James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:43 P.M. EDT

MS. PSAKI:  Hi, everyone.  Good afternoon.  Okay, I just have two quick items at the top.  I know that some of the wires have to go.  We’ll let you know when you have to go, and we’ll go to you guys first.

Yesterday, HHS, Treasury, Labor, and OPM issued new consumer protections against surprise medical bills.  Specifically, the rule is designed to lower healthcare costs, prevent hospitals and doctors from taking advantage of their market power, advance healthcare price transparency, and expand people’s ability to dispute claims denied by their health plan.

This builds on a rule that was issued in July.  Together, these new regulations will ensure that consumers are protected from most surprise bills; that consumers know how much healthcare will cost before getting care; and that providers, health plans, and issuers have a process to settle payment disputes.

Also, I wanted to just give you a brief 3,000-foot on the week ahead, and we’ll have more as the weekend proceeds.  Of course, throughout the weekend and next week, the President will continue to make the case for his Build Back Better agenda and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.  Also, he will be working with the Senate on the debt limit after Republicans voted twice, this week, to default.

And toward the middle of the week, the President will travel across the country to make the case for his Build Back Better agenda and to discuss his administration’s work to increase COVID-19 vaccinations, defeat the pandemic, and build an economy that works for all.

And next Friday is, of course, Jobs Day.  You can expect he’ll deliver some remarks on the economy.  And, as always, we’ll provide you with more details as we have them.

Zeke, why don’t you kick us off.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Why is the President going to the Hill today?  And what is — what are — what has changed in these talks that he believes now is the time to make the drive over there?  And what is his message to House Democrats?

MS. PSAKI:  He’s going over there to make the case for his legislative agenda, which includes the infrastructure bill and it includes his Build Back Better agenda that would be in the reconciliation package.

So, he wants to speak directly to members, answer their questions, and make the case for why we should all work together to give the American people more breathing room. 

Q    Does he expect to walk out of there with agreement, consensus for a vote today on the infrastructure package?

MS. PSAKI:  I’m not going to make a prediction of whether there will or won’t be a vote.  I’ll leave that to Speaker Pelosi to determine when she will call a vote. 

But he’s making the case — he believes it’s the right time for him to go up there.  This is hi- — these are his proposals.  These are his bold ideas.  This is his plan that he’s outlined to not just rebuild our roads, our railways, and bridges and put millions of people back to work, but also to make childcare, eldercare, pre-K more cost effective; to address the climate crisis.  And he wants to make the case directly to members.

Q    And you mentioned a few of those proposals that are in there.  Senator Manchin is calling to means test some of those new proposals.  Is that something the President is open to?  Is that — on the Hill, is that the substance of what is being hashed out right now?

MS. PSAKI:  I wouldn’t say that’s the substance of what’s being hashed out right now.  There’s a lot of topics that are being discussed right now between a range of members, including Senator Manchin. 

I know we’ve talked over the last couple days a little bit about this proposal for some means testing.  What the President supports and what the President is focused on is ensuring that these plans are targeted toward the middle class — help the middle class and help middle-class families prosper, give them breathing room. 

And so, as you look to some of his past proposals, there has been caps on income in some of his past proposals — some that were implemented as a part of the American Rescue Plan. 

So, certainly, whatever you call it, he’s open to discussing that.

Q    And, sorry, last one.  We haven’t really seen much of the President this week in public.  Is it possible we’ll see him — will his remarks to the Democratic conference be open to the press?  Will he make remarks?  Will he speak to the American people today about the status of those negotiations?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, he’s visiting the Democratic Caucus.  And as you may know, and as the Speaker’s office will confirm for all of you, they make those rules; we don’t make those rules.  And those are closed press meetings, but obviously there’ll be a press pool with him.

In terms of whether he’ll address the public or speak to all of you, we’ll see.  We’re quite open, and he is — we’ll make decisions hour by hour.

