James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:10 P.M. EST

MS.  JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everybody.

Q    Good afternoon.

Q    Hi.


So, President Biden’s values and agenda won big across the country last night.  In Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and in Virginia, voters once again sided with President Biden’s agenda to stand up for fundamental freedoms and build an economy for the middle class and protect democracy.

Now, let’s turn to Ohio for a second.  On the heels of an attempt to weaken voters’ voices at the ballot box in August, the people of Ohio voted decisively last night to make reproductive care a constitutional right in their state.

Ohio is now the seventh state where voters turned out in droves to redrect — reject attempts by Republican-elected officials to impose extreme abortion bans since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. 

And from Kentucky to Virginia to Pennsylvania, voters in those states also turned out to roundly reject abortion bans that jeopardize the health and the lives of women, force women to travel hundreds of miles for care, and threatened to criminalize doctors and nurses. 

The stakes could not have been higher.  And last night, voters sent a very, very clear message. 

We have always said that voting matters and polls do not.  Our focus is going to remain on our work to grow the economy, lower costs for families, and protect fundamental freedoms against dangerous agendas that are out of touch with the American people. 

Now, I want to turn to what’s going to happen at 2 o’clock today: Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden will brief the American Jewish community on the ongoing implementation of the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, including the administration’s response to the rise of antisemitic incidences on college campuses. 

We continue to see an alarming trend of antisemitic threats and attacks targeting Jewish communities across the country.  Disturbing acts — like ripping down posters of Jewish — of Jewish held hostage — hostages by Hamas; vandalizing Jewish institutions; threatening to com- — commit acts of violence against Jewish students, Jewish faith leaders, and Jewish communities — inflame tensions, stoke fear, and are completely — completely unacceptable.

The President strongly condemns these brazen acts of antisemitism and has repeatedly made clear: Targeting Jews because of their beliefs or their identity is unacceptable.

Make no mistake, we will continue to speak out against hate of every — every dimension. 

And that is why, just last week, you heard from — you heard from this administration: The President and Vice President announced that the administration will develop the first U.S. National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia in the United States. 

Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate have no place in America.  And we strongly condemn anyone who seeks to harm Jewish, Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian American or any — or any other communities.  And we will certainly continue to speak out.

With that, the Admiral is here again today just to give any updates on what’s happening in the Middle East and take any of your foreign policy question. 


MR. KIRBY:  Thank you, Karine.  Afternoon, everybody.

Q    Good afternoon.

Q    Hi.

MR. KIRBY:  I think you saw that Secretary Blinken attended a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Japan.  And, obviously, they held in-depth discussions about all the steps we’re taking to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and meet the urgent needs on the ground. 

And today, hopefully, you got a chance to look at the joint statement that the foreign ministers issued unequivocally condemning the terror attacks by Hamas, which happened a month ago, reaffirming our support for Israel’s right and responsibility, if not obligation, to defend itself and to prevent attacks like that from ever happening again — of course, in accordance with international law. 

And then the G7 also agreed that humanitarian pauses are a good step — good steps that could advance key objectives to protect Palestinian civilians, to increase the sustained flow and delivery of humanitarian assistance, to allow our citizens and the citizens of other countries to exit, and to help to facilitate the release of — of hostages.

So, I really urge you, if you haven’t taken a look at that statement, to go — go ahead and do that.  Lots of ground covered in it.  And we’re going to obviously continue to work on all those goals. 

In fact, to that end, you may have seen that the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, met today at the White House with former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, covering all those same issues, making sure that the former Prime Minister knew straight from — straight from our National Security Advisor how staunchly we’re going to continue to stand by Israel as they continue to defend themselves. 

Just a brief update on the crossing at Rafah: Over the last 24 hours, more than 80 more trucks carrying humanitarian aid was able to enter Gaza.  That brings the total to 650. 

Again, not enough.  We’re going to continue to work to push that. 

And as of now, we’re aware of more than 400 Americans and families — family members who’ve been able to depart and — and sought the support of our embassy team on the ground and in Egypt. 

There has been no change in that number since yesterday, so no more U.S. citizens or family members got out since the last time — well, since yesterday, when I was up here talking to you guys.  But I just thought I’d give you that update.

That’s it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Go ahead, Zeke.

Q    John, just quickly on that last point.  Is there a reason why that Americans ha- — more Americans have not left?  And do you have an update on the estimate of the number of Americans who are still in Gaza now?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, the fact that we know we got 400 or so out so far, that leaves a population of about 5- to 600 left, when you count family members in there.  So, we’re still working to get them all out, obviously. 

And the reason why it changes every day, I mean, as I said before, this is a dynamic situation.  Sometimes it’s the vetting process.  Sometimes it’s obstacles — not physical obstacles, but — but policy obstacles that Hamas might throw up. 

So, we’re — we’re confident that the flow will continue.  But as I’ve said before, we shouldn’t comfort ourselves in thinking that, every day, it’s going to be sort of a similar approach and a similar number and — and some sort of similar sense of ease here.  Every day, it — it has to be worked almost all over again.

Q    And you mentioned Secretary Blinken’s comments earlier today —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    — where he said that the post-war environment “must include a Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified” under — “unified with the West Bank under a Palestinian Authority.”  Is that the stated policy of the United States now, that Gaza and the West Bank need to be reunified under Palestinian Authority control?

And separately, the Israeli government has said that — Benny Gantz said just today that “We can come up with a mechanism that’s appropriate,” suggesting that they control what is the final governance structure in Gaza.  So, who controls what will happen in Gaza?  Is it the United States?  Is it Israel?  Is it the Palestinian Authority?

MR. KIRBY:  It’s — as the Secretary said, we want to make sure that Gaza and the West Bank are for the Palestinian people and that they have a vote, they have a voice — that they — they get to be the determining factor in what governance looks like where they’re living, in their homes.  And that remains our policy and — and will going forward. 

Now, what exactly does that governance structure look like?  And when does it get put in place?  And who are the players that are going to help adapt that?  All that, we’re working out.  Those are all the questions we’re asking ourselves and the questions we’re asking of our partners. 

I can’t stand here today and tell you that this is exactly what the structure is going to be.  But that is — that is what we’re trying to drive to, is a process to get answers to those questions.

Q    But it sounded like Secretary Blinken was saying that there was a final goal in mind which would unify control of Gaza and the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority. 

MR. KIRBY:  We — we —

Q    Is that not U.S. policy?

MR. KIRBY:  We — we believe that the Palestinians should be in — in charge of their future and they should be the determining voice and factor in their future.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Danny.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Thanks, Admiral.  Can you confirm that the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed a three-day humanitarian pause when they spoke most recently?  And — and if so, how’s — how are discussions on that going?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, I can’t confirm those reports.  I can confirm that in almost every conversation that we’re having with the Israelis right now, we’re talking about the — the benefit of humanitarian pauses. 

