James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:17 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everybody.

Q    Good afternoon.

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  So we’re going to go until 1:45 — the in-town pool has to gather at that time — and then I’ll go for another 15 minutes, until 2:00, and then we’re going to hear the President speak at two o’clock.  So hopefully that’s a good amount of time.  And then we’ll be back tomorrow and the next day.

Okay, so we have seen a lot of momentum in the last 24 hours in our fight to restore Roe.  Americans in Kansas turned out to challenge views that would move the country backwards, with fewer rights and politicians invading our most personal decisions.  And they won.

In the wake of Dobbs, the President predicted people would turn out in record numbers to reclaim rights stolen from them, and they did.  The ballot measure proposed by extreme, out-of-step Republican officials would have eviscerated fundamental rights and access to healthcare. 

Republican officials have been very clear they are pushing extreme laws banning a woman’s right to choose, many of which don’t allow exceptions even for rape or incest.  And they are calling on a national ban on abortion.

As I mentioned yesterday, the DOJ also brought a suit against Idaho, where a near-total abortion ban is threatening women’s lives.  Federal law makes clear doctors must provide emergency care, including abortion services, to women facing health and life-threatening conditions.  But under Idaho’s law, women with medical conditions like ectopic pregnancies or hemorrhages can be denied the emergency care they need. 

And today, President Biden will sign an executive order at the first meeting of the interagency taskforce that builds on the actions we’ve already taken to protect access to safe abortions, contraception, and the ability to travel.

Today, the President is directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with states, including through Medicaid, to help women who need to travel out of state for reproductive healthcare, ensuring there’s no discrimination when obtaining medical care and promoting research and data collection on maternal health outcomes.

There have been big steps forward in the fight to protect our rights, but it’s not the end of the fight.  What’s at stake here is a choice between a national abortion ban, as Republicans have already called for, and more radical attacks on fundamental rights versus standing up for the rights Americans have been entitled to for almost 50 years.

We’re now seeing 50 days into what remains the fastest decline in gas prices in over a decade.  Gas prices are now down 86 cents a gallon from their June peak, saving American families with two cars on average over $90 a month on gas. 

And drivers can now find gas for the — for the — for less than $3.99 — $3.99 a gallon at more than half of all gas stations across the country. 

Prices are coming down even as Putin’s war continues to put pressure on global energy supplies.  President Biden promised he would address Putin’s price hike at the pump, and he is.  He is releasing 1 million barrels of oil a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  He is re- — rely- — railing [sic] international partners — rallying, I should say, international partners to release an unprecedented amount of oil.

More work remains, but prices are going down, and the President will continue to call on domestic and international oil producers to increase output so they can continue to come down.

Finally, lastly, today former Treasury Secretaries from both the Democratic and Republican administrations just became the la- — the latest in a wide range of economic experts to endorse the Inflation Reduction Act.

These high-level officials from both parties reaffirmed that this package will cut many families’ biggest cost and act against inflation.  They also became the latest in a long list of experts, as I shared with you recently, who have debunked congressional Republicans’ lies meant to protect tax welfare for wealthy special interests at any cost, even prolong inflation.

Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Jack Lew, Hank Paulson, and Ro- — and Bob Rubin joined over 120 leading economists, including Nobel Prize winners, CBO directors, who have analyzed the Inflation Reduction Act and agree it will lower costs, reduce inflation, address a range of critical and longstanding economic challenges.

There are also three new polls out today from Morning Consult, Politico, Yahoo! News, YouGov, and Navigator Research that underscore the American public’s overwhelming support for the major components of the bill, including lowering cost of prescription drugs, requiring large corporations and the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share, and lowering health insurance premiums.

Americans are weighing in with resounding support for the Inflation Reduction Act, and that’s in contrast to Republican members of Congress who want to block this legislation to protect tax welfare for the wealthy and corporations.

Not only that, but while congressional Democrats want to lower your prescription drug and healthcare costs, Republicans want to put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block every year.

Like Ron Johnson repeated yesterday, the choice is clear.  And we urge Congress to move forward with this package as soon as possible.

Josh, the floor is yours.

