James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:55 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everybody.

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Happy Friday, as well.

Okay.  So, the Inflation Reduction Act goes squarely at the — at many of the biggest costs Americans face, like energy and healthcare, giving families vital breathing room while building on the unprecedented deficit reduction we have achieved with over $300 billion in savings for taxpayers that a host of economists confirm will fight inflation.

Larry Summers, who has been critical of some of our policies, is one of them.  He said, quote, “It’s fair to call it the Inflation Reduction Act because” it directly — “it’s directly fighting the rate of inflation.”

Other experts like Jason Furman and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has said the same.

Jason Furman said, “The Inflation Reduction Act is what the country needs right now — helping to address one of our biggest long-run challenges (climate change),” for example, “while making progress on our biggest short-run challenge (inflation) while protecting the most vulnerable.”

And Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Budget: “Almost every one of these policies, in and of itself, will fight inflation.  And on net, the entire package most certainly will.”

To circle back for a second, that more than $300 billion that I just mentioned in a deficit reduction — I mentioned earlier, just now — will be financed by ending special tax benefits for the wealthy and big corporations that have happened at the expense of the middle class, including loopholes that allow multibillion-dollar international companies to pay zero dollars in taxes or a hedge-fund manager to pay considerably less in taxes than middle-class families will act against inflationary pressures across the board, addressing many costs.

The President’s biggest priority is cutting costs for families and fighting the global problem of inflation that is affecting the world, and that’s why he wants to pass this as soon as possible.

And while Democrats have a concrete plan to take on cost, congressional Republicans don’t, and they are so strongly opposed to ending welfare for Big Pharma, cutting energy costs and cutting the deficit, that they aren’t just uniformly opposed to this bill, but most House Republicans even voted against yesterday’s competitive — competitiveness bill that the Chinese government wanted to kill.  They even blocked legislation to help veterans exposed to toxic chemicals in service of their country.

The last thing I want to talk about is the Kentucky flooding that we have seen, that all of us have seen this past day or two.

And just to give you a little bit of an update: The White House is continuing to closely monitor the devastating flooding in Eastern Kentucky, and President Biden is receiving updates very regularly.  Our hearts break for the families of those who have lost their lives or are missing and to all those who have been impacted.

The President reached out to Governor Beshear, as some of you may have already heard, last night and left him a voicemail offering the support of the federal government.  And I expect they will speak at some point today.  He also called Senator McConnell this morning to offer support.

This morning, the President approved the Governor’s request for an expedited major disaster declaration and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.  FEMA Administrator Criswell is also on the ground today to tour flood-damaged areas of the state with Governor Beshear and state and local officials.

Search and rescue efforts are ongoing, with more than 20 search and rescue teams on the ground.  FEMA has deployed rescue personnel to assist with those efforts, and they have dispatched an Incident Management Assistance Team and staff to the State — State Emergency Operations Center.  We will continue to monitor the situation closely as damage assessments occur.

Unfortunately, Kentucky is no stranger to catastrophic climate events, and the federal government will continue to provide assistance.

Lastly and separately, I want to make sure you all saw the series of announcements we made yesterday on the federal government’s efforts to address the growing wildfire threats, which are driven in part by climate crisis, which have exacerbated historic draught conditions.

Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall and Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm convened a meeting yesterday with CEOs from the American electricity sector and senior leaders from across government to discuss how we can protect our communities from the accelerating threat of devastating wildfires, which is being exacerbated, again, by the climate crisis.

We sent out a readout of the — of this meeting early this morning.

With that, Darlene, you want to kick us off?

Q    Thank you.  On the veterans legislation that was blocked in the Senate, does the White House see what happened with that bill as a small hiccup, a small bump in the road?  Or do you see that as something more serious?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll say this, and I kind of said it in the opening just now: You know, we are on the verge — the President and congressional Democrats, or Democrats in Congress, are on the verge of passing this really critical, important piece of legi- — legislation that’s going to help middle-class families, and that is the — that is the Inflation Reduction Act.

And so that is critical, that is important, and that will help lower cost on — for dru- — on drug — pharmaceutical drugs.  That’s going to lower costs when it comes to energy costs as well, and reducing the deficit.

And what congressional Republicans have done and what they have offered — they have offered a plan that’s going to increase taxes on 75 million Americans, and sunset Medicare and Medicaid.

And the way that we see it is: We have a plan.  We have a plan to fight inflation.  We are — we are ready to help middle-class families and not — and Republicans are opposing that.

They’re opposing that because of false rage.  They’re opposing that because they are angry about, I don’t know, a procedure that we — a procedure on the House that we can’t even speak to.

And here’s the thing: We are talking about veterans.  We are talking about our veterans who have fought for this country.  We are talking about veterans who have been exposed to toxic chemicals because of their service to our country.

So the time is now to get this moving.  The time is now to move forward.  And we hope that they do the right thing.

Q    Secondly, the President had a couple of events here this week after he came out of isolation.  Can you give us a sense of how soon you anticipate him having an event away from the White House, maybe taking a day trip or —

And, also, do you — are you tracking him signing the CHIPS bill next week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I believe the bill is currently going through enrollment — the enrollment process.

