2:21 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon.  Hello.  Okay, I have a couple things at the top, and then we’ll get going.
A short time ago, President Biden and Vice President Harris concluded a meeting with congressional leaders on the need to keep the government open and pass the national security supplemental.
In the meeting, the President made clear that Congress must take swift action to fund the government and prevent a shutdown. A shutdown would cause needless damage to hardworking families, our economy, and our national security.  The only path forward is through bipartisan bills that are free of extreme policies.
The President also emphasized the urgent need to Congress — for Congress to stand with Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia’s brutal invasion.
Ukraine has lost ground on the battlefield in recent weeks and is being forced to ration ammunition and supplies due to congressional inaction.
The bipartisan national security supplemental passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support — 70 to 29 — and would pass in the House if it was brought to a vote.
It would arm Ukraine, invest in America’s defense industrial base, help Israel defend itself against Hamas, and provide humanitarian aid for people impacted by conflicts around the world, including Palestinian civilians.
The President called on the House to support our national security and pass the supplemental, and made clear the dire consequences if they failed to act.
Now, today, in the wake of the Alabama Supreme Court decision threatening access to IVF treatment, HHS Becerra — Secretary Becerra is in Alabama today to hear from families and healthcare professionals.
Today’s visit is a critical part of the Biden-Harris administration’s ongoing work to hear directly from families impacted by the Republican elected officials’ extreme agenda.
The Biden-Harris administration will continue to fight back against attacks on reproductive freedoms, whether that’s attacks on abortion care, birth control access, and now IVF access.  It is absolutely unacceptable to this administration when women are denied the care that they need.
President Biden and Vice President Harris will continue to work to protect access to reproductive healthcare and call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law for all women in every — in every state.
And some news for you today.  This Sunday, March 3rd, Vice President Kamala Harris will return to Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday by joining the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
While there, she will deliver remarks on honoring the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and the Biden-Harris administration’s continued work to achieve justice for all and encourage Americans to continue the fight for fundamental freedoms.
Ala- — Alabama will be the 12th state the Vice President has traveled to in 2024 after visiting 24 states in 2023.
With that, my colleague, Admiral John Kirby from NSC, is here to give any updates in the Middle East.
MR. KIRBY:  Thanks, Karine.
I think — good afternoon.
Q    Good afternoon.
MR. KIRBY:  I think as you may know, USAID Administrator Samantha Power is in Israel this week for a series of meetings, including ongoing efforts by the United States to increase the delivery of lifesaving humanitarian assistance to civilians that live in Gaza.
Today, the Administrator announced that the United States will provide an additional $53 million in urgently needed humanitarian assistance, which will include assistance to the World Food Program and other international NGOs providing resources for food, shelter, water, medicine, sanitation, hygiene all to the people of Gaza and the West Bank. 
This brings the total amount of funding announced by the United States government since the 7th of October to more than $180 million.
Now, there is no question that much more aid is needed to address the critical and urgent needs on the ground.  That’s why President Biden and the entire team will continue to work every day to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza while also prioritizing the safety of civilians and aid workers.
That’s also why we are working so hard on a temporary ceasefire to not only get the hostages out and the fighting paused, but all — to get that critical humanitarian assistance in and to increase the flow.  There’s just not enough getting in right now.
There was significant progress towards those ends last week following U.S. engagements in the region.  We are building on that progress this week, and the President and his team remain engaged around the clock with multiple partners in the region.
But, as the President said just in the last 24 hours or so, there is no deal as of yet and there is a lot more work to do.  
Speaking of more work to do, the United States took additional action to counter terrorist financing and to disrupt Houthi attacks on international shipping. 
In coordination with the United Kingdom, we sanctioned the Deputy Commander of Iran’s IRGC, Mohammad Reza Falahzadeh, for his role as a Houthi-affiliated operative and for owning and operating a vessel used to ship Iranian commodities in support of both the Houthis and the IRGC.
We also designated two additional companies that own and operate a vessel involved in shipping more than 100 million dollars’ worth in Iranian commodities on behalf of Iran’s Ministry of Defense.
The Biden administration has now administered over 55 separate Iran sanctions rollouts targeting more than 550 individuals and entities.
