James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:46 P.M. EST

Q    Hey, hey.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hey, hey.  Well, Steve.  Hi.  That was so nice.  A little rally.  (Laughter.)

Okay, so today, as you can see, we have Jen Klein in the room with us, in the briefing room — Director of the Gender Policy Council — here to discuss today’s event marking the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, as well as how the administration is fighting for women and their access to healthcare amid extreme attacks from Republican officials just access the country.

So she has a — a hard t- — a hard time out.  Right?  You have to get — get out of here because she does have to meet with the President in the Oval Office in a few minutes, but she wanted to speak with all of you and take some questions.

And, Jen, the podium is yours. 

MS. KLEIN:  Thanks.

Q    Which is more terrifying?

MS. KLEIN:  (Laughs.)  I’ll take that question. 

Good morning.  Later today, President Biden is hosting an event in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act.  He will be joined by Vice President Harris and several members of his Cabinet and will welcome President Bill Clinton back to the White House to celebrate the first bill that President Clinton signed in office.

The Family and Medical Leave Act came about after years of work by advocates and members of Congress, including support by President Biden as a senator, and from a historic number of women trailblazers in Congress, some of whom will join the President at the White House today.

This event is a moment to recognize the difference that the Family and Medical Leave Act has made and continues to make for millions of Americans.  But it’s also a moment to recognize the work that remains to be done to support workers, including the need to pass a national paid family and medical leave law. 

The President will discuss recent actions the administration has taken to support women in the workplace, including through the year-end omnibus, which included the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, as well as significant investments in childcare.

To give you an idea of what these wins mean for women:

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to pregnant women and new moms: basic, long-overdue protections like bathroom breaks and a stool to sit on.  This is good for maternal health, infant health, and it’s also good for the economic security of women and their families, ensuring they’re not pushed out of a job and instead can stay in the workforce and continue supporting their families.  It also allows workers to have time off from — to recover from childbirth, including many women who don’t have access to parental leave.

The President is also committed to continuing to support women’s economic security, which is why today he issued a presidential memorandum to support federal employees’ access to leave when they need to care for themselves or a loved one, including during their first year of employment and for reasons related to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Fighting for women’s economic security is a top priority, of course, but I would also like to touch on another priority: protecting access to reproductive care for women across the country amid a wave of extreme legislation at the state and national level.

As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, more than 26 million women in the United States currently live in a state that has banned abortion.

And while the President and Vice President stand with the majority of Americans in believing that the right to choose is fundamental, we continue to face an all-out assault by Republican officials on women’s access to reproductive care.

I’ll just outline briefly the focus of our fight right now. 

First, we are fighting anti-choice legislation in Congress.  Since House Republicans took office, they have proposed three separate national abortion bans and an additional number of bills to restrict access to reproductive care.  The President and the Senate Democrats will be a firewall against this extreme legislation while continuing to call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe vs. Wade as federal law.

That leads me to our second focus, which is taking executive action to defend reproductive rights.  As you know, the President has already issued two executive orders to safeguard access to reproductive healthcare.  And on what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe, the President took another step, issuing a presidential memorandum to further support safe access to medication abortion. 

These efforts are extremely critical and especially critical in the face of Republican officials denying the science, threatening pharmacies, and fighting access to safe, FDA-approved medication.  And I’ll remind you that medication abortion accounts for more than half of all abortions in the United States.

We’re also working closely with state leaders who are fighting to defend reproductive rights — those on the frontlines of addressing the more than 100 anti-choice bills that have already been filed for the 2023 legislation session.

And we’re supporting state leaders in taking proactive action, again, to — as well, to protect access to abortion.  This week, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed the PRO Act, making Minnesota the first state in 2023 to pass legislation codifying the protections of Roe.

So there’s a lot of work to be done to ensure women everywhere in this country are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, but the President remains committed to fighting for gender equality and gender equity.  And I really look forward to taking your questions. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you so much, Jen.  Thank you.

I think there’s a white jacket memo (inaudible).

MS. KLEIN:  Vibe.  (Laughs.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, I’ll take a couple questions.  Go ahead, Courtney.  Go to the back.

Q    Hi, Jen.  I’m Courtney Rozen from Bloomberg Government.  I wanted to ask you — you were talking about the abortion medication.  There’s a conservative group in Texas that’s seeking an injunction to stop mifepristone distribution.  And the group is called Alliance for Defending Freedom.  What will you do or the White House do to help counter the suit?  I know that this touches on what you’re trying to do to expand access to abortion drugs.

And will you more clearly argue that the FDA regulations on the abortion pill preempts state law?

MS. KLEIN:  Thanks, Courtney.  I not going to comment on pending litigation.  And, of course, I direct you to the Department of Justice to talk more about that.

But I do want to step back and look at the facts.  Mifepristone has been on the market for 20 years.  The FDA determined that it is safe and effective, and it’s used all around the world.  And as I just said, it accounts for the majority of abortions here in the United States.

Lawsuits and other extreme measures that have been announced by state officials, including threats to the litigation you just referred to, threats to pharmacies, are about coming after the right to access care and FDA-approved medication.  And that’s why we are going to remain committed to protecting legal access to medication abortion within the limits of the law.  And that’s why the President has already taken several steps to do that and reaffirm this in his most recent — in his most recent presidential memorandum on medication abortion.

Q    And you were just talking about supporting state-level leaders and working against legislation that restricts abortion.  Can you be more specific about what that means, how you’re supporting them?

MS. KLEIN:  We’ve met regularly — and the Vice President has met with hundreds of state legislators over the course of the last months, really since the Dobbs decision came down, to help them — bring them together so that they can share information about both how to pass proactive state legislation to protect reproductive rights and also to fight back defensively against the extreme legislation that they’re seeing in states. 

And so you’ve already seen a number of states pass helpful legislation, and, you know, as I just mentioned, the fight goes on because there are 100 bills already filed in the 2023 legislative session that are anti-choice.  And so we will continue to work with state legislators, governors, mayors to — and state attorneys general to help them in that fight.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Ebony.

Q    Thank you.  Thank you for being here today.  Really quickly, there are Democrats that are calling on the President put a paid leave proposal in the upcoming budget.  Can you kind of talk about that?