Q    (Inaudible) event on the Hill this morning.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Right.  So that’s happening I believe today.  And so, when — we’ll probably have more on — on the CHIPS — signing of the CHIPS Act early next week.  I don’t have any — anything for you at this time.

And as you know — I think someone asked me this question yesterday about when he — is he going to get out there.  And if you know Joe Biden, if you’ve followed this President — and I know you have, Darlene, for many, many years — you know that one of his favorite places to be is to be out there talking directly and engaging with — with everyday Americans.

And so, as soon as we have something to share with the sche- — on his schedule, we will surely be able to do — we’ll surely be — be doing that so you guys will all know when he’s going back out, which he’s excited to do, looking forward to do.

Go ahead, Jeff.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  A number of Ukrainian POWs have been killed and injured in a shelling of an attention — detention facility in Donbas.  Both Russia and Ukraine are accusing the other side of doing the shelling.  Do you have any intel on what happened or any more detail?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we’ve seen those reportings.  It’s not something that we can speak to from here, but just not something that we’re going to comment about.  But we have seen the reportings.

Q    Okay.  But no sense of who’s responsible?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, we’re just not going to speak to that at this time.

Q    Okay.  And on one other topic.  You opened with a statement about the reconciliation bill — to use that word.  Do you have any concern, does the White House have any concern that passage of that bill, which of course would be a huge victory for the President, may prevent or may lead to some Republicans not supporting other bills, such as the gay marriage bill or others that they might have been inclined to support?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we like to call it the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Q    I’m aware.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  I mean, that’s the name of the bill.  And — because it does fight inflation; that’s what many experts say.

But no, you asked really good questions.  Look, I said this — I was trying to get to that with Darlene’s question about the importance of the Inflation Reduction Act and how it is going to help middle-class family, how it’s going to lower cost.

And this is a plan.  When we talk about having a plan for inflation, this is the plan that Democrats have, this is a plan that the President has, and it’s going to have a real effect. 

When you think about healthcare, when you think about energy costs, when you think about pharmaceutical drugs, you think about our grandparents, the seniors who are — who are, you know, thinking every day how they’re going to pay for their pharmaceutical drugs, this is a way to do that.

And, you know, for — the fact that Republicans are turning away from this, it’s — you know, it’s shameful, actually. 

But when it comes to marriage equality, we know that this President — this is not a secret — this President has been a leader of marriage equality.  He has been out — you know, he has been out front, ahead of so many other members of Congress when he was a senator and over just the past couple of years. 

So this is — that act, he supports.  We put out a SAP last week.  And we’re going to continue to have those conversations with congressional members and members of the — of Congress to make sure that that moves forward.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  First, I wanted to ask for a status update, if you have one, on the updated COVID vaccines.  Does the administration have even a rough timeline on when they will be rolled out?

And then, just generally, is the idea that certain people — maybe people with health conditions, older people — perhaps they would be prioritized first, or would it be sort of a free-for-all as soon as they’re available?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, just so folks know, and I’m sure you guys are all tracking this, HHS today announced an agreement to purchase 66 million doses of Moderna’s bivalent COVID-19 vaccine boosters — candidate for potential use in the fall and winter.

This contract announced follows a recommendation by the FDA last month that vaccine manufacturers update their existing COVID-19 vaccines to create a bivalent booster and can target BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants — as we know, is very transmissible.

But today’s purchase is in addition to — just so folks know — to the 105 million COVID-19 vaccine boosters — doses the U.S. government purchased recently from Pfizer for potential use later this year, pending FDA authorization and a — recommended by CDC.

Pending those FDA and CDC actions, HHS would receive the first deliveral [sic] — deliveries of the Moderna and Pfin- — Pfizer vaccine boosters doses in early fall.  So, decisions about the shots and all the experts’ review and the science data, that’s going to be something that FDA and CDC does.  I — we just don’t have anything currently right now to share.

Once we have more of what the plan looks like and the allocations, we certainly will share that.

Q    And then, just, I have one more following Secretary Blinken’s conversation with Sergey Lavrov today.  Is the White House currently open to President Biden directly having a conversation with Vladimir Putin to try to make progress on the U.S.’s offer to get Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan out of Russia?  I know at various points in the past there were suggestions, you know, right now may not be the right time just given everything that’s going on in Ukraine.  I just wanted an update on that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, Secretary Blinken thought it was — it was important to make clear where we and our global partners stand on several key issues.  Clearly, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan was part of that.  He reit- — he reiterated our substantial proposal, which you heard from Secretary Blinken yesterday, which is on the table.  And he spoke about — about the importance of Russia allowing ships to depart Odessa and to adhere to their grain deal.  So that was a conversation that they had today.

He also emphasized how Russia’s plan to annex parts of Ukraine by force, which we warned about from here at the podium, would be a gross violation of the U.N. Charter, and we would not allow it to go unchallenged or unpunished.

You heard him say, for — so, those of you who listened in today, that we are under no illusions that Moscow is prepared to engage meaningfully and constructively yet.  So Secretary Blinken made clear this was not about a return to business as usual.  So we are, again, under no illusions.

