Aboard Air Force One
En Route Fort Worth, Texas
2:08 P.M. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Hello. Okay, welcome to our trip to Fort Worth, Texas. Just a couple items for you at the top.
As I mentioned yesterday, this week we are marking the one-year anniversary of the American Rescue Plan. Today, we’re focusing on the historic tax relief in the American Rescue Plan which is helping lower costs faced by working Americans.
Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, Americans have received the largest-ever Child Tax Credit, the largest-ever Earned Income Tax Credit for workers without dependent children, and the largest-ever Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which will help families meet the high cost of care.
Today, we’re providing new state-by-state analysis of how many families and children will be reached by this historic tax relief. And we’ll have more tomorrow.
Also, as you all know, last week, in the President’s State of the Union address, he talked about the sacred obligation we have as a country to our veterans. And that could be — not be more true or relevant than right now.
Addressing veterans’ health issues is a bipartisan issue and a core pillar of the President’s Unity Agenda. He’s pushing for us to understand more about military exposures and their relation to nine additional rare cancers, and called on Congress to send him a bill he will — him a bill he will sign.
Today, he is traveling with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to address this important, unifying issue. We think it shows how seriously he takes this and that he’s following through on a key commitment to unifying the country. Texas is home — and he’s actually meeting with a number of them right now on the plane.
Texas is home to the second-largest population of veterans in the United States, many of whom rely upon the VA for services and benefits. Nearly 55 percent of veterans in Texas served in the era when burn pits were used.
Finally, one year ago today, on International Women’s Day, the President issued an executive order establishing the White House Gender Policy Council and charged it with leading a government-wide effort to advance gender equity and equality both at home and abroad.
In the year since, the Biden administration has taken significant steps to advance equal rights and opportunity — from taking on gender-based violence wherever it occurs, to protecting women’s health, to ensuring that women and families have economic security — and laid out an ambitious agenda in the first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality.
And today, we announced that the President’s FY23 budget will request $2.6 billion for foreign assistance programs that promote gender equality worldwide, more than doubling the amount requested just last year.
Josh, why don’t you kick us off?
Q Thanks, Jen. Americans right now know that they’re paying a higher price because of the sanctions against Russia. Oil was up 7 percent when we boarded Air Force One on the day. What is the specific price that the ban puts on Putin, and how does it deter him in a way that the previous sanctions did not?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that Americans are paying a higher price at the pump because of the actions of President Putin. This is a Putin spike at the gas pump, not one prompted by our sanctions.
We have seen, since President Putin and the Russian military lined up earlier this year troops at the border, an increase of about 75 cents on average across the country.
In terms of what impact this will have, this is continuing to build on the steps that the President has taken in coordination with our European partners to squeeze the financial system in Russia, to squeeze the circle around President Putin, and to send a clear message that we are going to continue to press and squeeze on the system to hopefully change the behavior over the course of time.
Q Is there a dollar amount that you think you’re able to extract from the Russian economy through the ban?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have a prediction along those lines, Josh. I certainly understand why you’re asking. I think, as you know and others who track the Russian markets closely know, they have not even opened the stock market. The ruble is at a record low. They have enormous financial challenges. They’re heading into, you know, a version of a financial recession in Russia, according to outside economists.
So this step is meant to build on the steps we have taken to date from the United States and from the global community.
Q Jen, what can the administration do to protect Americans against the kind of price gouging that the President spoke about today?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say one of the steps we can take is to make clear what is and isn’t impacting gas prices and what the oil companies can do and have a responsibility to do. And you heard the President talk about that today.
So let me give you an example: There have been some, including the American Petroleum Institute, who have claimed that this is an issue of having access or funds. The oil and gas industry has a lot of permits; onshore alone, more than 9,000 unused approved permits to drill.
And I would note that only 10 percent of drilling is happening on federal lands; the other 90 percent is on private lands. But I’m talking about the 10 percent in that case.
So the argument that there are just no opportunities to drill for oil is just not true. The phenomenon that we’re actually seeing is much more about firms wanting to return cash to investors than about a lack of opportunity.
