Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, January 21, 2022
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:23 P.M. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay. I just have two items for all of you at the top.
As you all saw, today the President delivered remarks on his administration’s work to increase the supply of semiconductors, boost manufacturing in America, and rebuild our supply chains here at home. These are steps that are going to help slow price increases, create good-paying manufacturing and construction jobs across the country, and strengthen our economy.
For three decades, America has lost semiconductor manufacturing to countries like China, but since President Biden took office that tide has turned. He’s prioritized investing in critical supply chains like chips, and set out a clear plan to do so with his executive order. And he brought together labor and business to get it done.
In doing so, we’ve catalyzed the industry’s outlook and gave them confidence in America again, including Intel’s announcement today of a $20 billion investment in Ohio and a total of over $80 billion invested since he took office.
This is the power the President is using to make it in America — to make — to support his “Made in America” vision he’s putting into action.
Those sorts of investments have never been more important, particularly as we see a global shortage of chips driving up prices of cars right here in America. As we know, it accounts for about one third of the inflationary pressure, with auto prices contributing as a big part of that.
Today’s announcement is just the latest progress in our efforts to ramp up domestic manufacturing, tackle near-term bottlenecks, especially with critical goods like semiconductors.
Earlier this year, Samsung, Texas Instruments, and Micron announced $80 billion in investments in semiconductor manufacturing.
Congress can accelerate this progress by passing the U.S. Investment and Competition Act, also known as USICA, which the President has long-championed and which he called for action on today. This bipartisan legislation puts historic funding behind unclogging our supply chains, research and development, innovation, and advanced manufacturing in every corner of America; and invests $52 billion in making more chips, something that’s vital to address our supply chain issues and lower inflation.
Tomorrow also marks the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade. Reproductive health care has been under extreme and relentless assault ever since, especially in recent months. It has been nearly 150 days since women in Texas have been denied these constitutional rights.
We are deeply committed to making sure everyone has access to care and we will defend it with every tool we have. That includes continuing to work with Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and codify this fundamental right into law.
In the meantime, the administration has taken a range of important actions, from repealing the global gag rule to strengthening the Title X Family Planning Program. Today, HHS announced additional Title X grants, and there will be further announcements coming from HHS later today as well.
This is a moment for us to recommit to strengthening access to critical reproductive healthcare, defend — defending the constitutional right established by Roe, and protecting the freedom of all people to build their own future.
I know we have a short time window today. We will keep up to date on when everybody needs to gather, and I’ll try to get to as many people as possible. And otherwise, I’ll be here in my office.
Go ahead, Aamer.
Q Thank you, Jen. When the U.S. presents its written response to Russia next week, is it willing to offer Russia something that goes beyond the repeatedly stated positions, particularly when it comes to Russia’s demands on guarantees regarding NATO’s future expansion?
MS. PSAKI: We will put in writing, as you reference, the serious concerns that we and other allies and partners have about Russia’s actions, as well as ideas for how we might actually strengthen each other’s sense of security going forward.
There are several steps we can take that are being discussed — all of us, Russia included — to increase transparency, to reduce risks, to advance arms control, to build trust.
We’re coordinating with our allies and partners. And we anticipate that Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov will meet again to continue discussions. And the President obviously is regularly briefed every day by his team but will also be engaging with them tomorrow — over the course of the weekend as well.
But as Secretary Blinken said today, he made clear to Foreign Minister Lavrov that there are “certain issues and fundamental principles that the United States and our partners and allies are committed to defend.” And “[t]hat includes those that would impede the sovereign right of the Ukrainian people to write their own future. There’s no trade space there — none.”
And we’ve said from the beginning that there are certain proposals that will not be viable.
But we will, of course, be responding, as you noted. And I expect the President will continue to discuss that over the next couple of days with his team.
