has not, as you all know, been done before. Sometimes it’s even language barriers that occur as we’re working to get these doses out to countries.
So we have announced today where these doses are going. We will continue to announce as they land on the ground and as they are being shipped. And we’re looking forward to doing that as quickly as possible.
Q Sure. And on infrastructure, the latest compromise: You said, earlier today, the President needs to see more details. What details does he need to see? Was he not able to take a look at the package this weekend?
And one of the issues you’ve obviously raised are payfors. So, gas tax aside — that being a nonstarter — what payfors would the White House be open to? Specifically, some have raised potentially using leftover CARES funds or funds from the December COVID package. Would those be feasible? And do you want to see the package ultimately fully paid for?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me say that, you know, the President’s pledge was not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 a year. And the proposed gas tax or vehicle mileage tax would do exactly that. So that is a nonstarter for him. I’d also note, for the mathematicians in the room: That only raises $40 billion, which is a fraction of what this proposal would cost.
The President has proposed a range of ways to pay for this package, including ways that would not violate the red lines that Republicans have put forward. One of them is ensuring the highest — wealthiest individuals in this country pay what they’re supposed to pay as it relates to taxes — additional tax enforcement — which would raise a great deal more by multiples of what the gas tax would raise. And it would — it would fall on for — predominantly wealthy Americans and just ensure they’re paying the taxes they owe. So, that is an area where we feel there should be an opportunity to move forward.
And as it relates to details, of course, there needs to be ongoing discussion; there will be over the coming days, rapidly. I expect he’ll have conversations this afternoon. Tomorrow, we’ll read those out as those happen, provide information to all of you. And we’re eager to get those continued.
Q Is the White House open to using those leftover funds to fund the ultimate bill?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one, there’s minimal, very small amounts that would be leftover. And many of those small amounts have already been allocated or they are to help small businesses, help keep cops and firefighters on the beat. And so we feel the best proposal that does not violate the red lines that the Republicans have put forward would be tax enforcement and some other proposals the President has already put on the table.
Q Lastly, on voting rights: Obviously, there’s going to be a show vote on S.1. tomorrow that’s going to fail. So, I wanted to come back to President Biden pledging to do whatever he could. He said he’d use every sort of tool at his disposal to get the bill passed.
What has he done to get that bill passed, considering this vote is going to fail? And since he has pledged that, is it time for him to start calling, again, for filibuster reform more loudly? That’s a tool at his disposal he has not yet really pushed for.
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me just give you a sense of how we see this and how the President sees it: It’s a step forward. We don’t expect there to be a magical 10 votes. I’m not suggesting that. But just two weeks ago, there were questions about whether Democrats would be aligned. We certainly hope that will be the case tomorrow.
It’s important to remember that this has been a 60-year battle to make voting more accessible, more available to Americans across the country. And our effort, the President’s effort to continue that fight doesn’t stop tomorrow at all. This will be a fight of his presidency.
In terms of the steps he’s taken, he’s had conversations, obviously, with members about supporting this legislation, including Senator Manchin, as you all know, over the last couple of weeks. And he will continue to advocate.
He’s also asked his Vice President — or, agreed with his Vice President that she will be in charge of this effort moving forward. It doesn’t stop. This is an important piece of it — the federal legislation. More work to be done. But it doesn’t stop with that. There’s work to do in the states. There’s work to do with voting groups. There’s work to do to empower and engage legislatures. And that’s something that will also be part of her effort.
As it relates to the filibuster: You know, I don’t think you have to take it from us. That would be Congress moving forward or making a decision. If the vote is unsuccessful tomorrow, it will — I — we suspect it will prompt a new conversation about the path forward, and we’ll see where that goes.
Q Following up on infrastructure: You know, Senator Portman said over the weekend that he thought that dropping the gas tax and this fee on electric vehicles could be something that they could do, so long as the President puts forward ideas that do not include raising any taxes. Is that a potential compromise that seems feasible?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, last I checked, the proposal the President put forward in his initial proposal — that has been a part of this discussion to increase investment in tax enforcement, ensure that people who are the wealthiest are paying what they should be paying in taxes, which would raise a significantly larger amount than the gas tax — does exactly that and should meet his bar.
Q And, to Alex’s point, do you want this bill to be fully paid for?
MS. PSAKI: The President has proposed means of fully paying for this package, including the tax enforcement components. He thinks that’s a responsible thing to do. And we’ll continue to have discussions with members about how we can find a path forward.
Q You mentioned continuing discussion: Should we expect another in-person meeting perhaps here at the White House this week?
MS. PSAKI: I suspect — you can expect that, yes.
Q Jen, just going into this week, how does the President view his role in these negotiations? Is he the closer? Is the the facilitator? Like what’s his approach this week to try and get this across the finish line?
MS. PSAKI: I feel like there’s a baseball analogy here I really want to deliver on so my husband thinks I’m cool, but I can’t think of it.
Look, I think the President, having served 36 years in the Senate, he’s always going to be deeply involved. He’s always going to roll up his sleeves and want to know every detail of what’s being discussed, every detail of the proposal and package. As I — as I noted, in response to Mary’s question, I suspect he’ll have some members here over the past — over the next couple of days to have those discussions in person.
