Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, October 18, 2022
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:07 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
Q Hey, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi.
So we are just past 100 days since the Supreme Court’s unconscionable decision to overturn Roe. And President Biden is continuing to fight to restore reproductive rights for millions of American women because we know what’s at stake.
Right now, Republican officials in Congress and across the country are implementing draconian laws that threaten women’s health and criminalize doctors for doing their jobs.
Senate Republicans have introduced an extreme national abortion ban. Republican officials across the country are passing radical, statewide bans with limited exceptions, risking the lives and health of women who have serious complications, who have survived rape or incest, or who are going through the heartbreaking experience of miscarriage.
In Arizona, Republican officials are trying to enforce a law on the books from 1864. Let me say that again: 1864. That’s over 150 years ago.
President Biden believes that Roe was rightly decided nearly 50 years ago and that women should be treated with compassion, they should be treated with dignity, they should be treated with respect, and also have the privacy to make incredibly personal decisions and, oftentimes, let’s not forget, difficult decisions — decisions about their own healthcare.
If there — if there are enough votes in Congress, the first piece of legislation the President is going to sign or he will send to the — to the Hill, I should say, next year, in the new — in the new Congress will once again make Roe the law of the land. And he will sign it into law around the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
The stakes could not be higher for women across America and for the generations of women to come.
With that, Seung Min, you want to kick us off?
Q Sounds good. Two topics. There are reports that the administration is considering releasing an additional 10 to 15 million more barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And I wanted to know if you could confirm those reports. And if so, what impact do you think that release would have on gas prices?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have anything to announce at this time. We — as you know, you may have heard that we are going to make an announcement tomorrow. And so, I will let the President speak for himself and announce — make his announcement on what he said last week he would have more to share on what he is doing to bring gas prices — or what he will continue to do to bring gas prices down.
But I do want to add a couple of things here. Gas prices have fallen by $1.15 from their peak, which was not too long ago. The 98th consecutive-day decline this summer was fastest in over a decade. Every month, the typical two-driver family saves about $120 at the pump compared to where we were in mid-June. Every day, Americans — Americans save about $420 million at the pump compared to mid-June.
Now, gas prices are falling again, just to give you a little bit more of stats there. The average retail price is down by five cents over the last week. States that saw cheap- — sharper increases in recent weeks are also seeing more rapid declines.
Just to give you a few states, California is down almost 30 cents this week. Wisconsin is down over 20 cents this week. Oregon is down over 20 cents this week. Michigan is down about 17 — 16 cents this week. Ohio and Indiana are down 13 cents this week. And so, those are the few states that we’re seeing the sharp declines that are now — they’re now coming down.
Q Can you give any sort of preview on the gas price announcement tomorrow?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get — as you know, I would get myself in big trouble if I got ahead of the President, so I’m not going to do that today.
Q Not with us. (Laughs)
Q I have one more topic. Kevin McCarthy did an interview with Punchbowl that was published this morning that talked about Ukraine aid and talked about how skeptical House Republicans will be of additional Ukraine aid if they’re in the majority.
And McCarthy said, “I think people are going to be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine. They just won’t do it.” So I wanted to know if the White House is concerned about the apparent waning bipartisan support for additional Ukraine aid and if that would encourage — if that would push you guys to get more aid in the lame duck, even though you just got $12 billion in the CR.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know — and you kind of laid it out — the United States has provided Ukraine with robust bipartisan support as Russia wages its brutal war against Ukraine.
So we will continue to work with Congress and continue to monitor those conversations on these efforts and support Ukraine as long as it takes. We are going to keep that promise that we’re making to the brave Ukrainians who are fighting every day to fight for their freedom and their democracy.
We thank leaders across the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats — as I’ve just said, it was a bipartisan effort — who are working with us to hold Putin accountable and support Ukraine to defend itself from Russia’s war crimes and atrocities.
So, this is — again, we’re going to closely engage. We’re going to closely monitor these dis- — these discussions. I don’t want to get ahead of what — what Congress might look like next year. I don’t want to go into hypotheticals. But again, we’re going to continue to engage with Congress on this.
