Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre En Route Hartford, CT
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Hartford, Connecticut
12:05 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Happy Friday. Connecticut on Friday is what we love. All right. A short trip, so short gaggle. Apologies for that, but let’s get going.
Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us on our trip to Connecticut. Jen did a fairly comprehensive review of our trip yesterday, and you all received, I believe, a backgrounder — a background memo on childcare policy last night. But as a quick review, I just want to run through it really quickly.
The President will visit a childcare center in Hartford, Connecticut, and deliver remarks highlighting the need for childcare and preschool investments, provide a lifetime of benefits for children, help parents work, and support equitable economic growth.
Only about half of three- and four-year-olds in the United States are enrolled in early childhood education compared to more than 90 percent of children in other advanced countries. A typical four-person household in Connecticut would need to spend more than 26 percent of their income for —
Sorry, my mask is coming off. Sorry guys. Hold for a second. We’ll see how that goes.
— for childcare for two young children each year.
Here we go. I think we got it. All right. Sorry about that.
The President’s Build Back Better Agenda expands access to high-quality childcare and preschool by ensuring parents earning up to 150 percent of the state’s median income pay no more than 7 percent of their income on childcare. Most American families will save more than half of their spending on childcare and will be able to access high — higher quality care, where workers are better compensated.
The President will also deliver remarks at the dedication of the Dodd Center for Human Rights at the University of Connecticut.
Throughout the day, the President will see Governor Ned Lamont; Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz — apologies for messing up that name; Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy; and every member of the congressional delegation — Representatives John Larson, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, and Jahana Hayes. Of course, he will also meet with former Senator Chris Dodd at the University of Connecticut.
Today, the fourth monthly advanced tax — child tax payment is being distributed to tens of millions of families covering roughly 61 million children.
Last — this monthly tax relief is helping working families manage the cost of raising kids while trying to pursue careers. This is a pro-work relief — tax relief; 97 percent of families receive the Child Tax Credit are working.
When Canada created a similar child benefit, it helped more moms go back to work, and when they expanded it, jobs went up. It helps with everyday costs.
A recent national survey from researchers at the Social Policy Institute found that a quarter of — a quarter of middle-class families plan to use Child Tax Credit payments for childcare expenses, and 42 percent plan to use at least some of the — some of the credit to start or grow a college fund for their child.
It’s helping kids who need it most. Researchers at the Columbia Center on Poverty and Social Policy found that the initial payments were associated with a 25 percent decline in food insufficiently — insufficiency — I’m having a problem talking today, guys — sorry — among low-income families with kids. And in Connecticut, it’s projected to cut child poverty by 40 percent.
Absent action from Congress, these monthly payments will stop coming after December, and families across America will face tighter budgets and tough choices to make ends meet.
So, later today, as we all know, President Biden will once again call for extension of the advanced Child Tax Credit through Build Back Better.
Last thing for all of you: As you all know, last night, President Biden signed legislation raising the debt limit. This legislation was advanced by bipartisan majority in the Senate, and it demonstrated that we can address the debt limit in the same way, moving forward, just like we did three times in the previous administration and almost 80 times in the last 60 years.
We can have political disagreements and debate; that is what democracy is all about. But we cannot let political brinksmanship jeopardize our entire economy, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a political football that risks costing us millions of jobs, seniors’ Social Security and Medicare benefits, and military service members’ pay.
All right, Zeke. Get us going.
Q Thank you, Karine. First, could you address Russian government reports that the Russian military escorted the USS Chafee out of its territorial waters in the Sea of Japan today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you for the question. I don’t have anything update — update on that for you. I’m happy to look into that and get back to you. I don’t — this is the first time I’m hearing about it, so I would have to get back to you on that one.
Q And then, coming up ahead of the trip later this month — the President is going to be meeting with the Pope. Will the American press have the opportunity to see the President and the Pope together, face to face? It’s obviously something of huge importance to people around the world, so can you make that commitment today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I cannot make that commitment today. I just don’t have the details to share. I understand the importance. You’re correct; it is an important meeting. This is a meeting that the President clearly looks forward to. I just don’t have the details to commit to anything to you at this time.
But as you can imagine, we want to make sure that this — that you guys get to see a lot of what the President is doing on this trip. But I just don’t have enough information to commit.
