James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

3:16 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   Hello.  Good afternoon, everybody.

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   Okay.  So today I’d like to welcome Jared Bernstein, member of the Council of Economic Advisers, back to the briefing room.  Jared is here to talk about the strong economic progress we’re making and the enormous opportunities Congress has ahead to continue that progress.

We’re really glad to have him here again.  And, Jared, I welcome you back to the podium.

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Well, thank you so much.  I have an opening statement, after which I’ll take questions.

President Biden, who grew up in a family where the price of gas was a kitchen table issue, has elevated easing price pressures as his top economic priority.  We economists think of this in terms of inflation, inflationary expectations, interest rate changes — a vast array of complicated concepts and measurements.

But the fact is that it comes down to affordability and the need among American households for a bit of breathing room in making ends meet.  Therefore, we’re very happy to report that the current drop in the price of gas, down 50 cents per gallon over the past 34 days, is one of the fastest decline in retail gas prices in a decade.

At current prices, the average American driver will spend about $25 per month less on gasoline than they would have if prices had stayed at their June peak.  Economy wide, that means American drivers are saving around $190 million each day from lower gas prices.  And since gasoline prices affect the prices of other goods and services through transportation costs — food is a good example — both households that drive and households that don’t yield some benefit from lower gasoline prices.

Now, the decline in retail gas price is not a daily blip.  The chart behind me shows that gasoline prices have declined every single day for the past 34 days.  Just yesterday, we witnessed the largest single-day decline in national gas prices since 2008.

As we all know, in contrast to the, quote, “law of one price” they teach in Econ 101, gas prices vary from place to place.  But according to an industry analyst, around 20,000 gas stations across over 30 states are now charging less than $4 per gallon.

Now, we know this is a volatile market; that’s one reason we’re highlighting a trend here and not a blip.  But if you look at the about $20 decline in the price of oil since early June, as well as the drop in — that’s on the next chart — as well as the drop in the wholesale gas price, we think it’s reasonable to expect more gas stations to lower their prices in response to lower input costs and thus, barring unforeseen market disruptions, to see average prices fall below $4 per gallon in more places in coming weeks.

While there’s a lot that goes into setting the global oil and gas price, the historic actions taken by President Biden to address the impact of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine have helped and continue to help to increase the global supply of oil and therefore are in the mix of factors driving down the price.

Because the President’s announcement on releasing 180 million barrels from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve and another 60 million from our global partners was back in March, I suspect there are people who forget about this critically important intervention in energy markets.  But this action is very much in play in today’s market, currently releasing a record 1 million barrels of oil per day on average and 84 million barrels so far.

These releases have had an outsized effect at a time when the market is especially tight.  In fact, as one leading oil market analyst put it, quote, “The U.S. has become the world’s oil barrel of last resort, single handedly keeping prices in the energy market from exploding even higher by selling a large chunk of its Strategic Petroleum Reserve.”  End quote. 

Two further points before I take — we take your questions.

As gas prices are coming down, our labor market, which is where working-age families get most of their income, remains historically very strong.  Job gains continue to come in at historically high levels.  Private sector employment has surpassed its prior peak.  And the jobless rate has been at 3.6 percent — just about its pre-pandemic level — for four months in a row.

As someone who has carefully tracked labor market recoveries for decades, I assure you that this one is already in the record books for the speed of its recovery.  And there’s no question that the American Rescue Plan, with its shots in arms and checks in pockets, helped to achieve that goal.

Finally, while the lower gas price creates some much-needed breathing room, American households need a lot more.  Congress has enormous opportunities to help by continuing progress on both prescription drug costs, the cost of health coverage, and long-term growth with CHIPS Act.

I cannot overemphasize the importance, at this moment in our economic expansion, for taking action on these crucial supports for family budgets and for long-term growth and economic security.

Thank you.  And Karine will call on folks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Okay.  Go ahead, Jeff.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Jared, is the administration preparing for a recession?  And how do you react to companies, like Apple, and banks saying today that they intend to slow hiring because the economy is slowing?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  So let me tell you a little bit about the way the National Bureau of Economic Research Business Cycle Dating Committee — that’s the group that decides recessions — makes their call.

They weigh a couple of variables pretty heavily, and one of them is payroll employment.  Now, based on payroll employment — which, by the way, of course, relates to the unemployment rate, 3.6 percent — an historically very low unemployment rate for the past four months — those kinds of statistics are anything but recessionary.

Now, that’s very much a look at the job market today.

Slightly more forward-looking is: If you look at consumers — and, by the way, the bank reports, I thought, had this in their earnings reports — they talked about the strength of the American consumer.  If you look at retail sales from just last week, you’ll see American consumers still helping to fuel an economy that’s delivering really remarkable job gains.

So I think — and, by the way, that in itself relates to something I kind of referenced in my opening comments: the fact that not only do people have the benefit of an historically strong job market behind them, a real tailwind in this economy, many also still have excess savings; this is one of the things that’s helping to fuel consumer spending, which, again, is 70 percent of our economy.

So I think if you look at the strength of the current economy, if you look at the strength of the labor market, if you look at the strength of consumer spending, you would conclude that where we are right now remains solidly within expansion.

Q    Okay.  And just one follow-up to that.  I’m sure we all remember, a year ago, other colleagues of yours stood here and said inflation was transitory and was not going to last, and it was certainly not going to go up to where we are now.  Do you think it’s possible in a couple of months you might regret standing here and saying we’re not about to be in a recession?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Well, I want to be very clear what I’m saying.  What I’m saying is that based on — based on consumer spending, based on payroll employment, based on where the unemployment rate is, I think we can confidently say that these numbers that we’re posting are very much inconsistent with a recessionary call, given where we are right now.

I think that is the most accurate way to assess the answer to that question.

When it comes to transitory, I think the answer there is that we were careful, when we were talking about that, to consistently reference the forecasts that were out there, the view on inflation’s trajectory by not only pretty much every forecaster we could find, but of course, the Federal Reserve as well.

And so this was a period where we, you know, hadn’t seen new variants of the — of the virus; where the war in Ukraine, of course, was not yet a reality.

So I think that if you look at the — look at the general trajectory of where the forecasts were pointing in there, that was generally the way in which we tried to talk about that.  And I think that’s — that’s worth going back and seeing.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, MJ.

Q    Jared, Senator Manchin said that he is a no-go on the climate deal because he has concerns about inflation.  Is there a scenario where you all try to wait for better inflation news and then try again on that front?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Well, let me just start by saying, you know, “better inflation news,” I mean, that’s a — again, getting into a level of forecasting that I’m not going to do in this period of uncertainty.

What I can very much assure you, though, is that the price of gas is considerably lower in July than it was in June, and this is something the President referenced when the June CPI report came out.

We’re talking about, as I mentioned in my opening comments, a situation where the price of gas is falling at about the fastest rate it has in a decade and where more than 20,000 gas stations now are selling gas for less than $4 a gallon.  That will show up as some easing of prices.  

I think when it comes to reconciliation, the President has a view that was very clearly laid out in a statement last Friday: He will always follow a legislative path to get the deal done for the American people to deliver the kind of relief, both near term and long term, that he came here to administer.  But if — if that — if part of that legislative path to reconciliation closes, we have other options.

We can certainly pursue reconciliation with two critically important policies — lowering the cost of prescription drugs and lowering the cost of health insurance premiums to folks who get that from the — from the exchanges.

Particularly on the — those are both really important.  Let me say a couple of words about them.

When you’re talking about the exchanges, you’re talking about 13 million people who are looking at a potential increase in their average premiums of $800 a year.

Now, the Center on Budget, where I used to work, did a calculation showing that for a couple 60 years old with $45,000 — so not rolling in dough, exactly — failing to extend these enhanced premiums would raise their premium costs by $1,900. 

