James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:14 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Good morning. All right. Exciting day today. Oh, afternoon — sorry. We’re a little — a little delayed, given all of the events.
A couple of items for all of you at the top. Today marks six months under President Biden’s — since President Biden was inaugurated as President of the United States. Time flies when we’re having fun. Right, everyone? (Laughter.) Okay.
And this afternoon, he’ll be holding his second meeting with the full Cabinet. This meeting will be the first to take place in the Cabinet Room, and the President will discuss several important topics with Cabinet members, including COVID-19, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and the Build Back Better agenda, climate, and a national security update following up from the Europe trip, and our latest cybersecurity efforts. So, a robust agenda.
Since taking office, the President has acted to get America back on track by addressing the crises facing this nation: vaccinating America to beat the pandemic, delivering much needed help to American families, making transformative investments to rescue and rebuild our economy, and fundamentally showing that government can deliver for the American people. Of course, he’ll discuss a range of topics at the meeting.
Also today, top CEOs representing some of the most dynamic American companies across our economy called for support and passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework. The CEOs from GM, Delta Airlines, Nike, Walmart, Bank of America, and more make up Build Together’s CEO working group, which recognizes the need to invest in our national infrastructure and the positive impact the BIF would have on our economy for decades to come.
Today, we also wish all those observing and celebrating Eid a safe and wonderful holiday. As many know, the Eid and Hajj rituals are a reminder of the importance of providing for those less fortunate, particularly during challenges times, and Islam’s commitment to equality and the common roots of the world’s Abrahamic faiths.
As mentioned in the President’s statement today, the United States is committed to working with the international community to emerge stronger from the pandemic. And thousands of Muslim Americans are among those eager to perform the pilgrimage next year.
Finally, I just wanted to note: We support — there’s been, of course, some activity on the Hill I’m sure we’ll talk about — we support Senator Schumer’s efforts to move forward on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and very much appreciate the hard work until late in the night, including last night, by both Democratic and Republican senators to resolve open issues.
Progress is continuing to be made thanks to all of the hard work, and we back Senator Schumer’s effort to get this to the floor as quickly as possible.
Aamer, why don’t you kick us off?
Q Thank you. Eid Mubarak to you. An aide to Speaker Pelosi tested positive for COVID after having contact with the Texas delegation that’s been around. Can you confirm that a White House official has also tested positive?
And I’m wondering, what does that mean for the prospects of the Texas delegation being able to sit down with the President at some point in the White House?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, first, let me confirm that, yesterday, a fully vaccinated White House official tested positive for COVID-19 off campus. In accordance with our rigorous COVID-19 protocols, the official remains off campus as they wait for a confirmatory PCR test. The White House Medical Unit has conducted contact tracing interviews and determined no close contacts among White House principals or staff or the President. The individual has mild symptoms.
We know that there will be breakthrough cases. But as this instance shows, cases in vaccinated individuals are typically mild. The White House is prepared for breakthrough cases with regular testing. This is another reminder of the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines against severe illness or hospitalizations. And, of course, we wish our colleague a speedy recovery.
In terms of a meeting, there has not been a meeting planned and there hasn’t been change to that, so I wouldn’t say it has an impact on that.
Q And a quick follow-up on something that you touched on yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Vaccination rates in Europe are pretty similar to what they are in the United States, but travel is one-way right now. I was wondering: Does the President believe it’s safe for Americans to travel to Europe, but it’s not safe for Europeans to travel here? If you could, there seems to be a little bit of mixed messaging that some may perceive, if you could —
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as you know, we regularly — the CDC regular — regularly updates our travel guid- — guidelines for international travel — I think they even did an update today — and they provide guidance to whether it is safe to travel to certain countries or parts of the world. And, of course, American citizens make their own decisions.
As it relates to travel restrictions for the — for here — to come to the United States, any decisions about reopening international travel will be guided by our own public health and medical experts.
As we said, we’ve launched our interagency working groups with partner countries. We are continuing — those are continuing to have discussions. They — those decisions will be made based on public health guidelines.
We don’t see it as a conflict. We give American citizens guidelines. They make their own decisions about whether they travel to certain countries around the world, and we will continue to be guided by public health guidelines on how we reopen travel to — within our borders.
