James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:23 P.M. EST

MS. PSAKI:  Hi, everyone. 

Q    Hi.

MS. PSAKI:  Okay.  A lot going on here.  I will warn you: We have some charts — (laughter) — to begin our briefing today.  Settle in, everyone. 

Just to give you all an update and really give the American people an update on where we are on our work on economic recovery, where we’re seeing progress — and wanted to, of course, show you some visuals as evidence of that. 

So, let me start:

Today’s unemployment claims data are another welcome sign of our economy’s strength as Americans get back to work.  As of this morning, we’ve had seven consecutive weeks of decline in new unemployment claims. 

And to translate that into English for people listening or watching at home: Unemployment claims are — basically, every week, Americans who no longer — who lose their jobs not at their own fault, they go and they file a claim, looking for unemployment insurance. 

So, the drop in these unemployment claims — there’s actually a different chart on this; I don’t know if they can pull it up, but — that we’ve seen consecutively over the last several weeks and months is a good sign.

(The display changes.) 
No, the other chart would be good —

(Ms. Psaki points to the chart on her right.)

Okay, great.

So you can see here just the dramatic drop we’ve seen since January all the way down over the last several weeks.  That’s, ultimately, a good sign. 

And today, in a new report, the OECD confirmed that we have returned to the pre-pandemic size of our economy faster than our global peers.  While developed economies around the world are facing similar challenges on inflation because a global pandemic is causing global supply-chain issues — something we’re experiencing; something countries around the world are experiencing — this is further evidence that the President’s success in getting Americans vaccinated, getting economic support to the middle-class means that our recovery has positioned us better than any of our peers for a continued strong economic recovery.  And this new report is evidence of that.

So, now we go — sorry, back to the other chart.

As we’ve said before, we are coming out — given we’re coming out of an unprecedented economic shutdown as a result of the pandemic, we know that small increases in price can impact the family’s budget.

And what we’re working to do now is both to address any issues that are slowing down the transfer of goods, moving around — it’s basically — the supply chain is basically as goods are moving around the world.  So, we’re working to address those disruptions.  Makes things — make sure goods are getting to shelves faster and easing price pressure.

And there’s a lot of good data out there.  New data shows we’re moving more goods than ever before.  Ports are moving these goods more quickly.  And large retail stores like Walmart, Target, BestBuy, and TJ Maxx are fully stocked.

You’ve seen CEOs put out statements over the last several days confirming that.  And Americans should feel good about the progress that’s being made in addressing these disruptions and also ensuring that shelves are stocked at these big retail stores around the country. 

So — and this gives you, kind of, some examples of where we’ve made progress.  So, if you look at this, this is where we’ve seen — you know, we’ve talked a lot about the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where about 40 percent of volume comes in.  And we’ve seen an increase in goods that are coming over there, year-to-date, compared to the previous peak.

This means — and a lot of economists have talked about this — that more goods — because people are not spending their money as much on going to restaurants and doing things that American families normally do, they’re buying a lot of goods.  People are buying televisions.  They’re buying things online.  This is happening around the world.  And there is a 16 percent increase; that’s why.

We’ve also seen, because of the President’s Port Action Plan, some progress that we’ve made.  One of the issues, as you all know, especially folks who work in television, you have seen containers out there that will — were held for some time.  We’ve made progress on that: a 32 percent increase [decrease] in the long-dwelling containers.  So that’s a good step forward.  That means more goods are moving.   A good, positive step. 

I’d also note — and we see this in the retail sales data and information that’s been put out there — that retail sales are up, up from Jan- — from September 30th of 2020.  Again, further evidence that people are buying more stuff, as we’ve talked about.

And then, the last piece I just wanted to point out here — and this is evidenced by, as I talk about these CEOs who have put out statements saying their stores — their shelves are stocked, that on-the-shelf availability is now at 90 percent as of the 14th of November, so just a couple of days ago.

Last piece I just wanted to note here — and I know Chris mentioned this yesterday, but since we’re talking about all of the different impacts on people’s costs and how the American people are navigating this: Yesterday, the President wrote a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan, calling to her attention the mounting evidence of anti-consumer behavior by oil and gas companies.

As the President noted in his letter, prices at the pump have continued to rise, even as refined fuel costs go down and industry profits go up.  Obviously, that’s not the right correlation.  Usually, prices at the pump correspond to movements in the price of unfinished gasoline, which is the main ingredient in the gas people buy at stations. 

But in the last month, the price of unfinished gasoline is down more than 5 percent, while gas prices at the pump are up 3 percent in that same period.  And that is not what, obviously, that trajectory should look like. 

And this unexplained gap between the price of unfinished gasoline and the average price at the pump is well above the pre-pandemic average.  It’s not what we look to comparatively for years pre-pandemic. 

If the gap between refined fuel costs and pump prices were at typical pre-pandemic levels, then Americans would be paying nearly 25 cents less per gallon.

So, clearly, that’s not how it should be working.  That’s why the President sent the letter.  And this is clearly a place where he is, of course, encouraging, asking the FTC to look into this.

I’d also note — one of the last things, I promise — just lots going on: We’re also hosting a meeting of governors and federal and state officials on the frontlines of helping families address home heating costs this winter.  That’s something that — especially in the Northeast, colder parts of the country, other parts where energy costs have been higher — has been of concern and an issue. 

This focus — the focus of the meeting will be on deploying unprecedented resources provided by the American Rescue Plan, including more than doubling funding for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programs — “LIHEAP,” as many call it, although we hate acronyms around here — as well as Emergency Rental Assistance that can be used for utility bills.

There are a lot of states and governors who’ve already done this with their state and local funds, but this is something that we’re going to play an aggressive role in working with governors to help implement to make sure that lower-income families around the country are able to afford their heating this winter.  And we’re also working with utility companies to help address that as well.

