Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
3:41 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody. I’m sorry it took me a couple more —
less [more] than a two-minute warning; more like a five-minute warning. You guys would appreciate it: I bumped into Simone Biles and I thought I’d say hello to her. (Laughter.) I think you guys would have done the same. So —
Q Can she come out here? (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: She’s — I believe she’s on the White House North Lawn doing some interviews.
Anyway, good afternoon, everybody. It’s good to see everyone. Happy Thursday. Okay, I — I do have a couple of things that I want to share with all of you.
So this week has been marked by honoring service to our nation through Presidential Medals of Honor and Freedom. And I think some of you may have been in the room on Tuesday and today. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room. It was just such a beautiful, impactful, powerful moment.
But on Tuesday — just to recap just a little bit: On Tuesday, the President bestowed our nation’s highest military honor to four Vietnam veterans — recognition that was very, very long overdue.
And today, as we all just saw — some of you may have — may have been in the room — we saw 17 individuals spanning different backgrounds, careers, contributions to the United States receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest — the nation’s highest civilian honor.
President Biden has long said that America can be defined by one word, and that is “possibilities.” These Americans demonstrate the power of possibilities and embody the soul of the nation: hard work, perseverance, and faith.
Today, the Department of Transportation announced nearly $1 billion in funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to 85 airports across the United States to modernize their terminals.
For example, in Orlando, we’re — we are investing $50 million to construct four new gates, increasing capacity and providing ADA-compliant facilities.
At Pittsburgh International Airport, we’re investing $20 million in building a new terminal, which will include improved security screening and baggage inspection systems.
And when all is said and done, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will pour $5 billion into similar terminal projects and $25 billion total to airport-related infrastructure across the country.
So investing in terminals is not something the federal government typically takes on; usually it’s local airports and owners and airlines who tend to do that. But thanks to the President’s Infrastructure Law, we are able to step up and make these kinds of investments that will benefit traveling Americans.
Finally — lastly, Senator Mitch McConnell is holding hostage the bipartisan package — a bipartisan package — the Bipartisan Innovation Act, which would make more in America and strengthen our competitive edge with China. And he’s doing all — all of this — he’s putting this in hostage, this bipartisan law, to protect the Big Pharma’s profit.
It is outrageous. And here’s the thing: We must do both and we can do both.
I remind — I remind you and all others that — when Leader Mitch McConnell himself agreed last fall that bipartisan negotiations shouldn’t be paused for other priorities, saying, and I quote, “Republicans have been negotiating in bipartisan good faith to meet the real infrastructure needs of our nation. The President cannot let congressional Democrats hold a bipartisan bill hostage over a separate and partisan process.”
I want to be clear here, though: Negotians [sic] have been — negotians [sic] have been productive, and in recent weeks, negotiators made progress in key issues of the Bipartisan Innovation Act.
So we are ready to finish up this process, negoti- — of negotiating and pass this bill. It’s now or never to do this. Other countries aren’t waiting. They are offering tax incentives for companies to invest in new manufacturing lines. Companies are currently making their investment decision.
And here’s the bottom line: We got to get this done. We can do both.
So, I say to Mitch McConnell: Let’s get this done.
All right, with that, Aamer, what’s your question — your first question?
Q Sure. Thank you. With Prime Minister Johnson’s resignation today — I know you don’t like to get into other country’s politics, but more substantively, what does this mean going forward? Big ally. You basically have a caretaker, lame-duck Prime Minister now. But this is a very difficult time in Europe, obviously. And the President’s efforts to keep Europe paddling or rowing the same way on Ukraine is top of mind now. Is there any concern that this becomes a little bit more difficult when you have a big partner like Prime Minister Johnson in the position he’s in?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’ll say this: Our alliance with the United Kingdom continues to be strong. Our special relationship with the people in the country will continue to endure. None of that changes.
And I will mi- — I will remind you: A week ago — just a week ago today, when the President was in NATO — in Madrid for a historic NATO Summit, as you heard him speak at the press conference and you saw what happened, you saw a reassurance, a reaffirmation of NATO countries saying, again, what they are going to continue to do: continue to support Ukraine in their effort to defend their democracy against Putin’s brutal war.
