James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:51 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everyone. Happy Monday. Okay.
So, I think many of us would agree that parents should not have to pay extra to sit next to their child on a flight. It’s just common sense. But as recently as a month ago, no U.S. airlines guaranteed fee-free family seating.
Now, after the Biden administration pressed airlines to improve customer service, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Frontier Airlines have stepped forward to guarantee that parents can sit with their young children without getting nickel and dimed.
Today, the Department of Transportation rolled out a new family seating dashboard, as you’ll see right here, highlighting which airlines guarantee fee-free — fee-free family seating and those that don’t. This is an added feature to the existing dashboard, which already includes services for delayed and canceled flights.
The dashboard makes it easier for parents to avoid these junk fees. And we’re not stopping there. DOT is working towards making this a requirement across the board. This is just the latest example of effective presidential leadership driving actions that benefit American consumers, workers, and families.
President Biden is leading, Americans are supportive, and coo- — corporations are responding, as you can see.
Also today, the Department of Agriculture is taking a number of actions to support American farmers and ranchers, increase transparency, and lower food prices.
Let’s start with “Product of USA” labels. Currently, this label on meat, poultry, egg products can be used even if the product was not actually raised in the USA. We believe that labels should be u- — only used on animals born, raised, and processed here in the United States. And now, USDA is proposing a rule to accomplish just that.
This increased transparency will support American farmers and ranchers and make it easier for all of us who — all of us know where our food really comes from.
Second, the USDA is announcing $89 million in new investments to help establish and expand independent meat processors. This will create opportunities for small businesses and rural communities, and create fairer markets for family and farmers, which brings down prices at the grocery store.
And lastly, USDA is taking action to increase competition and innovation in important seed markets, like corn.
These actions show the administration’s commitment to promoting competition for farmers, ranchers, and American consumers, and deliver on the President’s competition executive order.
With that, Chris, you want to kick us off, please?
Q Sure. Two questions on the D.C. crime situation. Does the White House have a response to the city council wanting to pull back that proposal?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you all know, we litigated this about two days last week, right here in this very room. The President expressed concerns on certain provisions of — of the D.C. crime bill. And as — as we can see, the D.C. Council’s process is still ongoing, so we won’t — we won’t comment on that any further.
Q So, also, when we were discussing this last week, you cited Mayor Bowser’s opposition to the crime proposal. But she also says that the override is an indignity and that Congress has meddled in its affairs. Why didn’t the President or the White House give her a heads up that the President wanted to sign this override legislation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: She also said that she understands why the President made this decision. But what —
Q So, the question is —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I — wait. Let me — let me — let me get into it.
Q I — I haven’t even asked the question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But you just asked a question. Let me finish your question — the first question what you asked, which is: First of all, she also said that she understood why the President made this decision. Our team, the off- — the intergovernmental affairs team is in constant communication with her team and was last week.
Don’t have anything to preview or any specific discussion that occurred, but they are in constant communication.
Q Okay. So the question is —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yep.
Q — why didn’t the White House or the President give Mayor Bowser a heads up that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just told you that they’re in constant communication with the team, including last week.
Q Okay. And they — and the White House told —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not — I’m just not going to get into specifics.
Q Okay. So, not going to address that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But I can tell you that our intergovernmental affairs office was in contact with her office last week.
Q Okay. That doesn’t exactly address the question, but I understand.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just telling you that we were in contact with them.
Q And secondly, has — why, if the White House cites Mayor Bowser’s opposition to the bill, why do they want to do something that she considers an indignity to her city?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that again.
Q If the White House is going to cite Mayor Bowser’s opposition to the crime bill to say why the President should sign the override legislation, why does the White House want to do something that the mayor considers an indignity to the city — that’s something that she opposes?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But she also didn’t — did not approve of the piece of the legislation as well.
Q But the process by override, she says, is an indignity.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let’s step back for a second. We talked about this for two days last week, and still going to tell you exactly what I said last week, which was: The President — the bill was headed to the President’s desk, and the President made a decision. And we let all of you know what he was going to do and how he was going to move forward. That’s it.
He was — he wanted to make sure that he delivered for the 700,000 residents of D.C. in a way that was — in a way that was protecting the residents here.
This was brought to him. This is not something that we put forward. This is a decision that was brought to him. And he wants to be very clear and communicate with the people of D.C. and with all of you on how he was going to move forward.
Q Okay. One more legislative question. There’s resolution going forward allowing — that would bar retirement plans from offering ESG considerations. The President says he’s — or the White House says he’s going to veto that. Do you have any plans for that veto?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share on that. I believe we have not received the bill yet, so just don’t have any — any timeline on — on the ESG bill at this time.
All right. Hi.
Q Thank you. A couple questions about East Palestine, Ohio. Norfolk Southern, they announced a set of new initiatives they claim will enhance safety: a new power mechanism to help with braking and acceleration, additional devices that can monitor hot bearings. Is the White House satisfied with these reforms?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, what we’re trying to do — and we’ve been very clear, the EPA Administrator has been very clear, Secretary Buttigieg has been very clear — what we’re doing is to make sure that the community in East Palestine is made whole again. And we’re going to hold Norfolk
Suffolk [Southern] company accountable. They made this mess, and they need to clean up this mess.
We are pleased by the bipartisanship that we’re currently seeing in Congress to put forward some true commonsense safety measures. That is something that we want to continue to move forward.
