James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:51 P.M. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. All right. Good afternoon. Let me just start out with an update on the tornadoes. You obviously just saw the President speak to this. Our hearts, as you heard him say, go out to all the families and communities impacted by this weekend’s devastating tornado outbreak in the central United States.
As you saw this morning, he’s receiving regular briefings on the situation, including the one this morning with DHS Secretary Mayorkas and FEMA Administrator Criswell, who were just visiting impacted areas yesterday.
Also, as we just announced, the President will travel to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for a storm briefing and to Mayfield and Dawson Springs, Kentucky, to survey storm damage on Wednesday.
We have been working around the clock, through the weekend, closely with governors of impacted states and local leaders to ensure they have everything they need to respond to and recover from this unimaginable tragedy.
Tragically, we are seeing fatalities across five different states — with Kentucky, of course, being the hardest hit. On Saturday, as many of you saw, the President immediately approved Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s request for an emergency disaster declaration for the state, making federal assistance available to support state and local response efforts to save lives and protect property.
And yesterday, the President immediately approved a major disaster declaration for Kentucky, making federal funding available for temporary housing and home repairs to help individuals and businessowners recover.
And I think many of you may have seen our FEMA Administrator speak directly to people having places to live and be and stay as being one of the issues we are working through.
Disaster survivors can apply at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA to get help.
And the President’s action also makes federal funding available to the state and eligible local governments and nonprofit organizations for emergency work. Damage assessments are, of course, continuing through the impacted region, and the President stands ready to provide additional assistance as needed.
He also directed FEMA to lean forward with a proactive response, and the agency has done just that, which means — it requires governors requesting assistance in order to get it, but he wants our teams to be very engaged proactively about what the needs may be and make sure they have the information necessary to apply if warranted.
Yesterday, as I noted, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the FEMA Administration — and FEMA Administrator were in Kentucky, just one day after the tornado subsided, to meet with the governor and other state and local officials. FEMA has also rapidly deployed urban search-and-rescue teams, incident management assistant teams, and mobile communication operations vehicles to assist response and coordination efforts, and has sent dozens of generators, 30,000 meals, 90,000 bottles of water, 4,500 blankets, 2,100 cots, and other critical commodities to Kentucky to help families in need.
And as you’ve heard the President say a number of times, he’s committed to meeting whatever the needs are in these communities.
I also wanted to note that, today, the President will sign an executive order that will help promote fiscal stewardship by improving the way our government delivers everyday services to the American people. It outlines more than 30 specific agency actions that will make it easier and simpler for people to access government services and benefits — things like making Social Security benefits easier to access online so retirees don’t have to go into offices if they don’t want to, saving them time and big headaches at times; using innovative technology to speed airport check-ins and reduce wait times; allowing Americans to renew their passports online instead of having to print forms and pay with a paper check or money order; and providing online tools that make it simpler to file your taxes.
Also, you can update your address in there and not have to do it through repeated forms. I found that particularly exciting.
The executive order also ensures agencies focus on the needs of the American people and spells out a process for agencies to continually improve their delivery of services.
Last brief updates for all of you:
The Vice President announced today the Biden-Harris administration’s Electric Vehicle Charging Action Plan that fast-tracks Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments during a visit to Brandywine Maintenance Facility in Brandywine, Maryland.
The Electric Vehicle Charging Action Plan moves forward the implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, establishing a Joint Electric Vehicles Office between the Department of Energy and Transportation; issuing guidance and standards for states; and ensuring consultations with diverse stakeholders, including manufacturers, governments, equity and environmental justice groups, civil rights groups, and Tribal communities.
Also today, as a part of her role in addressing the root causes of migration from Central America, the Vice President will announce during a roundtable with CEOs that new private sector investments in Central America now total over $1.2 billion.
These commitments are in response to the Vice President’s call to action, launched in May, for businesses and social enterprises to make new, significant commitments to sustainably address the root causes of migration.
And as a reminder, Wednesday, December 15th is the last day to sign up for healthcare coverage and have it kick in by January 1st. Thanks to the administration’s unprecedented outreach campaigns and investment from the American Rescue Plan, nearly 4.6 million Americans have already signed up for ACA coverage since November 1st. Four out of five customers can find a plan for under $10 a month.
I would also like to note members of the team — the research team are here and members of the staff secretary team are here as well. So, thank you for all of your work — hardest-working people in the building, some of them.
