Aboard Air Force One
En Route Chicago, Illinois

1:42 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, good morning. Good afternoon. I’ve lost track of time. Excited to have you all joining us on the President’s visit to Illinois, where he will meet with public and private sector leaders who have implemented vaccination requirements, including Governor Pritzker and United [Airlines] CEO Scott Kirby.

Today’s visit comes as we release a new report on how vaccination requirements are helping to drive up vaccination rates, put people back to work, and strengthen the economy. This extensive analysis looks at existing vaccination requirements in healthcare systems, educational institutions, businesses. And the public sector have seen vaccination rates already soar by 20 percent.

Additionally, the report provides important analysis of how requirements are bolstering our economy, including by expanding our workforce. Increasing vaccination rates could return up to 5 million workers to the labor force. The President will also visit a construction site in Elk Grove Village being built by Clayco, one of the largest construction companies in the Midwest.

This morning, Clayco announced their strong support for the President’s plan to require a vaccination or weekly testing, and that they will implement a system of vaccinations or testing to all of their employees in line with the President’s requirements.

In his remarks, the President will send a clear message: Vaccination requirements work. He will note that his administration has pulled every lever to get more people vaccinated, including outreach to hesitant communities, easy and ready access to the vaccines, and even financial incentives.

However, the evidence is crystal clear that vaccination requirements are getting more people vaccinated with much-needed urgency we need in the face of this virus. That’s why he’s leading on implementing vaccination requirements for 100 million workers — two thirds of all workers in the U.S. And that’s why we’re seeing growing momentum for vaccination requirements across sectors and across the country.

With that, Aamer.

Q  On the whole idea of vaccination mandates, vaccination requirements — you’re saying they work. Everybody that’s on this plane has had to get a va- — has had to attest to having a vaccination. Why not require that for commercial flights as well?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, you know, every — all of our — as you can — let me just say this. Jeff Zients addressed this already today, but I would say: While no options are off the table, we are focused on the aggressive and urgent action like the ones we’ve emphasized today, as you just heard me say.

The guidance is clear: It’s much safer to travel fully vaccinated. That’s what the focus is on.

Go ahead. Go ahead, Jennifer.

Q  Karine, can you give us an update please on the latest on the debt ceiling deal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely. I can do that for sure. So, to your question, Jennifer, this is a positive step forward — the debt ceiling short-term deal that we’re seeing. And it gives us some breathing room from the catastrophic default we were approaching because of Senator McConnell’s decision to play politics with our economy.

We’ve been in close contact with Leader Schumer’s team and will remain so as the bill moves forward and gets to the President’s desk.

But I want to be very clear here: This should have never have been a political game from the start. Republicans should never have brought us to the brink of default like they did. Addressing the debt limit shouldn’t be a partisan football. This is about paying the debt that both parties have already incurred, including the $8 trillion under Trump and McConnell.

And just to remind you all that the debt ceiling was passed three times under Trump by — in a bipartisan way. And that’s why, as a country, we’ve addressed the debt ceiling almost 80 times in the last 60 years, frequently in a bipartisan manner, again.

We want to remove this cloud from our — from over our economy as soon as possible, because each day we draw closer to risks and accidental default. And even short of a default, continued brinksmanship could result in higher borrowing costs for working families for their mortgages, auto loans, and credit cards. That’s why we’ve been pushing for a simple up and down vote, and we will continue to do so.

As we move forward, there must be no question of whether America will pay its bills and address the debt limit. We can’t allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage and risk a catastrophic — catastrophe for our country and our economy.

Go ahead.

Q  But he does plan to sign it, though. Correct?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right now, we’re working towards getting there and making sure that the debt ceiling is taken — is dealt with. We’re going to conti- — we’re going to follow Chuck Schumer’s leadership. We’re going to stay in close contact.