I have a couple of other things, but I’m going to stop there because I just want to get to your questions. 

Go ahead.

Q    Okay.  Thank you.  The President, just now, to Peter’s question about the upcoming Beijing Games, said that — when Peter asked if a diplomatic boycott was under consideration, he said was indeed “something we’re considering.” 

Could you just explain what a “diplomatic boycott” would mean?  I’m assuming that doesn’t mean athletes; it means something narrower.

And then, secondly, coming so soon after the meetings with President Xi, what does that say about the meetings this last week?  Were they not constructive that the President would be considering this big move?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, let me take the second question first.  It doesn’t say anything about the meeting.  They didn’t talk about the Olympics during the meeting.  It wasn’t a topic that was discussed during the meeting. 

I would note that we’ve said from beginning — the beginning of this administration as it relates to how we engage with China — that we see it through the prism of competition, not conflict.  That is our objective.  That the President is going to raise issues where he has concern, and he’s going to look for areas to work together.

And his lengthy three-and-a-half-hour meeting the other night is — was certainly a reflection of that: both areas where we could work together and areas where we have concerns were raised, as you all know from the readouts following the meeting.

But, you know, there are areas that we do have concerns: human rights abuses.  You’ve seen not just in words we’ve used but certainly in actions we’ve taken at the G7 and other sanctions that we have serious concerns about the human rights abuses we’ve seen in Xinjiang.  And certainly there are a range of factors as we look at what our presence would be. 

So, I don’t have any other update for you on, Aamer.  I certainly understand the interest, but I want to leave the President the space to make decisions.

Q    Is it possible that you could just, at least, broadly — because I’m sure that a lot of Americans that are interested in upcoming Games and a lot of athletes want to know what that could potentially mean, what a “diplomatic boycott” entails.

MS. PSAKI:  I certainly understand that.  I just don’t have an update on where it will — what our presence will be.

Q    And then, does the White House have any reaction to Oklahoma informing National Guard members there it doesn’t need to abide by Pentagon vaccine rules?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure, well, first, Aamer, of course, the Department of Defense is the appropriate place.  But let me — since you asked me the question, what we’re talking about here and why there are requirements in place for members of our nation’s military, including National Guard, is we need to ensure that we are really ready, no matter what, to protect the United States.

And as Secretary Austin has conveyed, a vaccinated force is a “more ready force.”  And that is one of the reasons he has been so — has led on this effort to implement this requirement of vaccinating the total force, including the National Guard.

So, in accordance with that, we’ve been encouraging all states to continue to offer the vaccine, inform their members that it is a federal requirement.  And we believe and continue to believe that no leader should be getting in the way of any action that will ensure or prevent or hinder operational readiness for our military, which is something certainly the Secretary of Defense has conveyed.

Q  And one last thing on — Canada’s [Deputy] Prime Minister called the tax credit that the President said he’d be speaking with Prime Minister Trudeau about a “clear violation” of the updated American trade agreement.  Does the White House have any response to that?

MS. PSAKI:  We — we don’t view it that way, I think it’s safe to say.  I would say that, in our view, Aamer, the electric vehicle tax credits is an opportunity to help consumers in this country. 

It’s not the first time that there have been incentives and tax credits to help consumers — lower prices for consumers, help incentivize a move towards a clean energy industry — something that is good for our climate; certainly, yes, good for businesses here in the United States; something that will help create good-paying union jobs in an industry that’s already starting to head that way.  But it’s something where consumers would benefit. 

And obviously, our view is that we have a great relationship with Canada.  The President is very much looking forward to the meeting today.  And there’s a lot of ways we can discuss working together on economic issues, strategic issues, addressing the global pandemic.  And I’m sure they will cover a range of topics in the meeting today.

Go ahead.

Q    So, a couple of questions about bilateral relationships that are not in focus at the White House today. 

MS. PSAKI:  Okay.

Q    So, first, you were talking about gas prices, so I wanted to ask you about Saudi Arabia.  It’s a country that Secretary Blinken has described as one where you have a very strong relationship, and yet they have time and time again resisted, refused your calls to increase oil production.  Would that ever hurt your bilateral relationship?  Would you ever punish them for that?  Would you ever change that relationship as a result of that? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I certainly don’t want to make a prediction of that from here, but I will reiterate that we have raised with OPEC member countries, including Saudi Arabia, even though we’re not a member of OPEC, the need to ensure that there is available supply out there on the market. 

I think the reason why I led by talking about the FTC letter is because as we’ve seen the price of global oil — global price of oil come down, we haven’t seen the price of gas come down.  So there also is a responsibility for oil companies here in the United States and elsewhere to make sure that they are not gas gouging consumers across the country. 

Q    Okay, one other.  On Iran, there has been some reporting that the administration has been privately floating with allies the idea that you might give some sanctions relief or come to some kind of interim deal in order to get those nuclear negotiations off to a good start. 

I know that your public position thus far has been that that is not something that you’re doing.  Would you ever consider that?  Is that something that you would ever consider doing to get those negotiations started?

MS. PSAKI:  I’m not aware of any change in our position or approach to the negotiations. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Whose decision was it to break with tradition and not hold a formal press conference after the trilateral summit today?  Was that something requested by the Canadians or the Mexicans?  And why?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would say first, I don’t think it’s as scandalous as that in terms of the backstory.  Just to preface, there hasn’t been a North American Leaders’ Summit since 2016.  So, when we’re talking about precedent, just to be clear, we’re talking about prior to that. 

The President very much, of course, was looking forward to hosting Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obrador at the White House today.  I would note that in the last three weeks, the President has hosted two press conferences — three if you count the one after he announced — he did — announced the signing of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, where he took a number of questions. 

