James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
(September 29, 2023)
12:41 P.M. EDT
(Ms. Jean-Pierre steps over a cable on the press dais.)
Q That was — that was risky.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Very risky.
Q You are feisty today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I am feisty. It’s Friday, folks. It’s Friday. Happy Friday. Good afternoon. We have the amazing Shalanda Young in the house, so this is great.
But before I turn it over to the OMB Director — and I’ll do that in a second — I want to recognize a terrible milestone that I know many of you are — are very aware of, which is it has now been about six months since American journalist Evan Gershkovich was wrongfully detained in Russia for doing his job, for reporting the news.
As the world knows, Russia’s claims are baseless. It is clear that Evan is being held for lev- — for leverage because he is an American. That should bother every single one of us — every single one of us.
The President has been clear that we have no higher priority than securing the release of Evan, Paul Whelan, and all Americans wrongfully detained abroad.
Once again, we call for Russia to immediately release Evan and also to release wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan. Our efforts to secure their release are ongoing, and we will not stop until they are home.
I also want to take a minute to echo the President’s sentiments on the legacy of Senator Dianne Feinstein. She was a history maker — a history-making trailblazer who dedicated her life to the people of California for over half a century. From the city of San Francisco to the halls of Congress, Senator Feinstein turned her passion into purpose to benefit the lives of all Americans.
As the President said, he had his own close relationship with the Senator, forged over 15 years together in the Senate, and she was a cherished friend.
And finally, before I do turn it over to our guest, I wanted to make one more thing very clear, which we have been doing as an administration from here for the past couple of days.
Now, as you all know, extreme House Republicans are so- — are solely — solely to blame for marching us toward a shutdown. That is what we’re seeing right now. It is a basic fact and one that many of you have already reported.
I know how much you will love when I quote, folks, so here we go.
Politico wrote, and I quote, “Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s choice to go back on the deal he made with [the] President is about a plunge — is about to plunge the federal government into chaos,” end quote.
Punchbowl says, and I quote, “McCarthy is the only congressional principal no longer abiding by the agreement,” end quote.
Washington Post writes, quote, “Of course, Biden has played no role in bringing Congress to the brink of a shutdown,” end quote.
And it’s not just what you all are reporting. It’s also what Republicans are saying themselves.
Leader McConnell said, and I quote, “Shutting down the government is a choice. And it’s a choice that would make the crisis at our Southern border even worse,” end quote.
Speaker McCarthy said, some individuals, quote, “just want to burn the whole place down,” end quote.
Represen- — Representative Garret Graves said, “The arsonists have li- — have lit their house on fire.”
Representative Matt — Matt Gaetz said, “We will have a government shutdown, and… We cannot blame Joe Biden… We cannot blame House Democrats.”
Representatives George Santos and Ralph Norman admitted in saying — by saying, “Shut it down.” Those are their words.
But no one can explain what House Republicans are shutting down the government over. It’s a serious question, and they don’t have a good answer for it.
As Nich — Newt Gingrich said, and I quote, “I frankly don’t understand it — I think it’s sort of nuts. There are times people vote yes one day, and then they come back and vote no the next day and can’t explain why they switched,” end quote.
So, we are here today facing a possible shutdown. Because even after Speaker McCarthy said that the bipartisan budget agreement would help “Congress work again to do their jobs, the appropriation bills,” he chose a different path — an extreme partisan path toward a shutdown — a Republican — extreme Republican shutdown.
So, for more on this, our speaker has — has brok- — has — has broken for —
So, let me step back for now. For more on how the Speaker has broken his word and the impacts of the devastating cuts he is proposing, we have our OMB Director Shalanda Young to talk through those — those impacts.
All right. There you go.
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Hi.
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Who all thought I’d be back here so soon? (Laughter.) Maybe you all did. I certainly hoped I would not.
It’s been just four months since President Biden, House Republicans, House Democrats, Senate Republicans, and Senate Democrats all made a bipartisan budget deal. You all were there. I was there. You remember what it took to get to that deal.
We shook hands, two thirds of Congress voted for it, and the President signed it into law — a commitment to the American people that reduced the deficit, protected critical programs, and ensured their government remained open.
Today, four of those five sides I just listed are sticking by that deal. The one side, House Republicans, are refusing to live up to their end of the bargain. They have turned their back on the deal. They are on an island entirely by themselves and entirely of their own making. Their chaos — and their chaos alone — is now threatening to push us into a shutdown.
This is not only a violation of the deal; the President signed this deal into law. And let’s be very clear about what they are demanding as a condition of keeping the government open. It’s all right there in the CR they’re considering right now — plain black and white.
Instead of working in a bipartisan fashion to keep the government open, they’re now tripling down on their demands to eviscerate programs that the American people rely on — the exact same ransom they sought for honoring the full faith and credit of the United States.
Their bill includes devastating 30 percent cuts. You heard me: 30 percent cuts.
And listen to what that means. It would eliminate 12,000 FBI agents, almost 1,000 ATF agents, and more than 500 local law enforcement; kick almost 300,000 children out of Head Start; rob more than a million seniors of nutrition services, like Meals on Wheels.
And guess what? If they don’t get their way, if we don’t go along with the devastating cuts I just listed here, they want to force a shutdown that will hurt our economy and national security.
What would a shutdown mean? More than 2 million service members wouldn’t get their paycheck. Long-term disaster recovery would be further delayed. Nutrition assistance for nearly 7 million women and children who rely on WIC would be jeopardized. Small businesses would lose out on more than $100 million a day in loans. What kind of choice is that?
