James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:18 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Come on, guys. Good afternoon.
Q Good afternoon!
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, thank you. All right. Okay. Give the girl some love here. All right.
So I wanted to start with some news at the top. Earlier today, President Biden vetoed S.J. Resolution 11, the most recent attempt by congressional Republicans to pollute the air our children breathe.
Just think about it: While millions of Americans were taking shelter to escape unhealthy wildfire smoke made worse by climate change, Congressional Republicans were pushing a bill to repeal the President’s efforts to make our air cleaner and safer.
The Environmental Protection Agency put forward sensible standards to limit the pollution our trucks and buses emit into the air we breathe. The standards will prevent nearly 3,000 premature deaths, more than 6,700 hospital and emergency room visits, and more than 18,000 cases of asthma attacks. They’ll also deliver up to tens of billions of dollars in annual public health benefits over the next two decades.
So, look, we — we just saw this month how disruptive climate change can be to our lives, our communities, and our economy. Schools were closed, outdoor events were canceled, flights were grounded, masks were back on. And many people had to remain indoors. That’s what we saw very recently that you all reported on.
So this is not the future we want for ourselves or our kids. President Biden won’t let congressional Republicans take us backwards in our fight for cleaner air. He vetoed this health-harming bill today, as I just mentioned. He just defended, as you all know, during the budget negotiations the biggest climate protection bill in history, his Inflation Reduction Act, from congressional Republicans who were intent — they were intent on repealing it. And he’s going to keep protecting and strengthening his Investing in America agenda, which is bringing clean energy jobs and manufacturing back to America.
So another piece of good news. I know he’s been on some of your airwaves already. Last night, the Sen- — the Senate confirmed Jared Bernstein as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. Our economy continues to show progress tackling inflation, while unemployment remains at historic lows.
While there is still more work to do, which we acknowledge, but jobs are up, wages are up, and inflation is down. And Jared is someone who uniquely understands that, as the President often says, a job is about more than a paycheck; it’s about dignity. It’s about dignity of work, which is something that the President has been consistent on saying.
So we look forward to Jared’s continued leadership as we build an economy that works for working people.
Along those lines, today we learned annual producer inflation is below pre-pandemic levels, at 1.1 percent. In fact, producer prices actually fell last month, led by falling energy and food prices as well. This is on top of yesterday’s news, as we all discussed in this briefing room yesterday, that consumer inflation has fallen by more than half over the last 11 months. And as I mentioned as well yesterday, wages rose over the last year, and that is accounting for inflation.
This is all evidence that the President’s economic plan is working to lower costs for families, invest in America, and grow the economy from the middle out and the bottom up, not the top down, not the trickle-down economy that we see from Republicans in Congress.
And finally, last thing for all of you. Tomorrow, the President and the First Lady will host a screening of Fla- — of Flamin’ — of “Flamin’ Hot.” Guests for the evening will include Eva Longoria, who directed the film; the cast families; Latino leaders; and members of the community; and a special performance by Mariachi Vargas.
The Biden-Harris administration continues its effort to lift up and engage the Latino community by showcasing their stories and celebrating their contributions to our country.
With that — Colleen, I haven’t seen you in a while. How are you?
Q I know. I’m good. How are you doing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. I’m hanging in there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. What you got?
Q Okay, so President Erdoğan today indicated that NATO should not bet on Turkey approving Sweden’s application before the summit. And then the Post was reporting that Senator Risch halted a U.S. arms sale to Hungary as punishment over its refusal to approve Sweden’s application. So I wonder, is there concern over it being delayed ahead of the summit?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yep. So, look, I mean, we have been very consistent here. We encourage Turkey to approve Sweden’s application for NATO membership, and we have said that and been really clear. And they should do this without — without delay.
I mentioned this yesterday; I’ll reiterate it here: Sweden has fulfilled held its commitment they made under the trilateral memorandum of agreement agreed with Finland and Turkey on the margins of the NATO Summit that happened just last year in Madrid, as you all know.
Sweden is a strong — we believe a strong, capable defense partner that shares NATO’s values and will strengthen the Alliance that NATO currently has and also contribute to European security.
So, again, we believe Sweden should become a NATO member as soon as possible, without delay. And we’ll continue to be very — very public about that, as the President has been for the past several months, and continue to be very clear.
Q Do you think there’s a possibility it won’t get sorted out before the summit? I think the administration had sort of hoped it would be figured out by then.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we are hope- — we are still hopeful that this will get done. I don’t have a timeline, certainly. The sooner, the better — as I said, without delay. And so we’ll continue to be very clear. We’ll continue to communicate that with — with Turkey. But I just don’t have a timeline to share.
Q Okay. One other question. So, former President Donald Trump, I think yesterday or — yesterday maybe — said that if he were reelected, he would appoint a special prosetu- — prosecutor to go after Biden. I wondered if there was concern about this kind of rhetoric, especially considering sort of what we saw from — on January 6th after a lot of sort of inflammatory rhetoric by Trump.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, just a couple of things there. As you know, President Trump is a candidate, so I want to be very careful because right now he’s speaking as a candidate, right? So, we just don’t want to comment on 2024.
What we will focus on, what the President will continue to focus on is delivering for the American people.