Q Karine, has the President been in touch with President Clinton? And do you have any updates on how he’s doing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you can imagine, the President sends his best wishes to President Clinton. President Biden will be speaking to the President later today. So they have not connected yet, but we’re hoping to connect them later today.
Q And can you give us an update on what the President plans to do next week with regard to his two bills, with the Congress coming back into session?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you know, this is the President’s agenda — the Build Back Better Agenda, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan is part of his economic policy that is very — a priority to him, incredibly important.
He will continue to have meetings and have conversations, as will high-level White House officials will continue to do, as we’ve been doing the past several months to make sure that we move forward with both bills.
I don’t have anything specific to share, but, as you can imagine, we will continue to push for this really critical, important economic policy for the middle-class Americans.
Q The President, we understand, is going to stay in Washington this weekend and not go to Delaware. Will he be hosting any lawmakers at the White House over the weekend as he tries to push forward on these packages?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share for you about this weekend for his engagement with Congress.
I’m sure you guys heard that he will be attending, tomorrow — just in case, I’ll share that with folks if they haven’t. He’ll be speaking tomorrow at the 40th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, which recognizes the 491 members of law enforcement who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2019.
So, as you can imagine, it is, in particular, poignant that this memorial is being held at the U.S. Capitol, where, nine months ago, we saw the incredible bravery of members of U.S. Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department and other law enforcement agency who helped protect the Constitution in what the President called “the citadel of our democracy” and “one of the darkest days” in our modern history.
So that’s what he’ll be doing tomorrow. So that’s why he’ll be in D.C. I don’t have anything more to share outside of that.
Q The President has a lot of demands on his time, obviously. There’s a lot of things going on, including legislation and various other issues. Can you just explain the thinking of why the President thought it was important enough to travel to Connecticut for this event for Senator Dodd?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, there’s a couple of things — I laid out what he’s going to be doing today. He’ll be — he’ll be visiting a childcare center, where he’ll be talking about a critical component of his Build Back Better Plan. And we have to remember this is a part of the component that talks about childcare, eldercare.
We lost many people, you know, out of the workforce this past year and a half because of — because of the pandemic. So this is something — and even before the pandemic, childcare is incredibly, you know, tough and difficult to — and expensive for many, many parents. And also, we — the quality of making sure that the quality of childcare — make sure that we pay the folks who are working there working wages. So that — all of those things are important. So, he’s going to do that.
And the Dodd Center is focused on human rights. I think that’s incredibly important as well, especially as America takes our seat back, you know, as one of the leaders in the globe — around the globe.
So, all — both very critical, important events that he’s doing in Connecticut. And he’ll — you’ll hear from him. He’ll be giving two speeches that you’ll hear exactly why he’s there and the importance of his visits.
Q Karine, is this trip then — on that note, is this trip indicative of any sort of concern in the White House that the childcare investment could be slimmed down, or one of the two branches of the investment — wage increase or expanded access — could be cut down, given the negotiations on the Hill?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we have been very clear that these are part of negotiations and things are going to be — you know, things are being negotiated and things are going to be moving around.
But look, legislative takes time; we know this. We’re making some progress as we look at the Build Back Better, in particular, piece of legislation — you know, a bill that will help our economy, help people, help businesses. We understand there are differences of opinion within our party on how to best accomplish that.
But the President has been very clear: We expect both bills to pass — that, like I said, this is a priority for him. The President has been involved in complex — you hear us say this all the time — congressional negotiations for many years, as Vice President, as Senator himself. And so he knows how to get deals done. And this is — this is not new to him.
But, you know, as I mentioned, this is a critical time, and we’re going to continue to get things done. We are optimistic and we are hopeful. This is just part of the democratic process.
Q Would he sign a bill — or would he sign a reconciliation bill that only included one part of the childcare investment? (Inaudible.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re going through the negotiation process right now. I’m not going to, clearly, negotiate from here. But I just want to make sure that, you know, passing this historic tax cut for middle-class families means 50 million Americans would get their taxes cut; 4 million small businesses.
This is — when you look at both bills, they’re both incredibly popular. This is something that the American public wants and wants us to deliver on.
And I just also want to add — this is something that the Democrats on both the House and the Senate agree on. Now we’re just trying to negotiate and make it happen.
And so, we’re going to make sure both bills go through. That is what the President wants to do and focus on.