Q Thanks, Karine. Why did the President decide to give today’s abortion speech in Washington, D.C., instead of a state like Michigan, where abortion is on the ballot, or in a state — Georgia, Ohio, or Pennsylvania — with a Senate candidate that’s locked in a very tight race?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, he’s — look, for those who traveled with us the last — those four days that we were out West, he mentioned the national abortion ban, he mentioned what that could mean to women across the country if we allowed that to happen, if we allowed Senator Graham to move forward with such an extreme piece of legislation, and how Republicans are taking us backwards.
So he has talked about that every time he is out there speaking directly to the American people to talk about what is at stake for Americans.
Look, I don’t want to talk about — or I can’t talk about politics from here. I don’t want to get into — into that conversation. As you know, I’m limited on what I can say.
But look, the President is going to continue to talk about his longstanding commitment for reproductive rights. And there’s a clear difference, as I just — as I just laid out — there’s a clear difference into the approach.
The first bill, as I just mentioned, that the President will send to Congress is going to be to codify Roe. And he will sign that around the anniver- — the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. He is committed to that. He is committed to making sure that we protect the rights of women.
We have to understand that the decisions that women make are incredibly personal when it comes to their healthcare. It should be something that is decided between a woman and her doctor, her family, not — not politicians. And they should not be stepping in on a right that existed — a constitutional right that existed for almost 50 years.
And so, the President has talked about it and will continue to do so.
Q What about the child’s right to life?
Q So that bill to send it to Congress and to codify Roe, is he talking about filibuster reform in order to make that law?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, he talked about that already. He — he was very clear a couple months ago about how he would — he would approve a carve-out for the filibuster as it relates to — as it relates to this issue. So he has already made his — himself very clear on that.
Q Two different topics, just to start with the speech today. He twice asked voters to remember how they felt the day the Dobbs decision came down. Is there a sense that people have forgotten or that perhaps some of the energy in the immediate wake of that, particularly among some Democrats, has started to wane over the course of the last few months?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, I’m not going to get into the political climate here, but what I will say is that it is very clear that a majority of Americans, you know, support Roe; a majority of Americans disagreed with the decision that was made by the Supreme Court just a couple of months ago.
And so, I’ll just leave it there. You see — and you see that in polling — polling after polling after polling.
And so the President is going to continue to talk about the issues that impact the American people. And this one, a majority of Americans have been very clear where they stand on Roe.
Q And then, separately, on Ukraine, given the targeting, particularly of energy infrastructure — I think the WHO warned that there’s the potential for a spiraling humanitarian crisis — there’s been a significant amount of U.S. economic aid that has gone along with the military assistance. But is the administration considering anything specific now to kind of triage at the moment where this has become a very acute and real crisis?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have anything specific to — to preview or announce today. I can say the U.S. has delivered $8.5 billion in economic assistance since late spring, and we will continue to work with allies and partners to support Ukraine. I don’t have anything else to preview.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Thanks, Karine. Does the White House have a reaction to Reuters reporting that Iran has promised Russia it will provide surface-to-surface missiles as well as more drones?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, with that, I can’t speak to those specific reports. We’ve already warned that Iran was planning to sell UAVs, in particular, to Russia, and Russia’s plans to import hundreds of these systems.
Jake Sullivan was here at this podium just months ago when he made that announcement and made that — made — made that very clear.
So we will continue to vigorously enforce all U.S. sanctions on both the Russian and Iranian arms trade, make it harder for Iran to sell these weapons to Russia. And we will stand with our partners throughout the region against the Iranian threat. And we’ll continue to surge unprecedented security assistance, as we have done throughout the — this past year — over $17 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, including air defense and working with allies to enable transfer of air defense system of their own to Ukraine.
So that is our commitment. And we will be there with the Ukrainian people.
Q And just one follow-up on Phil’s question. The — the threat from these infrastructures or infrastr- — power stations, et cetera, pieces of infrastructure in Ukraine — Ukraine being demolished must increase concern about Ukrainians’ ability to have power, to have water and heat.
To what extent does that concern the President and the White House, and how is that going to affect aid going forward?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, it’s a good point. The — the attacks that we have seen from Russia into Ukraine have been very deliberate. They have been, to your point — infrastructure, energy security for — for the people of Ukraine.
They are what — what it looks like — I don’t want to get into the head of Putin — he is trying to make sure that the Ukrainian people suffer, right? He’s making it very difficult for them. And — but what we continue to see day in and day out for the past several months is you see that Ukrainians are incredibly brave, and they are going to continue to fight for their freedom.
