Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, April 7, 2022
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:35 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay. A couple of items for you at the top.
Obviously, this is a tremendously historic day in the White House and in the country, and this is a fulfillment of a promise the President made to the country. His time on the Judiciary Committee was defining for him and gave him historically exceptional preparation for what we would consider a smooth process characterized by heavy engagement with both parties in the Senate during both the advice and consent phases.
He promised to choose a successor in the mold of Justice Breyer, as Republicans and Democrats called for, and after thorough consideration, as you know, chose Judge Jackson.
The President’s outreach — Justice Jackson, I guess we can now call her.
The President’s outreach continued at this stage, calling senators in both parties early about his choice. Out of the gate, he proved he had chosen someone in the tradition by immediately getting endorsed by the Fraterni- — Fraternal Order of Police and Judge Thomas Griffith, followed by a procession of leading conservative legal minds and additional law enforcement organizations.
As we’ve talked about in here a bit, she began her prep work immediately, starting the day after she was announced, and promised to meet with anyone who wanted to and honored it, meeting with 97 senators over the course of her consultations.
She further displayed her work ethic, extraordinary credentials, and character when she testified for over 20 hours and answered the most QFRs of any SCOTUS nominee ever.
We also functioned seamlessly with the Judiciary Committee and leadership, and we were conscientious about being a good resource to Republicans. Senator Jones and the additional staff brought on during the process made invaluable contributions essential to success.
I also wanted to highlight that on UI data that was released today, as you can see in here, the comparison between January of 2021 and March, now that we are in, of 2022.
Over the last four weeks, fewer Americans filed initial claims for unemployment insurance than any time in recorded history. Since President Oba- — Biden took office, our economy has added 7.9 million jobs; that’s more jobs created on average per month than any other President in history. And last month, the unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent, down from 6.7 percent when the President took office about 15 months ago.
This historic job growth is a direct result of the American Rescue Plan, which funded our vaccination strategy, reopened schools, and helped grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out.
Last item for you before we get to your questions: Across the country, as we’ve talked about a bit in here, Republican elected officials are engaging in a disturbing, cynical trend of attacking vulnerable transgender kids for purely partisan, political reasons.
Today in Alabama, instead of focusing on critical kitchen-table issues like the economy, COVID, or addressing the country’s mental health crisis, Republican lawmakers are currently debating legislation that, among many things, would target trans youth with tactics that threatens to put pediatricians in prison if they provide medically necessary, lifesaving healthcare for the kids they serve.
Just like the extreme government overreach we’ve seen in Texas, where politicians have sent state officials into the homes of loving parents to investigate them for abuse — just to harass and intimidate the LGBTQI+ community — today’s vote in Alabama will only serve to harm kids.
But Alabama’s lawmakers and other legislators who are contemplating these discriminar- — discriminatory bills have been put on notice by the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services that laws and policies preventing care that healthcare professionals recommend for transgender minors may violate the Constitution and federal law.
To be clear, every major medical association agrees that gender-affirming healthcare for transgender kids is a best practice and potentially lifesaving.
All of this begs an important question: What are these policies actually trying to solve for? LGBTQI+ people can’t be erased or forced back into any closets, and kids across our nation should be allowed to be who they are without the threat that their parents or their doctor could be imprisoned simply for helping them and loving them.
President Biden has committed in both words and actions to fight for all Americans and will not hesitate to hold these states accountable.
I would also note, since I’ve had a rotation of fabulous colleagues in here today: Today we have Vedant Patel here. You may all know him. Any of you who work on immigration and climate issues know him very well. I often joke with him that we give him the easy assignments. We did not. It’s just because he’s super talented.
Vedant — I’ll say about him: He’s a beautiful writer. He’s a fast writer. I don’t know if that means he could be a wire reporter. I think he has a very promising career in government ahead of him. But I just wanted to highlight Vedant and his amazing contributions and everything he does to help me, help all of us, help the President every day.
With that —
Q Perfect. I’ve got — I’ve got three things. Thanks so much. Ukraine’s foreign minister at NATO made very clear that his country needs more weapons and needs them fast. I’m wondering if it’s time for the U.S. and other allies to not just provide defensive weaponry but actually provide offensive weapons.
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me give you a sense of where we are. As of now, we have provided — committed to providing $1.7 billion of weapons, of security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of this conflict; more than $2 billion since the President took office. There are transfers of systems nearly every single day.
I would note we just announced, two days ago, $100 million in Javelins, which are a critical weapon that the Ukrainians have been using effectively to fight the Russians, push back the Russians, and defend their country.
I would also note that as it relates to the type of systems and materiel we are providing: For every Russian tank in Ukraine, the United States will have or has provided 10 anti-tank systems. If you factor in contributions from allies, we’re almost at 90 to 1. That means one tank — Russian tank, 10 anti-tank systems to fight them back. For every Russian armored vehicle in Ukraine, the United States will have provided about three anti-armor systems. If you factor in contributions from allies, it’s about 25 to 1.
