James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:04 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI:  Hello.  Okay.  Today we have another great guest joining us in the briefing room, Secretary Cardona.  As a mother of two little children myself, including one going to elementary school, I know you all have lots of questions about schools and school reopening and COVID.  So he is here to provide an update, take a few questions.  And it’s great to be here with you.
MS. PSAKI:  Fellow Nutmeggers.
MS. PSAKI:  Do a little Connecticut plug.  Okay.
SECRETARY CARDONA:  Thank you very much.  Good afternoon, everyone.  And thank you, Jen, for that.
I’m — you know, across the country there’s an excitement for the first day of school.  And those of you that have children, you know what I’m talking about.  There’s a vibe about going back to school.  And this year, there’s no exception. 
We’re committed to doing everything we can to ensure we get kids back into the classroom safely.  We know students are provided the best opportunity to learn and thrive when they’re learning in person, in their classroom, with their peers, with their teacher. 
We made significant progress last spring, bringing the students back in person.  About 90 percent of the educators across the country are vaccinated.  A hundred eighty million Americans have been vaccinated, including millions of students.  We provided $130 billion in American Rescue Plan funds to support safe school reopening.  It’s being used now to provide summer learning opportunities for students and help them — and help our buildings be prepared for the return of students in the fall.
And this week, I’m very proud to announce the Department of Education launched the Return to School Roadmap.  It provides parents, educators, students, and communities the resources they need to feel confident and be ready for a safe upcoming school year, to make sure we safety — safely open all schools for in-person learning this fall, which is the expectation; it has been, and it continues to be.
The Roadmap includes three priorities that are critical to a safe reopening.  The first one is protecting the health and safety of our students, our educators, and our staff.  We need to make sure that we’re leading with health and safety first. 
The second priority is supporting the social, emotional, and mental health needs of our students and our staff.  We know that in order for students to learn at their potential, they need a strong social and emotional foundation, and we’re prepared to provide that. 
The third: accelerating academic achievement.  We must do everything in our power to help students not only catch up, but to excel during this upcoming school year.  As a part of the Roadmap, we’ll be releasing resources, tools, and holding events to help more schools and more communities and parents and students prepare for the fall and make sure that every student is set up for success. 
We’re also highlighting how the American Rescue Plan funds can be used to support these areas.  These include helping get our young people vaccinated.  We’re doubling down to get more students vaccinated as they return to school.  We know vaccines are working, and they’re the safest and most effective way to fight back the COVID-19, to prevent outbreaks, and to ensure a safe school year.
That’s why I’m echoing the President’s call to action to post pop-up vaccine clinics in every school across the country, to enlist trusted leaders in our community, to build vaccine confidence — it’s all hands on deck here — and to get creative with incentives.
And I know I’ve heard from states where they’re doing great work incentivizing it and getting student voice in the conversation to make sure that students hear from other students as well. 
I’m also excited that, next week, the administration is holding Back to School Week of Action to mobilize school districts, students, teachers, organizations, and leaders to get more young people vaccinated, working with parent leaders and influencers to have conversations with students and families about the importance of getting vaccinated and why it’s our strongest tool to combat the virus and get students back into the classrooms, on sports fields, in school plays, and among their peers this fall. 
Next week, I’ll be traveling with the Second Gentleman to Kansas to promote vaccination efforts in that area. 
I’m additionally excited to lift up some additional efforts were engaged in with partners across the country, including incorporating COVID vaccination into sports physicals for student athletes this summer and fall. 
The National PTA — we’re working with them and the Academy — American Academy of Pediatrics — to send pediatricians to back-to-school nights and PTA meetings so parents could hear from doctors directly. 
As I said before, it’s all hands on deck.  We all want our students in classrooms where they learn best. 
The resources are there, and the urgency is there.  Now is the time to get our students back into the classroom, not to be complacent or let politics get in front of what is best for our students across the country. 
I’m excited about the efforts we have underway at the department and across the administration to support a safe return to school this fall and make this school year the best one yet for all of our students. 
But we know it’s not enough to get to school — to get back to school safely.  We owe it to our students to build back better.  We owe it to our students not to go back to what school was like in March 2020.  That’s why we must pass the Build Back Better agenda. 
We have the opportunity right now to transform students’ educational experiences.  We can build truly equitable schools that finally close gaps that have long existed in our education system across the country. 
We can set up all of our children for success by investing in our strongest asset, our people, and ensure America wins the future.  It’ll give every family access to free pre-kindergarten for three- and four-year-olds.  It’ll give students access to two years of community college.  It’ll increase Pell Grants, rebuild and modernize our crumbling schools by investing in our school infrastructure. 
And these resources will allow us to build an education system more equitable and excellent than any system we’ve ever had in the past.  These resources will allow us to build back better and give our students opportunities to have success not only now, but for generations to come. 
Thank you, and I’ll be happy to answer a few questions.
MS. PSAKI:  Nancy.
Q    Thank you so much, Secretary Cardona, for coming.  Are you engaged in discussions with teachers’ unions that might be reluctant about returning to the classroom this fall because of the Delta variant?  And how significant do you expect that challenge to be?
SECRETARY CARDONA:  You know, I really don’t expect it to be a challenge to work with our teachers to get our schools reopened.  In fact, I think they’ve shown a lot of proactive communication about wanting to reopen schools.  All teachers want schools reopened, and we just want to make sure that they’re safe for students and for staff. 
So, I look at it as another partner in the process of making sure that we’re doing what’s right to reopen our schools.  And while the Delta variant is providing new challenges, we have the tools, we have the resources, and we have the experience of what worked last year to get it done safely.
Q    But what about states that are, say, prohibiting school districts from imposing mask mandates?  Are you worried that there will be teachers’ unions that say, “If we can’t keep the schools safe the way that we feel we should, we don’t want to come back”?
SECRETARY CARDONA:  I’m worried that decisions that are being made — that are not putting students at the center, and student health and safety at the center — is going to be why schools may be disrupted.  So, we know what to do.
You know, don’t be the reason why schools are disrupted because of the politicization of this effort to reopen schools.  We know what works.  We have to keep our students safe.  We have to keep our educators safe.
MS. PSAKI:  Tam.
Q    Yeah, reopening school is one thing — I think you just alluded to this — keeping school open would seem to be another thing entirely.
Q    What are you most worried about in terms of the ability to keep classrooms open, to keep kids, you know, running up that hill to the school every day?
SECRETARY CARDONA:  We know what works.  This is not our first time doing this.  We have the benefit of the experience of last year.  We have strong CDC guidance.  The Department of Education has several handbooks.  The Back to School Roadmap with tools, checklists.  The tools are there.  It’s just, are we following the mitigation strategies? 
You know what I’m worried about?  The adult actions getting in the way of schools safely reopening.  Let our educators educate, let our leaders — school leaders lead, and we can get our schools reopened safely.
And another thing that I’m worried about that I want to share is complacency.  Let’s not go back to the school system of March 2020.  Our students deserve more.  The funds are there.  The urgency is there.  This is our time to build back better. 
Q    Can I just throw out — what do you mean by “adult actions”? 
SECRETARY CARDONA:  Well, when we make policies that go against what CDC recommendations are, you know, at the end of the day, we want to make sure that students are safe, we want to make sure the staff is safe.  We know how to do that, so let’s not get in the way of school systems doing policies that they know work for students and staff.
MS. PSAKI:  Francesca —
Q    Will there be repercussions?
MS. PSAKI:  Francesca, go ahead.
Q    Thank you.  (Inaudible.) 
Q    Thank you.  We know that vaccination rates among younger Americans, 18 to 24, are lower.  We also know that vaccination rates among African Americans are also lower as a percentage of population.  So what kind of guidance is the Department of Education giving historically Black colleges and universities this fall to help keep their students safe?
SECRETARY CARDONA:  Thank you for that question.  I visited Howard University about a month ago, and I was so impressed with how they stood up vaccination clinics in their facilities.  And we had students from Howard University administering vaccine.  They’re using their name in the community to build confidence in the community — the Black community — so that they felt comfortable coming in.
We’re also setting up pop-up clinics in schools.  You know, the President put a charge there: Let’s get pop-up vaccination clinics in gymnasiums. 
I visited a gymnasium at a high school in Washington, D.C., where, you know, parents felt comfortable with that school.  They know the principal.  They know the teachers.  They feel more like — they’re more likely to go get vaccinated in a school that they know the folks. 
And another thing that we’re going to do is we’re going to take advantage of our — of our youth.  You know, student voice is critically important.  Let’s get our youth, our high school students talking about it, because when students talk to one another about how they’re safe when they got the vaccine, it’s more likely to lead to an increase. 
I’m excited about that. 
Q    What about testing?
SECRETARY CARDONA:  Well, the American Rescue Plan provides $10 billion in testing.  So, the tools are there.  Access to testing is much better.  We were reopening schools last year — I remember reopening schools last year without testing availability, without vaccines, and we were able to do it safely because we followed the mitigation strategies.  A year later, we have resources, we have testing, and we have vaccinations.  We need to get it done.
MS. PSAKI:  Go all the way in the back.  Yahoo.  Yeah, go ahead.
Q    Mr. Secretary, what are you going to do if and when teachers’ unions protest and, you know, with placards that say, “we can’t teach from the grave,” “online until cases decline”?  As the federal Secretary, with limited powers to affect local decisions, what are you going to do? 
And, you know, as a parent, as a journalist, I know — I know about the $130 billion.  I know that online has a lot of risks for kids.  Everybody knows that, but what are we going to do in those situations?
SECRETARY CARDONA:  I think — what are we doing?  We have the Roadmap, which — very clear guidance.  We’re promoting pop-up clinics.  We’re sharing best practices where it’s happening.  We’re monitoring data.  We stood up a system in the Department of Education.  I’m having calls with governors daily.  I’m having calls with superintendents, school chiefs to problem solve with them to make sure that we can get them in there.