MS. KLEIN:  I can’t talk about what’s in the President’s budget, but what I can note is that he included a paid family and medical leave proposal in both his FY22 and FY23 budgets.  And he has been quite clear and — and talked about this in the campaign, and prior to that, about his support for paid family and medical leave.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  As you just noted, the President has pushed for this before, other administrations have been through this before.  Why do you think now is different, now is the time to renew this push, especially when we’ve seen this fall — fallen short before?

MS. KLEIN:  Well, I think, you know, we’ve seen — and I just noted a few, really, pretty major legislative wins with bipartisan support.  The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has been introduced for 10 years and finally passed with, as I said, strong bipartisan support. 

And I think that, you know, the lesson there is that you keep fighting for the things that are good for families, working families, and, by the way, good for the economy, which is very much true of paid family leave and the President’s entire CARE agenda, which also includes, of course, childcare and eldercare.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, are you satisfied, I’m wondering, with the Supreme Court’s investigation they concluded over the leaking of the Dobbs decision?  You know, there’s been some criticism that Michael Chertoff advised it and then, also, that the justices themselves weren’t under oath and got to, sort of, (inaudible).

MS. KLEIN:  You want to —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I can take that once you’re done. 

MS. KLEIN:  Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I’ll come back to that.

Anything — anybody else? 

Go ahead, Colleen.

Q    Jen, I wondered: Have you seen any movement from more moderate Republicans on reproductive rights?  You know, you were mentioning that there’s been bipartisan support for some of these other pieces of legislation when it comes to families.  I just wondered, on the issue of reproductive rights, like where — where are you guys with trying to move more moderate Republicans?

MS. KLEIN:  Well, the President has been really clear that the only way to replace a fundamental constitutional right that has been pa- — that has been taken away, which is what the Supreme Court did in the Dobbs decision, is to pass federal legislation codifying the protections that existed under Roe.

And he will and we will and the Vice President will continue to work to do that with anybody who is willing to work with us on that.

I will note that, you know, we have heard and seen, you know, quite publicly some Republicans trying to moderate their view.  But I think it’s really important to look at their voting record. 

Many who are talking about protecting women’s access to healthcare are actually voting quite differently.  They voted for bills that ban or severely restrict abortion.  They’ve actually co-sponsored legislation to ban abortion.  And, you know, this summer, a number of them did not vote for the Right to Contraception Act, which would both protect and expand the right to contraception.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ll take the last question, in the back.

Q    I was just wondering: The HHS Secretary brought up the prospect of an emergency on abortion again earlier this week.  He sort of said that an evaluation was still underway.  Do you have any insight on that from the White House’s perspective?

MS. KLEIN:  Yes.  I mean, we have said before and I will continue to say that no option is off the table that will expand access to reproductive healthcare. 

But at this point, we don’t believe that declaring a public health emergency would provide meaningful new resources in this fight.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Thank you so much, Jen.  Appreciate it.  Thank you, thank you for your time.

MS. KLEIN:  Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  I just have a couple of things at the top, and then we’ll get to it.

Okay.  So, as you know, last week, President Biden told Tyre Nichols’s family that he would continue pushing Congress to send the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to his desk.  To that end, the President will host some members of the Congressional Black Caucus at the White House later today to discuss shared priorities, including the path forward to police reform in Congress, and the Vice President will also be in attendance.

This is an issue that is deeply important to the President and one that he has long partnered with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on.  Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were critical partners in advancing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act last session. 

And when Senate Republicans blocked the legislation from reaching the President’s desk, the President worked with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to take sweeping executive action to set the gold standard for effective, accountable policing at the federal level.

Today’s Oval Office meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss the important reforms that have already been implemented because the President acted when Congress could not or would not — reforms like banning chokeholds significantly, restricting no-knock warrants, and requiring the use of body cams at the federal level, and immediate changes like prohibiting the transfer of military-grade firearms, grenade launchers, and other military equipment to law enforcement agencies.

But as the President has repeatedly said, no executive action can substitute federal legislation.  Real and lasting change at the state and local levels will require Congress to act.  It will require Republicans in Congress to stop getting in the way of ensuring our justice system lives up to its name. 

The President will continue to do everything in his power to fight for police reform in Congress, and he looks forward to meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus today on the path forward.

Today, as well, we’re also marking the one-year anniversary of the President and the First Lady’s reigniting the Cancer Moonshot with an ambitious goal of cutting cancer deaths in half over the next 25 years and improving the experience of Americans living with and surviving cancer.

In the past year, the Cancer Moonshot has announced over 25 new programs, policies, and resources to help close the screening gap, support patients and caregivers, advance cutting-edge research, and so much more.

And today, the Moonshot announced new actions that will build on the strong foundation, including a first-of-its-kind program to connect kids fighting cancer and their families with the patient — the patient navigation support they need.  This iss- — this issue is deeply personal for so many Americans, including the President and the First Lady.

The First Lady has been a tireless champion of the Cancer Moonshot, traveling the country and the world to hear from cancer patients and their families as well as those who support them, focusing on the importance of early detection and improving the experience of patients, families, and caregivers. 

In fact, she’ll be in San Diego tomorrow to visit a community health center that’s receiving Moonshot funding to increase cancer screenings in underserved communities.

Thanks to the work of the Moonshot, the federal government has never been more committed to ending cancer as we know it.

Finally, I wanted to say a few words about an incredible colleague that I have had the pleasure of working with who will soon be leaving the White House.

For over two years, Brian Deese has served as the Director of the National Economic Council and as one of the President’s most trusted advisors.

Brian has helped shape and pass the most significant economic agenda in generations: the American Rescue Plan, which brought our economy back from the brink; the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the most sin- — most significant investment in our nation’s infrastructure in generations; the CHIPS and Science Act, which ensures we make more high-end technology here at home so we can outcompete the world; and the Inflation Reduction Act, which is giving millions of families a little bit of breathing room, investing in clean energy manufacturing and addressing the climate crisis.

Brian has helped steer the President’s economic vision into reality by helping families get back to work, businesses reopen, and bring prices under control.  He has been an effective leader in President Biden’s efforts to rebuild our economy so no one is left behind.

Part of Brian’s success has been the incredible team that he built at NEC.  His strong team is the most diverse NEC in history: 60 percent women and 50 percent people of color.  He has — he has a way of translating very complex economic information.  As you all know, he’s been in this briefing room many times in front of all of you, taking your questions.  And he has been able to translate that into language all of us can understand. 

One of — one — and I would say — we will miss Brian very much.  We will miss his kindness, his intelligence, and just — again, just being an amazing colleague.

