James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:37 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my goodness. Wow. Hello, everybody. Good afternoon. So much excitement! I know, it’s the Fed Chair meeting.
Q It is. It is the Fed Chair!
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. I know. We have (inaudible).
Q Brian Deese. We’re all here for Deese.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Deese. I mean, yeah. Forget about me. I know. It’s not about me.
Q Brian, you’ve never been in such demand. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. So, today, on the final day of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I’m excited to welcome some special guests to the briefing room today — pop phenom, BTS!
Q Woo-hoo! (Applause.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: While many of you may know BTS as Grammy-nominated international icons, they also play an important role as youth ambassadors, promoting a message of respect and positivity.
After this briefing, they will join President Biden in a discussion about Asian inclusion, representation, and diversity, as well as addressing an anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination.
As many of you know, the President has led a historic whole-of-government approach to combat racism, xenophobia, and tolerance [sic] — intolerance facing AANHPI communities, beginning his first week in office when he issued a presidential memorandum leveraging the power of the federal government to stand against this hate.
The President also signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law; signed an executive order to reestablish the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders; and funded critical research to prevent and address xenophobia against AA and NHPI communities.
So, without further ado, I will — I will let the band take it from here. They’re going to each speak.
We have an interpreter somewhere here. There you go. Good to see you.
So, they’ll each speak first, and then the interpreter will come back up and interpret what they just said. They’re not going to take any questions. They’re just going to come here and give some — give some — some words. And then we’ll start the briefing.
Go ahead, guys.
RM: Thank you, Karine, for your kind words. And hi, we’re BTS. And it is a great honor to be invited to the White House today to discuss the important issues of anti-Asian hate crimes, Asian inclusion, and diversity.
MEMBERS OF BTS: (Speak Korean.)
RM: And lastly, we thank President Biden and the White House for giving this important opportunity to speak about the important causes, remind ourselves of what we can do as artists.
Once again, thank you very much.
INTERPRETER: I will provide an interpretation in Korean and English. (Speaks Korean.)
Jin said: Today is the last day of the AANHPI Heritage Month. We join the White House to stand with the AANHPI community and to celebrate.
Jimin said: We were devastated by the recent surge of hate crimes, including Asian American hate crimes. To put a stop on this and support the cause, we’d like to take this opportunity to voice ourselves once again.
J-Hope said: We are here today thanks to our ARMY — our fans worldwide, who have different nationalities and cultures and use different languages. We are truly and always grateful.
Jungkook said: We still feel surprised that music created by South Korean artists reaches so many people around the world, transcending languages and cultural barriers. We believe music is always an amazing and wonderful unifier of all things.
Suga said: It’s not wrong to be different. I think equality begins when we open up and embrace all of our differences.
V said: Everyone has their own history. We hope today is one step forward to respecting and understanding each and every one as a valuable person.
Q What does it mean to you to come to the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re going to go — we’re going to go –they’re not going to take any questions, but thank you so much, guys. Thank you.
Q Which of us is your favorite? (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, guys. Thank you.
Q When is the world tour coming?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, guys. Thank you.
All right. Okay.
Q Hell of a warm-up (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. (Laughter.)
Brian, I don’t know how you’re going to — (laughter).
Q Brian, is the economy (inaudible)? (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t know, I’m excited to hear what Brian has to say.
Okay. Next up, we have Brian Deese, our National Economic Coun- — Director of National Economic Council, who just came out of the meeting with the President and the Fed Chair and Secretary Yellen. And so, he is joining us today.
So thank you, Brian, for making the time.
MR. DEESE: Thank you. Okay. (Laughter.)
So, I get to go home and tell my kids that BTS opened for me. (Laughter.) I did not expect that when I woke up this morning.
And I know that you’re all here to talk about trimmed mean inflation and you’re as excited about that as you are for them. So, thank you for hanging in here.
So, I just wanted to provide a little bit of context to the economic focus of the day. As you all know, the President just concluded a meeting with Chair Powell, along with Secretary Yellen and myself. It was a very constructive meeting focused on the outlook for the U.S. and the global economy.
And I won’t go into detail of the private meeting, other than to reinforce that the President underscored to Chair Powell in the meeting what he has underscored consistently, including today — that he respects the independence of the Federal Reserve and will provide the Federal Reserve the space and the independence that it needs to tackle inflation.
Also, today, the President published a op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. And I will just give you a little bit of context for that piece and how we are thinking about economic priorities here.
So, four quick points:
The first point is there is no question that the global economy right now faces a range of significant challenges. Inflation is first among them. It is a global challenge. We learned, for example, today that inflation in the Euro area, hidden annual rate of 8.1 percent. And it is a challenge that the President understands is hitting American families and creating anxiety and also economic hardship. As he said, he gets this.
The second point is that as the — as the President is making fighting inflation his — his top economic priority, it is really important that we recognize that we can take on inflation from a position of relative economic strength. That is true if we look in the global context; few countries are better positioned than the United States to make this transition and navigate this transition that the President talked about today from historically strong recovery to more stable, resilient growth.
If you look, the reason why we have those economic strengths is the strength of our recovery — the historically unique strength of our recovery. At the center of that is the labor market. You all know the statistics; I won’t belabor them. But suffice it to say we have the strongest labor market in modern history, which is not only creating job opportunities, opportunities to move into new — new careers with hi- — better pay for millions of Americans, but it is also pulling more people into the labor force.
And in fact, we’ve seen the most — the rapid — most rapid labor force participation rebound among prime-age workers of any of the last four recoveries.
And we’re also seeing that in terms of the strength of household balance sheets as well. Savings is up. Debt is down. Bankruptcy filings remain near pre-pandemic lows. Eviction filings are 30 percent below their pre-pandemic levels. All of these are sources of economic strength from which we can now focus on bringing prices down.
