Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby, and OMB Director Shalanda Young
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:25 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everyone. Happy Thursday. I have a couple of things, and then we’ll get to our guests. Got a lot of fun happening today.
All right, First Lady Jill Biden is traveling today to the United Kingdom to attend the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III and Her Majesty Queen Consort Camilla on behalf of the United States. The U.S. and the United Kingdom are close allies and strong partners with enduring ties between our countries and peoples. The First Lady is honored to represent the United States for this historic moment.
In addition to attending the coronation and participating in coronation activities, the First Lady will also meet with Mrs. Murthy, spouse of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. She will also join the Prime Minister and Mrs. — Mrs. Murthy for their Coronation Big Lunch.
Her full schedule was released by the First Lady’s Office earlier this morning.
I also want to share that this morning President Biden welcomed Ajay Banga, his nominee for president of the World Bank, to the White House to congratulate him on his resounding selection to lead the bank. They discussed how they will continue to work together to transform the World Bank to reduce poverty; address global challenges, including climate change; and expand prosperity around the globe.
With that, my colleague Admiral John Kirby is here to discuss our support for Ukraine and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s upcoming speech at the Washington Institute on the Biden-Harris administration’s Middle East policy, and take your questions that you all have.
With that, Admiral —
MR. KIRBY: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — the podium is yours.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you. How are you all doing today?
Q How are you? Hello.
MR. KIRBY: Good.
So, look, I know there’s been a lot of questions, over the last 24 hours or so, about this alleged drone attack at the Kremlin. We’re still trying to gather information about what happened, and we just don’t have conclusive evidence one way or the other. I know there’s lots of questions, but we just don’t have conclusive evidence.
One thing I can tell you for certain is that the United States was not involved in this incident in any way, contrary to Mr. Peskov’s lies. And that’s what they are: just lies.
Over the past few days, we’ve also seen Russia continue to launch dozens of missiles and armed drones into Ukraine, striking civilian homes and killing innocent Ukrainians, including shoppers at a supermarket.
Russia is continuing to wage a brutal war against the Ukrainian people. And we’re committed to continuing to support Ukraine as they defend their country from that aggression, including, as you just saw this week, with yet another package of security assistance — drawdown authority for the President.
On Sudan: Today, the President issued a new executive order to respond to the violence that began in Sudan on the 15th of last month. This new executive order authorizes targeted sanctions that promote accountability for individuals that are responsible for threatening the peace, security, and stability of Sudan; undermining Sudan’s democratic transition; and using violence against civilians or committing serious human rights abuses, among other things.
The United States stands with the people of Sudan, and we are acting to support their commitment — their commitment to
future peace and security.
(Bumps microphone.) Oh, sorry about that.
As the President’s statement noted, the people of Sudan suffered 30 years under an authoritarian regime, but they never gave up their commitment to democracy or their hope for a better future. Their dedication brought down a dictator only then to endure a military takeover in October of ’21 and now more violence among military factions that are fighting for control. The people of Sudan deserve better.
And if these two military factions — the leaders of them — really desire for peace and security — if they really have the Sudanese people at their heart, then they should stop fighting. They should put the arms down, abide by the ceasefires they’ve committed to, and start to get back to the table so we can see a transition to civilian authority.
Now, I know or suspect that the EO will prompt questions about sanctions and what might be coming next. Let me just get ahead of you there and tell you we don’t preview sanctions. I don’t have any specific saying sanctions to speak to today.
This EO will authorize, now, the Department of Treasury and others to take a look and see if anything like that is appropriate.
And then lastly, as Karine noted, this evening, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will deliver a keynote address at the Washington Institute’s Annual Conference, where he will outline the administration’s approach to Middle — to the Middle East region, including about how diplomacy and deterrence is fostering a more secure, stable, prosperous region that’s interconnected with the world. So I highly recommend you all tune in and take a look at what Jake has to say tonight.
With that, I’ll take some questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, guys, we have two guests and not a lot of time. So I’m going to try and go through this really fast.
Q Thank you, John.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q So you — you called what Peskov said “a lie” just a moment ago. Could you talk a little bit about what the motivation for that could or would be? And are —
MR. KIRBY: The motivation for his lies?
Q Yeah, well, why — why would he — why would he lie about that? And are you concerned that it’s — it’s the first step in an escalation as far as conflict there?
MR. KIRBY: Have you seen any Peskov press conferences? (Laughter.) I won’t even begin to try to est- — estimate my — what — why that man says what he says or what was behind that.
Although I will say, you know, from the very beginning, the Russians have been trying to paint this war as some sort of fight with the West against Russia, NATO against Russia, the United States against Russia. So it perfectly fits in his frame — the framing that President Putin has tried to label this — this war as, like it was some sort of existential threat to Mother Russia. And, of course, it’s not; Russia is the aggressor here.
They had diplomatic options on the table before they decided to roll across the border into Ukraine, and they ignored all those options to try to find some sort of diplomatic solution and some sort of peaceful way out of this. They decided war. They’re continuing to fight that war.
Q And how quickly should we expect that investigation to be resolved on their — on the —
MR. KIRBY: What investigation?
Q The alleged drone incident.
MR. KIRBY: We’re not investigating it. I want to be clear. I said we’re still looking at this. We don’t have — we haven’t come to any conclusions one way or the other. We’re going to try to learn more. But let’s not label it a “report” or an “investigation” or anything like that. We’re doing the best we can to try to find out what happened.
But — but look — and that’s why I pivoted in my opening statement. While I understand the interest in this — and clearly, we’re interested in it too — let’s not lose the bigger picture here. It’s not like Mr. Putin has to invent new reasons to kill innocent Ukrainians. He keeps doing it over and over and over again.
Now, whether he’s going to use this as some sort of pretext is up to him. But just in the last 24 hours, you know, he’s — he’s bombing shoppers at a supermarket. So the violence just continues one way or the other.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nadia.
