Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:54 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everyone. Happy Monday, or just —
So, we’re seeing the heartbreaking news of another shooting of innocent schoolchildren, this time in Nashville, Tennessee. The President has been briefed on the situation, and our team is in contact with DOJ and local officials about what is known so far.
We want to express the President’s appreciation for the first responders and prayers for all the families affected by this shooting.
While we don’t know yet all the details in this latest tragic shooting, we know that too often our schools and communities are being devastated by gun violence. Schools should be safe spaces for our kids to grow and learn and for our educators to teach.
As you all know, President Biden has taken more action than any president in history on gun safety, from nearly two dozens — two dozen actions, including the executive order he just signed last month — or this — this month, pardon me — to the Biparti- — Bipartisan Safer Communities Act legislation he signed into law after the tragedies in Uvalde and Buffalo.
He also believe it’s not enough. We must do more. And he wants Congress to act, because enough is enough.
In his State of the Union, the President called on Congress to do something to stop the epidemic of gun violence tearing families apart, tearing communities apart. How many more children have — have to be murdered before Republicans in Congress will step up and act to pass the assault weapons ban; to close loopholes in our background — in our — in our background check system; or to require the safe storage of guns?
We need to do something. Once again, the President calls on Congress to do something before another child is senselessly killed in a preventable act of gun violence. Again, we need to do something.
I also wanted to say a few words about the deadly tornadoes that tore through Mississippi on Friday night. As the President said in a statement over the weekend, he and the First Lady are praying for those who lost loved ones in these tornadoes.
To that end, President Biden approved an expedited major disaster declaration for Mississippi early Sunday morning and ordered federal funding be made available to support emergency response efforts in the areas affected by the severe storms.
Secretary Mayorkas and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell were also on the ground yesterday to assess the damage, survey emergency response efforts, and meet with Governor Reeves and other state and local officials.
We remain committed to doing everything we can to help those impacted by these storms and help them recover.
Tomorrow, President Biden will travel to Durham, North Carolina, to kick off the Investing in America tour with a visit to Wolfspeed, a manufacturer of semiconductor chips that is investing $5 billion to expand their North Carolina operations and create 1,800 good-paying jobs right here at home.
Over the next three weeks of this tour, the President, Vice President, First Lady, Second Gentleman, and members of the Cabinet will fan out over 20 states across the country to visit communities benefiting from Investing in America agenda.
This includes places that are seeing new and expanded manufacturing facilities and creating new jobs thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS and Science Act; groundbreaking — gron- — groundbreakings of new infrastructure projects funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law; and small businesses that stayed afloat or started because of help from the American Rescue Plan.
They’ll highlight not only the impact of President — President’s economic agenda in these communities, but also what’s at stake if MAGA Republicans in Congress get their way and repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, hi- — hike taxes on hardworking families, and slash funding for manufacturing innovation and research.
As the President likes to say, budgets are a statement of values. That’s why his budget cuts taxes for working people and families with children by almost $800 billion. And it pays for that by asking the super-wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share, all while not raising taxes at all for anyone making less than $400 — $400,000 per year.
The tax proposal for MAGA House Republicans look very different. They want to add over $3 trillion to the debt, with giveaways skewed to the wealthy and large corporations. And even with — with those huge tax cuts, they’re also advancing proposals that would raise taxes for middle-class families, hardworking Americans, and seniors.
Now they’ve — they’ve even suggested they won’t release a budget so they can hide how much of their deep and harmful program cuts are just paying for their tax cuts. That’s irresponsible and not supported at all by the American people.
And while Republicans in Congress are pushing for tax breaks for ultra-wealthy and large corporations, they’re also introducing measures to deny their — their — deny millions of their own middle-class constituents from getting the student debt relief they need and deserve.
We’re talking about more than 1- — 2.1 million borrowers who have applied for student debt relief in Texas, more than 380,000 borrowers in Louisiana, more than 250,000 borrowers in Iowa.
These are hardworking borrowers who, for the most part, make less than $75,000 a year. They’re asking for a little extra breathing room as they prepare for loan payments to restart.
And how are their Republicans elected officials responding? They’re bent — they’re bent on denying middle-class families the relief they need while at the same time slashing Pell grants to provide a $3 trillion tax giveaway to the ultra-wealthy and corporations.