Q If I may ask just one brief more —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Yesterday’s meeting with the King of Jordan: The topic of the suspect in the 2001 Sbarro bombing that’s still living in Jordan freely — did a call for extradition come up?
MS. PSAKI: It’s a great question. I — beyond the readout that we put out, I have not had a further discussion with our national security team. I’m happy to ask them and see if there’s more we can provide to all of you.
Q Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Kelly, go ahead.
Q Have there been any other cases of breakthrough COVID among the White House staff, and would you commit to publicly confirming cases if others occur in the future?
MS. PSAKI: There have been. I will say that we, according to an agreement we made during the transition to be transparent and make information available, we committed that we would release information proactively if it is commissioned officers. We continue to abide by that commitment.
Q Does this give you any sense of changing protocols related to the President, the Vice President, other senior staff based on this set of facts — given the fact you’ve always said, vaccinations, while very helpful, are not foolproof? So should there be a different posture for the President?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our protocols are in alignment with the highest standards and the guidance of our public health experts.
So, let me just remind you all, because I’m sure you don’t have it handy, to what those protocols are that remain in place: regular testing of those surrounding and meeting with the President; for those who have closer proximity, they are tested more regularly than those who have less proximity; ensuring those interacting with the President are following CDC guidance regarding mask wearing and distancing; actively monitoring the health of our campus and the larger community in collaboration with public health and medical experts.
We have a robust infrastructure to ensure compliance with these protocols, and we’re asking staff to also monitor themselves for symptoms and stay off campus if they develop symptoms.
So, the news today is — is that, while breakthrough cases will happen, the vaccines are effective and prevent against serious illness and death. We’ve seen that statistically across the country with 99.5 percent of cases in hospitals being for individuals who are not vaccinated, and we will continue to abide by CDC guidelines.
Q Briefly, you did say there were others. Can you quantify? What number are we talking about? How many breakthrough cases have you had?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details on that. I will see if there’s more we can provide.
Q You also talk about setting ambitious goals and assessments for a whole range of things on your agenda. Since it is at the six-month point, how would you assess where the President’s agenda is and how much has he accomplished in his first six months? And where are you concerned about perhaps being behind on some of his agenda items?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Well, first, when the President took office, he knew that his number-one priority would be getting the pandemic under control. When he took office, there were more than 190,000 COVID cases and 3,000 deaths per day. Now we’re at about 27,000 cases and 220 deaths per day. Is there more work to be do — to be done? Absolutely. And we are continuing — we’re still at it and fighting the pandemic. But that was his number-one priority since he took — when he took office.
His number-two priority — or they’re both — they’re related, I should say — was getting the economy jumpstarted. And that was why he focused so much attention and effort and blood, sweat, and tears on getting the American Rescue Plan passed, getting that assistance out to the American public.
We’ve seen great progress. Millions of people are working today who were not working the day he took office. We would say that is a step forward.
He identified, when he took office, four big priorities or crises — crises of his presidency: health; the pandemic; climate, which we’ve made some progress on — there’s a great deal of progress that will be made in the BIF and also the Bipartisan — I mean, I’m sorry, in the reconciliation package; and addressing racial injustice.
Those are — those are crises and those are challenges he will continue to spend his time working toward and making progress on.
Q Thank you, Jen. More than 10 percent of the traveling party with these Texas Democrats now claim to have a breakthrough case. Is there any concern that this trip that was intended to advocate for voting rights is now a super-spreader event in Washington?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say that’s not a characterization we’re making from here. We certainly understand there will be breakthrough cases. Even vaccines that are incredibly effective are not foolproof. They’re not 100 percent effective. We’ve seen that. Here’s the good news, though, we know that these vaccines — that these individuals, I think, if I’m correct, have been vaccinated. It means that it protects from death; it protects from serious illness; it protects, for the most part, from hospitalization. So, that is a good sign.
Q Now that COVID-19, after contact with those Democrats, has reached the White House, what is your message to these Texas Democrats?
MS. PSAKI: Our message continues to be: Thanks for standing up for voting rights and the rights of Americans to have their voices heard at the voting booth. And we appreciate their efforts in that regard.
Q And certain places are bringing mask mandates back now, including for vaccinated people. What does President Biden think about that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Peter, we know that some employers, hospitals, health systems, colleges and universities — which we’ve seen put in place mask mandates — some large and small employers have chosen to take this step. That’s entirely appropriate. That’s their decision to make. That’s not an initiative where we’re instituting from the federal government, but we know that companies, private-sector employees, health institutions, educational institutions will take steps in order to keep the people in their community safe.
