James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:31 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everybody. 

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, a couple of things for you at the top. 

So, a few things that I want to say about the current state of play on budget negotiations and averting default.  So, for starters, this is a manufactured crisis, plain and simple.  That’s what we’re seeing currently.  That’s what we’ve been dealing with for the past couple of weeks: a manufactured crisis. 

And don’t take our word for it; just listen to members of the House Freedom Caucus.  They’ve been very honest about this and are now openly — they’re saying the quiet thing out loud, referring to the full faith and credit of the United States as a hostage. 

But I — I do want to be clear here: Averting default is the responsibility of every single member of Congress.  Think about what’s at stake here.  And that’s what we’ve been doing.  We’ve been laying out for weeks, for months what is at stake.  A default would have catastrophic impacts in every single part of this country — whether you are in a red state or in a blue state, it doesn’t matter — every single part of the country.  We’re talking about millions of jobs lost, devastated retirement counts, and a recession. 

We’ve also heard some House Republicans refer to preventing default as the only concession they are willing to make.  But preventing a catastrophic default is not a concession; it’s their job.  Period. 

And let’s be clear about what Republicans are demanding in exchange for doing their job and preventing a default.  Earlier this year, they put forward an extreme package of devastating cuts that would slash supporting — support for education, law enforcement, food assistance — the list goes on and on and on and on — by what now would be about 30 percent.

That is not at all what the American people want.  That is not what they deserve.  That is not what they’re asking for.  And the President has made clear — he’s made this very clear that that is not happening on his watch. 

House Republicans have said we need to make these cuts in the name of fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction, but that’s not what this is about.  That’s never been what this is about for them.  Because even as they fight to gut investments in hardworking families, they want to turn around and protect tax breaks skewed to the wealthy and corporations. 

And guess what?  Just last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said those tax cuts would add $3.5 trillion to the debt over the next decade. 

And don’t forget — don’t forget this — it was under President Trump, the last President — not President Biden — that America’s debt increased by 40 percent.  Again, by 40 percent under the last President.

During President Biden’s first two years in office, he cut the deficit by $1.7 trillion.  Now, folks, that’s a record.

And in March, he released a plan that would reduce the deficit by another nearly $3 trillion over 10 years — not by slashing programs hardworking families can count on, but by cutting wasteful spending on special interests and by asking the wealthy and big corporations to begin paying their fair share, including closing loopholes. 

Those are the contrasting vision that these negotiations started with.  That’s where we began with the negotiations. 

Now, look, the President and the Speaker have agreed — they both have said this — they both have said — they agreed that default is not an option.  It is off the table.  The Speaker himself has publicly acknowledged that for any agreement to pass the House, the Senate, and to reach the desk of the President, it’s going to need support from Democrats.  That is the reality that we’re in. 

The President’s team will continue to negotiate in good faith to reach a reasonable bipartisan budget agreement.  That’s what the President and the Speaker agreed to, and that’s what they tasked their teams with reaching from this outset. 

And that’s the only — the only way to move forward here on behalf — this is on behalf of American families, on behalf of the American people. 

So, if I’ve left you with any doubt about House Republicans’ priorities, in just a few hours, all you got to do is check yourself.  House Republicans will vote on a resolution to block President Biden’s plan to provide up to $20,000 in student debt relief to borrowers who — most of whom make less than $75,000 a year. 

The President’s plan is a good one.  It’s a popular one.  And it will help prevent borrowers from default when loan payments restart this summer. 

The choice House Republicans make today will send a clear message to their constituents.  Let’s take a look. 

Will Marjorie Taylor Greene, who had $183,000 of her own business loans forgiven, vote to deny debt relief to the 92,000 student borrowers she represents?

Will — will Representative Vern Buchanan, who had over $2.3 million of business loans forgiven, vote to deny student debt relief for 95,000 of his own constituents?

To the more than 40 million eligible student borrowers who are eagerly waiting to learn about the fate of their debt relief, I urge you to tune in today’s vote — in to today’s vote to watch which Republican lawmakers shamelessly vote against debt relief for you after having their own loans forgiven. 

And know this: President Biden won’t stand for it.  He will not stand for it.  And he will veto this bill because, let’s be clear, this is not about cutting wasteful spending for Republicans and it never has been.  The same Republican lawmakers objecting to student debt relief are refusing — are refusing to cut billions of dollars in handouts to Big Oil.  They even had their own loans forgiven, as I just laid out and you just saw on the chart to my left here. 