And, you know, the way the question was framed, I’d like to look at it this way: How are we working with our teachers’ unions to ensure a safe reopening of schools?  They’re doing a lot of work, and they’re investing their own money to make sure that our schools can safely reopen and getting the message out to their teachers.  We’re working hand-in-hand to make sure that our students have teachers in front of the classroom, but that they both feel safe. 

MS. PSAKI:  Kelly.

Q    Mr. Secretary, one of the big differences this time is that children are becoming infected more easily because Delta is more transmissible —


Q    — so we might have, unlike March 2020, where there would be children in the classroom who themselves become ill. 
Are you formulating policy for how schools should deal with the impact on other students — if there’s quarantining requirements; if it’s classrooms with only vaccinated children, mixed vaccination status?  How are you going to deal with those dimensions?

SECRETARY CARDONA:  Thank you.  We’re working very closely with CDC to have a unified message.  And we lean very heavily on our health experts to make sure that we’re communicating which mitigation strategies should be employed based on what we’re seeing with the strains of COVID. 

But I’ll tell you what worked: When you wear masks, when you provide distancing, when you are testing regularly, and when you’re quarantining, you can function in a school.  So we’re expecting our education leaders and our educators to follow those practices that worked last year, and we expect our students to be in classroom every day. 

MS. PSAKI:  Stephanie.

Q    Secretary Cardona —

MS. PSAKI:  Stephanie.

Q    — when kids have masks on in the classroom —

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead, Stephanie.

Q    Secretary Cardona, thank you so much —

Q    — how seriously does that hurt their learning?

MS. PSAKI:  Sir — sir, Stephanie is asking a question.  Go ahead.

Q    Kids at this point have gotten used to wearing masks, my children included.


Q    What is your message to governors like Governor DeSantis in Florida and Governor Abbott of Texas who have banned mask mandates?

SECRETARY CARDONA:  You know, don’t be the reason why schools are interrupted.  Our kids have suffered enough.  Let’s do what we know works.  Let’s do what we know works across the country. 

We shouldn’t get pol- — politics should — doesn’t have a role in this.  Educators know what to do.  We did it last year.

So, I have calls out to those states.  But at the end of the day, I want to work with Texas; I want to work with Florida.  I want to make sure those students have access to in-person learning. 

So, at the end of the day, we’re all in this together.  And it’s critically important that we have conversations with governors directly, with state chiefs directly.  We want to be an ally and make sure that we’re supporting our students. 

At the end of the day, we’re talking about students being in classrooms.  They’ve suffered enough.  It’s time for them to be in the classroom without disruption to their learning.

MS. PSAKI:  Justin.

Q    Secretary Cardona —

MS. PSAKI:  Justin.

Q    — when kids have —

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.

Q    — masks on in the classroom, how seriously does that hurt their learning?

