Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:18 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, what’s going on? Good afternoon.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear comments.
Okay, here we go. So, yesterday, Secretary Yellen estimated that without action by Congress, we could be unable to meet our obligations. In other words, default as early as June 1st.
The updated projection should be a wake-up call to Congress. It is time for the Speaker and the MAGA Republicans to stop the brinksmanship and act to prevent default, which would have devastating consequences on our economy and the American people.
It is Congress’s constitutional obligation to act, not hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage unless we allow them to make cuts to programs hardworking Americans rely upon.
Threatening to default and crash the economy unless the President agrees with Speaker McCarthy’s entire agenda isn’t just unreasonable, it’s dangerous.
That’s why the President called each of the four leaders yesterday and asked that they come to the White House on May 9th to discuss the urgency and importance of avoiding default.
In his calls, he was clear: It is Congress’s constitutional duty to prevent default. This is not an issue that we will negi- — negotiate on. The debt limit was increased three times under President Trump. It should be no different this time.
Given the limited time Congress now has, it is clear that — that the only practical path to avoid default is for Congress to suspend the debt limit without conditions.
During his meeting with the leaders, the President will discuss initiating a separate process to address the budget and appropriations, because we have long said we welcome a conversation about spending priorities.
But it’s — but let’s be clear about the — about what House Republicans’ Default on America Act does. It makes a series of deeply devastating and unpopular cuts to things like veterans’ health benefits. There is no constituency in this nation that supporting — that supports threatening to kill millions of jobs unless the VA is gutted, except apparently extreme MAGA Republicans — House Republicans, to be even more specific.
Their bill would cut 81,000 jobs from the VA, reducing outpatient visits by 30 million, and increase the disability claims backlog by an estimated 134,000. More than two dozen veterans’ organizations publicly pleaded with House Republicans to protect veterans from general budget cuts. Republicans refused. Republicans made last-minute changes to protect special interests, but they refuse to include veterans in those protections.
Sadly, Republicans are now attacking the very veterans group who raised alarm bells about these draconian cuts to the programs veterans and families rely on.
And that’s not only — that’s not only the — that’s not the only thing that they’re doing.
After pushing to repeal literal — literally dozens of clean energy tax credits, House Republicans are going out of their way to profess their loyalty to big oil. Their Default in America Act would be a boon for big oil, preserving $31 billion in subsidies for companies that are already posting record profits to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. And they’d be doing that at the expense of our nation’s veterans, our schoolteachers, our police, our border patrol.
President — President Biden will not allow that to happen.
With that, Seung Min, you want to take — kick us off?
Q Sure. I have two “news of the day” topics. The first one: Why was the mayor of Prospect Park barred from attending the White House’s Eid celebration last night?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just first say this is under the purview of the Secret Service. What I will say more broadly is that — and I can say this; I was in the room — the President was very proud to welcome nearly 400 Muslim Americans to the White House to celebrate Eid yesterday. It was a meaningful event and opportunity to celebrate along Muslim leaders from across the country who were here — as I said, nearly 400.
This particular situation is under the purview of Secret Service, and so I will leave it to them to speak to directly.
Q Can you say if the mayor is on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening data set and that’s the reason why he was barred?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, this is under the purview of Secret Service. And I would refer you to them.
Q And he has said in interviews, as of this morning, that the White House nor Service has told him why he was barred. So I get that you can’t talk about it, but doesn’t he at a minimum deserve an explanation as to why he was blocked?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All I can tell you, Seung Min, is that this is under the purview of Secret Service.
Q Okay. And another topic. On the troops announcement from DOD that is coming, or has come, or will come in 40 minutes. (Laughter.)
So, obviously, President Biden has been a big critic of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. But isn’t this — sending troops to the border — another example of where President Biden has taken President Trump’s policies on immigration?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, to your point, my colleagues at the Pentagon are going to brief on this in — at two o’clock, in less than 40 minutes. So — so, clearly, I would definitely make sure that you all take a listen and hear what they have to say.
What I will say more broadly is DOD personnel have been supporting CBP at the border for almost two decades now. So, this is a — this is a common practice, if you will.
These personnel will be performing administrative tasks, like data entry and warehouse support. They will not be performing law enforcement functions or interacting with immigrants or migrants.
This will free up Border Patrol agents to perform their critical law enforcement duties.
I will also add that this would not be necessary if Congress would act. As you know, on the first day of walking into the White House, of his administration, the President put forth a comprehensive immigration legislation and — so that we could have resources and so that we could be able to help the men and women of Border Patrol — Patrol to do their jobs.
And so if Congress would act and exac- — again, do their jobs and meet us halfway and do this in a bipartisan way, we would not have to do this.