Q I wanted to ask another foreign policy question. The strike in Yemen today — 70 people were dead — are dead after the Saudi-led coalition strike. National Security Advisor Sullivan immediately condemned the recent Houthi strike. What’s the administration’s immediate reaction to this strike? And does this prompt any reconsideration of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of that at this point in time. Obviously, we have — have a long history of a relationship with Saudi Arabia, one where we raise issues where we have significant concerns on human rights and on a range of issues, and one where we have had a long security relationship that has been in the interest of the United States.
In terms of this specific strike and a reaction: Obviously, anytime there’s a loss of life — of innocent lives, that is a tragedy. And we — we are mindful of that and focused on that.
Obviously, you know our focus and the President’s focus, which is — from the very beginning, he established new interim guidance concerning the United States’ use of military force and related to national security operations. That’s how we operate here as the United States, which I think is reflective of his — of his view.
But certainly the loss of life is always a tragedy. And again, if there’s anything new on — on our relationship, I’m happy to get that from our national security team.
Q And just one last domestic — on tax season: With reduced staffing levels, less funding authorization from Congress, the IRS already tasked with distributing funds from several pandemic relief programs, many 2020 refunds haven’t been processed, how is the administration preparing to ensure that this year’s tax returns will be processed in a reasonable amount of time?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would first note that a lot of this predates this administration. And you touched on that, but I think that’s important for people to understand.
As the Treasury Department and the IRS have said, the IRS right now has an unacceptable backlog, and that customer service — and customer service that people are receiving is not what the American public deserves. And the President is very mindful of that.
Many of those challenges are related to the pandemic but also due to years of underfunding from Congress. The agency has not been equipped with the resources it needs to adequately serve taxpayers in normal times, let alone during a pandemic.
The President has prioritized ensuring the IRS gets $80 billion of stable, multi-year funding, resources it needs to best serve the American people.
As he said in his executive order in December, on customer experience, the American people deserve an effective, equitable, and accountable government that meets the needs of its people.
So we would call on Congress to act now to give the IRS the funding it needs to meet its goal.
But again, in terms of addressing the backlog, it’s going to take some work; it’s going to take some time. And I think people need to understand that they need funding, but they need to — but there’s a long history here that’s led to this moment.
Q Thank you, Jen. Secretary Blinken is leading — leaving Geneva and, so far, does not appear that he has a firm commitment from Russia not to invade Ukraine. So, is another summit necessary at the leader level? Do you anticipate that President Biden will be having a summit with President Putin and the President of Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that, you know, Secretary Blinken, as you as you mentioned, met in Geneva today with Foreign Minister Lavrov to share our serious concerns with the situation.
He warned Russia that we are prepared to respond to any Russian invasion of Ukraine with swift and severe consequences, along with our allies and partners. We’re also ready to continue dialogue and diplomacy.
Ultimately, this has always been putting the choices up in front of President Putin and the Russians. Right? It is up to them to decide which path they are going to choose.
Secretary Blinken also conveyed we don’t expect — we didn’t expect any breakthroughs to happen today. But we are on a clear path, in terms of understanding each other’s concerns.
The President will meet this weekend at Camp David with his national security team to discuss the situation. Some will be virtual, some will be there in person. We’ll also continue to consult with our allies and partners, and we will respond next week in writing, as I conveyed.
In terms of the President and his role, you know, I think part of that will be discussing with Secretary Blinken and his national security team what the appropriate next steps are. Of course, the President always values leader-to-leader engagement, but we’ll determine if that’s the appropriate next step.
Q So, he’s open to that —
MS. PSAKI: He’s always been open.
Q — as potential next step? And that’s on the table?
MS. PSAKI: It may or may not be the next step it, and I can’t give you a prediction of if and when it will happen. But if that is a step that is recommended and that we think would be effective at this point in the discussion, of course, the President is always open to leader-to-leader engagement.
Q Let me ask you about something Secretary Blinken said. He told Ukrainian TV that “whether it’s one Russian soldier or a thousand crossing the border,” it’s an attack on Ukraine. Does the President agree with that statement? Is that how he sees it?