The way this works — and it’s the last thing I’ll say and get to your next question — the way that it works is that the Ukrainian leaders request a range of assistance. They often provide us lists. We go through that list; we determine what we can provide. We provide a vast, vast majority of what they’re requesting. If we don’t have access to it — sometimes it’s Russian-made military equipment — we work with our allies and partners to see what they can provide.
And our focus as our — as Department of Defense officials have conveyed on the Hill when they’ve testified this week, has been providing — providing what they are trained on and what we know is effective in fighting this war. And we’ve already seen, to date, that the use of this security assistance has been central and essential in effectively fighting the war as they have done.
Go ahead, Mara.
Q Are you saying that that’s sufficient, that you feel that you’ve given them enough? I mean, what do you mean by those metrics?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I provided them because I think it’s interesting or compelling —
MS. PSAKI: — to understand — right? — the range and the significance and the totality of the type of assistance we’ve provided.
We have not stopped nor are we stopping providing additional security assistance. We have announcements nearly every couple of days.
I just think that, to me, was interesting and compelling to better understand the significance and the broad scope of the assistance we’ve provided.
Q But you’re saying there’ll be no letup in your efforts to provide them with more?
MS. PSAKI: No, I don’t think I conveyed that in any — in any way.
Q All right. That’s fine.
MS. PSAKI: Yep, go ahead.
Q Just to kind of follow up on that: The Secretary of State yesterday, in a Russian-language Telegram channel, said, quote, “[W]e’re looking at other systems — some of them larger, more sophisticated — that may be useful going forward…” Is he talking about the systems that allies might have that we’re trying to backfill? What was, for clarity’s perspective, was he trying to say there?
MS. PSAKI: Well, partly, yes, because there are systems, of course, we have access to. We have the best military in the world. We have a range of systems we have access to that we have been providing and we will continue to provide.
There are certain systems, as you’ve noted — the S-300 is one of them, of course — where they have requested. We have to continue to work with allies and partners on what systems and equipment they have access to and they would have the capacity to provide. Sometimes that means backfilling systems. And there is also systems and — weapons systems that they may request that we may not talk about because, for operational reasons and their own process, it wouldn’t be to their benefit to do that.
Q So he’s potentially talking about U.S. systems that we just aren’t necessarily aware of at this point?
MS. PSAKI: He’s — he’s talking about — we’re not going to detail always every type of system or every type of weapon we’re going to work with allies to provide or provide. We have provi- — we have detailed it quite extensively from here, but we’re not going to detail everything — we haven’t — over the course of time for operational purposes. But what he was conveying is that we’ll continue to work with our partners and allies in meeting the needs and the requests that the Ukrainians have put forward.
Q Okay. And then, Germany’s foreign intelligence service briefed a parliamentary committee over there that it had intercepted radio communications of Russian soldiers talking about killing civilians. Is the U.S. either aware of that intelligence, or does it have any intercepts of its own that show something similar?
MS. PSAKI: I have seen the reports, but I don’t have anything more on those reports or the intelligence.
Q Yes. I guess the President obviously tested negative today. And according to CDC guidelines —
MS. PSAKI: Yesterday.
Q I’m sorry, yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
Q Speaker Pelosi was not considered a close contact, but it seems like a very close call. I know you said that he had a second booster and that he’s following CDC guidelines. But given the importance of his role and his age, is the White House considering any stricter measures to keep him safe: more mask wearing, fewer big venue events, more outdoor events?
MS. PSAKI: Well, when you say it’s a “close call,” I’m not sure what you mean by that.
Q Close call in the sense that they were in two events at the White House together; within two days, she tested positive.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure. Okay. Well, for clarity purposes, what — the way a “close contact” is defined — it’s not arbitrary. It’s not something made up by the White House. It’s CDC guidelines. And how they define it is being within six feet for a cumulative total of 15 minutes over a 24-hour period. That — they were not. All of their interactions were publicly available; I think you saw them. And that’s how that assessment is made.
In terms of additional testing or anything along those lines, those assessments would be made by the President’s doctor. He was tested last evening and tested negative.
We have incredibly stringent protocols here at the White House that we keep in place to keep the President safe, to keep everybody safe. Those go over and above CDC guidelines, and that includes ensuring that anyone who is going to be around the President is tested.
Every member of the staff is on a regular testing protocol. If you’re going to see him in person, whether you’re traveling with him or you’re meeting in the Oval Office, you will be tested. If you — we try to do socially distanced meetings when necessary. For those employees who test positive, they are required to isolate, of course, in alignment with CDC guidance, and must test negative before returning to work. That is also a step that goes over and above.