And so, part of what the President can do and we can all do is inform and educate the American public about what the facts are here. This is not a lack of places to drill. This is not a lack of access to oil. In fact, last year, we produced more oil and gas in the United States than the first year of the Trump administration. Next year is predicted to be the largest year on record of oil and gas production. That is not the issue.
So, it’s really up to the oil companies to determine whether they are going to — as well as Wall Street — whether they’re going to reinvest these war profits from high prices back into the economy, raise production, and lower prices to American consumers. And that pressure should be on them.
Q What’s the timeframe for implementation of these new restrictions on imports?
MS. PSAKI: So it will ban new contracts. And then for contracts that are existing, it will be — they’ll have 45 days to deliver on those.
Q Another question on House Democrats seeming to plan to still move forward with their bill that will — that has an energy component to it that sounds very similar to what the President announced, as well as a piece on looking at Russia’s involvement with the WTO and some expansion of Magnitsky.
What is the administration’s take on what the House Democrats are doing? And did the President feel at all pressured by members of Congress of both parties and in both chambers to move fairly quickly on his own lest he be boxed in by legislation that might be more complicated to implement than what he was proposing?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, we welcome the support of members of Congress for the President’s announcement this morning — Democrats and Republicans who have announced support for his efforts. We are working in close coordination with Speaker Pelosi and other leaders in Congress on a shared objective, which is to take steps that will maximize the impact on President Putin and the Russian economy, and minimize it on the American people.
What the President’s priority and focus has been from the beginning and he has discussed with a range of members is ensuring that we are taking steps in close coordination with the Europeans, our partners. Now, we did not expect nor did we ask them to take the same step that we announced this morning. They have a — you know, different capabilities and different capacities than we do.
Even if you look at data that is — we have available, which is from 2021, we only imported about 10 percent of our oil from Russia. The Europeans, it’s more like a third; it’s much higher — about 450 barrels — million barrels per day as opposed to 700,000 for the United States. We recognize that.
But at the same time, taking steps to act in a coordinated way to ensure we’re discussing with them the steps we’re considering in taking, and doing that in a way that does not add to greater, you know, volatility in the oil markets is a shared objective. So, we welcome the steps they’ve taken.
Now, in terms of the WTO specifics, Ambassador Tai has been obviously engaging with other WTO countries. It’s not a unilateral step the United States could take or the President could take, but we will continue those conversations as well.
Q Jen, can you outline some of the things that the administration is considering to help blunt the impact on consumers of these higher fuel prices? Do they include waiving the gasoline tax? Do they include waiving the Jones Act? Do they include lifting environmental specs on fuel? Are those things that you are considering as you look at trying to help consumers?
MS. PSAKI: So, there are a range that we are considering. I’m not going to give you a nod or a wink to any specifics, other than to say that —
Q Oh, come on.
MS. PSAKI: — there are a range of options on the table. As you all know, we are engaging in ongoing conversations with large, global energy suppliers as a part of it. Part of that effort has also been to do this coordinated release of what will be 90 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum — Petroleum Reserve — excuse me — this fiscal year, including the initial announcement and then the one we just made last week, I believe it was. So those conversations are ongoing.
I would also note that part of our — the capacity out here is with the oil companies who have these approved permits that are unused, where they could do more. Now, some CEOs have indicated that they do plan to increase production, and that’s something that, to meet the supply needs we have now, we certainly would welcome.
I would say the last piece of this, in addition to a range of domestic options we’ll continue to consider and discuss, is that we’re working with Europe to ensure we’re — we are all diversifying our energy security measures. And this is maybe a longer-term step, but this is a reminder of how important it is to do that — to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, on foreign oil, on Russia, and on the whims of dictators, as we have found ourselves in in this moment.
Q One question about Iran as well. They — their negotiator has said that they are going to stick with their red lines. And one thing that they have asked or — they want some certainty that if they do end up going through with this agreement, that another administration can’t come in and walk out of it.
What — how does the U.S. guarantee that? Is that even possible?
