Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:27 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Good afternoon, everybody.
All right, let’s get going because I know we’re going to have to end this earlier than usual.
Okay. I see your hand. Give me a second, Ed. I see you.
Okay, as you all know, a bit later this afternoon the President will deliver remarks contrasting his and congressional Republicans’ economic visions for the future. He’ll lay this out at a union facility training workers for the jobs his agenda is creating.
The President’s agenda is fighting inflation, investing in America, which has helped lower prescription drug and insulin costs, created manufacturing jobs, and unleashed $435 billion in private sector investments.
The President’s economic vision reduces the deficit by nearly $3 trillion by asking the super-wealthy and biggest corporations to pay their fair share and cutting wasteful spending on special interests like Big Oil and Big Pharma.
By contrast, just two days ago, as you all saw and covered, Speaker McCarthy went to Wall Street. And instead of telling the wealthy and big corporations to pay their fair share and stop shipping jobs overseas, the Speaker proposed huge cuts to important programs that working- and middle-class Americans rely on.
The Speaker hid the details on — of his proposal by — by — the reality is it would slash education, veterans care, Meals on Wheels, food safety, and so much more, while outsourcing manufacturing and American jobs.
Moreover, for all his talk of fiscal responsibility, they don’t have a real plan to cut the deficit. That’s because House Republicans support over $3 trillion in tax giveaways that overwhelmingly benefit the rich and the biggest corporations.
The President will also call on Speaker — on the Speaker to take default off the table to — so they can take a real — have a real conversation about the budget.
Now, moving to Ukraine. Later today, the Biden-Harris administration will announce a new security assistant package for Ukraine as part of our ongoing efforts to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s brutal invasion.
The announcement, which will come from Depart- — from the Departments of State and Defense, will be the 36th use of presidential daw- — presidential drawdown authorities to support Ukraine. The package will include more ammunition for U.S.-provided HIMARS rocket systems and anti-armor systems, as well as additional artillery rounds.
The United States will continue to work with our allies and partners to help Ukraine defend itself, to defend its democracy and protect its people.
Another thing for today. I am pleased to announce that President Biden will welcome President Pedro Sánchez of Spain to the White House on Friday, May 12th, to deepen the historic ties between the United States and Spain. The two leaders will review our efforts as NATO Allies and close partners to strengthen our bilateral defense relationship, transatlantic security, and economic prosperity.
They will discuss an — our unwavering support for Ukraine and our efforts to impose costs on the Kremlin as Russia continues its brutal war of aggression.
The leaders will also coordinate on a range of issues as Spain prepares to assume the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union in July, including climate change and expanded cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean.
And finally, before we take questions, I’m pleased to share that the President looks forward to welcoming Tennessee State Representative Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson to the White House this coming Monday.
Earlier this month, the President spoke to them by phone after they were subjugated to expulsion votes in the Tennessee statehouse for peacefully protesting in support of stronger gun safety laws following the shooting at Covenant School in Nashville.
During that call, the President thanked them for their leadership in seeking to ban assault weap- — weapons and standing up for the democratic values.
And the three lawmakers thanked the President for his leadership on gun safety and for spotlighting the undemocratic and unprecedented attacks on them in the Tennessee statehouse.
The President looks forward to continuing that discussion when they all meet with — with him on Monday.
With that, Darlene.
Q Ooh, thank you. Excuse me.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Just a little news.
Q Is the White House or the President aware that a federal watchdog is investigating whether the DEA Administrator improperly awarded millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to hire her past associates? Is there any comment on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So that’s the first time I’m hearing this. I would have to check in with — with our colleagues. I just don’t — don’t have anything to share at this time from the podium.
Q Today, on Capitol Hill, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction testified and said specifically that State and USAID have refused to cooperate with his independent oversight of the Afghanistan withdrawal and have stonewalled the investigation. How do you respond to those allegations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So the administration has consistently provided updates and information, and including — I’ll list out a couple of things here — thousands of pages of documents, analysis spreadsheets, and written responses to questions, hundreds of briefings to bipartisan members and also their staff, public congressional testimony by senior officials, all while consistently providing updates and information to numerous — to numerous inspector — inspectors general.
