Aboard Air Force One
En Route Madison, Wisconsin
11:42 A.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Hi, everybody.
Q Hi, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi. I’m so tired. All right.
Last night, the President delivered a strong and energetic State of the Union Address. He spoke clearly and directly to the American people about the progress we’ve made over the past two years and his agenda for the future. And he said clearly that we need to “finish the job.”
He talked to working families across the country who have left — who felt left behind or invisible about his work to bring back manufacturing and create good-paying jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.
He talked about his efforts to tackle inflation and give families more breathing room. He put Republicans on defense on their opposition to lowering prescription drug prices and protecting Social Security and Medicare. And he talked powerfully about police reform and gun violence, calling for Congress to take action.
Today, in Wisconsin, he’ll further that message by highlighting how the administration is expanding opportunities for Americans that don’t have four-year degrees at a Laborers’ International Union of North America training center in DeForest, Wisconsin.
The President will discuss how his economic plan has ushered in a manufacturing boom and created good-paying jobs, including union jobs, across Wisconsin and the country.
The President will make with — will meet with workers and apprentices, many of whom are training to do the jobs being created as a result of the President’s American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.
Last night’s speech was a proud moment. And I just want to share that when the President and the First Lady returned to the White House, they were greeted with cheers and applause from staff.
The President also had the opportunity to say a final thank you to our outgoing White House Chief of Staff, Ron Klain. I can’t think of a better sendoff for Ron than an evening devoted to building on the President’s historic progress for the American people.
But just as much as we are going to miss Ron, we’re excited to officially welcome Jeff Zients as Chief of Staff today. And not just because “Bagel Wednesdays” returned today — literally showed up to work, there were bagels; we were all thrilled — but because he is a brilliant, talented, kind leader who has earned the trust of the President and everyone who works — who has worked with Jeff.
So, with that, I am happy to take your questions.
Q Karine —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Darlene.
Q Thank you. Two questions about last night. Given all of the heckling that was directed at the President, does he now in any way think that his call for working with Republicans and the bipartisanship that he’s always called for will be harder with this Congress because there was so much heckling?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I will say this. The President — he’s an optimist. He’s — you heard an optimistic speech from him about the future, how he sees the next two years, and he’ll continue to do that. He’ll continue to talk about not betting against the American people, how we need to be optimistic, how he’s willing to work across the aisle.
And this is not something new. He did it during — as a senator. You heard him talk about that as Vice President and now as President. And he believes that’s what the American people want.
Right after the midterms, he laid out very clearly what he believed the results of the may- — of the midterms meant. And that is that the American people want us to stop the political warfare. They want us to come together and deliver on things that are incredibly important to them.
And so — and you heard also from the President last night say very clearly, look, the first two years, he was able to sign about 300 pieces of legislation that were bipartisan into law.
So, again, to answer your question, he’s an optimist. He wants to continue to see what we can do. He’s going to put his budget forward on March 9th and lay out what he — how he believes the next two years should go as it relates to fiscal responsibility.
And he had a meeting, as you all know, with the Speaker, McCarthy, very recently. It was a very good meeting, an honest meeting. And their teams — our team and his — the team of the Speaker are continuing to speak and have conversations.
And he calls on — he’s called on the Speaker to bring forth what he — how he sees their — you know, what their proposals are, as it relates to the budget.
Q Is there any other — is there another with meeting with the Speaker —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a meeting to lay out. But I can tell you that they have — there’s been conversations with our team and his team. That continues to happen and occur, but don’t have any meeting to lay out at this time.
Q What was his reaction to the GOP response, particularly Governor Sanders saying that he was “unfit to serve” and believing in “woke fantasies”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this: The President did not get to see — watch the response in real time. If I remember correctly, the President was greeting with members of Congress long after the speech. You all saw that and covered that, some of you.
And then he walked, sort of, back to the White House Chief — he was welcomed by the staff and Ron and gave his goodbye. So he didn’t get to see it in real time.
Q Was he briefed on it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’ve talked about it with him. I’ve talked about it with him just recently.
So, the way that we see it is, like, the choice is between political fighting over fake conspiracies and delivering for the American people.
The President is focused on the latter, which is fighting for the American people, fighting for all Americans, delivering on lowering healthcare costs for working families, delivering to make sure all of our kids can get a good education and feel safe at school.
And so, a lot of folks may say those are, quote, “normal.” But what is not normal is some politicians’ obsession over some of our most vulnerable kids or taking away women’s right to make their own healthcare decisions or even teaching America’s history.