Q    Wonderful.  Thanks, Karine.  Two questions on two subjects.  First, OPEC today.  OPEC+ is boosting oil production by a much slower pace in September than in previous months — at about 100,000 barrels a day.  After President Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia, was this the potentially substantial increase that the administration was looking for?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll say this: You know, the President has been very clear, Josh, that oil supply must meet oil demand.  And the fact of the matter is — and I just laid this out in the top — which is, seven weeks ago, the price of barrel of oil was about $120, and now it’s at around $95.  Gas prices went from more than $5 to under $4 for a majority of the country.  We’ve seen the fastest decline, as I just laid out, in gas prices in over a decade.  And that’s 50 days straight — 50 days straight of decline.

So what we’re focused on is keeping those prices down. We wanted to see some increases in the production before we announced the trip.  And we actually saw that in that first week of June when OPEC+ announced that it was going to increase their production by 50 percent in July and August.  So we saw that happen.

But what we’re focused on is: The bottom line for us is that reducing the price of oil in the market is the most important thing.  And that’s what we’re seeing, and that’s what we’re going to continue to work on.

Q    Secondly, a bipartisan group of senators — including Kaine, Sinema, Collins, and Murkowski — introduced a bill this week that would bar states from enacting pre-viability abortion bans, but they would allow some restrictions on abortions for pregnancies after viability.  Does President Biden consider that a satisfactory standard?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we’ll say this — I know that that was introduced: The President has been very clear on this, is that the only way to secure a woman’s right to choose is for Congress to take action, is to restore protections of Roe as federal law.  That is how we’re going to do this in a blanket way so that women’s rights for reproductive health is really protected.

He stands ready to work with Congress to pass a bill that does exactly that.

And it’s not just him — it’s a majority of the American people believe this.  They be- — they believe that a woman’s right to choose should be — should be their right. 

So, again, we’re going to continue to work with Congress.  I don’t have anything specific to say about that particular legislation.  But we have been very clear Congress needs to act in order to codify Roe.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  A couple questions about Taiwan. First off, has the President spoken to Speaker Pelosi since she left Taiwan?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, she — she’s traveling, I believe, to Japan and South Korea.  I can’t remember which one is first.  So she’s on her travels.  I don’t have a call to read out to you at this time.  But they have a relationship.  They talk pretty regularly.  I don’t have anything, again, to — specifically to read out at this time.

Q    The G7 just expressed concerns about China’s threatening behavior in the Taiwan Strait.  Those were their words.  Does this letter come with any consequences if China continues that behavior?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So let me just reiterate what we have been saying from the podium for many days now.  You also heard this directly from our National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, who was on many of your networks yesterday saying that the Speaker has the right to make a decision on where she chooses to travel.  We provide the assistance and the — kind of, the geopolitical briefing and, kind of, what — what we believe the national security reasons are for — or lay that out for her as she makes the decision.

She is — we do not decide where she goes.  She makes that decision.  As you know, the President was a senator for 36 years.  He understands that particular fact.  So that’s number one.

It is — it is — does not change at all our lan- — longstanding policy, U.S policy, the — that we have had.  We have made that very clear.  The trip does not change that.

There is a precedent for a Speaker — we’ve talked about this in here — to travel to Taiwan.  And so, none of that changes. 

And so, you know, there’s no reason for Beijing to turn this visit, you know, which is consistent with our policy, into some sort of crisis or to use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait, as you just asked, Nancy. 

But again, it doesn’t change anything.  The President spoke to President Xi just last week.  They had — that was their fifth conversation.  They continue to have an open dialogue.  That’s what we have been wanting with China.

Again, there is no reason to see any change.  It continues to be consistent.

Q    But the G7, of which the U.S. is a member, is warning China not to continue this behavior.  What is the consequence for China if it does continue this behavior?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, again, we’re — we said — many days ago, we said that we — we knew this was going to happen.  We knew China was going to behave in this way. 

Again, it doesn’t change our policy.  We are going to monitor, and — and we will manage what Beijing chooses to do. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  On the EO that the President is going to sign — so we’re now some six weeks out from the Supreme Court ruling on abortion.  And this EO seems to be directing the Health and Human Services Department to consider a number of actions. 

So, where’s the urgency right now for women who need help?  And when will the help actually kick in?  What is the timeline?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the exact — when the President normally does an executive order, it’s always “to consider.”  That’s always the wording and the language that’s — that’s in an EO.  So, that is nothing new; you’ll see that in any executive order that he signs.  So, it is in line with that. 