I just laid out the PPI numbers and what that means for our economy, what that means for the President’s economic policy, and how we believe his plans and his policy has continued to work the last two years. And we’ve created a historic number of jobs — this President — in the last two years than any other president — 13 million. Unemployment is at under 4 percent.
These are all really important, and that’s what the President is going to focus on.
He’s been very clear: When he ran in 2020, it was about bringing the nation together — right? — the soul of the country. That’s something that’s still a priority for this President. He’s had multiple — multiple, you know, remarks on that particular issue. We know for a fact — right? — this is something that Americans care about. We saw that in the midterm elections.
So, the President is going to continue to be steadfast. He’s going to continue to focus on what the American people want to see and want us to deliver on. And we’re just — we’re just going to stay steady.
Go ahead, Mary.
Q Secretary Blinken is heading to China later this week. When his initial trip was canceled, you all said he would go when the time is right. So, why now? Why is this now the
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. I know my colleagues at NSC and State did a 8:00 a.m. — did a on-the-record call at 8:00 a.m. So, I certainly would refer you to — and they spoke to — they spoke to Blinken’s trip. So, I’ll certainly refer you to that.
And my colleague — if it hasn’t happened already — at State Department — at the State Department — Matt Miller was supposed to give a briefing. And I’m sure he got a lot of back-and-forth on this particular trip.
I’ll say a couple of things about this. The administration has strengthened America’s ability to outcompete China for the next decade and beyond. And we’ve done that, as I was just iterating, by building an economy that works for all and doesn’t leave anybody behind.
And we — and you see this. You see the investments that we’re seeing in America, especially with manufacturing. And you see this with 800,000 manufacturing jobs — all incredibly important.
So, we will — China will continue to be around and a major player on the world stage as we are putting ourselves on that stronger footing to compete. They have and will continue to take provocative steps. We understand that.
And you’ve heard the President say it’s important to have that diplomacy with world leaders. It’s important to have that discussion. So, we believe intense competition requires intense diplomacy. And that’s what you’re seeing from the State Department.
Lastly, it is — it is a responsible way, we believe, to manage tensions, clear up mis- — misperceptions and miscalculations even, and — and it is in our interest to try and figure out a way to work together. And this is what you’re seeing — this is what you’re going to see from Secretary Blinken’s trip when he heads out on Saturday.
Q You note that the President, you know, feels it’s important to have this kind of in-person diplomacy. What exactly is the President hoping that the Secretary will be able to accomplish? And is it the President’s hope that these meetings pave the way for an in-person meeting between the President and President Xi?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I can’t speak to an in-person meeting with — with — with the — with President Xi right now, with — with our President.
What I can say is there are a couple of objectives that we are hoping. And this is something that the State Department said, so I certainly would refer you to them. But the three main objexti- — objectives for the visit is: One, to establish communication channels to help manage competition so it does not veer into conflict, which is something that we have said — keeping those lines of communication open. Two, to stand up and speak for American values. That’s something that the President leads with and also interests. And the last and third thing is: It is in our interest that — we believe — to explore potential cooperation and trans- — transnational challenges.
And so those are the three objectives that came directly from the State Department. I would refer you to — to the State Department on anything more specifics about the trip.
Q I know you don’t have, you know, any kind of future meeting to announce, but do you view this as laying the groundwork for a potential meeting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we view this as an important part of our dipl- — diplomacy and our — our conversation that we believe that we need to have with China.
As we have said, you know, they’re going to be a major player for a long time.
We believe that we are in a right footing, especially of the work that the President has done the last two years — when you look at the economy, when you look at the competition, when you look at what we have been able to do. And so we want to continue to have those open line of conversation. And this is about diplomacy, which is why the — the Secretary of State is heading — is heading to China on — on Saturday.
Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Thanks, Karine. Does the White House have a reaction to the Federal Reserve’s decision to pause interest rate hikes? And (inaudible) —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you know — (laughs) —
Q — a couple more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you know, we do not comment on — on — on the Fed’s actions. They are independent. We respect the independence of the Fed. And we do not interfere in any way in their policies.
The President had made — has make it — made it very clear that he wanted to give the Fed the space so that they can make these monetary decision and make these monetary policy, obviously.
And, you know, as I laid out at the top — and I actually talked about this, as well, it’s — with the CPI data yesterday — we believe that the President’s plan — the economic plan — is working.
When you look at the last 11 months and you see inflation has gone down by more than 50 percent; when you see that the wages over — wages rose over the — this past year; when you include inflation, as well, and 13 million jobs. I just mentioned the 800,000 jobs — manufacturing jobs, which is incredibly important for American families.
So these are the things that the President is going to focus on: how do we continue to create an economy that works for — for all. But I’m just not going to comment on the Fed — on the Fed’s response.
Q And one question on China, as well. Is the White House aware of Bill Gates’s trip to China and his planned meeting with Xi Jinping? And have you — or has the White House advised him about it at all or requested a readout after his meeting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don’t know if — I don’t know if Bill Gates has reached out to us or if we have reached out to him. I don’t have any information or intel to give about any conversation with Bill. But certainly, I’m sure he can speak for himself about his trip to China.
Q Hey, thanks, Karine. I wanted to give you an opportunity to perhaps correct the record or at least respond to something former President Trump said last night.
Last night he called his arrest, quote, “the most evil and heinous abuse of power in the history of our country.” And he accused the current president of having him arrested, effectively directing his arrest. Your response?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to comment to that.
