Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NEC Director Brian Deese
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:49 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody. Last night, as you saw from Dr. O’Connor’s letter, President Biden completed his course of Paxlovid. His symptoms are almost completely resolved. And as you’ve seen today, he’s had another busy day of working. All of his tests remain normal, and the President now feels well enough to resume his physical exercise regimen. We’ll continue to keep you posted on any developments there.
But today, with CHIPS for America moving ahead in the Senate and ahead of Q2 GDP on Thursday, we wanted to bring in Brian Deese, Director of National Economic Council, to answer your questions directly on all of the economic news of the day.
And with that, Brian?
MR. DEESE: Thanks, Karine. Hi, everybody. I just wanted to start with a couple of updates on some of our core economic priorities here at the White House, and then happy to take your questions.
So, three updates.
The first is on what has been a longstanding administration priority around attracting more investment into the United States, building more secure supply chains, and building more industrial strength here in America.
I just came from a meeting in the Roosevelt Room with the President and the chairman of SK, a South Korean conglomerate. And they made today a very significant announcement: $22 billion in investments in the United States across a broad complex of investments that all share a common feature — they all are at the cutting edge of innovation in manufacturing globally. So we’re talking large-capacity batteries, electric vehicle charging manufacturing, semiconductor manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals.
And the President noted this at top but it was clear in the context of the meeting that SK’s confidence and commitment in making this kind of long-term and very significant investment in the United States is a clear signal that the United States, along with its allies, is winning the technology competition for the 21st century.
And, of course, this comes in the context of a significant vote that the Pre- — that the Senate took just earlier today in bipartisan fashion to move forward the historic CHIPS for America Act. Some of you were with us yesterday — just yesterday, when we were meeting with CEOs and labor leaders to underscore the economic and national security significance of this piece of legislation. And we are hopeful that we can get that piece of legislation to the President’s desk here without delay.
And I think if you connect these things together, what you see is a really historic resurgence in American manufacturing and American innovation. I would note that over the past 18 months, we’ve seen the economy create 613,000 jobs just in manufacturing alone. That’s the strongest growth in manufacturing in three decades. And, again, I think it demonstrates that, in the aggregate, across investing in infrastructure, working with partners and allies, prioritizing research, prioritizing things like semiconductors, we are building an innovation ecosystem here in the United States to attract this investment, particularly in the context of a period prior to this when we were seeing more and more of that investment go to China.
The second part I just wanted to update you on is energy and energy markets. I hope that you are all aware and have seen the progress that we’re making on gas prices coming down here in the United States.
But as you’ve heard the President say and certainly our team’s focus is to keep up on the key policy priorities that are helping to stabilize markets, even in the face of global uncertainty and a globally uncertain energy market.
And so I would just note today, again, two pieces of news. The first is that the Department of Energy published its next notice of sale for release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. These releases have really proved critical over the last several months.
When I think I was here initially and announced that the President had directed the goal of releasing a million barrels a day, a lot of the questions that you and others had was whether this was even feasible, whether it was actually feasible to sustain putting a million barrels a day onto the market consistently. We’ve now demonstrated that that is the case. And a new analysis out from the Treasury Department today underscores the significance that that collective release from the United States and our allies has reduced gas prices by about 40 cents a gallon compared to where we would be had the President not directed that action and worked with our international partners.
The second is: The administration, the Department of Energy is proposing a new rule today that would allow DOE to enter into forward contracts to purchase oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in the future at a fixed set price. This sounds a little wonky, but bear with me; it’s actually quite important.
What it means is that producers — oil producers have more certainty about future demand for their product because the Department of Energy, having released significant oil onto the market, is now going to be a significant purchaser of oil into the future.
So with this rule in place, they will be able to enter into fixed contracts to buy at a set price. And what that does is it provides oil producers more certainty and more incentive to produce in the near term if they know that they’re going to get paid at a fixed price at a future date.
I would note that those purchases are not going to happen until well in the future. And because of the shape of the futures curve in oil, we can actually purchase more oil, replenish the SPR, strengthen that natural asset without competing for demand for barrels in the near term.
So that rule was proposed today, and the Department of Energy will be working to finalize that and then — and then work with the industry to enter into these fixed-price contracts for repurchase.
The third priority is in context around what we have discussed with you all around our economic goal of transitioning from a historically strong recovery into a period of more stable and steady growth.
We are in that period of transition right now. I think it’s — the analogy is to running legs of a race where we ran the first leg of this race at an extraordinarily fast clip. That has served us well in terms of positioning us in a stronger position than virtually any other country in the world.
And now we are seeing growth slowing, which is what we should expect — or we would expect. But as we look across the economy today, what we and other outside analysts identify is that consumer spending remains solid, household balance sheets remain largely in good shape. We are seeing credit delinquencies and measures of credit stress at historically — at historic lows; credit card delinquencies at a 15-year low, mortgage delinquencies at a 30-year low. And we’re seeing industrial output sustain and in positive territory five of the last six months.
And so the totality of the economic data is consistent with that type of transition, and is not consistent with a recession.
Just to dig into that a little bit, I just — a couple of points. One is on hiring. And I think we have a chart here. But just to explain what you’re looking at here: During the second quarter, the economy created 375,000 jobs a month. So that’s the yellow bar on the far side.
In the first few months of every recession since the 1980s, the economy lost jobs. And so, historically, in the United States, when we’re in a recession — I think this is a sort of typical, commonsense understanding of recession, but it also happens to be the case — the economy is losing jobs. In the second quarter of this year, there was record-setting job creation.
In fact, if you look at the period immediately preceding recessions in the United States, job growth is roughly one third of what it was in the second quarter.
So what we’re seeing on the labor market side is a continued resilient, strong labor market recovery.