So I don’t know how you — I will leave it to all of you to — to characterize or give a label for that. But he’s ready to roll up his sleeves, ready — the O- — the door to the Oval Office is always open. And he’ll be deeply involved and engaged in these negotiations over the coming days.
Q And some progressives have made the ask that if you’re going to move forward with this bipartisan package, moderate senators commit to them to supporting the reconciliation piece of this as well — the second track, if you will. Will the President also seek that commitment from the moderates if they do move forward on a bipartisan piece of legislation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say that the President sees this as a process that is — has multiple paths forward. And the reconciliation process — which is already underway, being led through the budget committees in Congress — is an important component of that.
And a number of his priorities and his proposals that he’s put forward are not a part of this negotiation or are not a part of this discussion that’s happening in a bipartisan manner. So he certainly would like to see that move forward, and he will make that case to others as well.
Q And then just one last quick one: Does he support the Manchin language on the voting rights issue?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you know, again, I think this is a compromise. And as that happens, as compromises happen, it means there’s a lot that you like about it — and it may not be everything you love, but he certainly sees this as a step forward.
And — and as Stacey Abrams said over the weekend, incremental steps forward in making voting rights more accessible, making voting more available is a good thing.
And he certainly is appreciative of the efforts by Senator Manchin and others to continue to make progress on voting rights, which he feels is a huge priority.
Q Some quick follow-ups on things that have already been discussed.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q First, on infrastructure, the meeting that would be taking place at the White House this week: Do we have a day or people who would be attending on that yet?
MS. PSAKI: It’s an excellent question. We will provide more details to you as soon as we have them. But I suspect it could be more than one engagement.
Q Okay. And then on voting rights: There’s been a lot of concerns expressed about whether it’s the Manchin proposal, the two bills that have been already floating in Congress — that they actually don’t address the key issues that are being faced right now, which is local election officials being removed, being taken — their power being taken away from them. Is the White House going to say anything about what more needs to be done to deal with those specific issues that are happening right now?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, I think that’s an important point to raise. You know, even if the voting rights bill was sailing across the finish line with the support of every member of Congress, there would still be more to be done. And that’s why the Vice President is going to be leading this effort. You’re right that some of that is protections for officials and states. Some of that is, frankly, pushing back on the more t- — more than 40 states where there’s legislation moving forward that makes it more difficult for people to exercise a fundamental ro- — right, which is the right to vote.
So, again, this is not the end of our effort; this is, in some ways, the beginning. And there is going to be more work done by the President, by the Vice President, by the administration to expand access to voting rights.
Q And then one more thing, just on the financial regulation meeting —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — that’s happening in the Oval Office today. There were a number of issues that I didn’t see on, kind of, your readout of what was going to be discussed at that meeting. You know, it could be anything from the Federal Reserve’s signaling interest rate hikes to the role that meme stocks are playing in financial stability. Just anything — I mean, are those — are those issues going to be raised? And what more is going to be focused on at that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll provide a readout of the meeting when their meeting concludes. I would note that it is a routine meeting. And most Presidents meet with their financial regulators. There is, of course, a couple of items on the proactive agenda. And when it’s concluded, we’ll provide a readout, including the state of the country’s financial institutions, work that they’re all doing to promote financial stability, implementation updates around climate-related financial risk, agency actions on financial inclusion and access to credit.
That’s the proactive agenda. As you know, in these meetings, different topics come up. But this is, again, in our view, a standard and routine meeting where they’ll discuss — the focus will really be on those topics.
Q Are you expecting any decisions to come out of it?
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s more of an update than it is a decision.
Q Thanks, Jen. Back on infrastructure, aside from the gas tax, now that the President has had a chance to take a look at the bipartisan plan, what does he think of it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d first say that the President is encouraged that Democrats and Republicans are continuing to discuss a path forward on rebuilding our roads, our railways, and our bridges. That’s a positive sign. And this offer is nearly double what the Republican offer was just a few weeks ago. That’s another positive sign in the right direction.
He’s somebody who cares about the details, wants to have a discussion. And now that he’s back in the United States and — I expect he’ll do that over the coming days. Also stay closely in touch with Democratic leadership about the path forward.
But certainly, he’s encouraged by the fact that the number has increased, the investments have increased. Has some questions about the payfors, which I’ve noted. And has a red line about the gas tax and raising taxes on individuals making less than $400,000 a year.
Q Is a $1 trillion plan big enough for him?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we see this as a — as a one step. There is a reconciliation process. That’s ongoing. And that addresses and includes a number of the President’s key priorities, including making pre-K universal for kids across the country, which would increase the likelihood of graduating by more than 50 percent; making community college more accessible.
There’s a lot of investments and proposals the President has put forward because he thinks they’re important for our economy, for the American workforce, for our competitiveness. And a lot of those will be included in a budget process that’s already moving forward.
Q So even if this plan doesn’t end up being as big as he would like it to be, he believes there are other ways to — to get those policies enacted?
MS. PSAKI: There are a lot of vehicles to move his bold ideas forward.
Q On Medicare, does the President support Bernie Sanders’s proposal to include dental and vision in Medicare?