But I know how excited his family is to have more of his time.  And we wish Brian the absolute — the absolute best in his next chapter.

With that, Colleen.

Q    Thank you.  On the Philippines, I wondered if you had confirmation on what islands the bases will be stationed on.   And then —


Q    I’m sorry.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, no, no.  Go ahead.  I’m so sorry.  You should finish your question.

Q    And then, is there a concern that the expanded military presence could further provoke China?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, on the specifics of where — of the location, I would refer you to the Department of Defense.  I would refer you to my colleagues there. 

And, look, the way that I would see this is as a very important alliance and a partnership with the Philippines, as you ask about China.  But that’s the way that we perceive this and how we’re moving forward as an important partnership and, again, an alliance that we have with the Philippines.

Q    And then, on the meeting of McCarthy yesterday, I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit on what continuing the conversation looks like.  And he specifically had mentioned to reporters outside that there was a follow-up call scheduled with the White House.  I wondered if that was happening or had happened.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you heard from the Speaker and also from the President, it was a good discussion.  It was an honest discussion.  Our senior staff has followed up and communicated our appreciation to the Speaker’s team.  And we will continue to stay in touch as we have been for the past several months. 

I don’t have any calls to preview or to speak to.  But, again, I mean, you heard directly from — from the Speaker.  I believe he spoke for about 30 minutes at the sticks yesterday, taking your questions as well.  And he said it was productive.

And again, it was, as I said, a very good discussion, and we appreciated his time.

Go ahead, Mary.

Q    On that same topic, you know, there was a fair amount of optimism on both sides coming out of that meeting yesterday, but the Speaker has now said to reporters again that there will be no clean debt ceiling hike.  So why the cause for optimism?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, look, the cause for optimism is because you heard it from the Speaker himself: It was a good discussion, it was going to be a continuing conversation that they’re going to have. 

And there are real — real discussions to continue as it relates to the — to — to the American people, when you look at the deficit more broadly and how we — we need to lower — continue to lower the deficit and what the President has done the last two years.  You’ve heard me talk about that many times from the podium. 

And we have said — we have said very loud and clear to the Speaker, if he has any ideas on how to work together on that, we’re willing to listen and work in good faith. 

But look, as it relates — as I’ve always said, when it comes to lifting the debt ceiling, that is a completely separate issue.  And that has not changed.  You saw that from our readout yesterday.  You’ve heard this from me, you’ve heard it from the President, you’ve heard it from Brian Deese and others in this administration, that — that we need to do that without conditions.  The debt ceiling needs to be lifted without conditions.  And — and so, we still stand by that.  That has not changed. 

We believe — we truly believe it is a constitutional duty of Congress — Republican, Democrats, and independents — to get that done as we have seen this done 78 times before, since 1960. 

Q    But given the optimism — I understand you don’t want to get — you’re not going to detail negotiations because this is an ongoing process, but should we take that there were potential areas of agreement that were identified here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I wouldn’t — I — look, I’m not going to speak for the Speaker.  I certainly am not his spokesperson.  But President Biden has made it very clear that it is up to Congress to live out their congressional duty to avoid economic catastrophe as it relates to a default.  Like, we’ve been very clear on that. 

And he even said — the Speaker — as you just mentioned, Mary; I think you were alluding to this — we’re not going to negotiate in public on anything that is related — right? — to fiscal responsibility and what it is that they — they want to move forward with — the House, the House Republicans — what it is — what it is — what is it their plan is going to be.

What the President has said — he’s been clear on the — on the — the debt ceiling: We’re not — we’re — it should be done without conditions.  He’s willing and ready to discuss how we can lower costs when it comes to the deficit.  And he has said, as well, he’s going to have his budget show what he believes is — his fiscal priorities are, show how we need to be fiscally responsible as we talk about the American people.  He’ll have that on March 9th.  And he asked the Speaker to do the same. 

Q    And just one more.  The State of the Union is coming up.  I was wondering if you could give us a sense of how the President is preparing for this, where he may be in the speechwriting process, who’s helping him with that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s a — it’s a good question.  As you know, the President has been working on — on the — on his speech for some time.  He sees this as an opportunity — and I spoke — I’ve spoken to this before — not just to address Congress and the members of Congress, clearly, but also as an opportunity to speak directly to the American people. 

He’s done it at least twice before.  This will be his third time.  And so, he takes this very seriously. 

These types of speeches continue to evolve, sometimes until the final moments before being delivered, as you can imagine.  And — but you can expect the President to hit on many of the issues that you hear him speak about every day: the significant economic progress we’re seeing under his leadership; his economic vision that’s building our economy from the bottom up and middle out; the historic pieces of legislation passed into law over the last two years, which are creating good-paying middle-class jobs and delivering real results for people by fixing our roads, bridges, tunnels, lowering costs on everyday goods. 

Those are just a few examples that you will hear from the President. 

I will also say, somebody just asked — I don’t know, it may have been you, Mary — about the optimism that the — that you see from this President.  Right?  This is something that you have heard from him over and over again, especially in the last two years, is how he is optimistic about the future of this country.  And you’ll hear some of that as well, and the possibilities — And I’ve said this before; you hear that from the President as well as — the possibilities that we have as a country, especially as we look at our economy, as we look at things moving forward.

Go ahead, Steve.

Q    The Speaker mentioned that the debate could go on for five months.  Is that what you’re expecting as well?  Is that okay with you?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, what we — what we — what we have been very clear about — and I’ll say it again: When it comes to the debt ceiling, it is something that should be done.  It is something that is — is a constitutional duty of House — House — of the — of Congress, more broadly.

And look — look, we’re not talking about new spending, we’re talking about spending that the Congress has racked up over the last couple of years. 

You know, if you think about where the debt is currently, 90 percent of that debt happened before the President even walked into office.  So it is a — it is — it is something that they should get done.  And they voted on this, when it comes to lifting the debt ceilings, three times in the last administration.  So we don’t see any negotiation here.  We don’t see anything that needs to be discussed.  We see this as a duty that they have to get this done.

Again, when it comes to lowering the deficit, when it comes to actually coming up with real policies to do that — and you’ve seen the President do that the last two years — $1.7 trillion in lowering the deficit — and you see that even with the Inflation Reduction Act, which is going to lower the deficit by $200 billion. 