Q Thank you. Thank you, Karine. Hi, John. I’m here.
Can you walk us through the thought process of why you decided to impose sanction on Sudan now? We asked you this question many times before, but is it a way to try and to — you give up on the generals to end this conflict and return to the civil rule? Is it a way to encourage some action to end the conflict?
And second, why you do not mention General Burhan or General Hemeti by name? You just did not name anybody in this sanction.
MR. KIRBY: Well, we didn’t announce any sanctions today. As I just said before I turned it over to questions, we don’t preview sanctions. I have no sanctions to speak to one way or another.
What this EO will do is give us, the administration — thanks to the President’s decision to execute this order, to sign this order — will give us authorities and flexibility should we want to apply sanctions as one tool here in order to — to hold folks accountable and to try to get at a better solution inside Sudan.
Now, look, I — there was no need in reading out the EO to name the leaders of these military factions, but it’s not like we’re afraid to. We’ve said all along we’re talking about General Burhan, who is the leader of the SAF, and General Hemeti, who is the leader of the Rapid Support Forces. But you shouldn’t read into that that I’m previewing some specific sanctions against them individually or any other entity. We don’t preview sanctions.
If and when we’ve got something with respect to sanctions to speak to, we’ll certainly let you guys know.
Q But why now you’ve decided on the sanctions?
MR. KIRBY: Again, I — we haven’t decided on sanctions. We don’t preview sanctions. This EO allows for authorities to look at tools, leverage tools, particularly in the case of sanctions, possibly sanctions. But we haven’t issued any sanctions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Kristen.
Q John, and Admiral, thank you for being here. And I understand what you’re saying; you’re still assessing the situation. Can you help us understand what, if any, conversations is the administration having with Ukraine to help it brace for what appears to be a new round of Russian attacks at this point?
MR. KIRBY: It’s almost a continuous round, Kristen. I mean, I think if you’re sitting in Kyiv, you wouldn’t be talking about a new round. It’s almost constant the barrage that Mr. Putin has — continuing to visit upon Ukrainian cities and the Ukrainian people.
And what are we doing? We’re focusing a lot on air defense. I would — the majority — I don’t have the exact figures with me, but the majority of cruise missiles that were launched against Ukraine in just the last 48 to 72 hours, the Ukrainians were able to down using air defense — air defense capabilities that had been provided not only by the United States but by allies and partners.
So we are continuing to focus on that.
Q And Secretary of State Blinken said that the U.S. has more confidence in Ukraine’s capabilities heading into this spring offensive than was suggested in those leaks. Can you speak to that? How much confidence does the administration have in Ukraine’s spring offensive? And when do you expect it to begin?
MR. KIRBY: I’ll tell you what we’re confident in: We’re confident that we have done just about everything we can here in the United States, but also speaking broadly for our allies and partners, to make sure they’re ready if and when President Zelenskyy chooses to go on the offense, and he’s the only one that can make that decision.
So I can’t answer your second question, but I can tell you that we’ve done everything we can to make sure that they’re ready. They have the vast majority — and by “vast,” I mean something to the order of 98 percent — of what they asked for materially to do offensive operations in the spring, they’ve got it: armor; artillery; air defense; ammunition, including just the recent package; not to mention the training we’ve done for multiple brigades of Ukrainian armed forces outside the country.
So it’s not just the stuff, it’s the know-how and how to — and how to use that stuff in the field for what we call “combined arms maneuver,” which is what they believe they’re going to need operating in open terrain, integrating mechanized infantry and artillery and air defense all in the field.
So we’ve done everything we can. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop. It doesn’t mean, like, we’re just done. You’re going to see continued support from the United States going forward.
But — but as for the actual execution of any kind of spring counteroffensive, that’s going to be up to President Zelenskyy.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jeremy.
Q Thanks. Hey, John. In terms of the dr- — the potential drone attack on the Kremlin, can you just tell us what your baseline of facts is? I mean, have you been able to authenticate any of these videos?
MR. KIRBY: No.
Q Are you able to confirm that there was a drone attack that indeed took place?
MR. KIRBY: No.
Q And can you walk us through any of the potential —
MR. KIRBY: Next question? (Laughter.)
Q You’re going through it. It’s good. Rapid fire.
Can you go through any of the potential theories that you have for what this could have been or what the potential motivations would’ve been?
MR. KIRBY: I think the last thing I’m going to do, Jeremy, is speculate up here. We’re — we’re still trying to ascertain exactly what happened here and do the best we can. And we’re going to be humble about this, Jeremy. There — it may be that we’ll never fully understand exactly what happened here.
So I — I think I’m just — I think I’m just going to leave it at that. I’m not going to speculate.
Q And then, secondly, on — on China. The U.S. Ambassador to China said yesterday that the U.S. is ready to talk and engage at a high level with Beijing. So far, it seems like it’s been crickets from Beijing. Have you gotten any signal that China is gearing up to be open to that kind of high-level dialogue again? And are you putting back on the table rescheduling Secretary Blinken’s trip to China, which was canceled earlier this year?
MR. KIRBY: We never took it off the table. It was postponed; it was never canceled. And I think Secretary Blinken spoke to this yesterday that we’re — they’re still communicating with the PRC about trying to get this back on the schedule. We would certainly like to get them over to Beijing to open up some more of those lines of communication that the Chinese shut down after Speaker Pelosi visited Taiwan.
I would tell you that — that’s a good segue to my next point, which is the lines of communication with the PRC remain open. I mean, it’s — it — we —
Q It seems quite one-sided at this point.
MR. KIRBY: We do — we have an embassy there. We have an ambassador. We have an ability to communicate directly with the — with the Chinese. Certainly through the State Department here at Foggy Bottom in D.C., they have the ability to continue to communicate with the PRC. The lines of communication are not shut down completely.
