James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:17 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everyone. 
Q    Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, President Biden vowed to lower prescription drug costs for seniors and families, and he’s delivering on that promise. 
Today, the President will visit the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to announce that dozens of pharmaceutical companies raised prices faster than inflation, triggering rebates to Medicare for outrageous, outrageous price hikes.
Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act that — that every single congressional Republican voted against, we’ve taken steps to cap the cost of insulin at 35 bucks for seniors, allow Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, and lock in $800 per year in health insurance savings for 15 million Americans. 
The Biden-Harris administration is also continuing to use fair pricing clauses to keep prices low for new treatments created with taxpayer dollars. 
Our work is not done.  President Biden remains focused on making sure families can access the medicine they need at an affordable prices — at affordable prices.  And you’ll hear directly from him shortly. 
Now, today, we remember the 26 souls who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary 11 years ago.  Twenty first graders were mercilessly gunned down with a weapon of war, and six brave educators were also killed, sacrificing their lives to protect their students.  The President and the First Lady are praying for the moms and dads who lost their young children that day. 
For the family members and survivors in the Newtown community, so many of them have courageously gone on to fight for change and end the gun violence ripping apart lives and communities. 
As the President said this morning, we should not live like this.  This administration is doing everything it can to stop the epidemic of gun violence, but we need Congress to act.  We need Congress to act.  We need universal background checks, we need a national red flag law, and we must ban assault weapons like the one used to kill these innocent children. 
Looking ahead to next week, I have two pieces of news to share. 
On Tuesday, December 19th, President Biden will travel to the National Cathedral here in Washington, D.C., to deliver remarks paying tribute to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at her funeral service. 
Justice O’Connor dedicated her life to public service and a relentless pursuit to strengthen our democracy by finding common ground, reminding all Americans that there is far more that unites us than divides us. 
And on Wednesday, the President will travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to discuss how Bidenomics is creating a small-business boom, lowering costs for hardworking families, and building an economy from the middle out and bottom up. 
He will also discuss how, under this administration, Americans have filed a record 14.6 million new business applications, including 178,000 in state — in the state of Wisconsin.
With that, the Admiral is back in the briefing room to give you an update on what’s happening in the Middle East and take some questions. 
MR. KIRBY:  Good afternoon, everybody.
Q    Good afternoon.
MR. KIRBY:  I think, as you all know, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is in the Middle East for discussions about the conflict in Gaza.
Since arriving, he’s had a chance to meet with the Saudi Prime Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, where they discussed a range of issues, including work that was already underway between Saudi Arabia and the United States over recent months to work towards a sustainable peace between Israelis and the Palestinians, as well as to increase the flow of food, water, medicine, and fuel into Gaza.
In Israel, Jake had the chance to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu and members of his War Cabinet.  His message was consistent: The United States will continue to support Israel in its fight against Hamas, and we will continue to do everything we can to help broker another pause so that the remaining hostages can be reunited with their families.
As I said yesterday, Yahya Sinwar and Hamas started this war.  They can end it right now by letting those people go, by ordering their fighters to lay down their arms, and by turning in everyone else responsible for the October 7th attacks.
Jake also discussed the next phase of Israel’s military campaign.  And he asked hard questions, as we have been doing,  about what all that could look like.
Of course, Jake also discussed efforts Israel is now undertaking to be more surgical and precise in their targeting and efforts they are taking to help increase the flow of aid.
This is Jake’s second visit to Israel since the conflict began, and it’s part of our ongoing engagement with both Israel and our regional partners.
He’ll remain there tomorrow, and we’ll provide more details and readouts of his meetings and engagements then.
If I could turn to Ukraine.  Today, Vladimir Putin, in his annual press conference, doubled down on his goal of conquering Ukraine and subjugating its people.
Nearly 20 months after he launched his brutal and barbaric invasion, Mr. Putin said today that — that his aggression in Ukraine will not end and there will only be peace, quote, “when our goals are achieved.”  End quote.
We all know what that means.
But I sure hope that those House Republicans who have, for months, held hostage critical assistance to Ukraine heard Putin’s message loud and clear.
Instead, they’re heading home for the holidays while Ukrainians are heading right back into the fight.  They’ll face more shelling; more air attacks; more cold, dark nights.  And just over the last 24 to 48 hours, we’ve seen additional airstrikes by Russia on critical infrastructure.  And they’ll face more death and destruction to their families and to their homeland.
They need our help.  And they need it now, not after the eggnog.
If that’s not enough to move you or change your mind, think about our own interests here.  We know that what happens in Ukraine doesn’t just happen to Ukraine.  It’s no foreign war.
Putin is challenging the very international order that we helped build.  He’s challenging the U.N. Charter.  He’s challenging the very notion of sovereignty.  He’s challenging democracy itself.
Russia seeks to remake the international order to create a world conducive to its highly personalized and repressive type of autocracy.  That would have profound effects on freedom and prosperity everywhere.
So, in short, we cannot afford not to help.  Imagine the cost in blood and treasure, in the lives of our own troops and those of our NATO Allies if we just walked away from this effort, if we just let Putin take Ukraine, wipe it off the map as an independent country.
As President Biden has said, we know from history that when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they just keep on going. 
And make no mistake, Putin is not the only — he’s not the only one watching what’s going on here and how this plays out. 
Other nations, friend and foe alike, will certainly learn lessons from our own ability here to stand up or our inability to stand up. 
Inaction is action too.  It’s well past time for us to act in defense of our national security interests.
Now, just quickly, I think today you also saw we announced joint Treasury and law enforcement actions against a notorious transnational criminal organization. 
