James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
(December 7, 2023)
1:36 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi. Good afternoon, everyone.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, a couple of things at the top before we go into Q&A.
The President and the First Lady grieve the three lives lost at UNLV yesterday in yet another act of senseless gun violence. And our thoughts are with those who survived this incident and are — and are undoubtedly traumatized by this horrific event, including one survivor who sustained critical injuries.
We are grateful for the brave law enforcement officers who ran towards danger and prevented further loss of life.
At the President’s direction, we have federal officials on the ground supporting local response efforts and providing all necessary assistance.
The newly established Office of Gun Violence Prevention is also coordinating federal resources to help the community recover from this tragedy, because we know it’s not just the victims and survivors who need support, but this violence rips apart entire communities.
And I also want to note that less than 24 hours ago, I stood at this same podium as we mourned the six lives lost in San Antonio, and here we are again today.
When the President talks about ending the epidemic [of] gun violence, this is what he’s talking about.
From Las Vegas to Texas to Memphis to Maine, when will be — will it be enough? When will it be enough? We are in crisis, and we cannot continue to live like this.
As the President said, Republican lawmakers must join Democrats in Congress to advance commonsense measures to protect Americans from gun violence.
Literally, every day — every day we wait becomes another day too late.
Today, march — today, as you have known — as you all know, we made an announcement on new actions to promote competition in healthcare and support lowering prescription drug costs for American families. That includes a historic proposal to promote access to lifesaving drugs at a price that Americans can afford.
Taxpayers have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on research relevant to developing new prescription drugs. And more often than not, those drugs aren’t available to families at affordable — at an affordable price.
President Biden thinks that is wrong, and we’re working to fix that.
Today, the administration is announcing a proposal to put drug companies on notice if they are not making their product available to the public on a reasonable — on reasonable terms, including affordable price.
This action would promote the federal government’s ability to license a patent, such as those used to create lifesaving drugs, to a competitor with the goal of increasing competition and bringing costs down for families.
Today’s actions build on the steps the President has already taken to lower healthcare costs, including capping the cost of insulin at 35 bucks for seniors, finally allowing Medicare to directly negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, requiring drug companies to pay rebates to Medicare if they raise prices faster than inflation, and locking in $800 per year in health insurance savings for 15 million Americans under the Inflation Reduction Act.
With today’s latest step, President Biden continues to deliver on his promise to ensure that Americans have affordable access to medications — the medications that they certainly need.
And very importantly, today, we want to wish Jewish people at home and around the globe a Happy Hanukkah and a meaningful Festival of Lights.
This is an opportunity for Jewish Americans and all of us who support them to come together, reflect, share time with loved ones, and pray for more peaceful times ahead.
The President and the First Lady are looking forward to celebrating Hanukkah with the Jewish community on Monday, and we’ll have — certainly have more to share in the upcoming days.
With that, as you can see, Admiral Kirby is here to give an update on the Middle East, the Hamas-Israel conflict, and also answer any other questions you may have.
Go ahead — global questions, foreign policy questions.
MR. KIRBY: All right. Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MR. KIRBY: I think we’ve all seen, I know you all have seen, the recent attacks on maritime shipping by the Houthis — missiles and drones fired by them from Yemen — and targeting commercial vessels.
These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and the freedom of navigation. They’ve jeopardized the lives of merchant sailors that represent multiple countries all around the world.
And while they are launched by the Houthis, we certainly have every reason to believe that they’re being enabled by Iran. As the National Security Advisor said just the other day: The Houthis are pulling the trigger, Iran is providing the guns.
Now, Jake also talked about our efforts to explore the value of maritime task forces to help deal with this threat. And so, today, I can tell you that the Departments of State and Defense are leading a coordinated effort to strengthen and expand the 39-member Combined Maritime Forces. That’s a multinational maritime partnership which exists to counter illicit non-state actors in international waters, everything from just basic maritime security to anti-piracy and trafficking.
Our focus at this time is ensuring that there are sufficient military assets in place to deter these Houthi threats to maritime trade in the Red Sea and in the surrounding waters to the global economy writ large.
We’re also encouraging other like-minded nations to join this coalition, and we’ve actually heard some interest from several key partners that are interested in coming aboard.
Additionally, the Treasury Department announced today sanctions on 13 individuals and entities responsible for providing funds to the Houthis in Yemen. These sanctions will further cut off those who facilitate Houthi attacks, and they’ll follow a number of sanctions on the Houthis and the IRGC — the Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran — that Treasury has already rolled out since the 7th of October.
And, of course, we are leading an international coordinated effort to condemn these Houthi attacks and their threat to global commerce, including what you, I think, saw in the G7 Leaders’ Statement that we talked about yesterday and through targeted efforts through the U.N. Security Council.
This is an international problem, and it demands an international solution. And that is exactly the approach that the United States is going to take to it.
Now, lastly, I just want to make one thing clear: that the commanding officers of our ships — our navy ships at sea have and will execute their inherent right of self-defense. And we don’t have any conclusive information right now that suggests that U.S. Navy ships have been specifically targeted by the Houthis, but as we have in the past so will we in the future take these missiles and drones down if we perceive a threat to our ships, our sailors, the ships and sailors of our partners, and, of course, merchant traffic in and around the region.
With that, I’ll take some questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Steve.
Q John, you talked about military assets in the region. Is the United States going to send more there? Or what — what all is needed there?
MR. KIRBY: Well, we’ve already bolstered the presence in — in the region, particularly on the maritime side. Now, you have two aircraft carrier strike groups that are operating — one in the Eastern Med, of course, and then one i- — right now in the Arabian Gulf.
But — but as you probably know, a carrier strike group doesn’t sail like it does in Worl- — like it did in World War Two. They’re fairly disaggregated.
Some ships and aircraft — obviously, the air wing stays with the carrier. But other escort ships, some of the destroyers, they — they split off. And so, for instance, the ships that had been responding to these distr- — distress calls in the Red Sea, they belong to the Eisenhower Strike Group, even though the Eisenhower itself is in the Arabian Gulf.
So, I don’t have any additional force posture to speak to, no announcements coming. But I do think it’s important to point back to what the President has already done. And it’s not just at sea. He’s added additional fixed-wing aircraft to the region and air and missile defense capabilities.
We’re always going to keep our options open. Certainly not going to take anything off the table in terms of additional posture changes if — if it’s required.
Q And secondly, Putin was in Saudi Arabia this week, as we all know. The President of Iran is in Moscow for talks. Help us interpret this. What — what’s go- — what — what do you see going on here?
MR. KIRBY: With a huge caveat that I — I am — I can’t get between the ears of leaders in Iran and in Russia, nor would I try, what we have seen, Steve, in recent months — many months, is this growing, burgeoning defense partnership between Iran and Russia.
Now, the obvious — the obvious proof of that are the drones that Iran continues to provide Russia. And, heck, they’ve helped Russia now create a manufacturing facility on Russian soil so they can build their own Iranian model drones, which are continuing to attack — attack the people of Ukraine and — and Ukrainian infrastructure.