Now let’s talk about prescription drugs for a second.  Presidents from both parties have long tried to accomplish this critically important measure to stop prohibiting Medicare from competing in — in the market to lower drug prices for our seniors.

Now, I think you have to ask yourself why it is that in other countries people pay two to three times less than we do for the same drugs.  The same pill costs two to three times more here than it does there.

The relief that we could deliver to our seniors, from allowing — allowing prescription drugs to compete, as the President has stressed, is not just essential for their living standards and their wellbeing; it is a way to actually ease inflationary pressures.

So this is a very clear choice of whether you stand with Big Pharma or whether you stand with American seniors and the Medicare program — which, by the way, would be $100 billion better off over 10 years if we can achieve this in reconciliation.

Now, the Democrats appear to be aligned on that.  And that — that, along with the — with the premium coverage, would be an absolutely huge win for reconciliation.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Ashley.

Q    Thank you.  Following up on Jeff’s question about transitory inflation, I’m curious what made the White House realize that the phrase was inaccurate and also politically problematic.

MR. BERNSTEIN:  I think it has to do with the — I’m going to use an economics word — the periodicity, which is —

Q    The what?  (Laughter.)

MR. BERNSTEIN:  I’m — see, this is — this is why you do a better job than I do.

I think it has to do with the ambiguity about the length of that word is what it has to do with.  I think it has to do with the ambiguity about the length of that word.

Some people hear “transitory,” and they’re going to think weeks and months.  Others hear “transitory” — particularly, probably, economists who are used to the broader ups and downs of cycles — and think longer periods.

And I think the lack of specificity about the cadence that was implied by that word — the temporal cadence implied by that word — led to a level of ambiguity that wasn’t serving the debate very well.

Q    And what about just the second part about “politically problematic”?  Was that something you were hearing from voters, seeing show up in polls that that language was hurting the President (inaudible)?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  I think that when it comes to, you know, politically problematic, you’ve heard the President say in recent days that this is — that the inflation is unacceptably high and that bringing it down is his absolute number one domestic priority.  And I think that that is all you need to know in terms of what he is dispatching his economics team to do in that front.

Now, I also think — and let’s not lose this, because I think it’s really important, and this is why I tried to focus in on my comments at the top — is that his actions — this is — this is not just forward-looking; it is, but it’s not just forward-looking.  Actions he has taken thus far are providing real relief to the American people, okay?

His release of oil from the Strategic Reserves, his increase in E15 ethanol — these are not the only reasons that the price is behaving as you saw in those charts, but they are in the mix.

The President’s actions taken thus far are helping to provide real relief, real breathing room for the American consumers at the pump.

So this is not just an aspirational goal of this President.  This is something he and his team are actively working on.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  In the back.

Q    Thank you, sir.  I have two questions.  The first quick one is — I guess, does the council have an estimate for how much the administration’s regulatory changes have combatted or contributed to regulation — to inflation thus far?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  I think, in many ways, we’ve been talking about a lot of that already.  I mean, I just mentioned the E15 ethanol waiver, so that’s a waiver that helps increase the supply of gas — gasoline, particularly in the Midwest.

I think, certainly, if you broaden, sort of, the regulatory scope to consider executive actions and rule changes, you see a lot more.  I mentioned the Strategic Reserve release.

We’ve talked — we haven’t talked about this yet, but the President has made real progress in helping to ameliorate food price pressures through issues that include double cropping, taking action on fertilizer prices, ocean shipping.

So all of these are actions that he’s taken.  In some cases, they’ve involved legislation, but in many cases they haven’t.

Q    And then my second question: Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of President Biden insisting that high prices and inflation, in the President’s words, were “expected to be temporary.”  A lot of my colleagues have asked similar questions, but I’m wondering how much faith can the American public put in future White House assessments about the economy, about inflation after they saw that inflation number increase month after month, and before the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Well, let me say two things.  First of all, I tried to answer as fulsomely as I could, some of that — part of that question earlier.  But let me ask you to focus on what we’re trying to talk about today, which is something that is happening in the here and now.

The chart is not up, but that first chart, which we can certainly make available to you, that shows we’re not talking about looking around any corner here.  We’re talking about what has happened in the past 34 days to prices at the pump.  They’ve fallen 50 cents, and you heard me go through some of the numbers in terms of the relief for American drivers.

At the same time, we are not stopping there.  Okay?  This is nothing close to a victory lap, because we have much more to do to achieve the President’s agenda of helping families get some breathing room in this tough environment, which is characterized by, of course, such highly elevated prices.

Now, if you can help people with prescription drugs, drugs that cost two or three times less in other countries for the same pill; if you can help a 60-year-old couple with a $45,000 income not have to pay another $1,900 to get their insurance coverage, you are accomplishing the President’s goals.

Now, to do that, we need Congress to align and work with us.  And, you know, Democrats — many Democrats are there when it comes to prescription drugs.

This is something that President Trump said he wanted to achieve.  And, you know, he didn’t get there.  This President is pushing hard to achieve that goal.

One last point on this.  I’ve talked about mostly near-term relief, because that’s so important for families who are seeking a little bit of breathing room right now.  But there’s another piece of legislation on the docket.  And that, of course, is CHIPS.  And this is something that has had real bipartisan support.  I believe it got — I believe an earlier version got 68 votes in the Senate.

I think it is absolutely and critically important for this nation to invest in domestic production of microprocessors.  Again, not only would this be a criti- — not only would this be a highly favorable investment for growth and for jobs, it would be disinflationary, because one of the areas where we see inflationary pressures is, of course, in autos, which now very much depend on chips.

To be clear, that’s not a near-term intervention.  That’s not going to show up, you know, in the next couple of months.  But longer term, absolutely.  Supply chain, same thing.

Q    Aren’t you having it both ways, Jared?  Because when the gas prices go up, it’s got nothing to do with the President; when we see some decline, you want him to get the credit.

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Look, I think that — that there’s — there’s no both-way thinking here at all.  I think that there has been a consistent, I think, pressure on this White House to try to do everything it could to ameliorate inflationary pressures.  And the President has reacted from the beginning, talking about how this was such an important priority to alleviate these pressures on behalf of the American people. 

So what did he do?  He put his head down and got to work, and got us to work, to do everything we could to achieve that goal.

He then presided over the largest historical release of barrels of oil from the Strategic Reserve — 180 million barrels.  Then he talked to global partners to get them to kick in another 60 million.

Q    So when they rose, it was Putin’s fault.  When they’re coming down, he gets the credit.  Is that (inaudible)?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Yeah, I very much disagree with that framing.  I think what’s happening here is a President who is working tirelessly to address the largest constraint — probably the toughest constraint — facing American households right now: the budgetary impacts of these elevated prices.  And we’re showing you here today some real results, partially — that partially derived from concrete efforts he’s taken.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Go ahead, Eugene.

Q    With the different economic data releases we’ve seen, they aren’t really consistent with each other.  So, out of all of the choices of indicators, what does the administration see as the most important indicators for how the economy is doing?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  That’s a great question.  So, there is no most important indicator at the CEA.

Q    A group of indicators then.

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Yeah, a group of them.  So, at the CEA, we — we just — we just look at all of them.

And I think where I would take your question is that — we don’t give all of them — it’s sort of like I was talking to this gentleman before about the different weights that economists put on these variables when we’re trying to assess the conditions of the business cycle. 

I think this is particularly relevant in the area of GDP. So, in terms of real GDP, if you look at consumer spending and business investment, you actually see some very solid numbers. And these are some of the numbers — and particularly consumer spending — retail sales, consumer spending, personal income, taking out transfers — these are some of the measures that the Business Cycle Dating Committee look at, and so we’re looking at them too.