Go ahead, Jeff.

Q    Jen, can you tell us what progress has been made in the last 24 hours or so on these two bills?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I can tell you a little bit about what’s happened over the last 24 hours.  So, as — and some of you have been watching this closely.  But White House officials — including Chief of Staff Ron Klain; Counselor Steve Ricchetti; Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice; Legislative Director Louisa Terrell; NEC Director Brian Deese — have been speaking with leadership and members spanning the caucus daily: moderates and progressives; members of the CPC — the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Blue Dogs; New Dems; and Problem Solvers.

They’ve been on constant contact and on constant phone calls.  And also, as you know, many of those officials I just mentioned — Susan Rice, Brian Deese, and Louisa Terrell — were up on the Hill yesterday from about 3:00 p.m. until midnight last night, meeting with members, discussing with their teams what the path forward looks like.

The legislative team has also made now at least 300 calls or had at least 300 calls or meetings with members chiefs, chiefs of staff, staff directors, and legislative directors since September 1st.  And our policy teams have also had dozens of meetings directly with members and their teams. 

I would say, over the last 24 hours, you know, you’ve seen — you know, obviously there’s been a — the pressure of a timeline, which often can make progress — can crystallize for people what’s at stake, what we’re all trying to do here, which is to make life better for the American people.

There have been discussions about what the path forward looks like — productive, constructive discussions.  And as I said — as we said last night in the statement I put out, we feel we’ve made some progress.  Those discussions have continued today, and they’re continuing as we speak. 

Q    And was that statement that I was referring to —

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    — is there anything more you delineate about what that progress is exactly?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think we all know what we’re trying to work toward here, right?  It’s not a state secret. 

There are a couple of members of the Senate who want to be comfortable with what the Build Back Better package looks like.  There are a couple of members of the Progressive Caucus, several members of the Progressive Caucus — however you define it — who wants to know there’s a path forward on the Build Back Better agenda.

What we’re working toward is unifying a path to get both of these packages done.  As a part of that — and we all knew this from the beginning — compromise is necessary; it’s inevitable.  Some have come down, some have come up in the numbers and what we’re looking at here.  That’s what the basis of the discussion and some of the basis of progress has been.

Q    Just one quick question on North Korea.  They’ve launched another missile; this is their second one this week.  White House reaction to that and to Kim Jong Un’s offer to open up a direct line with South Korea again.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, let me say that, in our outreach, as I think — I’ll start here — we’ve made specific proposals for discussion with the North Koreans but have not received a response to date.  So, in our outreach from the United States.  And we remain prepared to discuss the full range of issues.

I believe, in terms of the recent incidents you — missile launches you refer to, we’re, of course, aware of these reports.  We’re assessing the specific nature of these launch events.  I think we’ve put out statements from the Department of Defense and others in response to them.

In terms of discu- — potential discussions between the North Koreans and the South Koreans, obviously, we’ve made our own outreach of potential engagement.  I’d have to talk to our team if we have a more specific reaction.

Go ahead.  Oh, let me actually — I promised I’d go to the wire, so go ahead. 

Q    Okay.  Progressives say they want a Senate vote on the reconciliation before they vote for the infrastructure package.  And since that’s not happening today, what sort of assurances can you offer progressives?

MS. PSAKI:  I’m not sure I’m following your question. 

Q    Progressives want, you know, assurances that the reconciliation package will pass if they also take a vote on the infrastructure package.  So what assurances can the White House offer progressives on the (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, that’s exactly what we’re working through.  One, we don’t know what the vote schedule is or isn’t today; we leave that to Speaker Pelosi.

As I said yesterday, and I’ll just reiterate now, it’s 2:50 in the afternoon.  There’s plenty of hours of time left.  It is not a secret — we know exactly what we’re trying to accomplish here; exactly as you’ve stated, as something I’ve stated many times from this podium — there is a desire and an interest from some members of the Democratic Caucus to understand what the path forward looks like on the Build Back Better agenda — a proposal and agenda the President has proposed.

