James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:07 P.M. EST

MS. PSAKI:  Okay.  Hi, everyone.

Q    Hi, Jen.  How are you doing?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I’m great.  How are you guys?

Q    Good.  Good.  Very good.

MS. PSAKI:  Merry Christmas Eve eve for those who celebrate. 

Q    Same to you. 

MS. PSAKI:  Only the bold and brave here today.

Okay, just a couple of items for you at the top. 

Today we are announcing we’ve shipped 350 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the world.  That is more than one dose to the world for every American and more than any other country.

Those 300 — oh, wrong chart.  Other chart.  Oh, here’s the chart.  Okay.  Here’s the chart.  These 350 million doses have gone to 111 countries and are a part of our commitment to share 1.2 billion doses, on top of our work on the ground to turn vaccines into vaccinations, and bolstering manufacturing capacity at home and abroad.

In the spirit of giving this holiday season, we continue to ask that every country and company do their part to get more life-saving vaccines to the world. 

I just want to pause because I think there’s some sort of tone or ring tone or phone happening.

(Cross-talk by reporters.)

Q    Right over here.

MS. PSAKI:  Okay.  Okay.

Q    In this area.

MS. PSAKI:  Great.  All right.  Well, we’ll figure out whose that — who that belongs to. 

I also wanted to note: Today, we received further evidence that our jobs recovery is one of the strongest ever.  The average number of Americans filing for unemployment over the last four weeks is near its lowest level since 1969.

We’ve added nearly 6 million jobs this year — the most of any first-year president in history.  And the number of people receiving unemployment benefits has dropped from around 20 million to around 2 million since President Biden took office. 

Thanks to the American Rescue Plan and our successful vaccination program, Americans are back at work at a record-setting pace.  And we are not in the same place we were at — in the beginning of the pandemic.  And families have more money in their pockets.  Americans, on average, have nearly $100 more in their pockets each month than they did last year after accounting for inflation.  And we’re obviously going to continue to build on this moving forward as well.

Last piece to announce: Today, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced $241 million in grant funding to improve ports at 25 projects across the country through the Port Infrastructure Development Program.

These grants demonstrate rapid action on commitments in the Biden-Harris Port Action Plan.  Investing in our infrastructure will strengthen our supply chains, help speed the flow of goods, and lower prices for Americans.  And that’s more important — did you get what I did there? — “port” — yeah? — (laughter) — investments to come, thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

I didn’t even do that; someone on my team did, but it’s still funny. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  So, President Biden last night said, in sort of the most direct terms, that he would support a filibuster carveout for voting rights.  What made him decide to come out publicly with that direct wording? 

And then is he lobbying any senators to come along with him on that?  Obviously, there are a few holdups on that issue.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, to go to — in case you all didn’t see the interview the President did with ABC that aired last night — and more pieces were out this morning — the President was asked — and just to — so everyone has the phrasing of what he said:

“So, you support a carveout of the filibuster for voting rights?” 

“Well, I don’t think we” have — “we may have to go [to] that far.  But I would…if they — if it’s — the only thing standing between getting” votes right- — “voting rights legislation passed and not getting passed is the filibuster.  I support making the exception of voting rights for the filibuster.”

So just so everybody has the full context.

You know, the President has spoken to his view — his strong view — that getting voting rights legislation passed is a fundamental priority for him.  It’s something that is essential so that people across the country are able to exercise their right to vote, to participate in the democratic process.  That’s something he has always believed, always been committed to. 

As he said in his answer last night, we may not have to go to that, but he is prepared to support changes if that’s the only thing standing in the way of getting this done.

Q    And then, President Putin’s press conference earlier — does the White House have a response to his assertion that it’s actually the West that is promoting tensions in the region, and also his demands that Russia receive assurances NATO won’t accept Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, facts are a funny thing, and facts make clear that the only aggression we’re seeing at the border of Russia and Ukraine is the military buildup by the Russians and the bellicose rhetoric from the leader of Russia.

I would also note that also this morning — and I know we just did a background briefing on this as well — in that press conference, President Putin said he was encouraged by — and I’m para- — paraphrasing here — the fact that there will be diplomatic talks — plans for diplomatic talks in January.  We also believe that that is the best path and the right path forward. 

The third thing I would just note is that NATO is a defensive alliance; it’s not an aggressive alliance.  There is no evidence to the contrary — to suggest anything to the contrary from the United States or NATO members.  And, of course, our efforts are to work with and defend our NATO partners.

Go ahead, (inaudible) Major.