So, again, I would refer you, as I normally do when it comes to stuff like this, to my White House Counsel’s Office for more details on specifics.
But, again, have been consistently providing updates to — to the committee.
Q And just quickly, one more on Sudan. Given that the President said last year that the U.S. is “all in” on Africa, do you foresee the President at any point stepping up his involvement in trying to end hostilities that are going on in Sudan at this point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here — I — I do have a — we do have a statement that we wanted to put out to all of you on an update on Sudan specifically.
Look, we condemn — the United States condemn in the strongest terms violence between the Sudanese Armed Forces — SAF — and the Rapid Support Forces — RSF.
As you’ve heard in today’s joint statement, people across Sudan continue sheltering in place, fearing for their lives, and running low on fuel, food, medicine, and water.
Military operations have resulted in significant civilian deaths and injuries, and are recklessly endangering the Sudanese people, diplomats, humanitarian aid workers, as well.
The toll has been high with initial estimated civilian deaths of more than 270. Access to hospitals and vital medical services have been severely disrupted. Much of this fighting has occurred in urban areas, including Khartoum.
Sudan’s military leaders must engage in dialogue without delay. Their actions across Sudan have placed countless people at risk and set back the Sudanese people’s rightful call for a peaceful democratic transition.
Senior U.S. officials are in direct contact with the leadership of the SAF and also the RSF. We continue to press the RSF and SAF to establish an immediate ceasefire and call on both to ensure all forces adhere to that.
We are consulting very closely with the regional and other partners on this situation. We call on — on SAF and RSF to adhere to international law, renounce violence, and return to negotiations.
The military leadership — General Burhan and Hemeti — are responsible for ensuring the protections of civilians and noncombatants. This includes people from third countries, including our diplomatic personnel working in Sudan and their families, along with humanitarian staff working to save lives.
We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad. We continue to remain in close contact with our embassy in Khartoum and have full accountability of our personnel.
The State Department has been communicating with U.S. citizens who may be in the region about safety measures and other precautions.
Don’t have anything more to share outside of what I just laid out.
Q Thanks, Karine. You said yesterday the stakes could not be higher as the Supreme Court prepares to weigh in on the abortion pill case. Can you give us a sense of how the President is watching this decision today? Who’s briefing him? What is his response?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, his senior advisors will continue to brief him throughout the day. As you just said, this is — this is a high priority. We’re clearly keeping a close eye on this and what the decisions — what decisions may come down from this.
Look, as we know, this — as you just mentioned, the stay — the stay will expire tonight, and we are prepared. We are prepared for any outcome the Supreme Court may — may issue, and we are prepared for a long legal fight if necessary. You’ve heard me say this before.
And we will continue — we will continue to stand with FDA’s evidence-based approval of mifepristone. As we know, that’s been around for more than 20 years. It’s — it’s — it is used in more than 60 countries. And we will continue to support FDA’s independent expert authority to review, approve, and regulate a wide range of prescription drugs.
Again, as you just stated in your question, the stakes could not be higher, and we are going to continue to fight. That is the commitment that this President, this administration has made.
And we are going to continue to protect women’s — women’s reproductive rights. That is something that we have said since the Dobbs decision came down this past — this past summer, in June.
Q You say you’re prepared. Can you give us a sense of what those preparations are in case the stay is not extended? What can you tell American women who are worried about these restrictions going into effect?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, what we can tell American women is that we’re going to continue to fight. We’ve been very clear about that. We feel that the law is on our side here. And clearly, we’re going to wait to see what the Court decisions will be later — later — at some point today. As we know, the deadline — the stay will expire tonight.
But this is something that the President, the Vice President has been very clear on. We are going to continue to fight for women’s reproductive rights. This is something where the majority of Americans agree with us on.