That’s what they’re looking for: an assurance that there’s a path forward on that.  They feel the keys to that is ensuring that there are enough votes to pass that in the Senate with the support of Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema.  That’s why the President has been so focused on working with them and having discussions with them about finding a path forward. 

If there was a deal, you all would know there was a deal.  But that’s exactly what we’ve been working toward and working through over the past several days.

Go ahead, Kelly.

Q    Is this a trust exercise today where the President is going to try to get progressives to trust that perhaps something like a framework, short of a full vote, should be acceptable?

MS. PSAKI:  The President is not going there to litigate the legislative path forward.  He is going there to make the case for how these two packages can help the American people.  He’ll, of course, answer questions, and I’m sure that will be a part of the important engagement he has while he’s on the Hill. 

Q    And some Republicans who were working with the President earlier in the process on the $1 trillion package — Mitt Romney, among them, says this is profoundly disappointing and he believes House Democrats have put their party ahead of the needs of the country.  How does the President respond to that?

MS. PSAKI:  I think maybe the time and energy of some of the Republicans in the Senate who voted in a bipartisan fashion to move the infrastructure bill forward should talk to Kevin McCarthy and some of the Republicans in the House who are opposing a bill, opposing a proposal that many of them had expressed support for in the past — because they’re either being pressured by special interests or by their own leadership, whatever it may be.  So, we’d suggest he spend some time talking to them. 

Go ahead.

Q    Jen, our reporting is that the final agreement could come in at around $2 trillion.  Is that somewhere the White House is comfortable with?  Is that where you’re trying to land this?

MS. PSAKI:  Look, I think I’m not going to negotiate from here, obviously.  We know — and we’ve said from the beginning — that some will have to come up, some will have to come down.  And if there was an agreement on what the final looked like, you would all know that.

Q    And in your statement last night, one of the common goals you cited was clean energy.  Does that mean there’s any kind of agreement on how you’re defining “clean energy”?  Because, obviously, progressives see it one way, but, you know, Senator Manchin has said he wants to include natural gas, which they don’t agree with. 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, when we say “clean energy” — when I said it in the statement, what we’re referring to is really steps to address the climate crisis.  There are a number that are included in the infrastructure bill.  There are also a number that are included in the Build Back Better agenda, including —

Go ahead. 

(Members of the press pool depart.)

Go ahead.  I’m sorry.

Q    We may need to pause for a second. 

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.

Q    Sorry about that.

MS. PSAKI:  No, no, no.

Q    Thank you, pool.  (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI:  Yes, thank you, pool.

And so, what we were — what I was referring to there is, in the infrastructure bill, it includes a number of key components, in our view, that will help address the climate crisis: investing in electric vehicles, getting rid of lead pipes, making sure there are charging stations.  There are also key components in the Build Back Better agenda.  All of those, in our view, are efforts to move toward a clean energy economy. 

Q    And really quick: Secretary Yellen said this week she would support eliminating the debt limit entirely.  Would President Biden also support a solution that effectively abolishes the debt limit?

MS. PSAKI:  Our focus right now, over the next 17 days or so, is — plus or minus — is getting a debt limit — getting the debt limit raised in the Senate.  That’s what we’re working toward.  There’s plenty of time after that to discuss what the path forward looks like. 

Go ahead, Jacqui. 

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Did the President wait too long to get seriously involved in these discussions?  I mean, this is happening so late that Speaker Pelosi is, like, using a legislative trick to pretend that it’s still Thursday on the Hill to meet her deadline. 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, Jacqui, I would say anyone who’s ever been through a legislative fight before or covered it on the Hill knows that the negotiations and the deal making always happens at the end.  It doesn’t matter how the process works or how many weeks there are — it always happens at the end. 