On spending and investment — again, what economists think about as core to the economy’s strength, what consumers are doing in terms of spending, what households are doing in terms of investment in businesses — real private final demand, which measures consumption and investment by consumers and businesses, it grew at 3 percent in the first quarter, and it’s expected to grow in the second quarter. And then, again, that’s in contrast to what we see typically during recessions.
So I just want to make a final note on the definition of recession, which has been an issue that I know many of you have reported on.
As Secretary Yellen said on Sunday, two negative quarters of GDP growth is not the technical definition of recession. It’s not the definition that economists have traditionally relied on.
There is an organization called the National Bureau of Economic Research, and what they do is they look at a broad range of data in deciding whether or not a recession has occurred. That is the process that economists and administrations have used for years and decades to identify when a recession has occurred.
But from the President’s perspective, putting that technical question aside, the most important question economically is whether working people and middle-class families have more breathing room, they have more job opportunities, their wages are growing up — going up in a — in a stable way, and they’re able to afford the important things in their lives, from food and gasoline, also to healthcare and prescription drugs, and afford education for themselves and their children and otherwise.
And that is what has animated his economic strategy. It’s what his focus is on. It’s why you have seen him as focused as he has been on trying to work to take policy actions that will lower prices and lower costs for American families in this moment, even as we work to bring inflation down and effectuate that in terms of the transition to a more stable and steady state.
So with that, let me — let me pause, and I’m happy to take any questions you may have.
Q Thanks, Brian. You’ve spent a lot of time, and the White House has, this week trying to explain why you believe that the — that your — that the U.S. is not definitionally in a recession. But why should the average American who is really concerned about their personal economic situation, and their wages aren’t increasing as fast as inflation, they’re struggling to put food on the table, fill up their tank — why should they care if the U.S. is definitionally in a recession or not?
MR. DEESE: Yeah, it’s a great question. It was sort of what I was trying to underscore in terms of where the President really centers on in terms of his economic policy and his economic goals.
At core, what his focus is and the direction to his team is to say: Are we putting in place the right policies and the right strategies that will help those working Americans, middle-class families achieve some measure of economic security and economic dignity, and be able to have upward economic mobility as well?
And I think if you look at the progress that we have made over the course of the last 18 months, we have made historic strides in many ca- — in many areas, not the least of which has been the pace of this historic economic recovery and the return of job growth; the increase in wages, particularly for those at the bottom end; the equitable nature of this recovery.
And we have a serious inflation challenge, which is hitting economies around the globe, but is hitting Americans. And that’s why you have a President that is focused as acutely as he is on what we can do to actually lower prices right now.
And I would say that, you know, the reduction in gas prices that you’ve seen over the last couple of weeks is providing some measure of breathing room — not enough, but some measure of breathing room.
The steps to pass the CHIPS bill, as we’ve discussed, will make a big difference in terms of not only jobs here in America, but increasing the supply, building the resilience of our supply chains, which we have seen have been so connected to increased costs.
So those are — that’s where the President’s priorities are, and that’s where he’s focused. This is about trying to actually improve the lives and outcomes of middle-class families.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, MJ.
Q This is a related question, but all the discussions that are happening about the definition of a recession aside, I wonder if you could help us understand how much weight the White House puts on that definition versus just the simple reality that the majority of Americans right now just feel like we are living through a recession right now.
MR. DEESE: Look, our focus is on trying to improve economic circumstances in this country. That’s what we are focused on, and that’s what all of our policies are designed to do.
So when we think about what we’re prioritizing, when the President is focused on taking actions, like a historic step to put a million barrels a day of oil onto the market, it’s because we know, and we now have seen in the data, that that helps to reduce energy prices, that helps to reduce gas prices, and we can help to encourage the process we’ve seen of gas prices coming down by about 70 cents, by about 100 bucks a month.
So that’s — that’s — that’s where — that’s where our focus is. Obviously, there are — you know, there’s — we spend a lot of time analyzing economic data, as — as you do as well. But in the core, that’s what our objective is and that’s where our focus is.
Q And just, as his economic advisor, do you think that the President currently is sort of able to fully understand, internalize the fact that, I think, a recent CNN poll said that 64 percent of Americans believe the country is already in a recession? Do you think his travels, his meetings, the conversations he’s able to have with people from the White House, that that has been enough for him to really understand that?
MR. DEESE: Look, I think that President Biden, before he ran for office as President and now, is somebody who deeply understands what it means to be in a family where if you’re sitting around a kitchen table — you all have heard him say this multiple times, but it’s because it’s his lived experience to sit around a kitchen table and understand what it means when the price of gas goes up or the price of food goes up. And that’s why you hear him, when he is talking about economic issues, go directly to that as the core of understanding that’s the challenge and what can we do to address it.
It’s also why you’re going to hear him be as emphatic as he is about why when something like gas prices come down, that means that those same families are getting a little breathing room. And that’s — you know, I’m using his terminology of how he communicates about this issue, that it’s that breathing room; it’s that, when you get to the end of the month and you have enough to make things add up, that is — that — that certainly animates him. And you’ve heard that from him repeatedly.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Karen.
Q On that breathing room: Gas, of course, is down. You guys have been touting that — down over the past month. But in other areas, things like food and rent still appear to be climbing. Is it the White House view that inflation has peaked?
MR. DEESE: So it’s our view that inflation is the top economic priority that we need to be focused on as a country. And it is our view that if we move out more quickly and more aggressively on the types of steps that the President has outlined, then we are going to move more quickly to helping to bring prices down.
So — so you talked about some of those — some of those costs. Well, one of the costs — one of the big cost drivers that families are facing is the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs. And we have an opportunity, and the President has been fighting for some time, to finally do something to reform prescription drug pricing; to bring down the cost for seniors, for families, for people with chronic conditi- — chronic conditions; and also bring down the cost for the federal government and reduce the deficit in a way that would be complementary to the Fed’s policies.