And, again, you saw the G7 foreign ministers also unite around that idea.

Q    How are discussions on that going?

MR. KIRBY:  We’re — we’re continuing to have those discussions.  I don’t have an update for you.

I would remind that there are — has already been a couple of small humanitarian pauses to allow people to get out, including a small number of hostages who have been released.  So, this is not a new idea, but it is something that we believe should be continued — to continue to be pursued.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Asma.

Q    The Secretary of State in his comments today also referred to a, quote, “transition period” after this conflict.  Could you expand on that and explain what does a transition period look like to this administration?

MR. KIRBY:  I think he was referring to the — this idea that — and it came up yesterday, the — where Prime Minister Netanyahu talked about an indefinite period where they would be on the ground.  I think he was referring to the idea — the fact that, in the immediate aftermath of conflict, it — it’s — it’s certainly plausible that, for at least some period of time, Israeli Defense Forces are still going to be in Gaza to manage the immediate aftermath and the security situation.

But that — nothing’s changed about our view that that shouldn’t be the long-term solution, that it shouldn’t be about an IDF reoccupation of Gaza as a — as a long-term governance solution.

Q    Can I ask one additional question?  The U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights said today, after visiting the Rafah border, that, quote, he was witnessing “the gates to a living nightmare.”  And he said that while Hamas — what it did on October 7th was a war crime, he also has concerns about the “collective punishment” of Palestinian civilians, amounting to a war crime. 

What is the administration’s response and suggestions, I guess, to what he is saying?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, again, without responding directly to every comment made by every — by every official around the world, I would just tell you that we’re watching these events as closely as we can, of course.  We’re in constant touch with our Israeli counterparts. 

We’re not going to react to every event on the battlefield, but we are continuing to stress to our Israeli counterparts — and you heard that from Secretary Blinken as — as recently as today — to stress to them to be as cautious, careful, and deliberate as possible and to avoid taking civilian life as much as — as much as they can in the — in the prosecution of these operations. 

Now, you had asked me yesterday about Golan Heights. 

Q    Yes.  Correct.

MR. KIRBY:  So —

Q    And I did email one of your counterparts about it earlier too.  (Laughs.)  But go ahead, please.

MR. KIRBY:  I know.  So, I just wanted to be — be fair here.  There has been no change in our position on the Golan Heights.  I think Secretary Blinken talked about this back in February of ‘21.  No change in our policy.  You know, as long as the situation in Syria remains as it is, we understand that — that Israel has legitimate security needs there in the Golan Heights.  So, no change, no policy change. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Steve. 

Q    John, is the Palestinian Authority capable of running Gaza now once the fighting dies down?

MR. KIRBY:  I — I don’t know that, again, we’ve got a final solution here on — on how Gaza will be governed, Steve.  And obviously, the Palestinian Authority would have to be a part of that discussion from the get-go and — as well as with other regional partners.  But I just don’t know that we’ve — we’ve got that solution set nailed down.

What we do believe, as Secretary Blinken said: that the Palestinian people should be in charge of their — of their destiny and their future. 

Q    And when you’re trying to get American hostages out, how does that process work?  Are you in direct contact with Hamas?

MR. KIRBY:  We don’t have direct communications with Hamas, but some of our partners do, and — and they’ve been helpful in that regard. 

Q    But any progress to note?

MR. KIRBY:  I have no specific progress to announce or speak to today, other than that we continue to be focused on trying to get all the hostages out — certainly the American citizens that we know are being held but all of them. 

And in order to do that, as we saw with the first four that got out — two Americans and then two Israelis a couple of days later — there were — there was enough of a pause in the fighting to allow for their safe passage.  And that’s what we’re trying to get cemented, is an agreement for as many pauses as might be necessary to get all of them out.

But it’s a — it’s a delicate negotiating process, and we’re still — we’re still working at it. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  So, on that note, John — and thanks for coming again, by the way — should we be thinking about humanitarian pauses in the context of hostages?  Because you referenced, you know, the last time the Prime Minister agreed to some, it was to allow hostages out.  Or are there other factors — getting more aid in, et cetera?

I mean, how should we be thinking about this?  Because every time it’s happened so far, it’s for the hostages alone. 

MR. KIRBY:  I wo- — I would recommend you think about it in terms of all the above.  I mean, obviously, one of the most urgent, pressing needs is to get the hostages — to get their release secured, get them back with their families.  That’s — that’s a key priority. 

But it’s also a priority to get aid in and also to allow for people who aren’t hostages to find a way out of Gaza — or ways out of Gaza. 

So, it’s all of the above, but the key focus right now is definitely on hostage release. 

Q    So, is the lack of humanitarian pauses a factor in why hundreds of Americans are still stuck there?

MR. KIRBY:  It — there are — there are lots of complicating factors, to the earlier question I got about — about why we haven’t seen more movement over the last 24 hours.  And the need to be able to cross Rafah safely, without fear of coming under fire, is certainly one of those factors. 

Q    Thank you.

Q    Just to follow up on the — on that — hostages.  Israeli government sources tell ABC News that Israel won’t accept the release of 10 to 15 hostages, that it wants a bigger group close to 50.  Is that a position that the White House agrees with?

MR. KIRBY:  I am not going to negotiate in public.

Q    Can you talk a little bit more about what demands Hamas is making to release these hostages?  What is being asked for?  I know you’re not in direct contact.  Any guidance you can give on what —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, again, I’m really not going to get into negotiating it in public.  We — we have a way to communicate with Hamas, we’re using that way, and we’re doing everything we can to get — to get these folks back with their families. 

But I think you can understand that I could be putting all that process at risk if I start talking about the negotiating stance of one or another partner in this.

Q    And just any sense of proof of life that — anything you can give us as far as how you would know that these hostages are alive right now?

MR. KIRBY:  I am not aware of any specific proof of life for specific hostages, to include the small number of Americans that are still being held hostage.  We don’t have any indication to the contrary that they aren’t still alive.  And so, we’re certainly operating under that assumption. 


Q    Thank you, Karine.  Admiral, it’s been a few days now since the leader of Hezbollah delivered a speech that there — that sought their — maybe prompt some more violence in the northern front.  Have you been — over the last few days, have you seen any es- — has the U.S. tracked any escalation there?  What do you expect?

MR. KIRBY:  We’ve seen some rocket attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel, but we have not seen some sort of wholesale effort by Hezbollah to join this fight or to open up a quote, unquote, “second front.”

Q    And as a follow-up, is there a sense as to what sort of role at the moment Tehran might be playing?  Is there any sort of communication with forces there in the north?

MR. KIRBY:  You mean Hezbollah forces? 

Q    Yeah.