Malas Mañas engaged in the smuggling of people and illicit fentanyl into the United States from Mex- — Mexico.  This is part of the administration’s ongoing efforts, coordinated with the government of Mexico, to tackle the global threat posed by the scourge of human smuggling and drug trafficking into the United States. 
Specifically, Treasury issued sanctions against this notorial transnat- — this tran- — notorious transnational criminal organization and two human smugglers associated with this organization under the President’s 2021 executive order, which targets those involved in global illicit drug trade. 
Separately, the Department of Justice also unsealed a combination of human smuggling, money laundering, and drug trafficking charges against five individuals, including the head of Malas Mañas.  And today’s actions, of course, were based on a joint investigation by DHS’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration. 
Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Gabe, go ahead.
Q    Admiral, Israel’s Ministry of Defense said it will last several — that the war will last several months, or that it will take several more months to defeat Hamas.  Does the U.S. find that timeline unacceptable?
MR. KIRBY:  It’s consistent with what they’ve been saying since almost the very beginning that this could — this could take some time.  And certainly they’ve talked about it in a — in terms of months.  There’s nothing new there.  That’s very consistent with what they’ve been saying.
Q    But — and then separately, a senior Israeli diplomat is saying that the country will not accept a two-state solution.  That runs contrary to U.S. policy.  What’s your reaction to those comments?
MR. KIRBY:  We still — we still adhere to the promise and the vision of a two-state solution.  Nothing has changed about our policy.  I’ll let the Israelis speak for themselves.  We still believe, the President still believes it’s not only possible, it’s in the best interest of the Israeli people and the Palestinian people.
Q    But how is peace at all possible if the Israelis cannot accept that?
MR. KIRBY:  As I said yesterday, Gabe, a two-state solution may seem elusive right now.  We’re not fooling ourselves.  We know that everybody is focused right now on the fight against Hamas.  But it requires leadership — a two-state solution.  It requires leadership on all sides here to be able to roll up their sleeves and do the right thing not only for their people but for everybody in the region. 
The President is an optimist, and he still believes that it’s the right answer to the right solution, and he still believes it’s achievable. 
We’re not — nobody thinks we’re going to pull a rabbit out of a hat here and get to it tomorrow, especially while they’re in a fight for their lives right now, but it doesn’t mean we’re going to give up on the efforts. 
And just one more thing, and then I promise I’ll shut up.  When he was in Riyadh, this was an idea — this was — this notion was — was brought up by Jake with the — with the Crown Prince.  And as you know, before October 7th, we were working towards normalization between those two countries.  And the indications that we’ve gotten from the Saudis is that they’re still interested in pushing forward on that.
Q    But you said it requires leadership.  Does it require more leadership on the part of Benjamin Netanyahu?
MR. KIRBY:  It requires leadership across the board.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Zeke.
Q    Thanks, John.  Follow on Gabe’s question.  You mentioned the Israelis have been consistent about running additional months for this campaign.  Is that acceptable, now at this stage, to the United States, for this to continue on for more — it’s been two-plus months now?
MR. KIRBY:  I think — I think — look, we all want it to — to end as soon as possible.  And as I said in my opening statement yesterday and today, it could end today if Sinwar did the right thing and just laid down his arms and surrendered and got — got — and gave the hostages back.  That doesn’t look likely right now.  This war that Hamas started — and Israel has a right and responsibility to continue to conduct this war to protect their people and to protect their nation. 
Again, how long that’s going to take, I can’t predict.  And we’re not — you know, we’re not dictating terms to the Israelis about how long it has to take.  It has to take as long as they feel they need to take to be able to eliminate this threat.  But obviously, we all want it to be over as soon as possible. 
Q    The U.S. position over the last several months has been that in a post-war environment that Gaza must be controlled by a revitalized Palestinian Authority.  What gives the U.S. any sense that the people of Gaza want the Palestinian Authority involved in the Gaza Strip or even in the West Bank, since a majority want Abbas to go?  Does Abbas need to go?
MR. KIRBY:  We believe that the Palestinian Authority should be involved in the governance of the Palestinian areas, including Gaza, and that — we believe that that’s best achieved through a reformed and revitalized Palestinian Authority. 
We’re not, again, dictating who — you know, who’s in charge, but we — we do believe that there needs to be a regional effort — a effort that we’re willing to participate in — to help the Palestinian Authority become reformed in such a way that they can — that they can manifest themselves in terms of governance in Gaza. 
Q    And then lastly, yesterday, you suggested that Jake was going to be talking about new humanitarian aid corridors in Gaza and said you might have some news for us today.  I was wondering if you had an update on that.  Is this —
MR. KIRBY:  I don’t.
Q    Okay. 
Q    Just one more time on the timing here.  I understand obviously you want this to end as soon as possible; everyone does.  But there are reports that Sullivan told Netanyahu that Israel has to end this current phase of fighting in weeks, not months.  Is that part of the message that he’s delivering to today?
MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to divulge private conversations that we’ve — we’ve had and will continue to have with the Israelis. 
Obviously, one of the things that Jake did talk to him about was progress in the war and where the Israelis think it’s going to go. 
He did talk about possible transitioning from what we would call high-intensity operations, which is what we’re seeing them do now, to lower-intensity operations sometime, you know, in the near future.  But I don’t want to put a timestamp on it.  I think you can understand that the last thing we’d want to do is telegraph to Hamas what — what they’re likely to face in coming weeks and months.
Q    And I know this came up yesterday, but I just want to be clear: Does the administration agree that indiscriminate attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law?
MR. KIRBY:  If — if — if attacks, obviously, are — are not done with due concern to civilians, then — then, obviously, that’s — that’s a deep concern.
Q    But you have stressed that the President, you know, speaks for American foreign policy.  He has said that Israel is engaged in indiscriminate bombing in Gaza.  So then wouldn’t it stand to reason that this is a violation?
MR. KIRBY:  I think — I’ve answered that question I don’t know how many times yesterday.  I have nothing more to add on that. 
The President was referring to concerns that he has and that we have that we know the intent is there by the Israelis to limit civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure but sometimes the results don’t always come out that way.  That’s what he was referring to.
Q    But you keep stressing their intent — that it’s Israel’s intent to minimize civilian casualties.  But that intention isn’t what we’re seeing on the ground right now. 

