Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:46 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everyone.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: A couple things at the top, and then we’ll get started.
I wanted to start today by addressing the announcement by Mexican officials regarding the status of the four Americans attacked in Mexico.
We’re still working with Mexican officials to learn more and to have all Americans returned to the United States. President Biden has been kept updated on this incident. Senior members of the White House has — have also been engaged.
We extend our deepest condolences to their families and friends.
For the sake of privacy and out of respect to the families, we are going to refrain from further comment about those circumstances at this time.
I can confirm that U.S. officials are in touch with the families of the individuals. But, again, we will respect their privacy regarding our conversations with them.
We appreciate the hard work of the Justice Department and the FBI, DHS, and DEA for their swift response to this awful incident and for their continued collaboration with Mexican authorities.
These U.S. agencies remain in close touch with their counterparts, and we expect that they will share more as they can.
Attacks on U.S. citizens are unacceptable, no matter where or under what circums- — circumstances they happen.
We will continue to work closely with the Mexican government to ensure justice is done in this case.
Since day one of this administration, we have been focused on disrupting transnational criminal organizations, including Mexican drug cartels and human strugglers — smugglers. Pardon me.
In the past few months, President Biden signed an executive order giving the Department of Treasury expanded authorities to penalize cartel organizations and those who control or enable them. And we have imposed powerful new sanctions against cartel organizations in recent weeks. We remain committed to applying the full weight of our efforts and resources to counter them.
Right now, our immediate concerns are for the safe return of our citizens, the health and wellbeing of those who — who survived this attack, and the support which must be rendered to the families of those who — who do — who need it.
Now I want to move on to the news that we put out this morning. As you know, President Biden put forward his plan to protect and strengthen Medicare by extending it for another generation.
The President’s Budget does this without cutting any benefits. In fact, he lowers costs for seniors with lower out-of-pocket costs for drugs, a $2 cap on cost-sharing for generic drugs for chronic conditions, and lower behavioral healthcare costs, as well.
Instead of cutting benefits, as MAGA Republicans in Congress have suggested, the President’s budget asks the wealthy to pay their fair share and cuts subsidies to Big Pharma.
The President is pr- — is proposing to do the following: increase the Medicare tax rate on income above $400,000; close loopholes in existing Medicare taxes; and give Medicare the power to negotiate lower prices for more prescription drugs.
The President would not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year, and he will not cut benefits for any seniors. But he will make sure Medicare is there for people who earned it through their work — hard work.
Also, as you saw this morning, we announced that President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will host President and First Lady of the Republic of Korea for a state visit in the United States.
The visit will include a state dinner, will be the second state visit of the Biden administration — Biden-Harris administration.
Under President Biden, we have taken the U.S.-ROK partnership to unprecedented heights in a way that benefits our economies and our people, and strengthens deterrence in Indo-Pacific region.
For example, the ROK has invested tens of billions of dollars into the United States. These are investments that will bring our country — our two countries even closer together, help strengthen our supply chains, and give our economies a competitive edge.
We have strengthened our defense and security partnerships bilateral to advance — bilaterally to advance deterrence and peace across the Indo-Pacific.
And we’ve supported ROK and Japan as they’ve worked to increase cooperation amongst each other, effectively strengthening the U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral partnership.
The United States-ROK alliance is more than a military or security partnerships. It has grown into a truly global and future-oriented alliance.
Our countries also hold strong people-to-people ties. The United States is home to a large number of Americans with Korean heritage, and our countries share more — many cultural interests, including in music, television, and movies.
This state visit will only strengthen our — deepen U.S.-ROK ties, and we are looking forward to celebrating the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-ROK alliance here at the White House.
I also wanted to say a few words on the continued attacks that we are seeing from Republican officials on women’s healthcare, like we have — we saw today — earlier today.
Republican state legislators in Florida proposed, today, a bill that would ban abortion before many women know if they are even pregnant, virtually eliminating a woman’s right to make healthcare decisions about her own body.
This ban would prevent not just the nearly 4 million Floridi- — Florida women of reproductive age from accessing abortion care after six weeks, but it would also impact the nearly 15 million women of reproductive age who live in states across the South with abortion bans and would no longer be able to rely on Florida as an option to access care.
We know that these bans are already having a devastating impact on women’s health. In a case filed today in Texas, we unfortunately heard devastating firsthand accounts of women’s lives almost lost after they were denied the healthcare they needed. Horrifying details of needless pain. All because of extreme efforts by Republican officials to take away a woman’s ability to make her own healthcare decisions.