In addition to the more than 2 million service members who won’t get their paychecks, we’re talking about more than 1.5 million federal civilian employees, by current estimate — roughly a quarter of whom are veterans — missing paychecks. Meat and food inspectors, Border Patrol agents, air traffic controllers, TSA agents — just a small example.
On top of that, federal contractors have no guarantee of back pay. None. The thousands of federal contractors who serve the mission of this country to serve the American people, no guarantee that they’re made whole.
Folks who I see around my office every day, people you see around here cleaning, who can least afford to miss a paycheck, no guarantee they will be made whole.
Our message is simple. House Republicans need to stick to the agreement we already reached and they already voted for, do the job they were elected to do.
And we know it’s not a lot to ask for because just yesterday an overwhelming 76 senators, Democrats and Republicans, voted to move forward on a bipartisan bill to keep the government open.
Enough is enough. A deal is a deal. Extreme House Republicans need to stop playing political games with people’s lives, keep their promise, and keep the government open.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. First question. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. Thank you, Director.
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Hi.
Q Hi, how are you?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Good.
Q I know you mentioned a couple workers — cleaning staff, people in your office. Can you give us a bigger picture of who at the White House will be affected? Who will be deemed essential and — and who will be furloughed, including the press team for —
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Yeah, I think —
Q — our purposes? (Laughter.)
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Yeah, no. (Cross-talk.)
DIRECTOR YOUNG: I’ll let them read out the specifics of who will be here. But just like every federal agency, there are legal definitions about who can work during a time of shutdown. No one, clearly, gets paid, but there are people who will be furloughed, and there are people who will be excepted, who —
And just at a macro level, about 800,000 people would be excepted across the government out of the one and a half million civilians I talked about, and about
700,000 [820,000] would be furloughed.
I don’t want to get into specifics of different agencies and the White House. We can read out — I’m sure you talk to the various offices later. But that is a large amount of people who will be furloughed across the government.
The White House and OMB will feel the same as the rest of agencies. We will do the best we can to continue to service the American people. Clearly, our men and women in uniform will be at their duty stations — without pay, unfortunately. So, we will keep vital national security things going — life and safety.
But it will be hard to do everything government should do for the American people in a shutdown.
Q And then, quickly, do you and President Biden regret trusting McCarthy?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Look, I won’t go there. (Laughter.) And it’s not a trust exercise, right? We passed a law.
Q Well — well, but you had —
DIRECTOR YOUNG: It’s not a trust — I didn’t fall backwards in the woods. (Laughter.) It’s not a trust exercise.
Q But when you cut —
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Yeah, we’re not — we’re not — it —
Sev- — seventy percent of House Republicans voted for a bill. So it’s beyond trust; we have a law. What else are we supposed to do?
This President is committed to governing, committed to doing the right thing. This is who the Republican Conference elected to be their Speaker. He asked to work with us on the budget deal. We did that. We find ourselves here.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Colleen.
Q I wondered if you could talk about the U.S. assistance to Ukraine in the face of a shutdown? What happens to it? How does it work? Do you know?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Well, just like the rest of defense and our diplomacy efforts, we do as much as we can. Clearly, there is carryover money to keep some things going. But it’s impacted — just like if we don’t get further assistance, that is impacted.
You cannot do more with less when you talk about a wartime effort. It just doesn’t exist. And there are rules for a reason. You must have money to buy things.
So, we also worry about our own stockpiles. So, even if we could continue to deliver, what can we do to ensure American readiness does not suffer?
So, I worry about that in a shutdown. And I worry about that if we don’t keep the — the critical aid going to Ukraine, which is why you saw, on a bipartisan basis, the Senate move forward to keep that going.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. Hi, Director.
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Hi.
Q What do you see as the end game here? Are you willing to make any concessions to the hardline Republicans? And for how long are you expecting this shutdown to last?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: So, one, I think you get into real trouble in this town trying to play crystal-ball maker. I will tell you what the fastest path is to make sure this does not happen. You saw it in the Senate, with bipartisan vote to keep the government running.
I think we have to remember what we’re talking about: 47 days. Not a year, not two — 47 days. The point of a CR — we call them “stopgaps” — you keep stuff going. What did you do on September 30th as a government? You should keep doing that on October 1.
This is not hard. It is not meant to come back and negotiate and — and redo things we just agreed to do three months ago. It is to keep the government open to give congressional negotiators more time on long-term bills. This is not an exercise in reopening negotiations. We negotiated, at the Speaker’s request, three months ago.
My life is still recovering from it. I remember it very vividly. There are no negotiations left to have on a 47-day bill.
The conversation that needs to happen is with the Speaker and the Republican conference, period.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, MJ.
Q Thank you, Director Young. Given that FEMA is already only prioritizing urgent and life-and-death operations, in the event of a shutdown, how long can even just those operations be sustained?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Look, it depends on — we’re still in hurricane season. People think that it ends in August, September. So, my answers will be assuming no more major disasters happen. Everything is on the — off the table if something really truly catastrophic happens. But on due course, we think we can continue to do life and safety from FEMA.
But you’re right, FEMA is holding over 2,000 projects in abeyance because of their current fiscal situation. When did we tell Congress about this? In mid-August. It’s now late September. We told them we cannot pay our disaster relief bills in mid-August. It’s now late September, and they are now marching us towards a shutdown where those 2,000 projects just get longer and longer and longer.
