12:50 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Good afternoon. All right, I promise we will keep you all on time — who’s going to the President’s event.
A couple of items for all of you this afternoon. Today, the President is meeting with business leaders and CEOs that have instituted vaccine requirements or are working to implement the new requirements. These leaders represent a diverse range of sectors from businesses large and small, including university systems, tourism, retail, tech, and healthcare.
The President will highlight their leadership, putting into place strong COVID-19 requirements that help keep workers safe and that are already showing results with an increase in vaccinations.
To provide a few examples: When Tyson Foods announced its requirement, only 45 percent of its workforce had gotten a shot. In less than a month, it increased to 72 percent.
After United Airlines announced its vaccine requirement, the vaccine rate for employees went from 59 percent to 79 percent in less than a month.
And in Washington state, the weekly vaccination rate jumped 34 percent after the governor announced requirements for state workers.
This event will underscore these requirements will help sustain our economic recovery and level the playing field for businesses across the country.
Also, I wanted to note that during this critical period of negotiations on the Build Back Better agenda, the Vice President will make her first trip to the Treasury Department since taking office to hold an event with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and make the case for the Biden-Harris administration’s proposed investments in childcare that will benefit women, children, and working families.
They will announce the release of a major new Treasury Department report on the economics of childcare. And the report confirms childcare remains too expensive and out of reach and that our childcare industry is in need of significant public investment to bring down the cost for working families.
Last piece I wanted to note is: Today, the families of more than 60 million children — nearly 90 percent of American kids — will receive the third monthly payment of the Child Tax Credit. This is one of the most significant tax cuts for working families in history and is already helping Americans meet the cost of raising children, using this additional money to help pay for groceries, back-to-school clothes, braces, and so many other expenses.
Most of the families will again see “Child CTC” in their bank account today with a payment of $250 to $300 for each child. Studies have shown that it will boost consumer spending, jobs, and is also — has already led to a major fall in hunger and child poverty.
Ninety-seven percent of the children receiving this tax relief are in working families, and we’ve already seen reports of strong support for the tax cuts for families across the board, including from independents and 41 percent of those who identify as Republicans.
And we’re working, of course, to get it extended for even longer.
Jonathan, why don’t you kick us off.
Q Thanks, Jen. A new book reports that near the end of the Trump presidency, Chairman Milley had two conversations with his Chinese counterpart, promising the countries would not go to war and that he would give an early warning if something were to happen. In a statement just minutes ago, Chairman Milley did not dispute this account.
On this, does the President feel that these calls were appropriate? Does he have confidence in the Chairman?
And some Republican senators have called for Chairman Milley to be dismissed. Is he going to keep his job?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I saw the statement, of course, that the Department of Defense — or I should say the Joint Chiefs spokesperson just releat- [sic] minute — released minutes ago. I’m not going to add more or speak to anonymous, unconfirmed reports about conversations with limited context from here.
But what I can assure you all of is that the President knows General Milley. He has been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs for almost eight months of his presidency. They’ve worked side-by-side through a range of international events. And the President has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism, and his fidelity to our Constitution.
Since you gave me the opportunity, I just wanted to add: I think it’s important to consider some of the context — key context of this period in time — of time in history that we’re discussing and is outlined or covered in portions of this book.
The outgoing President of the United States, during this period of time, fomented unrest, leading to an insurrection and an attack on our nation’s Capitol on January 6th, which we’ve all — you all have covered extensively, of course. One of the darkest days in our nation’s history.
Beyond reports in this book, there’s been widespread reporting and commentary from members of his own Cabinet — the former President’s Cabinet, I should say — including high-ranking national security officials, questioning the former President’s stability, his behavior, and his suitability to oversee the national security of the United States.
So, those are important questions that need to be discussed as well.
Q I want to follow up to this. Does the President believe that General Milley should testify before Congress about his actions during that time?