Q    Secretary Cardona —

SECRETARY CARDONA:  Less than if they’re at home. 

I’m sorry, go ahead.

Q    Student loan payment — the student loan payment freeze ends next month.  Democratic lawmakers and advocates have said that the lack of guidance so far from the administration has left a lot of borrowers confused and lenders reluctant to put out guidance — maybe alarming them that their student loan repayments will start.  So do you guys have any additional guidance for that?  And if not —


Q    — when can we expect it? 

SECRETARY CARDONA:  Sure, I’m not ex- — announcing anything today, but I will tell you this has been the highest priority for us: getting school safely reopened and taking care of our borrowers. 

And we’re — you know, when we have information to share, we want to make sure that they have enough of an on-ramp to prepare and they have communication early so they can prepare for that. 

It is a priority for us, and we’re having conversations daily and we hope to have information soon. 

MS. PSAKI:  Steve.

Q    Just as a follow-up to that: There was a study earlier this summer that said 60 percent of borrowers are not yet ready to make their payments.  They have about — they have less than two months.  When are they going to hear from you? 

SECRETARY CARDONA:  Very soon.  I don’t have anything today.  But as I said, this is a priority for us.  The borrowers are in need of information and they’re also in need of relief. 

MS. PSAKI:  Phil.

Q    Mr. Secretary, I understand what the federal position is, but given how fluid things have been over the course of the last couple weeks with the resurgence of Delta, is there anything — metrics wise or numbers wise, threshold wise — that you would look at and say, “All right, maybe in person is not the best answer right now,” even if the year gets started?  Or is it: “In person no matter; we have the mitigation tools”? 

SECRETARY CARDONA:  You know, we know what works.  And yes, we’re looking at the metrics, and obviously in close consultation with CDC and local health directors because there are many local factors that contribute to whether or not a school should be open. 

We’re going to continue to monitor and we’re going to continue to work with states.  But I’m also looking at the policies that adults are putting in place that are putting students at risk.  And I think, while we have a reopening team that’s focusing on the metrics — COVID spread, you know, school reopening — we’re also monitoring the decisions that adults are making where politics are getting in the way and it’s putting students at risk.  So our efforts are going to go there as well. 

MS. PSAKI:  Aamer.

Q    You made the point, just again, that, “Politicians, don’t be the reason why schools close.”  On the flip side, if you’re a parent in one of these states, should families feel safe sending their children to schools where there aren’t mask mandates?

SECRETARY CARDONA:  You know, as a parent myself, I would make sure that when I’m — my wife and I are making decisions about sending our children to school, I want to make sure that they’re going into a safe learning environment.  I know that I can send my children into school with masks, although both of my children were vaccinated.  If that’s the rule in the — in a school, that’s what we’ll follow. 

I do ask parents to communicate with schools now and make sure that they feel comfortable sending their children to school.  And I’m also going to be monitoring where places have rules that are limiting mask use, whether or not students that need to be in school are not going because of a lack of confidence.  To me, those are adult actions preventing students to their right of public education.

Q    And is there any — if you find that that’s an issue, is there anything that, from the federal level, you can do?  Any leverage that you guys have? 

SECRETARY CARDONA:  If we find that because of poor policy students are not accessing the right to public education, we will have conversations with those states and —

MS. PSAKI:  Yamiche.

SECRETARY CARDONA:  — take that very seriously.

MS. PSAKI:  Yamiche and Jeff.  And then we got to wrap it up.  The Secretary has got to go.

Q    Thank you, Secretary.  I’m over here.


Q    Thanks — (laughs) — for taking my question.  Thanks, Jen —


Q    — for letting me ask it.

My question is: You’ve talked a bunch about, kind of, science not being in the way, not — politics not being able —


Q    — to get in the way of science.  I wonder what mechanisms, what sticks, what sort of consequences might the Education Department have in its toolbox to ensure that in districts where we see school leaders fighting with, frankly, politicians when it comes to CDC guidance that the Education Department might be able to back some of those school districts up. 

We’re seeing places where school districts want to mandate masks, but obviously state leaders are saying they can’t do that.  What could the Education Department do to ensure that those leaders (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CARDONA:  Sure.  We’re going to constantly work with those states, with those leaders.  At the end of the day, we’re on the same team for the kids, right?  And, you know, I applaud Governor Hutchinson for what he’s doing.  And I recognize that we have to be malleable to address the increase in spread.  And that requires partnership. 

You know, withholding money is not — that’s going to hurt kids.  That’s going to hurt kids more.  So, we’re going to continue to work with those states and do what we can to help them understand how important it is to make sure students are getting into school. 

And my hope is that students go into schools in those communities as well.  But if we’re starting to notice that students are not going in because they don’t feel confident, then we’re going to have to have conversations about that.

Q    (Inaudible) you said you don’t want to withhold money.  Is there anything else that the Department can do if it’s not — that won’t hurt kids but that can send a message that science and politics can’t mix?

SECRETARY CARDONA:  We’re in this to stay, and we want to make sure those kids get into school, and we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen. 

Thank you. 

MS. PSAKI:  All right, Jeff.

Q    Thank you.  Mr. Secretary, can you give us an update on the proposal to teach more Black history in schools?  Did the Republican backlash over that have an impact over your plans? 

SECRETARY CARDONA:  You know, I always say I trust my educators across the country to make sure that our curriculum promotes the beautiful diversity of this country.  And we could do so, as educators, in a way to unify our students and our country and show respect to others.

That’s another example of something that’s become politized.  And I have confidence in my educators.  And I have confidence in their ability to teach students about our history.  And in the process, we can learn about one another and become a stronger nation. 
Thank you.

Q    It’s still on track, that proposal?

SECRETARY CARDONA:  Which — you’re talking about the priorities?

Q    Yes.

SECRETARY CARDONA:  Yeah, the priorities are still what they are.  I think, for us, the way we put it forward allows districts to and states to put in their proposals in how they want to teach it. 
But I think, again, it became a politicized issue that didn’t need to, and it took us away from what I think is most important: our Build Back Better agenda and getting students safely back into school.

Thank you.

MS. PSAKI:  Thank you, Secretary Cardona.


Q    Would you like to teach more science?

MS. PSAKI:  You’re always welcome to join us.


Let me get my mask on here.

Q    Would you like to teach more science in school, Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY CARDONA:  We want to get in schools safely.  We can talk about the discussions there, and I’ll be back for that. 
Thank you.
MS. PSAKI:  We’re pro-science, just in case there was confusion.  (Laughter.)

