James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

4:11 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hello.  Hi, everybody.  Good afternoon.  It is just me today.  Sorry to disappoint. 

Q    Aww —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, no!  (Laughs.)  

Q    Nobody is disappointed.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, a couple of — I do have a couple of toppers, so bear with me for a second. 

So, on September 7th, the President and Dr. Biden will host President and Mrs. Obama for the unveiling ceremony for their official White House portraits.  That will be very exciting. 

Today, the White House passed the CHIPS and Science Act with a bipartisan vote and a — no Democrats voting “no.”  This bill will lower the cost of goods.  It will make cars, dishwashers, computers, and more, cheaper. 

It will create high-paying manufacturing jobs around the country and strengthen our industries of the future. 

It will strengthen our supply chains and national security because we will be able to make these critical technologies at home.  And it includes important guardrails to ensure these dollars are invested here in America. 

There’s exactly — this is exactly what we need to do to grow our economy right now. 

The President looks forward to signing the CHIPS and Science Act as soon as possible. 

And like you heard the President underline today, we need to pass the Inflation Reduction Act as soon as possible because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fight inflation and lower costs like prescription drugs, energy, and healthcare.  This will build on the unprecedented deficit reduction we achieved by having the wealthy pay their share and make crucial progress against the climate crisis that threatens our economy and national security, creating thousands of jobs in the process.

And already, a host of economic healthcare and climate experts have — many different viewpoints — have endorsed this as the right plan to help the middle class right now. 

This is all about whether we’re going to stand up for the middle-class families against the pain from the global problem of inflation and cut the costs of drugs and energy and the deficit; or are we going to stand against middle-class families and instead protect tax welfare for hedge fund managers, Big Pharma’s ability to price gouge, multibillion-dollar corporations seeing record profits and who game the system to pay no taxes, or wealth tax cheat.

It’s critical for our country that we pass it as soon as possible.

Final thing for all of you is: Our hearts go out to the people of the south- — of southwestern Kentucky, which is experiencing considerable flash flooding that has taken the lives of multiple people. 

FEMA Administrator Criswell spoke to Kentucky Governor Beshear this morning and committed to providing support from federal government.  She will travel to Kentucky tomorrow to survey storm damage and report back to President Biden who has been briefed on the situation.

Search-and-rescue operations are ongoing right now.  And FEMA has dispatched an Incident Management Assistant Team and rescue personnel to assist with those efforts. 

We are grateful for the heroic work of first responders, and would urge everyone impacted — in impacted areas to please listen to their state and local officials and follow their guidance.

And with that, Seung Min, you want to kick us off? 

Q    Two questions on two topics.  First, on the Xi call: Beijing said in its readout of the call that President Xi told President Biden that, quote, “Those who play with fire will perish by it.”  So does the White House consider that as an escalation by China?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to — I’m not going to speak to that statement — that comment that you just read out.

But let me give you a little bit of what was discussed and a little bit of the call, some — some specifics.

So the President was joined by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Blinken, Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, Kurt Campbell, and Laura Rosenberger. 

The two sp- — the two leaders spoke for two hours and twenty minutes.  This call has been in the works for quite some time.  National Security Advisor Sullivan proposed this call in June during his meeting with his PRC counterpart as part of our efforts to maintain open lines of communication and management of the relationship responsibly.

I’ll say this: They had a — a very direct conversation, and that they’ve known each other for some time.  The President has known — President Biden has known President Xi for about four decades.  This is a relationship that they’ve had for some time.  And, again, it was a direct, straightforward conversation.  This is something you hear from the President all the time: the importance of having leader-to-leader conversation. 

But again, I’m not going to speak — speak to or characterize what was just stated.

Q    And on one domestic question: The President said repeatedly in recent days that if Congress does not act on climate, that he would.  So if the Manchin-Schumer deal gets signed into law, does that mean that the President would not declare a climate emergency?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the — first, I’ll say this: The last time the President traveled, as you all know — some of your colleagues traveled with him to Somerset, Massachusetts, and he was at the coal-powered facility that shut down back in 2017.  He then said climate change is an emergency.  And this — and he called it an “act of urgency” at the time.  And he has done that throughout the 18 months. 

When he walked into the administration, he called — he said that climate was a crisis — was one of the crises that we had to deal with.  And so, he had said if Congress didn’t act — to your point — he would — he would take action. 

But right now, we are glad to see that Congress had — has heeded the call.  And most significant — as we have said, the most significant investment to climate — to climate change — to fight climate change that we have seen in history — in U.S. history.  And he is — he welcomes that. 

But the President has been acting on the climate crisis since day one, taking bold action, a decisive action to make sure that we deal with this crisis, with this emergency. 

So he’ll continue to do that even though we — you know, the — the Inflation Reduction Act is progress, and we are — we welcome it.  And the President wants to sign it.  Again, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  It’s a game changer.  It’s historical. 

He’s not going to stop taking action on climate.

Go ahead.

Q    On Russia: Moscow has not accepted your substantial proposal to release Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.  Is there any concern that by going public with this offer now, that you showed your hand too soon?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’ll say this: You know, Brittney Griner is wrongfully — is wrongly detained.  Paul Whelan is wrongly detained.  And the President has been very clear about this: He wants to make sure that they come home.  And he has made this a top priority.  His national security has made this a top priority; so has Secretary Blinken, as you all heard from him yesterday, as you’re asking me about the substantial offer that’s been put on the table. 

I don’t want to go into details about that, as you — as you imagine.  In order to have success, we need to not negotiate in public.  So I’m just going to leave that there.

Q    Just so I understand: Is this still in negotiation, or is this your best and final offer that you all put out there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I really cannot go — just for the — the privacy and the safety of — of the process, I cannot — I cannot say more.

Look, we are sharing that we did put a substantial offer on the table.  We wanted to be — we wanted to show that this President is taking it very seriously, just like he did with Trevor Reed.  And — but we’re not going to go into details from here.