Look, I mean, just to, you know — it’s really important what this is going to do.  It’s going to help, in particular, low-income women.  Right?  If you think about it, it paves the way for Medicaid to pay for abortions for women having to travel out of state.

Secretary Becerra will invite states to apply for Medicaid waivers to allow them to provide reproductive healthcare to women who live in states where abortions are banned — those he judged to be the strongest and most effective on both legal and policy grounds.  That’s what the President is doing.  He’s reviewing the options that he has. 

And — and so — and also the thing to note here — and we have said this: This is in consultation with groups, this is in consultation with legal experts, when we make these announcements.  And the President has been very clear he is going to continue to do whatever he can to make sure that a woman’s right to choose continues to be protected the way — the best way that he can from the federal government. 

But again, the way we do this, the way to make sure that it is federal law is Congress needs to act, and Americans need to make sure that their voices are heard. 

Q    But what is the timeline — specific timeline — on this EO?  For women who need, want to have an abortion soon, will this help them get one?  Are we talking about days?  Are we talking about weeks?  Are we talking about six months?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, that’s a great question.  We don’t have the details to share today.  But HHS will soon have more on what a waiver could look like in the timeline as you’re asking me and — which would generally target, again, low-income women served by Medicaid and help cover certain costs. 

So HHS — as you know, the President is going to sign the executive order.  It says “to consider.”  Secretary Becerra will then work with his team to figure out the details and the timeline.

Q    And one more question on this.  How will you be able to pay to help women pay to cross a state line to get somewhere else where they need to go, given the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, that is something that HHS will come up with the details on that and —

Q    Have they — but you’re about to sign an EO.  Have they not figured that out?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, we’re going to leave it to HHS to come up with the details on the specifics on how they’re going to work with states — if a state asks for a waiver — and what that’s going to look like. 

So, this is going to be in their purview.  They’re going to come up with the specifics — again, with the details on how this is going to work. 

But again, this is what the President is doing to — he’s looking at everything that’s available to him on the table — whatever is legally possible, what he can use, his executive authority — to move forward on, and that’s what he’s doing. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Quick question again on oil.  You know, 100,000 barrels a day — it’s enough to basically cover, I think, 86 seconds of global oil demand in a day.  And it’s essentially a rounding error when analysts say that the Kingdom could increase production by at least five times as much. 

You know, is the White House happy with that amount?  And again, does Biden feel like he got what he wanted out of the visit to Saudi Arabia?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, again, the way we look at this is that if you — I laid out the gas prices and how that’s gone down.  We went from 120 — (looks to television screen) —

Oh —

Q    It’s gone now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s gone now. 

Q    But I remember. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  A hundred twenty —

Q    There it is. 

(Chart on television screen reappears.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  There we go.

Q    You just missed it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So this is the prices at the — at the pump: 86 cents.  But if you look at the barrels of — the barrels — it went from $120 to $95.  That’s — that’s a significant, I think, movement that we have seen. 

And — and again, you know, we’re not members of the OPEC+.  We have said that.  We do not — we do not belong to OPEC+.  But they made an announcement the first week of June, and they said they would increase 50 percent in July, in August.  And that’s the — they did that.  This is one month, if you think about it — this is a one-month increase.  But the President is going to continue to do the work.

Look, if you think about his trip, to your second question, to the Middle East, it was important to go.  I mean, think about the announcement that we made about the Yemen truce.  That’s a war that started eight years ago — eight years ago.  And by having that truce, which is going on six months, we’re saving thousands of lives.  And so that matters as well.

So we think that the trip was certainly worth it.  It also allowed Israel to be — to come back to be included, to be more so included in the Middle East region, which is also very important. 

And so, look, when it comes to gas prices and oil production and meeting supply, we’re going to continue to work on that.  But you’ve seen the President take those steps — when you think about the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, when you think about how he was able to rally our allies to do 240 million. 

So, that is — we see that as incredibly important as we’re doing work on the — for the President.

Q    Thank you.  And just quickly, Saudi Aramco also signed MOUs today with China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation to collaborate more and with Sinopec to create a new manufacturing hub in Saudi Arabia.  Is there concern in the administration that Saudi Arabia is sort of loosening its energy ties with the U.S. and getting closer to China?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So that particular report, I would have to go back to the team and get back to you.  I have not — I have not seen that reporting. 