But we are going to continue to follow the protocols. And I would remind you and reiterate that we also put out a plan just a month ago that made clear that while COVID-19 will continue to be with us and we will see cases rise and fall, as we are seeing them rise now — to be expected, given the transmissibility of BA.2 — we can now — we now have steps to go back to many of our normal routines in alignment with what the CDC continues to recommend.
Q And given the fact that there has been this uptick among, you know, people who have been following CDC guidelines, are there plans to revisit those guidelines or edit them in some way, given the uptick?
MS. PSAKI: That would be up to the CDC. But again, I think when they put out these guidelines, they made clear that it was about looking at data on hospitalizations and even deaths. And what we have a plan to address, and I would note — I have it with me, because we really like COVID props this week — right here. We have copies for anyone who would like a copy.
And this is a 100-page preparedness plan that we put out that — meant to protect against and treat COVID, prepare for new variants, prevent shutdowns, vaccinate the world.
We expected there to be ups and downs and increases. And with a transmissible — a variant that’s as transmissible as BA.2, that’s what we’re seeing at this point in time in the White House, in — among the press corps, among the general public.
And the most important message we’re sending to the public is that we have steps in place that we can take to continue to address it. And even as we’re continuing to fight COVID, we can, for the most part, return to our normal routines.
Q And quickly, on another topic.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Congress voted to remove most-favored-nation trade status for Russia and Belarus and ban oil imports. Does President Biden plan to sign —
MS. PSAKI: A hundred to zero. Right?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. Yes, this is something the President supports, had called for, and certainly plans to sign it.
Q Back on COVID, you just said that anyone who is around the President is tested. Does that apply just to Executive Office employees, or is that true also of any members of Congress or invited guests who are here at the White House meeting with the President?
MS. PSAKI: If they are individuals who have a meeting with the President. That’s what I was referring to: our own protocols.
Now, if you’re at an event, obviously there are assessments made on a case by case. But if somebody is going to be in close proximity, standing next to him, sitting next to him on a stage, that would be obviously different than a broad group of attendees.
Q And given, sort of, the uptick in cases that we’ve seen here at the White House, on the Hill — there seems to be, you know, cases going around within the political world here in Washington — and the fact that sometimes you do go beyond the CDC-recommended guidelines, is there any plan just to test the President daily for the next few days or week or so?
MS. PSAKI: That would be a decision made by his doctor, but that is not deemed to be necessary at this point.
Q And on another topic: A Service agent from the First Lady’s detail was placed on administrative leave after they associated with and were provided gifts from two men who were pretending to be Homeland Security Investigations agents. Is the First Lady aware of this? Is the President aware of this? How concerned are they?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any comment from here. I’d point you to the Secret Service and others investigating.
Q So, just — do you have any further guidance on what these two men were after or who they may have been working with?
MS. PSAKI: It’s being investigated, and I would point you to the proper agencies for any further comment.
Q Thanks, Jen. Back on COVID, it’s pretty clear that vaccines and boosters are not going to prevent you from getting COVID, but we know from science that masking does. Given you yourself saying, you know, how transmissible BA.2 is, are there any conversations happening here on campus, at the White House, to reinstate a mask mandate?
MS. PSAKI: We would continue to follow CDC guidance. That’s not what they’re recommending, given we are in a yellow zone at this point in time.
There are individuals who are masked because they are close contact, and that is part of our protocols — they have had a close contact. And that’s part of our protocols. And individuals who may decide to mask because they have health issues in their family, personally. And that’s something we also certainly support. But we would always abide by CDC guidance and go beyond it if necessary.
Q And given what you’ve said about the plan in place and about living with COVID, is the end goal not to stop the spread anymore? Is it just to stop severe cases?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again —
Q Or are you still trying to stop the spread?
MS. PSAKI: Of course, we’re trying to stop the spread, and we have the means to address that. We’re also, though — I would point you to the 100-page plan we put out just a month ago, where it made clear that we will continue to see COVID — COVID will continue to be with us; we will see cases rise and fall.
We now know how to protect ourselves from hospitalization and death, which is hugely important. We know how — how much getting vaccinated, getting boosted can protect you. And we know, here in the White House, of course, 99 percent of people are vaccinated; many, many people are boosted. And so, we have policies that also go even beyond.
What is most important right now, as we’re looking broadly to the country, is the fact that we are very concerned about the failure of Congress to continue to fund our COVID response — the fact that we have needed to, therefore, end our program for the uninsured. We are not going to be able to make purchases of a broad scope of boosters; of Evusheld, which is a treatment for immunocompromised — or preventative treatment for immunocompromised. That when we get to the end of June, our testing capacity will be at risk of collapsing.
And as we’re looking broadly beyond the White House of how we’re planning, that is our greatest, biggest concern at this point in time.