I wanted to ask you about Senator Tuberville, who is currently holding up the promotions of about 250 senior officers. He has reportedly rejected the most recent offer by some of his Republican colleagues to address this issue as part of the annual defense authorization bill, and he is maintaining that he wants a vote on the Senate floor to reverse this Pentagon policy that — that pays travel costs for service members seeking abortion or other reproductive healthcare.
So Senator Tuberville says that he hasn’t heard from the White House at all on this issue. I’m wondering why not. And what’s the White House’s view on what the path forward is here? Should the Senate begin holding individual votes on senior military promotions to start advancing some of them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So a couple things at the top, which is, I think, incredibly important: What the senator is doing by holding these nomination, it’s a threat to our national security. Period. That’s what he’s doing.
These are important nominations that we need, that we — that the American people need to keep our country safe. And so they — and not only that, they risk our military readiness by depriving our armed forces of leadership and hurt our military families.
That’s what — that’s what he’s doing by holding these DOD nominees.
All our meri- — military nominees that Senator Tuberville is blocking need to be confirmed quickly, and we have been consista- — consistent about that. This is something that has come up in the briefing room multiple times at this point.
Senators should not play politics — they should not play politics with our military assistance, with our military readiness, and with our military family.
And so, look, I’m not going to get into the specifics of — of what — what — you know, what the mechanics should be in getting this done. We’ve been very clear that it needs to happen. And — and I just don’t have anything else to share about a conversation with the senator.
Q Well, but why hasn’t the White House spoken with him? And what does the White House see as the path forward here? I mean, you guys have said it’s a matter of national security. I presume that means it’s a top priority for you guys.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, it’s — first of all, it’s shameful that he’s doing this, right? I mean, he needs to be asked a question, is — why is he putting our national security at risk? That is something for a senator to be able to answer to.
We’re trying to do the right thing by moving forward and protecting our military readiness and protecting our military families.
And so, look, I can’t speak to conversations. I have to talk to our Office of Leg Affairs. I do not know when the last time that they spoke to the senator.
But what I do know is what he’s doing is putting our national security at risk, truly.
Q And then, very quickly on something that was brought up earlier: Senator Risch and his blocking of a $735 million arms package to Hungary in order to get them to approve Sweden into NATO. Did the White House coordinate at all with Senator Risch? Do you guys agree with that strategy? And do you believe that he should maintain that hold until Hungary approves Sweden?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I heard the question from Colleen. I don’t have anything to add or anything to elaborate on that.
Go ahead, Joey.
Q Yeah, thanks, Karine. For months, the White House has declined to discuss a possible plan B if the President’s student loan debt forgiveness program is overturned by the Supreme Court.
Now, with a SCOTUS decision expected this month, perhaps in a matter of days, several constituencies are urging Biden to be ready to act. The NAACP, in a letter today to Biden, wrote, “Should the Supreme Court fail to uphold student debt relief, Black America demands that your administration pursue all legal pathways to make a permanent solution” on student loan debt.
Is the White House prepared to transition to an alternative method for student loan forgiveness if the President’s plan is rejected in court?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we continue to be confident in our legal — kind of, our legal pathway here. So we’re — I’m going to leave it to the Department of Justice to continue — continue protecting a plan that the President believes is incredibly important for American families.
And — and I want to also be clear that the President recognizes — he recognizes the burden student debt has on tens of millions of Black Americans. That is something that he gets; that is something that he certainly has talked about, and — which is why he secured the largest increase to Pell grants in decades. That’s something that he did very early on in his administration. And that is why he vetoed the most recent attempt by congressional Republicans to block his student debt.
That was a con- — that was — remember, that was part of the — a major piece of contention during the budget negotiations. And the President protected that.
And so — and so, he is — you know, he is — certainly understand how important his plan is, which is why he put it forth, which is —
Q But as for —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — why he understands —
Q Yeah —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — how much that means to everyday families, working people who makes less than $75,000. Remember, 90 percent of that plan is going to help those very people.
So we believe in our legal — kind of, legal pathway here. And so I’m certainly not going to get ahead of the Department of Justice.
Q Okay. So, as for whether there is a plan B — if it is struck down, you still can’t say whether there —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just saying that we’re going to focus on the fight that’s in front of us right now.
Q Okay. Thanks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Zolan.
Q Local outlets in Connecticut are reporting that the President will attend a national gun safety summit later this week. There seems to be little momentum in Congress for any sort of new bill that we saw recently.
Right now, is the White House purely in an implementation sort of phase when it comes to gun control? Or is there anything else the White House can do in the meantime besides just calling on Congress for additional action for gun control?
Q I mean, Zolan, I appreciate the question, but let’s not forget what this President has done that has been historic when it comes to dealing with gun violence. Let’s not forget that more than two dozen pieces of executive actions that he’s taken because Congress has not acted in a way that we fully believe that they can.
We appreciated the bipartisan bill that was passed almost a year ago — it’s going to be on — I believe on Friday will be a year ago that the President signed that into law. That’s great. And it was 30 years in the making, really, right? It took 30 years before we got there. But there’s more that needs to happen. There’s more that needs to happen to keep our communities safe.