What I can say and what we have said and what the President has said is that we are going to keep our commitment to the Ukrainians, and we’re going to continue to support them for as long as it takes.
Q Hey, just — just one question. President Biden clearly put the onus on voters to elect more Democrats. But I wonder what happens if November 8th does not go the way that he — he wants. Like, does the White House have further plans about how it will protect the access to abortions? Or is it just the veto that Biden mentioned?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, the President has taken action — very bold action from the — from the beginning of this announcement — of the beginning of the decision — Dobbs decision — on what he can do, the authorities that he has from the executive branch on how he can protect the women’s rights, ac- — women’s access to reproductive rights, women’s access to abortion.
So he has been very clear about that. We’ve laid that out in exec- — again, executive actions. We’ve heard announcement from HHS, from DOJ. And so we have done and will continue to do everything that we can from here.
Look, you know, I want to be careful here. I want to be very careful what I say because, again, we cannot talk about existing elections that are currently happening. But the President has been very clear as — on this piece, which is, the way that we make Roe into law is to make sure that we have legislation, that we codify it.
And so, you know, that is the best way to really protect women’s rights. And that’s why you continue to hear that from this President.
So it’s not going to stop him from continuing to have — to have that conversation, to continuing to make those speeches that are going to be really important and making that point to the American people.
But, again, that is what the President is going to continue to say, which is we have to codify Roe in order to protect and get — to get those protections back.
Remember, this is 50 — almost 50 years of our constitutional rights that we had that was taken away by the — by the Supreme Court.
Q Just to be clear: Does the — I mean, does the White House feel like it’s exhausted all the options of everything that they can do in the last three, four months?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, the President has been very clear. He’s — he laid out some actions — right? — executive authorities that he’s able to take. Again, you’ve heard from the agencies that have been involved in this process.
But he’s always been clear. He’s always said: What people need to do is to make their voices heard. What people need to do is to make sure that we have — we have, you know, the votes in Congress to codify Roe. He has always made that clear in every speech that he — almost every speech that he has made about abortion rights.
Q Thanks, Karine. Going back to the speech, the President mentioned his decision on marijuana during the speech. Why haven’t we heard more about that since then? And do we plan on hearing more about that soon?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we laid out our — we laid out our plan. You heard directly from the President on what his policy was on — on marijuana. And, you know, you heard that from — you heard him mention that today.
I don’t have any — any more, you know, events to lay out about specific — specific speeches or comments about marijuana. But you heard directly from the President about what his policy is. And — and he kept his promise, his commitment that he made during the campaign.
Go ahead, Steven.
Q I’m trying to get specific. How many more votes does the President think he needs in the Senate to codify Roe? Is it 51, 52?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get ahead of this election or talk about this election. So I’m going — this was a political speech and not going to weigh into any specific numbers.
Q You did say if there are enough votes in Congress, the President would send, as his first bill in the 118th Congress, a bill to codify Roe. You can’t say how many is enough?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I can’t.
Q If the country sends to Congress a House and Senate that are not interested in codifying Roe or busting the filibuster to do so, what is the President’s top legislative priority in that case?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: If it’s — say that one more time? If it’s —
Q So, let’s say the House and Senate do not fall into Republi- — Democrat hands. Let’s — let’s say that Republicans take the House. What will be the first bill the President sends to Congress?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, that’s a lot of hypotheticals. Let’s — let’s first —
Q Well —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let’s first get — let me get —
Q I feel like we’re only talking in hypotheticals. (Laughter.)
Q That was all his speech was.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But — (laughs) — I know we’re all talking about hypotheticals, but I’ve also said I’m going to be very careful about what I say from here. So I’ve also led with that as well.
But that is like a — that is a different type of hypothetical that I’m just not going to — to preview from here at this time.
Q So is it fair to say that — that abortion rights currently is the President’s top legislative priority (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What he — what the President has said is showing his commitment, how important Roe is to him, how important reproductive rights is, because a majority of Americans believe that this right needs to stand and that they — they believe that the 50 years — nearly 50 years of rights that they had — constitutional rights that they had and that was taken away — you know, is not — is going backwards, not forwards.
And so, he is going to continue to talk about issues that are pac- — impacting the American people. And this is one of them.