Q All right. And I know you said they won’t be performing law enforcement tasks. But broadly, as the administration prepares for the expected increase in the coming weeks, can you offer assurances that what — that the migrants who adri- — arrive at the border will be treated humanely?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s the President’s goal. The President understands that we need a system, an immigration system, that meet — that needs to meet the moment, that’s modernized.
And one of the things that he has been very clear about: He wants to do this in a humane way and — and do it differently than it — certainly than it was done in the last administration.
So that is certainly part of the President’s goal.
Q On the debt ceiling, can you just walk us through the decision by the President to reach out to the leaders and hold this meeting now? And you’ve made it very clear that his position hasn’t changed. So what changed his mind to now hold this meeting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. And I — and as you just stated, Karen, the President has been very clear: He’s not going to negotiate over avoiding default. This is Congress’s constitutional duty. We’ll continue to be very clear about that, as we have in the last several months.
But he will have a conversation on the budget and appropriations. The President, as you know, put his budget out on March 9th, showed where his values were and what he believes — how he sees the country moving forward as it relates to the economy and his budget. House Republicans didn’t put out their proposal until April 9th — the 19th, to be exact. And they passed it just this past — this last week, I believe last — last Wednesday. So we can’t have a conversation on the budget and spending without a proposal from each side.
We — they put forth their vision, their values for the American people. So just a few days after the House Republicans passed their proposal, the President called the four congressional leaders to invite them to a meeting once the House is back in session.
And we have said over and over again this past week that we were analyzing what they put forth. And we’ve been very clear and also criticizing their budget, as I did at the top here. But now — now there’s a — now, after a couple of days, the President reached out and — after analyzing what they put forth, and we’re going to have — the President is going to have a meeting with them next week.
Q But if he’s not willing to negotiate, what is this meeting? Like, what is he coming to the table with? And does he see this as a conversation that’s only about the debt ceiling and then there’s a separate meeting later that’s about the budget?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President — well, I —
Q Or when Kevin McCarthy comes and wants to talk about all of it, how — what are the mechanics of this meeting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean — I —
Q And can you do those two things at the same time —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well —
Q — over the coming weeks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sorry, I was —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — trying to wait to see where the question was going to end. (Laughs.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I apologize. My bad.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, he’s going to be — he’s going to make it very clear, in this meeting that they’re going to have next week, how it is Congress’s constitutional duty to act. He is not going to negotiate on the debt ceiling. Been very clear. That is not going to change.
Now, we — I have said, as I said from the top here, that he’s willing to have a separate conversation about their spending: what they want to do with the budget, how they see the appropriations process moving forward, what they see with their spending, as we’ve seen from this vision plan that they put forward just — just on March — on April 19th, as I stated.
So, look, he’s going to continue to make very clear that this is up to Congress to act when it comes to the debt ceiling. This is a question for them: What are you going to do and how are you going to — to — to let the American people know that you’re not going to hold the American economy hostage?
Q And I don’t mean to, like, belabor, but when you say a “separate conversation,” is that, again, only after the debt ceiling is raised? Or is he going to have that separate conversation on May 9th at the same time, when they’re all sitting at that table together next week?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President’s going to make it clear to them how it is not that they have to avoid a default; it is their constitutional duty for Congress to do this. It is their constitutional duty to the American people for them to do their job.
And he will always — he will always — he will also say, you know, we will have a conversation about — about the budget and appropriations. And that is something that he will be very clear about: We can have a conversation about that, but it is important to not default.
We are not a deadbeat nation, as you heard directly from the President just yesterday in the Rose Garden. He’s going to be really clear about this. We have been able to do this — make sure that we pay our debt as a nation — for the past several decades.
And so the President is going to continue to make that clear. He’s going to bring them here, have that conversation. And we certainly will have more to share as we get closer.
Q Just continuing on on the debt ceiling. Real quickly, so did the President decide to offer this meeting this coming week after he knew about the June 1st deadline? Like, when — when did he decide to call the meeting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don’t have a — a date on when he decided or time — specific time on the timeline on when he decided to offer the meeting. What I can say is they passed their budget, their — this House — this House vision — MAGA vision that they put forward that we’ve been talking about for some time now, since April 19th. They passed it. We said we would analyze it. I have said this from this podium. We did. We — we analyzed it, and a few days later, the President decided that he would call them and invite them to the White House to have a very critical conversation that’s important to the American people.
Again, this is a — this is something that is — that — that is a constitutional duty of Congress, and they need to act immediately.