Politicians like Governors DeSantis and Abbott espouse, quote, “freedom for all,” unquote, while directly attacking the freedom to make one’s own healthcare decisions.
Their rhetoric doesn’t come without consequences here. The stories told today, in 2023, in the United States of America, are shameful and completely unacceptable.
Like the overwhelming majority of Americans, the President and the Vice President believe women should be able to make healthcare decisions with their own doctors and families, free from political interference. Period.
They are committed to protecting access to reproductive care and continuing to call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law.
And finally, I want to say a few words today about the actual date of the 58th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, which is today.
As you all know, the President traveled to Selma on Sunday to commemorate this important day so that history can’t be erased. He talked about how the continued fight for voting rights is integral to delivering economic justice and civil rights for Black Americans across the country.
And today I wanted to highlight some of the historic gains the President has made on racial equity.
Two years into this administration, the President has done the following: brought Black unemployment to near-historic low; provided almost $6 billion to HBCUs; lowered prescription drugs and energy costs for seniors; nominated more Black women to federal courts than any — than any President before him; cut Black child poverty in half; and this administration is replacing lead pipes and delivering clean water across America.
There’s more work to be done. And we understand, the President understand that we need to continue fighting to finish the job.
With that, Colleen, you want to kick us off?
Q Sure. Thank you. So the President said that his budget is going to extend Medicare solvency for, I think, 25 years. Can you walk us through the math a little bit on how that would work?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m not going to — I’m not going to get into — dive into the math here. The President is going to lay out his budget, as you know, on Thursday, which will be very detailed and transparent, which is something that the President said he was going to do to make sure that the American people see for themselves how the President sees moving forward on the economy and doing it in a fiscally responsible way.
As you know, you’ve heard me say many times, we welcome Republicans to do the same — House Republicans to put forth their budget — and also in a transparent way.
So I’m not going to go — I’m not going to break it down into specifics here. Again, it’ll be transparent, and you all will see it on Thursday.
But I’ll say more broadly, as it relates to Medicare and the announcement that we made — we made today: As you know, Americans have been paying into this particular program since their first job, some of them since they were teenagers. And elected officials — we believe, the President believes — has a duty to ensure this lifes- — life- — lifeline is available for generations to come.
And so we’re going to do this. We’re going to make sure that rich pay their fair share and by — cutting Big Pharma subsidies to lower costs for seniors and ensure Medicare’s durability aren’t big ask. And we believe that this is an obligation. This is an obligation that elected officials have.
And, again, you’ll see more of the President’s budget on Thursday.
Q On immigration: So, we’re hearing that this idea to detain families in detention, again, is one of a lot of policies that are currently under consideration as Title 42 restrictions are going to possibly end on May 11. So I wondered if you can rule out family detention or what can you say about the idea that, you know, families may or may not be detained — migrant families may or may not be detained at the border.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m not going to go in on rumors that are out there or conversations that are happening at this time.
The department, as you know — as you just noted, Colleen, the Department of Homeland Security is certainly to — is certainly continuing to prepare for the eventual lift of Title 42. No decisions have been made.
But we’ve been very clear on how we’re looking — how the President wants to move forward. And he’s been clear from the start, from the beginning of his administration: by putting forth a comprehensive immigration reform. And his approach has been making sure that we expand legal pathways for asylum seekers, limiting illegal immigration, addressing root causes, and also increasing border security. That’s how the President has seen the process moving forward. That has been his approach.
And what he wants to do is build a system, build an immigration system that is secure, that is orderly, and that is humane. And that’s how we’re going to move forward as we — as we, you know, look — look towards Title 42 eventually lifting. As you know, it’s going to be as soon as May 11th. And that’s going to be the President’s focus.
Go ahead, Mary.
Q I understand no decisions have been made. But, you know, the President, shortly after he came to office, put an end to this policy of detaining migrant families as a candidate. He said, “We should not be locking people up.”
You aren’t ruling it out either. So why is this even being considered as a possible option now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not com- — I’m just not going to comment on rumors that are out there. I’m not saying it’s being considered. I’m not saying any —
Q But you’re not saying it’s not.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But I’m not saying it is, and I’m not saying it is not. I’m saying that I’m not going to speak to rumors. There are rumors out there. Clearly, the Department of Homeland Security is working through ways on how to move forward once Title 42 is lifted. I’m just not going to get into speculations. I’m going to let them do their work.