As far as it relates to the company, we are going to do everything that we can to hold them accountable. As you know, we set up a fund to support the families and to support the community getting back economically on their feet in the future.
So that is going to be our focus, and that’s how we’re going to move forward.
Q You say you want to hold them accountable. Norfolk Southern, they’re responsible now for four train derailments —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yep.
Q — in less than five months. Is the administration comfortable with them taking the lead on self-regulation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, it’s notable and unacceptable. That’s what we are — we’ve been very clear about that. That is why the
ETSB [NTSB] is doing an investigation that is currently happening. That is something that occurred with the — with the first derailment. We saw, within hours, Secretary Buttigieg go into action and respond by making sure that the investigation started.
The same thing on Saturday. The investigation has been — for — NTSB is — was just — is — was just called to move forward this morning. And so that’s what we’re going to see. We’re going to have investigation. We’re going to see exactly what occurred.
But in the meantime, we have to hold them accountable to make sure the community is made whole again.
Q So, are there any plans for President Biden to visit East Palestine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share on a planned visit for the President to Ohio.
Q Thank you, Karine. Speaker McCarthy is planning to meet with the leader of Taiwan in California. Does the White House have a reaction to that? And are you advising him at all ahead of that meeting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t believe Taiwan has announced any travel for the president of Taiwan. Taiwan’s presidents have traveled to the United States in the past. So I would refer you to Taiwan for anything specific on that.
And certainly, I would refer you to the Speaker’s office on any potential meeting that he may be having with the President. I just don’t — from what I understand, nothing — no announcement has been made.
Q Is it the White House preference that a meeting like that would take place in California as opposed to Taiwan, to
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I’m just not going to comment on something —
Q — the crisis that happened last time —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I totally —
Q — with Speaker Pelosi?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I totally hear your question, Jeff. It’s just not something that I’m going to comment on since it hasn’t — it doesn’t seem like it has been announced at this time or any travel has been put forward.
Q All right. And one other topic. Former President Trump said over the weekend in his CPAC comments mul- — multiple things. One thing he said to his supporters was, “I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.” Does the White House have a response to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you know, because of — he is a 2024 candidate and we are covered here by the Hatch Act, I’m just not going to comment on those — on the words that he — the speech that he made — the speech this weekend.
Q I just wanted to follow up on something one of my colleagues asked about last week. There were protests this weekend in Iran related to the poisoning of the — the alleged poisoning of the schoolgirls there. If the administration has any updates in terms of what they’ve seen or any investigations that may be underway at this point in time.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, Phil, we are closely following this concerning — deeply concerning situation that we’re seeing currently in Iran. The continued poisoning of schoolgirls across — across Iran is — is unconscionable.
There must be a credible, independent investigation, accountability for those responsible. If these poisonings are related to participation in protest, then it is well within mandate of the U.N.’s independent, international fact-finding mission on Iran to investigate.
Women and girls everywhere have a fundamental right to education. Time and time again, it has been demonstrated that when women and girls receive an education and are able to contribute to their economies, it benefits society as a whole.
So, the possibility that girls in Iran are being possibly poisoned simply for trying to get an education is — is shameful. It is unacceptable. And our thoughts remain with the victims and their families. And, again, it is unacceptable and unconscionable.
Q And then, just one more. There were reports over the weekend that there are two Ukrainian fighter pilots that are in the United States right now training on simulators. I’m wondering if we’re supposed to read that as the potential for new capabilities the U.S. may send or, kind of, what the genesis of that decision-making was.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President has already spoken to F-16s, as you all know, and nothing has changed. For — what the President said is there — it is not on the table for now. And so, that hasn’t changed. So, I’ll leave that there.
Q Can you speak to the incident involving four U.S. citizens in Mexico who have come under gunfire and have been kidnapped and how the administration may be able to get information out of Mexico or what the status of that is right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I have a statement here that I want to read out to all of you.
We are closely following the assault and kidnapping of four U.S. citizens in Matamoros, Mexico. These sorts of attacks are unacceptable. Our thoughts are with the families of these individuals, and we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance.
U.S. law enforcement is in touch with Mexican law enforcement. The Departments of State and Homeland Security are also coordinating with Mexican authorities. And we will continue to coordinate with Mexico and push them to bring those responsible to justice.
And, again, our hearts with — are with the families.
Q Any early indications as to the circumstances or any efforts to try to locate these Americans?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don’t have anything to share outside of what I just laid out. Clearly, we want to be really careful here. There are privacy concerns. And so, I don’t want to share too much about the information on how we’re moving forward or even the individuals. We just want to be really mindful on that. But clearly, we’re on top of this.
Q Thanks, Karine. Does the President have a meeting scheduled yet for him to sit down with Speaker Kevin McCarthy about the budget or the debt?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, right now, we don’t have a meeting to preview or scheduled right now at this time.
I’ve said this before: Our teams — their team and our team have been in constant communication since the first time that they met. Just don’t have anything to preview.
As you know, the President is going to be putting his — putting forward his — his budget on March 9th. And we have called on Republicans in the House to do the same: to be transparent, to lay out exactly what it is that they — they — how they want to move forward with the fiscal year.
One of the things that we have — we have heard from them is how they want to continue — or want to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and ACA. And so, we want to see: What is it that they want to do? How do they see moving forward in a fiscally responsible way?
As we know, the President has been very clear. He’s going to continue to fight for Social Security. He’s going to continue to fight for Medicare, Medicaid, and ACA.
Again, we want to see — we’re going to put our budget forward, and we want to see what they’re going to do.
