Aboard Air Force One
En Route Freeland, Michigan
1:33 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for joining us for President Biden’s trip to Michigan, where he will discuss how this ec- — his economic plan is leading to a manufacturing boom, rebuilding our supply chains, growing the economy, and creating good-paying jobs. He’ll also discuss Democrats’ success in the midterm elections in Michigan, following efforts to build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, protect democracy, and fight to protect women’s reproductive healthcare.
As you all know, the President will be visiting a new semiconductor material manufacturing facility operated by SK siltron css, which last year announced a 300 million expansion — 300 million dollars expansion of its Michigan operations. The investment will enable SK siltron css to quadruple production capacity over the next few years, increase its workforce to nearly 300 employees.
The President will be joined by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Representative Dan Kildee, and Elissa Slotkin, who are flying with us to Michigan right now on Air Force One; Bay County Executive — Executive James Barcia; and mayors from Saginaw and Midland; and state and local elected officials.
Oh my goodness. Sorry, guys, give me one second.
Efforts by Governor Whitmer to leverage the President’s CHIPS and Science Act have helped attract semiconductor investments in Michigan, including from SK siltron css.
In July, President Biden met with virtually — virt- — met virtually with SK Group Chairman Tony Chey, who announced that SK Group plans to invest over $50 billion in the U.S., which is protect — which is projected to create 16,000 new U.S. jobs.
President Biden’s economic plan has generated a manufacturing boom across the country, with over $13 billion of new private sector manufacturing investment in Michigan committed since 2021 and more than $240 billion in major investments across the country since 2021 across cutting-edge industries like biomanufacturing, electric vehicles, semiconductors, and batteries.
We have all seen Russia’s efforts to destroy Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure using missiles and Iranian drones. Russia is depriving the Ukrainian people of heat, power, and other critical services as winter approaches. This systematic campaign by the Kremlin is outrageous and threatens the health and wellbeing of millions of innocent people. In response to Russia’s brutal attacks against Ukrainian — Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, we are taking additional action.
Today, Secretary of — Secretary of State Blinken announced that the United States government is providing over 53 billion — million, pardon me — 53 million dollars in critical electricity grid equipment to help Ukrainians preserve — presevere [sic] — persevere through the winter.
This equipment will be rapidly delivered to Ukraine on an emergency basis and will include distribution transformers, circuit breakers, surge arresters, disconnectors, vehicles, and other key equipment that Ukraine needs. This new assistance is in addition to the $55 million in emergency energy sector support the United States is already providing for generators and other equipment to help restore emergency power and heat to local municipalities impacted by Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s power system.
We will continue to identify additional support with allies and partners, and we are also helping to devise long-term solutions for grid restorations and repair, along with our assistance for Ukraine’s effort to advance the energy transition and build an energy system decoupled from Russian energy.
Russia’s cruel campaign against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure will not work. The Ukrainian people will continue to defend their sovereignty and their independence, and we will stand with them for as long as it take — takes.
One last thing: As President Biden has said, we know that democracy remains the best tool humankind has to unleash our collective potential and deliver security and prosperity for all. That’s why he’s made strengthening democracy a cornerstone of both his domestic and international agendas.
Today, the United States is announcing that it will host a second Summit for Democracy on March 29th and 30th of 2023. In the new year, we will be joined by new co-host governments Costa Rica, the Netherlands, and the Republic of Korea, and the Republic of Zambia. Joining together with a regionally diverse group of partners to host the summit underscores that democratic values are both a shared global aspiration and a shared global responsibility. The summit will also assemble world leaders in a virtual plenary format, followed by in-person gatherings in each co-host country, with representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector.
Together, we will showcase progress made by world leaders on commitments made at the first Summit of Democracy held in December 2021. And it will reaffirm the vitality of the democratic model and collective action to meet the unprecedented challenge of our time. We look forward to another successful summit and accelerating concrete action toward democratic resilience and renewal.
Chris, you want to kick us off?