So this is something that the President takes very seriously.  And those are the conversation — that’s the conversation that he’s willing to have.  And he wants to see what their plan — plan is going to look like.

Q    Thank you.  Separately, Secretary Blinken is leaving soon for talks in China.  Is he going to meet with President Xi?  And what is President Biden hoping to get out of this trip?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I believe the State Department has yet to announce any travel.  Certainly, I’m not going to get ahead of the State Department from here.  So I — I would refer you to them.

Q    Thank you.

Q    On police reform, the President is obviously hosting that meeting with members of the CBC today.  Today, he said that “justice is long overdue,” relating to the death of Tyre Nichols. 

Looking at the State of the Union, how much of an emphasis will President Biden be placing on police reform specifically in that speech?  And what kind of request might he be asking for?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, it’s a good question.  I’m cer- — I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s speech.  I want to be very careful on doing that.  As I just mentioned, it’s constantly being reworked, and it will be till the — to the very last moment.

But as I said from the top, it is a deeply important issue for this President.  Again, when Congress could not act or would not act because Republicans got in the way of getting a really important critical piece of legislation — the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — he stepped in.  And what he put forward in the executive actions, clearly on the federal level, dealing with federal agencies, was something that had never been done by any other President.  So that shows his commitment. 

And him — today, he’s sitting down and having a conversation with the Congressional Black Caucus and continuing efforts on how we deal with this issue, how we really, truly get to a transformational change with police reform, I think also shows his commitment. 

And so that’s going to occur later today.  As you all know, there’ll be a pool spray at the top, and you guys will experience the — the President coming together with the Congressional Black Caucus — members of the Congressional Black Caucus to have that conversation. 

But, certainly, I’m not going to get ahead of what — what will — what specifics will be in the President- —

Q    But will he talk about police reform in the State of the Union?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I’m not going to get ahead of the President on what he’s going to specifically talk about.  I laid out the economic — his economic — you know, what he’s — what he has laid out for his economic policy in the last two years.  And he will certainly talk about that. 

I talked about the optimism that he has for this country.  I’m just not going to go into details about any specific pieces of legislation that he’ll discuss or issues that he’ll discuss. 

Q    And then, on Ukraine.  Officials in recent days have been warning about this increase in an offensive that they’re expecting from Russia.  One official is saying that Russia is preparing for, quote, “maximum escalation.”  Is that an assessment that the White House shares?  And is there any plans — or how soon might we see more security assistance to Ukraine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, as it relates to security assistance, as you know, we have been — we have been very consistent in providing the assistance that the people of Ukraine need to defend the aggression that they’re seeing from Russia, which is almost — we’re up almost to a year of that. 

And the President has shown his commitment throughout this year.  He’s shown his commitment, as you’ve seen, when the President Zelenskyy was here most recently and many times before, in bringing together NATO, bringing together the West to really have that strong partnership with our partners and allies to really help Ukraine in every way that we can. 

Look, we’re seeing what’s happening, you all are reporting on it very courageously in what’s happening in Ukraine.  And we are going to continue to help Ukraine in any way that we can. 

They are assessing what’s going on in the battlefields, clearly, and we are talking to them on a regular basis to see what else that we can do to help. 

As far as security assistance, I don’t have anything further to read out.  And again, we are going to stand by the Ukrainian people for as long as it takes.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Following up on the police executive order, one part of that was building a law enforcement accountability database 240 days after the signing of that executive order.  We’re past that deadline now.  What’s the status of that database?  It was cited often by the administration as an example of its reform efforts.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, would have to go back to the team to get you a number to see exactly where we are with that database.  Don’t have that number in front of you — in front of me — ex- — pardon me.

But, look, I do want to say that in putting together that executive order, the President and his team worked with and spoke with — had months and months of engagement with many folks in the communities — when you think about the civil rights organizations; you think about the families who had lost an individual, a loved one to the hands of police.  And also, law enforcement also came in and gave us advice and thoughts on what should be put in the executive order. 

And if you go back, Zolan — I’m sure you have — you’ll see quotes from many of those different groups who said how important this executive order was to move things forward. 

Remember, this is a record, historic piece — executive order that we have not seen from any other President before.  But I can go back and talk to the team.

Q    To be clear, on the database, though —


Q    — is it that we don’t know how far we are in terms of building it —


Q    — or is not yet com- — built yet?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — what I — what I’m saying to you is I just have to go back to the team to answer this in a way that answers any questions that you may have on the database.  I just — I don’t have that information in front of me.

Q    And I’m wondering also, just in terms of the meeting with Speaker McCarthy as well, he said that they are not touching Medicare or Social Security.  Did he clarify what programs he would like to see spending cuts?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, they need to put forward — forward a plan, and we have not seen a plan yet.  What we have seen and heard — and you all, again, have reported on this; I’ve gone through this many times before from here — is what his Hou- — House Republican Conference has been saying, that they want to cut Medicare, that they want to cut Social Security. 

They’ve been very clear on that.  We’ve seen stories after stories, and we’ve heard directly from many members of the House conference — Republican Conference, to be more specific there.  And so, that’s what we’ve heard.

I know that Speaker Pelosi [McCarthy] has said that on TV most recently, but, again, what we are asking for is: What’s their plan?  What is their plan that they’re going to put forward? 

The President is going to put forward his — his fiscal plan, his budget on March 9th that’s going to lay out for the American people how he sees the fiscal year 2024 and how he sees delivering for the American people. 

So, let’s — we want to see what they are going to put forward. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  A few — do you any idea if the President signed off or weighed in at all on the release of the Guantanamo Bay detainee Majid Khan?  And should we be anticipating the release of any others soon?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, on that piece, I can let you know and confirm that — that today we transferred Mr. Khan to Belize after he finished serving his sentence at Guantanamo Bay detention facility.  Khan had entered a plea agreement in 2012, in which he pledged to cooperate with the U.S. government.  And since that time, he has honored his cooperation commitment. 

I can say more broadly, as it relates to the Guantanamo Bay and the President’s position on that: It remains dedicated, we remain dedicated to a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population at Guantanamo Bay and ultimately closing the facility.  That is still where we stand. 

The Department of State is seeking to identify suitable onward transfer countries and negotiate transfer arrangements, including appropriate security and humane treatment assurances for the remaining eligible detainees. 

I don’t have — I know there’s been reports on more detainees being trans- — transported.  Just don’t have anything to share there. 