Meanwhile, President Biden has reduced the deficit $1.7 trillion and put forward a plan to cut wasteful spending and to end the deficit by another $3 trillion over the next decade. 

And finally, I want to say a few words about a somber occasion that we are marking today here at the White House.  One year ago, the President was in — in his office on Air Force One, returning from an official trip to Asia, when he saw the breaking news of a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. 

Like millions of Americans, he was horrified and heartbroken.  Yet again, our nation had lost innocent young children and teachers in a deep — in a deadly act of gun violence at school. 

When the President landed back at the White House that evening, he was briefed in the Oval Office and addressed the nation from the Roosevelt Room.  He grieved for the families in Uvalde and called on Congress to act. 

The following Sunday, the President and the First Lady traveled to Uvalde to visit a memorial outside Robb Elementary, attend a mass with grieving members of the community, and spend time with the families who lost loved ones in the attack. 

The shooting in Uvalde had also come 10 days after the devastating mass shooting in Buffalo.  And together, these attacks became a catalyst for the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in Congress. 

Since then, in addition to signing the most significant gun legislation in 30 years, the President has continued to implement dozens — two dozen executive actions to help reduce gun violence and keep weapons of war out of dangerous hands. 

But he has continued to say that it’s not enough.  It is not enough.  And he’s continued to call on Congress to take action.

This afternoon, President Biden and Doc- — and Dr. Biden, the First Lady, will mark one year since that tragic day in Uvalde which stole the lives of 19 children and 2 teachers and injured 17 others.  The President will remember those lost prayer — lost with prayer.  He will pray for the survivors, the children, the first responders, and community members who will bear the trauma and scars from that day for the rest of their lives. 

And he will reiterate this call for Republicans in Congress to help stop the epidemic of gun violence that has become the number one killer of our kids in America.  From universal background checks to requiring safe storage of guns to ending immunity from liability for gun manufacturers to banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, we need Congress to enact commonsense policies that Americans support.  Uvalde is a tragic reminder of the urgency to pass gun safety legislation.

With that, Darlene, please take it away.

Q    Thank you.  A couple of questions on the debt limit.


Q    There’s a — there was a change of venue today for the talks; the negotiators are here.  Can you tell us if the President perhaps might have dropped in?  And why are the negotiators meeting here versus Capitol Hill, where they’ve been meeting since the beginning?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know — as you just stated, Darlene, they’ve been meeting for — since the beginning at the — at — on Capitol Hill.  We truly appreciate the Speaker’s hospitality for those important negotiation — budget negotiations.  And we tell — we just felt it was time for a change.  I wouldn’t read too much into the change of venue, but we are glad to be hosting the negotiators here.

Just to add a little bit more color, it’s happening in the OMB offices at EEOB, which is just on the other side of West Exec, and it started around noon today and it’s still continuing.

Q    Can you say whether any contingencies are in place or are being made for the President’s travel in the event of the defaults?  The White House had previously announced he’s traveling to Colorado on June 1st, which could be default day, to — to speak at the commencement for the U.S. Air Force Academy.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As you just stated, the — the plan is for the President, on June 1st, to go speak to the graduates at U.S. Air Force, which happens to be in — in Colorado.  And so, the President, as the Commander-in-Chief, is looking forward to certainly giving that commencement.

Look, our job and our focus and what we’re going to try to do and — and that’s what the negotiators have been doing for these past several meetings is to — certainly to continue to work on this budget negotiation and to avoid default.  The President has been very clear: Congress needs to act.  We need to avoid default.  And so, we are going to work very hard to make sure that — that we don’t get to that X-date.

Q    And then just a quick one.  Has there been any — has the President reached out to the Governor of Guam with the typhoon approaching or inching over the island there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have any calls to read out.  Just a couple of things.  The President has been briefed on the typhoon and is continuing — we’re going to continue to — to look at the impact that the typhoon will — will certainly have in Guam.

On Monday night, the President approved an emergency declaration for Guam and ordered federal assistance to supplement terri- — territory and local response.  Federal agencies — including FEMA, Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Guard — have been deployed and are coordinating response effort.