Q    President Putin also said that there has been an agreement to have a meeting in Geneva in January.  Can you confirm that?

MS. PSAKI:  There has not been a final agreement on the location or timing at this point in time.

Q    Why not?  And why do think he would say that if that’s not true?  Is he trying to sandbag you?

MS. PSAKI:  I can’t speak to what President Putin’s motivation is at any point in time, and certainly not today. 

We are working towards diplomatic talks.  There have been proposals put forward by the Russians — some we would agree with, some we certainly wouldn’t agree with.  Obviously, on — the NATO example is a good example of that.  And we’re working to finalize what that’ll look like.  We also agree diplomatic conversations are the right path forward.

Q    Is this January time schedule more likely than not, since he’s entered it publicly?

MS. PSAKI:  We have also said that we are looking ahead to talks in early January. 

Q    Why can’t you confirm it then? 

MS. PSAKI:  Because we haven’t finalized the details of them yet.

Q    Understood.  I’m not sure if this has been asked before, but it’s getting closer to the deadline of –

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    — January 5th.  Does the administration have a point of view on the alarm raised by the airline industry with the 5G regulations going in and the assertion by some airlines that if they can’t use the altimeter, in about 40 airports there will be delays, cancellations, disruptions to the flow of airline passengers and their ability to fly around the country?

MS. PSAKI:  I have seen reports of that.  I have not actually talked with our team about that.  I can do that, Major, and get you a better assessment from our economic team.

Q    Great.  Thanks, Jen.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  Merry Christmas.

MS. PSAKI:  Thank you.  You too.  Eve eve.

Q    Eve eve. 

MS. PSAKI:  Is that what you say?  (Laughs.)

Q    Yes.  So why is the President saying about this new variant, “Nobody saw it coming.  Nobody in the…world,” if that’s not true?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, I would say that nobody saw — knew that there would be the number of different variants.  Nobody knew exactly how transmissible they would be.  We, of course, knew that there would be additional variants at some point coming; we didn’t know what they would look like. 

But we’ve been preparing for a range of contingencies all along throughout this process.  That’s why we have had ample vaccine supply, that’s why we have had ample mask supply, and why we have worked to ramp up aggressively our testing over the past few months.

Q    Okay.  And then, about the testing and the contingencies, why is it that you guys are promising 500 million tests next month if you haven’t even signed a contract to buy the tests?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we have no concern about the contract being finalized.  We’re just working to finalize the contracts.  We just announced this two days ago.  But there’s no — we don’t see any issue or any halt to getting that done and to finalizing that.  That’s a natural part of the process. 

What I can tell you, Peter, about the process would — to date — because I know there’s been a lot of questions about this — is that when we saw a surge in demand, in Delta, we took additional actions to expand the over-the-counter test market. 

You may not remember this, but if you look back to the period pre-Delta, actually, a lot of these testing companies — there were so little demand, they were laying people off around the country and around the world because there was not demand.

What the President also did was use the Defense Production Act to invest $3 billion to ensure we were upping the market so the market would have the capacity to produce more tests — and also, as you know, the FDA approved eight tests.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t have had the capacity to do what we’re doing for January.

Q    But if it’s so easy to get the tests, why don’t people have them now?  Who here decided that Americans were going to want to have access to these tests in January as opposed to now, before they go home for Christmas?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, Peter, what we’ve been doing over the course of the last four months, even before the President’s announcement two days, is massively increasing our testing capacity — quadrupling — since the summer. 

And what the announcement was the President made just two days ago was making the biggest investment of any — certainly for us and probably from any country in the world — to address what we see is a surge in demand for tests.  This is not just happening in the United States; this is happening all around the world where there is not enough testing capacity.  And we have taken steps that are more significant than any country in the world so that we could have the testing needed to meet what people are looking for.

Q    And as we understand it, there’s going to be a website that people can go to starting next week.  There are a lot of Obama alum that work here.  Is anybody that was involved —

MS. PSAKI:  Don’t know any of them.

Q    Yeah.  (Laughs.)  Is anybody that was involved in the creation of HealthCare.gov going to be involved in the creation of this new website?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, let me — I don’t know all the staffing particulars about the creation of the website.  What I can tell you is that we’ve been planning for the website to be ready when tests start to be ready.  And the te- — the website will ensure tests are available equitably and that they will be attained with ready access.  That is what we’re trying to do as we are designing — finalizing the design of the website.  We’re obviously not going to put the website up until there are tests available.