And so that is not going to change. And not only that, you saw an — a potential expanding of NATO, with two additional countries, which is incredibly important — something that the President has worked very hard on these last several months, who has also led on this effort.
You saw other alliances make a commitment to increase their security assistance. And so, all of that — what you’re seeing currently today, because of the leadership of this President, is a more — a more unified NATO. And I don’t think that changes at — at all.
And you saw him at the G7, in Germany, where you saw him with the — you know, the G7 leaders — the same. You saw a — a committed — a committed alliance amongst — amongst friends, amongst other countries on everything that they’re going to work on together to push American’s intr- — America’s interest, and also what — the interest of other countries as we look at the global challenges ahead.
Q Okay. Just one more on — now that Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty, what is the next steps that the administration is contemplating? Does the President support Bill Richardson going over to Moscow to try to fashion her release?
And would the — would the administration entertain a trade of Russian detainees in American custody for Mrs. Griner, particularly the arms dealer, Viktor Bout?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just to be clear — so I’ve said this before, but I want to state it again: We believe that the Russian Federation is holding — is wrongfully detai- — has wrongfully detained Brittney Griner. And she is in intolerable circumstances right now. And we are going to do everything that we can.
The President has this top of mind to make sure that we get Brittney home safely and also Paul Whelan. That is an important — important priority of the President.
And he — you know, we’ve been clear from day one: When it comes to U.S. nationals who are being held abroad, who are being held wrongfully — detained wrongfully, who are being held hostage, we are going to do everything that we can, use every means that we have to bring them home.
I’m not going to negotiate from here. I’m not going to lay out exactly the steps that we’re going to take, as you can imagine why. We want to make sure that we do this safely.
As you know, the President wrote a letter to Brittney Griner. He spoke to her wife yesterday. And so, Secretary Blinken — just on the letter, because I know people were asking me; I think people saw this already — the letter was delivered to her. He tweeted: U.S. Embassy in Moscow “officials again attended Brittney Griner’s trial today and delivered to her a letter from President Biden. We will not relent until Brittney, Paul Whelan, and all — and all other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones.”
And that is the focus of the Secretary of State, that’s the focus of the pres- — national — national security team, and his focus as well.
Q Karine, a follow on that, please?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I didn’t — oh, it was April? I’ll come back to you, April.
Q On that note, Paul Whelan’s family says that they have not heard directly from President Biden. Does the President have plans to call the Whelan family as well?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don’t have a call right now to announce or to preview for you today.
Look, we can’t even begin to imagine what his family is going through. I know these are devastating times for them, and they have been — they have been working very hard to get their — their brother home. This is — I’m talking about Elizabeth Whelan and her brother — and his brother, David Whelan.
I’ll list out a couple of things that we have done as far as communicating with the family, which I think is very important to share.
So, yesterday, White House staff joined the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs on a call with Elizabeth Whelan. And Secretary Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan have also called her to offer support and reaffirm the President’s commitment to bringing Paul home.
The SPEHA office has a biweekly phone call with — with Elizabeth Whelan to provide updates and pass information on pro- — on progress in securing Paul’s release and to secure he is well supported while he remains in prison.
Department of State representatives in D.C. and at Embassy Moscow have regular phone calls with Paul Whelan. Consular officials last visited him on June 17th, so just a few weeks ago, and they hold regular calls with the Whelan family on the case to address any concerns that the family or Paul have raised regarding his treatment.
Again, this is some — this is a situation — these cases — the President is getting regularly updated. This is at top of mind. I don’t have a call to preview for you, but we have been in regular contact with his family.
Q And then, just quickly: Griner’s guilty plea — what kind of impact does this have on the negotiations to try to bring her home?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It will have no impact on — on any of the negotiations. The President, the national security team, the State Department, the Special Envoy that I just spoke about — we’re going to do everything that we can to bring home Brittney Griner safely and to also make sure that we bring Paul Whelan back home as well.