MR. KIRBY:  Well, I mean, aside from the fact that they —

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY:  — continue to resource, train, and provide capabilities to Hezbollah, I’m not — I’m not aware of anything overt that I could speak to today.  But, I mean, I don’t want you to take away from that that we’re — we’re sort of blind to the fact that Hezbollah is supported by Tehran. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Catherine.

Q    Thanks.  John, we’re reporting that Qatar and Egypt are negotiating some kind of deal with Hamas to release up to 15 hostages if there is a 48-hour humanitarian pause.  Is that something the U.S. would support or —

MR. KIRBY:  I just got that question.  I’m not going to negotiate in public. 

Q    And can you talk — I know you’ve talked about the universe of hostages.  How much does the U.S. know about who they all are?  Do you feel like you know — sort of have identified who all these people are?

MR. KIRBY:  Who the American hostages are?

Q    No, I mean the entire group of hostages.  Are you confident in who they are, where they’re from, who these people are?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t know that — the degree to which that we, in the United States here, have perfect visibility on all the identities of all of the hostages.  That has been an effort that we’ve been working on with our Israeli counterparts.  Certainly, the Israelis are also working hard to make sure they know who’s in that population. 

We have a good sense of the small number of Americans, who they are.  But, you know, out of privacy concerns, we’re obviously not going to talk about that.

Q    Do you know how many pauses it would take to get everyone out?

MR. KIRBY:  It would depend, honestly, on what’s negotiated, how much in each pool, and over what period of time.  So, I can’t give you an exact figure. 

What I can tell you is that we want to stay open to the idea that it might take — in fact, likely could take — more than one humanitarian pause to get them all out. 


Q    Admiral, I know you can’t get into details about the length of a humanitarian pause under negotiation, but logistically, how would that work for IDF forces that are already on the ground in Gaza?  Would they stay camped out?  Would they — is the expectation to leave?  I mean, how — how would that even work?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, without getting into hypotheticals and certainly not talking for another military, what we’re talking about here is temporary, fixed in time, short duration — hours to days, depends on the need — and then also localized in terms of the map. 

So, it would be an agreement that for a set period of time on — in this — in these grid coordinates, there would be a pause in the fighting.  That doesn’t mean that there won’t be or couldn’t be fighting outside that zone during that same period of time. 

So, all of that has to get factored in.  And I have no doubt that on the Israeli side, as they look at each proposal, they’ll think about the impact — the potential impact — on their military operations on the ground or in the air. 


Q    Thank you.  I have a few questions on Ukraine.  There’s a war going on —

MR. KIRBY:  “A few.”  How many is “a few”?  I’m just — take my pen out here.  (Laughter.)

Q    So, there has been a dispute in recent days within the Ukrainian leadership whether the war has reached a stalemate.  What’s your assessment?  And does the President still believe that Ukraine can win back its territory?

MR. KIRBY:  Okay. 

Q    I’m going to have one more, after.

MR. KIRBY:  Okay.  (Laughter.)  Is that okay with you?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, absolutely.

MR. KIRBY:  Okay.  It’s okay.  (Laughter.)

So, obviously, we’re not going to — as I’ve said many times before, we’re not going to characterize Ukrainian military operations.  They — they can speak for this. 

President Zelenskyy talked about this on Sunday, that he does not believe that they are in a stalemate.  But that is for him and his commanders to talk about.

What I can tell you is that the — the front, from the Donbass area all the way down towards Zaporizhzhia and beyond, I mean, remains an active front.  And there is fighting along that front — all along that front. 

The Ukrainians will be the first to tell you that — that they aren’t making and haven’t made as much progress on this counteroffensive as they would like.  And that’s why we are so focused on making sure that we continue to provide security assistance to them so that they can make the most of the time they have left before the weather is really going to set in and make it harder for them to make — make any progress. 

And your question — does the President believe that they can — absolutely, we believe that they can win back their territory.  I think they — they’ve been underestimated since the beginning of this conflict.  They’re capable.  They’re strong.  They’re brave.  They’ve got good command and control.  And there’s no — no doubt in our mind that they can continue to succeed.

But, you know, the enemy gets a vote.  Russia has planted tens of thousands of mines all along that — that front, making it harder for them to advance.  And as I said, the weather is not going to be cooperating here for much longer.

Q    On security assistance for Ukraine.  A group of Senate Republicans demand border security measures, including changes in asylum policies, as a condition for further aid for Ukraine.  Is the President open to such changes?  And how much funds do you still have available for Ukraine from the previous appropriations?

MR. KIRBY:  On your first question, I would just say that the reason why the President included border security funding in the supplemental is because he agrees that we need cooperation from Congress to improve our capability at the border.  And if they are serious about wanting to help with border needs, then pass the supplemental requests that the President submitted.

And as for the money that’s left, what I can tell you is that roughly — of the — of the total funds that have been provided to Ukraine since the beginning of the war, which is in excess of $60 billion — and that’s not just security assistance, that’s economic and financial assistance, humanitarian assistance — we’ve gone through about 96 percent of what’s left.  And greater than 90 percent of security assistance replenishment funds have been expended now, and the Defense Department is down to about $1.1 billion of replenishment money left as we head into the wintertime. 

So, as I’ve said before, the runway is getting shorter, and that’s why we need that supplemental request approved. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Arlette.

Q    That was a few.

Q    If I could.  Thank you.  The U.N. Chief, Antonio Guterres, today, was talking about the number of deaths that have occurred in Gaza.  And he said that there is something “clearly wrong” in the way the Israeli milita- — military operations are being run.  Does the U.S. agree with that assessment?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I’m not going to armchair quarterback this fight from this podium.  We’re not going to react to every event, every strike on the ground.  We are going to continue to provide Israel with what it needs to defend itself and to go after Hamas leadership.  And we’re going to continue to urge them, as you heard Secretary Blinken say today in Tokyo — to urge them to be as cautious and deliberate when it comes to civilian casualties as possible. 

We recognize that many, many thousands of Palestinians have been killed and wounded in this conflict.  And each one is a tragedy.  We grieve and mourn with each family that is grieving and mourning.  And that’s why we’re going to continue to stress that the law of armed conflict be — be fully and completely complied with. 

Q    And one thing that falls a little bit under your purview is something that the White House and campaign and the President’s allies often say is that one of his selling points is his leadership on the world stage, pointing to Ukraine, Israel, his ability to reinvigorate NATO.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    But a CNN poll released just yesterday found that only 36 percent of registered voters believe Biden is an effective world leader and that Trump — 48 percent believe he is.  Were you surprised by that number?  And where do you think the disconnect is there?

MR. KIRBY:  We’re not focused on polls at the National Security Council.  We’re not — we’re not — certainly not going to — it’s not going to govern the kind of policies that we’re developing, the options that we’re providing to the Commander-in-Chief, or the way we’re executing on those options.  We’re just not fixated on that.