He’s also — including today, he’s taken questions from reporters a total of at least 10 times this month. 

There was a change in schedule as things move around, as they sometimes do. 

As you know, he signed three important pieces of legislation today — important for law enforcement — that had broad, bipartisan support.  That moved everything later in the day, and schedules change and adjust, but you saw him take questions just a few minutes ago.

Q    Got it.  Mexico, coming into this meeting, said that it’s seeking access to more vaccines.  Is that something that the President is planning to promise today? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I know part of the preview that we did last night, they talked about how — and certainly we’ll do a written readout once these meetings conclude that will be more detailed — but how, obviously, COVID and addressing the COVID pandemic will be a part of the discussion. 

Now, a big part of that coming into the meeting from our perspective was the fact that we had lent or provided vaccine supply to Mexico and Canada, and we wanted to talk to them about providing that supply broadly into the region — something that would obviously be up to public health officials.

In terms of what they may request, I can’t speak to that, but certainly we’re going to continue to play a role in addressing the global pandemic. 

Q    And then (inaudible) back to the question about the Chinese Olympics.  Is there a timeline for when the White House would decide about a diplomatic boycott?  Is it weeks?  Is it months?  Would you make a decision closer to the actual date of the Olympics? 

MS. PSAKI:  I certainly understand the question.  I just want to give the national security team and the President space to make the decision, so I can’t give you a prediction of a timeline. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  A grim milestone this week: More than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses in the last year.  Experts say a lot of that is driven by fentanyl, which is coming across the southern border in record amounts.  So why is not — why isn’t the administration doing more to stop the drugs from coming in?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, I would say that the President is meeting with the President of Mexico today, as you know, and that we work with Mexico every day to disrupt transnational criminal organizations, which are responsible, as you know, for the majority of fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine entering the United States, as well as spreading violence and insecurity in Mexico.

So, during the summit today, we certainly expect that discussing this topic — our joint goal is to combat transnational crime and terrorism, the movement of these types of drugs across the border — will be part of the discussion.  And when it concludes, we’ll provide a readout.

Q    Okay.  And then following up on the meeting with President Xi: American intel agencies have told the President they cannot crack the origins of COVID without China’s help.  President Biden had a chance to ask for China’s help.  Why didn’t he? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would say that the President’s push for the Chinese to be — participate more, provide more transparent data and information, we’ve never held back on that front.  We’ve argued for it publicly.  We’ve argued for it at every level.  And the President did talk in his meeting about the importance of transparency, which is — this is exactly an example of.

Q    He talked about the importance of transparency, but did he ask President Xi to cooperate specifically with this U.S. intel agency-led investigation into the origins of COVID? 

MS. PSAKI:  Peter, it’s clear that that’s what we want.  That’s what we’ve been pressing on.  I don’t have any more to read out for you from the meeting. 

Q    You’re saying that it’s clear.  Is it clear to somebody who has a Zoom meeting with the President that that’s what he means if that’s not what he says?

MS. PSAKI:  I think the President has spoken publicly on this a number of times.  Our national security officials have conveyed very clearly.  I don’t think it’s a secret that’s what we want.  That’s what we’ve been pressing for. 

Q    And then just a final one on that: Are they “old friends” or not?  Because the President has claimed that they’re not, you claim that they’re not, but then President Xi said that they are. 

MS. PSAKI:  The President didn’t say that.  The President considers him someone he has known for some time, someone he can have candid relationships with.  I can’t speak for how the Chinese categorize or describe people they know in the world.  I can only describe how the President views the relationship. 

Go ahead.

Q    Jen, is Mexico doing enough to stem the flow of migrants into the U.S.?  And I ask that question amid new numbers that show, in the last year, I think it was 1.7 million individuals who were detained at the border trying to cross illegally. 

MS. PSAKI:  This is definitely going to be — as you know, Peter, but just to reiterate — a part of the discussion today. Every country in the Western hemisphere has, of course, been impacted in some ways by migration events in recent years.  A lot of — Mexico has been as well.  That’s my point there.  And leaders in the region have a shared interest in humane migration management. 

We, of course — our view is we have to address these issues together.  So, this is certainly an opportunity today to have a further discussion about it — about what more can be done.  And certainly, more can be done and should be done.

Q    Yesterday, during the preview call in advance of this, a senior administration official said, “There is not a real focus, this time around, on our borders.”  For those who are concerned about the situation at the border, why isn’t that a real focus of today’s conversation? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think they also did talk about, though, how the root causes of migration, including people who are coming from the south of Mexico — or this is how I read the backgrounder — was going to be a part of the discussion.  And I can assure you or others who may have confusion about that that migration, addressing the root causes, ensuring we’re doing it in a humane way but reducing the number of people who are coming to the border will be part of the discussion.

Q    Let me ask one last question.  I’m not sure if the White House has a position on this, but I ask because it’s gained a lot of attention in the U.S. among individuals and, frankly, around the world: There’s a tennis star from China, Peng Shuai, who has been missing, it seems, for a matter of days, if not weeks.  Her social profile now comes up with nothing. 

Does the White House have concerns, have any comment, any position on that situation, given she’s such a high-profile individual who spent a lot of time playing tennis, frankly, in the United States? 

MS. PSAKI:  No.  We — we have, of course, seen the reports.  We, unfortunately, just don’t have any additional information on it or additional comment.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  I know you might not be able to give a concrete update on the idea of a diplomatic boycott, but two senators — Senator Todd Young and Tim Kaine — told our Hill reporter, Allie Pecorin, that their understanding is the administration does support this idea of a diplomatic boycott.  So, can you at least tell us if the President has been talking to senators about this? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I mean, the President was just asked about this and gave an answer.  Of course, we’re in regular touch at a range of levels with members of Congress about a range of issues, including our relationship with China and including an issue like this that there’s been a lot of reporting and interest in.  But, beyond that, I don’t have an update, given he just answered the question himself. 