And so, to your question, look, he’s going to use the bully pulpit. He’s going to go to Connecticut, he’s going to continue to talk about the importance of Congress moving forward. But also, states have taken action. Let’s not forget: Connecticut has taken actions. And there’s been — multiple states have actually done the work to ban assault weapons, do red flags, and do other things that are incredibly important that’s going to protect communities. And so, we’re going to lift that up as well.
Now, what we’re asking for, obviously, is for the federal government to take additional actions. But let’s not forget what states have been able to do over just the last several months on protecting their community.
Q What we’re asking is for the federal government to take additional actions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, that’s exactly right.
Q But can any of those actions, at this point — while noting the legislation that was passed already and the implementation ongoing of that package — can any of those additional federal actions at this point be done solely through executive action?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I mean, the President is always going to look for ways to take additional actions, obviously, right? When you do more than two dozen executive actions, clearly, we’re always going to figure out what else we can do to protect communities. So that is something that we’re — that certainly our team is going to look at.
But let’s not forget that states have been able to take action, which is really important too, and that’s been just over the past several months.
And so, look, we’re going to continue to ask Congress to — to — to act. I’ve been asked what other priorities that this President has as it relates to legislation. That’s one of them. We’ve just got to continue to build on what we — what he was able to sign last year. Anything additional, I just don’t have anything to share at this point.
Go ahead, Tyler.
Q Thanks, Karine. Last night Fox News ran a chyron that referred to the President as a “wannabe dictator,” and I’m wondering if the White House had any comment on that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, there are probably about 787 million things that I can say about this — that was wrong about what we saw last night, but I don’t think I’m going to get into it.
Q There’s no comment the White House has on it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think I just commented. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you, Karine. So, I — without talking about the decision today by the Fed, obviously the hikes impact the U.S. economy. So, can you talk about the — the delayed effects of previous hikes and when you think you’ll be able to have a very clear picture of how the economy and inflation are doing?
So I’m not — I’m just not going to get into economic forecasting from here. What I — what I will say, and this is something that the President has said himself: We believe that recent data is more foo- — proof that the economy — that his economic plan is working.
When you think about PPI, when you think about CPI, you think about the jobs numbers, we believe that it’s — what he is doing is creating jobs and also helping to lower costs, and that is the most important thing that we think the Americans — Americans want us to see.
And so, look, fighting prices certainly continues to be a main priority for Americans and also certainly a top priority for us. And so, we’re going to continue to — to do that — to — to — to do everything that we can to lower costs. But we are encouraged by the data. I’m just not going to get into forecasting any type of, you know, datapoints on — on the economy. I’m going to leave that to the experts.
Q And then, on Saturday, President Biden is scheduled to go to Philadelphia. So I wonder, since he’s going to be there, does he plan to survey the I-95 collapse?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any — anything to report at this time or to share about a change in his schedule.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, April.
Q Karine, this White House is recognizing Juneteenth, which is Monday. And with that said, the issue of reparations continues to be something that is being parsed out on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue.
And with that said, you know, the late John Conyers started with, you know, a study. Now you have Congresswoman Bush not just asking for study, but she’s creating a resolution to push forward on reparations. What does this White House believe when it comes to this controversial issue of repairing a wrong for the descendants of Africans in this nation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as you mentioned Juneteenth, there was a concert here yesterday, and we saw how powerful and how moved the President was by the concert and by, kind of, the story that was laid out through the concert about Juneteenth and how important that moment was. Opal, as you know, was here, and it’s always moving to hear her and to see her.
And — and, as you know, the President signed — signed Juneteenth to be the most recent holiday about two years ago.
So, I think that shows from that action — I’ll give you more — I think that shows from that action how important the President thinks this moment is, how important he thinks that it’s — it is important to continue to lift up the African American community. And he’ll continue to do so.
As it relates to reparations, I — I saw just moments ago the — Cori Bush’s resolution. We haven’t reviewed the proposal yet. It’s a new proposal. So I’ll take a look at it. So I can’t comment on that specifically.
But the President has been really clear when it — as it relates to reparation, he wants to see a study of reparations, and that — and studying the continuing impacts of slavery. He believes that is incredibly important.
Q So, after the study, if the study concludes what many thought leaders and — and civil rights leaders have said, what next? Does the President support a payout? Because the nation is divided on this. This has been one of the biggest issues over the decades about how to repair the enslavement over generations of Africans brought to this country for free labor.
So what does the President do after? What — what will he lean in on after a study, which is expected to basically say what many of the civil rights and thought lead- — Black thought leaders have said? Does the President believe in a financial repair for the descendants of Africans in this nation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I will say this. We’ve got to let the study move forward. We got to let — see what the study shows. And we got to continue to study the impact of sla- — slavery. That is something that the President believes that we need to do. So that’s incredibly important.
But I will say, April — and you know this; you’ve covered this since we walked into this administration — when we think about the crises that we see in our country, the pri- — the President called out how race — race inequality is a problem — right? — is a crisis for us in this moment, which is why he is taking comprehensive action.
When you think about what he did on the first couple of days that he walked in: put — signing an executive order to make sure that on a federal level that we put equity at the center — at the center of this. And it is important that we continue to do this. How do we deal with the inequalities that we see in this country? And he’s trying to do that on the federal level.