And what I will say, and I just laid this out for Colleen: We have laid out over and over and over again putting forth policies on how the President sees the process moving forward. Right? He is going to use the tools that he has before him to make sure that we deal with an immigration system or we build an immigration system that’s, again, safe, orderly, and humane.
And we’ve increased — expanded legal pathways for immigration. We have tried to limit — worked very hard to limit illegal immigration into this country by — also by making sure that the border was secure.
Again, this is something that Republicans could work with us on. He put forward an immigration policy — a comprehensive immigration policy — on day one. But what we’re seeing on the other side is political stunts. That’s what they want to do. We’re not looking to do political stunts; we’re looking to deal with a real issue.
Q I imagine the President is looking for a way to tackle this issue that is safe, orderly, and humane. Is there ever an instance in which he thinks detaining migrant families can be safe, orderly, and humane?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to get into — again, that’s diving into speculation that out — that’s out there, conversation — rumored conversations.
What I can lay out to you is his approach. And it’s been — we’ve been very clear on our approach these past two years.
Q Is there — just one more. Is there a hope here that by — that the threat of family detention may be a deterrent?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, this is a rumored conversation that I’m just not going to weigh in even by answering that question. I’m just not going to weigh into rumors that are out there.
Q So, on the inflation question, Chair Powell has been testifying today, has sent some very, very strong signals to the market that, you know, rate increases could be coming.
I realize you can’t speak about the Fed, but what is your sense about the questions that they were getting about the role that corporate profits have played in fueling inflation and whether that is, you know, an important factor to consider?
And what would you say about just the January data, you know, in terms of waiting to see perhaps if there should be — if there would be — if that data is confirmed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I just want to be very careful. You stated it, but I have to state it from here that the Fed is independent, and we do not comment on their policy. So I want to be very mindful.
The President believes that it’s important to give the Fed the space needed to make decisions on monetary policy. And so we’re going to do that.
As it relates to inflation, our economists have been very clear — view — as you’re asking me about data, they view the recent inflation data — or recent inflation, more specifically, and jobs data as well — as evidence that the President’s economic plan is working.
We’re seeing inflation starting to moderate. Inflation has come down than where it was almost a year ago. If you look at it more globally and where — you look where we were a year ago, we have seen inflation moderate.
And so — and this is happening while the President has continued to grow the economy. You’ve heard us say this many times: We’re an economy that comes — that grows from the bottom up, middle out.
And so, that’s what we’re focused on. We’re focusing on what we can do as well to lower costs for American families. That’s what you’re going to see from the President’s budget on March 9th. And that’s how — what you’re seeing from what we even announced today with Medicare, that is what’s important to the President as well.
As it relates to, you know, Chair Powell being — being –being on the Hill, doing the hearing, I’m just not going to comment on any specifics to that.
Q So your FCC nominee apparently has withdrawn their nomination. Can you confirm that that has happened? And what is your take on why?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So just a couple of things we want to say on that. We appreciate Gigi Sohn’s candidacy for this important role. She would have brought tremendous ta- — intellect and experience, which is why the President nominated her in the first place.
We also appreciate her dedication to public service, her talent, and her years of work as one of the nation’s leading public advocates on behalf of American consumers and competition — with thanks to Chair Cantwell and others for supporting the work of this nomination.
With respect to future candidates, though — I know many people are going to start asking me about that — we — we don’t have any updates to share at this time. But again, we appreciate her candidacy and — and — for this important role.
Q And then, just one quick one on foreign policy. There’s reports out today that intelligence believes that a Ukrainian organization was involved in the Nordstream Two sabotage. Can you tell us whether you think this was a subject that — did Chancellor Scholz and President Biden discuss that when they met at the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So what I can say is: Several — as you know, several of the European partners — our European partners — Germany, Sweden and Denmark — have opened investigations into what happened, and those investigations are currently ongoing. So I’m not going to get ahead of them from here.
Would refer you to the respective European countries for comments on their own investigation. I’m just not going to go beyond the readout that we provided on Friday with the Chancellor’s visit here.
Q Just circling back to immigration quickly, there’s clearly a policy process underway right now where the agencies that are lead on this are considering options based on the lifting of Title 42.
I guess my question is: Has the President been briefed on the possibility of reinstating the migrant family detention policy?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any — any conversations to read out on the President’s — the President being briefed specifically on family detention.
What I can say is — again, these are rumored conversations. And as you just said, Phil, there is continued conversations, policy discussions occurring right now — as we’re speaking about the Department of Homeland Security, clearly, which is taking the lead on this — on how to move forward once Title 42 is lifted. We’re going to let them do that process and do that work.