By saying — by laying out what he is going to do next year with the 50 — 50th anniversary, laying out that he’s going to — his first piece of legislation will be on codifying Roe, is just showing his commitment to where majority of Americans are.
Go ahead, Jennifer.
Q On Mexico, the President of Mexico has — has said that President Biden is going to be traveling there in December. Would you be able to say if that’s accurate, if he’s right on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we’re still working — working through plans for the next North Americans Leaders’ Summit and have no travel announcement to make at this time.
Q Okay. And then he also said that President Biden arranged a phone call with him today. Is that right?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So the President is going to speak with the President of Mexico today on a range of issues from U.S.-Mexico priorities. And we’ll have a readout as soon as that conversation is — is concluded.
Q And then one more on the SPR release. Some White House officials have been talking for the last few days about the fact that it’s a possibility.
Can you explain why, with gas prices — you mentioned earlier that gas prices are going down again — why would the U.S. need another SPR release from that 180 million barrels that you already announced? Why would you need that now if prices are already dropping?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, I’m not going to get ahead of the — the President. As you know, there’s going to be an announcement tomorrow on the President’s policy, next move — his next move forward on what he’s going to do to help the American people, give them — continue to give them a little bit of a breathing room.
But President Biden has said for months how he is committed to doing everything that he can in his power to address Putin’s price hike. He has said this on almost every speech that you’ve heard him talk about when it comes to gas prices and what — what the American people are seeing and feeling at the pump. And he’s been delivering on that.
So, you know, as you note, gas prices have indeed come down. I just listed some of the states where we had seen a — an increase and now we’re seeing a decline this past week. They came down at the fastest pace in over a decade this summer and have continued to fall in recent days.
And — but at the same time, Putin’s war continues. His war on Ukraine — his unprovoked war, brutal war on Ukraine continues. And so it puts pressure on our global energy supplies because of this war. And so he’s going to continue to take action — the President. President Biden is going to continue to take action to make sure that he lowers costs.
Q And do you have any response to those who would say — who are criticizing the White House saying that this seems like a ploy ahead of the midterms?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the President — I would say this to folks: Should the President not do everything that he can to lower prices? Should he not continue to keep his prime — promise to give American people a little bit of breathing room? You know, that’s the promise that he’s made. Should he not do that?
And so, that’s what you’re seeing right now. This is something that he has done throughout the summer. This is something that he has done to address Putin’s price hike. And this is something that he has done to meet the global challenges that are in front of us.
Q It’s been eight months since Brittney Griner became a detainee of the Russians. She turns 32 years old today. A statement that was released through her representative said, “Thank you, everyone, for fighting so hard to get me home. All the support and love are definitely helping me.”
My first question, as it relates to Brittney Griner, is: Has the U.S. had any consular access to Brittney Griner since the beginning of August? As of last week, they had not. Have they in the course of the last week?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I want to be very clear here because this is important. This is important to the President. This is important to this administration. Getting Brittney home, getting Paul Whelan home is a priority for this administration. They are wrongfully detained, and they should be home today.
And so the President, his National Security Council, the State Department is going to do everything that we can to get them home. I don’t have anything else to preview for you at this time or to update you, but it is a — it is a — it is — continues — continues to be a priority for this administration.
Q So, obviously, there’s frustration about this. So you can’t say if in the last week there’s been any access to her, right?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we’re going to continue to work through our channels that we have with Russia on — on getting her home, getting Paul home.
Q But in terms of access, we can’t — we presently can’t say?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I —
Q I guess, how do we — how do we tell the American people — do we know that she is well? Do we know that her condition is well right now? When is the last time we got some indication of her circumstances? It’s her birthday.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, it’s a very good question. Don’t have any — don’t have any update on you — for you on that piece. What I can say: It is a priority. You’ve heard this President. You’ve heard from Secretary Blinken. You’ve heard from the National Security Advisor. And we are going to continue to talk through our channels until this moves from a priority to a reality.
We’ve had success, as you know, Peter, with bringing Americans home from Russia, from Afghanistan, from Venezuela, from Burma, from Haiti, West Africa, and more. So we have had success in doing this. We’re going to keep — we’re going to be steadfast on making sure that Brittney and Paul come home.