MS. PSAKI: That’s the President’s policy that he has directed his Secretary of State to continue to convey and what the President conveyed to President Putin.
Q Let me ask you about the Electoral Count Act, if I could. Based on some of my conversations on Capitol Hill — and obviously, there seems to be a growing consensus that there might be able to be some progress on the Electoral Count Act — someone said to me that it could potentially be a vehicle to get preclearance passed. Is that something that this White House thinks is a possibility, is a likelihood? Is that what the President’s going to be pushing for?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of a process or a vehicle. What I would remind everyone of is that despite the fact that 16 Republicans in the Senate have, in the past, supported the protection of voting rights, they did not when given the opportunity.
So, again, I would note that the Electoral Count Act is something we are certainly open to, but it is not a replacement for. And there are many components of the voting rights legislation that are vital to protecting people’s rights in this country, you know, including the fact that we know that voter suppression largely impacts communities of color across the country. And one of the components of the voting rights legislation the President has been fighting for is requiring states that have a history of voter suppression to get approval to change their laws.
And also, these — these voting rights legislation that we’ve been fighting so hard for would also ensure that there’s a fundamental baseline of what people can know and expect. If you’re a mother of three, you should be able to have many places you can drop off your ballot or vote. This is not a replacement for that.
In terms of a vehicle or what’s possible, I don’t have anything on that to read out for you.
Q And just very quickly — it seems like there are going to be some discussions during break between lawmakers — bipartisan lawmakers about the Electoral Count Act and where they can find consensus on this.
What can we expect the President’s role to be, given that he’s been very clear he is going to be taking a new strategy as it relates to reaching out to the American public?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President can walk and chew gum at the same time. I think what people can expect is that he’s going to spend more of his time engaging with, talking with the American people, and talking about how far we’ve come and where we need to go from here.
He also has a very talented and experienced team that’s already engaged in a range of conversations with Congress.
But I can tell you from spending a lot of time with the President and in the Oval Office with him that sometimes he just picks up the phone and calls a member of Congress or a senator when you’re sitting there.
So, no one is suggesting that he is not going to engage with members. What we’re conveying and what you heard from him the other night is that, as you look at the time he’s going to spend over the next couple of months, it’s not going to be hours and hours behind closed doors in the Oval Office.
Q Thank you, Jen. Why would the U.S. agree to submit written answers to Russia, given that it could undermine or be used to discredit the U.S. negotiating position? And is the U.S. asking for any written responses from Russia?
MS. PSAKI: Well, no one sees it that way from the U.S. negotiating team or from our partners and allies around the world. I think what we’re engaged in here is seeing what’s possible as it relates to diplomacy.
And as I noted, it’s not just — it’s not written answers like we’re filling out a Q&A; we’re also going to convey what our concerns are and reiterate a number of the strong statements you’ve heard the President and Secretary Blinken convey very publicly.
So, this is just a part of the diplomatic process and diplomatic negotiations, and has been a standard part of the process often with countries and nations where you have agreements but also disagreements.
Q Does the President have a plan to evacuate Americans from Ukraine?
THE PRESIDENT: I know there have been a range of reports out this morning, which is probably why you’re asking, Jacqui.
I will say that, one, we are already at a Level 4 travel advisory for Ukraine for COVID and have advised that U.S. citizens — have been advising that U.S. citizens should be aware of reports that Russia is planning for significant military action against Ukraine.
We do conduct rigorous contingency planning, as we always do in the event of the security — any security situation deteriorates in any country around the world. The State Department does that assessment. I would point you to them for any — any predictions or previews of any steps they may take.
Q Is there any effort right now to get a handle on how many Americans are in Ukraine? Because I remember with Afghanistan that was sort of an open question. Is the dynamic different this time?