All told, we’ve targeted — taken targets with Iran’s involvement in human rights abuses; hostage-taking; missile, drone, and non-prolifer- — -proliferation programs.
We have no plans to lift, waive, or provide any new sanctions relief for Iran, and we will continue to look ways — for ways to take action and to hold them accountable.
And with that, I’d take some questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Josh.
Q    Thanks, Karine.  John, two subjects.  First, with regard to Israel and the possible ceasefire, a senior official from Egypt told AP that there is a six-week ceasefire that could go into effect, with Hamas agreeing to free up to 40 hostages and Israel would release at least 300 Palestinian prisoners.  Would those terms provide sufficient incentives to both sides to find a way to work together?
MR. KIRBY:  We’re still negotiating, and I am not going to negotiate from the podium.  I’m not going to comment about those particulars.
We’re still working out the modalities of this — of this arrangement, and we’re hopeful that we can get there.
Q    And then, secondly, Secretary Yellen said today that she was looking toward unlocking the value of some $300 billion in frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine.  Does she want to spend that money?  Or is the U.S. looking to use it as collateral for, like, a debt issuance?
MR. KIRBY:  What we’re talking about here is the potential for using frozen assets.  Back in 2022, we froze some 300 billion dollars’ worth of Russian assets at the beginning of the war.
What we’re talking about is the potential of using some of those frozen assets to assist Ukraine in their ability to defend themselves but also to potentially assist with reconstruction in Ukraine.
Now, that — that — also, we still believe Russia needs to be responsible for the damage they’ve caused in Ukraine.  So, it’s not going to let them off the hook for that, but it could be used for that purpose as well.
Q    But — but are you going to spend it, or are you going to use it in an alternative way and keep it intact?
MR. KIRBY:  Again, the idea would be exploring the option of being able to use those frozen assets to help Ukraine as they defend themselves and as they try to recover from two years of war.
 But I want to make a couple of things clear.  Number one, we still need more legislative authorities from Congress for the President to be able to act on that, to, quote, unquote, “spend it” the way you’re talking about.
Number two — and this is not an unimportant thing, and the Secretary said this as well — we’ve got to have coalition — our coalition partners, who also were involved in the freezing of these assets, to come along with us.
And so, the conversations we’re hape- — hap- — havening — I’m sorry.  The conversations we’re having now are with our allies and partners about — about making sure that they’re on board with the usage of these frozen assets.
Q    Thank you, Karine.  John, thank you.  “Next Monday” is a very specific date that the President offered up for when this ceasefire could begin, especially, as you mentioned, if negotiations are still ongoing.  So, can you provide any insight about why he offered up the date of next Monday and what has to happen between now and then?
MR. KIRBY:  He told you himself that he was getting advised by his national security team, particularly our National Security Advisor, about the progress that we were making and the — the direction in which the talks were going.  We’re — we’re hopeful and cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to get this pause in place very, very soon.
Q    And then, secondly, has the President been briefed or seen Israel’s plan to evacuate Rafah?
MR. KIRBY:  We have not been presented with such a plan.
Q    Thank you.
Q    Admiral, the President referred to his hopes for a ceasefire.  You have used the word “pause.”  Previously, he has talked about “temporary ceasefire.”  Is he shifting his sense of what kind of a cessation in violence would be?  How long it would be?  Anything on that that is new, in his view?
MR. KIRBY:  I wouldn’t say that there’s anything new, Kelly.  I mean, a humanitarian pause, temporary ceasefire, they’re rough- — they’re roughly the same things.  We’re not talking about anything different.
Q    There’s a political —

MR. KIRBY:  What we’re hoping to d- —
Q    — difference, though.  When the President says “ceasefire,” it carries a different sort of weight.
MR. KIRBY:  What we’re hoping to do is to get an extended pause in the fighting — I’ve just called it a “temporary ceasefire” myself — that would allow for several weeks — hopefully, up to six — where there will be no fighting so that we can get all the hostages out, increase the flow of humanitarian assistance but, just as critically, get the fighting stopped so that there’s no more civilian casualties and there’s no more damage to civilian infrastructure.
Now, the last pause was a week.  What we’re hoping for is much more aggressive than that.  And as we’ve said before, we also hope that if we can get that in place — and both sides can abide by it for the course of several weeks, maybe up to six — that maybe that could lead to something more in terms of
a — a better approach to end the conflict writ large.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Selina.