Q But no timeline on when that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don’t have —
Q — sit-down might take place?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No.
Q Could it happen this week?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — for this week, we don’t have anything right now scheduled at this — at this time.
Q And, originally, the Treasury Secretary said that she could keep extraordinary measures going through June. Then the CBO later said: Actually, it might be July through September. When does the White House believe that things get critical when it — as it relates to the U.S. debt?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We basically follow what the Department of Treasury said. The Secretary said “through June,” and that’s where — that’s what we’re — that’s the timeline that we’re looking at.
Q Thanks, Karine. We’re reporting today that the manufacturing sector is showing signs of weakness. Obviously, manufacturing jobs are a priority of your administration. Are you concerned at all that momentum is slipping there and that that could be — have to do with higher interest rates?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we’re going to continue to make sure that we deliver on the President’s economic policy — economic plan. And having seven- — more than 700,000 jobs that have been created under this President shows that commitment and shows how the President’s economic policy is working.
Look, that’s why the CHIPS and Science Act is so important. And you’ve heard over and over from these different manufacturers who are coming back to the U.S., who are — who are building these manufacturers, creating jobs.
And so, we’re going to continue to work closely — closely with them and — and make that a priority. That doesn’t stop.
I don’t have any concerns right now to share with you, but we are — again, close to 800,000 jobs have been created under this administration — manufacturing jobs. And that is — that is a commitment that this President has had to make sure that we’re bringing manufacturers back to the U.S.
Q And you said last week you’d check on the license plate on the Beast, whether it says “Taxation Without Representation.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — oh, my gosh.
Q Any update on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — my — I would — I would — my homework is not on par today. (Laughs.) We have checked in; just haven’t gotten an answer on that just yet. And so, we are — we are diving in and trying to get an answer to all of you.
Go ahead, Steve.
Q Staying on local matters: The D.C. Council chair said today that he thought he had the power to rescind the sending of a bill to the Senate for its review. Was there any communication between the White House and Council Chairman Mendelson’s office prior to his press conference today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, our team was made aware earlier this morning. As you know, when it comes to any — how the Senate — the mecha- — the mechanics of the Senate move forward, that’s something for the Senate. I encourage you to ask them and how that will work and how that will move forward.
But, yes, we were given — we were given a heads up this morning.
Q The Senate intends to move forward with its vote on the resolution. The President still intends to sign it. Is that right?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: If — look, again, we’ve made ourselves very clear. If the — if the bill comes to the President’s desk, he will sign it.
Q One other question on this. I don’t think you’ve been asked this — this directly before. But, you know, last week, you said that the President viewed what the D.C. Council did as “unacceptable.” You specifically talked about how the bill would reduce penalties for carjacking and you even mentioned sexual assault.
So the question for you is why the President would still support D.C. statehood. If the Council is going to pass bills that the President finds unacceptable, why would the President empower the Council to have the power of a state legislature that he couldn’t check?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because he believes — and he has for some time now — that D.C. should be a 51 state. They should have a statehood.
Again, the reason why the President — we’ve been — we responded to this and answered the question of if he was going to sign it or not is because it was coming to his desk, as we know from last week. And so, the President communicated that. We communicated that.
But it doesn’t change — it doesn’t change that he encourages Congress to put — to pass a bill that makes D.C. a state, and he will sign it. He believes that — that cities and — and states should be able to govern for themselves.
Q Last point on this. You know, advocates of D.C. statehood say that what has happened here in this episode is the effort has been set back significantly, that essentially what the President has done is he’s given juice to opponents of statehood. And statehood opponents say that this episode is proving them right, that the D.C. government should not be self-governing without Congress’s involvement.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we don’t dis- — we — we disagree. Right? We believe D.C. should be a statehood. I mean, we’ve been very clear. The President has been very clear.
Again, D.C. is not a state. It’s not a city. The reason why this bill was coming before the President is because that is the case. Right? It’s not a state. It’s not a city.
So, doesn’t mean that it stops our support for their statehood. Doesn’t mean that the President has changed his mind on that. We still support that and want to see that happen. And we’re going to — we’re going to continue to encourage Congress to move in that way.
Q One on — there’s a bank that’s having some issues right now called Silvergate. I’m wondering if you guys are monitoring that.
On Friday, they shut its crypto-focused payments network, Silvergate Capital. And they said in a filing last week that they may have to evaluate their viability after a $1 billion loss in the fourth quarter.
Is there anything the administration is doing to monitor that or stepping in — that sort of thing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we are aware of the situation and monitoring the reports. Won’t comment on Silvergate specifically. But it is obviously only the latest company in the cryptocurrency field to experience significant issues.
In recent weeks, banking regulators have released guidelines on how banks should protect themselves from risks associated with crypto.
As you know, this is a President that has repeatedly called on Congress to take action to protect everyday Americans from the risk posted by digital assets, and he will continue to do so.
So, I won’t speak to this particular company, as we have not on other cryptocurrency companies. But we’re going to continue monitoring the reports. And, clearly, we’re aware of the situation.
Q Thank you. And can I just ask briefly on the Fed Chair search — the Vice Chair, excuse me, search: Is there any update you can give us? And, in particular, Senator Warren is a critic of Chairman Powell and has called on the administration to appointed a Vice Chair that is effectively a counterweight to Chairman Powell in decisions on interest rate hikes. Do you have a view on that? Are you, in essence, trying to counterweight the chairman in this process? And where’s the process at right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m certainly not going to get ahead of the President’s process or lay out what — what he’s thinking or how that process is going to move forward. What I can say is: This is a priority for this President.