MS. PSAKI: Look, I think we — the President has been clear with his administration and members of his Cabinet and national security team that we will continue to work with Congress and cooperate with them as appropriate in meeting their needs. We’ve done that from the beginning of the administration.
I would defer to the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs for further decisions.
Q Last thing, and then I’ll hand off. If you could just give a comment on the — what seems to be the escalation of tensions between North and South Korea.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I would first note that the State Department and INDOPACOM have both put out statements, as well, that I would point you all too if you haven’t seen them.
I would note that in INDOPACOM’s statement, they said they, of course, are aware of the missile launch, as are we. They’ve also stated that [while] they “have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launch highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program.”
So, I would point you to those, note those. I don’t think we have additional commentary from here at this point.
Q Thanks, Jen. Following up on Jonathan’s comments — questions here: Does the President have any concerns that General Milley perhaps worked outside of the chain of command at all in this?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I think why it was important for me to convey what I did is that the President has worked side-by-side with Chairman Milley for almost eight months as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. His experience with him has been that he is a patriot, he is somebody who is — has fidelity to the Constitution, and he has confidence in his leadership and the role he has played in his experience with him.
I can’t speak to anonymous, unconfirmed reports about prior conversations during the last administration.
Q Just a last one on this.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Former President Trump called these actions insubordinate and treasonous. Do you want to respond directly to that?
And then, I have one more off topic.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have any further response to the former President, other than to reiterate the context of this moment in time — what everybody is talking about here and what we’re reporting on.
Q And just quickly, on COVID. Dr. Fauci has publicly said that he would support a vaccine mandate for air travel. Is that something the White House is actively considering?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that Jeff Zients spoke to this just a little while ago — or, I should say, earlier this morning. And what he conveyed is that, of course — as I stated, I should say, back in August, we have been discussing and looking at ways to provide consistency, to provide clarity and steps that will ensure air travel — international air travel, I think you’re asking about here — but ensure it’s done in an equitable way.
And the current rules have been quite confusing — or the rules that have been in place for some time. But that’s not an indication of a new policy that’s forthcoming.
Q What are the lessons that the White House draws from the outcome of the California recall election, in terms of mandates and vaccines and masking?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, obviously, we would note, since you gave me the opportunity — and I’ll say there’s a statement coming from the President shortly — he has not yet spoken with Governor Newsom, but I expect he will either later today or sometime soon, just in case that was another question.
But, of course, this was a resounding victory for Governor Newsom but also for a science-based approach to fighting the pandemic — for vaccines, for testing, for steps that will protect more people and save more lives.
And there’s extensive data from last night that shows that Californians were overwhelmingly in favor of a leader who’s willing to take strong steps to defeat COVID and get the economy up and running.
Governor Newsom has been one of the leading governors in the nation protecting his people and vaccinating his state. And in our view, this was a resounding support of victory — and victory for that.
Q And if I could ask a follow-up on a different matter: How much confidence does the President have that the drone strikes in Afghanistan have killed ISIS militants?
MS. PSAKI: How much confidence in which aspect of it?
Q How much confidence does he have that the drone strikes killed the targets that were intended to be ISIS fighters, as opposed to innocent victims on the street? And does he take responsibility if the innocent victims were killed?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, there is an investigation that’s ongoing, as there always is in any event of drone strikes that could have impacted innocent civilians. And the United States takes incredibly seriously our role in preventing civilian casualties whenever we possibly can.
So, I’m going to let that play out. The President also takes that responsibility incredibly seriously. We’ll let that conclude, and then I’m sure we’ll have more to say.
Q But he doesn’t know the answer, I guess, right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, but that’s why there’s an investigation: to determine what happened and make some conclusions.
Q I wanted to ask first about the filibuster. You said last month that there was no change in the President’s viewpoint on that. Does that remain the case, and is it a topic that is being discussed with Senators Sinema and Manchin today?