That said — and we’ve talked about this many times before — Iran probably wants something out of this too. And — and we have reason to believe that they want their hands on some sophisticated Russian military capabilities: attack helicopters, maybe fixed-wing aircraft, missiles — cruise and/or ballistic.
I can’t sit here and tell you that we’ve seen actual evidence of the movement of those kinds of defense articles. But there’s clearly a growing relationship in the defense realm between these two countries.
And as I’ve also said, it’s not only not good for the people of Ukraine, it’s really not good for the people of the Middle East. And Iran, which can get its hands on additional military capability — some sophisticated capability — only makes their destabilizing activity all the more worrisome.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Selina.
Q Thank you, Admiral. It’s now been about a week since the pause in fighting ended. Where are talks right now with regional partners to get another temporary pause?
And what are the conditions that we know of right now of hostages that are remaining and that other American woman?
MR. KIRBY: Talks are still ongoing. Discussions are happening literally every day. Our team is in touch with our partners on this.
I wish I had specific progress to speak to. I don’t. Obviously, the — we’re not close to inking another deal on a humanitarian pause and nor do I have any news to break here today about the return of hostages, either ours or those of many other countries that are being held hostage.
We’re still trying to get as much information as we can about the hostages that are being held. We have some information, as I said before, on some of the hostages because their families are talking to us. And that’s been a terrific source of information and context.
We have less information on others, but not for lack of trying.
Q And after the failed vote in the Senate yesterday to advance the supplemental funding, what are the plans from the President to get this back on track? Any calls made to the Hill? Any — any plans to work the phones today?
MR. KIRBY: I — I don’t have any calls to — to read out. I don’t know if Karine do- —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can s- —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, yeah. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we’ve been very, very clear about — about the supplemental and how important it is. As you’ve seen, the OMB Director has been pretty ou- — pret- — out there on the different networks making the case.
And one of the things that she has said is that it’s stunning — it’s stunning that we’ve gotten to this point, right? It’s stunning that we have gotten to this point and that Republicans in Congress are willing to give Putin a gift — the greatest gift that Putin could h- — could hope for. That’s what we’re seeing.
And so, they are playing chicken with our national security. That’s what we’re seeing here. And history will — will remember them harshly.
And so, as it relates to — to outreach, we’ve been very clear that we have had — have had those discussions with them on a regular basis. And that — but the path forward is very clear. The path forward is that they need to get this done.
And, you know, this is — this is something that the President was very loud about then, very clear about yesterday. When he spoke to the American people in front of all — many of you and many of your colleagues, he ma- — he made his message really clear — right? — that we need to get this done. Congress needs to get moving forward very quickly, because we’re running out of time.
Now, our Office of Leg Affairs, OMB, NSC are in close touch with lawmakers, as they have been for some time, with both parties, and — about the need of this critical national security.
Let’s not forget: When we talk about a supplemental, we’re talking about the urgency. Right? It is an emergency. That’s why we asked for it. That’s why we asked for — for the extra funding for our national security.
And so, it’s time for Congress to get this done. We have to continue — continue to make sure that the brave people of Ukraine have what their ne- — they need as they are fighting for their democracy.
And so, I know the Admiral could speak a lot — lot more about that, as he has in the past two years. But that is — that is our focus here. And we’re going to continue to be very, very clear — talking to, certainly, both sides about the importance of this national security request.
MR. KIRBY: Over to you. You pick the next one, right? (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I’m so sorry. I thought you were going to add to it, because I was like — (laughter) —
MR. KIRBY: No, no, I can’t.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible.)
MR. KIRBY: I could not possibly add to that. (Laughter.) It was very, very —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I was waiting — waiting for you.
MR. KIRBY: No, it was a very comprehensive answer. It was good. I —
Q On a quick housekeeping matter. Do you have the readouts ready of the President’s calls with — (laughter) — King — King Abdullah and Prime Minister Netanyahu?
MR. KIRBY: You’ll see them soon.
MR. KIRBY: You’ll see them soon.
Q Was there any significance to those calls happening today?
MR. KIRBY: Part of the regular outreach by the President to regional leaders as events continue to unfold between Israel and Hamas. As we said — as I said yesterday, you can expect him to be talking to Prime Minister Netanyahu soon, and, of course, he did.
Q And now, has the U.S. independently confirmed claims from the Israeli military today that Hamas rockets have been fired at Israel from humanitarian zones?
MR. KIRBY: I have not been able to confirm that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Michael.
Q Thank you, Karine. John, when the administration relieved sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector in October, it was on the condition that Nicolás Maduro begin releasing Americans being held hostage there by November 30th, which has obviously passed. No Americans were released. It’s December 7th.
MR. KIRBY: (Inaudible) near political prisoners.
Q Wrongfully detained Americans in Venezuela.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q What’s the status of that sanctions relief? And what are the consequences for him missing that deadline?
MR. KIRBY: You know, we don’t — we don’t telegraph punches in the sanctions realm. We don’t get ahead of sanctions decisions, so I’m not going to do that today.
Obviously, we always have that option available to us, but I’m not in a position now to — to rule anything in or out.
Deeply, deeply concerned that — that those commitments weren’t followed through by the evening of the 30th.
Q And staying on Venezuela. Obviously, since the invasion of Ukraine, the administration has said that it’s committed to protecting, you know, territorial integrity around the world for nation-states. And here you have Maduro threatening to annex 75 percent of its neighbor.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q What is your public message to Maduro? And is there any private message being sent to Maduro about the consequences of this?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, so, again — I’ve said this before, but we obviously support the peaceful resolution of the border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana. And, of cour- — and we absolutely stand by our unwavering support for Guyana’s sovereignty.
The 1899 Arbitral Award that determined the land boundary between those two countries should be respected unless or until the parties themselves reach a new agreement or a competent legal body decides otherwise. And that hadn’t happened.
So, we’re going to urge Venezuela and Guyana to continue to seek a peaceful resolution of this dispute, including by the International Court of Justice.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, MJ.
Q Just back to the supplemental package that failed to advance last night. Has anything since then been communicated by the administration to Ukraine? I guess, what are they to sort of make of the fact that there is such an impasse on Capitol Hill right now?
MR. KIRBY: Without trying to speak for the Ukrainians and what their interpretation of what’s going on here and particularly up on Capitol Hill, as you know, Ukrainian leaders were here in town yesterday over at the Pentagon for a defense industrial conference.
We’re trying to make sure that we get in place the mechanisms so that they have a healthy defense industrial base and long-term security assistance built into their own self-defense, because what — they’re going to need it wherever and however this war ends. And obviously, the events of yesterday were certainly a context and background to that meeting.
But I won’t speak for the Ukrainians. I can only speak for us. And as Karine mentioned, we’re obviously deeply concerned about this.
The — the — we’ve got a few more weeks here, and then we’re out of Schlitz when it comes to helping Ukraine with this kind of security assistance that we’ve been able to provide. And that’s just — that should be unacceptable to everybody.
And we know that there’s strong bipartisan support up there. It’s just that there are a small number of Republicans that want to hold that aid hostage for some pretty extreme border policies that the President is not willing to talk about.