Q    This weekend, the Democratic National Committee is voting to approve a new calendar for the 2024 primaries and caucuses.  It’s going to put South Carolina first; followed, if they have their way, with Nevada and New Hampshire going second; Georgia and Michigan after that. 

I know you cannot specifically discuss politics because of the Hatch Act, or at least that’s what you’ll probably tell us.  But I’m curious if the President himself will ever speak publicly about his calls and the letter he sent to the DNC saying that this should happen. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I will say this, it’s not what I say, it’s the rule of law.  And I –

Q    No, I get it.  Yeah, absolutely.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just want to be clear.  I don’t —

Q    Totally.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You kind of just threw it out there —

Q    Well —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — as if it’s a personal decision here. 

Q    No, no, no.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It is the rule of law. 

Q    Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And we believe the rule of law here.  We follow it. 

You know, I have not had that conversation with the President.  I’m going to be, you know, very honest with you.  I’ve not talked to him about 2024.  It’s not something that we can do from here.

And I’m sure you will hear a lot more from the President, you know, moving forward, but I just —

Q    Any idea if that’s a part of what he’s planning to talk about tomorrow when he’s in Philly —  


Q    — since he’s meeting with the DNC?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So — so, tomorrow, you — look, tomorrow is an important moment for the President to be in Philadelphia.  As you know, the Vice President will be there with him as well and will — and he — he — we’ll send out a note, obviously, this afternoon with additional information, which — as we normally do when it comes to events and when he travels, certainly, outside of D.C.

And — and, you know, what I can say now is that tomorrow the President will tr- — will highlight the progress on water infrastructure, because there’s that official component, and replacing lead pipes thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  And this trip is a continuation of our emphasis on implementation. 

And this week alone, we did — as you know, we went to Baltimore, we went to New York City and talked about the funding to replace a Civil War-era bridge.  And in New York, we announced the funding to kickstart the early phase of the Hudson Tunnel Project.  So, I’ll stay there on the — on the official pieces.

On anything that’s related to the DNC components, I would refer you to the DNC.

Go ahead, Tam.

Q    Thank you.  On policing, Karen Bass and Val Demings were two of the lead House advocates for the George Floyd bill.  They are both no longer in the House.  So, who does the White House see as your best partners in the House on that legislation?

And also, are there Republicans who the White House has reached out to or otherwise sees as potential partners in the House, you know, to make the numbers work?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, there were some Republicans in the Senate that were incredibly helpful or tried to be helpful in the last session as it relates to the George Floyd in Jus- — in Justice in Policing Act.  So I would refer you to them and see where they are this time around, as far as it relates to the Republicans.

I can tell you for this meeting — I can give you the list of attendees who will be here.  And so, clearly, they are certainly involved in this process — this next — next state of legislation process. 

Representative Hor- — Horsford — obviously, the chair — is going to be here.  Representative Clyburn.  Representative Neguse.  Representative Jackson Lee.  We have Senator Booker, who played a very big role. 

And as you know, I think you guys all heard the Vice President mentioned yesterday, in the early stages of the bill, she was involved, and she’ll be in — in the room as well. 

And we will also have Reverend Warnock, who will be in — in — in the meeting as well. 

So I would — I would figure that those — those folks are certainly going to be very involved in this process as well.

Q    And on the investigations, can you say how many people the White House Counsel’s Office added to prepare for the House investigation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office on any staffing or any specifics on how they’re moving forward with dealing with that. 

Go ahead, Nadia. 

Q    Thank you.  Two questions on foreign policy.  The President just met with the King of Jordan.  What role does the White House hopes that Jordan can play in de-escalation of violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, it’s a very good question.  As you know — as you just mentioned, he met with King Abdullah II and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hussein of Jordan, and they had lunch together.  They will reaffirm the close, enduring nature of the friendship between the United States and Jordan. 

And the President will thank His Majesty for his close partnership and the role he and Jordan play as a force for stability in the — in the region, in the Middle East.  They will also discuss their vision for the region, and — that highlights the importance of cooperation and integration as well as capitalizing on opportunities for economic prosperity and also stability. 

The President will thank His Majesty for the critical role Jordan plays in defusing tensions in Jerusalem and will underscore the need to preserve the historic status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. 

And they will also address the global impact of Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine as well. 

Q    Also, we saw today the visit of the Israeli Foreign Minister to Sudan.  Does the White House encourage a potential widening of the Abraham Accords to include countries like Sudan?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, so we have said many times before when there have been this type — these types of meetings that we — we are always supportive of all efforts to broaden Israel — Israel’s — Israelis’ integration throughout the region, including with Sudan — right? — this particular meeting. 

So, I would refer you to the — to governments of Israel and Sudan for more information about their discussion.  But certainly, when it comes to the efforts of integration in that region, we support that.

Okay, Akayla.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Just a quick follow-up on Nadia’s question and then —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, sorry.

Q    — an immigration question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  Yes. 

Q    I’m sorry. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, it’s okay.   It’s okay.

Q    I’m sorry.

Q    No, no, go for it.  Go for it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s hard to — it’s okay.

Q    Yeah, just on the meeting with King Abdullah, can you speak more specifically about how the President responded to the King’s concern that the Israeli government is not respecting the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque?  And whether the President shared the concern of Jordanians that the new Israeli right-wing government is escalating tensions with Palestinians?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we’ve been very clear about this.  I know I’ve gotten many questions about the Israeli government.  And, look, you know, we have gotten assurances from the Prime Minister that when it comes to specifics policies, when it comes to, you know, how — what is decided, the policy of the government, that he has repeatedly emphasized that he will set the policy for his government.  Right?  This is — this is something that he’s been very clear on. 

And I do want to also add that, as you know, Secretary Blinken was just in the region.  He met with the Israeli and the Palestinian leaders.  This is clearly something that we take very seriously of what’s occurring in the region. 

You — we mentioned that the President spoke with the Prime Minister on Friday.  And Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, also spoke to his counterpa- — -parts on that day.  And we had the Vice President speak with the President of Israel. 

And so this is — you know, this is something that we have been very involved and very engaged, and we’ll continue to do so.

Q    And just really quickly, on the meeting.  Is there any reason why it was completely closed to press, there was no spray?  And can you speak about why the Crown Prince was also invited?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I will say this: I just laid out why we think the — what was — was going to be in the conversation, how he saw the conversation moving forward. 