MS. PSAKI: The — Senators Sinema and Manchin are here to discuss the Build Back Better agenda and this path forward. And I know one of the meetings was happening, one of them is happening later this afternoon. The President certainly believes there will be ongoing discussions — not that there’s necessarily going to be a conclusion out of those today, but that was the primary focus and purpose of these meetings.
Q And is there a change, as far as the President’s opinion, on the filibuster?
MS. PSAKI: There — right now, our goal has been on moving voting rights legislation forward. The Senate has obviously been working through it. There’s been some announcements made about progress on compromise agreements. That’s a positive step. But there hasn’t been any additional change.
Q Okay, and no change on the President’s opinion, as far as filibuster is concerned?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
Q Okay. And then on a different subject — on booster shots: There was FDA staff that said today that it’s not clear at this point whether booster shots are useful for the general public. You have a plan to start giving those out on September 20th. Is that date still on? And do you need to wait more in order to get more of a scientific consensus behind that policy?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first I would say, on August 18th — so almost a month ago — after weeks of discussion, eight of the Department of Health and Human Services’ top doctors released a statement saying they had determined boosters would be needed and that we have a plan to begin a booster program starting the week of September 20th, subject to an independent evaluation from the FDA and ACIP. That continues to be the case.
Right now, what we’re looking at is that today the FDA provided more data that will be analyzed through independent and rigorous scientific process. A formal meeting is also happening of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. That will take place on Friday.
And next week, the ACIP is planning to meet. And, based on their recommendation, we’re prepared to operationalize. So those are the steps that will be occurring.
Nothing has changed, as it relates to the eight top doctors who put out that statement almost a month ago. There was always going to be a process; that process is proceeding.
Q So, even if there’s no consensus, you will be moving forward with the booster shot program?
MS. PSAKI: No, the — the — it is subject to an independent evaluation from FDA and ACIP. That was what we said in August. That is what continues to be the case today. So that process is playing out now.
Q Thank you. Thank you.
Q Larry Nassar question for you —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Jen. Just to put a finer point on it, because you brought up the context a couple of times —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — does President Biden believe that General Milley may have been acting in the national interest by circumventing a former President who he feared was acting erratically?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s the obligation of every Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to follow constitutional orders to prevent unlawful military action. That’s what the President believes.
But it’s also important to understand the context of when this reporting was happening, during — and the fact that the former President was fomenting an insurrection and there was broad concern from a range of members of his national security team about his behavior and fitness for office. And I know you all know and have reported on that context, but that is missing a little bit as people are discussing this.
Q So you say General Milley may have been acting patriotically by having these conversations with the Chinese?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to give further analysis, other than to say that the President believes he’s patriotic, that he is — his fidelity to our Constitution is unquestionable, and he has complete confidence in him.
Q And has President Biden had a fuller conversation with General Milley about all this, since the book’s details were publicized yesterday?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other further conversations to read out.
Q Even if the President believes that the intentions and the patriotism of General Milley were in line with his own values, is there a point where criticism makes General Milley unable to continue in this role because it is a new administration, it’s a new day, and there are some questions about if he exceeded his authority?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, the President has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism, and his fidelity to our Constitution. I can’t speak to the former President’s experience with him or the former President’s views of him, but the — this President — this current President, who follows the Constitution, who’s not fomenting an insurrection, who follows the rule of law, has complete confidence in Chairman Milley and him serving — continuing to serve in his role.
Q And even as Republicans may criticize him and have questions about his suitability to continue, would that be a factor that President Biden would consider, separate from his judgment about how he conducted himself before?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think the President is looking for the guidance of members of Congress who stood by while the — their — the President of their party — the President of the United States and the leader of their party fomented an insurrection and many of them were silent.
Q Jen, thank you. The Larry Nassar situation and the testimony with Congress: You know, Simone Biles delivered powerful testimony, saying “enough is enough.” And I didn’t hear you address it at the top.