Q Just one more. Labor shortages are also a factor into the supply chain issues that the U.S. is currently experiencing. Given the record job growth that’s currently happening, why does the White House think that Americans aren’t returning to work?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, you know, as you know, the — you know, our economy still faces challenges, but the President is focused every day on addressing — you know, on addressing the challenges ahead. We are dealing with a once-in-a-generation, as you know, pandemic. And vaccination requirements will allow our economy to thrive — and we’re seeing that more and more people get vaccinated — and get millions of people back into the workforce.
You know, the bipartisan infrastructure, as you were just asking me about, and the Build Back Better human infrastructure bill will create millions of new jobs and allow parents to pursue their careers, grow our economy, and compete with countries like China.
So, all of these things are incredibly important. So, we’ve made real progress, but there’s still more to do. We’re already averaging about 600,000 jobs per month compared to just 60,000 before we came in.
And so, you know, like I said, we’re still facing challenges. We’re dealing with a once-in-a-generation pandemic. And we’re going to just continue to, you know, continue to use all the tools in our tool belts to get sure that our economy continues to grow.
Q Karine, is the President satisfied with the progress that’s been made to address the root causes of migration in Central and South America? And what more can the administration do to resolve that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Be a little bit more specific.
Q Just, is there any progress that the administration has made as far as addressing the root causes of migration, since the — since the Vice President took over — took that over? And what more can be done at this point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I would say there has been some progress made. We have heard from the Vice President, from trips that she’s had, bilateral engagements that she’s done with those — with the countries in the Northern Triangle. She has announced humanitarian aid that’s been given to those different countries to help them deal with the root causes. So, this is a continuing — continuous engagement.
Look, this is not a light switch. Right? This is something that’s going to take time, and we’re going to continue to work on them with our — with the countries in the region. And so, the Vice President has done a tremendous job in doing that and make — doing that. So, we’ll continue to do the work.
Q If Mexico doesn’t agree to the terms of the Remain in Mexico policy, what do you all do from there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just — let me just step back so that folks — you’re talking about the Remain in Mexico?
Okay, it’s hard to — it’s hard to hear you from back there.
Q You can come up a little. I feel like we’re —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s hard because I’m trying to hold on so I don’t fall. (Laughs.)
So, late yesterday, DHS filed a court-ordered report outlining steps that it has taken pursuant to the court order to reinstate MPP. They and DOJ can speak more to that process more specifically.
But as we’ve previously said, as a result of the injunction, we have to — we have to comply in good faith and take steps to reinstate this court-ordered MPP. And we will be doing just that.
DHS has appealed that injunction and announced that it intends to issue a second memorandum terminating MPP that intends to address the concerns raised by the courts. The Biden administration will follow the law and abide by the court’s order to restart the court-ordered MPP.
And the DHS and DOJ can speak, again, more specifics on this process, but that’s where we are currently with that.
Q Just one more quick one. Jen has been saying all week, in regard to privilege, that the importance of the select committee’s findings and investigation justify, in part, the case-by-case waiving of privilege on documents sought by the January 6th committee.
Just from the White House’s perspective, could you outline a little bit what the White House sees as at stake in that select committee’s investigation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, the President has been pretty clear on this — you know, that he believes January 6th was an attack at the heart of our democracy. And that is something that you have heard Jen say, you have heard him say directly and specifically as we talk about January 6th.
And so that’s why President Biden has consistently supported a full investigation to assure something like this can never happen again and why the administration has been working closely with the select committee to facilitate that.
But anything outside of that, any specific questions on that, I would — I would direct you to the DOJ — Department of Justice.
But, clearly, this is something that’s important to the President, as — in making sure that we get to the bottom of this. And this is something that he has said specifically as well.
Q Do you have a week ahead?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a week ahead for you. Well, we’re hoping to have that to share by Sunday.
But as I said earlier — I can’t remember who asked me the question — but the President is going to continue to be working on moving his two important domestic policies forward: the Build Back Better Agenda, the Bipartisan Infrastructure — (laughs) –we’re about to land, folks — Infrastructure bill, which is, as I said, critical to the middle class and making sure we deliver for the American public.
Okay — as we land. All right. Hold on, everybody.
Q Thanks, Karine.
12:22 P.M. EDT