Q    Okay.  And then, just one final topic.  Is the President taking crime in big cities more seriously now that a Democratic member of Congress, Mary Gay Scanlon, has been carjacked at gunpoint?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, let me first say that we’re relieved that she was not injured.  And the President called her and spoke with her this morning as well. 

It is absolutely unacceptable for any American, whether they’re a member of Congress or not, to be victimized by crime like that. 

We have been stepping up federal law enforcement efforts for some time now, obviously prior to this carjacking.  And we’re — while we’re giving communities historic levels of funding through the Rescue Plan to fight crime, make neighborhoods safer by supporting programs to interrupt violence, hiring additional law enforcement officers and providing them with the resources and tools they’ve asked for, we’re also helping communities through initiatives like the COPS program, which is putting 1,000 more cops on the beat. 

And the President’s proposal in his budget is to add almost $300 billion in funding for these programs, more than it was even under the last President.

Q    And so, just, if I may — final one.  If the President is giving big cities historic levels of funding and members of Congress are going home and getting carjacked at gunpoint, then what else can the President do or what else is the President going to do to keep people safe?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, this is a priority for the President.  I want to be clear that this proposal for additional funding for the COPS program has been something the President proposed several months ago. 

Obviously, we’d love to get that passed in the budget next year.  We’d love to continue to step up a range of the programs we’ve had around the country — strike forces that have been helping individual cities, working with law enforcement partnerships to help individual cities.  And that’s something we’re going to continue to do. 

The President has never supported defunding the police.  He’s always been an advocate for adequate funding and ensuring that police departments and community policing programs have exactly what they need. 

Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, I want to follow up on Alex’s question on the filibuster.  And I want to — I’m curious how the White House is going to deal with the slippery slope issue.  We obviously already sidestepped the filibuster for the debt ceiling.  What is the President going to say to Democrats who say, “If voting rights is important enough for a filibuster exception, you know, why not gun violence, why not climate change or immigration”?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, he’s happy to have that conversation with Democrats.  And certainly, we expect that to be a part of the conversations that will be had in the year ahead. 

The President was asked about voting rights specifically, on the filibuster specifically.  He said — I would just reiterate that he doesn’t think we’ll have to go that far.  But he was very crystal clear in his — in his answer that he supports making the exception of voting rights for the filibuster, as was the question.

I think the key piece we know at this point in time, which you know, is there aren’t enough votes to change the Senate rules at this point in time.  There are different ranges of options they’re discussing in terms of rule changes, and we’ll see where that ends up in January.

Q    So is the President open to also having a filibuster exception for those other Democratic priorities I mentioned? 

MS. PSAKI:  I’ll let the President speak for himself.  He was asked a specific question, and I think he answered it pretty clearly.

Q    Okay.  And one other topic.  The President said that he is meeting with his team to discuss potentially lifting the travel ban on those Southern African countries. 

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    Is there any update about that?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have an update at this moment.  I would just reiterate for you that this was never intended to be permanent; it was intended to be temporary.  And lifting it is certainly our intention.  

Go ahead.

Q    Yes.  I wanted to ask: I guess, the government contracts for the 500 million tests specify that they would be for the January to March period.  So does that mean that the goal of the administration is to have them all manufactured and distributed in the first quarter, or just manufactured?  Or —

MS. PSAKI:  It’s a great question.  What I know here is that we expect to get the early — the first set of the 500 million in early January, and we expect that the rest will come in the weeks to follow.  I would be surprised if it was that distribution was required in that time, but I will check with our team to see.

Q    Great.  Also, some epidemiologists have criticized the administration for not being as focused on masking.  And I wondered if the administration is considering, for example, sending N-95 masks to Americans, which would have, like, more — a longer use time as opposed to the testing.

MS. PSAKI:  We have an abundance of masks at our disposal in the federal government, and we work with community health centers, rural health centers, a range of medical organizations to make sure that people have the supplies they need.  And if that’s something that, as we’re engaging with a governor or a local health official, they need, we have ample supply in the government. 

So we are just addressing needs as they come up, but we have not seen a shortage at this point in time. 

Go ahead. 

Q    And I guess —

MS. PSAKI:  Oh, yes.

Q    I’m sorry — just jumping out what Peter had said:  Another thing that the President said in his interview was: I wish I had thought about ordering 500 million tests two months ago. 

And I just wondered — I mean, we all knew variants were on the rise, the travel sea- — Christmas holiday season was coming.  Why didn’t anyone think of it in advance?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would say we did take steps to rapidly increase our testing capacity as of the summer.  And I would just go back to, kind of, the chain of events here to remind people of.  And we forget June was a long time ago.  But before the Delta variant was on the rise, there was not a demand for testing in this country.  There really wasn’t.