The third point — this was an important piece of this — which is that the President is talking about this transition and growth. As we move through this transition, our economic growth should look different than it — it has in the historic recovery phase.
We have — we’ve run this first leg of the race at a very rapid clip. That has put us in this strong position, relative to our peers. But this is a marathon, and we have to move and shift to stable, resilient growth. And that’s why the President is outlining the plan that he wrote about today, which is something that he has been focused on here for some time now.
Core to that are the three elements that he flagged. The first is nominating quality people to the Federal Reserve. He has done that — he got an opportunity to speak with Chair Powell today — a strong, incredibly credentialed bipartisan group. And we are hopeful that the — that the Senate will move to confirm the last of his nominees, Michael Barr, without delay.
And giving the Fed the independence to operate, which is critically important — particularly at a moment where inflation is elevated — but cannot be taken for granted, which is why the President is reinforcing it publicly today.
The second is lowering costs: How we can we make things more affordable for typical families during this transition period?
And the third is lowering the federal deficit, which will help to ease price pressures in the economy.
That is — on those second and third, that is the focus — the President’s economic focus, the focus of our economic team. Many things — many of the steps therein are things that we can do on our own with executive action. There are also places where we need Congress’s help and to work with Congress.
But that is our overarching focus when it comes to the economy right now.
So, that is the context I want to provide. I’m happy to do whatever Karine tells me to do.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks so much. Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Brian, one thing that may — one tradeoff to cutting or fighting inflation may be a change in the unemployment levels. What level of increase in unemployment does the White House see as acceptable in order to obtain lower inflation?
MR. DEESE: Well, I think that one of the — one of the things about this transition — and we are in this transition — one of the things about having the strength of the labor market recovery that we have had to date is that we are uniquely well positioned to actually move toward more — a more stable labor market gains or gains more — more consistent with periods where we’ve had this level of unemployment in the past. And we can — we can actually take on inflation without having to sacrifice all of those — all of those gains.
And so, you see that, for example, in the — the high rate of available jobs per — per worker. That can — and you’ve seen that start to moderate somewhat. So, one of the ways that, for example, businesses can reduce — reduce their demand, if that is necessary, is to — is to bring down the number of open jobs they have available.
But that is — you know, I think that the bottom line is we have a very strong labor market, and that is not only a source of strength for millions of people who are getting jobs — who are getting jobs at higher wages, it has helped to strengthen household and family balance sheets as well.
So, part of the reason why we have seen savings elevated and we have seen credit card payments and other debt service payments come down to historically low levels is because of the strength of the — the labor market. So that positions us relatively — you know, relatively well going into this period of transition.
Q Just one follow-up. He — the President emphasized and you just emphasized his respect for the Fed’s independence. Is he happy with what the Fed is doing?
MR. DEESE: Consistent with “respecting their independence” is respecting their independence.
So, what I would say is that he is — he has confidence in the people that he has nominated. He is grateful to the Senate to confirming four of his five nominees. And he is a — he is focused on actually giving them the space to make those independent judgments.
It certainly is the case that the President has identified inflation as his top economic priority. And he — he agrees with the assessment that the — that the team at the Federal Reserve is making and that Chair Powell is making as well.
But the — but part of providing that independence is to — is to stay out of the business of commenting on tactics, timing, or otherwise on the monetary policy side, so you can expect that from us going forward.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Kaitlan.
Q A follow on that. If he’s confident in the team that he’s put there, is he confident that they will be able to deal with this enormous challenge, which is taming inflation and not putting the economy into a recession?
MR. DEESE: Well, I think that what — what we are — what the President is and what we are very confident in is that we can approach this challenge and we can focus our efforts on bringing inflation down without having to sacrifice all of the economic gains that we’ve made because of the unique position of strength that we are in. Because of the progress that we have made over the course of the last 15 months, we are now uniquely well positioned to do that.
Q Does the President think that the Fed needs to revise or review its modeling and forecasting techniques, given that they’ve pretty badly misjudged that inflation was not actually transitory?
MR. DEESE: That falls squarely into the category of things that we will — we will leave to the independent judgment of the Fed.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Phil, in the back, and then Kelly.
Q Thank you, sir. You noted that inflation remains the President’s top priority. I’m wondering a little bit about the intersection of that priority and the President’s plan to forgive as much as $10,000 in student debt relief for families making as much as, you know, $300,000.
Some analysis says that this would cost taxpayers as much as $250 billion. And, of course, that money is not going to be dumped into the economy all at once, but I’m curious how you see this affecting consumer spending, because presumably some of these folks, rather than servicing their loans, might go buy a new phone or decide to buy that car or go on a vacation. So are you confident that that student debt relief program would not have a negative impact on inflation?
MR. DEESE: Yes, so I’d say a couple of things about that. The first is that, con- — notwithstanding some of the reporting, the President hasn’t made any decision on that policy, and so I won’t get ahead of any decision or any — any particular program or plan that has been speculated about.
Broadly speaking, if you look at those who — who hold student debt, they are principally people who went to public colleges; principally people who, when they were going to college, had — two thirds of which their family income was less than $50,000 per year; and — and many of whom are struggling economically in a position of having to repay that debt.
When you look at the question of the macro- — macroeconomic impact, I would say two things. One is, it is a function of a number of those policy design parameters, including the repayment. So today, there was a moratorium on repayment of student loans, and so the resumption of payments would interact with any potential debt cancellation from a — from a macroeconomic perspective — number one.
And number two, if you looked at the impact of almost any proposal, because of the point that you made, notwithstanding the — the cost of any — any proposal, is — the economic impact of any proposal would be across the course of years or a couple of decades. And so, the impact on inflation in the near term is likely to be — is likely to be quite small.