Q    Okay.  Just had a follow-up on the executive order.  Since the President is directing the Secretary of HHS to consider actions on helping patients who need to travel out of state to get certain healthcare services, what are some examples of potential actions?  And were there specific examples that the White House presented to HHS to consider?  The factsheet didn’t list any examples.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, that’s a — that’s a good question.  What I — I can give you a little bit of the waiver details.  I don’t have examples.  Hopefully, this helps.  And, you know, you tell me, MJ, and we’re always happy to — you know, happy to talk to you afterwards. 

So, as you know, Medicaid provides comprehensive healthcare to women with — with low incomes.  This care includes family planning services, such as contraception; nonemergency medical transportation; and support services like targeted case management, which allows healthcare providers to help patients coordinate their care; and it also includes abortion care in certain circumstances, as — as excepted by the Hyde Amendment, which is rape, incest, and life of anoth- — of the mother. 

Today’s announcements and the President’s directive to Secretary Becerra is to leverage Medicaid to support patient care for those living in states with abortion bans.  This process will be driven, again, by HHS, so they will have more to share on the medic- — on the Medicaid — on what the Medicaid opportunity is, including through Medicaid waivers — are available to states interested in supporting patient care for those who live out of state. 

But generally speaking, though, these opportunities will target low-income women served by Medicaid.  Because we were asked that question — how we were going to help women who couldn’t afford abortion — so, this is — this answers this question: having the waivers.  And it will cover — will cover care that is otherwise part of Medicaid’s comprehensive benefit program, which include travel under Medicaid’s nonemergency medical transportation benefit.

They will have more of the details, but that’s kind of the laydown that I can give you at this time. 

Q    And just in terms of the timing of this executive order: Obviously, the idea of helping patients who need to travel out of state — states — out of whatever state they’re living in now to get abortion services, other healthcare services — I think that’s an idea that you all have been, obviously, talking about since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. 

I guess, why is this executive order coming out now and directing HHS to consider more actions?  Presumably, they would have thinking about this already, right?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, you know, as you know, the last executive order that we signed — the President signed was to create a task force.  And that task force — one of the reasons it was created is so that it could be — streamline our efforts here and our efforts across the agencies to come up with ideas of how to move forward and how to move — the best way to really deal with — deal with this crisis that’s in front of us.

And so — and also, the — I think — so, that’s one part, right?  The task force came together, they’re — they are putting forth ideas and ways to move forward.

I think the other thing to think about is: You know, the President has executive authority, but he also has to make sure he talks to the legal experts, right?  He has to make sure that the ideas that we have or come up with can be done.  And so that’s also a big part of it, too.

This is still — you know, this is a government.  And so there are ways — there — there’s steps and processes that we have to take in order to take actions as big as — as big as these.  And so that’s something, as well, to take note.

But look, there has been an urgency from this President from day one when — when the Supreme Court made this extreme decision to take away a constitutional right.  It was an unconstitu- — unconstitutional action by them — a right that was around for almost 50 years, a right that women had to make a decision on their bodies and how they want to start their families.

And so the President has been very clear that he’s going to do everything that he can.  It doesn’t stop with this.  But we also understand that, you know, it’s — he can’t only be the only person working on this, right?  That’s why we continue to ask Congress to take action.

Q    Am I doing the math right that the 30-day report that the President asked Secretary Becerra for, that would be on Sunday, I think?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I have not done the math, so I — I trust you on that.  I would — I don’t have anything new on the 30-day report.

Q    Will it be made public?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re not — we’re not here yet.  I would have to get back to you on that.

Q    Can I change the subject, please?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

I’ll come to the back.

Q    Thank you.

Q    Just to follow up on MJ’s questions on this new executive order: The President had previously said that he wanted the Justice Department and HHS to explore ways that they could protect interstate travel.  How is this different or at all new from what he said weeks ago?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think laying out how to do that by — by offering this Medicaid waiver is a big deal.  I mean, this is a big deal for women who can’t afford to have abortion.  This is a big deal for women who are trying to figure out how are they going to pay for their healthcare.  This is a big, big deal for them.