That said, he did say we’re willing to negotiate in good faith. He does believe that there should be immigration policy changes as well as resource changes, and he’s willing to have that conversation.
Q So, at this point, can the White House offer any assurances that more, you know, additional funding is coming their way or no?
MR. KIRBY: We are not in a position to — to make that promise to Ukraine, given where things are on the Hill.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. John, there is a report that some of the hostages who were being held by Hamas had been sexually assaulted. The AP is quoting a doctor who treated some of the hostages that were released, and he says that at least 10 of them — men and women — were sexually assaulted while they were in captivity.
What do you know about this? Do you have any indication, any evidence that the hostages had been sexually assaulted?
MR. KIRBY: I got sort of a version of this yesterday. I can’t confirm these individual reports and stories. They’re horrific.
Sadly, because of who we’re dealing with, we certainly aren’t in a position to disabuse these reports. And the truth is, they’re believable just on the face of it because of who these guys are and what they believe and because we have heard other accounts from other survivors that have come back and other hostages.
And as the President said, I think, very eloquently the other day, I mean the — the — it’s inhuman what Hamas has proven capable of.
And that is all the more reason why we’re working — as to the earlier answer I gave — by the hour to see if we can’t get another pause in place so that we can get these hostages home to their families where they belong.
Now, obviously, we know that Hamas is holding some additional women and children. So let’s get them out, and then we can talk about the other groups. We understand they classify people. Let’s get the remaining women and children out and — and get them out from under the jackboot of Hamas and potential sexual violence.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Peter.
Q So, in terms of the — the aid package yesterday that went down. Is there any second guessing at the White House about the President’s decision to put border security into the same package and therefore give Republicans, in some way, you know, leverage to make one hostage to the other? You can’t complain that they are linking the two issues since you linked the two issues. Is there any second guessing about that? Was that a mistake?
MR. KIRBY: No. All four buckets of the supplemental, Peter, were of an urgent nature. Ukraine, Israel, we’ve talked about. There’s also money for Indo-Pacific strategy. Of course, with AUKUS and the developments of — you know, coming forward trying to get Australia their nuclear-propelled submarine capability. And then the border, and some $6 billion in there for additional resources for the border.
I mean, if you listen to the Republicans talk about the border and this — the urgency that — that — that they think needs to be conveyed — (laughs) — okay, well, it was in our national security urgent requests: $6 billion for the border. We share a sense of urgency, so act on that. Act on that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Karen.
Q Thank you. Kirby, Congressman Michael McCaul, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Politico that PEPFAR reauthorization negotiations are deadlocked.
What is the White House sense of where that stands right now? And what’s the administration doing to push that process along? And if it’s not reauthorized, what are the consequences of that? Can the funding continue?
MR. KIRBY: This is a program that over 20 years has literally saved something like 25 million lives. Again, this — this — there’s — without speaking to the negotiations on the Hill — I mean, this is something that should be as nonpartisan as it can be. I mean, you’re talking about millions and millions of lives at stake here.
So, we urge them to find a way forward here to reauthorize this funding.
Q Is this something that we would see the President engage with lawmakers on, given what a priority this seems to be for the administration?
MR. KIRBY: It is — it is absolutely a priority for the President. I don’t — I won’t get ahead of his schedule or his — or his phone calls. But I can tell you he’s watching this very, very closely, because he knows personally what a lifesaver this program has been.
Q Thanks, Kirby. One follow-up on Venezuela. I know you said you wouldn’t telegraph on sanctions. But can you give us a sense of a timeline of when the administration will make a decision on sanctions rollback?
MR. KIRBY: That sounds a lot like telegraphing. (Laughter.) No.
Q On — one more on the — I want to ask you about the grounding of the Osprey fleet. Any updates on that? And I know some of them are in the presidential fleet. Are there any special considerations being discussed with them? And will the — what kind of checks will be required to put those back into HMX-1?
MR. KIRBY: Now, I asked about this earlier myself because I kind of thought you guys might be asking the question from that perspective. (Laughter.) It’s a force-wide stand-down, and that means every Osprey in the force. And these Osprey belong to the United States Marine Corps and are part of the force. So, they — they’ll be subject to the stand-down too.
Which is — and this is a common procedure when there’s a significant aviation mishap. And when you might — when you can’t rule out, when an aircraft goes down, that there might be some larger systemic problem, it’s common practice.
It’s the right thing to do: put them all on the ground, put them through an inspection regime, make sure that you don’t have — rule that out as — as a problem. Maybe — and so that maybe it’s just aircraft-specific, platform-specific, and not necessarily the whole system.
So — so, they’re — they’ll do that. And I have no doubt in my mind that they’ll do it as expeditially [sic] — expeditiously but also as safely as possible. We won’t let them back into the air until we know that we can do it with a measure of certainty.
Q John, as Karine just noted, it’s — tonight at sundown starts the Festival of Lights, the Jewish holiday Hanukkah. Are there any specific or credible threats right now to Jewish sites or Jewish communities that you can share with us?
And is there a message to those communities or any community in this country what they should be prepared for as we embark on the first of eight nights?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have any specific, credible threats to speak to, in the sense that — you know, to a certain locality or community or through a certain actor.
What I can assure you, Peter, and the Jewish community is that we are working very, very hard at the federal level to analyze all the streams of intelligence we can — domestically and overseas — for any spillover effects from the conflict in Gaza to here at home, particularly against the — the Jewish community as well as the Muslim and Arab communities here in the States.
And that we more importantly are working to share what we’re learning and hearing with local and state authorities who would really be where the — you know, where the rubber meets the road in terms of trying to prevent.
But we want to be able to — again, without any credible knowledge of a specific threat, we want to be able to identify it before an actor can move, and certainly disrupt that as best we can.
Q Does the U.S. have any concerns about Israel considering exploring the possibility of using seawater to flood out some of the tunnels used by Hamas beneath Gaza right now?
Among the possible concerns are, are there hostages in those tunnels? And also, from the Palestinian Water Authority, I think it is, they say that this would have devastating effects on the aquifer that’s beneath there, they would make this land unusable in the future if it’s to — you know, as it would be retained by the Palestinian people.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I can’t speak to the reporting about this particular idea.
Q Do we have concerns about it?
MR. KIRBY: I’d refer you to —
MR. KIRBY: I’d refer you to the IDF. I would just say that, as we have said many, many times before, while they go after this very legitimate threat, we continue to urge our Israeli partners to do it in a way — as Secretary Blinken said, how they do it matters — in a way that minimizes the risk not only to civilian life, certainly to our hostages — or the hostages — but also to civilian infrastructure.
I’ll just leave it at that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Catherine.
Q Thank you. The President last night spoke about how he was fighting every day for the release of a number of journalists, and he included Alsu Kurmasheva of Radio Free Europe in that list. If he’s saying that she should be released and he’s pledging to fight for that, does that mean that the President believes she is wrongfully detained regardless of where the State Department process is?
MR. KIRBY: He believes that — it means that he believes that — that she ought to be able to do her job as a journalist and not be detained by Russian authorities.