Q Thanks, Karine. Can you share any more about what the President conveyed in his letter to Brittney Griner?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So the President, as you know, was deeply moved, as you can imagine — I know some of you read her letter as well — was deeply moved by — by her handwritten note. He wanted her to know and to reassure her that we are doing — that he is doing everything that he can to bring her home.
You know, in her letter, she talked about what July 4th meant — means for her this year and what freedom means for her this year, and that is touching.
And so, again, we are going to do — he is going to do everything that he can to make sure she gets home safely. This is top of mind.
And he had a — you know, a very — I would say, a very deep — and he sees it as an important conversation with — with her wife, as well, yesterday.
Q And then, just to follow up on some of the reaction from Paul Whelan’s family. Some of the members of his family are asking sort of what does it take for their family to get a call with the President. You saw Trevor Reed’s family protest outside of the White House. They had a meeting with the President. We saw the family of Brittney Griner criticize the Biden administration, saying that they may not be doing enough when it comes to her case, and then get a phone call with the President. How can this administration assure the Whelan family that their pleas are being heard and taken seriously?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean — so, look, I just laid out all of the things, all of the — kind of all of the conversations that we have been having for — with the Whelan family.
Look, again, we cannot — I cannot imagine what they’re going through right now. We understand this is a very tough moment in time, and it has been, especially for him, for these past several years.
But we want to assure them — the Whelans and the Griner family and all other U.S. nationals’ families who are — U.S. nationals who are being detained, wrongfully detained, or held hostage abroad — that this President is doing everything that he can to make sure that they come home safely. We’re going to use any — every means that we have. Clearly, we cannot negotiate in public. That is not something that we’re going to do. But we are committed to making sure they all get home safely.
Q Thank you. Just a quick follow-up on Boris Johnson. Has the President had a chance to speak to him since he announced his decision?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a call to read out for you. As I mentioned just moments ago, he saw Boris Johnson in Madrid, at NATO, most recently and also at the G7 in Germany. And I think you guys were all there. They had a pretty friendly and close interaction. And they have, you know, reaffirmed their commitment to, you know, agenda that matters to both — to both the United Kingdom and to the United States. And we believe our alliance with the United Kingdom will continue to be strong.
Q Does he plan to speak to him, Karine? Before he leaves —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I don’t have —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to preview for you at this time.
Q And a quick question on Roe. We did see the President meet a bunch of governors earlier this week. And if you can talk a little bit about sort of the events, including meetings or speeches, that the President is planning, you know, to give or attend or be a part of in the coming days that involve him talking about reproductive rights.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this: The President is not done speaking on how he’s going to continue to fight for women’s freedoms and women’s rights, especially after this extreme decision that we saw come down on Roe by the Supreme Court. He is committed to this. I’m not going to get ahead of this President.
I could assure you, you will hear more from him. I’m just not going to give a timeline from here.
But look, here’s the thing: The President has been very clear he’s going to do everything that he can, that he has the legal authority to do from here in the — from the executive side. But we believe and he believes that the way that Roe goes into law or gets codi- — codified is if Congress acts. Right? We have to make sure that we get Congress to act. He’s going to continue to call on that to make sure that that happens.
And, you know, this is — this is such a critical time, as we see Republicans trying to take away those rights, as we see Republicans talking about a national ban. This is — this is what’s happening on the other side. And so, we have to continue to use our political capital, if you will, to fight as hard as we can and to make sure we do the work that we need to have pro-choice congressional members in Congress.
Q So on that point, Karine, we understand the White House was working on an executive order. Is that still happening? Is the White House continuing to work on an executive order, or has the White House dropped that plan?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’ll say this: The President is going to do everything in his legal authority to continue to fight for freedom and for — for rights — women’s rights, in particular, as we’re speaking about Roe. And I don’t want to get ahead of him. But I assure you, you will hear from him in a short order.
Q But we could expect an executive order?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: In a short order. He will — he will speak to this himself. I’m not going to get ahead of the President.