Q    Let me try one more way then.  Is there anything you’re ruling out?  For instance, is sanctions relief off the table?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get into details from here. 

Q    So not off the table?  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get into — look, I’m not going to negotiate from here.  We just cannot negotiate from here. 

All right, thanks, Mary. 

Go ahead.

Q    Karine, in the call today, did the two leaders succeed in lowering tensions?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, I’ll say — I’ll say this: Let me just share a little bit about what they covered — the three issues that they covered. 

Again, this was a straightforward conversation that they had.  They’ve had a relationship for many decades.  This is the fifth call that the President has had with President Xi.  They wanted to make sure that they continued the dialogues, kept the — open — open lines for conversation.  And that’s what we saw today.  Again, it was more than a two-hour call.

But I’ll share a little bit of what they covered.  The first was a detailed discussion of areas where the two countries can work together, with particular focus on climate change and health security and counter- — and counternarcotics.  The two teams will be following up on these areas. 

President Biden also raised the need to resolve the cases of American citizens who are wrongfully detained or subject to exit bans in China, as well as longstanding concerns about human rights. 

Second, they exchanged views on Russia’s war in Ukraine and the global impacts it is having. 

And then on Taiwan, President Biden underscored that the United States policy has not changed and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. 

President Biden also raised the need to resolve the cases of American citizens who are wrongly detained or subject to exit — exit bans in China, as well as longstanding concerns about human rights. 

So those are the three components that they — they discussed. 

Q    And we were told that they discussed the possibility of a face-to-face summit meeting.  Is that something you’d like to do before the end of the year?  Is there any sort of timeframe on that? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We don’t have anything on the President’s schedule to share.  As you know, and I just stated this, the President really, truly appreciates leader-to-leader interaction.  He’s been a senator.  He’s been a Vice President.  He knows — and now President.  He knows the importance of having that. 

I don’t have anything to share more than that.

Q    Karine, just one more on that call.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, sure.

Q    On President Biden raising, you said, “longstanding concerns about human rights” with President Xi, can you tell us anything more about that specific portion of the call and, specifically, whether he raised the issue of the treatment of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I can tell you that he raised genocide and forced labor practices by the PRC.  That is something that he raised — about the human rights, as he always does.  This is — as we’ve said, that anytime the President has an opportunity, he raises that when he meets with another leader.  He called on PRC to cease its ongoing human rights abuses across China.

Q    Can you tell us a little bit about how President Xi responded to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  They would have to respond on their own.  I cannot speak for — for President Xi.

Q    And just one more on a separate topic.  When President Biden was talking about the Manchin-Schumer deal earlier, he mentioned that there were some similarities there with Build Back Better, but this obviously wasn’t a deal that had everything that Democrats initially wanted.  Are there pieces of Build Back Better that are not in this new deal that the President plans on actively pursuing going forward?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, right now, we’re going to focus on the deal that’s in front of us — the Inflation — the Inflation Reduction Act.  We — the President said this: It is — now is the time — we believe now is the time to act.  It is historic. 

As we know, it is going to — one of the things that we have not discussed: It’s going to bring down the cost of pharmaceutical drugs, which is so incredibly important as we think about our families, as we think about our seniors.  Something that he has been working on since he was a senator, something that is incredibly personal to him: bringing down those costs, making sure that Medicare is able to negotiate in order to bring those costs down. 

And so this is historic.  This is important.  This is going to change so many lives of everyday people of middle-class America.  And so that is what’s important to us.  What’s important to us is: What does this mean for, you know, our grandparents?  What does this mean for families who are struggling?  This will ease the cost — the high cost that they are paying.  This will really have an effect on their healthcare.  And so that is the President’s focus. 

Once we have anything more to add to what could be next, we’ll share that.

Go ahead.

Q    Karine, on that note, this is being called the Inflation Reduction Act, but I think when people think about inflation, they’re thinking about the high cost of rent, of housing, of groceries, gas.  What does this bill do to address those concerns?  Because, as you mentioned, the President has been working on those issues for a long time, which suggests that those prices have already been high for a long time.  What about the immediate concerns right now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, one thing I would say is: You have heard the President have — talk about his inflation plan.  You’ve heard him talk about how he understands the anxiety that families are feeling about the economy, what they’re feeling about the high cost, which is why he’s taken action on gas prices, which is why we have seen gas prices come down in a historic fashion, if you look at the last — the last decade.  And it’s at 70 cents per gallon; that’s about more — a little bit more than $70 per month for families who have two — two cars in a household.  That means a lot.

I know that there’s a lot more to be done, and we’re — we’re going to — we’re going to — we believe more of a decrease. 

But what families pay at the pump does matter.  What families pay at the drug pharmaceutical companies matter.

I mean, we have Americans here who are paying for a drug two times, three times more than folks in another country.  I mean, that should not be.  So that does matter — lowering costs for millions and millions and millions of people.

And so, experts have said that — that — and they will tell you that the — when you — when you look at this — this bill, this act, it will indeed help fight inflation.  It will indeed help reduce the deficit.  The experts are saying that as well.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Today, the President argued that the economy is not in a recession, and it was a year ago that the President said that inflation would be temporary.  So the question is: Why should Americans take his word for it now when the President got it wrong on the economy a year ago?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So here’s — you know, when we talk about recession and we talk about where we are currently today, what we look at and what we speak to is the facts, is what other — other experts are saying and what the textbook definition is of recession.

And if you look at the pre-recession years during — in our history, you see that the thing that happens during a pre-recession is that the — is that you lose jobs, and we’re not seeing that currently.  We are — it is not what is happening.

The labor market has gained jobs.  If you look at the first six months, 2.7 million jobs have been created under the President’s watch.  Nine [1.1] million new jobs have been created the last quarter — 1.2 million jobs.  And we’re seeing the resiliency of business investment.  We’re seeing the resiliency of consumer buying power.  And that matters.  Those are the broad factors that we look at.