The White House is in close contact with the government of Guam and has offered as much support as needed to respond to this to this tragic — to this tragic — major storm.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Can you help Americans understand what will practically happen on X-date?  There will still be money left.  What is the rate of the cash flow and where will the money be prioritized, whether it’s Medicaid checks, Social Security checks?  What happens on that day?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as I’ve said, look — look, that’s not the — as — as you speak to pri- — prioritization, that is not the plan.  It is a recipe for economic catastrophe.  It would throw the economy into chaos.

So I just want to be really clear about this.  The Se- — the Secretary of Treasury said and has said this as well, that prioritization is effectively a default. 

Steven — Steven MunchkinMunchtin [Mnuchin] said, and I quote, “That doesn’t make sense.  The government should honor all of its obligations and the debt limit should be raised.” 

Jack Lew: “I think prioritization is just default by another name.” 

Timothy Geithner: “Prioritization is unworkable, harmful, and the world would recognize it as a first-ever failure by United States to meet its commitment.”

The only way to avoid this kind of economic disaster is for Congress to do its job, is for Congress to act to prevent default.  And that’s going to be our focus at this time.

Q    And I hear that, but I think a lot of Americans don’t understand what’s going to happen practically.  Can you help us understand that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, here’s the thing: This is why we have said this is — would be catastrophic to our economy if there is a default.  We’ve been very clear.  We’ve laid out what could potentially happen.  Remember, this would be our first-ever default if it were to happen.  We — we’re going to do everything that we can to avoid this.  That’s why we’ve been asking for Congress to act.

But a couple of things that we would — that this would lead to: It would wipe out millions of jobs, up to 8 million jobs.  It would trigger a recession.  It would devastate retirement accounts.  It would increase costs.  It would damage our international reputation.  This is what could potentially happen if we devaul- — default. 

Again, we are not a deadbeat nation.  That’s what the President has said.  We have been able to pay our debts.  Since 1960, we did that 78 times. 

So — and that’s just one part of what could happen.  The other part that — what could happen, too, is we could see the — the gains that we have made these last two years under this President — when you think about 12.7 million jobs, that could be gone.  When you think about unemployment rate at the lowest — at one of the lowest that we have seen, 3.4 percent, that could hurt that.  The manufacturing boom, the 8- — 80,000 [800,000] new jobs that we were able to create — manufacturing jobs — that could be gone.  The $1.7 trillion of deficit [reduction] that the President was able to do the first two years — a record.  That could be all gone. 

So that is what’s at stake. 

And I believe — we believe the Americans — the American people understand that.  And so, we’re going to do everything that we can to make sure that that doesn’t happen. 

Q    And just one more on the negotiations.  McCarthy has made very clear what Republicans are asking for.  The White House has made clear where President Biden is willing to meet them halfway.  But what concessions are the White House trying to get in this deal?  In other words, what are you going to get out of this deal other than raising the debt ceiling?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, a couple of things.  And I’ve said this — I think I said this yesterday, the President said this on Sunday — not — certainly not going to negotiate from here, but I’ll lay out a couple of things that the President has been very clear.

We put forward a proposal that cuts spending by more than $1 trillion.  That’s on top of what the President put in his budget on March 9th, which is — which is a $3 trillion cut in deficit over 10 years. 

And the President has made clear that he and congressional Democrats cannot support devastating cuts that would slash enf- — law enforcement, education, and food assistance.  So we’ve been very clear on those pieces.  We’ve said this over and over again. 

I’m just not going to get into specifics from here, beyond what the President laid out on Sunday.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Republican negotiators have been talking a lot on the Hill.  One of the concerns that they’ve raised is that the White House negotiators have not been empowered by the White House.  They say Young and Ricchetti are talented and that they work hard, but felt that they were being hamstrung by the White House.  Can you speak to that and whether the White House negotiators are being empowered by the White House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  They’re absolutely empowered.  This — this is a team that the President selected himself.  These are long-term advisors — long-time, I should say — advisors to the President, if you think about Steve Ricchetti, if you think about Louisa, who’ve been around him since he’s been senator.  And you think about Shalanda — Shalanda, who has — Shalanda Young, the OMB Director, who has had an impressive history working on the Hill and also here working for the President. 

These are talented — extremely, extremely talented and experienced — experienced individuals who are now part of this negotiation team for the President on the budget.  And the President trusts them and — and really, you know, believes that they can get the work done. 

And so, look, negotiations, the way that we see them, remain productive.  As you know, they are meeting right now in — at OMB with — with the — with the House negotiators.  There are always going to be disagreements, right? 