So, if you are my home state of Louisiana, if you are Puerto Rico, if you are Texas, anyone who has had a major de- — declaration in the past who are doing long-term recovery, we have to continue to hold to pay for those — those projects that are needed to continue to rebuild.
Q But the life-and-death operations, though, they can continue indefinitely?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: They can continue. But I want you to know, that statement applies if there are no more large, large events. You know, I — we will have a different answer if there is a catastrophic event that pushes FEMA past the point of being — having enough money to do life and safety.
Right now, if there are no catastrophic events, we can continue to do life and safety.
Q But if there are, then that may not be possible?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: I mean, that is always the answer. I’ve done FEMA budgets since I was a baby staffer on Appropriations. All rules, all statements are out the windows when you have large, large events. They just skew the numbers needed so greatly.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Patsy.
Q Thanks, Karine. (Inaudible.) Do you have a — and I’m sorry if you mentioned this at the topper. Do you have an estimate of how much does it cost when we have a shutdown and then we reopen the government again — an estimate of, you know, per day or per week or however long it goes?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Yeah, we’ll say — look, our analysis on a shutdown really is tied to how long it happens. But one can expect, like, a 0.1 to 0.2 percent — I think most economists agree — hit to GDP.
The hope is, though, during a shutdown, if that happened, the economy would be able to pick that GDP loss up in the next quarter. So, it may not be a permanent loss.
But why risk our economy for a manufactured shutdown, all a problem within one conference in Congress?
I say 0.1 and 0.2, and that doesn’t sound big — 0.1 percent of our economy is $26 billion.
Q I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. That’s a hit to the economy. But is there an actual cost to, you know, shutting down the government and then reopening again, like any kind of logistical admin costs?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: So, it will not cost anything that would be outside of our normal — our normal spin rate, like the people in the office on — not the 30th, because the 30th is a Saturday — on the 29th will do the work they need to do today. They will pr- — be provided, like, four hours on their devices to — to send people — and have out of office, send people last messages.
But there tends not to be — we don’t have to go close major infrastructure. There’s not a large spike in spending in order to close down.
What is really expensive is the hit to — to GDP, the inability of people to access services like WIC. And it’s not just new people signing up for things like WIC; it is people who are on WIC currently. They cannot get access to the meals they would normally get. That is the real impact to the American people.
Q Fundamentally, we’ve been here —
Q Oh, I’m sorry — (inaudible), so I got excited.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, no —
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Sorry.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ll come back. I’ve just got to go back a little bit.
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Don’t let me get you in trouble.
Q No, no —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I promise I’ll come down. But go ahead, Ed.
Q Great to be here. Thank you, Shalanda. So, the Treasury Department now says the federal deficit is at $1.5 trillion. You know, that’s more than the CBO projected. The President has pushed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, he’s pushed the Inflation Reduction Act, the American Rescue Plan. He signed into spending $5.8 trillion over the past two years.
Spending is at the heart of this impasse. So, does the President bear any responsibility for a shutdown?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Absolutely not. And by the way, the deal was to ensure that we had a fiscally responsible plan — I think the name of the bill was the Fiscal Responsibility Act — that saved a trillion dollars over a decade.
And, look, if House Republicans want to join us in the Fiscal Reduction Act, I’m happy to talk to them about the tax cuts they have pending in Ways and Means that add to the deficit. I’m also happy to talk to any Republican who voted for two and a half trillion dollars of tax cuts, unpaid.
So, the problem I have is when people vote for that, bust the deficit on tax cuts for the wealthy, and then come and say we’re doing too much for Head Start and childcare and cancer research. Because that’s what we’re talking about.
They’ve taken the smallest amount of spending, do nothing about taxes for the rich, and they want to cut the smallest amount of spending. That’s not serious fiscal conversation. Anybody in D.C. will tell you, you cannot get on a better fiscal path by going after these domestic programs. They’re the smallest portion of our budget. It ain’t going to happen. It’s not serious. Even cutting it 30 percent doesn’t put you on a better fiscal path.
So, let’s just get real. It’s not about that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right.
Q (Inaudible)_– has one more. So the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says that he’s not going to take a salary during the shutdown. Does the President plan to pause his salary also?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Look, I’m glad that the Speaker has made that statement. By the way, members of Congress have to get paid, constitutionally, so maybe he’ll put it in a sock drawer. I don’t know. (Laughter.) But they have to get paid during a shutdown. That’s theater. That is theater.
I will tell you, the guy who picks up the trash in my office won’t get a paycheck. That’s real. And that’s what makes me angry.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Peter. Thanks for your patience.
Q If I can ask you very briefly about — we’ve been — we’ve seen this show before where it goes down to the wire and then, at the last minute, something happens or several days pass before anything happens. Can you just talk about, fundamentally, the impact — even if this were to be resolved — of playing this game where it goes to the last minute before there’s a short-term spending bill, how that sort of impacts the way our country runs? Because a lot of Americans see that, and they know that that’s not the way it can work in their own homes.
DIRECTOR YOUNG: You’re right, and you’re right. I mean, we have time — what’d the President say? There’s nothing inevitable in politics. We don’t have to go down this road; House Republicans don’t have to take us down this road.
So, you’re right. There — there is always a chance that people can do the right thing and the government remain open or have a quick reopening.
Q But even getting to this place, there’s already —
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Right.