MS. PSAKI: It’s an interesting question, Jeff. I mean, I think that, you know, if you look at what’s happened over the last several years, you had — obviously, it was — it was — the Iran nuclear deal was initially approved and moved forward under the Obama-Biden administration. When former President Trump pulled out of the deal, we’ve seen the dire impact that that has led to, including a lack of visibility into their program; they have made significant progress toward acquiring a nuclear weapon.
So, I think that, hopefully, Democrats and Republicans of all stripes will recognize what a mistake that was. And if we are — do get back into the Iran nuclear deal — something we are close on, although it’s always final details that you have to work through — you know, certainly our hope would be and the message we’d be sending to the world is that this is in not only global interests but in our U.S. national interest regardless of who is sitting in the White House.
Q Secretary Blinken is finishing up a five-day trip to Europe. He’s meeting with Macron today. He met with the leaders of Baltic states, Moldova, Poland, the Israeli Foreign Minister. What would you say are the accomplishments of this trip? And are these diplomatic efforts going to extend to U.S. adversaries like Venezuela?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think those are slight — well, let me take the first question first.
We’re broadly, of course, supportive of efforts of our partners and allies — including France, Germany, Israel, Turkey, and others — to seek a diplomatic resolution.
A number of the countries and leaders you’ve mentioned the Secretary of State has met with recently over the last couple of days but also we’ve been in touch with either prior to or following — or both, in many cases — their conversations with both Russians as well as Ukrainians, who we’re encouraging them to also engage with. And we maintain open and regular high-level channels of communications with all of these partners.
As it relates to Venezuela, I would say — I would take that question slightly separately, in that, you know, there are a range — there was obviously a recent trip that was reported and we confirmed. There were a range of topics discussed during that trip, including the health and welfare of detained U.S. citizens.
But beyond that, those conversations are ongoing and I just don’t have anything to update you on.
Q We’re flying to Texas. There are a couple of Texans who are held in Russia right now: Trevor Reed and Brittney Griner. Is the White House involved at all in negotiating their release, getting their release? And also, does the White House fear that more Americans are going to be used as pawns in this global conflict?
MS. PSAKI: Well, on the second individual you named, we’ve obviously seen the reports. We don’t have a Privacy Act waiver, so I cannot speak to that case.
On the case of Trevor Reed, I can tell you that our National Security Advisor met with his family back in the fall and that we are working on a time for the President to meet with his family over the short term as well. I don’t have a time or date on that or anything like that, but that is something we are going to work toward.
Q Jen, there is a question from the print pool on that. Why isn’t the President meeting with Trevor Reed’s family today?
MS. PSAKI: I would say that we are working toward setting up a meeting with his family. The President is looking forward to doing that.
And again, our National Security Advisor met with his family back in the fall, but it wasn’t — we weren’t able to make it happen on this trip.
Q Back to Venezuela. There’s been significant bipartisan concern expressed about the fact that there are even conversations happening with the Maduro government at this stage. Can you be more specific about what the conversations are with respect to energy and any tradeoffs that might be on the table to encourage Venezuela to produce more oil?
MS. PSAKI: There are really not specifics — additional specifics I can add at this point. I would just note that any conversation about the health and wellbeing of American citizens happens through different channels. So I wouldn’t see it as a tradeoff, as you said.
I would note also that you may have seen Maduro announced this morning his intention to go back into talks with the opposition. So, I would just note that.
Q It feels like, with Saudi — like, I want to ask you about Saudi Arabia because it feels like, especially compared to Venezuela, that’s a country with much greater capacity to backfill global energy supplies than Venezuela. Is there disappointment or are there ongoing talks with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia about freeing up more reserves, potentially, to enable Europe to go further with cutting off Russian energy?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say that, as you know, the President spoke with King Salman last month, made clear that we share important interests: deterring Iranian proxy attacks against civilians, ending the war in Yemen, ensuring the stability of global energy supplies as part of it.
And he is very focused on — the President is very focused on the situation in front of us and what he can do to improve the security and prosperity of Americans.
So, I would also note that, in addition to that call, Brett McGurk and Amos Hochstein traveled to the region and had a conversation about all of those topics just a few weeks ago.
