Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre En Route Newark, NJ
10:15 A.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hey, everybody. All right, I’ll try and be nice and loud for folks.
Good morning. Thanks for joining us bright and early. For the President’s trip to New Jersey, as you all know, the President will visit two classrooms at East End Elementary School, a Title I school, and provides preschool for roughly 70 four-year-olds. The school is part of the North Plainfield School District, which provides access to free preschool for all of its four-year-olds.
President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda would enable the district to expand its program and — to three-year-olds and make high-quality childcare accessible and affordable for middle-class families.
The President will also deliver remarks at the New Jersey Transit Meadowlands Maintenance Complex in Kearny, which is near the Portal North Bridge, the busiest rail bridge in the Western Hemisphere. The bridge is being replaced as part of a group of projects known as the Gateway Program that will improve transit and Amtrak Northeast Corridor service in the Tri-State Region.
The President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal makes the largest federal investment in public transit ever and the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago. It includes $30 billion for the Northeast Corridor, $6 billion in grants to Amtrak for routine maintenance and upgrades, and $24 billion in partnership grants for major construction, projects like the — major construction projects like Hudson Tunnel and River Bridge, or Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel.
On the ground in New Jersey, the President will see Governor Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy, Representative Tom Malinowski, Frank
Malone [Pallone], Donald Payne, Bill Pascrell, Josh Gottheimer, and Mikie Sherill; Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos; and State Assembly Member Craig Coughlin.
We have a short flight, so that will be all. And I will take questions now. Go ahead.
Q Has the President —
Q Karine, the President basically said — sorry.
Q Okay. Thank you. Has the President been briefed on the coup in Sudan? And what is his reaction to the events there today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the United States is deeply alarmed at reports — at reports of a military takeover at the transitional government. We reject the actions by the military and call for the immediate release of the Prime Minister and others who have been placed under house arrest.
The actions today are in stark opposition to the will of the Sudanese people and their aspirations for peace, liberty, and justice.
The United States continue to strongly support the Sudanese people’s demand for a democratic transition in Sudan and will continue to elevate — evaluate — pardon me — how best to help the Sudanese people achieve this goal.
Q Second question. We — the AP is reporting that Senator Manchin is open or agreeable to the wealth tax; that’s the tax on billionaires and certain corporations. Is that the President’s understanding following the meeting he had with Senator Manchin in Wilmington yesterday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me first say this: that like the President — like the President — you just heard from the President. The meeting was constructive. He felt progress was made in moving closer toward an agreed framework.
The legislative team and senior members of the House staff have also been working closely with Hill team throughout the course of the day, and that’s what we’re going to be continuing to see in the last several days and weeks. And that will be continuous.
Look, I — you know, I can’t confirm or anything like that from here, or negotiate from here, as we’ve always said. As you know, we can still raise revenue through a range of other tax fairness proposals — the one that you just mentioned, you know, which is — and then some other examples which I know Jen went through and I could just name a few right now.
Some of the biggest corporations in America — in America pay literally nothing in income taxes, less than wage-earning families. We can stop that by imposing a 15 percent minimum tax to make sure large corporations pay their fair share; creating a global minimum tax that will make the United States more competitive, so we need to stop rewarding companies that offshore profits and American jobs.
We can close loopholes for high-income Americans, including a loophole that allows some taxpayers, like hedge fund managers, to escape a Medicare tax, and impose on all high-end income. And we can crack down on wealthy tax cheats who are taking advantage of every honest taxpayer and invest in enforcement to stop the 1 percent from evading the $160 billion in taxes per year.
So, we have many options, as we’ve talked about. And so that is just one. And, you know, once we get closer — as you know, there’s an urgency to get this done. We’re working every day. There’s progress, as the Speaker said yesterday and as the President said today. So, we’re going to keep going. We’re going to (inaudible).
Q Karine, was there — just a quick follow-up. Was there any agreement on a topline number? Or did Senator Manchin agree to more spending? I mean, any details — any details that you can share with us from that meeting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this: You know, like I said, it was progress in the meeting, and the focus is to make sure that there is — continues to be economic growth, do actual investment in economic growth for the middle class. That is what there is all agreement on.
There is agreement that we need to move forward in doing more — right? — to address the climate crisis, make healthcare more accessible and affordable, and give more working families breathing room who are dealing with crushing costs of healthcare, eldercare, and early childhood education.
We are at the point of negotiating, as Jen likes to say, the “nitty gritty” of the details — that’s important — but we have a strong base of agreement. So, we’re continuing to negotiate. We’re almost there. We’re making progress. And that’s what we’re headed towards — making sure we’re getting (inaudible).