Q    No confusion.

MS. PSAKI:  A couple of items for all of you at the top.

Today, the President will announce a new set of actions aimed at advancing the goal of increasing the impact of his Build Back Better investments to address our climate crisis, positioning America to drive the electric vehicle future forward, outcompete China.

He will sign an executive order — I know this was out there reported this morning — that sets an ambitious new target to make half of all new vehicles sold in 20- — in 2030 zero-emissions vehicles, including battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel cell electric vehicles. 
In addition, later today, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation will announce how they are addressing the previous administration’s harmful rollbacks of near-term fuel efficiency and emissions standard.  A good question a lot of you have been asking is: What is the implementation about this?  They will announce the rulemaking — next steps in rulemaking process later today as well. 
These new actions, paired with the investments in the President’s Build Back Better agenda will strengthen American leadership in clean cars and trucks by accelerating innovation and manufacturing in the auto sector, bolstering the auto sector domestic supply chain, and growing auto jobs and good pay and benefits. 
We are also announcing today the Biden administration commitment to — we are committing more than $3.46 billion in new funding to help states and partners increase resilience and reduce the impacts of climate change nationwide. 
At a time when communities across the country are facing the impacts of the climate change crisis and grappling with extreme heat; wildflou- [sic] — -fires; prolonged droughts; the onset of peak hurricane season, this historic edition of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program will help states, localities, Tribal and territorial governments finance projects to safeguard our communities for the future.
FEMA Administrator Criswell is currently briefing the National Governors Association, Homeland Security Advisors Council on these investments, and we will have a fact sheet after the briefing detailing how much funding each state and locality will be receiving.
I also wanted to note that, today, senior White House officials, including Ambassador Susan Rice, Dana Remus, and Julie Rodriguez, will host a virtual convening with eight state attorneys general as part of the President’s ongoing strategy to combat the surge in gun crime we’ve seen over the last 18 months. 
During the meeting, the group will discuss policies and strategies to hold gun manufacturers and dealers accountable for wrongful conduct that contributes to guns making their way into the hands of criminals and be used in shootings around the country. 
We are committed to using every tool at our disposal to crack down on gun crime.  That includes money to put more cops on the beat and support community anti-violence programs.  It also means aggressive steps to stem the flow of guns used in crimes.
In addition to today’s convening, we also announced today tough, new regulations on untraceable ghost guns, as well as — and we also launched five regional gun trafficking strike forces, as you all know, and announced a national zero tolerance policy for gun dealers.
Last item for all of you: As you all know, the President has been committed to the federal judiciary for decades.  Having served as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he’s has made it a chief priority to nominate deeply qualified nominees who are devoted to the rule of law and who represent the diversity of the country.  He’s done that at a historic pace.  And his nominees are also being confirmed with unprecedented speed. 
Today, he nominated three additional candidates for the federal judiciary, among them Justice Beth Robinson, Vermont’s first openly LGBTQ Supreme Court Justice, who would also be the first openly LGBTQ woman to serve on any federal circuit court.
Under the President’s leadership, we’ve also confirmed the most African American women as federal circuit judge — judges of any single presidential term in American history, and the first Muslim — Muslim Article III judge in American history. 
He’s also chosen nominees from a wide variety of backgrounds: prosecutors and also public defenders, law firm lawyers, and civil rights attorneys.  That will continue to drive his decisions moving forward.
Aamer, why don’t you kick us off.
Q    Thank you.  Two questions about — first, I wanted to ask about — related to yesterday — the importance of continuing to work with New York as the situation with Governor Cuomo is playing out.  With that said, it’s a critical time for the state and the country with the surge of the Delta variant.  Will the President pick up the phone and personally insist to the governor that, for the good of the state, it’s time to step down?
MS. PSAKI:  The President has addressed this, and I have no planned calls to preview or predict for you.
Q    I also have a question, EV related.  The infrastructure bill, if I understand right, includes about half of what the President wanted in order to build a national network of charging stations.  So how do you take EVs from that — from the niche — or merging from the niche to the mainstream without that necessary investment in charging stations?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, first I would say it’s a historic investment in EV charging stations.  And we also know that — also as part of the investment is efforts to reduce the cost of purchasing electric vehicles. 
So I would say the President’s commitment to making electric vehicles the vehicle of the future; further incentivizing the direction of the industry — which is already where it’s headed; making us more competitive as it relates to China, is reflected both in the bill and the bill that’s working its way through the Senate.  Also in announcements like the one that was made today about — that show clear initiative and commitment from this administration to make electric vehicles central to our — central to our focus moving forward.
Q    I apologize, on the Governor Cuomo, you don’t have calls to read out, but has there been a call?
Go ahead.
Q    Thanks, Jen.  Two questions for you.  Has the President received a formal recommendation yet from the Secretary of Defense to mandate vaccines for the military?  And if so, does the President intend to accept that recommendation and sign a waiver authorizing that mandate?
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, the President announced last week that he was asking the Secretary of Defense and the Defense Department to look into how and when they will add COVID to the list of mandatory vaccinations for our armed forces. 
We expect a determination soon.  I’m not going to get ahead of that.  And certainly he’s going to rely on the recommendation of his Secretary of Defense.
Q    Okay.  Thank you.  Also, on the COVID front, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is now fundraising off of President Biden’s comments for him to, quote, “get out of the way” of people trying to help out on the COVID surge in that state.  DeSantis has said, “I’m standing in your way,” “I’m not going anywhere.”  And referred to the President as a “power-hungry tyrant.”  What is your response to the governor and the administration’s response to the governor?  And is the President considering reaching out to the DeSantis to talk this over?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, from day one, we’ve approached this not as a political issue, but a public health issue.  We remain in touch with officials in Florida, just like we’re in touch with officials from around the country about how we can provide assistance from the federal level to help address this public health crisis.
What we — what I have cited and what the President has cited is publicly available data about public health and the impact in Florida.  It is factual, and it is a fact, and data that you all are aware of, that 25 percent of hospitalizations in the country are in Florida.  It is also a fact that the governor has taken steps that are conter [sic] — counter to public health recommendations. 
So, we’re here to state the facts.  Frankly, our view is that this is too serious — deadly serious — to be doing partisan name-calling.  That’s what we’re not doing here.  We’re focused on providing public health data, information to the people of Florida to make sure they understand what steps they should be taking, even if those are not steps taken at the top of the leadership in that state.
Q    Thank you.
MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.
Q    Thanks, Jen.  Republicans have made it pretty clear over the last couple of days that they’re drawing a red line on the debt ceiling in terms of their willingness to negotiate — or to consider a clean debt ceiling increase.  Does the President want Democrats to move that through reconciliation, or is he ready to have that fight at some point in September or October with Republicans, trying to get Republican support?
MS. PSAKI:  The President believes that Democrats and Republicans should move forward, as they did three times during the last administration, to raise the debt ceiling — something that they did even in the wake of the former President putting in place a $2 trillion tax cut that certainly did not do anything to reduce the deficit.
So, that’s his view.  He believes they should move forward and do that.  That’s responsible — responsible step for our country.
