James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:35 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi, everybody.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Join us, Weijia. Join us, join us.
Let me first congratulate the White House Correspondent Association for a very successful, wonderful weekend. I want to also thank the President, Tam — she’s not here today — Tamara Keith, for her wonderful speech and a wonderful evet- — event and evening. And with that, I’ll start.
On Friday evening, a nine-year-old child was murdered along with four others in yet another shocking, horrific act of gun violence in America, this time in Cleveland, Texas.
Two of the women killed were discovered on top of surviving children and appeared to be shielding them from gunfire. In all, five people were murdered by an individual armed with a powerful AR-15-style rifle.
As the manhunt for the suspected assailant continues, we urge the public to heed all guidance from law enforcement officials and stay safe.
Federal law enforcement agencies have been providing assistance and support to local law enforcement as they work to respond to this tragedy and lo- — and locate the suspect.
The President was briefed on the shooting on Saturday morning, and he and the First Lady are praying for those killed in the attack, for their surviving loved ones, and for the broader Cleveland community.
The Pre- — but the President believes prayers alone are not enough. Congress must act, because what makes tragedies like this one all the more heart-wrenching is the fact that it is entirely within our power to take these weapons of war off our streets.
The majority of Americans and the majority of gun owners support commonsense measures to reduce gun violence. The President continues to believe that Congress must act without delay. It’s not too late to save lives and prevent the next mass shooting.
Now, as you all know, this afternoon, the President and the First Lady welcomed His Excellency Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., President of the Republic of the Philippines, and First Lady Louise Araneta-Marcos to the White House.
The President is currently hosting President Marcos for a bilateral meeting.
The two leaders will announce a range of new opportunities to deepen business, investment, and infrastructure cooperation; invest in the clean-energy transition and the fight against climate change; and to cooperate on education and human rights.
The President will also reaffirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines, including in the South China Sea, and the leaders will discuss our countries’ work to modernize the U.S.-Philippines alliance.
They will also discuss regional matters and coordinate on effort to uphold international law and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.
We’ll have a factsheet out later this afternoon on the specific deliverables we’re announcing as part of this visit, as well as a joint statement from the two leaders.
And finally, President Biden issued a presidential proclamation declaring May Mental Health Awareness Month to honor the tens of millions of Americans living with mental health conditions and celebrate their loved ones and the mental health professionals who provide them with the care they need.
Tackling the mental health crisis is a key priority for the President, who outlined his plans to tackle our mental health crisis in his first State of the Union Address.
He called for a major transformation in how mental health is undersc- — understood, accessed, treated, and integrated in and out of healthcare settings.
As part of that effort, this administration has launched 988, a National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline that people can call if they are faced with a crisis, and a separate Maternal Mental Health Hotline to help mothers navigate mental health issues; passed historic laws that further require insurers to cover mental health care; hired tens of thousands of school-based mental health professionals; expanded access to mental health care for service members and veterans; and provided historic resources to expand access to prevention and treatment for mental health and substance use disorders.
Now, to kick off the month, HHS launched FindSupport.gov, a website that he- — that people can go to to find resources and help you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health challenge.
And yesterday, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy also announced in a New York Times op-ed that his team will launch a national framework to rebuild social connection and community in America.
Mental health challenges can affect anyone, regardless of race, gender, politics, or income.
The President has said that we are all in this together. So this month and every day, let’s all take care of ourselves and our loved ones. Together, we will keep fighting to keep — to get everyone access to the care they need to live full and happy lives.
And last week, President Biden issued a presidential proclamation declaring Mental Health Awareness Month, as I mentioned already, and I also mentioned the Vivek Murthy New York Times.
The last thing I want to say is: Mental health challenges can affect anyone, regardless of race, gender, politics, or income. And the COVID-19 pandemic made challenges for many people even harder due to isolation and trauma.
If you are facing a crisis, dial 988 to reach immediate and confidential help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or visit FindSupport.gov.
The President has said that — that we are all in this together, as I mentioned already.
And so, with that, Darlene, please kick us off.