Q    Thanks, Admiral.  Just to follow on Weija’s previous question, though.  We’ve learned, according to an Israeli source, that Netanyahu was quite surprised by the President’s comments about his expectations that there would be a ceasefire by Monday.  So, that doesn’t bode a lot of optimism that one of the key parties was surprised by that timeline the President had  set.  So, why did he say Monday?
MR. KIRBY:  I can’t speak for the surprise that foreign leaders have or don’t have with regard to things that we’re saying. 
The President talked to you all after staying completely up to speed — and he has been kept up to speed — on how these negotiations are going.  And he shared with you some context.  And he certainly shared with you his optimism that we can get there in — in, hopefully, a short order.
But he also said, you know, it’s not all done yet.  And you don’t — and you don’t have a deal until you have a deal.  We don’t have one right now.
So, the team is still working at this very, very hard, as I said in my opening statement, around the clock.  But we believe that we are getting closer.  And — and while we don’t want to sound too sanguine or Pollyannish about it, we do think that there has been some serious negotiations.
Q    And after Speaker Johnson’s meeting with the President, it doesn’t really sound like he’s changed his mind on Ukraine.  He again reiterated that the border needs to be addressed before Ukraine.  So, given this current trajectory, what does that mean for Ukraine and its battlefield needs?
MR. KIRBY:  I’d also point to what he said about, you know, taking up the issue of Ukraine funding in a timely fashion, and he said that right out there outside the West Wing.  And we know that he does support funding for Ukraine.  He said so himself.  We know that significant House leadership — and certainly on both sides of the aisle in the House — support funding for Ukraine.
Now, the question is: When you say a “timely fashion,” what do you mean by that?  I can tell you, to the Ukrainian soldier on the battlefront, timeliness is now.  It’s right now.
As — as you and I just came back from the weekend, the Russians started taking some other towns and villages.  Now, they didn’t — nothing to the significance of Avdiivka, in terms of the logistics hub that they want to create there.  But they’re on the move.  This is not some frozen conflict.
And so, we urge the Speaker, when he says a “timely fashion,” that he — that — that he actually lives up to that.  Because, again, to the Ukrainian soldier, the time is right now.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Steve.
Q    What’s the significance of trying to get a hostage deal in place before Ramadan starts on March 10th?
MR. KIRBY:  What we’re focused on, Steve, is getting this deal in place as soon as we can.  And you heard from the President — I mean, we’re — we’re hopeful that this can — this can happen in — in coming days.
And if that does — if we are able to get the pause in place and the hostages out in a relatively short order, then, clearly, an extended pause — as I was talking to Kelly about — would certainly take you into Ramadan.
But right now, it’s — it’s not about trying to beat the clock to Ramadan.  It’s about trying to get these two sides to come to closure on a deal that, again, would get all those hostages out and get the — and to get the fighting stopped.
Q    And separately, we took note of the remarks by the French President today on the possibility of sending French troops to Ukraine.  How would the United States regard any NATO Allies sending troops to Ukraine?
MR. KIRBY:  Well, that’s a sovereign decision that every NATO Ally would have to — would have to make for themselves.
You heard Secretary General Stoltenberg say himself he had no plans or intentions of — of — certainly under NATO auspices, of putting troops on the ground.  And President Biden has been crystal clear since the beginning of this conflict: There will be no U.S. troops on the ground in a combat role there in Ukraine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, M.J.
Q    Thank you, John.  Senator Schumer just said that Ukraine couldn’t afford to wait a month or two more for additional funding because it would, “in all likelihood lose the war.”  Is that the administration’s assessment as well?
MR. KIRBY:  It — the situation is dire, M.J.  As I said, the Russians not only took Avdiivka; they’ve taken a couple of other towns and villages in just the last 48, 72 hours. 
These guys on the — these Ukrainian soldiers on the — on the front, I mean, they’re — they’re making some real tough decisions about what they’re going to shoot at and what they’re going to shoot at it with.  And they’re running out of bullets, and it’s — it’s not — as Jake said the other day, it’s not running out of courage; they’re running out of bullets.