We’re clearly at the late stages of the process here.  This is exactly the moment where people put their bottom lines down, they put their best ideas forward, and there’s heavy negotiating.  And that’s exactly what’s happening.  And that’s why timelines can help make progress. 

Q    And then, there are 3,700 Department of Transportation employees who are furloughed right now because progressives have, so far, declined to support this bipartisan bill that would renew their baseline funding.  Setting aside that there is discussion going on for a short-term fix that’s possible, aren’t progressives squarely to blame for the furlough that’s happening right now?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, to be clear, I mean, every member of Congress is a free citizen who could vote to support this infrastructure bill, including Republicans.  They could come forward and support it, as 19 Republicans in the Senate did not.  Instead, they have chosen to be influenced by — whether it’s pharmaceutical companies or other special interests, or just to be strong-armed by their leadership not to support legislation that many — including members of the Problem Solvers Caucus — suggested they may. 

So, it just requires a majority to support legislation in Congress, and we haven’t seen any real courage from the Republican side in the House.

Q    And then, in the messaging to progressives about the value of this package, is there any, you know, discussion conveying from the White House that if this package is around $2 trillion dollars, that the value of it, the investment of it is actually higher because of some of the math that can be done?  Is that kind of an argument that the White House is making to try to sell this to progressives?

MS. PSAKI:  The case that the White House is making is that compromise requires everybody giving a little.  That’s the stage we’re in.  But no matter where we end, if we can get something done here, we’re going to have a historic piece of legislation pass Congress that’s going to have a huge impact on the American people. 

And that’s one of the reasons the President wanted to go down there today and lay down and remind people — we get mired, everybody does, in kind of the mechanics of legislating; hugely important part — but remind people of what this is all about.  And this is all about lowering costs for people.  This is all about addressing the climate crisis.  This is all about helping women and families get back in the workforce.  And that’s the case he’ll make when he goes to the caucus. 

Q    One more quick one.  If the President can’t get this across today, after his visit to the Hill, what message does that send about the Democrats’ ability to deliver?  And what kind of impact might that have in the midterms?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think what’s happening right now is there’s healthy debate, discussion, and disagreement about the specifics of the path forward.  And that’s not a sign of dysfunction, that’s a sign of Democrats, primarily at this point — though we welcome Republican support in the House — trying to work together to get things done for the American people.  That’s how legislating happens. 

So, he’s going up there because this is his agenda.  This is what he has proposed.  He feels passionately about getting both of these pieces of legislation done.  And he wants to speak directly to the caucus about that, and he feels it’s exactly the right time to do that. 

He also feels that disagreement, debate, litigating components of numbers or how much is going to get a little more than the other — that’s democracy.  And that’s a healthy part of the process, too.

Go ahead. 

Q    Yeah.  You said at the top that the President, next week, will make his case for the Build Back Better agenda and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.  Is that a concession that it is not going to get done this weekend —

MS. PSAKI:  No, it’s —

Q    — on the bipartisan (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI:  — it’s — it’s conveying that the President is going to have to continue to go out there and make the case to the public about what is in these packages, no matter when it passes.

Q    Okay.  Soon — possibly as soon as this weekend — the United States is going to hit 700,000 deaths from COVID.  When the U.S. hit 500,000, the President paused and essentially held a memorial.  How does he intend to mark this next terrible milestone?  And also, what responsibility does he feel for the last 200,000 deaths? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, look, I think as the President said many times, he feels incredible responsibility for everything that’s happening in the country, including our ongoing fight and battle with COVID-19.  That’s why he has focused on this as his number one priority since the first day he came into office. 

I’d note that we’ve saved, according to outside experts, tens of thousands — hundreds of thousands of lives because of the actions his administration took, including — at this point, I think we’re at 77 or 78 percent of the public having received at least one vaccine. 

Obviously, we’ll all take a moment to pause when we hit 700,000.  That is a striking, horrifying number of lives lost to a pandemic — people who lost loved ones; parents; grandparents; children, in many cases. 