Q Thank you. Two questions. What is the White House view of Speaker McCarthy’s visit to Israel, especially given that the issue of judicial overhaul there has not been resolved? And can you also say — I know the President — the Speaker and the President haven’t spoken about budget issues, but has the White House — was the White House –did the White House brief Speaker McCarthy before his trip, or any — any officials?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any — any — we don’t have any readout or engagement to read out at this time.
Look, I’m not going to get into the Speaker’s trip or — to Israel. As we know, that is not unusual for a Speaker to travel outside of the country, to travel to a country like Israel.
We have seen comments that the Speaker has made. And so, we’ll let — we’ll let him speak to his attentions, but I’m not — intentions — but I’m not going to dive into the trip more broadly. That’s for — something for the Speaker to speak to.
Q On the visit of President Marcos, can you talk a little bit about — he arrived at the South Portico. There was an honor guard. Some leaders come here and they come through the West Wing entrance. Others get a grand arrival like the South Korean President did last week.
Marcos — President Marcos seems to be somewhere in the middle. What message is the President trying to send —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I want to be —
Q — with that welcome?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I want to be very clear. This — this meeting that — the bilat that they’re currently havening [sic] — happening between the two heads of states, it’s about strengthening our important alliance with the Philippines, which has been a force for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific for over 70 years.
You know, our work together will allow our alliance to operate more effectively not only for the defense of the Philippines but for the good of the region, such as the — the — respond to natural disasters, as I mentioned at the top. Climate change is important as well.
We have shared with the Philippines for decades common interests, values, and commitment to regional stability and security.
Every trip is different. This one, as you just laid out — the welcoming was different. I don’t have anything specific to — any explanation.
As you know, there is a lot of conversation — diplomatic conversation between the two — the two governments when they come visit and what the agenda is going to be, how — how the different — what the itinerary is going to look like. I just don’t have anything specific to your question, Darlene.
Go ahead, Mary.
Q Thank you. On First Republic, is this it? Are you bracing for more banks to fail?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me lay out a couple of things, as we haven’t really had an opportunity to speak to this on the record.
So, as you saw, today’s actions ensure the continued resilience of the banking system, including at community and other banks — which are vital to the American economy — small businesses, and workers as well.
All First Republic insured and uninsured deposits are being assumed by JPMorgan Chase. The American people and American businesses can continue to have confidence that their deposits will be there if they need them.
At the same time, these actions are being taken in a manner that ensures that the First Republic, which was severely mismanaged, is being held accountable.
While depositors are being protected, shareholders will continue — contin- — entire- — will entirely lose their investments.
And in addition, no taxpayer dollars will be used to facilitate this action. Any losses associated with a resolution of First Republic will be borne by fees on banks and not by taxpayers.
Going forward, the President has been clear that he — that we must be — or do more to ensure the continued resilience of the banking system.
The President has called on Congress to take additional action to ensure that regulators have the tools they need to hold the executives of failed institutions accountable. And he has called on regulators to reverse a series of steps taken during the prior administration to relax regulation and supervision of large regional banks like Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, and now First Republic.
Look, we wanted to make sure, the President wanted to make sure that any losses will be borne by fees on banks and not taxpayers. That was a directive that the President gave, and that is the action that you have seen the FDIC take and regulators.
Q The President today also said we have to be able to make sure that we’re not back in this position again, saying “I think we’re well on our way to be able to make that assurance.”
Beyond, you know, calling on Congress to take these steps, as you just mentioned, what steps are you taking to avoid this from happening again. I guess, why so confident?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we are — we are very confident because we have put forward tools — five — five specific tools that I can speak to — that the President wanted to make sure that were out there.
Again, we have taken decisive and forceful actions these past several weeks to make sure that — that — that the banking system is — is in a — is in a — you know, is in a stable position. And that’s what you’ve seen this — this administration do.
Look, first, the FDIC quickly took control of Silicon Valley Bank’s and Signature Bank’s assets and protected all depositors at both banks without putting taxpayer dollars at risk.
Second, the Fed’s new lending facility is helping banks meet the needs of all of their depositors.
Fourth, the President called for regulators to reverse steps taken during the prior administration to weaken regulation and supervision of larger — of large regional banks, as I mentioned before — Silicon Valley, Signature Bank, and First Republic.
And, of course, the FDIC’s resolution of First Republic today protected all depositors as well.