These are the same Republican officials who voted to forgive hundreds of thousands of dollars in PPP loans for businesses. Some even had their own loans forgiven, as you’ve heard the President speak to many times.
So I want to be very clear here. President Biden will continue to fight for the middle-cl- — middle-class families, as he has been this past two years in his presidency.
The President has also made clear he will veto H.R. 1, another bill that House Republicans have put forward to drive energy costs up for middle-class families, pad the pockets of big oil companies, and endanger the health and safety of all Americans.
H.R. 1 would double the cost of energy efficiency upgrades that family need to reduce household bills. It would repeal key provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act to cut energy costs and boost economic development. It would eliminate pollution control requirements that prohibit big companies from polluting the air we breathe. And it will allow petroleum refineries that use hydrofluoric acid — a highly toxic chemical known to cause severe burns, eye damage,
declassification [decalcification] of bones — to avoid any requirements to consider safer — safer alternatives. It is no wonder the bill was endorsed by big oil companies.
And with that, Aamer, thank you for your patience. Kick it off.
Q Yeah, of course. On — on Nashville, you pointed to last year’s bipartisan reforms, as well as alluded to the executive actions, I think, of just a few weeks ago. And you also pointed out it’s not a panacea. But is there any disappointment from the administration that these efforts haven’t had more of an effect on lessening the scourge of terrible violence?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I don’t have the data in front of me on what the President’s executive action has been able to do. Clearly, those are actions that are — that he was able to do on federal — on the federal level.
But the President has been very clear: We need to take — we need to take more action. We actually need to ban assault — assault — assault weapons. We need to take more action so that our children are safe in schools, so that our communities are not torn apart. And we’ve been very clear about that.
The President is going to continue to be consistent. He mentioned that at the State of the Union when he had an opportunity to just not speak in front of Congress, but also speak in front of the American people. We have to do more.
The President has — has done almost as much as he can from the federal level to show how important this is to him. And this is something that he has been working on since he was senator, right? Thirty years ago, when the first assault ban weapons passed, it was because of the work partially of the — of then-Senator Biden.
So, again, he’s going to continue to call on Congress to act. This is — this is — you know, we can’t keep seeing what we saw today.
Right now, we’re hearing six kids — six elementary kids dead.
Q Three kids and three adults.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And — and so, this cannot be happening. Our administrators, our educators cannot be — their lives can’t be put on — on the line here when they’re going to teach our kids. And the President is going to continue to speak out, and Congress needs to act.
Q And if I could just ask about — in Israel, before you got out here, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced his decision to delay action on the judicial overhaul until after — or until the next parliament session.
One, just generally, do you have any reaction? And, two, does delaying meet the administration’s concerns, consensus — calls for consensus and compromise?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you just mentioned, Aamer, right before I came out, we heard from the Prime Minister of Israel. We — I do have a couple of things to say about his remarks.
So, we welcome this announcement as an opportunity to create additional time and space for compromise. Compromise is precisely what we have been calling for, and we continue to strongly urge Israeli leaders to find a compromise as soon as possible.
We believe that it is the best path forward for Israel — Israel and all of its citizens to find this compromise. Democratic societies are strengthened by checks and balances, and fundamental changes to a democratic system should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support. And so, that’s what we’re going to continue to call for.
Q Will we see the President address this latest school shooting in Nashville?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I believe he will be addressing it before he — before hi- — before he — his remarks — at his remarks today at about 2:30.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you’ll hear directly from the President. So, the answer is yes.
Q Okay. And you spoke about the call from, you know, the President and the White House for Congress to act on gun violence. But here we are, another elementary school shooting. What do you say to — what does the White House say to American people who are feeling hopeless right now that this — and in shock that is happening once again?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we say that, yes,
we agree; this is unacceptable. What we’re seeing today, what we’re seeing in schools and communities across this country is unacceptable.
Our children should be able to go to school feeling safe, feeling protected. People should be able to go to grocery stores feeling safe. And what we saw today is devastating, is heartbreaking for any American — any parent across the country or any American.
And so, that’s why this President has been very clear from day one he is going to continue to fight for those communities. That’s why he did a historic amount of executive orders. From here, from this White House, he was able to sign executive orders that was — that hopefully will make some difference at the federal level. But, clearly, there is more work to do. And Congress — and this is legislative work that Congress needs to act on.