MS. PSAKI: It’s a great question. I actually haven’t talked to him about this, so I don’t want to speak out of turn. Let me do that, and we can get you all an answer on that.
Q And then, finally, can you describe what safeguards the administration has in place to make sure that the children of top officials don’t get preferential treatment in hiring?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, let me say, first, that we have the highest ethical standards of any administration in history. A number of ethics officials have conveyed that, and we’re proud of that. We have also staffed up at an unprecedented pace, and that — and this is the most diverse administration in American history.
So, we certainly expect that everyone will abide by those high ethics standards. That applies in how we operate; it also applies in how hiring is done.
Q Afghanistan, please.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q With the President back from his trip, with the kind of progress you’ve talked about that he sees on infrastructure, is he seeing this as an inflection point, in terms of urgency? Is his mindset at all different after being rather patient in his approach with outreach? How would you describe where his head is right now, concerning how quickly something can get done? Because there are a lot of people who are feeling like it’s taking too long, and that perhaps he has to have a more active central public role.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d first say that, having lived through a lot of legislative battles himself, he knows that sometimes they take some time; the sausage-making takes some time. But to your point, he does not feel the time is unlimited. And he would like — it is not weeks, in his view, in terms of moving forward and seeing if there’s a bipartisan path forward.
So that is why he’s eager to have these meetings and discussions over the coming days in the White House and see what it looks like, see if we can address some of the questions he has about this proposal. And certainly, he’d like to move forward sooner rather than later.
Q And on Iran, the newly elected President has indicated that he does not wish to meet with President Biden or to engage on the components of the JCPOA. What is the President’s view on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t currently have diplomatic relations with Iran or any plans to meet with the lead- — at the leader level, so it’s unclear that anything has actually changed on that front.
I will say that the President’s view and our view is that the decisionmaker here is the Supreme Leader. That was the case before the election; is the case today; will be the case, probably, moving forward.
The Iran nuclear negotiating teams just finished their six rounds of talks. They have not yet announced the seventh round. But as is typical, they’re back consulting with capitals. And we’re looking forward to seeing where that goes moving forward.
Go ahead, Peter.
Q Thank you, Jen. On COVID-19 origins, Jake Sullivan said this week that if China does not let investigators probing the COVID origins in, they’re going to face isolation in the international community. So what is an example of something that the White House thinks China would care about being isolated from?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say that, as you know from covering the trip, last week there was a great deal of calibration around — in the global community, among the world’s largest democracies, the world’s most important security partners, about how we were going to work together to address the rising economic power of China and concerns where we have concerns, which — the lack of transparency is certainly one of them.
So I think what the President and what Jake Sullivan were referring to is: The global community has taken notice, we’re going to work together to exercise the necessary pressure on China to be a participant and to provide transparent data and access in this case, and China wants to have a role in the global community and global conversations. And certainly, they would take note of that.
Q And so, the White House’s position would be that isolation from the international community is more of a deterrent than, say, sanctions and threatening sanctions or some other form of punishment?
MS. PSAKI: I think the point that Jake was making is that China wants to be seen as a power in the world, as a central actor in the world. And they — they are not looking to have the global community align against them.
Q And then, on infrastructure, Bernie Sanders is pitching a reconciliation package that’s up to $6 billion. That includes some of the President’s other priorities —
MS. PSAKI: Trillion.
Q I’m sorry — $6 trillion. It’s a lot more money that way. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I’m just —
Q If —
MS. PSAKI: I’m just here to get you the accurate info.
Q Thank you very much. If something $6 trillion dollars big makes it to the President’s desk, would he sign it or is that too big?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, we’re not quite there yet. And I would also note that the President has put forward a way of paying for these proposals, including what he feels are necessary reforms to our corporate tax system and asking the individuals — the highest-income individuals, the top 1 percent, to pay more.
And he’s put a range of ideas out there on the table and proposals out there on the table. We’re going to have discussions with Congress about what it looks like, what Democrats are comfortable with as well. There’s a range of views in the Democratic Party as well, but we’re not quite there yet.
Q And, the last one, a dozen or so states have now ended the federal unemployment benefits — the extra unemployment benefits. A couple more states are going to do that in coming days. Does the White House think that the governors who are ending these extra enhanced unemployment benefits before they expire are doing the right thing or the wrong thing?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have continued to implement — or are continuing to advocate to implement these unemployment benefits for the remainder of their tenure, which is just a couple of months. We don’t actually know, because the data doesn’t exist yet, what the impact of the implementation in these states is.
Our view is that American families — there are still millions of people out of work. They still need a little bit of extra assistance.
We also don’t think that these benefits should be never-ending. Hence, they’re going to expire in early September.
So we know governors are going to make their decisions. We continue to believe that, with more than 7 million people out of work, that there’s still additional assistance we should give to the American public.
Why don’t you go ahead. Af- — you said “Afghanistan.”
Q Thank you very much. My name is Nazira Azim Karimi. I’m an Afghan freelance journalist. As you know, President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah will travel on Friday to the White House to Washington and visit with President Biden. What will be the main topic that President Biden will discuss with both of them?
And also, Taliban continues their attack in Afghanistan even today. White House has any plan to invite Taliban, too, to convince them to make a ceasefire in Afghanistan? Because Afghan people, they are really tired — Afghan. And, emotionally, we are in a bad situation.