By the President’s own admission, they are bombing indiscriminately.  So, are you saying that their intent is somehow more important than the result?
MR. KIRBY:  Both are important.  I mean, obviously, the most important thing is the results and the outcomes, but it has to be driven by a sincere intent to limit civilian casualties.  So, both are important.
Look, I don’t want to — I don’t think it’s useful to revisit the whole discussion from yesterday because you’re not going to get a different answer out of me. 
We don’t want to see a single more innocent civilian killed or wounded.  One is too many.  We’ve — we’ve said that over and over again. 
And we’re working hard with the Israelis — and Jake is doing that right now — to — to get a better sense of what they can do, as I said in my opening statement, to be more surgical, to be more discriminant in their — in their targeting.  That’s important. 
At the same time, it’s important that they have the tools and capabilities they need to go after a truly genocidal threat represented by Sinwar and these Hamas terrorists. 
Q    You said that Jake was encouraging the Israelis to start transitioning from a high-intensity to lower-intensity operations in the near — near future.  I know you don’t want to get into the timeline, but how would the U.S. describe low-intensity operations?
MR. KIRBY:  I think that’s best left to our discussions with the Israelis and for the Israeli Defense Forces to — to describe.  This is something that they have said they’re going to do, and they’ll do it in their due course. 
But, again, I don’t want to get into too much detail here from this particular podium about that. 
Q    And if they were to transition into those lower-intensity operations in the coming weeks, would the U.S. reconsider its support for Israel at this point?
MR. KIRBY:  It’s a great hypothetical.  I’m not going to engage. 
Q    And then you also said that the U.S. is also — remains committed to trying to get back to the table to broker a potential pause to get these negotiations — to get the hostages out.  But the Israeli government called off a trip by the head of the M- — Mossad to travel to Qatar to restart these hostage — hostage negotiations.  The War Cabinet is saying that they felt conditions are not right.  Does the U.S. agree with that assessment?
MR. KIRBY:  We’re still working by the hour to try to get a pause back in place so that hostages can get released.  I’ll let the Israelis speak to their negotiators and where — where they are and what they’re going to focus on. 
I can tell you one of the things Jake is doing in the region — I mean, if you need proof that we still want to see a pause, just look at where the National Security Advisor is today. 
I mean, we are engaging at all levels to try to get that back in place, and we still believe it’s possible. 
Q    Yeah.  John, I just want to follow up on the West Bank violence.  So, 275 people have been killed there since October 7th, including 12 just over the last three days in Jenin.  Are you worried about the violence that you’re seeing there and that it could escalate — that it could basically engulf and move the conflict from Gaza, the enclave in the south, to a broader region across the West Bank and potentially even including Palestinians inside of Israel?
MR. KIRBY:  Yes.  And the President has, from a very early time in this conflict, talked about that exact concern, that exact worry.  These numbers are troublesome as well.  And — and we are deeply concerned about that. 
And that is yet another thing that we continue to talk to our Israeli counterparts about. 
Q    So, what — what exactly is the U.S. plan to sort of help these 2.7 million people that are displaced in Gaza right now?  I mean, nearly all of them have been forced from their homes.  Winter is coming.  It’s getting colder.  There’s no food. 
MR. KIRBY:  That’s —
Q    People are —
MR. KIRBY:  That’s why, even when the pause fell apart, we continued to urge for a flow of humanitarian aid and assistance that was about at that level.  Now, we haven’t always reached it every day, but we’ve been trying very hard to keep that level of assistance up.  And we’re going to continue to do that. 
I mean, the United States literally is leading the international effort to get food, water, medicine, and fuel into the people of Gaza.  And we know that as winter comes, that’s going to be even more important.  And we’re not going — we’re not going to lay off that task. 
Q    Can you airdrop supplies in?
MR. KIRBY:  Airdrops can be done.  But the — but the —
Q    Is there anything —
MR. KIRBY:  — the best way to do it in Gaza — just because it’s so densely populated and so densely urban, the best and safest way to get it in there, in — in terms of volume as well, is through trucks. 
Q    Okay.  And then just one quick question.  Today, there was an attack reported on a Maersk cargo ship.  Do you know anything more about that?  Can you give us any details on that?
MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have any details on that particular — are you talking about something in the Red Sea?
Q    Yeah.
MR. KIRBY:  I — I am not familiar with that particular attack.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, J.J.
Q    On the President’s phone call with Turkey and President Erdoğan today.  Can you share any details about their discussion about Turkey’s request for the F-16 fighter jets?
MR. KIRBY:  We’ll — we’ll have a more detailed readout for you here shortly, I think.  The President appreciated the time that President Erdoğan gave him.  They certainly talked about a range of issues, including what’s going on in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas. 
They talked about NATO and Sweden’s accession.  And — and I do believe just the general support for — again, we’ll wait for the readout, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised at all if it was also raised that — that we continue to support a modernization program for their F-16s.
Q    On the Defense budget.  Are you worried that the extension of FISA, which gives the FBI the power to conduct warrantless spying on surveilling — on foreign citizens and Americans who they interact with — do you think that’s — Americans are also at risk of being spied by the government?
MR. KIRBY:  Are you talking about 702?
Q    Yeah, 702.
MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, look, we have talked about this for quite some time.  We — we believe that 702 gives us very important tools and capabilities to protect the American people by focusing on the collection of useful intelligence overseas.  And that’s what it’s designed to do. 
And, again, we’re watching what’s going on in the — in the House.  The House Intelligence Committee has put forward a full reauthorization of 702 that we — that we think is — is worth looking at.  And we urge everybody in the House to — to look at it seriously. 
There’s some reforms in there that I think, as I said earlier, might be a little bit difficult for us to sign up to.  But — but in general, 702 — look, I mean, Zawahiri — right? — the — the Colonial Pipeline — I could go on and on of — of things we were able to help — to help improve our safety and security and to go after threats to that safety and security that 702 gave us.  So, it’s really important. 
Q    From — from your experience, after 20 years of war in Afghanistan, fighting also ISIS, do you think that Israel is really going to dismantle Hamas with the U.S. cooperation?
MR. KIRBY:  Our own experience tells us that if you can go after the leadership of an — of a terrorist network — and this isn’t just a terrorist network; it’s also a military organization as well — that you can have a very significant effect on their ability to plan, train, resource, recruit, retain, and execute attacks.  We saw that with ISIS.  We saw that with al Qaeda.  So, the idea of going after their — their leaders makes sound military sense. 
Now, are you going to eliminate the ideology?  Probably not.  I mean, ISIS still exists in Iraq and Syria, and al Qaeda still exists in places, although they’ve metastasized somewhat.  Both groups are radically diminished in terms of their ability to — to threaten our national security because we focused so much on their leadership.  So, it can have a profound effect.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Patsy.