I am not in a position to get ahead of the State Department. As you know, Catherine, they are the ones that make the decision about wrongful detention. And as I understand it, they’re working their way through that process.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Nancy.
Q Thanks, John. Back on Venezuela. SOUTHCOM announced that it was going to be conducting flight exercises over Guyana today. Is that timing meant to send a message to President Maduro about U.S. support for Guyana and its territorial integrity?
MR. KIRBY: I’d be careful drawing too — too strong connective tissue between routine military operations that we do in the region and this particular issue.
That said, as I said before, we recognize the sovereign territory of Guyana. And as we do with many nations — sovereign nations — in the region, we — we conduct operations and exercises as appropriate.
Q How far would the U.S. be willing to go to show that support? Would it be willing to help Guyana maintain that territorial integrity if —
MR. KIRBY: You mean militarily?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to speculate about that kind of a thing. What I said yesterday stands: We want the internationally recognized border recogni- — recognized. We want — we want these two sides to work it out diplomatically.
We’ve already expressed our support for the 1899 Arbitral Award, which set that boundary. And a- — and as I also said yesterday, we don’t want to see this come to blows. There’s no reason for it to.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jacqui.
Q Thanks, Karine. John, is the U.S. in any sort of a conflict with the Houthis?
MR. KIRBY: In a sort of conflict with the Houthis? We are not in an armed conflict with the Houthis, per se. That said, as I said at the top, we’re going to do what we have to do to pr- — to protect ourselves, our partners, and merchant shipping. And we’ve done it in the past. We’ll do it again in the future.
Q That sounds a little bit like a conflict.
MR. KIRBY: We are protecting and defending freedom of navigation. We’re protecting and defending our ability to operate in the region — in the Red Sea and surrounding waters. And as I said at the top, we are looking to flesh out an already pretty robust Combined Maritime Force to protect freedom of navigation in the area.
And like I said, we’ve got a couple of — a few, several other countries that are willing to participate, so we look forward to that.
Q Does the President have any regret for — over delisting the Houthis as a terror organization? Is he reconsidering that at all?
MR. KIRBY: I’ve already said that we are going to review that decision.
MR. KIRBY: No, we are. I’ve said it — I said it a couple of weeks ago that we were going to take a look at that decision. And — and we still are.
Q Do you know a timeline on the results?
MR. KIRBY: I — I don’t have a date certain for you or any outcome to brief, Jacqui, but we said we’re already going to take a look and review that decision.
Q And then on the supplemental, the House Speaker said yesterday that the failed vote in the Senate is proof that Senate Democrats don’t have support for their partisan position. What is the White House response to that?
MR. KIRBY: The President believes — I’ll let the Senate Democrats speak for themselves. The President believes, and he said this to you yesterday, the immigration system is broken. And on day one, he put forward a reform proposal that’s gone nowhere up on Capitol Hill.
He also believes that border security needs to be enhanced. So it’s — for the President, it’s both a policy issue — immigration reform writ large — and a security issue.
Q But the gap seems to be between what the President is offering, which we don’t have many details on, and what Senate Democrats have been willing to put into a package. I mean, because we haven’t gotten a lot of the details on what that negotiation offers, can you characterize any distance between, you know, what the President is willing to do and what Senate Democrats may not be willing to embrace?
And moreover, should Congress stay in session until this is finished?
MR. KIRBY: Certainly I’m not going to negotiate this thing in public. There’s probably a reason why you don’t have perfect visibility into what everybody is saying behind closed doors. And I think that’s appropriate. We’re not going to — we’re not going to start negotiating in public.
And I’ll let Leader Schumer talk about — and — and Leader — and Leader McConnell talk about what they want to do in terms of the session.
We — we’re working very, very close with Senate Democrats on trying to move this forward. And you heard the President say it himself: He’s willing to negotiate in good faith with the Republican side as well. But they’ve got to be willing as well.
This is about compromise. And in a compromise, nobody gets everything that they want. The President understands that from a long career in the Senate, and he’s willing to have that as a starting point of the conversation with an understanding that compromise means nobody gets everything they want. But that’s not what we’re hearing from the House side — the Republican side in the House.
It’s — it’s kind of a take-no-prisoners approach, all or nothing, “what we want and nothing but what we want.” And that’s just not negotiating in good faith.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Patsy.
Q Thank you, Karine. John, on Ukraine funding, some of the experts that I’ve spoken to say that one of the consequences of the funding not being advanced may be that Ukraine might need to think more seriously about ending this conflict diplomatically. Now, I know you’ve said many times that it’s up to President Zelenskyy and —
MR. KIRBY: Yep.
Q — the Ukrainian people when to start negotiating, but at this point in the conflict and considering waning public support within the U.S. and in Europe, can you just talk about some of the thinking behind the calculus of a ceasefire versus a dragged-out impasse?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, Patsy, I — you’ll be wholly unsatisfied this — by this answer. We — President Zelenskyy gets to determine how and when this war ends and under what conditions he’s willing to negotiate with Mr. Putin.
If you’re sitting in his seat right now and you’re wa- — and his troops, you’re looking out across that front, and you see a lot of Russians. You see a lot of Russians that are getting increased b- — in size because Mr. Putin continues to recruit additional manpower and throw them into the fight.
If you’re looking across that battlefront, you’re seeing a Russian Armed Forces that they’re willing to go on the offensive. They’re not — they’re probably not just going to sit in defensive positions all winter long.
And so, you want to be ready to take that on. And you want to be able to not only defend yourself but go on the offense.
He gets to determine what that looks like. What we want to do, since the beginning of this conflict, is make sure he has the tools to do that. And those tools are about to run out.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. A couple —
Q And just one more, John. Two more, actually, if I may. As we are in —
MR. KIRBY: I don’t know. That’s up to —
Q As we —
MR. KIRBY: That’s not up to me. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible.)
Q As we are in year-ender season, can you talk about foreign policy goals, focus, challenges, looking ahead to 2024 as the U.S. deals with strategic competition with China, the war in Ukraine, and now this war in Gaza threatening to widen throughout the Middle East?
MR. KIRBY: Well, without getting ahead of the President — I wouldn’t do that. But I think — I think he would tell you that we have accomplished an awful lot on the world stage. And American leadership has been clearly demonstrated in so many ways across so many regions.
NATO is stronger and bigger. We’ve got an increasingly networked and cooperative arrangement in the Indo-Pacific. And just today, Jake Sullivan is in Seoul meeting trilaterally with Japan and South Korea. I could go on and on.
And I would expect to see in this last — coming la- — last year of this term, us putting our foot down on the accelerator and pushing all these changes even — even farther forward.
Q And just really briefly on the Houthis, John. On these new actions that — on these actions that you’re taking, how should we see that in the context of the Gaza war? Do you feel that this is — do you see this as a conflict widening via Iran proxies or is this separate?
MR. KIRBY: It’s a risk. It’s clearly a risk to the potential widening and deepening of the conflict.
And we said from very, very early on, when the President ordered additional military capability, that we don’t want to see any actor — state or non-state — widen or deepen and escalate this conflict. And what the Houthis are doing could have that effect.