But the President’s approach, again, has been very, very clear. You’ve seen it over and over again. You’ve heard him speak about it; you’ve heard me speak about it. We want to make sure that we’re expanding legal pathways for asylum seekers, limiting illegal immigration, addressing root causes, and increasing order and security. And we — border security, pardon me.
And we want to do this as we build a system. Our approach — our — our approach is to build a system that is safe, that is orderly, and that is humane, and that’s what you’re going to see from this President.
Q And then, on foreign policy. Comments from Chinese officials over the course of the last 48 hours. Xi Jinping warning comprehensive — we’re talking about a comprehensive “containment” and “suppression” by the West, led by the U.S. The foreign minister with very direct comments today, warning of potential conflict and confrontation if the U.S. continues on the, quote, “wrong path.”
I’m wondering what your national security team or what the President views as the intent of the very direct comments from these officials.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I can’t speak to the intent from Chinese official. What I can speak to is how we’re approaching this. The President’s approach to China has not changed.
And, again, we’ve been very clear, we do not seek conflict, and we do not want conflict. What we’re seeking is competition, and we’ve been very clear about that these past two years.
The President will always defend American interests, as you all know, but he has been clear we want — we need to keep open lines of communication. And we will manage this consequential — we see this as a consequential relationship that we will — we will continue to manage. And the President, his team has been focused on doing just that.
But I’m — I’m certainly not going to comment on the intent of Chinese officials.
Go ahead, Michael.
Q Thanks, Karine. Back on the issue of Mexico and the four Americans that were kidnapped there. What is the administration’s message to Americans who are currently in
Mexico or planning to go there? Should they continue with those plans? Or is it safe to go to Mexico? What is the administration’s message to those folks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we — we take it very seriously when it comes to — and have a commitment to provide U.S. citizens with clear, timely, and reliable information about every country in the world so they can make informed sta- — informed travel decisions. As you all know, the State Department is clearly a department that is focused on that and give that information and do the travel advisory.
And so when it comes to the travel advisory for this particular loca- — area in Mexico, that remains at Level 4: “Do not travel due to crime and kidnapping.” We’ve been very clear about that. The State Department, again, has put that out.
We urge Americans to read these alerts before traveling. And — and so we’ll leave it there.
But, again, our commitment to this — we take this seriously to make sure that we — we do everything that we can so that Americans understand, you know, what is — what is safe and what to look out for as their travel — or when — or when they’re in a specific country.
Q Thanks, Karine. Does this situation in Mexico indicate that the U.S. needs to be doing more to tackle Mexican organized crime? And if so, what?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the President from — the President — or, I should say, this administration from day one has made sure, as it relates to the safety — I know some folks have asked if we are concerned about these individuals actually coming and crossing the border and coming into the U.S.
So, you know, DHS screens and vets every individual encountered at the border. The President has secured record levels of funding for border security and management, including 2,300 — 23- — I should say, 23,000 border officials, which is a historic amount of border officials to help at — at — with the security process at the border.
And we have stepped up coordination with government of Mexico to ensure security along our shared border. As you know, the President was recently in Mexico City. He met with — with AMLO to talk — that was one of the conversations that were had, that was part of the agenda.
And so we’re going to continue to do that — those coordination. And — and we’re going to continue to do everything that we can to secure the border.
Q These individuals were reportedly going across the border to Mexico for medical care. There are a lot of Americans who cross the southern border for medical care or for prescription drugs. What is the advice to those individuals? Should they avoid doing that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m not going to speak specifically to — I know — I know it’s ongoing. I know there’s a lot of comments out there as to what these four individuals were going to do.
So I would say the federal law enforcement has been in touch — has been, you know, doing — leading this investigation — clearly in touch with family members. And so I’m just going to be really careful on commenting why they were crossing the border. Those are privacy cons- — private considerations.
But, again, I just laid out moments ago, when Michael was asking me the qu- — the question about the Americans in Mexico or thinking about traveling to Mexico: The State Department puts out these alerts, has been — has tried — tries very hard to communicate what’s going on — this — their own safety — for their own safety in certain countries. And I would — I would make sure that if Americans are thinking about traveling to Mexico, that they certainly heed the call from the State Department.
This particular area, as I just mentioned, is at Level 4, and so folks need to be really careful.