Then Delta, obviously, increased the demand.  We also had to take steps as a federal government to build up the market, because the market wasn’t there to meet if the demand rose. 

What the President did with the Defense Production Act is to do exactly that: investing $3 billion several months ago to make sure we were building up the market, to make sure we had the capacity.  We wouldn’t have had — there wouldn’t have been 500 billion [million] tests to order several months ago. 

So, the $3 billion investment, the use of the Defense Production Act, actually increased capacity in the market.  And that allowed us to quadruple our testing capacity and allowed us to get to this point where we’re able to make the significant order that we made.

I would also note that I said before, though, that — and also the FDA authorized five new at-home tests since October.  So, the fact that there’s additional tests available has also meant that there’s additional capacity out there and different kinds of tests we can order from.

Go ahead.

Q    Jen, just to follow up on that — because it is the President who said himself that he wishes that he had thought about this idea two months ago, and public health experts have been saying for months, including two months ago, that there was not enough testing supply.  So did — you know, why did nobody think of this?  Or did the President miss the mark here?

MS. PSAKI:  I wouldn’t — I think what I conveyed just to Alex, but I’m happy to reiterate to you, is that the President and the team did take steps to increase capacity.  Of course, if there would have been 500 billion [million] tests and we would have known that there were these, you know, very transmissible variants, that’s one thing. 

But the President knew that we needed to increase testing capacity.  That’s why he used the Defense Production Act to expand the supply of at-home tests.  Without that, we wouldn’t have the supply in the market. 

Q    Yeah, but —

MS. PSAKI:  There had been — I think the facts here are, though, important.  I understand what you’re asking, but I’ve answered it a couple of times, and I’m trying to give you the facts and details so you can share them with your viewers. 

So, using the Defense Production Act — without that and without five approved tests that have been — happened since October, there wouldn’t have been the supply to order then.  Those are all pieces that are important components of the process here.  That’s what I’m trying to convey.

Q    Yeah, but, I guess, is the President not aware that there were these supply constraints?  Because he’s saying, yesterday, that he wishes he had thought of this two months ago.  Is he not aware that there wasn’t the supply at the time to purchase those 500 million tests?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, the President wouldn’t have taken the steps in September and October he had taken if we weren’t aware that we needed to have increased supply.

But also, there wasn’t the demand back in June for it, right?  And Delta changed the mentality in the public, for understandable reasons.  And the fact that there were only a couple of approved tests — just before October, there were only about three on the market — right? — that we could have tapped into.

The President, using the Defense Production Act and investing $3 billion, allowed for there to be an increase in production so we could order the huge number of supply that we’re ordering now. 

Q    Bigger picture here, on Omicron: You know, the President acknowledged yesterday that perhaps the government’s response has fallen short in some regards.  He said “nothing has been good enough…You could argue we should have known a year ago, six months ago, two months ago.” 

So did the administration do enough to prepare for Omicron? Or is there now an understanding that perhaps there was more you could have done?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think what the President was acknowledging, which he said in his speech a couple days ago as well, is that we’re not where we need to be on testing.  No one is saying we are.  That’s why we have tried to take additional rapid steps and be as bold and ambitious as we can with the available supply that is on the market.

In terms of what steps were taken: When Omicron was discovered — which was right around Thanksgiving, right? — we took urgent action on travel, told Americans to get their booster or vaccine.  That Monday, the President addressed the country to where we were with the virus.  That Thursday, he released a Winter Plan. 

CDC has hosted at least two dozen standing meetings or briefings on Omicron.  CDC established a new standing Omicron conference call that includes more than 250 state, local, Tribal, and territorial health officials. 

And so we’ve taken a number of rapid steps as soon as we knew that this was a variant, even before it hit the United States. 

Q    And lastly, you know, you guys have been sharing Pres- — former President Trump’s message recently on boosters.

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    And I’m wondering, given the former president’s apparent change in tune on this issue over the last week, has there been any renewed contact between President Biden and the former president or your teams?

MS. PSAKI:  No, but we are grateful that the former president got the booster.  We’re also grateful that he made clear in a recent interview that they’re effective and they’re safe.  And that’s an important message for anyone to hear. 

This is not a partisan issue.  This is about saving lives, communicating accurate information, pusing — pushing back against inaccurate information.  And in that — this particular case, the former president did that. 

Go ahead.