So these are the tools that we have in our toolbelts to prevent this from happening again.
But as you have seen over the last couple of weeks, we have taken decisive and force- — and forceful actions. And of course, we’re going to be continuing to monitor this.
This is something that the FDIC is monitoring. But at the direction of the President, his economic team has made sure that, again, depositors and families and American families are not — are not paying for — for mistakes from these banks.
Q And just one more. Right now, the FDIC’s standard limit is $250,000. We’re seeing growing support for raising that insurance cap. Is that something the President supports?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President has — he has proposed a number of concrete steps to strengthen our banking system. He’s called for regulators to reverse the steps taken, as I mentioned, and he’s called for Congress to take action — additional action — so to ensure that regulators have the tools that they need, on top of the tools that he’s put forward.
And — and the President economic team is certainly reviewing. There’s an FDIC report that I’m sure that you’ve seen on deposit insurance. And so, we’re going to — the team is going to review that, and we’ll hopefully have more to share.
Go ahead, Weijia.
Q Thanks, Karine. On March 13th, after the SVB collapse, we heard almost verbatim the President say what he said today with regard to calling on Congress to give regulators the tools to hold executives accountable, with regard to regulators strengthening regulations, with regard to making sure this does not happen again. And here we are again.
So I’ve just — can you clarify, between March 13th and today, what has changed, if anything? Have any of those tools gotten sharper? And how has he reached out to Congress?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. The First Republic — the First Republic, the Silicon Valley Bank, and the Signature each faced unique — very, very unique vulnerabilities. So, I just want to put that out there.
And since our administration has taken decisive and, again, forceful actions, we have seen — we have seen deposit flow stabilize at regional banks. So that is important — because of those tools that I just laid out and because we took actions very quickly. And we’ve seen stronger-than-expected earnings at many banks, including regional banks.
So, the actions, again, that we’ve taken has helped. These were unique situations, the three banks that — that you all have been following, clearly, and that I just mentioned.
And again, we’re going to continue to monitor this situation. This is something that FDIC — this is a process that they have taken, that they have monitored. And we just want to make sure that the depositors are not the ones who are — who are — who have to pay the bill — or taxpayers, right?
And so, we’re going to continue to do the work that we’ve been doing these past several weeks.
Q But for mid- and large-sized banks, has anything changed with regard to the power of the tools that existed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We think — I mean, I just laid out we think the tools are indeed working. The three banks have had unique vulnerabilities, and I just laid those out.
We’ve seen deposit flow stabilize at regional banks, but we also have seen stronger-than-expected earnings at many banks, that include the regional banks.
So we see that the process that has been put in place, the tools that have been put in place, has actually been working. This is not 2008. This is a very, very different time than — than 2008.
Q And just one more on the debt ceiling, because McCarthy, in Israel — Speaker McCarthy, I should say, reiterated yet again that “We will not pass a debt ceiling that just raises it without doing something about our debt,” talking about the need for negotiation.
I know your position that you’re — you know, that this is the Republicans’ burden — right? — to raise the debt ceiling. But it’s the President’s economy.
So is he not going to have a meeting with McCarthy until McCarthy gives in? Do —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look —
Q Do you think McCarthy is bluffing here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President is prepared to talk about budget and appropriations process. That’s what we have said. We are not a deadbeat nation. The President said that; you heard him from — you heard directly from him moments ago.
And the President said he’s happy to meet with McCarthy but not on whether or not the debt limit gets extended. That’s not negotiable. We’re — continue to — to be very firm about that, to be very clear. The President, again, said this himself.
Look, what they are proposing would hurt every American and cost 6 million jobs and threaten Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid payments. That’s what they’re threatening. That’s what the American economy that they’re saying that they’re going to hold hostage.
And again, Congress must act. It is their constitutional duty. We’ve been very clear on what we will negotiate about, which is appropriations and the budget. But we’re just — we just are going to be very clear that they must act and do their constitutional duty on this.
Q Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Thanks, Karine. Back on the topic of banking. When was President Biden informed about the deal? And was he concerned at all about the fact that it makes JPMorgan bigger? In general, he and his administration have been kind of opposed to broader corporate consolidation.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Both good questions. Look, the President has been briefed regularly since the failure of the Silicon — Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, including the possibility that resolution of this institution could ultimately be necessary.