But, again, because the President hasn’t made any decision and we’re not talking about a specific plan, I won’t speculate specifically. But I think most of the analysis suggests that the near-term impact would be pretty small.
Q As you’re putting together, sort of, this outreach today with the op-ed, with the message that you and other colleagues have been putting out there, is implicit in that sort of acknowledgement that you have not been telling the story of the economic picture in a way that has been satisfactory to the President?
MR. DEESE: I think what this underscores is actually a ongoing commitment by the President to both train his focus on what is the most important thing for the economy and to communicate that as well. So, I would, you know, point you back to the President’s State of the Union, where the President said that: My priority is lowering costs and lowering the deficit.
And I think what — what this President has tried to do in every stage in this historic and unique economic recovery is to effectively communicate to the American people where we are, to give it to people straight, but also to lay out clearly his plans, his priorities in terms of what he wants to see done.
And so, we are — we are now moving into a phase which is really a transition — that transition that he spoke about. And so, what he has been doing for the last couple of weeks, what he will continue to do is try to help make sure that we’re communicating clearly to the American people what that means and also what his plans are and also that he is prepared to work with anybody — Democrat and Republican — to try to make progress on that but also highlight that there are differences between his approach and others. And that’s important for the American people to understand as well.
Q So, what is the expectation today — as you advise the President — or his expectation about how long prices will be in — at these high levels — 40-year levels; how long inflation will be here?
MR. DEESE: Well, you know, the — there is uncertainty, and I will leave the predictions to forecasters. I think you and others have seen most major forecasters out there and their projections, most projecting that we will see moderation in inflation over the course of the year.
What I can say and is important with respect to, for example, the op-ed that the President wrote today is that the President has a clear approach and priorities with respect to tackling inflation. And the more progress that we can make on that plan, the more progress that we can make in lowering costs and making things more affordable for families right now, the more progress we can make in building on the historic deficit reduction we’ve already seen this year, then the better off we’ll be, the better position we’ll be to actually see that moderation happen more quickly.
So, that’s our focus. Our focus, when we’re thinking about policy, particularly fiscal policy, is how can we make more progress on that front. Understanding that, you know, there are — there are a lot of predictions out there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Just a couple more.
Q Thanks, Brian. Chair Powell has said there are limited tools that the Fed has to deal with supply shocks, like what we saw from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the lockdowns in China over the coronavirus. Given that limitation, do you believe the U.S. is well-insulated and protected against future supply shocks that could cause prices to rise as we’ve seen with gasoline? Or do you think additional action is needed with Congress in order to provide that protection?
MR. DEESE: Well, I would say a couple things. The first — the first point that I made and underscored is we do face serious global challenges right now. And the supply chain disruptions — the ongoing supply chain disruptions emanating from COVID and China, most recently, are significant. Likewise, the energy — the implications on the energy market of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are significant and ongoing.
And so — so, absolutely, those are significant global challenges. They are affecting — they’re affecting energy prices and food prices globally. They’re affecting supply chain distribution systems globally. That is point one.
Point two is, we, in the United States, are better positioned to actually navigate through those challenges than almost any other country, in part because of the, as I’ve said already, the strength of our economic recovery; in part also because of the work that we have done, for example, on the supply chain side over the last nine months of consistent, focused effort working with all different parts of our supply chain.
We now see, for example, the fluidity — what’s known as, you know, how fast, you know, containers can move through ports, for example, and get from a ship all the way to the end — that we are — have seen significant improvements in that fluidity across time, which puts us in a better position to navigate potential new supply shocks. But they pose ongoing challenges.
Third, there are places where we could absolutely use Congress’s help, and we could use it urgently. And so, when you think about some of the core challenges we have respect — with respect to supply chains, they circle back to the issue of semiconductors. And we remain extremely vulnerable to the supply chain fragilities associated with semiconductors.
Notwithstanding everything we have been through in this pandemic crisis, we still don’t have a dedicated supply chain strat- — office within the federal government that is funded adequately to actually take on, map, and aggressively go at these challenges.
Now, we’ve made historic progress notwithstanding that, but we could use Congress moving to provide the resources and the funding and the authorities that are in the Bipartisan Innovation Bill that is now in conference.
So, that’s — that’s one place where we are hopeful, working very closely with — with Congress in an effort to try to get that done. And that would give us more tools to keep building our resilience to these types of global shocks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Josh, Catherine, and then in the back.
Q Thank you. Since you were in the meeting, can you say whether the President expressed any view about what the Fed path is right now? Chair Powell was talking about 50 basis points, each, in the next two meetings. Did President Biden weigh in at all on whether he thinks the Fed needs to go faster, slower, just about right, at all in the meeting?
MR. DEESE: So, I’m not going to read out any specific components of the meeting other than to underscore that the President did, in private as he did in public, underscore that his commitment to giving the Fed the space to conduct monetary policy independently without political interference.
Q Does he think that the Fed has moved too slowly? By saying it’s their responsibility, they’re — the implication, of course, is that they’re holding the bag for the fact that inflation is at the highest that it’s at.
MR. DEESE: I think by saying it’s their responsibility, what the President is doing is acknowledging and underscoring the — the pivotal role that the Fed plays institutionally and that monetary policy plays in the process of bringing prices down. That’s the — that’s a core mandate that the Fed has and that he respects — not only respects but is willing to underwrite that that independence matters and being insulated from political interference matters.
That’s not — that’s not an approach that that the previous president took to this issue. It has not been an approach that presidents in the past have taken. And this President has underscored and is underscoring that he will — he will do that, and I think that that’s what you should take away from — from his acknowledgement of the responsibility that the Fed has.
Q And did tariff reviews come up at all? Or can you give us the latest on that? There have been calls, of course, that easing of tariffs on imports of particular countries could be one measure that would cool inflation here in the U.S.?