Q    Thank you, Karine.  John, you told me yesterday that a future governance in Gaza must exclude Hamas, requires reform in the Palestinian Authority, and represent the Palestinian people. 
Can you explain what the administration believes to be Israel’s role in supporting this, especially if one is to believe allegations that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been working to divide leadership in the Palestinian people essentially by choking the Palestinian Authority while also supporting Hamas by allowing foreign funds to — to re- — to be received by them?
MR. KIRBY:  I don’t think I can really improve upon what I said yesterday.  We believe that whatever governance in Gaza looks like, it’s got to meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people.  We know Hamas does not represent the vast majority of the Palestinian people.
And so, what we believe, as I said earlier, is that the best way to get at that kind of governance is to re- — reformed and a revitalized Palestinian Authority, which Secretary Blinken has spoken to quite well, that we’re going to continue to work on.
Q    Do you believe that Israel has a role in that, though?
MR. KIRBY:  Of course.  We’re — Israel would have a role in helping us move towards that outcome, as well as other regional partners and Arab states in the region as well.
Q    And on Jake’s visit.  With him meeting the Saudis and, you know, the administration saying that normalization between Saudi and Israel will bring the goal of a two-state solution together, can you break that down for me, please?  How does that work in the current post-October 7th reality?
MR. KIRBY:  Again, Patsy, we know that a two-state solution right now is going to seem elusive to a lot of folks.  We understand that given what’s going on since the 7th of October.  So — but that doesn’t mean you give up on it.
And in his meetings in Riyadh, one of the things Jake talked about with the Crown Prince was the idea of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.  This is an idea we had been pushing forward before the 7th of October, and we have indications that the Saudis are still interested in having that conversation going forward.  That’s a positive thing.
Are we going to get there tomorrow?  No, of course not.  But that — that’s a — as I said yesterday, it’s an important milestone to perhaps getting to a viable two-state solution.
Q    And one last one, please.  The Council on American-Islamic Relations — or CAIR — has called on the Biden administration to respond to reports that the Israeli military has shot women, children, and babies, in, quote, “execution style” after they sought refuge in a school in Gaza.  Is there any truth to those claims?
MR. KIRBY:  I — I haven’t — I have no indication to ver- — to verify those accusations.
Q    Just take you to another part — two other parts of the world real quick.  In that marathon news conference, Vladimir Putin said that Moscow and Washington are, in fact, in contact over the fates of Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, which is different than what has been said by you and others here about the requests to get them back being rebuffed.  He said we have “not refused” to return our Wall Street Journal colleague. 
So, what is the status of talks between the U.S. and Russia in terms of those two? 
MR. KIRBY:  Well, he’s right that we continue to talk to Moscow about getting Evan and Paul home where they belong, that those — those discussions are ongoing, and they’re ongoing actively.  I’m not going to detail them from — from here.
He’s absolutely wrong that his government did not rebuff a serious proposal.  There was one put forward, and they rebuffed it.  He’s just wrong, flat out.
Q    One other thing in this hemisphere.  How is the White House monitoring today’s talks between Venezuela and Guyana over what could become a minor land war in South America?
MR. KIRBY:  There’s no reason for it to ever get to that point, Ed.  We’re watching that very, very closely.  We know that the history here goes back to the late 1890s here, an — an arbitration that was done to sort of set that boundary.  We believe that arbitral award should be respected. 
We don’t want to see this come to blows.  There’s no reason for it to, and our diplomats are engaged in real time on this.
Q    Is there anyone down there for those talks or —
MR. KIRBY:  I don’t know that we’re participating in the talks, but our — our existing diplomatic structure down there is — is involved.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.
Q    Thanks, John.  If I can go back to the Middle East.  You’ve said that the administration has made it very clear to the Israeli government about the need to limit, minimize civilian casualties.  Is it your sense that the Israeli government is heeding that advice?  And can you give us some clarification on how you make that assessment?
MR. KIRBY:  I talked about this a little bit yesterday.  Happy to revisit it.  We have seen them be receptive to those messages.  We have seen them act on those messages in terms of the scope and scale of the ground force that they — that they used to go into North Gaza, much reduced than what they had originally planned.
We saw them beginning to rely less on airstrikes.  And because they’ve got troops inserted, and when you have troops inserted on the ground, you are able to target in a more precise way.  You also take a higher risk to your forces.  They lost 10 of their soldiers a day or two ago — largest loss in a single day.  So, there’s a risk to your forces when you do that.
And we’ve also seen them, as I’ve said before, telegraph their punches a little bit by publishing a map online of — in Southern Gaza of where people can go and where they can’t go.
They’ve also opened up humanitarian corridors from the North to the South, again, at our urging.  That doesn’t come without — without risk as well. 
So — and by the way, they agreed to a weeklong pause in the fighting — a weeklong pause that — that saw no civilian casualties because there wasn’t fighting going on.  And, of course, that weeklong pause potentially allowed Hamas to regroup, reequip, restore themselves.  So, they — they are taking steps. 
Jake’s message to them is, obviously, gratitude for the steps they’re taking, but also to continue to urge them to take more because we want to see them be more precise, more surgical, more deliberate, more cautious going forward.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  In the back, go ahead.
Q    Admiral, I’m wondering if you can explain to us why the administration is slow-walking the transfer of rifles — M4s, M16s — made in the U.S. to Israel.
MR. KIRBY:  I would have to refer you to the State Department to speak to that.  That’s — that’s their purview.
Q    John, why would somebody around here leak that the Vice President is upset with the President about Gaza?
MR. KIRBY:  Man, that’s a great question, because I just — (laughter) — I mean, if I — if I could answer a question why somebody would leak, I mean, that would make me pretty smart and a lot smarter than I am. 
Let me just — just give me a second here.  (Laughs.) 
You’ve seen us, officially and on the record — not in a leak — refute the basic premise of the story that there’s some sort of daylight between the Vice President and the President.
I found the headline of the story interesting, that — that the Vice President is pushing the White House to — you fill in the blank: X, Y, Z.  Last I looked, the Vice President is part of the White House.  She’s part of the team. 
And if she wasn’t offering her advice and counsel to the President on innumerable issues, that would be a story.  Her job is to provide advice and counsel to the President. 
Q    So, she does want President Biden to show more concern publicly for humanitarian damage, then, in Gaza?
MR. KIRBY:  We have — I think we’ve already pushed back on the premise of the story that there’s some sort of daylight between her and the President.  I would say that the entire leadership team here in the administration, Peter, wants to see no civilian casualties; wants to see the Israelis be more surgical, more precise; wants to see that humanitarian aid is increased into Gaza. 
And, obviously, as the Vice President has said herself, we all want to make sure that Israel has the tools and capabilities they need to defend themselves.
Q    Is President O-Biden — is President Biden — (laughter) — okay.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, he is.