So, yes, you’re going to continue to hear from this President. He’s going to be very — speak about this very loud and clear.
And, of course, he was — he was proud to sign the legislation — the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act just in the last — as we saw, last year, in the last Congress. And that was something we hadn’t seen in 30 years.
And we believe a lot of that is because of this work that this President has done. And he has done this not just the last two years, but over his career. So, we need to see more.
And it is devastating, of course. Our hearts go out to families across the country that have lost loved ones. But the President, again, is going to call on Congress to act. That doesn’t change.
Q On the storms, can you just walk us through quickly the — what the weekend was like for President Biden: when he got the alerts and when he was updated?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, I do have it. I can call — I can walk through some of that with you all.
So, the — so, we’re — continue to closely coordinate with our state and federal partners in response to the deadly storm that hit Mississippi.
On Saturday, the President held separate calls with Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, along with Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith and Congressman Bennie Thomas [sic] — Thompson, pardon me — on Missi- — of Mississippi to express his condolences for the lives lost and damage resulting from the tornadoes and extreme weather that impacted Mississippi overnight.
On Sunday, President Biden approved a disaster declaration for Mississippi and ordered federal aid to supplement state, Tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the severe storms. And the President’s — because of his actions, the federal funding that — available to those
infected [affected] individual will go to counties like Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe, and Sharkey.
And also, on Sunday, as I mentioned at the top, we saw FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and DH- — DHS Secretary Mayorkas travel to Mississippi to survey the damage and meet with federal, state, and local officials.
And so the President, again, will continue to be — to be updated as — over the next couple of days. And — and so this is something that we are taking very seriously.
Q Does he plan to visit, at all, Mississippi or Alabama?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have — I don’t have — I don’t any trip — we don’t have a trip to preview at this time.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. Does the White House have any additional executive orders in the pipeline on guns, given the realities of the lack of support for these things in Congress?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, don’t have any- — anything to preview at this time on any additional executive orders. As you know, earlier this month, while we were out west — I think you may have traveled with us, I can’t remember; it felt like —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It felt like ages ago at this point — we were — the President was able to announce an additional executive order.
But we’ve taken historic actions — you know this, Jeff; I know you’ve covered this — the first year and a half, more than any other President has. And so, clearly, we have taken this seriously. But again, we need legislative action, and that has to come from Congress.
Q And one other topic. Are U.S. regulators and is the administration looking at expanding emergency lending facilities for banks to help get First Republic Bank, which is one of the ones that’s been of concern, more time to shore up its balance sheet?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don’t have — don’t have anything new to — to share from here. As you know, that’s something the federal regulators and the Treasury Department — you know, that’s something that they would be focusing on.
What I will say more broadly about — about regional banks and the actions that could potentially be taken: As Chair Powell recently said, “Our banking system is sound and resilient with strong capital liquidity.”
When — we’ve taken decisive and forceful actions to strengthen the public confidence — you’ve heard me say that many times from here; that was something that was important for the President to do — and also give access — give bank access to resources to meet those depositors’ demand.
And — and so, look, we took actions. The deposits stabilized at regional — regional banks. That’s what we have seen over the past 10 days or so.
And — but I just don’t have anything to share beyond that as it relates to regional banks or First Republic.
But again, the actions that we have taken has certainly — we have seen them work, and we want to continue to give Americans confidence but also make sure that depositors get the — get what they need as well — the resources that they need.
Q Just following up on the idea of hopelessness, which I think all the parents feel in a pretty visceral manner on days like today, does the President believe that there is an actual legislative solution to this or a solution that the government can bring, given kind of culturally where the U.S. is on this issue and political divides? All of these things put together, is there an actual solution here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the President — as you’ve heard him say many times before, he’s an optimist and he’s a fighter. And you have seen that from this President over the last two years. And he’s an optimist, and rightfully so. We saw — you saw him sign a bipartisan piece of legislation that we hadn’t seen on gun violence to deal with gun violence in 30 years.
That’s because of this leadership of this President and the work that he’s put in. So we have to be optimistic, and we have to fight at the same time. But at — but we also have to call out what is unacceptable, and what we continue to see in these communities is unacceptable.
And, you know, I know, Phil, you’re a — you’re a dad, I’m a parent as well. And what we’re seeing — when you see those types of stories coming out of Nashville, it is devastating. It is devastating. In elementary schools, it should not be happening.