We’re fixated on defending and protecting our national security interests around the globe.  And, again, without going into the litany that would take me probably an hour to get through, I can point to chapter and verse of things that this President has done on the world stage to advance those national security interests. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Arlette — Jacqui, sorry.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  John, does the President think that Israel’s plan to oust Hamas is achievable militarily?

MR. KIRBY:  The President believes, because he’s seen it on — on our own, on the efforts to go after ISIS and after al Qaeda, that it is absolutely possible, through military and other means, to disrupt and degrade, if not decimate, a terrorist network’s ability to resource itself, to plan, to operate and execute attacks. 

We’re not going to, again, characterize or analyze publicly Israeli war plans.  They should be the ones speaking to that.  Right now, they are focused on putting pressure on Hamas leadership, specifically in Gaza City.  And they are pursuing that through military means.  And, again, we’re doing everything we can to help them.

Q    How important is a ti- — the timeline to that belief that this is achievable?  And the reason I ask is because of this polling that shows Americans are very deeply divided on Israel’s counterattack.  Only 36 percent said it’s very important or extremely important to provide aid.  Forty percent of Americans said the military response has gone too far.  And among Democrats, that number is 58 percent.  So, is he at all concerned about backsliding in support for this mission among key constituencies of his base? 

MR. KIRBY:  As a leader who has been, you know, deeply involved in the Middle East for much of his public life, he understands that there’s a lot of complex history here.  And he also understands that right now there’s an awful lot of strong feelings on all sides about what’s going on right now.  He appreciates that. 

But he’s not going to — he’s not going to develop policy options here for the United States or administer our national security interests, again, according to — to polling data, which shifts and change.  He’s going to do it based on principles, based on a firm belief in Israel’s right to exist as a nation and the Israeli people right to live in peace and security as well as the Palestinians. 

And that’s going to govern how he — how he makes his decisions with respect to protecting our national interests, to include, Jacqui, his firm belief that — in the promise of a two-state solution and how we can’t abandon that.

Q    Would he send American troops into Gaza to get American hostages?

MR. KIRBY:  There are no plans to put American troops on the ground in combat in this fight.  And we are pursuing — we are pursuing a series of steps largely through negotiations to get our hostages out. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nadia.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  John, do you think that Hamas — or do you believe that Hamas is holding all the hostages in Gaza?  Or do you think there is other groups, like Islamic Jihad or maybe others?  And do you use the same channel of communication via your partners to try to deal with them?

MR. KIRBY:  We — we don’t — we don’t have a perfect picture about where everybody is, what condition they’re in, or — and how they’re being held.  We cannot — we cannot rule out the possibility that — that other groups than Hamas may have hostages that they’re holding. 

Q    Okay.  And yesterday, you said there is no red lines militarily for Israel.  But is there any political red lines?  I think the Secretary alluded to it today — Secretary Blinken — when he said that no transfer of Palestinians and no, in a way, allowing for a security buffer zone that will be on Palestinian land.  Is this something that the administration will convey to the Israelis? 

And I’m sure you’ve seen the images of thousands — 15,000, actually, of women and children walking on foot with little belongings from northern Gaza to southern Gaza.  Do you still believe this is not in breach of international law when an occupying power forces civilian population to move from place to place?

MR.  KIRBY:  Again, I — I appreciate the efforts to — to have us react in real time here to events.  And I’m just not going to do that.  I’m just not going to do that. 

But on — on the question about, you know, permanent displacement, that is not a new policy.  Secretary Blinken was reiterating what we have said time and time again since this conflict began: that we do not support and won’t support any kind of permanent displacement of Palestinians outside Gaza.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Anita.

Q    Thank you.  I’d like to take another stab at East Asia today, please.  First of all, on Monday, as you know, President Biden is meeting Indonesia’s President, and he’s the leader of the second-largest Muslim country in the world.  You know, what is his message to President Widodo?  And why does the — why does the statement that the White House put out about this make no mention of the situation in Gaza when we know that President Widodo is going to a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation the day before, where that’s going to be the main subject? 

MR. KIRBY:  I — I can’t speak to the announcements — specifics of the — of the announcements.  I mean, if we listed every single topic that every single discussion the President has with every single foreign leader came up, I mean, there’d be no end to these — to these announcements. 

I mean, I have no doubt that the situation in the Middle East will come up.  I don’t think you should read anything into the fact that it wasn’t in the — it wasn’t in the announcement.  I — I wouldn’t worry about that. 

Clearly, there’s a lot on the plate to discuss with the President and — and President Biden looks forward to that, particularly when it comes to the security, economic, and diplomatic challenges that remain in the Indo-Pacific.

Q    And quickly, can you just confirm — Japanese media is reporting that November 15th is the date of the Biden-Xi meeting.  Can you confirm that and just preview that for us, please?

MR. KIRBY:  No and no.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  I wanted to ask you, again, about the civilians living in Gaza.  You’ve talked about your pushes for a humanitarian pause and that you don’t support permanent — what did you call it? — permanent displacement of those civilians outside of Gaza. 

MR. KIRBY:  That’s right.

Q    Can you lay out what the U.S. position is, then, on protecting these civilians from these airstrikes or from other Israeli military operations given that — yeah, what the U.S. position is on protecting these people when they have nowhere else to go? 

MR. KIRBY:  You’re talking about the civilians that are moving to the South or are near the crossing?

Q    Yes.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes.  With the caveat that we are not involved militarily in this conflict, obviously we continue to urge our Israeli counterparts not to take military action, strikes that would put innocent civilians in greater harm’s way, particularly — and in all cases but, certainly, particularly in those cases where these — these folks are doing exactly what they’ve been asked to do, which is move out of North Gaza and into South Gaza and to collect near the Crossing as we continue to try to get folks out. 

So, we have — we’ve been very plain about our concerns over — over military action that could put those folks in — in greater harm’s way.

Q    Are you putting any pressure on neighboring countries to take in Palestinians fleeing Gaza temporarily?  I know you said you don’t support permanent displacement, but what about a temporary solution?

MR. KIRBY:  That’s going to be up to tho- — those countries to decide whether they’re — you know, what their refugee policies are.  And I’m not aware of any specific asks that we’re making of other countries to take in a certain number. 

We understand that — that most people, most Palestinians — they don’t want to leave.  I mean, it’s home.  And — and I — we know that some of them are worried that if they were to leave — you know, that they might not be able to go back in. 

So, it — it’s not — the most pressing issue right now is the internal displacement of more than a million — I think it’s like a million and a half right now — and making sure that they’re as safe as possible, to your first question.

But I’m not aware of any specific discussions we’re having with other countries about refugee resettlement.

Q    Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, ma’am.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, go ahead.

