James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:37 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  There’s, like, an apple box here.  I’m not sure why.  (Laughs.)

Q    Shall we take it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Someone — someone is trying to tell me something.  (Laughter.)

(Box is removed from stage floor.)

With that, Happy New Year, everybody.  Welcome back.  Welcome to our first briefing of 2023.  I hope everyone had a peaceful and just a restful holiday season. 

Okay.  With that, I have one quick thing at the top, and then we’ll get going. 

As we announced this past weekend, the President will travel to Covington, Kentucky, tomorrow, where he will deliver remarks on how his economic plan is rebuilding our infrastructure, creating good-paying jobs that don’t require a four-year degree, and revitalizing communities that are too often left behind. 

The President will be joined in Kentucky by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Sherrod Brown, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.  Their visit will highlight the President’s historic record of achieving bipartisan results for the American people. 

We’ll have additional information to share about the President’s trip later today, so stay tuned.  But lead- — but leaders across the administration will spend Wednesday highlighting the impact of the President’s economic agenda and work to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. 

Vice President Harris will visit Chicago.  Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg will visit New London, Connecticut.  And White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu will visit San Francisco.

With that, okay, Zeke, kick us off. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Happy New Year.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Happy New Year.

Q    I’m wondering if the President has been watching the action going on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue right now.  And does he have a preferred candidate in that race?  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s one way to put it.  Look, as you know, the President served as a U.S. senator for 34 years, and he understands how this process works.  He certainly will not insert himself in that process. 

Look, we are looking forward to working with congressional colleagues — including Democrats, Republicans, and independents — this year and — and the new Congress, obviously, to continue to move the country forward for the American people, continuing to build on an economy that — that is working, that because of the President’s policy — if you think about the bipartisan infrastructure legislation that I just spoke about and how that’s bringing — that brought both sides together and really going to deliver on an important — an important item with the bridge for — for Kentuckians, but also in the region. 

So, that’s going to be our focus.  We’re certainly not going to insert ourselves in what’s happening on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue. 

Q    And just a couple of national security questions for you — foreign policy questions.  Does the White House have any response to the Israeli National Security Minister’s visit to the Temple Mount?  Does it believe that was constructive?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes.  So this is the — the mosque that you’re talking about by the national security advisor there.  Look, so the United States stands firmly, and we’ve been very clear, for preservation of the status quo with respect to the holy sites in Jerusalem. 

Any unilateral action that jeopardizes the status quo is unacceptable, and we will continue to be steadfast on that and be very clear on that. 

Q    And then, separately, does the White House have any response — there’s some pretty sharp rhetoric coming out of Beijing today in response to the testing measures that the U.S. and other countries have put in place on Chinese travelers over the last week or so.  Has the White House seen that, and is there any response to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, so, we’ve seen that.  Look, I will not speak for China, but I’ll be — but I’ll say this: There’s no cause for retaliation here just because countries around the world are taking prudent health measures to protect their citizens.  That’s what you’re seeing from us and others. 

This decision is based on public health and science.  This is coming from our experts here.  And other countries like Japan, like South Korea, the UK, France, India, Italy, Malaysia are also taking similar public steps here. 

The World Health Organization is calling on China to release more data, which is vital to the identity — to identify any potential variants. 

Again, there is no need for retaliation.  This is something that all — all of us, other countries are doing to make sure that we are protecting our citizens here. 

Go ahead, Mary.

Before you ask your question, I just wanted to offer my condolences and the administration’s condolences to your loss.  And it was — we were all very sad to hear about the passing of the executive producer of “This Week,” of Dag [Dax].  And I got to meet him a couple of times.  He was an incredibly kind and wonderful individual, very smart, and clearly passionate about his work, and served as a — such a mentor. 

And so, we — you know, our hearts and prayers go out to the ABC News family, to his wife, and his very young children.  And, again, our condolences. 

Q    Thank you very much for that.  Thank you.

You mentioned that the President looks forward to working with Republicans, presumably once they get their leadership sorted out.  Now that we do have a new Congress in place, though, what is the first order of business where the President does look to try and work with Republicans?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m not going to get into specifics on what the policies or pieces of legislation is going to look like.  We’re going to wait for the new Congress to kind of settle in and get themselves — get themselves situated. 

But what I will say is that the President has always been very clear — he’s been clear when he was a President; he was clear when he was U.S. senat- — senator; he was clear on the campaign trail — that he is going to — he’s willing to work with Republicans who are willing to continue to deliver for the American people. 

And it’s not just him.  This is what the Americ- — American public said very loudly and clearly after the midterms.  They want us to work on a common ground to deliver on — on the needs of — of what’s important for them and to do it in the way that we’re building the economy from the bottom up and the middle out, as the President has said many times.  And he wants to make sure we reward hard work and playing — and people — and do this so that, you know, for people who are playing by the rules. 

And so, this is very important.  We want to make sure that we address national security concerns and keep the American people safe. 

And so, you know, some of you may have seen the President and the First Lady on New Year’s Eve.  They were on — on your network.  And you heard the President — which is something that he says all the time — he is — he’s an optimistic person.  He is very optimistic on what lies ahead and how we’re going to move our country forward. 

Q    Does the President see this leadership fight and have any takeaways from it in terms of whether it may make it more difficult to work with Republicans in getting any of these things done?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, I will say this: As you all know, we’re going to go to Kentucky, as I just mentioned.  We announced it a couple of days ago, clearly, that he’s going to go there.  It’s going to be done in a bipartisan fashion — the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, the biggest infrastructure investment since 1950s.

You think about the most significant gun reform in almost 30 years.  You think about major China competitive — competitiveness legislation that’s already bringing more manufacturing jobs back to America and key — key help for veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals in the line of duty. 

Those are things that the President has been able — those are the historic pieces of legislation that the President has been able to do in a bipartisan fashion. 

And let’s not forget there were 200 pieces of legislation that was done in a bipartisan way in — just in the first two years of his administration. 

So, again, he’s optimistic.  We’re going to see that bipartisanship tomorrow in — in Kentucky when we’re out in the region.  And I think that’s incredibly important. 