I don’t have anything to preview on any specific candidates or announcements. But, clearly, we’ll see — we’ll have something in the ne- — near future.
Q I wondered, Karine, if you could comment on some efforts in Republican states, like Florida and Texas, where they’re cracking down on undocumented immigrants.
In the Florida legislature, there’s a proposed bill that looks at requiring private companies to do more to check the immigration status of their employees. In Texas, there are lawmakers considering a bill that would deny undocumented children access to public education. Does the White House have any comment on these efforts?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I haven’t seen these bills. What I can say is — and as you know — on the first day of this President’s — the President’s presidency and his tenure — first day of his tenure, he said very, very clearly that he took immigration reform very seriously. And he showed that by action, by putting forward a piece of legislation that was comprehensive, that dealed with the immigration issue that we have seen in this country for some time in a real way. And he asked Congress to take action as well.
And so, I can speak to that. I can speak to how the President wants to move forward in a way that we’re protecting — we’re protecting our border in a secure way, which is why he’s taken actions — whether it’s the parolee program, whether it’s putting 24,000 federal agents on the ground — and making sure that we’re doing this in a safe and humane way.
And so that’s what I can speak to. That’s the way the President wants to move forward. And I’ll just leave it there.
Q The Texas bill says that they would deny undocumented children access to public education unless the federal government pays for it. If this moves forward in Texas, is this something that the administration would consider intervening in?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I’m just not — I’m not — I’m not going to get a- — I haven’t — not — I haven’t seen that piece of legislation, haven’t talked to our team. I’m just not going to get ahead of any state, local legislation.
What I can tell you is what the President has put forward and what he has — how he sees this process moving forward on the federal level is be- — coming — coming together with Congress, Congress coming together with us, Republicans actually taking real action and not doing political stunts, because that’s what we see in these states, is continued political stunts and not really dealing with an issue that they can.
If we came in a bipartisan way, we can actually deal with — with the immigration concerns in this country. But they refuse to do that.
Q Thank you. I wanted to follow up on the issue about the four U.S. citizens kidnapped in Mexico. Has the President be informed? What was his reaction, if you can share anything about that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can tell you the President is aware and has been informed.
Q And Ambassador Salazar is meeting today with President López Obrador in Mexico. What — what message does the administration wants to convey, or what is the priority for that meeting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, you know the President went to Mexico most recently for the summit, met with the Mexican President and also the Prime Minister — Prime Minister Trudeau. And they laid out their commitment to — to work together on issues that matter to — to the region, whether it’s immigration, whether it’s national security.
And I think that summit sent a very loud message to — to the people of Mexico, to the people of the United States, and also Canada.
As you know, just to take a step further, the President is going to be meeting with the Prime Minister some- — later this month to continue more of that conversation that they had.
Don’t have anything to preview or to lay out about the meeting that Salazar is having with the President of Mexico. But we see Mexico as a close ally, an important partnership that we have in the region. And, clearly, we want to continue it to grow.
Q Thanks. Looking ahead to next month, April is the end of continuous enrollment for Medicaid. How concerned is the White House about these millions of Americans that could lose health insurance?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, that is something that is a concern to — to the White House, which is why we have continued to work to make sure that healthcare is affordable for Americans.
You’ve seen us do that with Inflation Reduction Act. You’ve seen us do that with other policies coming out of the administration.
We will — clearly, you’ll see the President’s budget on March 9th that will speak to some of this. Don’t want to get ahead of what the President is going to — going to lay out in his fiscal year budget. So I’ll just leave it there.
Go ahead, Zolan.
Q The President has said that his plan on the budget would reduce the deficit by $2 trillion over the next decade. How did the administration land on that number of $2 trillion?
And then, does that mean that the President does believe the current path of growth in the national debt is hurting the economy? I’m trying to gauge his concern level around the growth of debt, given that we’ve heard about that $2 trillion number so much.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, what I’d say is: The President understands his fiscal responsibility. He understands how important it is to lower the deficit, which is why he was able to do that the first two years by $2.7 trillion.
And so, by him saying that he’s going to do that by a trillion dollars over the next 10 years shows — continues to show that commitment. And so, that is incredibly important.
And we have said: If Republicans want to have a real conversation about how to lower the debt, then he’s ready to listen. He’s ready to hear what they have to say.
That’s why we have said we’re going to put our budget forward on March 9th, and we’re — we’re waiting to see what they’re going to do.
So far, their proposals have been to add $3 trillion to the debt, as you think about them giving a tax break or giveaways to millionaires and the rich and the wealthy, as — as they talk about wanting to cut Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, ACA. That’s what they’re bringing forward.
And we’re saying, “You know what? We’re going to protect those really important programs.” And — and we’re going to put forward, he’s going to put forward a fiscal budget that is going to be responsible.
I’ll say a little bit more about — about this week. He’ll — as you know, he’s going to deliver remarks in Pennsylvania. And he’s going to show his plans to invest in America; continue lowering co- — lowering costs for families; protect and strengthen Social Security, Medicare; reduce the deficit; and more — as you just asked that question.
And so, you can expect to hear more from us in the days leading up to Thursday. We’ll have additional information on some of those pieces as we head into — into Thursday.