Q Can I just ask you about First Republic? We’ve seen a huge response in the market today. Regional bank shares are down pretty significantly, 20 percent — over 20 percent. Is there a sense that you’ve misjudged how serious the situation is? First Republic was deemed to be not systemic, but the market does seem to be thinking there is systemic risk. You know, is there something that you could do now with the President? Would it make — would it — would it — are you considering having the President come out and speak about what’s happened —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So —
Q — to try to, you know, reassure markets and people?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, the — the President spoke for — look, I’m not going to speak to the markets. I’m not going to do that from here, as you could understand why, Andrea.
The President spoke to the actions that this administration took. Just yesterday, again, at the Rose Garden, he spoke to this. He spoke to the — the debt ceiling as well.
What I can say is that, you know — I think we went back and forth on this just last Thursday, and I mentioned how, you know, this is something that the — that the FDIC is monitoring; this is under their purview.
We have the tools necessary to keep our banking system safe and protect depositors. That is the objective, right? That is the — the objective that the President wants his team to lead with to make sure that we keep taxpayers safe, depositors protected. And we stand ready to use those tools if needed, as we have in the past several weeks.
And so, look, we — this administration has had a decisive and forceful — taken decisive and forceful actions and — and to make sure that the U.S. banking system continues to — to have access to resources and to meet the depositors demand. Again, we have those tools at our disposal.
We’ll continue — FDIC is going to continue to monitor this. And, you know, I’ll leave it there. This is something that we do indeed — the President does indeed take very seriously.
I also mentioned that he was — he’s been regularly kept abreast by his economic team.
And again, we have the tools that we need. And we’re — and FDIC is going to continue to monitor.
Q Just — just very quickly on the — this — what happened over Sunday night when this auction kind of came to a head. At what point was the President told that the largest bank in America was going to purchase First Republic and therefore become a little bit larger? You know, was that something that was, you know, apparent to him before he went to sleep? Did he wake up in the morning and find out, you know, Jamie Dimon just got a bit — a little bit bigger?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, I could tell you that the President has been regularly kept — kept updated on the situation.
As it relates to JPMorgan, FDIC has the statu- — statutory obligation to choose the path that is 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 tax- — taxpayers.
And that is something, again, that the President has been very clear with his economic team as they’ve moved forward with this process.
Q So you’re not going to say when he was briefed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I am not going to give a specific time on the cal- — again, on the timeline on when the President has been briefed on that.
On — on your JPMorgan question, what I can say: He’s been regularly kept updated by his economic team. And that is something that’s going to certainly continue.
Q Thanks, Karine. Two quick follow-ups, and then one more. You explicitly said that given the urgency of the moment and the timeline, in terms of the debt limit, that suspension of the debt limit was what needed to be pursued. Is it the view of the White House right now that suspension is really the only viable option, not raising by a particular number?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into specifics. I — I — I hear you, Phil. What I’m going to say is we’ve been very clear: It needs to be done without condition. This is their constitutional duty to deal with the debt limit, as they did three times with the last — the last President — Republican President, as we all know.
We have never been a deadbeat nation, as the President has said; I’ve repeated this yesterday as well.
And they need to take action. Congress needs to act. And that’s what the President is going to continue to make clear even in the — in the meeting next week that he’ll have with the four leaders.
Q On the mayor, I understand Service is leading. Did the White House have any role or any consult to — consultations when it came to that decision-making at all?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have to be very, very clear here. This is under the purview of Secret Service. And I just would have to refer you there.
Q And then, last one. When the President looks through the lens of budget approps in these discussions next week, is the White House weighing any proposals in terms of a formal process outside of the normal formal process that may entice Republicans in terms of moving towards a clean debt ceiling increase?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Any — any specific process you’re thinking about?
Q No, that’s what I was asking you about. (Laughter.)
No, I’m trying to pick through kind of what a deal-making process would look like if you’re going just through that path, beyond — I mean, there is an appropriations process that is normal. Is there anything different that you guys would want to put on the table?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you — and are you speaking dir- –about the appropriation process?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. So, as it relates to the budget, the spending, appropriations process — look, that is something — a conversation that the President is happy to have with Speaker McCarthy and other — and the other leaders — the other — the other three, obviously, to have this discussion on how to move forward and what we value — what we see our values are for the American people and how we move forward with our economy.
That is always — he — we’ve always been very clear about that when it comes to, again, appropriations and budget.
But again, I just have to say this very clearly: When it comes to the debt, Congress must act.
Q Thanks, Karine. Back on the New Jersey mayor. Was anyone else turned away from the celebration or was he the only one?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I can tell you this. We had nearly 400 attendees — leaders in — in the community attend — attend the event. It was — it was lively. It was a — you see — you felt the affection in the room for the President and his record and what he’s done for the community.
So, it was a celebration that was — you know, that was — I was in the room. And it — if you guys watched, there was a lot of back-and-forth. There was a lot of excitement for the President. And I will leave it there.