MS. PSAKI: Understood. Well, I know that President Ghani will be here in the United States on preplanned travel to New York, I believe. And of course, the President looks forward to welcoming him to the White House for a meeting on Friday. And I expect their top of — their focus of their conversation will — to be to continue to discuss how we can work together to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to the U.S. homeland; how we can work together to continue to implement the humanitarian assistance, other assistance that the United States remains committed to, even as we work to draw down our troops.
Q Thank you, Jen. Just two questions. One, in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on the NCAA and college athlete compensation, does the White House believe that there should be federal — federal rules or some kind of federal standard governing college athlete compensation? Or is that a decision that the administration believes should be left up to states?
MS. PSAKI: It’s — I — let me just first say, on the ruling, that our view is that, of course, NCAA student-athletes work very hard, both on the athletic field and in the classroom. I’m a retired one myself. And today’s decision recognizes that, as with all Americans, their hard work should not be exploited. And the President believes that everyone who works should be compensated fairly for his or her labor.
In terms of specific regulations, it’s an excellent question. This is obviously a new ruling. I’d have to talk to our policy teams about that and where we might stand.
Q And just one on COVID-19: Based on the current projections, it does not look like the President’s July 4th target of getting 70 percent of the population at least one dose of the vaccine will be met.
Of course, the administration has tried to incentivize vaccinations along with corporations and other partners. What else can the White House do at this stage to try and change the trajectory of vaccination rates? And what are the concerns of missing that target in terms of the President’s desire to get back to normalcy?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me say we’ve made tremendous progress in our vaccination efforts to date. And the ultimate goal has been to get America back to normal, as you said. And we’re looking forward to doing that even here at the ri- — White House. As you know, we’re — we’ve invited 1,000 — over 1,000 essential workers and military families to join the President on the South Lawn — and many more — with fireworks on the Mall.
What we’ve seen over the course of the past couple months, in terms of progress, is a massive reduction in the number of COVID cases by about 90 percent — a 95 percent reduction in the number of deaths that are down. That’s significant progress.
We set this bold, ambitious goal because we wanted to continue to make progress. And we’re doing exactly that. We’ve seen 16 states meet it. What we — what we’ve seen, as we’ve dug into the data, is that there is a big gap between individuals 25 and over, and 18 to 25. Eight- — yes, eighteen to under twenty-five. That means that’s an area we need to continue to work on.
Now, regardless, even if we sailed past — even if we do sail past the 70 percent goal, we’re still going to be vaccinating people on July 5th, on July 7th, on July 10th. That is still going to be — continue to be part of our objective.
But as we dig into the data, we know that what we’re seeing is a lower rate among young people. That’s concerning, especially with the Delta variant being on the rise, as it is — which does not discriminate by age, which still could cause death, serious illness.
I expect, in the coming days, you’ll get an update from our COVID team on where we are on the data on the different categories as they dig into it. So I don’t want to get ahead of them.
But we’re going to continue to run through the tape. We’re also going to continue to be focused on where we can raise the rates and raise the numbers where we see there — there’s a lower uptick of vaccination.
Q Jen —
Q Thanks. I think there’s a fly on your head.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, thank you. (Laughter.) Oh, thank you guys. At least it’s not a cicada. I swear, those things are —
Q Okay, but I do have actual questions. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I appreciate it. I was like, “Is there breaking news?” But it’s just — yeah, there you go. Okay.
Q Yes. So, I mean, talking about the voting rights vote — there’s supposed to be a test vote tomorrow. That is expected to fail. When you look at — right now, the prospects for voting rights is not very high to get something through Congress as things stand right now.
So what I would like to know is if you can say, specifically, what the White House plans to do if you cannot get something — some type of federal action. I know you said that there are a lot of other things; you look at this as the beginning of the process.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q But ultimately, on an issue as fundamental as voting rights, if you cannot get federal action, what is left for the White House to do?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we accept that. All I’m — the point I’m making is that it’s also state action. It’s also, frankly, action that’s been happening from the Department of Justice, including increased funding and increased implementation across the country, which is something that the President and the Attorney General have both emphasized as a priority, and we’ve made some specific announcements about.
So, look, I think, as we look to tomorrow, what’s clear and where we — what we’re measuring, I think, is: Is the Democratic Party united? We weren’t, as of a couple of weeks ago. That’s a step forward. If — if and when — and as I — as I will acknowledge, we don’t expect there to be a magical 10 or more Republican votes. They’ve been clear — the Republican Party and Republicans in the Senate: They do not want to make it easier to vote. They do not want to make it more accessible for Americans to vote.
Well, where do we go from there? That is a conversation we’re going to have to have with leaders in Congress, with Democrats, with a range of members who also want to see advance — advances on voting rights. And I expect the President will engage with Senator Schumer and others on the path forward.
Q When you talk about a conversation, does — that means a conversation on the filibuster, I would think, because, like you said, there’s not the 10 votes in the Senate. And that being the case, what do you expect that conversation to look like? Are you having conversations with Senator Manchin and others about possibly making changes to the filibuster, at least when it comes to voting rights, if anything is going to get done in Congress?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say the President has — has spoken to his support for a talking filibuster in the past, and, at times, other members have as well. It requires a majority of — it requires 50 Democrats to support changes in the filibuster rules. I will allow you all to do your vote counting of where things stand there. I suspect it’s not just one or two individuals who are opposed to that.