Q    With the former President defending vaccines — Tuesday, President Biden mentioned that’s one of the only things that he actually agrees with Trump on — would the White House consider a partnership with the former President to get some of those folks that are vaccine-hesitant to actually get the jab?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t know that we think it requires a partnership. 

I think we believe that, you know, the former President being out there and stating what is factually accurate about the efficacy of vaccines, of getting boosted — which he recently did, of course — is a good thing.  Right?

And it’s a good thing to have a range of voices out there — Democrats, Republicans, independents, celebrities, non-celebrities — whomever people will be listening to out in the country.

We continue to believe that the most effective voices are local voices, local people.  That’s who everybody listens to: people in their community — your neighbor, your friends, your cousin, your pediatrician.

But certainly, we would applaud — and have — the former President’s comments.

Q    And with regards to the new initiative, how many tests will each American be able to get?

MS. PSAKI:  It’s a great question.  It’s something that we’re looking to finalize guidance on, and we’ll have that available as soon as it’s ready. 

Q    Also, lastly, you talked about the rise in Delta and Omicron, and how, you know, there were steps taken based off that.

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah. 

Q    But what we’ve heard from some viewers is that, look, they feel like we’re back here again, because last year, at the holidays, people were rushing to get tests.  And so, for them, this could be predictable, just because so many people are trying to gather.

And the question is, again, why wasn’t there some foresight?  Or, for them, it seems like there may not have been foresight with meeting the demand of the holiday season. 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I don’t think last Christmas people were rushing to get tests because I don’t think there were — maybe there was one — I’m not sure — over-the-counter approved test.

Last Christmas, there were not vaccines available to the country, right?  And what the CDC was advising was that people should not even gather with their family members; certainly, they shouldn’t travel. 

Now we’re at the point where 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated.  We have ample vaccines.  We have ample boosters.  We have supply of masks.  We just ordered a historic-sized set of tests so that people can have those across the country.  And even without that, we’ve sent 50 million tests out to community health centers.  We’ve opened 20,000 testing sites.  We’ve worked with FEMA.  We’re opening more testing sites across the country so people will be able to gather with their family members.

Are we through the pandemic?  No, we’re not.  But we are in a very different place than we were one year ago today. 

Go ahead.

Q    Can I ask — Intel found itself in some hot water overnight over a statement they put out around supply chains in Xinjiang.  And they’re worried — and then they had to apologize to China and the Chinese people.  Of course, the U.S. views what’s happening in Xinjiang as a “genocide,” as you’ve called it. 

How concerned are you that more American companies are going to find themselves sort of trapped in this situation, particularly with the signing of the Uyghur bill today by the President?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I can’t speak to the specific situation with one company.  But I can say, as a general matter, that we believe the private sector and the international community should oppose PR- — the PRC’s weaponizing of its markets to stifle support for human rights. 

We also think that American companies should never feel the need to apologize for standing up for fundamental human rights or opposing repression. 

As we’ve said before, we call on all industries to ensure that they are not sourcing products that involve forced labor, invol- — including forced labor from Xinjiang. 

The reality is that companies that fail to address forced labor and other human rights abuses in their supply chains face serious legal risk, reputational and customers — customer risk, not just in the United States, but in Europe and other regions of the world. 

So that’s, broadly, how we feel.

Q    And can you just say briefly whether anyone in the administration spoke with any Chinese counterpart before the signing of this bill?  Is there a concern that China will be upset by the President signing this bill?  Was there any effort to smooth that over or not smooth it over?

MS. PSAKI:  We had announced our support or intention to sign the bill.  I can certainly check if there was any diplomatic engagement around that.  But that was, of course, prior to today. 

And certainly, we have made no secret of our concerns.  The President has spoken to them.  We worked and gathered the G7 leaders to sign a statement on this about the human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

So, I don’t know that it’s a surprise. 

Q    Why didn’t he sign it on camera?

MS. PSAKI:  He signs bills on camera, off camera sometimes — sometimes on camera.  We support the bill, and obviously, we’ve been leading the effort in the world to call out human rights abuses. 

Q    Thank you. 

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.

Q    Seeing the spread of the Omicron variant, can you speak to changes that you all here at the White House have made?  I know, yesterday, we saw a number of the CEOs and other folks that the President met with virtually.  Have you guys reduced the footprint in the White House, returned to Zoom meetings?  Can you talk a little about White House changes?