And so, again, this is a fight that we are willing to have, that we will continue to have, and that we have been having. And that’s what the women — millions of women across the country can — can really count on when it — when it comes to this administration.
Q And if I could — just one more specific: Are you looking at prescribing this off-label? Is that something — one of the options that’s on the table?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to — I’m not going to get ahead of — of any — any actions that we will be taking.
What I can say is that we will continue to fight, and we are prepared for whatever decision is made on this today.
Q Just a couple on the debt ceiling. So, Speaker McCarthy is preparing to unveil a plan to lift the debt ceiling. Are you in communication with him about that? That is expected later today, we’re reporting.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So what I can say is we — we’re — we’ve heard that there’s something coming out today — a plan coming out today. Speaker — Speaker McCarthy is engaging in dangerous economic hostage-taking.
You heard directly from the President. He was very clear about this yesterday in the Rose Garden. And taking — and that is threatening, as we all know, hardworking Americans’ jobs and retirement savings and his — and in his plan.
And so it is clear that extreme House Republicans — the MAGA House Republicans — what they want to do. They’ve been very clear about this. They have told us over and over again they want to increase costs for hardworking families, take food assistance and healthcare away from millions of Americans, and increase the debt when combined with House Republicans’ proposal for tax giveaways skewed for the super-rich, special interests, and profitable companies.
And that seems to be their priority. That is what they’ve put forth. And the President was very clear yesterday. He’s like, “What are they doing? What is the MAGA Republicans doing?” Why would the Speaker — like no other Speaker has done this before — “threaten default? Why would he do this?
And so, again, we’ve heard that this is coming out today. But we’ve been very clear about how we see what MAGA Republicans have been doing these past couple of months.
Q And a follow-up. It looks like tax collections may be down. That means that the date in which the — you know, the Treasury runs out of money could be earlier than expected, according to some analysts. Do you have any guidance for us on how quickly that could happen? And then —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So that is something, as you know, the Secretary of Treasury has spoken to, so I would refer to the U.S. Treasury on any — any — any comments on deadlines that — that relates to this.
I’m just not going to comment from here.
Q Okay. And then just some more on the dollar. So yesterday, Jared Bernstein, during the confirmation hearing, said there was some evidence that China wanted to see the, you know, dollar displaced or dislodged as the world’s reserve currency. We’ve had some comments from Brazil in recent days about the dollar — the Chinese currency instead. I mean, how — how concerned are you that debt ceiling default or a U.S. default could lead to trouble with the dollar?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So what I can say is that we’re always monitoring development in this space and ensure we maintain the centrality of the dollar in global financial markets and in the global economy as well.
What I will say is: The primary — the primary focus of the U.S. — or the primary of the U.S. dollar is underpinned by fundamental advantages that the United States has held for a long time and will continue to hold. That includes credible and longstanding commitments for — to transparency and sound government — governance, rule of law, the most liquid financial markets in the world, and the independence of the Federal Reserve system as well.
I’ll leave it there.
Q I know that you’ve said that the White House is prepared to respond to whatever decision comes from the Supreme Court. But if the Supreme Court denies DOJ’s request, how soon do you anticipate having some actual actions to unveil regarding abortion?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get ahead of the — the court decision today.
What I can say — and I think we have shown this — we have been fighting for women’s reproductive rights since the Dobbs decision came — came out back in June, and we’ll continue to fight. And we are prepared. I’m just not going to get ahead of the decision at this time.
Q And should we expect the President to speak on this today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we have to — we have to see what the decision is. I’m just not going to give any more details until we hear what the court is going to say today.
Q And then on the debt ceiling, as was mentioned, House Speaker McCarthy is preparing to unveil this plan — he’s hoping — by the end of today. And one of the proposals is that it wouldn’t be raising it by $1.5 trillion or suspending it until May 31st. Taking aside any spending cuts that they want to include, would the White House support doing a short-term extension for a year?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into the mechanics. What we have been very clear about this is that there should be no negotiation. It’s been — should be done without conditions. We’ve been very, very clear these past several weeks, several months on how we view the debt ceiling and what should be done. It should be — it should be done, again, without conditions.