Q Six months ago, the President asked Americans to wear masks for 100 days. As the Delta variant spreads, is there a possibility that he’s going to make as similar ask down the line?
MS. PSAKI: Well, nothing has changed with the guidance that we are providing to the American public. If you are vaccinated, you do not need to wear a mask. If you are not vaccinated, the public health officials from the federal government recommend you wear a mask. Anything we would determine would be guided by our health and medical experts.
Q So I just want to back up here to this breakthrough case here in the White House.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q You confirmed today there’s been a breakthrough case.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q But you’re also confirming there have been other breakthrough cases.
MS. PSAKI: Yep.
Q But you had not previously disclosed that there had been.
MS. PSAKI: And — that’s correct. We had also committed, during the transition, that — I think there’s hundreds, thousands of people who work in the federal government, as you all know — and we had committed, during the transition, that if it was a commissioned officer, who are the highest-level ranking people in the White House and in the admin- — in this building here, that we would make that information publicly available. We stand by that commitment.
Q So, if it’s anyone below that, you don’t feel the need to let people know?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, that’s the commitment we made. I’m here talking to all of you today and sharing with you information about the individual who was — who has received a positive test yesterday.
Q Right. More broadly, has there been any more discussion — I know you’ve been asked this before, but because it continues to happen — has there been any more discussion about having the CDC, or some other entity, track the number of breakthrough cases that are happening?
MS. PSAKI: They do track.
You have an eviction deadline coming, and there’s an event tomorrow on that here at the White House. I’m curious if you can give a preview of what may be coming in that meeting?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any preview of a private meeting to share with all of you, no, at this point in time.
Q And on the Cuba meeting that happened last night —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q It was a virtual event — a handful of people, primarily from South Florida. Has there been any conversation about having other meetings on that here? And what more might the President do himself on this issue? What might he do or say? I know the administration continues to monitor it every day, of course.
MS. PSAKI: Well, at the President’s direction, we are actively pursuing measures that both the Cuban people — that that support both the Cuban people and hold the Cuban regime accountable. And that has been the prism through which the President has made his decision.
So that includes working closely with the private sector and Congress to identify viable options to make the Internet more accessible to the Cuban people. We’re looking at options. There are a lot of ideas out there.
We are also looking to leverage our international — international organization partners to increase humanitarian assistance flows to Cuba, and work with our international partners to help both voice concern and put public pressure on, but also work with international organizations.
The Treasury Department via the Office of Foreign Assets Control will continue to explore designated Cuban officials responsible for violence, repression, and human rights violation against peaceful protesters in Cuba. And we will form a remittance working group to identify the most effective way to get remittances directly into the hands of the Cuban people.
On the last piece, I would note that what the President said yesterday — or sorry, not yesterday — last week stands, which is that there has been longstanding concern about if you return remittances, if you return to a place where remittances are allowed, that that money or funding does not get into the hands of the regime or allow them to pad their pockets. That’s certainly something that we’re mindful when we’re looking at — that will be a point of discussion in these working groups.
Q And the President still hasn’t met with any of these people who’ve met with other White House officials on the issue?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have — he has not. We certainly remain open to, as we are engaging at quite a high level. I don’t have anything to preview in terms of meetings at his level, but you can tell he’s asked his team to take a number of steps and look into a range of options.
Q Does the White House believe it has enough votes — that people have enough votes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure package tomorrow? What’s the White House’s view on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are not the vote whip “Counter-in-Chiefs” over here, but I will tell — I will reiterate that we absolutely support the step by Leader Schumer to move forward today — or more forward — yes, is today today? Tomorrow — (laughter) — what is today?
Q Today is still today.
MS. PSAKI: Yes, this — I would remind you all that this agreement was reached almost a month ago. And we believe it is not only — that not only is this achievable, we owe it to the families in red states and blue states who have waited so long for the improvements to their lives that — for this to have an impact — less time wasted in traffic; ensuring every American, including in underserved rural areas, get access to broadband.
I’d also remind all of you that what we’re really talking about here — this is the “bill becomes a law” portion of our programming today, which I know you’re familiar with — but — it sounds esoteric, but this is a vote on a motion to proceed to a vehicle, not a vote on the final bill.
