Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Olivia Dalton En Route Fridley, MN
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Fridley, Minnesota
12:41 P.M. EDT
MS. DALTON: Okay, good afternoon, everyone. As part of President Biden’s Investing in America tour, President — the President is traveling today to Fridley, Minnesota, to visit a Cummins factory that manufactures electrolyzers, which produce clean hydrogen. This is the first Cummins factory in the United States that will manufacture electrolyzers, an announcement made just two months after Pres- — the President signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law.
This factory is helping to bring the supply chain for fuel-efficient engines and vehicles back to the U.S. and is employing hundreds of workers with good-paying jobs that they can raise a family on. It’s part of the $2 billion that companies have inve- — announced they will invest in Minnesota since President Biden took office.
Cummins also builds engines. In fact, over half of all medium- and heavy-duty trucks in the United States use Cummins engines.
And today, Cummins is announcing a $1 billion investment to upgrade factories in Indiana, North Carolina, and New York so that they can manufacture lower carbon and zero-emissions engines. This investment will help retain thousands of manufacturing and engineering jobs, and create hundreds of new jobs.
Also today, the First Lady is visiting Colorado and Michigan, part of a four-state tour to highlight programs that are preparing high school and community college students for jobs created by the President’s Investing in America agenda.
And Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is traveling to New Mexico to highlight how the President’s agenda will ensure every single American has access to affordable, reliable high-speed Internet.
Finally, on Thursday, the President — Vice President will travel to Georgia to highlight more — more of the $435 billion in private-sector manufacturing investments and good-paying jobs unleashed by the President’s Investing in America —
MS. DALTON: Okay, I’m going to shout.
Q Yeah, you —
MS. DALTON: Shout.
Before we get to questions, I also just wanted to sha- — say a few words since we’re coming off another weekend of devastating storms. Initial reports indicate that more than 50 tornadoes tore through multiple states, destroying homes, leveling businesses, and taking dozens of lives.
Early Sunday morning, President Biden approved an expedited major disaster declaration to quickly get federal assistance to Arkansas. He also made multiple calls throughout the weekend, including to Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Delaware Governor John Carney, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, and Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb to offer federal assistance. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell was on the ground in Arkansas yesterday, and FEMA personnel are deployed across the impacted states.
As President Biden said this weekend, we will be there for these communities every step of the way as they recover and rebuild, and we stand ready to respond to any additional requests for federal assistance.
Finally, the big news from NASA today is just out. Yesterday, President Biden called to congratulate NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, and Christina Hammock Koch, as well as Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen, who will venture around the Moon on the Artemis II mission in 2024.
The President thanked the astronauts for their service and for inspiring countless people around the U.S. and around the world. He also spoke to the children of the astronauts.
The crew, which is the first to fly around the Moon in more than 50 years, will include the first woman, the first person of color, and the first international crew member on a lunar mission.
The flight will build upon the successful uncrewed Artemis I mission completed in December and will set the stage for the first woman and person of color to land on the Moon through the Artemis program, while paving the way for future long-term human — human exploration missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.
Better? Did you get that?
Q I still can’t — I could hear pieces.
MS. DALTON: I’m doing my best to shout.
So, who wants to kick us off here?
Q There’s a — go ahead.
Q Thank you. Okay. On the arraignment tomorrow, is the White House concerned about, you know, the potential for unrest?
Sorry. Is the White House concerned about the potential for unrest tomorrow in New York City? Are there any additional law enforcement heading there or anything like that?
MS. DALTON: I’m just not going to comment on the case itself, as is our standard practice. I will say, you know, of course we — any time somebody — the American people exercise the right to protest, we encourage people to remain peaceful. We believe they should remain peaceful.
But I’m not going to engage on any, you know, hypotheticals around this.
Q And then on the Wall Street Journal reporter, I just wondered what’s next after Blinken met with Lavrov. What — what’s next in the — in the procedure? How are — how is the negotiation going?
MS. DALTON: Well, first let me say that we continue to think about Evan and his family and keep them in our thoughts, first and foremost.