Q    But, Karine, what do you say to Americans who say this is really a discussion about semantics?  Whatever you want to call it, you have Americans all across the country who say it is harder for them to make ends meet every month.  They’re hurting.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And this is — this is a President who understands that.  We have talked about that.  We have talked about how we understand what the American people are feeling.  We understand what — that conversation they are having around the kitchen table about how they’re going to — how they’re going to deal with cost.

And — but that is why — that is why we’re asking Congress to act on this Inflationary [Inflation] Reduction Act.

And let’s not forget, I just talked about CHIPS and how that is going to make difference and lower costs.  When you think about the semiconductors — right? — you think about how the prices of automobiles shot up during — during the pandemic and now we’re going to be able to make that here, that is a big deal.  That is incredibly important as well.

Q    But, Karine, does the President run the risk of looking out of touch in this moment by digging in on this definition that this moment is not a recession if, in fact, at some point, it’s determined that that’s exactly what’s happening?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, I have to tell you, Kristen, I don’t think we’re digging in; we’re being asked.  You know, we’re being told — and, you know, every day I’ve come in here, I’ve been asked, “So, Karine, what — you know, is this a recession?”  So we’re answering the question.  We’re — we’re using the facts to answer the question.  We’re using economists who have said, “Hey, this — this…” —

For example, Chair — Chair Powell says, “I do not think the U.S. is currently in a recession.  There’s just too many areas in the economy that are performing well.”  And that matters as well, as we are trying to explain to the American people.

Q    And just very quickly, has the President spoken to Senator Sinema?  Is it his expectation that she is going to support this piece of legislation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I — I refer you to Senator Sinema.  The negotiations —

Q    Has he spoken to her?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — we do not have a call to read out to you at this time.  I would refer you to her and also Senator Schumer —

Q    Does he think it was a mistake —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — who’s doing the negotiations.

Q    — to not have her as a part of these negotiations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I would refer you to Senator Schumer, who’s been leading the negotiations.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  On the phone today, did President Biden ask President Xi anything about getting to the bottom of the origins of COVID?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the — on the origins of COVID, the two presidents did discuss the health security and transparency as key part of that.  As we have repeatedly said, the PRC is not living up to scientific and public health norms for data and information sharing.  We have said this before, so that is nothing new. 

And we are — the international community — we’ve said this — needs more data, they need more information to make clear the determination on the origins of the pandemic.

We continue to work with our partners around the world to — to press China to fully share information and to cooperate with the World Health Organization.

So this has come up many times before.

Q    I know it’s come up before, but it came up today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just saying that the two presidents did discuss health security.  That — that did come up.

Q    Okay.  Did the President ask Xi about the findings of that congressional investigation that the Chinese were trying to infiltrate the Federal Reserve over the last couple years?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We don’t — I — we don’t have anything to share on that —

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — beyon- — beyond the readout that you all got.

Q    On a different topic: The D.C. mayor sent the White House a letter asking for National Guard help with migrants that have been bussed here from Texas and Arizona.  Is the President going to approve that request for the National Guard?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as — to your question on the National Guard, I refer you to the Department of Defense.  They will have that answer for you.

We have been in regular touch with Mayor Bowser and her team.  And I said this before — I said this last week about Republicans using migrants as a political tool, and that is shameful and that is just wrong.

There is a process in place for managing migrants at the border; this is not it — what they’re doing currently.  That — that includes expelling migrants as required by court order under Title 42, transferring them to ICE custody, or placing them in the care of local NGOs as they await further pro- — processing.

Again, so what Republicans are doing, the way that they’re meddling in the process and using migrants as a political pawn, is just wrong.

Q    So the White House’s preference would be for small towns in Texas and Arizona to have to take care of these migrants rather than a large metropolitan city —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is not what I said.

Q    — like Washington, D.C.?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is not what I said.

Q    That is what you said.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That — no.  That is not —

Q    You said that you think that people are using migrants.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I said that there is — yeah, they are.  They’re sending migrants to big cities on purpose, using them as a political ploy.

Q    So if they don’t go to big cities, where should they go?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  There’s a process.  I just laid it out.

Q    There’s — there’s a process, and they come to a big city, and now the mayor says she needs the National Guard?  So —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s because — that’s because Republicans are using — they’re using migrants who are coming here for who knows — because they — they’re dealing with humanitarian issues back in their country.  They’re coming here for a better life, and they are being used, Peter.  They’re being used by Republican governors.  That is what’s happening.

Q    Does any of this just make the President want to say, “This is causing a lot of burdens on small cities, big cities.  Maybe I should just close the border”?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I’m saying is what Republicans are doing is wrong.  And there is a process in place, and we should follow the process.  There’s a legal process in place, and they should follow it.

Okay.  Thank you.

Q    Can I follow up on that, Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Go ahead, Steve.

Q    Sure.  I did want to go back to the question about the title of the bill — the Inflation Reduction Act.  Just to nail it down here: If you’re on Medicare, the bill offers a potential benefit.  You’re in the market for an electric vehicle, the bill offers a potential benefit.  If you want to put solar panels on your home, the bill offers a potential benefit.  But will the bill, if enacted, actually have an impact on the price of rent, on food, on some of the other things that have seen prices go up in the current inflationary dynamic?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s a good question.  Right now, it — what we’re seeing in the — in — in the act deals with healthcare — right? — and climate, which are important things in lowering cost, creating jobs, and making lives better for the middle class.

That is — we should not — we should not downplay that.  That is historic, again, and that is going to be — going to really help a lot of families who are struggling at the ti- — at this time.

If — if we go back to the American Rescue Plan, the President has proposed and has — has components of that American Rescue Plan that helped with housing affordability, which is also very important.  And the work that the President has done, just across the 18 months, with the American Rescue Plan, with the bipartisan infrastructure legislation are — is also — it’s not just this piece; there are multiple pieces that is going to make a real dent in what Americans are going through right now.