And if you get under the hood of the GDP report from the Q1 — and we’ll probably be — and we’ll certainly be getting under that same hood in Q2 — one of the things you see is consistently strong consumer spending.

Now consumer spending is 70 percent of our economy.  That’s actually uniquely high.  In Europe, it’s about 55.  In China, it’s about 45.  So, you know, I could tell you stories about my family and some of the orders that I’ve seen come in from our own consumer preferences.  They’re — (laughter) — this is a very —

Q    Please do.  (Laughter.) 

MR. BERNSTEIN:  This is a — I won’t.  I’m — this is a very acquisitive nation —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)

MR. BERNSTEIN:  — when you compare our consumer spending shares to other countries.

So, when you’re looking at an economy with a 70 percent consumer spending share, and then you look at a labor market, which is, of course, as I said in my comments — which is, of course, where most working people get their income; it’s from the labor market — and you look at the level of elevated savings, which, again, has the fingerprints of the Rescue Plan on it, you get a sense of what we’re looking at in terms of economic indicators that continue to fuel pretty robust consumer spending.

And that’s a — that’s an important, I think, element of the current economy.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Let’s take a few more.  Go ahead.

Q    So, a quick one on student loan debt and cancellation.  Does the White House believe — does the White House have any concern that canceling any amount of student loan debt will further aggravate inflation?  And what kind of a status update can you give us on the President’s deliberations on that?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  I’m not going to get ahead of the President and give you any kind of a status update.

What I will say are things that, you know, I myself have said and NEC Director Brian Deese has said — that if you think about the inflationary implications of student debt relief and you think about the — those of restart — restarting payments — they push in different directions.  And we think that the — we think, broadly speaking, that the — those effects would essentially neutralize.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nancy.

Q    Thanks, Jared.  You said over the weekend that the President is going to look to enact his climate agenda with or without Congress.  But realistically, how much of it can he enact without Congress, especially now that the Supreme Court has tied his hands to some degree when it comes to emissions regulations at the EPA?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  I think, realistically, there is a lot he can do and there is a lot he will do.  The President will aggressively fight to attack climate change because he knows it’s one of the reasons he’s here.  And it is absolutely core to transitioning from where we are to where we need to be.

Now, I think I’ve given you a fulsome sense today of — that both of the sides of that transition are important: affordability at the pump, yes, but we also have to plot a path to clean energy.

I said over the weekend that it’s kind of unfathomable to me that — that one wouldn’t appreciate this urgency.  If you look at the costs to our economy of floods, of droughts, of fires; if you look at the global economy and you see the kinds of heat waves that are occurring right now, scientists will tell you all day that this very much relates to global warming.  You’re talking about something like 100, 120 billion dollars a year in costs to our economy.

If you think about the geopolitical costs occurring when a Russian plutocrat weaponizes energy and fossil fuels and funds this unjust aggression against Ukraine with it, you get another sense of just how important it is to intervene.  And this all comes from conversations we’ve had with the President.  That’s how urgent this is.

Now, you asked what can he do.  Let me start by telling you a little bit about what he has done.  He has taken unprecedented action already to tackle the climate crisis.  He’s invoked the — and this is non-legislative — he’s invoked the Defense Production Act to make more clean energy in America.  He’s jumped-started the offshore wind industry.  He has set the strongest emissions standards ever.  And it is our firm belief that he can and will continue to do so if the legislative path is closed to him.  But he will also pursue that path as well.  And this is how important and urgent it is to him.

Q    So then why do you think that — you know, you just laid out the costs of inaction.


Q    Clearly, Senator Manchin believed that the cost of action was too high in the face of high inflation.  Why do you think you weren’t able to convince him that the cost of doing nothing would be higher?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  You know, I’m just — I just don’t have a great answer to that question.  I mean, I think what we can do — and, you know, I hope I’ve been a little bit convincing here in my conversation, but, you know, I’ve worked for Joe Biden for a long time, and I’ve found him to be profoundly convincing in this area. 

And, you know, he’s someone who’s been in the Senate for decades, so it’s not like he grew up in a world where climate change and global warming were, you know, the top of the agenda.  But his understanding of that, his deep appreciation of the urgency of what I’ve just described of you is — is as high as I’ve been stressing in my comments today.

So, I find — you know, I, personally, and I think lots of other people — there were 81 million people who voted for him — find him extremely convincing on this.  And when he says — you know, when “Fightin’ Joe Biden” says he’s going to keep fighting for this issue, you know, I think we should all believe him.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Two more.  Go ahead, Franco.

Q    Hey.  Thanks, Jared.  You talked earlier about the importance of the prescription drugs efforts, but you also kind of took a sigh of deep breath when asking the inability to convince Manchin on climate change.  I mean, how — or how is the reduced or the smaller reconciliation package — I mean, does the White House feel that’s a defeat?  And if not, how not so?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Not even close.  I mean, the — accomplishing the prescription drug agenda that the President has been talking about and underscoring since before the campaign — I was his chief economist when he was the Vice President lo these many years ago, and he was talking about the importance of it back then.

I remember briefing him on these points about how prescription drugs are two to three times more expensive here; how we could save Medicare $100 billion over 10 years by injecting competition into — into this — into this space.  That just resonated with him, I think, probably ever since he’s been aware of the issue.  And achieving that would be an absolutely landmark goal not just on behalf of American seniors and their living standards, but on behalf of this absolutely essential and much-loved program called Medicare.

Q    But considering where the original proposal was, I mean —

MR. BERNSTEIN:  So, let me — I see where you’re going.  So, considering where the original proposal was, I want to refer you to the comments I just made. 

Sure, we will — this President will always try to pursue a legislative pla- — path to get the best deal for the people who sent him up here to do just that.

But if that path closes, he will find another path.  And he’ll keep working on the legislative path.

Joe Biden is someone who’s been pulling legislative rabbits out of hats for, you know, 30 — for three or four decades now, and he’s going to continue to do so. 

So, whatever paths are open to — whatever paths are open to us, we will take.  When those paths are closed, we’re going to find other paths.  That’s how important this agenda is.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jim.  And then Kelly O, you’ll have the last one.

Q    Back to reconciliation.  Obviously, one of the parts of the President’s agenda had been a global tax deal that this administration has led the world in sealing.  But now, because of the dropped tax provisions in reconciliation, the United States will not be in compliance with the deal that it negotiated essentially.  How can you possibly expect the rest of the world to follow along if the U.S. is not going to actually be in compliance with the deal?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  So, let me say a few things about that, kind of warming up to the answer, because I want to just give a little bit of a runway.  First of all, I do want to give — I do want to give a real shout-out to Secretary Yellen, who’s worked very hard in this space and has accomplished a lot in terms of working with our global partners.

And I think one of the things you got when Joe Biden came to the White House is a President who was going to reengage with global partners in a way that delivered the progress we’ve made thus far.

I also want to say something about this idea that has come up in some recent discussions that somehow increasing taxes leads to higher inflation.  It’s hard for me to even put the phrase together because I think it’s — it’s really — it’s really the other way.

When you — when you increase taxes, particularly on those the most — particularly on those at the highest incomes — so you’re not talking about people who are liquidity constrained for whom inflation is nearly the problem that it is for middle- or lower-income people.  When you’re talking about tax increases for those at the top of the income scale, this is deficit reducing, and reducing the deficit is disinflationary, not inflationary.

By the way, just a side note here — I was just looking at some of these numbers in my preparation for the shows I did yesterday: The budget deficit has come down 77 percent in this fiscal year, in the nine months of this fiscal year, from October 21 through June 22.  That’s the largest decline on record over that part of a fiscal year.  And I know some people say, “Well, that’s all just spending coming off of the Rescue Plan.”  In fact, spending is down — spending is down eigh- — I think I have these numbers right.  Yeah.  Spending is down 18 percent.  Receipts — tax receipts are up 26 percent. 