As you saw yesterday, Secretary Blinken spoke with his counterpart — counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, and communicated directly to him that Evan’s detention is unacceptable. We continue to seek his immediate release. These charges are ridiculous. And we want to see consular access to Evan as soon as possible.
Q Is the President watching any of the Trump coverage on TV? Is the President watching any of the Trump coverage on television?
MS. DALTON: I don’t have anything on that.
Q Anything on the NBC report that the Chinese spy balloon actually absorbed a lot more intelligence than you all have led on?
MS. DALTON: As the Pentagon said before, the surveillance balloon, we believe, had limited ability to collect any additional — much additional intelligence beyond what could be collected through other surveillance means, and I just don’t have anything beyond that to add.
Q Is the President worried at all about kind of, like, the indictment and all the news headlines today stealing some of the thunder from this trip and, you know, kind of the — the three-week, you know, tour?
MS. DALTON: The President is focused on delivering for the American people. That’s what he wakes up and thinks about every single day.
We’re on our way to Minnesota, where we’re talking about the Invest in America tour, not just all of the — the action that we’ve taken through the Inflation Reduction Act, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to invest in America, deliver hard — good-paying jobs to hardworking Americans, to bring manufacturing and supply chains back home, but he is also talking about all the ways in which we’ve created an ecosystem for the private sector to invest in America as well. You know, $435 billion in private sector investments over the last two years. So that’s what he’s focused on today.
Q On the debt ceiling, some of the moderate Democrats are working on an alternative — are reportedly working on an alternative compromise. What does the President think about that? Is he okay with an alternative kind of debt compromise that’s been reported?
MS. DALTON: The President has been very clear on his view on the — on the debt limit: It is the responsibility — the constitutional obligation of Congress to raise and address the debt limit. There is just simply no excuse for holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage, especially as we come through the recent — you know, events of recent days in the banking sector.
This is something that has to be addressed. It has to be addressed — addressed swif- — swiftly. It’s something that Congress has done on a bipartisan basis 78 times since 1960, and it should be no different this time around.
Q Without commenting on the specifics of the case, there are still public reports that there’s going to be widespread protests in New York. Can you just say whether or not the administration is deploying any additional federal support from a law enforcement standpoint?
MS. DALTON: We’re always prepared, but I’m just not going to engage in hypotheticals beyond that.
Q That’s not a hypothetical, though. Just, like, as of right now, has the administration deployed any federal law enforcement to support them?
MS. DALTON: I have nothing to share on that. We’re always prepared though.
Q Does the White House support Speaker McCarthy’s meeting this Wednesday with the Taiwanese President? And has there been any coordination between the White House and the Speaker’s office ahead of that?
MS. DALTON: Look, I would refer you to the Speaker’s office and to President Tsai’s office for any details on a potential meeting. What I would say is that these are very routine transits. President Tsai has transited the United States six times since 2016. And, you know, there’s plenty of precedent for exactly this kind of transit.
Beyond that, with respect to meeting with the Speaker’s office, I just have to refer you there.
Q Any update on whether you’ve seen any signs of a response from China?
MS. DALTON: Look, I — our message has been very clear on this. As I just said, these are routine transits. Every — you know, every — pretty much every year in the last seven years, the President of Taiwan has transited the United States. And so there’s just no reason for there to be any sort of overreaction or for the PRC to react any differently this time around.
Q How concerned are you that the OPEC+ cu- — production cuts will impact the U.S. economy? And do you think OPEC+ is trying to undermine the American economy?
MS. DALTON: Look, you’d have to ask Saudi Arabia or OPEC about their motives here. But this was an OPEC+ decision, not a decision by any particular country.
And I would say that while my colleagues have already been on the record talking about the ways in which we — we believe that this is, you know, an unadvisable decision to make, given the — given instability in the market, we also belie- — are focused on what the impact is to American consumers, first and foremost — what are the prices for American consumers, not barrels per day.
So what we’ve seen over the past year is prices at the pump have come down by $1.50 per gallon. We’ve seen the price of crude come down by $30 per barrel over the same time period. And our focus is going to remain on making sure that energy markets are able to support a growing economy and keep prices down for — for Americans as they head to the pump.