Q    Yeah, is he — (laughter) — that’s good.  That’s a big story for us.  (Laughter.)

Is the President —

MR. KIRBY:  And only you.  (Laughter.)

Q    — okay that people from the Vice President’s team are going to the press with this?

MR. KIRBY:  The President is comfortable and confident that in Vice President Harris he has a real teammate and a significant leader who understands the foreign policy direction that he’s trying to take this country and our leadership on the world stage and is candid, forthright, educated, smart, and willing to tell him exactly what she thinks.

I’m not going to talk about what her advice and counsel is to the President.  I would just tell you that the entire leadership team here all understands the importance of making sure Israel is more precise, more cautious, and more deliberate in their targeting, even as we are sure and certain that Israel continues to need our security assistance and support to go after Hamas.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nadia.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  CNN is reporting that, according to U.S. intelligence assessment, that nearly half of the Israeli munition dropped on Gaza are imprecise, what you call a “dumb bomb.”  Does this support what the President said yesterday, that the Israelis are using indiscriminate bombing in Gaza?  What’s your reaction to that?

MR. KIRBY:  I can- – I cannot confirm the reporting of that.  I’d refer you to the Israeli Defense Forces to talk about the — the —

Q    But this it the U.S. intelligence —

MR. KIRBY:  — types of munitions —

I would refer you to the Israeli Defense Forces to speak to the types of munitions that they’re dropping and the strikes that they’re conducting.

I have said I don’t know how many times here: I’m not going to armchair quarterback every single strike and every single attack that they conduct.

Q    Okay.  Another question.  You just said that this war can end if Hamas laid down their arms.  Hamas political wing in Qatar indicated today that they will be willing to be a part of the PA.  Is this acceptable to end the war?  Is this acceptable —

MR. KIRBY:  What —

Q    — to the U.S.?

MR. KIRBY:  What needs to happen to end the war today is the conditions I just laid out.  And there’s three of them, and they’re not that difficult: Lay down your arms, turn over those who were responsible for the October 7th attacks, and give up all the hostages.  Three simple things, and this thing can be over — could be over today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Phil.  And then —

Q    Thank you.  I have two quick questions.  First, I wanted to follow up on your comments about the Palestinian Authority remaining in governance.  I’m just curious: As Congress puts together an aid package for Ukraine and Israel, does the President want to see the Taylor Force Act remain in effect?  Or is he open to U.S. aid going directly to the Palestinian Auth- — Palestinian Authority there?

MR. KIRBY:  You’re going to have to refresh my memory on what the Taylor Force Act is.

Q    The Taylor Force Act prohibits direct funding to the Palestinian Authority so long as their policy of sending aid to the families of deceased terrorists is in effect.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, look, this is all part of what we believe should be a reformed and revitalized Palestinian Authority so that they can be credibly and authentically in charge of governance over Palestinian territories.

Q    So — and then, second question.  Any comment on Argentinian President Milei’s proposal to dollarize their economy there?  Is that something that the White House welcomes?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ll take the question.  Don’t have an answer for you.

Q    Thank you, sir.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re going to wrap it up.  Go ahead, Danny.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Thanks, Admiral.  On Ukraine, the European Union has just agreed to open membership talks for Ukraine.  Just wondered if you’ve got any reaction to that.  And, also, does that mean that Europe might ultimately be a more reliable partner than the United States at the moment, given the current problems of supplemental funding —

MR. KIRBY:  Europe is already a very reliable partner to Ukraine.  And we would fully expect that that — that will continue.  There’s been terrific unanimity with our European allies about supporting Ukraine.

The EU can speak to their decision-making here in terms of inviting Ukraine or not.  I’ll let them talk about that.  That’s not something that we would comment on.

We are focused on making sure Ukraine, as I said at the top, has what it needs, particularly in these tough winter months.  We’re also — there was just a conference here last week, over at Commerce, working on making sure that, long term, Ukraine has an ability to both develop a more resilient, organic defense industry and a defense industrial base, as well as tap into the defense industrial base of the United States and some of our European partners so that there’s long-term — that they can meet their own long-term security commitments.

And the last thing I’ll say is: Here, we’re also working with President Zelenskyy, as you saw this week, on his idea for a just peace and what that has to look like and operationalizing that with nations around the world.
Q    John —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Last question.  Go ahead.

Q    On Ukraine.  The — there’s a small working group on Capitol Hill.  Senators Lankford, Sinema, and Murphy say that they’re making some progress when it comes to the dispute at the heart of — of what’s going on on Capitol Hill, which is over changes in border policy.

They say they’re making progress.  This may or may not, of course, end up extending their time here in Washington before they go home for the holidays.  But just having them say they’re making progress, is that enough to start the ball rolling and to assuage some of the concerns that the U.S. isn’t doing anything?

MR. KIRBY:  Is just saying they’re making progress enough to get the ball rolling?

Q    In terms of assuaging the concerns about the international community that is watching and trying to follow the U.S. lead regarding aid to Ukraine.

MR. KIRBY:  I think what will be most effective to that end is actually getting a deal done.  And we certainly wouldn’t dispute the senators’ take that — that there’s progress.  And we’re going to continue to engage, again, in good faith in those negotiations.

I’m obviously not going to get into the details from the podium.  But the process is moving forward.  And that’s a good thing.

But what — what really will send a strong message not just to our allies but to Mr. Putin, who just today said he still wants to wipe Ukraine off the map, is actually getting the funding to support Ukraine. 
And, yes, we recognize that that requires compromise and discussions over border policy as well as border security.  And the President and his team — we’re willing to engage in those discussions.


MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, Admiral.  Thank you.
Q    — have a right to defend —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  We heard from the — from Kirby a few minutes ago — he had the colorful line, “They need our help right now, not after the eggnog.”  (Laughter.)  I’m just wondering, you know —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Is that wrong?

Q    So, the White House is sort of, you know, trying to amp up the pressure on — on congressional Republicans, it seems.  Why do you think that’s an effective strategy?  And can you — given that you’re saying that the Hill is not doing enough, can you talk about what the President himself is actually doing, since we haven’t seen him do much?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, look, as you know, the President has been in regular contact, regular touch — and he said this — with congressional leaders from both sides, from the Republican and Democratic side —

Q    Has he called the Speaker?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — of the leadership.

I’m sorry?

Q    Has he talked to the Speaker?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get into, like, specifically who he’s called, but —