So, if you could say and elaborate: What is the President’s position on the Larry Nassar situation? And does he have a reaction to — so what — to what Simone Biles said to Congress today?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say her testimony was incredibly powerful, Aly Raisman’s was incredibly powerful — all of these women who are brave and courageous and came forward and spoke about the abuse of a monstrous human being that they lived through as gymnasts, as some of the nation’s top athletes. That’s courageous. That’s brave. They’re playing a role in preventing this from ever happening again.
I would note that also discussed was, of course, the DOJ’s inspector general report, and the testimony we heard today was also about that. And the Department of Justice has said that the FBI is promptly taking the steps outlined in the report to ensure that this can never happen again, which, certainly, the President supports that.
Q And then a follow-up — one more — for boosters. I asked the President on the South Lawn yesterday if he would be willing to take that booster dose — you said at the podium that he would after — you know, sometime after the recommendations — but he didn’t elaborate. Is the President going to take the booster dose?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, once it’s approved through the process that I just outlined.
Q Thanks, Jen. I know you’ve spoken about Milley quite a bit, but what is the President’s response to this criticism that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs exceeded his authority, usurped civilian authority? And does there exist any fear that that could happen to any administration, including this administration?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, this is why I provided the context, right? Because what we’re talking about here: one — let me just restate again — that there are a range of reports in this book — anonymous, unconfirmed.
I realize that the Department of Defense — or I should say, the Joint Staff spokesperson — put out a statement. If you look at that statement, that is really about what the normal channels of communication are, which are important to understand as well, broadly speaking, beyond this book.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs — any Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has channels to communicate with China and Russia. That — those are meant to increase confidence. Those are meant to prevent and deter any — any action that would be — that would be unintended. And that is a good thing because, obviously, we want to prevent nuclear war.
So, what I can speak to, though, is the President’s view of Chairman Milley. And, obviously, Chairman Milley has been by his side for almost eight months. The President’s experience with him is that he is a man of honor. He is a man who’s — the President is confident his leadership, his patriotism, his fidelity to the Constitution. I can’t speak to — and I’m not going to speak to anonymous, unconfirmed, out-of-context reports from the last administration.
Q And then, on the Blinken hearings — I know the Secretary of Defense was invited to the hearings yesterday on the Hill —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q — but did not appear. And Democrats are considering exercising subpoena power — or hinting at that. Would the President support Secretary Austin appearing before Congress? Would he encourage it?
MS. PSAKI: He is appearing before Congress at the end of the month.
Q And then —
MS. PSAKI: And he’s already agreed to that.
Q And then on COVID boosters, there’s been so much reporting about —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — the FDA and the CDC in this battle — reports of this battle between moving forward with this timeline and getting the regulators and the scientists to sign off on it. What is the President’s response to criticism that politics might have played a role in the September 20th timeline?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, it was a statement that was put out by eight of the nation’s top doctors and public health officials; it wasn’t a statement put out by the White House. And it was done in response to data that was made available about the waning effectiveness of vaccines.
And it was their responsibility — or they felt it was their responsibility, at the time, to make their recommendations publicly available. It is still a process that needs to be seen through. And that process is undergoing — is underway, I should say, right now.
And we, of course, respect that process, and we’ll await for that process to conclude.
Oh, go ahead.
Q Just to —
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead. Go ahead, Steven.
Q Thank you. Just to follow up on these questions about the General Milley.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q How much agency does the President believe that those in the comm- — in the chain of command should have when it comes to assessing whether an order is constitutional? What if someone who is serving this President feels that there is an order or a policy that he views as contruring [sic] — contraven- — contravening the Constitution? How much agency does this President give to those beneath him in command — in the line of — the chain of command, rather?
MS. PSAKI: Well, beyond this President, any Pres- — or any President, it’s the obligation of every Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to follow constitutional orders to prevent unlawful military action. This President has no intention of fomenting unrest or an insurrection. He has no intention of, obviously, moving forward or recommending unlawful military action. He has no intention of working in a way that is outside of what his national security team, what his military commanders are aligned with him on.