Q    And then one more on a very different subject.  Does the President have a deadline, in his mind, in terms of, like, when his patience would run out on the Iran negotiations?
MS. PSAKI:  Look, I think the President’s view is that it is our — in our interest to continue to pursue a diplomatic path forward, because even though we certainly don’t approve — in fact, we have great concern about a number of Iran’s problematic activities in the global community — having visibility into their nuclear capabilities and capacities is in our national interest. 
The timeline is not endless, and I know the Secretary of State has conveyed that clearly.  But right now we are open to returning to a seventh round of negotiations.  The inauguration is today, so we will see what happens from here.
Go ahead, Jeff.
Q    Jen, the President today offered safe haven to Hong Kong residents who are living in the United States for 18 months.  I’m wondering why 18 months.  Is that something he’d be willing to extend?  And is citizenship on the table for those people as well?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, the decision — the announcement that we made today — I know you’re closely following this, but for others who have not followed this closely — is in reaction to the steps that have been taken by the PRC to crack down on human rights and, frankly, make it a place where Hong Kong’s autonomy and the freedoms of people in Hong Kong are undermined.
In terms of what could happen 18 months from now, I’m certainly not going to get ahead of that.  Obviously, our hope and our objective and our work on the international forum is to change the behavior that is happening and the oppression that we’re seeing of the people in Hong Kong.  But certainly, this step is one that is meant to ensure we are practicing what we preach in terms of human rights values and ensuring that people who are in this country don’t face the ongoing repression that we’re seeing in Hong Kong.
Q    And one more related to China.  China says it has supplied over 770 million vaccine doses to other countries.  President Biden often says that the amount of vaccines that the U.S. has shared is more than the rest of the world combined.  President Xi today also said they’re planning to donate 2 billion this year.  I’m just wondering if you question China’s math and/or whether the U.S. is planning to give more than the President has already said.
MS. PSAKI:  We certainly — this is just the beginning, and we certainly plan to give more.  We want to be the arsenal for vaccines in the global community. 
I would note — and then I’ll come back to the numbers — that we provide vaccines to the world without — without strings attached.  We want to provide them from a humanitarian standpoint because we think it is morally right, because we want to be a leader in the world on issues from — ranging from human rights to ensuring we’re addressing the global pandemic.  I’m not sure that’s exactly the same approach that China is taking; in fact, it is not.
But I would say that, in terms of their numbers — it is not just us citing this — I believe the numbers we’ve cited or the numbers he cited the other day were from international experts who’ve looked at donations.  I’m not — I don’t have data to confirm in terms of the numbers that China has contributed to the global community.
Go ahead.
Q    Thank, Jen.  The automakers that are appearing with the President today at this big announcement also lobbied the Trump administration to roll back emission standards that were set by the Obama administration.  So what gives this White House confidence that they are actually going to reach for this ambitious new goal, especially given the fact that the executive order is not binding?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, I would say they’re standing with the President today while he’s making this announcement.  That is certainly significant.  And we’ve also seen a lot of these industries move in the direction of electric vehicles.  That’s — that’s not just the President saying that; that is the direction where a lot of these industries are moving.
One of the things the President is going to talk about this afternoon is the fact that we need to address also, you know, supplies, like batteries — which, right now, China is producing about 80 percent of batteries that are required for that industry to succeed.
But I also would note that in addition to the announcement today — and I noted this a little bit at the top — there will be rulemaking steps that are announced by the appropriate agencies later this afternoon to ensure that we can move forward and make these pronouncements a reality.
Q    And the founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, expressed surprise that he was not invited to this ceremony because his company is obviously such a large manufacturer of electric vehicles.  Can you give us any insight into why Tesla wasn’t included in this event?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, we, of course, welcome the efforts of all automakers who recognize the potential of an electric vehicle future and support efforts that will help reach the President’s goal, and certainly Tesla is one of those companies. 
Today, it’s the three largest employers of the United Auto Workers and the UAW president who will stand with President Biden as he announces his ambitious new target.  But I would not expect this is the last time we talk about clean cars, the move toward electric vehicles, and we look forward to having a range of partners in that effort.
Q    So it’s not because Tesla is a non-union shop?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, these are the three largest employers of the United Auto Workers, so I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.
Go ahead.
Q    Thank you, Jen.  Democratic Congresswoman Cori Bush is saying that she favors spending tens of thousands on private security to keep her safe, and that people should, quote, “Suck it up…defunding the police has to happen.”  Didn’t President Biden say a few weeks ago that anybody who accuses the party of being anti-police is lying?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think we shouldn’t lose the forest through the trees here, which is that a member of Congress, an elected official, is concerned that her life is threatened.  And that’s disturbing that any elected official would have to suffer death threats and fear for their life.  So I’m not going to comment, of course, on their security arrangements.  I don’t have any more details on that, but I think we should start with that point first.
I will say that the President has been crystal clear that he opposes defunding the police.  He has said that throughout the campaign — his campaign for office.  His record over the last several decades has made that clear.  He has proposed increased funding for law enforcement and the COPS program, increased funding from his predecessor — who was, as you might note or be aware of, a Republican.  So I’d note that his record is pretty clear on this.
There may be some in the Democratic Party, including Congresswoman Bush, who disagree with him.  That’s okay.  But I would say the majority of Democrats — we’ve seen this in polling — and the majority of members also agree that we should not defund the police.
Q    Is there a greater concern, though — I understand that’s not the President’s position, but is there a concern that defunding the police or “suck it up…defunding the police has to happen” might become a big Democratic message ahead of the midterms?
MS. PSAKI:  It does not appear to become — be becoming a Democratic message, even though there might be a desire for that on the other side of the aisle.
Q    Okay.  And then, there are reports the administration wants to require all foreign visitors to be vaccinated.  Would that include migrants arriving in Texas and Arizona and who are released into border towns?
MS. PSAKI:  I know there were a range of reports about this, so let me just give you a little bit of an update on this.  One moment.  And I know you asked, kind of, two questions there, and I promise I’ll address them both.
We — one, let me reiterate — and I know Francesca asked a question about this the other day — the importance of international travel.  Given where we are today with the Delta variant, we will plan to maintain existing travel restrictions at this point.
However, what our interagency working groups are focused on — and this is, I think, what was reported — is working to develop a plan for a consistent and safe international travel policy, and that will be done through the prism of providing consistent guidance, equitable guidance, digestible guidance.  And there’s a lot of confusion about what the restrictions are now, and you all have asked a lot of good questions about it because it feels inconsistent, and it is.
But that’s what our focus is.  So that is certainly under strong consideration, but it is under a policy process review right now that I won’t get ahead of myself.
As it relates to — I know there was also reporting about the vaccination of migrants.  That’s not what the CBP is doing.  There are NGOs and other international organizations who are vaccinating migrants as they come across the border, and as they work in partnership with us.  Certainly, that helps keep a range of people safe in the — in the country.