Q — been a ton of money lost, right?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Not a ton of money lost. The confidence in government is what I worry about. People watching this — the dysfunction sowed. And I think there are a small amount — small amount of people who know that. You know, it’s the — it’s the carelessness by which people is like, “Oh, this shutdown is not much of government.” Well, you tell people who live paycheck to paycheck that.
I know it’s not popular to defend federal workers. I know it’s not. But a lot of them live paycheck to paycheck. “They get repaid.” What are they supposed to do in the meantime? What are they supposed to do?
And then people can’t get government services. You go sign up for WIC. You finally convinced this mother it’s the right thing to do, because a lot of families are embarrassed about taking aid from the government. You finally convince this young mother to go do that. Not available. Confidence lost in government.
It’s one more knock on democratic institutions. And that worries me.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Joey.
Q Yeah, as we get closer to a shutdown at the end of the week, does it remain the case that President Biden is unwilling to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, as he’s suggested he would like to do?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: It’s not an unwillingness. We’ve talked. We talked a lot. The President talked a lot to Speaker McCarthy. We got a deal. This is the easy part.
Pe- — the debt deal was two and a half years. Now we’re talking about 47 days to keep the government running, to give Congress time to work on full-year spending bills. This is not hard. This is just not hard.
And, by the way, every day I read some other reason why they can’t vote on the Senate bill — the Senate bipartisan bill. It changes every day.
So, there’s not — not an unwillingness. We’ve had this conversation. The Speaker wanted to set toplines. We set them. Now he needs to talk to whomever he needs to talk to in the Republican conference and live up to that deal.
Q What will be the engagement from President Biden to lawmakers, particularly as we get, you know, closer, Saturday — tomorrow?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: You’re talking about a president who was a former senator for 36 years. He has close relationships on the Hill. He stays in dialogue with Congress.
Clearly, there’s going to be an uptick in that as we are led down this path by House Republicans. And that’ll continue. The President is constantly updated on what is happening.
But I’ll tell you, we’re at the 29th. We have until midnight tomorrow. What needs to happen is the one corner out of five who is having problems with their votes and their strategies need to find a path to meet the other four — four corners at the deal we all signed up for in early summer.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. A couple more. Go ahead, Michael.
Q Thanks, Karine. Director Young, can you talk a bit more about the impact a shutdown will have on the crisis at the Southern border?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: We asked for $4 billion to help deal with migration challenges at the border. You wouldn’t know that to hear what Republicans talk about. If border is an issue for House Republicans, where’s the dialogue on what the President asked for to help with enforcement, to help with transportation costs, to help with detention capacity?
You know, I’ve done this a long time. This is just a new — a new, interesting time in our political atmosphere where we can’t get Republicans to really engage us on more money to help control migration issues at the border. Almost no dialogue. No interest in taking on the President’s requests. No interest in dealing with the fentanyl issues that we asked for more money to deal with to put more equipment to find fentanyl coming through.
So, there is serious, and there is not serious. This president asked for money to help deal with the issues that hurt people: disaster, Ukraine, and border. We appreciate the Senate meeting us to make sure Ukraine aid continues, disaster aid continues.
But let’s not forget: This president asked for money to deal with the situation at the border. And you’re absolutely right. During a shutdown, not only do we not get the $4 billion we asked for to help, we’re asking CBP agents, ICE agents to go without pay. How is that helping?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Director. I’ve been speaking to many mothers who rely on WIC for food for their babies, and they don’t follow the ins and outs of politics and whether a shutdown would be the fault of Congress, the White House, the President. They just can’t believe that this country’s leaders would allow babies to go hungry. So, what would you say to them?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: I’d go back to my answer earlier. You know, I worry about people’s engagement and thought about their government. It worries me tremendously that people will show up on Wednesday or Thursday, trying to decide whether they were going to even apply for this aid, because a lot of people don’t trust — like, their friends tell them to go get this, and they’re like, “Ah, it’s going to be difficult — a lot of paperwork.” So, it takes convincing for people to go seek this aid. And then to be told, “Never mind. Never mind, the government is closed, shut down.”
They don’t follow the ins and outs. It’s a pox on all of our houses. That’s why four out of the five corners are trying not to go there. We’re doing everything we can to plead, beg, shame. “House Republicans, do the right thing. Don’t have this happen.”
The cavalier-ness is what gets me. I’ve heard people say in the Republican — in House Conference, “Oh, a shutdown is not that bad. It’s not like the debt ceiling.” Well, you go tell people who cannot pay their daycare bill. You go tell people that. You go tell men and women in uniform that they don’t get a paycheck when they show up to work every day. You go tell that mother that she cannot get formula after having had to be convinced to even give government a try. It’s the cavalier-ness that really gets me.
And you’re right. It’s — it sets an expectation for how people deal with their government throughout their lives. And it’s something we should work really hard to avoid.
Q And to follow on that, could you clarify the total number of workers that would go without paying next week, and how many of them would still be required to show up to work?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: So, in civilians, 1.5 million — about 800,000 of them would be excepted and have to show up to the office.
As you know, depending on how long shutdowns go, people can be called back into work if their job and their duties, you know, start to fall into one of the categories that’s excepted. So, there could be — there will be — would be changes in those numbers if a shutdown would continue.
Q And what about the breakdown for the military’s 1.3 million active-duty troops and the reservists plus DOD personnel?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Right. It’s a little over $2 million — 2 million people who serve who are all expected to show up to their duty stations.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Just the last two. Go ahead, Aurelia.