Q    Can I ask you one more thing, just to clear something up here?  On Title 42 — so, the Court says the administration still has the power to discontinue the policy on its own if it so chooses. 

I know you’ve said you’re complying with the Court — you know, deferring to them.  But is it your understanding that the administration has this authority or not?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a way — I know we haven’t really responded to this because we haven’t had a briefing.  So, look, I’ll say this, just to kind of give a reaction here on the Supreme Court:

So, look, the Supreme Court’s order keeps the current Title 42 policy in place while the Court reviews the matter in 2023. 

We will, of course — the way that we see it — comply with the order and prepare for the Court’s review.  But at the same time, we’re advancing our preparations, as I’ve mentioned, to manage the border in a secure, orderly, and humane way when Title 42 eventually lifts.  And we’ll continue expanding legal pathways for immigration.

Title 42, as you all know — you’ve heard us say this many times before — it’s a public health measure, not an immigration enforcement measure, and it should not be extended indefinitely.  That is our view.  That is what you’ve heard us say as this process has moved forward.

To truly fix our broken immigration system, though, we need Congress to act.  We saw the President, on his first day in office, put forth a comprehensive immigration policy — legislation — and that — he did that to show how important this was, how much of a priority this was for him. 

The Supreme Court’s order gives Republicans in Congress plenty of time, we believe, to move past political finger-porti- — pointing and — and join our Democratic colleagues to fix and to work to fix this problem and come forth — come forth with a comprehensive way to move forward. 

Q    But do you agree with the Court that you have that authority?  Yes or no?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the way — the way that I can speak to it from here — I’m not going to get into specifics — the way that we see it is, we’re going to comply with what the Supreme Court justices ruled in its current — in its current form with Title 42.

Q    Right.  So I’m trying to understand: Is there a difference of legal opinion here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I — I’m just not going to get into — dive into the legal opinion here or legal — kind of, the legal back-and-forth on this or any of the nuance.

What I can say is we’re going to comply with what the Supreme Court announced and their — they ordered just last week.  But I’m not going get into the — any legal opinion.

Q    But you can’t say whether or not you think you have that authority or not?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not — I’m just not going speak about it from here.  That’s a DOJ’s legal — is doing the legal components of this. 

What I can say is we’re going to comply with the Supreme Court order as it stands from last week.

Go ahead. 

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Just first, quickly, on McCarthy again.  I’m just curious if — you know, the President made this case on the campaign trail last year about how, you know, basically, a vote for House Republicans would mean handing over leadership to “MAGA extremism,” in his words. 

Do you feel like this is an illustration of that in some way?  And do you think it’ll make har- — make it harder for you to get deals done?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, the way that we see it is that, look, if you think about the midterms and if you think what was being written about leading into — leading into the midterms last — just a couple of months ago, which was there was going to be a red wave — right?  That’s what we kept on hearing.  And that didn’t happen.  Right? 

What we saw was the American people said very loudly and clearly they wanted us to come together and work towards a common ground — right? — whether it’s to deal with the economy, continue to build on the President’s economic policy, whether it’s our national security, whether it’s protecting women’s — women’s healthcare.  All of those things is what we heard from the American people — all protecting our democracy. 

And so, the way we saw it — and it was historical, right?  If you think about a Democratic president and what we saw from those midterm elections, we hadn’t seen anything like that in 60 years from a Democratic president — the success from the midterms.

And it happened and it occurred because of this President’s leadership, because of his messaging, because of what we led with — right? — because of all the policies that I just mentioned, including the bipartisan infrastructi- –infrastructure legislation — right? — including the American Rescue Plan, which was the first piece of legislation that this President signed to get our economy back on its feet.

And so, we see this very differently.  We see that the American public has given us a charge to work together, to work in a bipartisan way to continue to build on what the President has been able to do the last two years. 

Q    And did you invite Kevin McCarthy to the January 6th commemoration that you’re holding here on Friday?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll have more to say on what — on what — what we’re going to be doing on January 6th.  Just don’t have anything to share at this time.

Q    Okay.  And then just one other topic.  Do you have any reaction to the missile strike that killed several dozen Russian military personnel?  And understand it was U.S. arms that were used in that missile strike.  Any comment or concern about that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have an assessment for you on this.  I would — I would not want to speak for Ukraine about their own military operations. 

Again, I just don’t have an assessment to share at this time.

Q    Okay.  And has the President discussed it with Zelenskyy at all?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to read out for you at this time.

Go ahead. 

Q    The event tomorrow is an interesting contrast with what we’re seeing on the House floor today.  Was that intentional?  Were you thinking through, you know, the President, the Senate Minority Leader, a bipartisan law the day after what I think everybody expected was going to be a —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know —

Q    — rather chaotic day on the House floor?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, Phil, it really speaks to what I had just kind of laid out for Trevor as we talk about the results of the midterm election and what the — the American people said very loudly and clearly: They want us to work together.  They want us to work towards a common purpose that will deliver for them.

But I’ll say — you know, I’ll say this: Over — over the holidays, our team was consistently engaged with bipartisan congressional leadership — governors and local electeds — across the country to pull this trip together, from California to Kentucky and Ohio, to Illinois and also to Connecticut.  And so this is important.  And let’s not forget this is a bipartisan piece of legislation — this infrastructure legislation — that was done many, many months ago. 

And so this is what we’re going to see — what you all are going to see tomorrow.  Certainly, I’m not going to get ahead of the President.  Is going — is going to focus on this bridge, which is a main artery in that region, that delivers for not just the people of Kentucky, but for that region as well. 

And so the President will speak more about this.  We’ll — you’ll hear also a little bit more from us later today on what that’s going to look like. 

But, again, I think it can highlight that we do big, profound things for the country when we work together.  And I think that’s an important message to send to the American people, especially after the results of the midterm election.