Remember, the reason why we’re going through this is because of outside impact that we’re seeing, right?  We’re seeing variants of COVID that has happened.  We’re seeing the war in Ukraine.

So there are outside factors that have led to the inflation that we’re currently seeing.

Q    So one quick other question on this topic.  Can you shed a little bit more light on the White House’s involvement in the crafting of the bill?  Senator Manchin this morning said that he went out of his way to avoid involving the President directly.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, you know, the President has been in touch with many members in Congress, and he has not been directly, as he has said, negotiating, but he has been in touch with them.

We have a whole White House team here who have had direct communication with folks in Congress about what they need, what they needed for — with this legislation, and that continues.  And that has been happening these past several months.

I’m just not going to go into further detail on a private conversation.

Go ahead, Nancy.

Q    Just two questions.  What did President Biden tell President Xi about Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan?  And has he personally asked Speaker Pelosi not to go on that trip?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I can tell you this: Look, I — there’s a separation of power, right?  There is two equal co- — two — two coequal governments.  The President was a member of Congress for 36 years.  He understands what that means, and he knows that this is not — he cannot say — tell a member of Congress what they can or cannot do.  So that is — that is something that the President gets very well.

Now, secondly, there has not been a trip that has been announced.  I cannot speak to the Speaker’s schedule.  She has to speak to her own schedule.

Again, as we have said multiple times, when a congressional member thinks about having a trip or wants to go on a trip — an international trip — we give them the advice the — on the geopol- — geopolitical assessment, a national security assessment, and it is up to them to make that decision.

Q    Just one more thing.  Based on today’s GDP report, China now will have a faster economic growth than the U.S. this year.  I’m wondering how the White House feels about that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’ll say — look, I’ll say this — and I’ll quote Secretary Yellen on — on what we saw today with — with the GDP. 

So, there — and she said this earlier during her press conference: “There are a variety of risks ahead, like Russia’s war, COVID lockdowns in China, and more.  We have strengths in the economy, a strong labor market being one strength.  Consumer household balance sheets remain generally strong.  Credit quality is strong.  You do not see some significant increase in businesses’ bankruptcies.  These would be the typical kinds of distress we associate with recession.”  That was what she said about recession.

As to China, look, we also passed — the House just passed the CHIPS — the CHIPS Act, which is going to be — which is going to make a difference, which is going to help us make us more competitive with China.  It is a huge, huge game changer, if you will, with investing — having manufacturers invest here, dealing with our supply chain.  Remember, one of the issues that we have had with supply — with inflation are the supply chain due to the pandemic.  So this will help with that.  This will create jobs. 

All of these things are going to matter in the upcoming months as well.

Michael, I have a — I actually have an answer for you.  I’ll give it to you right now if you want.  (Laughter.)

I remembered.  I remembered.

Q    That was amazing.  How do you read his mind?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Now, let’s see — well, no, he asked me a question a couple days ago and I was like, “I got to get that question — answer to him.” 

So, you had asked earlier about federal efforts to protect communities impacted by extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest in particular, so I just wanted to follow up with some information specific to that region, because I know McClatchy has a lot of other newspapers under your — under your umbrella.

So, as the Pacific Northwest continues to face a dangerous and persistent heat wave, the President has directed his team to take swift and aggressive action to protect communities.  Federal agencies are working with state and local partners in Oregon and Washington to provide clear and accessible information on how people can protect themselves from extreme heat.

For instance, multiple National Weather Service Forecast Offices across the Pacific Northwest have been regularly briefed — emergency management partners — on the expected impacts.  And we are deploying more than $7 million throughout this summer to Oregon and Washington to help lower cooling costs for low-income households; open cooling centers; and buy, distribute, or loan efficient air conditioning equipment. 

And you still get a question.  I’m just answering the question that you asked and I said that I would get back to you.

Q    I appreciate it.  On another topic: Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro has a close ally named Alex Saab who’s facing federal charges in a U.S. court.  He wants Alex Saab to be released.

In that context, the Venezuelans this year have,
separate from the two Americans who have been detained in Venezuela that the administration secured their release — separate from those two, Venezuela has detained four Americans so far this year that your administration believes is wrongfully detained. 

With the President signaling that he is clearly willing to conduct prisoner swaps, whether it be Trevor Reed and — I know you won’t go into the details of this offer with Brittney Griner or Paul Whelan — but with the President signaling that, how should dictators around the world, like Nicolás Maduro or anyone else, read that?  Is the bazaar open, and is there a value on American lives?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll say this: We don’t think that there’s an — there’s an incentive — right? — because we’re doing this for — for countries to continue to take more hostage.  That’s — I know we’ve gotten that question, so I just wanted to answer that.

But we also think by — we also think that it’s also critical to — to dis- — to deter and disrupt hostage-taking and wrongful detentions in the future to prevent more Americans and their families from going through this terrible ordeal. 

So that’s why, a couple of weeks ago, we announced a series of actions to expand the toolkit the U.S. government can — can use to do that, including the ability to impose serious costs and consequences, such as sanctions and visa bans on governments and non-state actors who are involved in hostage-takings and wrongful — wrongful detentions.

The State Department also just introduced a new risk indicator to their travel advisories to inform U.S. citizens about the risk of wrongful detention by a foreign government in six countries that have regularly engaged in that — in the space.  So I just wanted to talk about what we are doing currently and what we have announced.

Look, the President has been very clear: He is going to do everything that he can to make sure that U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained come home.  And I think what you’re seeing with his action and this offer — the substantial offer that’s on the table with Brittney Griner and with Paul Whaner [Whelan] shows that he is willing to take those actions, and even with Trevor Reed.

So, this is — this is something that the President takes very seriously.  And he’s just — he’s going to continue to act.