So, he has been, again, regularly briefed on this and will continue to be, as his — as his — as he’s directed his economic — economic team to make sure that, again, taxpayers do not pay for this. And there’s a process in place, which we’ve seen from the FDIC.
Look, FDIC has a statutory obligation to choose the path that it’s least cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund. And that’s what they did here. It was necessary to ensure continued resilience of the banking system and to do so at no cost to the taxpayers.
But more broadly, no recent administration has done more to promote competition, address concentration process across industries. We value the community bank model, which provides robust competition to larger banks and provide banking services to communities that might otherwise not get service.
Again, that’s why we’ve encouraged the FDIC to exempt community banks from any special assessments in — it imposes to refill the Deposit Insurance Fund after recent failures.
This is an FDIC process as it comes to bids and selling. And — that is the obligation, and that’s the path that they’ve taken.
Q On a separate topic, is the United States, is the President aware of the Vatican’s efforts to create a peace deal between Ukraine and Russia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We are aware. I just don’t have any comments on that. And I’ll just leave it there.
Q Lastly, is the President tracking the negotiations with the Writers Union in California? He’s a union guy.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.
Q It looks like they’re heading towards a strike.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, not going to speak to any specific case, as we normally don’t do from here, especially as it relates to a strike.
As you just said, he’s a union guy. You saw him — you saw him just last week in front of labor — labor leaders — 3,000 of them.
And — and so, he’s a strong supporter of workers’ rights to strike. But just not going to speak directly to this particular strike.
Q Thanks, Karine. Given the fact that Democrats control the Senate, is there a reason the President hasn’t asked Senate Majority Leader Schumer to put a clean debt ceiling increase on the floor to maybe start the process or get action, as you were talking about?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as — as I’ve said many times before or as you know, the President has had conversations with Leader Schumer — Senator Schumer — and also Minority Leader Jeffries. They’ve talked several times.
But it doesn’t — it doesn’t stop us from saying what House Republicans should have done — right? — which is put forth and focus on the debt ceiling.
Let’s be very clear what — what their plan they put forward is going to do: It’s going to hurt Americans. It’s going to — it’s going to throw the economy into chaos.
That’s what they’ve proposed. When you think about the 22 percent cuts on — on programs that Americans truly need to make ends meet, that’s what they put forward.
And so we’re going to continue to call that out. Congress must act. It is something that they’ve done three times before in the last administration. It is their constitutional duty.
As far as — to your question on — on Leader Schumer, I leave him to the process on how to move forward with the Senate. But we’ve been very clear on what Congress needs to do.
Q And just following up on something we talked about last week. You made a very declarative statement about Americans in Haiti — not Haiti, sorry — Americans in Sudan had about 24 to 48 hours. There was a period there. You made very clear that if they wanted to leave, they should move in that period of time.
Since that time, did you see an uptick in efforts — I know two convoys have left — but in terms of the effect that may have had and, kind of, what you guys are seeing going forward now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, there’s — there’s been — the Department of State reports that the U.S. government has assisted in the departure of nearly 1,000 American citizens since the start of this crisis. That includes the departure of hundreds of American citizens over the weekend by three U.S.-government-organized convoys to the port of Sudan, where we are supporting their onward travel, including via the USNS Brunswick. It also includes ongoing efforts to evacuate Americans via flights on partner aircraft and by sea.
To support this, we have engaged in an unprecedented sharing of U.S. and partner intelligence aimed at facilitating safe passage. We have deployed U.S. intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to support both U.S.-government-led and partner-led air, and assets to — and land evacuation routes, as well.
Americans are using these routes. The environment is fluid, and Americans do not always contact the U.S. government before their departure, so we cannot give a precise number of Americans.
Our focus has been — remains on helping as many citizens depart who wish to do so safely as possible, in a way that reduces the risk to U.S. personnel.
And so, I’ll leave it there.
Q Can I just follow up on the — the bank deal? Has the President spoken with Jamie Dimon over the cos- — course of this process?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any — any calls to preview at this time.