I mean, obviously, they’re going to give him a range of recommendations, but, you know, he has no intention of working outside of what is legally allowable. So I don’t think that’s going to be an issue for this President.
Q Let me ask you a follow-up to the vaccine mandate question. What’s the — last week, you were asked about the obligation that employers have, and you suggested that large employers have the ability to pay for certain things. What’s the advice the White House would give to employers that might find it difficult to find the people to do certain things? What if, particularly in blue-collar industries —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — what if people say, “You know what? I don’t need the vaccine. I don’t want the vaccine”? What should an employer do? Should an employer fire his workers? And then what?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a process of — OSHA is going through the process of determining the regulations and requirements here to give businesses and employers all these clear guidelines, which are all good questions that are being asked, and hopefully we’ll have more on that in the coming weeks.
I would say that some of the industries and business leaders who will be here today represent a diversity of industries with a diversity of workforces. And what we’ve seen of the examples to date is that what we’ve — is that there’s been an increase in vaccinations — that that has actually been something that has been economically advantageous to a number of businesses and industries around the country.
And so, that’s not — we’re looking at the models of the past as models of what can happen in the future. But there are good questions about what these requirements will look like, and that’s what OSHA is working on now.
Q Thanks, Jen. You said you don’t want to respond to unconfirmed, out-of-context reporting, but you’ve also given a really ringing endorsement to General Milley. So I guess my question is: Is it fair to say that the President feels he knows enough about what General Milley did or didn’t do at the end of the last administration, or does he want to know more?
MS. PSAKI: He knows General Milley, and he’s worked beside him for the last nearly eight months, and that’s what gives the President confidence in him.
Q So, this is finished as far as he’s concerned? In other words, there’s nothing more to investigate.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll leave it to Congress and others to ask questions they want to ask, and obviously, the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs, and others will speak to that. But I’m just speaking to where the President stands.
Q Jen, Politico has a report that there could be an agreement coming with Australia and the UK. There’s a line in there that it could involve nuclear capability as well. Is there a situation in which the U.S. would ship bomb-grade fuel to a non-nuclear weapon state?
MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen the reports out there, and I know there’s been a call this morning to give people a preview of what’s coming later, and we’re going to wait for any announcement to be made more officially later this evening.
Q But just on the question of the situation if the U.S. would, is there a situation where the U.S. would ship that bomb-grade fuel to —
MS. PSAKI: Again, the parameters of this agreement and the announcements later today, we’ll leave it to that announcement to be made. I know there was a briefing this morning as well.
Q And is there any update on the measles outbreak that caused the suspension of flights of Afghan allies to the U.S.?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, let me — let me give you — I’m not — I don’t know how much you know, so — but I’ll tell you what I know, and then we’ll see.
So, to date, there have been seven cases that we have confirmed. And the CDC has requested, of course, at least seven additional days, out of an abundance of caution, to pause these flights. That remains the case now.
We’re still assessing and working with the national security team, public health officials, and others to determine what the next steps are here. Obviously, it’s out of an abundance of caution, and, again, these individuals are being housed separately in accordance with public health guidelines.
But that’s where we stand at this point in time.
Q Just one more. With the September 18th rally this weekend, I know Karine was asked about this yesterday, but should we expect — should people in Washington, D.C., expect to see any sort of military presence, National Guard presence, you know, in the city? Could you give some details about just what to expect, security-wise, in Washington?
MS. PSAKI: We are obviously always watching and take steps in order to ensure the security of people who work in government. We work closely with Congress on that. We typically don’t predict that or lay that out in advance, and so I’m not going to do that from here either.
Q Thanks, Jen. With only a couple weeks ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit — obviously, the administration is still negotiating a package right now that has climate at its core — do you all feel any pressure right now to get this bill across the line before the summit, when you would present to the world your ambitions on climate change?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the summit is not for two months, so we have a bit of time. And obviously, we certainly expect that it will move forward in advance of that.