I will note, though, as I said earlier, that if the vote is unsuccessful, I suspect — we suspect that may change the conversation on the Hill. We will see.
But I’m not going to get ahead of where things are. There’s going to be a vote tomorrow. Democrats, we suspect and hope, will be united in making voting more accessible for people across the country, making sure we’re advocating for it as a fundamental right.
This is an opportunity for Republicans to stand up and do the same. It shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
Q Thank you, Jen. Two topics for you. The first, I wanted to ask you about crime. I — is that I wanted to understand: Is there a concern at the White House that there could be an increase in crime this summer with the — you know, the pandemic lifting? And is that concern the reason that the President is going to weigh in this week?
MS. PSAKI: No, the reason is that there’s been actually a rise in crime over the last five years, but really the last 18 months. And so, it’s an opportunity for the President to speak to what he’s going to do to help address that. And as we’ve seen around the country, it is a concern of many Americans — Republicans but also Democrats, too — not necessarily through a partisan lens. It was something the President felt was appropriate to speak to and tell the American people what he’s doing to help address.
Q Would he be approaching this a little differently than he did, perhaps in ’94, when there was another crime wave that Democrats responded to? Can you talk to how his approach might change?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of his comments or remarks later this week. But it is an area where the President feels a lot — a great deal of the crime we’re seeing is a result of gun violence. I — you can expect he’ll speak to that and his commitment to continuing to address gun violence and gun safety in the country.
And, certainly, a long time has passed since the Crime Bill in ’94. He’s spoken himself to differences — things he would stand by, things he would — might do differently. But I wouldn’t see this as a response to that, as much as a conveying to the American people what he’s going to do now to help address the rise in crime we’ve seen over the last year and a half.
Q And I just wanted to follow up on Phil’s question —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — from earlier about the Manchin compromise that had been floated. Just — if you can talk specifically about his idea — or maybe if you could speak specifically to the administration’s position on allowing or requiring some form of voting ID when people go to the polls.
MS. PSAKI: I think the President is looking — I’m not going to go through different individual pieces of the package. It’s a compromise. The President — there are components there, of course, that I think, universally among most Democrats in the country — an extension of early voting, making Election Day a law — we would support. This is a step forward, should be seen as an incremental step forward. We’ll see what’s the next step in Congress.
Q Jen, thank you. Quick one on immigration and then another topic. There’s been reports — Axios is reporting that the White House is eyeing the end of July for a potential timeline to lift Title 42 at the border. CDC is also referring to White House on this. Does the White House see that as a realistic timeline for potentially lifting Title 42? Would we be at a place where vaccines are continuing to be distributed and it would be safe enough to lift that policy?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any new policy to announce. When it comes to Title 42, there’s been no change. We’re not, of course, going to get ahead of the CDC decision, the process involved in that — which you just touched on a lot of those components. But we would let them pursue that process.
Q Would the White House prefer to allow the outcome of that policy be dictated by the current litigation that the ACLU is pursuing or would — that the administration unilaterally make a decision on that policy?
MS. PSAKI: There’s a policy process that’s ongoing. That’s unrelated to the litigation.
Q And then in terms of the President’s trip later on this week to North Carolina, the White House — the administration said early on that when it came to vaccine hesitancy, a big part of the strategy was relying on local physicians, local governments as well —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — to kind of take that on. You know, there’s — the Vice President took a trip recently, and the First Lady is taking a trip. Now the President taking a trip. Does this mark, kind of, a shift in strategy when it comes to combating vaccine hesitancy? And when it comes to that specific demographic you described — younger people —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — what really do you do to convince those people to take vacc- — vaccines at that point?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say: No. Where we’ve invested our funding is in local — empowering local, trusted voices, whether they’re doctors or clergy or civic leaders. That continues to be the case.
At the same time, of course, the President and the Vice President of the United States should be out there advocating for the impact, the efficacy of the vaccine, and the impact. And as a part of our “Month of Action” here — a month-long campaign — it’s absolutely appropriate for them to do that, in our view.
As it relates to young people, you know, I think we’ll use some of the same tactics we’ve deployed with a range of communities — right? — which is trusted voices; which is ensuring, you know, if a college roommate or a college — a former college classmate got the vaccine and now can go out and feel safe going out to restaurants and concerts. That’s pretty effective, maybe even more so than the President of the United States appearing in their local newspaper. That will continue to be an area we invest.
We’ve also continued to make it as accessible as humanly possible. That’s something we can do from the federal government. We’ve seen that as a barrier in the past. We’ve made progress. We’ve seen that as a barrier. We’ll continue to do that as it relates to young people.
MS. PSAKI: We’re also incentivizing.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Yeah.
Q Sorry. Sorry about that.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, it’s okay.
Q Two questions. (Laughter.) Okay, two questions. The first, on governors and governors’ races. Across the country, you’ve been — you have a number of governors and candidates for governor who are becoming more and more explicitly anti-government in their rhetoric and rejecting the legitimacy of either the President or the federal government in general, in areas that are undoubtedly the federal government’s province, such as a Texas gubernatorial candidate saying he would close the borders. You have a guy in Idaho running for governor who has actually taken up arms against federal agents.