In terms of what the President will specifically do, we’ll have — I’ll have to get back to you on when we have more on that. 

Go ahead. 

Q    Back to the President’s trip to the Hill. 

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    You said he’s going to make his case for his agenda.  But is it also his way of saying, “Enough is enough.  This is time to come together now”?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, certainly, he’s going to make the case for why it’s important that everybody come together and move forward on both pieces of these legislations so we can deliver for the American people.  I don’t think the President is going to say “enough is enough.”  That’s not really his vernacular. 

But he feels it’s important now to go directly — go to the Hill, go to the Democratic Caucus and make his case directly, answer questions, and certainly talk about how we can work together to make the lives of the American people better. 

Q    Just following up on Kelly’s question, there does seem to be a lack of trust.  Like you said, progressives are looking for assurances that there’s a path forward, that the negotiations are going to continue on the reconciliation bill.  How do you govern if there’s a lack of trust among Democrats? 

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t know that — I wouldn’t put it in those terminology of as “a lack of trust.”  I will leave that to members of Congress to describe how they feel about each other. 

There’s a diversity of views and opinions within the Democratic Caucus.  We know that.  We welcome that.  That’s a healthy part of having a party, a healthy part of having a democracy. 

What we know is that the President has worked with members of this caucus to get the American Rescue Plan done, to move his agenda forward to this point, and that when we’re talking about this stage in the process — a pivotal stage in the process where we’re litigating details, where we’re having debates about key components of two historic bills that will change the lives of millions of people — it’s healthy to have discussions.  It’s healthy to push.  It’s healthy to be out there advocating for your point of view.

And I think there’s a misunderstanding of how democracy and

policymaking works when you suggest otherwise.  Not you, but anyone. 

Q    Just following up again on the climate change stuff, is the President’s goal still to end fossil fuel subsidies?

MS. PSAKI:  That’s his goal.  Yes. 

Go ahead.

Q    Jen, the President spent most of his week doing his negotiating behind the scenes here at the White House, in meetings, on the phone.  Today, he’s making a very public trip to the halls of Congress.  So, why the change in tactics?  Is this a make-or-break moment?

MS. PSAKI:  This is a moment where he feels it’s exactly the right time to go to the caucus and make the case for why it’s important to work together to get this agenda done.  He wants to go back to the substance and talk about how the components of each of these packages will make a difference in people’s lives. 

And he wants to have an engagement and a back and forth in person, which, as you can all note, he’s had a lot of people here come to the White House.  He loves that in-person engagement.  And it’s an opportunity to do exactly that. 

When there will be a vote, when there will be a deal — there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes about that.  This is just his own effort to make his case directly to the caucus. 

Q    But is he trying to send a message by literally meeting members physically where they are?

MS. PSAKI:  And what message would that be?

Q    I’m not — that’s my question.  (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI:  I think —

Q    That’s my question, Jen.

MS. PSAKI:  Okay.  I think I wasn’t sure what you were asking.

Q    Is there a message?  If there’s not a message, there’s not —

MS. PSAKI:  I think he’s — look, he was in the Senate for 36 years.  You know, he is making clear that if they partner together — if we work together, we can get this done for the American people. 

And going to their caucus meeting — something, by the way, he did in the Senate — it’s not unheard of; it’s something presidents have done in the past — is a way for him to go and make the case for his agenda.  As I said earlier, this is his — these are his proposals.  This is something he passionately believes in: both pieces of legislation.  And so, it’s absolutely right for him to go to where they are and make the case for both.

Q    And one last one.  During most of the day yesterday, it was quite clear that the votes were not there for this infrastructure bill to pass.  And yet we saw White House officials and the President working throughout the day to try and cobble together the votes to pass that legislation last night, only to see the inevitable happen with the Speaker delaying that vote. 