There’s nothing abnormal about holding a vote on a vehicle to allow consideration at this point. We fully support that. And we believe there should be support for it tomorrow.
Q And just a quick follow-up — thanks, Jen — on Kelly’s question. So, would the administration ever provide the number of breakthrough cases that have happened within the administration thus far? Should we not expect to receive a number on that?
MS. PSAKI: I said I’d be happy to check on the status of that, sure.
Q And then, on infrastructure: Has the President, leading up to this vote tomorrow — Senate Minority Whip John Thune said there’s no way they’re going to get to 60 votes on this. So can we expect the President to be reaching out personally to Republicans? Has he spoken to Leader Schumer? And if this vote does fail, is that a setback?
MS. PSAKI: Well, for — yes, he has been in touch with Democrats and Republicans for several days and that will certainly continue, and it will continue until he has both pieces of legislation on his desk to sign them into law.
I think the question I’d flip back is “Why not?” This is a motion to proceed. It is not a final vote on the legislation. I’d also note that, earlier this year, the same sequence was followed on May 17th for the Endless Frontiers Bill with strong bipartisan support, which there was a successful vote to proceed and then the bill’s text was finalized later because the substance was understood. Similarly, it also took place with the anti-AAPI Crime — Hate Crimes Bill, passed with strong bipartisan support.
This is normal process and procedure on Capitol Hill. Those two pieces of legislation received strong bipartisan support. Obviously, there was strong support for motions to proceed. There are no secrets about what’s in this legislation. It was agreed to in a bipartisan agreement.
The only disagreement right now is around some payfors, which we’re working through and we’re having discussions about. But, again, there’s ample precedent, and we support Leader Schumer’s strategy of moving this forward. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Jen. Just a quick question on the White House official testing positive.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q How is the White House preparing for vaccine hesitancy to go up now that people who are vaccinated are still contracting the virus? I mean, do you expect that to really stop people who are — from getting vaccinated around the country?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we’ve seen data to suggest that.
Q Okay. And also, separately, a question on the Olympics.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q The chief of the Olympics said that the Games could still get canceled at the 11th hour, and we know that the First Lady is — as of yesterday, was still planning to travel. But has that changed now that this could, you know, get canceled? What does that look like?
MS. PSAKI: There’s been no change. She’s still planning on attending the Games. And she looks forward to supporting, of course, the athletes who are competing on behalf of the United States. We are monitoring the situation closely. Our team will be following very strict safety and health protocols, limiting engagement with the public, keeping our footprint as small as possible.
Our COVID team at the White House as well as health officials at the IOC and the government of Japan all agree that the stringent protocols and health measures in place will help keep our delegation safe.
And I would also note that the President and the First Lady felt it was important to have the delegation led at the highest level. So she is looking forward to continuing her travel.
Q I do have one on space —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — because Bezos —
MS. PSAKI: I suspected. There’s a little something happening today, yes — or happened, I should say.
Q Right. So Jeff Bezos made a successful trip to space and back. There is this growing capacity with companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX. And the Vice President obviously leads the National Space Council. And we’re wondering if there is any thought being given to using private companies by NASA more and more to reduce the cost of space missions for the U.S. taxpayer? Have there been any discussions on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say if the United States is the first country to have private companies taking private passengers to space, this is a moment of American exceptional- — exceptionalism. That’s how we see it.
It will be the ingenuity of all of our commercial partners to help us continue advancing to the next of our — the next stage of our nation’s space exploration. And investments in space create jobs; can improve life here on Earth, through climate monitoring and medical advancements, just to name a few.
So NASA is excited to see these achievements. Our charter requires that NASA’s charter requires the agency seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space. So we certainly support these endeavors.
Wally Funk is now on my list of people that I would most like to meet in the country. She’s America’s new sweetheart.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q You said that the outstanding issues are payfor-related right now. There was some spending side issues that they were trying to figure out as well. Are you saying that those are now wrapped up; it’s just payfors that are left?
MS. PSAKI: I was saying we’ll leave it to the negotiators working hard into the night last night and continuing their work today. But I would say that one of the issues — or the primary issue, I think it’s probably safe to say — is around tax enforcement on the wealthiest Americans, who are often able to game the system illegally and dodge paying the taxes they owe at the expense of everyone else. That was agreed to during the negotiations, but support has been withdrawn by some Republican members.