Q    But do you think that it’s keeping people safe in McAllen, Texas, where 7,000 COVID-positive migrants have been released into the city since February; 1,500 in the last seven days?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think it’s important to note what’s actually happening in McAllen.  So, there’s actually been a — they signed a disaster declaration, approved setting up a temporary emergency shelter to provide a space — to create an isolated space to mitigate this issue. 
And what happens is DHS — this is the process of what happens — the agency — one, we’re continuing to enforce Title 42, resulting first in the expulsion of the vast majority of those encountered at the border.  We also — CBP also provides migrants who can’t be expelled under Title 42 with PPE.  They’re required to wear the PPE.  If any exhibit signs of illness in CB- — CBP custody, they’re referred to local health systems for appropriate testing, diagnosis, isolation, and treatment.  And obviously there are steps taken as needed, as this is certainly evidence of.
Q    And —
MS. PSAKI:  I think we’ve got to keep chugging here just because I don’t want to run out of time. 
Kelly, go ahead.
Q    With the eviction moratorium, landlord groups are already bringing legal action and the courts are requiring some steps of respondents by tomorrow and so forth.  Given that, is the President still confident that the CDC’s action is within the law?
MS. PSAKI:  Yes, and he would not have moved forward if not.  We don’t — we can’t control, of course, what the courts do.  We certainly understand that.  Separate branches of government, but also they’ll make their own decisions.
But what we can control and what we are very focused on is what we can do in states, and what we can do to push this funding and money out.  And, you know, as we’ve been talking about quite a bit in here, there was an incredible amount of activism, of calls for an extension of the eviction moratorium by a range of members of Congress.  We talked about Congresswoman Bush in a different capacity.  She’s certainly one of them, and many other others joined her in this effort.
And what we are hopeful now is that we can all take that activism — those calls for an extension, those calls for providing relief to renters — and take them to states and pressure states and leaders to get this money out easier.
I’d also note — it was interesting, I saw this morning — is that Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer both, in a moment of bipartisan agreement, agreed states needs to do a better job. 
So, that’s what we can control.  That’s where our focus is.  We can’t control the courts, and obviously we’re not going to speak to ongoing litigation.
Q    As you support the private-sector businesses around the country and other kinds of institutions that are setting requirements for vaccines and so forth, what guidance are you offering for how small businesses police that?  If you’re in a restaurant situation where you have waitstaff or proprietors who would be challenging their own customers, what guidance does the federal government have for how this should be measured and —
MS. PSAKI:  You mean vaccine verification and how its approached?  You know, one, we, you know, do support efforts to incentivize workforces, of course, to protect their workforces and get more people vaccinated.
We want to ensure that it’s done in a transparent way, that it’s done in an equitable way, that if there are verification requirements, it can be done digitally.  There are a range of ways to provide the information. 
So, there are basic guidelines, along those lines, that we have conveyed, and we will continue to convey as people have questions.  And we understand different localities and communities will apply any verification measures in different ways.
Go ahead, Steve.
Q    Jen, just to follow up on the international travel question.  I understand that there’s an interagency process, but is it the goal of that process to end in a vaccine mandate for people who are flying to the U.S.?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, that’s one of the considerations, but there hasn’t — the process has not been concluded yet.  And what I was trying to note at the beginning is that, right now, I think — which is why a lot of you have very good questions about this — there is inconsistency, right?  And there are good questions about why, when this country has larger rates of vaccination, et cetera. 
What we want to create or determine through this process is a way to provide clear, digestible guidance that also has our public health front and center.  So that’s a consideration, but it has not concluded yet.
Q    I know that it’s early, and the President, earlier today, expressed his sadness on the passing of Richard Trumka.  Are you aware of any plans or intention on the President’s part to attend any kind of memorial service or funeral?
MS. PSAKI:  It’s a good question, and I think as you all saw and noted, he — Richard Trumka was someone who the President considered a friend.  He considered an ally in the fight for workers’ rights, for collective bargaining.  And I think, as you all have seen — who have covered the President or followed him, long before he became President — this is probably a passion of his that he shared quite deeply.  This is a passion of his he shared quite deeply with Richard Trumka.
I don’t know that there have been any plans announced yet.  Certainly, the President will be interested in those once they become available. 
Go ahead.
Q    I wanted to ask, first, about the talks that have been going on with Senator Cornyn —
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.
Q    — on the Hill, related to the infrastructure bill.  He’s offering an amendment that would allow using some of the Rescue Plan money for infrastructure.  And so, I’m wondering if you have, kind of, an update on — I know the White House started to engage in those talks last night — so if there’s been an agreement or where things stand. 
And if you could speak more broadly to the concern that some in the White House and Democrats have expressed, that if you move money out of the Rescue Plan, you won’t have it to deal with Delta or some other COVID things.
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  The talks are ongoing.  We believe they’re happening in good faith.  We are engaged in them.  Our view is that there can be, and we think we are headed toward an agreement on this front.  But we certainly are cognizant of and focused on the reality of funds being needed in communities across the country, as we are still in the midst of fighting a pandemic.  And we are hopeful that any agreement on this front will take that into account front and center. 
Q    And after what we saw with the eviction moratorium and the concerns that the President and you have expressed about Delta, particularly (inaudible), I’m wondering — we’ve heard from the White House about unemployment — expanded unemployment benefits; those are set to expire in September.  Has there been any sort of thought or revision about the White House asking Congress to extend those unemployment benefits beyond September?
MS. PSAKI:  There has not been a change at this point in time.  Obviously, we’re quite focused and we designed the American Rescue Plan with the goal of being able to plan for contingencies, including rises in moments of the virus, economic needs, different communities recovering at different rates. 
That’s one of the reasons why we pushed for state and local funding, why the child Tax Credit will benefit people through the course of next year, why there are also additional funding that people can have access to in their communities through small-business loans as well.  But there hasn’t been any change to that at this point.
Q    And one last quick one to follow on Phil’s question about the debt ceiling.  Senate Democrats have been talking about attaching it to the CR.  Mitch McConnell, earlier today, indicated that Republicans didn’t want to support this.  But the result of this is: If Democrats throw it on to the CR, there could be a government shutdown in a couple of months. 
And so, I’m wondering if that is a concern of the White House — if the White House has any sort of preference for how they want Congress — obviously, I know you want Congress to raise the debt ceiling, but any preference on how they do it? 
And are you at all concerned or preparing for the possibility of a government shutdown, if that’s the path that Democrats pursue?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, certainly that’s not our preference, I think it’s safe to say.  We are, of course, in close touch with leaders in Congress about the path forward.  But our preference is for Congress to move forward, as they have three times during the last administration, to raise the debt ceiling, which is the responsible step to take. 
Go ahead, Francesca. 
Q    Thanks, Jen.  I have another question, but because international travel has come up multiple times today —
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.
Q    During the health briefing, it was talked about how vaccination requirements for foreign travelers are under consideration, but there were also other alternative pathways that were mentioned.  Could you tell us a little bit more about those alternative pathways that are under discussion?
And relatedly, does the U.S. have concerns that if it doesn’t take action on this issue in the next few weeks, that other countries could ban American travelers from going there if the U.S. doesn’t reciprocate?