So let’s see what the study shows. It is important to continue to study the continuing impacts, if you will, on — on slavery. And I think because of the President’s action, he’s been very clear — he’s been very clear how important it is, even just looking at the — his economic policy — how important it is to leave no one behind, have equity at the center of everything that he’s done. If you look at every piece of historic piece of legislation that has passed that he has signed, it has equity at the center of that. And that’s because the President has that in mind — right? — to make sure that we have equality, to make sure that we leave no one behind.
I’ll keep going. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. Why did the White House not inform us of the President of Uruguay’s visit yesterday? It wasn’t on the schedule.
I presume that these bilateral meetings are planned in advance, so when did you decide that the meeting was going to happen?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, it was a drop-by — that’s what it was — with the President. And I — you know, I would have to get back to — talk to the National Security Council to talk through how the meeting actually happened and landed. I don’t have that information for you.
But we believe it was important for this drop-by to happen, clearly.
I just talked about how the President sees diplomacy — having in-person — those in-person conversation — how critical they are. And that’s what you saw yesterday.
I can’t speak to the process on landing this meeting.
Q Can you give us a sense of how long the meeting was?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ll give you a little bit of how we saw this meeting went. I don’t have a timeline for you or a timestamp, if you will, on the meeting.
So, during their meeting, President Biden lauded Uruguay as a regional and global model for democratic governance, and congratulated him for receiving the Gold Insignia award from the Council of the Americas.
President Biden and the President of Uruguay also discussed their support for Ukraine; principled defense for fundamental freedoms in Venezuela; and commitment to ensure the Americas partnership for economic prosperity accelerates regional integration, inclusive economic prosperity, and greater opportunity through sustainable trade and investment.
So the two Presidents also explored ways to expand our bilateral economic relationship, increase joint efforts to combat climate change, and further strengthen security operation.
And that is what came out of this meeting.
Q Okay. Thank you for that.
And just on the U.S.-Iran talks, I saw the exchange with the — at the State Department briefing yesterday, and I’m still unclear. And I hope you can — you can help me.
Is the administration, at this point, talking to Iran, asking Tehran not to enrich uranium above 60 percent, in return for the release of some funds — some frozen funds and possible prisoner exchange?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I would have to refer you to the State Department. They had the readout. If you — if it’s unclear to you, I would just refer you back to them, and they can actually lay out exactly what those conversations were.
Q (Inaudible) principle: I know that you say the JCPOA is not the priority for the administration at this point. So what are these diplomatic channels that are going on with Iran?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, again, having open channels of conversation is important.
And I’ll just reiterate: Our policy on Iran has not changed. It is — we have been very clear about that. We remain focused on constraining Iran’s destabilizing behavior through pressure, close coordination with our allies, and de-escalation in the region, obviously, right?
And so, that’s including — including ensuring Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon. That has not changed, of course. Right? We’ve been consistent about that during this past two years in this — of this adminis- — administration. So we’re going to always watch closely Iran’s enrichment activities.
And the United States prefers diplomacy, right? That’s what you saw from the State Department. That’s what you’ll — you see from this President.
And — but we are preparing — but we are preparing for all possible options and contingencies in full coordination with our partners and allies. So that has not changed. We’ve been consistent.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Thanks, Karine. To get back to the Philly event on Saturday, the President is attending a political rally hosted by union members, and we’re told it’s not a Biden campaign event. Should we expect the President to take part in more of these things called “political rallies” over the next couple of months? And what’s this going to look like on Saturday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don’t have — just don’t have anything to share on — on that. It is a political rally, so I would refer you to the DNC. So I’m not going to speak to it from here. I’m just — I’m just going to be very careful and not speak to that.
Q And not about this one, but will he do events like this that are not — the White House advertised this event —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Mm-hmm.
Q — in a release. But other entities hosting a rally that could look like a campaign event that the President goes to, will we see him doing this —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share on his schedule at this time. I — I just don’t.
Okay. Let me see. Go ahead, Tam.
Q Yeah. White House officials — including you, I think — are meeting with state legislators over the next couple of days about reproductive rights and abortion access. And I’m curious what you’re trying to accomplish. And, like, you know, they — they’re coming from Republican states where they’re definitely in the minority in the legislature.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, Tam, we believe these conversations are incredibly important. That’s why they’re here — these state legislators are here. Let’s not forget, the one-year anniversary of Dobbs decision is about — less than — about 10 days away, if not less.
And so, we thought it was important for White House to host state legislators to discuss the state-level attacks, as you just mentioned, we’re seeing on reproductive rights and the work led by Democratic elected officials to safeguard access to care.
So we’re going to convene another one tomorrow.
As you mentioned, I — I had the pleasure of participating in one this morning or participating — or talking to them this morning — including Jen Klein, the Director of Gender Policy Council; Mayor Steve Benjamin, the Director of Office and Public Engagement here at the White House — and it was incredibly powerful.
You got to remember, these are folks who have been on the frontline dealing with an issue that is incredibly important to their constituency, to their — to — to the people that they work on behalf of, but also the country.
And so, you know — and we’re talking about how Republican-elected officials in these very states have taken steps to roll back reproductive care, to roll back of freedoms that we should have — that women should have.
And so, again, we’ll have more to share. We’ll be convening another one tomorrow. And — and we thought it was important to do this as we head to the first-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision.