Q And just to follow up: This — this administration — we sat here while you talked about corporate consolidation as something that you want to push against. Our reporting is that JPMorgan was the only bidder that offered to take the entire bank over. The administration — I just want to be clear: Did you support that because it was the only option, or did you support that because it was the best option?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look — no, I totally understand the question. This is an FDIC process, and made — and these decisions are made by the FDIC, about the bids and ultimate sale, in this particular instance, with First Republic. So this is something that they — they run.
The directive from this — from the pros- — the President is very clear. When he talks to his economic team, the direction he gave them is to prioritize protecting depositors, workers, and small businesses while also ensuring that taxpayers are not on the hook and — and shareholders lose their investment. That’s the directive that he’s given to his economic team.
But as far as the process, the bids, and the sales, that is something that the FDIC moves forward.
Q So, the White House didn’t push against this deal that makes the biggest American bank bigger?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It is an FDI[C] process, as I just mentioned. This is something that they are — they are in charge of, and they are the ones who decide on the bids and the sales.
What the President has done is given his — his economic team a directive on how to protect taxpayers and also depositors. And so that is what I can share with you. FDIC runs this process.
Q And, very quickly, can you give us an update on the Fed vice chair search?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Very good question. I don’t have anything to preview at this time for all of you. You will — and you will hear something in the very near future. I just don’t have anything to share on that particular appointment.
Go ahead, Steven.
Q Thanks, Karine. Today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that gets at the four-decade-old (inaudible) that when a statute is ambiguous, the Court should defer to executive branch agencies. It’s known as Chevron deference. Does the White House have a response to the fact that the Supreme Court is going to take this case?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a response at this time.
Q The essence of it is that — you know, essentially it gets at the question of whether executive branch agencies should have a power and whether the Court should take that power away.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I — no, I understand the question. Just don’t have anything to share at this time since this just happened.
Q Okay. There’s one other thing I want to ask you about, and that is: In recent days, a lot of people who write articles and columns have been writing about the idea that there should be a third option for voters in the next election. This group, No Labels, is trying to get on the ballot in all 50 states.
The President says, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.” What does the White House have to say about the idea that many Americans seem to want not just one alternative, but yet another alternative?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, I have to say — I have to be careful about talking about 2024. We fol- — we follow the rule of law here. There’s the Hatch Act.
What I can say more broadly and speak to 2020 — right? — and share with you all, as you all know, that the President had a historic win. More — more people voted for this President and his agenda and how he saw moving the country forward than any other President.
And, look, the President is going to continue to be focused on the job that he has set forth on behalf of the American people and — and, you know, call out the contrast that we see from Republicans in Congress and how — again, we just talked about the debt ceiling — how they refuse to do their job and do their constitutional duty, and hold the American economy hostage and not deliver on what they’re supposed to be doing, and want to cut key programs like veterans programs, like healthcare programs that’s going to hurt American people.
So that’s what we’re going to focus on. We’re going to focus on how do we continue to build an economy that doesn’t leave anybody behind, that actually helps the very people who have lef- — been left behind, and build an economy. You heard him say this today when he was talking about small businesses. And let’s not forget what we’ve seen from small businesses under this — under this administration, how there’s been a historic amount of small businesses who have applied for application to start a small business. That’s because of the work that this President has done.
So he’s going to continue to build an economy from the bottom up, middle out. Not going to speak to — specifically to 2024. But this is a President who understands what it’s like to — to make sure that we put the American people first, and that’s what he’s going to continue to do.
Go ahead, Franco.
Q Thanks, Karine. After the First Republic, Elizabeth Warren gave some comments about accountability and specifically named Chairman Powell. What does the — what does the White House think about those comments specifically about Chairman Powell —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — being held accountable?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the President believes the — directed his economic team to do the — what they can to make sure that, again, depositors are protected and taxpayers are protected. Not going to speak to — to, you know, the Fed. We are very, very careful in speaking about the Fed and their policies and how they move forward.
When it comes to this particular process — as you know, the FDIC runs this process, the bids and sale process, so I’ll leave that to them. But I’m not going to be commenting on — on specific actions that Chairman Powell — that Chairman Powell has taken — not from here.
Q Can I also ask you about Susan Rice? Who — what’s the plan for replacing her? Is there — do you — is there someone in line? Do you have someone?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We don’t have a timeline to share with you at this time. Clearly, it’s an important position that the President wants to make sure that we get the right person to move forward with the domestic policies and what’s important to the American people.