Q Thanks. And just one more on the news of the day.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q You just talked about how historic today was for Judge Jackson to be confirmed, but no reporters were allowed in the room, no TV cameras were allowed in the room to help record that history. Can you help us understand that decision?
MS. PSAKI: Well, today was meant to be a private moment between the President and Judge Jackson. And we made a decision late in the process that we would have some photographers — some of your colleagues in the news media — in the room to capture it for history. Those photos have been used by networks — including, likely, your network — over the course of the last hour.
But this was meant to be a private moment. Tomorrow, as we’ve announced, we have an event — a moment in history — where, certainly, the President will be speaking. We will have a range of guests. It will be an outside event. And we’ll be marking it in that way.
Q Thanks, Jen. How can you guys say that President Biden was not a close contact with Speaker Pelosi when there is video of the Speaker kissing him?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Peter, the way that it is defined is by the Center for Disease Control — the CDC. And their definition of it is 15 minutes of contact within a set period of time within six feet. It did not meet that bar.
It does not mean that no one will get COVID around the world who does not have a close contact. It just means we are defining, for all of you, whether the President and their interaction met the definition of the CDC of a close contact.
Q Half the Cabinet was there on Tuesday. At least two additional Cabinet members — Raimondo and Garland — already have COVID. Is there a threat that this is going to be a national security problem if the Cabinet comes to the White House and starts getting infected with COVID?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think, Peter, we can assess where they — where they got COVID or where they — where they acquired COVID — or whatever the right way to say that is. I don’t know that it was Tuesday. There are other events obviously that have happened over the course of the last week as well.
They are all boosted. They are all — many of them are able to work from home, as many staff and even reporters are, who are — who are vaccinated and boosted. And they all have a talented and experienced team who is stepping into their shoes where needed in the office.
Q When the last President wanted to host a big event for a Supreme Court nominee here at the White House, some folks got COVID and then-former Vice President Biden called it a “super spreader event.” So is there any risk that this event tomorrow for a Biden Supreme Court, now, Justice is going to be a super spreader event?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one, at that point in time, vaccines weren’t available. People were not vaccinated. It certainly puts us in a different space. This event is also going to be outside tomorrow.
Q And then, on a different topic, when Title 42 expires next month, what is the plan for the 18,000 migrants a day that are going to cross? Do you want them to get jobs here? Is there something else that you want these 18,000 a day to be doing?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t know where you’re basing your specific numbers on, Peter. But what I would tell you —
Q Eighteen thousand — I’ve got it right here: “Earlier this week, the Department gave reporters an estimate that up to 18,000 migrants could be apprehended at the border each day if Title 42 were to be lifted.” That’s from ABC News.
MS. PSAKI: Well, “up to.” And we’ll see what happens. And, obviously, we’re taking steps to convey that this is not the time to come. Individuals who come to the border — this is what would happen: CBP and ICE would work together to ensure that anyone who enters the country without authorization is put into immigration proceedings as quickly as possible.
CBP has been working with ICE to ensure individuals awaiting processing in the interior of the country monitor und- — would be monitored under the Alternatives to Detention program.
We know that, to date, nearly 80 percent of non-citizens waiting in the interior under prosecut- — prosecutorial discretion have either received a notice to appear or are still within their window to report. That is what would happen.
In addition, I would note the Department of Homeland Security also put together a preparedness plan to continue addressing irregular migration that involves surging personnel and resources to the border, improving border processing, implementing mitigation measures, and working with other countries in the hemisphere to manage migration.
Those are all steps that they’re working to do in order to implement when we get to that point in time.
Q And the last one on this: Now that the Texas governor is saying that he’s going to start busing border crossers to Washington, D.C., when they get here, are you guys going to help them find a place to stay and something for them to do?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not aware of what authority the governor would be doing that under. I think it’s pretty clear this is a publicity stunt. His own office admits that a migrant would need to voluntarily be transported and that he can’t compel them to. Because again, enforcement of our country’s immigration laws lies with the federal government, not a state.
Q You don’t think people want to visit Washington, D.C.?
MS. PSAKI: Well, listen, I don’t know, but I know that the governor of Texas or any state does not have the legal authority to compel anyone to get on a bus.
Q Jen, is there pressure to avoid saying that President Biden has a — had a close contact given his position and the demands of his schedule?
MS. PSAKI: No. We announced yesterday the Vice President had a close contact. And if there is 15 minutes that he spends with somebody in person within six feet and they test positive for COVID, then that would be a close contact.
Q So, given, you said, it’s not — it doesn’t necessarily take 15 minutes to get COVID — right? So it could take less than that. Obviously, he was around Nancy Pelosi and many others. Are you doing anything differently? Is there anything being done differently, given that circumstance for the President?