MS. PSAKI: It’s an open question around the world. We don’t put a chip in Americans when they go to countries around the world and track their movements. People can register with the State Department — that’s something they do — or they may choose not to register, or there might be people in any country around the world who are dual citizens who haven’t lived in or have never lived in the United States.
But the State Department would certainly have the number, in terms of Americans who have registered with the State Department.
Q And then, is the President aware that he was caught on a hot mic yesterday? Why does he appear to be dismissing the idea of proactive deterrence?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President certainly does not dismiss that idea, considering he has taken a lot of steps including supporting and approving the several sanctions that were put out by the Treasury Department just a couple of days ago.
I would note that the United States has delivered more security assistance to Ukraine in the last year than any point in history. In the last year alone, we committed $650 million in security assistance to Ukraine; in total, since 2014, we’ve committed $2.7 billion. These deliveries are ongoing, including today there’s more deliveries coming.
In addition to traditional security assistance, such as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, the President has authorized the presidential drawdown authority to expedite lethal aid and meet Ukraine’s emergency defense needs.
We’ve also utilized third-party transfers, authorized by the State Department, allowing U.S. allies and partners to provide U.S. origin equipment from their inventories for use by Ukraine. Specifically, the State Department has given the go-ahead for three NATO Allies to rush anti-armor missiles and other U.S.-made weapons to Ukraine.
And finally, in identifying additional equipment held in DOD inventories that can be delivered under the Excess Defense Articles program, among other mechanisms, we recently notified Congress of our intent to deliver
M-17 [Mi-17] helicopters.
So, I would say the President is hardly waiting. Actions are pretty clear on that front.
Q And then, I wanted to ask you about something that you said yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q You told me in response to — it was a Ukraine question: “It’s important to remember who the aggressor is here. The aggressor is Russia and Putin. They are building up military troops. They are pushing out misinformation in Ukraine.”
So why does it seem like U.S. officials are so concerned about being seen as escalating things, if Russia has created this whole crisis?
MS. PSAKI: Because I think we want the American public and also the global community to be clear-eyed about propaganda. And they’re pushing propaganda about Ukrainians. Certainly, there’s propaganda pushed here in the United States, but this is about a foreign — potential foreign conflict. It’s about the buildup of troops by one power that is a much larger military power than the other on the border. And we want to be very clear with the public about the realities and the facts.
Q One final question on a different topic.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q On crime: Yesterday, the Manhattan DA clarified his memo about downgrading certain crimes, and he said armed robberies, for instance, will be prosecuted as felonies, violence against police officers won’t be tolerated — clearing up some of the confusion around how that office intended to prosecute crimes.
Does the White House have a reaction to that or welcome that kind of clarification given that these questions do keep resurfacing?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any reaction from here to the decisions of a local district attor- — I think a district prosecutor or a district attorney.
MS. PSAKI: DA.
I would say that the President — and he’ll talk about this — he’ll talk about crime. And you be- — asked me about this yesterday. But you, I think, can expect to hear him talk a little bit about crime during his — during his remarks later this afternoon.
The President believes that no one in this country should worry about whether it’s safe to ride the subway or go to — or the bus or go to work or walk home at night. And that’s why he’s put more cops on the beat, has stepped up efforts to get illegal guns off the streets, and invested in proven community anti-violence programs.
It’s also why he’s doubled federal support for community policing with $300 million more for cities, plus another $700 million more to bolster federal law enforcement.
We’ve been working with mayors and local leaders on this, but I think the President’s record, his commitment speaks for itself.
Q First, just a quick follow-up to what you said about the U.S. agreeing to put a response in writing. Are you saying that the world should not view that as the United States making a concession to Russia?
MS. PSAKI: I think you should see what it has to say. But it’s part of a negotiation. We’ve been very clear about what we are not negotiating on, which is the sovereignty of Ukraine, which is this question that is continuously raised about Ukraine’s right to pursue joining NATO. That’s up to NATO countries to make that decision.
And you’ve heard the President, Tony Blinken, and others say, time after time, that we are not making any decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine, no decisions about Europe without Europe.