And I said this yesterday.  I kind of go — went into how negotiations work.  They — they — it is a democracy in action, right?  We’re not — no one is going to get everything that they want.  That’s something that when you negotiate, you have to understand. 

And so, look, the big and important thing is that they are — we are talking.  That’s part of negotiation is talking.

And the talk — and the talks continue.  And — and we believe that there is still an opportunity here to get to a bipartisan, reasonable — reasonable bipartisan agreement that Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate can move forward with. 

Q    Can I also ask you about the — I mean, essentially, the lack of a significant market reaction to these talks?  There are analysts out there who — who feel that a market reaction could actually serve as kind of a forcing mechanism to move the sides closer together.  Have — my — my questions is: Has the lack of a market activity maybe hurt your efforts, maybe hurt the White House’s bargaining position, negotiating position?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll say this — I got to be very careful as we’re talking about the markets here.  I’m not going to speak about the markets reacting or moving.  That is not something I’m going to do from here.

What I know and what we believe is that the American people — they understand what’s going on.  They understand what’s at stake.  And so, what we’re going to do is focus on them.  That is the most important thing here, making sure that American families get what they need — right? — to make the ends meet as they think about — as they think about what is it that there is needed in their household.  Right?  Having those conversations — those really important conversations that mari– many American families have almost every month, if some — some of them even more. 

And so, that is our focus.  We know — we know — I just — I just read out what could potentially happen — what could potentially happen if we default: millions of jobs — you know, trigger a recession.  We can’t allow that to happen.  This is why we’re continuing to have these conversations.  This is why the President has been very firm on how Congress needs to do their job and deal with the debt limit.

Q    But isn’t the lack of a reaction representative that — that Americans aren’t as concerned as — to the things —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to speak —

Q    — that you’re laying out?


Q    And should that — does that hurt you?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I appreciate the question.  I’m just not going to speak to the market.  That is not something I’m going to do from here, from this podium.

And what I’m going to speak to is what we’re going to do, what we know would be catastrophic to our economy, what would be catastrophic to American families.  And that’s why the President has been very, very clear on this.  He has held the line on this for a couple of months, which is: Congress needs to act.  We need — they need to deal with the debt limit, just like they have done 78 times since 1960. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Franco was just talking about what Republicans have said about your negotiators.  Can you characterize how you guys feel about Congressman McHenry and Graves and how they’ve been negotiating up to this point?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, what I can say is that the negotiations have been productive, which is what matters.  The conversations continue, which is what matters.  And the focus is on what — what the leaders said themselves — what Speaker McCarthy and what the President said as well, which is: Default is off the table.  We’re going to continue to negotiate in good faith. 

And if that is what occurs, then we can get to a bipartisan reasonable — reasonable negotiation or deal on a budget — on a budget deal.  And that’s what’s important.  And so, that’s going to be our focus here.

Q    Given where the Republican offers currently stand, are there any regrets about entering the negotiations, since they haven’t seemed to have moved all that much from where they were originally?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we — we believe they’ve been productive.  That’s what we believe.  We believe the conversations — these negotiations remain productive, and that’s the path that we’re going to continue on.  We believe that there’s a path here to move forward. 

Of course — of course, there’s going to be areas of disagreement.  That’s what negotiations are all — all about, right?  That’s why there’s nego- — that’s why we’re negotiating here. 

But, look, we believe that we can get to a solution here.  We can get to a bipartisan, reasonable agreement.

That — again, let’s not forget: This — this agreement has to get the support of Democrats as well as Republicans in the House and in the Senate.

Go ahead.

Q    Karine, you just said repeatedly that you thought that talks had been productive.  But you also opened the briefing by putting some House Republicans on blast that you put up on the screen.  So how have talks have been productive?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we just laid out — I just laid out the facts.  That’s all.  I have actually — what I did was lay out the facts that I’ve been talking about and — and highlighting for the past several months. 

And I think it’s always important to do that.  I think it’s always important when I’m in front of you all and when we’re –and when I’m talking to the American people for them to know exactly what’s happening.  And that’s what I did. 

Now, are the talks productive?  Yes, we believe that the negotiations, the budget negotiations that have been happening, are — continue to be productive. 

But at the same time, we — I think it’s important to lay out the facts for the American people as they are wondering and curious about what is happening right here in Washington, D.C.