Q Thank you so much. Thank you, Director. You said this shutdown could be a knock on democratic institutions. What about the international reputation of this country when it seems like the United States is going from one major fiscal crisis into another?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: I think you just answered it. You know, this country, we owe services to the American people. We talked a lot about one of those in WIC, we talked cancer research. But our diplomatic efforts — this President has worked harder than most to hold alliances together that represent democratic institutions, the Western alliance, and ensure that the world knew America was back.
I do believe we will continue to do most of our missions as best as possible. We will show up where needed. But it certainly makes that more difficult the longer and longer this goes on. But in a very short-term situation, I think we will remain in the same — with the same posture across the world.
Now the question is how we’re viewed. You know, it — it is not the shining example we want to portray that we continue to have fiscal crises because other world leaders look at that.
But I’m still hoping — I’m still remaining an optimist that we have a day and a half to work out in one corner what is needed to take the deal that is laid before them by the United States Senate. So, there’s still a chance.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Last question.
Q Thank you, Director. Given that we’ve seen in prior shutdowns that some of these workers have to go to work without pay, including in the travel industry, FAA and others, that they might report — call in sick in greater numbers. Do you have any guidance around that or any estimates as to how that might affect the shutdown period?
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Look, we don’t shut down often.
(A reporter sneezes.)
I know it may feel like it, because we talk about it even if it doesn’t happen.
Q (Referring to his sneeze.) Negative. Sorry, I’m negative.
DIRECTOR YOUNG: You sure? (Laughter.)
So, it doesn’t happen often, so there aren’t numbers. We certainly have anecdotal evidence that that happens on occasion. And it goes back to what I talked about earlier: People make decisions that are best for their families.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Thank you so much, Director. We appreciate it.
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Thank you. Thank you.
Q Thank you.
DIRECTOR YOUNG: Have fun. I hope not to see you all for a little bit. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much, Director Young.
I do want to add to something that the Director said, which I think was really important, about how this affects families. I think I’ve seen on some of the cable news networks this morning — if it was this morning — that you’ve seen, like, federal workers being interviewed and members of the military. And you see people — I think one interview, someone was crying about how this is going to affect this — this shutdown that we’re — that Republicans in the House are barreling — barreling us to is going to affect them.
And we’re — this is real. This is real-life — real-life changes and real-life impact on people across the country.
And there was one military personnel who was interviewed who said that one of the reasons that they went into the military is to have that stability — right? — is to make sure that they have a stability in their life.
And when you have one of the five groups who are taking away that stability because of a political stunt, because of their chaos within their own — within their own caucus, and they do that to a military member — personnel who is really, truly putting their lives on the line for this country and making a commitment to this country, and they’re saying that they no longer have the stability that they thought the military would bring them, I think that’s devastating.
And that’s, you know — this should not be partisan. This should be bipartisan. This is supposed to be the basic, basic duty of Congress to do this — to do their jobs. And it is going to have — if we do indeed have a shutdown, it is going to truly, truly hurt some of the people that we rely on every day, as well as cutting some key programs that families — that families need.
With that, Colleen, you want to kick us off?
Q Sure. Can you say anything more about what the President’s plans are going to be this weekend in the face of the shutdown? What’s he going to be up to?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I can say that the President is going to be in Washington, D.C. And he’s going to continue to remain in touch with congressional — well, our team here is going to continue to remain in touch with congre- — congressional leaders and the members of both parties.
Certainly, he’s going to get updates on what’s — what’s happening — what’s happening on — on the Hill. But again, if — this is an — this is going to be the extreme part of the House Republican — this is going to be their shutdown. So, we do not — I don’t expect any travel outside of D.C. from this president. But of course, if that changes, we certainly would communicate that. But the President will be here.
He’ll be getting updates from his team and the team more broadly. As you saw, the — the Director was here.
And — and also our Office of Leg Affairs is going to stay in close touch with members — with leaders — congressional leaders on the Hill.
Q Would he be meeting with anybody in person this weekend?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — no, I don’t have any — I don’t have any meetings or — to read out as it relates to — to Congress. But what I can say: This is something — and we’ve said it over and over again, and it needs to be repeated — this is something that Congress can fix. This is something that extreme — those extreme Republicans in the House can fix. They know how to fix this.
We just heard the process that the OMB Director went through — right? — earlier — earlier this summer, late spring on making that — helping to make that bipartisan deal become a law.
And so, this — we should not be here. We should — she shouldn’t have been here at this podium talking about a potential shutdown. It should not have been this way. And they can fix it.
Q On the auto workers strike — so, it’s expanded now. And I just wondered if the White House is concerned about broader economic impact of a strike as it, sort of, wears on — I think it’s two weeks in? Two weeks in?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things — and I’ve been asked this question about the potential impacts. Look, we always — we always take a look at what a major economic situation — the potential impacts could have, certainly, in our economic — in our economy more broadly.
But I will just go back to what I’ve said. This does — as it relates to the shutdown, the shutdown doesn’t need — does not need to happen. These programs that families need should be continuing. This — we should not be in this position that we’re in.
This is something that Republicans in Congress — in the House, more specifically — are heading — heading us towards. And you — you saw there was a — there was a chart that was up when we were speaking. And, you know, Senate — Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, House Democrats, the President, we’re all on the same page. We’re all on the same page here. And for some reason, extreme House Republicans refused. They refused to get on — to get on board here.