This is something that both Republicans and Democrats came together in the last administration and did it three times. And when you have a Speaker that is threatening — threatening to default — no other Speaker has done that before.
And — and so, again, they need to do this. There should be no negotiations. They need to do this — they need to do this, again, because it is a constitutional responsibility that they have in Congress.
Q Yeah, following up on the meeting that you announced between President Biden and the three Tennessee state lawmakers, why was it important for the President that they visit the White House and that he sit down with them here? And is there something specific, you know, that he wants to get out of this — this meeting to share with the American public?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the President has been very clear about how important it is to — to take the next steps when it comes to gun — gun reform.
And he saw these three legislators as taking — taking that next step — right? — when calling for — calling for assault wep- — weapons ban, which is incredibly important. He was proud and very — and very — you know, he was appreciative of their efforts and what they were trying to do in the statehouse and how important it is to have that type of (inaudible) — to have those type of voices out there to continue to call on an issue that he’s been talking about not just for the past several months, but for years, which is to ban assault weapons. Right?
And that’s what we know is killing our communities. We see them in our schools. We see them in our churches. And — and we see in — we see them in our places of worship. And this is not — weapons of war should not be on the streets.
And so, he wants to — they had a conversation. He thanked them for speaking out and standing their ground and being very clear about what’s needed for — to protect their communities. And he invited them to here to continue that conversation.
You all asked me: What else is the President going to do? This is another step, right? This is bringing these leaders in a — in a — in a city that was — that was harmed in the most horrible way by a shooting — or a state that was harmed in a horrible way with three kids and three — three administrators being murdered in the school. And now they want to speak out.
And now they’re going to come here, and the President is going to have that conversation. And it’s important to continue to move that conversation in that way.
Q A follow-up up on that, Karine?
Q Thanks, Karine. Just another quick follow-up on the — the three Tennessee lawmakers coming. Are — what are the plans for when they’re here? Are they having an Oval Office meeting with the President? Are they meeting with a larger group? Are they doing an event with the President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we’ll have more to share. Right now, today, I was able to confirm that they will be here on Monday. And as we get closer to Monday, we’ll certainly have more to share on what that’s going to look like. Just don’t have anything at this time.
Q On Senator Dianne Feinstein, the President has obviously known her and worked with her for decades. Has he had an opportunity to talk with her to see how she’s doing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a call to read out at this time.
What I can say is just reiterate what the President has said — and the First Lady — you know, wishing her a speedy recovery. As you know, they put that statement out some time ago.
And also what else he said is that he sees her as a friend. He was very close to — to — very — very close to the senator’s husband as well — late husband, Richard. And they have a close friendship. And they worked, as you just stated, very closely together while he was a senator.
And she has — the work that she has done — I was just talking about banning assault weapons — that was something that he partnered with her on. The work that she has done as senator has made the lives of Americans better.
I don’t have — again, don’t have a call to read out. But this — he has — he has been very thankful for her partnership and her leadership in the Senate over the years.
Q What does the White House believe that Senate Democrats should do now that Senate Republicans have said they’re not going to support temporarily replacing Senator Feinstein on the Senate Judiciary Committee?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just first state that the — this request was made by, as you know, Senator Feinstein. This is something that she had asked for — for the committee, for the Senate to do. And the President will continue to say that he hopes all Senate — senators in both parties really respect and honor her requests.
Look, I kind of said this last — yesterday, and I’ll say it again: It is flat wrong to seek partisan advantage from health issues of a colleague. The American people reject that kind of scorched-earth approach to governing.
And — and so, in order to uphold the rule of law, it is imperative that we move expeditiously without unnecessary delay. And that’s how the President sees this moving forward.
But again, as you know, this was her request. This is something that she asked for.
Q But it appears they’re not going to go along with that request. And this is having a profound impact on the ability of the Senate to confirm the President’s judicial nominees. So what should happen now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we are going to — we’re going to leave that to the Senate. The President has been very clear that they should move forward. This is a request that she asked for, and it is a reasonable request.