MS. PSAKI: He was tested last night and tested negative. And if his doctor deems he should be tested more frequently, he certainly could do that.
Q But if just, for example —
MS. PSAKI: But, again, the CDC guidelines are in place. And the CDC specifics on what a close contact and how it’s defined are in place for a reason: to give everybody clear, data-driven guidance.
Q It is clear, but it’s not always accurate, right? Because it doesn’t take 15 minutes to get COVID, and this is more transmissible — this latest variant — than other variants in the past. It doesn’t necessarily require that much time.
For example, yesterday we were in the State Dining Room. The President was face to face with many individuals, right up in their mugs, for extended periods of time because he was enjoying this moment — a chance to visit with folks.
So, for clarity, not everybody in that room was tested in advance of arriving. Correct?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
Q So, some of those people who may have been further back but ultimately had, I don’t know, five minutes — we watched for an hour, literally — in the room may not have been with him for 15 minutes, but could have been in his face having not been tested for an extended period of time.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, if individuals are within six feet of him for 15 minutes or more, that’s considered a close contact. No one in there was, that I’m aware of.
Q Ketanji Brown Jackson tested negative before her visit today, I trust.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s testing protocols.
Q Let me ask you about the Secret Service very quickly, if I can. Does the President maintain confidence in the Director of the Secret Service, James Murray?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
Q Jen? Jen?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q Let me just get some clarity. Is it your sense that Judge Jackson will ascend to the bench sooner than the end of the term? Because our understanding was that Justice Breyer was going to retire at the end of the term.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates on that, but — or any changes to that, no.
Q Okay. I want to give you a chance to respond. Jonathan Swan did an interview with Mitch McConnell this morning, in which he — Swan asked McConnell whether, if the Republicans should take the Senate in the midterm elections and another vacancy should occur while this President is still in office, whether a Republican-controlled Senate would hold a hearing on another Biden nominee. He refused to answer that question. Do you have a response to that? And what do you think it says about the health of our constitutional system?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think given it’s a day where, with bipartisan support, we have a new — we are about to have a new member of the Supreme Court — a historic and eminently qualified member of the Supreme Court — and she did get three Republicans supporting her — that is a good sign and something we should take a moment to celebrate.
Certainly, we don’t anticipate or predict — I have no prediction of an additional opening, but we would certainly expect and call for all members of the Senate to operate as professionally as the President and our team did in this case, which is ensuring that there was advice and consent, that she met — that the — our nominee met with 97 senators. That’s obviously a great number from the other party. That is how we would conduct ourselves, and we would expect the same in response.
Q The CDC aside, and distance, et cetera — has the President expressed any surprise or amazement that there’s a number of cases around him? And has he asked for people to stay away? What’s his — just his kind of human-level response to what’s going on?
MS. PSAKI: No.
Q Not at all? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: No, he’s —
Q He’s completely — he’s completely nonplussed by the fact that a growing number of people around him are getting COVID?
MS. PSAKI: We have anticipated that there would be rising numbers of COVID cases. It is not the numbers, in here, where it was around Omicron. And I don’t know if it was among the press corps. It certainly wasn’t among the general public.
He knows there are a number of steps and precautions that we put in place and we take to protect him and protect the Vice President and other senior members of the team. That includes testing for anybody who goes to see him. That includes social distancing in meetings whenever possible — a step we take — an additional precautionary step we take in order to protect him and protect other senior members of the White House.
Q And just a second question, if I can.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Is there any ongoing or future — near-future conversations with China on the Russia situation? Or has the U.S. just concluded China is not going to budge on its position, which is to not really get involved and try to push them off?
MS. PSAKI: There will be ongoing conversations with China, I would expect, including our expectation that they abide by sanctions and that they not provide material support to Russia.
I don’t have anything to predict in terms of which channel it will happen through next, but certainly I would expect there will be ongoing and continued conversations.
Q Jen, a follow-up on —
Q Jen, can I ask whether it’s the view of the President’s position that if he gets COVID, he’ll have a mild case because he has the second booster, given his age and given his health profile? Do you expect it not to be a serious case if he were to get it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that is what we see statistically and through — as we look at health analysis and data. But, obviously, you know, we would — he would be treated by his doctor. And I’m not going to make a prediction of that at this point in time.
Q And is it fair for us to conclude that the event tomorrow — was a factor in it being outside and being tomorrow, given outside it’s raining today —
MS. PSAKI: It’s supposed to be a beautiful day. That is a big factor.
Q Is it fair to say COVID risk was part of the calculus in deciding how to mark this confirmation? Did you — is that part of the reason it’s outside?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would tell you that the biggest factors are actually that — and we would’ve had events outside earlier in the week too, had the weather allowed.