As it relates to this particular issue, I would have to leave it to the Secret Service.
Q He also says that he suspects that he was turned away because of profiling because of his background. Would — do you want to respond to that at all?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just going to leave it to the Secret Service to speak to this directly.
Go ahead, Ed.
Q Yeah, thanks, Karine. So, on the JOLTS report today, the economic news. So the number of layoffs and discharges rose to 1.8 million, and that’s the highest level since December of 2020. You know, how many layoffs is the President comfortable with without a growing concern about the number of companies that are shedding jobs?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me just look at the JOLTS and give the JOLTS openings report just a more broad- — broader scope here so we can give the American people an understanding of what the — what the — what the — what the report showed.
So the job openings data, the JOLTS, showed the kind of labor market easing that we want to see, so that is incredibly important. The number of unfilled job openings have declined toward historic levels, even as lab- — layoffs remain low. And a lot of this, if you look at more broadly to the President’s economic — economic agenda, the Invest in America agenda, our economy is indeed growing, and employers are hir- — hiring. And you have to look at it in its full scope here.
More than 1 million jobs added last quarter for 12.6 million created since President Biden took office; 3.5 percent unemployment, near- — near a 50-year low; and below 4 percent for more than a year. Real wages are higher than any — any — than they were just nine months ago. More than $435 billion in private sector investments since the President took office.
Businesses might be removing job openings, but they are not laying off existing workers. And that’s — that’s the cooldown that we — you hear our economists talk about that we want to see. And that is indeed part of that transition from stable and steady growth.
So you got to look at the whole thing. And it’s — in a broad perspective here, really lay out what — what the — what the jobs — job opening data shows.
And so we just want to make sure the — the American people know this.
Q But the layoffs have been increasing as — from companies — from a wide range of companies.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But, look, I just laid out the data, what we’ve seen. Even as layoffs remain low — it still remains low — we want to see a jo- — a market that is actually going — transitioning into stable and steady growth. And that’s what we’re seeing.
We’re seeing — we’re seeing the 12-point — more than 12.6 million jobs have been created. We’re seeing unemployment under 4 percent, which has been like that for a year now, which is also important. We’re seeing real wages — real wages and — are higher than they were just nine months ago.
So you have to actually look at all the data points to see where we are more broadly as an economy.
I’m going to move around.
Q Just one quick one on banking, if I could.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to move around.
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q I’d like to ask you about Sudan. The U.N. estimates that about 100,000 people have already fled the country — I’m talking about Sudanese people — and they’re warning that an extra 800,000 possibly could flee the country.
What is the U.S. doing to help with what is increasingly looking like a massive refugee crisis in a region that’s already struggling with that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, very good question. Look, we remain gravely concerned about the unfolding humanitarian situation in Sudan, including rapidly deteriorating humanitarian condition.
This widespread violence compounds an already dire situation. The SAF and also the RSF must follow safe access for humanitarian agencies and their workers to support the Sudanese people, for Sudanese medical workers to access hospitals and receive vital medical supplies, for the civilians to access vital resources as well.
USAID — USAID announced the deployment of a Disaster Assistance Response Team — DART, as it’s also called — to Nairobi, Kenya, to lead the U.S. government disaster response there. In areas where security conditions permit, U.S. government partners are providing some limited life-saving activities in Sudan.
The U.S. government continues to work with partners to assess their ability to safely provide critical humanitarian assistance at the security situation permits — as the security situation permits.
As access and security permit, U.S.-funded humanitarian partners are present on the borders and working with local authorities to provide services to those in need, including access to emergency food, water, and medical support.
We are planning to use all available means, including using the pre-positioned medical and food supplies, to ensure that humanitarian assistance can resume once security conditions are — permit.
Again, we are — we are, certainly, gravely concerned.
Q Thanks, Karine. Does President Biden have any reaction to CIA Director William Burns meeting with Jeffrey Epstein in 2014? This obviously was after Epstein had served time for a sex crime and was registered as a sex offender.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to comment on that from here.
Q Okay. And can you also — how does — you know, President Biden says that he’s the most pro-union President in history. How do you square that with the fact that he is not openly offering support to the striking writers in Hollywood?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, because it’s an ongoing strike. And you’ve heard us say many times before, we don’t speak to an ongoing strike.
But more broadly, and I said this yesterday, the Pres- — President Biden is a strong supporter of workers’ rights to strike.
We’ve said this over and over again, as we’ve been asked when different entities and you see workers strike in those different entities. We’ve been very clear.
He has worked to bolster workers’ rights, including through appointing a strong leadership team at the L- — NLRB and through his efforts to advance the PRO A- — the PRO Act.