MR. DEESE: I know it’s an issue in discussion. I don’t have any update to share today.
Q To the back?
Q Just following up on the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Catherine. And we have somebody in the back.. Go ahead, Catherine.
Q Following up on Josh’s question on tariffs, is there any timing you can give us on a decision specifically on the China tariffs?
MR. DEESE: Not — nothing — nothing specific on tariffs today.
Q I wanted to ask you about budget reconciliation.
MR. DEESE: About the what?
Q Budget reconciliation. What do you view is the right revenue-to-spending ratio to combat inflation?
MR. DEESE: Well, I think what the — the President has — has said and is underscoring today is that we have a real opportunity to lower costs and to lower the deficit, and that we can actually do those two things together in a way that will create a more competitive economic environment and actually increase incentives for businesses to invest in the United States by pairing tax reform with measures to lower costs for families.
So, I’m not going to get into the specifics of the conversations around reconciliation, other than to say the President really does believe that the right approach here is to focus on measures that would lower costs and help to make things more affordable right now for families and to lower the deficit. And that he believes that that’s the right way to address inflation and that that’s probably the most significant thing that Congress could do right now to actually help to accelerate the process of bringing prices down, to Kelly’s point.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Last question, because he has to go.
Q About a year ago, you stood here at the podium, along other officials, talking about inflation as “transitory.” Now a lot of the focus from the White House and the broader administration is on messaging. As Kaitlan and Kelly pointed out earlier, was it a mistake to use that phrasing? And do you think it gave Americans a false sense of how long these rising prices would be here for?
MR. DEESE: Look, I think that this has been an uncertain and unexpected and — and — recovery period, historic in many ways. And so, I think that our focus right now is on what is the right policy to bring prices down without sacrificing all of the economic gains that we have made.
And I think that one thing that is unambiguously the case is that, over the course of this 15 months, the strength of this recovery that we have had in the United States has not only helped millions of people and millions of families across the country, but now positions us well to address what is a global issue.
And when you look out across the world right now, there is also no question that inflation is a global challenge. The 8.1 percent figure that I cited for the Euro area — if you look back over the last six months, headline Euro area inflation is 9 percent.
And that is because we know that, principally, the drivers of that are the convulsions and the convulsive impact of having to shut the economy down and restart the economy, and compounded now by the supply effects that Josh asked about with respect to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
So, that’s our focus. That’s where we’re focused now. And we think that the policy choices that we make here going forward will be consequential in how quickly and effectively we can navigate through this next period.
Q But that’s actually about — mostly about the structural factors. And, I guess, when you talk to Americans, when you look at polling, they say their biggest concern is raising prices — which, I think, part of that stems from the prolonged period that we’ve been in. And so I’m wondering: As you focus on the messaging, do — have you learned lessons from that where you discussed it as transitory and now, 15 months later, we’re still here?
MR. DEESE: Look, I think that the — what the President has done with respect to communications has been — is been to consistently explain to the American people where we are and where we need to go. And that continues to be the way that — that he approaches this issue and very much from the perspective of what it feels like to sit around a dining room table or a kitchen table in — in this country, because that is — that’s his lived experience and that’s the way that he approaches these economic policy questions.
And so, he understands that right now the top issue on people’s minds is prices — prices at the gas station, prices at the grocery store. And he’s made very clear and he’s communicating very clearly that that’s his top economic priority and that we can address this from a position of strength, and that we can make this transition to stable growth without sacrificing all of those gains if we make the right decisions going forward.
And so that’s — that’s what he will continue to do. It’s certainly what we’ll continue to do in serving him.
Q Brian, if I could quickly follow up. If the President is communicating effectively, how do you explain and make sense of his low poll numbers?
MR. DEESE: Look, I — I will — I will — I will just say this: that the President always tasks us to focus on what are the right policy decisions and the right policy choices to try to advance an economy that has been his animating — his — his animating feature of what he wants to get done for years, which is how do you build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, where working families have more opportunities.
We’ve made historic progress in that direction. We have made historic progress in that direction because of some of the hard and difficult policy choices that this President has made. But we now have to address this issue of rising prices. The President has been focused on that for some time. We need some help in working with Congress on some of the issues that we just discussed.
And I think that, you know, as — if we can deliver — I think what the American people are mostly — mostly want to see is that we can actually move the ball forward and that we can actually make some progress in things that matter in their daily lives. And it’s why you’ve seen the President — it’s why you’ve seen the President so focused on things like reducing the cost of Internet, building more affordable housing to reduce the cost of housing — because we get that those are practical things that are impacting people in their lives.
And the more progress we can make on that front that, you know — that pe- — that’s what people want to see. That’s what people want to see — is progress. And so, that’s where we’re going to keep our focus.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
MR. DEESE: Thank you all.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Brian. Come back soon.
All right, that’s all I have for — (laughter) — for the topper. Oh, we can leave. No.
Go ahead, Josh. Why don’t you kick it off — kick us off here.
Q Great, thanks. Just one sec. Two subjects. First, could you offer some clarity on what President Biden meant when he said we’re not sending Ukraine rockets systems that could strike into Russia, since even short-range missiles could fly over the border if they’re fired nearby? And is the White House concerned that sending a rocket system could be considered escalatory?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me first say that the systems — the system — those systems continue to be under consideration, so I don’t have anything to preview on anything specific there. But as the President said, we won’t — we won’t be sending long-range rockets for use beyond the battlefield in Ukraine. And right — but right now, I don’t have anything to preview for you today.