I’ll put these later out on my blog today, @EconJared46.  (Laughter.)  I’m going to put these out, so I have these I — I’m pretty sure I’m remembering them correctly.  So —

Q    About the global tax deal?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Yeah, I’ll get back to that in a second.

Q    Okay.

MR. BERNSTEIN:  So, deficit reduction — deficit reduction is disinflationary, and tax increases, you know, fit into that.

Now, in terms of the global tax deal, there’s a lot of moving parts going on with that right now, Jim.  The President remains fully committed to this; the Treasury Secretary fully committed to this.  We have a staff that’s worked on this intensely for month after month after month.  And it is — it is — any rumors of its demise are hugely premature.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, Kelly O, last question.

Q    I have one quick follow-up and then one question.  On the issue, right off the bat, that Jeff asked about — preparing for a recession: Understanding that you made it clear that you don’t see those factors, how important is it for you to give the President guidance on what could trigger a recession so that he can take action?

And then secondly, what have you learned from your national security colleagues about what came out of Saudi Arabia and how that might affect gas prices and your expectations on what OPEC and others might do in a few weeks?  “In a few weeks” is what the President had said.

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Let me start with the second part of your question.  We saw Saudi Arabia say it would work to increase its capacity for oil production.  And I’d refer you to them for more information on that.

Remember, they’re a key member, of course, of the OPEC cartel.  And as the President said, we welcomed their decision — OPEC’s decision — to increase production by 50 percent above what was planned for July and August.  So that’s already in the mix.

Now, in terms of keeping the President abreast of these issues, one of the things we do at CEA — I don’t know how — this is one of the ways we spend a lot of our time, and I suspect folks know about it, but just so you know — is that every economic report that we get, we write up and we put it in the President’s book: industrial production, GDP, jobs, inflation, every — retail sales.  We, and particularly Chair Cecilia Rouse of the CEA, are in very close contact with the President and senior staff, always updating him on economic conditions.  So there’s nothing I’ve told you today that he doesn’t know.

Q    And so in terms of his preparation for the potential of a recession, he’s getting advised on that on a day-to-day basis?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  He is getting full information, just as I hope I’ve given you today, on current economic conditions and anything we can see around the corner.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Thank you so much, Jared.

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you for your time.

MR. BERNSTEIN:  My pleasure.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We kept you long.  Thank you.

All right.  Come back any time.

MR. BERNSTEIN:  (Laughs.)  My pleasure.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  I forgot —

Q    He’d be a good Scrabble partner.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Right?  I agree.  I agree. 

And welcome back to everyone who traveled with us to the Middle East.

Okay, I have one thing at the top, and then we’ll get going.

So I want to call out a few reports from over the weekend that illustrate exactly what we are talking about when we say the impacts of the Court’s decisions are devastating, extreme, and threaten — and threaten women’s lives.  This is the Court decisions on Dobbs that came down almost three weeks ago.

These reports also pull back the curtain on what some elected Republicans officials are trying to do by taking away your rights, taking away freedoms, and taking away privacy.

First, before Texas’s extreme abortion law took effect, it was reported that one woman there received a standard procedure for a first trimester miscarriage.  But after the extreme law, it was reported that when she had another first trimester miscarriage, the same hospital wouldn’t perform the same standard procedure.  Instead, they sent her home.  They told her to return to the hospital only if her bleeding was so excessive it filled a diaper more than once an hour.

This is outrageous.

Now, another report we’re hearing: Republicans in Congress — more than 100 of whom have already said they’re in favor of a natio- — of a nationwide abortion ban — are being urged by extremist groups to focus on instituting such a ban at the federal level.

So I want to repeat that again: a ban at the federal level, not just state by state.

So this would criminalize doctors and other healthcare providers who provide abortions in every state across the country.  It’s becoming clearer by the day that congressional Republicans want to strip away rights, starting with a nationwide abortion ban and moving on to marriage equality and contraception.

With that, I welcome you to your first time in the AP seat, right?

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, Seung Min, go ahead.

Q    A couple quick questions on the Saudi trip.  And I’m wondering if the President believes that the trip was a success and worth the criticism that he faced domestically. 

And also, following up a little bit on Kelly’s question, when precisely will Americans start to see tangible benefits coming from the trip?  Is it the next OPEC+ meeting?  The President did seem to indicate something in the coming weeks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So just going back — starting with your last question first — and Jared basically touched on this, which is: We have to remember, in early — in early June, OPEC+, which is — Saudi Arabia clearly chairs OPEC+ — made that announcement that we welcomed about increasing their production 50 percent in July and August.

The conversations that the President had in Saudi Arabia, in the bilateral meeting — that he actually read out, as you all know, in a press conference that same Friday in Jeddah — they talked about energy securities.  And Jake Sullivan actually said this as well, is that we measure — we will measure success in the — in the next couple of — next couple of weeks.  We anticipate to be an increase of production.  But again, it’s going to take the next couple of weeks.  And that will be up to OPEC+.

Q    And also, the President has talked, obviously, a lot about his support for a free and independent media, and so I’m wondering why the U.S. press did not get access to that greeting between President Biden and the Crown Prince and we had to rely on Saudi state media for the images of that fist bump.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, first — first thing, because I do want to touch — you asked me another question about what we believe got done.  So let me just read off a couple of things there.  And I’ll get to your — your most recent question there. 

So, just so that folks know: Saudi Arabia announced it will open Saudi airspace for flights to and from Israel — a historic decision that will pave the way for a more integrated, stable, and secure Middle East.

As you know, when Jake Sullivan and I gaggled on the plane when the President flew from Israel to — to Saudi Arabia, that was a historic flight.  So just want to make sure that we — we acknowledge that.

The GCC+3 pledged billions to address food — food security resulting from Putin’s war against Ukraine.

Saudi Arabia committed to support global oil market balancing for suspended economic growth.  This is what you were just asking me about.  The United States has welcomed the OPEC+ decision to increase production by 50 percent.

On the climate crisis, which is also part of the agenda, we’re collecting invest- — collectively investing hundreds of billions of dollars in clean energy initiatives, increasing our climate ambition and working together to diversify supply chains and invest in critical infrastructure.

And we’re doing everything possible to extend and strengthen the U.N.-medic- — -mediated truce in Yemen, which is the first one in seven years, where 70,000 Americans work and live.  And so, again, we’re seeing the longest peace in that — there in Yemen in some time.

To your — to your first question: Look, we — as you know, we tried ev- — we do everything that we possibly can when we go to a host country to make sure that you all have access, that there is transparency, which is why you heard from the President directly and he held a press conference that Friday in Jeddah, as I just mentioned, so that he can read out himself what — what occurred in the bilat.  And also, you all were able to ask questions.

Sometimes it is not perfect; we understand that.  But we want you to know we do everything that we can to make sure that you all have access.  We did that with the bilat, by having a pool spray at the top, and other — other — other meetings as well.

So we — we do our best.  We want to make sure, again, that you guys hear from the President directly, you get to see what is occurring in some of the — some of these meetings that are happening.  And we will continue to make sure that we make that a priority as we — as we continue to do our travels.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Does the President — now that he’s back from — from Saudi Arabia, does the President still believe that Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince should be considered a pariah, or did this trip change his view about that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you heard from the President again on Friday, he made very clear that how he — that he made his views very clear to the Crown Prince on that during their bilat meeting.  And he even said it would be inconsistent — right? — for a President of the United States not to speak of our values, not to — not to talk about human rights.  And it would be inconsistent, to be quite frank, of Joe Biden not to do that. 

So he was very clear about where — about where he stood about Jamal Khashoggi’s death, murder.  He mentioned it from the start of their meeting.