Q And then, finally, one of your top spokespeok- — spokespeople we learned today is stepping down. She played a prominent role on the pla- — past Biden campaign. Should we take this as a sign that perhaps she’ll be serving on a Biden re-election campaign?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) I certainly — as you know, I’m going to be very careful from here speaking about a re-elect or 2024. But I do want to say some — some — some words about Remi.
Remi is a — is a good friend. I have gotten to know her very well over the past three years. As you know, she was on the campaign as — I think you just mentioned that. And the President said himself she is — she has been an unfailing loyal fighter for him and for the team and — going back to the campaign, even before it launched. And we are very sad to see her go. She has a range of talents, as she possesses for a communication professional, and she is one of a kind.
And we are sadly going to miss Remi. And we wish her the best. And there’s truly — truly no — no better colleague that I have gotten to know these past three years.
Q But no words about her next steps?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) You would have to ask Remi. I can’t speak to her next steps. What I can say is how wonderful she has been as a friend and a colleague these past three years.
Q Thanks, Karine. Governor Newsom in California announced that he would halt state contracts with Walgreens over their decision to stop dispensing abortion medicine — medication. I’m wondering if that’s a step the President would consider on a federal level.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I — you know, I’ll say this: Our focus right now remains on continued access to medication that women and providers rely on for abortion care and miscarriage management. That’s always — that’s what we have been very steadfast on. That’s why the President issued his recent presidential memorandum in January that aims to preserve continued access to a safe drug that — and we’ll emphasize this again — is used for miscarriage management and abortion.
So we understand the concerns faced by pharmacies, which is why the President’s memorandum emphasizes the administration’s readiness to support patients, providers, and pharmacies who want to legally access or provide this — this particular drug.
So I do want to speak — to say one note about Walgreens: They clarified its position on working toward providing this medication where it is legal. But I refer you to the companies of the — or the states for any follow-up.
Again, we are — we have a focus and to make sure that women have access to important healthcare needs. And the President is going to continue to fight for this. You’ve heard the Vice President over the last couple of months also continuing to speak on this. And that’s what you’re going to hear from this administration.
Q The President — this announcement this morning on Medicare — largely paid for that extension through an increase in payroll taxes on those making over $400,000 a year. Can we expect, since the President has also made Social Security a key sort of plank of his economic plan, that we should see a similar increase in Social Security taxes?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m not going to get into — we shared Medicare today. And we’ll shu- — we’ll share probably more parts of his budget in the upcoming day or two. Just not going to get into specifics on that.
But I will say the President’s commitment hasn’t changed. What we see right now is that, you know, the biggest threat to Social Security are Republicans. And you’ve heard them, you guys have covered them — what congressional Republicans have said, their relentless drive to — to cut these important programs for Americans, for — for our veterans, for our — our — you know, our seniors.
And so, again, we look forward to seeing the — to seeing the Republicans share their plan with the American people since they have promised that they’re going to put a budget forward.
But I’m just not going to get ahead of the President.
I’ll say this as well: You know, the President is also open to proposals that extend Social Security trust fund — trust fund without cutting Social Security benefits. That is something that we have spoken to and talked about. So he’s open to that — those types of proposals. But again, his — his commitment to fighting for Social Security hasn’t changed.
Q And then, one last one. Secretary Raimondo suggested that banning TikTok was a bad idea politically because you’d, quote, “literally lose every voter under 35.” The administration’s review of TikTok has been going on for more than two years now, which is — which I think many critics have said suggests some level of foot dragging is —
Are these two things related? Is the political concern what is preventing the administration from taking action?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I mean, this is not about a political concern. This is about making sure that we do the right thing for the American people. But I — you know, again, we’re working with Congress to address concerns posed by apps like TikTok. I don’t have anything else to share.
I know there’s legislation that’s being thought about or going to be put forward. But we’re going to continue to work Congress on that.
I just don’t have anything more to share. We’ve been — I was asked this question yesterday. We’ve been very clear on where we stand on this particular issue.
Q Thanks, Karine. On immigration, among the plans or the strategy for border security, how much does deterrence work — and using deterrence policies work into the strategy for the administration?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you say — can you say more?