Look, the pri- — it’s a private lunch between two leaders, which we’ve done before; it’s not unusual.  And, you know, sometimes some of the pri- — some of the meetings are — will have a press component, some of them won’t.  And this one happens to be a private meeting between the two.  I would leave it to the King and the — and the Crown Prince to speak to why they came to — to the U.S.

Q    Okay.  And then, just one question on immigration.  Can we get your reaction to Texas?  The Texas governor is appointing a Special Advisor on Border Matters because of what he says is the administration’s refusal to secure the border.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, look, I’m not going to — look, he’s going to take whatever action he’s going to take.  We are — we’re not about political stunts, we’re about dealing with a real issue and taking action.  And that’s what you’ve seen from this President these last two years.  That’s what you’ve seen from the President most recently, announcing border measures that’s actually has made a difference, that has had an impact, as you look at the parolee program.  That is what we’re going to do. 

The President walked in on day one, put forth a immigration reform, and, you know, is asking Republicans, instead of doing political stunts, to come and help him deal with an issue.  But in — in lieu of that, he’s taken actions, and we’re seeing the impact. 

Go ahead, Peter.  You’re about to — you’re about to jump out of your seat there.  (Laughter.)

Q    No, no, no.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re making me nervous.  (Laughter.)  I was like — I was like, let me call on Peter before —

Q    My legs were falling asleep.  (Laughter.)

Republicans just voted to oust Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee over past antisemitic comments.  What is the White House and the President’s response or thought on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I ha- — clearly, you said they just — it just occurred, so I haven’t seen that.  What we believe is Congresswoman O- — Omar is highly respected member of Congress.  She has apologized for her comment she made in the past.  I think she was most recently — did an extensive interview about this on Sunday, I believe on CNN, and has been vocal about condemning antisemitism as well as affirming our strong alliance and important partner- — partnership with Is- — Israel. 

Look, the way that we see this: It’s a political stunt, much like House Republicans’ unjust — unjust removal of other leading Democrats from key committees in recent weeks, and it is a disservice to the American people.

Q    If I can ask you about the CBC meeting that’s happening this afternoon, as well.  We heard during the Tyre Nichols service yesterday from the Vice President who said, of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, that it was, quote, “non-negotiable.”

Yesterday in our exchange, you said that the White House was open to supporting something as long as it was done in a bipartisan fashion.  So is it non-negotiable that it must be the Justice in Policing Act as it exists?  Or is the White House open to something that’s different than that if it’s done in a bipartisan form?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I think it’s — I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive.  I think what she — what — what —

Q    Well, one could be different than the Justice in Policing Act —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, no, I think —

Q    — if it’s done in a bipartisan form.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — I think what you saw very passionately from the Vice President — and I — I heard that part, I was — I watched her as well.  I — what she was trying to say is: We need to get something done.  Enough is enough.  We need to get this done.  We need to get a policy — a police reform that is transformational, that is actually going to bring forth real change.  And the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is part of that.  It is one step in getting to a place where it is the law of the land. 

That’s why the President has said, many times before, we need to take legislative action.  We need Congress to act so that we can see change in states and in cities. 

Right now, as you know — I just laid this out; I’ve laid it out yesterday, I laid it out just now — the President took executive action.  But that’s on the federal gov- – on the federal level and when you think about law enforcement in the federal level.

And so, look, what — what we heard from the Vice President was passion.  What we heard from the Vice President yesterday was meeting the moment and being there for a family that is grieving, a family that had to watch a video of their child being — you know, being brutalized.  And so she was there comforting and being passionate about an issue that is incredibly important to the President and, clearly, to her.

Q    I want to let others go, but just to be very clear: So, it — is it negotiable that there is something that achieves police reform if it does not come in the form of the Justice in Policing Act?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, what I can say is: The President — the President supported the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act last session.  He supports it now, again.  Right?  He was very clear when he spoke to Tyre Nichols’s family — his mother and his stepdad.  He said that he was going to do everything that he can to encourage and ask Congress to act.  That still stays the same. 

Now, he’s meeting with Congressional Black Caucus to see what can we do, how do we move forward.  Sometimes — and this is a reality; we know how Congress works.  Right?  Sometimes it’s going to look different.  And so that is okay — right? — if it’s going to look different. 

But what we know — what we know that has been introduced in the past that is clearly available to us is the George Floyd and — Justice in Policing Act.

So, of course, we’re going to continue to call — call for that.  But, you know, there’s going to be conversations, and we’ll see where those conversations go.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Sabrina.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  A follow-up to Peter’s question.  Given the realities of the Republican-controlled House, is the President open to a proposal on police reform that would not include qualified immunity just to get something done?  Or is that a red line for him?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get into conversation that’s just about to happen in a couple of hours and where we’re going to potentially — and that’s going to be a beginning, probably, of multiple conversations.  I’m not going to sit here and say what’s a red line — or stand here, clearly, and say what’s a red line and what we won’t or won’t do.  I want to be very careful there. 

But what I’m saying is the President is committed — is committed to — you know, to working with Congress for Congress to act so it can become the land of — the law of the land and we don’t have to continue to see communities, especially — as we know — disproportionately, sadly, brown and Black communities across the country being affected by this issue. 

Again, that’s why the President took executive action when — when — to be very frank, when Republicans refused to act the last session.
Q    And I believe you said yesterday that you would check with NSC on the question of whether athletes from Russia and Belarus should be allowed to compete at the Olympic Games in Paris.  This is, of course, drawing a lot of attention at this time.  Do you have any updates —


Q    — on the administration’s (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I do.  I checked in with NSC, and I have a robust update for you.  (Laughter.)

So, as you know, the United States has rallied the world to support the people of Ukraine, as I just laid out moments ago, and we have worked to hold Russia accountable for the brutal and barbaric war their forces are waging against Ukraine. 

So, as part of those efforts, the United States has supported suspending Russia and Belarus — Belarus’s sport national governing bodies from international sports federation; removing individuals closely aligned to the Russian and Belarusian states, including government officials, from positions of influence on international sport federations, such as boards and organizing committees; encouraging national and international sports organi- — organizations to suspend and broadcasting of sports competition in- — into Russia and Belarus. 

In cases where sports organizations and event organizers, such as the International Olympic Committees — Committee, choose to permit athletes from Russia and Belarus to participate in sporting events, it should be absolutely clear that they are not representing the Russian or Belarusian states. 