So what, in the President’s view, did that work yesterday accomplish?  And was it worth it to try and push for that bill to be passed on that arbitrary timeline?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, if the Speaker were standing here — I wish she was; she’s invited any time — she would tell you it wasn’t inevitable, and that when you legislate and when you are working with a small margin — which she is — in Congress to get something done, that timelines, self-imposed deadlines sometimes can help crystallize for people and help you make progress.  And we think it did exactly that. 

As we said in a statement last night, we’re not quite there yet.  We’re still working toward it.  That remains the case today. 

Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, Jen.  Thanks.  What more can you tell us about these trips next week that the President is making?  Can you tell us what states or locations they are?  How — is this a multi-day trip or just one day?  I think you said middle of the week.

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    And the fact that the President is going on the road, so to speak, is this a sign that he has struggled to sell this plan, so far, to the public for you to do this at this point?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I don’t have the details yet.  I understand why you’re asking, but I wasn’t trying to be secretive about them.  We’re still trying to finalize all the specifics.  We may have more by the end of today or first thing tomorrow morning.  As soon as we do, we’ll make them available.

It’s going to be at least one day, maybe two days of travel next week, if we can finalize all of the details. 

Look, we know that the components of these packages are quite popular — and I went through this the other day — with the American people, if you look at the Child Tax Credit; if you look at universal pre-K; if you look at eldercare and ensuring that eldercare is something that can be cost effective and achievable, being able to cover it for people; and also making sure our roads and our rails and our bridges are rebuilt, also very popular, as is addressing the climate crisis.  But he also recognizes that he needs to be out there conveying to the American public why this matters to them, even if they like different components of the package. 

So, this is something he’s committed to doing, you’ll see him doing over the coming weeks and months.  We made an assessment — because there’s almost nothing more valuable than the time of the President of the United States — that in this week, when we were in a key period of negotiating and having discussions with legislators, specifically a couple of members of the Senate, that his time would be best spent here in Washington being available, meeting with people, and having phone calls. 

But we’ll see.  He’ll do that next week too.  But he’ll also be on the road.

Q    Will these trips be in what we think of as swing states, or in maybe even the states of some of the senators who haven’t gotten on board yet — say, maybe Arizona or — (laughter) —

MS. PSAKI:  He’s going to be — I understand your line of questioning.  We’ll get your advice — 

Q    What letter does it begin?

Q    Start with.  (Laughter.) 

MS. PSAKI:  Right.  What does it rhyme with?  I understand your question.  Look, he’s not going out to the country to do anything more than communicate with the public about how Democrats are working together to make their lives better.  And I expect we’ll have more details in the next 24 hours about where.

Go ahead, Karen. 

Q    Thanks, Jen.  You’ve said a couple times that timelines help make progress and that self-imposed deadlines also make progress.  In all of the meetings this week between White House staff and the President with lawmakers, was the White House explicitly telling progressives to hold their ground on not having the vote or not voting for the BIF until the second part?  And was the White House also saying to the moderates, “keep pushing for a timeline,” in order to get to that point that we got to yesterday?  It seemed like (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI:  So, were we negotiating against ourselves?  (Laughs.)

Q    Well, kind of — you know, what were you actually telling both?  You know, continuing on these paths —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah, no, Karen —

Q    — (inaudible) actually bring progress.

MS. PSAKI:  — it’s a good question.  I know there’s been some reporting out there.  I can assure you there is no moment in time where any senior member of this White House was arguing for anyone to vote against a piece of the President’s agenda.

What is also true is that we have been communicating with such a broad range of members from across the caucus that often we know where different parts of the caucus stand.  And so, we have been, in many ways, liaisons — along with leadership — to convey this is where this group stands, this is where that group may stand, and conveying so that we can help reach a unifying point and get across the finish line. 