Q    I mean, he’s the leadership.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — but, obviously, congressional leaders — right? — from the Republican side and also the Democratic side — both parties. 
And, as you know, staff has also been on — on the Hill — our staff has been also — his staff has been also on the Hill negotiating on his behalf. 
And they met on Tuesday.  They met again on yesterday.  And we believe it’s going in a productive place.  We’re — we’re — we believe it’s heading in the right direction.  We believe that — that conversations — the fact that it’s continuing, it’s encouraging. 
And we’re seeing progress.  And that’s because, obviously, of the President, we believe, continuing to — to certainly negotiate, have those conversations.  And this is a President who knows how to negotiate.  We’ve seen him do it multiple times over the past almost three years in this administration, being able to negotiate across the aisle and working on legislation, making things happen on behalf of the American people. 
Look, it’s going in the right way.  We understand that we’re going to find — we have to find a bipartisan compromise to get this done.  And we’re talking about the policy side of it and the funding side of it, as we talk about the border — in relation to the border. 
And so, we’re going to continue to have those conversations.  It continues on the Senate side.  You heard us talk about how — and Speaker said this himself — how he’s going to — you know, they’re going to go on vacation.  They’re going to go on vacation while the Senate side continues to work. 
And that’s — you know, that’s not doing — that’s not delivering for the American people when you go on vacation and go on Christmas recess. 
Q    So, you mentioned the President is negotiating.  What — how is he a part of these negotiations?  Is he — is the White House now at, you know — do you des- — is he evalu- — is he personally evaluating proposals (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, he’s in regular — he’s in regular touch with congressional leaders.
Don’t have any specifics.  Not going to negotiate from here. 
Obviously, his staff — his staff has been on — on the Hill yesterday and the day before yesterday and — Tuesday and yesterday, having those on con- — conversations on behalf of this President, negotiating on behalf of this President.  And so, that’s where we are.
It is going in the right direction, we believe, because those conversations continue, and that’s what matters as we talk about the border — border security and moving forward with making sure we get the supplemental done.
Q    And “going in the right direction” — does that mean a deal gets done when?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We — I don’t have a timeline on the deal.  Obviously, we needed to get it done before the end of this year.  That’s — that’s our — that’s our — kind of our timeline here.  But I don’t have a specifics on if it’s going to happen tomorrow, the next day.  We just know it’s going in the right direction, and that’s what matters. 
Go ahead, J.J.
Q    On those Ukraine border deal negotiations, what is your message to those Democratic lawmakers and immigration activists who are worried that the White House is giving up too much in these negotiations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So look, we’ve been in constant communication with Democrats and, obviously, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  I know that they have put some concerns out there or have been very clear about their thoughts.  Don’t have anything to read out on those conversations. 
Look, here’s what the President believes: He believes we need to fix what’s happening at our — with the broken immigration system.  He believes that that needs to get done, that needs to get fixed.  And he’s willing to find a bipartisan compromise to get that done.  And that’s the direction and that’s the path that we’re taking to try to figure out how do we fix this broken immigration system, something that he has been really talking about since day one with his comprehensive immigration legislation that he put forth. 
And so, that’s the direction this conver- — this conversation is going in: How do we find a bipartisan compromise to get this done as we talk about the policy and the funding, as it relates to border — border security?
Go ahead, Ed.
Q    Thanks, Karine.  I’m going to ask you about inflation.  So, you mentioned the price of eggs, milk, and gas are down over the past year.  But what do you say to Americans who are looking at the month that President Biden came into office?  Eggs are up 24 percent, milk is up 17 percent, all types of gas is up 37 percent, and the prices overall are up 17 percent.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the President actually spoke to this not too long ago — I believe, on Tuesday, actually — just a couple days ago — and he says, “We know there’s more work to be done” — right? — and it — and that things are still unaffordable. 
And so, while the prices, as you just mentioned, of eggs and gas and milk and toys and TVs are down, especially in this time as we’re heading into a holiday season, as we’re in the holiday season, there’s more work to be done.  And that’s important. 
And that’s why we’re fighting to lower inf- — insulin.  That’s why we’re — we — we talk about junk fees and how we can save Americans money, right?  That’s why we continue to talk about health insurance premiums.  That’s why we’re — we — the President is going to make an announcement about what we were able to do with one of the provisions that’s in the Inflation Reduction Act that only Democrats voted for, not Republicans, in order for seniors to get rebates on — on their Medicare. 
So, all of those things are truly important, and so that’s why he’s doing everything that he can to do that. 
And you have Republicans on the other — on the other side of the aisle — right? — who are talking about cutting taxes for the wealthy and big corporations — right? — who are talking about cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.  So, the President is going to continue to fight for the American people, continue to make sure they have a little bit of breathing room. 
Is there more work to be done?  Absolutely.  But we have seen some — some prices go down — and all of the products that I just listed.  We have.
There’s still more work to be done, and we’re going to continue to do that work. 
Q    But I wanted to ask you a question — I wanted ask you about the transition —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Right, over the past — and that matters, right? 
Q    Well, but — but —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It matters that we’re not in —
Q    But since President Biden came into office —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, wait.  Wait. 
Q    — his policies —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It matters — it matters — let’s not forget what has been happening — almost two years now.  Right?  Putin — right? — Putin’s war in — in —
Q    That was a year into the President’s —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Right?  But that has —
Q    — administration. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — caused inflation.  That has caused prices to go up, right?  And so, the President took action to make sure gas prices went down — which they have, right?  And we com- — we’re coming out of this pandemic.  So, all of those things have been a — have been part of the — where inflation is.
But inflation is moderating.  The President is going to continue to make sure that we lower cost and lower prices on those goods that you just listed out. 
Q    I want to ask you about the transition.  The White House is asking today to speed up the transition — (inaudible) electric.  You know, one of the things they announced is — is that federal employees would take the train.  It’s 250 miles.  There’s a list of things. 
I’m wondering if the President is thinking about putting — making The Beast electric. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, that’s certainly a question for G- — GSA and the Service — Secret Service, obviously. 
But we are committed to boosting public and private access to electric vehicles, and today’s announcement would save taxpayer dollars and help tackle the climate crisis. 
But as it relates to The Beast, that’s something for GSA and Secret Service to speak to.
Q    So does he mean Cabinet members would take the train —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That, again —
Q    — to New York?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would — I would refer you to GSA and — and also the Secret Service as it relates to The Beast and any other questions. 
Go ahead, Zolan.
Q    I know you’ve said Leg Affairs and different parts of the White House —
Q    — are involved in the negotiations on the Hill, but who’s the highest-ranking White House official that’s physically on Capitol Hill?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, you’re talking about the OMB Director — right? — Shalanda Young, who’s been in this briefing room multiple times, having conversations with members on the Hill.
