Aboard Air Force One
En Route Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
11:57 A.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. All right. As you all know, we’re on our way to Pittsburgh, where the President will visit and deliver remarks at the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh’s East End to discuss how — how Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments are helping to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.
The Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed on the morning of January 28th 2022. Just before the President was scheduled to visit the city — some of you may have been there with us on that day — the bridge fell more than 100 feet into the ravine and hillsides below.
Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments and guarantee of funding, the state and local government were able to rush federal funding to the project and make significant progress in rebuilding and upgrading the bridge, which is expected to be completed by December.
In his remarks today, the President will highlight how this bridge is symbolic of the impact that his Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is having across the nation.
The President will be joined today by Governor Tom Wolf, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Senator Bob Casey, Congressman Mike Doyle, and Congressman Conor Lamb. Some of those elected officials were actually there on that same day, January 28th, and so they will be joining us again today.
The final thing before we get to your questions:
Some really strong progress to report on the work to get Americans protected with the updated COVID vaccines heading into the winter. When CDC’s vaccination update posts later today, it will show 4.5 million Americans rolled up their sleeves to get the updated vaccine over the past week — just this past week. That’s the largest weekly increase since our fall vaccination program launched up — launched, up about 40 percent from the prior week.
Overall, around 20 million people have gotten an updated COVID vaccine so far. This is really an important progress, but it’s not enough. We need everyone to step up and get their updated vaccine as soon as possible.
With that, as you all know, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has joined us today. He’s also the senior advisor to the President. And he’s here to — if you want to say a couple of things, and also to take questions. All up to you. I know you guys may have questions for him.
Go ahead. Go ahead, Mayor.
MR. LANDRIEU: Yeah, just a couple things. First of all, we’ve been — as you know, we hit the ground running. We’ve announced $183 billion just in the last 11 months. We’re coming up on a one-year anniversary. And so pretty good stuff happening on the ground — 5,000 projects and moving. We’ve already — we’re in the process of repairing or building 2,400 bridges.
So it’s road, bridges, airports. You all have covered all of this stuff. High-speed Internet — we’re kind of laying that stuff down. Clean air and clean water. You know, on abandoned mine lands and orphan wells. And the clean energy economy, of course, which we announced yesterday, with a $2.3 billion announcement. Essentially, creating a new industrial strategy to stand up the new clean energy economy we’re going to have where we’re incentivizing companies to lay on top of our investments — significant investments.
We put up $3 billion. They’re going to put up another six. And there’s been another $100 billion that’s been announced as well. So this is really working well. We’re putting people to work. We’re rebuilding the economy. And we’re going to make life better for Americans.
Q Do you think Americans appreciate what you’re doing in terms of the infrastructure? Do you think they recognize and understand this?
MR. LANDRIEU: I think they — I think they I understand it.
Q (Inaudible) get any traction.
MR. LANDRIEU: Well, actually, I would argue with the premise. I’ve traveled all across the country, and when you touch down — if you’re in the eighth ward of Washington, D.C., and you’re standing outside of a family’s home whose kids were drinking, you know, water from lead pipes — they feel it significantly.
Or, for example, I was in New York — I hit four cities the other day — and we were either talking about water or roads or high-speed Internet. This thing is really registering with people because they’re seeing it on the ground.
I mean, this is the largest project in the history of the country, and so it is widely spread out and everywhere we go people are very thankful for the work that we’re doing.
Q Given how historic it is, the way you just laid it out, do you think that it’s going to help the Democrat — I’m not saying that was the reason for it, but will it help the Democratic Party in the midterms?
MR. LANDRIEU: Well, I can’t speak to the — to the politics and the immediacy of it, but I will say this: When people are thankful for good policy and good investments that impact their lives, they have a tendency to want — to keep doing that and to actually support people that actually make that happen.
And, you know, it’s an interesting discussion to have, because elections are about choices. And I think the Republicans of Congress have already laid out kind of what they want to do: cut Social Security, cut Medicaid, cut Medicare,
reduce [increase] everybody’s healthcare costs, take away access to things that are important. And the President is standing in the breach and actually demonstrating with historic legislation that he’s passed that his choices are different and better for the country.