Again, we encourage both sides to stay at the table. But we are always very mindful.
Q Why can’t you speak about an ongoing strike?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we —
Q Is that a — why is a policy?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I — look, this is something that we’ve done continuously now. This is nothing new that has been said from this podium. But this is a President who strongly supports workers’ right to strike. We’ve said that over and over and over again.
You see that in his record. This is someone who supports labor — labor unions.
Again, this is — all you have to do is look at his record as a senator, look at his record as a Vice President, and certainly as a record of — as President.
Go ahead, Mike.
Q Thanks, Karine. I want to follow up on the question of the timing of this invitation, because as recently as Friday and into the weekend, officials here in this building had been saying there were no plans to invite Speaker McCarthy. It felt like a rather abrupt shift then to this “big four” invitation going out Monday.
Was the White House caught off guard at all by the timing of the new “X date,” as it’s known, which seemed to be earlier than even some analysts had been forecasting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we knew Secretary Yellen’s letter would be released yesterday, and the President thought it was a good opportunity to remind congressional leaders of the urgency of preventing default. So we were aware of the letter. The timing is up to the Department of Treasury. That is something for them to decide.
But, again, the President thought it would be — it would be a good opportunity, again, to remind congressional leaders that we must not default. It is their constitutional duty. Congress must act. And that is something that we’ve been very, very clear about and very repetitive about, as you know, from here.
Q In 2011, Vice President Biden had to delay a foreign trip because he was, at the time, involved in the debt ceiling negotiations as well. We saw President Obama also had to postpone a foreign trip during another fiscal showdown with Republicans. The President is scheduled to travel a very long way for quite a bit of time during this month. Is there any even notional discussion in the building of curtailing that trip?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have any changes to share to his schedule or anything to announce at this time. The President — as you know, Mike — is President wherever he is. And the economy — as it relates to the American economy, that is always a priority — a top priority for him.
I don’t have anything else to share. But it is their constitutional duty — Congress’s constitutional duty to take action.
Q Would he delegate somebody like the Vice President to step in to handle some of these in-person negotiations while he’s traveling abroad?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I don’t have any changes to announce. I get your question. We still believe very strongly that it is Congress’s duty to act. It is their con- — it is their constitutional duty to do just that. And I’ll just leave it there.
Q And quickly, on another matter. Yesterday, there was an announcement related to vaccine requirements, testing requirements that will no longer be in effect, tied to the end of the public health emergency on May 11th. Can you update us on some of the protocols here in the White House? Is there any change that might, especially for staff who interact with the President, as it relates to those rules?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as we said yesterday when we made the announcement, we’ll have more details to share about these requirements in the upcoming days. Nothing — nothing at this time new or ahead of the May 11th — May 11th kind of changes that you’ll see — that we’re going to see.
Let me go to the back, and then I’ll come back down.
Q Thanks, Karine. Given Senator Feinstein’s critical vote in any chance of passing a clean debt limit hike, as the President has said he would like, is he concerned about her prolonged absence further hindering Democrats in the Senate now that it’s been two months?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we wish — we wish the senator a speedy recovery. I don’t have anything else to share beyond that. I’ve talked about the close relationship that he has had with Senator Feinstein and the work that they’ve done over the years, not just him — him as a President, but also when he was a senator. He appreciates her, thinks that she has — you know, has really helped change — change a lot of important, critical policies to the American people.
I don’t have — I don’t have anything to say specifically about when she’s coming back or what that looks like. But we certainly wish her a speedy recovery.
Q And then, just one more. Last week, the President signed an executive order authorizing the use of the National Guard at the southern border in support of counternarcotics efforts. Can you explain: Was that a precursor to today’s announcement on the troops?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to — I’m not going to get into the timeline of it. As you know, we’ve been making preparations ahead of the lifting of Title 42. We’ve been very clear about that. You’ve heard from the Department of State, DHS as well, on what they’re — they had a press conference to lay out what that’s going to look like.
So there’s been many processes and plans that have been put into place. I don’t have any specifics to — to any — any timeline that you’re asking.
Okay, I’m trying to call on somebody I haven’t.
Q Thank you, Karine. If the President’s priority is to treat the immigrants humanely, like you’ve said, wouldn’t he be sending social workers, psychologists, judges, lawyers to the border instead of sending active military personnel?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look — and I want to be clear — the active military, as I just explained to one of your colleagues here, is — it’s been done for more than two — almost two decades now. It is personnel that’s performing administrative tasks and — like data entry and warehouse support. That’s what they’re going to do so they can — so it can help free up the CBP, the Border Patrol agents, to perform some critical law enforcement duties.