As far as a call or a — plans for calls, we do not have a plan for the President to call President Putin.

Q    At this point, is it on the table, off the table?  I know that there’s nothing for you to announce, but —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, no, it’s not even — there’s nothing for me to announce.  We do not have a plan for that at this time.

Q    Karine, I was hoping to ask a domestic question, but just kind of a follow-up on the status of these negotiations around Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.  Does the administration feel like it accomplished what it was hoping to by going public with this substantial offer, now that we are seeing some engagement between Secretary Blinken and the Russian Foreign Minister?  And are you concerned this could all just still fall apart?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So here — here’s the thing.  You know, we have made clear, the President has made clear that this is a priority for him, and it — for — in getting Brittney and Paul home; he wants to see them come home.  But he’s also made clear that when it comes to U.S. nationals who are being wrongfully held or held hostage, they need to come home.  And he’s going to do everything that he can to make that happen.

And I think this is what you see by the announcement that Secretary Blinken made yesterday: By having a substantial offer on the table, we are — we are making clear and being very — also very transparent of what is happening.  Those conversations are going to continue to go on.  We are not going to negotiate from here, just because it’s just the right thing to do and we want to be very careful.

And so, again, this is — this is the President showing that he is willing to do everything that he can to bring U.S. nationals home who are wrongfully being detained.

Q    It seems like a step in the right direction to have Blinken and Lavrov talking.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not — I mean, you heard from the Secretary — from the Secretary yourself.  He was very clear, as I just laid out, of the three things that came up during that conversation. 

He also said he is not delusional, you know?  And we expect conversations and negotia- — negotiations to continue. I’m just not going to say much more from here.

Q    And I just wanted to ask about some of the details in the Manchin-Schumer, sort of, deal in the reconciliation bill.  We — you know, everyone has just had a beat to be able to kind of dig into the bill text, and we’re starting to see some environmentalists really voicing concern, acknowledging obviously these huge investments in clean energy but frustrated by some of the trade-offs — mandates for new drilling, mandates for opening up some different parts of the country to drilling.

I was struck by Chairman Grijalva saying that he was particularly concerned that the deal’s promise of “comprehensive permitting reform” was another “euphemism for gutting our most foundational environmental and public health protections.” 

So, just, what’s your message to environmentalist leaders in your own party who are feeling worried that the climate investments just might not be enough to offset all this new drilling potential? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’m going to say that — you know, I said this yesterday, which is, you know, this is a historic piece of legislation.  It is going to be a game changer for so many Americans, so many middle-class families, and that the President is grateful — we have said is grateful for the work that has been done by Senator Manchin and Senator Schumer and others in making this happen. 

And so the way that we see it is it is going to help struggling Americans in a big way.  When you think about lowering costs — we’ve been talking about what are we going to do with inflation.  This is — this is one of it, one of those things, right?  This is going to help Medicare actually be able to negotiate to lower this cost.  This is going to lower energy costs.  This is the biggest investment that we have ever seen in U.S. history when it comes to fighting climate change. 

So this is a big deal.  This is incredibly important.  But we also see this as a down payment on what the President talked about in 2019. 

When it comes to climate — when it comes to climate change, the President has taken bold actions for this past 18 months.  And he’s — he will continue to do that.  It doesn’t end here.  He’ll continue to take action to make sure that we reach his goals — his emission goals.  We believe that we will meet these goals with this particular piece of legislation.  But there’s — there will be more work that we will continue to do.

Q    Is it fair to say he just likes the whole bill — all of it? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He’s grateful, and he thinks this is a historic bill.  And this will help struggling families, and this is part of fighting inflation. 

And also, when we think about the deficit — you know, lowering the deficit, which we’ve already seen this past year — that was done by $1.7 trillion; now we’re going to add another $300 billion.  This is a big deal.  This is incredibly important for American families.

Go ahead.

Q    On that note, because this is a priority for the President to pass this bill, has he — or does he have plans to talk to Kyrsten Sinema, who has not yet said whether she’ll support it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I am not going to read out any calls or potential calls with other —

Q    But is he kind of working behind the scenes to talk to lawmakers, get them on board, especially those who might be reluctant to support it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So the President has regular conversations with members of Congress.  His team, as we have said, have been — have been communicating with — with the senators on — on this — on this bill, offering any technical assistance or any guidance that they might need from us.  But I don’t have anything to read out on a potential call.

Q    Okay.  And then, given how difficult it is to get all 50 Democrats on to anything these days and how difficult it is to get bipartisan support for anything these days, when it comes to legislation to tackle inflation — and given that this bill doesn’t address, you know, rising home pri- — home costs and rent and food and gas and those kinds of things — does the President think that this is kind of it, this is what he can get legislatively from this Congress when it comes to tackling inflation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re talking about just in general? Or you’re talking about —

Q    Yeah, I mean, given that this is called the Inflation Reduction Act and there are still lots of elements of inflation that are not tackled by this bill and how, you know, tenuous support is for it, given that not all Democrats have signed on, does he think that the legislation — like, that’s kind of it, in terms of what this Congress can do?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I just want to be really clear here: This choice is not between this and a better deal.  It’s — it’s between this or walking away about things that we really care about when it comes to Democrats — issues that we really care about: lowering prescription drugs, lowering energy costs, decreasing — continuing to decrease the deficit.  All are things that Democrats care about.