Q But more broadly, do you think — you know, polls show that it seems like this midterms is going to revolve around the economy and inflation and President Biden’s handling of it. Do you feel like, broadly — including the Infrastructure Law, but Inflation Reduction Act, all these things — is the Democrats’ message on the economy resonating with voters?
MR. LANDRIEU: I think — I think the people of this country know that President Biden is fighting for them, and he’s really fighting hard to make life easier for them. And when you add all of these dollars up and the investments that are made, people actually see it every day; they’re driving through the construction sites. And they recognize that and they know it.
This thing was not a political act, it was an act to rebuild the country that’s going to take over five to seven years. And we’ve made tremendous progress.
You’ll see today that we actually have rebuilt this bridge within a year, which is — which is a record. And all of you were with us when you — when you saw the —
Q We were there. We saw it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah! (Inaudible.)
MR. LANDRIEU: — almost catastrophe. And I would recall for you that, you know — and the President, I think, will mention that in his speech today — but for the grace of God, there was a snowstorm the night before and it stopped folks from getting to work, you know, and school that early; otherwise, there would have been kids on that thing.
So, I think this picture today is going to highlight, A, the reason why we need it; B, the fact that the President, unlike the five presidents who went before him, was actually able to deliver for the American people; and then, C, they were actually getting the job done.
Q Is this a model of the speed of it? I mean, is this what Americans should expect for every project?
MR. LANDRIEU: No, not necessarily. But when there are emergencies, the point is: You run to the fire. You’ve seen us do this after every major emergency, whether it’s Kentucky; whether it’s in Mississippi, in Jackson; whether it’s in Florida.
This is a President who, every time there is something that happens, is there on the ground with the people making government work with them and the private sector. So, what it does demonstrate is the President’s commitment to get things done. And he’s demonstrated it time and time again.
Q Can I ask about Ukraine? Whoa!
(Air Force One experiences turbulence.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you okay?
Q Almost lost you.
Q How is the Infrastructure Law supporting the rebuilding of the bridge? Because the money is not going directly from the Infrastructure Law to the bridge.
MR. LANDRIEU: Well, let me say this: The only way they could have done this is had the infrastructure — if the money from the Infrastructure Law was coming later, this is — this is Federal Highway Authority money that’s part of a formula system that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law fills up. Had the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law not done that, they would’ve not been able to put this money in the bridge and then stayed on cycle to do the other stuff.
Q Could we ask about other st- —
Q Karine, we’ve got COP27 coming up —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, why don’t you finish, and then —
Q Just — you mentioned clean energy and COP27. Or — sorry, you didn’t mention COP27 —
MR. LANDRIEU: (Inaudible.)
Q Yes, exactly. But in the run-up to COP27, are you expecting more of a push in terms of — you know, will there be big announcements from the administration on infrastructure projects related to COP27?
MR. LANDRIEU: I don’t want to get in front of those announcements before they’re made. I can only say, in the — between the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, this is the largest investment that the United States as America has ever made towards moving towards a clean energy economy.
And yesterday, you saw us lay down $2.8 billion, which is going to turbocharge our ability to get there. You’ve also seen private companies like Honda and Siemens and all of those folks actually come in.
So this is — you know, for promises made, promises kept, are — I told you that this policy was going to work; the demonstration is that the President is succeeding in a huge way.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, don’t go anywhere, Mayor. But I know you had a couple questions. I’ll take them.
Q Thank you. Just about Ukraine. Does the U.S. have information about the — these evacuations, or whatever they are, in Kherson? Who are all these people? Are they being — are they wanting to go away? Or are they being forced?
And just the other one: This guy, Artem Uss, is one of the people arrested with smuggling high-tech stuff. Is there any sense that that plays into the negotiations with Griner?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’ll take your first question first. So, look, I can’t speak to Russian motives here. We — that’s something that we don’t do from here. But as we’ve said, it’s no surprise to us that the Russians would employ such ham-fisted tactics to try to exert control over a population that is clearly rejecting Putin and his war.
It’s another example of their cruelty, as the President mentioned bef- — yesterday about their — the brutality that we’re seeing.