Q    Admiral, thank you.  Two questions.  First, on the Middle East.  Understanding that it’s been closed for security reasons, can you say when you think Rafah will reopen fully?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, I mean, it remains open for — for stuff getting in.  As I said, 80 more trucks overnight, which is a good thing.

And it — it’s — I wouldn’t characterize it as “closed,” not in a permanent sense.  It’s just that we weren’t able to make any progress over the last 24 in terms of people getting out.  But that doesn’t diminish our confidence that we’ll be able to continue to get folks out over time. 

But every day, it’s a series of negotiations.  Every day, it’s a series of discussions about process and procedure and vetting and all that. 

And, you know, there’s going to be some days where we’re more successful than others.  But we’re not considering it permanently closed. 

Q    And then separately, sorry, on the DFC announcement of the $553 million investment in that port terminal in Colombo.  I was wondering if you can put that into context as the U.S. tries efforts to kind of counter what you see as China’s in- –unsustainable infrastructure lending in the regions.  Can you talk about the strategy here and how that’s working to kind of win over Global South countries on that front?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, so a couple of things.  It’s not about winning folks over.  We’re not telling people — we’re not telling people they can’t enter into investment arrangements with the PRC. 

That said, the President has worked hard — now, over the last two years — to advance what he calls the “PGI” — the pro- — the Program for Global Investment and Infrastructure — which is providing an ever-increasing amount of investment opportunities for lower- and middle-income countries to seek
more fair, more transparent, and, quite frankly, more economically beneficial investment opportunities for their own infrastructure all around the world. 

And he has talked about that at — at some length.

It is providing — we — we believe it is providing them alternative funding to — to help their own economies and their own people so that they don’t have to rely on the, quote, unquote, you know, “Belt and Road Initiative,” which is — which is pretty — pretty high interest and — and low results so far.


Q    Thank you.  I wanted to go back to this idea of sort of the humanitarian pauses versus a ceasefire.  I know you’ve talked a lot about how those are very different things.  So, in that context, would, say, a 72-hour humanitarian pause be different than a ceasefire?  I guess my question is: How long are humanitarian pauses humanitarian pauses?  (Laughs.)

MR. KIRBY:  Humanitarian pauses are as long as they need to be for — for accomplishing whatever the specific purpose is, whether it’s hostages out or aid in or just getting people out.  I mean, they — they have to be as long as they need to be.

But just to be clear, to kind of reset here: When we talk about a ceasefire, when you — when you use that term — when that term is implied — a general ceasefire — it connotes
a cessation of hostilities for an indefinite period with the purpose of finding an end to the conflict. 

Usually, when you get into a ceasefire, it’s when you think you’re at the endgame and it’s time to negotiate: go to the table and brass tacks here, how are we going to end this war?

And we don’t support that at this time. 

A ceasefire right now benefits Hamas.  It certainly — it also legitimizes what Hamas started on October 7th.  It would give them a — a propaganda win.  “See?  Look, now there’s a ceasefire, and so we’re going to be an equal party to this, and — and we have every right to continue to stay in governance in Gaza.”  And they don’t, and they’re not.

So, a ceasefire not only gives them time to plan and execute, but it legitimizes what they started on October 7th.  And that’s unacceptable to President Biden.  It’s certainly unacceptable, understandably so, to the Israeli people.

A pause is, as I said, temporary, localized, specific purpose.


Q    Thank you, Karine.  And thank you, John.  I have two questions.  Secretary Blinken and Defense Secretary Austin visited South Korea and hold talks with their countpartners [counterparts].  What role do you expect South Korea to play in the Middle East conflict?

Secondly, currently the United States is focusing on the
war in Ukraine and the Middle East war — I mean Hamas and Israel war.  Does the United States have a strategic response plan in case of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula or Taiwan?

MR. KIRBY:  I mean, we’ve — we always strive to be prepared for contingencies on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.  And the President has devoted a lot more energy and effort and resources to making sure that we can meet our security commitments to the Republic of Korea, including additional training and exercise events, improving our intelligence-collection capability off the peninsula, and, of course, maintaining a very robust military force in the Indo-Pacific: naval, air, and ground. 

So — and we’re in lockstep.  And you’ll see this on — on hand as our defense and foreign ministers meet here shortly
to — to make sure that that alliance remains ironclad.

On your first question —

Q    What —

MR. KIRBY:  I know; I remembered it.  I actually remembered it this time.  We’re not — we’re not going there, hat in hand, to ask South Korea to do something specific for the Middle East.  Those are sovereign decisions.  They have to decide for themselves if they feel there’s a role for South Korean people in that conflict. 

They have been terrific friends and partners and allies in the region, but even with — you know, with the support to Ukraine as Ukraine battles for its independence. 

And, again, those are decisions that the South Korean people — through their elected leadership — have to make.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  We need to wrap it up. 

Go ahead, Jon.

Q    Thanks a lot, Karine.  John, you mentioned earlier that the administration is in constant touch with your Israeli counterparts.  Do the Israelis update you, apprise you of the progress that they are making in this conflict against Hamas?

MR. KIRBY:  Yes.

Q    And those conversations — are they with diplomatic officials, intelligence officials, military officials?  Can you give an update about who your counterparts are when you talk about that?

MR. KIRBY:  It’s all of the above.

Q    And next week, the APEC Summit — it’s taking place while two conflicts are ongoing in Ukraine and also this war between Israel and Hamas.  How important is next week’s APEC Summit given all that — that’s going on?

MR. KIRBY:  I think it underscores how important these kinds of relationships are, these kinds of conversations are, particularly with — with our friends and partners in the — in the Indo-Pacific.  

And it — and, you know, you can’t — yes, we’re focused on what is going on in the Middle East and in Europe, but we have not and will not turn a blind eye to the security challenges that remain in the Indo-Pacific.  And there’s a lot of crossover, because there are certain governments in the Indo-Pacific that are watching very closely how the United States manages support to Ukraine and support to Israel and may be — may be divining, you know, certain lessons from that. 

So, it’s all the more important that we have this discussion in San Francisco.

Q    I’d like to circle back to Ukraine.  With all of the concern about what’s going on in the Middle East and, again, as we just discussed in the Indo-Pacific, we also have some concern among the people who have left Ukraine, who are in the United States worrying that perhaps it’s become a forgotten war and that it’s a lower priority.  Are there any assurances from the administration that could assuage those concerns?

MR. KIRBY:  Look at the supplemental requests that the President submitted just a couple weeks ago.  A big chunk of that — biggest chunk of that is for Ukraine for economic assistance, for security assistance, for replenishing our stocks. 

I think, you know, our — we — we’ve prioritized it appropriately.  And obviously, it’s — it’s not something at all that we’re — that we’re walking away from.  In fact, quite the contrary.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Lalit, you have the last one.