The problem is, Jeremy, that some important lines of communication were shut down, like the military-to-military channel. And we’d like to see that get back opened up, because, I mean, I think we can all understand with all the tensions going on, particularly in the South China Sea, that the risks of miscalculation go up when you can’t talk to one another.
Climate change is another venue — vehicle for bilateral communications that now has shut down. And, I mean, we believe it’s an existential threat to the planet. The Chinese and the United States are two of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world, so there’s value for that line of communication to get back opened up. We’re committed to that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Tam. And then a couple more.
Q Heading into May 11th, the U.S. is — had some troops going to the U.S. border and — and other items to prepare for a possible influx of migrants. What is the U.S. asking Mexico to do to prepare? Are you expecting them to match that force or anything like that?
MR. KIRBY: No, I would walk you away from thinking that this additional force deployment has some — there’s some sort of reciprocal action that we’re looking for from Mexico.
I’d point you to the readout of Liz Sherwood-Randall’s trip to Mexico City. I mean, it’s — it’s clear that we’ve got good dialogue with Mexican authorities, both at getting at drug trafficking as well as ille- — illegal immigration.
And we’re grateful for the Mexican government’s willingness to continue to take and house migrants that illegal — illegally are trying to enter the United States. So there’s been a terrific dialogue there. I’d point you to that.
But — but don’t think about this extra 1,500 troops as some sort of thing we’re looking for reciprocal behavior. Again, and Karine did a good job with this yesterday, but just to reiterate: These — these — these troops are not going to can- — participate in law enforcement activities. They’re simply going for — to — to flesh out what is already an existing mission by DOD on the border with administrative tasks, helping with logistics and sustainment and that kind of thing.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Way in the back. Go ahead.
Q Japan holds $1.2 trillion, the largest U.S. debt. And there’s — a growing number of countries seem to be moving away from the use of the dollar. Is there an understanding of this — of a concern for that, as the world reserve currency is really a big part of why the U.S. is able to exert its leadership? Is there understanding of the fact that countries are beginning to turn away from the use of the dollar and some way to resolve that?
MR. KIRBY: Well, I’d have to let Japan speak to their economic policy. The —
Q (Inaudible) a number of countries that are beginning to denominate in dollars away from the U.S. dollar.
MR. KIRBY: I’m going to have to take your question, sir. I don’t have good answer for you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead, sir.
Q On Sudan. One more on Sudan. Should we read the executive order then as sort of a warning to both sides about this ongoing conflict? And does it signal a shift in the U.S. assessment for the prospects of a lasting ceasefire?
MR. KIRBY: We — it — I think we — it would be terrific if there was no need to execute sanctions one way or another.
No, I wouldn’t read it as a warning. It’s the President setting up the proper authorities in case we want to use those kinds of tools.
What we want to happen, and we’ve said this clearly and repeatedly, is that — for them to put down their arms, stop fighting, get back to the table to — to work on a transition to civilian authority, which is what the Sudanese people want. And just as critically, and I did not mention this and I was remiss in not doing it, is to allow humanitarian assistance to get in — food, water, medicine. All are in short supply, in Khartoum in particular. And somewhere — more than half, I think it is, of the hospitals in Khartoum are now shut down.
None of that’s good for the people of Khartoum or Sudan. So that’s what we want.
Q But has the analysis shifted at all on sort of the prospects for that ceasefire to hold?
MR. KIRBY: We’re going to — we’re still working at that. I mean, the — it has been extended, as you know, a couple of times. There has been sporadic fighting in spite of that.
That said, they have led, in general — and I’m speaking generally — to a reduction in the violence, which is good, but it’s not good enough, because the humanitarian assistance is still not getting in because it’s still too tenuous and too dangerous.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, time for three more.
Go ahead, Francesca.
Q Over here. Thanks.
MR. KIRBY: I’m going as fast as I can.
Q Do you expect to ever be in a position to be able to confirm whether this drone attack took place or not?
MR. KIRBY: (Throws hands up and shrugs.)
Q Okay. (Laughter.)
As far as Presidents Zelenskyy and Presidents Biden go, are you expecting any sort of a conversation between them in the near term?
MR. KIRBY: A conversation between President Biden and
Q That’s right.
MR. KIRBY: They talk regularly and frequently. I couldn’t tell you when the next conversation is going to be, but these are two leaders that have a frequent, regular communication with one another.
Q And with respect to the South China Sea, the President is heading to Australia later this month. Could you talk a little bit about what you view to be the benefits of the nuclear-powered submarines and how that would affect military readiness?
MR. KIRBY: What this is is about providing — helping provide Australia with a nuclear-propelled submarine capability, which will obviously — and you saw the rollout there when we went to San Diego; it’s going to take a few years to get them there because the engineering work that has to go in to operating safely, which is essentially a miniaturized nuclear reactor on an undersea craft, is pretty complicated. It takes a lot of hard work. And we’re looking forward to working with the Australians and the British to get them this capability.
What — what nuclear power does for you in the undersea environment, it gives you staying power, it gives you range, and it gives you duration so that you can stay underwater, stay hidden, and stay lethal for longer periods of time without having to come up — literally to come up for air.
So it’s a terrific capability. We’re absolutely confident that the Australians are going to be able to master this. And we’re already hard at work on getting them there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Weijia.
Q Thank you, Karine. Thanks, John. Publicly, you’ve said many times that these allegations are a lie. And I wonder if, behind the scenes, that message is being delivered as well, and what you can share about engagement with the Russians, if there is any, about understanding what happened.
MR. KIRBY: I know of no — and I’d refer you to the State Department. I’m not aware of any private conversations between us and Russian officials over this alleged drone attack. I mean, it just happened yesterday.
MR. KIRBY: But, I mean, I think we’ve been pretty clear that what Mr. Peskov says is just a blatant, bald lie. And I don’t know that we need to privately convey that to him. I’ve been saying it all morning, and I’m saying it here again today.
Q Given the nature of the allegations, what does it tell you about the intensity of possible retaliation? In other words, if it is a false-flag operation, is there a concern that the response is going to be proportional?
