Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre En Route New York, NY
Aboard Air Force One
En Route New York, New York
11:56 A.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi, everybody. All right.
Q All-female crew and one man.
Q (Inaudible.) (Laughter.) I’m the outlier.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You’re the outlier — for once. (Laughter.)
Okay. All-female crew except for one. (Laughter.)
As you all — as you know, we’re headed to — the President is on his way to Valhalla, New York, an area he won in 2020 that is represented by a Rep- — Republican member of Congress to make clear Congress has a constitutional duty to prevent default.
The President’s economic agenda has already created historic progress, including 12.7 million jobs, lowering the unemployment rate to 3.4 percent, ushering in a Made in America manufacturing boom, and lowering the deficit by a record $1.7 trillion.
MAGA Republicans in Congress are threatening to undo this proc- — progress by causing the first default in American history unless the Senate and the President agree to their harmful budget cuts.
The stakes for hardworking families across New York and the United States are high. Default would threaten 8 million jobs, trigger a recession, and retirement plans for millions of Americans. The Default on America Act would also lead to the elimination of 100,000 teachers and support staff across the country, 30 million fewer outpatient visits for veterans, and cut 30,000 law enforcement agents.
This comes as Republicans are pushing more tax giveaways for the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, and want to add $100 billion to the debt by encouraging the wealthy and big corporations to cheat on their taxes.
President Biden believes we must cut wasteful spending on Big Oil by $30 billion and Big Pharma by another $200 billion, and make sure the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share. He proposed a budget that would cut the deficit by nearly $3 trillion over 10 years.
America is not a deadbeat nation. We pay our bills. Congress has a constitutional duty to prevent default.
Lastly, as you may have seen, we just announced that the President and the First Lady will be hosting Prime Minister Modi of the Republic of India for an official state visit, which will include a state dinner on June 22nd.
The visit will affirm the deep and close partnership between the United States and India and the warm bonds of family and friendship that link Americans and Indians together. President Biden and Prime Minister Modi will highlight our two countries’ shared commitment to — to a free, open, prosperous, and secure Indo-Pacific and our shar- — shared resolve to elevate our strategic technology partnership, including defense, energy — defense, clean energy, and space.
The leaders will also discuss ways to further expand our educational exchanges and people-to-people ties, as well as our work together to confront common challenges from climate change to workforce development and health security.
With that, Seung Min, you just want to kick us off?
Q Yeah, so two topics. On the debt talks, obviously the President said — and the President and the congressional leaders said they’ve directed their staffs to start talking. So can you just give us any updates on that? Did staff-level discussions begin last night? Are they beginning today? And what can you tell us with the latest?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So one thing I can say — look, as you all know, the Pr- — the conversation — we feel, the President feels — between the congressional leaders were productive. It was a productive meeting about a path forward to make sure that America does not default on its debt for the first time in our history.
Everyone in the meeting understood the risk of default. It would erase millions of jobs, trigger a recession, devastate retirement accounts, and increase borrowing costs. And so the mai- — the ma- — the President made it clear that default is not an option and we — and Congress needs to get to work.
As I just mentioned, he laid out his — his budget, what he sees moving forward for the country. He’s happy to have that conversation. But when it comes to defaulting, that’s something that Congress should do.
As it relates to staff meetings, the st- — the staff is going to — the staff of congressional leaders and our staff at the White House are going to meet daily until — until they meet again — the leaders meet again on — on Friday. So that discussion is going to be ongoing.
Certainly don’t have anything in particular or specific to lay out of how those conversations are going to go. We always keep — try to keep those conversations private between congressional — congressional members and the White House, but that is indeed happening.
Q And can I ask on the state visit? Are the optics problematic for the White House, with the White House giving India sort of the honor of a state visit when there are obvious human rights concerns under Prime Minister Modi and the fact that there are clear differences between the U.S. and India when it comes to Russia and Ukraine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So as we do with other nations around the world, we regularly engage with — with Indian government officials at senior levels on human rights concerns, including freedom of religion or belief. That is something that the President regularly does. We encourage all countries to uphold their human rights obligations, commitments, and to work towards building inclusive societies.
As you know, this is a President who has had decades of experience of leader-to-leader relationship. This is an important relationship as we speak about the Indo-Pacific, as we talk about how to move forward in that region. And so the President believes this is an important relationship that we need to continue and build on.
As it — as it relates to human rights, as I just laid out, this is a conversation that we have with other nations around the world. The President is never shy — never shies away to — to have that conversation with leaders.