Q Are you guys like producing videos out of it? Or like what — I’m — I guess the White House convenes all the time, but I’m just curious, like what comes —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I don’t have any output from it besides the fact that these are state legislators who have literally been on the frontlines of — of a — of a freedom that has been eroded — right? — to women, reproductive healthcare that has been taken away.
And so, that’s — it’s important to bring them in and to tell them, “Hey, we have your back,” that “We see you, we appreciate the fight that you have been doing, and we are partners with you on moving forward.”
And so, hey, we think that’s important to do, especially as we’re talking about freedoms. We’re talking about Americans’ freedom here.
Okay. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. Can you say whether the President has actually read that letter from the NAACP on student debt relief and, if he has, what his reaction is?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have not spoken to the President — if he has seen — if he has read the letter or not, so I can’t — I can’t answer that question. But I have laid out, just in the last few minutes, about what the President has done and how he understands how a — you know, his student debt relief plan is important to this community. And so he’ll continue to fight for it, as we see DOJ doing. And — and so, this is something that we think is so important.
If you think about what — what American families had had to deal with the last two years — giving them a little breathing room — you hear the President talk about this a lot — and this is what the student debt relief is going to do. It’s part of his economic policy to make sure that we do everything — how we move forward on building — building back the economy. It deals with — it deals with it in an equitable way.
Q And I’m going to try again, one more time, on the Fed. Is the White House concerned that the Fed is pausing rates at a time when inflation is still high and still above that 2 percent target?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to comment on the monetary decisions that the Fed makes. They are independent. We respect that independence. I’m just not going to comment on their actions.
Q Thank you, Karine. So, also on Iran. Since the United States seems to be trying to ease tensions with Iran, is the White House optimistic on the possibility of making progress to release the American hostage? And also, a few months ago, Siamak Namazi, one of the — of the American hostages, made a desperate plea from the Evin prison on CNN. Has the President been in touch with his family since?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have any update on — on any — on any conversations that the President had with —
with any of the family members.
Look, when it comes to — when it comes to Americans being wrongfully detained or held hostage, this is something that this administration takes very seriously. This is something that this administration has made a priority.
As you know, there’s been more than a dozen Americans who have been held hostage or wrongfully detained that we have been able to bring home over the last two years. So, that shows you our dedication and our focus on this.
I just don’t have anything else to share. I would actually refer you to the State Department on anything specifics on any hos- — particular hostage.
Q On the Federal Reserve, without commenting on their policy —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — does the decision that they made on interest rates signal to the President or the economic team here that any change is needed in proposals that are putting forward, especially now as you work with Congress on, like, the appropriations process and funding levels?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to comment on their actions specifically. I —
Q I’m talking about how the White House —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.
Q — reacts to that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You’ve got to — you’ve got to give me a second. You’ve got to give me a beat here. Let me just say what I need to say, and I’ll try to answer your question in the most effective way possible.
I’m going to be careful about responding to any actions that the Fed makes. They are independent; we respect that.
But, look, we believe, again, our eco- — economic policies are working because we have seen inflation is now the lowest in more than two years. And that’s over the last — that is — has fallen for the past 11 months. And you think about wages: That has gone up — right? — which is incredibly important — over the past — past year. That accounts for inflation.
And so, when you think about that, that is important for American families. Who does that help? American families — when you see wages that have gone up. Thirteen million jobs — that’s important. And that’s because of how this President has moved forward with the economy.
So, you’re asking me if we need to change anything. The President has always said: When it comes to economic policy, he’s going to put lowering — lowering cost a priority. And so, we’re going to continue to do that. We’re going to continue to find ways.
I’m just not going to comment on the monetary decision that the Fed has made.
Go ahead, Ryan.
Q Thanks a lot, Karine. You’ve described some of the accomplishments that the President has made and the investments in the country. And yet, the President’s polling is still in the 40s — in the low 40s. Does the President believe he’s not getting enough credit for some of the investments, like the CHIPS Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, that are going out in the country? And what’s he going to do in the coming months to try to reach Americans to describe what kind of impact that’s going to have on their communities?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, our focus is going to be the work: the work to get this done, the work to lower costs. And we know that there’s more work to do. And we know that sometimes Americans — there are some Americans here in this country who feel — who are feeling the economy a little bit differently, who feel like there’s — there — that there’s more work that can be done.
And so, here’s what we’re going to continue to do, right? We’re going to continue to take on Big Pharma to lower prescription drugs. And that is something that we have been able to do, and that’s cap — cap — capping insulin at 35 bucks a month.
Investing in America to lower energy costs, fuel our manufacturing insurgence [sic] — reinsurgence [sic] and create jobs. More than $470 billion in private sector investments in manufacturing in clean energy.
That matters. And so that’s what we’re going to continue to do.
And look, it’s completely opposite of what — of Republicans in Congress want to do. They want to reward the wealthy, the corporation — give them a tax break. That’s what we have seen from them. And that’s why the — the bipartisan — bipartisan budget deal that the President was able to do is so important, because he was able to protect — to protect programs that are so important and critical to American families, critical to veterans, critical to seniors.
So, what they can expect from this President is a president that’s going to continue to fight for them, and he has shown that by his actions.
Go ahead, Jon.