We are happy to have discussions about additional options and additional payfors. That remains our policy and our approach.
The point I was trying to make is that the components of what are in this package — the big pieces that were agreed to and where the President stood outside of the White House with Democrats and Republicans — are not secret. They’re very clear. Everybody knows what they are. And that’s the point I was making.
Q And just for clarity: If the procedural vote — and, again, I understand the vehicle and the Senate process pretty well — if it does go down, the President is not walking away from these talks, right? Like the bipartisan effort is still the effort he’s pursuing, even if Wednesday’s vote goes down?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to predict a negative outcome. We’ll see where we go and we’ll keep discussing where we go from there.
Q And then just one more quick one. My colleague reported that there have been some high-level discussions — regular high-level discussions between White House officials and Fox News about coverage related to the pandemic and vaccines over the course of the last several weeks and months. Can you elaborate at all in terms of what those entailed? And if you guys feel like you’ve had an effect on the coverage of those issues?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, let me first say that we’ve been in touch with every network and many, many media outlets about coverage of COVID-19 to make sure people have accurate information, to voice concerns when he had them. And I think you all know we’re never shy when we have an issue with a story. So that’s really the frame we’re looking at here.
So we understand also the importance of reaching Fox’s audience about the COVID-19 vaccines and their benefits. And like we are with all of you here today, we of course are in regular contact, and we also make efforts to have officials out on a range of networks to talk about COVID-19. We don’t see it as a partisan issue. We don’t see vaccines as a political issue. It’s an issue about keeping Americans safe.
Q Thanks, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Great. Thank you. As the White House COVID team has done contact tracing, have you had any cases of staff-to-staff transmission? Have you had COVID spread in the White House through these breakthrough infections?
MS. PSAKI: I would have to check with our team and see if that’s been an issue. I don’t have that data in front of me.
Q Okay. And how many commissioned officers are there? Like what is the universe — what is the numerator and denominator in breakthrough infections that you’re willing to talk about?
MS. PSAKI: We can get you the exact number. I think that’s publicly available, but we’ll get you the exact number too.
Q Yeah. And just a messaging question: I know that you say there’s no data to show that talking about breakout infections could affect people’s willingness to get vaccinated, but does it create a messaging challenge for this White House to have breakthrough infections when there are people who say “Why should I get the vaccine if I’m going to get COVID anyway?”
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that’s a little bit of projection, to be honest. I mean, what we’re seeing across the country is that almost 70 percent of adults are vaccinated. We’re seeing especially high numbers among people who are over 65, over 55, et cetera.
There are also some numbers I heard about yesterday that I thought were quite incredible. Eighty-six percent of teachers across the country are vaccinated.
We’ve also seen, in recent polls, which I think was a bit of a wake-up call — I think there was a CBS poll out this weekend — that individuals who are vaccinated in this poll were more concerned about the Delta variant than individuals who were not by a pretty large margin.
So I would say part of our objective here is also to communicate clearly that if you are vaccinated, you are protected. If you get a case of COVID, it will be mild. If you are not vaccinated, you could be — we hope not — but among the per- — the people who go to the hospital and get very sick from the virus.
The data is very clear. So part of our objective is also not to stoke fear among people who are vaccinated because the data is pretty clear about their protection.
Q So, does the White House support using revenue raised by rolling back the Trump-era Medicaid rebate rule as a payfor for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill? And if so, how much?
MS. PSAKI: I know there was some reporting on this today and what won’t surprise you is we’re probably not going to get into too many specifics of discussions that are privately happening between Democrats and Republicans to finalize the package. So I’m not sure, Anne, I’m going to have much to tell you about where we stand on that, given they’re private discussions.
Q I have an unrelated question. Does the White House know which Buccaneers players were vaccinated and which weren’t? And is there any concern that the President would be standing as close to and shaking hands with unvaccinated players?
MS. PSAKI: The President is vaccinated and he, that means, is protected. We follow public health guidelines and guidelines provided by our own medical experts.
Q So did you ask the players or anybody with the team to provide information on who was vaccinated and who was not?
MS. PSAKI: We have certain protocols we have in place for visitors. I can see if we can provide those more detailed to all of you as well.
