Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre En Route Syracuse, NY
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Syracuse, New York
1:41 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Hello, hello. Okay, so we’re on our way, as you know, to Syracuse, New York, where Micron has pledged to invest $100 billion over the next 20 years to build factories that make semiconductors in Syracuse.
Against this — this backdrop, the President will deliver remarks that contrast his vision for the economy with that of congressional Republicans, who want to raise costs for working people and put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block.
While the President highlights the manufacturing resurgence spurred by the CHIPS and Science Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Inflation Reduction Act, he’ll call out Republicans for their five-part plan to increase inflation and costs for American families.
The Republican plan includes $3 trillion in tax cuts skewed to the wealthy, which would add to the deficit and make inflation worse; raising prescription drug costs for millions of seniors; increasing health insurance premiums; increasing energy bills in 2023 and beyond; increasing student loan payments.
The President will be joined in Syracuse by New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congressman John Katko.
And I have a week ahead for all of you to preview. Tomorrow, the President will be working from Wilmington. In the evening, the President and the Vice President will travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they will participate in a reception for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.
On Monday, the President will travel to New York City for a memorial service. In the afternoon, he will return to Washington, D.C., where he and the First Lady will welcome children to the South Lawn for the first in-person Halloween celebration at the White House since the beginning of the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the President will travel to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The President will participate in a reception for gubernatorial candidate Christ — Charlie Christ. After, the President will travel to South Florida and participate in a rally for the Democrat — Democratic National Committee, along with Charlie Christ and Congresswoman Val Demings.
On Wednesday morning, the President will deliver remarks on infrastructure in Washington, D.C.
On Thursday, the President will travel to New Mexico. And we will have more details on the President’s schedule later — later in the week.
With that — I think that’s all I have, folks — you want to kick us off, Seung Min?
Q Does the White House have a comment on the Office — Office of Special Counsel’s finding that Ron Klain violated the Hatch Act?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I do. So, Ron is — is very careful and takes the Hatch Act very seriously in his media appearances and his use of Twitter. But he got it wrong this time, and he retweeted something that was political. He fixed it as soon as it was pointed out, and — and take the warning to be more — more careful seriously.
That’s very different than the prior crew here — crew, clearly, at the White House, before us, previously, that blatantly, openly, and carelessly violated the Hatch Act repeatedly.
We are not perfect, but our violations have been few.
Q And one quick foreign policy question. Overnight, President Xi had some sort of — had a sort of conciliatory — conciliatory tone — said the U.S. and China should find ways to work together, get along.
And I’m wondering if the White House thinks that, now that he’s through his — the CCP Congress, he’s extended his presidency, that it could be a new phase — perhaps conversations between the U.S. and China could be more productive now that its internal politics or out of the way.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, you know, we’ve always been very clear. Our approach with China has always been one of not escalation, clearly, but of competition.
And that remains — that remains to be true. That’s why, again, why they — the CHIPS and Science Act is so important. It allows us to be competitive. That’s why the bipartisan infrastructure legislation is so important, because it allows us as a — as a country, as a nation to be competitive by fixing our infrastructure.
And so, we’ve always been very clear on that. And that hasn’t changed. As you know, the President and — President Biden and President Xi have had multiple conversations over the last 20 months that we have read out to all of you.
Outside of that, I don’t have anything else to add to what we’ve already laid out with that relationship.
Q Karine, just to stay with foreign policy, Putin just said that he’s willing to restart a dialogue with the United States to discuss strategic stability. And we’re wondering, firstly, if the United States is interested in having such a dialogue and how viable a concept is having such a dialogue at this stage of the war.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m going just keep it very, very simple here, in regards to commenting on the speech — Putin’s speech.
So it wasn’t at all that new, and it doesn’t indicate that Putin’s strategic goals have changed here. That’s our view.
He doesn’t want Ukraine to exist as a sovereign independent nation-state. That is clear by just his action of an unprovoked war in Ukraine.
And our approach remains the same: continue supporting Ukraine with — with countries around the world as Russia wages this — its brutal war.
Q And one more. You know, earlier today, a senior Russian government official said that Moscow would be willing to shoot down Western satellites. I know John Kirby said earlier that the U.S. would respond if there was such an action taken by Russia. What would that response really look like? Would that be a joint response with NATO?
And, I mean, if — if the West were to respond to such an action by Russia, would that sort of inevitably start a conflict? I mean, how should we view that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m just not going to speculate from here.
But what — what we will say is that any attack on U.S. infrastructure will be met with a response, as you’ve heard from my colleague, in a time and manner of our choosing. And that still stands.
We will pursue all means to explore, deter, and hold Russia accountable for any such attacks. Clearly, I’m not going to lay them down here in front of — in public. But we have made ourselves very clear.
Q Karine, there was data today that showed mortgage rates were at a 20-year high — highest since 2002. Does the good economic data — growth data this morning make the White House any more wary of rate hikes by the Fed going forward, given how high mortgage rates have gone now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, we see the Fed as independent. So we’re not going to comment from here on the Federal Reserve’s rate hikes.
But today, you know, we — the way that we see it, and you saw this from the President’s statement, we got more evidence that our economic recovery is powering forward, which is incredibly important.
That’s a testament to the resilience of the American people, which we understand, you know, that they are — are feeling the squeeze right now. But the economy is in a — is moving forward.
And in the third quarter, the American economy is growing. Americans’ incomes were up, and price increase — increases came down. That is important to highlight. And — and so, I’ll — you know, I’ll just leave it there.