Go ahead, Lalit.
Q Thank you. Does the White House believes that there’s need to expand the Quad?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Did — say that one more time.
Q Does the White House believes that they need to expand the Quad? The four countries (inaudible) countries are (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, the Quad was established two years ago. The Quad is still a relatively young partnership.
There are no plans for new members at this time. Quad members have agreed that for now they’ll focus on cementing the Quad’s many strengths. However, the Quad welcomes opportunities to work with a wide range of Indo-Pacific partners, such as through its Indo-Pacific partners on maritime domain awareness, which is delivering cutting-edge maritime domain awareness technology around the region.
The May 24th Sydney summit will showcase other opportunities for the Quad to partner around the region on climate, global health, infrastructure, and more.
The Quad’s top priority is ensuring it is well positioned to deliver for the Indo-Pacific — Indo-Pacific currently. And so, there’s no — there’s no conversation on extending or expanding at this time.
Q And then one more question on illegal immigration. How does President wants to address this challenge of illegal immigration? A lot of people coming here. And is this one of the issues which he considers his job not done, job not finished? I mean, how does he (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, on his first day in this administration, the President put forth a comprehensive immigration legislation. And that’s to show how seriously he took this, how important he und- — how he understood that the system had been broken. It needs to be modernized, been — be — be moved to the 21st century. And so, this is something that the President has talked about.
He has asked Congress to take action — Republicans in Congress to take action and to take — and to work on this in a con- — in a bipartisan way. He’s going to continue to do that.
In the meantime, he’s put forth some — he has tools that he’s used to — to make sure that we do this — we actually deal with the immigration system in a humane way, and in a — in a way that is that — that actually deals with what we’re seeing at the border.
And that’s why you’ve seen the parolee program be so successful. It has — it has — it has — when it comes to illegal migration, you’ve seen it come down by more than 90 percent, and that’s because of this act- — the actions that this President has taken.
But we know that more action needs to be taken. So it has to be legislative action. We’re going to continue to call Congress to do that. And so, this is important to this President. On day one — on day one, he put forth in — a legislation to move forward on this.
Q And do you believe the Republicans are to blame for this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the — as we’ve seen, Republicans have continued to use this as a political stunt, a political tool, and not actually come to the table to have a conversation on how to protect DREAMers and farmworkers. You know, more immigration judges and asylum office — officers are needed. More funding for border security are needed.
This is something that we have put forward in that legislation and so much more. And they don’t want to do that. They want to do political stunts, as we’ve seen from governors and mayors across the country.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Excuse me, regarding the visit of the pri- — the President Biden for Israel to celebrate in the anniversary of 75 years, is he — his visit would include Palestinian Territories and the celebration of Israel, established 75 years. It will not invite the Palestinian. They consider this (inaudible) for them.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait, I’m sorry, can you start again? What was the beginning of your question?
Q About the visiting of Is- — of President Biden to Israel to celebrate 75 years of establishing Israel.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I don’t have a trip to — to — you mean an upcoming trip?
Q For future. Future trip.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I just don’t have — we don’t have anything to share at this time on a trip to Israel.
As you know, the President went to Jerusalem over the summer, had a very productive — productive trip when we were there, to talk about the Middle East and stabilizing the Middle East and continuing the — the very strong relationship that we have with Israel — as you just mentioned, decades of partnership that we have there.
But I just don’t have anything to read out on a — on a trip to celebrate the 75th anniversary.
Q And, excuse me, regarding the mental health insurance. It is — will cover the people when they don’t carry citizenship — I mean, just green card for children or for people — it will cover the insurance.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything — as it relates to mental health, we will have a lot more to share during the month of — the month of May for mental health. I just don’t have anything specific to your question.
Go ahead, April.
Q Karine, on Africa — two questions on Africa. There was a ceasefire last week in Sudan, but there’s still warring happening. And the U.N. says that with this — these strikes on Khartoum, they are at a breaking point. Could you talk about still working to establish or keep that ceasefire as the fighting is going — the humanitarian efforts and the evacuation progress or hurdles that you’re having getting Americans out?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’re going to continue to have those conversations. The national security — his senior national security team has been in direct contact with the SAF and the RSF leadership — the generals — to urge them to end hostilities immediately without conditions.