Q And then, do you all feel — I guess, in your negotiations at the moment with Senators Manchin and Sinema, for instance — that certain climate provisions may be at stake in the ongoing — in the current negotiations or that you may have to downsize your ambitions there, specifically on climate?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say first that the climate components of the package are incredibly important to the President. And there are some key components in the infrastructure framework — which include investments, of course, in rail, increasing public transit, ensuring that we have clean drinking water across the country, investment in electric vehicles.
There are also key components in the reconciliation package, providing tax cuts for businesses and consumers who invest in clean energy technologies, sending a market signal that brings additional private investment off the sidelines and into modernizing our electric grid, mobilizing the next generation of conservation and resilience.
All of these pieces together are vitally important to helping address the climate crisis and moving our agenda forward. The President has still taken additional steps, as he did just last month, where he announced steps to drive American leadership forward on clean cars and trucks, aiming to grow good-paying union jobs at home and aligning with automakers and the United Auto Workers to make half of all new vehicles sold in the — in 20- — by 2020 — 2030, excuse me, zero emissions.
So, there are steps we can take outside of these legislative pieces, but certainly moving these legislative pieces forward will be significant. The President has advocated for them. This is an ongoing negotiation, but he’s made clear they’re important to him.
Go ahead. Oh, go ahead. Oh, go ahead, right in front of me.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Go ahead.
Q Thanks. Thanks, Jen. You mentioned the discussion of mandates for international travel. Does the President support mandates for — vaccine mandates for domestic travel?
MS. PSAKI: We have not put in place vaccine mandates for domestic travel from the federal government. No, we have not.
Q But, does he support that? And is it under discussion? Has it been under discussion at any point? And if not, why not?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, there’s always a range of discussions about additional steps that can be taken by the federal government to protect us all from COVID, to reduce the spread.
What we made the decision on — or a determination on, last week, is that putting in place these mandates and requirements on businesses would have the largest impact in helping reduce the spread of COVID, protect more people, and save more lives.
So, we’re maintaining existing travel requirements at this point in time. We’re, obviously, continuing to discuss a range of options, as we always would be.
Q Jen, can I follow up?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Francesca.
Q Okay, can I follow up on that?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Jeff Zients said today though, “We are exploring considering vaccination requirements for foreign nationals traveling to the [United States],” that you’re “working now to be ready to replace the current restrictions with a new system for international travel” — reading those words from him.
So, what is the timeframe that you would imagine for that? Are we talking about weeks here? Are we talking about months before the holidays that are coming up? What can you tell us about that?
MS. PSAKI: So I said something similar in August, so did Jeff Zients, about our desire to work with — through these working groups — which is different from the domestic question; this is about the international component — to create consistent, equitable approaches to — that will also keep the American people safe and keep — stop the spread of COVID here.
I don’t have a projected timeline. It’s just an ongoing discussion that’s been on- — been happening since last August. Since August —
Q Okay, and then —
MS. PSAKI: — last month.
Q Sure. And then, a separate question about the vaccine mandates that the President announced: Does the President intend for that to apply to employees of state and local governments?
MS. PSAKI: State and local governments will make decisions, some of them have OSHA requirements and laws and others don’t. I mean, we are still recommending that states, where they can, mandate vaccines. Obviously, leaders will make decisions on their own, but it’s really state to state on whether it’s applicable under OSHA requirements.
Q Thanks. On the Biden-Xi call, can you clarify for us if President Biden asked President Xi for a meeting and President Xi declined that? There’s a little bit of confusion.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I know there’s been some reporting out there about this, so let me just reiterate a couple of things. President Biden and President Xi had a broad, strategic discussion. The question as — what you’re asking about — related to a press report. The President and Jake Sullivan both said it’s not true, that it was not an accurate portrayal of the call.
As we said at the time, they had a discussion about how to continue the ongoing channel of communication — high-level channel of communication between the presidents. And that was certainly a part of the discussion.