Q    But what is the progress — the specific progress that’s been made?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get into specifics about what’s being discussed in these negotiations.  We’re going to give the negotiators some space, as we’ve been saying, to negotiate, to have the discussion, to have a conversation. 

We have been very clear — yes, is there — are there areas of disagreement?  Absolutely.  Which is what negotiations are all about. 

They’re going to — we’re moving in good faith — having those conversations in good faith.  And we believe it’s a path forward to get to, again, that bipartisan, reasonable budget agreement because that is what is needed for it to actually move out of the House and move out of the Senate into the — on the desk — to the desk of the President.

Q    And then lastly, on that point: June 1st, just around the corner.  Does the White House believe that it will have the money to keep paying the United States’ bills beyond June 1st?  Would it be a day, two days?  How long?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, any — any specifics on the X-date and what that’s going to look post-X-date, that’s something that the Treasury Department is going to answer or that’s something that they’re going to look at.  I’m not going to speak from that — to that from here. 

What I can tell you is our — our focus is to avoid that.  Our focus is to give the negotiators some space to continue to have this conversation, to continue to come — come to an agreement that is bipartisan, that can get out — again, get out of the House, get out of the Senate, and get to the President’s desk so he can sign it.  And that’s going to be our focus right now.

Go ahead.

Q    Over the past day or so, it seems like there’s been some really tough talk from officials about Speaker McCarthy, basically saying he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth, accusing him of — in the public claiming he’s willing to negotiate and in private rejecting any compromise.  Does the White — does the President believe he’s dealing with someone who is negotiating in good faith?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The President believes that negotiations are actually remaining productive, and that’s what’s important. 

The conversations that are happening with his team — right? — this is a team — when it comes to who we’re dealing with on this — on the other side of Pennsylvania.  Right?  The group of — of House — of House — House negotiator — negotiators — that is Speaker McCarthy’s team. 

And so, they remain to be productive.  We believe that if it continues to work — if they continue to work in good faith and recognize that neither side is going to get what they want, we can get this done.  We can get this done.

Q    So Speaker McCarthy is negotiating in good faith?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s — that’s — that’s been our — our experience as we’re dealing with their negotiators.  And that’s what we’re saying: If it keeps going in good faith, then we can get to an agreement here that is bipartisan and that will get out of the House and get out of the Senate.

Q    And if necessary, is the President willing to sign a temporary extension of the debt limit in order to get this deal done?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, just not going to get into any short term or temporary pieces of legislation.  What we’re trying to get to is something that has been done 78 times since 1960 — is raise the debt limit.  That’s something that Congress has done. 

And, you know, we’re — we’re talking about — when you’re talking about what’s happening with this manufactured crisis, this will be the first time — the first time that we could potentially default.  And we should not be doing that.  This is not something that this nation is known for. 

You heard the President say over and over again, we are not a deadbeat nation. 

Look, we’re going to let the negotiators do their job, continue to have the conversation.  And we believe that there’s a path forward.

Q    So, he’s not taking a temporary extension off the table?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just saying that that’s not the conversation that we’re focused on.  We’re focused on — the conversation that we’re focused on is get — dealing with a budget negotiation that — that is bipartisan and that is reasonable.  That’s what’s important right now: continuing to call on Congress to raise the debt limit or to do their job.  Simple.

Go ahead.

Q    Karine, on the debt ceiling.  Is there a — 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Shocking.

Q    — drop-dead — I mean, big surprise, right?  (Laughter.)

Is there — is there a drop-dead date where, you know, after which it becomes impossible to enact the — that legsi- — legislation that’s necessary?  You know, so do you have to have a deal tonight, tomorrow — tomorrow?  You know, is Friday enough time to get to that potential X-date?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I — look, I — I get this — I get the question.  Look, our country has never defaulted on its debt.  And it will — it will — it will never — it never will.  And that’s kind of our focus, right?  We’ve never done this, and we will never do — this will never happen, right?  That’s the way we see this. 

And, you know, that’s going to be our focus.  That’s the answer that I have for you on that piece.

Q    Can you say a word about contingency planning, in terms of, you know, special measures?  The Treasury has taken extraordin- — extraordinary measures.  There are additional novel approaches that have been described by various think tanks or economists or experts.  Would the President prefer some, you know, extra or additional extraordinary measures to having to invoke the 14th Amendment?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, as it relates to the 14th Amendment, the President has been very clear: That is just not the answer here. 