And I’ll — and the vast majority of that, without all the specifics, is very much known publicly.  Right?  There’s a group who have been out on television and out very publicly — and your colleagues on the Hill will ask them good questions — who have conveyed, “We absolutely need to have a clear path forward on the Build Back Better agenda in order to support the infrastructure bill.”  They’re also a group that has conveyed that they want the infrastructure vote; otherwise, they’re not going to support the reconciliation package. 

So, what we’re trying to do is gather all the views, gather all the voices, figure out what everyone is for, and try to get both pieces of legislation fas- — passed.

Q    And then a follow-up on my colleague Mary Alice’s question.  Like, you’re getting all that together, figuring out where everybody stands — and they’re making it very public — but is there a point where the President says, “We know where everybody stands, but now everybody has to just put aside some of those red lines and get behind his agenda to get something done”?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think — I understand your question.  But, look, I mean — and he’s going to make the case for the importance of getting his agenda done today — right? — these proposals — when he goes to the caucus.

But, ultimately, it’s a separate branch of government.  Right?  Individual members have a vote.  That’s how the United States of America was set up.  And I think you’ve met a lot of these people.  They’re not looking to be told what to do or have their arms twisted.  They want to be a part of the discussion, a part of the engagement. 

The good news is, if you’ve heard and you’ve seen many of these members from all sides of this debate out there saying, “We’re making progress.  We’re getting there.  We’re getting closer to an agreement.”  We agree with that.  And so, we’re going to continue to follow this path.

Go ahead.

Q    I just wanted to follow up on a question about the White House, you know, being perceived as talking out of both sides of its mouth, for lack of a better way of saying it.  This morning, Ron Klain retweeted a message that was supportive of House progressives who delayed last night’s vote on the BIF, saying that they were putting the Biden agenda on track.  And I’m just wondering if you could kind of clarify Ron Klain’s, sort of, seeming support for that track of ideas versus what you’ve been saying all week, which is that you’re trying to get this done quickly?

MS. PSAKI:  You have caught us.  Ron Klain retweeted to send a secret message to the country that we were — (laughter) — litigating against ourselves and arguing against our agenda.

Q    If Ron Klain wants to come down to the briefing room or sit down with us, we would all welcome that.

MS. PSAKI:  All kidding aside, Amy, I know there’s been questions about this, which I was sort of touching on before.

Q    Yeah.

MS. PSAKI:  Look, we believe in the Build Back Better agenda — something that I think everybody would argue the many members of the Progressive Caucus are most excited about — right? — about any component of the agenda. 

I think that Ron Klain, the Chief of Staff — who I think most people know who he is — was just echoing the fact that there are a lot of good components of that agenda and we should get it done.  Sometimes a retweet is nothing more than that: saying that — saying the agenda is good. 

We also know that as I’ve — as I said earlier, that there are — there are — there is a need to work with members in the Senate to get them to a place where they have a commitment to a clear path forward on this agenda.

So, no, at no point have we been arguing against or whipping against our own agenda.  That would be terrible legislative and strategic strategy.  I think everyone can agree.

But we do feel strongly and the President feels very strongly about getting both pieces of these legislation done.  And so, he is working, for all the people who are excited more about one than the other, to get them all excited about both pieces and supporting both pieces.

Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, thank you, Jen.  Senators Manchin and Sinema have been wearing out a path between here and Capitol Hill in the past few days.  Yesterday, at least Senator Manchin was forthright with reporters in saying that his top line is one and a half trillion dollars, which may have some impact on the breadth and length of the — and/or length of the reconciliation bill.  Does the President have any idea what Senator Sinema wants out of this? 

MS. PSAKI:  We’ll let Senator Sinema speak for herself. 

Q    Thank you, but does he have an idea of what she wants —

MS. PSAKI:  We’ll let the senator speak for what she wants.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  You just said that, “No matter where we end, if we can get something done here, we’re going to have a historic piece of legislation.”  Are you slightly moving the goalpost there and maybe cushioning for the result being something that previously would have been thought as a disappointment, but now it’s just historic anyway?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first of all, I think we know that there’s going — as I’ve said many times, that compromise means that some people are going to come down, some people are going to come up.  That’s a part of what happens here.