And this goes to Jacqui’s question: “Are we in a conflict with the Houthis?” We’re not in a conflict in the Houthis right now. We’re not seeking a conflict with the Houthis.
But what we are seeking is to be able to defend ourselves and to prevent this conflict from widening.
And that’s the better answer I should have given it — to you. (Gestures at Jacqui.) (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Nadia.
Q Thank you, Karine. The U.N. has described the —
MR. KIRBY: It’s just takes me awhile to get there. I just got to get — (laughter) — yeah, sorry.
Q It’s okay.
The U.N. has described the humanitarian situation in Gaza as disastrous and actually listed it’s “hell on Earth.” The Secretary-General activated Article 99, which has — have not been activated since 1971. Does —
MR. KIRBY: 1989, I think was last time.
Q I think it’s seven- — well, okay —
MR. KIRBY: All right.
Q — we can disagree on this, we’ll agree. We’ll go back to the facts.
But anyway, the bottom line is: Does the international community, including the United States, has failed the civilians in Gaza since the frustration ha- — went up at the U.N. to the level of the Secretary-General to call for what happened in Gaza as a threat to the regional security?
MR. KIRBY: Everything we’re dronin- — doing is trying to prevent this conflict from — from widening, deepening, and escalating and having a larger effect on the region.
Many of the questions I’ve answered here today, I think, demonstrate all the things that the President is doing through his personal leadership engagement, including phone calls today with leaders in the region, to try to keep this conflict from — from escalating.
Look, we certainly share the concerns that so many of others have concerned, including the Secretary-General, about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
Tell me — name me one more nation, any other nation, that’s doing as much as the United States to alleviate the pain and suffering of the people of Gaza? You can’t. You just can’t.
The la- — the United States, through President Biden, is leading the effort to get trucks, food, water, medicine, and fuel into the people of Gaza.
Q (Inaudible) about this, John.
MR. KIRBY: Wait. Wait.
Q There’s no dispute.
MR. KIRBY: Name another nation — name another nation that is doing as — more than the United States to get hostages out or to get people, foreign nationals out of Gaza. You can’t do it.
And name another nation that is — that is doing more to urge the Israeli counterparts — our Israeli counterparts to be as cautious and deliberate as they can be in the prosecution of their military operations. You can’t.
The United States is at the forefront of this.
Now, every single casualty — Israeli or s- — or Palestinian — innocent life lost, every one of them is a tragedy, and we mourn with those families.
We say it over and over and over again because we believe it, and it comes from the heart.
But we also have to remember what Israel is up against: a group — a terrorist group that deliberately puts those civilians in harm’s way and puts them in the crossfire of this fight. That’s what the Israelis are fighting.
Q That was my — not my question. My question is: Are you doing enough? The United States is leading humanitarian aid all over the world. That’s a fact.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q We know that.
Okay, just quickly on another question. There was disturbing images —
MR. KIRBY: Let — let me stop you there. You said, “Are we doing enough?”
Q Yes. This is why he is frustrated —
MR. KIRBY: We —
Q — with (inaudible) —
MR. KIRBY: Even — even through our leadership of this —
Q — (inaudible).
MR. KIRBY: — we believe there’s more that can be done. And we’re going to continue to do more. And we’re going to continue to lead. And we’re going to continue to urge other regional partners to step up their efforts too, because it can’t just be the United States.
And look, we are getting help. I don’t want to dismiss that. Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, and, of course, our Israeli friends — they’ve all been contributing and participating in trying to get this aid in and hostages out. I want to give due credit where it is.
But we can all be doing more, and the President is committed to doing that.
Q Okay. Just very quickly, there’s disturbing images from Gaza — Northern Gaza of people being arrested by the Israeli army, blindfolded, stripped naked. Some of them are journalists that we identified and some are civilians. Israel is saying they’re Hamas fighters.
Regardless of who they are, given that, is Israel still acting within the international law in treatment of prisoners?
MR. KIRBY: As I said, I’m not going to respond to every event on the ground and — and every occurrence. I haven’t seen those images. It would be imprudent for me to comment on that. We don’t —
Q (Inaudible) generally —
MR. KIRBY: Just as a — just as a general statement, we don’t support any targeting of journalists one way or another anywhere in the world. They have a right and a responsibility to be there reporting on this. We believe that they should be allowed to do their jobs, and we certainly don’t — would never condone any inhumane or violation-of-law treatment of any innocent civilian. But I can’t speak to those specific reports.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. We got to start wrapping up. Go ahead, Dan.
Q Thanks, Karine. Thank you, Admiral. Reuters, AFP, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty have all released separate reports today on the strike in South Lebanon in October, which killed one Reuters journalist and injured six people, including two AFP journalists.
These investigations all say that the evidence points to the Israeli army being responsible. What’s your response to those reports? And what’s your message to Israeli forces in general for the protection of journalists in this conflict?
MR. KIRBY: We haven’t seen those investigations, and so it’d be imprudent for me to comment on — on them one way or the other.
As I said in my earlier answer, we absolutely do not condone or support any deliberate attacks on journalists covering a war. They’re already putti- — placing themselves in great danger by being there. We believe they have a right and responsibility to be there. And we would — and continue to call on people to respect that.
Q Thanks, Karine. Thanks, John. Jon Finer was in India this week and met with the External Affairs Minister and other Indian officials. The readout said that he addressed the government’s investigation into the alleged plot to assassinate a Sikh American on U.S. soil. Can you provide any more on that? Or did he get any assur- — assurances or any sort of timeline on when we would see this investigation?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to comment any further on that. It’s under active investigation. We’ve said that we’re glad that the — our Indian counterparts are taking it seriously in doing that. We want those responsible for these attacks to be held fully accountable.
But I won’t get ahead of an investigation that isn’t complete.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead.
Q A follow-up on this. What impact is this going to have on your bilateral ties with India?
MR. KIRBY: Look, India is strategic partner. We’re deepening that strategic partnership. They’re a member of the Quad in the Pacific. And we participate with them on a range of — particularly of security-related issues. And we — we want to see that continue unabated.
That said, at the same time, we certainly recognize the seriousness of these allegations. And as I said earlier, we want it fully investigated and those responsible to be held — held properly accountable.
Q And is the President is still planning to travel to the Quad Summit in India next year?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have any travel to speak to today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, in the back.
Q Thank you, Karine. So, first, I have two questions. One on the war in Gaza. The Pentagon said today that the U.S. has now resumed flying drones over Gaza to search for hostages. Can you talk a bit more about if there’s any changes in our efforts to locate the hostages in Gaza? Has it become more difficult or less difficult after the temporary ceasefire?
MR. KIRBY: It’s always been a — it’s always been difficult to try to locate them, and especially since we don’t believe Hamas holds all of them, we don’t believe they’re all being held in one group, and it’s entirely likely that they’re being moved around as operations are conducted.
So, that’s one of the reasons why, quite frankly, that our drone flights can be valuable. It’s just an extra set of eyes up there to — to kind of see what you can see.