This is a big deal.  This is a historic piece of legislation.  And to your point, it is the only legislation out there in Congress that’s going to fight inflation.  So, why — so we need to move forward to get this done. 

And so that is the message that we are going to put forth.  This is our chance to really start to lower inflation.  And the things that this bill does are not small.  These are really big, important items.

If you ask many American families — if you asked them, “Hey, are you being — are you able to pay for your drugs, your medical needs that you really need every day?” — our seniors — you ask our seniors that question, I’m sure most of them will say, “No, I have difficulty paying for those bills.”

I mean, that’s what we’re talking about; we’re talking about giving some relief to families, to seniors.  It’s going to go a long way.  Again, this is a historic piece of legislation, and we encourage — we encourage folks to support it.

Q    And just — so sorry, a quick follow-up on Lavrov.  Is the President concerned that these talks are doing anything to kind of legitimize Russia in light of their aggression and war against Ukraine; that kind of opening up these discussions — you know, starting these discussions, especially when it comes to Griner and Whelan, that this is doing anything to kind of legitimize Russia, or that it could get to that point?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I don’t know how that would legitimize Russia when we know they are causing this brutal war in Ukraine — when that is fact; when that is known; when you see NATO has come together in a way — coalesced in a way we have not seen in a long, long time to make sure they send a loud message to Russia; when you see the sanctions that have really hurt the Russian economy.

I mean, I don’t see how they are legitimized at all.  If anything, they are now a pariah in the global stage because of what they’re doing. 

So what the President is doing and the Secretary and his team — his national security team — is to make sure we keep our promise in doing everything that we can in bringing home U.S. nationals that are being held, who are wrongfully detained.  And that’s going to be the focus.  And — and so the President, again, his top — this is top of mind, this is a priority, and that’s what you’re seeing right now.

Go ahead, Kristen.

Q    Karine, thank you.  Going back to getting the Inflation Reduction Act passed, how does the President see his role in getting this over the finish line?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, look, this is — as I said moments ago, we see this as a down payment from what he’s been talking about in 2019.  The President has been very vocal about how he sees dealing with inflation — right?  — dealing with high costs. 

You have seen him the past several months talking about pharmaceutical drugs and, in particular, insulin and how expensive that is for families. 

You have heard him talk about how, you know, families are paying two times, three times more than families across the cou- — other countries. 

So we have been — he’s been very vocal.  He has been out there; he has done this — gone out there and met with the American people, or spoken in front of them and told that story, explained what Congress needs to do. 

So, you know, we’re going to continue to do that work.  His — his — he has staff here in the White House that’s continuing also to have those conversations. 

Q    And I ask, in part — and I know you’re not going to get specific about phone calls to Senator Sinema — but does he feel like he gave some space to the negotiators?  Does he feel like now is the time for him to engage directly hands on to try to get this over the finish line and to make that personal outreach to potentially bring Senator Sinema here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, you know, we’re not going to talk about any outreach of any other — any other senators.  But I — I would say that the President has been very vocal here.  He has made his point very, very clear to the American people, to the public of where he stands on these items that we’re talking about — when we’re talking about climate change and energy costs; when we’re talking about drugs — pharmaceutical drugs and bringing those costs down. 

And so — and again, his team — right? — these are the folks who work for him — have been directly engaging with members in Congress, and that’s going to continue. 

And so, again, he has been very vocal, and he’ll continue to do that. 

Q    There’s a new polling out by the New York Times, but other news outlets as well, that shows a majority of Democrats don’t want President Biden to run again in 2024.  The latest New York Times poll has 26 percent who say they do want him to run. 

We had some reporting yesterday that the administration is keeping a close eye on potential challengers.  How nervous is this White House when you look at those numbers and when you think about the other Democrats who are out there making their voices heard?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the President intends to run in 2024.  We are a long ways away from that.  I cannot get into specifics of any political — political election polling because I am behind this podium. 

But what I can say — I — we’ve just talked about the Inflation Reduction Act and how important the President believes it — to deliver that to the middle class, to the American people.

Earlier — earlier this week, or just yesterday, the CHIPS Act was passed and how critical that’s going to be to lowering costs, investing in manufacturing.  As we talk about inflation, it’s going to strengthen the supply chain.  All of these things are the work that — are because of the work that the President has been doing.

So, we’re going to continue those efforts.  We’re going to continue to deliver the best way we can. 

And let’s not forget the gas prices as well.  That’s — that’s something that the President has been doing for months, and we have seen a decline for the last six weeks.  That’s our focus.

Q    And just one more on the prisoner swap.  Does the administration feel more confident now that you will be able to bring Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan home after the conversation that Secretary Blinken had with his counterpart official?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we are doing everything that we can — everything that we can to bring Paul home, to bring Brittney home.  We believe they are being wrongfully detained and they should be home with their families.  And we’re going to continue to do the work to get them back.