Q We were just in — we were just in Mississippi. Is the fed- — is the federal government spread thin at this point when it comes to disaster management?
Q What was the question?
Q If the —
MS. DALTON: The question was whether the — how the government is responding — how the administration is responding to all of these natural disasters that we’ve seen.
And certainly, you’ve seen FEMA deploy both Senator — Administrator Criswell on the ground in Mississippi last weekend, with the President on Friday again, and this weekend in Arkansas.
Certainly, the devastation has been — has been tragic, devastating, heartbreaking for all of the communities that have been impacted.
But I think you’ve seen the administration respond in a really robust way already on the ground and Mississippi: the SBA, HUD, FEMA, you know, all of these agencies coming together to support these communities. And the President’s continued message to all of these communities that have been impacted is that we will work with you; we will stay by your side until you’re back on your feet and recovered.
Q On OPEC+, just — is — what can — how can — can the United States do anything, or what will the United States do in response? What steps can be taken from the United States?
MS. DALTON: Well, look, again —
Q What was the question?
MS. DALTON: It was if there will be some sort of response with respect to OPEC+.
Look, I think I would just reiterate what I said before, which is that, yes, we believe that the cuts announced today were inadvisable, but our focus is on the impact to the American consumer. And we’ve seen over the past year gas prices come down by $1.50 at the pump, crude prices come down $30 a barrel.
And so, our focus is going to be on working with producers to make sure that ene- — you know, energy markets are capable of supporting economic growth and keeping costs down for consumers. That’s what our focus is going to be.
And I think with respect to, you know — did you specifically mention Saudi Arabia?
Q Go ahead. Yeah.
MS. DALTON: I heard somebody mention Saudi Arabia.
You know, our relationship — our bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia is about advancing — like every bilateral relationship, is about advancing our foreign policy agenda and delivering for the American people.
In this case, that relates to keeping prices down for American people and also enhancing Middle East security. And I think on that score, you’ve seen not just — again, I just mentioned a couple of moments ago the way that gas prices have come down over the past year but also the way that we’ve been able to work with Saudi Arabia on, you know, normalizing relations between Israel and its Middle Eastern counterparts, on making sure that we — trying to extend the one-year truce that has already occurred in Yemen.
And so, there are critical areas that we will continue to work with Saudi Arabia on. That doesn’t mean we’re going to agree on everything. Right? But there are these critical pieces that we’ll continue to pursue.
Q So no consequences then? No consequences for Saudi Arabia?
MS. DALTON: Again, my point is on this really, Steve, that our focus is on what serves the interests of the American people. Right? What serves the interests of the American people. And what serves the interests of the American people here is the work that we’ve already done to bring down gas prices at the pump and to keep working toward a secure and stable Middle East.
Q There’s a piece of legislation on OPEC. It would allow — it was recently reintroduced. It’ll allow the U.S. to sue OPEC members. Does the White House support that?
MS. DALTON: I don’t have anything to announce on this newly introduced legislation today.
Q When was the last time the President talked to McCarthy?
MS. DALTON: You know, I have to go check my notes on that, actually. So, let me take that back and get back to you on that.
But let me just say I think the crucial point here is, you know, Speaker McCarthy came in in January and said that, you know, the first pri- — priority of the House Republican majority would be to put forward a budget — to pass a budget.
And here we are, in April, nearly a month after President Biden introduced a detailed budget outlining how he was going to lower costs for Americans, continue investing in the country, continuing on our economic progress, and reduce the deficit by $3 trillion over the next 10 years. And House Republicans just went on a two-week congressional break without releasing a budget.
And so, you know, I think we continue to be interested in seeing House Republicans put forward a budget so we have a basis for a conversation.
Q The Wall Street — you sort of said this to Colleen, but is there another meeting scheduled in terms of the detained Wall Street Journal reporter? Is there actually any call or meeting on the books?
MS. DALTON: I don’t have any call or meeting to preview for you at this point, but obviously you saw Secretary Blinken speaking to Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday and communicating very directly our — our view that Evan’s detainment — detention is unacceptable and that he needs to be released immediately.
12:55 P.M. EDT