MR. KIRBY: It’s hard to look at what’s been going on in the Ukraine for now more than a year and slap a “proportional” label on it. Ukraine wasn’t threatening anybody. They were certainly not threatening Russia. And yet, Mr. Putin decided to roll on in with about 190,000 troops, tanks, and other armored vehicles.
He continues to bomb Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure with cruise missiles and drones. And there’s nothing proportional about this. Ukraine is fighting for its life. They’re fighting to defend their territory. And we and so many other nations are doing the best we can to help them do that.
Now, how Mr. Putin reacts to this alleged drone attack is going to be up to him. But it’s difficult to see — at least from where we’re sitting — it’s difficult to see that he’s sitting around waiting for some excuse to continue to victimize the Ukrainian people.
Now, maybe he’ll use it that way. And I don’t know whether it was a false flag. But that’s why I pointed you to the last 24 hours. Just in the last 24 hours, two dozen Ukrainians killed, some of them shopping for food for dinner.
The brutality is just — it’s off the charts. It’s not — it’s not — there’s nothing proportional about this fight. Nothing.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The last question. Here.
Q Thanks, Karine. John, I’ve got a question about a House Oversight Committee subpoena that was issued yesterday. It’s seeking an FBI document from 2020 that, quote, “describes an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions.” What’s the White House’s response to this serious corruption allegation?
MR. KIRBY: I’m going to have to refer you to the Justice Department on that. I have nothing for you on that today.
Q Do you know what this is — what country this pertains to or what policy decision?
MR. KIRBY: I have nothing for you, sir. I’m going to have to refer you to the Justice Department.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
MR. KIRBY: And I’m getting the hook. (Laughter.) See ya.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. All right. Thank you so much. Trying to move quickly.
Our next guest is OMB Director Shalanda Young, who is here to discuss how Speaker McCarthy’s Default on America Act would slash program f- — for families, programs that families rely on.
Before I kick it over to Shalanda, I wanted to note a new analysis from Council of Economic Advisers, which confirmed with real-time data that we are already seeing significant market stress from default threats. CEA’s analysis showed even getting close to default could be incredibly damaging to financial markets and cause serious economic harm to American workers and businesses.
Brinkmanship would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and slow the economy. An actual default would be even more severe, with the economy losing 8 million jobs if the default were to last three months. Eight million jobs for three months — if it were to last for three months.
There is a broa- — broad consensus among economists that default would create an entirely avoidable economic catastrophe. That’s what’s at stake here. That is what is at stake. That’s what the President has been talking about. That’s what we’ve been trying to make very clear for the American people what’s ahead if this were to be allowed by House Republican.
With that, I will turn it over to Shalanda Young to discuss House Republicans’ Default on American Act in more details.
Shalanda, the floor is yours.
MS. YOUNG: Thanks. I am only supposed to come here on Budget Day — (laughter) — and I promise you I’m not going to surprise you with budget number two. But still — still happy to be back with you today.
Look, for most Americans outside of this town, which is who we’re all here to work for, the conversation around budgets and default are sometimes made to — by a lot of leaders here — to sound more complicated than they are.
It’s pretty simple. Last week, we saw House Republicans pass a partisan bill that essentially says we’re going to put our entire economy at risk unless the President agrees to our entire agenda, to gut programs hardworking families depend on.
Does it sound extreme? It’s because it is.
Imagine if this President said “Here’s my budget” on March 9th. “If you don’t take it all — lock, stock, and barrel, don’t change your word, pass it without changes, I’d be willing to cause a recession and cost millions of people their jobs.” That would be extreme.
Look, the President’s position is simple: Congress needs to take action to prevent default, without hostage-taking or political brinksmanship, just as they did three times under the last President. He is eager to have a separate conversation about the budget without threatening our economy.
But I want to be really clear: This is not some abstract debate. This is about real people’s lives. And it’s important that people understand exactly what this bill would mean for them.
For starters, it would cut veterans’ benefits. That’s why we saw public outcry from two dozen veterans’ groups when this bill was considered.
It jeopardizes public safety, reducing support for law enforcement and laying off 2,000 Border Patrol agents.
Undermines rail transit safety, leading to 7,500 fewer rail safety inspection days and increasing wait times at TSA checkpoints.
Slashing funding for schools with low-income students, impacting an estimated 26 million students.
Taking away nutrition services for seniors. We’re talking Meals on Wheels.
It will jeopardize health coverage and access for 21 million Americans.
The list goes on and on.
And, by the way, if House Republicans ultimately walk away from some of these deeply unpopular cuts, then their cuts to everything else get worse. The math is just the math.
And here’s the kicker: Their bill does all of this, even as they separately fight to extend trillions of dollars in tax cuts skewed to the wealthy and corporations in this country.
So don’t let anyone tell you this is about fiscal responsibility or deficit reduction. It is not. This is about using the threat of a catastrophic default to extract deep cuts that the American people do not support.
The President has taken a very different approach. In March, he released a budget that invests in the American people — you’ve heard me and you’ve heard the President say this — grows the economy from the middle out and the bottom up, and cuts the deficit by nearly $3 trillion over the next decade. We do that by cutting hundreds of billions of dollars in wasteful spending from Big Pharma, Big Oil, and other special interests, and by asking the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share.
You know what we don’t do? We don’t ask American people to be the only one that gives at the table. We don’t cut cancer research, Alzheimer’s research, Head Start slots to put our country on a better fiscal path.
So the bottom line is: Congress needs to act. Preventing default is their basic constitutional responsibility, and they need to get it done. Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. “The math is the math.”
Q Thank you. You’ve laid out the stakes pretty clearly here, but so far, no one seems to be budging. So I wonder, especially given, you know, the clock really ticking at this point, we are just a few weeks away, at what point do you start planning for default to actually happen? Have those plans already started? Are you talking with companies?