I’m just going to — go ahead, Steven.

Q    Thanks.  Congresswoman Maloney, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter today urging the administration to declare a public health emergency for monkeypox.  Where does that request stand?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Dr. Jha talked about this the last time he was in here — one of the last times he was here.  He said that is up to HHS to the decide.  And I would leave it to them to make that decision.

Q    Earlier this week, I asked you about the TPOXX treatment that has been shown to be effective in reducing some of the pain in the lesions in the monkeypox cases.  Is — does the administration believe it has done all it can to see to it this treatment is made more available?  CNN reported this morning that only 230 courses have gone out as of last week, with more than 5,000 — or close to 5,000 cases.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, when it comes to TPOXX specifically, facili- — easier access to treatment is critical and a priority of the federal response.

CDC and FDA are working on a range of actions to do exactly that.  It’s important to note that when it comes to TPOXX is — it is FDA approved, but it’s approved for smallpox, not for monkeypox.  And so, it is a doctor — it is up to a doctor who is looking to prescribe that TPOXX.  They should reach out to the CDC if they feel that that is important, or their state health department, and will be able to access it.  But again, it’s — it is approved for smallpox.

I do want to say that, yesterday, HHS announced plans to allocate an additional 786,000 doses of Jynneos vaccines to combat monkeypox, making the total doses of vaccine available in the United States to over 1.1 million doses.

So, HHS will allow jurisdictions to order doses starting today and will ship them soon after.  So that is important, as well as testing that we have talked about — upping that, so people know what — you know, if they — you know, how to move, proceed or — if they have monkeypox. 

And also to make sure that people are educated — that is also something that HHS is doing.  And these are going to go to at-risk populations.  So, we’re talking about 1.1 million doses.

Go ahead, Peter.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  An official who is associated with Chinese state media is suggesting that if Speaker Pelosi tries to go to Taiwan, her plane could be shot down.  Does the President have a response to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, I’ve been asked about — I know you’re asking specifically about the rhetoric that we’re hearing from China.  But as it relates to the Speaker’s — the Speaker’s travels, it’s something that we’re just not going to speak to.  Right now, that’s a hypothetical.  We are — we are not — just — we’re just not going to speak on her schedule.

As we have said multiple times, we give advice and — and guidance to any members of Congress where they travel, to the region they travel, whether — and advice on geopolitical situation in the region or in the country, and any national security issues that may arise.

But again, I’m not going to speak to a hypothetical.

Q    Okay.  And on another subject: Why is the Biden administration building a border wall in Arizona?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we are not — we’re not finishing the wall.  We are cleaning up the mess the prior administration left behind in their — in their failed attempt to build a wall.

And I just want to be very, very clear here: On day one, we returned the money — the $8 billion the prior administration took from our military — we gave that back to the military for military families, for schools, for bases.  That’s what that money was being used — that’s what it was taken away from.

And so, again, what we’re doing is cleaning up the mess that the prior administration has done.

Q    But President Biden, when he was a candidate, said, “There will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration.”  So, what changed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We are not finishing the wall.

Q    If walls work in that part of Arizona, is this — the administration trying to get migrants to cross somewhere else, like in Texas?  What — what is the point?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We are not finishing a wall.  We are cleaning up the mess that the prior administration made.  We are trying to save lives.  This is what is — this is what the prior administration left behind that we are now cleaning up.

Q    By finishing the wall, is this —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We are not finishing the wall.

Q    By filling in, finishing —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We are not finishing the wall.

Q    By filling in, is this — is this racist?  Because in 2019, when the former guy was proposing a wall, you said that it was his “racist” wall.  So how is this any different?  I’m just having a hard time understanding how is this any different.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not even sure how you get to your first question to this question that you just asked me.  I will say this: A border wall —

Q    But what’s the difference —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m answering your question.  A border wall is ineffective use of taxpayer dollars.  So, it’s ineffective of taxpayer dollars — dollars that actually went to the military that the last administration, the prior President, took from the military, which took away from schools, which took away from military bases.  That’s what that money that he pulled away from to build this wall that he wanted — that is ineffective, by the way, which I just said.

Just recently, CBP reported that new bollard fencing along the southwest border was breached 3,272 times between fiscal year of 2019 and 2021, requiring $2.6 million in repairs.  It’s ineffective.  We are not finishing a wall; we are cleaning up the mess that the last administration made.

Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  I have a couple of questions.  One on Argentina and another one on Mexico.  On Argentina, I’d like to know where this — the President’s schedule stands in terms of meeting with the Argentina president.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, consistent with the White House protocol for positive COVID cases, President Biden worked in isolation for five days after testing negative [positive].  As a result, the plan to what you’re asking me — a visit by the President of Argentina has been postponed until a later date.  And when we have a new date to share, we will share that.

Q    But there’s no — any idea whether that’s going to happen in August or September?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We will share a date once we have it.

Q    All right.  And on Mexico, since Mexico’s President López Obrador was here recently and met with President Biden, I would like to know the role the White House played in the request of extradition of Mexican drug trafficker Rafael Caro Quintero, if any.