Q I have an infrastructure question —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — and then a policy question. On infrastructure, there are some top Democrats in the House, including Chairman DeFazio, who have been very critical of the Bipartisan Framework, according to reports, and have pushed for it to include more for transit, more for climate. How is the President talking with those leading House Democrats? And are you worried about having the votes in the House?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say, we are very grateful to the leadership of Chairman DeFazio and his efforts to move forward on important components of the transportation packages, and, of course, of the President’s initiatives and priorities.
You know, I would say we don’t — we understand we’re going to have to continue to communicate about every single piece of the President’s legislation and every single piece of his priority packages. And we don’t know that we have the votes until we have the votes.
But we’re appreciative of his efforts. We’re appreciative of his leadership. And the next step here, as we know, is a vote in the Senate.
Q And then, on policy, Secretary Yellen told my colleague, Alan Rappeport, last week, that “Tariffs are taxes on consumers.” Does the President agree?
MS. PSAKI: I would have to look more at — more of the context of her comments, and I will see if there’s more.
Q I think it’s a pretty (inaudible) question: Who pays the cost of tariffs?
MS. PSAKI: I would have — I have not seen her comments. I don’t know the context of them. I’m happy to talk to her more about it.
Q Forgive me for asking a redundant question, but just to nail it down.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q The individual who did test positive is, in fact, a commissioned officer?
MS. PSAKI: No.
Q Not a commissioned officer?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
Q Okay. Are you —
Q President’s staff?
MS. PSAKI: We’re not going to — out of the privacy of an individual, we’re not going to provide more details. What I’m conveying to all of you is that a commissioned officer, we would proactively provide the details of those individuals to all of you.
Q I’m glad I asked. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: I’m — appreciate you asking, too. Sorry, I didn’t realize that was unclear there.
Q No, I — but are you aware of any commissioned officers who have tested positive in a breakthrough case?
MS. PSAKI: If — if there had been, we would have released those names publicly to you.
Q So all the others weren’t commissioned as well?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
Q Okay. In the office where this individual did work, is there any kind of surveillance testing that’s being undertaken right now? Any — can you explain what’s going on in that office?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. First of all, there’s ongoing — there’s contact tracing, as I noted, and that has already commenced. As I noted in response to the first question, we did — our White House Medical Unit did contact tracing interviews and determined no cla- — close contact among White House principals or staff.
This individual was out of the office when they were tested yesterday, and they’ve stayed out of the office. Our staff is also regularly tested either once a week or more, depending on their proximity to principals.
Q Thanks, Jen. On Nord Stream —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — we’re told there’s a deal that’s potentially imminent between Germany and the U.S. on the pipeline. Is there anything you can say on that? And is the U.S. prepared to commit to not reinforce new sanctions on the pipeline if Germany agrees to encourage investment in renewable energy in Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: I expect that the State Department and others will have more on this soon. I would note that in the — following the President’s meeting with Chancellor Merkel last week, we made clear that this was a point of discussion, and that the President was planning to have a discussion about the fact that we have ongoing concerns about how the project threatens European energy security, undermines Ukraine security, and the security of our Eastern Flank NATO allies and partners; and that he and — had directed his team to work with her team to see how we can address those concerns, even as the pipeline was 90 percent finished when this administration took office.
Q And just one unrelated issue. Is the President open potentially to unilaterally raising the debt limit without going through Congress? Is that something that’s been discussed internally?
MS. PSAKI: The President expects that Congress will vote to raise the debt limit, as they have three times under the past administration.
Q So he wouldn’t support doing it unilaterally?
MS. PSAKI: The — his intention is for Congress to vote to raise the debt limit.
Q Jen —
MS. PSAKI: Let me go to April, and then we’ll go — go ahead.
Q Thanks, Jen. Two questions — one on a topic we haven’t talked about in a while: the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Where is that? We understand progressives may be now some of the holdup as it relates to that. They don’t — they — they’re saying if they don’t get qualified immunity, they don’t want it at all.
Then I want to ask about Haiti. Is there going to be an American delegation or someone from this administration attending the funeral of the assassinated President this Friday?
And also, Greg Meeks, the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that he convinced the White House to stop calling for the elections to be held on September 26th; to push it back because of the intimidation from gangs. Can you elaborate on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say: We would have — we will have a delegation. It’s still being finalized. As soon as it’s being finalized, we will provide that to all of you. I will restate, on elections, what I said last week — is that it is vital for Haiti’s leaders to come together, to chart a united path forward, to move forward with the elections as soon as there are some — as soon as they’re confident about the public health and — from the public health and security perspective. That remains our position.