And so, that is their function. That’s what the active duty is going to do. They’re not going to interact with migrants.
Look, yes, we would love to be able to have more resources at the border to do the critical work that is needed. But this — the reason why we’re moving in this direction — and, of course, my DOD colleagues will speak more on this — is because Congress has not acted.
As you know, Christina, this is something that the President has taken very seriously, putting forth a comprehensive — comprehensive immigration reform legislation on his first day to deal with DACA, to deal with migrants, to make sure that we fix the system, make it more modernized — right? — do it in a humane way. That is something that the President wants to do.
But, you know, we are using the tools that we have in front of us, in our toolbelt, to deal — to deal with what we’re seeing currently at the border. But, of course, yes, we would love to have more resources at the border for sure.
Go ahead, Anita.
Q Thank you so much. First of all, on Sudan, we’ve just seen news that the combatant leaders have declared a seven-day ceasefire and that they’re open to talks. First of all, just the White House reaction to this.
And does the White House or does the U.S. government anticipate having a role in these talks? What are your objectives? And are you going to use this time, these seven days, to either get in humanitarian supplies or get out American citizens?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I have not seen those reports, so I want to be super mindful.
But, look, we remain in close contact with the Sudanese military and civilian leaders to see what we can to help them identify path to a — to reach a sustainable cessa- — cessation — pardon me — of hostilities that include humanitarian arrangements, and we are engaged at the highest levels regularly.
I had said this yesterday; I’ll say this again: The President’s senior — the senior level of the President’s national security team has been in direct contact with SAF and RSF leadership. And we have called for — to continue the ceasefire. We have called to — to bring down — to stop what we’ve been seeing: the violence there. We’ve been doing that for the past week and being very vocal on that.
But, again, there are conversations happening. We’ll continue those conversations from the highest levels here to — to SAF and RSF leadership. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do, at the President’s direction.
Q And then just looking ahead to the G7, there — we’ve seen reports that the President is going to sign an EO limiting some American investment in key sectors of China’s economy. Does he plan to sign that before the G7? And what — you know, what’s the thinking behind that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we’ll have more to share on what the agenda, what the trip is going to look like. I don’t have anything to confirm at this time.
Q Thank you, Karine.
(A White House staffer sneezes.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Bless you. (Laughter.) Phil.
Q It wasn’t me!
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sorry, was it — was it you?
Q It wasn’t me!
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Who was it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I’m so sorry. (Laughter.) Here I am calling you out, and it wasn’t even you.
Gesundheit. Bless you.
Q Allergies are bad this year.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh my gosh, the pollen is quite something.
Q Thank you for the question. So, Governor Greg Abbott has said that he will continue sending migrants to Democrat-run cities after Title 42 expires. The mayors of Chicago and New York have already responded saying they simply do not have space. What is the administration doing to help state and local governments prepare ahead of the expected influx of migrants?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, it’s unfortunate that Governor Abbott continues to play politics with migrants and with the American people. Because what he’s doing — that’s what it looks like. It looks like a political stunts, instead of — instead of trying to address the situation or maybe get the congressional members and senators that are in his state to actually ask them to work with us on truly dealing with a problem — with — with trying to figure out how do we deal with immigration reform. Instead of doing that, he wants to play politics.
So that’s what we’ve seen from the governor. It’s not surprising. That’s what he’s continued to do.
Our administration has been in touch with mayors and local government to see how we can be helpful to them — that has continued over the last several months — because Republicans continue to play politics here to put — to put political stunts in head of — ahead of actually doing — making change.
And if you think about what we’ve put together, if you think about wanting to — us to protect — put protections for DREAMers and farmworkers, more immigration judges and asylum officers, more funding for border security, and all of this, which is part of the President’s — the President’s legislation, and what we’ve been urging Congress to act on.
What we saw just earlier this week is over 430 business groups wrote to members of Congress, calling on them to get this done. Four hundred and thirty businesses have called on Congress to get this done. So this is getting support out there. American people want to see this. Businesses want — want us to act as well — want Congress to act. And so, we’re going to continue to do that and to call on Congress.
But Republicans are in the way. And Republicans in Congress are getting in the way. And what Abbott is doing does not help the situation.
Q I hear what you’re saying about immigration reform. I’m not hearing specifics about how you’re providing resources to state and local governments to handle the expected influx.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I have said that we have been in touch with state and local governments to help them in any way that we can. We have done that the past several — this past several months. Whether it is Chicago, whether it’s New York City, we have had extensive conversations — even with the DC mayor — on how we can help moving forward.
And, again, we’re in constant communication — whether it’s the White House, whether it’s DHS, whether it’s FEMA even — in how we can help cities. Every city has their own specific need that they — that they need to address to this issue.