Why don’t you kick us off?
Q “Some”? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to — not them. I mean “some of the hardest working people in the building.”
Q Oh. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: As in — as I was saying that, I was thinking, “There are other hardworking people in the building.” That’s what was happening in my mind there.
Thanks for journeying with me, Ed.
Q Thanks, Jen. Just one quick logistics question. Are we still doing the executive order gathering — in what? — 10 minutes? Or are we pushing that back?
MS. PSAKI: I believe it is 1:25. And so, we have a little bit of time, but we will keep you updated as that happens. But I believe it’s 30 minutes from now.
Q Okay, great. Two quick things. One, Child Tax Credit payments go out this Wednesday. This could be the last time if the program is not renewed. What would you say to those families who are wondering if this is the last check, as they wait to see if Build Back Better gets passed?
MS. PSAKI: That we’ll — the President would say this is why we need to move forward as quickly as we can in getting the Build Back Better bill passed so that we can ensure that families across the country who have benefited from the Child Tax Credit, who would benefit from having childcare costs cut, who would benefit from having healthcare costs cut will get the relief they need. And that’s something that would take effect early next year, in addition to the extension.
Q Secondly, Afghan’s Foreign Minister said the U.S. and other countries should release upward of $10 billion in funds that were frozen in the Taliban takeover. He told the AP that sanctions against Afghanistan would “not have any benefit.” What circumstances are needed for the U.S. and its allies to release the money?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what he’s referring to is the status of the reserves. And the reserves remain inaccessible to the Taliban — I think, as many of you know.
But let me outline for you why that is. They’re located in central — certain financial institutions in the United States and other countries. And these institutions have put in place a common risk mitigation strategy when countries that hold funds in those institutions face considerable uncertainty.
There are a number of reasons why these reserves remain inaccessible. And I’ll note first, though, Josh, that, of course, this is a very complicated issue, and we’re continually reviewing thoughtfully and in coordination with allies and partners.
But these are some important reasons. First and foremost, the status of the funds is the subject of ongoing litigation, brought by certain victims of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks to hold judgments against the Taliban. These legal proceedings cannot be disregarded and have led to the temporary suspension of any movement of the funds through at least the end of the year and quite possibly longer.
Second, the United States continues to face difficult fundamental questions about how it might be able to make reserve funds available to directly benefit the people of Afghanistan while ensuring that the funds do not benefit the Taliban.
And, obviously, our objective as one of the world’s biggest providers of humanitarian assistance is to get that assistance directly to the people. It is difficult to determine how that would not go through — would not benefit the Taliban as it relates to these funds.
Third, the Taliban remain sanctioned by the United States as a specially designated global terrorist group, and a number of its officials are subject to the UN- — UNSCR’s 1988 sanctions regime. This raiges [sic] — raises immediate red flags for many states’ central banks and the financial community more generally when considering any transactions.
Again, we’re continuing to review. It’s a very complicated and challenging issue. But that’s the status and the reason why we have not — there is not any update on that at this point in time.
Go ahead, Trevor.
Q Jen, I just wanted to talk a little bit about the Manchin meeting.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q What is the President’s message to the senator? You know, it’s more — it’s been more than a month and a half since you guys announced a framework that you thought would be acceptable to him, but we have no indications from him directly that you guys are anywhere near that. So what’s the message today?
MS. PSAKI: The President is going to speak — looks forward to speaking directly with Senator Manchin about — and making the case for why the President feels this legislation should move forward.
He feels that they’ve always operated — their conversations have always operated in good faith. And he expects this to be — to follow that same — that same approach.
I would note that Senator Manchin has been in touch, over the course of the last several weeks, closely with senior members of the White House staff. And we extect [sic] — expect this just to be a continuation of that conversation.
Q And do you have a sense for where the sticking points are at this point?
MS. PSAKI: I’ll let — I’ll let Senator Manchin speak for himself. And again, the President looks forward to communicating directly with him this afternoon.
Q On a separate issue: I just wanted to ask you about the January 6th Committee.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q They released a lot of data over the weekend, you know, basically showing some information about Mark Meadows and the use of the National Guard after January 6th. Just — any reaction to that at all, and the politicization of the National Guard and — or anything about the vote on holding him in contempt this week?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would just reiterate that, as the President has said, January 6th was one of the darkest moments in our country’s history. And there’s no question that this investigation is vitally important to get to the bottom of what happened that day and prevent it from ever happening again.