Q And can you just quickly explain the reasoning for traveling for the budget rollout? You know, going to Pennsylvania for this — obviously, that’s an important state when it comes to the forthcoming election. Why — why travel to roll out the budget?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m not going to get into elections. But as you know, the President is — that is — Pennsylvania is very close to his heart. He sees that as a — as his, I don’t know, second home.
And — and so, we believe when we go out there and travel and do — and go to places like Pennsylvania and other states, it’s an opportunity for the President to talk directly to the American people.
This is important — right? — when you think about the fiscal year budget. You think about how the President is going to lay out his plan for the American people. He thinks it’s important to do that and make sure that — you know, that he does it — talks directly to — to the people — to the American people out there. And that’s what you’re going to see him do.
And so, he’ll just happen to be doing it in Pennsylvania, a place that we traveled to a lot, as you all know — those who — those who travel with us.
Go ahead, Ed.
Q Yeah. Thanks, Karine. I want to ask you about energy policy. So, if the President had allowed the Keystone Pipeline — the Keystone XL — to go forward, it would have been operating today or very close to being turned on today. Any regrets about canceling that project, and any consideration of reversing any energy policies for a more balanced approach going forward?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President has been very clear about how he — how he’s approaching the energy space. You know, he does it in a way that is responsible. He does it in a way that delivers for the American people.
There’s nothing new here — the decisions that he’s made. At the same time, you know, having one of the most mo- — one of the most important, historical climate — when it comes to climate change — investments and policies, that does — that is not going to change on how the President moves forward here.
It is — when — when he walked into the administration, he talked about how climate change was one of the important crises that we needed to address, and that’s what you’ve seen from this President the last two years. And that’s not — his decisions are not going to change that.
Q But even with the — there was a leaked memo that showed that energy — if we had charged less for certain drilling oil permits or royalties in a part of Alaska, then there would be more energy security.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m not going to speak to leaked — leaked memos from here. That is not something that I’m going to do. I believe the leaked memo is from the Department of Interior, that you’re speaking to. Just not going to do that. I encourage you to reach out to Department of Interior.
Q To the back, Karine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Way in the back. Way in the back.
Q Yes, thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the person behind you.
Q Behind me. Okay.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. Someone new. Someone new, James. Someone new.
Q Thank you. I appreciate that. Taurean, with Spectrum News, by the way. Karine, thank you so much.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q One on the note of the budget proposal. This is happening — he’s unleashing or unveiling this proposal under the shadow of the debt ceiling and, you know, since — February was the last time, according to House Speaker McCarthy, the President sat down with the Speaker to talk about some type of deal.
McCarthy says he rejects, you know, a clean increase without some concessions or spending cuts. Is the President going to come back to the table with McCarthy to talk about it? What’s the plan here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He never came to the table to negotiate on the debt ceiling. That was not something that occurred. That is not something that’s happening. We’ve been very clear we’re not negotiating around the debt ceiling.
This is something that Congress needs to do. It is their constitutional duty. It is something that has happened 78 times since 1960. It is something that happens in a bipartisan way.
They should not put the full — full faith and credit of this country hostage — should not keep that hostage.
And so, this is something that we believe that should happen without — without conditions. And so, that’s how — that’s how we’ve been moving forward. We’ve been very, very clear about that.
I just talked to one of your colleagues about the thing that we are happy to talk about — is how to lower the deficit. We are happy to have — the President would look forward to having a conversation — a real conversation — with House Republicans on how to do that because he has been successful in doing that. $1.7 trillion the first two years.
And he’ll — he’ll share more with his budget on March 9th.
Q Secretary Yellen, though, has been sounding the alarm. She says we’re about three or four months away from, you know, true disaster here. Is that not at all concerning that, you know, there can’t be some deal?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. And that should be concerning to House Republicans. It should be. Because this is something that has been done, again, multiple times over the last several decades. And this is something that is their constitutional duty to do — is to lift the debt ceiling.
And it’s been done in a bipartisan way. They did it three times — three times under the last administration.
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Somebody old? (Laughter.)
Q Thank you so much. Oh, wow. I just —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wow, James.
Q I’m a group of one. I am just referring to myself.
Q Well, I’m going to take that, because I think I’m plenty old. (Laughter.) I have two questions today.
First of all, the Taiwanese president — how does the White House feel about her proposed visit to the U.S.? What outcomes do you hope to see from it? And will any administration officials be meeting with her?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, right now, there is no — there’s no planned travel, so I’m not going to speak to a travel that has not been planned.
And I — I stated earlier, it is not the — it wouldn’t be the first time that Taiwan — a Taiwanese president has traveled to the U.S., but I’m just not going to speak to a travel that has not been locked in yet.
Q Okay. This old lady has a second question — (laughter) — about the International Women of Courage Awards. You’re giving an honorary award to the women and girls of Iran. Who’s going to be accepting that on their behalf? And what sort of message does it send if they can’t be here, they can’t participate? You know, what — what is the point of doing this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we think it’s incredibly important to do this. First of all, one of the reasons that we’re doing it here at the White House is we wanted to bring those stories of these incredible women to — to the White House, to a big — to a bigger stage — right? — to the biggest stage that we could.
And we’re doing it right here at the White House, which we think is incredibly important for women around the world, but also women here and young girls here, to hear the stories of these incredible individuals.
Girls everywhere need to know that there are women who are fighting for them, transforming their communities, and building a better — a better world for all of us.
And so, we think it’s critical. We think it’s important. We think it needs to be seen. And we are really thrilled to see this on Wednesday.