But negotiating takes many forms. It takes forms where you’re in person, it takes forms where there’s an exchange of written materials. That’s pretty standard and has been in diplomacy for decades.
Q I know you’ve been asked something similar, but yesterday, again, Minority Leader McConnell said that the U.S. should send forces “to shore up NATO’s Eastern Flank — not if and when Putin escalates, but now, before it’s too late.” So, what is your response? Why — why wait?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first of all, we work in close coordination with our NATO partners and Allies, and respond to what their needs are. We’ve been very clear and the President has been clear that we will support whatever their needs are, should they have security needs. But I don’t have anything more to predict for you at this point in time.
Q And if I may ask one quick domestic question. Just yesterday, you were talking again about the idea of chunking off parts of Build Back Better.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q If you could get 60 —
MS. PSAKI: “Chunking” — a bad word.
Q Oh, what —
MS. PSAKI: I think maybe not the right phrase.
Q What’s a better word? Splitting off, breaking apart, seeing if there was a certain policy proposal that you maybe could get 60 votes on.
Anything else you can tell us about which policy proposal you guys might feel hopeful about? Is it universal pre-K? Is it paid sick leave? Where do you guys feel like you might actually be able to get 10 Republicans?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you tell me. Is there a proposal where there are 10 Republicans? I’m not aware of one. Maybe there is.
And there are some senators who have been out there saying they support different components. I know Senator Romney has said he supports or is open to some component of the Child Tax Credit. He’s not the only one. Are there 10 Republicans they can get to support that? Great. Let us know. We’re happy to have a discussion about it.
That’s not what the President was talking about the other night. What the President was talking about is getting as much — although we’re very open to that — but what — what the President was talking about is: We have 50 votes in the Senate. You need — we’re going to get as much — a big mountain-size chunk, whatever you want to call it — as much as we can of the Build Back Better agenda that we can get 50 votes for.
There is clear agreement on some key goals — right? — lowering the cost of childcare, negotiating the price of prescription drugs, lowering the cost of eldercare, making sure the wealthiest Americans and companies have to pay more, and the unfairness of the tax system. So, what we have to figure out is how much of that we can get and get approval for.
Q So, it sounds like your focus is still on a reconciliation partisan package, not —
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely.
MS. PSAKI: It’s not that it’s not — but, you tell me or your — your — I know you’ve covered the Hill before. But are there — are there 10 Republicans who are supporting? We’d be happy to. We don’t — we don’t actually — it’s kind of a mystery.
Q I remember when Ivanka Trump was up there talking about —
MS. PSAKI: Well —
Q — paid leave.
MS. PSAKI: Well, listen, if there are 10 Republicans who want to come support the Child Tax Credit or something else, great. They’re welcome. Let’s have a conversation about it.
But, you know, that’s not — I don’t really know why no one — none of us know why they’re ceding the ground on supporting the lowering the cost of childcare to us, but so far, they have.
Q Thanks, Jen. Over the weekend, insurers started paying for at-home tests or you could apply–
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — for reimbursement, but Medicare is not.
I know that Medicare recipients can go through their doctors and some, through Advantage programs, can get reimbursement. But broadly, members of the program can’t.
And I’m wondering: Why not? This seems like a group that would be — that it would — you would most want to, sort of, be vigilantly testing before going to gatherings, as they’re elder and therefore most at risk for COVID.
And especially since you said yesterday that you had all the money that you needed to fight COVID right now, why isn’t the government paying for these tests?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, there are a couple things that are happening; you kind of glossed over some of them. But let me give you some specifics.
So, state Medicaid and CHIP programs are required to cover at-home COVID tests. CMS has also issued guidance to states to effectuate this requirement under Medicaid rules. There are a lot of people who are eligible for Medicaid out there, just to be clear, and the CHIPS program.