And so we’ve been in constant communication. That has happened, and I’ve talked about it multiple times whether — whichever mayor is asking for assistance from the federal government.
Q Okay. And then quickly on the meeting on May 9th, is that purely a scheduling decision? Given the urgency of the situation, why wait a week before meeting with the leaders?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, as you know, Speaker — Speaker McCarthy is out of the country currently. And I have no idea when he’s coming back, but he’s out of the country. So that clearly has pushed this meeting a little further down a couple of days. And we want to make sure we got — we had all four of them here.
As for who’s attending, I would — no one has asked me that yet, but I know people are probably curious who’s attending. I would certainly ask their respective offices to see if they accepted the President’s offer. But again, you know, this is — we want to make sure all four of them were able to make it.
And we’re looking forward — the President is looking forward to hosting them here and having a real, important conversation about our American economy and how we’re going to move forward for the American people.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. I wonder if the President would support a short-term extension to the debt limit so that conversations about budget and debt limit can continue, potentially to September or for any other period of time?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can tell you is the President believes that it is the Cong- — is it — it is Congress’s duty to get this done. It is their duty to — to make sure that we move forward with dealing with the debt ceiling.
But certainly, we’re not going to negotiate in public. And our position is going to be very clear that Congress needs to avoid a default — and I’ll leave it there — without conditions.
Q But is an extension on the table at all?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — we won’t negotiate in public on the — on any of this.
What we will be very clear about is that it is — and our position hasn’t changed. Right? Congress needs to avoid a default.
Q And just one more question. Speaker McCarthy reaffirmed a commitment to Ukraine yesterday — to continue to send aid. Did the President have a response to that at all? Did he know that he was going to make that commitment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’re glad to hear that Speaker McCarthy agrees it is vital to keep supporting Ukraine. It is — it is — it was good to hear him push back on the propaganda put forth by Russian state news outlets, as we have seen, over the past year.
President Biden has rallied the world to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their territory against Russia — Russian aggression.
The widespread bipartisan support that we’ve seen in Congress for Ukraine has received — has been critical to those efforts. And we agree that it is important for that support to continue. And we’re glad to hear that coming from Speaker McCarthy, for sure.
Q Thanks, Karine. I wanted to ask about the trial going on in Arkansas with Hunter Biden and the child support. Are the President and First Lady monitoring that? And how come they haven’t acknowledged the seventh grandchild?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to speak to that from here.
Q Why not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Karine, what is happening with the COVID-19 Task Force after May 11th? Would Dr. Jha depart with the — with that remaining staff?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we’ll have more to share on that in the — in the upcoming weeks.
Q Thank you. If the border is secure, as the administration has said, then why would we need to send 1,500 active-duty U.S. troops down there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because we need more work. We need — more work needs to be done, Peter. We put forth a comprehensive immigration legislation, and Congress — Republicans in Congress refuse to act.
And so, the President has used the tools that he has in front of him to — to prepare ahead of Title 42 lifting. As you know, that is happening in the next couple of days.
And so we are putting — DHS, Department of State is putting forth process — processes to deal — to deal with the changes that are going to be ahead of us. And so that is what’s important here, and that’s what you’ve been seeing for the past several months. You’ve heard from DHS, you’ve heard from the State Department on what we’re putting in place to deal with — to deal with the border once Title 42 lifts.
Q You said yesterday that, when it comes to illegal migration, you’ve seen it come down by more than 90 percent. Where did that number come from? Because —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It was — I was speaking —
Q — CBP is telling us the number is —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear you. I’m about to answer.
Q — 136,000 people —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m about — I’m about to answer you —
Q — more this fiscal year so far.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: If you — if you — if the dramatics could come down just a little bit —
Q I — you know —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: If the dramatics could come down a little bit.
Q What’s dramatic about asking a question about —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. I’m going — I’m going to answer.
So I was speaking to the parolee program. As you know, the President put in place a parolee program to deal with — to deal with certain countries on — on ways that we can limit illegal migration. And we have seen — the data has shown us that it has gone down by more than 90 percent. That was what I was speaking to.
Q And just to follow up really quick —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I’m — we’re going to go. We’re going to move.
Q The President talks a lot how much —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead, go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. We’re moving, Peter. Let’s go.
Q Thanks, Karine. Just two quick follow-ups on the meeting next week.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not sure who’s speaking.
Q It was me.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, go ahead.
Q Yeah, one more on the vaccine mandate being lifted on May 11th. Do you guys plan to rehire anyone who was fired or voluntarily resigned under that policy? Would they get any sort of compensation, backpay, or anything like that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — we’ll have more to share, more details to share in the upcoming days on requirements. I don’t have anything new to share on that at the time.