I won’t — wouldn’t dream of speaking publicly about the details of those efforts or what we might be gleaning or not gleaning. I think the less said about our information, the — the better, except to say, as I said at the very early part of this briefing, I think to Selina’s question, is we don’t have perfect visibility on all of the hostages or where they are or what their condition is.
Q And a quick follow-up on South Korea and China. You were talking about the meeting that Mr. Sullivan is having with South Korean and Japanese counterparts. The State Department recently raised concerns over China’s economic coercion against, specifically, South Korea, pressuring Korean theaters to block an American performing arts company called Shen Yun.
I’m wondering, during upcoming talks with counterparts there, is China’s economic coercion part of the discussion? And how concerned is the administration about that, to our democratic allies?
MR. KIRBY: Well, first of all, we’ll — we’ll wait to read out when Jake gets back and — and figure out what was exactly talked about. So, I won’t get ahead of that.
The main purpose of Jake’s discussions are really to explore ways to improve our trilateral cooperation across a range of things but certainly on the security — security front. By that, I mean a defense-related military front.
But, you know, cyber, space — I mean, it’s — it’s all — it’s all of the things when it comes to trilateral cooperation. I don’t know of too many conversations that we’ve had with our Korean and Japanese counterparts where, in some form or fashion, China’s economic bullying practices don’t come up. So, it wouldn’t surprise me. But let’s not get ahead of the meeting yet.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Emel, you have the last question.
Q Thank you very much. I have a question about the — this new partnership with Mexico. Secretary Yellen, in Mexico, just announced a new partnership with Mexico to help improve screening of foreign direct investments. I’m wondering if this is about restricting Chinese investments in Mexico. And why is this important for U.S. nat- — national security?
MR. KIRBY: Well, first, I would refer you to the Department of Treasury for more detail.
But just as a broad statement, we don’t ask countries to choose between the United States and China when it comes to economic opportunities or investment. Sovereign nations get to decide for themselves.
And what we’re focused on is the President’s global program for investment and infrastructure — PGI, we call it — which is really about offering alternatives to some of the less transparent, less reliable, high-interest loans that other nations around the world seem to be willing to proffer.
But, again, every nation has to decide for itself.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much, Admiral.
Q Thank you, John.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I like the black tie with the black suit.
All right, go ahead.
Q Thanks. Two topics. There was a ruling from a Texas judge earlier today that allowed a pregnant woman whose fetus has a fatal diagnosis to obtain an abortion. And it appears to be the first time since the Dobbs ruling that a woman in the U.S. has asked a court specifically to approve an immediate abortion. So, I wanted to know the White House response to that ruling, or a comment on the expected appeal of that decision from the state of Texas.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so, saw that ruling. Let me just first say that no woman should have to go to a court to get the healthcare that she needs. That should not be the case. No woman should have to do that. So, let me just start off by saying that.
So, we are glad that this person will get the care that she needs from her doctor. Again, it should be her decision — her decision to be made with her doctor, which is sometimes some really difficult decisions that women have to — have to make.
And this is an administration that has been really clear about that, fighting for the rights for women to make decisions on their healthcare. And we’re going to continue to speak loud and clear about that.
But we should not get d- — we should not detract from the fact that stories like hers are becoming all too common in states where Republican-elected officials are enforcing dangerous, extreme bills — extreme bills that threaten the lives of women.
And so, since the Supreme Court, as you just mentioned, overturned Roe v. Wade, the Dobbs decision, women are being denied medical care they desperately need in order to preserve their health and even save their lives. They’ve been turned away at emergency rooms, forced to delay care at grave risk to their own health, left with complications that threaten their ability to bear children in the future, and made to travel hundreds of miles for medical care that they — that they need.
So, ensuring women have access to emergency medical care has been a core focus of this administration since the Dobbs decision. And we will go- — we are going to continue to fight for that. And we’re going to make sure that — you know, we’re going to make sure that providing care and giving guidance to doctors and hospitals about emergency care that is required under federal law — that we make sure that we provide that information as well.
But this is an administration that has spoken loud and clear since day one. Since day one, you heard from the President, you’ve heard from the Vice President, you’ve heard from me and others that we are going to continue to — to fight for — for women to get the care that they need, to make these decisions on their own — these personal decisions that they should be making with medical doctors.
Q And on immigration, if I may?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q I was — wanted the White House to addr- — address the concer- — or the criticism from Republicans who’ve said that President Biden has, in their view, used his parole authority too broadly.
So, obviously, the President has used his parole powers in the administration to grant protections to, for example, Afghans after the withdrawal and Ukrainians after the war began. But Republicans are saying that this has to be done on a case-by-case basis.
So, I wanted to know the White House position on those criticisms from Republicans that he’s essentially abused that parole authority.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, we don’t — we disagree, obviously.
The President has used those authorities in the way that we think it’s appropriate. Right? You just named two ways that we — we used it in ways — in emergency way — right? — in a way that was — a way that a — a leader — a world leader would make sure that the parolee program is used in — in situations where, you know, people are coming from dire situations — right? — dire scenarios. And so, we disagree — strongly disagree.
Look, you know, Republicans talk about immigration reform; they talk about border security. The President — you know, on day one, the President put forth an immigration policy. Right? He put forth a comprehensive immigration legislation to start that conversation — essentially, to start negotiating, on day one.
It’s been three years, and they have not been moving forward in good faith. They have not been trying to get to a solution in good faith. The system is broken. We want to find real solutions.
The President said, yesterday, he — he’s willing to have a serious conversation about this. But they — where’s the good faith?
You know, somebody was asking about Speaker Johnson — right? — and how he — and his demands for H.R. — H.R. 2. And let’s not forget, H.R. — H.R. 2 is what Speaker Johnson and all — and the House Republicans want to move forward with. Right? And let’s not forget what’s in H.R. 2. Right?
H.R. 2 forced the deportation of unoccupied children seeking refuge. It mandate detention of all families. That’s the extreme. That’s what we’re seeing from H.R. 2. That’s not moving forward in good faith.
Q So, what would Republicans have to do to show that they are willing to operate in good faith on this subject in order for the White House to engage in negotiations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, they should have a conversation with Democrats. Democrats have said that they want a compromise. Have that conversation. Right? Just make that discussion. Have that discussion. Negotiate in good faith with our Democratic — with our Democratic leaders in Congress. Have that conversation.
Q Well, there have been bipartisan negotiations taking place for weeks in the Senate. Are you saying that that’s the proper venue for this discussion, not discussions between Senate Republicans and directly with the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The negotiations has been happening and should be happening with Republicans and Democrat in — in Congress. That’s what should be happening.
And we want to continue to — to — for them to have those conversation. But they’re not moving forward in good faith. They’re just not.
And, you know, when you have a Speaker demanding to push forth H.R. 2, which is extreme — it is extreme — that is not moving in good faith. And so, that’s what we’re seeing.
And let’s not forget, you know, House Republicans voted to cut 2,000 border agents. You know, they — they are blocking the President’s efforts to secure the border and enforce the laws. Those are the things that they’re doing.
So, where is the good faith? Where is the good faith there?
