Aboard Air Force One
En Route Cleveland, Ohio
1:23 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Hey, everybody. Okay, so today, the President is traveling to Max
South [S.] Hayes High School in Cleveland, Ohio, to announce new protections for millions of workers in multiemployer pension plans thanks to the American Rescue Plan.
Up to 3 million Americans face significant cuts to their retirement benefits because their investments struggled during economic crisis just during the pandemic or more. But tha- — but thanks to the ARP, over 200 multiemployer pension plans will receive special financial assistance and remain solvent through at least 2051 or longer.
The President is strengthening families’ retirement savings while Republican members of Congress, led by Senator Rick Scott, want to threaten it by putting Social Security on the chopping blocks every five years.
Now, the President will be joined today by Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Senator Sherrod Brown, ARP Coordinator Gene Sperling, and Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, as well as Representative Shontel Brown and Representative Marcy Kaptur.
And worth noting, as we are in route to
Chicago [Cleveland], there is currently a bipartisan bill in Congress that would supercharge private sector investment in semiconductor manufacturing here at home. The Bipartisan Innovation Act is good for workers, good for business, and good for communities. And it’s supported by mayors, governors, CEOs, manufacturers, and unions across the country, including the Republican Governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine.
Intel announced that it will invest $20 billion to open semiconductor factories in Ohio, and that could expand to as much as $100 billion if the Bipartisan Innovation Act is passed.
Senator Cornyn is joining Minority Leader McConnell in holding a bipartisan bill hostage that would make more in America in order to protect pharmaceutical companies’ profits.
But we believe we need to do both: increase American manufacturing and strengthen competitive edge against China and lower prescription drug costs. That’s why we need Congress to pass BIA this summer.
And with that, Aamer.
Q Yeah, thanks. Has the President had a chance to reach out to the family of the Al Jazeera journalist since the State Department report? Or does he have plans to?
And just secondly, how big of an issue is he going to press this with the Israelis next week on holding someone accountable?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m not going to get ahead of a trip or ahead of conversations for a trip that hasn’t yet happened. So I won’t get ahead of that. But we have made very clear that we will continue to work both with Israel and Palestinian Authority to encourage them to bridge this investigation, because we do not want to — we want to see accountability, which is incredibly important for — not just for having accountability broadly, but also for the family as well.
So, to your first question, Aamer, I can say that senior American officials at the State Department have been in close touch with Abu Akleh’s fami- — her family and continue to be.
We again express our deepest condolences to the Abu Akleh family and remain engaged with Israel and, again, the Palestinian Authority on next steps.
Q Just one quick other one. Both Governor Pritzker, on guns in the aftermath of the July 4th shooting, and Gavin Newsom, since Dobbs decision, have become arguably more — the most outspoken voices of the Democratic Party on both of these very fragile issues in the country. And I’m sort of wondering: Is there any concern that the President’s leadership is being overshadowed at this moment when the — a big part of the American public, including Democrats, that voted for him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What was the first part of the question?
Q Well, that both Pritzker and Newsom have sort of emerged on guns and on Dobbs, with — in Newsom’s case — as the loudest and, you know, most potent voices of the Democratic Party at this point. Where’s the President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President has been also very loud and also very focused on those two issues. When it comes to gun reform, the President led on that. One of the reasons that he was able to sign a bipartisan gun reform bill right before he left for G7 and NATO was because of his leadership, was because of him being very committed and being very consistent for more than a year, at least as President, talking about what we needed to do in light of this gun violence epidemic that we are currently in.
And let’s not forget this President has had the most executive actions on gun reform than any other President at this time. And he not only has led as President this past a year and a half, but also as Vice President and as senator — the very, very first, I would say — argue — the gun reform that we saw, or the last gun reform that we saw was 30 years ago, which this President led, which was on banning assault weapons. And so, you know, 30 years later, he was able to sign a gun reform — a bipartisan gun reform legislation that is now law.
Now, with all of that said, the President believes there is more work to be done. He’s going to continue to call on more to be done on dealing with this gun violence epidemic. And that does not stop here. And he welcomes — he welcomes other voices in the Democratic Party, and he welcomes other voices in the Republican Party as well to join him in really dealing with an issue that’s tearing up communities and families.