And as you know, as we’ve made decisions regarding requests for executive privilege, the President — our team has have made them through the prism of the unique moment — the dark day in history that January 6th was. So, we are very supportive in the — the work of the Select Committee and, obviously, the work of Congress to get to the bottom of what happened here.
I would also just reiterate that the President has the utmost respect for the men and women who serve in our military and confidence in the armed forces’ leadership. And this investigation is, of course, critical to providing a full understanding of what happened to prevent it from happening again.
Go ahead, Jeff.
Q In terms of the timing of the Build Back Better Agenda, does the President think it’s better now to take a pause here — you know, it really is just a week and a half or so before Christmas — and wait until next year to have a bigger discussion on this? Or what is his view of Senator Schumer’s, you know, still hope — which seems fleeting at this point — to get this done by Christmas?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Leader Schumer continues to press forward with getting this done, making progress in advance of Christmas. And we’re fully supportive of that.
Q But if it goes into the new year, does the President believe that that would be better to preserve this agenda? I mean, Senator Manchin, this morning, is — is saying that he has serious reservations about this and believes it, essentially, needs to go back to the drawing board in some respects.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m, of course, not going to speak for Senator Manchin; I know you’re not asking me to do that. But we’re continuing to support Leader Schumer’s effort to move this forward. And we are going to continue to play a constructive role in that.
Q What else can the White House do to make the case that this will not impact inflation? That seems to be a big concern of Senator Manchin’s and, of course, others.
MS. PSAKI: Well, what we’ve been trying to do — and I’m sure the President, if this is part of the — of what Senator Manchin would like to discuss, will make this case directly as well — that is to highlight the fact that it’s not just us, but it is a range of economists. Seven — seventeen, excuse me, Nobel laureates who have conveyed this will help address inflation over the long term.
And that when we’re — when we talk about inflation — and this may be the way that the President and Senator Manchin can discuss this in a more accessible and human way — it’s about how we lower costs for the American people and people who are looking, planning their — looking at their budgets for next year, maybe the first quarter of next year or the first half of next year, and they’re trying to figure out how to pay for childcare and they’re trying to figure out how to make sure they can put food on the table. And this Build Back Better plan will help lower costs for people across the country. That is fundamentally what it will do.
So, we will continue to make that case publicly and privately — to Senator Manchin as well.
Go ahead, Yamiche.
Q One on the Manchin conversation: You said the President is going to be making his argument directly as — the argument he has been making over the last several weeks. It seems, based on what the Senator said this morning, that he’s pretty unmoved in his positions right now. So, how do you –where do you see signs of potential movement here? Or is the President bringing anything new to the negotiating table today?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t see this as a negotiating table, as much as a conversation between two — two people who have been in public life for some time and have had good-faith discussions directly. And this is just a continuation of that.
Q Given that and given — on the issue of the Child Tax Credit — it does seem likely that this 20 deadline may come and go. Is there anything that the White House can do to provide some relief for these families or anything that can be done if, in fact, these payments are halted?
MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly, the President wants to see the Child Tax Credit extended. That’s why he proposed it in this package. And clearly, that’s why a number of members of the Senate want to get this done as soon as possible. The President supports that.
We, of course, need 50 votes in order to do that. So, we’re continuing to work through the process of getting there.
Q But if that deadline doesn’t seem to be enough, so far, to get Manchin to come around — and he’s made clear he wants to get this right; it doesn’t seem that he’s in a rush, necessarily, to compromise or he’s not going to put a certain deadline on this — doesn’t it seem likely then that this isn’t going to happen before the holiday?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we need — we’re in a place to make that prediction from here nor is anyone at this point in time.
I mean, the President supports this package, of course, because it includes an extension of the Child Tax Credit, but also because it will lower the cost of prescription drugs, of childcare, of eldercare, of housing — key components that are impacting people across this country. He thinks that’s a pretty compelling case. The American public agrees. They like all of those components, too.
But he also understands how the legislative process works. And we’re going to work that day by day.
Q Would the White House be okay if congressional Democrats moved a standalone piece of legislation that extended those tax credits?
MS. PSAKI: We’re not at that point right now. Right now, we’re continuing to press to get Build Back Better through the Senate. Leader Schumer has advocated for that, and that’s what we’re working on at this moment.