And since the request for immediate extradition seems not to be that immediate these days, is the White House in touch with Mexico at all or the presidency of Mexico in order to expedite this process?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So that is a law enforcement matter, so I would have to refer you to the Department of Justice.

Q    But I guess my question was whether President Biden touched on this matter when President López Obrador was here at the White House and if the White House played any role — that’s the NSC or the President himself — on this matter.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  When it comes to law enforcement matter, that is with the DOJ — Department of Justice.  That is not something that we would deal with here.

Go ahead, Jenny.  I’m going to come back down.

Q    Thanks.  Quickly to go back to the Inflation Reduction Act, there is a projection out from the Penn Wharton Budget Model today that found low confidence that the legislation will have any impact on inflation and even projected a small inflation increase in the first two years.  I know this is just one model, but it actually is one that Senator Manchin has leaned on before to guide his support or opposition to previous pieces of legislation.

So, I’m just curious if there’s any concern in the White House that with this new data coming out, that Manchin could reconsider his support for the current bill.  Or do you think you’re rock solid?  And — and how this squares — I know you cite other economists.  You’ve cited Jason Furman and Larry Summers, but I’m just curious how this squares with what we’re seeing today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So there’s also — Joseph Stiglitz said in a statement:

“The compromise agreed to under the rubric[s] of the Inflation Reduction of 2022 is far more than just an act addressing” inflatioment [sic] — “inflation — although it does that in several ways.  It simultaneously addresses several key and long-standing problems facing our economy and society.

First, on inflation: There is a simmering debate on the causes of inflation, but whatever side one takes in that debate, this bill is a step forward.  And that’s how we see it as well.  For those worried about excessive demand, there is more than $300 billion in deficit reduction.” 

That is also very important as we talk about fighting inflation.  That $300 billion deficit reduction on top of the $1.7 billion deficit that we saw last year is critical, and it will help fight inflation. 

Q    Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    I just wanted to come back to monkeypox really quick.  With San Francisco declaring it a public health emergency, New York State getting there as well, why does it seem that there’s a delay?  And is there any concern that the administration is moving too slowly on this to declare it a public health emergency?

    MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we — oh, you — declared it an emergency.  Again, that’s going to be with HHS. 

But look, you know, the way — and I talked about this earlier.  When — I believe the first cases were — was in mid-May, and in June, we put together a comprehensive approach on dealing with monkeypox.  We had — we put out 300,000 of vaccine that went to targeted areas, to communities at risk, working very closely with state and local legislators.  I just announced another close to 800,000 doses that we will put out there.  That’s a total of 1.1 million doses.  And then we also asked for 5 million after that.

So, we are doing everything that we can, working with state and local legislators.  We think it is our — it is our responsibility to fight this virus.  We know HHS is certainly committed to doing that. 

And part of this is going to be educating, as I mentioned earlier, folks; making sure that there’s testing out there.  We increased our testing as well.  And so we’re very — we’re laser-focused.  We’re going to get more vaccines out to the population across the country.

Again, that’s just one part of what we’re doing is testing.  And the treatments — we’re going to make sure that is more accessible as well, because we understand how important it is for people in communities at risk to protect themselves.  So, we’re going to continue to doing that work.

Q    Does the administration feel confident it can get the funding it needs for the monkeypox response from Congress, given that it struggled to get coronavirus funding for several months?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as the President said the other day, it’s critical that we keep investing in the vaccines, treatments, tests, and other tools we need to continue to make progress on — on — on this — and on this as well.  And so, we’re going to continue to do that.

We’re going to — you know, our team is going to work with — with Congress to — to deliver on the — on the — on the COVID and monkeypox.  It’s about $21 billion Senate is seeking to get that done.  So, that is — that is going to be continued to focus to get that $21 billion.

Q    Karine, so, Marc Fogel has been in a Russian prison for 11 months and is serving a 14-year prison for bringing half an ounce of medical marijuana that he was prescribed in the United States.  Why is he not on the list with Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, we’ve gotten that question before.  And, you know, as we have said, there’s certain — well, I should say, there’s certain cases that we cannot speak to because of privacy issues.  And that is one of them that we cannot actually speak to. 

But, again, I’ll just reiterate what we have said with wrongfully detained and U.S. nationals that have been — that have been held hostage: We are going to do everything that we can to be able to get them home. 

But some cases that we just can’t speak to it. 

Q    But they would like you to speak to it though.  They’re anxious and concerned that they’re not on the same list as the other two — other two Americans, with some similarities in their situations.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, again, we have — there are privacy considerations, so we have no further comment to make at this time.  But this is something that we take very seriously.  We see this as our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens abroad and monitor their situation.  But on this particular case, we cannot speak to it.

Q    I wanted to ask about two provisions in the HHS appropriations bill that Senate Democrats put out this week.  There’s $10 million in it to create a Reproductive Health Ombudsman position at HHS, and there’s also $350 million to fund travel costs for women to go to other states, as well as to expand abortion facilities in states that still allow it.  My question is whether the White House supports these provisions.  And if you do support them, are there ways that you — could still do them, even if the funding doesn’t end up in the final version of the bill?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, you know, the President was very clear about making sure that we provide FDA medications
to women and their healthcare who are making their own decision on how they want to move forward with their family. 