Don’t have anything more to share. We’ll have more to preview in the next day or two.
Q Thanks, Karine. Just to circle back on something you said earlier about D.C., you said D.C. — “It’s not a state, it’s not a city.” What did you mean by that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Meaning that — what I’m trying to say is we — it’s not a — it’s not a statehood. It doesn’t have statehood. Right? And I’ve said this before; I said it last week. Nothing new. I’m not saying anything that’s new here.
And because it’s not a statehood — right? — the President was — had to make a decision. This bill was brought — because this bill was about to be — to be taken to his desk. And that’s the only reason this is happening.
And so, again, the President is going to continue to support D.C. statehood so that we can see it — we can see it govern for itself. That’s what he believes. He believes that cities and states across the country should be able to govern on its own.
Q And can you just give us — I know this was a decision made last week, but, obviously, it affects hundreds of thousands of people here in the district.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Seven hundred thousand people. Yeah.
Q What was the President — was there a policy process around this — this decision? When did the President know about it? Did he speak with the mayor himself? Were there any sort of conversations? Or, you know, how did he come to this decision?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have a timeline to lay out for you on the process and how it occurred. I don’t have a conversation to preview for you with the — with the mayor. As I mentioned before, our offices here — not just the intergovernmental affairs, but other White House offices — are regular — in regular touch with the mayor and her office and her staff. But just don’t have anything to lay out.
But, look, the President knew he had to make a decision. He had conversations with his team, and he made that decision.
Go ahead, in the back.
Q Following up — following up on that, there’s another D.C. — D.C. Council disapproval resolution that is pending related to non-citizens voting in local elections. Is there an update on the President’s position, something more definitive on whether he would sign that bill?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I can tell you — and I was asked this last week — the President does not support allowing non-citizens to vote in federal elections. That — he’s been — we’ve been clear about that from here.
As it relates to that particular vote or that particular bill, I don’t have any updates from here to share — to share with you on that. And we’ll update you as soon as — if we have anything — if that changes.
Go ahead, Peter.
Q Thank you. I have a question about the Willow project in Alaska. What’s more important to President Biden: improving energy security or reducing fossil fuels?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, first of all, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Right? We can try to be — do both.
Q Well, he said in 2019, “I guarantee you, we’re going to end fossil fuel.” So, this project will just be dead, right?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here’s what I can say about that. The President did meet with the Alaska delegation last week at the White House. He always appreciates me- — speaking and meeting with the full delegation and understand what their concerns are. So, I’ll leave it there.
And when it comes to that specific decision, that’s something that the Secretary of Interior is going to make, so I’m not going to get ahead of where she’s going to be.
But the President has met with the delegation, and I’m just going to leave it there.
Q Okay. And another subject: How worried should Americans be about China spying on them here at home?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And what do you mean specifically, Peter?
Q Well, there were the Chinese spy balloons, and now there are these Chinese spy cranes — the Wall Street Journal is comparing them to Trojan horses — in use at 80 percent of U.S. ports.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me first say that what the American people could be assured of is that this President is going to protect them and making sure that we put our national security first when it comes to — when it comes to anything that they feel could be — could threaten that. And so — and the President has shown that. He’s shown that over and over again.
So, on — on the cranes, don’t have to — don’t have any comment on that specific reporting. I would refer you to the Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense who have been tasked with Congress to study this particular issue.
The National Security Council, in close coordination with the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense, Coast Guard, and members of the intelligence committee, have been actively working to address potential cyber vulnerabilities across the marine transportation system. This includes enhanced coordination across the federal government and engagement with key stakeholders in the maritime industry.
And just last month, the administration issued a worldwide maritime port vulnerabilities advisory underscoring the potential threats posed by foreign manufacturer of port equipment.
So, again, this is something that the President takes very seriously. And we’ll always take action to make sure we protect our national security.
Q And if this is a Department of Transportation lead, does Secretary Buttigieg have experience with —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s — it’s — it’s not just —
Q — Chinese espionage?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s not just the Department of Transportation. It’s also Department of Defense.
Q Thanks, Karine. Has the President had a chance to look at the Parents Bill of Rights bill that’s being proposed by some House Republicans?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can’t speak to what the President has reviewed or not reviewed at this time.
Okay. Go ahead.
Q So, last week, the Department of Justice acknowledged that in 2020 they’d used — the FBI had used 702 authorities to illegally spy on a member of Congress. Can you tell us who that member of Congress was? Has that member of Congress been briefed by the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would refer you to the Department of Justice. Just not going to speak to that from here.
Q Thanks, Karine. On the budget that’s coming out later this week, you’ve referred to it as the fiscal year budget, which it is. It has also been talked about in the last couple of months as it relates to the debt ceiling. And we’ve heard the President in the recent months as well talk about the need to “finish the job.” He talked about it at the State of the Union, mentioned that phrase today.
Should we view that budget that’s coming out — I know you won’t get into specifics, but in terms of this fiscal year document, in terms of needing to take on the debt ceiling, or in terms of something much bigger than that — a job that the President wants to finish in the upcoming two, maybe six, years?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So when he talks about finishing the job, he talks about looking at the first two years of his administration and what he’s been able to accomplish. You hear the President speak to how he has built an economy or wants to continue to build an economy from the bottom up, middle out.
You think about the pieces of — the historic pieces of legislation that he’s been able to get done. We were talking about — someone just asked me about the manufacturing jobs. Almost 800 manufacturing jobs have been created under this President. That’s because of his — his policies.