Q    And then sort of following up on the question about the electric car tax credits.  But kind of more broadly, maybe you can talk to whether there’s been any concern from the White House, heading into these meetings today, whether the President’s big push to make things in America and buy American in the long term could be, right now, making it harder to get Mexico and Canada on board to help with some of the supply chain issues.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, our view is that we have a lot we can work with — a lot of work we can do, I should say — with the Canadians on addressing supply chain issues, something that’s in our mutual interest.  And there’s mutual benefit in doing that.

We’ve done a lot of work on this end.  We certainly know that the ability for goods to move effectively around — connecting infrastructure, making sure it’s efficient — even at a time where the purchasing of goods is up, increased massively around the world — here, Canada, everywhere around the world — that’s in our mutual interest.

I would say — just to go back to, you know, what I said in response to Aamer’s question: I mean, the electric vehicles component of the package is something the President is personally very excited about because he believes it’s an industry of the future, an industry that can help create good — good-paying union jobs.  And it will help consumers.  It will help incentivize the purchasing of electric vehicles and the driving of electric vehicle — something that’s good for our climate. 

But all diplomatic relationships have areas where there might be tough topics to discuss, where people have concerns they raise — that’s the purpose of these in-person meetings.

Q    It doesn’t sound like he’s interested in negotiating on that one and maybe letting there be a Canadian, sort of, carveout for tax credits for Canadian-made electric vehicles.

MS. PSAKI:  As he said — as he said there —

Q    (Inaudible), like he said.

MS. PSAKI:  As he said, they’re going to discuss it, and we’ll see what they discuss.  And we’ll give you guys a readout.

But I think, in response to Aamer’s question, I was just answering how we view it and, of course, reiterating the President’s excitement about this component of his package. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  While he’s meeting with the Mexican President today, do you expect them to come to an agreement on returning to the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t believe that’s intended to be a big topic at this meeting. 

Q    You don’t think they’ll come to an agreement on that today?

MS. PSAKI:  I think it was previewed as not a — not a major topic of discussion, so I wouldn’t anticipate that.

Q    Okay.  And the House could vote as soon as tonight to advance the Build Back Better bill for the President.  He has touted this, of course, as he did yesterday in Michigan, as a big boost for the middle class.  Is he comfortable where the current provisions stand for these state and local tax deductions, given it would be a pretty significant tax break for the wealthy?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, let me start by first — you know, obviously it wasn’t what he proposed in his initial package, as you know, but just to come back to that.

The President also, though — it’s been conveyed to him by leaders in the House and Senate that this needs to be included in order for this legislation to move forward.  And he certainly understands that and takes these legislators, who’ve been doing this a long time, very effectively at their word. 

But even as we look at the content of it, it’s a long-term sustainable reform, in our view, that doesn’t add at all to the deficit over the decade.  And over that period, it will mean that millionaires and billionaires actually pay more than they would otherwise.  It would raise the cap to $72,500, fully paying for itself across the decade.  It’s a sustainable solution, in our view, that means those with lower incomes would be able to fully write off their state and local taxes.

So, it is a component that wasn’t initially proposed.  This is a part of compromise.  It’s not something that would add to the deficit as it’s proposed — as it is concluded in the package, and certainly we’re comfortable with it moving forward.

Q    You are comfortable with it moving forward?

MS. PSAKI:  Again, this is not what we proposed, but this is compromise; it’s in the package.  I just wanted to give you a sense of where it stood.

Q    Does the President support the Senate adding an income threshold to that?

MS. PSAKI:  I’m not going to parse different components that are being discussed as we’re working to finalize it.  The President — again, this is a part of the bill that the President — that has been proposed that is important to key members, as you all know; that’s why it’s in the package.

The President’s excitement about this is not about the SALT deduction; it’s about the other key components of the package, and that’s why we’re continuing to press for it to move forward.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks so much.  In regards to the supply chains, I wanted to ask: How serious is the administration considering the option of nearshoring — you know, creating incentives to encourage some manufacturing to move from China to Mexico, for example?  So far, the focus has been on, as she was saying earlier, Buy American policies.  Is nearshoring one of the things the administration is taking seriously?

MS. PSAKI:  I’d have to talk to our economic team of whether that is one of the top areas or top policies they’re looking at.  As you know, we’re looking at a range of ways we can continue to build on the progress that, in our view, we’ve made already to date.  That includes making sure we’re implementing, as it relates to the infrastructure bill, the ports piece on the early end of that, because we know that’s a key component of making sure goods are moving effectively around the country.  But I will ask them if that’s something that is under consideration.

Q    On another — could you respond to Senator Rubio’s decision to place a hold on Biden’s nominee for the ambassador to China?  Obviously, a key position.  Rubio’s concerns are that Nicholas Burns has some business relationships in China.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would first say that anyone who knows Nick Burns’s background knows that he is eminently qualified for this position.  He is somebody who could effectively do the job from the first day.  He is — he is serving in it.  And he is somebody also — this is a country where we vitally need an ambassador at a time where we have a lot of business, engagement, and follow-up work to be done.  So, we are certainly eager to see his nomination move forward.

Go ahead.

Q    Can I ask you — forgive me — for an update on Fed timing?  I know that it’s still — (laughter) —

MS. PSAKI:  You don’t have to — you don’t have to apologize.  It’s okay.  It’s an important topic.

Q    The Canadians are in the building; I have to apologize.

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.  (Laughter.)  Oh, wow.  Sick burn.  (Laughs.)  You as one —

Q    Built into the DNA.

MS. PSAKI:  Yes, built in the DNA.

Q    Next to — so, Thanksgiving, as well, for the chair, still?