And so, you’re going to hear directly from this President later today.
Q And, Karine, just one more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, sure.
Q Just back on Israel real quick. It’s a domestic issue, there’s a personal relationship between the President and Prime Minister, obviously the dynamics between the U.S. and Israel. How does the President view his role when it comes to what’s been happening in Israel the last several weeks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President, as you know, just recently — I believe March 19th — he spoke to the Prime Minister. They had a very honest conversation. We gave a readout of — of — of that — of that conversation, and you saw a statement from our NSC spokesperson just yesterday about the situation that we have been seeing, especially on this particular issue of the judicial court.
And, you know, when he discussed this with the Prime Minister, he said democratic values have always been and must remain a hallmark of the U.S.-Israeli relationship — as you said, a close relationship. Democratic societies are strengthened by checks and balances, and fundamental changes to a democratic system should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support.
That is what we — what we all shared with you from that read- — readout.
So, you know, U.S. support for Israeli security and democracy remains ironclad. That is continuing to be the case. But we will always — always have those honest and frank conversation with our partners, with our friends as well.
Q Thanks, Karine. Just one follow-up on banking. With SVB’s sale to First Citizens, does the administration believe the worst of the banking crisis is now behind us?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we welcome the news, which comes at no cost to taxpayers. This is a process run by the FDIC, as you know. And so, again, because of the decisive actions that we have seen from the banking — the regulators and from our administration — the banking regulators and also the Treasury Department — the banking system is safe. The Americans — Americans here can be confident.
And we have seen deposits stabilize at regional banks throughout the country. And in some cases, outflows have modestly reversed.
So what we have done these past 14 days or so has worked. I’m not going to go beyond that. But certainly we welcome — we welcome the news.
Q The shooting in Nashville has an unusual component in that the gun- — the gunman is actually a woman. An adult woman has been identified now, 28 years old. Does the President have any expectation that when looking for a new way to talk about gun violence — we’ve been through Sandy Hook in the Obama years, we’ve been through Uvalde in this administration — looking for some way to have circumstances change how Americans feel about it?
Tennessee is obviously a state with a gun culture as a part of its identity for many Tennesseans who live there and believe in a gun culture. Do you think there is any component of this, like having a female suspect — highly unusual, like a single digit percentage of this — that could be a point for him to address to try to break through on a subject that has thus far not made change in the legislative realm?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I know that the reporting on the shooting is still coming out, so I don’t — I want to be very mindful and not get — I’ve heard that — I heard or watched those reportings as well before coming out. So, I just want to be very mindful to not get ahead of — of — I’m sure there’ll be an investigation; they’ll look into it. Just want to be careful from here.
Look, the President is going to continue to take action to reduce gun violence because this is a priority for him and he wants to save lives. He thinks it’s important, clearly, to save lives. And he believes that more must be done. And that is something that you’ve heard from the President multiple times, sadly, when this has occurred.
But he’s also going to continue to ask Congress to enact — enact common gun law reforms. That is something that must be done in the legislation — right? — in the legislative branch.
And so, you know — and that’s including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, eliminating immunity for gun manufacturings who — who knowingly put weapons of war on the streets.
And so those are things that they can do. Those are — those are things that Congress can actually act on if they come together and take action.
And so, we’re going to — we can’t — we can’t — this is not something I want to do, and I’m sure this is not what all of you want to cover is these types of shootings over and over and over again. This is certainly not what the President wants to keep talking about and giving condolences to family members and — and communities. This is not okay.
So we’re going to continue to call on Congress to act. We’re going to see what else we can do. The President just announced something — an action recently, because he believed — he wanted to make sure that we did everything that we can from the federal government, even after taking historic actions.
So, again, this is a sad day for our country, for the people of Nashville, and our hearts go out to them.
Q Thanks. On the President’s call for legislation, has he spoken to or will he be speaking to Republicans directly? Is he going to ask Republicans to come to the White House, try to negotiate directly himself?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we’ve had — I get the question, but we have been having conversations with congressional members for these past two years. I mean, this is conversations that we have had over and over and over, and will continue to have.
So, it’s not going to stop today. It’s going to continue. Or it’s not going to — it’s not starting around this particular sad shooting. But, you know —
Q He’s had conversations with Republicans about the need for things like an assault weapons ban?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m saying — well, what I’m saying is — what I’m saying is I don’t have anything to preview for you at this time or to la- — to lay down of a conversation that he’s had recently.