So — so that’s — that’s our view, and that’s why we’re putting the priority that we are on getting more progress on these policies.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Peter.
Q Brian, the President — the President’s economic advisors were telling us last year that inflation was going to be temporary. That’s not true. Now the President’s economic advisors are saying there’s not going to be a recession. Are you sure?
MR. DEESE: Well, let me just say this: We look at a range of data, we assess that data, and we lay it out for ourselves and for the President. But you don’t have to take our — our word on this.
Q But the President does, right?
MR. DEESE: On the question — no, no, on — but on the — but — but we also — we also look at what outside analysts are doing. We look at every type of analysis that you could imagine.
But let me just — let me just — let me just highlight:
So, Citigroup: “Little of the data [that] I see tells me that the U.S. is on” a cup — “the cusp of a recession.”
Morgan Stanley: “With strong job growth and continued robust final domestic demand and consumption, this economy really does not look particularly recessionary.”
JP Morgan: “It is inconceivable for a labor market that has generated close to 500,000 jobs average monthly gains for the past six months to be in a recession.”
So — so, we — we analyze the data. We look at the data. We understand the — the significant uncertainties that exist in the global economy, including issues of war, including issues of supply chains. But we also look at what other analysts and outside observers are, and — and certainly that’s something that I know you and your outlets do as well.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Peter.
Q Yeah, so, Brian, when — if you look back at the Rescue Plan last year — the COVID relief plan last year, do you have any regrets or you thought it was a mistake not to have structured it like the Child Tax Credit to last longer? I mean, those have run out. A lot of families are still struggling today. I mean, when you look back on that, do you wish you’d done it differently?
MR. DEESE: So I think that if you look at where we are economically right now, one of the most striking features is the resilience — the resilience of our economic recovery, the resilience of consumers and households and our businesses through a period of what were significant and unanticipated shocks — shocks with waves of COVID, successive waves of COVID, a war in Ukraine. And when you look at the resilience of our economy, a lot of it can be traced back to the strength — the unique strength of our labor market recovery.
And so I think that we are in a better position as a result of the policies that we’ve taken and those policies that directly put us in a position to be more resilient. And certainly that is true if you look at it on a global basis.
Q But the Child Tax Credit — I mean, would you have wanted that to have lasted longer than it has at this point? I mean, it’s — the economy (inaudible) families who benefitted from that temporarily no longer — you know, no longer have it.
MR. DEESE: Well, I think the President has made his policy views on that issue clear. And certainly — certainly there and in other areas, there are places where he has — he has had longer-term — longer — longer-term goals and priorities.
But if you’re asking the — but I think that you also have to look at where we are compared to not just where we could have been, but where other countries are globally. And if you do that, then I think what you see is that we are in a relatively stronger position, and that is due in no small part to what this President was able to actually get done legislatively — not just the American Rescue Plan, but also the Infrastructure Bill as well, which is continuing to help to drive investment here and also improve the investment climate so we see more things like SK, a global company, deciding to invest across the United States as well.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Steve and then Seung Min.
Q What sort of impact would relaxing the tariffs on China have on U.S. economic growth?
MR. DEESE: Well, I think that that’s a — an issue that, as you know, is under active consideration. And the President will, you know, make a determination on that question.
I think you’ve heard that he has mentioned that he intends to have a conversation with President Xi of China here shortly. And so I will reserve on that issue, understanding that — the question that — that the — there are a number of different analyses of that question. You can rest assured that we are looking into and looking underneath and around all of them, and we’ll come back to that issue when the President has more to say.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Seung Min.
Q So administration officials have said the level of hiring indicates the economy is not in a recession. But as you know, the jobs report relies on two separate surveys. We’ve seen gains in the establishment survey. But in a survey of households, the total number of jobs has actually dropped since March. So what is the administration’s explanation for that discrepancy?
MR. DEESE: Well, again, I would say that you — you point to the administration. Certainly that is our view, but it’s not our view in isolation, just to reinforce.
I will not repeat myself, but in this case, Moody’s, for example: “Job numbers are incongruous with fears that [a] recession is dead ahead.”
Pantheon Macroeconomics: The “talk of the economy being in recession…now is fanciful,” given the jobs data that we are seeing. So, that certainly is our view, but it’s not our view alone.
The — the issue of discrepancy between the payroll and the household survey is something that certainly we understand and keep close track of. The economists and statisticians that look most closely at this tend to put greater weight on the payroll survey because of its broader breadth — significantly broader breadth.
But we also — and I think that you’ve heard this from the podium consistently as well: We don’t put too much stake in any one individual month of data, which is why I think looking at the trend — (chart on TV screen is removed) — at least we were looking at the trend — looking at the trend in the labor market probably provides the clearest picture. And that trend on that front is consistent, historically strong job growth.
I — as I mentioned, about 400,000 jobs a month over the course of the last three months. That is down from a rate of closer to 600,000 jobs a month in the prior three months. But again, that would be consistent with what we would expect to see as we move through this transition.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to go to the back. Alex, in the back.
Q Thank you. Brian, I’m sure you saw the chief economist of the IMF said that the global outlook had “darkened significantly since April.” And I think he said that the world was “teetering on the edge of a global recession.” So if that were to happen, wouldn’t the shockwaves reverberate? And sort of, even if we’re stabl- — in a stable position right now, wouldn’t that sort of affect us as well?
And then just to go back to what Peter asked — I don’t want to reiterate this question, but — I mean, I don’t want to repeat it, but for some reason, people are very gloomy about the state of the economy. And I wonder if you could just think through why the data you presented, the reassurances you have made, seem to — are being challenged, you know, from Left and Right alike.