Q Thanks, Karine. To what extent has Brittney Griner’s public profile and kind of the posture and push around her shifted the administration’s strategy as it pertains to her case specifically?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I will say this, Phil: We’ve been working on this for months. We’ve been working with her and — and having conversations with her family and the people who love her for some time.
Secretary Blinken — I have mentioned his regular contact with the family and friends. National Security Advisor Sullivan most recently spoke to — to the family twice in the past, I would say, 10 days. This has been top of mind for the national security team, for the State Department.
And again, not just — not just Brittney Griner — which is top of mind for him; clearly, he just wrote her a letter and spoke to
his [her] wife yesterday — but for all U.S. nationals that are being held abroad, detained — wrongfully detained and held hostage.
This is something that this administration has been working on since last year to make sure that we do everything that we can to bring — to bring folks home.
Q On a different topic. Oil prices have dropped pretty significantly. At the pump, they’ve started to fall as well. Do you believe that the drop is durable? Do you believe that this is sustainable, that we have turned a corner? Or should Americans expect that it might pop back up again?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, what we believe is the lower — the lower gas prices that we’re seeing, the prices starting to come down is a good thing. Right? It’s a cooldown, if you will.
But we believe that more work still remains and that we need to do more work. The President believes that. Part of that is retailers need to pass on their lower cost to consumers. Wholesale gas prices are down by $1 per gallon. You’ve heard me talk about this over the past month. But retail gas prices have only come down by about 20 cents over the same period. So, more work needs to be done.
You know, you — I’ve heard this phrase, “Don’t — we can’t sit on our laurels,” if you will. We got to continue to do the work.
And one of the things that the President will continue to call on is this gas holiday tax — this 90-day suspension of — on the federal gas tax, which we think is an easy thing to do. There are pieces of legislation right now in the House, in Congress, that can be easily picked up and passed.
And so that’s what the President is calling — calling for Congress to do. We think it will have an important effect on American families and give them that little bit of breathing room that you hear the President talk about.
Q One more quick one. Does the President — there seems to be a view on Capitol Hill that August is the deadline for the reconciliation package. Does the President view the month of July as the be-all, end-all as it pertains to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, I’m not going to go into negotiations or negotiate from public, as you hear us say often. What I will say is that independent economists have shown that this would fight inflation as we’re talking about high gas prices, as we’re talking about inflation for the long haul, and protect Americans’ finances in the short term.
So, we think this is something that is going to help Americans, American families, and we’re going to continue to have the negotiations. We’re going to continue to have the conversations to make sure we deliver for the American public.
Q So no deadline from here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to give — I’m not going to negotiate from here. I’m not going to give a deadline from here.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Mike.
Q If I could ask about two administration officials. First of all, given the revelations that my colleagues wrote about regarding the actions of the IRS over the last several years, does the President retain the confidence — does the — does the IRS Commissioner have the President’s confidence?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’ll say this: We don’t comment on enforcement actions taken by the IRS. So just the first thing —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — I — no, I know. I’m — I just want to — since you gave me the opportunity, Michael, I want to take it.
Q Okay. Okay.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So any — any questions on that I would refer — refer you to the IRS. That’s for anyone who has any questions on that.
As you know, the IRS Commissioner — his term is up in November. But I don’t have any updates on that. I can’t speak to anything more besides, you know, we would refer you to the IRS on that specific thing.
And he is going to be up in November. So I will leave it there.
Q But — but, between now and November, the President still is confident that he’s able to fairly and, you know, without bias, you know, do the things that a — that the IRS does objectively?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, again, I’m going to say that he is up in November. He is a commissioner. He does — he is the Commissioner of the IRS, part of the administration. So we’re going to — I’m just going to leave it at that.
Q Okay. And then on the Director of the Secret Service who just announced resignation today — obviously, the Secret Service has been in the news of late, given the — some of the testimony in front of the January 6th Committee as well.