And we’re consulting very closely with regional and other partners. That is something that has been ongoing for some time now.
We — we urge the SAF and the RSF to fully uphold and extend the ceasefire.
And those are the conversations that we’re having.
I just laid out earlier with Phil what we’re doing as the evacuation is moving forward of Americans who do indeed want to leave. I just don’t have anything more to add to that. But there are high-level conversation that continue to happen with our national security team.
Q So, on the Americans that want to leave, we understand that there are about 1,000 right now out of 16,000. What i- — what is the deadline for Americans to say, “I want to leave”? And what are the efforts going to be if they change their mind — if there is a deadline and they change their mind and wa- — and war happens?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, all I can say: The environment is fluid. And Americans, as we all know, do not always — and I just mentioned this to Phil — contact us — contact the U.S. government before — before their departure. So we don’t have a precise number. Again, it’s very fluid.
But I just laid out that there’s been about 1,000 departures — Amer- —
Q But 16,000 are there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I understand. A thousand American citizens. But again, we — the numbers are fluid. This is the number that we do know of. Again, it’s fluid; not every American who’s there tells us when they’re leaving. And, you know, our focus has been and remains being — helping — helping as many U.S. citizens and — as possible who want to depart, who wish to do so safely as possible, in a way that reduces the risk, as well. So that’s going to be our focus.
Q And last question, on Africa. Pretty much — many of the administration officials have traveled to Africa, to include the Vice President. You said the President was going to travel at the end of the year. Do you have anything new to tell us? And where could he possibly be headed to?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you’ve seen this commitment from this administration on — on Africa, you — you were there and covered the — the Leaders Summit that we had back in December. So there is a strong commitment to — to the continent. As you just mentioned, the Vice President went. We’ve seen Secretaries of different — of agency go to Africa as well. And the First Lady we- — went to — to the continent, as well, and visited and shared our commitment to the continent.
I don’t have a — any date or any location — specific country that the President will be visiting in the continent. But as he — we have said many times, the President does plan to travel sometime this year. When we have an update, we certainly will share it with all of you.
Q Thanks, Karine. Two topics. The first, you had indicated earlier that the President is prepared to talk about the budget appropriations process and that he’d be happy to meet with Speaker McCarthy, but not on whether the debt limit is raised.
Has the White House done anything to reach out to the Speaker to begin that conversation over the budget? And what happens if he does want to talk about the debt limit in concert with that discussion?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we’ve been very clear, Matt. We’ve been very clear that what they have put forward — look, it’s not a plan. It’s a recipe for economic catastrophe. That is what they have put forward. They’re putting the wealth and the foreign bondholders, including billionaires and banks in China, over working Americans.
You know, Treasury Secretary Yellen said that their proposal is effectively a default. And so it would throw the country into chaos.
And a couple of things here: The Chamber of Commerce has said prioritization would have “catastrophic economic consequences.” Economists to Republican Senators Portman, Rubio, and Romney called it a “really bad idea” and a “disaster.” Even Trump’s Treasury Secretary said it doesn’t make sense what they put forward.
The only way to avoid this kind of economic disaster is for Congress to do its job and prevent default — and we’ve been very clear about that — not — not to put a half-baked idea, as they have done, and schemes that hurt the American people. And so that’s what we’re calling out.
When you think about the 22 percent cuts on veterans and — and Meals on Wheels and, you know — and other important key programs that help Americans, you know, put meals — you know, make the ends meet, that’s something that is not acceptable. And so they need to do their job, their constitutional duty, as you’ve heard us say over and over again, and deal with the debt ceiling, and not puts 6 million jobs on the line.
Q So it sounds like no meeting in the works?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well — (laughs) — what I can say is: Congress must act. And could say that over and over again. The President spoke to it moments ago.
Q The other thing I wanted to ask you about was NBC News, this afternoon, has a report of another mysterious balloon that the military has been — the U.S. military has been tracking around Hawaii. Is the White House aware of this? Tracking it as well? Is there any response from — from this podium?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I — I heard of the reports as I was com- — literally coming out — out to — to the podium. So what I would say is: I would refer you to the Department of Defense on this particular question.