And, again, I’m going to leave that to the Senate. And we’re — this should not be a partisan issue. This should just not be a partisan issue.
Q So, how long should this position remain vacant? Is there a point at which, given the number of nominations that are piling up, that the White House believes that it’s the senator’s obligation — given that she’s been gone for a couple months now, has no timeline for returning — that for the good of the people of California and also for her party, it needs to consider next steps?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, it is her decision to make. When it relates to anything about her future, that is for her to make. The President has been very clear about that.
And it is — you know, this is something that the Senate has — all senators have to deal with and not make this a partisan issue. Make it about the — you know, make it about the people. Make it about the people of California, the people across the country.
This is important to move forward. We do — the American people do not want a scorched-earth approach. We’ve been very clear. They were very clear about that when we looked at the midterm results.
And so, again, this should not be a partisan — partisan approach. We have to make sure that these issues are dealt with on behalf of the American people.
Go ahead, Justin.
Q Thanks, Karine. I wanted to ask you about reports that President Macron had asked his top diplomat to meet with his Chinese counterpart and try to come up with a framework for possible peace negotiations related to Ukraine. And I’m wondering if the U.S. is aware of this effort, involved in it, supportive of it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we certainly — I — we’ve heard the reporting, but we haven’t heard anything from — from the French on this, so we have to reach out and get more information. So I’m just not going to get ahead of having that conversation with the French. But certainly, we’ve seen the reports ourselves as well.
Q There’s a report in Politico today that the Problem Solvers Caucus is working on a debt ceiling plan that would see the debt ceiling raised until the next presidential administration but an outside commission set up on fiscal reforms. Is there any White House reaction to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don’t have a reaction to that at this time. What I can say: We — we’ve seen their one-pager. We have a very close and respectful relationship, a good relationship with the Problem Solvers Caucus. I just don’t have a reaction to share at this time.
But you’re familiar with what the President said yesterday. Our position continues to be to not negotia- — negotiate over default. This is something that is the responsibility, the obligation of congressional members. They were able to do this three times in the last administration.
And — and so, again, this has been something that both parties have been able to come together to take — to get done, and so that’s what we would like to see.
Q A last quick one. You said — you were asked yesterday about Justice Thomas’s ethics questions. And you said you were going to be very careful not to comment on it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q And I’m wondering if you could tease out why you’re going to be very careful not to comment on it. Is the basic calculus, which I think people might understand, that you don’t feel like weighing in on these ethical issues or pushing for reforms is worth possibly alienating the Supreme Court?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, we just — I’m just not going to comment on it. Really, I’m just not going to comment on it from here.
Q Karine, the President has been pretty consistent when he’s been asked about this debt ceiling fight and potential negotiations with Republican leadership that he wants to see them put forward a budget before that happens. Are we getting closer now, with what the Speaker is putting out today and with the potential vote in the House next week, to seeing both parties having at least conversations in person, beginning a process by which there might be discussion?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, you — you saw the readout that the President had a conversation with Leader Schumer and Jeffries.
And what they said was very clear: We won’t negotiate over default. Republicans should pass a clean bill like they did three times in the previous administration, as I’ve just stated over and over again.
And as the President said, the President is ready to have a separate conversation, as you just laid out, Emily, about the budget once Republicans present their plan.
And we just haven’t seen that. We have not seen a detailed plan that — not just presented to the President, but to present to the American people.
Again, we’re just not going to negotiate over default. This is something that they need to get done, and they need to get done just like they did in the previous administration.
Q This has largely been a messaging and political battle at this point. But I’m wondering if you can speak to what preparations might be being undertaken behind the scenes within the administration about the potentially severe consequences of a default? We are potentially as quick as two months away from seeing this. What is the President being briefed on about contingencies about what might happen in the event of a default?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I — you know, I’m going to — you said “messaging and political battle.” Look, this is — this is their congressional — like, this is their duty. This is something that they have to get done. This is something that Republicans should not be holding hostage our nation. It is something that should not be happening.