Q On the debt ceiling, do you have a sense of timing of when they’ll meet on Friday? And then secondly, where does the President stand on defense cuts? That’s come up a couple times.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: In the — in their spending?
Q In — yes —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: In their — in their —
Q — where does he —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: In their plan? In their (inaudible) —
Q Well, no, with — just with respect to general — to cutting spending, where does he stand on potential defense cuts? A couple of people, including him and the OMB director, have said that some people think they should be off the table. Does the President also think defense cuts should be off the table?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, in any — so, look, he’s — he’s willing to negotiate about the budget. He put forth his budget, and so that’s going to — that’s going to move forward.
I’m certainly not going to negotiate on the specifics, because if I start opening that door, then we’re going to talk about other pieces as well. So, I’m not going to go into — into negotiations from here.
I don’t have a time on Friday of when the leaders are going to get to come — the four leaders are going to come to the White House to talk to the President, to continue the conversation they have yesterday. Certainly, as we have done, as I did just a couple days ago, we’ll lay out where that meeting is going to happen, when that meeting is going to happen as soon as we have that locked in.
Q Karine, the President refused to rule out a short-term debt limit increase yesterday. Is a short-term fix the best option at this point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, so did Speaker McCarthy. He said that the short-term fix is not on the table as it should not be. We agree this is something that Congress needs to get to work on. This is their constitutional duty. We’ve been very clear about that. The President was very clear about that yesterday, and nothing has changed.
We didn’t — we are not negotiating on the debt limit. That is not something that we are doing. There — that should be done without conditions. We’ve been very, very clear about that.
When it comes to regular order of speaking about appropriations and spending, the President is happy to have that conversation, as he put forth a budget that talks about how he’s going to cut spending but still invests in America. We’ve laid that out. The President laid that out on March 9th. And so we’re going to have that conversation. We’re going to have that negotiation with Congress, with congressional leaders.
Q Sorry, can I just — a quick one.
Q Can I just clarify on — you said, on the short term, that he agrees with McCarthy that it should not be on the table. But he said the opposite yesterday, that he was not ruling out —
Q He was not ruling it out.
Q — a short-term increase.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Here’s the thing: What we — so, number one, we’re certainly not going to negotiate in public about any of this. But what we’re — been very clear about, which has not changed, is that Congress needs to act. Congress needs to take action. They’ve done this 78 times since 1960. And it’s something that the President had also said: We have never defaulted in the 200-plus years of our history. So they need to get to — to take that action.
Q But is this not the best option with everything on the table?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is — that is the best option. That is — right now, the best option right now is for —
Q For a short term?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The best option right now is for Congress to do their constitutional duty and to get this done. That is the best option. And the President was very clear about that and has been.
Q And President Biden also — you know, yesterday, he said, you know, he is considering delaying his trip to the G7. He — what has to happen for the President to make this trip?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — look, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals. But the President said yesterday he is committed to going to the G7 — to G7, on this trip to Japan, and Australia and also, as you know,
New Papua Guinea [Papua New Guinea], as we announced yesterday.
But preventing default is the single most important thing on his agenda. That is the single most important thing as it relates to delivering for the American people.
That said, the President is the President — I’ve said this; he has said this — wherever he is, wherever he travels. And the Amer- — the American economy is always a top priority for him. Preventing default is a Congress — is Congress’s constitutional duty and obligation, and that’s what he wants to see.
And, look, as you all know, they’re going to talk on Friday, and we’ll see where conversations go from there.
Q Karine, I know you don’t want to talk about hypotheticals, but he said it’s possible that he wouldn’t go if it goes down to the wire. So can you talk about contingency planning? Would the VP go? Are you reading her into, you know, everything, all the materials —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So —
Q — in case she has to be the one?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As for the VP — I said this yesterday in the Briefing Room — they have consulted.
The two of them have talked about — talked about this process, talked about how it’s — and she clearly agrees in how negotiating on the debt limit is not an option and how if they want to go back to regular order and have — and — as we’re trying to do with the conversation yesterday — go back to regular order and have a conversation about spending and appropriations, that’s the way we should move forward.
Obviously, they’re partners in this. And so, she has been clearly engaged in the conversations with the President.
Look, as you said in top of your question, I’m just not going to get into hypotheticals. We’re going — they’re going to meet again. The four leaders with the President are going to have another conversation on Friday. Their teams, as I — as Seung Min had asked, are going to meet every day until Friday to continue the conversations that were started.
The President felt that the conversation was productive yesterday, and I’m just going to leave it there.