And so, we were asked — I remember one of the last times I was in front — in front of you talking about this particular issue, I was asked, “Okay, well, what are you guys going to do for women who can’t afford?”  This answers that — begins to answer that.

So we think this is a important step; it’s not the only step.  But again, the President has been very clear about how do we get to Roe becoming federal law.  It’s: Americans have to make sure that their voices are heard.  That’s why we — I laid out or talked about what Kansas did last night.

Q    And will there be more details, for example, for women who are looking to utilize these services?  How do they access, as you outlined, some of the things — transportation, those health services in other states?  How is that going to work?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, all good questions.  HHS will — will be clearly leading this effort and will have more details to share.

Q    And then just one more quick one here.  Has the President had any conversations with Senator Sinema as the Senate continues to negotiate over the Inflation Reduction Act, or any conversations that the White House is having with senators as they try to push this over the finish line?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re not going to negotiate from here, as we say many times, or in public — just in general — and not going to speak to any other congressional members’ conversations or what’s happening in that — in that — that was related to that.

Q    Hi, Karine.  Yeah, a different subject.  A couple questions.  There’s text messages reported today from January 6th from top Pentagon and Army officials deemed key witnesses in the Capitol attack that were deleted after their phones were wiped.  Is there any concern from this administration about confidence in the DOD or the Army because of that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So my understanding is this is part of an ongoing litigation, so I would refer you to the Department of Defense.  It’s not something that I can comment on.  And they will have further comment or details.

But I’ll say this, more generally — here’s what I will say to your question: We have been very clear that we strongly believe in following public record rules.  That is important.  And the President also has been very clear that everyone should cooperate with the January 6 committee so they can get to the bottom of what happened that day.

But I’m not going to speak to any specific details.  I would refer you to Department of Defense.

Q    I just want to know if he has confidence in the DOD.  And does he also have confid- — does his confidence remain in the — the Secret Service detail —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I’ve —

Q    — after they’ve wiped their —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   So I’ve answered the — your last question, and I’ll answer the former question.  The last question is: Yes, he has confidence in the men and women who protect him and his family.  So he does have confidence in them.

And the Department of Defense: Yes, of course, he has confidence in Department of Defense.

Q    And, finally, the last question: Andrew Yang, former Democrat, has announced a third party.  Any reaction from this White House about the viability of a third party with Andrew Yang at the head of it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — as you know, and I say this often: I cannot speak to politics from here.  I have given up that life for the moment.  (Laughter.)

I’m just going to — I’m going to go back, and I’ll come back up.

Okay.  Go ahead.  Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, so on the OPEC announcement: Given what the President has invested, does he feel like the increase was an insult?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look — and I said this earlier, and I’ll say this again: The fact of the matter is that oil and gas prices are coming down.  They are coming down.  And they have been coming down since the President announced his trip.

The moment he announced his trip, we saw gas prices and oil prices coming down.  And so that is also important to note.

But what we’re focused on is that he has been — that he — that our goal is to bring prices down for Americans, and that’s what we’re seeing.  So we have seen some results.  You saw the chart that was behind me.  And we’re going to continue to do the work on the domestic and international oil producers to increase the supply of oil.

It doesn’t stop with the announcement today.  It didn’t stop with the announcement in early June.  We continue to do that work.

Again, we’re not members of OPEC — of OPEC+, but we welcome — you know, we welcome their announcement.

Q    The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is at the lowest level in 37 years.  The release of 1 million barrels a day ends in September.  So what’s the plan then after that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, from my understanding, and I can get you more specifics, is that we are replenishing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  I don’t have more to share on that.  But I’m happy to get more information.

Q    Can I ask a question about Afghanistan?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going — I’m going around.  I’m going around.

Go ahead.  Go ahead, Steven.  And then I’ll come down.

Q    Thanks.  Sorry, I’ll just maybe —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know people are leaving.

Q    All right.  Very quickly, where are the deliberations on a national emergency with respect to abortion rights?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t — we don’t have anything to share with you today on that.  Again, the President is looking at all his options.  You’re going to hear from him.  That’s where everybody is going at this moment — to hear from at two o’clock on this particular executive order that we’re moving forward with.

I don’t have more to share on that.