Q So, when Senator Cornyn says he thinks this needs to be kicked up to another level — direct talks between Leader McConnell and the President or his aides here at the White House — you’re saying that’s not going to happen?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What we’re saying — that Republicans need to act in good faith and show that they’re serious. And they’re not, you know, because they’re blocking, right? They’re blocking the President’s request for funding. That’s what they’re doing.
So, that’s what we want to see.
We introduced — and here’s the thing: We — again, we introduced a comprehensive piece of legislation to deal with the immigration system — a broken system. We did that on day one. That was our — that was our effort to have that conversation to negotiate and be — be able to put forward a piece of legislation that could be voted on.
The President put forth his ideas on how he wanted to move forward. It’s been three years.
What they continue to do is block. What they continue to do is take away law enforcement, right? They keep voting against trying to make the system better. That’s not acting in good faith.
Q Is there time to put together a deal this year? Are you running out of time? Or —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, it is a — yes, we are running out of time. Right? We are running out of time. And that’s why we keep pushing and saying this national security supplement needs to move forward.
We talked about Ukraine. We’ve talked about Israel. We talk — the reason we included the border security is because the President thought it was important and we needed those additional funding to move forward to deal with the issue at the border.
So, obviously, this is an emergency. This is important. But yeah, we are running out of time.
Q And — and would the White House accept a deal that designates Mexico as a Safe Third Country?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to negotiate from here. I’m just not — not going to negotiate from the podium.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, MJ.
Q Karine, yesterday when I asked the President whether he believed any other Democrat could defeat Donald Trump other than him, he said, “Probably 50 of them.” “I’m not the only one.”
A big part of the re-elect argument is that the President is best suited or uniquely suited to take on former President Trump. If the President himself thinks that plenty of other Democrats can defeat Donald Trump, what would you say is sort of the driving rationale for the President running for re-election rather than handing off the baton to the next generation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So — so, MJ, as you can imagine, it’s a 2024 question. It’s an upcoming election. I just can’t get into it.
Look, our focus is going to continue to do what we’ve been doing the last two years, almost three years — right? — which is making sure we deliver our promise that we’ve made to the American people; is to make sure that we have an economy that works for all, that works for the middle class.
And we have — we have had some historic progress here, right? When you think about the 14 million jobs that have been created. When you think about the — even — step even further back, when you think about what the President walked into — an economy that was in a tailspin — and getting that back on its feet.
So, the President wants to continue to do that — continue to lower costs for Americans, continue to make sure that this economy is working for all.
There’s our democracy. He wants to continue that we’re making sure we’re fighting for dem- — our democracy.
Remember, the President initially said — something I can talk about — in 2019 and in 2020, when he was running for — for — for the presidency, he believed that our democratic values were — was at stake, and he wanted to continue to — he wanted to fight for that, because the soul of our nation was worth fighting for. And Americans believe that — the majority of Americans showed that they believed that in 2022.
So, those are the things that he wants to continue to do in the next year, right? But I can’t speak to any specifics of — of — you know, horse races or who’s — I just can’t speak to anything like that as it relates to 2024.
Q Could you say anything more broadly about the idea of the President being a bridge to the next generation, just given that that’s something he has —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, that’s something —
Q — talked about before?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — he said, right? He has said his — himself and — during the 2020 election, right? That is something he has said.
So, the President believes that. But I — I’m just not going to speak specifically about any other potential candidates or — or, you know — that could beat the current — the potential Republican nominee. I just cannot speak to that at this time.
Go ahead, Peter.
Q Does the President have any plans to address the shooting that took place in Las Vegas when he travels there tomorrow?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, you could expect the President will address the shooting — the awful shooting that we saw at UNLV yesterday.
Q And for clarity, does that mean going to the site or visiting with survivors, or just at, rather, remarks that will be public?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any update to his schedule, but he will for sure, while he is in Las Vegas tomorrow, address the horrific shooting that happened at UNLV.
Q Okay. Let me ask you if I can, the Biden administration delayed, again, banning menthol cigarettes, and public health officials, as you know, blame them for taking the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. The President had committed to doing that before the end of December.
I believe, in the words of the American Heart Association’s National Senior Vice President of Federal Advocacy, “If not now, when?”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I have to be careful. There’s a rulemaking process that’s currently occurring right now. And so, it — as it’s going — as it’s still going on, I cannot comment to this. I would have to refer you, on the specifics of this, to FDA — on this to the FDA.
Q You can’t comment on the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can’t —
Q — President’s commitment —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It — it is —
Q — to do it by the end of December —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There is —
Q — and not meeting it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There’s a rulemaking process, and I just can’t speak to it. That’s just how it goes here when there’s rulemaking process.
Q Thanks, Karine. The administration is warning pharmaceutical companies that if the price of drugs are too high then the administration might — the government might cancel their patent protections. So, what taxpayer-funded drugs is the White House specifically targeting here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, are you speaking about march-in — the march-in —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, what we announced today. Look, this is a proposed framework that we’ve provided for — for how agencies evaluate questions around march-in. So, there’s not — it’s not about any particular drug or forthcoming action.
But again, this is a framework that we have provided for agencies in how they move forward.
Q If the proposal is finalized, when and how would the administration plan to exercise the right?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m not going to get ahead of — of what agencies are going to be — how they’re going to move forward. I don’t have a timeline to lay out from here.
Go ahead, Ed.
Q Yeah, thanks. I want to ask you about Bidenomics. You said it. The President though hasn’t said the term “Bidenomics” since j- — on November 1st. Is he moving away from that term?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I didn’t say that. I said that?
Q Well, you — you said it in a — recently. You’ve said the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, you mean I have said that?
Q — the word — the word “Bidenomics.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, okay. Got you.
Q Yeah, yeah, yeah. The word “Bidenomics.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear you.
Q The President —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m so- — my apologies.
Q The President has not said that word since November 1st in a speech. Is he moving away from that term because it’s not moving the poll numbers?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, let me just say: Last week, we learned economic growth was higher than 5 percent — I know this is something that you cover very closely — and 5 percent last quarter — higher than any quarter under Trump outside of the pandemic. And inflation fell 3 percent with prices staying flat in October.
So, what is important is what the data — what the data shows. The President has talked about how Bidenomics is strengthening supply chains to lower costs and investing in America clean energy and manufacturing.
In fact, he had signs right behind him just last week — I was there; I’m sure you saw them — that said “Bidenomics.” And you’ve heard me, as you just stated, and many other White House officials talk about how Bidenomics is indeed lowering costs.
Let’s not forget taking on Big Pharma — right? — so that Medicare could negotiate to lower costs — lower drug costs. Let’s not forget junk fees.
All of this is part of Bidenomics. All of this is — we’re talking about investing in America, which the President certainly has led on and talk about all the time — very, very consistently.
So, when he talks about the economy, that is Bidenomics. When he talks about what we’re doing and how we’re delivering for the American people, that is Bidenomics.
Q But then what is the disconnect between what people are feeling and seeing at the grocery stores, at the tables and what the President is saying about the economy?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me — let me just be real clear: We’re getting to the holiday seasons. We’ve actually — have seen a decrease in eggs, in bacon, in milk since last year.