Do — is there any relationship between the Director’s departure now and the timing of some of those revelations from the committee? Did the White House know about his intention to retire before — before the — that testimony last week, I guess?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Michael, I would say that there’s no relations at all. This has been in talks for several months — I — for his — his retirement — I believe, since April — so before the January 6th hearing.
And for — as I — as I know, he is headed to the private sector. So it is not connected at all. This has been in talks for some time now — his — his retirement.
Actually, I’m going to go — I know, April, I said I was going to come to you on, I think, Brittney Griner. Was that your —
Q Yes —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q — and on something else. Yes.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q On Brittney Griner: I talked to Cherelle Griner last night.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q And now this morning’s decision. And we understand that, according to sources close the case, it was Brittney’s decision and it was an informed decision that was discussed over several weeks to make this decision to plead guilty. Was the White House ever in any understanding that this was going to be the case this morning?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, on — I cannot speak about her case in public. I cannot speak about the process of her decision. That is something that she should speak to, which sounds like she has spoken to you about that.
But we from — from —
Q Well, (inaudible) with the case. But she talked about —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, got it. Un- — understood.
Q — not wanting to watch this morning.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Understood. But we cannot do that from here. It is — it is a personal matter. It is a — it is a legal matter that we cannot speak to from — from here, or the podium.
I will say that — I think I was just asked about if this verdict — her verdict will change anything that we’re doing: It will not.
We will continue to make this a top priority, in making sure that we bring her home safely. That is a commitment that we have made to her, to her family, and also to other U.S. nationals as we’re trying to bring them back home.
Q Is the hope that this guilty plea will be viewed favorably by the Russians to help her come home sooner or her sentencing be less?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, April, I appreciate the question. I cannot — that was a legal advice, clearly, that Brittney received from her — from her lawyers. I cannot speak to why the decision was made. I cannot speak to the minds of the Russian Federation.
I — that is not for me to do. What I can say is what we’re going to do here — here. And what the President wants to do is making sure that we bring home these U.S. nationals who are wrongfully being held abroad and also held hostage. It is important that we get them home safely.
Q Mrs. Griner says she wants to come for a face to face that the President offered. Any dates yet?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to preview for you at this time.
Q And two other questions on two other subjects really fast. As you talked about and as we’re still reeling and trying to figure out still what happens after Roe v. Wade in the states, et cetera — after the overturn of Roe v. Wade: In October, a case is supposed to be before the Supreme Court on affirmative action when it comes to education admittance — admittance on race. And there is a thought that it could be overturned with the way this Court has been overturning longstanding action cases.
What is the White House’s thought on this? And is there a plan? Are you preparing for this, as many law organizations are preparing amicus briefs, friend of court briefs in favor of keeping these admittance — racial admittance procedures?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, April, the President has been very clear about these extreme decisions that the Supreme Court has been making — not just on Roe, but EPA and other decisions that have come down most recently. This is another one that you’re talking about, in October.
Look, the President has been also clear — is that we have to take action. We — that, you know, Americans have to make sure that they take their voices to the ballot box. That is the way that we are going to be able to — to fight back in a way that’s effective, in a way that’s going to make a difference.
We have Republicans who are doing extremes. The President calls them “Ultra-MAGA.” They are a part of the Ultra-MAGA wing who are trying to take away the rights of the American people. That’s what they’re trying to do.
And so, we have to do everything that we can. American public has to do everything that they can to make sure that their voices are heard at the ballot box. And that’s what the President is going to continue to speak to, and that’s what the President is asking for people to do.
Q And last question, on the Secret Service Director. Is equity and inclusion still a part of the President’s hiring practices when he looks at that spot? Because you have never had a Black man or someone of another color, I guess, be the head of that organization.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m not going to get ahead of the — of the process. But as you know, this is a President that prides on making sure that we have equity, that we have inclusion. You see that up and down his administration. He wants to make sure that we have an administration that looks like America. And so that is a priority for him.
I cannot speak to that particular vacancy — potential vacancy. That is something that — a decision has not been made, and so I’m not going to get ahead of the President on that.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Tam.