Q    Do the results in Kansas, as expressed by the people of that state, make the President feel that the members of his party should push stronger in Congress to repeal the Hyde Amendment?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I mean, we’re — you know, the Hyde Amendment is law.  And we’re going to — we’re going to follow that law.  So I’m not going to get into more than that.

But I will say this about what we saw in Kansas: The President was very clear that in order to, you know, protect our rights or codify Roe, we need to make sure that our voices are heard.  And that’s what you saw.  You saw the power of the American people last night.  And that is incredibly important.

It was not expected, what we saw last night.  And — and so this is what we need to continue to do.  In order to make sure that it is the law of the land, that Roe becomes law of the land, people have to make their voices heard.  And we — we are going to — we’re going to continue to call on them to do that.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Two quick questions.  On the abortion EO, can you give any more clarification on whether or not the President directed HHS to have the waivers pay for travel or have the waivers pay for the abortion procedure itself?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So the — so it’s the Medicaid waiver, from what I understand.  It is for them to pay for abortion procedure.  And I don’t have the specifics on the travel.  We can easily go back.  But from what I understand, Medicaid pays for your healthcare services, so I presume it’s for the healthcare.  Yeah.  Yeah.

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But I can get more detail on that.  I want to make sure I get that right.

Q    Okay.  And then, on Taiwan, has the Ronald Reagan Carrier Group left the east coast of Taiwan, or is it still there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would have to get back to you on that.

Q    Can you characterize any communications that you guys have had with the Taiwan military as they get ready for these PLA drills?

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

Q    Thank you.

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

Q    Thanks, Karine.  How come Republicans seem more jazzed about Speaker Pelosi’s trip than the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re going to have to ask Republicans.  “Jazzed”?

Q    Well, yeah.  I mean —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Do they have jazz hands, Peter?

Q    Do I have jazz hands?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  Do they have jazz hands? 

Q    Do they?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You said “jazzed” — that they’re feeling “jazzed.”

Q    We can have our Hill team check.  (Laughter.)  But Mitch McConnell said, “I think it’s important for the Speaker to go to Taiwan.”  Lindsey Graham said the idea of her going “is a good thing.”  Chuck Grassley, “I’m sure glad that she went.”  Is President Biden just worried about hurting Xi’s feelings?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — so you’re saying, because they said that, then we’re not “jazzed”?

Q    Yeah.  Absolutely.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  We’ve been very clear — we’ve been very clear for, gosh, the past week or so, that the Speaker has the right to go to Taiwan.  We have said that. 

Q    She has a right.  Yes, you’ve been clear that she has a right to go, but why is it so hard for the President just to say, “She’s a brave trailblazer, and I think it’s great that she went,” like so many others on —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think the President thinks that Speaker Pelosi is a great trailblazer.  Look, I —

Q    Does he think that it was good that she went?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Here’s the thing: What we are saying is that we cannot dictate and we will not dictate where members of Congress go.  Members of Congress — wait, let me —

Q    Totally get that, but when —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Let me — let me finish.

Q    — when they go, he doesn’t dictate if they go.  Now he can say if he thinks it was good or not.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, that’s not how it works.  That is not how it works here.  It really isn’t.  Members of Congress have —

Q    Can you at least say —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — have the right to travel wherever they chose.  Our part of this is to make sure we give them a thorough and complete briefing when it comes to the geopolitics of the region or the state, or when it comes to national security.  That is our part in this.

Q    Now that Taiwan is effectively encircled by the Chinese military doing these drills, does the President think that the trip was worth the trouble?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll — look, I already said this, and I’ll just repeat it to you: There’s no reason for Beijing to turn this visit, which is consistent with longstanding U.S. policy, into some sort of crisis.  There is no reason to do that.

We have been very clear there’s no change in our One China policy, which is guided by the Tai- — the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.  That has not changed.

And so, look, the United States will not seek and does not want a crisis here.  But we are prepared to manage what Beijing chooses to do.

Q    And last one about that.  There’s a Chinese official who says the U.S. must “pay the price” for its own mistake, and “We mean what we say.”  When the Chinese threaten the U.S., does the President take them seriously?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, the United States will not seek and does not want a crisis.  We are prepared to manage what Beijing chooses to do.  Nothing has changed when it comes to our policies.  This was a precedent — this was precedent for the Speaker to travel to Taiwan.  That is nothing new.  And it changes absolutely nothing when it comes to our One China policy.