And when it comes to — you know, his — his comments stand.  You know, they — he has — he has been pretty clear about that, about — about where he stands on the comments that he made during the campaign.

And look, I think one of the other things that I do want to be very clear about is, you know, if we’re going to talk about human rights, if we’re going to talk about our values, we believe — he believes it’s important to have that straightforward leader-to-leader conversation.

The President has talked about that many times, about how important it is to talk directly and frankly with leaders when it comes to our values, when it comes to issues like human rights.  And he will continue — he will continue to have those conversations.

Q    And yet the Saudis say that that conversation about Khashoggi never happened.  The foreign minister says he was there and he didn’t hear the President confront MBS in that way.  So are they lying about that?  And if so, does that indicate that, actually, they are not getting the message?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll say this: The President was asked this question and he spoke to it directly.  And I do believe that, you know, if — if anyone telling you differently about what the President said, they weren’t listening to the President himself when he was asked that question, when he spoke about how he brought up the death of Jamal Khashoggi.  So I’ll leave — I’ll leave it to what the President said when he was asked directly most recently about that.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  On the Uvalde school shooting, was the President briefed on the findings by the Texas state legislators investigating the law enforcement response, the report that was just released?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So he’s — he’s aware of the report.  I will say this: It is — it is devastating — the report.  It adds — and, frankly, unacceptable — the report that came out just, I believe, just yesterday.  You know, it adds on more questions to how law enforcements reacted, their role on that — on that day — on that tragic day.

As you all know, we’ve mentioned this before and you heard from the Department of Justice, they are doing their own review.  And so I will leave that — their own independent review of what — exactly what happened that day.  And so I will leave that to them on any further comments.

Q    And what was the President’s reaction when he was made aware of this? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I wasn’t there when he was made aware, but I do know that he is — he’s aware of the report.

Q    And on oil and gas prices, Jared Bernstein came out, seemed to highlight these prices being down.  But many industry analysts think that this could be just a temporary reprieve, that these prices could very well be going up again, maybe even in the fall.  Oil was trading above $100 today.  How concerned is the administration that oil and gas prices could be on the upswing again in the short term?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the President is going to continue to do everything that he can to make sure that the — the American public gets that — continues to get that little bit of relief.

Look, what we’re seeing here today, what we’re seeing in the last 34 days and that 50 cents — now we’re seeing 50 cents on average per gallon that has come down.  We see, in 30 states across the country, we see a gallon — we see gas at $3.99. 

Like — like Jared said, we’re not doing a victory lap, but this is important.  This is important to note that the work that we have done, the work that we will continue to do is going to give relief — $25 a month — to American families.

We’re talking about nurses.  We’re talking about teac- — teachers.  We’re talking about firefighters.  This is going to have a real impact on their lives.

And — and so, look, you know, what we’re looking at is what we’re seeing currently, what we’re seeing at this moment.   And I think it’s important to lift that up.

And again, the 1 million barrels a day from the Strategic Petroleum — a historic — historic action by the President; the 240 million barrels that the President was able to get leaders to do; the ethanol 15, which is the homegrown biofuels which helped lower gas prices across — in gas stations across the country — all of these actions are important.

Now, do we need to do more as we talk about inflation, as we talk about the elevated number that we’re — that we’re seeing in inflation?  Yes.  That’s why the President is going to continue to work with Congress to make sure that we’re lowering costs for the American families — like prescription drugs, for example.  And if we are able to do that, we are on the cusp, as Jared was saying, to making — to really winning against one of the wealthiest special interest groups, which is Big Pharma. 

All of these things are important to note.  And again, we’re just going to continue doing the work.  But also, we want to highlight what has occurred these past 34 days.

Go ahead, Jeff.

Q    Karine, what is the White House’s strategy now for engaging with Senator Manchin going forward?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as — as we like to say here, we’re not going to negotiate in public.  We — you know, the President and Senator Manchin have a very close relationship.  We will continue to have the conversations that we have been having with him for the past 18 months on a different — a variety of issues.  But again, not going to negotiate in public. 

But we do want to — want to lift up, you know, what we’re — what’s about to happen.  What we’re on the cusp of doing with the reconciliation bill is going to impact tens of millions of Americans lives.  And that matters as we’re looking at healthcare. 

When it comes to climate change, you saw the President’s statement just recently: If Senate doesn’t act on that and doesn’t take action on climate, he has a contingency plan, which is using his executive authority to make sure that we take — take on climate — climate change in a way that’s going to be effective.

I don’t have anything to read out to you on that particular action.  But again, we’re not going to negotiate from here, and we’re going to just continue to make sure that we deliver for the American public.

Q    Do you feel like Senator Manchin led the White House on with regard to climate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I’m not going to negotiate in public here.  I’m not going to lean in or give any — pull back the curtain on private conversations.

What we’re — we are prepared to act if need be, if Senate is not able to include the climate provisions that we have discussed.

But again, what we’re seeing right now with — with the reconciliation as it relates to Medicare and being able for Medicare to negotiate bringing down drug prices, that is an important step.  So, we’re going to continue to do the work.

Q    And when you say and the President says he’s prepared to act on climate, what’s the timeframe for that?  Do you wait until the fall?  Do you get started before that?  What’s the overall timeframe?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We don’t have a timeline for you at this point.  As you know, discussions, negotiations are currently happening.  And so we will see where the Senate lands.

Q    You spoke before the trip about advising the President about reducing contact due to COVID and the variants.  And we saw some fist bumping, but we also saw some embraces and some handshakes and so forth.  So just for record-keeping purposes, has the President had a negative test since he returned home?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So that’s a good question.  I would have to check with our team.  As you know, he gets regularly tested, as — as — you know, as the advice from his doctor.  So he has a regular cadence that his doctor decides on. 

We did provide, on — on the gaggle last week, I provided that he had tested negative on his — right before heading out to the Middle East.  And then we sent out a pool note, as — I believe as we were going to Saudi Arabia, because there were testing requirements, and he had tested negative then.

I will work to get that information for you. 

Q    If we could make certain of that —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Absolutely.

Q    — since we don’t see him in public today.

And the First Lady of Ukraine is coming and has scheduled for a visit with Dr. Biden.  Do you expect the President will drop in on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any more details to share with you.  I know she’s meeting with Secretary Blinken today.  She’s meeting — this is the First Lady of Ukraine — is also going to be meeting with Administrator Power.

Once we have more information on our side on what the schedule looks like this week and if that includes her, we will certainly share that.

Q    Karine, I —

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I’ll come to you after.

Q    Just following up on something — something the Vice President said today.  Does the President agree with her that the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion access is similar to slavery?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I have not seen her comments.  I would like to see her comments for myself before —

Q    The comment was, “We know, NAACP, that our country has a history of claiming ownership over human bodies.  And today, extremists, so-called leaders, are criminalizing doctors and punishing women from making healthcare decisions for themselves.”

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, she is correct: Today’s decisions are criminalizing doctors and essentially taking the rights away from women, taking the freedom away from women, really taking away people’s privacy.  That does matter, and that is important.

Q    And she’s invoking slavery.  So the President agrees?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, for me — I appreciate you reading out what she said — I need to actually see exactly what was — what was — what was said and in what — in what complete context.  That’s what I need to do as a spokesperson for the administration.

But I will say that second part of what you just said, the Vice President is actually right.  I just — I just — at the top, I just laid out what women are going through in this country because of an extreme decision that SCOTUS made.  Because of what they did, it is going to upend and change the lives of women across the country. 

And we have to be — we — now we have to be mindful about contraception, we have to be mindful about marriage equality, because they have made it really clear — extreme Republicans, ultra-MAGA Republicans have made it clear that that is what they’re going after next.  So that does matter.