Q    Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll come to the back.  I’ll come to the back. 

Go ahead. 

Q    I had a question.  Does the President have another plan for passing aid to veterans exposed to burn pits now that the Senate Republicans blocked that bill?  You know, comedian Jon Stewart is on the Hill —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — you know, talking about that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I have to say, it is very disappointing to see what Republicans are doing on the Hill.  Just a few weeks ago, we had 84 senators — Democrats and Republicans — voted for the PACT Act.  It was a bipartisan process that was moving forward. 

But now you see Senate Republicans are playing politics, and they’re denying veterans the healthcare — and not just the healthcare, but the benefits they have earned.  The benefits that they have earned — the folks who have put their lives at risk to protect us.  This is what they’re doing, these Republican senators.

So we want to be very clear here: Veterans and their families are facing a stark reality.  As Congress stands by, veterans are dying from toxic exposures, as we know.  So we cannot wait any longer, and Congress needs to pass the PACT Act immediately.  And that’s the message that we’re going to send.

Q    One — one other question, if I could, about the call today.  Can you just share whether the President feels any progress was made on lifting tariffs against China?  Any progress on when that may happen?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have anything new to share. So the President did explain — on his decision.  But the President did explain his core concerns with China’s unfair economic practices that harm American workers and families. 

But again, did not — they did not discuss any potential steps he might take with President Xi.  That has not been decided, so I’m not going to get ahead of the President.

Q    Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Sorry, I’m — sorry, I’ll go to the back after I’m — I’m so sorry.  Yep.  We’ll get there.

Q    The Manchin-Schumer deal announced last night does away with the President’s proposed Buy American tax credits for electric vehicles, and it expands the idea to include vehicles assembled in Canada and Mexico.  Does the President support this change, considering how important it was for him to prioritize vehicles assembled in the U.S. with union labor?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, let’s not forget the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law; that also addresses electric vehicles, and it’s — is a — also a big historic investment.

Look, the way that we see this — you heard from the President this — earlier today; this is a one — it’s a lifetime opportunity.  This is going to be a game changer for many Americans.  And so he supports this piece of legislation and he wants to see it pass so he can sign it.

All right.  Go ahead, Chris.  And then I’ll go back.

Q    There’s some concerns, like, on the Hill among Republicans who feel like they were sort of blindsided by this announcement yesterday afternoon and that it could make it more difficult for them to get the votes together to do things like, you know, working in a bipartisan fashion on things like codifying same-sex marriage.  Does the President share any of that concern that now that that announcement is out it — after getting the gun bill done together, after doing CHIPS, that maybe now that — that we’ve moved beyond that phase and they won’t be able to get things (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll say this: I mean, I’m not going to speak to the mechanism or the decision of which bill comes first, how it was decided.  That is something that I would refer you to Senator Schumer and the Senate.

What I — what I will say is that the President has been at the tip of the spear when it comes to marriage equality, and he very much supports it.  We put forward the SAP just last week saying that we support the marriage equality bill that has been put forward.  And he is going to continue to encourage Congress to pass it.  You know, it’s not over.  I think negotiations are still happening.  And we’ll see where this lands.

But again, we — this is something that he strongly supports.  He was out ahead of so many people during his days in the Senate and also as Vice President.  And so, he’s going to continue to fight for it and speak out.

Q    Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll come back.

Q    So just to follow up on my colleagues’ questions on the — Speaker Pelosi’s trip.  I know that you don’t speak for the Speaker, and you’ve also mentioned several times that the White House has no control over the travels of lawmakers.  But if you could please speak to help us understand why is there such a public disagreement between the President and the Speaker on this very sensitive foreign policy issue that, you know, pretty much everybody in Washington is now weighing on.  If you could just help us understand, like, what’s going and the dy- — the dynamic between the two of them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, there’s no dynamic.  There is no public disagreement between the President and the Speaker.  There is none.  I mean, we have been pretty clear and we have said there’s no trip that has been announced.  And we have said that we leave it to the Speaker to make that decision.  That’s what I just said, you know.

The President has been a senator for 36 years.  He understands how this process works.  And it is not up to him to make that decision for where the Speaker goes.  So, there is no public disagreement.  That is not something that you have seen from here.  That is certainly being played out there in — in the world.

But again, we have — we have been very, very clear about this process and how this goes.  But it’s hard to speak to something that has just not been announced.  And I do not — again, as you just stated when you asked me this question, I do not speak for the Speaker and her travel.

Q    Can I just follow up on another related issue?  On the readout that the White House put out, there is no mention of the One China policy.  There’s mention of U.S. policy; that hasn’t changed.  And there’s — you know, the administration does not want any kind of unilateral action on the Taiwan Straits.  But should we read into this at all — the fact that there is no mention of the One China policy?  And even during the NSC briefing, I’m not even sure that that was mentioned very much.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  I will reiterate here there has been no change in policy.  And on Taiwan, the President underscored that the United States policy has not changed, as I just stated, and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace, stability across the Taiwan Straits.

So, we have been very, very clear on that.  There is no change in the policy.

Q    Just to — sorry, just to be clear: The U.S. still believes in the One China policy?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, yes.  That has not changed at all.

Q    Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, go ahead, Alex.  And then I’ll come back.

Q    Karine, can you be very clear here, given the importance of the issue: Was the White House, either the — President Biden or top White House staffers, were they involved in any way in the negotiations over the Manchin-Schumer bill?  And secondly, when did the White House learn of those negotiations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to speak to timeline.  As I said before, the White House — we have White House senior — senior staff that have been in regular touch with congressional members on — on the negotiations and the process and what has — and any way that we could be helpful, but I’m not going to go beyond that.

Q    But you — when you say “on the negotiations,” on that specific bill or just — or are you just talking broadly? Because of course you’re in touch with them.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, we — I mean, I’ve said this many times before: We do speak — we do speak to them — to members of Congress and staff and chiefs very — on an array of issues, and we stay in touch.  We stay in touch with different members. 