And as it relates to the shutdown: should not be happening. This can be avoided. They can fix this if they choose — if they choose.
Q Thank you, Karine. I hear what you’re saying, and —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: About what?
Q About Republicans —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — and that they have to fix this. “It’s their problem. It’s not ours.” And that’s exactly what the White House said before the deal was struck about raising the debt ceiling. Initially, you guys weren’t going to touch any kind of negotiation because you said it was solely up to House Republicans, up to Congress to raise the debt ceiling.
But then, the President did intervene to avoid the U.S. defaulting. So, I’m just trying to understand at what point would the President intervene to avoid a shutdown?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I understand your question as well. Here’s the thing. And — and I think Director Young did a really good job laying this out. What we are talking about is a bill — a bipartisan bill that became law. That’s what we’re talking about. Something that became law that was agreed by the five sides, right? The House Republicans even themselves, two thirds of them voted for this.
This is law. This is an agreement that was already made, that multiple conversations were had about this. This should be simple. This should be easy.
And that’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about something that already existed not that long ago that they all literally voted for in the House and in the Senate, in a bipartisan way — something that I’ve said before — that’s what Americans want us to do here in — in Congress and in the Whi- — in the White House — right? — in the federal government: to get things done in a bipartisan way so that it helps American families.
And what they’re doing — they can fix it. There’s no conversation that needs to be had because they literally can fix this. It is their chaos. They can fix this. And what they’re putting at risk is our economy; our national security, as we just talked about the military personnel. It’s a — you know, and —
You know, we have been able — the President in the last two years have been able to get our economy back on track, right? We’ve talked about the 13.5 million jobs. We’ve talked about unemployment being under 4 percent. And what they’re doing is incredibly irresponsible, and it is reckless.
So that’s the difference. When you’re asking me — you know, you don’t quite understand and are trying to figure out what we’re talking about. We already made the deal. That’s why we keep saying “a deal is a deal.”
And it’s not just — it’s majority of Congress that agrees with us, right? When you think about what the Senate — the Senate actually moved forward and kept their deal. When you think about 77 senators who are moving forward — who voted to move forward with their CR. They are keeping the deal.
We’re talking about a small fraction of Congress. And that’s — and that’s reckless. That’s irresponsible. And that’s why we’re saying it is not us — for us to — it’s not on us to fix. It’s not on this president to fix it. It is on Congress to fix.
And it’s not just us. You — I started the briefing listing out — listing out quotes from — from Republicans in Congress themselves.
All right. I’m going to —
Q All right. Thanks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going keep on. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. Thanks, Karine. On China, can you clarify if the administration is stepping up engagement with the goal towards a Biden-Xi meeting on the sidelines of APEC in November, including whether there are any plans for Vice Premier He Lifeng or Prime Minister Wang Yi to come visit in Washington or meet U.S. officials?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to — to lay out for you on any meetings or any potential meetings as it relates to the President and — our President and President Xi. The President spoke about this very recently and his expectations to have a meeting.
Don’t have a location for you. Don’t have a timeline for you at this time. We’re expecting — the President, as he said, is expected to do so. Just don’t have anything to share.
And once we do, we certainly will share that with you.
Q And can I just follow up on that? Just a few days ago, Wang Yi seems to suggest that the onus of creating the right environment for a Biden-Xi meeting lies in Washington, you know, to promote cooperation — a summit that promotes cooperation rather than provoke confrontation. How would you respond to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we’re — I mean, we’ve been very clear. We’re not ha- — we’re not looking to have confrontation with China. We’re looking to have competition, and that’s what the President has shown these last two years.
The President spoke about this. He’s — he’s looking forward to having that conversation with President Xi. I don’t have anything to share with you at this time. And I’m just going to leave it there.
Q Thank you. Does the President plan to take up McCarthy’s offer to meet, and does the White House see any value in that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m going to be very clear. The per- — the person that McCarthy — or the people that McCarthy needs to talk to is his own caucus. That’s who he needs to have a conversation with, not the President.
The President had multiple conversations with Speaker McCarthy very early on to get this bipartisan deal. That two thirds of the House — Republican House — Republicans House voted on. The conversation is not between the President and McCarthy. He needs to — he needs to —
Q So, he’s turning it down?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He needs — what I’m saying very clearly is the conversation needs to happen between Speaker McCarthy and his — and his caucus. That’s where — that’s the fix. That’s the chaos that we’re seeing. And that’s where he needs to focus on.
Q And how would you describe the President’s relationship with Senator Feinstein in recent years? When was the last time they spoke to one another?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I believe the President reached out back in August. They missed each other, and so the President had a conversation with her chief of staff. That is the last time that they were — that the President had reached out.
I mean, the President spoke to this, you know, very — I think very deeply. Right? And — just moments ago, when you all watched his remarks.
And — and they were very close friends. They served together for over a decade. It’d be 15 years in the Senate together. And — and he saw her as a close friend.
They — you know, one of the things that they worked on that is an issue right now across the country was
assault ban weapons [assault weapons ban], right? That is something that they worked together on in 1994 and actually saved lives for those 10 years before its sunset in 2004. Right?
So, there’s been many things that they’ve been able to work on together. And so, they find — and even as president as well.
And so, they were — he sees her as a dear friend. It is a sad day for — certainly for — for us here and also for her family and, clearly, for the state of California. And — and I’ll just — I’ll just leave it there.