Q    And then just one on foreign policy.  Some officials brought some clarity to this last night, but just from the podium: The South Koreans were talking about kind of expanding efforts together in terms of deterrence, given what we’ve seen from North Korea.  Can you kind of detail what exactly that may be or what President Yoon was talking about?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I just want to be very clear — just to reiterate what the President said yesterday: We’re not discussing joint nuclear exercises.  The ROK is a non-nuclear weapons state.  So just want to be very clear on what the President was saying.  And it is very much how — how it stands. 

But following their meeting in Cambodia, President Biden and President Yoon tasked their teams to plan for an effective, a coordinated response to a range of scenarios, including nuclear use by North Korea.  And so that is what the teams are working on and what President Yoon was clearly referencing when he made his comments yesterday. 

And I will point you to his statement.  He also made that clear in his most recent statements. 

So, the United States is fully committed to our alliance with the ROK and providing extended deterrence through the full range of U.S. defense capabilities.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead. 

Q    One quick follow-up on Phil, and then another.  Did the President, over the holidays, reach out directly to Senator McConnell to invite him to the event tomorrow as a show of the bipartisanship that you guys say?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, we do not talk about or lay out private conversations with congressional — congressional leadership.  What you —

Q    Sometimes you do.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, sometimes we do.  But —

Q    When it’s in your interests, you do.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, you know —

Q    Sorry, I —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, you may have caught me there a little bit.  (Laughter.)

But, look, I’m just not — I’m not going to — you’re going to see them tomorrow.  You’ll be able to see for yourself that relationship that — that has been — you know, they’ve known each other for some time now. 

But, look, again, I’m not going to get into private conversation between the President and members of Congress.  But what I can say and share with all of you is that our team was consistently engaged with bipartisan leadership, as I just mentioned, not just in Congress, but also with governors and local leaders. 

And this is an important issue, right?  Again, let’s not forget what the American people said very loudly: They want us to continue to build on policies like the President is going to talk about tomorrow: this bipartisan infrastructure legislation. 

And, you know, want to be very serious here.  When you think about infrastructure, it is connecting communities.  And that’s what one — that — that is one of the vital things that we will see tomorrow when we are at the bridge.

Q    And then, one just real quickly about the next trip — the Mexico City trip.  I imagine you guys are going to do some sort of briefing later.  But do you have some — can you give us some sense of, you know, what the — what the agenda is?  Obviously, trade.  But immigration, Title 42?  What’s the — what’s the message? 

And I admit I didn’t — I didn’t — I don’t have the details, but apparently there was some reporting this morning that AMLO had sent a letter or some sort of communication to the U.S. this morning detailing what he wants to be on the agenda.  So —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you stated, we’ll have more details on the trip, including deliverables, in the upcoming days. 

I’ll say a little bit of what we’ve already shared.  As you know, we’re going to go on the 9th and the 10th.  The President is going to be traveling to Mexico City for the North American Leaders’ Summit alongside President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico and President Minister — Prime Minister — pardon me — Justin Trudeau of Canada. 

The NALS will be an opportunity for President Biden, Prime Minister Trudeau, and the President of Mexico to promote a common vision for North America with concrete initiatives that will address climate and environmental challenges; increase North America’s competitiveness; protect the health and safety of our citizens; jointly respond to irregular migration in the region; and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion as well. 

We will, as you — as you noted, as we get closer to — closer to the trip, we’ll certainly have more to share with all of you. 

Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, a quick one.  Were Senators Rand Paul or JD Vance invited to the event tomorrow?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to share on who — who was invited or not invited, but I can tell you who will be there tomorrow. 

Q    Okay.  And the President —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would point you to their — their offices.

Q    Sure. 

And the President had said that he was going to spend this lovely holiday season talking to his family.  (Laughter.)  Has he decided whether or not to run for reelection?  And when will he tell us?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, goodness. 

Q    Now would be fine.  (Laughter.)

Q    You can tell us now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, as you know, I have to follow the law, in terms of what I can discuss here.  We do believe in the rule of law.  I know some of you had something to say about that just a couple of weeks ago, but we do believe in the rule of law, and we will respect it.  And we will honor that here from this administration. 

So, look, you’ve heard the President say this directly after the most successful first midterms for a Democratic President, as I just stated, in 60 years, especially as we heard very loudly from the American people and the message that they sent.  And, look, you know, he has said that he intends to run.  And I’m certainly not going to get ahead of the President. 

What I can say is that his focus will continue to be and has always been on the American people.  It is going to continue to be and has — and has always been on what we can do to improve their lives.  It will continue to be and has always been: How do we build on his economic policy?  How do we build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out?  And how do we continue to cut tax — cut costs when we think about healthcare, when you think about the Inflation Reduction Act, when you think about the CHIPS Act and making sure that we’re bringing manufacturing jobs back here to the — to the U.S., which we’re seeing manufacturers doing?  So, that’s going to be his focus.

Again, I’m just going to reiterate what I said, I’m going to reiterate what the President said: He intends to run.  And certainly, as I know from my job, I’m not going to get ahead of any announcement.

Q    Just a tiny holiday catch-up — or maybe not tiny at all, because it was a giant meltdown.  Does the administration have any thoughts about the Southwest Airlines meltdown?  Are you guys satisfied with the performance of the airline?  And what is the administration going to do to make sure that passengers are made whole?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I have a couple of things to say on that.  I think that’s a really good question. 

Look, Southwest Airlines failed its customers — point blank.  The Department of Transportation will hold them accountable to their commitments to make their customers whole. 

While every major airlines face challenges from a pre-Christmas storm that wrecked — that wreaked havoc on the aviation system, all major airlines except for one — which is Southwest, clearly — were able to recover quickly. 

So Southwest Airlines acknowledged that all cancellations starting December 24th were “controllable.”  In other words, not weather related.  So that means the airlines assumes responsibility. 

Based on Southwest’s prior commitments to const- — customers, the airline must cover rebooking, hotel rooms, meals, and transportation to and from a hotel. 

What’s more, Southwest must make their customers whole by paying for coach flights, rental cars, and trains to get people to their final destinations.  And Southwest must return baggage as quickly as possible and reimburse passengers up to $3,800 in pro- — provable damage under Southwest care. 