So if Republican officials want to come together and deliver on the, quote, “normal” — is what we heard last night — things that Americans actually want, that — and they want — Americans want us to deliver on — right? — when you think about elected officials. And they want the President also to deliver and continue to do more.
So, he laid out — he laid out four areas just last night that we have already worked on and he wants to continue. Right? You heard him say he wants to finish the job that we’ve started.
Q Was he offended by the heckling? What did he think of the heckling itself?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I think what you saw last night is a President that was very clear in how he sees the next two years. It was a President that talked about the progress that he’s made the last two years.
If you talk about the split screen — right? — you saw that from the President, and you saw what the Republicans were all about, which is jeering and, you know, behaving in a way that, again, Americans don’t want. That’s not what Americans — they told us very clearly, after the midterms, what they wanted.
So we know what approach that the American people want. We’re going with the approach of delivering — continuing to deliver on key important issues. You heard him talk about four of them last night. And so, that’s going to be our focus.
Q Was he aware that Speaker McCarthy was sort of frowning behind him? Could he — did you guys give him the readout —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t think he was — clearly, he was not aware at the time of his delivery of the speech. I don’t even know — you know, he’s been so focused on the — you know, on the speech and saying — and greeting the congressional members, clearly, as I mentioned. He saw staff — staff and Ron Klain when he got back to the White House. So, I don’t even — it’s not something that I’m not even sure he’s aware of.
Q Karine, so, one of the flashpoints last night was about Social Security and Medicare, with Republicans denying that they wanted to touch them or change them or eliminate them. The President sort of said, “Okay. Well, we’ll take you on your word on that.”
But is that — does he now believe that to be the case? Does he still — does he trust that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just a couple of things that I just want to lay out. And we want to be very real here, because there are some facts that we have seen the last — gosh, the last couple of years, not even the last couple of months — which is members of the Republican caucus have repeatedly — repeatedly for many, many years — tried to cut Medicare and Social Security, to privatize it, raise the retirement age. They actually voted on that and put it on the chopping block. So that’s what we’ve seen them do for years.
And they always try to speak out of both sides of their mouths. That’s what they’ve done — trying to cut these programs Americans pay into their entire lives — when they think they can get away with it. That’s what we’re talking about here.
Mike Lee — right? — who protested last night. But there is literally video that I think — I think your network showed this morning, Jonathan, saying he wants to tear Medicare and Social Security out “by the roots.” This is something that Mike Lee said.
We are heading to Wisconsin, as I just mentioned, home of Senator Ron Johnson, which you’ve heard the President talk about a lot during the midterms, who authored a bill to put these programs on the chopping blocks in Congre- — in Congress every single year. That’s what he said. And they’re on record about this.
So, what we saw last night was a President called out members — right? — as we’re talking about jeering and how they were responding. He called out members out on live television, in front of millions of Americans, and effectively put them on the defense. That’s what we did, that’s what the President did — is put them on the defense.
And also, I just want to call out a CNN factcheck that was backed up by the President saying he was right in the way he described Rick Scott’s plan, because that was the pushback that we’ve been getting, and that many House Republicans have pushed for deeply slashing Medicare and Social Security benefits.
No more saying one thing and doing another, right? And that’s what they do.
So, look, we want to see their plan. We’re still going to call out for their plan. That’s what we believe. We’re going to put our plan out on March 9th, our budget. And we’re going to see. Let’s see exactly what they want to do.
Q Just a very quick follow. Is this a warning the President is still going to be making?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that last part?
Q Is the President still going to — despite last night — still going to warn the American people, like, “Hey, we can’t believe them; you shouldn’t — they might cut this”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I think we can — as I just said, he put them on the defense. Right? That’s what he did last night, right? And he called them out in front of millions and millions of Americans who were watching. And that’s what the President do — did.
And what the President is going to say on his end — he’s going to continue to fight for Medicare, to protect Medicare, to protect Social Security.
And we have the facts of what Republicans have done for the past several years. They keep saying they want to cut Medicare and Social Security. They want to put it on the chopping block.
And so, he’s going to defend it. He put them on the defense again last night. And he’s going to call them out.
Q A follow-up on that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Also on Medicare, what is his proposal for extending the Medicare trust fund?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m not going to — I’m not going to get ahead of the President, as you can imagine. He’s going to come out with a budget on March 9th.