Q Karine, on Title 42. While the Pres- — the President said, “It’s going to be chaotic for a while.” Can you define what that timeline means? Is it days, weeks, or months? And given that you all have had years to prepare, and we’ve been hearing about the work you’ve been doing on diplomatic issues and deterrence and processing speed, is that expected chaos a failure given that you’ve known this was coming?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let’s be very clear here. The Pre- — President has been dealing with a system that has been broken for decades. So I want to be very clear about that.
Since day one, he put in — he put forth a comprehensive immigration plan, legislation. And he is using the tools that are in front of him to deal with the challenge that we’re seeing at the border.
And Congress, Republicans in Congress in particular, refuse — they literally refuse to act. They refuse to come to the middle and meet us at the middle and come up with a real solution.
What they have put forth thus far is going to make the situation at the — at the border worse. I talked about this yesterday in the Briefing Room.
So, we have put forth a robust multiagency plan. We’re going to hear from Secretary Mayorkas tomorrow in the Briefing Room. You all will have an opportunity to ask him questions. He just did — I know some of you may have missed it on the plane. He just did a — a press conference from DHS just moments ago, speaking to this, taking questions from the press corps. He has been on television the last couple of days being very — very forthright and providing information.
You’ve heard from the Pentagon. You’ve heard from the Department of State on how we’re moving forward.
And we have put processes in place, not just now, not just the last couple of days, from the beginning of the year. So, we’ve taken this very seriously.
Republicans in Congress refused to act. What we’re seeing from Republican officials are political stunts. And we want to deal with the situation in a real way.
Q Karine —
Q Karine, what is — what is the administration’s plan B if the asylum — if the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You’ve got to let your other colleagues ask a question. (Laughs.) Okay. All right.
Q I just — I just wanted to ask: What is the administration’s plan B if the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I appreciate — I appreciate the energy, though. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
Q What is the plan B if the asylum rule is blocked in court?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, right now we’re going to focus on the tools that we have in front of us that we are able to put forth.
I’m not going get into le- — legalities here. That’s not something that I do. Certainly, if — if it gets there, that’s something the Department of Justice will deal with.
What I can say is we have put forth a — a robust plan to deal with this situation. You’ve heard us talk about it in the past several months on what we put forth, whether it’s the parole program for the four countries that — that we — that we have seen some success in, or whether is — is expanding a legal process — right? — legal — legal immigration process.
And so, we’ve been very clear about this. We’re going to continue to do the work. You all will hear directly from Secretary Mayorkas tomorrow, who will continue to have that conversation, as we have been doing with all of you the last several months.
Q On Speaker McCarthy’s —
Q A follow-up on the border. When the President said he expects it to be chaotic a while at the southern border, what specifically has he been told that may look like?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, just a couple of things: So the President said yesterday, and I have said just moments ago, we’re doing all we can, but we certainly expect the first weeks to be — to be tough, to be a challenge.
And just today, DHS and State announced additional measures — I think that announcement came out this morning around 8:00 a.m. — the first deployment of troops, the opening of regional processing centers, increased enforcement on each side of the border.
We would have liked to do a lot more if Congress would let us. But what Republicans have put forth — House Republicans — is voting to fire 2,000 Border Patrol agents, opposing our funding request, blocking reform.
So, yes, we expect the first weeks to be challenging. Secretary Mayorkas said the same at the border last week. I think he said this today during his press conference.
But we are committed to getting this done. We are committed to — to taking this on and making sure we’re using the tools in front of us, as the President has done, to deal with this challenging times.
Q Karine —
Q Karine, (inaudible) briefed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We have to land, guys. We are actually landing.
Q Can — can we just do lightning round really quick? Santos — should he be expelled?
Q (Inaudible) do that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, I — that is something –first of all, that’s something — clearly, it’s a case that we’re not going to speak to. The Justice Department is independent, and we respect that.
As it relates to your other question about George Santos, that’s something for the House conference to decide on how they want to — how they want to — how do — (laughs) — sorry — how they want to show to the American people what their conference — they want their conference to look like. That’s up to them. That’s not something that we’re going to decide — that we’re going to speak to.
Q Do you have a comment on Senator Manchin vowing to block all your EPA nominees?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ve got something real quick on that, and then I got to go.
The President stands by his well-qualified nominees to do the important work of the EPA, which includes protecting our kids from dangerous air pollution and contaminated water.
With that, fa- — folks, thank you so much.
Q Thank you.
12:12 P.M. EDT