We know that when the Supreme Court made that extreme decision in — on Dobbs, it really put a lot of families and women’s lives at risk.  And so that is something that he made sure FDA was able to do.

When it came to travel, he — he asked DOJ to make sure that women can travel safely when they cross — when they cross the bor- — when they cross into a different state to get that abortion.  And so, you know, I don’t have much more to say on the HHS funding.

We — again, this is something that the President has been very clear in making sure that we do everything we can, and he put forth those two — those two actions.

When it comes to anything else, everything is on the table, and we — we’ll have more to share.  But I — I’m not — I’m going to leave that —

Q    So no position right now on whether an ombudsman is needed at HHS, for example? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just going to leave it there.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Two questions for you.  One, has President Biden been tested for COVID since testing negative to end his isolation as part of the monitoring for any rebound cases?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have — I would have to check with his team on when is the last time he was tested.  We have been clear that when he — if he were to test positive, we would share that and we’d be transparent.  And so we’ll share that when we have that information. 

Q    And then a follow-up —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  If we have that information.  We do not want to have that information.  But if that were to occur, we would be transparent, like we were when he — when he did test positive a week ago, almost.

Q    And then I wanted to follow up on the question Kristen asked you.  Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips today said he doesn’t believe that President Biden should run again in 2024.  He says he believes, quote, “most” of his “colleagues feel the same way” and that it’s time for generational change.  Generational change is something we’ve heard President Biden himself talk about in the Democratic Party. 

So does the White House have any response to the congressman?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m — I’m going to stay where I am — where — what I said earlier to your other colleague, which is the President intends to run in 2024.  We are ways away from 2024.  We are going to continue to focus on doing the business of the American people by delivering for families, by lowering costs for families, as we have seen. 

We are very focused as well on the Inflation Reduction Act, as I just went through and explained.  We saw the CHIPS Act pass, which is going to lower costs for families, going to fight — you know, strengthen supply chains, strengthen our national security, invest in manufacturing.  Those are the things that we’re going to continue to focus on and much more. 

And so, right now, 2024 is so far away.

Q    Russia follow-up?

Q    Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Michael.

Q    Thanks.  On the variant-specific booster shots for COVID — so with the 66 million Moderna shots ordered that’s in addition to the 105 [million] ordered from Pfizer —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — that’s basically enough doses for half of Americans.  Do you think that — is that reflective of what you think demand will be for the booster shots in the fall?  And what do you plan on doing as the administration to promote uptick in the event that they do receive approval?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, this is something that we — we have planned for.  And we have been very clear about needing the funding to continue the comprehensive plan that the President has. 

But again, we have — we have — we are planning for the upcoming months.  We have these 66 million boosters for — specifically for the BA.4 and the BA.5.  Once FDA and CDC — based on the experts’ review and science and data, they’ll have their decisions on — on that particular piece. 

But again, we will — we will have more to share and bring out Dr. Jha to share more.

Q    And then, is the President considering a trip to Kentucky to visit the disaster area?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As I — as I said at the top, he is being — he’s being regularly updated on this.  Again, our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones, who have just lost even so much during this time.  And a lot of it is due to climate change, as we are talking through this.  All the — all the movements on climate change is what we’re trying to do here.

But again, he’s going to stay updated.  He spoke to — well, he — he’s going to, hopefully today, connect with Governor Beshear.  I don’t have anything — we don’t have anything to share on his schedule at this time.

Q    Russia follow-up. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  One clarification and one question I have for you.

On the clarification: So we’ve heard the argument that job creation is the reason that we can’t be in a recession, or one of the reasons.  But on net, we were adding back jobs, not creating.  Because last month, for the first time, the private payroll finally reached the February 2020 levels. 

So the private sector has now only created 140,000 jobs after adding back (inaudible).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So what we have been saying is that the President — since the — the last 18 months, we have created 9 million jobs.  That is — those are the historic numbers that we have seen, the strong economic strength.

Q    But those are jobs that were lost that are being added back.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But we also have created jobs as well, as I just stated.  And so, that is also very important to note. 

And so, when it comes to — when it comes to the economy at this point, at this time, we’re seeing a transition.  That’s what we are — after a strong economy, a transition into more stable and steady growth. 

And that is something that — you’ve heard it from Brian Deese, you’ve heard it from economic team — that we expected.  There is nothing new there. 

And so we’re going to — the strong labor market, the resilience of the bus- — the resiliency of business, resiliency of the consumer purchase matters in all of that, matters in what we’re seeing currently.

But we understand that there’s more work to be done as we talk about inflation, as we talk about high costs, which is why we continue to talk about the bills that we’re seeing in Congress, in particular the Inflation Reduction Act. 

And so that’s going to be our focus.

Q    And on that transition, when can Americans feel or see — when can Americans expect that transition to be over?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So it’s happening currently, right now.  That is what we’re stepping into.  We see that — we see that — a little bit of a cooling — right? — with the jobs numbers that we see every month.  And, again, that is expected.  And so we’ll continue to see that.