The Ukrainian people have made clear that they will not
resist [stop resisting] Russian aggression. And President Biden has made clear and will continue supporting their efforts to defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Your la- — your second question on Artem — Artem U-S-S. So, look, I don’t want to speculate on that, either. But we’ll — we will continue to work through our established channels until this moves from a priority to a reality.
We’ve had success — (Air Force One experiences turbulence during descent) — as we land. (Laughter.)
We’ve had success bringing Americans home from Russia, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Burma, Haiti, West Africa, and more.
And as I — as the President has said, as I have said, is — the President is willing to do extraordinary — to take extraordinary lengths to bring Americans home, and the Russians need negotiate in good faith. They — they need to do that to resolve the situation.
Q Hey, Karine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q On student loan forgiveness, does the administration have a plan if a judge were to strike that down? What’s your message to people who need to plan contingencies?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this: The President — you know, when the President put forward his policy on student loan, he put it forward because it was a ca- — yes, a campaign commit- — commitment, but it was part of what the promise that he made when it came to economy, when it came to giving people a little bit of breathing room. And that’s what you’re seeing.
And we are going to stick to it. We are going to make sure that we do everything that we can to live up to the President’s economic policy.
Look, if you think about the student loan policy, it is going to give a relief — as I’ve said many times before, as the President has said — to about 90 percent of the borrowers who will be able to receive the student loan — the student loan policy. It’s going to be about 75 percent — seventy- — people who make $75,000 — less than $75,000 — 90 percent of the 40 million that it will help.
And don’t forget, there’s 23 million people who will see their debt just go away right away. And it’s so important. It’s so critical. Because as we know, it will provide an opportunity for people to put money — to put money back into the economy when they’re buying a home — right? — when they’re deciding if they want to start a family or not.
Q Are you planning in case a judge rules against it though? Is there any planning?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m not going to get ahead of any — any rule. I can tell you that there are people out there, there are opponents out there who are trying to take away what we’re trying to do, what the President is trying to do for the middle class — again, give them a little bit of a breathing room.
Q Is the President going to go to Georgia or Nevada in the next, like, 19 days?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any — I don’t have any travel to preview for you at this time. As you know, we’re going — we’re going to be in Pittsburgh and Philly today. And the President is truly excited about that.
Q Is the President being briefed on the depreciation of the yen? Is he worried and concerned about the fluctuations in currencies, especially the yen? There’s a lot of calls for intervention.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as — as we have said many times, the strength of the dollar reflects how the United States remains in a strong position to bring down inflation and maintain a resilient job market.
President Biden’s economic plan continues to position the U.S. economy for stronger growth and investment in the United States.
Our team continues to stay in close contact with key market actors, partners, and allies, and to update the President as — as the condition — conditions evolve.
Q Has he spoken to the — to the Japanese leadership at all?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a call right now to — to read out.
Q Karine — spoken to the UK, Prime Minister Liz Truss, anybody? Or does he have any plans to yet?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a call to read out at this time.
Q The President apparently did an interview yesterday where he talked about — he was asked about a program to fund travel or other support for people to get abortions outside of the states where they live. Is that something you would have to ask Congress for more money for or is — if not, how would it comport with the Hyde Amendment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President made very clear he is in the support of — of companies who help their employees get access to the healthcare they need, no matter where — where they are. So just want to make that clear.
And, of course, as you already know, the Department of Health and Human Services already offers waivers to states to help facilitate access to reproductive care.
This was announced a couple of months ago. So that’s — that is the — that isn’t new to him as all or a new policy. But the bottom line here is that the President doesn’t think it’s acceptable that a woman in the United States of America should have to travel 600 miles to get the healthcare she needs.
It should not be that in the United States — the exact situation he was discussing in that interview that you’re mentioning to me, Stephen. That’s why, if there is an expanded pro-choice majority in Congress next year, the first bill — the very first bill that he will sign — he will send, pardon me, to Capitol Hill will be to codify Roe.
And let’s not forget: The other side wants to codify Dobbs.
All right, guys.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Before we get yelled at. Thank you.
12:11 P.M. EDT