Like I said, this is a positive step forward. But we —

Q  (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I’m saying is that we’re going to continue to talk to the Leader Schumer. This is a positive step forward. But we shouldn’t be in this position. This should never been a political football, and now it is.

Q  You’re calling it a “positive step forward,” but yesterday, when Jen was first asked about this, she was lukewarm to the idea at best. She said that it would be kicking the can down the road and that’s something you guys don’t want to do. So, what has changed between yesterday and today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here’s the thing: Senator McConnell and Republicans in the Senate brought us to the brink of default. As the President noted yesterday, every day that we wait to address the debt limit also shakes confidence in the economy and raises the risk of higher cost for working families through price — pricier credit cards, mortgages, and auto loans.

This is a temporary respite, but we’re not going to let up until Senator McConnell stops obstructing and allows us to put this behind us for good. And we’ve said this before: He can get out the way, stop filibustering. Get out the way, and we can —

Q  That’s not the question I asked. The question I asked is: This is kicking the can down the road. Yesterday, Jen said you guys don’t want to kick the can down the road.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just answered the question, and that is that the Senate — the Senate brought us to this brink of default. And like I said, this is a positive step forward, and we’re going to continue and we’re going to follow Leader Schumer’s lead on this. But we have to make sure that — we’re talking about people savings, we’re talking about veterans’ benefits, we’re talking about Social Security. That’s what we’re talking about.

We cannot — we cannot continue to play this game. And like we’ve said — we’ve said this for, gosh, over a week: If Mitch McConnell will get out the way, we can get this taken care of right away. So, now we’re just going to — as I said, a positive step forward, and we’re going to continue to work closely with Leader Schumer.

Q  But, Karine, what is — what is the plan for December? How do we not end up in the exact same place that we are right now in December? Like, what is the plan from the White House for avoiding default?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we’re going to keep — we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, which is making it really clear what’s at stake and telling — and telling Mitch McConnell and the Republicans to get out the way. Stop using this as a political football. Stop doing — putting our economic health in potential crisis.

This is something that has been done, like I said, three times under Donald Trump, the previous President, in a bipartisan way. It’s been done 80 times before. This shouldn’t be where we are today, but this is, like I said, a positive step forward, and we’re going to continue to be in touch with Leader Schumer and work closely with him.

Q  Karine, shifting gears just a little bit, can you tell us, did the President meet with Senator Manchin this morning? And can you give us a sense of what they discussed and what progress was made?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the President and Senator Manchin had a good conversation about the President’s Build Back Better agenda, as you all know, which is something that we’ve been working on to make sure that we deliver for the American public. And we’re staying in close touch about this. We’re talking to him and also his team.

I don’t have specifics about the meeting beyond that.

Q  Any plans for the President to talk to Senator Sinema anytime soon?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you can imagine, we’ve been in close touch with her team — with her and her team. And so, we’re going to — we’re operating in good faith here with her, and we’re just going to continue having conversation. But we’re in touch with many — with many of the members and senators, as you can imagine, from both sides of the chambers.

Q  One more question on the reconciliation package. As you’re trying to trim costs from that package, how does the White House feel about means testing some of the programs that are included?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, thanks for the question, Chris. I spoke to this on Tuesday when we were headed to Michigan. We’re open to that. And means testing, as you probably know, was done in the American Rescue Plan.

Q  Karine, in terms of — McConnell has said that this short-term extension gives you guys time to use budget reconciliation to lift the debt ceiling. Now that you have more time — you know, the President has said that it’s cumbersome, it’s risky because of the short time limit — now that you have more time, are you willing to use that process to lift the debt ceiling? Are you in support of that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this: You know, we’ll be in close contact with Leader Schumer, as I’ve been saying, and Senate Democrats on the path forward as we approach December. And we’ll defer to them on the process.

But as the agreement shows, there’s nothing stopping Congress from addressing the debt limit through regular order, which is what we have been asking for, and putting this behind us instead of letting obstruction from Republicans turn into another possibly devastating showdown.