MR. DEESE: So on your first question: Look, there’s no question that the global economy right now faces a set of very serious historic challenges and real and elevated risks. A lot of that is emanating the second- and third-order impacts of the war in Ukraine and its impact on supply and its impact on energy markets.
But we’re also still dealing with the impact of COVID, which is affecting different parts of the world. And we know, having lived through this pandemic, that our supply chains are not yet resilient enough to be unaffected by those — those shocks as well.
So those risks in the global context are real. And it’s part of why you see the President putting the priority that he has on working to maintain a strong, unified, global coalition on things like the war in Ukraine; working proactively on issues like the price cap on Russian oil to try to get ahead of future challenges in the market; working diplomatically around issues of food security; and trying to do what we can to address the very serious challenges of food security internationally. And certainly, we are — we are attentive to those risks internationally and the impact they have on the U.S. economy.
I think the thing that I would say in the face of those real risks is that the United States is in a stronger position to actually train our focus on tackling inflation than virtually any other country. And you see that not only in the indicators that we’ve talked about today; you see that, for example, in the strength of our currency.
Q Right, but do you think we’re stronger than the Euro bloc in aggregate, in terms of weathering a recessionary shock?
MR. DEESE: Well, look, I think that our — our economy is more resilient to the — to the types of challenges that we’ve faced. For example, you know, with respect to food, we’re a net exporter of agricultural commodities. And, obviously, the high prices are hitting Americans very hard, but they’re — that — in a way that is different from some places that are facing famine, for example.
But — but I think if you look at the sort of core elements of economic resilience, the United States is better positioned, which is not to suggest — and I think it goes to your second point — the challenges that American families are facing and the concerns that they have about the cost of food, the cost of gas, the challenges of supply chains that are still not fixed so that things don’t work the way that they always have: We understand, the President certainly understands those challenges are real and they’re affecting people in their daily lives.
So our goal and our focus is not to try to ignore them. In fact, it’s the opposite. You have a President who is saying, “Those are the key challenges that I’m trying to wake up every day to try to improve.” There’s a lot of things he can do on his own. And in places where he can, you’ve seen some real progress. There’s places where he needs help from Congress as well. But we’re seeing some real progress on there as well.
This vote on the CHIPS Act today is historic. And, hopefully, we’ll be in a situation to sign that into law and start having the impact of that happen in real-time.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to make some progress on big, significant issues like prescription drugs here in the coming days.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ken.
Q Brian, the Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates in chunks in order to try to tame inflation. We’re expecting 75 basis points this week. What is the risk of overkill here that they go too far? And do you think that so-called “soft landing” is still attainable?
MR. DEESE: So the — as you said, the Fed is operating its course on monetary policy. And this will not surprise you, I will leave the — that to the province of the Federal Reserve.
I think that if we look at where we are in this transition, then certainly we believe that we — not only can we move through this transition and get to a place of more stable growth without having to give up those economic benefits, but that we’ve identified — as the Fed operates and takes the steps that it will take, we have identified a set of very clear steps that we could take, and that we could take working with Congress, to actually help to increase the prospect that we get to that goal.
And one of the things that I would underscore in that context is — and we’ve had — you know, had conversations about this and that. You know, it’s a place where we don’t always find common ground with our Republican colleagues in — is that actually enacting deficit reduction at this time would be complimentary to what the Fed is trying to accomplish.
And if you look at something like prescription drugs, where you can actually lower costs for the end-consumer or the end-user and lower the cost to the federal balance sheet, then it has the — that sort of — the — all of the attributes that you would want at this moment to try to reduce price pressures in the economy and reduce price pressures for individuals’, families’ balance sheets.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Steve.
Q Just two quick questions on NEC projections. Is it — to level set and get it on the record, is it NEC’s projection that the second quarter numbers will show positive growth or negative growth?
MR. DEESE: So, we — I will wait, as all of you will, to — to receive that data. We don’t have the data, obviously. And we will — we will not receive it until the appropriate time. And until then, I will — I will leave it there.
Q You have no expectation one way or the other?
MR. DEESE: We are looking at every — at every analysis and every — and every projection that is — that is being made. But we will — we will wait and see where those numbers come out.
Q So when it comes to strength in the labor market going forward, if there is a picture that shows that the U.S. economy has shrunk over the first half of this year at a time when inflation is at a four-plus decade high, at a time that the Federal Reserve is increasing interest rates, is it sustainable for there to be a strong, hot labor market in this country going forward?
MR. DEESE: So, we have a — we have a strong labor market, and we believe that the goal of our policy is to bring down inflation while maintaining strength in the labor market. That is the goal, and we believe that that is achievable and that the policy steps that we are outlining would help increase the likelihood that we can get to that goal.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jenny.
Q Thanks. Brian, I’m curious how concerned you are about reports that U.S. retailers like Walmart, which came out last night, are reporting that inventories are piling up and consumers are foregoing pricier items.
MR. DEESE: Well, I would say we’re seeing a number of — I won’t speak to any one individual company. But what — I think what we’re seeing across consumer categories is that consumer spending overall is — continues to hold up. The composition of that spending is changing. We’re seeing less spending on goods, more spending on services. And we are seeing some, you know, discounting activity as well.
But I think that, you know, with respect to the question of inventories and discounting, this is also, you know, one of the issues of transitioning — that there was a period of time where the concern was companies couldn’t get enough inventory and they were working through supply chain challenges. Certainly, it’s clear that at least a number of companies across the economy may have over-ordered on inventory and are now seeking to actually discount prices.
That discounting is, again, part of a process and can mean some good news for — for the American consumer. But I think, you know, in the aggregate, consumer spending is continuing to sustain at the macro level.