You’re talking about the — you know, OLA — Office of Leg Affairs.  You have Shuwanza — right? — who — who runs that. 
You talk about the President’s senior advisors.
There are been a lot of people involved, and all of those folks have the trust in the President to get this done and to do these negotiations. 
Remember, we have done negotiations multiple times here and have gotten things done for the American people in a — and many times in a bipartisan way.  So, that’s what’s important — that the President has a team that he trusts that has done this before — in the past two years, even more — and getting these bipartisan kind of conversation, compromises done.  And so, he entrusts in that whole entire team to get that done. 
And sometimes, it’s Jake Sullivan.  Sometimes, it’s — it’s — you know, Shalanda Young has obviously been involved in this more — more consistently.  And OLA and others. 
But that’s how it works.  We work as a team; we work as a unit to get things done on —
Q    Has — has —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — on behalf of the American people.
Q    Has his Chief of Staff been in the room on Capitol Hill for these?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I don’t have — I’m not going to start listing names.  But obviously, his senior — his senior advisors have been very — very involved in this.  And has the ch- — the Chief of Staff — yes, I can say the Chief of Staff has been involved. 
But, again, he has a team of folks who have been critical parts of — a critical component of getting this done and —
Q    He’s been involved?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — having these conversa-
Q    Just to clarify: He’s been on Capitol Hill? 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — not — look, not everybody has been on Capitol Hill.  People have picked up the phone, have conversations.  People — you know, members of leadership in Congress call on this side wanting to talk to maybe the Chief of Staff and others who are part of this — the President’s team.  And so, conversations certainly have had — have been had. 
I don’t have a list of who’s been back and forth from here to — to the Hill. 
So, it’s been — again, this is the President’s team, who has done this many times before, on negotiating and finding compromise, especially on important issues that matter to the American people.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q    Thanks.  Two questions, if I can.  How concerned is the White House that there seems to be very little movement on appropriations bills and that when lawmakers get back into town after the holiday recess that first funding deadline on January 19th will be very quickly approaching?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, let’s not forget that that deal that was made — as we’re talking about finding — negotiating and the President’s team being able to deliver — right? — and working with congressional members on the Hill — one thing that we want to be real clear, like House Republicans should respect — right? — that bipartisan budget agreement that was made.
This is — two thirds of House Republicans voted on that bill.  Right?  And — and it got bipartisan support from — obviously, from the House and from the Senate.  And it is now law.  It is something that the Pres- — they passed it out of the House, out of the Senate.  The President signed it into law, and it is the law in — law of the land.  It is still in effect. 
So, that should be honored.  And that certainly — it should be the full — that full agreement — they should abide by that full agreement. 
Q    The second question.  This is a local story, but a pretty big local story.  Does the White House have any reaction to the possible move of two professional sports teams — the Wizards and the Capitals — and what that might mean for the revitalization of downtown D.C. after COVID? 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m going to be very careful.  They are private organizations.  So, don’t want to comment on private organization. 
But what I can say more broadly — and I know you all are aware of this — that the White House Chief of Staff, Jeff Zients, sent a memo to Cabinet secretaries earlier this year on the importance of returning to — re- — returning to the office. 
So, I’ll let D.C. government speak to its plans for — for downtown.  But the White House has called for federal agencies to aggressively execute plans to return to — to — to work and to return — obviously, return to the office. 
So, that’s kind of how we’ve done our part here on the federal government.  But as it relates to a private organization, I’m just not going to comment on their decisions here. 
Go ahead.
Q    Karine, there’s sort of an interesting problem brewing in Maine, where the IRS has reversed its position in terms of taxing an energy subsidy that was paid to people in the state.  It’s not a huge amount of money, but it is really a frustration for the people there who were — are angry about what they say is sort of a switch in position on the IRS. 
So, have you had any contact with Maine about this? 
Q    And is this anything you can say?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Certainly, I would refer you to the IRS on that particular question. 
I saw some of the reporting.  I haven’t had a chance to talk to — to the team about this particular situation in Maine.  So, I would have to go back to the team and ask them that question.  But in the meantime, I would certainly refer you to the IRS on this. 
Q    Okay.  And then, I just have a question on this ongoing question about inflation and how Americans feel about prices.  This year, the Biden administration has made a big effort to sort of push Bidenomics and go out into the country.  Do you anticipate doing more of that to try to hammer home this message? 
And is there, especially sort of in — in some of the bigger categories — rental — is there anything that you can do short of, you know — or — or in addition to what’s already being done to just alleviate pressure for Americans feeling the sustained brunt of this crisis?  So —
Q    — inflation is coming down.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s moderating.
Q    But prices are —
Q    — still high —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  Yeah.
Q    — across the board. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I totally understand that.  That’s why the President has said himself things are still unaffordable, right?  That’s what he said just recently, just a couple of days ago on Tuesday.  And he said he’s going to continue to do the work to make sure that we lower costs for the American people, which he has done. 
We’ve talked about gas prices.  We’ve talked about the products that people — you know, whether it’s a grocery store or a TV or what have you — to make sure that costs go down.  We talked about junk fees; we talk — where he’s going to talk about these rebate as it relates to Medicare. 
And Inflation Reduction Act is so important in that vein — right? — and the things that it’s been able to do to lower costs. 
Look, as it relates to Bidenomics, the President is — I just announced at the top of the briefing — he’s going to go to Milwaukee.  He’s going to talk about Biden- — Bionomics, investing in America, what — what Bidenomics has done for the American people coming out of the pandemic.
We can’t forget what happened when the President walked in.  We saw a — literally the economy at a tailspin.  And so, the President has been working every day to get the economy back on its feet and make sure that we’re building a middle class from the bottom up, middle out.  And that’s what you’ve seen him do. 
And the data shows — as you just mentioned in your question — inflation is moderating.  And you see jobs created — more than 14 million jobs.  Unemployment is at — under 4 percent.  All of those things is pied [sic] up — is part of Bidenomics. 
And you will certainly hear the President talk more about that over the next couple months as we finish — finish out the — certainly the year.
Go ahead, Steven.
Q    Thank you, Karine.  Question on Ukraine and then one on the impeachment inquiry.
On Ukraine, President Zelenskyy told Speaker Johnson that additional U.S. funding wasn’t so urgent, that it could perhaps wait another month or two.  The White House has been communicating this is a much more urgent matter.  Can you explain the disconnect?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t think there is a disconnect.  We’ve said by the end of the year, we would be in a place where we wouldn’t be able to help Ukraine.  We would — the — we would be running out of funds. 
I talked about this.  I think Karen asked me a question about how much — how much of the funding is left.  I talked about it being about a billion dollars left. 
We are in a place where if we don’t get that supplemental, we will not be able to help Ukraine in the way that we have for almost two years as they are defending their country, defending their democracy, defending against Putin’s aggression. 