MS. YOUNG: Look, we believe — and this might be Shalanda the optimist — and I’ve worked with a lot of those members of Congress in my nearly 15 years on the Hill — they all know the devastating results of default. They all — many of them were around in 2011 when our full faith and credit was reduced.
And so, I have hope that we will find a path to avoid default, but it’s our job to keep coming to you, go to the American people, and make sure people understand what this debate is about. It’s not complicated.
So this is what we’re doing to make sure we keep that drum beat up. And I do believe the majority of the members of Congress know that is the wrong path to go down.
Look, we saw the partisan process play out; now we need to pivot to a bipartisan process. That’s the only thing that’s going to make it to the President’s desk and avoid default.
Q You mentioned the U.S. credit rating, which was downgraded the last time we got this close to default in 2011. How concerned are you that we could see a repeat of that; that the U.S. could be downgraded if this comes down to the wire even if default is ultimately avoided?
MS. YOUNG: You’ve heard Karine talk about our economists’ report. Clearly, any of those things should concern any American. They’re going to be paying more for — for loans in this country. Is it going to take their cost of living any higher? Of course, we’re concerned.
We’re calling on the reasonable people in this town to do the right thing.
Look, a bill tomorrow — this is what we don’t talk about — Congress could put a bill on the floor tomorrow, avoid default. The D.C. drama, the political brinksmanship — that’s what that is. Nothing is preventing Congress from moving to avoid default. And they need to do that, whether it’s tomorrow or next week.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Catherine.
Q Thanks. Shalanda, is a short-term increase to the debt ceiling on the table? Is that something you could line up with the September 30th appropriations schedule?
MS. YOUNG: Look, I’ll — congressional leaders are going to have to figure out a way to do this. Of course, I’m sure there’ll be conversations about the length. You saw the length in the congressional Republicans’ bill that would take us into this situation again, this time next year. So I’m sure one of the things on the table we will have to work through is how long. I’m not going to take anything off the table.
The important thing to do is to make sure we do this and leave the drama behind, regardless of what length we end up in.
Q And if Congress does not act in time, what’s your comfort level with issuing premium bonds, prioritizing payments, some of those strategies we’ve heard talked about?
MS. YOUNG: I’d like to remind people prioritization and many bills moving through Congress ideas is default by another name. Paying some bills — not all bills: default.
We are Americans; we pay our bills.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Steve.
Q So it sounds like from your answer to Kevin’s question that you’re not taking a short-term stopgap off the table. If Congress were to send the President a bill that would waive the debt ceiling — let’s say through the end of September — he would sign it?
MS. YOUNG: I mean, right now — remember where our debate is. We’re in the “take it or leave it” phase from congressional Republicans. At least that part of the conversation about length — I would love to be in that part of the conversation because we’re at least in the positive; default is off the table.
So I’m happy when we get to that part of the conversation. We’re not there yet. And the idea is to brinks- — put brinksmanship to bed and get to talking on making sure we avoid default.
And once we’re talking about timeframe, that means we’re at least on the right side of this debate.
Q Let me ask you a follow-up on the second, separate part of the spending question. The President — we’ve heard him say it a couple of times now. He said it on April 19th, when he went to Accokeek, Maryland. He said that the — the House Speaker talks “about limiting spending. All for that, man. Let’s limit spending.” That’s the President’s quote.
What does he mean when he says that? Is he — is he serious about limiting spending? Or is he mocking the House Speaker? Is he — is he suggesting that there might be some cuts he would be amenable to? What is — what does he mean when he says that?
MS. YOUNG: So I don’t know the context of how the President answers this. What I will say is I’ve talked to the President a lot about spending priorities.
This President has made clear — you heard in my topper — there is spending we like not to talk about: spending on Big Pharma, spending on Big Oil. Closing tax loopholes in his budget saves $30 billion. The President is happy to cut that spending. He’s been clear about that. Would you rather do that, or would you rather cut Head Start?
So this President has not backed away. The problem is who you value in this country. Is it special interests? Or do you want to save on the back of people who can least afford it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Three more. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, (inaudible). So, quickly — so you laid out how dire the situation is. Then why is the meeting with the House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, on May 9th? Why not have it today?
MS. YOUNG: Well, I don’t know where the Speaker is and what his schedule is, so I won’t speak to trying to get the leaders of the country into the same room. What I do know is the meeting is happening.
As you know, the President is going to make clear that default has to come off the table, that he is happy to talk about spending priorities and who you value in this country, what our right tax policy is in this country, why every time we have this debate it has to go to working families in this country first in order to do the right thing for this country. That’s what’s important.
That message is going to be delivered and is going to be delivered next week.
Q Is there a timeframe where you see def- — the downgrade could happen? Are you looking at maybe the last week of May, this month, that there possibly could be a downgrade? Is there a date that you guys have identified where there could be a downgrade (inaudible)?
MS. YOUNG: Look, I’ll remind you: The — the Secretary’s letter — I know it gets reported that it was June 1st. That was an “as early as.” As more confidence goes around a number, the Secretary will refine to make sure all decision-makers know what the updated timeline — when there’s more confidence around it. So I think we need to let that work out before we go into — to knowing when the credit agencies might speak to — to the full faith and credit of the U.S.
And, by the way, the whole reason I’m here today, the whole reason you will hear a full administration vote, it’s because we don’t want to get there. Because even that has an impact on the American people. Why would we do that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Two more. Go ahead, Courtney, in the back.
Q Thank you. Will the President go to the meeting next week with Republicans with a counteroffer on appropriations — next Tuesday’s meeting about the debt limit — since they’re trying to merge both? Is there going to be a counteroffer on spending?
MS. YOUNG: So you — you’ve heard my outline and what the President will deliver. Look, I have a question for you. We’re skipping a few steps. This bill hasn’t gone through the Senate. I’ve done appropriations a long time. Something tells me that those top lines in that bill — there are many Republicans who could not vote for bills that actually told the American people by line item what it means.