Q Secondly, could you update us on the status of where Mexico’s president stands on going to the Summit of the Americas? It’s the first time we’ve hosted since 1994. And what does this controversy say about the U.S. relationship with Mexico?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I — again, I don’t have anything to share or anything to confirm about anyone’s attendance. We don’t have a final list. Once we have a final list, we’ll be sharing that.
Look, you know, the President is looking forward to hosting, as you just said, the first one in a long time. It’s the ninth Summit of the Americas in June — just a few days away — and values the opportunity for leader-to-leader, civil society, and private sector engagement to advance our goals and find common ground.
He views the summit as an important opportunity for leaders and key stakeholders to come together to address the core challenges facing the people of the — of the hemismere [sic] — hemisphere. No other part of the world impacts the security and prosperity of the United States more directly than the Western Hemisphere. And we are joined not just by geography, but by — also by economic ties, democratic principles, cultural connections, and familial bonds.
I — I don’t have a list to confirm or any — any invites or decisions that’s been made. That’s up to, clearly, the per- — the individual leaders.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hello.
Q Happy Tuesday.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I feel like it’s been a long time.
Q It has. Just to follow up on that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — has everyone who’s going to be invited to the summit been invited?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re still working through some of the invites. We just don’t have a final list. And we have said once we have a final list, we’ll share that.
Q Can you elaborate on the President’s promise earlier today to meet with lawmakers on new gun laws — when or how that would happen, and whether there were any preconditions on when or how he’d meet with them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So the President is — is — look, he’s been calling for action for some time. What we have seen these — in particular these past two weeks with these mass shootings in Buffalo — and we saw the President go to Buffalo and grieve with the family there. We saw the President, just — and the First Lady — just this past Sunday, go to Texas to grieve with the parents there. And it is heart wrenching what we’re experiencing. This is a epidemic — the gun violence that we’re seeing across the — across the country. And we have to do something and we have to — we have to continue to make efforts to act to protect our kids, to protect people going to the grocery store.
The President has made this one of his priorities from the first day that he walked in — into this — into this administration, and now he’s calling on Congress to act. And so, he is hopeful. He wants to make sure there’s action. Our — the White House — we have our White House team that is in constant communication with Congress on an array of issues, including this one — because, again, this is a priority. And he wants to make — continue to make sure that he continues to voice his concern and what needs to be done next.
Look, the President has done everything that he can from — from the federal government. We are looking at other executive actions that we can possibly do. This President has done more executive actions at this point than any other president. But it’s not up to him alone. He cannot do this alone. This is what you heard him say to Kelly O. yesterday.
And so, Congress needs to act so we can have federal law — legislation on the books so we can stop this epidemic that we’re seeing across the country.
Q What other executive actions would be under consideration if, you just said, he’s done everything he could do?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, he — we’re looking to see what else can be do- — can be done, to be clear. We have done — as you’ve heard us say, we have done the gun — the ghost guns. The stemming of the flow of ghost guns is something that the President has done through executive action.
If you look at ghost guns, it is — they are not — they’re — they are not regulated. There’s no serial number connected to them. They are the weapons of choice when it comes to terrorists and criminals.
This is something that we have seen more and more pop up across the country. And so, he put out an executive order through the Department of Justice to make sure that we do everything to stem — to stem that — to stem ghost guns being out there.
He’s done more — taken more efforts to take on gun traffickers and make sure that they held — they are held accountable.
He used the American Rescue Plan — which, by the way, no Republican voted for — to make sure that we put police officers back in the streets who, many of them, lost their jobs during the COVID pandemic.
And so, there’s $10 billion that we announced that cities have used to make sure that they are — they are using that funding or said they have used that funding for gun violence.
These are the actions that this President has taken. And now, he’s calling on Congress to take action. He’s calling on Congress to take a vote so that we can protect families and communities.
Q But he’s had no — nothing scheduled yet? Nothing official?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t — I don’t have anything more to preview. He said yesterday himself that they are looking at other options on executive actions. But, again, he’s done more than any President at this time.
Q One other thing I wanted to just clarify from you, something he said on Friday during his address at the Naval Academy. The President was born in 1942, graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965. In his address, he said he was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1965. Was he? Was it in 1965? Can you clarify?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I — oh, I did not hear that part of the speech, so I would have to —
Q Right at the beginning of the speech.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. I did — I — I missed —
Q And there’s been a lot of writing about it since.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — no, I hear you, Ed. I hear you. I have not — I — I need to read it myself and just go back and see what you’re talking about exactly. I can’t speak to it right now.
Q Thank you, Karine. Canada is making it impossible to buy, sell, transfer, or import handguns anywhere in that country. Would President Biden ever consider a similar restriction on handguns here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, we’ll leave it up to other countries to set their policy on gun ownership.
The President has made his position clear: The United States needs to act. As I just laid out, he supports a ban on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and expanded background checks to keep guns out of the — dangerous hands. He does not support a ban on the sale of all handguns, to answer your question.
Q Okay. Thank you. In some places in this country now, a gallon of gas costs more than people on the federal minimum wage are making in an hour. What does the White House want these people to do — to stop driving to work?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the President understands what it feels like. Deese just spoke — spoke about this. Brian Deese was just here and talked about how he understands what it means for people who are sitting at their kitchen table and see gas prices go up. He understands that feeling personally. Or seeing prices of grocery store — of grocery — of groceries go up in the grocery store.
This is something that he is inherently aware of, and he is doing everything that he can, as Deese — Brian Deese, who was just here — his economic adviser — one of his top economic adviser — laying out what he is planning to do or continue to do to make sure that we lower costs at the gas pump.
He also said — Brian also said that we are dealing with an unprecedented time with global challenges that we have never seen before. And that includes, clearly, the pandemic; that includes Putin’s tax hike that we’re seeing this past couple of months that has had an effect on gasoline prices — $1.50 went up since Putin has amassed his troops on the border of Ukraine. These are real, real, you know, global issues that has led to this moment.