Q Over the weekend, when he first spoke about the storms, he was also asked about Ukraine and Russia. Is there an active plan to deploy American forces to eastern bloc NATO countries if Russia forays into Ukraine? He suggested that there was something like that in the works. I’m just seeking some clarification.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, well, I appreciate you seeking clarification. I think as — as our National Security Advisor has touched on and I don’t think we’ve tried to hold back from — there are a number of NATO partner countries, of course, in Eastern Europe — “eastern flank countries,” as you just refer to them. And what happened — if you look back post-2014 — is a lot of these NATO partner countries were looking for reassurance, were looking to plus up the presence there, were looking for, you know, additional rotational deployments. And certainly, that is on the table should Russia decide to invade Ukraine.
Q I won’t ask again about Build Back Better, but I did have one on —
MS. PSAKI: You can ask. Go ahead.
Q Well, okay. Then there’s this —
MS. PSAKI: Try again. (Laughter.)
Q Well, there’s another aspect of this where —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — whether of not Democrats can include a work permit program for undocumented immigrants in the plan. Still waiting on the parliamentarian to make a decision, but there are members of the Democratic Party saying, “Ignore that and include some kind of pathway to citizenship in this legislation.” Would the President support that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what we’re — in the process we’re in now — which you’re very familiar with, and others are — is we’re waiting. The parliamentarian is doing her work in reviewing a number of the components that are currently in the package.
We have to wait for that to complete itself. It’s go- — it’s going to take a little bit more time. But that — you can’t put a bill on the floor before that process is complete.
Q And there was another round of stories over the weekend about the political fate of the President and the Vice President and who might run in 2024. And it quotes a lot of other Democrats or people who work for them. What is the White House’s message to those Democrats?
MS. PSAKI: The White House’s message is: We’re focused right now on what the American people elected the President to do less ab- — just over a year ago, which is to get COVID under control, to put people back to work, and to help give people some breathing room. And we hope other people keep their focus on that as well.
Q Should they knock it off? Is that speculation helpful to you?
MS. PSAKI: The President has every intention of running for reelection, so that’s the other message for them.
Q Thank you, Jen. You’re not going to believe this: I have another question about Build Back Better.
MS. PSAKI: I’m ready.
Q So, the President says that the Build Back Better is not going to add a penny to the deficit. The CBO has this new score where they assume that social programs are going to be made permanent. And in that case, it would add almost $3 trillion. So does that mean that President Biden will commit that these programs are not going to be made permanent?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first of all, what you’re talking about here is a fake CBO score that is not based on the actual bill that anybody is voting on. This was a ask — a request by Senator Graham to score a bill that is not currently being debated.
That is her per- — his prerogative to do. But what our focus is on is on the existing bill that will lower the deficit, that will also, over an additional 10 years, pay for the $2 trillion tax cuts that Republicans didn’t pay for. They’re welcome for that.
So, I would say, Peter, to your question: The President has conveyed very clearly — multiple times publicly — that he would like programs, if they’re extended, to be paid for. That remains his commitment.
But it’s important to understand that when you — when anybody raises a question about this new CBO score, it is a fake score about a bill that doesn’t exist. And we should really focus on the actual bill everybody is going to vote on and considering in Congress right now.
Q Okay. Another topic: Is Vice President Harris still in charge of addressing the root causes of migration from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala?
MS. PSAKI: She is. And I just announced a commitment that she’s announcing this afternoon.
Q So, then why is it that she has not spoken to the President of Guatemala since June? That’s six months.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that — I did see this kind of strange report from the President of Guatemala saying that he’s had no contact with the White House, which is inaccurate.
Q No, he didn’t say the Whi- — he said “Vice President Harris”; he has not spoken to her. And if she’s in charge, why is that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have had a range of conversations, Peter, I think as reflected in our readout we put out last week with our National Security Advisor, with the Vice President’s National Security Advisor, with our NSC Senior Director, Juan Gonzalez. We put out an extensive readout of that just last week, and we’ll continue that high level of engagement.
Q Okay. Final topic: Do you think it’s possible that big cities are dealing with these smash-and-grab robberies right now — an increase in criminal activity — because some prosecutors are too soft on crime?