We’ve talked a lot about veterans. If people get nervous about those veterans’ cuts and they decided not to do that, what’s next? Cancer research? You zero out the highway money in the transportation bill?
Go look. We’ve done this before. Republicans have done this before: 2013, 2014, put a transportation bill on the floor. It never left the floor. Because those cuts hurt communities, whether you’re represented by a Democrat or a Republican.
So we’ve seen a partisan process that’s vague on purpose. Wait until you see the details. Let’s see when the appropriations process falls down. I think they need to work out some of their own issues to see if those toplines really sell with congressional Republicans writ large when we see spending bills come through. And then they need to tell us what they can pass and get to the President’s desk.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Last question.
Q On appropriations, can I ask one more, Karine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Quickly.
Q On appropriations, I know that you sat at the beginning of the year with the four cardinals on appropriations and talked about how important it is to get back on a regular order to be done by September. How does that play in here with the debt ceiling negotiations or conversations? And are you still committed to that regular order?
MS. YOUNG: We should be. Everyone in this town will tell you regular order is a good thing.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Jordan?
MS. YOUNG: It ma- — what — it makes it hard —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sorry.
MS. YOUNG: — it makes it hard when appropriations spending is being brought in to default conversation. Those things should be handled separately. That’s my entire point.
So not only is it catastrophic from a default perspective, it sets us on a road to be ineffective in the appropriations process. So this is a cascading problem, and we need to look at it that way with a holistic approach.
How do you do the spending process when it’s being brought forward into this very partisan process?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Last question.
Q Director, thank you for being here. You said that nothing’s off the table. Does that apply to the President invoking the 14th Amendment if that is necessary, if this comes down to the wire?
MS. YOUNG: Oh, well, let me be very clear: Congress
needs to do its job. Tomorrow, they could put a bill on the floor to make sure we don’t default. This is of people’s own making.
I could probably write the bill for them in five minutes. It’s pretty easy. (Laughter.)
And we need to, like, keep reminding ourselves this is — this is — this made up. This is made up drama. And we believe that just as they did three times for the last President, hundreds of times in the history of this country, that it is Congress’s duty to ensure we don’t default.
Q And yet, at this point, no one is blinking. So if we get to May 30th and there’s still no deal, would the President entertain the possibility of invoking the 14th Amendment?
MS. YOUNG: We continue to have the position that this is Congress’s duty to do.
Q So it’s not off the table?
MS. YOUNG: It is Congress’s duty to do, and we will continue to say that.
Q Let me just ask you about Avril Haines. She told a Senate panel today that almost certainly China and Russia would use a default to demonstrate chaos in the United States. Do you agree with that assessment? And how broad would this disaster be — would it be for the U.S. to default?
MS. YOUNG: I have the utmost respect for the DNI, and I couldn’t agree with her more.
This — this is — this just gives to our global competitor. They love this. They love to see chaos in the American system. They love to see that we can’t do our basic jobs. It’s no less than a test of what works in this world. Does democracy still work or does the Chinese way work?
And things like this, we have to step up to the plate and do what’s right for the American people, because it’s no less than what the DNI has — has laid out.
And, by the way, some of these cuts — and I know people want to take defense off the table — what about our research? What about manufacturing? In all the progress we made in bringing manufacturing back to this country, why would we, at this moment in time, with the progress we’ve seen in unemployment, manufacturing jobs, making it in America — why would we do anything in this country to not only halt but reverse that with having a made-up fight that could be ended tomorrow?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Thank you, ma’am.
MS. YOUNG: Thank you. You all looked lovely this weekend. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.
Q You did, too.
MS. YOUNG: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: TED Talk. Shalanda’s TED Talk. (Laughter.) We love it.
Okay. Now, we’re running out of time, guys, but I’m going to give you the week ahead so all of you have that. So — and that’s before I take any more questions. And, of course, you should be interested in what the President is doing next week.
So, tomorrow, the President will participate in a meeting on how his Investing in America agenda is creating good-paying jobs and rebuilding the economy from the middle out and bottom up.
On Monday, the President will host a screening of Born — “American Born Chinese” in celebration of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
On Tuesday, the President will meet, as you all know, with Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Leader Chuck Schumer, and Leader Mitch McConnell at the White House. We will have more to share on that.
On Friday, President Biden looks forward to welcoming President Pedro Sánchez of Spain to the White House to further deepen the historic ties between the United States and Spain. The two leaders will review our efforts as NATO Allies and close partners to strengthen our bilateral defense relationship, transatlantic security, and economic prosperity.
They will discuss our unwavering support for Ukraine and our efforts to impose costs on the Kremlin as Russia continues its brutal war of aggression.
The leaders will — will coordinate on a range of issues as Spain prepares to assume the rotating presidency of the Council of the Europ- — of the European Union in July, including climate change and expanded cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean.
With that, Colleen. Good to see you. I haven’t seen you since Ireland, I feel like.
Q Thanks. I know. I was — I think that’s right, actually.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Okay. So, two questions. One on the border: We’re already seeing signs of, you know, massive strain at border facilities and especially in the Rio Grande Valley. And, you know, Title 42 is ending next week. How confident is the President that the — the — the fixes that he’s put in place are going hold, given that we’re already seeing, you know, strains in the system?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me first say that — look, as you know, we have been putting forth policies and programs for the past several months, kind of heading into May 11th and understanding — right? — that Title 42 was — is going to lift.
And so, you’ve heard from the Department of Homeland Security, you’ve heard from the State Department; they just held a press conference last week. And so, you — we have laid out what the tools in our toolbox that the President is able to use to deal with this issue, to deal with the challenges that we’re seeing at the border. And this is something that the President has been taking very seriously from the beginning of his administration.
And we have asked Congress to take action. We have asked Congress to meet us even halfway as we put forward a legislation on the first day of his administration — a comprehensive immigration piece of legislation. And we understand how important it is to modernize a broken system.