MS. PSAKI:  It still remains, as Chris said yesterday, that he intends to make a decision in advance of Thanksgiving.  And hopefully all of you financial reporters can rest easily with your turkey and mashed potatoes or whatever you like to eat —

Q    Delighted.

MS. PSAKI:  — that you don’t have to be chasing it by then.

Q    Is that an announcement that we can expect to be for the other open positions, or is it just the chair that he’s going to be (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have an update beyond that, but I think you can certainly expect the nominee for the — that he will make a decision and will have more to say before Thanksgiving on the chair.

Q    And on the SPR, he discussed with President Xi the notion of jointly releasing reserves.  Can you say whether you’ve had discussions with other countries about whether the U.S. would consider a joint release of oil reserves?

MS. PSAKI:  So, the President — we have — national security — members the national security team, I should say, have discussed with a range of countries — including China, as was noted in the readout — the need to meet the supply demands out there over the longer term as well.

I don’t have an update — I know you weren’t exactly asking about China, but — about that.  But that is an ongoing conversation and one we’re having with a number of partners.

Q    Can you list any of those countries?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have additional details.  I will see if there’s more we can provide.

Q    And not in a “quiz” way but, you know, a “transparency” way —

MS. PSAKI:  Right.  What if you say a country, and I’ll wink or nod?  I don’t know.

Q    Maybe not.

And finally, reconciliation — or sorry, debt limit.  Schumer and McConnell are meeting on that today.  Does the White House think reconciliation is the best path forward?  Or do you prefer another path on raising the debt limit after Secretary Yellen’s timing that she provided earlier this week?

MS. PSAKI:  Yes.  And for others who didn’t see it or may not watch it as closely, Secretary Yellen put another update letter out there giving kind of a rough timeline around December 15th of when we would, you know, have more questions about whether we could pay our bills at that point.

You know, our view is that it has been done 81 times, if I’m getting my math correctly, through regular order.  We saw that happen a few weeks ago.  That is certainly our preferred path.  We think there’s no reason to mess with the — to fool around with the faith and credit of the United States, and that’s certainly what we’re going to continue to press forward on.

Go ahead.

Q    Back on EV tax credits: It’s not just the Canadians that are upset; Tesla is upset.  Toyota is upset because the bill that is written in the House would give a leg up to the companies that happen to have contracts with the UAW.  How committed is the President to keeping that provision in the bill?

MS. PSAKI:  The President is pretty committed to the bill providing good-paying union jobs.

Q    The President seemed to say this morning — I think I’ve heard him say — that he would take questions after he meets with the leaders today.  Do you know more of what we can expect in that regard?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, he just took questions a little bit ago, so we’ll see what the end of today looks like.  And if the President wants to take questions, that’s certainly his right to take questions.

Q    Should we expect a press conference tonight or tomorrow?

MS. PSAKI:  I would not expect — no, but you can take question — you can ask questions in any format.  Right?  I don’t think you need a formal embroidered chair for it, I don’t think. 

Q    We would like a press conference.

MS. PSAKI:  Okay. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.   On immigration, several Democratic lawmakers, outside groups, administration officials have told us they don’t think that the administration has a cohesive immigration policy, and that’s contributed to the higher numbers — the record numbers that we’re seeing at the border.  Do you think the administration has a cohesive immigration policy?  And how would you characterize it?

MS. PSAKI:  We do.  We have a — a bill that the President proposed and put forward on his first day in office.  We believe there not only needs to be a more fair system, a humane system, but we need the — we believe there needs to be a more effective asylum processing.  We need — that we believe there needs to be smarter border security investment.  And we believe that there needs to be more done to address the root causes. 

That is all a part of the President’s proposed legislation.  And we are eager to work with anyone in the House or Senate — Democrat or Republican — who wants to work with us on putting forward — moving forward on long-overdue immigration reform.

Q    But, you know, in the meantime, the legislation has stalled in Congress.  In the meantime, do you think there’s a piece of strategy that the White House is implementing based on just executive actions and what you guys do at the border in trying to control the numbers?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, I would note that those who may be critical could be a part of the solution in working together to address what we know is a often cyclical challenge of people coming — larger numbers of people coming to the border.  Yes, increases more recently, but we’ve seen it in the past as well.

And as we see challenges in processing at the border, that is not going to be solved with a short-term solution.  We need a longer-term solution. 

So, I would note that we have seen progress as we look at numbers over the course of time, month by month, but we need a longer-term legislation, comprehensive reform put in place.  And we welcome the interest of anyone to work with us on that.

Q    Does the President plan to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any travel or anything to preview for early next year.  It now feels like it’s coming soon, even though I long felt like it was long ago.  So no plans to preview, but if there’s anything more, we — I’m happy to update you all on that.

Go ahead.

Q    Hi, Jen.  What is the President’s reaction to the DHS Inspector General’s decision not to investigate the horseback patrol incident in Del Rio?  There’s still an inquiry by the Office of Professional Responsibility, but there’s not an announced timeline for its completion. 

The President, in September, said there would be consequences.  Secretary Mayorkas said an investigation would turnaround in a week.  Were the President and the Secretary too hasty in those remarks?

MS. PSAKI:  I know the Secretary spoke to this, I think, yesterday, and I would just point you to his comments.  I don’t have an additional comment from here.

Go ahead.

Q    Hi, Jen.  Thank you.

MS. PSAKI:  Jonathan, you’re in a different spot. 

Q    I know.

MS. PSAKI:  I’m adjusting.

Q    Different — different viewpoint.  Thank you. 