Is the administration concerned that actual violent extremists and people espousing secessionist rhetoric are finding a home in Republican primaries and could actually be elected to office? And then I have a second question.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to label people “domestic violent extremists” officially from here. I think we have certainly seen problematic revetoric — rhetorics: followers of QAnon and conspiracy theories who not just — who don’t just run but are elected to office. So there’s already a record of that.
We’ll continue to speak out against that. But we will — our strategy at this point is to continue to advocate for how government can work for the American people; remind people across the country that this President is going to govern for all Americans, not just one — from one wing of a party or the other; and that, hopefully, the effectiveness of that is something that can help us play a constructive role.
Q And then a related follow-up: President Biden’s predecessor is going to return to his campaign-style rallies in Ohio this coming weekend. Has anyone from the administration reached out to Governor DeWine or anyone in Ohio’s government about the possibility of violence resulting from his return to the trail? And is there any concern about him going back out there and continuing to insist that the election is fraudulent and that he actually won could result in people being hurt or killed?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we take the rhetoric of the — the other, the — the “former guy,” as we like to say, quite seriously, as everyone should. But I don’t have any readouts or calls with Governor DeWine. I will see if there’s anything from our Homeland Security team to read out.
Q Thank you. You mentioned that supply — going back to the vaccine announcement — was the main — was not the constraint.
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
Q It was logistics.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q On June 4th, Gayle Smith said that they expected the balance of 80 million — this 55 million — to come from the AstraZeneca shots. Those are obviously still under review. Should we infer from your comment that you now expect those 55 million to be from Pfizer and Moderna or Johnson & Johnson?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve always had a range of options — as we are contingency planners here — and we have plenty of supply to deliver on the 80 million doses. As you noted — or as you alluded to, my former — my answer previously, our biggest challenge is logistics — is the fact that there’s not a playbook for this. And there are challenges as it relates to getting these doses out to every country.
Certainly, obviously, once the FDA — if the FDA — if the FDA approves sending these AstraZeneca doses overseas, that would be a part of it. But until then, it wouldn’t be, of course.
Q Do you have an estimate then on how many doses will be sent this month? Of course, the President Biden’s pledge initially was that 80 million would be sent this month, and now it will be “allocated” instead of “sent.”
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update on that. It’s a great question. I know the COVID team is doing a briefing tomorrow, but I will see if there’s more we can get back to you.
Q I will be there. And I —
MS. PSAKI: I know you will be. A loyal attendee.
Q Indeed. And going — for the meeting this afternoon, one of — one subject I wonder if it’ll come up is cryptocurrency. Is that something the President is seeking the advice of the — the (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: The agenda is exactly what I outlined earlier. And we will provide a readout once the meeting concludes about the topics.
Q And this is his first meeting with Jay Powell. Does he have confidence in the job Jay Powell is doing? Does he have any particular message for Powell in particular on that?
MS. PSAKI: The President’s view is this is a routine meeting with financial regulators to get an update on management of the economy and a range — and making credit accessible to people across the country.
Q I just wanted to drill down, Jen, on the White House position on a vehicle mileage tax for electric vehicles. Can you explain the White House’s position and why you’d be opposed to — essentially, it would — wouldn’t it level set because people who fill up their cars with gasoline pay into the Highway Trust Fund with the 18.3 cent per gallon excise tax. People who drive electric vehicles drive on the same roads; they don’t pay that tax. Why not?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say, the President wants to grow the electric vehicle industry, wants more people to buy electric vehicles, wants to make them accessible to people across the country. That will help our climate, help create jobs in that industry as well.
And his view is that there are plenty of ways to pay for these proposals, plenty of ways that will not leave the burden on any individuals across the country making less than $400,000 a year. That’s the choice, and he feels we should — we should have the burden on the wealthiest Americans, as opposed to any other Americans.
Q What’s the long-term structural impact then on the Highway Trust Fund if, as you hope, more Americans drive electric vehicles, fewer people fill up their cars with gasoline? How do you sustain that if fewer people are paying that excise tax overtime?
MS. PSAKI: I suspect Secretary Pete has thought about this. I’m happy to talk to him about it over the long term.
But, again, the purpose of this proposal is to move to electric vehicles, as an industry — where people are driving electric vehicles, making our climate — making our climate healthier, but also creating jobs in this industry that he feels is an industry of the future.
Q Thank you. The President has been criticized for giving Putin a list of 16 critical infrastructure targets that’s considered off-limits to cyberattacks. How did that idea come about? And why not tell Putin that everything inside of the United States is off-limits?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I don’t think it required the President providing a list to — for President Putin or Russia to determine what is critical infrastructure in the United States. I know that has been part of the conspiracy response to his proposal.
The President was being clear: These are areas where, you know, we will be watching and we will reserve the option of consequences. That was the message he was sending during that meeting. That’s why he put forward those specific examples.
Q And why didn’t he give Putin a list of targets inside of Russia that the United States would target if another cyberattack does take place in the United States?