The Transportation Department is watching.  They’re monitoring this very, very closely to ensure that this all happens and will seek fines from Southwest if it doesn’t cover a cost.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Happy New Year.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Happy New Year. 

Q    To follow up on Tam’s question: After we saw thousands of flights over the summer be canceled and delayed, we heard a very similar sentiment that you just said from Secretary Buttigieg that we have to put more pressure on the airlines; that, you know, he thought that things would get better by the holidays; that you’re pressing the airlines for better service. 

What did the administration do between those failures and the failures we saw over the holidays to try to make things better?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, just a couple of things.  So, since 2020, to your question, our administration has made it a priority to help people get their money back from airline — airline disruptions. 

The — that aggressive work has brought real results for the American people.  In 2022, DOT issued the largest consumer protection fines against airlines in U.S. history.  The Department of Transportation will seek fines from — from Southwest, as I just mentioned, to make sure that they cover costs as required. 

And, look, our administration is going to continue to press for long-term solutions.  That is — this is something that we are committed on — we’re committed to.  You heard the President speak about this: making sure that — you know, that customers who were kind of left — left behind, essentially get — get really — get — be — are able to recover in whole. 

So just a couple — two things I just want to lay out: In June, Secretary Buttigieg called a meeting of airline CEOs to address the unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays we saw during the summer, and demanded more realistic scheduling and better customer service. 

As a result, cancellations have decreased significantly since the summer, with the exception of Southwest over the holidays.  Like, just remember, eve- — all the other airlines were able to get back on their feet except for this one airline, as — which is Southwest.

So, look, these continued problems are unacceptable, and we will be very clear about that. 

And you’ve heard directly from the Department of Transportation, from Secretary Buttigieg over the last couple days on this — this specific issue.

Q    Congressman Ro Khanna said that “This mess with Southwest could have been avoided.”  And, you know, he questioned why his recommendations to Buttigieg six months ago were not followed.  Do you have any response to either of those things?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I — I just laid out what — you know, look, we respect Secretary — pardon me, Congressman Ro Khanna.  He is a — he is a friend of the administration.  We’ve worked very closely with him. 

But I just laid out how seriously we have taken this since 2020.  And the actions that we took certainly in 2022, over the summer — as you mentioned, the cancellation — and we have said very, very loud and clear: This is, like, unacceptable what we have seen — what we’re seeing from Southwest, specifically. 

Look, the work continues, and we are always welcome — always welcoming to hear from others on how we can better help to improve this. 

But, again, this is something that we have taken very seriously.  We’ve laid out specific steps on how to move forward here. 

And I’m sure you all saw the letter that Bu- — Secretary Buttigieg wrote to Southwest CEO about this particular issue.  And we are going to work — make this a priority in making sure that we get people their money back into their pockets who were affected by this.  This is a serious issue that we take very seriously.

Q    And just a couple on House leadership?  I know you said the President wasn’t going to insert himself into the leadership vote.  But to follow up on Zeke’s question, has he been observing the vote today at all?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I can’t speak to if — if he’s been watching the vote today.  What I can say is he’s had a — a pretty busy schedule.  He did the PDB this morning, as you all know.  He’s had internal meetings with his staff all day. 

But, look, this is — you know, I say this because this is something he truly believes.  He has been — he was a senator, right?  He understands how this process works, and he’s just not going to insert himself.  He’s going to let the process play out and continue to do the work of the American people. 

Q    And then, just finally, regardless of how it shakes out, does the President believe that House Republicans should find a way to push George Santos out of Congress?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, this is something that the House Republicans, the Republican Conference — they will have to decide what they owe to the American people in terms of standards and service.  That is something that they have to decide on.  And so, we leave it to the Republican Conference. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi.  I haven’t seen you in a while.

Q    Hi.  Nice to see you.  Happy New Year.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Happy New Year.

Q    A number of my questions have already been answered, so I’m going to switch gears to something else.  Sort of a cultural moment occurred last night with the NFL football game.  And, coincidentally, the President will be in the Cincinnati area tomorrow where the player, Damar Hamlin, is hospitalized. 

Does the President or the White House have any reaction to that particular incident and where it stands with player safety and just how this really had a big impact on sports fans in the United States? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, certainly, the President has seen the horrific news of Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest during the game last night.  It was, as I said, horrific.  And millions of people saw that across the country. 

So, you know, I’ll say that, you know, we hope his condition and his health improves quickly.  And like the rest of the nation, our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family, and — and his teammates. 

I’m not going to get ahead and lean into any hypotheticals.  But what we are praying for and hoping for is that his health improves. 


Q    Hi.  Thank you so much.  I had a quick question here.  First, on nominations, the White House announced this morning that Eric Garcetti will be re-nominated to be the ambassador — ambassador to India.  Can you talk a little bit about what the White House believes has changed since he was nominated in the last Congress?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that last part?

Q    What — just what has changed to think that this — the confirmation process will go a little more smoothly than it did last time.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, as Secretary Blinken said very recently, our relationship with India is crucial and it’s consequential, so we see this as a very important nomination. 

And as been — as you know — been reported, we’ll continue to seek the confirmation of Mayor Garcetti, who has — who was, as you all know, voted out of committee unanimously and with strong bipartisan support to serve as ambassador to India. 

And that’s important, as we’re talking about bipartisanship, as we’re talking how we’re going to move forward.  And this is what you saw with his particular nomination. 

So, we see this as he is well qualified — Mayor Garcetti — to serve in this vital role.  And we’re hopeful that the full Senate will confirm him promptly. 

Again, he was — he was voted out of committee in a — in a unanimously with — unanimously with strong bipartisan support. 

Q    And then, I was also wondering if you could talk a little bit about the President’s relationship with Representative Steve Scalise. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I, you know, want to be careful here.  As I said, we’re not going to insert ourselves.  I feel like this is where this is going. 

Q    Well, not necessarily.  Just —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, you know, I just want to be careful in what’s happening right now. 