Q Yeah, thank you. Back when the President did sort of the small signing ceremony for the gun legislation, he said that he was going to do a bigger ceremony later. Is that still in the books? And can you give any sort of a preview of his message? A lot has happened since he signed that bill, and outside advocates are pushing him to go even further.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. And he wants to go further. I mean, he has said that. He has been very clear on saying that as much as he welcomed the bipartisan gun reform legislation that he signed into law right before he left for Europe, he had said we need to do more. He has been very clear on that.
You got to remember, this is a President that led on the effort of making sure — on banning assault weapons back in 1994, which sunset 10 years later. That — it was a priority for him then, and it continues to be a priority for him now.
If you think about what we have seen over the last several weeks — you think about Buffalo, you think about Uvalde, you think about Highland Park — you think about the same story that they have over and over again, which is a weapon of war being unleashed on our — in our communities.
And how — and it’s not just those communities. You think about Parkland, you think about Orlando, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook. It’s assault rifles.
And so, you — it has — it — and you think about what it’s done to families and communities. These are assault rifles that, you know — that bodies are too mutilated for families to even recognize, that they have to do a DNA test.
That should not be happening in our streets. It should not be happening in our streets.
So, the President believes that we need to ban assault weapons. This is something that he has talked about, again, for years. It is something that he wants to see happen. And so, that’s what he’s going to continue to call on.
On your first question on if we’re going to have an event: Yes, we will have an event. You will hear from us soon on when that will be. But, yes, he is — that is going to happen at some point. Yeah.
Q And yesterday, he — in his remarks in Ohio, it sounded like a midterm message.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.)
Q You know, just a little bit.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It was fun. It was fun. It was great. It was great to see.
Q Are we going to see more of that? What is your sense of how much travel will be ramping up for the President, if at all?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t — yeah, we don’t have anything to preview at this — at this time.
But, look, you know, this is something that the President — you’ve heard him say this himself: He wants to get out there. He — you know, you see him out there with — with the American people, and it is a lively time. It is a — it is definitely an exciting time to see him, and they get excited. And he’s able to push his message or talk about his message, his platform directly to the American people.
And if you think about — yesterday, it was about pensions; it was about union pensions. It’s about how we’re — what — the work that the American Rescue Plan has done to make sure that we protect those pensions. And so that is such an important message for the American people to hear. And not just in Ohio, in many other country — I’m sorry, and many other states across the country is going to be affected by the American Rescue Plan as well when it relates to union pensions and other items as well.
Q Thanks, Karine. Since you started the briefing talking about McConnell holding the Bipartisan Infrastructure — sorry — Innovation Act hostage, has the President reached out directly to any Senate Republicans to convince them and make the case for why they should support this bill?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don’t have any — we don’t have any calls to read out. As you know, his Office of Leg Affairs is in constant communication, and not just his Office of Leg Affairs; we have other departments, offices in the White House that are constantly talking to congressional leaders and staff on issues that — on these types of legislations that we believe are important to the American public. I just don’t have anything to read out.
Q I figured you would say that, but what is the path forward if you know that there is Republicans that support this bill but you need to get 10 of them to go ahead with you over the objections of McConnell? Like, what are you doing? And are you confident that there are actually 10 who would do that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we have seen and I said at top: We have seen progress. We wanted to make that clear, even though you heard me call out Mitch McConnell. We have seen some progress. What I was calling out is the hypocrisy that we have seen from Leader — from Leader McConnell on this.
And so, you know, the President and bipartisan members of Congress, you know, they — who share — who share the same goal, and we understand that. It is to reach a final agreement that meets our economic and national security objectives. And we want to do this by this summer. We feel confident in that. And we’re going to continue to work to make that happen.
We know companies are making decisions now on where to invest this year. So the time is now to act. That’s why I said if it doesn’t happen now, it won’t. So we are going to do everything we can to make sure that we make this happen.
Q And then one follow-up to Michael’s question on the IRS commissioner. You noted that his term is up in November. Are you insinuating that you won’t renominate him? And if so, why not fire him now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to — I’m not — I’m not going to get ahead of the President. That is a decision for the President to make, and I’m not going to get ahead of that decision.