It is that time of year, and certainly we do know that it is better to have events outside when you can have them outside. It is meant to be — it is supposed to be a beautiful day. I’m not a weatherperson, but that is what everything is telling us. And also, we want to be able to invite a large number of people, and this would enable us to do that. So, those are the biggest factors.
But there’s no question, Josh, that that also is true statistically, or (inaudible).
Q And the CDC is actually a little less clear on the link between the two clauses that you’re linking. And they talked about, “Was this person less than six feet away from someone?” Yes, in President Biden’s case.
And then they asked — they say to consider the time spent with someone starting two days before. So that includes both the ACA event and yesterday’s event.
And then, separately, they say, “Have they been in the presence of someone with confirmed or suspected COVID for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period?”
As far as we know, Speaker Pelosi might’ve left right after the event. That was about 14 minutes yesterday. And they spent about 45 minutes the day before. So, is the White House position —
MS. PSAKI: But she wasn’t —
Q — but she was, like, seven feet away. She was, you know, as far as you. So, is it the White House position that President Biden — 14 minutes, seven feet away from Speaker Pelosi — is not a close contact, but 15 minutes, six feet away would have been a close contact?
And I ask by way of saying: Was there a discussion of whether to treat him as a close contact to anybody?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he is tested regularly. As you know, he was tested yesterday. He will be tested again soon. He’s tested typically a couple of times a week.
If he is a — if he were a close contact, the only difference — or I don’t even know that it would be a difference; it would be a five — a five-day te- — a test five days after your contact. So —
Q (Inaudible) he’d have to wear a mask for 10 days in public.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. And if he is a close contact, that is what exactly he will do.
Q Okay. And, Jen, sorry — on the broader COVID question: It looks like that bill has stalled now. What are the short-term consequences of not having new funding in place? Is there a risk that you can’t proceed with previously announced funding, namely of Pfizer’s pill, Paxlovid? And when do you think the shipments of the monoclonal antibodies will run out? They were supposed to run out in May, but you’ve been shipping fewer of them. How long will the cupboard last on the monoclonals without any money?
MS. PSAKI: I may have to check on that specific component for you, Josh, and I’m happy to do that. I mean, what we do know is that, by the end of June, the testing capacity will be at risk. Our testing capacity will be at the risk of — risk of collapsing, at least from the federal government and what we can provide.
We know that we can’t buy any additional treatments beyond those that have already been paid for and contracted, of course, including preventative treatments for immunocompromised. Those treatments, as you know, often take six months to manufacture, so we’d also be losing out on supply that we intended to purchase for September through January. And, of course, the uninsured fund is already closed.
But I can certainly check on the next purchase of monoclonals and if we — if we have any ability to purchase that as planned.
Q What’s the difference if a bill passes three weeks from now versus having — if it had passed this week? Do those three weeks matter?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we would be able to have the funding, hopefully, to reopen some of our uninsured programming. We’d be able to get ahead and plan ahead for purchases of testing — to ensure we had testing capacity; to make sure we could place some orders for treatment — preventative treatments for the immunocompromised. It just delays the process.
And as we know, they’re going on a two-week recess right now.
Q Hey, Jen. Thanks. I appreciate it. I have a non-COVID question, I swear.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q But first I want to —
MS. PSAKI: You can ask me a COVID question too.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q Thanks. I appreciate it. I just want to be specific about tomorrow. Are folks who are attending going to be required to take any additional steps — you know, other than it being outside and all that stuff — but testing by senators for example, or, you know, distance kept by the President? Is there going to be anything above and beyond just being outside?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. But it being outside is certainly an important component here. And typically, individuals who are going to be in close proximity, like on the stage or something, they would be tested. But there are protocols that are evaluated on a case by case as we have events.
Q And a question on Puerto Rico — non-COVID — I swore, right?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
Q There’s a million-people-plus without power there. A lot of people criticizing that the federal government has not done enough to fix the grid there —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — after recent hurricanes. I wonder what — you know, is the President read in on this? Are there any actions that the President is planning to do there?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me check. I know we’ve provided a broad range and a significant amount of financial assistance, but let me — let me check and see where that — what the status is at this point in time.
Q Can I also ask you about the Amir Locke — the case involving Amir Locke —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — and the officers that are not charged in that case? Is the President read in on that? And is there any — does he have any thoughts on, like, the no-knock warrants? I think you addressed this in February a little bit, but I wonder if there’s been any action or movement or further conversation about it.
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me give you — I mean, so, first, like so many across the nation — and obviously this news is a reminder of how we’ve all mourned the tragic death of Amir Locke. And our thoughts and prayers continue to be with his family.
The President is committed — and, of course, he is aware of. And I would point you to the Department of Justice for any specifics about next legal actions. But the President is committed to ensuring fair, impartial, and effective policing, keeping our communities safe. Those goals go hand-in-hand, and we can achieve them, in part, by building trust between the police and communities they serve.