Look, the President, as you know, was Vice President.  He was a senator for 34 years.  He has many relationships with members of Congress.  Not going to getting into — into details here about any one specific relationship.  We are going to allow the Republican Conference to, you know, have their process play out.  And we’re certainly — I’m just not going to say more. 

Q    And just one final question.  In November, President Biden said that he had completed, quote, “part of my physical” and would be getting it by the end of the year.  Has the President completed his physical, and will the White the House be releasing (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We are — to start with your last comment first, we will be releasing his full physical in a transparent way, the way that we did the first time around as President.  So, that is going to happen.  I’ve said that before from here. 

Don’t have a timeline for you.  It’s going to happen in the next, probably, couple of months. 

But I’ll say this — the doctor has said this as well — is that the President is in good health.  He is in — he’s very active.  You see it for yourself with your own eyes. 

But we will be sure to be transparent, just like we were the first go around where he — in his first year of his presidency. 

Go ahead, Steven.  And then I’ll come to you.

Q    Thanks.  Thanks, Karine.  It’s been a century since the House of Representatives has failed to choose a Speaker on the first ballot.  Since then, a couple of modern exigencies have been essentially offered by the Congress to deal with modern potential problems.  One is presidential succession.  Another would be intelligence briefings. 

Does the absence of a Speaker of the House at this moment — is there anything we should know about how the White House views that from a constitutional or interbranch standpoint?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, look, it’s a good question.  A little bit of a “let the process play out.”  Right?  It’s a little bit of a hypothetical here.  I don’t have the specifics on how that works out. 

But look, we have to see what the Republican Conference does.  Again, we’re not going to interfere.  We’re going to let that process play out.  I just don’t want to kind of dive in into any hypotheticals until we see what occurs today. 

Q    Broadly, since January 6th, the President has talked about how foreign leaders have approached him and asked him about the health of American democracy.  Is there a message the White House would send overseas today, as people look and see that the House of Representatives has failed to choose its Speaker?  Does it portend gridlock for the next two years, an inability of government to function here in the United States?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I think the President would point to what the American people have been very clear about, what the American people said.  You know, and I said this earlier.  Look, you know, the outcome that was reported by many and kind of said by — by many folks just — just in this space, in the D.C. bubble, was that there was going to be a red wave, right?  That it was going to be a very different outcome. 

And the American people were very clear.  They want us to continue to fight for our democracy.  They want us to continue to — to work on an economy that builds — you know, that doesn’t leave anybody behind and build an economy from the bottom up, middle out. 

And I think that’s important.  It’s important that that’s what the American people said, very loud and clear. 

Look, you know — again, not going to insert myself here or the President is not — certainly not going to insert himself in what’s happening today.  We’re going to let the process play out. 

I don’t know where it is currently, as I’m standing in front of you behind this podium, but, you know, this is something that the Republican Conference has to figure out on their own, and they will do so. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Happy New Year. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Happy New Year.  Happy New — not a daddy yet?

Q    We’re in the birth month.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, boy.  Ooh. 

Will Joe Biden announce a reelection bid by January 30th?  (Laughter.) 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I thought — no, wait — I thought you were going to — you were going to ask for my okay to name your daughter “Karine.”  I thought that’s where — I thought that’s where we were going here. 

Q    Josephina — (laughter) — for the President.  Yeah. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t know.  “Karine” sounds — “Karine” sounds — I think “Karine” sounds — sounds just as good, too.  I’m just saying.

Q    Okay.  We’ll take it under advisement.  (Laughter.)

A follow-up to some of the immigration news from over the break.  Does anybody around here think that the southern border is secure?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can tell you is: This is a President who has been working since day one to work on border security, to make immigration a priority.  That’s why he put forth a comprehensive immigration reform plan — legislation. 

And here’s — here’s the thing: As the President is coming forward and trying to come up with solutions, the difference here is that you have Republicans, as you know, who are doing political stunts.  And, you know — and we’ve called that out over and over and over again.

And the President is willing — is willing to work with Congress — Republicans, Democrats, independents — to work on these issues that matter to the American people. 

But this is an issue that the President has taken very, very seriously since day one of his administration.

Q    But roughly 7,000 migrants crossing every day illegally.  Does the White House believe the border is secure?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’ve told you what we have done, what we have made this a priority to make sure —

Q    The things that you have done, are they working?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — to make sure that there’s border security measures.

Look —

Q    And is it working?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But, look, here’s the thing, Peter: The President has taken historic actions — right? — that no other President has been able to do.

When you think about the 23,000 agents that he’s been able — we have been able to put out there to deal with the issue that we’re seeing at the border, and that is something that he did without a lot of Republican support.  Right?  Make sure that we are dealing with a real issue.

When you think about the smugglers, really putting a plan in place that we deal with the smugglers.  Right?

And we have to be very careful here, Peter, on how we talk about this.  Because if we talk about it in a way that is misinformation, then it helps the smugglers. 

And so, these are the issues that the President has taken incredibly seriously. 

And, again, I will say this — I just said it moments ago: He’s willing to work with Republicans, he’s willing to work with Democrats, he’s willing to work with independents to work on this issue, to move forward with his comprehensive plan that he put forward on day one of his administration.

Q    And another topic with the new Republican majority coming in.  The House Oversight Committee is laying out their new investigations, and they claim to have evidence that Joe Biden lied to the American people about his involvement in his family’s business schemes.  Did he?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I have said this before and I’ll say it again: House Republicans promised that fighting inflation during the midterms was going to be their number one priority.  That’s what they said was important to them, and that’s what they said that they wanted to do.  But instead, what they’re doing is wanting to do an investigation on the President and his family.

That is their focus.  They don’t want to focus on the American people and their family; they want to focus on political division.  They want to focus on something that the American people do not want to see, as we saw from the midterm elections. 

Look, I’m not going to get into — you know, get into the specifics of any of the oversight here.  We have a White House Counsel that’s going to — my colleagues who are going to deal with this.  So I would point you to them. 

And, you know, again, I’ll point you — one more thing — I’ll point you to tomorrow.  Tomorrow, we’re going to see a — you know, a trip, an event where — that’s going to be done in a bipartisan way. 