Go ahead, Peter.
Q Thanks, Karine. Why do you think it is the 88 percent of people in this country polled by Monmouth think the country is on the wrong track?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’ll say this: The President understands what the American people are going through. He understands that gas prices are high because of Putin’s tax hike, because of the war that Putin — the brutal war that Putin has taken on in Ukraine, and their brave fight to fight for their democracy. That’s what we’re seeing here. And also the food insecurity — the food cost has skyrocketed.
And that’s why the President has done everything that he can to blunt those high prices. That’s why he’s tapped into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We saw a historic amount of barrels coming out a day — 1 million a day.
That’s why he is doing the bio- — the home- — homegrown biofuels — the ethanol 15 — making that available this summer, which is not normally available this summer, so that we can try and bring down those costs. And that’s why he’s going to continue to work to make sure we lower those costs.
Look — but, again, we understand what the American people are feeling. We’re doing everything that we can. We have a plan. Here’s the thing: We have a plan. Republicans do not have a plan. What they want to do is take away rights from the American people.
Q But do you think it’s possible that your plan just is not popular with the American people right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t think it’s that our plan is not popular with the American people. We know that the American people are feeling the high costs. We understand what they are feeling. Because — because when you look at inflation; when we look at where we are economically — and we are in a strong — we are stronger economically than we have been in history; when you look at the unemployment numbers of 3.6 percent; when you look at the jobs numbers — more than 8.7 million of new jobs created — that is important.
But we understand that gas prices are high, and we understand that food costs are high. And that is because of a once — once-in-a-generation pandemic and also Putin’s war. And that’s just the facts.
Q So if you think that the — your plan is popular with the American people, is it just that the plans are not being communicated properly, and is that why the Communications Director is leaving?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, that’s where you were going with this question. (Laughter.) Oh, that’s very slick there of you, Peter.
Q Well, why is she really leaving?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean — well, she said why she is leaving.
Look, let me just say something.
Q No, but — is it —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait. Wait. No, no, no, no. You’re asking me —
Q But is it a coincidence that at a time that a historic number of people think the country is on the wrong track, somebody who has been a part of Biden world for as long as just about anybody here says that she is leaving?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, first, let me just say I explained that we understand what the American public is feeling. The President is doing everything in his power to lower costs, to blunt gas prices, as he has been doing.
And we have —
Q Then why make a change?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — we have done that.
So, I just want to speak about Kate for a second because I think this is really important. I’ve known Kate since 2007. She is a friend and she is a colleague. She is exceptionally talented, and she will be greatly missed.
Her smart skills and hard work helped get the President elected and has helped us accomplish so much since we’ve been here.
And like I said, on a personal note, she’s a good friend and a colleague, and we’re going to miss her.
Now, you’re asking me — basically, you’re asking me her leaving and what does that mean — right? — to the administration?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I don’t think her leaving will have effect on what we’re trying to do. Because, look, she leaves behind a talented team and communications department, and the President will name a new communications director. There’s nothing new here. These things happen.
And I do want to call out a data by Brookings showing that turnover in this administration is below the historical average, going back to Reagan.
So, what we’re seeing here is not unusual. What we’re seeing here is — is normal. And what we’re going to continue to do is we’re going to communicate with the American people in a truthful way, and we’re going to do that every day.
Q Okay. And just a different topic. The largest labor union in the country, the National Education Association, had been proposing a resolution for future contracts to replace the word “mother” with “birthing parent.” What does the President think about proposals like that one?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we’re not the NEA. And I would refer you to their team about that particular sp- —
Q The Vice President just spoke at that conference, though. The First Lady is a teacher.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Yeah.
Q The President says he’s the most pro-labor —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: She’s a member of — she’s — she’s —
Q — President ever. Does he —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely.
Q — support proposals like that one? Does he think that is a — an important priority for —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And the First Lady is a proud member of the NEA. I’m not going to speak about a — an organization’s policy or change of policy. I am not their spokesperson. That’s not something that I’m going to do.