Q    And then following up about this comment that the Saudis say did not happen but the President says did happen: Did you personally hear the President raise the issue of Khashoggi’s murder with MBS?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I trust the President.  He — he made those comments, as you heard directly from him, during — during the press conference.  And he said at the top of the meeting, he mentioned Jamal Khashoggi.

And so —

Q    But you did not hear him say that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just saying to you that the President himself — I was not in the meeting, to answer that question.  But the President himself said and laid out very clearly — and — and just to be clear, that press conference happened because he wanted to make sure that you all heard from him directly.  That was the President’s decision.  He wanted to make sure that he read out what occurred in the bilateral meeting with — with the Saudi — Saudi Arabia government.

Q    But — so, ultimately, we get back from this trip, there’s no new peace talks in the Middle East, there’s no new commitment to increase oil production in the Gulf.  So what was the point of this trip?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just read out earlier, Peter, of all of the things that had occurred that we — some of the do-outs or the — some of the things that we were able to get done during this trip.

Look, I want to — let’s step back for a second and talk about what the President was trying to do on this trip.  If you look at this region, the Middle East, it’s a critical region. The President — his intent was to make sure that there was not a vacuum in the region so that you didn’t have China and Russia stepping in trying to fill that vacuum.

And so it’s important for the United States to make sure that we’re having those conversations, direct leader-to-leader conversations, and that we — and that we talk about our national security, we talk about food security, we talk about climate change.  All are issues that are important to the American family.

And so as it relates to the oil production — I talked about and Jared talked about what OPEC — OPEC+ did early in June — we are confident that we will be able to measure how — the success of those conversations that the President had in the next several weeks.

Q    Why not insist on a commitment though?  He gets back with no commitment, and the price of oil per barrel shot up.  Is that what the President wanted, to go there and have the price of oil get more expensive?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let’s — so, again — but again, we have seen gas prices go down in the past 34 straight days — go down —

Q    Aren’t they still $2 a gallon higher than when you guys took office though?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  First of all, we have to look at the imp- — at how we got there, right?  You think about the war that Russia has taken on in Ukraine — an unmitigated war, a war that is brutal and that has had an effect on the price gases going up almost $2.  We have talked about that endlessly.  And also, we are also in a once-in-a-generation pandemic. 

So there are outside factors that has led to gas prices going up, to food prices going up, to inflation going up.  So that is really important.

What we have seen in the last 34 days is that gas prices have gone down by 50 — on average, by 50 cents a gallon.  That matters.  That matters to teachers, that matters to firefighters, that matters to nurses, that matters to everyday people.  And the President is going to continue to do the work to make sure the prices go down.

I’m going to go — I’m going to continue, Peter.  Thank you.

Actually, let me try and go to people I haven’t called on.  Go ahead, Jenny.

Q    Thanks.  Jared was just talking about the broader reconciliation bill, which would have increased taxes on the wealthy, and he said this is not something that he views as inflationary.  You know, you guys have talked about how this would reduce the deficit.

So with Senator Manchin saying his exact, you know, concern with doing a bill like this is inflation, does the White House regard that claim as credible?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’ll say this: We have heard from economic experts out there.  We have heard from even Jason Furman, folks who are critical of us who have said that — said the opposite: that the President’s plan on reconciliation will actually bring down inflation — an anti-inflation bill, if you will.

And if you look at — if you look at — when you bring down the deficit, as you all know, that actually will help inflation.

So, look, I’ll lead you to the expert.  I am not an economic expert.  But they have said themselves this is an anti-inflation bill and it will help — help with that fight and what we’re trying to do, which is our number one economic priority, the President’s number one economic priority, which is bring inflation down.

Q    So you don’t really see Senator Manchin’s claim that inflation is why he pumped the brakes on it as a credible claim?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I can’t — I am not a spokesperson for Senator Joe Manchin.  As you know, I am a spokesperson for the President of the United States.  And what I can tell you is what experts have said — economic experts have said.  And so that’s where I will send you.

Q    And one more on the CHIPS bill, which seems like actually it’s moving forward this week. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)

Q    So, congrats.  There’s a — there’s a provision that seems to be a little bit fluid on whether or not to prohibit certain investments if you take semiconductor subsidies in China.  Intel is one of the companies that is lobbying against this.  What’s the White House stance on this?  And do you have a message for Intel and companies like that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’ll say this: The CHIPS Act is intended to bolster American competitiveness and our own domestic supply chain security.  That’s why we continue to support strong guardrails, as you — as you’re alluding to there, Jenny, which also have bipartisan support in Congress, to make sure CHIPS incentives generate more semiconductor investment here in the U.S., not in China.  So — and guardrails help slow the growth of investment in China.  That is why such an important part of the bill — it is such an important part of the bill.  And — and we believe in strong guardrails.

Go ahead, Ken.  I said I would get back to you.

Q    Yeah.  Karine, on Ukraine, President Zelenskyy replaced his head of domestic intelligence and the prosecutor general.  He said during the weekend that hundreds of treason investigations have been opened on new employees of law enforcement agencies.  Is there any concern that Russia may be infiltrating Ukraine security networks and undermining the war effort?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I mean, I’ll say this: You know, we, per usual, don’t speak to any personnel arrangements or domestic politics.  That is not something that I will do from him here. But I’ll say this: For our part, we will continue to work with our partners in Ukraine to help them defend against Russian aggression and with the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office as they document the war crimes and atrocities that Russian forces in Ukraine are committing.  We also continue to support Ukraine’s ongoing anti-corruption reforms as well.

Q    And Senator Cruz, over the weekend, said on his podcast that the Supreme Court was clearly wrong in overreaching when it legalized same-sex marriage in 2015.  What is the White House view on that?  Is — does that raise a lot of concerns?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll — it should — it should raise concerns.  As we know from the Dobbs decision, one of the things that we saw from — from Judge Thompson [Justice Thomas] is that they’re looking to go further, whether it’s privacy, contraception, or marriage equality. 

Now, you know, you all know that this President has supported marriage equality for some time.  This is something that he believes in, and this is something that he will — he will continue to fight for.

I’m trying to call folks I haven’t called on.

Oh, go ahead.  Sorry.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Did the President urge Saudi Arabia to stop purchasing oil from Russia?  Because Saudi Arabia has actually doubled its Russian oil imports this quarter, which is, of course, helping Russia’s cash flow.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I — I don’t have anything to read out for you on that.  As you know, at the G7, one of the conversations that came up when the President was there recently in Europe, in Germany specifically, was how to put a cap on Russia — Russia oil.  That is a conversation that was started.  It is continuing on the staff level.  And that, as you know, will have an effect on — on the price of Russia’s oil.  And so, we’re continuing to have those discussions. 

Q    And you spoke earlier about the President’s contingency plan regarding taking executive actions on climate, but do you believe the President can still keep the commitments he made to world leaders on reducing emissions through executive actions if Congress fails to act?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we’re going to do everything that we can to make sure that we are taking action on climate — the climate crisis.  And so, again, the President has — I think Jared read this all — read this already, but just want to reiterate what he said: From day one, he fina- — the President finalized regulations to rapidly phase out super pollutants.  He jumpstarted the offshore industry.  And he set the strongest-ever emissions standard for cars and trucks. 

So this is something that is incredibly important to the President.  He thinks it is — it is urgent to act on the climate crisis, to take action.  And that’s why if Congress — Senate doesn’t act on the climate component of reconciliation, he’s ready to take executive — use his executive authority.

All right.  I’m going to see who I haven’t called on.  Go ahead.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Senator McConnell says President Biden planned to nominate Chad Meredith, an anti-abortion Federalist Society member for Kentucky District Judge position as a, quote, “personal friendship gesture.”  Why would the President do that when he’s vowed that DOJ will do everything in their power to protect women’s access to abortion?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So what I’ll say on that is that, as you heard from Rand Paul, he was not ready — he’s not — he’s not ready to move forward with the blue chip [slip] — is that process in the Senate.  And so we are not going to be nominating Chad Meredith.