So, there’s ways to move forward for the American people, for American families in a way that works. 

Go ahead, Josh.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Last week’s visitor log release showed a most recent meeting between Sam Bankman-Fried and a White House official, Steve Ricchetti.  In this case, this was his fourth meeting of the year. 

I’m wondering, given this is the first briefing since then, if you can give us any sort of summary of what has been discussed in Mr. Bankman-Fried’s meetings with the White House over the course of the year. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yep.  So, let me give you a couple of — a couple of — a few rundowns here.  So, as we’ve previously confirmed, as you know — I know you’re following this very closely — these meetings included Steve Ricchetti and Bruce Reed. 

The meetings focused on pandemic prevention related to Sam Bankman-Fried’s Foundation and general information on the cryptocurrency industry and crypto exchanges. 

Look, you know, the administration has been clear about the need for Congress to take action when it — when we talk about addressing cryptocurrency.  The President, as you know, released an executive order on this topic just last March, and the President released a framework for protecting consumers last fall.  And last November, Secretary Yellen renewed this administration’s call for Congress to take action. 

So, you know, as you know, the White House regularly engages with officials from a range of industries and sectors, including leaders in business and labor and nonprofits. 

You know, again, this meeting with Sam Bankman-Fried was focused on the pandemic prevention-related matters and cryptocurrency and crypto exchanges.

Q    But when you were last asked —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And general information.

Q    Thank you.  You said that you couldn’t comment on whether the President has any view about whether Democrats or Democrat-aligned groups should consider returning some of the donations Mr. Bankman-Fried made.  I’m just circling back on that to see whether that’s still the case. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, that —

Q    He has no view on whether this money should —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is still the case.  I don’t have anything to share or any change of my comments that I’ve made before on this.

Q    All right.  And looking forward to this year, a lot of the last two years’ accomplishments that you talk about are — seem less likely in a divided Congress, needless to say.  Can you give us a sense of what you see as a sort of baseline target for success, from your view, in 2023?  What do you hope to get out of a year with a divided Congress when some of the things that he relied on sort of, you know, heavily in the last Congress won’t really be available to him this time around?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I just mentioned, you know, we’re going to be in Kentucky tomorrow with Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader.  And I think that’s important.  I think that shows how — how it is important for the President to show that bipartisanship, right?  It is important to show that — how the bipartisan infrastructure legislation is going to make a real difference to Americans across the country. 

And so, I think that — I know there’s a lot of doubt, and I know there’s — tends to be a lot of — this is politics.  There tends to be a lot of negative — negative, kind of, thinking of how we move forward. 

But, look, this is a President — as senator, as Vice President — who has worked across the aisle and has been successful at that. 

Again, I laid out some key historic — we’re talking about historic pieces of legislation that will change the lives of American families across the country.  And so, that — that matters.  So we’re going to continue to do that. 

We’re going to continue to work with Democrats, Republicans, and independents who are willing to continue that work that he has done the last two years on building on his economic policy.  It does not end — it doesn’t end in the last Congress, and it hopefully will continue in a new Congress.

Q    Are there any particular topics where you think some bipartisan bills are possible?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not — so, I’m not just — I’m not going to get into specifics right now.  I’m not going to get ahead of the President on what — what that’s going to look like. 

What I can say is: When it comes to lowering costs, medical — medical costs for the American people, as we started to do a couple — you know, with the Infra- — Inflation Reduction Act, we want to continue to do that, right?  As it comes to making sure we’re creating good-paying union jobs, clearly, we want to continue to do that.  We want to continue to fight inflation, which is the President’s number one economic priority. 

So, all of those things still stand.  It’s just a different year. 

Go ahead, April.

Q    Karine, I want to kind of piggyback off of Steven’s questions.  Today is a very newsy day on the Hill.  And the number 218, for the second time, is elusive for Kevin McCarthy.  What do you say to the American public as we’re still figuring out what’s happening on Capitol Hill? 

And this is not just about a vote.  It could be a constitutional issue. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I just don’t want to — again, I want to be really careful here.  Not going to, you know — you understand the power of the podium here.  Not going to insert myself on something that is currently happening on the other side of Pennsylvania.  Not going to get involved.  I’m not going to name names.  I’m just going to let that process move forward.  And — and, you know, this is something also that the President understands.  Like, this is a process that — that they have to decide on.

Q    But how do you reassure?  How does the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue reassure the American public as the democracy is going through growing pains?  Some may say there are cracks in the democracy.  How does this White House reassure the American public as all of this is going on?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look — I mean, look, separately and aside to —

Q    Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — what’s going on, as we’re talking about our democracy, and the President has been very clear we have to continue to fight for it, this is something that he will continue to do every day, and we have to protect our democracy. 

This is something that the President has spoken about in — in speeches that you have covered, April, yourself, and how important it is to do that.  And he feels, as the President of the United States, he needs to speak loud and clear about that. 

But, again, let’s not forget, the American people, as you’re, you know, alluding to, is very much paying attention to this, right?  They want us to continue to fight for our democracy.  They want us to continue to protect our democracy. 

I don’t want to — again, I don’t — I’m not going to get into what’s happening on the — again, on the other side of Pennsylvania.  But this is — as it relates to our democracy, this is something that the President takes incredibly seriously.

Q    And lastly, at the very least, Hakeem Jeffries will be the Minority Leader of the House.  Has the President talked to him recently?  What is their relationship, et cetera?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I don’t have a call to read out to you.  But I can say that we are — we are looking forward to working with Leader — Minority Leader Jeffries.  We see him as a partner in this.  He is incredibly impressive.  The President believes he’s incredibly impressive.  And we look forward to working very closely with him, as we have been these past two years.  And I think it’s — it’s important, right?  It’s important to see that type of representation at that level. 

But aside from that, Hakeem Jeffries is a brilliant thinker, a great legislator.  And, again, we are — we are — you know, congratulate him on his — on his new role, and we’ll continue to work closely with him.

Q    Thank you.