But the President is doing everything that he can to make sure that we address this issue.
Q And you just mentioned Putin a few times —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — as a reason for recent inflation. Do you guys think that any part of inflation this year is because of President Biden’s spending plans, or is it all Putin’s fault?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, what I can say is we are — and Brian just spoke to this: We are at a historic place when it comes to the economy, when it comes to unemployment being at the lowest that we have seen in some time, when it comes to the President creating more jobs in his first term — his first year than any other President — eight point — more than 8.5 million jobs.
Now we’re going to a place where it’s being — we’re going into transition, where we’re going to see an economy that’s more stable, that’s more steady. So that’s because of the American Rescue Plan that we — that the President signed into law that no Republican signed — or voted for, I should say.
And all of that work that he’s done the first year has led us to a place where there are more jobs out there, more jobs are being created — that we are in a place where we’re seeing economic growth.
Now — and also, as I’ve stated, this is an unprecedented time with COVID. This is an unprecedented time with the war. And so that — that Putin has created and started on Ukraine. And so, we have seen — data has shown us, since — since these past couple of months — since the war, we have seen an uptick on gas prices.
Q So, I guess, the next question would be: Does President Biden take any responsibility for his policies potentially contributing to inflation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: His policies has helped the economy get back on its feet. That’s what his policy has — his policies has done.
This — when we talk about the gas prices right now, this is indeed Putin’s gas hike. This is what we have seen in the most recent months of what we’ve seen at the gas pump. And so, that is a fact. We have seen about 60 percent increase in the past several months because of the amassing and his invasion of Ukraine.
And so, the President — his goal right now and what he is frustrated about is what the peop- — what the American people have to go through and what they are trying to deal with, as they are — as they are around their kitchen table. So that is his focus right now.
Q The President has talked about understanding — from his life experience — those difficulties, economic hardships, and so forth. Does he consider it a crisis for American families that prices are at this 40-year high?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He — he’s — he consider- — he understands the hardship that people are going through. He understands how difficult it is for families. He understands that. That’s why he has done everything that he can to — and taken steps in many different ways to make sure that we lower costs.
You know, we announced new actions to give farmers the tools and resources they need to boost production and lower food prices and to — and feed the world.
High-speed Internet for tens of millions of Americans — we announced new steps with the private sector to lower those prices.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the deficit fell by $1.5 trillion this year, and it actually fell even more in most —
Q How (inaudible) characterize it though? Is it a problem? Is it a hardship? Is it a crisis?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I —
Q What is it that people are facing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, it is — we’re just in a difficult time right now with this inflation. That’s why he’s doing everything that he can.
Look, his op-ed — he talks about this explicitly — about how — what he knows the American people are going through. And he laid out what it is that he’s going to do to really fight against inflation.
So, it is something that he is aware of. This is clearly — right? — as President, is something that is a priority to him. That’s why he made sure that he rallied allies and partners around the world to release 1 million barrels of oil per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and that has been something that started for six months, in addition to an additional 60 million barrels of oil from — from other country reserves. That’s for gas to help — to help with gas.
The administration has allowed E15, which uses homegrown biofuels to be sold this summer to help as well.
And — and also, he announced administration actions to save hundreds of thousands of families hundreds of dollars per month by fixing the Affordable Care Act’s “family glitch.”
So these are the things that he is continuing to work on and make this a priority. And that’s why one of the reasons he wanted the American people to hear directly from him, hence the op-ed that came out.
Q Thank you. Back on the issue of gun reform. So you mentioned the limitations that the President is facing. He also has been blunt —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, he said this yesterday himself.
Q — that there is only so much that he can do, that much of this is in the hands of Congress. But in Texas, over the weekend, the President came face to face with a crowd that was demanding that he act, chanting, “Do something.” And the President said, “We will.” Given the limitations that he is facing, how can he make that promise? What makes him so confident that this time around will be different?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, as I’ve said, our team is in close contact with key members of Congress on negotiations. And when the President is — when it’s helpful, he will certainly engage.
But look, this — what we’re talking about is — is popular, is something that the constituents want. Right?
When you think about 88 percent support background checks on all gun sales, just 8 percent oppose. When you think about 84 percent support a ban on fire- — firearm sales to people reported as “dangerous” to law enforcement, just 9 percent oppose. Sixty-nine percent of support banning high-capacity magazines, just 22 percent oppose. Sixty-seven percent oppose [support] banning assault-style weapons, just 25 percent oppose. This is from a poll last week from Politico/Morning Consult.
Reuters had a poll as well on that same day: 84 percent support background checks for all firearm sales; 74 — 70 — 70 percent support red flag laws.
So these are things that if you think about, these — the senators and congressional members — these are things that their own constituents support. And so, what the President is going to continue to do, as he’s done from the first day that he wa- — first few days that he walked into office, is to ask Congress to act.
And so, we’re going to continue to have those conversations. He’s going to do everything that he can to make that happen. We have to stop this gun violence epidemic that we’re seeing.
Q But these measures have been popular for some time. I mean, that’s not new to this most recent massacre. So, what is the President seeing, if anything, that makes him confident that this time will be different? I mean, we’ve heard him say that he thinks everyone is getting more rational about this. What has he seen from Republicans that gives him that gives him that sense?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, right now, as we know, there are bipartisan negotiations happening today. It may have happened already. I know there was supposed to be a Zoom call that was being led by Chris Murphy.
And so, you know, it is important. That’s what we want to see. We want to see steps being taken so that we can get to a resolution — a solution here.
We cannot continue having this epidemic that we’re having, which — gun violence. This is not okay.