Go ahead, MJ.
Q We just heard Director Young saying, “This is not hard.” But Speaker McCarthy clearly is finding this difficult. Can you give us any sense of how President Biden sees the situation that Speaker McCarthy is in? Does he think that the Speaker is in a tough spot? Have you gotten the sense that, you know, there’s any sense of sort of sympathy towards Speaker McCarthy? Or is it all pure exasperation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m — I’m not going to go into just the President’s feeling about the Speaker or — or his situation currently as Speaker of the House.
What I can speak to is what we’ve been saying all along, which is: A deal was made. The President has — as you all know and saw this happening when — when these conversations were going on in person and trying to get that bipartisan deal very early on in the summer.
And what the President believes is that many Americans are going to be hurt by this. Many families are going to be hurt by this, by something that extreme House Republicans are barreling us down through. Right? They’re heading us down a road that is unfortunate, that is reckless.
And that’s what the President is concerned about. He’s concerned about the American people. And this is something — again, they can fix this. They can.
Q Can you confirm when the two men last spoke?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a date or time — a timeline of when they last spoke. What I can say is that, clearly, the OMB Director, congressional — our Office of Leg Affairs has been in regular touch with congressional leaders on this for the past several weeks, several months. And I just don’t have a — I don’t have a conversation to confirm with the Speaker.
Q And just in the coming days, in the event of a government shutdown, does the White House believe that the President has a responsibility to offer any words of reassurance to people in the country who will be affected, will be worried about situation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don’t have any previews of any remarks that the President is going to make. But you can we- — either tomorrow or any upcoming days. But, of course, the American — the President is always — when it comes to situations like this, you can expect to hear from him directly in the days ahead. I just don’t have a date to speak to at this time.
And the President — here’s the thing: The President is not going to stop working. He’s going to continue to work, and he’s not going to stop delivering for the American people in the event of an extreme Republican shutdown.
You’re going to hear from the President. I just don’t have anything to lay out on a specific date or time. But, of course, the American people are going to hear from him.
Q Thank you. Just on the auto workers strike, has the President spoken to automakers after he said he supports a 40 percent pay raise for UAW workers or just even broadly after his visit to Michigan? We understand from sources that the chances of a deal in the near term have been complicated by the President’s remarks about him supporting a 40 percent pay raise.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just want to — just give some clarity. So, first, the President’s senior advisors, they’ve been in touch with all parties. If — I’ll let you know if there’s any conversations that the President has or — to read out with the — with the — the automakers, more specifically.
As it relates to the 40 percent, look, he believes they should get a significant raise. That’s why the President can keep saying, like, a record profit should lead to record contract, right? This is — he believes that the UAW workers should get a fair share for — for profits they helped create. And so, the President has been really, really clear about that.
But as it relates to any negotiations and what they are asking for, he wants to make sure that he leaves that up to the UAW leadership. And ultimately, again, members should be able to receive a fair and just deal.
And the President is going to be consistent about that. He has said that recently when he was in Michigan, when you saw him on an active picket line, who was — he was very proud to be there in solidarity of the union workers.
And so, that is something that he has said throughout his career, and he’ll continue to be very clear about that.
Q And so — so, just on the automakers part —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q You said his team is constantly in touch. We’ve known that. Are there any specific, sort of, conversations after his visit, specifically after those comments that he made?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, they’ve been in regular touch. I don’t have, like, if they talked today or — or on Tuesday or on Wednesday. But they have been — the senior — senior advisors have — certainly have been in touch with all parties.
They are not — I want to be clear — they’re not part of the negotiations. They’re not convening all sides. They are just there to offer any assistance that the parties might need.
We are very — we’ve been always very clear. It’s — it’s up to the UAW leadership, it’s up to the union to have these — and all parties involved — to have these negotiation conversations. But, again, we’ve just offered any helpful assistance that they might need.
Q Can I circle back — thank you — to a question that was asked, I think, of the OMB Director, which is, essentially, if we could get a sense of what the White House will look like during the shutdown and who all folks can anticipate will be here specifically from the press side, but broadly what the White House will look like.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So, look, you know — and — and not going to have much more to share than what the OMB Director said. You know, many people are going to be furloughed. That’s kind of, unfortunately, how this all works.
The process that we are, kind of, dealt with here, as we’re dealing with this potential — potential shutdown. But we will do our best, certainly, to communi- — to continue communicating with all of you. We will have a press — a press briefing during — during, you know, next week.
And, look, you know, again, they’re going to be furloughed, and some will be expected and continuing to work, as the — as the Director said, and — and that’s going to be across the government. That’s going to be the same case here at the White House.
And, you know, that’s just kind of the way it is. And we will — we’re going to continue to deliver for the American people, but it’s not going to be as — business as usual when you have the majority of folks furloughed. And — and that’s kind of where we are, sadly, unfortunately, in this — in this time.
But as it relates to the press team, certainly, we’ll be holding press briefings, and we’ll certainly have more to share if this is where we head down to, which is a shutdown.
AIDE: Karine, you can take a couple more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. Just a follow-up to Aurelia’s earlier question. We know that you say it’s their problems, not ours. From the outside — outside of the U.S., we see the government as more of a “one thing.” With, you know, the tension with China towards Allied — in the war in Ukrai- — in Ukraine, what can the President say to reassure leaders who are worried at this — at this moment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, I think Jake Sullivan got this question a little bit when he was here last week. And I think the question came to him as has he heard any concerns from any leadership. And he had said he wasn’t aware of any conversations to — to that effect.