And we’ve heard — you heard the Admiral talk about — lay into what Putin said — said today and how he wants to basically wipe off the map Ukraine, and we cannot allow that.  We cannot — we have to be part of making sure that Ukraine is able to — able to fight for their democracy.
So, we have some funds left.  Not much.  And we really need that supplemental.  That’s why we call it an emergency national security supplemental, because we need it.  Ukraine needs it.  They need to continue to defend their country and fight against tyranny.
Q    Thanks.  On the impeachment inquiry.  The House of Representatives voted last night to formally authorize the impeachment inquiry that started in September.  For a lot of people at home who only view this in very broad strokes, can you explain to people why the President interacted with so many of his relatives’ foreign associates and why he continues to deny any interaction?  How should people think about this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, let’s be very clear here.  And I talked about this yesterday, and I’ll talk about it a little bit more.  And the President put out a statement yesterday that was very clear.
It’s — you know, what we’re seeing from House Republicans is wasted time, and it is certainly a, you know, baseless political stunt.  That’s what we’re seeing. 
And they’re leaving — House Republicans are leaving this week to go, you know, enjoy a nice holiday — right? — as most Americans should.  But where — what happened to the funding to Ukraine?  You just asked me about Ukraine.  They haven’t been able to get that done. 
They haven’t been able to fix — help us fix what’s going on at the border.  They haven’t been able to get that done.  They haven’t been able to start a conversation on how we’re going to avert a shutdown in January.  They haven’t been able to do that.
And so, look, you know, there has been zero evidence — zero evidence.  You can ask me about engagement and what the President has done with his family in conversation, but there’s no evidence.  There’s —
Q    Well, because it’s —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Wait, wait.  But there’s no evidence.  There is no evidence that the President has done wrongdoing.  There’s none.  Absolutely none.  None. 
And that is just a fact.  You’ve heard it from Republicans themselves.  So, they are wasting their time.  Instead of doing the work of — for — on behalf of the American people, they go after the President’s family.  That’s —
Q    So —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But that’s a waste of time.
Q    Is there an easy way to counter the central message, though, that the President interacted with associates and has been lying about it since?  What is the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The President is not lying about anything when it — as it relates to what House Republicans are trying to do.  It is baseless, it is a political stunt, and he has — it has not proven that the President has done anything wrong — anything wrong. 
And so, they are wasting their time.  They are wasting the American people’s time.  And what they should be doing is the things that I just listed.  They’re going to go home, but they haven’t taken care of what we need to make sure that we are helping Ukraine.  There’s going to be potentially a shutdown next month.  They have done nothing — nothing to avert that shutdown. 
Go ahead.
Q    A few things.  Just to follow up on — you mentioned the concerns of the Hispanic Caucus and some other groups.  Have they now been contacted by White House officials and —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ve been —
Q    — brought in to the ongoing conversations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ve been — we’ve been in touch with them.  That’s I — that’s what I can say is we have — we’ve heard their concerns.  We’ve had conversations.  We’ve been in regular touch.  I’m not going to go into details of the conversation.
Q    A few other things.  You keep mentioning how the House has left town.  Would the President consider postponing any Christmas vacation plans of his own —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, we’re —
Q    — if there’s no deal on Ukraine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re hoping that a deal is done.  I can’t talk about changes in the President’s schedule.  We still have a week left — right? — before that happens.  We know that the conversation is going well.  Right?  It’s going in the right direction, we believe.  We’re encouraged by that.
The President’s team was — was on the Hill yesterday and also today — I’m sorry, also Tuesday.  And so, that’s encouraging.  That’s encouraging.  And that’s what we’re going to focus on. 
I just don’t have anything — we don’t have anything to share on his — the President’s schedule.  He’s going to go, as you know, to Milwaukee on — on Wednesday; and on Tuesday, he’s going to go to the National Cathedral to — to give — give some words on behalf of San- — Sandra Day O’Connor.
Q    And as we near the end of the year — just traditional presidential things — should we anticipate a year-end news conference?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You guys just — he just did a press conference.
Q    He had a co-star.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He had a co-star — 
Q    (Inaudible.)
Q    And he took two questions. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  (Laughter.)  He took two que- — no, he took more than two questions.  There were four — there were — there were two plus two.
Q    For America.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, for American press.
Look, guys, I —
Q    We’re a needy bunch.  (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You said it; not I, Ed.  Look, he did a two-plus-two yest- — on Tuesday — gosh, the week is going by really fast — on Tuesday with President Zelenskyy.  You heard the President speak — speak very passionately and important — in an important way about the way forward with the foreign policy, how he wants to move, certainly wants to make sure we continue to aid Ukraine.
I don’t have anything else to add about an end-of-the-year press conference.  But the President is going to travel, as you know, on Wednesday.  You’re going to hear from him today.  And so, you’ll continue to hear from him before the end of the year, certainly.
Q    What about pardons and commutations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, that’s a good question.  I don’t have anything on that.  But that is a good question.  I know that tends to happen.
All right.  Okay.   Go ahead.
Q    On —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Last question.
Q    Just a follow-up on inflation.  Housing costs have continued to go up significantly, even as we’ve seen other prices moderate.  I know that, obviously, you’ve said there’s more to do, but what specifically can the White House do policy-wise here to make it easier for people to afford rent, much less ever have a hope of buying a home?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, it’s a — it’s a good question.  And you’re right.  There are Americans who are very much still having a very hard time as it relates to housing, paying their bills.  And so, what we have done is, as you know, early on — very early on in this administration, we put forth a housing plan — affordability plan that we believe is going to try — try to get some of these — some of these families to get over those hurdles.  And we’re talking about thousands of families.
And we still need to do a lot more work on this.  But we certainly have put forth a plan to make sure that we address some of the concerns.  And that’s why lowering costs — the announcement today, the announcements that we’ve made on junk fees, the announcements that we have done — that we have made on lowering costs when it comes to gas or eggs and products like that and TVs are all important for Americans.
But you are right, there’s still more work to be done.  The President has said this.  We put forth, like I said, a plan to reduce mortgage insurance premiums, for example, to make sure that — you know, that student loan borrowers qualify for mortgages.  That’s really important as well.
And so, that — we have taken some steps on the federal level to ease that — to ease that burden on — on American families.
Q    Okay.  And I know you don’t tell the Fed what to do from here.  But in terms of people’s perception of the economy, of Bidenomics, how much of a — how much of a factor do you feel like interest rates — you know, the Fed is — where the Fed is setting interest rates plays into that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m — I’m going to be —
Q    Would it help — 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — really careful because even speaking on that is speaking on the Fed.  It is, as you know, an independent agency.  Going to be super mindful on that.  They make their own monetary policies.  So, I’m just not going to speak to that.
But obviously, we are — we are — certainly understand that there’s more work to be done in lowering costs, but I’m not going to — I’m not going to speak to the Fed’s policy — monetary policy.
Thanks, guys.
2:15 P.M. EST

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