Q And then one follow-up to Steve’s question on the China tariffs, which I know you guys have been discussing internally for a long time. But did I understand you right that you’re not giving us your internal projections of what cutting a portion of the tariffs would do to ease inflation or impact growth until the President makes his announcement? So, you’re not giving us anything ahead of time, like how you’re viewing the debate, which is playing out internally and externally? Obviously, lots of stakeholders have thoughts on that.
MR. DEESE: Yeah, I’m — I’m going to leave — I’m going to leave our commentary on that issue for the President. As I mentioned, he’s going to be having a phone call and we’ll come to that issue when he’s — when he’s ready to do so.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: A couple more. Caitlin.
Q How do you explain the drop in the Consumer Confidence Index today?
MR. DEESE: I think what we’ve seen, I mean, it connects to some of the other conversations that we’ve — we — or some of the other questions that we have had is that, clearly, the — the impact for, you know, typical families of high food prices, high gas prices, and dealing with the impact of inflation is — is challenging and challenging for a number of — for families across the country.
And so, we see that reflected in surveys and sentiment. And that is one of the reasons why we are as motivated as we are to try to do everything that we can to bring prices down. Even as we see that there is this — there is a divergence in the economy right now between sentiment and spending behavior, we are motivated to try to bring prices down exactly because it’s — it’s hitting — it’s hitting families.
And so, it’s also why, you know, you’ve seen — you saw in the University of Michigan sentiment a little bit as well, bringing gas prices down is an important part of trying to bring some relief economically and also in terms of consumers’ outlook.
Q And, sorry, just one quick question, because you mentioned the CHIPS bill: For people watching at home, can you give a brief description of how exactly they will see prices fall because of the passage of that bill?
MR. DEESE: Sure. So, we’ve seen over the course of this pandemic crisis and pandemic recovery that when our supply chains aren’t resil- — are not resilient and when we don’t have access to the input components that go into everything that — that our economy is dependent on, that our manufacturers are incapable of making enough of those products, and that raises prices.
The most salient example of that is cars. The President spoke to this yesterday. If you look in 2021, for, you know, typical people at home, a third of the inflation that we had in 2021 was reflected by the cost of cars — new and used automobiles. And much of that was driven by the fact that there was insufficient supply of semiconductors, insufficient supply of the computer chips that kept our manufacturers from making more vehicles.
So, we need to increase production and supply of semiconductors. Doing so will actually allow our manufacturers to produce more goods — not just cars, but consumer electronics, appliances. Semiconductors are in almost every — each of you is carrying or engaging right now with products that have multiple semiconductors in them, and having more supply will do so.
Even as this bill will help to encourage multi-year investments in the United States, there are companies all around the world right now that are making decisions this week and this month on where they are going to invest and how much they are going to expand.
Passage of this bill — you’ve heard it from the CEOs themselves — passage of this bill will be a game-changer for them into — in deciding how quickly they will move out, how aggressively they move out, and, importantly, whether that investment will be here in the United States.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you. You talked about the Treasury Department analysis on what the Strategic Petroleum Reserve release is on the gas prices. So, my question is: Is that going to continue beyond that 100 days to sort of keep that trend going? And if not, is there a worry about sticker shock for drivers once the release is exhausted?
MR. DEESE: Yeah, so the release was — the commitment and the direction the President made was for six months, so 180 days. And we are contin- — we continue to be in that process.
The timeline of that was — it was deliberate. It was because earlier this year, in engaging with industry, we urged them to increase their own production — private production — and that we heard from a number of industry players that they would be able to increase production by about a million barrels a day by later in the fall, by the October time frame.
And so, the six-month release of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve of a million barrels a day was intended to be a bridge to that — to that period. And that certainly continues to be our intention and our policy goal. We don’t have, as of — as of today, as we sit here today, we don’t have an intention to continue that further. What we need is the private sector to come in and provide that production. We have that resource and it has provided a valuable role, but it’s not intended to be a permanent solution.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Franco.
Q Thanks, Brian. Understanding that the administration doesn’t think that it’s in a recession or heading towards a recession, is the administration taking — making plans for if things do turn worse that would meet the administration’s definition for contingency plans?
Is there an escalatory roadmap, for example, of actions that the administration can take? Or is the administration already putting everything it can into it? Or are there more steps that can be taken if things go worse?
MR. DEESE: So we engage in wide-ranging analysis of data and scenarios as a matter of our work and our job, but our focus is actually on policies that will improve the prospects of us moving forward and bringing prices down without giving up the economic gains that we’ve made.
So, our focus and our priority right now is on a set of very important steps that we can make progress on, as I’ve mentioned, around CHIPS, but also around prescription drugs; around providing some degree of deficit reduction; reducing utility bills; maintaining progress toward lower-cost sources of energy, even as we take on the issues that we must, with respect to climate change. Those are the focus areas.
But we certainly — we certainly analyze data broadly and look at a broad range of scenarios. But we train our focus on the steps we can take right now to actually make progress on the economic end.
Q But, for example, as Steve was pointing out: If the labor market takes a turn, are there contingency plans in place that — actions that could be taken?
MR. DEESE: We are always looking at, broadly, both data and future scenarios. That’s part of — that’s part of how we operate.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Two more. Go ahead, (inaudible.)
Q The President has been weighing a decision on student debt relief for more than a year now. On April 28th, he said a decision was coming in the next couple of weeks. So can you help explain why it’s taking so long and when there might be an update on that decision?
MR. DEESE: So the President spoke to his — the timeline on this issue, and I’ve got nothing beyond what he’s said on that front.
Q Brian, just following up on the CHIPS question. When will the first chip that’s produced with money from this bill come online?
MR. DEESE: So the way that this bill operates — I would answer that question in two ways. The first is: When will we start seeing the economic impact in terms of investment decision-making and production? And the answer to that is: immediately.