Q And the President said that he expects to — he hopes he will get a deal this week. But if that doesn’t happen, I mean, how concerned is the White House that he’s leaving with one of his key legislative initiatives unresolved? He’s leaving the country.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: To your point, he said he wants to make significant progress. He wants to see a deal. So, we’re on track on doing exactly that.
But just like any President, even when he’s traveling overseas, he will be engaged closely with his team at the White House and with members to continue moving his economic agenda forward. And so that’s the focus. We believe we’re going to get it done, and we’re making progress every day.
Q Can I follow up on that? The fact that the President is expected to be scaling back the climate provisions as a way to get Senator Manchin on board with an eventual deal, does that undermine the President’s message at all when he goes to Glasgow for the climate conference?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, the President — look, President Biden reestablished U.S. leadership on day one — right? — and that has been acting on climate every day since.
So, the President will advance his climate agenda using every tool at his disposal and can make significant progress in curbing emissions, growing our economy, and good-paying union jobs.
So, as he’s doing that without Congress — the things that I can just list out for you: leading the shift towards EVs; bringing together automakers and autoworkers; phasing out super-pollutants, like HFCs to greatly reduce emissions; making across-government investment in clean energy, like offshore wind and solar.
So, he’s going to continue doing the work. But climate, as you could imagine, is a key — is really important in this Build Back Better Agenda, and we’re working towards that, and we’re making progress.
Q And does the destination of New Jersey today reflect any concerns about the gubernatorial race? The polling suggests it’s closer than was once thought.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this: The President is in New Jersey today to support the Build Back Better Agenda and the Bipartisan Infrastructure, both which are critical in New Jersey.
And just like any other state across the country, these — the Build Back Better Agenda and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal are critical. Again, they’re going to build the economy for the middle-class Americans, do that physical investment infrastructure, investment in human infrastructure — focus on human infrastructure.
That is the point of that, yes. As you know, the President did endorse Governor Murphy. But as I said, he’s in New Jersey today to continue highlighting the importance of his two domestic economic policies.
Q Karine, has President Biden been briefed on the threat that President Erdoğan made? Do you have more on that? And does he plan to raise any kind of concerns with President Erdoğan, and will he do a bilat with him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have more from here. I would refer you to the Department of State on that one. I just don’t have anything for you here.
Q You don’t know if he’s been briefed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have — I can — I certainly can check, but I don’t have anything to share at this moment.
Q Do you have any indication as to whether Turkey will expel the U.S. ambassador?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I really don’t have anything else to share. I refer you to the Department of State.
Q Can I circle back to your comments about revenue portions of these discussions? Does it now seem clear that attacks on unrealized capital gains for high-wealth people is going to be in this? Is that something the President supports?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Could you say that one more time?
Q Yeah. So it’s a tax on unrealized capital gains. In other words, if you bought like a stock, for instance, and it soared and you haven’t actually sold it, you haven’t exercised the capital gain, it looks like there’ll be a tax on that for high earners. Is that accurate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t —
Q And is that something the President supports?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to confirm right now. As I — we’ve listed out a couple of opportunities, ways to do the revenue to make sure that this is indeed paid for, which is the promise that we’ve made: zero — zero dollars to the debt.
So as we get closer, as we — you know, as we have a deal, we’ll have more to share on that.
Q Is the meeting with the Patriarch still on for this evening? Because he was hospitalized a day or so ago.
(Air Force One lands.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my gosh. Hold on. All right.
Yeah, so the meeting with the Patriarch this evening is still on.
Q Is there any chance he would delay his departure for Europe if talks were continuing? Or will he depart as planned, regardless of talks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He’s going to — he’s headed — he’s going to be headed to Europe this week. Like I said — and like I said in a question that someone asked me, you know, even if, you know, it doesn’t happen before he leaves, the President can do the work that he needs to do abroad, like many presidents before him have done.
Q Does the White House have any response to the Microsoft officials who say that there’s a widespread — an ongoing hack led by Russia’s intelligence agency?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You guys won’t let me leave today.
Q That’s (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) Okay, so for that question, Molly, I refer you to the Mic- — Microsoft on the details, but I’ll say the following: According to Microsoft, the activities described were unsophisticated password spray and phishing attempts for the purpose of surveillance that cybersecurity exa– — experts say are attempted every day by Russia and other foreign governments and have been for years. You can prevent these attempts if the cloud service providers implement baseline cybersecurity practices, including multifactor authentication.
So, broadly speaking, the federal government is aggressively using our authorities to protect the nation from cyber threats, including helping the private sector defend itself through increased intelligence sharing, innovative partnership to deploy cybersecurity technologies, bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, and measures we do not speak about publicly for national security reasons.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, thank you guys.
10:26 A.M. EDT