Q Did you guys hear the question?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. Oh, you’re so nice.
But as the President said last night, it will invest in America — his budget; cut the deficit by $2 trillion by asking the wealthy and the big corporations to pay their fair share; protect Social Security and extend, as you just mentioned, Medicare trust fund at least two decades without cutting benefits.
The President’s budget will have a full, transparent accounting for how we reach these goals. And so, again, I’m not going to get ahead of him, but we’ll have that on March 9th.
And again, I’ll say: We want to see what the Republicans are going to put forward, what they’re going to — what their plan is for the American people.
But clearly, the President gave a little bit of how he sees his budget moving forward.
Q Hey, Karine, has — I can’t really hear, so I don’t know if this was already asked, but has Marty Walsh spoken to the President at all about stepping down? And can you say anything about that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have any — any conversations to read out or anything more to share about the — about Marty Walsh. Clearly, he’s — he is still, today, the Department of Labor Secretary. I just don’t have anything to share on any personnel.
Q And do you have any update on when we might see an announcement on NEC Director, now that we know Brian is leaving?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, nothing new to share on what the President has decided on who is going to step in once Brian — Brian leaves — Brian Deese leaves.
Q And just really briefly, Medicare’s trust fund is going to run short in 2028, and Social Security will exhaust its reserves by, I think, 2034. What’s the President’s, sort of, broader plan to deal with that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I kind of got that question just a second ago from your colleague, JJ, here. And I don’t want to get ahead of the President. He’s going to lay out his plan — his budget very soon on March 9th.
And so, what we can say is — he said it last night. He wants to cut the deficit — lower the deficit by another $2 trillion. That’s going to be his focus. He wants to make sure that it’s a fiscally responsible budget.
And so, you’re going see that from the President. Again, not going to get ahead of him.
Q But will his budget specifically address entitlement solvency?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not — I’m just not going to get into — ahead into — with — get into specifics — get ahead of him.
I can just reiterate what he said, right? It’s going to be, what we have said, fiscally responsible. He’s going to lower the deficit, continue to work on that. He’ll have it on March 9th. And we’re going to continue to call on Republicans to do the same: to share — to share what their plan is for the American people.
Q Karine, a couple of questions. Yeah, I have a couple of questions.
First one: finishing the job. He mentioned that half a dozen times — or a dozen times. You’ve mentioned it a couple times today. What does that actually look like, given — given where things are? Like, what’s the clear definition? And what is the job finished look like?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I think it’s — I think it’s — you know, I think we’ve said it over the last couple of months. And I think the President said it in his — in his remarks, which is continuing to make sure we have an economy that’s, you know —
I kind of said this — I’ve said this a couple of times. When you think about what the President has done with the economy, he’s transformed how you grow the economy. We’ve always talked about or you’ve always heard for decades about trickle-down economy. The President has transformed that. He doesn’t believe in that. He wants to build an economy from the bottom up, middle out.
And by doing that, you leave no one behind. He said this in his speech a little bit about how, you know, his plan invests in people and in places that normally don’t.
And so, you’ve seen that time and time again, if you think about the Bipartisan Infrasur- — Infrastructure Law —
Q Is that a —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — it does that.
Q Is that a two- or a six-year job for him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Ah, I see where you’re going. So, as you know, I am covered by the Hatch Act, and I can’t get into — certainly into any politics or the President’s plan, politically, as we look at or as many of you look at 2024.
What I can do is repeat what the President has said over and over again — is that he intends to run in 2024. So, I’ll just leave it there.
But in the meantime — in the meantime, he’s going to continue — the way that he sees it — continue to deliver for the American people, continue to make sure that there’s economic growth and progress for the American people.
You know, 12 million jobs created under this President the first two years. Eight hundred thousand of those jobs were manufacturing jobs. You have wages going up. You have unemployment at the lowest that we’ve seen in more than 50 years. That matters. And he wants to continue that.
He wants to do it in a bipartisan way, like we’ve done with bipartisan infrastructure legislation, like we did with CHIPS and Science Act and others. He talked about 300 pieces of legislation that he was able to sign into law and do in a bipartisan way.
That’s what he wants. But again, he’s going to continue to do the work for the American people.
Q And I have one more question. About the — about the balloon. He took a pretty strong stance last night that — that taking down the balloon was no tolerance.