And people who are covered by Original fee-for-service Medicare — Medicare pays for COVID diagnostic tests performed by laboratories, such as PS- — PCR and antigen tests.
For Medicare, we are also continuing to explore the best ways to provide critical resources that will keep Medicare beneficiaries safe and healthy, as you touched on.
So, in addition to PCR tests, rap- — rapid tests PRs test — PCR tests and rapid point-of-care antigen tests are available at 20,000 sites across the country.
We’ve also sent 50 million out to community health centers and rural health centers.
But we’re also exploring a range of options. So, I’m not ruling anything out. But I just wanted to note there are a range of ways that different forms of insurance, even if it’s not traditional private insurance, have been covering not just in doc- — in doctor’s office, but also at-home tests as well.
Q The Federal Reserve issued a report yesterday saying that they’re weighing the possibility of launching a digital U.S. currency. They said, as part of the report, that they were asking for public feedback and would be engaging with lawmakers. So, I know that you normally defer to the independence of the Fed, but this is an instance where they’re openly soliciting, sort of, advice and consultation.
And so, I’m wondering, you know, this is something that could impact our competition with China. It could have an impact in many ways on, especially, low-income Americans. So, does the President, does the White House have an opinion on this sort of question for Fed?
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s unlikely we’ll weigh in from here, as much as they’ve asked for public comment. But I can certainly check with our economic team and see.
Q The Times, yesterday, had a report about some internal memos. But they also said that there was — that you guys were setting up executive actions on clemency for drug offenders and police department reforms. Can you give any sort of time — can you confirm that that’s kind of coming and give any sort of timeline about when we’ll be hearing from the President on that?
MS. PSAKI: So, on clemency, the President has talked about — we have talked a little bit about the President wanting to deliver on his commitment to consider clemency requests for nonviolent drug offenders. That is something that’s ongoing.
I don’t have anything — anything to preview for you in terms of the timeline. But, absolutely, the fact that we have every intention of doing that is accurate — or he has every intention.
On police reform, you know, I think we said at the time that we had — we’re holding back on executive action because we wanted to give space and room for the bipartisan negotiations to move forward. Because, of course, federal legislation is a — is — would be the preference because it’s permanent.
But we have been considering and looking at — I don’t have anything to predict for you in terms of the timing, but we have been and are looking at that through the policy teams.
Q Thanks, Jen. The President, on Wednesday, when he was talking about keeping schools open, referenced the tens of billions of dollars that were sent out in the COVID Rescue Plan. And he said that not — quote, “Not every district” used — “has used it as well as it should be used.” What states or school districts is he referring to there? Because he’s talked about this now twice in the last couple of weeks.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
(Reporter closes the door to the briefing room.)
Well, thank you for that, first, because it’s freezing in here, I think as everyone can confirm. (Laughter.)
But, I would say, Karen, so, one, what people should understand first is 98 percent of schools are open currently. It fluctuates a little bit, but 98 percent, as of today. School districts, for the most part, are spending federal relief funding, by and large, across the country.
Part of what the President’s message he wanted to hammer home when he spoke the other night — and as you said, he’s talked about this a little bit — is to spend the money right now, for any school that has some left or maybe some haven’t spent all of it. And I’ll get to that in a moment.
And it’s important for any of these school districts to know that different school districts spend it in different ways.
So, in DeKalb County, in Georgia; and Desert Sands, in California — they’re investing in safety measures like ventilation. Cut Bank School District in Montana are increasing pay and providing bonuses to help retain educators and staff. There’s lots of ways to use it and spend it, for those who haven’t done it. But we’re continuing to exert pressure anywhere that hasn’t.
So, in terms of — an example would be Florida, where they have done little to — to distribute money to — little to no steps to distribute money to state — across the state and to school districts.
Now, part of it is you have to write a plan for how you’re going to keep schools open to get the third tranche of money, and some have been delayed in that. But, right now, that’s an example of a state that could do more.