And you don’t need to go any further than asking the CEOs of the chip-producing companies and the chip-consuming companies about — they have been actively weighing decisions about when and how and how aggressively to make investment decisions on the confidence that the United States was going to step up and do this.
In terms of the actual process of then distributing and allocating the resources in this bill, that will operate over the course of time. We’ll move quickly out against that process. But, of course, doing that requires great care to make sure that we are clearly enforcing the taxpayer protections that are in the bill.
Q Sure. Because I just — it’s — you want to be careful not to conflate that this is somehow — the passage of this bill is going to address supply chain vulnerabilities in the near term, right? You’re not suggesting that?
MR. DEESE: What I’m suggesting is that if we pass this legislation, it will be the most significant thing that we have done in decades as a country to actually demonstrate a long-term commitment to building more resilient supply chains, investing in research and innovation here in the United States. That is a multi-year project. It’s something that the United States has failed to do for multiple years, and we have seen the economic and national security consequences of that.
And so, it’s something that, you know, we should have done years ago. The sooner we get started, the better positioned we’ll be.
But I’m also suggesting that we will see the impact of this, in terms of companies’ decision-making, almost immediately. But the long term — this is a — this is a long-term project, a long-term national project that is of vital economic and national security consequence, and the ultimate impact of that will be felt over the course of years.
Q Brian? Brian? I just have one last quick — over here, Brian.
MR. DEESE: Thank you all very much.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s up to you. (Laughs.)
Q Thanks, Brian. Appreciate it.
Q Thank you, Brian.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Brian.
Okay, just one thing at the top here. So, later today, President Biden will virtually join the House Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus celebration marking the 32nd anniversary of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, which afforded inclusion and access for disabled Americans.
President Biden was proud to co-sponsor this historic legislation as a senator, and his administration has taken a number of steps to advance equity for Americans with disabilities. That includes expanding employment opportunities, ensuring access to education and health, and increasing access to affordable housing, transportation, and broadband.
For example, thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, today the Federal Transit Administration announced new investments to make it easier for people to get on board at the nation’s oldest rail public transportation systems.
Earlier today, the Vice President also hosted a roundtable with disability rights leaders to discuss access to reproductive healthcare, where she emphasized the administration’s commitment to protecting reproductive rights and self-determination of all individuals with disabilities.
Our nation has made great progress since 1990, and the Bi- — Biden-Harris administration will continue working to ensure that the vision of the ADA is fully implemented for all Americans with disabilities.
With that, Seung Min, go ahead.
Q Yeah, I just have one. Can you discuss any measures that the President’s doctors may be taking to try to lower the risk of long COVID with the President? And the reason I ask it is obviously he’s — I know, he’s up to it, or he’s feeling up to it now, but obv- — but there’s anecdotal data to suggest that, you know, taking it easy, not exercising might be one way to perhaps lower the risks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, one thing I would say is that — and you heard Dr. Jha say this as well — because the President’s symptoms have been very mild — and as we saw from Dr. O’Connor’s letter, he’s — he asked last night to exercise. You know, we are pretty confident that we will continue to see the President to continue to recover from this.
I mean, look, the thing to remember — and you’ve heard us say this over and over again; Dr. O’Connor said this in his letter; you’ve heard Dr. Jha say this as well — is because the — because the President is fully vaccinated, double boosted, and has this treatment of Paxlovid, which is — you know, we see this as a teachable moment, you’ve heard us say, for the American public. Who — who else can they — for those who have not been vaccinated or have not gotten their boosted — booster yet — learn from than the President of the United States of how important it is to get those free vaccines, to get those free booster, and to be able to get Paxlovid, and to protect — and to get that extra protection?
And so, you know, again, there’s a reason why he’s having very mild symptoms. It’s because of the work that he has been able to do. And we are pretty confident that he will continue, you know, to — to get better.
Q On monkeypox, is the administration encouraging all Americans to get vaccinated? I guess, what’s the guidance?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, our guidance is: First, we’ve had a comprehensive and aggressive response to this. That’s what we deployed. We rolled out that strategy last month, in June.
And so, once we — once — once we, you know, realized that it was — what was — what was happening with the cases that we were seeing, there were more than 300,000 vaccines across the country in a matter of weeks. And we quickly ordered the production of 5 million more vaccine when we saw that the virus was starting to spread.
What we are telling people is to make sure that — well, HHS has also made available testing, which is really important in the — in this process.
But we are also telling folks that if you have concerns or if you are — want to know what your protocol — personal protocols should be, that you should go to your provider — your medical provider — have that conversation with your medical provider, or also reach out to the local — local health dep- — local health agency in your state or city.
Q So it’s not just saying, “Everybody should get vaccinated”? It’s “go to your doctor and talk about it”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I mean, the best — the best person or place to go to is your medical provider and have that conversation to see if — if it is — you know, if it is beneficial to you to get vaccinated.
Q And then, is the White House going to appoint a monkeypox coordinator, similar to Dr. Jha’s position?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No. I understand the question. I don’t have any personnel announcement to make at this time.
Okay. Go ahead.
Q Just a quick follow-up on the President’s COVID status. So since today is day five of isolation and I know that the White House would like him to first test negative, will he presumably take a test tomorrow and then you will assess from there? Do you have a plan yet?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So that’s up to the — the President’s physician. We’re going to continue to be transparent and share the President’s physician’s note — detailed — detailed note of his examination of him and how the President is going to do. We’ll have that for — for all of you tomorrow.
We will — when he gets tested, we will be transparent about that and share that with you.
Q And then just two separate questions. It’s been two and a half weeks since the President signed an executive order on protecting reproductive rights. I just wanted to know — I’m not asking you to preview anything that’s not been announced — can you say whether people should expect more executive actions from the President? And any kind of timeline you can offer?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I’m not going to get ahead of the policy process. The President has said he’s going to do everything that he can to — to protect the — to protect the access to reproductive health for women across the country. And we’re talking about privacy. We’re talking about contraception.