And so, we’re calling them out, these MEGA Rep- — MAGA Republicans, these House Republicans. We’re calling them out for something that they were — easily were able to do in the last administration.
So I don’t want the American people thinking that this is just some messaging — a political battle. No, this is the right thing to do. This is their duty as congressional members in the House to get this done.
On your second question, I just don’t have anything to share from here.
Q And then one more quick question. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., today announcing his candidacy for president, potentially challenging the President for renomination.
I’m wondering — obviously, from that podium, you’re limited in what you can say about politics. But the President just spent some time with Joseph Kennedy III last week, spoke with Ethel Kennedy. He has other Kennedys within the administration. Have you had a chance to speak with the President about his reaction to this potential candidacy now announced by RFK Jr.?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So it’s 2024. The Hatch Act. I’m just not going to touch that with a 12-foot pole.
Q The President hasn’t offered a personal reaction?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to — I’m not going to touch that with a 12-foot pole.
Thank you. Go ahead.
Q Oh, thanks so much, Karine. Just on the debt ceiling quickly, you’ve been very, very clear today, in previous days that the President wants a clean debt ceiling — a clean vote on the debt ceiling. But can you talk about whether he would want an amount — the debt ceiling to be raised an amount or by, like, a date?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I’m not going to get into the details. This is something that they should do. They should raise the debt ceiling. This is something that the House Republicans need to get done. I’m not going to get into specifics.
Q But is there a preference about —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I’m just not —
Q — the way in which they do it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to get into specifics from here.
What we can lay out is what the House Republicans have told us thus far that they want to do, that they have been very clear about, which is devastating cuts to veterans and education; as I’ve mentioned before, taking food assistance and healthcare away from millions of people; sending manufaca- — manufacturing jobs overseas or manufacturing overseas, which means outsourcing good-paying jobs to countries, including China; and increasing energy costs while increasing the deficit. This is what they have said and laid out that they want to do. And — and, let’s not forget, defund law enforcement and border security.
So that’s what we’re going to call out. They need to get this done. This is their duty, their congressional duty — constitutional duty, to be even more specific and accurate. And they have to get this done. They did it three times in the last administration.
Q And just have a really quick question, if I may. President Putin has visited Ukraine twice in about a month. Can you say anything about what that might signal about the coming spring offensive and how the U.S. interprets his decision to make those two visits?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I know he visited the Donbas region very recently.
Look, we’ve been very clear Russia has no legitimate or legal claim to these sovereign Ukrainian territories. We’ve been very clear about that, and we’ll continue to restate that. That’s why we will continue as well to support Ukraine, the Ukrainian government.
There’s going to be a PDA that’s going to be announced by my colleagues at the Department of Defense, so I’ll refer you to that.
And, you know, Mr. Putin’s visit seems like an indication that they know things aren’t going well for Russia. They know that. Mr. Putin seems to know that very clearly. He is likely trying to shore up his own populace since he knows his military is underperforming and struggling to achieve its objectives through this invasion that we have seen them do for this past year.
Q Thank you. As you know, the U.S. has now surpassed China in becoming India’s largest trading partner. And the U- — India-U.S. bilateral trade is now touching around $200 billion a year; last year, it was what $192 billion.
Do you know when President Biden went to India as the Vice President of this country, he had set a goal of having the bilateral trade to around $500 billion a year. Does the President still believe in that goal? And what steps is the administration is taking to reach that goal of India-U.S. bilateral trade of $500 billion a year?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say more broadly: As you know, the United States and India have a strong bilateral relationship, and that’s including trade as well — trade relationship.
We’re committed to continuing working together and in groups like the Quad to advance economic growth for our two countries and expand cooperation of our shared priorities. And that is a commitment that is — that you can — that you can — that you can know that that is coming from the United States.
Go ahead, Peter.
Q Thanks, Karine. Sixty-nine percent of people polled by CNBC say they have a negative view of the economy. President Biden talks about the economy all the time. Why —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He talks about — oh.