So, to go to your other questions: In September, the Attorney General issued a new policy imposing restrictions on the use of no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and carotid restraints by federal agents.
President Biden also continues to call on Congress to pass comprehensive police reform legislation. But since Republicans refuse to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, we are looking at additional steps we can take. We are continuing to look at them on executive action to advance police reform, obviously something we put a pause on while that was being negotiated.
I don’t have an update on the timing of that, but that is something we are continuing to look at to build on, of course, the actions taken by the Department of Justice.
Q Hi, Jen. You noted that Vice President Kamala Harris is considered a close contact. CDC guidance says to wear a mask. Today, she was presiding over the vote for Ketanji Brown Jackson and didn’t wear a mask. I guess, does the White House have a response to that? Was that a breach of protocol? Or, I guess, what made it different that she didn’t have to wear a mask?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen — I obviously watched most parts of the vote, but I know that she was alone, up — kind of on the dais for the vast majority of that. And, of course, she has been wearing a mask otherwise. But beyond that, I haven’t — I haven’t done any further analysis.
Q And then one more question, sort of on immigration.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q There are reports that there has been an increased number of Ukrainian refugees heading to this — that are at the southern border — around 2,000 in Tijuana. I guess I was wondering, what are the administration’s plans to kind of address a rise of Ukrainian refugees that might come to the southern border?
You know, the State Department hasn’t really outlined the specifics on how they want to, you know, address allowing 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to the U.S. So, I guess, is there any other preparations that are being made in addition to whatever expected rise of migrants coming to the border once Title 42 ends?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I would say that we are still working through the policy process that, hopefully, we’ll have more to say on soon about what specific mechanisms Ukrainians can apply who wish to come to the United States, even though we know the vast majority have made clear they would like to stay in neighboring countries, which is why we’re providing the most humanitarian assistance of any country in the world to support those efforts that neighboring countries are — have undertaken to host refugees.
There are very good questions, I’m sure you have, about family reunification, prioritization, and whether there will be prioritization for individuals who fear persecution and things along those lines. Those are all important questions that are being discussed.
You know, we are still implementing Title 42 at the border for anyone who comes to the border. And we’re working toward implementation of the lifting of Title 42 next month. And we would apply the policy to everybody. But obviously — coming from any country.
But, obviously, there would be these programs — and we’d have more details before then, for sure — that Ukrainians who are eligible would be able to apply for.
Q Thank you, Jen. I have two questions. The first one is: “Budget Day” in Ottawa today. And up to $8 billion in new money will go to defense purpose, which will be bring Canada’s defense contribution to approximately 1.5 percent of the GDP; not yet to the 2 percent. Does the administration wish Canada would do more, considering the actual war in Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we applaud that increase, and we applaud Canada’s efforts and support for — in standing up against the invasion of Ukraine by President Putin and the Russians. And they are an important partner and continue to be.
Q And my second question, it goes back to the aid — the aid you detailed at the beginning of the briefing to the Russian military, all sorts of —
MS. PSAKI: Ukrainian military.
Q The Ukrainian — yeah, Ukraine military, of course. Sorry. I just want to verify again: You referred to, you know, that they — there are requests coming to you, and you go through the list, and sometimes you need old Soviet equipment. Are the MiG-29s in — still in the list? And is the administration considering transferring those Polish planes to Ukraine (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: Our policy has not changed, but other countries, of course, could make that determination and decide to do it, and we certainly wouldn’t stand in the way. But our policy has not changed.
Q Jen, when — so when President Biden continued the pause on student loan payments — repayments, he said that that pause will provide a “continued lifeline as we recover and rebuild from the pandemic.” You said today you want to stop the spread of COVID. So, my question is: If we’re still recovering from the pandemic, why then is Title 42 going to be re-lifted? Is there a revis- — a revisit that you can look at that? And have we just recovered from the border, then — does that mean?
MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I can unpack —
MS. PSAKI: — a few things in there. First, on the announcement about the extension of student loan pau- — the student loan pause: What I said yesterday is also that what we look at is the impact of the pandemic on the economic recovery. And even though the economy has — is very strong — look at the UI data from today; look at the jobs data from last Friday — we certainly know that costs are continuing to impact people across the country, including students who have — who have — or former students who have student loan payments they need to make.
And the President is going to look for every way he can lower costs for the American people, whether that is the “family
fix [glitch]” that he announced with former President Obama earlier this week or the announcement about the pause on student loan payments.
The decision about Title 42 is a decision made by the CDC — a public health decision. It’s not immigration authority or policy, it’s a public health decision, and we respect the authority given to them by Congress to make that determination.