And in this particular instance, as you’re asking me: Yes, we stayed in touch with Senator Schumer.  We — and we were informed — informing the process in any way that we can, helping work out details and policies. 

So, yes, we had senior staff here who did just that and talked directly to Senator Schumer and his team and kept in close touch. 

(Cross-talk by reporters.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, my goodness.  Okay.  All right.  All
right. 

Q    Thank you so much, Karine.  One quick question and then another on foreign policy.  Why President Biden didn’t wear a mask today during his meeting with the CEOs after his doctor said he would?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So he was — so they were socially distanced.  They were far enough apart.  So we made it safe for them to — to be together, to be on that stage.  And, honestly, he participated and had conversations with them. 

So he’s going to continue to follow CDC guidance recommendation that individuals who have tested positive wear a mask when around others for 10 days after symptom onset. 

So — but when he’s at the podium, as you’ve seen him a couple of times since he’s come back from his isolation or similar circumstances today, we have ensured that there is sufficient distance between him and others to allow him to safely remove his mask in order so that he can actually engage and have a conversation. 

So we actually took protocols today to make sure that that occurred.

(Inaudible.)

Q    Okay.  And on Ukraine war, I interviewed President Zelenskyy this week and he did not rule out coming to the U.S. — leaving Ukraine for the first time and meet President Biden.  At the time, he is very concerned that people are getting tired and forgetting the war.  Did the White House extend such an invitation to President Zelenskyy?  Do you think this is a good idea for him to come here?  And does the White House also think this is a problem for Ukraine — people forgetting the war?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’ll say this: You know, we appreciated President Zelenskyy’s visit last year when he came — when he came to town here and he visited the White House.  His wife, as you know, Mrs. Zelenska, visited the President and the First Lady when she was here very recently — I believe last week, or maybe the week before. 

And, you know, we maintain regular touch with — with the Ukraine government.  The President stays reg- — stays in regular touch and in regular communication with the president himself.  We don’t have any plans to read out to you of travel — on his travel to the U.S.

But you know, I’ll say this: You know, the President is committed to making sure that Ukraine has what it needs to protect its sovereignty, to fight for its sovereignty, to fight for its democracy.  And it’s not just the President; we have seen NATO come together — more unified than they’ve been before because of the leadership of this President.  You saw that when he went to the G7, you saw that when he went to NATO, and that is going to continue. 

And we are — you know, we are still — we regularly announce military assistance that we are providing to Ukraine.  We announced a tranche last week.  And you will be hearing — be hearing more from us about that.  And so, we are very much committed to making sure they are fighting against Russia’s brutal war. 

Now, remember, this is Russia’s war.  It is — Russia could end this today if they wanted to.  But in the meantime, we’re going to continue to support Ukraine.

Q    And does the White House think it’s a problem that people are forgetting — getting tired of the war?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I think what is important is for — is for people across the globe, not just in America, to understand the importance for fighting for democracy and what that means; how important it is for all of us to stand together to make sure that a country like Ukraine, who — which is a democratic country, is able to fight for their freedom.  And that’s what — we’re going to make sure that continues.

(Cross-talk by reporters.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, my goodness.  There’s so much.  We’ll go — go ahead, in the back — in the back.  And then —

Q    Thanks.  I’m still just a little confused about the call today.  You said that the two presidents discussed health security; that’s pretty vague.  Did President Biden tell Xi to start cooperating in the investigations into the origin of COVID —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m —

Q    — that killed at least a million Americans? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, I’m aware how many — how many Americans that COVID killed.  I’m very aware of that.  The — clearly, the President just dealt with a bout of COVID.  And because of him and because of the work that he has done in the last 18 months, we are able to have a manageable process with treatment.  And if you’re vaccinated, if you’re fully boosted, you’re able to manage COVID. 

And also, I just want to remind you, since you brought this up: When the President walked in — into the administration, 3,000 people were dying a day.  Three thousand people were dying a day.  We have gotten that number down to 90 percent.  Still, people are dying, but we have gotten — because of the work that we have done, we’ve gotten it down to 90 percent, and we’re going to continue to do the work to make sure that we protect the American people.

So, first of all, I just want to make sure that’s very clear.  We were — and again, we were given a disjointed response to COVID, and the President had to turn that around.  So that’s the first thing I want to say. 

I am just not going to go beyond what I just laid out.

Q    So that’s not an answer to my question.  And last August, the President said in a statement that the Chinese have not been cooperating.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    We’re going on a year now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And I just said that — and I just said that.

Q    And you guys — you also said that, but you can’t tell us whether or not the President pressed to Xi to be more cooperative in this investigation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going beyond — I am not going to go beyond the readout that I just gave you.  Thank you.

Go ahead.  Go ahead.  You, sir.  And then I’ll come to you.

Q    Yes, I’m going to try one more time, I guess, on the Taiwan question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    I know that there’s not been a trip that has been announced, but does the President have an opinion on congressional delegations traveling to Taiwan?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He — the President has been a senator himself, as I mentioned, for 36 years, right?  He understands this process.  You do not tell a congressional member where they can or cannot go.  He believes that this is up to the Speaker to decide.  And also, let’s be very clear: There is no trip that has been announced.

Q    I understand.  I’m just saying —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But I’m just saying, we — we are talking hypotheticals here.  So there is no trip that has been announced, so I’m going to say that one more time.  And you know what?  I’m not going to get into any more hypotheticals from here.

But the — go ahead.

Q    The President has been considering lifting tariffs on China for some time.  I’m just wondering if you can explain what the holdup is on that decision.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s a — it’s an important decision that the President has to make.  He is taking this very seriously.  And once he has the decision, we will share that.