Q Sure. Today, the meeting with congressional leaders — one of the most closely watched things is the President’s, you know, relationship with the incoming — or who’s expected to be the incoming Speaker, Kevin McCarthy. How did the meeting go today with the two — with the two men? What prospects do they have for, you know, finding some areas of agreement going forward?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So were you guys able to get the readout?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. So, I mean, just — so you guys got the readout, so I won’t dive into that too much. I will say this — and you guys know this. You guys have known the President as a vice president, as a senator. He is someone that works towards making sure or wanting to make sure that there’s bipartisanship, like working across the aisle. That’s what you’ve seen from this President. This past 20 months, he has signed more than 200 bills that have been bipartisan. So this is something that he believes is critical and important not just for him, but for the American people — delivering for the American people.
And so, look, he wants to build on that record with his Republican colleagues. And, again, for the American people. And they were so clear this election, right? They made it very loud and clear that they want to see more progress and they want to see us working together and they want Republican colleagues to do the same.
He was glad to host the leaders of both parties in Congress for an honest, productive conversation about how we can do more for families.
We know we’ll have important disagreements. That is — that is a reality — right? — in this — in the space that we’re in, but there’s no reason we can’t look each other in the eye and get more done for the American people.
That’s where the President is. And he hopes his Republican colleagues will take — will take those same steps and accept his invitation on making sure that we continue to do the work for the — for American families.
Q Karine, we’ve heard from multiple sources within OPEC that they’re looking at another oil output cut. This is just a couple of days after I think you guys helped them thwart another missile attack from an Iranian-linked group. Do they not care about this alliance as much as the United States does?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Who are you talking about?
Q The Saudis.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look — I mean, look, I’m not going to get ahead of what potential announcement OPEC Plus is going to make. As you know, we are not members of OPEC Plus, so not — certainly not going to get ahead of that.
Q Would you pursue an output cut?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, what I will say is the President has done the work this past several months to make sure that we bring down prices at the pump — gas prices at the pump for the American family and — and the American people just across — across communities, across the country.
And we have seen that effort pay — pay forward, right? We have seen prices go down because of the str- — because of the historic actions that the President talk — took when it came to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
And that is what matters. That is what the President is going to focus on. He’s always going to look at ways to bring down costs for the American people. He has said many times — we have said, when it comes to our economic plan, inflation — focusing on inflation is a priority, lowering costs for American people is a priority.
That’s why the Inflation Reduction Act was so important — right? — making sure that went through and signing that into — into law. And only Democrats voted for that. And that’s going to bring down costs, healthcare costs for American people. That’s going to make a real investment in climate change to — an historic investment. And that’s going to be the focus of the President.
I’m just not going to get ahead of a potential announcement by OPEC Plus.
Q The President’s remarks about the rail strike and averting it were a little cut off today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q And he said that he was “confident.” But what was unclear is whether that meant he was confident that there were enough votes in the Senate to pass legislation. So, I’m wondering if you could give as much as you can on that specifically and — yeah.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I’m glad you asked that question. I actually — right before coming back here, I asked him that because I know there was some questions from all of you — some of your colleagues on exactly what he said.
He said to me that he is confident that we will not have a rail strike. That is what he’s confident about.
Q Does that mean he’s confident of a vote, or he’s confident that no matter what (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He’s confident that we’re going to get to a resolution on this. He didn’t —
Q On the rail strike, you know, he — the President has said he — he is the most pro-union President in history. This must be a difficult decision for him. He indicated that in his statement. But can you give us a sense of like, personally, how much did he grapple with having to make this decision?
And on the flip side, are there demands — does he feel there are demands that the rail workers are making that are unreasonable in this, which led him to make this decision?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Just a couple of things. As you heard — you guys all heard from the Speaker, she is going to bring — bring this, the tentative agreement, to the floor tomorrow. So, it is getting some movement there. So, I think that’s something that we need to make sure that we highlight.
Look, I mean, as the President said for some time now: If — you know, a rail strike would be unacceptable.