We see what’s happening on the other side with extreme policies to have national bans on — on abortion, which is unacceptable to us, as we’ve made really clear.
You’ve seen the Vice President has been out there these past couple of days. She went to Indiana to talk to state legislators, as their state legislative process was moving forward, and made that clear on where the Biden-Harris administration stood.
Again, I don’t have anything at this time to share with you. But also, as you know, the President has been very clear on continuing to ask Congress to act — to take action to codify Roe via legislation, and also to make sure that — to make sure American — the American public has — their voices are heard.
Q I wanted to know whether the President has spoken with any Republican senators on the bill to codify same-sex marriage.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any calls to read out to you. The President is in regular touch on different — on a different array of issues with members of Congress. So is — so are his offices here, whether it’s the Office of Leg Affairs or any other office in the White House that has regular conversation with members of Congress and their staff on just an array of issues. I don’t have anything specific to share.
Q Without reading out calls, can you say whether those calls have happened, period; whether those conversations with Senate Republicans on this topic have happened?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I appreciate the question. I just don’t have anything to share with you — any specifics to share.
Go ahead, Steve.
Q Karine, what sort of exercise is he doing? It is treadmill? (Laughter.) Any —
Q I was just going to ask that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I knew that was going to come. I knew, and I should have asked.
Q Stationary bike? Weights?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, you know, I think — I — look, I think it says a lot — and I spoke to Dr. O’Connor earlier today — that the President is feeling, you know, well — and we should be thrilled and wanting him to have that negative test; I’m sure you guys are waiting for that as well so you can see him in person — that he’s doing well enough to say that he wants to work out.
I think it’s been reported in the past that he likes to do weights and he likes to be — you know, do the treadmills. I don’t think I’m sharing anything — anything confidential here.
But yeah, I think — I think — it brought a smile to my face when I saw that he wants to work out. You know?
Q And, secondly, what are the implications of Russia’s apparent decision to withdraw from the — support from the International Space Station?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So we saw that report as well. And so, look, you know, we’re keeping an eye on that for sure. And so the government has — has not formally notified the United States of their intentions to withdraw from the ISS.
Like I said, we saw their comments, we saw the reporting on that. We are exploring options to mitigate the potential impacts on the ISS beyond 2024 if Russia does withdraw.
For our part, we are — we remain committed to working with ISS partners to ensure the safe operation of the ISS and the astronauts who are on board.
I refer you to NASA for any additional details, specifics on that.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Just a couple on the President’s COVID. When he was talking at the event today with the South Korean officials, he had said, “I’m in the last day of having been diagnosed with COVID.” Was he referring to the fact that he’s going to get that test to potentially come back to work?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, I didn’t — I actually didn’t even —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — hear — hear that statement. My assumption is, you know, he’s been isolating. This is, I believe, the fifth day of isolation. Maybe that’s what he was speaking to. I — I didn’t hear him say that. I would have to ask — ask him directly myself.
I know when I had COVID, I was ready — (laughs) — I was ready to go. You feel like you’re just, like, “Oh, my gosh. How can I bust out of here and really get out there and see the people?”
So I’m sure that he’s excited to — he’s excited. I know I said this yesterday, but it’s true: He’s excited to see all of us and be in person and be out there with the American public again. And so I’m sure that’s what he’s looking forward to.
Q And just to get a follow-up from yesterday, when I asked you about the potential — how you guys would be testing for the rebound cases. Is there any clarity on, when he does get that negative test, of what the cadence would look like going forward on the monitoring of the Paxlovid rebound?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, that’s a great question. I would have to get back to you on that. I — we haven’t had a chance to get, kind of, that protocol and what that looks like.
Again, we’re going to continue to be transparent here. We’re going to continue to share the doctor’s notes with you and his detailed information on how the President is doing. And so, you know, we’re just going to make sure that you all have the information that you all need on that.
Go ahead, Jenny.
Q Thanks. Let me try one more time on the Taiwan —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What — the exercise? The weights? (Laughter.)
Q — the Taiwan visit. No, actually — I mean, I don’t know, if you want to give us details on that, that’s fine too.
So, I know you guys want to say that the Pelosi visit is, you know, a hypothetical, but the Speaker hasn’t denied that she had tr- — you know, plans to go. So I think we’re sort of past the fact that it is a hypothetical, and it’s now, you know, also a real issue because lawmakers are speaking out supporting her, from both parties, saying, you know, Pelosi not going to Taiwan would hand “a victory” to China, from McConnell. And Menendez said, “If we can allow the Chinese to dictate who can visit Taiwan and who cannot, then we [have] already ceded Taiwan to the Chinese.”
So at the very least, like, is there something the White House can say in response to those lawmakers having very strong thoughts about what it would mean for the Speaker of the House to pull down her trip?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, I’m going to let the lawmakers speak for themselves. As I speak for the President and the White House, we are just not going to get ahead or an announcement that — that actually has not happened yet on her travel.
What we will say is, as we normally do with any members of Congress who travel abroad, who travel internationally, we provide — you know, we provide information, whether it’s national security or geopolitical information on what’s happening around the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s Taiwan. It doesn’t matter where they go. And so that is what we’re going to continue to do.
I’m just not going to get ahead of the Speaker. I’m sure none of us want to get ahead of the Speaker in general, but let her speak to her own travels on her own.
Q And you can’t — you can’t say whether the President personally would support this trip, even in a hypothetical? I mean, he said very strong things about supporting Taiwan, even militarily, and, of course, that was then walked back. But whether the President, you know, personally would be in favor of such a trip or against it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, I have not spoken to him personally. You’ve heard him — I think it was someone — maybe someone on your team asked him a week ago, last Wednesday, about this particularly — specifically about the Speaker’s travel. I’m not going to go beyond what he said.