Q    Can I also just ask about the CHIPS legislation?  Is the White House considering tapping someone to implement that bill like you have with other major legislation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, that’s — that’s a good question.  I don’t have anything right now to share on any personnel announcement at this time.

Go ahead.  Go ahead, Steven.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  I’d like to first ask you a question about clarifying remarks that President Biden made to me on the lawn about two weeks ago.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    And I’d like to ask about the China call.

On the lawn, I asked about whether he was planning to fulfill his campaign promise to release everyone in prison for marijuana.  He told me that he doesn’t believe anyone should be in prison for using marijuana and that he’s working on a crime bill now.

So I was wondering if you could clarify whether he believes people should be in prison for selling marijuana, and also whether this upcoming crime bill rules out potential mass clemency.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So in April, during the Second Chance Month, President Biden announced 75 sentence commutations and three pardons, which are more grants of clemency at this point in a presidency than any of his five recent predecessors.  He continues to evaluate further uses of clemency powers.

We have — we just don’t have any additional announcement to make at this time.  But I can tell you that’s what he’s been doing during his administration.

Q    Thank you.  And on the China call, you mentioned counternarcotics.  I was hoping you could perhaps elaborate on what he may have mentioned to the Chinese President regarding fentanyl.

And also, relatedly, on the China call, online business records suggests that the First Son still holds a 10 percent stake in a Chinese investment fund.  Is it possible to have basic transparency there on whether he actually divested that stake or not?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So your last questions, I would refer you to his representative.  That’s not something that I can speak from — speak about from here at the podium.

On your first question — fentanyl — the two Presidents discussed this issue — the fentanyl issue that you just brought up — and tasked their teams to continue — follow up on today’s conversation.

In the past, the PRC has been responsive to the United States’ concerns about the shipment of fentanyl and analogues directly to the United States.

We would welcome additional PRC attention to addressing illicit drug and precursor chemical trafficking.  This is an area where the U.S. and PRC interests actually align, and so we’re going to continue those conversations.

Q    Karine, thank you so much.  I have a question on China and then one on reconciliation.  The official who briefed reporters on the Biden-Xi call today said that the two teams were going to follow up on a potential face-to-face meeting.

I’m wondering what we should expect the conditions for such a meeting to be and when it might take place.  There’s a lot of talk about maybe G20, APEC in November.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We just don’t have anything further to share.  Clearly, the call just happened today, so there’s probably discussions that need to be had on exactly the details and — and a schedule.

I mean, it’s just too soon, really, to — for me to speak — speak to that at this time.

Q    Okay.  And on the Inflation Reduction Act, it was reported that Senator Manchin sought the counsel of former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers to assess the impact of the bill on inflation before titling it that.  I’m wondering where the White House sought assurances that the tenets of that legislation would, in fact, lower inflation.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I’m just not going to — I’m not going to get into specifics or into negotiations.  You know, I would refer you to Larry Summers on that conversation that they had.  I know that he has been very supportive, clearly, of the act — Inflation Reduction Act.  I’m just not going to go into any further details from that.

Go ahead.  And then I’ll come to you.

Q    Yeah, I have a quick question about climate.  What’s it going to take for the President to declare a climate emergency?  I mean, we’ve had record heat waves across the country, record flooding.  There’s fires in California.  We haven’t even hit fire season or hurricane season yet.  So what’s — what’s the threshold for the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So let me just say, from day one, the President did not hesitate to harness the tools he has to tackle the climate crisis and reduce costs.  This is something that when he walked in, as I mentioned, he called it a “crisis.” 

Last week when he was in Somerset, Massachusetts, he said, “We are in a climate change — this is a climate change emergency.”  He was very clear about that and went there to talk about the climate crisis.  So he’s never been — shied away from it.  He’s always been a fighter for it and spoken out. 

So he invoked the Defense Production Act to make more clean energy in America.  He jump-started the offshore industry, and he set the strongest-ever emission standard. 

Under the — this President’s leadership, we are now on track to triple domestic solar manufacturing capacity by 2024.  Supplier contracts to provide materials and services to offshore wind projects have more than doubled.  Electric vehicle sales have doubled.  There’s more than 2 million EVs on the road, and we have 100,000 chargers across the country.

A lot of that is also because of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  So the work that he has done has led to improvements and moving forward with dealing with the climate crisis that we have not seen from any other President. 

So he’s going to continue to do that work.  I think it is important that — he has said how important the Bipartisan Infrastructure — and, I’m sorry, not the Bipartisan Infrastructure, the in — the Inflation Reduction Act.

There’s so many.  Have to keep up with them. 

And he has said the investment that we’re seeing for climate change in that — in that act is historic. 

And so, we’re not going to stop there.  We’re not — the President is not going to stop there.  He’s going to continue to take bold actions.

Go ahead, Francesca.

Q    A couple — a couple of follow-ups.  So first on CHIPS: Does the President plan to sign that legislation tomorrow?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything on his schedule to announce.  As soon as we — we have something to announce, we’ll be sure to share.

Q    And then on the budget bill, does he want the House to stick around to pass that bill this next month?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we want that to happen as soon as possible.  The President wants it on his desk to sign so we can deliver for the — for middle-class Americans, for the American people.  He leaves that process to the Speaker.

Q    Okay.  And then on his meeting with Xi Jinping, it sounds like you’re leaving open the possibility that it could be some sort of a standalone meeting that wouldn’t necessarily be —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I’m — I honestly — it’s a hypothetical.  I do not know.  I don’t have any — just — we just don’t have — the meeting just happened a couple of hours ago.  Their conversation just happened a couple of hours ago.  We just don’t have anything to share at this time.

Q    Sure.  And finally, did the President propose that they meet in person or was that the Chinese leader?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to share at this time on any — any travel, anything on his schedule.  What’s — what — if there is travel, what it’s going to look like.  A lot of hypotheticals right there.

Okay, go ahead.  Go ahead. 