Q Why aren’t people buying it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He talks about the economy all the time because he wants the American people to know that he’s doing everything that he can to make sure that he’s — that his policies that he’s put forward that have shown that he’s building an economy that doesn’t leave anybody behind; it builds an economy from the bottom up, middle out.
And he also talks about the economy. And when you hear him talk about the economy, he talks about how he’s prioritizing, making sure that we lower inflation. And that is where the American people are, meeting them where they are. He’s going to continue to have that conversation. He understands how important that is for Americans and American families. And so, he’ll never shy away from that.
I know you’re reading a poll right now; that is one poll. But he’s not going to stop talking about what the American people really care about, which is: What are we doing here to make sure that we are addressing the issues and the concerns that they have?
Q Okay, on China: China is setting up police stations in the U.S. There’s more proof now that they created COVID. There’s reason to think that there were more spy balloons than the White House has said. Why is it taking so long for President Biden to call Xi and tell him to cut it out?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We have said over and over again that the President intends to call President Xi.
I don’t have a call to read out to you at this time.
Look — and we’ve said this before — we — we believe it’s important to maintain open lines of communication with China. We believe that it is a — it is a — an important bilateral relationship, the U.S.-China relationship, even as we’re talking about strategic competition with China. And so that has not changed. We’re going to continue to move forward in that way.
Q And then one more. So, Monday, you’re going to have three of the lawmakers who protested after —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Peace- — peacefully protested.
Q — who peacefully protested after the Nashville Covenant School shooting. Have any of the victims or the victims’ families been invited to the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to read out to you about any invite.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don’t have anything at this time to read out to you — any invite.
What I can say to you right now is that the President is focused on getting things done. He’s focused on making sure that we are protecting our communities, that we’re protecting our schools, that we’re protecting our churches, we’re protecting our grocery — grocery stores. That people, as we know, in Buffalo went to the grocery on a Saturday and got murdered. Ten of them were murdered. We see what’s happening in our schools.
And that’s why he’s bringing these legislators here to have that conversation and to see what else can be done and to highlight that. That’s what the President is using the bully pulpit for. That’s why he continues to put pressure on Congress to get things done, make sure that they’re showing some courage — Republicans in Congress — to make sure that we’re banning assault weapons.
And so, we cannot have weapons of war in our streets. We cannot have weapons of war in our schools. And so, that’s why he’s bringing them there. He’s bringing him here to continue that conversation.
All right. Go ahead, April.
Q Karine, three topics. One, Tennessee —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Three topics? (Laughter.)
Q Yes, ma’am.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s been a while, huh?
Q Been a minute.
Tennessee legislative time has been truncated. What was the President’s thoughts about that? As the governor had said that he wanted to move forward with even red-flag laws, and now Republicans truncated that time that was supposed to be longer — a couple of weeks longer — and it now ends Friday of this week.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you say the beginning of the question? I’m so sorry. What —
Q I’m sorry.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m sorry.
Q What are the President’s thoughts about the Tennessee Legislative Assembly time being truncated, cut short —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Got you.
Q — after the governor had said that he wanted red-flag laws and maybe even wanted to compromise with some other things? And now it seems like they may get the budget done and nothing else.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, it’s — look, it is — it is shameful and unfortunate what Republicans — what we see these MAGA Republicans in Congress and across the country and statehouses are doing on an issue — again, I just laid this out for Peter — on an issue that is so important to the American people.
It is — gun violence is an epidemic in our country. It’s killing our kids. Guns are the number-one killer of our children. And it’s only going up.
We should be doing — as adults, we should be doing everything that we can to protect our children. That is on us to do. This is a President that has taken action after action after action to do just that: to protect our community.
But as we understand, as you all know, it takes legislation to continue the work. That’s why we’re asking Congress to do more. That’s why we’re calling on House Republicans to do more.
And we should see that same type of action in statehouses as well.
Q And next question: Do you know of any movements, any efforts to extradite the suspects in the Shanquella Robinson murder?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any information on that.