Q I mean, a lot of administrations in the past have used deterrence as part of their border security — border security strategy. How much is deterrence and sending a message and then using policies that would deter migration going to be part of the administration’s policy moving forward from Title 42 — after Title 42?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I mean, if you look at what the President has put forward in the past — and, I mean, in the past several months with — you know, since the beginning of this year, when he expanded the parolee program, right? That was a way to give an opportunity to folks who are seeking asylum to find a way to get to apply or to come to the U.S. in a — in a — in a legal — in a legal way. Right? When you think about what we were able to do, how we expanded that parolee program for Nicaragua and Cubans and Venezuela — Venezuelans and also Haiti — Haitians, it was a way to provide an opportunity to do that. Right? So then —
Q But I’m talking about border security though.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, but I — but I’m — but that was a deterrence from coming to the border and a way for them to stay at home and — and find a way and use the app to come to — into the U.S.
And so, that is a way — an incentive, an option, a path, if you will — for them to use to — to — to figure out how can they — how can they do this in a legal pathway.
So those are humane ways of doing this. Those are ways of making sure that we’re dealing with border security.
As far as, you know, the word “deterrence” and — and policies specifically to that, like hard — hard policies specifically to that: Look, the Presi- — the President has been very clear on his approach. He wants to make sure that we do this in an orderly way, a humane way, and do it in a way that is — that still expands legal pathways but also deals with illegal migration.
Don’t have anything more specifics on that — on the “deterrence” language that you’re asking me about.
What we’re — what we’re going to do is put forth policies and use the tools to do just that: to build that system, that border system that was, by the way, decimated by the last — by the last administration.
Q So, in terms of that, of the system being decimated, now you’ve had two years to rebuild the system. You’ve been working on the eventual end of Title 42 since the beginning of the administration — working with groups on a plan. How confident should Americans be, come May, that the system will work? And that — how confident should they be that the — the administration is prepared and the system won’t be overwhelmed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just give you a few data points on what we’ve been able to do — right? — which is migration from Honduras. If you look at migration from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, where our root causes work is focused on, is down by 71 percent since 2021. That is the work that this administration has done.
I just talked about migration from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Haiti. That is down by 90 — more than 95 percent since we expanded the parole program. That was just — parolee program — which was just a month or two ago. And that was, again, the President is using the tools that he has in front of him to deal with a real issue.
Again, Republicans are not doing anything. They’re doing political stunts. And the President is actually taking action.
Now, he put forth a piece of legislation on his first day in this administration — a comprehensive immigration policy legislation. We would love to move that forward. But until then, we have to use the tools that we have in front of us to get this done.
Q Thank you. Just following up on China. Is the President concerned that a cold war with China is veering into a hot war?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So the President, actually, was asked this recently, and I’ll — I’ll — you know, I’ll let his words stand. I think he was asked this about a week or two ago. So, won’t get ahead of the President or won’t say more than what the President has stated.
Look, we have been very clear on our approach. It’s not changed. We want an approach of — of competition, not conflict. And we believe we are more prepared to outcompete China and protect our national security. And that is because of the work that this President has done from day one of this admini- — administration.
And if you look at many of our efforts towards China, there have been — it’s been — it’s been pursued in a bipartisan fashion.
But I’m not going to — the President was literally asked this very similar question, so I’ll — I’ll refer you to his comments.
But again, our approach to China has not changed.
Go ahead, Peter.
Q Thanks, Karine. So cartels kill Americans on this side of the border with drugs, and now they’re killing Americans on the other side of the border with guns. Why is President Biden so comfortable with cartels operating so close to the U.S.?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let’s be very clear. Let me take on the drug part here because — since you brought this up.
Because of the work that this President has done, because of what we’ve done specifically on fentanyl at the border, it’s at historic lows — historic levels that we have been able to record a number of personnel working to secure the border because of what we’ve been able to do, seizing that fentanyl. We’ve done it in a historic way. That’s because of what this President has done.
I just talked about 23,000 federal agents that have been able to be — that we’ve been able to hire and put at the border to secure the border.
On top of that, historic sanctions going after traffickers and other financiers are helping disrupt fentanyl supply chains throughout their flow to the U.S.
And we’ll — we — we’re really expanded access to treatments like — that are saving lives, if you think about it, which prevent overdoses, expanding as — as are fentanyl test strips. And through the removal of the X-Waiver, anyone registered to prescribe controlled medications can now prescribe lifesaving medication to treat addiction.
So, again, we are seizing fentanyl at record historic levels because of what the — because of the — of what the President has done to secure our border.
And, look, we’ve also coordinated — made sure that we’re coordinated our — our relationship with Mex- — with Mexico to deal with what we’re seeing as it relates to violence, as relates to cartel. That is something — a relationship that we’ve continued to build with Mexico, an incredibly important partner. You saw that when he went down for the summit in Mexico City.