I’m going to go to the back.  Go ahead.

Q    I have a Taiwan question, and also an Afghanistan question.  Just following up on Peter’s question, with the PLA encircling Taiwan, does the White House have a counterstrategy?  Do you have plans to counter this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not — I’m not going to lay out or go — lay out any of our, you know — any of our intelligence or  national security information from here.

Q    How about the punitive economic and cyber measures that Beijing is imposing on Taipei?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I missed the first part.

Q    I said: How about the punitive economic and cyber measures that Beijing has imposed on Taipei?  Is the — is the U.S. prepared to help Taiwan there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I’m not going to go further with what I just said.  There is no reason for — for Beijing to use this trip, which is a precedented trip, as a pretext for a crisis.

This is — there’s — there is — there’s no change to our policies, I’ve said, as many of my colleagues have said from here and also on many of your networks and in some of your publications.  Nothing has changed here.

Q    And then, on Afghanistan, given that the leader of the Haqqani network is, you know, a wanted terrorist, does the U.S. plan to put them on a counter — on a wanted list or target members of the Haqqani network in Afghanistan?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — Kirby got this question yesterday.  I don’t have anything more to add on the Haqqani network.

Q    A follow-up on Afghanistan, please?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Did — Peter, do you have something?

Q    If I can, can I ask you, Karine: Families are telling us months later that they’re still seeing limited or at least little to no improvement in their access to baby formula, and market research shows that shortages remain right now.  So, to those families, has the administration done enough to solve this problem?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, this is priority for us.  We understand what families are going through — caregivers, moms and dads, you know, grandparents.  And we have — we have done — we have done — you know, we have done the work, and we’ll continue to do the work to make sure that families have safe baby formula so that they can feed their kids. 

This is — continues to be a priority for us.  This has not gone away.  And we do understand that this — there’s a lot more work to do.  But we want families to know and understand this is an administration that cares about them, that cares about the safety of their children, and we’re going to continue to do the work.

Q    So they recognize that the administration cares; it’s a point that you guys have made before.  But what do you say to those families, though, when right now the shortage rate, according to data, is between — the out-of-stock rate is somewhere between 20 and 30 percent.  So when will it be resolved?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we’re doing the work every day.  It doesn’t stop.  We’re working with — with the agencies who are involved.  That’s why we were able to do the DPA.  That was an important move that the President signed on to so we can be — make sure that we get more production out there on — more baby formula on the — on the shelves.

We did, you know, the — we did the partnership with the Department of Defense to make sure we were able to do these fly — fly-in baby formulas with relationships that we had abroad.  And so, that has helped.  That actually brought up what was what we were seeing on the shelves.

But we understand that there’s more work to do, and we’ll continue to do that work.  We have laid out the steps that we have taken.  We have made announcements after announcements.

I’m happy to, once I — if I can get that to you — and we are happy to share where we are in how we have improved production. 

But we understand.  We get that there’s more work to do, and we’re going to continue to do that work.

All right, go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  People in southeastern Kentucky are still digging out from the devastating floods they had last week.  I know the President is isolating right now because he has COVID, but once that isolation is over, does he have any plans to go and see this damage for himself

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, I don’t have any travel to announce of the President at this time.  As you just said, he’s still isolating. 

I do have an announcement to make or some — something to share about an announcement that was made today: The Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary Becerra, declared a public health emergency for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which gives the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services beneficiaries and their healthcare providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs. 

We are doing everything that we can with FEMA and other — other agencies across the administration to be as help — to be helpful to the state of Kentucky.  And, again, I’ve said this before, but our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones and just lost so much in this period of time.

Q    But is a presidential trip there something that’s even being considered?  Is that something the President wants to do?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, as you know, he went to Kentucky when — I believe it was a tornado that happened — gosh, last year.  And he visited Kentucky at that time.  I remember traveling with him, and it was a devastating aftermath of what happened to the state.  I — we just don’t have anything to share with you at this time.  Okay.

Q    Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to try to go around here.

Go ahead.