Q Karine, is the White House tracking the drama in Boris Johnson’s government right now? And are you concerned at all about instability in the British government at a time when you’re working together on Ukraine and other international issues?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So — and I’ve said this before when I’ve been asked questions about other governments’ elections — we’re just not going to comment on another government —
Q This isn’t an election though. I’m not talking about an election.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well — nope, you’re right, this is not an election. But to be clear, we’re just not going to comment on another government’s democratic process. So we’re just not going to comment.
Look, our alliance, our partnership with the United Kingdom continues to be strong. And so — but we’re not going to comment on their — kind of their political process
in their own country.
Q To follow up on guns, does the President or the White House see this latest shooting in Highland Park as another perhaps opportunity to come out and try again to stop or to ban assault weapons? We haven’t heard the President talk about that since this latest shooting.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I mean, the President first wanted to make sure that the first responders had the space to do what they needed to do, which they have. And he has spoken to that. He wanted to also make sure that — you know, families and friends are mourning right now, which is incredibly important.
We saw the Vice President in Chicago yesterday. She went to speak at NEA, and she stopped — she did a — she did a stop-by to thank the police officers, the first responders, and the work that they have done. So she did that representing, clearly, the administration and the President, which is incredibly important.
Look, the President is going to continue to speak about this. He’s going to continue to speak about what we — what else we can do to really deal with gun reform in a real way.
He is — indeed, you know, welcomes and thankful for this bipartisan bill that is now law that he signed right before — like I said, right before he left for Europe. But the work doesn’t stop there, and he’ll continue to speak to that.
Q Karine, on Ohio: You know, Tim Ryan, the Senate candidate, is not joining the President today and neither is the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Nan Whaley.
I know you listed some people who are, but those are the main statewide candidates. And what does that say about the President’s clout in Ohio that they’re — they’re not joining him today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I’ll say this: We’re in close contact with Congressman Tim Ryan in particular and work with him, and also — also Nan Whaley.
We’ve worked — we’ve worked closely with him on — just as it relates to Tim Ryan — on ver- — on a variety of issues. And he released a statement in strong support of the actions we’re taking through the American Rescue Plan to protect American retirees.
And though he can’t be there with us today, one of the things that the President looks forward to is to talk about building an economy around the power and possibilities of working families and providing financial relief to millions of workers in Ohio and the rest of the country.
I just listed out a long list of other elected officials who will be with him on this trip. And so, I think that counts for something as well.
And so, again, Tim Ryan put out — put out a statement supporting — supporting his trip, and we’re in constant communication with (inaudible).
Q His (inaudible) rating in Ohio is — it’s pretty low. The state has been moving to the right in recent elections. There are other states that he won that he’s, I think, spent less time in. This is his sixth visit to Ohio. Why has he been spending so much time in Ohio?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, the President has said this himself many times. He’s the President for, you know, red states, blue states — for all Americans. And if there is something that he can speak to that’s going to help Americans and American families wherever he goes, he’s going to do that. And that’s what we’re doing here.
I mean, this pension announcement that we’re making via the American Rescue Plan is going to help — help families tremendously. You’ll hear directly from him, and he’ll — from the President in — you know, in a short few hours. He’ll lay out exactly what this — what this pension component of the American Rescue Plan is going to do.
But again, he will go — he will go wherever he needs to go to talk directly to the American people. And you guys have seen him. You guys have seen him deal with, you know, everyday Americans whenever he travels, and he connects, and — and I think it makes a difference for them to hear from — from their President directly.
Q You mentioned the semiconductor legislation. I’m wondering if you can give us an update on the White House’s efforts to get that passed, given McConnell’s threat to pull Republican support for it last week. And are you prepared to roll that into a reconciliation package if he does follow through with that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, on the — on USICA — this has many names — (laughs) — the COMPETES bill, CHIPS.
So the — but the Bipartisan Innovative Act, one thing that we do know is that it would lower the costs of countless products, including cars, and end our reliance on imports, which is really important.
So, the question is — and as you’ve heard me — and you heard me say earlier — is: Does Senator Mitch McConnell really want to hold hostage a bipartisan package that would strengthen the American competitiveness versus China and yield hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs, in particular in Ohio, as we’re headed there today, and Indiana, Idaho, and other states around the country?
So, we know that this is going to make a difference for the American public. And so, this is something that’s important. We’re going to continue to work with Congress on this.
To your question about reconciliation: I’m not going to negotiate from here. That is another piece of legislation that we’ve been working very hard on that we know will also bring down inflation.