Q And the contrast that the President is laying out in Syracuse today, most of what he’s saying are things that Republicans would do if they gain control of Congress and they pass these. Wouldn’t the President just veto all of these items? Like what is the actual threat of these economic plans that the President will warn against taking effect? Wouldn’t he just veto them if they passed them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What — so, what the President has been trying to do and has been doing — using a very large bully pulpit, as you know — is laying out the choice — the choice in front of the American public today.
And it matters. It matters for the American public to hear not just what we have done and laid out — you’ve heard the President talk about student loans, economic recovery. You’ve heard him talk about abortion rights — all of the things that he believes matter — issues that impact American people.
But at the same time, he wants to also lay out what — what the congressional Republicans are saying that they’re going to do. It matters that they are saying — we have congressional senators saying that they want to put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block.
I mean, those are two things that are incredibly popular to the American people. But that is their plan. It is important to lay out that when — when and if — if this happens — right? — if they are — if they were to have the majority — this is — clearly, that’s what they’re going for — that they would — they would get rid of the Inflation Reduction Act.
That matters. Inflation Reduction Act lowers healthcare costs, it lowers energy costs. And if they were to do that, it would — it would hurt inflation, it would hurt our economy.
And they’ve also said that if they don’t get Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block that they would hold our debt hostage, which would spiral the economy into a downward tor- — turn.
And so these are the things that are very important for the American people to understand what’s at stake. And that’s why you hear the President talk about it. And that is the plan of the congressional Republicans is to actually make the economy worse, not better.
Q On student loans, have you seen a slowdown in the number of applications coming in since the court order on Friday that could point to some confusion amongst borrowers over what it means?
And last we heard was 22 million. Do you have an update on that number?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have an update to share. From what we have seen — like a direct number to share — from what we have seen over the last couple of days, as you — as you have heard us talk about since last Friday, which is an amazing reaction to — to the stod- — the President’s student loan pos- — student loan program, pardon me.
And that says a lot. That says that the American people really, truly need a little bit of a breathing room. That means that this program is incredibly popular with the American people. And so, again, we’ve seen an uptick; I don’t have an exact number to share.
But, again, I want to make very clear that the reason that the President did this, the reason that the President put forth this policy is: At a time when people are dealing with a pandemic and at the time that he’s — as you know, late this year, he’s going to lift the pause, he wanted to make sure that the American people, as he says, has a little bit of a breathing room.
Ninety percent of borrowers who are going to be part of — of a — be a part of this policy and getting this relief are making less than $75,000 a year. That matters for many Americans across the country — almost 40 million.
All right, go.
Q A couple of times yesterday, the President mentioned the statistic: $55 billion that the oil and gas companies have made in the second quarter. He said it was “outrageous.” He said it was “not fair.” I was wondering: Does the President plan to do anything about that? Does he plan to talk to these oil and gas companies directly? He did say that he believed the oil — oil prices and gas prices will be going down. So what is the President going to do about the profits that the oil and gas companies are making?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, let me just say this: We’ve always been very clear that — that American — American families should — should not be the first to pay and the last to benefit at the pump. Energy companies are often quick to raise gas prices when the price of oil goes up, but slow to bring the price of gas down when the price of oil drops.
We’re — we’re seeing that again now with profit margins on a gallon of gas at the pump well above the typical levels. The President believes that it is unacceptable. And we’ll continue to call on the — on energy companies to treat consumers fa- — consumers fairly. As you know, the Department of Energy has been in regular contact and have held meetings with these — with these different companies, and they’ll continue to have those conversations. Members of our team at the White House have also been in close contact.
But I think — you know, I said this the other day — when the President uses his bully pulpit, that matters. That does send a very powerful message — a direct message — and to this case, to the oil companies.
Q Karine, to follow on oil a little bit. Yesterday, you, Kirby, Secretary Blinken all sort of recast the question about Saudi Arabia as — the 80-year relationship between the U.S. and Saudi. And sort of — I think it was a much more positive spin about Saudi Arabia than we had heard a week or two before when you talked a lot about “reevaluating the relationship.”
(Air Force One experiences turbulence.)
As we bump down here. Is there — (laughter) —
Is there — has there been any developments behind the scenes that have sort of fueled that tonal shift in how you guys are addressing things? Is it that gas prices didn’t in fact elevate after the OPEC decision that has caused you guys to sort of — I think John said yesterday that you’re in no rush to implement the revaluation of the relationship.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, you know, I’m going to step back for a second. When the President first, you know, walked into the — walked into the White House — he had said very early on, I should say, in his days at the White House, he had said that this was a relationship — the Saudi Arabia relationship — needed to be evaluated. But he wanted to make sure it was done in a bipartisan way, as it’s been the past more than 80 years.
So that hasn’t changed. We’ve all — he’s always has been very clear on that.
Look, I know you’re talking about what — when we said we were appreciative of the Saudi Arabians giving $40 million to Ukraine in assistance. And that is something important. That’s something that many of our allies in the West and our partners want to see happen — that we all come together to make sure that we help Ukraine fight for their democracy.
So we’re always going to lift that up. But at the same time, we’re going to be also very clear on issues that matter to the American people, which was the OPEC decision that was made. And as you know, the Saudi Arabia — Arabia is leading that.
Q And just — because you mentioned —
WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Sorry, guys. We’re going to have to sit down for landing.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Okay.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, thanks, guys.
1:56 P.M. EDT