Q But he only talked about the military saying it’s a bad idea, not what he himself —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I’m just saying that I’m just not going to go beyond what he said. And again, the trip has not been announced, or if there is a trip, not a trip. I’m just not going to get ahead of her own announcement.
Q Okay. Can I get one more on the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Maybe. Maybe. (Laughter.)
Q — student loan forgiveness? Totally different topic. The President obviously has been weighing his decision for a long time. And I’m curious: Is there anything more you can say on whether — why it’s taken so long and whether rising prices has played a role in the fact that you guys are still internally deliberating this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I mean, look, the President understands firsthand how burdensome this could be for many Americans just across the country.
That’s why when it comes to loan debt, that’s why he took the action that he did when it came to pausing repayment. And so, you know, he made sure that that was a — something that he took action on when he first got into the — got into the administration, and then took an action on it again, as you all know.
But as far as the loan cancellation: Look, he understands, again, what this means for families, how burdensome this could be. I just don’t have anything more to share.
And he said himself by the end of August, so that’s right around the corner; that’s pretty soon. I have no idea what day it is today because we’re always so busy here. But he’ll make a decision. He spoke to that last week, so I’ll let him speak when he’s ready.
Go ahead, Franco.
Q Thanks. Is the test tomorrow that the President will take — will that be an antigen test, will it be a PCR test? Is the decision whether to resume normal activities dependent on a PCR test being negative?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me — and Dr. Jha actually spoke to this. And many of you who have probably had COVID — taking a PCR is not something that you can do for about maybe in, I think, 60, 90 days because it’s probably going to be positive. So, I’m — it probably wouldn’t be a PCR test, is my guess, from my experience and I’m sure many of your experiences as well.
What was the other part of your question, Franco?
Q About — that was whether you thought it would be an antigen or a PCR, considering (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. And I — and Dr. Jha also spoke to this when he was asked about this last week.
Q And another question. I mean, what plans does the administration or does Biden have in place for the anniversary of the withdrawal from Afghanistan? Is he going to give a speech?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we’ll have more to share on that — on what our plans are going to be. I don’t have a — I don’t have a speech right now to detail or anything specific about the President’s schedule to share on the anniversary. But we will have more to share as we get closer, just more broadly speaking.
Go ahead, Michael.
Q Thanks, Karine. The Pacific Northwest is facing, in the next couple of days, record heat. It’s the part of the country least prepared for this sort of weather. What’s the administration doing to (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I spoke to this — I spoke to this yesterday and how our agencies here have been pretty much activated. We’ve been talking — our offices here have been talking to the governors and the state — local, state officials who have reached out and have asked for assistance.
And so, I don’t have anything more specifically to share, but this is something that we’re monitoring, especially as we see the fires in California. FEMA is involved. We have other agencies that are involved as well. We’re helping with — you know, as we talk about the fires — firefighters and however else we can — we can be helpful, whether it’s funding or anything — any assistance.
But it is something that the President is being updated on regularly. And this is something that we are clearly closely taking — taking a look at and monitoring.
Q And then, just a quick follow-up on the Respect for Marriage Act. It seems as if the Democratic leadership in the Senate has two possible strategies. One is they secure 10 Republican votes and — before bringing it to a vote; and the second is that they put it on the floor and they challenge Republicans to take a stance. Does the White House have a position on which strategy they would prefer seeing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m not going to speak to the strategy of what’s happening in Congress or the mechanism that they’re using. I could say this — and I spoke to the President about this legislation, the Marriage Act — the Respect for Marriage Act, last week. As you know, this is something that the President has supported for many, many years. He was out front on marriage equality, ahead of so many other congressional members and senators when he was — when he was, himself, a senator and also as Vice President.
As you all know, we put out a SAP last week when the legislation was moving forward. And so, this is something that the President is going to continue to keep an eye on. We’re going to continue to work with Congress and do everything that we can to make sure that it gets over the finish line.
Q All right. Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh — Oh, okay. All right, guys.
Q Last question?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ll — I’ll take one more question.
Q One more question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Chris. Because I haven’t called on you in a while.
Q Thank you. So yesterday in his speech, the President said you can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-democracy. And he also said you can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-America. There’s Democrats across the country that are spending money supporting these candidates, basically. What does the President think of that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you say that? “There are Democrats…” —
Q There’s Democrats across the country who are supporting some of these candidates in primaries who are —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Like, Democrats like Americans — like everyday Americans, or elected officials?
Q Demo- — elected officials and candidates.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. So, I can’t — I mean, I’m not going to — I’m not going to speak to — to that. I — you know, especially as we’re looking at an election or anything that’s related to potential midterms. It’s not something that I can speak that from here.
But I do want to make it very — make very clear what the President did yesterday. And he has said this before when he has talked about what the former President, his predecessor — how much he — what he — he bears responsibility for what happened on January 6th, 2020 .
You know, there was — his predecessor, Donald Trump, had an opportunity to be on the side of democracy, but instead he was on the side of the mob.
And let’s not forget what happened to the law enforcement on that day, the heroism that we saw. They’re supposed to be protecting our streets, and here we have law enforcement that was protecting our democracy. While they were doing that, they were being assaulted, they were being attacked, and by — by a mob that the former President clearly supported.
And so, what the President wanted to do yesterday — he took the opportunity while he was in front of law enforcement — clearly via video; he was supposed to be in person yesterday in Orlando — and he took that opportunity to thank them for their heroism and also to compare their bravery to the lack of courage that we saw from the former President.
I’ll see you — I’ll see you guys tomorrow.
4:52 P.M. EDT