But in terms of what’s next or what format or what that looks like, any reports that suggest there was a conclusion of that are inaccurate.
Q So is it — sorry, is it inaccurate that the request was made from the U.S. President to have a meeting? Or is it inaccurate that the Chinese President declined? Because I think “not true” was not really giving us the full picture of what in in the press reports is not accurate.
MS. PSAKI: What’s accurate is there is an ongoing discussion with the Chinese leaders about what the next steps should be about engagement on a leader-to-leader level. But I don’t have anything more to preview at this point in time.
Q And then, one other issue that I know is a big priority of yours — on the supply chain crunch, specifically semiconductors. What is your — where in your priority list is getting that broader China competition bill through the Congress? And how much — can you give us a little bit of context of how much your team is working on that still — how to get it done, when to get it done?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s clearly a lot happening in our legislative agenda right now, but you’re absolutely right that moving this forward is a priority. It’s part of the discussion that senior members of the White House have with leaders in Congress as we’re talking about what we want to get done in the coming months. I’m not going to give a rank order. Obviously, there’s a number of pieces we need to get done right now.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Thanks, Jen. There was a new poll from Monmouth out today that said — that found that 2 in 10 Americans don’t think the country will ever go back to normal after COVID-19. What’s the White House message to Americans who are so pessimistic right now?
MS. PSAKI: Our messages is: We understand your frustration. This has been a long haul. And we have all been navigating through what has been a difficult time in this country for people across the country, whether it’s because you have kids who are not yet vaccinated, whether because you’re not able to go to sporting events or go to concerts or go out like you used to, or — it’s all difficult. So, first, we would acknowledge that.
But I would say the second piece is that the President made clear last week he’s going to use every lever possible from the federal government to reduce the spread of COVID, to save — to protect more people, to save more lives. That is what we will hope lead to us going to — back to a version of normal.
Q And the White House announced the President will be going up to the U.N. General Assembly next week. Can you give us a sense right now of what that day will look like? Is he going to be holding bilateral meetings? And who might he be meeting with on the sidelines?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I don’t have anything quite yet. Hopefully I’ll have by tomorrow. Obviously, he’ll be giving remarks while he’s there. He will have some bilateral meetings. Hopefully we’ll have more on that in the next 24 or for- — hours or so.
Go ahead, Patsy.
Q Thanks, Jen. So on President Biden’s call to world leaders —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — to recommit against the pandemic, and the call to fully vaccinate the world — 70 percent of the world population by next September — many experts that we’ve spoken to say that this goal will be unlikely to be achieved unless there is a vaccine patent waiver at the WTO. The U.S. has supported this since May, and it’s been months. And it doesn’t seem like Ambassador Katherine Tai has been able to move the needle a little bit. So, is the U.S. serious? And would that be part of the President’s call in recommitting to the fight against the pandemic — COVID?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I know there’s been a range of reports about an email invitation that was sent out. That was not an announcement or a determination of any goals we’re setting. There’s still a discussion about that.
But I would say that we always said from the beginning the TRIPS waiver process would be a long one; it is. I know we’re in September, but we always knew that it would be a lengthy process. But that’s never been the only basket that we’re focused on. We’ve also been focused on increasing supply — or vaccine supply to the world. We provide more vaccines to the world than any other country in the world combined. We’ve also been working with countries on manufacturing capacity and making sure they have the materials they need.
So this is an across-the-board approach. It’s not based on one particular component. But in terms of specific goals — I know there’s been some reports about an invitation, but those are not yet deter- — representative of our view.
Q And one on foreign policy. The Ukrainian president’s office issued a statement that, as part of the agreement reached during the Biden and Zelenskyy meeting, Ukraine may receive new air and missile defense systems, in particular the Iron Dome. Can you confirm?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that with our team. I know we announced we were providing additional assistance when we had that meeting, but in terms of the specifics, I’d have to check with our team.
Q Just a quick follow-up on the timeline for the reconciliation bill. Do you expect that to be signed into law by the time Biden goes to Glasgow, or just move forward?