Moving forward, is that — is that the stance of the United States: If any of these surveillance balloons come over the United States or get into our area, that we will be shutting them down moving forward?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I can’t go into hypotheticals and speak to each — you know, each case, because we just don’t know.
I think what you heard from the President is that he’s going to put our national security first and our — the American people first, and that’s what is important. And I’ll just leave it at that.
Q But we don’t have any clear understanding about why the previous balloon was taken down versus this one? What made this balloon — taking this balloon down more important than the previous one during his administration?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, what I can say is: The President takes this very seriously when it comes to making sure we are protecting our national security and keeping Americans safe.
We’ve been — we’ve kind of laid out very clearly, this past week, in how we approached this most recent balloon and why we — why we did — why the President asked the Pentagon to do — to take the steps that they did, right? And so I just don’t have much more to say on that. Don’t want to get into hypotheticals from here.
I would just refer you to what the President said very, very clearly last night in his remarks.
Q Back to the speech —
Q Oh, sorry. I’m so sorry.
Q Yes. Yeah, no worries. Did the President have any private time with Tyre Nichols’s family?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s a really good question. As you know, right before, I think at some point — I think before he goes to speak, he gets to meet with — and he talks about it in his speech — he gets to meet with — with the folks who have been invited, with the family members who have been invited in the box.
I can’t speak to exactly what their interaction was, but, as you know, they’ve had conversations in the past. The President quoted — talked about what Tyre’s mom said to him, and he used it in his speech, and — and talked about what their conversation has been, last night. I’m assuming that they had a little bit of time together. I just haven’t spoken to the President about what that looked like.
Q Is there any part of the George Floyd Act that the President is going to try to highlight now, given that part of the speech last night?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I mean, I think a couple of things here about the police reform: This is something that the President cares about very deeply.
In the last session, clearly, he was involved in trying to get the George Floyd investme- — in just- — Justice in Policing Act done, and it wasn’t able to get done. Republicans blocked that in the last session. And so when that couldn’t happen, the President took a historic step and took executive action by putting forth police reform that he couldn’t do on the federal level.
And so I think that shows how serious he was. Again, never been done before. He took a record — you know, a record action and as — as — in doing executive action.
And now, going into this session, he’s been also very clear he wants to see the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act done. He wants to — he wants to see bipartisanship on it. You kind of need bipartisanship on it to get that done. And that is a promise that he’s — he’s made to Tyre Nichols’s family and other families who have, sadly, suffered and having to deal with these devastating news of their loved ones being killed in that way.
And so he’s going to — our team, his team is going to continue to work with Congress. He’s going to continue to call on Congress to bring some — to bring a piece of legislation that is going to actually be transformative and do something that — that is going to hopefully change what we’re seeing currently in communities that are being affected by that.
Q Karine, is it true that the Chinese were using balloons to spy on Japan, Taiwan, some other Asian allies?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think I have something on that for you.
So — so these balloons are all part of a PRC fleet of balloons developed to conduct surveillance operations, as you know, Steve, which have also violated the sovereignty of other countries. And over the past several years, Chinese balloons have previously been spotted over countries across five continents. We have been in touch with allies and partners on this issue.
I don’t have further details for you at this time, but we’ll keep you posted and updated. A lot of this is diplomatic conversations that are happening, and that’s something that the State Department — that’s under the purview of State Department. So any other further questions, I would refer you to the State Department.
Q Is the President going to bring this up with President Xi at some point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don’t have a call to preview with President Xi. And I certainly don’t have an agenda because there’s no call to really speak to. All right?
Q What did he mean when he said you — he wouldn’t want be Xi, in the speech last night?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, you know, I would just leave it as the way the President said it. I’m not going to go into, you know, the mind of the President of what he said.
I think the President has been very clear on his approach and our approach with China. It’s manag- — it’s managing a strategic — a strategic, you know, competition with China.
We’re not looking for any escalation. What we’re looking for is competition.
So I’ll just — I’ll just leave it at that.
Q You don’t have the intent of the line or what — what you guys were thinking?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t understand that. What did you say?
Q You said you don’t want to go into his mind, but there’s — you know, thought goes into all of these speeches. And what was the, maybe, general intent?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I understand that. I’m just going to leave the President’s word. He said what he said, and I’m just going to leave it there.
I’m going to talk — I’m talking about our approach with China, and it’s going to continue to be that approach. It hasn’t changed.