So, we take this seriously. We put — we put our processes in place. I can say, as some — some of you are already following, that Secretary Mayorkas is at the border in Texas today with many of your colleagues to assess ongoing preparations for the return to Title 8 immigration processing, something that I spoke about today.
They’ll be visiting a processing center, a port of entry meeting with migrants and agents, and observing some of the removal flights that DHS is ramping up.
Secretary Mayorkas is going to hold a press conference tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. So, I just — I would recommend or suggest — a friendly suggestion to listen in on his press conference on the multi-agency comprehensive response that we’re having today.
And — and so, I’ll leave it there. Look, I can’t say what it’s going to look like after — after May 11th. But what I can say is that this is an administration that has taken the challenges that we see at the border very seriously since day one.
Q Thank you. And then, on the other question, the President stopped by an AI meeting today. So, I wondered if you could talk a little bit about his views on AI and what he asked ChatGPT. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I can — I can — I know there was questions about this, about if the President has — has used ChatGPT. Yes, the President has been extensively briefed on ChatGP- — -GPT, and has been — and knows how it works. So, I can confirm that.
And I know, as it relates to his thoughts — but what I want to — you know, I haven’t go- — I haven’t asked him about his thoughts on it.
But look, this is something that is important to the President. This is why he has had continuing engagement on this issue. As you know, he had one very recently with PCAST. And you — you all got to hear a little bit from him.
As it relates today, the Vice President and senior administration officials convened the CEO meeting — and these CEOs lead companies at the forefront of I- — AI innovation — to underscore the President and Vice President’s belief that AI is one of the most powerful technologies of our time, but in order to seize — seize the opportunities it present, we must mitigate the risk. And that’s what we want to see. We want the risk mitigated, and we want the products to be safe.
And so, that is what you’re seeing from these — this engagement, in particular, with CEOs. But that is something that the President has — certainly want to make sure that we’re dealing with AI in the way that, as we know, is the most powerful technology of our time. But we have to make sure that we protect people’s rights. And that’s what you’re seeing this — this administration doing.
Q Director Young said a moment ago that the math was the math when it comes to the — the debt ceiling issue. Does that apply to vote count as well? Because neither the House or the Senate have the requisite votes to pass a clean debt limit increase. So, the solution that the President is proposing is at odds with the current reality on the Hill. Does he need to adjust in order to get right with — with reality?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, Congress needs to act. Really. And when she says —
Q But the votes don’t exist. I mean —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait. Hold on a second. When you say — when she said “the math is the math,” this is going to be catastrophic for American people. There’s a reason why we call the bill that House Republicans put together the Default on America Act, because it is.
If they move forward with what they put forward — and we know all of House Republicans and MAGA Republicans voted on this bill — it is going to hurt American families. And it is the President’s job to also be very clear with Congress, with Republicans in Congress: You got to do your job. It is simple. You take an oath. This is it. This is the basic thing that you need to do for the American people to make sure that we are not a deadbeat nation.
Seventy-eight times. Seventy-eight times that we have been able to do this since 1960. Three times in the last administration.
So the question is to them. The question is to Speaker McCarthy, as I’ve said many times before here, is to — to the MAGA Republicans: What is going on here? Why can you not get this done? It is simple. It is simple.
And to — just to take it back to the — to the President, the President has done more for the American people, certainly, than MAGA Republicans have done in the last two years.
Q Do you have a solution that you can present next week that will get 60 votes in the Senate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President is going to bring — bring the four leaders of the House and the Senate to the White House, as you know, next Tuesday, May 9th, as you just stated. And he’s going to lay out what the consequences are. He’s going to — he’s going to be very clear that congressional members need to take action.
This is their constitutional duty. He’s going to be incredibly clear on that, as he has been for months. For months, we’ve been very clear.
We — we do not understand why they can’t get this done. In the last Republican administration, Democrats put their politics aside, and they came together with Republicans and got this done.
Look, we can have — every — every year, we have a conversation about the budget. That is something that happens. Right? You have a conversation about appropriations, you have a conversation about the budget, and you negotiate. That makes sense.
We’re having a conversation about default? Really? When it’s their job to get that done?
Q Thanks, Karine. I wanted to ask about — there’s been some tumult in the banking sector, specifically in the stock market. And it seems like the concern has moved from depositors pulling their money out of mid-range banks to investors in mid-range banks. And in 2008, during the financial crisis, U.S. regulators imposed a stop on short selling of these banks. So I’m wondering if that is something that is under consideration by the White House right now.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I can say the administration is going to closely monitor the market developments, including the short selling pressures on health- — on healthy — on healthy banks. I would have to — I would have to refer you, Justin, to the
SCE [SEC] on any possible actions. But certainly this is something that we’re going to continue to monitor.
Q And then, quickly, I was just going to follow on Colleen’s question. On the AI meeting, the sort of concession from companies going in was that they would allow folks to — to look at the underlying models at this hacker convention coming up in August. In the Vice President’s statement, she said that she and the administration endorse new laws and regulations on AI.
Does the White House want to see AI products go through sort of a regulatory look under the hood before they’re released? Or are they — are you guys okay with the status quo, which is that stuff is just coming out, and then maybe after the fact companies will agree?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m not going to get ahead of the readout. Look, it — it was a frank conversation. It was a honest, frank conversation, which included discussion on a couple of things — three main things: is the need for companies to be more transparent with policymakers, the public, and others about their AI systems in particular; the importance of being able to evaluate, verify, and validate the safety, security, and ef- — and the efficacy of AI systems; and the need to ensure AI systems are secure from malicious actors and attacks, as you were just stating, Aus- — Justin.
Look, we have led on these issues since long before these newest generation — gene- — generative, I should say, AI products, and will continue to do so in a way that mitigates risk. Again, mitigates risk and protects Americans. That’s what we want to move forward with.