Q    The President is on his fourth full day of isolation from his rebound case.  If he continues to test positive after he completes five full days, will he continue to isolate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would have to check to see exactly what the CDC guidance is, but we are going to follow CDC guidance.  It — but one thing I do have to say is CDC recommendations for rebounds — there are no CDC recommendations as it relates to testing and as it relates to travel.  But we have been following the five day of isolation. 

We added to our protocol, as we do here at the White House, because of the unique situation and the unique jobs that we all have here and making sure that we keep everyone safe.  We added the two — a negative test in order for him to — in order for many of us to come back to work. 

As far as, you know, beyond that, I would just have to make sure I check with the CDC guidance, but we — we will continue to follow that.

Q    And like you said, the CDC doesn’t call for people with COVID to test negative before, on a rapid antigen test, to end their isolation.  Considering it seems to have been helpful in President Biden’s case, is that something that the White House would like the CDC to urge Americans to do, to factor in antigen testing or for Americans to model his behavior?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we leave it — honestly, we leave it to the experts.  That is for the experts, and they — they follow the science, which changes on this.  This is — you know, this is COVID; as we know, a once-in-a-generation pandemic.  So we leave it to them to make that decision.

Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    As you know, the McKinney Fire in Northern California has killed, you know, four people.  I’m just wondering: Has the administration have been in touch with California officials?  What federal resources have been brought to bear there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, so we have been in touch with state and local officials in California.  We’re continuing to, you know, closely monitor the wildfires raging throughout the western United States.  And the President has also been receiving regular updates.  Even as he’s in the White House Residence, he’s working every day. 

I’ll say this to the folks in that region: Our hearts go out to the people who have been impacted by these extreme weather conditions, including those who may have lost their homes or businesses to what has become California’s biggest fire so far this summer.  More than twe- — 2,500 personnel and firefighters are on the ground fighting the fire.  And FEMA has been there very quickly, approved additional grant funding to help California pay for the cost of fi- — of fighting the fire. 

We also continue to take steps to make communities more resilient to extreme weather events like wildfires, including through the $2.3 billion in FEMA funds that President Biden announced last week to — to help communities increase resilience to heat waves, drought, wildfires, food [floods], hurricanes, and other hazards. 

I’m going to go way to the back.  Go ahead, Owen.

Q    Karine, thanks.  Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon. 

Q    I have two questions.  Back to the executive order first, from a much different perspective here.  Pro-life Americans don’t want their tax dollars paying for abortions. They believe life begins at conception.  The Catholic Church teaches life must be protected from conception forward.  But this executive order would have Medicaid pay for travel expenses for women to get an abortion.  So my question, respectfully, please: Why does the President want to force pro-life Americans, including Catholics of which he is one, to subsidize abortion?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’ll say this: So federal law makes clear doctors must provide women emergency medical care, including abortion services, to stabilize women facing [health] and life-threatening conditions. 

We are working to ensure that pregnant women whose life and lives are in serious jeopardy receive the care that they need.

This is what it is.  This is what we’re trying to do.  This is what the President has promised that he would — he would do.

But under that same federal law, there are exceptions for moral — to your point, Owen — or religious objections to provide particular medical services.  So, nothing in today’s EO impacts those exceptions.  So there are exceptions there.

Q    And then a quick follow-up.  Catholic bishops say the administration is trying to force doctors and nurses to perform procedures that go against their religious beliefs, including gender transition surgery and abortion.  Does the President believe in conscience rights and religious freedom for healthcare professionals?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I thought that’s what you were asking me in your first question.  It’s basically the same as I just laid out, which is, like, federal law makes clear — right? — that doctors must provide women emergency medical care, including abortion services, to stabilize facing health and life-threatening conditions.

I — as I just stated, under the same law, there are exceptions for moral or religious objections — to the question that you’re asking me — to provide particular medical services.

And nothing in the EO impacts those exceptions, so there are exceptions there.

And I thought that was the first question that you were asking.

Q    Okay.  So let me just clear up — just one final time again.  So, on the Medi- — going back of the first question: On the Medicaid — on the proposal to have Medicaid fund travel expenses for women seeking abortion, how would that not violate Hyde if it’s using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  This EO does not — will not — will not violate the Hyde Amendment.  It is law, and we follow the law here.

I have to go.  It’s two o’clock.  Thanks, everybody.  I’ll see you tomorrow.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you.

2:01 P.M. EDT

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