What I’m saying is: This is something that his administration has taken very seriously over the last two years. There’s a reason why this is a president that has taken historic actions on executive orders when it comes to gun violence — because he’s taken this seriously.
Don’t have — I don’t have anything to read out to you at this time. But our office, the Office of Leg Affairs, you know, the Domestic Policy Office — these are things that we have taken very, very seriously.
I’m going to try and take a question from the back because I know — Alex, way back there.
Q Karine, can you discuss what happened with your FAA nominee and what you plan to do next? I mean, obviously, there have been some high-profile incidents, and people are concerned about the safety of our commercial aviation system. So what’s next?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, FAA needs — they need — they need a confirmed administrator, period. Like, that’s what they need. That’s what the country and Americans deserve.
Phil Washington had the right qualifications and experience for this role. A couple of things that you’ve heard me talk about and you’ve heard us talk about more broadly: He’s had — he’s led the Denver International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world; managed large — large safety-focused transportation agencies; and served as Command Sergeant Major in the military. This was a veteran of the military. He was a veteran.
And, you know, there were games that were played on — you know, an onslaught of unfounded Republican attacks on Mr. Washington, on his service, his experience, and which irresponsibly delayed the process, so — including threatening unnecessary procedural hurdles on the Senate floor. That’s what was happening. And so, you know, Senate Republicans’ month-long relentless campaign to sink the nomination of a qualified, again, military veteran.
Our administration believes that his service in uniform is an asset. That should have been an asset.
So, again, we respect Mr. Washington’s decision and are grateful for the time he dedicated to this process and continued commitment to public service.
But again, the FAA needs a confirmed administrati- — administrator here.
Christian, go ahead. I know —
Q Yeah, thanks. I want to ask about this SBA roundtable coming up. There’s been critiques from Republicans that the administration, while they’re — while you guys are addressing all this fraud that we saw during the pandemic with the small business programs, there isn’t enough work being done to modernize the system so that, you know, this moves quickly and smoothly going forward and we don’t have to do this fact-digging process again. Do you have any response to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I do. Look, America’s small business economy is opening again. Right? It’s — it’s growing. And a lot of it is because of the work that this President has done this first two years. 10.5 million applications that we have seen for small businesses. That’s because of the work that we have done, starting with the American Rescue Plan.
And because of how we’ve handled COVID relief, because of how we’ve handled making sure that we have an economy that grows from the middle up and — the bottom up, middle out, we have seen this increase of people going out there trying to start small businesses. We have seen — making sure that people don’t get left behind. And this is because of SBA programs and services.
And just a couple of things.
CBA [SBA] has — they have scaled up its use of technology and centered customer service and experience, increasing accessibility, streamlining processes, and delivering broad support across our programs. And — and because of that, they’ve been able to deliver on these historic outcomes.
So the data shows that SBA has done the work, because of this President’s leadership, to make sure that you see these small businesses growing. And a lot of that is from the beginning of the — the first couple of months that the President walked in, passing the American Rescue Plan — by the way, no Republican voted for.
I know. I know we have to go. I’m going to take one more. I’ll try to go to the back here. Go ahead. Go ahead, Jon.
Q Thanks a lot, Karine. Any chance of the President reaching out to the Tennessee congressional delegation, predominantly Republican, in terms of trying to move legislation forward on the front of gun control, trying to, as you put it, move forward with meaningful gun control?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, don’t have anything to preview at this time. But again, this is — our administration, when it comes to Office of Leg Affairs, when it comes to other White House offices, has taken this very seriously, have had multiple conversations with members of Congress about moving legislation forward to deal with this issue. And that’s not going to end. That’s just going to continue.
Q And then separately, just one final thing on foreign affairs front. The plans that President Putin announced over the weekend to move tactical nukes into Belarus. What is the administration’s reaction to those plans that President Putin announced?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we’re going to continue to monitor the implications. We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture nor any indications that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon. And so, you know, we remain committed to the collective defense of the NATO Alliance, but we have not seen any reason ri- — right now to change or adjust our posture.
All right, guys. I know they’re — we’ll see you on the road tomorrow, and I’ll be back on Wednesday.
2:23 P.M. EDT