MS. PSAKI: I would say we have seen — I’m not going to attribute the reasoning from here. What I will tell you is we have seen an increase in crime over the course of the pandemic. There are a range of reasons for that. And what we’re — our focus is on is what we can do to address it.
The President has proposed additional funding in the budget to make sure local police departments and cops have the funding they need. We have also worked directly with police departments in areas where they are seeing the highest impact of the crime, the retail threft [sic] — theft, which we have great concern about.
That’s what our focus is on currently: is action and doing what we can to make sure the funding is out there to the communities that need it the most.
Q But, I guess, what good does it do if you’re going to give police departments extra money if they arrest bad guys and they bring them to jail, and then they’re not prosecuted? They’re just right back out on the streets.
MS. PSAKI: I think, Peter, what our focus is on is making sure that the local leaders, the police officers and departments who know what they need for these communities have the assistance and the funding they need. And that’s what we’re working around the clock on.
Q So, the final one would be: Just in the last week, we saw a New York Post item about a pickpocket with more than 30 arrests back out on the street. We’ve seen an arsonist burn down a half-a-million-dollar Christmas tree in New York City back out on the streets. Does the President think that that’s good governing?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I think I’ve spoken to the President’s concerns about retail theft. If you have specific — and the actions we’ve taken for specific cases, I would point to the local police departments or the Department of Justice.
Go ahead, Kelly.
Q On the Manchin conversation today, what’s the format for that? You mentioned “conversation,” not “meeting.” Is this by phone? In person? What’s the setup for that?
MS. PSAKI: It is a phone call. It is a phone call. So they will be conversing over the phone.
Q And is that typically just the two of them, or would you have leg affairs and others involved as well?
MS. PSAKI: It really depends on the conversation. They’ve had one-on-one conversations, and sometimes there’s additional staff available in case there are follow-up questions. I can check and see if there’s more details on that.
Q And the President talked about going to Kentucky –-
MS. PSAKI: Yeah
Q — on Wednesday but not having decided exactly where he’s going. And we know that he doesn’t want to interfere with things on the ground. Do you know what sort of visit he is looking for? He said he hasn’t decided yet on where he wants to go. Do you know what sort of — type of impact he wants to make by going in person?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, he — and he is very mindful. As you’ve heard him say a couple of times over the weekend, he does not want to pull resources away from the rescue and recovery efforts. So I think that was what was on his mind.
We did finalize the travel and announce it was to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for a storm briefing and to Mayfield and Dawson Springs, Kentucky, to survey storm damage. And I would expect, while he’s there, he will receive an update from local authorities on what their needs are, see local elected officials and discuss in person with them and make sure they’re getting what they need from the federal government.
And I think, as you’ve seen him do, Kelly — and I can’t remember if you were on the trip; I think you were — when we went to — when he went to the Northeast, he also wants to hear directly from people, and he wants to offer his support directly to them — people who have gone through, over the last couple of days, really incredible challenges, losing their home, losing loved ones, losing parts of their community that they’ve grown up with. And I think he wants to offer his support directly to them as well.
So, I would expect it’s a combination of those pieces.
Q And do you expect him to extend to Illinois at some point or other states that have been hit by this? Or is that to be determined?
MS. PSAKI: It certainly remain — he remains open to that. It’s to be determined, and it — I think this trip is being done given the vast impact of the storm damage in parts of Kentucky.
Q Jen, the President is suggesting he may have more to say on the filibuster. Does he have a view of — on this so-called carveout to the filibuster rule as it pertains to voting rights? And do you think he — this may come up in his conversation with Senator Manchin?
MS. PSAKI: I know that they will be talking about a range of things — of legislative components — and, of course, Build Back Better is front and center to that.
And certainly, voting rights is a priority to the President, and I know it’s something that Senator Manchin is committed to. I don’t have anything to update you on in terms of the legislative process and the President’s view on that at this point.
Q And I know this Brian Deese’s favorite subject, but do you expect any announcement this week on the Fed nominee?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a day for you, but, certainly, that is something that we’re looking to get done soon and hopefully before the President and everyone leaves for time with their families over the holidays.
Q Thank you. I wanted to know — I know you got asked about this earlier, but do you have any information on next steps when it comes to Russia — diplomatic steps -–
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — when it comes to Russia and NATO? Are there any plans for more talks, more meetings of that nature?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, let me give you — because there’s a lot of different moving parts at the same time right now.