You think about the Inflation Reduction Act, which lowers costs on healthcare, lowers costs on energy. It’s going to change many people’s lives. If you think about insulin and capping that at $35 for our seniors. All of those things are incredibly important, and he wants to build on that.
But then if you move forward and you fast-forward and you look at just November and what happened in — during the midterms, the American people were very clear. They want us to come together and continue to deliver for them. They want us to continue to fight for their freedoms. They want us to continue to make sure that we lower costs.
And so, that’s what the President is talking about. He wants to — he’s asking and saying to Congress, “Come work with us, Republicans. Why don’t we come together and work in a bipartisan way so we can finish the job?”
And that was the message that the President said in front of Congress at the State of the Union to finish what he started. That has been historical, and that is going to be transformational for — for families across the country.
Q And secondly, a month ago, on February 6th, I had asked you about TikTok, whether it was a national security risk. And you had noted that there was an ongoing CFIUS review at the time.
Just last week, there was a conversation about this as well. And you said that it is a, quote — or you talked about the, quote, “potential national security risk.”
So, is CFIUS — just, if you could clarify: Does the White House believe that TikTok is a potential national security risk, or is that what CFIUS, when that process works itself through, will determine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, there’s a CFIUS investigation, so we try not to dive in too much because there is a CFIUS process that’s going — going — that’s ongoing, and we want to let that process go forward.
But we have been very clear on our concerns like — with apps like TikTok. I’ve said that before. You’ve heard us say that from here.
We know certain countries, including China, seek to leverage digital — digital technologies and Americans’ data in ways that can present national security risks. And so that has — that has been our statement. That is what we have said for the past several months.
But, again, it’s under — it’s under CFIUS’s — the committee is moving forward on looking into this. So we try not to get too far ahead of that.
Q Thank you so much. On the budget, just following up on Zolan’s question. By traveling to Philly, the President is obviously making a big thing out of his budget, but we know that many Americans find it difficult to really understand what he’s doing with the economy. It’s not very concrete. And a budget is, as you said, like big figures — trillions, billions — and not — maybe not relatable. So what’s his strategy to make it a little more real for, you know, the American people?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m not going to get ahead of what the President’s going to say. He’s going to give remarks. He’ll lay that out in front of the American people on how he sees the fiscal year moving forward, how he sees the budget for the American people. And he’s going to be transparent. He’s going to lay that out and be very specific.
We’ve talked about how he wants to invest in America. Right? He talks about how he’s going to fight for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, ACA. Those are things that Americans understand very personally, especially if you think about these programs that they pay into.
And so that is going to be very important for him to lay that out. But it’s not just that. The President is going to be fiscally responsible. You all will see this. He’ll commute direct- — communicate that directly with the American people.
But we want to see what are the House Republicans going to do. And we’ve been very clear about that. Because what they want to do is the complete opposite of what the President is trying to do.
We want to fight for programs that’s important to taxpayers, important to our seniors, important to veterans. And they want to take that away. Think about Social Security, again, Medicare.
And so you’ll hear directly from the American people, but — from the President. But in the last couple of weeks and the last several months, the President has laid that out. You heard it at the State of the Union. He’s been very clear on what he believes in, on how he sees the economy growing, and how he’s going to continue to fight for Americans.
Q Thanks, Karine. On student loans, the President said last week that he’s not confident that the Supreme Court will decide to clear his plan. So I’m checking if you have an update on what the alternative is if his student loan plan is struck down.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’re co- — he’s also said we’re confident in our legal authority. And I think that matters. And, of course, we’re not going to know where the Supreme Court is going to ultimately decide on what direction they’re going to go.
But what you saw from the SG last week was a very strong defense of the President’s plan. And right now, the plan that we have before the Supreme Court is the plan that we have for the American people. And we believe that, again, we have the legal authority that the other side does not. It doesn’t — it does not have the standing or the merit to really move forward with what they’re trying to do.
And it is unfortunate. It is unfortunate that you have certain elected officials across the country that are trying to prevent nurses and doctors and teachers from getting this type of benefit.
We’re talking about 90 percent of Americans who are going to — who are part of this program, that are considered for this program, make less than $75,000 a year. Ninety — 90 percent.
And so it’s going to give — it’s going to give that extra breathing room, as you hear the President speak to. And we think it’s very important. And the President is going to continue to fight, just like you saw the Solicitor General do last week.
All right. Wow. Go ahead, Courtney.
Q Thank you. I wanted to ask you about a bill that passed the Senate last week on declassifying the origins of COVID-19. The bill passed by unanimous consent in the Senate. What’s the President’s position on it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I just — I was just talking to my colleagues about that. I need to connect with the National Security Council to speak more on that. But, yes, that just was flagged for me coming out — before I came out.
Go ahead, Brian.
Q Thank you very much, Karine. King Charles is going to go through a coronation ceremony on May 6th. Foreign countries and foreign governments have been notified about that. Will the President attend? Will President Biden attend King Charles’s coronation ceremony?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have anything to — we don’t have anything to — to announce at this time about travel to the UK or a delegation at this time, as well. But I can say that the United States will be represented at King Charles’s coronation. And I expect that we’ll have more information to share on that soon.
Q And if the President doesn’t attend, should it be seen as a snub to the monarchy or —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Not at all.
Q — a snub to King Charles?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Not at all.
Q Why not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There’s going to be present- — U.S. presentation. Just don’t have anything to share at this time.