Q    Thank you.  Given that India has good relations with both Israel and Palestine, do you see a role for India (inaudible) given that, in the last few years, this administration has worked with India in working with other countries in the region, like I2U2, the IMEC Corridor.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, that’s — the Quad.

Q    In the Quad, yeah.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, India is a key strategic partner.  And I think you saw that on full display when Prime Minister Modi was here.  But we’ll leave it to the Indian government and to President- — and to the Prime Minister to decide what their stance is going to be on any particular crisis or contingency around the world to include the Middle East.  But they remain a key strategic partner and — and we’re dedicated to advancing that partnership every single day.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Admiral.

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you.

Q    Thank you, John.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I appreciate it.

MR. KIRBY:  You bet.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you so much.  Thanks for coming back.

Q    Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, ma’am.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Okay, Zeke.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  The government is going to run out of money in nine days.  Can you update us on what the President is doing to stop that from happening?  Does he plan to speak with the Speaker or with congressional leadership, have them over here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, don’t have any — we don’t have any readout or potential calls on the President’s outreach to members of Congress in the next upcoming days. 

What I can say is — and I’m sure you guys have reported this — is that the OMB Director, Shalanda Young, is continuing to do outreach.  And she is on the Hill to outreach to members of Congress today and certainly laying out the urgency of making sure that our — our national security and domestic supplemental — which, as you know, is our emergency needs — are certainly met. 

As we know as well, there is bipartisan support for those supplemental asks that the President has made.  And also, as you know, as the — as the Admiral just mentioned, it includes Ukraine, Israel, and some critical humanitarian assistance. 

So, we’re ha- — continuing to have those conversations.  They’ve been happening for some time now with the OMB — certainly — Director and certainly the Office of Leg Affairs and other — other folks here in the White House. 

And we have been — made ourselves very, very clear how important it is to make sure that the government stays open, make sure that key, vital programs that American people need continue to get funded.  It is important.

We should not — we should not be here again.  They have to — Congress has to make sure they do their jobs.  And so, that’s been very clear.  This is something that they have to act on.  This is something that they can avoid. 

And so, we have been clear about that.  We’ll certainly continue to make that clear to them.

Q    And then, last night in a bipartisan vote, the House censured Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.  Does the President believe that that was an appropriate — that her comments justify that action?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m not going to speak to the actions that Congress takes.  We’ve been very clear: On any — any other resolutions that include a censure — we’ve been very clear, whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat, that is for, certainly, Congress to take action on.  And that is their prerogative.

We’ve been — you know, we’ve been clear.  You’ve heard from members of NSC, whether it is the Admiral or whether it is Jon Finer, who spoke to this — that when it comes to the phrase that was used, “from — from river to the sea,” it is div- — divisive.  It is hurtful to m- — many find it hurtful.  And also, many find it antisemitic.  And so, obviously, we categorically reject applying the term to this conflict. 

But I will more — more broadly say — this is something that John Finer said when he had his interview on Sunday on “Face the Nation”: We respect that there are strong feelings about the war in Gaza.  And we — legitimate — and there are legitimate public debates and concerns about how it is being fought. 

So, we have expressed strong views ourselves, in public and in private — conversations with the Israeli c- — officials, as you heard the Admiral speak to, as you all aware, about the importance of preventing civilian casualties, for sure — for certain. 

But remember, Israel is defending itself from terrorists who committed a horrific act — that’s what we saw on October 7th, as you all know — and who have taken about 240 people
hostage, including American citizens.

So, not going to speak to the actions that Congress took.  But certainly, as it relates to that term, we’ve been very clear: We strongly disagree.

Q    Has anyone from the White House reached out to the — the congresswoman?  And given that she used a phrase that you just described as “divisive” and potentially antisemitic,
does — does the White House plan have any engagement with her?  The President is head of the Democratic Party.  Is there a place in the Democratic Party for somebody who uses phrases like that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we’ve been very clear.  We — we just — I just — we just said: We think that — we strongly disagree in using that phrase.  I mean, that is coming from here — from the White House, in a very public way.  It’s been said by many people at the White House.  So, we’ve been very, very clear about that. 

I don’t have any conversations to read out to you with the congresswoman.  I just don’t have anything from here at this time to — to read out. 

But, look, we’ve been very clear — very, very clear about using — how it is important to — to be mindful about the language that we use, especially in this time, and — and we’ll continue to speak out to that.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  What does the President think last night’s election results say about his own chances for reelection, if anything?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m not going to get into his reelection, obviously, from here or anything that’s related to 2024.  You saw the Pr- — President’s statement yesterday about the particular, obviously, Issue — Issue 1 — in Ohio.  You s- — you heard directly from the reelection campaign.  So, certainly, I would refer you to — to the reelection campaign. 

But what I can say more broadly — and I think it’s important to note here, and I said this a little bit at the top — of how — what — what the American people made very clear. 

They spoke out loud and clear.  And what we saw — we believe we saw across the country is that we saw the President’s values and agenda win big across — across the country last night. 

And this is not just in 2023.  We saw this in 2022.  We saw this in 2020 as well.  And Americans spoke loud and clear — loud and clear how we need to protect reproductive rights.  Women should have the — we should have the freedom to make a decision on — on their own healthcare.  That is important. 

We heard them speak very loudly against dangerous conspiracy theories that we’ve heard out there — right? — that — which are incredibly dangerous, as I just said.  And they’ve rejected that. 

And, look, you know, you saw — you saw, you know, the American people continuing to say that they support the President’s agenda.  Because if you think about how — how Governor Beshear ran in — in Kentucky, he ran on the infrastructure, right?  He ran on lowering costs for the American people. 

Those are parts of the agenda that the President has been — has led on.  Whether it’s the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, whether it’s the Inflation Reduction Act and making sure we’re lowering costs for the American people, this is the President’s agenda that was on the ballot, clearly.  And the American people spoke very clearly about it. 

Q    And then, just secondly, on the Israel war — the Israel-Hamas war.  The majority of the Democratic caucus has sent the President a letter asking for reassurances that Israel has a viable plan for defeating Hamas and that U.S. military aid will be used in line with humanitarian law, among other things. 

Has the President responded to these Democrats?  And is he prepared to offer those assurances now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I — I can’t speak to any response to the letter.  What I can say is — and this is something that Finer actually spoke to as well, which is that
any country that receives arms and military aid from U.S. must use them consistent with international and humanitarian law, which is a standard part of our security assistance agreements. 

So, obviously, we’ve been in close communication with Israel throughout this conflict, urging them to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties — you heard that from the Admiral just now — and even as Hamas uses civilians as human shields, and that’s what we’ve been seeing. 

And so, as we’ve seen events take place that concern us, we will continue to raise those directly with the government of Israel, and that will not stop.  There is constant communication with them from — from — you know, obviously, from here to — with the Israeli government, and that’s not — and that’s going to continue.