MS. PSAKI:  We have — we already had very strict protocols in place here at the White House above and beyond what even is advised by the CDC.  Obviously, we all wear masks.  Anytime you’re going to meet with the President, you are tested.  Anytime you’re going to travel with the President, you are tested. 

There are probably fewer people here as people have joined their families for the holidays, but we haven’t made any — any policy changes at this point in time.  If it’s advised by the CDC, we would do.  And certainly, we will continue to evaluate what we need to do to keep people in the workplace safe. 

Q    And so, the Zoom meeting yesterday was like a safety precaution, would you say, or was it a logistical reason (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI:  We actually do meetings with CEOs or others frequently on Zoom — sometimes it’s harder for them to travel — but I’m not aware of that decision being made for safety reasons.

Q    And I noticed, yesterday, the NEC director was wearing a mask as he sat on the stage opposite the President.  Was there a particular reason?  And he was, like, very far away from President Biden.

MS. PSAKI:  We wear masks in meetings.  That is what we do in the White House — or have been doing in the White House.  And that has been our protocol.

Go ahead.

Q    Civil rights activists are calling for action on voting rights legislation by MLK Day.  Does the President believe that’s realistic or possible?  And is he committed to that timeline?

MS. PSAKI:  The President is going to continue to work with Leader Schumer and his team and other Democrats in the Senate to move this forward.  I’m not going to give a new timeline or an additional timeline from here. 

I certainly know there are a lot of passionate advocates out there who have been out there protesting and calling for movement on this.  We agree with and understand that, but we’ll be working in lockstep with Leader Schumer’s office in moving it forward.

Q    And we’re now seeing the second COVID-19 treatment pill approved by the government.  What is the administration doing to make sure there aren’t shortages or that they can address the already existing shortages of those pills?  And can you just clarify: Will the pill — will both pills be free for all Americans?

MS. PSAKI:  I believe so, and I will quadruple check that.  But that has always been our approach. 

I would note that what we have done is we have purchased 10 million of the Pfizer doses.  We know that just over 250,000 of those will be available in January.  We will not get the full package of that, I think, until the summer. 

We’ve also purchased 3 million Merck doses, which were just approved today, and we expect to get the majority of those by the end of January. 

I think it’s important to note what Dr. Fauci has said a number of times, just in terms of expectations for the American people: It’s a very complicated synthetic process to make, specifically the Pfizer antiviral.  All tools are on the table, including the use of the Defense Production Act, to get Pfizer the things they need to produce this antiviral as quickly as possible, but it takes a significant amount of time to do that.  That’s just science. 

And we have purchased as much as we can purchase.  But, you know, we just want to set that expectation.  The most important step people can take is to get vaccinated and get boosted.

Q    And just really quickly, on the Fed vacancies, because I have to ask: Do you expect a decision before the end of the year?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any update for you.  But I know we’re eager to get those out to all of you, especially the many who are — who are very focused on it, understandably.

Q    Thank you.

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.

Q    In that interview with ABC, the President was asked about vaccine requirements possibly for domestic travel.  And he said that the team deemed it “not necessary.”  What is the logic of having it necessary for international travel, whether it’s Americans or foreigners, with testing and vaccine requirements, but not for domestic travel, when you see the numbers of travelers, especially right now during the holidays?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, I would say that we still require masks on airplanes, of course.  We’ve also increased the fee on if people do not wear masks on airplanes. 

In terms of international travel, part of the effort is — has been related to the number of variants that are out there.  And we see them differently.  Rules, as you know, for international travelers are different because international travelers must be vaccinated and tested within one day of departure to help keep COVID cases out of this country and delay any new possible variant from coming into the country. 

So, we have not, at this point — aside from masking — put in place additional steps for domestic travel.

Q    And if I can, a question on Russia.  A few days ago, I think, you said that you didn’t want to put a deadline on those negotiations — those talks and how it goes forward with the situation at the border with Ukraine.  Does that mean that you guys are okay with the status quo?  Like, how long is the situa- — can the situation be tenable even if Russia doesn’t take that extra step of aggression?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we have talked — we have talks that will be in January.  We just haven’t finalized the details of those.  So that’s really the next step. 

Q    Thank you, Jen.

MS. PSAKI:  Okay, thanks, everyone.  Merry Christmas to those who celebrate.

Q    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 

MS. PSAKI:  And Happy New Year.  Yes. 

The last briefing of 2021.  Don’t look so sad, everyone.  (Laughter.) 

Q    Thank you, Jen.

Q    Thank you.

MS. PSAKI:  Thank you, guys.  Have a happy holiday.

12:36 P.M. EST

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