Go ahead. Oh, Kelly —
Q Well, I was trying to get your attention on that topic, but let me do another one. (Laughter.)
Thank you, Matt.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The future president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.
Q We just want — we love balloons here — (laughter) — so if there’s another one, you know, we’re very interested in that. (Laughter.)
So we’ll — we’ll ask you about that again at a future time, and we’ll follow up on that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q On the matter of the President’s concerns about the bank today and the debt ceiling, do you see a line of convergence at some point in which the public’s concern about “is there a frailty in the banking system that can produce more uncertainty” and what you’ve talked about with debt ceiling potentially triggering, you know, cataclysmic events for the economy if that’s not resolved — is there a point of intersection where these two issues collide that concerns the President? And might that kind of an environment adjust his tactical strategy in how he’s dealing with the Speaker?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the President is concerned. He’s concerned that Republicans are not doing their job and not living up to their constitutional duty.
We have been saying that over and over again. We’ve laid out what that could be, you know, what it could do to the economy, what it could do to the American people. Six million jobs. I just laid out what economists, experts have said specifically about their plan and how it will essentially lead to a default.
Look, the President needs and the American people needs Congress to act. This is — this is something that — we’ve never been a deadbeat nation, something the President said before. This has never happened before. And I understand —
Q But will more direct engagement perhaps change the dynamic?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we are in — I think, by the President speaking every day on this issue, answering questions, he’s speaking directly to Congress, speaking directly to Republicans. It’s not — they know where the President stands. They know by what he has said over and over again for months that they need to do their job.
I mean, it is very, very clear. And with what we’re seeing with the banks, of course, they should actually want to be even more eager to do their job.
We are calling on Congress to do the right thing, to do — not even the right thing — what they’re supposed to do constitutionally, their duty.
And so, you know, the last Republican President, which was the last one before this administration, did it three times. The Republicans joined Democrats — or Democrats joined Republicans — however you want to say it — to lift the debt ceiling three times. And so why now? Why — the question should be to them: Why do they not want to do their constitutional duty?
AIDE: Sorry, Karine, we’ve got to go.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, one last question. I’m going to just take one in the back. Go ahead, Phil. I haven’t called on —
Q Thank you. Another one on the banking issue. I’m wondering what the President’s message is to members of Congress who might see the current banking shake-up or future banking troubles as an opportunity to make a buck. Because, for instance, we’ve already seen some members of Congress who have had what seems like particularly good luck offloading shares of First Republic Bank and turning around and buying shares of JPMorgan.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m not going to speak directly to that. I have not seen those reports. I get what you’re saying.
What we will continue to say is that the President is going to make sure that it’s not the taxpayers that have to pay for this or lose for — on this. We want to make sure that they’re protected: depositors, families, small businesses. We’ve been very clear it does not protect investors. First Republic shareholders and bondholders will lose their entire investments. That’s what the President has directed his economic team to do. FDIC runs this process. And I’m just going to leave it there.
But the President has been really, really clear: No taxpayer money is being used to cover cost for this resolution. And he wants to make sure that they are protected and that the mismanagement of these banks, like, for example, First — First Republic, is being held accountable.
And so that’s our focus right now. I’m just not going to speak to any — any kind of hypotheticals that you’re laying out for me.
Q Right. The President has — has been very clear, when it comes to the wealthy, that they should pay their fair share, that they should not skirt, you know, tax law. Is there a need for the President to go to wealthy lawmakers and say, “If you have access to new information that maybe the public doesn’t, perhaps you should take a step back”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, what I’ve been very clear about is what the President wants to make sure: that we protect taxpayers and that investors have to make sure that — you know, that they are held accountable. And that’s what the President is going to continue to say.
Of course — of course the President has always said, even with his envir- — en- — economic policy, that we need to make sure that we look out for the little guy. This is why we don’t believe in trickle-down economy. This is why we believe in building an economy from the bottom up, middle out. That is what you see in every economic policy that the President has put forward, legislation that he’s put forth that has been historic and has led to that type of economy where we do not leave anyone behind, and that is our focus.
4:18 P.M. EDT