And so that’s the stance that we are providing.  And the use of official state Russian/Belarusian flags, emblems, and anthems should be prohibited as well.

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

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Back on budget talks.  Yesterday, McCarthy suggested that what he would like to see ultimately, if there can be an agreement, is a two-year budget framework.  What’s the President’s thinking on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I will say is the President is going to put forth his budget on March 9th.  He’s going to be very clear with the American people.  He’s going to lay out what he believes the fi- — his fiscal responsibilities, or priorities, are for the American people.  And we asked the Speaker to do the same.  And until we see that, it’s hard to talk about timeline, it’s hard to talk about specifics, because we need to actually see on paper what they’re going to move forward with.

Q    On that point, you know, almost 50 years ago, as a senator, Joe Biden voted for a framework, or a timeline, that has the President proposing a budget first and then Congress disposing of that budget.  Why is it the argument here that the Republicans should put forward their budget first?  Isn’t — isn’t it “The President proposes, the Congress disposes”?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, actually — actually, that’s not what we said.  We’re going to put out our budget on March 9th, and we’re asking Republicans to do the same. 

Because here’s the thing, Steve: What we keep hearing from Republicans is that they want to cut Social Security — right? — which is something that taxpra- — taxpayers pay into. 

And we believe that the President — that the President has said he’s going to continue to fight for Social Security.  We keep hearing that they want to cut Medicare, which is also a problem because it’s going to hurt taxpayers who pay into that.  We’re talking about seniors.  We’re talking about veterans. 

And so, we oppose that.  We are against that.  But that’s what they keep saying and many of you all have reported.

But we haven’t — but what — where’s the plan?  Like, what is it that they’re going to lay out to show us exactly — not just to us, but to the American people? 

Now, I want to be very clear.  The conversation that the President and the Speaker had yesterday was productive.  We appreciated the time that the Speaker gave to the — to the President to have a conversation.  And our teams, again, have been in touch.  And we’ll see where we go from there.

Q    The law says that the President’s budget is due on the first Monday in February.  Joe Biden is not the first President to be late, but he is going to be late.  And it’s now five weeks from today that you’ve said the budget will come out. 

Can you explain why it is — it is delayed?  I think you were asked this last week, and there was a suggestion that it might have something to do with the omnibus.  But is there — is that the reason?  Is there another reason?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, and I basically said the omnibus happened so late in the — as you know, in the last session, which caused us to, you know, be a little bit later with — with the President’s budget.  So that did — there’s definitely a correlation there. 

But here’s the thing: The President has made a promise that he’s going to have his budget on March 9th.  That’s what we’re going to do.  That’s what he’s going to show to the American people.  And we want to see what the — what the House Republicans are going to put forward. 

Okay, I’ll go to the back.  Go ahead, Gerren.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Republicans who have expressed resistance to passing the George Floyd bill have argued that there’s no law that would have prevented the deadly beating of Tyre Nichols.  Does the White House agree with that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’ll say this: When it comes to this issue — the police — police reform and dealing with an issue that’s certainly affecting many communities — the brown and Black communities, specifically — and asking, “Would — would the George Floyd in Justice in Policing Act have changed anything?” 

We believe would — it would have strengthened accountability measures, which we think is important, for federal officers at the state and local level.  We think that’s important. 

It would give the Department of Justice expanded powers to go after departments that have patterns of — or practices of excessive force, bias policing, and other unconstitutional practices. 

It would require the Department of Justice to establish accreditation standards for law enforcement agencies.  It would require officers to complete training on racial profiling, implicit bias, and the duty to intervene when another officer uses excessive force. 

The President repeatedly called for Congress to pass the George Floyd Act, even leading law on — law enforcement organizations supported the reform as well.  And when they could not take action or would not act, the President acted and put forth an executive action. 

And as I stated before, that is a — that executive action was supported by families who have been affected, who lost loved ones to police — police brutality, and it was supported even by law enforcement.  It was supported by civil rights — civil rights organizations as well. 

Look, you know, this is a first step.  I was explaining that to Peter.  George Floyd in Justice Policing Act, while, yes, it will — it will start the process in hopefully dealing with a real systemic issue, a systemic problem, it is also one of the ways that we can start dealing with that.

Q    Another question.  Activists have identified the issue of traffic stops as a potential area of policy focus.  That — do you — does the White House see that as a potential area where there can be bipartisan support or even through executive order?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I don’t want to get into specific on getting bipartisan support for any piece of provision or policy that would be in the legislation.  I’m going to allow the President to have his conversation with the Congressional Black Caucus; see how that goes; and, you know, continue to talk to Congress about acting and making sure that we deal with this issue. 

Go ahead, James, in the back

Q    Karine, thank you.  I have two questions: one about the documents case and one about the Tyre Nichols funeral. 

On the documents case, one of the features of the early public narrative of this episode that has kind of already taken root is the reporting to the effect that statements from this podium at different points later proved to be inaccurate. 

And without expecting you to delve into the details, because we all know that you cannot from the podium, I nonetheless wonder if you could simply assure us that you challenge that element of this narrative — that you are satisfied personally with the accuracy of all of the information that you dispense from this podium.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, James, look, I’ll say: At this podium, I will always follow the guidance of the White House Counsel’s Office when it comes to ongoing investigations.  We’ve been very — you know, we’ve been very clear about just ongoing investigations that is led by the Department of Justice — making sure that they have their independence.  We — this is something that the President has talked about through the campaign and through the last two years. 

I have been consistent about that.  But when I have made statements from this podium on this investigation, it was at the guidance of the Counsel’s Office and consistent with what they have said and wanted to communicate at the time.  Right? 

And I have said this, the White House Counsel’s Office has said this: One of the reasons we try not to comment on this is because it’s changing — right? — it is currently — it is currently under investigation.  And when you have a legal matter, as you know — I know you understand this — things change and things move very, very quickly. 

And so, I’ve continued to provide the information that I have — I have had at the time, and I will continue to do that.

Q    On the Tyre Nichols funeral — and I’m posing this question with no aspersions cast on what I think all observers thought was a very eloquent eulogy delivered by the Vice President

I think it — the event calls into question how the Biden White House goes about deciding which atrocities, which tragedies merit high-level attention from the President or the Vice President. 

So, in addition to the Nichols funeral, for example, we saw that the President called the parents of Damar Hamlin, an injured NFL player. 