Go ahead, Gabe.

Q    Thanks.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Does the White House believe that abortion is the defining political issue heading into 2024?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m not going to speak to — obviously, I’m not going to speak to 2024 and — and — on that.  I’m just going to be very cla- — careful.  I’m going to make — you know, refer you to the — the campaign on that. 

But what I will say is that, again, the Americans were very clear last night.  They spoke in a loud and definitive way.  And they believe that politicians should not have a say in — in making decisions on — especially women, making decision on their reproductive healthcare. 

And that’s what we’ve heard.  And this President and this Vice President is going to continue to support and — be in strong support in making sure that women have the — the right to make their own decision and make sure that Roe v. Wade becomes the law of the land. 

You’ve heard that from the President over and over again.  Obviously, he put out a statement to this last night. 

Q    Karine, you mentioned the President’s agenda.  Were the victories last night — were they more to do with Democrats’ agenda or the President himself?  A large number of people in exit polls said that he should not run again.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, if you look at — again, I’m going to go to Kentucky, because if you look at what Cameron did there, he spent $30 million — $30 million — $30 million con- — trying to connect the governor of Kentucky, Beshear, to the President, right?  And he called it a Beshear-Biden agenda — $30 million.  That’s what he did. 

And so, obviously, the President was injected into that — into that conversation, into that election.  And what did the — what did the people in Kentucky say?  They rejected — rejected that $30 million.  They rejected what the Republican nominee for — for governor in Kentucky tried to do. 

And not only that, as I mentioned just moments ago, Beshear ran on infrastructure.  He ran on lowering costs.  Those are — those are the President’s agenda. 

Q    But the President didn’t go out and campaign himself on that issue. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But it is rare for a president — it is rare for a president to go to a state that has been coined by all of you a deeply red state.  That’s what Kentucky is. 

And let’s not forget: The President kicked off — one of his first events that he kicked off this year was going to — was going — was going to Kentucky and talking about a — a bi- — a bipartisan — it was a bipartisan — obviously, a bipartisan infrastructure — but going to a bridge that had bipartisan support. 

Governor Beshear was there.  You know, Mitch — I forgot his name — the Senate Leader — Republican leader was there. 

And — and so, you saw this bipartisan support for this bridge.  It was really incredibly important.  He kicked off — literally kicked off his — this year going there. 

And so, look, it’s very rare for a president to go, again, to a deeply red state.  That is not something that, you know, any president would do. 

And so, look, the President agenda was certainly, we believe, on the ballot.  This issue of abortion — right? — which we know how extreme Republicans have been — Republican electeds have been in putting out a national ban. 

And what did the American people do?  They rejected that.  They rejected the extremism that we saw from them.  They rejected the conspiracy theories that we saw from them. 

And the President is going to continue to do the work of the American people and push forth what the American people want us to do here, and it’s to make sure we deliver. 

Go ahead, J- —

Q    Karine, is the Biden-Xi meeting in San Francisco totally locked in, it’s going to happen, 100 percent certain?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to — to confirm here and now.  Obviously, you’ll hear more from us in the upcoming days.  I just don’t have anything confirmed. 

Q    And — and is he going to watch the Republican debate tonight and comment on it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I don’t have anything on the President’s schedule for this evening.  Obviously, it’s going to be on the airwaves tonight.  I just don’t have anything to share on what the President’s schedule is going to be for this evening. 

Q    And how — thank you.  How much of the election returns did he watch last night?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, as you know, the President made some phone calls — right? — to some of the — some of the folks who either — whether it was Governor of Kentucky, who was obviously reelected, or some other — some other Democrats who won last night. 

And so, obviously, he played [paid] close attention to the — to the results last night.  I just don’t have anything else. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.

Q    Senate Republicans have been pushing for immigration policy changes to be included in a supplemental in order to get that funding across.  You heard this over and over in the hearing today with Alejandro Mayorkas.  And there were some Democrats on that committee, like Chris Murphy and Schatz, who seemed open to discussing some policy changes to deal with this in a piecemeal approach.  Is the White House willing to budge on this in order to get this money through?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, you know, on day one, the President put forward a comprehensive immigration plan — legis- — legislation for Congress to take a serious look at and to work with him on getting it — that done. 

We have a broken immigration system.  It’s been broken for decades now.  And the President has done everything that he can on his own to try to figure out how do we deal with what’s going on at the border. 

There is a plan out there.  There is a piece of legislation out there from the first thing that he did on day one of his administration.  And we put together — or we included the border security funding in the supplemental because we believe it is important to have — to have the — to continue the funding that is needed to deal with this issue. 

And so, if Republicans in Congress were serious and are truly, truly serious, they would look at what we presented.  I’m not going to negotiate from here on what — on what — what we would discuss or move forward with.  But we’ve been — we’ve been doing this from day one — from day one.  The multiple times that I have talked about border security and asking for Republicans to act, asking for Republicans to meet us in a way to have a real, serious conversation on how to deal with the border, we don’t see that.  We just don’t see that. 

Q    But are there border policy concessions that — is it possible that that could be part of this final agreement?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m not going to — I’m not going to go, you know, point by point on what Republicans are putting forward.  Not going to negotiate from here. 

But we have been doing this since day one of this President’s administration — day one — on trying to figure out how do we deal with the border security issue. 

And he did that by putting forward a piece of legislation that is comprehensive and that deals with immigration in a real way.  And what we have seen over and over again is political stunts. 

Q    And the President is heading to APEC n- — next week, but then right around the corner is that government funding deadline.  Is the White House considering any alterations to his schedule or plans?  Could he potentially come back a little bit earlier?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We don’t have any changes to his schedule.  Look, this is something that Congress can get done very easily.  This is their — this is their job — right? — their job to keep the government open.  It is up to them to get this done.  They have to do their jobs.  They have to do this work.  They have to keep their commitment. 

There should not be a government shutdown.  The President is going to continue to do the work of the — for the American people, obviously focusing on foreign policy, focusing on national security next week.  And that’s what we’re going to see at APEC.  And really important to have those diplomatic conversations.  And that’s what you’re going to see the President do.

Go ahead, Joe Joe [Michael].

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Can you give us a preview of the President’s trip to Illinois?  And also, I’m wondering, does the President believe that his decision to join auto workers on the picket line made any difference at all in settling this dispute between the — the workers and the auto companies?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me get to tomorrow.  So, tomorrow, obviously, which is Thursday, President Biden is going to deliver remarks and meet with UAW auto workers, UAW President Shawn Fain, and Governor J.B. Pritzker — Pritzker in Belvidere, Illinois, to highlight his commitment to delivering for Illinois, to hi- — to — to his commitment to — for delivering for working families and creating good-paying union jobs, as well as UAW’s historic agreement that includes bringing thousands of UAW jobs back to Belvidere and reopening a plant, which is incredibly important.

The Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and Senior Advisor to the President, Gene — President — Gene Sperling will join the President on his travel.

When he is in Belvidere, Illinois, he’s going to mark the reopening of that assembly plant.  This reopening will create thousands of jobs, highlight the President’s commitment to rehiring and retooling the EV and EV battery jobs in the same communities where auto jobs have created good-paying union jobs for decades. 

And thanks to the contract that UAW was able to negotiate with the auto workers, will — the UAW autowor- — -workers will get more in wage increases in four and a half years than they did over the past 22 years combined. 

I would — to answer your other question — look, this is a — this was collective bargaining.  The President believes collective bargaining works, especially when all sides come in good fa- — come together in good faith.  And that’s what you saw. 

And this is a victory for them.  This is a victory for the men and women of the UAW.  And, you know, it is — it is something certainly that he supported.  And we obviously were able to give support to the negotiations.  But they did the negotiat- — it was their negotiation to have. 

And certainly, we are — we are glad that it came to a place where UAW auto workers were able to get what they deserve.

Q    Karine — 

Q    Karine, we understand that the Vice President —

Q    She left.

Q    — was just outside.


Q    She left.

Q    Any chance you could invite her in here so she could take questions from us?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  Oh, okay. 

Q    Because it feels like if she’s going to make a statement, it should be in here.

Q    Did you say you didn’t know —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  I wasn’t —

Q    — that she was going to be out there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I was not aware of that.  I was not aware. 

Q    Okay.

Q    What’s behind that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I was not aware.  I would have — would have to talk to her office. 

Is she still out there?  Is —

Q    No.

Q    She just finished, but we’d love to ask her questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  All right.  Well, we’d have to — oh, Steve — Steve is coming back.  We’ll have to ask what happened.  I am — I was not aware that that was going to happen. 

Q    The VP spoke for about 30 seconds about last night’s elections.  And —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Okay.  All right. 

Go ahead.

Q    I — I guess what — what’s behind the decision to not have the President come out in the wake of the results last night?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, you’re going to see the President tomorrow.  I just talked about Chicago. 

Now I see why people left and came back.  Okay.  That’s good to know. 

Q    Sorry about that.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  Was not aware. 

Okay.  So, look, the President put out a statement on Issue 1 — Ohio Issue 1 yesterday.  As you all know, Ohioans voted decisively to protect the access of reproductive healthcare in the state constitution.  And so, that was important.  I — I mentioned that he spoke to Kentucky Governor.  He also spoke to Congre- — Congressman Elect Gabe Amo and Philadelphia Mayor Elect Cher- — Cherelle Parker, so that was important. 

And of course, the pr- — the campaign spoke to this as well today.  You’re going to hear — so you’ve — you’re going to hear from him tomorrow.  He’ll certainly speak to this tomorrow.  I just don’t have anything more on his schedule today. 

But, look, this is — last night was an important night — I think important night for the American people.  Like I said, they rejected these extreme, extreme policies that we have seen from the Republican Party. 

And also, they lifted up — lifted up the President’s agenda, the President’s values.  And that’s also important because what the President has been trying to do from day one is deliver for the American people — whether it’s infrastructure, whether it’s lowering cost — we’re lowering costs for — for Americans, whether it is making sure that we protect our democracy — those are the things that the President has been steadfast on.  And this is what we heard from the American people in an overwhelming way. 

And also, let’s not forget, reproductive right — that played a role in Ohio, in Kentucky, and Virginia.

Q    But, then, given those wins, how do you explain the President’s low approval rating and the disconnect there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I spoke to this yesterday.  And what I said is you have to take these polls for a grain — with a grain of salt, right?  And I talked about 2020 — right? — and what we saw in 2020 and what was being reported then.  And what we saw is a president that was br- — able to bring an incredibly strong, diverse coalition to win in 2020. 

We saw the same thing in 2022.  Back in October — or in 2022, we kept on hearing about a red wave that didn’t materialize.  Again, just co- — going into this election, right?

And so, look, we don’t put much stock in — in polls.  The President is going to focus on delivering for the American people.  He has an agenda that is incredibly popular, and that matters.  And that’s going to be what the President is going to focus on: How do we continue to deliver for the American people?  And that’s the focus.

Q    Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    So, Senator Tuberville doesn’t look like he’s budging anytime soon on the Department of Defense nominees.  They met — Republicans met yesterday, and he wasn’t moving. 

Does the White House believe that the Senate is going to need to change the rule in order to get the 400 or so —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m — I’m not going to get into the rule changing of the Senate.  That is their decision to make.  We’ve been very clear about what Tuberville’s holds do to our national security — the threat that it has to our national security.  And it’s risky.  It’s a risk to our military readiness.  It’s a — it’s a — it’s hurting our military families. 

And certainly, we strongly disapprove of this.  And we’ve been very loud and very clear about our — about our — our thoughts on what he’s doing here. 

And so, we are glad to see Senate Republicans speak up and also be vocal about this. 

And, look, you know, we — we need him to — to — to stop blocking these nominees, and we need them to get confirmed very quickly.  And we need to — we need him to stop playing political games here.  We should not be playing political games with our military.  That is not how we should be moving forward here.

AIDE:  You have time for one more.

Q    Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead, in the back. 

Q    Thanks.  Ohio voted to legalize marijuana last night.  Does the Biden administration support that vote?  And do you feel that marijuana restrictions should be loosened on the federal level?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, the President put out his stance on marijuana about a year and a half ago.  Nothing has changed there.  And so, I will leave it to the people of Ohio to decide on how they’re going to move forward with their own constitution.  But I’m just not going to speak to it further.  We’ve been very clear. 

Q    Okay.  And then something that’s just breaking right now —


Q    The House Oversight Committee has issued subpoenas for Hunter Biden, James Biden, and Biden family business associate Rob Walker.  Do you have a comment on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, as you just mentioned, it’s just breaking.  So, I don’t have this information in front of me.  I’m just hearing from you. 

Certainly, I would refer you to any of the personal representatives on — on this — on your question. 

But I will have to say something that I’ve said many times.  This is an investigation that has been going on for a year now and has turned up zero evidence of wrongdoing by the President because there is none.  But Republicans continue to double down on a baseless — a baseless smear campaign against the President and his family. 

Instead of — instead of being focused on the American people’s needs, what they’re asking for, what is it that they really, truly want us to focus on, they continue to double down on this. 

And there are a lot of important issues that we need to deal with — not just us here in — in the White House but also Congress — national security, the economy, healthcare, gun violence.  That’s what we should be focusing on. 

But they continue to try to smear this President and his family on a baseless — baseless investigation.  And so, anything else further, certainly I would refer you to the personal — personal representatives on it. 

All right.  Thanks, everybody.

2:15 P.M. EST

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