Q Thanks a lot, Karine. The Secretary of State’s upcoming two-day visit to China is very noteworthy in the sense that a U.S. Secretary of State hasn’t traveled to China
since 2018. What’s the overall goal —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I just —
Q — of this two-day trip?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just laid — I just — look, State Department has talked about it. I just spoke about it from this — from this podium just moments ago about the objectives and the goal. We think it’s important. This President is important — thinks it’s important to have diplomacy, to continue to have those conversations with some — with a country that’s going to be a major player on the world stage. Right?
But we’ve been very consistent. We believe we’ve strengthened our — America’s ability to outcompete China because of the economic actions and policies that we have taken. And we be- — we think it’s important to have those open lines of conversation, those — keep those channels open. And so, we’re going to continue to do that.
Diplomacy is important. He is — as you just stated, Blinken is the Secretary of State. That is one of his jobs — right? — to have those conversations.
And so, those are the objectives. And, you know, we’re going to continue to move forward in that direction.
Q It’s a very complex relationship, the U.S. and China. There’s trade, there’s national security, there’s human rights. I’m curious: Do you, as the administration, view China as — as you describe, a competitor, or are they also an adversary?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, what we see right now is that they’re certainly going to be a major p- — a player. Right? They’re going to be — continue to be around. And so, because of that, we need to do our part — right? — and have that diplomacy, have those conversation, and continue to strengthen our hand, you know, our — America’s ability to out- — to outcompete China, which we believe we have put ourselves in a good footing to do that.
So, we’re going to have the conversation, open the — continue to open the lines, the channels to have those conversations. And I think that’s what matters. I think that’s what the American people want to see.
Go ahead, Courtney.
Q Thank you. What’s the status of the pandemic preparedness office now that Dr. Jha is leaving?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, we are — we’re looking to hire a director of that office. That office — one of the reasons that office exists is because it was mandatory, clearly, as you know, by Congress. And we think it’s important to make sure that — to make sure that certainly we have the right person to do the job.
As it relates to the COVID Response Team, there is a small team that still very much exists. And so, we’re going to continue to do the work that this President has done this last two years to — to — you know, to beat COVID back, which we have been able to see — right? — which he has been able to accomplish.
And so, I’ll just leave it there.
Q On artificial intelligence, I also wanted to ask: I know that most of the activity at the White House on that has been going out of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
They don’t have a ton of staff on AI. Their AI advisor just recently left. The person under him who does AI left a while ago. Can you talk about who’s advising the President on this topic inside the White House, or are you mostly relying on your agencies?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, let me just say that we are committed to fostering responsible AI to benefit society while actively working to mitigate the risk. Right? That is something that you’ve heard.
We’ve been very clear about the risk associated with AI, which is why we’ve actively engaged — you’ve seen — you’ve seen the Vice President most recently engage with CEOs — right? — engage with companies to ensure that we are working together. And so — and develop and advance AI in a responsible way.
So, we have taken action. You’ve seen the President meet multiple times with his team. You’ve seen the Vice President do this as well, as I just — as I just stated. And so, we’re going to continue to have those conversations. And we’re going to continue to do that work.
You know, the President certainly takes advice from — from his advisors here, his senior advisors and others who are — who are prolific in this — in this space. And he’ll continue to do that.
I don’t have anything more to share specifically on that. But you’ve seen us — you’ve seen the President convene his team. You’ve seen the Vice President convene his team and to talk specifically about AI.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Phil.
Q Thank you. Last week, the President said that state lawmakers who are enacting bans on gender transition surgeries or therapies for minors were, in his words, “hysterical” or “prejudiced.” I’m curious, will he withhold Medicare funds or restrict federal healthcare dollars in some way in response?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to add to that. I just — go ahead. Go ahead.
Q And then, you know, when the President made those remarks, he was standing next to the Prime Minister from the United Kingdom. And afterwards, the United Kingdom announced that they were going to be placing a ban on puberty blockers for minors in most cases. Will the President raise this human rights issue with his UK counterpart?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I didn’t see those comments, so I can’t respond to that directly. And I’m just not going to go beyond what the President said in that — in the press conference.
Q And then — I don’t have a question about the Fed. (Laughter.) But I do have a follow-up.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m happy to take one, though. My answer is pretty consistent.
Q So, not about the Fed. Has the President entrusted a message to Secretary Blinken on his trip to Beijing, specifically to the Chinese about that Chinese spy facility that was on the Cuban island?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m not going to get into private conversations that the President has with his Secretary. And so, I’m not going to get ahead of what’s going to come up in this visit.
I kind of laid out the objectives, which I think is really important — right? — to have diplomacy, this is what the President has said. And I’ve laid out even more about how we want to move forward with out relationship and, clearly, our competition with China.
I’m just not going to get ahead of that. Anything specific that you want to know about the trip, I certainly would refer you to the State Department.
Q Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Way in the back. Go ahead. Way in the back. Go ahead.
Q Me? Right here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, yeah.
Q Okay. On abortion access, state lawmakers — they were here at the White House today, more are going to be in town tomorrow. Some say that they want the administration to provide more support in red states to protect access. So what more is the White House looking to do or considering doing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President has been pretty clear, the Vice President has been clear — pretty clear that they are going to do everything that they can to fight for the right for women to make the decision on their own body — right? — and also to fight to make sure that — and a- — and call on Congress to make Roe — you know, put legislation forward so that he can sign Roe into — into law. And so that’s something that he’s been pretty clear about.