Q    Thank you.  Happy New Year.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Happy New Year.

Q    I wanted to ask you about, as the first briefing of this year, what are the foreign policy priorities for the President for this year?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, what our goals are for this year?  So — so Jake Sullivan, our National Security Advisor, spoke to this very recently when he spoke at Carnegie — just last month, actually.  So, this is a decisive decade, which is what he said, and we are focused on how we compete vigorously to advance our interest while building diverse coalitions to address the biggest challenges of our time. 

And in 20- — if you look at 2022 just alone, as a standalone, President Biden hosted and met with leaders of the Americas, of Africa, of Southwest Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific Islands.  That is something that the President did in just one year alone.  He’s attended very consequential — if you think about it, more, kind of — more holistically — the G7, the G20, and NATO summits. 

This year, you will continue to see us enhance our strategic position over the long haul by doing a couple of several — a couple of things here that I’ll list out: making significant investment in the sources of America’s domestic strength; standing with Ukraine and standing up for the principles of an international order that protects sovereignty and territorial integrity and rejects aggression and — in Europe — in Europe and also around the world; protecting Americans from threats at home and around the world as well, whether it’s terrorism or cyberattacks; and building flexible coalition worldwide on food security, climate, technology, and other — and other key issue. 

So, this is how the President sees his foreign policy moving forward.  This is what we’ve been able to do in the last — in the first two years.  And, again — so this is incredibly important to the President.

Q    Does the President see any prospect for peace in Ukraine this year?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we’ve been very clear about this when — as we talk about Ukraine and them moving forward.  And basically — and, you know, you’ve seen — you’ve heard us say this over and over again: Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.  And so that’s how we see this approach.  And that is the consese- — consensus of this administration. 

We all support a just peace.  That is something that we all support.  You heard the President say those very words at the press conference — the 2+2 that he did when President Zelenskyy made his first trip in 300 days since the war — the aggression of — Russian aggression started. 

The mo- — but when we talk about just peace, that must include U.N. principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, as I just laid out as we look at our 2023 goals.

It’s a hard — it is hard to take seriously the idea that Russia is prepared for good-faith diplomacy when they are doubling down.  And you guys are reporting on this.  They are doubling down on annexing Ukrainian territory and insisting they — they get to keep it.  And that’s what they’re doing.  So that’s not a basis for real diplomacy at all. 

So, our job is to keep supporting Ukraine on the battlefield so that they’re in the best position — in the best position to negotiate at the table when that does occur.

Q    And finally, on Sunday, a large number of Afghan American womans held a protest in front of the White House against the recent restrictions the Taliban has imposed on girls’ education.  What is the President’s message to these Afghan American women?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we stand with Afghan women and condemn the Taliban’s indefensible decision to restrict women’s education and their rights.  And so, as we have made clear, these actions by the Taliban will further alienate them from the international community and deny them the legitimacy that they so desire. 

And so, we remain in touch with our partners and allies on this issue, and we’ll continue to take steps to advance our shared efforts to support Afghan women and girls and provide a robust humanitarian support to the people in Afghanistan.  And we will be steadfast about that.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Happy New Year. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Happy New Year. 

Q    Is the White House concerned at all about the — Israel and Russia seem to be — the new Israeli government and the Putin government are closing ranks, it seems, quite openly.

And just a very quick other question.  Do you have anything on the possible Kishida bilat here at the White House?  Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, on your first question — so, look, you know, we’re — I’m not going to speak for Israel here, but the U.S. position remains clear, and it’s basically a little bit of what I laid out just moments ago: Russia’s war in Ukraine is a violation of international law and serves as a threat to global peace and security.  The United States will support Ukraine as long as it takes in the face of this unprovoked war of aggression.  And our support will continue for as long as it’s needed.

Q    As an extremely close ally, Israel is — I mean, you don’t want to speak for the Israelis, obviously, but does — you know, an extraordinarily close alliance.  So does the United — does the U.S. not have any — anything more to say on —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, we have said this about many other countries — right? — who have been — you know, who have been — where we have been asked about their relationship with Russia.  Look, we’re just not going to speak for them. 

We are going to lay out what’s at stake and what’s important in this moment. 

Q    Thanks.  And Kishida?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, Kishida.  So, I’ll — we’ll have more to say about that soon.  Don’t have anything right now to share. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Yeah, Happy — Happy New Year.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Happy New Year.

Q    Yeah, so the — the President took credit when gas prices were coming down.  Now the barrels leaving the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — well, that’s ending.  The President has not changed anything with energy policy.  Is the President’s policies then to take credit for the gas prices rising over the past seven days?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I — I want to make note here because this is important: We’ve made significant progress in lowering the prices — gas prices, specifically.  Prices are down nearly $2.00 per gallon and are lower today than they were one year ago today — this very day. 

So, we’ve seen a slight increase, yes, over the past week, due to cold weather that shut down some refineries.  But those refineries are coming back online, as some of you have reported, and the President will continue to do everything he can to keep lowering costs for American families.  That is a priority that you hear from him anytime he talks about the economy and how he wants to continue to lower costs for Americans.

Q    So, then once these refineries come back online, do you expect the gas prices to come back down?  And the price of gas when the President came into office was $2.39 a gallon. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know, but I’m talking about one year ago.  And that was — one year ago was not when he came into office, right?  So — and we have been able to lower the price by two doll- — nearly two dollars per gallon. 

And let’s not forget one of the reasons one year ago we were dealing with this — almost one year ago — was, you know, Putin’s war, and — which caused gas prices to increase.  And that started in February of just last year — February 24, to be exact.  And so that’s what I’m talking about. 

We’ve been able to do that work to bring costs down by nearly two- — two dollars a gallon.

Look, we expect, once those refineries are getting back online, that prices will continue to decrease.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Back on the President’s trip to Mexico in the next few days.  What is his message, or will his message be when he’s there, to would-be migrants who may be confused about the United States’ immigration policies are right now, given the back-and-forth over Title 42?