And, look, again, honest conversation, frank conversation. You had four CEOs here meeting with the Vice President and the President. That shows how seriously we take it.
We had the PCAST meeting just last month to talk about how to — to talk to — so the President could talk to his team on what we can do.
And look, we’re going to continue to have these engagement with critical stakeholders on this issue. This is — this is important to the President.
Q Thanks, Karine. I — you know, you’ve said many times that it’s up to Congress to raise the debt ceiling. If that does not happen, will the White House and the President be confident in saying, “We did everything in our power to avoid it”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think the — the question is to Congress: Did they do what they were supposed to do to avoid it — their constitutional duty? It is — I get the question. And I understand he’s the President. And I understand why you all asked the question.
But this is so easy. This is not difficult. It truly, truly is not. Seventy-eight times this has been done since 1960s.
It — this is something that we are supposed to do: pay our debt — pay our debt — which we have done; we have never not done.
And so, look, the President is going to have them here. He’s going to lay out why it is so important and critically important that we do not allow the American families to be hurt here, because that’s what the default will be. That’s what their bill will do. And so, it is on them. It is on them.
I hope when Speaker McCarthy comes here next week, you all can ask him — ask him that question. What is he going to do? He is the leader of the Republican caucus — right? — the Republican Conference. He is the Speaker. This is something that he needs to do.
Speaker Pelosi make — made it happen. She put the politics aside and made it happen.
So — and this is something that, you know, we want to communicate with you all, and we understand that you guys get the process here, but we also want the American people to understand, which is what the director said just moments ago.
Q And then, on another topic. Does the President believe that there should be a code of conduct for the Supreme Court?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I know I’ve been asked about ethics and this question many times before. The Senate is currently moving forward with a process. We’re going to leave it to the Senate for now.
Q But his own commission on the Supreme Court, which he established, issued a report in 2021 —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Understood.
Q — that said, “A code of conduct for the court would bring the court into line with the lower federal courts,” et cetera.
Did the President read that report?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Understood. The President has — has seen the report. He — we have said many times before he appreciated the bipartisan commission that came together and put the report together — put the report that you’re just speaking of.
As it relates to this moment in time, the Senate clearly is taking — taking some sort of action. They’re going through their process. And we’re just going to leave it there for now.
Q And finally, on this topic, you have said from the podium that you’re not going to comment on any stories having to do with Justice Thomas and his own code of conduct. Why not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right now, it is being — as it relates to the ethics, as it relates to that process, the Senate is clearly moving forward with their own — own Senate procedural process. I’m just going to leave it there for now.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Actually, I’m going to go take it to the back, and I’ll come back down.
Who have I not called on? Go ahead, sir.
Q Hi. I have two questions about President Sánchez’s visit. Is the President going to do a joint press conference?
And also, we’ve had the leaders of the Philippines, Ireland, and Brazil here without joint press conferences with the President. What is the threshold for which leaders get a joint press conference and which ones don’t?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I appreciate the question. We — we had a joint press conference just recently — just last week — with the South Korean President, as you know. We’ve — I’m sure you probably listened in on it, which happened I think about a week ago. Today is — no, last Wednesday. So that occurred.
I don’t have anything to share about Spain and their travels. And we’ll have more details about what that — what the agenda will look like.
Look, every conversation is different. It is a diplomatic conversation that occurs when a — when we talk about what they’re going to be doing here at the White House. I just don’t have anything more to share on that.
Q Thank you. France’s chief inspector for prisons denounced, in a report published yesterday, indiscriminate arrests at French pension protests. She said — she talked about systematic use of police detention as a method of repression. What is the administration’s take on this latest accusation against the police in France?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I would refer you to the police in French — in France to — to deal with this question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would refer you to them.
Go ahead, Mary.
Q You keep saying that the President next week, at this meeting with the congressional leaders, is going to lay out the consequences, outline why this is so important. You also noted, though, that you guys have been laying out the stakes for weeks, and yet nothing has changed. What makes the President think that getting in this room, laying out yet again what is at stake here is somehow going to suddenly change Republicans’ calculus?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, you know this President. He’s been the President. He’s been the Vice President. He’s been the senator. He’s been on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue dealing with these types of issues. He knows these folks, right? He knows the — these leaders. And the President has been able to get things done in a bipartisan way in the past. We have the record to show that.
And so he’s going to sit down, have an honest conversation, a frank conversation. Don’t want to get into what could happen or what might happen coming out of them.
But I think it’s important for the President of the United States to lay out on behalf of the American people what this will mean — directly, face-to-face — directly to the Speaker. And so that’s what you’re going to see.
Look, we know that Leader Jeffries and we know that Leader Schumer and the President are on the same page. They have been on the same page for months. This is something that Congress needs to do. And we’ve been calling on Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans to do their jobs.
So, look, they’re going to have a very frank and honest conversation. This is something that the President knows how to do and has done it in various positions. And so we’ll — we’ll see how it goes.
Q One other quick thing. On the shooting in Atlanta, has the President reached out to any of the families or the victims?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to preview or read out on any conversations that the President has had with any of the victims of the shooting yesterday.
Clearly, it was a gut-wrenching event. And, you know, our
hearts — our hearts go out to — to the victims and the families in another horrific, horrific gun violence that we have seen — we’re seeing in our communities.
AIDE: You have time for one more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, go ahead, Karen.
Q Thanks, Karine. What’s the White House reaction to the Proud Boys leader and three of his top lieutenants of the group being convicted of seditious conspiracy for their role in the January 6th attack?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, clearly, we — we have seen the verdict. And — but while the verdict has been reached in this case, we are also very mindful that there are other similar cases pending, and so we don’t want to interfere clearly with those. So I would refer you to Department of Justice for comment on this case as it related — on this case as it related to other cases as well.
But — but we’re just going to be really mindful as we know there are pending — other pending issues here.
Okay. Thanks, everybody.
2:22 P.M. EDT