So there’s no reason why we can’t simply do now what has been done — again, 80 times before in the last 60 years and 3 times, again, in the previous administration — and simply address the debt limit so we’re not risking millions of jobs. We’re talking about our pay for the military, service members. We’re talking about Social Security. We’re talking about Medicare benefits for seniors. That is what’s at risk right now.

Q  But you do remain opposed to using budget reconciliation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re just saying that it is a riskier route, a riskier path that is not necessary. And Republicans and Mitch McConnell need to get out of the way so we can do the — what needs to be done for the American public.

Q  A question, Karine, on energy: Can you share any details with us on what the White House is doing to actually keep rising prices on oil and natural gas and gasoline in check, please?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yep. So, the reality is we continue to monitor global energy market supply, and we’ll work with our agency partners to determine if and when actions are needed.

For example, after gasoline prices diverged from crude prices this summer, the administration reached out to the FTC to ask them to investigate anti-corruption practices in the oil and gas industry, including collus- — collusive pricing. And the FTC respond — and the FTC responded.

We will continue to look for ways to relieve the burden of energy costs on the American families, but we have no announcement at this time.

But what I want to say is that this situation really underscores the continued need to diversify our energy and fuel sources. We can’t take our eye off the ball, as you can imagine, so we must invest and deploy in clean energy solutions at home and around the world to strengthen both energy security and mitigate economic volatility.

As always, we — we’re going to monitor the market and the means considering all tools in the toolbox to protect the American people. But as we said, there is no plan to take action at this time.

I do want to say the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, is in Brussels right now. This — and discussed this in the meeting with the EU. And he spoke to reporters afterwards, so I would send you to his comments as well.

Q  How does —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q  How does the judge’s ruling on the Texas abortion law affect the White House’s strategy on this issue going forward?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, yesterday’s ruling, Jeff, as you just mentioned, is an important step forward toward restoring the constitutional rights of women across the state of Texas. As the President said, S.B. 8 not only blatantly violates the right to safe and legal abortion established under Roe v. Wade, but it creates a scheme to allow private citizens to interfere with that right and to evade judicial review.

The fight has only just begun, but — in Texas and in many states across the country where women’s rights are currently under attack. That’s why the President supports codifying Roe v. Wade, why he has directed a whole-of-government response to S.B. 8, and why he will continue to stand side by side with women across the country to protect their constitutional rights.

Q  Does the White House consider yesterday’s meeting in Zurich a breakthrough?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Which meeting?

Q  The Zur- — Jake’s meeting in Zurich with China. Was that a breakthrough? And what can come of a virtual meeting that hasn’t been accomplished and the two phone calls that have already happened?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so I’ll say this, that, you know, on your second question, Aamer, you know, as we (inaudible) said and as we believe here in this administration, leader-to-leader engagement is an important part of our effort to responsibly manage the competition. And we have said this: We’re not looking for conflict with China; we’re looking for — for competition, and we want to do that in a responsible way.

As far as the meeting with — that Jake had with his counterpart — Jake Sullivan had with his counterpart, with the — in Zurich, they were candid, they were direct, they were wide-ranging.

The September 9th POTUS-Xi call was about ensuring we have open lines of communications, as I was just mentioning. And the two leaders discussed the importance of having more substantive conversation than we had been to date, including the need to do so in private.

But we stand at a time, we — we’re interested in seeing where it could — where it could go. That’s what this meeting was about: continuing the conversation from leaders.

National Security Advisor Sullivan raised areas where the United States and PRC have an interest in working together to address vital transactional challenges and ways to manage risk in our relationship.

And so, that — we’re about to land. Okay, hold on, everybody. (Laughs.)

So, I’ll say this last thing: This meeting followed intensive engagement with allies and partners, including at the recent Quad and TTC, and will be followed by National Security Advisor travels to engage with allies in Brussels and Paris, where he is today.

Q  Thank you.

1:59 P.M. EDT

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