Q One quick follow-up. I know we’re going to hear from the President in more detail as it relates to the questions my colleagues have asked about oil specifically, but can you today rule out an export ban that would send oil overseas?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I am not going to get ahead of this President. I’m not going to be —
Q So that means — will the President address that specifically, I guess?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to lay out or preview what the President is going to address or not address. I’m not going to get ahead of him. We’ll let him make the announcement tomorrow.
Q So if you’re not — just to be clear, if you’re not going to get ahead of him, that means that’s an issue about which he’ll be speaking to; you don’t want to get ahead of him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That — that is not what I said. (Laughter.)
Q I guess I’m confused. If — I’m not asking about what he’s going to say. I’m asking about that specific question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I’m answering that specific question, which is I’m not going to get ahead of the President. He’s going to make his announcement tomorrow.
Q Okay. Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Peter.
Q Thanks, Karine, following up on something Steve was asking, what is President Biden’s top domestic priority now? Is it inflation or is it abortion?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President is going to continue to talk about issues that matter to the American people, and abortion is one of them. A majority of the American people disagree with the decision that — that the Supreme Court made — the Dobbs decision. That is — a majority of the people disagreed with that.
When it comes to the economy, the President has made it very, very clear. When it comes to inflation, it is the — his number-one economic priority, and he is doing everything that he can to make sure that we lower prices for the American people.
Q And you just said it’s “his number-one economic priority.” We’ve heard the President say inflation is his top domestic priority, but now he’s saying, come next year, his first bill would be abortion related. So is his number-one domestic priority abortion or is it inflation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let’s not forget what the President has done the last 19 months. He has made the economy his top priority. He — he has passed the American Rescue Plan. By — by the way, as you heard me say all the time, no Republicans voted for that in Congress. And it was a plan that helped us get back on our feet with the economy, that helped us gain or create 10 million jobs that we had lost. It also put money in people’s pockets it. It also made sure that businesses were — were able to open up, schools were able to open up. People were able to go back into their homes, save their homes.
And so, that was the American Rescue Plan. There’s the Bipartisan Infrastructure legislation, which was, again, to invest in ports, invest in the infrastructure that was dwindling. And so that is something that he did. The Inflat- — Inflation Reduction Act that is lowering cost for the American people.
He’s working on the economy every day. I just announced yesterday — or we just announced, yesterday, hearing aids. Thirty million people are going to benefit from hearing aids, saving thousands of dollars a year. So that’s working on the economy every day.
Q So you said he’s been working on the economy every day for 19 months. Now Bloomberg economists are forecasting a 100 percent chance of a recession. So how is it that we can be barreling towards a recession and the economy is, as the President says, “strong as hell”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So here’s the thing about the economy — and I’ve said this many times. You’ve heard this from Secretary Yellen. You’ve heard this from Brian Deese, who runs our Economic Council — is that what we are seeing right now is the job market is strong, the labor force is strong. And that is not what we see usually before — before a recession.
And so the — and a lot of that is because of the work that this President has done. We — we are seeing an economy that is resilient. We are seeing an economy that is going through — to — into a transition with more stable growth, more steady growth. And that is because of the work that this President has done; that is because of the economic policy that he has put forward.
And let me remind you: The economic policy that he’s put forward is about building the economy from the bottom to — from the bottom to the top and the middle out. And that is so important because it means that we leave no one behind. It means that there’s equity at everything that he puts forward.
And so, again, you’re going to hear from the President about gas prices. That’s, again, trying to make sure that we continue to keep prices low for the American people.
Q And last one. Just if President Biden keeps going to the petroleum reserves when there are energy problems, is he giving up on his campaign pledge to end fossil fuel?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I want to be very clear on that piece. You know, there is no shortage of opportunity or incentive for oil companies to ramp up production. We’ve made that clear. Oil companies are
ranking [raking] in record profits, as we have seen — they have showed it themselves; we’ve seen it ourselves — while more than 9,000 approved drilling permits remain untapped by the oil industry.
At the same time, U.S. oil production is up and on track to reach a record high this year. Again, a record high. In fact, the United States has produced more oil in President Biden’s first year than under the Trump administration’s first year.
Okay, we’re going to move on.
Q I have a question on Haiti. The U.S. is trying to work on a resolution that would get the Security Council to sort of support something that they called the non-U.N. security mission, led by a partner country. Can you tell us what that would look like? And talking about the U.S. specifically, does that possibly include actual U.S. troops? Or would that be logistical support, financial support?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So as you heard from the ambassador — Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield — yesterday, she laid out in her remarks at the U.N. Security Council: The United States and Mexico are working on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would authorize a non- — to your point — a non-U.N. international security assistance mission to help improve the security situation in Haiti.