Secretary Yellen explained this very well, much better than I am, because she is an economic expert and a very trusted voice on this.  One of the things that she said that I think is important: 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 business bankruptcies, which is important.”

And so these are the — these are the things that she highlighted yesterday that speaks to a lot of what we’re talking about when we talk about the strong labor market and where the economy — the state of the economy is currently at this time.

Q    One more quick one, if I could.  Just off topic a little bit, what’s the difference between Texas bussing migrants to D.C. and the federal government flying migrants to, say, New York in the middle of the night and other cities?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s very different because we’re not doing it as a — using migrants as a political pawn.

Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I have two quick questions on Russia and Ukraine, and another one on Nicaragua.  So there’s been a lot of movement in Congress about designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.  There’s a Senate resolution, as you know; there’s a House bill that was just introduced.  So my question is: Does the President support legislation to officially designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, or does he believe that to be an executive purview?  And if so, what are his criterias?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, basically, it’s a determination.  This requires a determination by the Department of State on specific criteria in congressional statute.  So we’re looking into it along with a range of other proposals to impose further costs on Russia.  So that’s how it’s determined.

But from — for some context, when it comes to export controls, which we have aligned on with 30-plus partners to multilateral sanctions with over 30 countries across four continents, to curt- — curtailment of international assistance and foreign aid, the costs that we have imposed are in line with some of the consequences of an SST designation. 

Our unprecedented sanctions are having a drastic — a drastic impact on Russia.  Russia’s stock market has lost a third of its value.  Inflation is rising up to 20 percent in Russia.  Russia’s imports of goods from around the world could fall by 40 percent.  It was reported that due to the enormous pressure of the U.S. and over 30 partners around the world, Russia defaulted for the first time — first time in more than a century. 

So that is what — when I say “Russia is becoming a pariah” — the question that I was asked — if we are lifting up Russia: Not at all.  They are — their economy is suffering.  And — and it’s because of what they are doing in Ukraine — the war that — the brutal war that they are imposing on Ukraine.

Q    And so can you confirm and/or comment on Ukrainians reportedly being mistreated in filtration camps set up by Russia and provide a reaction to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I — I have not seen those reports.  So don’t — can’t comment from here at the podium. 

But look, this is a brutal war that Russia has — has created in Ukraine, because they don’t want Ukraine to be a democracy, because they don’t want Ukraine to be a sovereign territory.  That is what Russia is doing.  This is not Ukraine.  This is Russia doing — causing — causing this war, which is causing also global challenges around — around the world. 

So this can end.  This could end today if President Putin says so.  This could end today.

Q    Thank you.

Q    And one last one on Nicaragua.  So the Nicaraguan government has withdrawn its approval of the President’s nominee for Ambassador to Nicaragua, Hugo Rodriguez, following his criticism of President Ortega’s regime.  What’s the Pres- — what is the President going to plan on next?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I need to check back with our team on that particular question. 

I’ll take one last one.  One last one.  Go ahead.

Q    On monkeypox, as I’m sure you know, advocates and medical professionals have expressed concern about the public framing of monkeypox, in that it could stigmatize the LGBTQ+ community.  I also spoke to advocates that have said that monkeypox, the name itself, is stigmatizing because of its association with Africa and the history of monkey — apes and monkeys being compared — Black people being compared to monkeys and apes.  The World Health Organization had a meeting about potentially changing the name of monkeypox.  Advocates would like to call it “MPV,” using the acronym.  Is that something that has been discussed at all with the administration?  Would they support that position?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It — we un- — we understand — and I know so many other communities understand how a name of a — right? — of a virus can really cause harm to that community.  And that is something that we have seen — right? — this last couple of years specifically, even when you look at COVID and the different variants.  And so that is something that is important to note and to speak to. 

I do not know of any conversations that is currently happening internally about that.  Clearly, that is not something we decide on.  That is something that, as you just stated, that WHO makes a decision on — on the names of viruses.  So I would leave that to them and would refer you to them.

Q    And a follow-up, please?  On student loans: Yesterday, about 100 members of Congress, including Senators Schumer, Booker, and Warren, called on President Biden to extend payments on — the pause on payments.  I know the administration has been kind of unwilling to say whether or not a decision has been made or if they’re still deliberating.  But I do wonder, given the recent economic reports, to what extent inflation is weighing on that decision or the deliberation.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So that — that question has been asked by our — I think Jared — Jared was asked this question when he was last — here last week.  And so, I leave you to his comments on that. 

I believe Brian was asked that question, actually, just this week, so I’d — I refer you to his comments on that. 

I don’t think — well, what I want to say is that it is a decision that the President takes very seriously.  He understands the burden that student loans has on families.  And so, he wants to make sure he is making a decision that is thoughtful. 

And he was just asked this question last week, which was the last time that we saw him out there on the road, which is when he was in Somerset, Massachusetts, and he said “by the end of August.”  So that’s what I would expect — by August 31st.

Thank you so — thank you, everybody.  

2:50 P.M. EDT

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