So, the President is dedicated to this and is doing the work that we’re actually seeing at the border, again, when you — we think about fentanyl.
Q But to the violence aspect of it: Now Americans are being slaughtered. Would President Biden be taking the same approach if it was al Qaeda or ISIS operating just across the border from an American city?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President takes this very seriously. He takes this very seriously. The FBI and other agencies have been on top of this from day one. And so that’s what he’s going to continue to do.
When it comes to Americans’ lives and when it comes to their — the safety of Americans, the President is always going to make sure that that is a top priority.
Q Would President Biden ever consider using the U.S. military to disrupt cartel operations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I’m just not going to get into the military and how it’s being used.
Q I want to go back to the question about the FCC nominee. Gigi Sohn has a statement to the Washington Post in which she says that her nomination failed because of what she calls “unrelenting, dishonest, and cruel attacks.” She calls it “a sad day for our country…” when — “…and our democracy when dominant industries, with assistance from unlimited dark money, get to choose their regulators.”
Is that what’s happened here? Is that why the nomination failed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can speak to is her candidacy and how important it was for this — for this critical role that she was nominated for.
The President clearly nominated her because — and I said this — she was — she was tremendously — she has tremendous intellect and experience. And we thought and we, you know, believed that she was — she would be a — a great — a great — is a great candidate and would have been an excellent political official in this role.
And so, it is, clearly, unfortunate. We’re sad to see — to see this happen.
But again, we are very thankful to her dedication to public service, her talent — and not just for this past year as she was going through the process but also the last several years as a national public advocate on behalf of American consumers.
Q Let me ask you one more question since the President announced his plans for the Medicare surtax today. That number of $400,000 — in the past, it’s referred to individuals. Is that, going forward, the plan? Or is it — is it married couples filing jointly?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s — nothing has changed from where we have been in the past.
Q Okay, thanks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Just another follow-up on immigration. Not asking about the detaining migrant families at all or any rumors around that. But just given what we’ve seen from the White House in recent months, including the new asylum rule, is this basically an acknowledgment that without legislation from Congress, the policies that the President previously opposed, he now thinks are necessary in conjunction with some of those legal pathways that you mentioned?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me just — there’s a couple of things that I want to say about that. A lot of people have compared what the President is doing as either extending what Trump did or being very Trump-like, and I just want to make sure that that is not — that is not what is happening here.
What we saw in this last administration — the administration before us — was a gutting of the immigration system. That is what they led with, and that’s what they did.
And a couple of things that we had to fix in this administration these last two years:
Trump tried to deport DREAMers; we went to court to protect them.
Trump ripped babies from their mother’s arms; we’re reuniting those children with their families, with 600 families reunited thus far.
Trump funneled billions of dollars from military to build a useless wall, and what we did is we stopped that wall construction and returned the money to support military schools and also equipment.
Trump banned asylum, forcing more people to try to enter unlawfully. We’ve expanded legal pathways for immigration, and unlawful migration is down. I just gave two pieces of data to show that.
Trump tore down America’s refugee system. And what we are doing — we’re rebuilding it and have a set of goal of resettling up to 125- — 125,000 refugees this year alone.
Trump cut off critical assistant to stabilize the Western Hemisphere, and we restarted that assistance to help address the root cause — causes, like economic collapse, that are driving people to flee.
Migration, again — and I mentioned this stat already — migration from countries where — where we — we’re seeing root causes — where there — our root causes work is focused — is focused down by 71 percent since last year.
So, that is — so, that is what we have been able to do in this past two years and how we have been able to try to fix something that the last administration has decimated.
Q But given the pieces that are still in use or have been revived, is — is that sort of an acknowledgment that they are now necessary or deemed necessary —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, absolutely not.
Q — by this administration?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, absolutely not. From day one, the President has put forth a bill that would expand legal pathways for imm- — for immigration, increased border security, making sure that we limit illegal immigration.
The President is using the tools that are before him to try to deal with an issue that we’re seeing here.
We have said over and over again: If Republicans in Congress would come and work with us to deal with this issue, we can get it done, we can get it fixed, instead of the political stunts that they’re doing.
Okay. Go ahead, Nadia.
Q Thank you, Karine. Two questions on foreign policy. In addition to poisoning schoolgirls in Iran, now it’s been reported that (inaudible) detention sites. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has asked for an investigation by the U.N. and accountability. What does accountability look like from the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let me just first say, we’ve seen these disturbing reports — deeply disturbing reports and — that we’ve seen from your — one of your colleagues here’s network. And so what we want to say from here is that we welcome the call from our Senate colleagues for the U.N.’s independent international factfinding mission on Iran to investigate.