MS. PSAKI: Because we don’t preview our punches.
Q Okay. And also —
Q Does the White House —
Q One last one question.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q Jen? Jen?
Q One last question.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Does the President believes that a 15-week-old, unborn baby is a human being?
MS. PSAKI: Are you asking me if the President supports a woman’s right to choose?
Q Does he believe —
MS. PSAKI: He does.
Q Jen, another question, actually, on the summit last week with Putin. A State Department official, after the summit, said that the Havana Syndrome — these anomalous health incidents among U.S. personnel — had come up. It was referenced. Who referenced it to who?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more specifics from that meeting to read out for you.
Q Why would the topic come up if there’s no confidence in this building or with intelligence agencies as to the perpetrator?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t — we have not attributed, as you know. I don’t have anything more specifically on this topic from the meeting.
Q The White House reaction on Fulton versus the City of — White House reaction on the Supreme Court decision to Fulton versus the City of Philadelphia — does the White House have a reaction on that — on the case?
MS. PSAKI: I think we have issued a reaction to it. And I don’t have anything more to it.
Q Okay, and then the second question —
MS. PSAKI: I think we got to move on.
Go ahead in the —
Q Multiple people —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, right there. Yep, go ahead, right –go ahead.
Q I wanted to follow up on the Geneva summit if I may.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, sure.
Q What specifics step — steps is the administration is taking now to implement the understandings reached by President Biden and President Putin in Geneva? I’m especially interested, as you probably understand, in the potential dialogue on cyber —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — and the strategic stability. Should we expect in-person interagency meetings on that, or are we talking about, you know, something online? Any idea about that?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, so first let me say, the President did accomplish exactly what he wanted to accomplish in Geneva, which is identifying areas where the United States and Russia could work together in our mutual interest. We launched the strategic stability talks.
Part of their discussion was the fact that there will need to be a lot of follow-up on a level that is below the two leaders. So that — some of that could be at the Secretary of State; some of that will be before — underneath that. And those discussions will be happening or beginning in the weeks ahead. But that was the agreement between them, that there would be follow-up from their teams.
I don’t have any more specific update. I expect you would get them — those updates from the State Department and others.
Q Oh, well —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. But, actually, this woman right in front of you. I was trying to point to her, and then I’ll go to you next?
Q Thank you —
MS. PSAKI: Oh, no, no. No. No. right behind you. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, right there in the — did you have a question, right there in the polka-dot shirt?
Q Yeah, I do.
Q I’ve got a question. (Laughter.)
Q I was just trying to — I can’t — I can’t tell.
MS. PSAKI: No, sorry.
Q On the debt ceiling —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
Q — there’s going to be fight coming up next month and they’ve been known to be “epic showdowns” on debt ceiling.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q So what is the President’s stance on raising the debt ceiling? And if it cannot — no agreement can be reached, will the Treasury Department take extraordinary measures?
MS. PSAKI: The President believes that Congress will do what they’ve done three times during the Trump administration, which is to raise the debt ceiling. We know that that will be a central focus and discussion, probably even in here, come the fall. But he expects they will do what they’ve done three times over the last.
Q Thank you, Jen. The President said repeatedly on the campaign trail that he opposes defunding the police. He’s addressing rising crime across the country on Wednesday, and you mentioned this. What is the President’s message to some mayors who are considering reducing police budgets or already have reduced police budgets?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say person — the President’s implementation of the ARP — part of the funding that goes to late — local and state authorities is to ensure that there are police that are kept on the beat. Obviously, state and local authorities are going to determine how they spend that money, but, certainly, he included that funding because he feels it’s important to communities across the country.
Q And then, can I ask one more?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q So I was wondering if you would tell us about the President’s reaction — some Senate Republicans are delaying confirmation of his OPM nominee over fears that, if confirmed, she would incorporate what they see as detrimental critical race theory into federal directives. What is the White House’s response to that delay?
MS. PSAKI: The President believes that this is a qualified nominee, one the Senate should move forward expeditiously, so that we can ensure we have a full team in place across the government to continue to work with Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
Go ahead, Nadia.
Q Thank you, Jen. Just to follow up on Iran. An EU negotiator said, today, that they cleared on certain technical issues, but they still have problems on the political one. And some sources in Geneva — in Vienna, sorry, indicate that they might reach a deal by the middle of July. Is this optimistic? What’s your assessment of that? Can a deal be reached considering that re-election — or the election, rather, of the hardline President?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I don’t have a new deadline to set here. As you know because you follow this closely, they just finished their sixth round. It’s natural that they would be returning to capitals — the negotiators — to consult with their capitals and leaders in their capitals. That’s happening now.
Our view is that there is a decisionmaker here who — and that has not changed, and it is the Supreme Leader. So, we are going to continue to work to move these diplomatic negotiations forward because it’s in the interest of the United States and the interests of our national security, but I don’t have a new timeline to set for you.
But that — he’s been the decisionmaker before the election, after the election, and even after an inauguration.
Q Thank you. You announced sanctions against Belarus today, which include visa restrictions, property assets designation, but previous reports suggested there would be economical targets, that the sanctions would be tougher. Why have you refrained from putting economic sanctions on Belarus, which would be more significant?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we just announced a huge number of sanctions, in coordination with our European partners to send a clear message that the behavior is unacceptable — not just the diversion of the Ryanair flight, but oppression — oppression of democracy within the country.