Two questions for you.  Does the White House have any reaction to — today, the governor of Oklahoma called off the execution of a death-row inmate, a Julius Jones, just hours before he was to be killed.  It’s a case that’s attracted a lot of attention from activists, students in the state.  Mr. Jones instead will be given — he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, the President has made clear over time that he has grave concerns about whether capital punishment, as currently implemented, is consistent with the values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness.  And certainly, as looking at a case like this, you reflect — and I think he and we all reflected on his point of view or his view and his policy position in that regard. 

And I’d note, for us, on a federal level, the Attorney General has halted executions at the federal level.  Con- — we are in the process of conducting an important review of the federal death penalty, and the President believes that is an important step forward. 

But this, as you know, was a state-level sentence — the action needed to be taken on the state level.  And so, there wasn’t a real role that the federal government could officially play in that regard, but certainly the President has grave concerns about the death penalty and the implementation of that are — you know, I think are — were reflected in how he viewed this case.

Q    Okay.  And another matter, just picking up the thread on ambassadors. 

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    There’s some growing calls among some Democrats for Senate Majority Leader Schumer to do things, quote, “the hard way” and perhaps keep the Senate in nights, weekends, whatever it might be to get some of these Senate — these ambassador confir- — nominees confirmed.  Does the White House endorse that position?  What more do you guys want to see about getting more ambassadors put in place?  So very few have been at this point.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, one thing that could happen if — you know, just to go kind of full-nerd Senate process here — is that a lot of these nominees, as you’ve seen over the — not everyone — but many of these nominees — ambassadorial nominees, eminently qualified nominees — end up passing with a majority — vast majority vote — I mean, Democrats and Republicans. 

And they could just be voted through or passed through through unanimous consent.  You don’t need to use all the hours on the floor — right? — to have the process proceed, where there’s hours of debate. 

There have been delays and holds, as you know, from a variety of individuals; Senator Cruz is one of them.  So that has been a challenge as well.

But certainly, we believe that it is far past time to move forward with these nominees, that, you know, we are hindered by not having people and ambassadors in places around the world at a time — and I was —

You know, I think if you haven’t all seen the — the statement my former Senat- — Secretary Gates, he had a pretty strong, compelling statement out there about the importance of moving forward with some of these nominees.  We’re at almost December in the administration.

So, I would just say that’s how we broadly view it.  But it is true also that Leader Schumer has — is trying to move forward quite a bit on the legislative agenda.  He has effectively and efficiently done that to date.  And one of the challenges here — the big challenge that I don’t think should be undervalued or underreported — is the holds, is the insistence on lengthy processes that is really not necessary in every case.

Go ahead.

Q    Some states have already expanded booster shot eligibility to all adults.  Does the White House believe that that should be done nationwide?  Does the President think that all adults should be getting their booster shots now?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, there’s a process that is underway, as you know. And we’ve said from — back several months ago, that once the FDA and the CDC approved boosters for individuals over a certain age — or once they — it goes through the process to approve it, we’d be ready with the supply.  And we’ll be ready with the supply.

But science first, data first, so we’ll wait for the process to proceed. 

Q    And is the White House concerned about the rising numbers going into the holiday season, into the winter?  We’re seeing numbers tick up across the country right now.  What are the White House’s plans to deal with that? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we’re continuing to implement vaccination programs, of course, across the country.  We have been encouraged by some of the numbers we’ve seen in terms of the uptick of people who are eligible, who are getting their booster shots.  About 30 million Americans have done that to date — obviously, more than that are eligible. 

So, we’d like to see more people getting booster shots who are eligible to get that extra protection against COVID-19 now, especially going into the holiday season.  We know now that, now that kids age 5 to 11 are eligible, that if you get your vaccine shot, you get your first shot now, you’ll — your kids will be protected by the holiday season. 

So, we’re continuing to press and remind people that this is a big travel time of year, a big crowd time of year — winter — obviously, colder weather, more people inside.  And we are upping our outreach to emphasize that. 

Go ahead, Karen.

Q    Thanks.  Yesterday, Congress passed a bill to give the Congressional Medal of Honor to the 13 service members who were killed in the attack at the Kabul airport.  Some of those families were critical at the time of the withdrawal and the President’s efforts to honor their loved ones.  When will he sign that legislation?  And is this something where he would host something at the White House to award those medals to the families?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, let me say that the President doesn’t look at the loss they had or the grief that these families endured through the political prism.  And some of them were critical.  They have every right — every right to speak publicly about their points of view.  That continues to be his viewpoint. 

In terms of the status of it, I just have to check with our legislative team on what that looks like.  I’m happy to do that.

Q    And would he even do a ceremony at the White House?  Is it —

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t know what it looks like yet because I have to check on the status.  As you know, he met many of these families back in August, following what I would still say was one of the worst days of his presidency, and conveyed to them that he would be open to staying in touch if that was appealing to them. 

And everybody deals with and copes with grief, the loss of a loved one in different ways.  He remains open to that, but I don’t have any updates beyond that.

Q    Can I just do one quick one on paid leave.  There’s reportedly an effort underway by some Democrats to start working on a separate paid leave proposal out of the Build Back Better plan that could have bipartisan support.  Is this something that the President has endorsed as a strategy, given that the House has not even voted yet on the Build Back Better and where it goes in the Senate then?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, the President wants — wants paid leave to be in the final package.  And, of course, it is in the House package — in the House bill that will be voted on soon.  But without prejudging the outcome here, we also know that it needs to have support in the Senate in order to move forward, and that has been challenging to date. 

But the President is committed to getting this done.  And without getting involved in the specific legislative tactics of it, which I don’t think he’s quite engaged with on this topic at this point, he wants to get paid leave done.  He thinks it’s long overdue, and he’s committed to getting it done. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Yesterday, oil and gas companies paid nearly $190 million for drilling rights on federal reserve — oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico.  This comes just after President Biden was at COP26 in the United Kingdom.  Given that these leases are going to last well past 2030, does this current round undermine at all Biden’s pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

MS. PSAKI:  I think I may have spoken to this the other day.  And I think there’s a legal court case around this — on the implementation or the allowing of these oil leases to move forward.  But I would say — so, I would refer you to those comments.