Q And one more on the — on the debt ceiling. You’ve talked about “this is Congress’s duty, we’re not a deadbeat nation,” all that kind of stuff. But what’s the President’s plan to convince McCarthy of this? What do you plan to do to get him over to your side and convince him to — to see things that way?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I — the question is to M- — to Speaker McCarthy. What has changed? The question to
Speaker McCarthy is: In the last administration, he voted three times — three times — to deal with the debt ceiling. So the question is to him. What’s changed under this administration?
Okay, we’re going to keep going. Go ahead.
Q Still on the debt ceiling, if I can just zoom out. Ultimately, what is the President’s priority? Is it to avoid this thing of linking debt ceilings from — from now forever to budget negotiations, which he doesn’t want? Or is it to avoid a debt default? Because I know — I know he wants both things, but what’s his ultimate priority? Because it — like in the game of chicken, at some point, yeah, you can wait for the car, you can wait for the car, but you might have to jump out the way.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look — and I said this earlier — the President thought it would be a good opportunity to remind congressional leaders of the urgency of preventing default when the letter — when Secretary Yellen’s letter came out. So that is incredibly important.
We cannot default as a country. We cannot. It is not good for the American people, it will hurt taxpayers, it will hurt veterans, it will hurt seniors. We’re talking about 6 million — 6 million jobs here. We cannot allow that to happen.
The President is going to make — continue to fight and speak out about that. And we’re going to be very clear: Congress needs to act. Congress needs to act.
So that, of course, is going to be a priority of that conversation. It is going to be important for — for the President to make clear to Speaker McCarthy and also to MAGA Republicans, as we have been for the past several months. We’ve been very clear; the President said yesterday: We are not a deadbeat nation.
And what’s different here? What is different here? They were able to do it with — Democrats and Republicans were able to do it in the last administration. So what’s different here?
Q Okay. But (inaudible) the “playing chicken” analogy, you know, he — he might not have a choice to think about this too much at some point. You know, if the — if the proverbial car is like, you know, about a couple of inches away, he’s got to dive out the way. Does that mean he accepts what they say and avoids default, if it comes down to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The question is for Congress. It really is. What has changed? Why were they able to do this three times? Why were Republicans willing to come together with Democrats three times to deal with something that is their constitutional duty? That’s their — that’s the question for them. Really, guys — it’s the question for them.
They were able to do this, again, three times. And now, under this administration, they refuse to do it.
Let’s not forget what we’re talking about. This is — this is debt. More than 90 percent of that debt came before the President came into office.
Q A press freedom question?
AIDE: We have time for one or two more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. Can you explain the decision a little bit on why you decided to invite all four congressional leaders to this meeting instead of just Speaker McCarthy? The standoff has largely been between the President and the House Speaker, so do you all now see a role for the Senate, possibly a leading role, in them getting this debt ceiling resolved?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the President thought it would be important to get the four leaders here to talk about an incredible, critical issue — right? — which is — which is how we’re going to move our economy forward. He wanted to have the four leaders here.
This is certainly a continuation of conversations that happened in February. And so I wouldn’t read too much into it. He wants to bring them here, have a conversation — an important conversation that is critical to the American people, critical to American families. And that’s how I would view this meeting.
Q And today, House Democrats began the groundwork to try to force a vote on the debt limit and go around McCarthy through a discharge petition. Was this idea brought up during the President’s call during these —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s something for House Republicans to speak to and Speaker McCarthy to speak to. I’m just not going to speak to the mechanics of — of what’s happening on the other side of Pennsylvania.
Go ahead. I know I tried to call on you —
Q That’s okay. Two quick just follow-ups. So given what you said about Congress’s role in the debt limit, is it then the position of the White House that there is no legal alternative to congressional action? There’s nothing else that can be done to raise or suspend the debt limit or prevent a default in any way absent action from Congress?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you — do you mean legal action from us?
Q Is there — there’s no executive order or any sort of executive action that could be taken, either through the Treasury or the President, to avoid a default?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Con- — again, I’m going to sound like a broken record, as I have been for the past several months: Congress must act. We will not entertain scenarios where Congress compromises the full faith and credit of the United States.
Q So that means that — that the administration does not believe there’s any power —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Republicans —
Q — it has?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Republicans and Democrats have prevented default 78 times since 1960, including three times — as I’ve mentioned over and over in this pa- — in this specific briefing — under Trump. And so, they have to do that again.
So, that’s where I’m going to leave that for you.
Q And one more, if I may, and apologies if you sort of answered it in an earlier question. But is the administration playing any role at all in the WGA strike negotiations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No.
All right. Thanks, everybody. I’ll see you tomorrow.
2:05 P.M. EDT