So, this weekend, Secretary Blinken was at the G7 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Liverpool to discuss our cooperation on a comprehensive response to Russia’s military buildup. There was a joint statement released calling on Russia to deescalate, pursue diplomatic channels, abide by its international commitments on transparency of military activities, as President Biden did in his call with President Putin.
And the foreign ministers, as they were meeting and in the statement also, warned that any use of force to change borders is strictly prohibited under international law and that Russia should expect that further military aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences.
So that was kind of reiterating what the President conveyed to President Putin, and what he conveyed in his calls and engagements with the B9 leaders last week through our Secretary of State.
Also from the State Department, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Dr. Karen Donfried, is in Kiev today and will visit Moscow tomorrow to meet with senior government officials to discuss Russia’s military buildup and to reinforce the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty. She’ll emphasize that we can make diplomatic progress on entering [sic] — ending the conflict in the Donbas through implementation of the Minsk Agreements in support of the Normandy Format.
Following that trip, she’s going to travel to Brussels to consult with NATO Allies and EU partners, which has been kind of how we have approached this to date.
Additionally, our national security team is continuing to have extensive conversations with our European allies and partners throughout the day, and that will continue as well.
So, day by day, what we are working to do here is have -– keep the lines of diplomatic engagement open; have those conversations with Europeans, but also directly with the Ukrainians and the Russians; and continue to look and pursue a path — a diplomatic path forward.
Q And just when it comes to booster shots -–
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — obviously, cases are rising, there are big concerns about Omicron. There is a push in the UK to get all of their citizens — get them with the booster shots.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q There — it has been very slow in the U.S. for eligible people to get booster shots. Is there any plan for a bigger push from the White House, from the federal government to get people to get their booster shots?
MS. PSAKI: We are — that is absolutely what we’re focused on. And we’ve seen an uptick recently. It’s not, as you said, nearly where it needs to be in terms of everybody eligible getting a booster shot. And we know that that can be protective in — against Delta, which is still the predominant variant here, but also we’re seeing increased — it would be increased protection against Omicron, even as we learn more.
We have seen — if you look at seniors, we’ve seen that about 60 percent of eligible — who are in nursing home facilities have been — have received a booster. Actually, it’s higher than that. Actually, sorry, 91 percent of nursing home facilities have completed their booster clinics. That’s a good sign –- right? — for older, more vulnerable populations.
And we’ve also seen a number of states execute very strong programs that can be good models. West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, and North Carolina are also nearly complete with their booster rollout. But we nee- — we are continuing to press — publicly, privately with governors, as you’ve seen us talk a lot about this nationally — because we know that the more people who get boosted, the more are protected.
Q Thanks, Jen. The President has had to address a series of natural disasters, other severe weather occurrences this year –-
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — from wildfires to hurricanes and now these tornadoes. And each time we’ve heard him talk about how — I think he said this on Saturday — these shouldn’t be partisan moments; we’re not, you know, Republicans and Democrats. But we’ve also heard him, on many of these occasions, talk about the demonstrated effect of climate change.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q So, two questions: One, what, if anything, can we expect to hear from the President when he goes to Kentucky on Wednesday about — specifically about climate change? And can you talk about how he balances those two imperatives of trying to strike this unifying note but talking about an issue that, you know, frankly, is a partisan — that has caused a partisan divide?
MS. PSAKI: You’re right — I am not going to get ahead of what he’s going to say in Kentucky. And as I noted in response to Kelly’s question: I mean, that visit is really about him receiving an update of the work that’s happening on the ground, hearing directly from leaders on what they need more from the federal government, if anything. And he’s going to be very responsive to that and really trying to be a source of comfort to people who have gone through a devastating couple of days in their communities.
So, it’s not an opportu- — he’s not going to give a major speech while he’s there.
I will note — and he’s been asked this a couple of times over the last few days. And when we were in the north — when he was in the Northeast several months ago, what has been striking to him and to all of us is just the sheer impact of — of the climate — changes in the climate and the crisis that is — that is the climate currently on — in — on communities across the country: on the cost to communities, on these major weather events that have impacted such a growing percentage of —
(Cellphone plays song.)
MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay. (Laughter.) We’re getting a little groovy in here. I like it. Okay. (Laughter.) It’s —
Q My bad. I’m sorry. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: It’s kind of exactly what we needed right now. It’s all good.
Q (Inaudible) in the briefing.