He took actions very early on, almost a — over a year ago — right? — when Do- — the Dobbs decision was made. He put together — the President Ta- — the President Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access is — is working across — making sure that access is working across the federal government to protect access to care.
The President has signed two executive orders to protect access to abortion and contraception, support a woman’s right to travel for medical care, strengthen privacy measures, and address discrimination in healthcare.
And President Biden also issued a presidential memor- — memorandum on what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade that is aimed at protecting the safe access to medication abortion in particular.
But the bottom line is — is what we’re seeing from Republicans: They want to continue to ban a freedom that women should have. They want to do a national ban. We’ve seen the state — the bans in states across the country. And the President and the Vice President have been very clear: They’re going to continue to fight.
You’ve heard from the Vice President multiple times. She’s kind of led in this space and has been incredibly powerful and, I think, impactful in speaking on this issue. You’ve heard the President speak on this as well.
And so, I think by having — we believe — not me, but we believe — by having the state legislators here today and tomorrow to listen to them, to hear what it is that they’re experiencing on the ground, to get a sense of how else we can be helpful, what — in what ways we can partner is actually really important. And so, that’s what you’re seeing from this administration and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.
I think we’ve been — we’ve taken action. We’ve been very loud and clear about this. And we’re continuing to do so.
One more —
Q Stanley Cup. Stanley Cup. Please, please, please.
Q Madam, over here. In the back.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) Oh my gosh, guys. I’m trying to call on people I haven’t called in a while.
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Oh, me?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no. Right — yep.
Q Come on, let me go — Canadian. Just one.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I — I just called on you last — earlier this week.
Q Thank you so much. So just one follow-up on the abortion meetings today. Were President Biden or Vice President Harris in those meetings? And why were they or were they not there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I can say that — and I just mentioned — I listed out who — some of the leaders of the administration who was part of this meeting. And so, they were inten- — in attendance in convening this really important — important conversation that we’re having with state leaders, as I mentioned, today and tomorrow.
I mentioned I had an opportunity to stop by. It was incredibly powerful. And, you know, again, these are people who have been fighting this on the frontlines.
And so — but the President and the Vice President is committed to protecting these rights. They’re committed and doing everything that we can from the federal government.
So I don’t have any readouts, clearly, to offer with this event or — or anything new about tomorrow.
But, look, we — we believe we need to do as much as we can as we head into the one-year sa- — one-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision. And so, we’ll continue to have these conversations, as we have been for the past year. And we think it’s important to do so.
So don’t have anything to read out about the Vice President or President.
Q Can I ask one more on —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q — on TPS?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Turns to the TV screen behind the podium and sees a reporter onscreen waiting to ask a question.) Oh — (Laughter.)
Poor guy thinks —
Q Hi, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — you’re laughing at him. That’s terrible.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hello!
Q Hi, Karine. I’m Dennis House with WTNH, the ABC station in Connecticut. And, as you mentioned, the President is coming here on Friday for Senator Murphy’s gun summit at the University of Hartford. And I’d like to know: Why is Connecticut so important to the President to make this argument for more gun control and more gun safety?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. And yo- — Dennis House, right?
Q Yes, Dennis House.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Good to see you, Dennis. Thanks for — thanks for —
Q Nice to see you, and thanks for your time today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. So, look, we were talking about, earlier — moments ago — about the importance of the work that we need to continue to do, to talk about the work that we need to continue to see on protecting communities.
And so, the President believes that this is an in- — criti- — a critical trip, an important trip, as we see the anniversary — upcoming anniversary of the bipartisan Safer Community Act, which resulted in decades of work.
We hadn’t seen bipartisan legislation on really dealing with gun violence in 30 years. And this is something that the President was able to do.
Let’s not forget the more than two dozen pieces of executive actions that he was taking.
So he’s going to highlight the progress at the state level and call for state legislators across the country and Congress to take additional action. That’s what you’re going to hear from the President.
Connecticut has been a leader on gun safety legislation in the decade following the tragedy, as you know, at Sandy Hook. And just over a week ago, the governor of Connecticut, Governor Lamont, signed a gun violence prevention bill, which contains more than a dozen measures to improve gun safety, including strengthening the state’s ban on assault weapons — on assault weapons and secure storage requirements.
So this is — the President believes it’s important to highlight the states that are actually doing the work and getting this done since we’re not seeing more action from Congress.
And so, this is going to be an important — important, we think, conversation, important opportunity for the President to highlight how we’re — what — in what ways that we can continue to — we can protect our communities, protect our schools, protect our grocery stores, protect our churches, as we’ve seen continuous gun violence in our streets.
Q Well, we welcome him to our great state. And, Karine, thanks for your time. I appreciate it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much, Dennis. Have a good rest of your week.
Q You too.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Okay, I think I have to go. I’ll take one last question.
I haven’t seen you in the briefing room before. Hello.
Q Hi. I’m wondering if you could comment on a planned endorsement from the AFL-CIO on Friday, the earliest that that union has entered into the endorsement business in a presidential race.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, I can’t speak on the 2024 election because of the Hatch Act, as everyone knows in this room and we discussed fully yesterday. So I’m going to continue to stay focused and steadfast on that. So I would refer you to the DNC or the campaign.
Thanks, everybody. Appreciate it.
END 3:10 P.M. EDT