Just a couple of things. A shutdown would have devastating impacts on American families, businesses, and farms. As many as 7- — 765,000 Americans could be out of work in the first two weeks alone. Communities could lose access to chemicals for clean drinking water in a matter of days.
And the President is asking Congress to resolve this issue by putting the tentative agreement in place that was agreed by the railway — the railways.
Let’s not forget: 12 unions — these are 12 unions — 8 out of the 12 unions voted to ratify this tentative agreement. That’s a majority of the unions. And the tentative agreement reached after the Presidential Emergency Board made its recommendation includes a well-deserved and long overdue 24 percent pay raise for workers and improved healthcare benefits as well.
The day the agreement was announced, it was praised by labor leaders, business leaders, and bipartisan members of Congress. And so, I just wanted to make sure that we note that as well.
Look — and you’ve heard the President say this — you know, the legislation to keep the rails running is not about undermining the right to strike. That’s not what we’re talking about.
The President has been very clear he is a President for all. And this will have — this will have — a shutdown will have — would have, you know, effects and impacts on — thousands of jobs would be at risk and endanger things like, again, drinking — safe drinking water. And all of this and that potential outcome is unacceptable. And that is what we’re working towards — making sure that we do not have an economy that’s disrupted the way that it could potentially be if there’s a rail strike.
Q Is the President disappointed then that so many union workers are saying that he’s siding with the wealthy, with the oligarchs, instead of union workers? And one of their demands in particular on paid sick leave, this is something the President has supported. Is there any way he would support maybe Congress putting that in — you know, in the agreement that they end up passing? Is there any way that could still be on the table?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as you know, the President has advocated for paid leave because of its importance for families, workers in our broader economy. This President’s leadership helped secure an agreement that prevented, again, a major disruption to our economy.
But the President is not going to take any action that would undermine the urgent need to avert a harmful rail shutdown. And so, you know, that’s the way that the President sees this.
Again, he’s a — he’s a president for all Americans. He believes if there is a real shutdown, it would be unacceptable and it would affect jobs, it would affect communities across the country, it’ll affect farms. And he believes that we need to do everything that we can to prevent that.
Q Karine, on — the President was vice president back in 2011 when the Republican-led House came close to a debt ceiling crisis. Does he now — in that he’s going to have to deal with a Republican-led House again; some of the same people, in fact — does he still think the debt limit — that the debt ceiling is a useful feature? Would he support getting rid of it? If not, why not? Did it come up with his discussion today with the incoming Speaker?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m not going to go beyond the readout of — of — that we just put out. So, I’m going to be very clear about that.
But, look, our position is very clear: The debt ceiling should never be political brinksmanship. Congressional Republicans voted three times, as you know, under the last President, to — you know, to lift the debt ceiling. So it should be able to — we should be able to do it again.
Congress must once again responsibly address the debt ceiling before it expires. The sooner they act, the better for our economy and our country.
And so, look, the President looks forward to working with Congress to address the debt limit. The sooner, the better. And that’s where he stands on that.
Q Would he support getting rid of it entirely?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, the President — you’ve heard the President. You know, Republican plans to play games with economic catastrophe unless they get — they get to cut Social Security and Medicare. That’s what they were saying the last couple of months going into the midterms. And that’s reckless; that’s irresponsible. And we know that would make inflation worse.
And so, we were very clear about that during — during the — during — going — during the midterms. So, we do not think that this should be used as a political brinksmanship. We’ve been very clear about that. We — the Republicans were able to lift — you know, lift the debt ceiling three times under the last President, and we should be able to do that again.
Q On China, Karine, if I can?
Q Did he press in that meeting today to get that done during this lame-duck session?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I’m just not going to get behind — I’m not going to get beyond the readout that we put out. What I can say is what I just laid out: It should not be used as political brinkmanship. It should not, when it comes to the debt ceiling.
Q Karine, on China: Has the White House communicated to Beijing any possible consequences of its crackdown on protesters? And also, is the White House considering saying something or using existing U.S. government tools to help Chinese citizens get around Internet blocks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have anything to preview for you at this time on — on, you know, anything connected to the social media. Your first — your second question.