Go ahead, Katie.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  How do you have a summit where migration is one of the major issues without bringing up the policy like “Remain in Mexico”?  Where does the White House think the proper forum for that is if it’s not one like this?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, as you know, there are — there’s legal ramifications around this and legal discussions around this.  So, I think that’s part of the reason it hasn’t been intended to be a major focus of discussion.  But certainly, migration will be, as will every — steps that can be taken to reduce the number of people who are coming to the border — coming from Central America through Mexico — and we believe we can do that in a cooperative manner.

Q    And one on Vice President Harris: What is the strategy behind her having her own separate set of bilats today?  Will she be focusing on different issues with each leader?  I’m just wondering the thinking is behind that.

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t think that’s historically uncommon when leaders come to the United States to have meetings with the Vice President, as well as the President. 

Certainly there — there are overlaps of discussions, but it gives them an opportunity to have high-level engagement while they’re in the United States, with both the President of the United States and the Vice President of the United States.  It is something we certainly thinks sends an indication about the value we place in these relationships.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  There’s a growing sense among world leaders and others that on foreign policy President Biden is markedly different from former President Trump on tone, but on substance, in some of the ways, it’s very similar and not that different than Donald Trump’s “America First” policy.  So, in light of today’s bilats and trilat, I just wanted to give you a chance to respond.

MS. PSAKI:  Like what are their examples?

Q    So, for instance, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said — told Politico today, “President Biden has doubled down on some of Trump’s policies and, in other cases, taken actions that are directly against Canada’s interests.”  I think the two main areas would be trade and immigration.  And then a little while earlier, on the submarine kerfuffle with the French, the French foreign minister said, “This brutal, unilateral, and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do.”  And I can get you more examples.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, look, I would say I’m not sure those are that specific, and I’ve already spoken to the electric vehicles component. 

I think it’s hard for any analyst to look at the President’s approach to reengaging with allies around the world, which is something that has been front and center to the President’s approach to global engagement, to rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, to acknowledging that climate is one of the biggest crises we face around the world, to ensuring that we are working to promote human rights around the world, freedom of press around the world. 

I think that the list of differences is probably a laundry list, and the list of similarities probably fits on the back of a tiny napkin.

Q    One last timing question: On the diplomatic boycott of the Olympics, can you give us any sense of a timeframe for when we should expect that decision?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t — I don’t have a timeframe to give you today, Ashley.  Obviously, the Olympics are in February, and I want to give the President and the national security team a little space.  But as any updates are there to provide — we certainly understand the interest, and we’ll provide them to all.

Go ahead.

Q    You talked about the letter the President wrote to the FTC.  How fast does the President expect that letter to bring down gas prices?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think what we’re looking at here is highlighting and elevating an issue that should be pretty apparent to people across the country. 

And I would note, since you gave me the opportunity, that, in the letter, the President also noted that the two largest oil and gas companies in the United States, measured by market capitalization, just to speak your kind of language, are on track to nearly double their net income over 2019.

So just to give you a sense, they’re set to earn $32.9 billion this year.  In 2019, the two companies only earned $17.2 billion in combined net income. 

And I would also note that BP’s CEO said while announcing an additional $1.25 billion share buyback earlier this month, quote, “When gas prices are strong, this is literally a cash machine.”  So, that’s noted in the President’s letter.

This is a letter sent to the chair of the FTC.  They are, of course, independent.  They make independent choices.

I would note that in a previous letter that was sent related to concerns we had about gas — oil and gas mergers, they responded obviously.  And there have been reports out there, I would note — a Reuters report out there — that showed that this had an impact on oil and gas mergers.

So, I can’t predict for you.  I understand what you’re asking, but, given the independence of the FTC, I would point you to them.  But certainly we see this discrepancy between the — the price that is coming down as it relates to oil, and the price of gas is concerning.

Q    So any consideration to reversing some of the policies that led to this — maybe reconsidering the Keystone Pipeline — as the Prime Minister of Canada is here?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think the problem with that argument is that the Keystone Pipeline isn’t even really function- — I mean, it was only partially built.  It isn’t even really functioning.  So, suggesting that changing that would lower the price of gas, I don’t know that that makes substantive sense.

Q    But the market looks out — you know, they look at where it will be in the future.  And canceling the Keystone Pipeline, not allowing other pipelines to go forward, or challenging other pipelines might reduce or cause some concern in the market.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we look at every pipeline on an individual basis.  The President made the decision when only about, I think, 8 percent of the pipeline had been built not to move forward as we looked at the environmental impacts and weighed them with the economic impacts.  And the decision was certainly made.

So, there’s a range of options on the table.  I, unfortunately, don’t have anything more to preview for you today.  But certainly lowering the cast [sic] — the cost of gasoline — something that people around the world, as you know, are experiencing, not just here in the United States — is of utmost concern and a priority to the President.

A Canadian day.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  Two quick questions.  The first one, I just want to follow up to the previous question.  Trade commercial — trade protection and policies are perceived as just as intransigent this administration as Trump’s policies. How do you distinguish those?

MS. PSAKI:  Give me more information.  In what way?  You’re talking about the electric vehicles component?

Q    For instance.  Lumber, also — the same attitude as adopted by this administration as by the previous one.

MS. PSAKI:   And on lumber in which way?  Are you talking about tariffs, or what specific component?

Q    On tariffs.  On how difficult it is for Canadians to access the American market or favor the Americans — I understand that the President is fighting for good, middle-class jobs, as you keep repeating.  But it’s good, middle-class jobs on the other side of the border that are killed by this attitude.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would, again, reiterate a little bit of what I’ve said.  One, they’re going to have a discussion about all of these issues.