MS. PSAKI: Look, I’m not really here to — I’m not setting a deadline on this. All I’m conveying is we’re two months away, as what we’re talking about with Glasgow. So obviously we hope to make progress in that period of time, and we’re certainly making progress now, but I wouldn’t tie it to what our meeting is there or objectives or ability to achieve what we want to do.
Q And then just one more on some of the details of the plan. Does the White House believe that fresh taxes on cigarettes and vaping violate Biden’s pledge not to tax any Americans that make less than $400,000 a year?
MS. PSAKI: No, we don’t. But I’d also say that this is an idea put forward. There are a lot of — a range of ideas put forward. This is the period of the process where that discussion is ongoing. And the President encouraged members of Congress to put things forward — things they’d like to see in the package, revenue raisers that they could see in the package. But, no, we don’t believe that violates our pledge.
Q And why wouldn’t that violate it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think our pledge, one, is related to Americans making less than $400,000 a year as their income and their taxable income.
Also, I know you’re going to ask me probably about our opposition to the vehicle mileage tax. Millions of Americans go to work and drive their cars and go to work, and that would impact millions and millions of Americans. Obviously, public health guidance advises against smoking, so that’s not something that we think falls into the same category. But, again, it’s not an idea the President has proposed, and it’s just one that’s been proposed, among many, from members of Congress.
Q Does the White House support the — does the White House support that proposal?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not one we proposed. There are negotiations; they’re happening now. I’m not going to negotiate all of the components from here. But it wasn’t one that the President proposed in his initial — in his initial speech or announcement, but he’s also encouraged members to come forward with a range of ideas.
Q Thanks, Jen. Senators from both parties have called for an investigation into Facebook’s internal research on the way young users — young users are affected by Instagram. Would the White House back these efforts?
MS. PSAKI: Efforts by Congress to investigate?
Q Facebook and their internal research on Instagram, and how it affects young users.
MS. PSAKI: I did see some of the reporting. I haven’t had a chance to really talk to our team about this. I would say that, you know, the President does think, and he has said, that there are serious issues around how much power Internet platforms have amassed in our society, and certainly, some of that reporting is an example of that.
But in terms of next steps, I don’t think I have a further comment at this point in time, but I will see if there’s more we have to offer.
Q Hi. Thank you, Jen. A question about Iran. Iran has now a new chief nuclear negotiator. It’s widely seen as a sign that they’re going adopt a tougher stance. So does the President still believe that he can restart the talks with Iran about nuclear weapons?
MS. PSAKI: He continues to believe that a diplomatic path forward is the best path forward and that going back to a period of time where we have visibility into Iran’s nuclear capabilities, that we can work with our international partners to hold them accountable is the best step. But obviously that is up to the State Department to determine what’s possible with diplomacy.
I know we have to wrap here because I think you have to go gather, but why don’t we do one last one.
Q Jen, did the President watch any of the emotional testimony from the U.S. gymnasts earlier today? I know you touched on his message. Did he tune into any of it?
MS. PSAKI: I know he’s had a full schedule today, so I’m not sure he’s had the opportunity to watch much of the testimony on television. We have mentioned it to him because obviously it impacted many of us. As you’re watching — I don’t know how anyone couldn’t have been impacted watching it, but I’m not sure if he’ll have an opportunity later today. I know he’s been following this closely, of course.
Q And does he still have confidence in his FBI director, given many of these young women said they feel failed and betrayed by the FBI? One agent has been removed, but does the President believe that more should be removed from their jobs if they were involved?
MS. PSAKI: There’s an IG investigation, which is an important process and one that should be followed, and the President certainly supports that. Obviously, the FBI director was also testifying today and spoke to his views of what went wrong here, so I’d point you to that.
Okay. Thanks so much, everyone.
(Cross-talk from reporters.)
I think I got to wrap because you guys have to gather. Thanks, everyone.
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