So two pieces of legislation that we’re just going to continue to work hard on.
Q Can you preview a little bit of what’s in the President’s letter to Brittney Griner? And does the public support coming out right now help or hurt the ability of the U.S. government to get her out of Russia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let me just start with the first — the first part of your question, which is — and lay this down a little bit about what happened today.
So President Biden spoke with Brittney — Brittney’s wife, Cherelle, today to make sure she knows we are doing everything we can to get Brittney home as quickly as possible. President Biden shared the letter with her — with her that he is sending back to Brittney after receiving her deeply personal letter on July 4th, which all of you read.
The President has been clear about the need to see every American who is wrongfully detained or held hostage abroad released, including Brittney Griner. Months ago, he directed his national security team to pursue every avenue to bring her home safely to her family, friends, and loved ones. This has been top of mind for the President. He receives daily updates about the status of her — of her negotiations to secure Brittney’s release, and the U.S. government continues to work aggressively using every available means to bring her home, along with other wrongfully detained Americans like Paul Whelan.
And so, this is, again, a top priority for this President. And like I — like I just read, he gets daily updates on what is happening, how we’re going to secure her ho- — her efforts to come home and also Paul Whelan.
Q And there’s been some reports in Russian media about a trade maybe for Viktor Bout and Gri- — Brittney Griner. Is that something the U.S. government would consider?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m not going to negotiate in public on this. This is something, clearly, that the State Department, with the Special Envoy, they are focused on getting home — not just Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, but all U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained abroad or held hostage abroad home.
This is a priority for this President. I’m not going to — I’m not going to negotiate in public on this.
Q The — how does the White House justify — you’ve talked about abortion quite a bit. How does the White House justify the anti-abortion judge in Kentucky — nominating — attempting to nominate him even after the leaked document — leaked ruling on the — from the Supreme Court? You guys had that May 4th. We reported on that. And then weeks later, you still were thinking about putting an anti-abortion judge to a lifetime appointment. How do you — how does the White House justify that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, again — and I — I know I was asked this question yesterday.
(Air Force One experiences turbulence.) Hold on, everybody.
I’m just not — we just don’t comment on — on vacancies, whether executive branch or judicial, in situations where we have not made a nomination. We just have not made a nomination on this yet.
I do want to add and reiterate that the President is proud that we’ve confirmed more federal judges than tha- — during — than during any of the pa- — the last three presidents — presidencies at the equivalent time in their administrations.
That includes so many history-making firsts to help our judiciary — judiciary represent the diversity of America, including groundbreaking new Supreme Court justice. And that is something that we’re going to continue to do, and we won’t stop there.
Q And on Ukraine, Russia just captured its first full Ukrainian territory since Crimea in 2014. Is the United States and its allies going to push an enhanced response to the capture of Luhansk?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: An “enhanced response,” meaning —
Q Whatever you guys — (laughs) — whatever you guys be — would be willing to do in seeing Russia take over this — the largest territory since Crimea.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so, you know, I was asked this question yesterday. And basically, you know, we have said for months that the fighting in the Donbas could be prolonged or protracted with gains and losses on both sides — you know, especially what we’re seeing today, as you just laid out, Eugene.
But that — that doesn’t mean that the Russians have been able to achieve their objectives here. And so — and the Ukrainians haven’t given up, right? They’re going to continue to fight for their democracy. They’re going to continue to fight for their freedom. And we’re going to continue to support them as we have been these past several months. We have given them the most amount of security assistance than any other country. And we’re going to continue to make sure that they’re able to — you know, to fight for that democracy and their — and their sovereignty.
Q And last question: You mentioned the support that the United States has given Ukraine and continues to give to Ukraine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.
Q The Ukrainian government says it’s going to cost upwards of $700 billion to kind of rebuild. Is the United States pledging to help lead that effort and give those — you know, a portion of that money, a lot of that — those billions of dollars to the government of Ukraine to help rebuild?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this: As the President said last week when he was in Europe, we will support Ukraine as it defends itself from Russia’s unprovoked attack for as long as it takes. The United States has been the world’s largest donor, as I just mentioned, of security, economic, and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.
And we will continue to coordinate with international partners on our support for Ukraine as they begin planning for how they will recover and rebuild after the war. And so, we’re going to just continue our support.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Thanks, everybody.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. We’ll see you on the ground.
1:41 P.M. EDT