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah, I mean, both really good questions, Francesca.  I think what’s important here to note is that while there hasn’t been a final decision made, how the interagency working groups are looking at this is with the objective of taking steps that will return international travel at a moment when it’s appropriate. 

And right now, we’re not at that point because of the rise of the Delta variant.  But we want to have a process in place that’s prepared for when we hit that moment.  And whenever the decision is made about what that will look like, we want it to be clear; we don’t want it to be conflicting or confusing.  And we want it to be equitable. 

So, yes, there are a range of options.  I’m not going to outline those from here.  And certainly the one that has been reported on is strongly under consideration. 

Q    Okay.  And on the topic of immigration, is the White House looking at action to help so-called “documented DREAMers”? These are largely kids whose parents are here on H-1 visas.

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah. 

Q    They’ve waited for so long for green cards that the children are about to age out of the system and might have to return to their home country.  So, is the White House looking at any action on that issue? 

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah, it’s a great question.  I think Lalit asked something similar the other day.  And, yes, this is a part of what the President has proposed addressing in a comprehensive immigration bill.  It is certainly something he’d want to address and supports taking action on.

Q    But not something necessarily that would show up in the reconciliation or upcoming budget bill?

MS. PSAKI:  It’s not in the current — I think it’s not in the current discussions, but it is something the President would like to address, yes.

Go ahead. 

Q    Yes, Jen.  For those —

MS. PSAKI:  I’ll go to you next, sorry.  Go ahead.

Go ahead, go ahead. 

Q    Yes, for those foreign visitors who are anticipating vaccination proof to come into the United States: If they’ve had the Chinese or Russian vaccines, should they be confident that those would be accepted?  Or should they go get another vaccine if it’s available?

MS. PSAKI:  It’s a really great question.  We’re just not at the point where the process has concluded.  When it concludes, we will provide more details to everyone about what they would need to expect and what they would require and what they would need. 

I will also note that you’ve asked me repeatedly a very good question about American citizens who were overseas.  You may have received an answer from the State Department, but just in case, to confirm for you: We don’t provide direct medical care to private U.S. citizens abroad from the Department of State, as I think most of you who have covered the State Department are well aware.  But we do work with countries that have a robust vaccination program to ensure that all residents, including U.S. citizens, can receive vaccinations.  And we also work to ensure that U.S. citizens overseas who travel back to the United States can be trav- — can — vaccinated easily and effectively. 

And, of course, we provide all consular assistance to U.S. citizens in need overseas, and this includes providing U.S. citizens with clear information regarding eligibility to receive a vaccination in a foreign country, if they’re — if it’s confusing or they’re not sure where to go or what their eligibility is; providing repatriation loans to assist destitute U.S. citizens with travel back to the United States; and helping them review country-specific data. 

Why don’t you go ahead?

Q    Secretary Cardona talked a lot about vaccinating students.  What about vaccinations for teachers?  Has the administration thought about this, especially for teachers who teach students who are too young to be vaccinated? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we know that 90 percent — it’s probably higher now — of student — of teachers, I should say, across the country are vaccinated.  So it certainly has moved in the right direction.  And that’s something school districts may make decisions about as it relates to mitigation measures.

But that wouldn’t be something I would expect from the federal government.  It would be something that school districts would determine. 
But again, 90 percent of stu- — of teachers, as of a week or so ago, were vaccinated, which we think is in part because they were prioritized from the beginning and because it has been emphasized by the administration, in part.

Go ahead, Katie.