Q That was Jill Scott. That was Jill Scott in the briefing room.
MS. PSAKI: I was enjoying it thoroughly. We should turn it back on in a few minutes.
Anyway, there are some really startling statistics. I actually will get these all to — out to all of you about the percentage of people in this country who have been impacted by severe weather events. It has increased over the course of time. And the President will talk about this more, and it is not a political thing because look at the communities that have been impacted: red, blue, purple, no color at all, communities that don’t consider themselves political in any way, shape, or form. And this is certainly a driving reason why we need to do more to address the climate crisis.
But let me get back to you with those statistics, which I think have really struck the President as the reason why we need to act.
Q And along the same lines, the President, I think, said on Saturday that he would seek some input from the EPA about whether these specific tornadoes were caused by climate change — how much of a direct tie there was there. Has he gotten any feedback from them? And if so, what have they informed him about (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: I think he just answered a similar question this morning as well. And it is something that he’ll just continue to discuss with his climate advisors and teams and, obviously, local leaders as well. But I don’t think there’s any new assessment of it.
He just knows that because of the change in climate, because of the threat the climate crisis poses, that we’re — we have seen more extreme weather events. And that is a reason to act.
Q Have the White House economic team been in touch with Senator Manchin or his staff about his inflation concerns? And if so, can you tell us what exactly they have been telling the Senator?
MS. PSAKI: We have been in regular contact with Senator Manchin from a range of officials from the White House — including members of our policy team, members of our legislative team — to address any questions that he may have. And without getting into private discussions, I can assure you that they have conveyed that acting now on Build Back Better — that inflation concerns — the — that’s why we should act on Build Back Better now.
They’ve, of course, cited the 17 Nobel laureates. They’ve cited how it will reduce costs. And a lot of the cases we’ve made publicly are also, you know, the information that we’ve shared privately as well.
Q And just to go back to one of the questions from the front row. If the Democrats in Congress were to pass a one-year extension of the Child Tax Credit, would the President insist that be paid for and fully offset —
MS. PSAKI: I —
Q — as a standalone?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not currently being proposed or considered. The President has conveyed that he wants to see any extension of these programs paid for. That’s a — that’s his fundamental approach to legislating and policymaking.
But I’m not going to get into a hypothetical at this point in time.
Q Thanks, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Last one here, and then we’ll — we’ll wrap it up.
Q Okay, I have a couple quick ones for me, and then — I’m the pooler, so I have one from someone else.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
Q So, on this executive order that he’s about to sign —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah?
Q — what’s the strategy to do this now? And can you give us any sense of a timeline — a more specific timeline on implementing it or —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — any consequences that federal agencies would face if they don’t follow through?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s going to take 6 to 12 months to implement it. It’s a priority for agencies, so it will depend — it’s going to be — the implementation component there will be a little different — right? — depending. And agencies will have a more direct and specific assessment about how long it will take, but some of this is getting programs or online systems up and running so that they can be implemented.
And I would say that the reason to do it now is the President is someone who has been in government — as Vice President for eight years; obviously, 36 years in the Senate — and he’s a firm believer we can always make government work more effectively and efficiently. Technology is a way to do that in many ways — to make it easier, simpler, more accessible for people — whether they’re seniors who are trying to get their Social Security benefits or people just applying to renew their passport.
And I’ll tell you, I was very happy to hear that. So, that’s good news.
So that’s something that he has long been a believer in. It’s something that took a little bit of work internally to make sure we had the systems in place to get it going.
Q Got it.
And then, one quick other one from a colleague. The Canadian government wrote to Senate leadership and committee chairs last week to threaten retaliatory tariffs and potentially retracting certain USMCA dairy concessions if the EV tax credit in BBB is passed. What’s the White House reaction to this? And has there been any discussion about extending eligibility to Canadian-assembled vehicles and batteries for the same credits?
MS. PSAKI: I know we talked about this a little bit when the Prime Minister, Trudeau, was here just a couple of weeks ago. The President advocated for these tax credits because he wants to make it more affordable for the American people to purchase electric vehicles and because he feels it’s an area of a huge opportunity — an industry of huge opportunity for American automakers.
We have a good working relationship with the Canadians. We had — they had a good conversation about it.
But I don’t have any additional policy I would expect or changes to that.
Sorry this was short today. Thank you, everybody.
1:26 P.M. EST