And that’s something, again, we did in coordination with our partners, because we felt these would be the most effective means of sending that clear message.
Q Why hasn’t the President nominated anyone to lead the FDA at this point?
MS. PSAKI: I know there’s — this is a popular and understandable question. Certainly, he’s eager to have somebody who’s qualified and prepared to pl- — to take on the role. And he’s not going to expedite it until he’s ready to make a decision and make an announcement.
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Jen. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is writing a document to clarify who should receive Communion. And this is targeted at politicians, people who have a high public profile. What’s the President’s reaction to this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Joe Biden is a strong man of faith. And as he noted just a couple of days ago, it’s personal. He goes to church, as you know, nearly every weekend. He even went when we were on our overseas trip. But it’s personal to him. He doesn’t see it through a political prism. And we’re not going to comment otherwise on the inner workings of the Catholic Church.
Q Would statements by the bishops make the President reconsider his public support for policies that, you know, increase access to abortion or allow access to abortion in the United States?
MS. PSAKI: Again, that the President’s faith is personal. It’s something that has helped guide him through some challenging moments in his life. And that’s how many Americans see their faith as well, not through a political prism. So I would suspect he will continue to attend church as he has for many, many years.
Q Does he realize that —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Jonathan.
Q — his stance on abortion runs contradictory to U.S. CCB teachings?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. I think we’re going to move on to the next question because I’ve just answered that and it’s personal.
Q Thank you. There’s a gubernatorial election in New Jersey: Governor Murphy is running for reelection. He endorsed the President last time and raised money for him. Is the President going to help Governor Murphy win reelection this fall?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly he’d be eager to see him win reelection, of course, and be a — continue to be an important partner in the state of New Jersey as we work to address — continue to address the pandemic, get people back to work. In terms of what his specific political plans are, I will — I don’t have anything to preview for you at this point in time.
Q Jen, one more question about Iran — on Ebrahim Raisi, the new President-elect. He has said that he’s accusing the U.S. of breaking promises, saying, quote, “Based on the nuclear deal, you are obligated to lift the sanctions and you did not fulfill your commitment.” What does the President have to say about that? And then, secondly, he’s under U.S. sanctions for the 1988 political prisoner executions. So, how do you deal with him?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me say that the new President will, of course, be held accountable for violations of human rights on his watch going forward. We strongly urge the Iranian government, regardless of who’s in power, to release political prisoners, improve respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all Iranians.
You know, again, I would note — and let me just say, on the sanctions piece, that, as we’re in these discussions — in the middle of these discussions, after the sixth round, the precise nature and sequence of the sanc- — sanctions-related steps the United States would take — would need to take to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA is a subject of the talks and of the discussions.
And we certainly understand, as we’ve seen in past rounds of these negotiations, that there will be a range of rhetoric to address political needs at home; we understand that. But our focus remains on these negotiations that we look forward to continuing to participate in.
Q Can I follow-up on that, Jen, if you don’t mind?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Go ahead.
Q Thanks so much. So, even if you manage to reach a nuclear deal or a deal with the Iranians on nuclear deal reentry, Republicans in Congress could force a vote to block sanctions relief, forcing the Democrats who are still in office — including Majority Leader Schumer, who voted against the original deal when it was negotiated. So are you confident you have the votes in Congress to relieve sanctions and reenter the nuclear deal?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there isn’t even a deal yet, right? So I understand why you’re asking that question, but it’s a little bit ahead of where we are. May we have a deal where we can have that discussion.
The important case that we are going to continue to make is that Iran is not a good actor in the world on a range of issues, whether it’s human rights or their engagement in the region. That continues to be the case and would be even after — if we get to the point where we have a deal.
But what is in the interest of the United States? What’s interest — in the interests of the United States is having that return to visibility, that return to an understanding of what their capabilities are, how close they are to acquiring a nuclear weapon. We’re not quite there yet.
When we get to a point, if we get to the point when there’s a deal, we’re happy to have the discussion about the legislative vote count.
Q Thank you, Jen. I thought you didn’t take my question, and so (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: No, go ahead.
Q Thank you so much. President Biden recently announced that the U.S. will provide corona vaccine to North Korea.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q Do you know how many doses? And what kind of a vaccine are you going to provide to North Korea?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we announced that we would be providing about [half] a billion doses to the global community and the 92 countries, working through COVAX for 75 percent of it, who are the lowest- and middle-income countries in the world. That’s what we’ve announced, but I don’t have any more details than that.
Go ahead in the back.
Q I think we’re at an hour.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, we’ll go to this last one since I just called on him, and then we’ll — we’ll wrap it up. Go ahead.
Q Yeah. Representing an audience that is quite different from this gentleman’s, I’d like to repeat his question: The U.S. Supreme Court decision in City of Philadelphia v. Fulton, you said that the White House issued a reaction to that; I don’t believe that is the case. Was the President briefed on that decision?
MS. PSAKI: I thought we had. If not, I will get that to you and to this gentleman over here.
Thanks, everyone, so much. We’ll do this again tomorrow. Okay.
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