But what we’re talking about is a large package that will have a historic impact on the American people.  There’s never been a proposal like this that’s come even this close to passing that will help lower the cost of childcare, of eldercare, of universal pre-K — that has done what this package is proposing to do for the climate crisis. 

So, yes, there are, of course, parameters for what we would or wouldn’t be for, but ultimately, what they’re negotiating around and what members are negotiating around in good faith would be a historic — have a historic impact on our economy, a historic impact on people across the country.

I can do a couple more here, and then I got to go.


Q    I just wanted — just on a different topic, if you don’t mind.  The lifting of the travel ban was going to be for early November.

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    That’s coming up.  Is there a date?

MS. PSAKI:  It’s still on track to meet early November.

Q    Just “early November”?

MS. PSAKI:  That’s right.  And it will be done by then.

Go ahead.

Q    You mentioned that everyone is probably going to have to give a little on this.

MS. PSAKI:  Hence a compromise.

Q    Yes.  Does the President have any specific policy redlines on the reconciliation bill that you could kind of lay out?  I know you’ve done that before on previous legislation.

MS. PSAKI:  He understands that he may not get absolutely everything he wants in this package, and others may not get absolutely everything they want in this package, but I’m not going to outline it further from here.  I know we’ve done that in the past, but at this moment in the discussions, I’m not going to do that from here.

Q    So, no aspects about the policy you can say, “He’s not letting anyone touch this”?

MS. PSAKI:  It’s all important to him, but I’m not going to outline further detail from here at this point in the discussions.

Go ahead.

Q    The New York Times ran a great story that a number of Republican senators are breaking with McConnell to sign on to the infrastructure bill.  If that’s so, are there several cases with Republican House reps too?  And is that one way that is — Pelosi counting on their votes to offset progressives? 

MS. PSAKI:  So, 19 senators did vote for the infrastructure bill and did support a bipartisan infrastructure path forward. 

There have been Republicans in the House who have expressed support for, interest in some components of this infrastructure bill in the past too, but Kevin McCarthy has been whipping against it.  It’s a good question for him as to why and why these members oppose it.  But I think Speaker Pelosi isn’t betting on Kevin McCarthy’s caucus at this point in time.

Q    Lastly, I spoke with a few organizations that are helping migrants from Haiti.  And a couple of concerns that they had were getting in complaints, accusations of human rights violations at the border, including people being refused medical attention.  Another issue that was coming in was that there were many people deported that didn’t have proper documentation that were non-Haitians that were sent to Haiti.  And so, they’re kind of dealing with that on the ground.  Have you heard — have you all heard any of those complaints or information?

MS. PSAKI:  On the latter, I have — I have not heard a single incident of that.  I’m happy to check on that case. 

I will just reiterate that as we’ve been implementing Title 42, as it relates to any migrants who have been coming across the border, no matter what country they’re coming from, who are coming through an irregular process. 

But in order to go back to a country, you typically need to have come from that country.  And there are — there are countries where some Haitians were living for a short period of time that they may have not had the proper documentation to go back to that country.  So that may be — I’m not sure if that is what the issue is.  And certainly, that did happen in some cases. 

As it relates to medical care, that is something that we surged.  And I think you’re talking about, from a couple weeks ago, in Del Rio, the — okay — which — there’s no longer people under the bridge in Del Rio.  But from a couple of weeks ago, we surged a range of resources, including food, medical care, and assistance, to make sure that people were getting exactly what they needed. 

I’d also note that an immediate medical issue is also an exemption for Title 42 and something that we would work to take care of immediately. 

All right, guys, thank you so much.  More — we’ll be here.

Thank you, everyone.

3:21 P.M. EDT

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