Q    Thanks.  Governor Abbott of Texas is convening another special session in an effort to pass that much-debated election legislation there.  He has also said that the White House’s past objections to this legislation amounts to disinformation, so what is the administration’s response to that?
MS. PSAKI:  Look, our fundamental view is that if you are pushing for legislation that makes it harder and not easier to vote, that makes it less accessible, that limits the ability of people to get to the polls, to take time off to do that, then our question is: What are you afraid of here?  Are you afraid of more people getting out to vote?  Or what’s the concern?
So, again, our view is that we need federal legislation, of course, passed to protect people’s voting rights across the country.  There’s ongoing discussions about that.  The President would love to sign federal legislation into law.
Q    And does the President think Texas Democrats should stay in town this time?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, certainly the President believes that, one, they’ve been outspoken advocates and champions of voting rights.  And w- — I can’t say I’m exactly following too closely the legislative calendar there, but certainly if it required them to be there, we would support that.
Go ahead.
Q    Two questions.  First, on COVID and vaccines: Working to reach out to Republicans, Senator Lindsey Graham, obviously, tested positive for COVID and spoke out about the importance of the vaccine.  Does the President have any plans to try to elevate the voices of Republicans like Senator Graham?  Or there’s a representative from South Carolina today who announced he tested positive — also Republican — said he was vaccinated.  You know, there’s obviously a large swath of the country that is not vaccinated.  It’s been a problem in Rep- — in conservative areas.  Does the President or the administration have any more efforts to try to elevate those voices?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, first I would say the majority of Republican governors also are doing exactly the right thing in their states.  I mean, we talked about Asa Hutchinson earlier.  There are a number of governors across the country who are either working with the federal government on resources we can provide, encouraging vaccination, encouraging masking. 
This is not political to us, nor should it be political.  And certainly, Senator Graham has a constituency, and we think it’s great that he’s out there talking about the impact of the vaccine, even while we wish him a speedy recovery. 
I will note that what we’ve seen in poll after poll is that the most trusted voices are people in communities, not necessarily elected officials.  So it’s a net positive for elected officials to be out there talking about the efficacy of the vaccine, the fact that they’re vaccinated, how it’s — I know Senator Graham talked about how it protected him from more severe symptoms from COVID. 
But we’re still going to focus our emphasis and our efforts on local voices and local trusted leaders in communities because that’s what we’ve seen is most effective.
Q    And just today, Dr. Fauci gave — you know, talked about Operation Warp Speed, giving credit specifically to Alex Azar and his work.  Any more effort to try to get the former President to speak out on this issue?  People have said — you know, Trump officials said that he deserves some more credit, and if Biden did give him that, that could potentially help get more people vaccinated.
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would just first say that the President not only talked about the role of the last administration in getting the vaccine approved during the transition, but he talked about it just last week.  So I wouldn’t say we’re shying away from talking about the fact that it was a vaccine that was approved during — “some of the vaccines,” I should — approved during a Republican administration and the implementation and effort to get it in the arms of people during a Democratic administration.
The former President has said he got the vaccine.  He said it was — people should get it.  And if he wants to do that more, then good for him.  That’s good. 
Q    Thank you.
MS. PSAKI:  Okay, go ahead.
Q    On the requirement that federal employees be vaccinated or get tested, is there an estimate of the cost of this testing to the federal agencies?  And will the administration commit to, once the testing starts, making public how much that is costing?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, it’s agency by agency, and obviously it’s — we’re less than a full work week in here, so they’re going to be — different agencies are going to be accounting for it different ways, but I certainly think it’s going to be covered by existing funds and existing budgets of each agency, but it’s not one federal pot. 
Q    Can we get an accounting of how that is costing?
MS. PSAKI:  I can certainly check and see.  But it’s existing funding, so, you know, as people put out their budgets or spending, I’m sure it would be accounted for in terms of how we’re planning for and protecting people from COVID. 
And obviously, funding to cover your testing is included in some of this as well.
Go ahead.  Oh, go ahead, Tam.
Q    Sorry, I can’t see.  (Laughs.) 
On the international travel working groups, do you have any sort of a timeframe on when their work would be completed, regardless of whether —
MS. PSAKI:  Like when the policy would be concluded?
Q    Yeah, of when the policy would be concluded.  I know you can’t tell us when Delta is going to go away. 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I mean, our goal is to have the policy ready when we’re safe to reopen to travel, so it’s hard to determine what that looks like.  We’ll have a better estimate as we see what’s happening in our country and around the world. 
There are active ongoing interagency discussions, but I don’t have an estimate on when it will be formally concluded.
Q    And on the Delta variant and breakthrough infections, there have been more and more, sort of, anecdotal cases of breakthrough infections — famous people, like Lindsey Graham, getting breakthrough infections.  Has the administration thought about or reconsidered the way it talks about the incidence of breakthrough infections, how rare they are, what they look like? Is there any consideration of acknowledging in a more fulsome way that, yes, these are kind of happening on a semi-regular basis?
MS. PSAKI:  We have said that.  They are — they are happening.  I think the most important thing, though, is that vaccines are doing exactly what they should be doing, which is protecting people — the vast majority of people — from severe illness, from hospitalization.
And, you know, there’s data that’s come out in a number of the states that has been — have been hardest hit, even in the last couple of weeks.  Almost 100 percent of the new hospitalizations in Alabama are with unvaccinated folks.  In Florida, officials have said that more than 95 percent of those hospitalized were not vaccinated.  In Ohio, 99 percent of Ohio COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations in 2021 were unvaccinated.
So, our objective is to project to people very clearly how vaccines can save your life.  It doesn’t mean that every person who has a vaccine will not test positive for COVID.  We know there are breakthrough cases around the country.  As more people get vaccinated, there will be more just as a percentage, just by numbers. 
We certainly acknowledge that, but I think it’s also important for people to understand the benefit of vaccination, which is that it can save your life, it can prevent you from going to the hospital, and that’s where we’re trying to alleviate confusion.
Q    Jen, I’m told you have an out.  Do you have time for one more?
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.
Okay.  Why don’t we go to you in the back.  Oh, hello, Nadia.  Go ahead.
Q    Thank you, Jen.  Is the White House worried about the threat and counterthreat between Israel and Iran, and the high rhetoric with the threat of the Israelis launching a military strike against Iran?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, of course, Israel, as a sovereign country, has the right to defend itself, and we certainly recognize that first and foremost. 
We, of course, are working with the international community and have concerns about the escalating activity we’ve seen as it relates to the seized tanker, the Asphalt Princess, also the Mercer Street attack.  And these are all certainly issues that are of concern to us and of concern to the international community. 
We feel it follows a pattern of attacks and other belligerent behavior.  And these actions also threaten freedom of navigation through crucial waterways — something that is posing a risk to a range of countries around the world.
You know, I would also note that we know our British partners have called for action, called for steps in a coordinated way from international bodies, including the United Nations, which we would certainly support.
Thanks so much, everybody.  See you tomorrow. 
Q    Thank you.
Q    Do you support the booster shots?  Jen, do you support the booster shots?
MS. PSAKI:  We support them if the FDA approves them.  And we’ll have enough supply — that’s the good news.
2:02 P.M. EDT

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