Unfortunately, the Iranian regime has a long history of engaging in such practices to stifle dissent and exert control. The cruel, violent suppression of peaceful protests and abuse of protesters that the — that CNN reported shows that Iran’s leadership fears its own people.
The eyes of the world are on Iran. The human rights abuses inflicted by its government must not go without consequences.
The hundreds of protesters already killed at the hands of Iranian state authorities deserve — and their family should see this as well — is justice. The torture and mistreatment of political prisoners must cease.
The United States is standing with our partners and allies around the world. And we’ll continue to pursue accountability for anyone involved in these abuses.
Q And, second, you released a readout of the President’s call with the Sultan of Oman. In the last paragraph, you said that he welcomed the historical role (inaudible) of the — of Omanis in securing the release of American hostages in Iran. But does he refer to the previous mediation, or are we talking about a fresh push to release the new — the current hostages now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share about that.
Anytime — as you know, anytime there is a — there are American hostages held, we’re always very careful on speaking to any — the process. We want to be mindful for — for security reasons. So I’m not going to go beyond what the President laid out and — what we laid out in the readout with — on this call today.
Q Thank you, Karine. Does the administration feel the Mexican government is doing enough to combat violence in its own country as well as Americans who are visiting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say is that we are working closely with the Mexican government. As you’ve seen, we’ve — we’ve — we’ve announced coordination that we have with the Mexican government as it relates to the violence and cartel. We’ve announced that already.
You’ve seen the President — both presidents, President AMLO and President Biden, speak to this very recently in — in Mexico City.
Don’t have anything else to share. And so, I’ll just leave it there.
Q Would the administration support be designating cartels as terrorist organizations, as some senators have —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don’t have any policy or announcements to make from here.
Q Thanks, Karine. Last night, Tucker Carlson cherrypicked video surveillance from the January 6th insurrection, severely downplaying the events of that day. He said the mob was orderly and meek and that they were tourists instead of insurrectionists. What’s your response to Carlson and to Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who granted him access to that video?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Anybody who watched that video would strongly digree [sic] — disagree. Anybody who watched that video in a — with their own eyes, in a real way, and saw what happened on that day would — would disagree with what was just stated.
The President has been very clear: January 6th was the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War. And we should be focused on making sure that never happens again.
And so, we are certainly — we agree — I know Minority Leader and — and — Senator Schumer have already said this, and would hope that keeping the Capitol and Congress safe and secure remains congressional leaders’ number one goal. And that should be our focus, and that should be what should be considered here.
And, again, it was one of the darkest days of our democracy. And all you have to do is watch those videos and see how horrific it was, see how sad it was, see an attack on the Capitol, which should not be happening in 2020.
And we got to get down to the bottom of what happened. Again, it was an attack on our democracy. And I’ll just leave it there.
Q So is Speaker McCarthy irresponsible for handing over the video?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I answered your question. I answered your question.
Q Thanks, Karine. So, with the more direct language — I’m going to ask you about China. With the more direct language from the Chinese president and the foreign minister, is there a concern that the administration line that they want competition over conflict is seen as weakness by the Chinese?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not sure how it’s seen as weakness when we are more prepared to com- — outcompete China and protect the national security, under this President and because of the — of the work that he’s done.
Q Well, they — they had —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to keep going.
Q — the Chinese —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to keep going.
Q — but they had the spy —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to keep —
Q — the spy balloon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ve answered this question multiple times.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. On — on the White House considering reinstating the family detention, advocates are already calling it shameful. Democrats on the Hill have called it unacceptable. And a number of Democrats and immigrant advocates are calling for the White House to publicly deny those reports. What’s your response to them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: My response is these are rumored conversations that I’m just not going to speak to.
We’ve laid out very clearly over the past several months, over the last two years, how — our approach to this — our approach to dealing with immigration.
Again, we’ve been very clear. We ex- — we’re expanding legal pathways for asylum seekers, limiting — eliminating illegal migration, addressing root causes, and increasing border security. That’s our approach.
And we are — want to make sure that we’re building a immigration system that is — that is orderly, that is safe and humane. That is what the President is — has been doing. And that’s what he’s going to continue to do.
I’m certainly not going to, again, weigh in on any rumored conversations from here.
I’ll be back tomorrow, guys. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.
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