Yes, the Vice President was there on Tuesday. She spoke at NEA. And when they did — when they did regular order — when they did their regular business, she left. So she was also not part of that discussion.
Look, this is a policy change. That is not something that I can speak to. I refer you to NEA.
Q Thank you. So I have a question on the federal district judge appointment in Kentucky. So, earlier today, Governor Andy Beshear said that it’s been plenty of time for the administration to tell his office whether, you know, the White House is rescinding the appointment of Chad Meredith. I guess, what’s your reaction to that? And why haven’t you rescinded that appointment yet?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You — I believe your colleague asked me this question last week, or — gosh, not even last week; a couple days ago. Every — every day feels like long days.
But look — and I said this on Tuesday, and I’ll said this — I’ll say this to you, which is, like, we do not comment on vacancies. This is a vacancy. It’s not something that we’re going to comment on. We don’t comment on executive branch or judicial vacancy.
We have not made a nomination yet. And so, one of the things that we are very proud of, which you hear us talk about, is like — is that we have more federal judges — we have done more federal judges during this administration than any of the last three presidency.
It includes making sure that we do history-making first to help our judiciary represent the diversity of America, and we’re going to continue to do that.
I’m — I just — is not — I’m not going to speak to an open vacancy.
Q Great. Thanks, Karine. The Veterans Affairs currently doesn’t offer any abortion services in any exceptions. But VA Secretary McDonough has told Congress — he told them in April that the VA has statutory authority to provide abortion services, that the law permits it. So does the President agree with the VA Secretary that the department can take this action?
MR. JEAN-PIERRE: So the administration and the VA are committed to providing healthcare to veterans, and the VA continues to offer reproductive healthcare services to their veterans as well.
As you note, current regulation doesn’t allow for the VA to provide abortions. We’re going to continue to review, we’re going to continue to explore every possible option to protect women’s rights and access to reproductive health.
So, again, we’re going to continue to review. I don’t have anything at this time.
Q Given that — that it’s based on regulation, though, I mean, is the President considering at all any kind of executive action to direct the VA, given that its regulation (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have anything specifically on the VA. We have talked about the President reviewing executive actio- — actions. I’m not going to get ahead of what those actions are going to be.
But like I said, you know, we’re going to continue to review and look at our options here. And, you know, the President is going to continue — he did use his executive authority when the decision came down, within hours of the decision that came down — the Roe being striked down.
And so those authorities we believed were — were impactful for the moment, when you’re talking about providing safe medication, FDA-approved medication so women can make decisions on their healthcare — medication, which is what majority of women use when they are looking to make that decision on an abortion, which is a very personal decision. And also, women who have to travel as well, making sure that DOJ protect their rights.
And we think that those are incredibly impactful, incredibly important. And like I said, the President is going to continue to look at all his options.
Let me come back here, okay.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, okay. (Inaudible)
Q Karine, you’ve mentioned a few times in this briefing the importance of electing candidates that are supportive of access to abortion. I’m wondering if the President feels that that is the Democrats’ best path forward at this point in getting some sort of legislation passed that would legalize abortion access — that it really is up to what happens this November and nothing can really get done before then.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I can’t speak to any political election process and what strategy we’re taking. What I can say is the President has been very clear he is going to do everything that he can to protect freedoms and rights for women and the American people.
As we know, the Supreme Court, as we saw what Clarence Thomas wrote, they’re going to go further. And that is something we should really listen to and pay close attention to. And it is going to happen. This is something that the President has said.
And so, what I would say is: He’s been very clear. We need — we need Congress to act. We need to codify Roe, make that the law of the land. That is the best way — the best way we’re going to protect rights and freedoms.
And — and if it doesn’t happen in Congress, he has — he has asked the American public to take their voices to the ballot box to make sure to do what you just asked me — to make sure that we have pro-choice members in Congress.
All right. Thanks, everybody. I’ll see you tomorrow.
4:24 P.M. EDT