Q And you said, you know, “We’re exerting pressure.” How is the White House — obviously, this money goes out to states.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q But how is the White House exerting pressure?
MS. PSAKI: The Department of Education —
MS. PSAKI: — is really the primary conduit here. But they have been working and continuously in touch with school districts and states across the country from the beginning.
Q And is there a way, from the Department of Education perspective, to have a public accounting so Americans can see where that money is going toward — the taxpayer money?
MS. PSAKI: We, of course, work to ensure there’s no waste, fraud, and abuse. And we are very closely in touch with how it’s being spent with states. And I can certainly check and see if there’s a public accounting available.
Q Just one quick one. It’s been four days since COVIDTests.gov has been live. How many Americans have ordered tests so far? And is the plan still to start sending them out next week?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, they will be sent out very soon. I don’t have an updated number of how many have been ordered. It’s changing constantly. I expect we will have a more of an update on that, hopefully, by next week.
I know we have to wrap up. Go ahead.
Q On Build Back Better: First, does the White House need this bill to be passed by State of the Union? Is that the goal? You know, Congress kind of needs deadlines.
MS. PSAKI: We have not set a deadline on that. We want to get it done as quickly as possible.
Q Does it need to have a different name? Speaker Pelosi suggests that perhaps it does.
MS. PSAKI: We’ll see. Do you have any ideas?
Q Actually. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: You guys are all wordsmiths.
Q No, wait. I’ve got a few more.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q On the Electoral Count Act —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
Q — I know you’ve said that the President has many conversations on a wide range of topics with lawmakers on the Hill. But here’s the question — it’s a bipartisan group right now: Is he going to let them work on their own for the moment, or is he getting engaged with the Manchin-Collins group now — as far as you know?
MS. PSAKI: Our team is closely engaged with all of the members who are discussing every component of any legislation that is being discussed on the Hill, including this.
Q Okay. And then one more.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Sorry, one more. Can —
Q Wait, no. I was —
MS. PSAKI: Let — let me go to Jeff because I — I just — I just don’t want to run out of — we got to wrap up so you guys can gather.
Go ahead, Jeff. Sorry.
Q Thanks, Jen. This happened right before the briefing. A federal judge in Texas has ruled that President Biden’s mandate for federal workers to be vaccinated cannot go through. Do you have a reaction to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me update you that 98 percent of federal workers are
vaccinated [in compliance]. That is a remarkable number. I would point you to the Department of Justice on any next steps as this news, it sounds like, just broke. But obviously, we are confident in our legal authority here.
Q And you had an event with Intel today. Is the White House concerned about Intel’s presence in China?
MS. PSAKI: We have obviously spoken about concerns we have had. I’m not familiar with all of the specifics of their — of their engagement in China, so I’d have to check with our team.
We have not held back, I should say, if we have concerns about engagement in parts of the country where there are human rights abuses. We also do, at the same time, work with a range of companies, even when we voice our vocal — our concerns about issues that we don’t agree with.
Let me just do this last one.
Q Okay. Another Intel question.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
Q So their plan for a $20 billion semiconductor facility in Ohio — how can this be viewed as an immediate solution to the chip shortage if the plants won’t fully be online until 2025?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our view is it’s an important step forward in ensuring that we have manufacturing capacity here in the United States so that we don’t have a chip shortage in the future. But we also — the President called for the passing of USICA — I just reiterated at the top of the briefing — so that we can get that $52 billion in semiconductor investment to get more going now.
Q What’s the holdup with USICA in the House? It passed the Senate ruling.
MS. PSAKI: I think Speaker Pelosi made clear she wants to move it forward. So we’re eager — the President is eager to have it signed.
Okay. Sorry, I got to wrap it up, guys. You got to — you got to gather. I’ll see you soon.
Q Does the President like Meat Loaf?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t — I would — what the phrase? “I would do anything for love”? Is that (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, that’s right. (Laughs.) You got it.
MS. PSAKI: He might say that.
12:43 P.M. EST