So, we are seeing lowering cost as we’re going into the holiday season, as we’re — as people are going to do some holiday shopping. We’re seeing lowering cost in — in TVs and things that people need to think about as they’re going to give a gift to their loved ones.
And so, we’re seeing some costs go down — airline tickets, gas prices. So, the work that we have done, the work that this President has done — the investing — whether it’s investing in America, whether it’s Bidenomics — we’re seeing that. We’re in a different place than — today than we were a year ago. We are just in a different place with costs going down.
And you — and I — we’ve talked about the growth is higher than 5 percent last quarter. That is because of the work that we have done.
We saw inflation is moderating. That is because of the work that we’ve — that we’ve done.
And, look, to your pres- — question about what Americans are feeling, we understand that we’re coming out of a pandemic. What Americans had to deal with was a big deal. People — people lost loved ones. The economy was in a tailspin. Certainly didn’t — wasn’t helped by the last administration.
This administration had to actually do the work.
Q So — but inflation is up 17.7 percent since the President took office. You guys are —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Inflation —
Q — just looking at the last year.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Inflation — inflation fell to 3 percent. That matters.
I just talked about the important goods that matter to the American people, how that’s going down. As we’re going into the holiday season — actually, we started it — as we’re going to go into, certainly, Christmas in a couple of weeks and other hol- — holi- — other eve- — other important events that people — certainly people follow this month.
And so, we’re seeing prices go down. And let’s not forget the historic actions that this President talked — has done. I talked about Big Pharma. I’ve talked about the Inflation Reduction Act. That’s because of what this President has done.
And let’s not forget: Inflation Reduction Act, only Democrats voted for it. Republicans decided not to.
Go ahead. Yep, go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you surprised that I’m calling on you? (Laughter.)
Q I was. (Laughter.) Just one question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q Does the Department of Education have any guidelines to ensure that schools receiving federal funding have reasonable protections for students from threats of violence, harassment, intimidation as part of their code of conduct — so, reasonable protections in order to get the federal funding?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t — I would have to go back or refer you to the Department of Education. That’s such a specific question. So, I just would have to go to Department of Education because I don’t know if — which programs you’re specifically talking about or how that works. I just need to —
Q Related to the university presidents’ testimony and how, you know, they’re — the university presidents were saying that their codes of conduct may not designate any of the language — the intifada language as against their rules unless it turned into —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well —
Q So —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — look, I — I — as far — as it relates to funding and how that works, I would have to, certainly, refer you to Department of Education.
We have been very clear — you heard me yesterday — about how we feel when — when we see hatred the way that we have seen go up in — in a community like the Jewish community, antisemitism, we’re going to call that out. It is unacceptable.
We’re not — we’re going to have the moral clarity here. This President has had moral clarity on that. And so, we’re going to continue to be steadfast and call that out and say antisemi- — antisemitism is unacceptable.
Go ahead, Michael.
Q Thanks, Karine. At DHS, there’s an office called the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office. And its job is to protect major cities and major events across the country against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats.
On February 2nd, this office will disappear without congressional authoriz- — reauthorization. And it protects things like the Super Bowl, which is just a couple days late- — later, February 11th.
Is this something that the White House is prioritizing? Is it involved in ensuring that Congress fits this in to some vehicle?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would have to talk to our Office of Leg — Leg Affairs on that particular question. Obviously, what you just laid out is, you know, concerning, and we want to make sure that communities are safe — and, certainly, events like the Super Bowl, people feel safe. And so, I would just have to connect with the Office of Leg — Leg Affairs on that one.
Okay. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. On immigration, you’ve mentioned several times this day-one bill that the President put forth. My question is: Would he be willing to meet with Republicans and have a meeting with them about that particular bill to make his case for why he thinks that that should pass?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, it’s been almost three years. It’s a comprehensive bill. You know, lawmakers on the Hill, you know, they know how to read a bill. Right? They know how to look at the bill and pull from the bill what they accept and what they don’t accept. Right?
And we did that on day one and have had multiple conversations from our side here, Leg Affairs office, with members of Congress.
This is something — can you imagine the first thing that this President does, as putting forward a piece of legislation is on immigration — a comprehensive piece of legislation — that shows — if anything, that should show how committed he is to that issue.
And what we keep hearing from Republicans is either they use immigration as a political stunt or they try to make cuts — right? — or they vote against what the President is trying to put forward — right? — or they say, “We want to take away 2,000 CBP agents.”
I mean, that’s what — if you look at H.R. 2, that’s basically what it’s saying. It’s extreme. It’s extreme.
So, we have a comprehensive plan, and they put forth a plan that is extreme.
Q But if he’s committed to it, would he be willing to — to meet with them? And if not, why not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I mean, you’re — you’re — you’re missing the point here. The point is the President put forth a comprehensive plan on day one — almost three years — almost three years ago. Almost. And what they do instead is put forth extreme, extreme — extreme bills that does nothing — nothing to fix the broken system. That’s the point.
Q Thanks, Karine. Eric Adams is on the Hill today meeting with lawmakers to talk about the migrant crisis. Is he meeting with anyone at the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any meetings to read out about Eric Adams meeting with anyone here. I just — I would have to check in. I — I don’t have anything for you here.
Q Has there been any sort of progress or dialogue with mayors as — as they try and accommodate the influx of migrants and prepare for it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, we have been committed — have certainly put forth resources for mayors to deal with the influx of migrants. We have had multi- — multiple conversations. Our IGA office has been in close contact. There’s been in-person meetings in states, in cities wanting to — to make sure that we hear their concerns. And we’ve provided assistance. We have provided assistance.
And so, that’s going to continue, right? That’s going to continue.
And so, that’s why we’re o- — we’re asking Congress for more. We’re asking Congress to help us in — in trying to deal with — with this broken — broken system that has been broken for — for decades.
All right, we got to wrap it up. Go ahead.
Q Yeah, so, Senator Joe Manchin, who has openly left open the possibility of an independent run for President next year, has been heavily critical of the administration’s rollout of the clean energy tax credits enacted as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. And last week, he — he also spoke against the Treasury and DOE’s interpretation of foreign entities of concern that are a key component of eligibility for the tax credits.
I wanted to know if the administration had a response to this. Has the President spoken to Manchin recently? And what did he make of his comment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this. I can’t speak to the Senator’s potential or not potential run. That’s something that he has to speak to for himself. Certainly not — nothing that I can speak to from here.
What I can say is that, you know, we have had a very good working relationship with Senator Manchin. We appreciate his — his partnership. We could not have gotten the Inflation Reduction Act done without him, obviously. But just not going to — not going to get into anything else specifically.
Obviously, this is an issue that is important to the President. When it comes to climate change, when it comes to clean energy, this is — these are issues that the President has led on. He has had the most — the most aggressive climate change agenda.
When he walked in, he said climate change was one of the four crises that we’ve had to deal with. And that’s what you’ve seen him do. You’ve seen him act on that.
All right. Thank you, everybody.
Q Thank you so much.
Q Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Have a great — great weekend. And some of y’all, I’ll see you off — on — tomorrow, right? Vegas.
2:44 P.M. EST