The answer here is for Congress to do its job like they did 70 times — 78 times since 1960.  That’s the answer. 

As it relates to the X-date itself, that’s something that the Treasury Department will do.  That’s clearly on their watch.  That is something that they will focus on. 

And so I’m just going to leave it to the Secretary.  I believe she did an interview earlier this morning.  And so I would refer you to — to the — the Treasury Department on this particular question.

Q    Okay.  And then just real quickly on Amanda Gorman’s poem being — being banned in a Florida elementary school.  Do you have a comment on that move?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sure.  So, look, the President was proud to have Ms. Gorman — the youngest Inaugural Poet speak at his inauguration, as you all know, just a little — two — over — over two years ago. 

As Ms. Gorman said herself, the poem, “The Hill We Climb” was written so that all young people would see themselves in a historical moment.  And the President and his min- — administration certainly stand with her, as he was, again, very proud to have her at his inauguration. 

Banning books is censorship.  Period.  That’s what that is.  When you ban a book, you are censoring. 

It is — it limits American freedom — Americans’ freedom, and we should all stand against that type of — that type of act when it comes to banning of books.

Go ahead.

Q    Yesterday, you said that everyone is working in good faith.  And you said on today’s briefing that the House Speaker is working in good faith. 

You spoke to the “hostage taking” and saying the quiet part out loud now.  Do you think that other congressional Republicans are working in good faith?  And what do you say to congressional Democrats who feel cut out of the process and feel like Republicans have taken control of the narrative?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I can’t speak to other Republicans.  They can speak for themselves.  You can see their quotes and what they have said, and you all have been certainly reported — reporting that.  So, I will leave — I’ll leave their words — I’ll let their words speak for themselves.  I’ll leave that there. 

Look, as it relates to other Democrats — look, the President is fighting to protect clean energy manufacturing.  He’s fighting to protect student debt relief and to lower costs for prescription drugs and to save the government money.  That is what he is fighting for. 

He’s fighting against proposals that take away people’s healthcare and push people into poverty.  And so, the President has been very clear on that.  He’ll continue to do that. 

But it is important to have these types of budget negotiations.  It is important in those budget negotiations to, again, make sure that we have a bipartisan, reasonable budget agreement that — that both Democrats and Republicans can support in the House and in the Senate.  And so, that’s going to be the President’s focus.

Q    And on the U-Haul truck, you said yesterday that the President had been briefed on that.  Has the President been briefed since?  Or has the White House learned anymore about the suspect’s alleged interest in Nazis and Hitler?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So look, I don’t have anything more to share.  The President certainly has been kept up to date. 

As I said yesterday morning, he was briefed — he was given a — given a briefing from Secret Service and also the Park Police of what they know so far.  He was relieved to see — to hear that no — no one was hurt that night, and he was very complimentary and grateful to the agents and law enforce- — enforcement officers who quickly — who quickly responded.

And so anything else — any details or information — about the particular individual, I would have to refer you to the U.S. Secret Service.  I just don’t have anything in more details to share.

Go ahead, Karen.

Q    Thanks.  Speaker McCarthy continues to criticize the President for not meeting with him for 97 days to talk about these issues.  Given how close we are to this June 1st deadline with no deal at this point, does the President have any regret for not engaging with McCarthy over that time?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ve been very clear, Karen.  I appreciate the question, and I know what the Speaker has been saying, but we’ve also been very clear for the past several months of where we are and what’s at stake and how important it is for Congress to do their job — to do their job, their constitutional duty.  We’ve been very clear for months and months.

And — and, look, the President put his budget out on March 9th.  He laid out in a very clear way on how he sees his values, right?  We talked about values here and this — and the President’s quote about that and how he sees the economy moving forward to — to help the American people.  We put that out on March 9th for not just Americans to see but for — for –certainly for House Republicans in Congress to see.

And so, they put out their budget — or passed their budget on April 26th.  And, you know, a few days after that, the President started the budget negotiations.  And that’s what he laid out.  That’s what he said he was going to do: put out his budget, ask the House Republicans to put their budget.  They didn’t pass it until April 26th.  After that, he — we started the budget negotiations.

And so, again, I’ve been very clear about this and, at the same time, holding the line and saying how important it is for Congress to do their jobs, to do their constitutional duty.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Will the President commit to staying in D.C. until they reach an agreement or will he travel over the holiday weekend?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the President will be — will be — will be wherever he needs to be to secure a reasonable bipartisan deal to prevent the economic catastrophe that Republicans are threatening: this — this manufactured crisis.