And what we’re asking Congress to do is to vote. Vote — again, I said — I just said this: Vote to protect our communities. Vote to protect our children. Vote to protect our teachers. Vote to be able — so that people can safely go into a grocery store and not worry about being killed.
And so, the President is going to continue to speak to this. He’s going to continue to use, you know, the platform that he has. But, again, he has done more on executive action in his first year than any other president has, in particular at this point.
Q How would you gauge his level of confidence that that vote is actually going to happen?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we’re going to continue to try. I cannot — you know, I can’t speak to how people are feeling in Congress. That’s something that they have to answer — or where they are in the process.
What we’re going to do is do our job from here in having those conversations. As I mentioned, his team is talking to folks on the other side about negotiations. And we’re going to continue to call for action.
Q Can we come back to the back?
Q I’m right here.
Q Thank you so much. I have a BTS question and also a Taiwan question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, a BTS question? Okay.
Q (Laughs.) Yeah. First of all, they’ve been here for a few hours. Just wondering if they’re filming a music video on site or anything like that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh. (Laughs.)
Q And also, any substantive policy recommendations to the President about combatting discrimination and hate crime?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, right after — right after they were here, they did go to meet with the President. Clearly, I don’t know what conversation was had. So, usually we try to keep those pri- — conversations private.
You heard from them directly about how this — important it was for them to use their platform to be here to talk about issues that matter to them, in particular the anti-hate — Asian hate that we have seen across this country these past few years.
And so, this was an important moment for them. I spoke to them before they came out. They were — they were thrilled to come out and make sure that you heard directly from them why they were here.
I don’t have much more to share. As you know, they’re having a meeting right now with the President.
Q So, moving on to Taiwan, Senator Duckworth is in Taiwan today and China has sent 30 overflights to Taiwan. Is this seen as a threatening move? And can you just illuminate, you know, what Senator Duckworth is doing over there, what
the point of this mission is?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I cannot speak for Senator Duckworth. You would have to reach out to her office. I don’t have anything to say on why she’s there.
Q On the overflights, is it — is that something you see as threatening?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s something that we’re monitoring. I don’t have any comment on that at this time, but clearly these are things that we keep an eye on.
Q Karine, can I ask you a question from the back?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you so much. The President said yesterday that he believes Senator McConnell is a “rational Republican.” Senator McConnell said today that the group of lawmakers that are talking about guns in the wake of Uvalde are talking about the problem, which is quote, “mental illness and school safety.” Does the President agree that that’s the problem here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, when the President said that — he believes that there are some rational Republicans in the Senate who can come together and work on a bipartisan bill. And Mitch McConnell is one of those — is one of those folks.
He does not believe — and we’ve talked about this, he’s talked about this: You know, we are the only country that is dealing with gun violence at the rate that we’re dealing. And other countries have mental health issues. So, what’s the problem here?
And so, the problems is — the problem is what — with — is with guns and not having — and not having legislation to really deal with an issue that is a pandemic here in this country.
And so, you know, that is — that is not his focus, obviously. And when it comes to — when it comes to schools — and I don’t know what he said specifically about schools. I know there’s been conversation about hardening schools; that is not something that he believes in. He believes that we should be able to give teachers the resources to be able to do the job that they’re meant to do at schools.
And this is something that he’s been focusing on since he was Vice — Vice President. So, those are two things that he does not agree on.
But look, he thinks there’s a way to potentially have — potentially come — for senators to come together and Congress to come together. They should. They need to act. And that’s what he’s going to continue to call for.
Q Even though he disagrees with the top Republican in the Senate on what the problem is here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I think that what the President is going to continue to do is call for Congress to take action, is to call for Congress to move forward and deal with this epidemic that we’re seeing across this country. And — and so he’s going to leave it up to Congress to do that. He’s going to step in when needed.
But again, our office — our office here is in regular contact on negotiations.
Q And you just said that the President will get engaged with Congress on these talks when he believes it’s helpful. Does he believe it’s helpful right now for him to be involved directly in these negotiations or no?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: When the time comes, he will get involved. He spoke to this yesterday. What we’re going to continue to do is call on Congress to act.
And again, our office — our offices here, our different departments here are in constant communications and — with the negotiation process that’s happening.
Q Karine, can you confirm that the President’s Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, is leaving his position after the midterms?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No.
Q Can you confirm that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No.
Q Can I ask you a second question?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. A follow-up on the long-range rockets question. Does the United States not want Ukraine to launch attacks into Russian territory, despite the fact that Russia is obviously launching attacks on it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, the President spoke to this yesterday. I don’t have anything more to add.
First of all, we don’t have — it’s being — it’s under consideration. I don’t have anything more to say to that. But again, you know, we won’t be sending long-range rockets for use beyond the battlefield in Ukraine. So, the President answered that yesterday.
Q Switching gears to gun control and to the meeting with the New Zealand Prime Minister today, the President mentioned what New Zealand has done on this issue. What does he think or what does the White House think the United States could learn from New Zealand on guns?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I — I think they had a very good meeting. They clearly spoke about gun reform. In his — in the meeting, he actually wanted to talk more about what the New Zealand Prime Minister has done on gun reform in her country. And so, he wanted to hear more about that. I don’t have anything more to read out, but it is something that it — an agenda item that came up in their meetings. And, you know, he’s always open to listen.
But then again, you know, I have to — we have to just remember that we need to act. Congress needs to act. It is the time to act now. And that’s what the President is going to continue to call for.
You know, it is — it is something that he has worked on since he was a senator, as a vice president, and now as president. He has taken action as a president to make sure he can do everything that he can to address gun violence. And now he’s calling on Congress to deal with, you know, banning — the banning of assault weapons and also — and also background checks — expanding background checks. Those are things that they can do. It’s popular. I just laid out the polling and what the polling showed.