Q    Was it initially a personal friendship gesture, as Senator McConnell said?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That part of — of your comment is not something that I’m aware of.  I’m just telling you where we are currently at this time.

Q    But generally speaking, why was the President planning to nominate Mr. Meredith in the first place, given that he has said that DOJ would do everything in its power to protect abortion access for women?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, that doesn’t — that doesn’t change anything.  DOJ is going to do everything in its power.  You heard directly from the President about that.  You heard — he signed an executive order on what DOJ is going to do and what — and formalizing what DOJ is going to do, and formalizing what HHS is going to do.

That is something that the President is in — is very much committed to.  And certainly, he’s not going to back away from that.  He wants to make sure that women’s rights are protected. Just talked about what could happen next, which is a national ban on abortion, which would be devastating for so many women across the country.  We talked about what else Republicans are thinking about doing when it comes to contraception, when it comes to privacy, when it comes to marriage equality. 

This is — this is a very serious time.  And we need to make sure that we are paying attention to what potentially could — could be happening next.  And so, again, I don’t have much more to add on your question.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Is the administration in touch with the authorities in Ghana?  I know the — Ghana declared today their first — their first-ever outbreak of Marburg virus disease.  Is the White House in touch with them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that last part.  The what disease?

Q    Marburg.  It’s called Marburg —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Mar- — okay, let me —

Q    — virus disease.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, let me go back to the team and get more info on — for you on that.

Q    And then, what’s your strategy in reassuring the international community that, yes, the President met with the killer of Saudi Arabia but the U.S. remain committed in human right?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I — so this is what I said earlier to someone who asked me: The President be- — the President believes that it is important — as we are talking about human rights, as we are talking about American values, it is important to have those frank and direct conversations with leaders and be very, very clear on where we stand as a country.

This is what the President — you heard directly from him when he held a press conference in Jeddah, as I’ve stated many times at this point today, this afternoon.  He made that very clear.  He spoke directly, he spoke firmly, and that is a convers- — a continuing conversation that he is going to have.

Human rights issues come up frequently when he is meeting leader-to-leader.  That will not stop.  That will not end.  And this is something that the President has been committed to for — for his entire career.

Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just picking up on climate, you mentioned that there’s no timeline on the administration taking action.  But does the administration have an executive order or executive plans ready?  Or is — does there need to be a process to consult, to plan?  I mean, how far along are you in the process?  I mean, how have you been preparing for the contingency?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have a timeline for you at this time, is what I was trying to say.  Look, I’m not going to comment on any specific action.  I don’t want to get ahead of the process — of the policy process, and certainly don’t want to get ahead of the President.

But what I — the point that we are trying to make here is that he is committed to taking action on climate — on climate change, on clim- — taking action on climate.

But right now, I just don’t have anything to share at this point.

Q    But is there anything you can share on what — how has the administration been in the process of preparing for this type of contingency?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m — I’m not getting ahead of the policy process.

Q    Okay.  One more.  Can you just say when the President will announce his decision on China tariffs?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I — we — I don’t have anything more to read out for you on China tariffs.

Look, the way that it was handled by the last administration was — was — you know, they — it got — it was bungled.  If you — if you — if I’m going to be really, you know, honest here, it was not done in an effective way.  China has not done their part.  And so, the President wants to make sure that — that his team is looking at every option, is looking at exactly how to move forward.

We just don’t have an announcement to share or anything to preview at this time.

Go ahead.  Go ahead. 

Q    Just to go back to Senator Manchin and the energy provisions, he said on the radio, on Friday, that he didn’t tell Senator Schumer that he was out on the energy and climate provisions, just that he wanted to see another month of inflation data.  So if it’s such a crisis that the President is bent on dealing with — the climate crisis — why not wait another month to see what the inflation data, which the administration thinks will be better, look like and see if you can get Senator Manchin on board for legislation?  Is the President effectively saying he doesn’t believe that the odds are good of that happening if he waited an extra month?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   Well right now the Senate is still hav- — are still in talks; they’re still negotiating.  And so the President has put — put forth a contingency plan.  If that climate change provision that we have been discussing is not in that Senate reconciliation plan, he will act. 

But right now, we’re — we’re letting the negotiations happen.  We’re letting that process continue.  Again, we don’t negotiate in public.

But again, what we’re trying to say here is the President is — is ready to act when — if needed.

Q    Well, because in his statement he said he wants a bill by August, which would seem to rule out waiting for Senator Manchin.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, look, the process is still — is still happening.  I’m not — I’m not going to get ahead of the President.  It — we are — what is today?  July — I don’t even know.  July 18th?  (Laughs.)  And so, let — we’re going to let — let the Senate work on the reconc- — reconciliation bill, let them have the — the conversations and negotiations.  I’m just not going to get ahead of that at this time.

Okay.  Go ahead, Ashley.

Q    Asking sort of the flip side of Jim’s question, I’m curious: Was there anything Senator Manchin ever conveyed to the White House that gave you guys any reason to believe that a West Virginia Democrat, in a state that Trump won by almost 40 points, who’s accepted millions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry would ever support any sort of climate provision?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’m not going to comment on private conversations.  Again, that is not something that we do here.  We say this all the time.  I’m not going to comment on any back-and-forth that has occurred with Senator Manchin or any other congressional member.  We’re going to let the Senate continue to negotiate. 

When it comes to what we are seeing right now with the prescription drugs — I have said this; Jared said this — that is — that is — we’re on the cusp of a big win here, which is incredibly important for tens of millions of Americans, as we speak about Medicare and them being allowed to negotiate drug prices.

Q    So just following up briefly: More broadly, I mean, do you have any reason to believe that you didn’t waste your time trying to get Senator Manchin on board for any sort of climate, you know, legislation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to get into private conversations.

Okay.  All right, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  I would like to ask about Moscow using energy as a weapon in Europe.  There is a growing fear that Russia will not restore natural gas deliveries to Europe after its ongoing annual maintenance of Nord Stream 1, which could lead to a serious crisis in Europe, to gas rati- — rationing.  How concerned is the President that it may weaken Europe’s resolve?  And what the U.S. is doing to help?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So a couple of things.  I just want to lay this down, because it’s an important question that we want to address.

So following, as you know, the further invasion of Ukraine, Russia continues to use natural — natural gas as a political and economic weapon, as you’re — as you’re stating, Merrick. 

Russia’s energy corrosion has put pressure on energy markets, raised prices for consumers, and threatened global energy security.

These actions only underscore the importance of the work both the United States and the European Commission are doing to end our reliance on Russian energy.

President Biden formed a task force, as you all know — we’ve announced that here — on European energy security with EU President von der Leyen.  The task force has met regularly to discuss options to reduce Europe’s depen- — demand for natural gas.  It has also met with key stakeholders to promote the deployment of heat pumps, smart thermostats, and energy demand response solutions. 

So, we are also partnering to diversify energy supplies to Europe.  Since March, global LNG exports to Europe have — have risen by 75 percent compared to 2021, while the U.S. LNG exports to Europe have nearly tripled.  So, we continue to work with our European partners to reduce the dependence on energ- — of Europe on Russian energy, to be exact.

Q    Is that enough to help Europe to survive the winter?  Russia may at any point, anytime, cut gas — natural gas deliveries to Europe.  It’s real fear in Europe right now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, we understand that.  That’s why we created the task force, and the task force is going to do everything that we can to make sure that we deal that the depend- — that we deal with the dependence that Europe — European countries have on — on Russian oil.

Look, we have seen — I just laid out — we have seen some progress.  And so, we’re going to just kind of continue to work with our European partners.

Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  So, I’d like —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I was calling the gentleman in front.  Go ahead.

Q    On abortion: In two weeks, Kansas is going to vote — they’re going to be the first state to vote on the abortion issue.  How much stake is the administration putting on the result of that election, given the fact that, you know, they’re going to be (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I can’t speak directly to any specific elections.  Look, the President has made clear: When we — when we — when we talk about — when we talk about choice and we talk about where we are currently with abortion, when we talk about Republicans who are trying to make a national ban across the country, this is very serious, dangerous outcomes that could — that are — that we’re facing with.

And so the President has been very clear: To make sure that Americans get their voices heard and take it to the ballot box, that is the way that we’re going to see real change.  That is the way that we can use our political power.

He’s going to continue to say that but, at the same time, do everything that he can as — from his executive authority, to — to what he can with the federal government, to protect — to protect women.

Q    And then marriage came up earlier.  The House is expected to vote on the Protect Our Marriage Act, I think tomorrow.  How much work will the administration be doing to try and get that bill through the Senate where it’s going to face much more (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we support that act, and we — we applaud — we applaud Congress for moving forward.

As I mentioned earlier when I was just asked a question about marriage equality, this is — this is an issue that the President has been fighting for and speaking about for many, many years.  And so this is certainly something that we support.

Go ahead.

Q    One of my colleagues at Politico are reporting today that the ACLU obtained, and has since released, records publicly from DHS that show use of mobile location data harvested from apps on hundreds of millions of phones.  DHS was then able to use 336,000 location data points across North America.

This started under the Trump administration, and contracts have been renewed under the Biden administration, basically tracking — knowing where people are.

When it comes to what DHS does, the work that DHS does, does the President stand by using location data on this scale, especially in light of concerns of the use of phone data when it comes to period-tracking apps, which the administration has talked about quite a bit?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I have not seen this data, so I need to take a look at it so that I can respond in a way that’s — that’s fulsome and be able to answer your question.  I just haven’t seen that data.  But I refer you at — any more specifics on that — clearly, I’ll refer you to the Department of Homeland Security.

Q    But in general, does the administration — how does the administration feel about using location data on their —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Honestly, Eugene, I just need — in order for me to respond to your question, I just need to see exactly what you’re asking me about and what — and what the data is.  I can’t do that without knowing the specifics.

Q    And back to the firing of the Prosecutor General in Ukraine, how concerned is the administration, given how closely she’s been working with AG Garland?  And she was also replaced by someone who’s been credibly accused of corruption.  How concerned is the administration (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I’ll say this: Like I said, we don’t get involved and don’t comment on any political domes- — domestic politics that happens in another country.

We’re going to continue to work closely with Ukraine on their fight for democracy, on their fight against Russia’s aggression, and also their corruption reform.  As I just stated, we’ll work — we’ll continue to work with them on that.

Okay.  I’ll take one more question.  Let me — go ahead.

Q    Without congressional action on climate, does the White House, does the President see any viable path for reaching his goal of the U.S. cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that again.  I didn’t hear you.

Q    Without congressional action on climate, does the President see any viable path to reaching his goal of cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, again, negotiations are still happening, and so we leave that to Senate and see exactly what is — what the next — what the process is go- — where the process is going to land.

The President is, again, ready to act, ready to take executive authority — use his executive authority if — if that climate change provision is not included in the reconciliation bill.

I’m not going to get into specifics or get into hypotheticals at this time, but we’re going to continue — again, to just let the Senate work.

I’m — MJ, I know you had a question.  I’m going to let you go ahead and ask a question.

Q    I —

Q    Does he think that goal can be reached just using executive authority?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals.  Let’s see where negotiations go.  The President — as you know, as we have said — he is committed to taking on — taking on climate change.  He thinks that it is urgent to do that; there’s an urgent matter to do that now.  And — and so we’re going to — we’re going to let the negotiations continue.  Again, I’m not going to negotiate from public or speak to hypotheticals.

Go ahead, MJ.

Q    I have two quick questions.  First, on the baby formula: The recent data indicates that more than 20 percent of formula products are still out of stock.  Just wondering what the White House’s assessment is right now of why that is the case, particularly given that we’ve seen, you know, for weeks now, a ton of formula being flown into the country.  And does it have a sense of when things will actually start to normalize?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’ll say this: The federal government has worked in lockstep with private — private sector to ramp up domestic production and to increase the supply of safe infant formula, which we understand is incredibly critical for families across the country as they’re trying to make sure that they’re feeding their — their babies, their children, safe — safe baby formula. 

This is what this is all about — safety — and that’s our priority here, but also making sure that we’re doing everything that we can to get — to get that out. 

We’re ramping up domestic production, including invoking the Domestic Production Act, as you all know, which has allowed companies to increase production.  We’re increasing imports.  Already, the FDA has granted enforcement discretion for companies to import over 524.1 million 8-ounces bottles worth of infant formula, including over 5 million bottles of medical specialty formula, which is important as you’re asking me about formula and bottles. 

And third, we’re enhancing WIC flexibilities by waiving rules and restrictions that prevented low-income mothers from getting formula.  All 50 states have taken action issuing more than 200 waivers. 

Look, this is a priority, continues to be a priority for us.  We’re going to do everything that we can to increase production.  But — and — but again, we want to make sure that the safety is first.

Q    And I just had one more follow-up on the —


Q    — Saudi trip.  When the President came back from his trip, he was asked if he regretted the fist bump with the Saudi Crown Prince, and he said, “Why don’t you guys talk about something that matters?”  Can you just help us understand why he suggested that that fist bump did not matter?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, here’s the thing: I think the way that the President looks at this is — is what were the issues, the agenda that was discussed, the policies that were — that were discussed, and what were the deliverables. 

And so, you know, when the President goes out to — just across the country and has these meetings, it is very important — you hear us talk about this all the time — having that leader-to-leader conversation.  This is a President that has been, you know, a senator for decades.  He was the Vice President.  He was the President.  He understands how — how this — these interaction works.  He understands how these relationship works.  He has — he has experience in it that is — that he believes is incredibly critical and important.

Look, again, when he went to the Middle East, it was making sure that there was not a void for countries like Russia or China to — to step into; to make sure that we were responding to Iran; to make sure that he had conversations not just with Saudi Arabia, but 12 — a dozen other leaders that were at the GCC+3.  And not only that — he was in Israel right before he got to Jeddah.

So these are important — he believes these are important policies that are going to help the American public.  That’s what he’s there for.  When he goes out — yes, the region is important; yes, the region is critical.  There’s national security conversations that need to be had and other agenda items that need to be talked about.  But also, we’re talking about the Americans’ interests.  We’re talking about how important it is to make sure that we are delivering as well here domestically. 

And so that is — that is the focus of the President.

Q    But on that comment, he does certainly understand why for a lot of people, including Jamal Khashoggi’s family or colleagues —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, absolutely.

Q    — that fist bump and that meeting with MBS mattered a lot, right? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I’ll say this: The President spoke to — he was asked directly about Khashoggi, his fiancée.  And he — you know, our hearts go out to — to her.  Right?  Our hear- — our hearts go out to his family, of course, and to his colleagues.  Of course, we understand the pain that they are — that everyone is going through. 

That’s why when the President came into office, he released the Khashoggi report — something that the last administration did not do.  This is a promise that he made to Congress.  This was a promise that he made to the American people, to do that.  And he took it a step further to make sure that there was the Khashoggi ban, which is that — which deals with visa and travel — and that has been used more than 70 times.

But we understand the pain that people are feeling, but he also wants to make sure — he also wants to make sure that we’re talking about the policy, that we’re talking about the agenda, that we’re talking about what occurred that is going to help the American public as well. 

All right.  Thanks, everybody.  I’ll see you tomorrow.

4:39 P.M. EDT

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