Q Karine, thanks. There was a report last week about how Ford’s F-150 Lightning — their electric EV truck — is contributing to high pollution and deforestation in the Amazon. Does President Biden regret endorsing that truck back in 2021? And has anyone talked to Ford about how they should source aluminum for the frame from a different mine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, does — do not regret that and don’t have any conversation to read out at this time.
Q Okay. And then, just real quick —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — I know you’re probably going to say Hatch Act is restricting you in this, but is the President annoyed, frustrated with Marianne Williamson for jumping in the race ahead of him? Did he want to clear field to run against the Republican nominee in 2024?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Just not tracking that. I mean, if I had a — what is it called? — a little — a little globe here —
Q Crystal ball.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — a crystal ball that I can tell you. But I — I —
Q A Magic 8 Ball.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: A Magic 8 Ball, whatever. (Laughter.) If I could feel her aura. I just — (laughter) — I just don’t have anything. I just don’t have anything to share on that.
(Laughs.) Gosh, you guys are making me laugh now. (Laughter.)
Okay. In the back, with the — the mask.
Q Thank you. With regard to the budget, do you know — can you speak to if there’s been any — any argument against pursuing renewed COVID — renewed COVID funding within the President’s budget? And if so, what (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s budget at this time. You’ll hear directly from him on Thursday. I mentioned how there — we’ll have some parts of his budget that we’ll kind of lay out for all of you ahead of Thursday. I’m just not going to get ahead of the President at this time.
Q Oh, Karine, I’m here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q I wanted to ask you about the protests over the weekend near Atlanta. Dozens of people were arrested protesting the so-called Cop City. Is the President aware of this? And is the White House worried about this escalating?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What — say that again. What was the protest?
Q The protest was — it’s a facility, a training facility that’s being constructed for police officers. It’s called Cop City. It’s near a Black residential area.
The protesters are concerned that this is going to lead to escalation of police militarization. There have been 23 that have been charged with domestic terrorism, but there were 35 people arrested. So the concern is, is the Wh- — is the President aware of this? Is the White House concerned about this escalating?
And then, I also had a follow-up. The Georgia attorney general has said that some of the people that have been arrested were from outside of the United States — from Canada, from France, from an international group — that were here just to undermine American public safety.
So is the White House tracking this? And how worried is the White House about this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, we have not been — I’ve not heard any discussions about this protest over the weekend, so I would have to go back to the team and see where we are, where we’re standing, and — and our response on that. Just — this is the first time I’m hearing on — about this protest over the weekend. So I just would have to come back to you on that.
All right, Steven.
Q Okay, thank you, Karine. A Saudi Arabia human rights question for you first, and then I’d like to ask you about Russia sanctions.
Regarding Saudi Arabia, there’s a 72-year-old U.S. citizen named Saad Almadi who is in prison for a series of tweets he wrote when he was in Florida. He was given a 16-year sentence in October, and you commented on the case then. The Saudi appeal system decided to review the case and last month decided he needed an extra three years in prison, despite the White House condemning the sent- — the original sentence.
His son told me it was “a middle finger to President Biden” and that he wants his father to be declared wrongfully detained.
There’s been some bipartisan reaction to this. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar told me that it’s, quote, “atrocious and unbecoming for the Biden administration not to declare him wrongfully detained.”
So, does President Biden have a reaction to the new sentence? And is there reaction to (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we have been in — monitoring the case of Mr. Saad Ibrahim Almadi. As you know — I think I’ve mentioned this before; not just myself, but my National Security Council colleagues as well — since we learned of his arrest and have been in regular contact with his family, we have brought up and raised our concerns regarding this case at senior levels at the Saudi government.
So, that is something that we’ve been very vocal about and brought up, again, to government officials. And exercising our belief, exercising the freedom of expression, including through social media, should never be criminalized.
I’m not going to get into the process here in — and how we move forward. That’s something that the State Department, as it relates to these types of issues —
But we’ve made ourselves very clear, and we made ourselves clear as well to the Saudi government.
Q So it’s — it is fair to say President Biden is upset about the new sentence?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say is that we have raised our concerns. And I’ve spoken to — spoken to this particular individual a couple of times from this podium.
Q Thank you. And regarding Russia’s sanctions, I’m wondering if you could share the reason why President Biden hasn’t sanctioned the Russian billionaires Vladimir Yevtushenkov and Yelena Baturina. How — how is he handling the conflict of interest there, given his son was a business associate of these two people? And can you confirm that, as sitting Vice President, he dined with Baturina in Georgetown?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not speaking to anything that’s related to his son from here. If you want to have — if you want to ask a question about Hunter Biden specifically, I would refer you to his family.
And as it relates to any sanctions, I’m not speaking to individual — individual persons that are from Russia.
Okay. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. I want to ask you about COVID origins. I understand the administration is trying to get to the bottom of this. I just want to ask you if the final conclusion might look like. Is it going to be — look like each institution that is looking into and investigating come up with their own conclusions? Or will the administration will have one final
perspective on the origins?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you know, the intelligence community is looking into this. This is something that the President has asked since the — since a few months into his administration. And so, they’re redoubling down their efforts. They’re looking into the origins of COVID.
Clearly, it’s important. We believe, he believes it’s important to get to the bottom of this, especially as we look ahead to the future and trying to prevent any future pandemics.
I’m just not going to get ahead of the intelligence community. They’re working through this. And I’ll just leave it there.
Q Okay. Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Thanks, everybody. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Q Thank you.
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