Q Okay. And —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would refer you to the Department of Justice.
Q And lastly, what are the efforts by this administration — as the nation is waiting to find out the decision on affirmative action in the Supreme Court, what are the next steps? Because, you know, the thought is that it will be overturned — affirmative action.
It could have tentacles not only just in that case but in the historic Brown v. Board and in other pieces of affirmative action and DEI around the nation.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So what I can say is the President supports making higher education access- — accessible to all Americans.
As the Department of Justice argued in court, it is important that our colleagues and universities produce graduates who are from all segments of society, who are prepared to succeed — to succeed, and lead an increasingly diverse nation.
The Supreme Court reaffirmed this less than a decade ago in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, and it should do so again.
Q But, again, it has — it has tentacles beyond education into the broader society — workplace, et cet- — into the broader society, workplace, et cetera. What does the President say about that as he stood to run on equity and inclusion?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And — and you said it right there, April: He stood to run on equity and inclusion. And he has shown that throughout his administration.
One of the first executive orders that he signed was to make sure we saw that — that type of diversity that — that was — that was — we were leading with diversity in our different agencies and departments. And that is what the executive order that he — one of the first executive orders that he signed: make sure that the federal government was leading with that lens and was taking action to make sure that there is inclusion and diversity.
So he has walked the talk. And so — and so the President is — something that he has always said: He’s going to make sure that no one gets left behind.
As we’re talking — as we ta- — I’ve talked numerous times about his in- — his economic policies. He does that. And any other policies that he’s put forward to make sure that, again, no one gets left behind, that we’re making sure there’s inclusion and diversity at the center of everything that he does.
I got to move around.
AIDE: Karine, we got to move.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, go ahead, Ed.
Q Yeah, thanks, April. I — I mean, thanks —
Q April? That’s —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: April?
Q Yeah, thanks, Karine. (Laughs.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: April, you’re up here now. All right, come on up, April.
Q I’m on my way. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, you ready?
Q So I want to — I want to ask about gas prices.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Switch — let’s switch sides.
Q Let’s switch — switch to the economy, this idea —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q — gas prices. The price of gas has been inching up 24 cents over the past month. Are there any new actions the President is going to take now to bring gas prices down for the summer?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as just — as a reminder, gas prices are not where they were a year ago because of the actions that this President has taken. They have gone down by $1.30 since the summer — again, because of what the President has done.
I was being asked about why the President talks about the economy. Because he wants to make sure that the American people know the work that he’s been doing and how he has put inflation number one — as — number-one thing that he wants to get done as it relates to the economy.
And time and time again, we have seen — we have seen analysts’ predictions proven wrong.
And so, look, the President has been clear that he will do everything that he can to continue to lower — lower costs for the American people, and that includes calling on oil and gas companies to use the permits and profits available to them to increase production, which is already on track to reach a record high this year.
I don’t have any additional actions to provide to you. I’m being told that we have to go because the President is going to be leaving shortly. And all you guys — and all you have to leave.
Q Just quickly, then — where that meets inflation. So core inflation is basically flat, and if we see gas price inflation come back into it, how concerned is the President that inflation will then come back up?
And we’ve seen him resist policy pivots. Are there any concerns or lo- — is there any examples of the President possibly looking at policy pivots for the future?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we’re always monitoring gas prices, which we know are a key part of families’ budgets, which is why the President has done the work that he has.
Again, gas prices are not where they were a year ago. They have gone down since its — the highest peak this past summer.
And we have always said it will take some time for inflation to come down. And we may see bumps in the roads, but that’s why lowering costs and fighting inflation remains the President’s top priority.
That’s why the Inflation Reduction Act is important. That’s why the Bipartisan Infrastructure — Infrastructure legislation is so important. That’s why the CHIPS and Science act is so important.
All of these are part of the President’s economic policies to make sure that we meet the American people where they are.
And bye, everybody. I’ll see you tomorrow. (Laughter.)
Q Thanks, Karine.
1:07 P.M. EDT