And is there any specific action that he wants President López Obrador to take to help lower the number of illegal border crossings?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m not going to get ahead of what’s going to be discussed or what’s going to be on the agenda.  We’ll certainly have more to share in the upcoming days as we get closer to the trip on January 9th.

Look, irregular ma- — migration is certainly one of the key issues facing our hemisphere.  And it will certainly be one of the important — important topics of discussion at the NALS.  Right?  That is something that certainly will be discussed.

The President is going to look forward to — is looking forward to meeting with Mexico and Canada to continue coordinating a regional response, which you have seen over the past several months, to irregular migration in the region, including through the continued implementation of the principles outlined in the Los Angeles — Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection. 

So, we have been working with the two countries for this past year or so on dealing with irregular migration.  That is going to continue.  Certainly, I’m not going to get ahead — ahead of that.

There’s a weird noise happening.  (Laughter.) 


Q    And, Karine, real quick — 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes.  Sorry. 

Q    — when it comes to the President’s — (laughter) —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sorry.  (Laughs.)

Q    When it comes to the President’s legislative agenda, do you have any sense of when the State of the Union is going to take place?  Do you expect that to be this month?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s a good question.  I don’t have anything to share with you.  As you know, the State of the Union is an important opportunity for the President to lay out his vision to — in front of the — not just Congress, but to the American people for — for this year.  And so I know he looks forward to doing that as he did last year. 

I just don’t have anything to share on that. 

Q    The Speaker hasn’t invited him, right?

Q    The Speaker does have to invite the President — 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s right. 

Q    — but perhaps the President would like to do it this month versus next month.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The Speaker — you’re right, the Speaker does have to invite him.  So, don’t want to get ahead of that process.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  D.C. Mayor Bowser, in her inaugural speech, called on President Biden to end work from home for federal government employees or turn over vacant government buildings.  She said, “We need decisive action by the White House to…get most federal workers back to the office most of the time or…realign their vast property holdings for use by the local government, nonprofits, businesses,” or, she said, “any user willing to revitalize it.”

Does the White House have a response to Mayor Bowser?  And has anybody spoken to her about this proposal that she wants? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, it just — is — this was yester- —

Q    Just yesterday.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — yesterday? 

So I haven’t checked with the team to see if anybody has talked to her about this or connected about this.  But increasing the supply of affordable housing is a priority of this administration.  As you know, we’ve talked about it many times over this past two years. 

That’s why the President put forward the Housing Supply Action Plan, and that was to ease the burden of housing costs over time by using a mix of administrative and legislative actions to boost the supply of quality housing in every community. 

So, you know, I don’t have any announcement to make from here or to — any response, really, to Mayor Bowser.  But clearly this has been a priority for this President, which is why he put forth this plan — this action plan.

Q    But specifically on the issue of federal workers, in his Christmas speech on December 23rd, the President said, “Things are getting better.  COVID no longer controls our lives.  Our kids are back in school.  People are back to work.”  What does he see as the future of federal work in D.C., for the federal workforce, in terms of employees working at home versus working in the office, given the large numbers of employees and the large numbers of buildings that they work in, in this city, and what that means for the downtown area here? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, a very good question.  I don’t have an announcement to make at this point.  Look, we — you know, we listen to the experts, right?  We certainly follow — follow the science and listen to the experts.  I just don’t have anything to announce today on any changes to that — you know, to that particular — you know, as it relates to federal buildings and federal workers.

But, look, just to reiterate what the President said: We are in a different place than we were when he walked into this administration.  He put together a comprehensive — a comprehensive COVID vaccination plan that made a difference, that helped put fo- — put our economy back on its feet.

And look at us today.  I remember — I — you guys — some of you were here for Jen’s first briefing.  There were 14 of you masked up.  And look where we are two years later.  We are in a different place.  And so, I think that’s important to note.

We are going to continue to, you know, share our message with the American people to get that new vaccine.  It is important.  It will help — it will help continue to get us back into a place where it doesn’t disturb our lives the way it did two years ago.

We know the tools that work.  We know what we need to do.  And so, we need to make sure that we continue to communicate with the American people on getting that vaccine.  And so, we’ll continue to have that conversation.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.

Q    Karine?  A question on Pope Benedict, Karine?  A Pope Benedict question.

MS. DALTON:  We have a local reporter (inaudible).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, all right.  I’ll take —

Q    One on Pope Benedict?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sure.  I’ll take your —

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Happy New Year to you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Happy New Year.

Q    Actually, two.  Two.  Okay.  One — (laughter).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, two questions. 

Q    Same, on Pope Benedict.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Happy New Years, two — meaning two — okay, gotcha.

Q    All right, let me start this over.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, let’s start this over.

Q    Pope Benedict — his funeral is Thursday.  The late Pope Benedict, his funeral is Thursday.  Is the U.S. sending a delegation to Rome, do you know?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me just first say — because we haven’t been able to be on the record on this since the passing of the Pope. 

So, as the President said in his statement, as I’m sure you saw, he joins Catholics and so many others around the world in mourning the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  He will always remember the Pope’s generosity and meaningful conversation they had when he visited the Vatican in 2011.

So, to answer your question, the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Joe Donnelly, will represent the United States at the funeral of the Pope, in line with the wishes of the late Pope and the Vatican.  This is what — this is what their requests were.  This is what their wishes were.  And so, that’s what you’re seeing from the U.S.

Q    Following up, what did — I know you read a statement there, but what did Pope Benedict mean to President Biden as a Catholic?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, you know, the President, as you know, he takes his faith very seriously.  This is someone who is passionate about his faith.  That’s not something I even need to tell you; you know this for yourself.

And he — again, he — he remembers the Pope’s generosity and his meaningful conversation they had when they visited — when he — when the President visited the Vatican back in 2011.  And so, that’s something that the President remembers and holds very close — close to heart.

Okay.  All right, guys.

MS. DALTON:  I think we’re running into a technical issue.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  A technical issue?

MS. DALTON:  We can’t load it up right now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Well, guys, I’ll see you on the road tomorrow, and we will be back in the briefing room on Thursday.

Thanks, everybody.

3:37 P.M. EST

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