This is what their constituents want them to do, is to act. And so, that’s what we’re going to keep calling on them to do.
Q Thanks, Karine. Following up on Kaitlan’s question about the President’s involvement: You said he would engage when he found — when he thinks it would be helpful. Does he think it would be unhelpful right now for him to engage in those negotiations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No. What we’re — what he — what we’re trying to say is that there are conversations happening right now. Right? There’s a Zoom call — a bipartisan conversation — happening right now.
So, we’re going to let that process go. We’re going to — but at the same time, we’re going to continue to call for action. You know, it’s — you know, he directed his team to look at additional ways for executive action. So that doesn’t stop from us, on our end, but he can’t do it alone. And that’s what we keep trying to say here: He — Congress needs to take their step to make action.
Q And then just one follow-up — again, on the comment that he made about there are “rational Republicans.” As a candidate on the presidential campaign trail, he often said Republicans would have an epiphany after Trump was defeated, that they would “come to their senses,” in his words, and work with Democrats on certain issues. Many Democrats that you talk to say that that is an outdated view of the modern Senate, that the partisanship has increased significantly. Do you — does he still believe that there are 10 Republican senators willing to vote on some measure of gun reform?
There’s criticism that that is — the view that Mitch McConnell and others are “rational Republicans” — given Mitch McConnell’s long and well-documented history of blocking any sort of vote on gun control throughout his leadership of the Republican Party.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What we’re saying is: That’s what their constituents want them to do. That is what — regardless if you’re a Republican or independent or Democrat, we — you have a bipartisan opinion out there from constituencies, from American families, from the American public that wants Congress to act.
Ninety percent of gun owners support universal background checks. That’s 90 percent. Eighty-four percent of Republicans and eighty percent of NRA members support background checks. That’s what we know. That’s what the data shows us. That’s what we need to do — is for them to act so that we can make sure that our communities are protected, that we save our communities, that our children are not going into — going to school feeling unsafe. So that’s what we need to make sure.
Q So, then what — why is — sorry, what is — what does the President think the reason is that Republicans are not voting for some of these bills? If you’re saying they’re widely popular, what is the — where does the President believe the disconnect is between the Republican leaders and the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s for them to answer. They have to — they have to answer to their constituents. Not — I just laid out what the constituents want to see. That’s for them to answer. That’s — that’s a question that they need to go to their constituents and answer why they haven’t move forward on commonsense gun violence reform. That’s what we’re asking for.
Q This is a question I was hoping to get to Brian Deese, but I’m hoping you can help us understand as well.
Earlier today, Larry Summers told the Washington Post essentially that a soft landing seems, you know, in his view, particularly unlikely. And we heard Brian suggest, I think, a rather rosy picture of being able to move out of this inflationary period.
I guess I want to understand from you all: What makes you so confident that a soft landing is possible? And should we be anticipating, as a public, that there will be a rocky economic period going forward? I mean, I guess I just want to understand what makes you all think —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, you know —
Q What you all —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — and this is what Brian Deese said up here and I think he would say the same thing to this question, is that we are — we are doing everything that we can to deal with what the American public is — currently have in front of them — right? — with these high price — with high gas prices and inflation. And we are taking every step that we can, taking this very seriously to make sure that we bring down inflation and we deal with inflation in a way that the American public feels this.
And we feel that if we are able to do that — continued with the four steps that the President talked about in his — in his op-ed today — that we will get to a place that — that — where — that — where the prices can come down and we can deal with inflation in a real way.
Q And so, I guess, you know, the outlook, though, is that a recession — when you look at inflation, historically, at this level — a recession has naturally followed, you would say, within two years. And so, why would this — why would this time be any different?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I — you know, as — as we have said, we’re dealing with a transition. Right? We are — we’re — we just have — we’re coming out of — we’re coming — we’re dealing with a — an economy that has really bounced back. Eight — more than 8.5 million jobs have been created. We’ve seen unemployment go down. And now we’re in a transition period where we’re going to be in a place where it’s more stable and more steady.
And so, that is kind of — that is our focus. That’s where we are currently, and that’s — that’s what we’re going to be moving forward to.
I’ll take one more question.
Q Yeah, thank you. The gunman suspects in both Buffalo and Texas were 18 years old. Would the President support or be open to raising the minimum age for purchasing a gun to 21 years old? This is something that Congressman Kinzinger, a Republican, said would be a “no brainer” on Sunday. And so, it seems like something that would have, maybe out of the gate, some bipartisan support. Does the President support that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I’ll let the President’s words speak for himself. He just — he said last week that an 18-year-old should not be able to be purchasing a gun, a — an assault weapon that we saw this 18-year-old do in Texas. And so, I’ll just let his words speak for — stand for itself.
Q And so he would sign such a bill into law if it were to pass Congress?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ll just — again, I’ll just let his words stand for himself — for itself.
I’ll take — I’ll take one more. I’ll take one more.
Q On the rocket systems, can you talk through all that? How does the U.S. balance the need to help Ukraine without putting the country at risk of a direct conflict with Russia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, again, I — we don’t have anything to announce at this time. What the President said — his stance — as of today, I don’t have anything more. It’s under consideration. I just don’t have more to share on that.
Q And on guns, Karine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q On Saturday, gun control advocates are marching in D.C., in cities around the country. Will the President take part in these gun control events in any way? Will —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait, can you say that again? I missed the first part.
Q March for Our Lives is doing an event —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, okay.
Q — in D.C. and around the country on Saturday. It will be —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: This coming Saturday?
Q Yes, yes.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Or it’s Saturday — yes. Is it Saturday the 11th? I’m sorry, I don’t have my dates.
Q June 11th. Doing it on June 11th. Will the President take part in this in any way?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to preview for you about his schedule this — this weekend.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.
3:43 P.M. EDT