So those conversations are going, they will continue, but I don’t have anything to predict for you at this point.
Q (Inaudible) more recent conversations, though, since the war in Ukraine began.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to read out for you at this point.
Q Jen, you spoke yesterday about the United States’ openness to backfill planes to Poland if they send jets to Ukraine. Is that something that the Vice President will be discussing, helping to negotiate or coordinate while she’s in Poland this week?
MS. PSAKI: You know, the Vice President’s trip to Poland and to Europe is part of our effort to show our strong support for our NATO Allies and partners, the security assistance they’ve been providing, their role in accepting and welcoming refugees from Ukraine. This is certainly a topic that has been discussed by the President with his counterpart as recently as a couple days ago.
I would note, as I said yesterday, it’s obviously a decision by Poland, a sovereign country, to make about delivering planes.
There were some logistical questions — important ones — that were still under discussion about where those planes would take off from and land, and then there are questions that are probably best — best suited for the Department of Defense about the procurement of planes to backfill, because typically that takes a couple of years.
Q The President mentioned today that he sent Secretary Blinken to the border of Poland and Ukraine to see firsthand what was happening. Will he also send the Vice President to that same border while she’s on her trip to report back firsthand to him?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, Francesca. I don’t have the details on her trip at this point in time. I’m sure they will be doing a backgrounder on additional steps.
Obviously, the important role that Poland has been playing as a neighboring country in welcoming hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine into their country is something that the Vice President will note and will thank them for personally when she is on the ground.
Q Jen, Senator Grassley has expressed some concerns about the pace at which Chairman Durbin and Leader Schumer are planning to move ahead on the Supreme Court confirmation process.
And, you know, I know that the White House has in the past been very supportive of that. I know you’re closely coordinated, so I assume the same is true now.
But do you think that there should be a return to a pace more like the pre-Barrett pace? And, yes, I know that some of the others in the past were in this 25-ish-day range, but do you think that — is there any consideration in the White House of just slowing things down a bit, just by a few days or a week, to kind of stave off some of that criticism?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say, first, if you look at the data and numbers from the past nominees and how long it has — took, we are much close- — what we’re doing is much closer to the timeframe for Justice Ginsburg, which was about 28 days. Justice Barrett was 13. And it’s slower than Sandra Day O’Connor’s, which was 21 days.
So, the pace through which — and we are working, of course, in lockstep and close coordination with leaders on the Hill — is very much in line with the majority of nominees in recent history.
Q The Irish Times had a report that the United Nations communications office was telling its employees not to call what’s going on in Ukraine a “war” or an “invasion.” Does the White House have any advice for the United Nations or anyone else on what to call what is happening in Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: I think the United Nations has put out a clarifying statement on that.
Q One more on oil. Is the White House prepared for the oil price to go as high as $200 a barrel or something really, really high like that? And if so, what preparations are you making to help the American economy against that kind of a hit?
Q Will you encourage Americans to stay home the same way they might’ve been doing through the pandemic so that they’re just driving less or working from home, for instance?
MS. PSAKI: We’re neither going to make a prediction nor are we going to tell Americans to stay home. What the President is focused on is taking a range of steps to mitigate the impact.
Obviously, we’ve seen, as I noted a little bit earlier, an increase since President Putin invaded Ukraine of about 75 cents. That is — you know, over the course of the timeline, we’ve seen that in relation to, you know, concern in the oil mar- — in the global oil markets about what they’re seeing, which is an invasion.
And — but we believe that the impact of this oil ban we announced today will be not long term. And what we’re working to do is to take steps to mitigate it, which is, in part, the release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, continuing to coordinate and communicate with global energy suppliers, and continuing to consider a range of options.
Q Jen, on the Supreme Court. Today, Judge Jackson is meeting with some Republicans, including Senator Scott as well as Senator Collins. Does the White House realistically think that those Republicans will vote for Judge Jackson? And besides those one-on-one meetings, what is the White House doing to earn support from Republicans?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say that, first, Judge Jackson has been doing her homework and hard at work since the moment she was announced as the nominee. She started prepping for hearings and prepping for these meetings even the weekend after she announced, which probably doesn’t surprise anyone given her exemplary record and background.