Q Karine, the Republican House Oversight Committee has begun hearings today into the business dealings and laptop of Hunter Biden, the President’s son. Will he be watching? And do you have any comment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s happening today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we’re going to go Wisconsin and talking about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and focusing on how, you know, that — that piece of legislation — clearly, that’s now a law — is delivering for the American people. That’s going to be our focus today.
I’m not going to get into any Oversights hearing from here. That’s something that clearly the White House Counsel, my colleagues there, could answer more specific questions on that.
Anything that’s related to Hunter Biden, we always — as you’ve heard us say — refer you to his representatives. I’m just not going to get into it here.
Q This is kind of a random one, but the President took out about a $250,000 line of credit on his house in Rehoboth late last year. Can you say what that was for or whether it was — was it meant for legal fees or —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I saw the reports on that. I would just refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office.
Q We didn’t hear a lot about Ukraine in the speech last night. Can you let us know if the President is planning to go to Poland to mark the one-year anniversary?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I don’t — don’t have a trip to preview for all of you of this time. As you know, our — you know, our commitment to Ukraine has been steadfast for the people of Ukraine as they’re fighting against a brutal war that started by Russia.
And so, you know, we’ve — you’ve seen that with our security assistance that we’ve provided over this past year. You’ve seen that in the way that the President has been able to — to strengthen the alliance that we’ve seen, the partnerships that you’ve seen across — just across the globe, and that we’re going to continue to do that. Our commitment is very, very clear and continues to be clear.
You saw that when President Zelenskyy was here, that we’re going to — we’re going to help Ukraine defend and protect their — you know, their country for as long as it takes.
I don’t — I just don’t have any further — anything further.
Q One more on the balloon, if you don’t mind. China is now — a diplomat is asking for the parts — the recovered parts to be returned to China. Is there any conversation about that in the U.S.? Or what’s your response to their request?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don’t have a response to that.
Q On the opioids/fentanyl part of the speech last night: There are some public health advocates who are a little disappointed. They say they wanted to hear more about — the President talk more about treatment and other forms of treatment rather than penalties. Can you address their disappointment in what they heard?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, you heard last night a powerful call to action for Congress, for both — both — for members of both parties to step up, come together and fight the flow of fentanyl, which is something that you’ve seen from this President.
And he said last night, “We now have a record number of personnel working to secure the border, arresting 8,000 human smugglers, seizing over 23 [thousand] pounds of fentanyl in just the last several months.”
And he understands we have more work to do. I think this is what — part of the — part of the work that’s so important is seizing that — the fentanyl as they’re coming across.
But this cannot be a political issue. It’s a matter — really, truly, as we’re seeing in communities — it’s a matter of life or death.
So that included additional actions to go after traffickers, tougher penalties, and also expanding access to lifesaving treatments, which is what you’re asking for, and we — asking me about. But all of those things clearly are important.
So, you know — but what we saw from Republicans are jeerers and casting blame. And Republicans could, and they should, come together to find solutions to tackle the same, exact issues the President wants to tackle and stop the flow of illicit drugs into our country and save American lives.
So, we understand treatments are very important. He spoke about one specific thing, and we’ve — you’ve heard us talk about what we’re doing at the border. But, of course, treatments are — is key in also saving American lives.
Q And then, one final question. We know the President is going to be home alone on Sunday. The First Lady is going to the Super Bowl. Does he plan to —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He’s mentioned that many times. (Laughter.)
Q Yes. Does he plan to invite any lawmakers, governors who will be in town for the weekend to — you know, any sort of Super Bowl get together?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We just got through — we just got through the State of the Union, so we’re — (laughs) — I think we’ll have probably more to share about this Sunday. I just don’t have anything at this time.
Q And is the interview that he’s doing today with Judy Woodruff — does that in any way substitute for the traditional Super Bowl Sunday interview that a President does?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can say this: The interview today is very — it’s not part — or any part of Sunday. It’s just — it’s not — it’s not any part of Sunday. It’s just a standalone interview that he’s doing.
Q Will he do an interview on Sunday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don’t have anything to share. We literally just finished with the State of the Union, so I just don’t have anything to share on the next — on this Sunday. Okay?
Q Thank you.
Q Is a trip to Ukraine by the President off the table at this point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don’t want to — I just don’t have anything to share. There — we are looking — and I think we’ve said this before — we are looking to see how we’re going to commemorate the one-year anniversary. I just don’t have any trips to share at this time, any travel to share at this time. So I’ll just leave it there.
12:10 P.M. EST