And so, that is what he’s going to do.  He — he’ll do that wherever he needs to be. 

I’ll note a couple of things on his schedule so you all are aware.  I think you all are tracking this.  He will be participating in a wreath-laying ceremony and delivering the Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery.  That’s what he’ll be doing on Monday, Memorial Day, as always.  He will receive regular updates from his staff and keep in touch with members of Congress. 

And he is President wherever he needs to be, and that’s what you’re going to see from this President.

Q    And one more.  Do you have any comment on the Federal Trade Commission investigating whether baby-formula manufac- — makers colluded on bids for state contracts?  Is there any concern about the stability of the formula market?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any comment to make at this time.  So, I’ll just leave that there.

Go ahead, Peter.

Q    A couple on questions.  I’ll leave some of the other questions related to potential for default to others.  But there is a new COVID wave in China right now that’s getting a lot of attention.  How closely is the U.S. tracking this new wave?  And is there any conversation right now about potential travel restrictions, or would that not be necessary given the U.S. has already experienced this variant, it seems?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I — I’ll do your last question first.  We’re — there’s no changes of travel that I will be announcing from here.  I don’t have any — any conversations to speak from — to speak of at this time.  Of course, we’re always monitoring.  That’s something that we do when — when the — when things like this occur, but just don’t have any update for you at this time.

Q    Does the U.S. feel like it’s getting accurate information as it relates to this COVID wave from China?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, it’s not a conversation that I’ve had with our teams here, so I can’t comment — give an official comment on that.  But certainly, this is something that we continue to monitor.  I just don’t have anything to preview or to announce at this time.

Q    And within the last hour, we learned that Tina Turner passed away.  She was 83. 


Q    I didn’t — clearly a surprise to you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I did not know that.

Q    I didn’t know if the White House had any heads up or if the President had any comment, but I’ll give you time to (inaudible).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, that is the first time I’m hearing that.  That is incredibly sad news. 

Tina Turner was an icon — a music icon, who had many stages and many amazing moments in her career. 

Very sad to hear the news.  I was a huge fan of Tina Turner.  As you can see from my reaction, that is the first I’m hearing of it.  And it is a massive loss — massive loss to the communities that — that loved her and certainly to the music industry.  And her music will live — will continue to live on.

Very sad news.  Our hearts go out to her family and her friends on — on their loss.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, I’ll go to back ahead.  Go ahead, Ed.

Q    Yeah.  Thanks, Karine.

So, on the debt ceiling, you used words like “catastrophic” and “devastating” today.  But the President, again, is going to Camp David this weekend and then going to Delaware.  If this situation is so dire, then why — why is the President —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I already answered that question.  So, do you have another one?

Q    But more specifically?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I literally just answered that question.  I’m happy to —

Q    He came back from Japan.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — go ahead.  Go ahead.  Go ahead. 

Q    No.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Any other question?

Q    No, that’s it.  (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, great.  Keep going.  Go ahead, sir.  Go ahead.

Q    When is the last time that — has the President and the Speaker spoken since Monday?  And, if not, when are they expected to maybe speak and engage one on one again?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any conversation to preview at this time. 

Look, the President and the Speaker will speak when — when the time is right, when the time is necessary to do that.  We are giving — I’ve said this moments ago, we’re going to give the negotiators some time to have a conversation, to continue to negotiate. 

We believe the talks are moving in a productive way.  And so, I’ll leave it there.

Q    What is that timeline?  I mean, is there, sort of, a specific sort of narrowing —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  There’s no —

Q    — that has to happen before the two —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  There’s — there’s no timeline to throw at you or to lay out to you.  I’m just saying that the — it’s been productive.  They’re here, meeting right now.  They started around noon today.  We are hosting, as you know, the negotiations today at the EEOB at the Office of — at the OMB offices. 

And so, we’ll leave it there, continue to give them the space.

Go ahead, Owen, way in the back.

Q    Karine, thank you.  Good afternoon.  I have two separate questions for you.