What I can say is, you know, when you have this type of — this potential chaos and unpre- — unpredictability, you know, countries around the world are seeing from this — this Republican House, it’s not something to be proud of. It’s not.
But what the President and our team have done for the past two years is rebuild those relationships with our partners and allies. And — and so, at the same time, trying to carry out the work of the American people.
And that’s something that you’ve seen the President do over the past two years, whether it’s here at the White House or whether it’s at a summit that he’s attended. And you’ve seen the President build that confidence back into the United — back into the world — right? — the confidence that allies and partners had of the United States.
And so, that’s important. We have rebuilt those relationships. We’ll continue to do so. But obviously, when you see this type of chaos — you know, chaos and potential recklessness — right? — from House Republicans, it doesn’t — it’s nothing to be proud of.
But we’re going to continue to have those — it doesn’t stop us to have — continue to those — those diplomatic conversations and continue to build those — those relationships.
Q Thank you. This time of week, we’re usually talking about the week ahead. (Laughter.) And I wonder how that’s impacted by the government shutdown, if the President has any plans for next week. And I’m assuming that people who would facilitate his travel would be essential —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — but is that impacted at all by the shutdown talks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, it’s a really good question, Matt. This is something that we have been internally trying to figure that out — what it’s going to look like if we have a — a extreme House Republican shutdown. That is something certainly we’ve been very focused on.
Look, as I said, the President is going to be staying in D.C. You could — you could be assured that the American people and you all are going to hear from him on a regular basis in the next upcoming days, because he’s going to continue to work for the American people.
I can’t speak to travel right now. Right now, we’re going to focus on — focus on just the next couple of days and what that’s going to look like. Again, he’s not — he’s going to stay here in D.C., and we’re going to continue to work for the American people.
Yes, people are going to be furloughed. It’s not going to be business as usual. But we’re going to continue to do our best to work on behalf of the American people.
Q And then, it’s — it also sounds like you guys don’t view there being any need for a negotiation from the White House perspective. So, in thinking about, like, what is he — what is the work that he needs to do, in your eyes? Is the work communicating to the American people about this? Or is there any — I mean, is he going to be in touch with anybody on the Hill?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Like, I’m trying to think through the weekend and what he’s going to be doing.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, it’s a good — it’s all good questions. Look, the President is going to say what — privately what he’s been saying publicly, right? And he has spoken to this almost every day this week, about the shutdown, about what Republicans in the House are doing. He’s been very clear about this, right?
He’s talked about the economic impact. When he — when he was doing the meeting with HBC- — HBCU board of advisors — his board of advisors, he talked about the impact on — on the Black community specifically.
He’s talked about impacts just broadly with — with American families and Americans. So, he has been very clear about this, and we are going to continue to be clear about this. And the reason why — just to go back to what I stated earlier to — to Weijia — the reason why we’re not negotiating is because we already did that. We did negotiate.
The President spoke multiple times with congressional leadership on this. And there was a bipartisan piece of legislation that was agreed upon, that was passed, that was made into law.
And so, this is something that Congress and this is — this sits with — really, when we say House Republicans, it really sits with them, because we saw what the Senate was able to do in a bipartisan way, which is keep — keep their promise, move forward with the deal that we’ve made. And we know House Democrats are on board to keep the government open and keeping with the deal that was made.
It’s just this really small, extreme fraction in — in the Congress — these extreme House Republicans that continue to hold this — to hold this back because they want to push extreme policies. That’s going to hurt Americans.
And so, that’s why we say that, because that is the fact. That is what’s happening and being played out on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue.
And so, look, the President is going to continue doing the job. American people are going to hear from him over the next couple of days. And yes, he’ll be in D.C.
Q Anticipating if there is a shutdown, the President has never come to the briefing room. And if it would facilitate and make it easier with staff furloughs for him to speak to us from here, we always invite the President to come to the briefing room. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We appreciate the invite.
Q The — the issue of debt ceiling played out in a similar way where the position was: It’s their job to do it. And then, when a critical hour came, the President engaged.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q If it goes to a shutdown, would he then view it as, “Okay, there’s a new chapter to this in terms of resolving it, getting out of it”? And would he feel like he needs to engage more at that point? Would that be a different mindset?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Weijia asked me a similar question as you did, and we’re going to be very clear about this. And, you know, want — don’t want to get into hypotheticals from here because we believe that this can be fixed. We believe that House Republicans can fix this. It is their job to fix this.
So, I’m not going to get into too far down the road —
Q I guess I’m asking: Would he see it as a different set of circumstances?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, I — I just want to be careful, right?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because, again, I don’t want to get into hypotheticals. We see this as a — as a situation that could be fixed because we already made a deal. A deal is a deal. When we say that, it is true: A deal is a deal. That’s what they are disputing here — something that two thirds of House Republicans voted on.
So, they can fix this. This is something that they can get — they can get on board with because it’s something that they voted on. It is something that they voted on.
And so, what I’m going say is — continue what we’ve been saying is that the conversation is not — it’s not with this president. The conversation is with Speaker McCar- — McCarthy and his caucus. They need to have that conversation and get this done on behalf of the American people.
Millions of Americans are going to be hurt by this, by their action. And it is reckless, and it is irresponsible.
I have to go. Thanks, everybody. We’ll see you on Monday.
Q Thanks, Karine.
Q Thank you.
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