Q Thanks. And one more. The President said that sanctions were not a deterrent on Russia going into Ukraine. Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is saying that the U.S. would use all its sanction tools should China move towards Taiwan. So, is that message a deterrent or not?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have sanctioned China in the past, as you know, for human rights abuses. And we have sanctioned a range of countries, certainly, around the world. I would say sanctions have a range of purposes, including putting consequences in place. And where we are, as it relates to the war in Ukraine, is also making it much more difficult for President Putin to fund this war, and that is a huge priority to us.
I don’t have any predictions about future sanctions. I would leave that at the comments of the Treasury Secretary.
Q But given how — given how intertwined our economies are, could we really do sanctions on China like we are on —
MS. PSAKI: That is assessment that the Department of Treasury would have to make, but I don’t have a prediction beyond what the Secretary of Treasury said.
Q Thanks, Jen. This week, you’ve been critical of Republicans trying to add amendment votes onto the COVID funding bill, specifically regarding Title 42.
Yesterday, you said they decided to move the goalposts and that the White House is questioning whether Republicans are acting in good faith or if they’re just playing politics.
But Democratic senators Mark Kelly, Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin, Maggie Hassan, and Jon Tester are joining Republicans in this effort. Does the White House have the same criticism we’ve heard about Republicans? Does that apply to these Democratic senators as well?
MS. PSAKI: Look, regardless of who’s standing against this, our larger point here is: If we do not have treatments, vaccines, or tests that the American people need, Americans will die from COVID and — whether they support or oppose the administration on immigration or childcare, environt- — environmental rules — anybody.
And so, our point: It’s not political. The vast majority of people who are opposing this moving forward are Republicans; that is a fact. But our point here is that there is an urgency to move forward. We can have a range of debates about a range of issues we have disagreements on; that’s fine — immigration, childcare, environmental rules. We welcome that.
By the way, the President put forward an immigration bill his first day in office. If Republicans want to work on immigration, come on down to the White House; we’re happy to work with you on it.
But right now, this is a game of politics, and we need to get this funding, otherwise people in the country are going to die. That’s our larger point.
Q And a quick follow-up on Vice President Harris.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q She was a close contact. Tomorrow, during the event or if there’s any reception behind the scenes, will she be required to wear a mask indoors?
MS. PSAKI: She’ll follow CDC protocols in any of her events.
Q Yeah. The congressional approval from the confirmation vote today tells us that Senator Rand Paul cast his vote from the GOP cloakroom. He was in casual clothes, without a suit jacket or tie, so he was unable to come onto the floor. There are reports, I think, two other Republican senators may have done similar. Is that an appropriate way to vote on a historic occasion like this?
MS. PSAKI: I will tell you, I’m not spending a lot of time, nor is the President, thinking about the dress code of Rand Paul today. We’re thinking about the historic confirmation of an eminently qualified Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Not really worried about his khakis.
Q Thanks, Jen.
Q And if I — if I may as well: We’ve enjoyed your shout-outs to members of your team. I wonder if this means you’re now working on notice.
MS. PSAKI: I’m — I’m sorry, what?
Q Whether you’re now — is that an American phrase? — whether you’re now working on notice, on your — on your way out. Is it underway?
MS. PSAKI: I think I’m — I — it’s — I don’t know that it’s an American phrase. (Laughter.) I — I have —
Q Excuse my Briticism.
MS. PSAKI: No, no, I — I love the Britishness and the accent, not to put you on notice of sorts. (Laughter.)
Look, I think it is simply a reflection of my appreciation for the incredible people on my team that I get to work with every day. I’ve shouted them out in the past before. I’ve ma- — I’ve presented them with sashes to wear — all sorts of embarrassing things. And I think working in the White House, just like being a reporter — people think you have glamorous se- — glamorous setups back there. I’m here to confirm that is not the case. But our team works their tails off. There’s a lot going on. And it’s just simply an effort to recognize that.
(Cross-talk by reporters.)
MS. PSAKI: I have nothing to announce about —
Q Final question, Jen. Jen, final question.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Yes.
Q And that is: What is this administration’s response to Israel for their role as mediator in this Russia-Ukraine crisis? And I have a follow-up question.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Well, we certainly support the efforts of a range of leaders to — that — who are hoping to play a diplomatic role here. And there are a number of leaders around the world who have also had engagements with Russians and engagements with the Ukrainians, and we just ask that they all engage closely with Ukrainians as well.
Q Okay. To help Europe develop energy independence from Russia, would the Biden administration drop its opposition to the EU EastMed pipeline being developed by Israel, Cyprus, and Greece?
MS. PSAKI: Look, I think there’s going to be decisions made by European leaders about how to reduce their — any level of dependence they have on Russian oil. You’ve seen a number of leaders this week announce their intention to ban oil imports from Russia. But I would remind you that pipelines are a means of moving oil; it’s not a means of production. But I’d point you to the European leader to speak to that.
Thanks so much, everyone.
3:19 P.M. EDT