As she noted, the resolution would outline a mission, led by a U.S. partner country with deep experience, and it would be limited and carefully scoped. That is what the — the — that is what we laid out yesterday. Conversations are ongoing with partners with necessary experience that have expressed the interest of leading that effort and contributing to a non-U.N. mission and playing leading or central roles in the effort as well, as I just stated.
The United States is considering the most effective ways to directly support, enable, and resource such an effort.
Again, they are — conversations are ongoing on how to move this process forward.
Q So there’s still a possibility or consideration for possibly U.S. troops? Or is that off the table?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, it is an ongoing conversation on how to move forward. I’m not going to lay those out right now.
Q Karine, thank you. I have two questions. One is domestic and one is foreign.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q On domestic, the New York Times poll showed yesterday that more than a third of independent voters and a smaller but — small contingent of Democrats said that they are open to supporting candidates who reject the legitimacy of the 2020 Election.
So while you’re highlighting the abortion issues, obviously the voters are focusing on recession, inflation, and economy. How worried is the White House considering this poll that was published by the New York Times?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you say — can you say it again, the beginning of the poll?
Q Sure. The poll showed that more than a third of independent voters and a small contingent of Democrats said they are open to vote or to support candidates who reject the legitimacy of 2020 Election.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, you know, we’ve spoken about that many times about — about those — about those who voted — and I want to be careful — in a past election of 2020, and how they — and the legitimacy of 2020.
Look, when the President came into office, he understood the importance of his election, the importance of the moment that he was in, the importance of bringing people together.
And so, you know, we are aware of that. We are aware of how people may feel about the last election. But the President is going to stay steadfast on the American people. He’s going to — he has always said he is — he is a President for people who voted for him or people who didn’t vote for him. He’s a President for people who live in red states and blue states. It doesn’t matter to him.
But also, you know, that’s why you hear him talk about the importance of democracy, the importance — the importance of making sure that we protect and fight for our democracy. You heard him give a very powerful, thoughtful speech not too long ago in Pennsylvania about this very issue. And so, he’s going to — certainly you’ll continue to hear from him how important it is to make sure that we live up to our — to our — you know, to who we are as a country.
Q And also, on foreign policy, President Zelenskyy thanked the Saudis for giving $400 million in humanitarian aid. Do you welcome this, considering your grievances against OPEC+ — that whatever they did was indirectly helping the Russians?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the decisions that OPEC+ made just last week is — was, we believe, sided with the Russians and was against the interests of the American people and the families around the world. We believe that decision is going to hurt and harm low- — you know, low- — lower-income economies. And it is a — it was a misguided — and it was a mistake and a short-sighted decision.
And so, look, we’ve talked about what the President is going to do next. He’s going to reevaluate his relationship with Saudi Arabia. This is something that he has talked about since the beginning of this administration. He wants to do it in a bipartisan way, which is way it has been done for the last eight decades when we talk about our relationship with Saudi Arabia.
So, he is going to do this in a methodical way, in a strategic way, and he is going to certainly get input from members of both parties.
But it doesn’t take away — I know what you just laid out, the assistance, but it doesn’t take away what OPEC+ did. That decision was a mistake.
And so, again, we’re going to reevaluate that relationship, and we’ll have more to share.
Q Another one? Thank you very much.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, go ahead. This one. Yeah, go ahead.
Q Thanks so much.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Nope — go ahead.
Q Thanks very much. Sort of following up on that, are any Biden administration officials planning to go to the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, later this month?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We don’t have anything to preview or announce at this time on any travel.
Q And do you think it’s appropriate for U.S. businesses to continue their engagement or investment in the Kingdom in light of what happened recently?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as they do in every part of the world, American companies will make their own decisions about their presence and where to invest, taking into account a range of factors including legal constraints, the business environment, and reputational concerns that can arise from public policy choices made by host countries.
Q I want to follow up on the Saudi Arabia question and then ask one about student loans. One of the arguments Saudi Arabia has made to justify their decision to increase more oil production is that the price of oil is about the same as what it was before Russia invaded Ukraine. What’s wrong with that argument?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we’ve made it — we’ve made it very clear that in the time of what’s going on — what we’re seeing with the global markets, the decision that they made — the OPEC — OPEC+ decision was a mistake. It was short-sighted.