Q    Just two quick ones, Karine.  One — back on the PACT Act, did the President speak to Senator Schumer about how quickly they could potentially bring that back up?  And is the President going to get involved in trying to get that passed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I — as I think he mentioned this in his — in his statement yesterday, he has spoken to Senator Schumer.  I don’t have any specifics on what they spoke about.  All I can tell you: This is personal to the President.  This is incredibly important to the President. 

I’ll just reiterate that it is not the time to play politics with our veterans.  They deserve this.  They are owed this from us to make sure that they have the healthcare to take care of themselves and their families.  And we should not be playing politics with this.

Q    And do you have any updates for us on when the President will first travel, now that he’s tested negative for COVID?  Is he itching to get out of the White House and get —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I could tell you —

Q    — to Delaware?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, you know — you know, the President.  You followed him over the years.  Yes, of course he wants to get out there and — and connect with the American public and see them and speak to them and talk about the work that he is doing here for — for the American public.

I just don’t — we don’t have anything to share with you at this time.  When it’s — when we’re able to — when he’s able to go out, he will.  He will continue to follow CDC guidance though.

(Cross-talk by reporters.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I got to — I got to go — I got to go around.

Q    Do we know — when is he going to sign the CHIPS bill? 

(Cross-talk by reporters.)

Q    Sorry, no, no, when’s he going to sign the CHIPS bill?  Do we know?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I was just asked that. 

Q    I’m sorry.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I — (laughs.)

Q    I was — I was —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Steve, you’re not paying attention.  (Laughter.)  Now I’m not going to answer your question. 

Q    It’s okay, Steve.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, I just answered it, Steve.

Q    What did she say?  (Laughs.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Ask your — ask your colleague.  (Laughs.)

Q    She said she doesn’t know.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)

Q    But has it changed since she asked?  (Laughs.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Ask your colleague.  I just answered.

Q    Maybe — maybe one — maybe one more.  One more.    

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, I’m going to go further back.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  So, Naomi Biden today said that she was going to have her actual wedding ceremony on the South Lawn.  Can you assure the American people that taxpayer dollars will not go toward that ceremony?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I can ensure it to you that taxpayer dollars would not go to that.  Look, I — that is — that is a personal affair that’s happening.  That is not White House business, so I cannot speak to that from here.

Q    And will the press pool be allowed access since it’s on the South Lawn?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — again, that is a couple months away.  That is not even something I was tracking —

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — to be very honest with you.  But I’m just not going to speak to that at this time.

(Cross-talk by reporters.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Okay.  I’m going to —

Q    Thank you.  The — one question on Africa, but one question on the President first. 

The headlines that we’ve seen recently: The Washington Post, “Quit, Joe, Quit!”  The New York Times, “President Biden Is Too Old…” to run for a second term; “Kamala Harris Is Stuck.” 

How do you see these multiple opinion pieces from the Washington Post and the New York Times?  Do you see them — do you see them as coming from a good place, good recommendation, good advice?  Or do you see them as a hit job, an attempt to (inaudible) January 6th by people who didn’t even endorse him in the first place?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We definitely don’t see them as any advice.  I’m going to be very clear; I’m going to say this once — and the President has been very clear about this: He intends to run in 2024.  And he is going to — until then, he is going to do the business of the American people as he has been doing for the past 18 months. 

When you look at the COVID response; when you look at the work that he’s been doing on climate change; when you look at the economy — how he was able to turn it back on — when he walked in, businesses were shut down, schools were shut down, we were — there were 20 million people that was collecting unemployment benefits, and now we’re seeing gains.  Nine million jobs have been created under this President since he walked into the office. 

That’s what matters, that’s what he cares about, and that’s what we’re going to continue to focus on.

Go ahead, Alex.

Q    And then on you —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No.  Go ahead.

Q    On you, personally: I know you’re a Black woman and you’ve been here for — at the podium for two — for two months.  Have you faced any racist attack from anyone?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — we’re going to going to move on, Simon.

Go ahead.  Go ahead, Alex.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Just help us think about this moment in COVID.  Right now, Los Angeles County, as you know, is debating bringing back a mask mandate, and the Health Commissioner there, Barbara Ferrer, suggested they may well do so.  At the same time, we just saw the President, you know, work through his illness — obviously, he had Paxlovid and great care — but there just seem to be confusing signals.  So, I know you guys listen to the science, but, sort of, just — in everyday terms, how should we be thinking about this pandemic?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not sure about the confusing signals.  We had Dr. Jha here for almost three days straight when — when the President was being — was isolated.  And he was very clear about what the — what this moment means and how we saw this moment as a teachable moment for the American public, and how we’re in a different place than we were 18 months ago.  That is just a fact.

We have vaccines.  We have boosters.  We have Paxlovid, which is the same thing — the same treatment that the President had, everyday Americans could have that.  And they can get vaccines for free.  They can get boosters for free.  And they can get Paxlovid from tens of thousands of pharmacies across the country.

That is because of the work that this President has done.  And we have been very clear COVID is still here.  It has not — it has not gone away.  But we have made some improvements, and that matters.  But we are going to continue to encourage Americans to make sure they get their vaccines if they haven’t, to make sure they get that second booster if they haven’t. 

And they can go to COVID.gov.  They can get that — they could find out where to get that free booster; they can find out where to get that free vaccine; also free masks, free tests.  So, go there.  Make sure you are protected.

And of course, lastly — and this is something that — that Dr. Jha spoke about: There is BA.5, which is very transmissible.  It is the most transmissible variant that we have seen thus far.

So, you are going to see local governments make their own decisions.  Follow — we ask — we tell folks to follow the CDC guidance on masking and — depending on the cases in your area.  And so that’s what we will continue to tell people and — and our message has not changed.

All right, guys, I’ll see you tomorrow.  Thank you.  Thank you.

 END  5:10 P.M. EDT

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