One on Senator Tuberville: He continues to prevent or hold up Pentagon promotions.  He says the DOD’s new abortion policy is illegal.  And he says taxpayer dollars should not be funding abortions.  And he’s got a lot of support.  There’s a petition going around right now supporting his stance.  What does the White House say to Americans who agree with Senator Tuberville?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I’ll say this — I’ll speak to this: Senator Tuberville is — he’s threatening — right? — our national security with his political gamesmanship — that’s what we’re seeing from the senator — and risking our military readiness by depriving armed forces of leadership and harming military families.  That is what’s currently happening.  That is what is — the senator is threatening here.

So, we urge him — we urge him to drop his holds on — that he has currently on DOD nominees immediately.  And that’s what you’ll hear from us.

Q    And a separate story here, and this is one that’s really caught the eye of a lot of Catholics and Christians, and it’s — and, frankly, they’re — they’re hurt by this. 

The L.A. Dodgers are honoring a group called the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” during a Pride Night game next month.  The Archdiocese of L.A., Catholic leaders there say the group mocks the Catholic faith and women religious who serve the poor and sick and is asking all Catholics to stand against bigotry and hate in any form.

The President is Catholic, we all know.  What is his reaction to this story, please?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I appreciate the question, Owen.  I’m just not going to get into the middle of — of who a sports team is going to honor or should honor or should not honor.  That’s just not something that I’m going to get in the middle of.

Q    The President has made it — you know, it’s very important to him, religious freedom.  He’s issued statements on it in the past saying all people of all religions should be treated with equal dignity and respect.  I know — I know you — you know, you said — you just said there you kind of want to stay out of it, but isn’t this a prime example of something like that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to get in the middle of who a sports team decides to honor or not honor.  That is not — just not going to get in the middle of that.  But appreciate the question.

Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  I do have debt-limit questions, but I have one off topic first.  What do you all make of Hillary Clinton defending Dianne Feinstein over questions about her age but not defending President Biden for the same questions about his second term?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I have not heard these comments, so I can’t speak to it.

Q    Okay, moving on.  A CNN poll shows 60 percent of Americans are looking for or would support cuts to spending along with raising the debt limit.  Have you seen that polling?  And what do you make of that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, this is what I believe Americans understand: They understand that — they want to make sure that the government — that we are working for them, right?  — we’re working on making sure that millions of jobs don’t get lost; that we protect their retirement accounts; that we make sure that we don’t lose the gains that we’ve made in the last two years, as far as manufacturing jobs, as far as seeing unemployment at its lowest rate — 3.4 percent — creating 12.7 million jobs. 

Those are the gains that we’ve made, and we understand that — that the Americans understand that wholeheartedly.

Look, this is a President who has not taken a backseat when it comes to — to deficit reduction: $1.7 trillion that he’s been able to cut the deficit by in the first two years.  That is a historic record. 

You put that on top of the $3 trillion over the last 10 years in that — in that budget that he put out on March 9th.

This is a President who understands how important it is to cut spending.  That’s why he also talked about wasteful spending — right? — that we’re seeing, those subsidies that we are seeing that Big Oil and Big Pharma get and making sure that we get rid of those subsidies.

And so, he understands what the American people are looking for.  They made that very clear.  They’ve made that very clear in the last election.

And so, that’s what the President’s going to continue to focus on.

Q    Treasury started reaching out to federal agencies to see if they can slide any payments in early June, which would effectively allow the Treasury Secretary to push back the X-date to buy more time.  Has the White House at all been coordinating with Treasury on that?  Is that something the White House would want to see, that date move?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re not coordinating with the Treasury Department.  That is their — for their — their decision to make.

Q    And then last one.  Kevin McCarthy has had dozens of gaggles, press conferences about this.  Is that at all instructive to the President, who has been somewhat media-shy, in terms of controlling the narrative here, around this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I will — I feel strongly by saying this: The President is certainly not media-shy.  He would disagree with that — that characterization of him. 

He has been talking about — he talked — he spoke to this on Monday — he spoke to this on Sunday when he — when — when he was in Japan, and the President has been very clear where he stands on what Congress should be doing, which is dealing with the debt limit, something that is their constitutional duty. 

He’s been very clear, by speaking through his budget that he put out on March 9th, on what he sees — the value of this country, how he sees moving forward with the economy — an economy that he helped put back on its feet by the successes that we have seen as far as 12.7 — 12.7 million jobs; low unemployment rate at 3.4 percent; manufacturing boom.  And that’s all happened under this President because of the economic policy that he’s had.

Folks, I will see you tomorrow.  Thank you so much.

Q    Thank you.

3:15 P.M. EDT

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