We’ve been very clear about that. And, you know, again, the way that we see it was they sided with Russia on this. And it’s going to hurt American — the American people. It’s going to hurt families across the country. And we will have more to share on how our relationship is going to look like moving forward.
Q Can I ask about student loans?
Q Just a follow-up to Peter’s question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Q Yesterday, Secretary Cardona said the administration is working on ways to forgive the privately held student loans. Can you say how confident you are that that will happen and whether borrowers can expect an announcement on that before they have to resume payments?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to leave that to Department of Education. Like you said, Secretary Cardona is working on that, so we don’t have anything to share at this time. Clearly, it is a priority and something that is an important — important for this administration to make sure that private borrowers are — also have an opportunity here.
Q (Inaudible) parts of the briefing room. You know, come to the back, maybe?
Q Just a follow-up on Peter’s question on Brittney Griner. Has the administration had any recent communications with Russia about either of these cases in an attempt to win Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan’s releases?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As we’ve said before, we try to keep these negotiations private and just don’t have anything to share on any recent conversations. But this is a priority.
Q And then, just one on the pipeline. Police in Denmark said that their preliminary investigation into the leaks in Nord Stream 1 and 2 — they said it was caused by a powerful — by a powerful explosion. That’s in line with what Sweden said earlier. Does the administration have any reaction to these new findings? And does the President believe that Russia was behind this alleged sabotage?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the President has been very clear that it was clearly a sabotage when it comes to the pipeline. We’ve also said we know this investigation is going to take some time, and it’s going to be a long process before we get to the end of it. So, I don’t want to get ahead of — ahead of the investigation.
I’m going to go to the back. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. I wanted to follow up on some of the questions from yesterday about the midterms, and I understand you have the Hatch Act to consider. But what I was curious is: Even though we’re seeing the President out there, he’s been doing these smaller events with smaller audiences; he’s been doing closed-door fundraisers with no photographers. Why aren’t we seeing big campaign rallies? Or is anything on the schedule with the election less than three weeks away?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I can’t answer that question from here. It is an election — an election that’s currently happening at this time, so I’m very limited to what I can say from the podium, from the White House.
What I can say is that the President has been on the road. He will continue to be on the road. I just can’t say more than that. You have seen him. He was in Portland, Oregon, doing events. He was in California doing events. And he was in Colorado doing events. I will say that they were all pretty well attended. But I’ll leave it there.
Q But can I also just follow up? He has been doing less travel than, for example, we saw President Obama do in the first — in October of 2010. Can you give anything about the schedule, anything that may be coming up, any he stops he may be doing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we announced he’s — as you know, he’s going to go to Pennsylvania on Thursday. He’s going to go to Florida on November 1st. There will be more travel to come.
Certainly not going to get ahead of — of any announcements from here.
But again, the President, as you know, and we’ve said this many times before, he enjoys getting out there; he enjoys talking to the American people. This is something that he wants to continue to do.
And we have something to talk about, right? We have some successes, some wins to talk about. And I just laid them out.
The Inflation Reduction Act is going to lower costs for — healthcare costs for American people. It’s going to lower costs for our seniors, as we talk about Medicare. It’s going to lower — lower energy costs. These are real wins that we have delivered for the American people — that congressional Democrats have delivered for the American people, where Republicans, their plan — their plan is to take that away. They want — they want to take away lowering costs on healthcare. They want to take away lowering costs on energy.
And so, what the President is going to continue to do is figure out how he’s going to deliver for what matters the most for the American people.
Q Thank you, Karine. The President promised to send a bill to Congress to codify Roe earlier today. I’ve got two basic questions about that.
Number one, would that bill simply codify Roe? Or would it go farther and overturn individual state abortion restrictions?
And then, number two, are there any abortion restrictions at all that the President would support?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What the President is going to do and wants to do and believes in doing is codifying Roe. He believes that is what — it was the — the law of the land, a constitutional right for almost 50 years. And it’s — he believes in — its specific provisions was rightly decided. He has said this regularly, including right after Dobbs. And that has not changed.
Q Right. But that’s — that didn’t answer either question. There’s — first of all, there are individual state restrictions on abortion in the — on the books currently around the country. Some of those existed before the Dobbs case, before the overturn of Roe.