And as you’ve seen, Prime Minister Trudeau and his delegation, as you know from reporting on them, will certainly raise this and other issues in the — in the meetings, and we’ll do a readout of that, as I’m sure they will do a readout of that.

But the President’s view continues to be that ensuring — that investing in the electric vehicle industry here in the United States is something that helps consumers by lowering the cost of electric vehicles, making them accessible by — dramatically lowering the cost of purchasing an electric vehicle by, I believe, about $12,500 makes it accessible to people in this country. 

That’s also good for our climate — something we very much agree with Canadian leaders on — and the need to take steps on here in the United States, as one of the world’s biggest emitters.  So that’s a part of the discussion too.

So, I would say, again, that I think there are far more differences across the board — and I think probably people from the former President’s team would probably agree with this as well — in their approach to foreign policy than there are similarities. 

But this is an area where the President believes good un- — good-paying union jobs is important to our market here but also that investing in a clean energy industry that will help create jobs in the future is imperative.  But lots of work we can do with the Canadians. 

Q    And quickly, Jen — it’s been a month now that 16 Americans and 1 Canadian were kidnapped in Haiti.  What has the administration been doing — what has the administration been doing? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we’ve had — we have a significant presence on the ground, including with law enforcement officials from the FBI and others, who are working constantly to bring these individuals home. 

I wish I had an update for you today.  I know everybody is seeking an update.  But, unfortunately, there’s nothing I have to report at this moment.

Go ahead, in the back. 

Q    So, Russia said that recent conversations between National Security Advisor Sullivan and his Russian counterpart, Patrushev, was part of the preparation for the next contact between Presidents Biden and Putin. 

So, are you planning such a meeting or phone call?  And are you satisfied with the results of the Geneva Summit, given the current situation around the tensions from Ukraine and the situation at the Polish-Belarusian border?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, as you noted, we have held discussions with Russian officials about Ukraine and U.S.-Russia relations recently.  And as we announced yesterday, the National Security Advisor spoke with the Secretary of the Russian Security Council about regional and global matters of concern. 

I don’t have anything to preview for you in terms of an additional contact or call or anything like that with President Putin.  But, certainly, after their summit earlier this summer, we agreed there would be continued levels of contact and engagement at a high level, and that has proceeded since that point in time.

Q    So you’re not ruling it out?  Is that right?

MS. PSAKI:  I am not ruling out that the President of the United States will speak with the President of Russia at some point in the future. 

Go ahead.

Q    Oh, me.  Sorry. 

MS. PSAKI:  Oh, I was going to go right behind you because today is also a Mexico day. 

Q    Fine.

Q    Thank you.  The North American Leaders’ Summit has many subjects on the table: energy; you said “organized crime”; of course, COVID; and certainly USMCA.  In all of these areas, what do you — the — what does the United States government needs to see to consider this summit — this summit successful, especially in terms of the Mexican government?  Do you expect any agreement today, and in which areas? 

Thank you, Jen. 

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  So, you know, the bottom line is today is an opportunity to resume a level of engagement with the Canadians and the Mexicans and their leadership — at the leadership level that had been stalled for four years  — hadn’t happened since 2016.  And it’s an opportunity to build on discussions that these leaders were also a part of — whether it was the G20, COP26 — in different capacities. 

So, today is an opportunity for leader-to-leader engagement, have a discussion about a range of challenges we all face, whether it’s improving vaccine distribution and pandemic preparedness — something that is certainly on the minds of all leaders; strengthening North American supply chains; enhancing competitiveness; concrete actions on reducing methane emissions, a follow-up to the COP26 Summit; and developing a regional compact on migration and protection for the Americas.

In terms of what will come out of here, we’ll have the — the meetings have a couple of more hours.  So, I’ll let them proceed before I preview that.  But, certainly, the President was looking forward to the opportunity to engage face to face, have discussions about these important vital and issues with these leaders.


Q    Thank you, Jen.

MS. PSAKI:  Okay.  And we’ll do Shelby.  Last one. 

Q    Thanks.  OSHA suspended the vaccine implementation and enforcement because of a court order.  Given this update, is the administration still urging businesses to move forward with the President’s vaccine and weekly testing rule?  And are you still working off of that January 4th compliance deadline?

MS. PSAKI:  We are.  Let me be very clear: Our message to businesses right now is to move forward with measures that will make their workplaces safer and protect them — their workforces from COVID-19.  That was our message after the first day issued by the Fifth Circuit.  That remains our message and nothing has changed. 

I would note that recent polling — I think that just came out yesterday — showed that 60 percent of businesses are moving forward with measures that keep their workplaces safe.  They’re essentially implementing components or versions of these vaccine requirements because they know it’s in the interests of their workforces — to protect their workforces, to make sure they can bring more people back to the workforce.  And we certainly see that as a positive sign. 

So, we are still heading towards the same timeline. 

The Department of Justice is vigorously defending the emergency temporary standard in court.  And we are confident in OSHA’s authority. 

All right, thanks, everyone.

Q    Jen, Senator Manchin just walked out while we were in here.   Are you able to provide any readout of the meeting that I suppose just happened?  Did he meet with the President or with staff?

MS. PSAKI:  He was not in the meeting with the Mexican President and the Canadian President [Prime Minister].  (Laughter.)  That would just make an added component of today.

Q    It would indeed.

MS. PSAKI:  I believe he was — he was participating in a swearing in ceremony for Dr. Gupta, per Dr. Gupta’s request.

Q    All right, thank you.

Q    Thanks, Jen.

MS. PSAKI:  Thanks, everyone. 

3:16 P.M. EST

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