I don’t have any calls to preview to you — for you at this time.
Look, we’ve been very clear that people have a right to peacefully protest without fear. And — and we don’t think that that right should be hindered or interfered with.
Nothing has changed about the President’s firm belief in the universal — universitality of human rights and power of democracy.
So, we will continue to express our support for the fundamental freedom. The United States will also continue to stand for respect for freedom of the press and freedom of expression. No journalist should be arrested or beaten or harassed for simply doing their job, as it comes to some of the reports that we’ve been hearing on the ground. And we’re watching this closely, as you as you might expect that we would.
And we believe that, you know — you know, that people should have the right, again, to peacefully protest.
Q Karine, in the meeting today, Democrats and the White House have said that they wanted to address, potentially in this lame-duck session, tech reg- — tech regulation legislation. There’s also been, I think, a push from Elon Musk, upset over what’s going on with Apple, for Congress to intervene in that case. And Kevin McCarthy came out after the meeting and said that he believed the President was picking on Elon Musk with some of the oversight that you guys have participated in vis-à-vis Twitter. So I know that’s a number of questions under one umbrella —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) That’s a lot of questions, Justin.
Q — but I was wondering if you have an update, kind of, on any of those fronts.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, on the Apple piece, I’m just not going to comment on specific claims about Apple.
More broadly, when it comes to antitrust, we — generally speaking, promoting competition, including in the tech sector, is a core part of the President’s economic agenda.
The President has long called for fundamental legislative reforms to address these issues, including tech antitrust legislation.
There’s bipartisan support — as you know, Justin — for tech antitrust legislation. And we — we do hope that Congress — Congress acts.
As far as if that was brought up in the meeting, again, I’m not going to get beyond or — beyond the readout.
And, look — you know, look, what I can say as well to one of your questions is that the President has long stated his belief about the importance of social media uplifting accurate information — as it relates to a once-in-a-generation virus, for example — as for another example, Facebook has done, since the Trump administration, while those continuing to take — take steps to reduce hate speech and misinformation.
He’s also concerned about the power large social media platforms have over our everyday lives and has long argued that tech platforms must be held accountable for the harms that they cause.
And that’s why he has long called for greater accountability for tech platforms, including the fundamental reforms to Section 230, more competition, stronger privacy protection, and greater — and greater transparency.
And so, the President has been very clear about the responsibility that they have.
Q Karine, has the President had any discussions with DNC members about their 2024 primary calendar?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, that’s a political question that — I’m covered under the Hatch Act — that I can’t speak to. So any specifics on that I would refer you to the — to the DNC.
Q And then, on Ukraine, Mr. McCarthy rolled out his “no blank check” line again today. Can you just talk us through what might happen if you don’t get that full $37- or $38 billion? And, you know, why do you need it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. So, we continue to urge Congress to pass the Ukraine funding quickly to ensure we can continue to provide Ukraine with assistance they need, and we’ve been very clear about that.
Just a couple of things. I do want to lay out we have been able to do and the total funding that we’ve provided since Russia’s, you know, illegal invasion — further invasion into Ukraine on February 24th.
Working together with Congress, the administration has provided $32 billion in assistance to Ukraine. That includes over $1.5 billion in humanitarian assistance since February, with more than $250 million for winterization efforts to distribute heating, fuel, generators, shelter, repair materials, and blankets.
The United States and our allies and partners will continue to provide Ukraine with what it needs to defend itself, including defense system. And we have been very clear we are going to stand with the people of Ukraine as they bravely fight for their freedom and their democracy.
All right guys, we’ve got to go.
Q Has the President been in touch with Senator Bernie Sanders or any Democrats who might be opposed to congressional intervention?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m not going to get into specifics of who he’s — who the President has — has been in touch with. I have said he’s been directly involved, talking to congressional members.
As you know, he spoke to congressional members today, and he’ll continue to do that and — and make the case for the American people.
All right, guys.
1:55 P.M. EST