Would the President, with this bill to codify Roe, does he want that bill to go farther —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just — I just answered that question.
Q — and overturn the individual restrictions?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He believes — he believes — I just answered that question. He believes in Roe and how — and how it stood before the Dobbs decision.
Q Okay. And then, on the individual restric- — or, are there any restrictions whatsoever that the President would support when it comes to abortion?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He — again, he believes in the provisions that Roe had. And that’s where he stands. I would suggest you reading it so you get a sense of what the President stands and what he wants to see.
Q All right. Shifting to a different topic then. Why is it that the President was talking about nuclear Armageddon behind closed doors to political donors two weeks ago, rather than speaking directly with the American people about that topic?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, there was press. Your colleagues — there were few of your colleagues that were in the room.
Q Well, given the severity and the significance of that threat, isn’t that something that the President should perhaps —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we’ve talked about —
Q — address rather than just to donors? Should —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, but there was — there was — again, there was press in the room. It’s not like he was say- — he was not saying it in secret. He knew that the press was in the room at the time when he was making the comments.
Look, the President — we’ve talked about this. This is like two-weeks-ago conversation. We — we’ve talked about this in detail, about how seriously we take Putin’s saber-rattling, Putin’s comments about nuc- — using nuclear weapons. That is something that we take seriously.
Do we see anything at this time that causes us to move our — our strategic positioning? No, not at this time. But it matters that that’s — that rhetoric is being used.
And so the President has spoken to this, I have spoken to this, the National Security Advisor has spoken to this. Again, it was not in secret. The reason why you know that it happened is because there were reporters there.
Q Thank you, Karine.
Q Thank you. A follow-up on the first of the questions just now. Is there any chance that OMB may put out the text of whatever this legislative proposal is before, say, a Democratic majority on January 3rd of next year, that people can see exactly what the legislative language is that — that is being proposed here?
Because the bill that they voted on, on Capitol Hill, a couple of times — the Women’s — Women’s Health Protection Act — was broader than what I believe you’re talking about now.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as the President said, that he would send this piece of legislation — right? — to Congress, and he believes Roe and its specific provisions should stand. That’s what this piece of legislation that he would write, that he would send to Congress would look like.
And he’s been very, very clear about this. He made that statement when — when the Dobbs decision was decided in June. He is very, very clear that what Roe — the Roe’s decision was rightly the — when Roe was first put into place, that was the — in its — in its form — was rightly decided. And that’s what he wants to see, and that’s what you’re going to see he push forward in the — in the next Congress.
Q And can I follow up on the student loan question that was asked a little earlier, too? The President, yesterday, for those of us who were in the South Court Auditorium, mentioned the concerns about the legal challenges. Is there a message to the people — the tens of millions of Americans — who are signing up for this forgiveness right now, who may be eager to see it actually coming to their — their accounts, who may face the possibility that, at least for a while, there’s a federal judge somewhere who stops it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the President is — is committed to this, right? This is a policy that he put forward because he wanted to give a little bit of breathing room to the American people, to the middle class.
This is also a campaign promise that he wanted to keep because he knew how important it was to so many people. We’re talking about almost 40 million people who are going to get — borrowers who are going to get the — who are going to be able to get the effects of this policy. Twenty-three million people are going to see their debt — their college debt — already wiped away.
That matters. That matters. We’re talking about 90 percent of the folks who are going to be — the borrowers who are going to be getting this relief are making under $75,000. So he’s committed to this, and he’s going to make sure — do everything that we can to make this an easy process. And we’ve seen that already from the website.
And the thing to remember and I think the question to ask — or the thing to actually really think about here is what Republicans are trying to do. When you look at these lawsuits across the country, they’re coming from Republicans. And Republicans want to take away this essential need that folks — again, 90 percent of these folks are making 70 — less than $75,000, who need a little bit more of a breathing room, who need an opportunity to put money down on a house, who need an opportunity to get a family started, who need an opportunity to just live their lives in a little ea- — a little bit easier away.
And so that’s the question to be asking: Why are Republicans doing this?
Q Karine, last one.
Q In the back? In the back?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, last question. Last question.
Oh, we got to go? I’ll be back tomorrow. Thanks, guys. See you tomorrow.
2:52 P.M. EDT