She has conveyed and expressed an openness, as has the team, to meeting with a broad range of Democrats and Republicans, of course, on the committee and beyond. And it’s up to them to decide who they’re going to vote for, of course, but she is somebody who has been confirmed three times by the Senate in a bipartisan manner. She is someone who has ruled in favor of Democrats and Republicans, served under Democrats and Republicans, and very much in the model of Justice Breyer.
So, we believe she deserves bipartisan support.
Q There’s was a letter from former national security officials talking about a limited no-fly zone over humanitarian corridors. Is that something that the White House would consider if it’s not considering a full-on no-fly zone over all of Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, a limited no-fly zone would still require implementation of a no-fly zone, even if it’s a smaller geography, which would still require shooting down Russian planes if they fly into your no-fly zone.
So that would still have — we would still have concerns about that being an escalatory action that could lead us into a war with Russia, which is not something the President intends to do.
Q Jen, there was a line in the readout yesterday of the President’s conversations with the German, French, UK leaders about the leaders downloading, essentially, their respective engagements with President Zelenskyy as well as President Putin.
You’ve been clear that the U.S does not believe now is the time for President Biden to engage directly with President Putin, but is President Macron essentially acting as an intermediary at this point? Is the President using his conversations with President Macron to send messages to President Putin in any way?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t say that the President — there are a range of global leaders who are engaging directly with President Putin. President Macron is one of them, but so is Prime Minister Bennett.
(The plane experiences turbulence.)
MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen — so — sorry, that was quite a — for those listening, that was a little bit of a lurch there.
We’ve seen a number of leaders express an openness to, plans to engage. And we welcome that and encourage that. And we have been, through the process, very closely coordinated with all of these leaders who have been engaging directly with President Putin.
What we have been doing is encouraging them — and for the most part, they’ve done this — to also engage directly with President Zelenskyy as they, you know, play any role in diplomacy.
But I wouldn’t put it on one leader. There are a range of leaders who are playing important roles here.
Q Is there any opportunity through the P5+1 conversations — are U.S. officials engaging with their Russian counterparts on any matters related to Ukraine, even in the context of those discussions with Iran?
MS. PSAKI: Those conversations are about the Iran nuclear deal and preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, which even as we have significant, serious concerns about the horrific and barbaric invasion that President Putin is leading, we believe we do share a desire to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Q Has the President spoken to any European leaders since that joint call yesterday morning?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve put out the readouts of any calls he’s had. So —
Q So he said this morning, when he was going into the event, that he had just gotten off the phone. So those weren’t with world leaders?
MS. PSAKI: I believe that was with members of Congress this morning.
MS. PSAKI: I can double check, but we have put out readouts for any calls he’s had.
Q What are the next steps on the anti-lynching bill? When does the President intend to sign?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, let me just give you a little bit more on this for your records.
It’s long past time that our federal laws recognize lynching for the abomination and the stain on the soul of this country that it is. And yesterday, Congress, for the first time in more than 100 years, after more than 200 tries, made lynching a federal crime.
This historic moment would not have happened without the bipartisan efforts that started with the Vice President — then Senator Harris; Senator Booker; and Congressman Bobby Rush, who worked to build support in the House and Senate to make this day a reality.
The President looks forward to signing this historic bill into law with the Vice President by his side. As you know, he’s obviously traveling today. She’s traveling. So I don’t have an update on exactly when, but hopefully it will be — the plan would be for it to be when they can both be there in person.
Q And a COVID question. I know the White House released yesterday that the President had tested negative again for the coronavirus. Now that we’re in a more maskless environment — I’m sure the President will largely not be wearing one today — is there plans for the White House to test the President more regularly and disclose the results of those tests more regularly?
MS. PSAKI: He is tested on a regular basis. The last time was Sunday. It’s typically about once a week, but it’s a determination made by his doctor. I’m not aware of any changes to that protocol. The only protocol that’s changed is masking.