I checked the White House website just before coming into the briefing room today.  And I see no indication that the chief executive has at any time reached out to the family of Justin McIntire, who was the police chief in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania, who was shot to death in the line of duty, a father of four.  Why not?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll say this: If you look at this President — who has been a senator for 36 years, who has been a Vice President for eight years, and who has been, clearly, you know, finished up his — is finishing up his two-years’ tenure in a four-year presidency thus far, he —

You know — if you know Joe Bi- — Joe Biden, you know that he feels the pain of many families who have lost loved ones, because he knows what that means.  You’ve named one family in particular.  I understand why you’re naming that family in particular.  But there’s been many families that he has called to offer up — you know, to offer up his condolences and offer up his help and assistance in any way. 

We do not read out all of those — all of those conversations.  But if you know Joe Biden and if you’ve been around Joe Biden, you know that this is something that the President does in a way that many politicians — at least that I have worked for — are not — won’t — can’t do — are not capable of doing. 

And the President will always be committed and always be open to talking to families who are hurting, who are going through a tough time, especially of a lost loved one. 

And I think the two that you just named were just very public.  They were two incredibly public situations that — that where — you know, where — where the President was able to reach out in a way that — that people knew about — right? — that people were able to see how the President uses what he does so well — his understanding, his compassion for others. 

And so, I would not — again, you named one family.  The President has been, clearly, in the world of politics for a long time.  And he has had many, many conversations with families who have lost loved ones.

I’m going to continue to go around.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    This is a question about entitlements and one on the ending of the public health emergency.  Dr. Jha tweeted yesterday that the administration is committed to ensuring that vaccines and treatments are accessible and not too expensive for people without insurance after the emergency ends.  And he said, quote, “More details to follow.” 

Does that mean there’s a new program in the works?  Will it be announced in the coming days, in the coming weeks?  Will it require more funding?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, good question.  Don’t have anything to share with you at this time.

What I can commit to you — and what we are trying to do is we’re — we’re planning for a smooth transition when it comes to the public health and a smooth transition for emergency policies in May.  That is our commitment.  That’s always been our commitment from this administration. 

It does not mean we’re done fighting COVID — right? — as — as Dr. Jha is laying out how we’re going to move forward.  We are working and coordinating around the clock with hospitals, with local public health departments and leaders.  And they are — and they are an integral part to the process of a smooth transition. 

And, you know, that said, because of the work that we’ve done to fight COVID from day one, from the moment that the President walked into this administration, we are in a better place than when we were when we first started.  And that is because of the work that this administration has done. 

And — and so we’ll continue to do that.  It’s still — we’re still fighting COVID, as I just laid out.  And we’ll have more to share.  But just wanted to be very clear that it is — it is a transition, and it’s going to take some time, and we’ll have the appropriate conversations.
Q    Thanks.  And then, on entitlements, what’s the President’s plan for avoiding automatic benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare if nothing is done to shore up their finances?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we’re going to — we’re going to continue to ask — I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about what — what actions could be done down the road.  What we’re going to ask the Speaker, as we have in our letter, as we have stated many times before, we want to see what their plan is. 

We’ve heard from the House Republican Congress, but we want to get a sense of, are you — is this what you all are going to do?  Are you going to cut Medicare?  Are you going to cut Social Security and keep that hostage for their — you know, to — to — to hold it so that they don’t do their constitutional duty, which is lift the debt ceiling.

And so, let’s see.  Let’s see what the House Republican Conference is going to do, what the House is going to do more broadly, Republicans in particular.

But, look, again, we — the President and the Speaker had a very productive conversation, and we’re looking to continue to have — have those talks.

Go ahead.  And then the person in back.

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, and the person behind you, actually.

Q    Oh, me?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, whoever —

Q    Oh, thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Whoever wants to go first.

Q    Karine, counsel for Hunter Biden has written the National Security Division of the Justice Department.  I know you like to keep that agency very arm’s length.  But is it arm’s length when the President’s son writes seeking — writes DOJ seeking an investigation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I’m going to be pretty consistent, as I have been from this podium when it relates to that — that particular question that you — you’re asking me, we have been for the last two years.  And I will say to you that that is something for Hunter Biden’s personal representative — their representative to speak to.  I’m just not going to speak to it from here.

Q    Is this something the White House knew about before it happened?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I would — as far as that piece, I would refer you to the White House Counsel Office. 

And, again, don’t have anything to add.  This is something for his personal representatives to speak to. 

And as it relates to the agencies, as you were asking me: Look, this is a President — and I said this before — that believes in the independence of the Department of Justice, or any — any enforcement investigations.  And he’s been very clear about that. 

He believes that it should not be politicized, as he has said for the past couple of years, starting in the campaign.  And he believes that — that any — any — any investigation should be independent.

So, again, I would refer you to the specific agencies that’s involved here.  I’m just not going to comment beyond that.

Q    And then — just, it sounded like you had something to say on the other one.


Q    What’s your view of the Supreme Court and how they organized that investigation where the justices could decide (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m going to — I’m not going to speak to the actions at the Supreme Court as it relates to the investigation of the Dobbs decision. 

What I will say and reiterate what the President said the day that — that the Dobbs decision occurred — right? — which is back in June, which is: It was a — it was a constitutional right for 50 years — almost 50 years, and it was taken away.  And women’s rights that — we’re talking about women’s rights; we’re talking about a woman’s right to choose.  And we think that that action was wrong.  And not just us.  If you look at the midterms and — and what the American people said, they believe that we should be continuing to fight for Americans’ rights.  And so that’s what we’re going to continue to do. 

You heard from Jen Klein, who runs our Gender Policy Council.  She has done a phenomenal job speaking to groups, trying to figure out ways that we can continue to protect a woman’s rights to choose.  And also, she mentioned the Vice President as well.  And the President has spoken to this many, many times before. 

And so I’ll leave it there.  I’m not going to speak to any legal actions or that were — or investigations that were taken by the Supreme Court.

Q    Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.  I promised him the last — I promised him a question.  Go ahead.

Q    Just — just a logistical question for the State of the Union day.  Should we anticipate that the President will be offering a preview of his remarks and thinking to the network television anchors at lunch or — as has been the tradition on — on State of the Union day?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We will have more to share as we get closer to the date.  I don’t have anything at this time. 

Thanks, everybody.  See you guys on Friday — in Philly tomorrow, Friday.

1:50 P.M. EST

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