And then your last question was about police reform. I would say, April, that the most effective role we can play from here is by leaving space for the negotiators to have those discussions. We understand there are a range of views of what this should look like. And obviously, Congresswoman Bass and and Senator Booker and Senator Scott are the primary negotiators here. We’re going to leave them the space to continue to hopefully make progress.
Q And I’ll go back just once on Haiti again. The issue of the gangs, the intimidation by the gangs — voter suppression, if you will, in Haiti. What do you say to that?
And is the — again, I’m — is the United States going to do something to help stand up those elections? Again, Condi Rice, in the Bush administration, traveled to Haiti, under blue-helmet support from the U.N. — secure support — to stand up — to try to help to stand up democracy there. Is there going to be a move to suppress the gangs to bring forward these free and fair elections that you’re calling for?
MS. PSAKI: Well, April, from the beginning, we’ve provided — and I can get you the exact number — but I think it’s around $75 million in assistance to Haiti, including for supporting democracy. And obviously, we’re going to work with international organizations to support, in any way we can, fair and free elections in Haiti.
Q Thank you, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q Just, first of all, happy six months. And this is about that — a follow-up to Kelly — what she was saying. I spoke to members of the Democratic Caucus last night who think that, even six months in, our democracy is hanging by a thread. Is the President aware of that sentiment among the Democratic Caucus? And what will he do about it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the President has given multiple speeches where he has conveyed the risks that a lack of legislation on voting rights and a lack of action on voting rights has to our democracy. So —
Q In addition to that —
MS. PSAKI: All right. We got to move on, Brian —
Q In addition to that —
MS. PSAKI: — because we got limited time.
Karen, go ahead.
Q Thanks, Jen. Last week, you talked about how influential somebody like Olivia Rodrigo could be to get people vaccinated. Did the President ask any of the Buccaneers today to do any public messaging or anything coordinating with the administration on vaccines?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you on private asks. It wouldn’t have come directly from the President, but if we have anything more to convey to you about COVID — the use of celebrities and COVID, we will share more — we’ll have more.
Q And one on infrastructure. The President, yesterday in his remarks, said twice about the bipartisan package, “We shook hands on it.” And he repeated himself —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q — for emphasis. Was he sending a message to Republicans that he expects them to follow through on what was discussed at that meeting and the agreement he said they shook hands on?
MS. PSAKI: He was making clear that he’s going to stand by his commitment. And like he said and did yesterday, he shook — they shook hands on this agreement, and we’re confident they’re going to deliver. Because he stands by his commitments and agreements, and that’s who he’s always been as an elected official.
Go ahead. Eli, go ahead.
Q On the — I know you don’t want to get into specifics of the infrastructure negotiations on payfors, but how confident is the President that the bipartisan framework, when it becomes an actual bill, that it will be fully paid for? And how important is that to him? Is that a red line to him that it be fully paid for, or would he be willing to accept legislation that CBO says isn’t fully paid for?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s proposed a range of ways to pay for his proposals and his packages, and those discussions are ongoing. I’m not going to set new red lines today, but I would just say there’s ongoing discussions and we’re grateful to the work of Democrats and Republicans in being a part of them.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q Can you —
MS. PSAKI: Okay, I think we got to go in a second but —
Q Can you elaborate what you mean when you say “regular testing” for those who are close to the President? So is the President and senior staffers — are they receiving those daily PCR testing that we saw a lot during the pandemic?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve provided this information publicly to all of you, which we can recirculate if that’s helpful. But I’m tested twice a week. Many are tested twice a week. Some are tested once a week. That’s what I mean. We’re all vaccinated.
Q The President is not tested daily?
MS. PSAKI: He’s tested every two weeks, typically — or around every two weeks, and that’s part of our protocols.
Q Is there a need to re-up that — the daily testing — in light of the breakthrough cases?
MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed about our protocols. I think what — what the big takeaway here should be is that we have protocols in place. They’re stringent protocols. We — they include a range of requirements of our staff, and they also include abiding by public health guidelines, and that’s something we’ll continue to implement from here.
Thanks so much, everyone. Have a great day.
12:49 P.M. EDT