Let me give you a little bit of an update on today because there’s just different rules in different facilities too.
So, outside, the President will not be masking. At the VA facility, he will abide by the VA facility’s mask requirement and wear a mask, as we all will as well. We’ll join him in the masking requirement. And at the community center, he will not be masking. So, some of this is there are different restrictions and requirements in different facilities, which we’ll continue to abide by. And this is a “yellow zone” that we are traveling to.
Q Jen, do you have a comment on the Supreme Court ruling yesterday upholding congressional maps in Pennsylvania and North Carolina?
MS. PSAKI: Let me check and see if there’s something we have to offer you on that.
Q And staying on the subject of Texas for a moment, is there anything more you can tell us about the Biden administration’s efforts to keep the state of Texas from implementing a directive on care for transgender children?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that the steps we’ve seen in Texas and Florida are deeply concerning and are having — are discriminating against exactly the kind of kids who we need to be loving and supporting.
And we’ve seen — and I reference Florida because, as you know, they just recently passed a similar hateful bill that hurt some of the students most in need.
In terms of any legal actions, I’d obviously point you to the Department of Justice. But I would just note that the President, the Secretary of Education, many members of the administration have spoken out about the discriminatory nature of these bills and our deep concerns about the message they’re sending to LGBTQ kids and families.
Q You mentioned Florida. The Department of Education said today in a statement on the Florida legislature’s Parental Rights in Education Bill that, quote, “all schools receiving federal funding must follow federal civil rights laws, including Title IX’s protections.” End quote. Is the administration considering halting the flow of Title IX funding to Florida if it moves forward with that legislation?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to update you on, on that front. We can check if there’s more to report on that.
Q The United Kingdom announced that it was also going to have restrictions on the importation of Russian oil and gas. Was there coordination with the White House to time these announcements at the same time? And do you think the UK’s decision to wait until the end of the year to implement that is the right one?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say every country will make their own decisions. We did not expect nor did we request for the European countries to follow suit. I’m not sure what the import numbers are for the United Kingdom. I believe they are low, as are ours. And ours were about 10 percent last year. So, they may have looked at it through a different prism, as we did, through many other European countries — or countries in Europe who have much larger percentages of imports and have lower capacities for production.
So, certainly, it’s a step we took. There have been a range of conversations with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But again, these are steps taken by individual countries.
Q What is the administration’s feeling on the European Commission’s announcement that the plan now is to cut its Russian energy imports by two thirds by the end of the year? Is that something that the White House applauds? Or are there also concerns about the potential impact on global supplies of Europe, which is so much more dependent on Russian oil?
MS. PSAKI: We welcome efforts for Europe — by Europe and other countries to diversify their energy sources. There is no question about that. There are also steps — I mean, the oil market — oil is a global marketplace, right? So, we are working in lockstep with our European partners to ensure that the supply on the marketplace is meeting what the demand is.
But in terms of efforts to diversify, we certainly welcome that. We’re doing — we’re working to do something similar.
Q I have a couple more, sorry. On Judge Jackson, she’s also meeting with Democrats today. Is the White House confident it will get the support of the entire Democratic Caucus for Judge Jackson?
MS. PSAKI: We believe Judge Jackson is an eminently qualified nominee who has been approved three times by bipartisan — a bipartisan Senate. And, you know, certainly we believe she warrants and deserves bipartisan support.
Q And, on Texas, does the President have any plans to meet with Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate for governor?
MS. PSAKI: On this trip, I don’t believe so.
Q Okay. And what — why did he choose Texas for this trip — and veterans — first? This is the first stop on his Unity Agenda tour, as you could call it. So, why Texas?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as I said at the beginning, Texas is home to the second-largest population of veterans in the United States, many of whom rely on the VA for services and benefits. And nearly 55 percent of veterans in Texas served in the era when burn pits were used.
And this is an opportunity also for the President to travel with a bipartisan group, which showcases to the country and the people of Texas and the veterans community of Texas how important this is to the President and how committed he is to continuing to make proc- — progress on his Unity Agenda.
All right. Thanks, everyone.
2:40 P.M. EST