So, the situation is very dire.  I’m not in a position to put a time stamp on it and say, you know, by such and such date they’ll lose the war.  But they are certainly beginning to lose territory — territory that they had clawed back from the Russians and now they have to give it back to the Russians because they can’t — they can’t fight them off.
Q    I’m not asking you to give a prediction, but do you generally agree that in a month’s time, in two months’ time, it is very possible that Ukraine could lose the war without additional funding —
MR. KIRBY:  What I would —
Q    — as Senator Schumer said?
MR. KIRBY:  What I would tell that — as I said to Steve, the time is now — right now.  The dire — the situation is dire now.  I can’t predict what it’ll look like in a month or two because I can’t predict what the Russians are going to do. 
But certainly, if — just for argument’s sake, if they continue to get no support from the United States, in a month or two, it is very likely that the Russians will achieve more territorial gains and have more success against Ukrainian frontlines in terms of just territory gain, mostly in the East but potentially even in the South. 
Q    And just a quick follow-up on Israel.  Prime Minister Netanyahu said over the weekend that regardless of what happens with the ongoing hostage talks, that they plan to go into Rafah.  You just told Weijia that it’s not like the U.S. has seen some evacuation plan from the Israelis.  So —
MR. KIRBY:  It’s not — it’s not “like” we haven’t seen it.  We haven’t seen it.
Q    You have not.  That is what I meant.
Given that, do you believe that there is a — a plan by the Israelis to secure the safety of the civilians in Rafah before they enter Rafah, which, again, the Prime Minister says they are planning to do no matter what?
MR. KIRBY:  Well, the Prime Minister has also said that he has ordered the Israeli Defense Forces to — in producing a plan for operations in Rafah, to include in that a plan for securing the safety of the more than a million refugees that are there.
Again, we — we’ve not been presented one.  I can’t speak for the Israelis and to what degree their planning has progressed and what that looks like.  But the Prime Minister himself has said — he publicly said that he has tasked his generals to come up with one.
Q    But — but it’s fair to say the U.S. wouldn’t support Israeli forces going into Rafah until you all have seen a plan that makes you feel confident that there is a plan to secure the safety of the civilians?
MR. KIRBY:  That’s correct.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nadia.
Q    Thank you, Karine.  Hi, Admiral.  The U.N. Special Rapporteur said today that Israel is purposefully starving Palestinians in Gaza by destroying greenhouses, small-scale fishing boats, and their farms.  So, why the U.S. has not done a review of how this war is conducted while you are very quick to do it Ukraine against the Russians?
Q    And then a question for Karine.
MR. KIRBY:  Okay.  I’m not aware of the report coming out of the U.N. on the greenhouses, so I’m going to take that, and we’ll go back and look at that. 

As I’ve said, there — there is a process of supporting foreign militaries.  We are following that process.  And the State Department has acknowledged that — that when they are alerted to incidents of concern, they do look into them.  It’s not a formal review; it’s not some investigation, but it’s part of the normal process of security assistance to a foreign military.
Now, whether they’re looking at this one, I don’t know. 
And you had a question for Karine.
Q    I have a question about the Arab — sorry — about the Arab American community leaders today. 
Q    They said that their vote of noncommittal is an appeal to the White House, to the President, to stop the killing of their relatives in Gaza. 
Q    So, how will the White House change their strategy to address this issue that Arab Americans are concerned about and calling for?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m going to be really mindful because we’re talking about an election, so I’m not going to comment on — on an upcoming election.  But there’s a couple things I do want to say, which I think is incredibly important. 
First of all, you know that senior officials have gone to Michigan as of late — earlier this month to meet with Muslim and Arab Americans and we understand — right? — during a very deeply painful and personal moment, right?  We understand what they’re going through.  We understand what this means to this community.  And the President understand that too.
So, we care very much about what — about that and what the community, again, is going through.  And we wanted to convey that very strongly, obviously, which is why you had senior officials go direct- — go to Detroit, go to Michigan, to have those conversation.
And, look, we know it’s been a difficult time.  The Pr- — the President cares about that.  They care — he cares about what that community is feeling very deeply.  And we believe it’s important that they feel that they are able to — to express themselves and voice — voice their feelings and their concerns.
And so, look, you heard the Admiral talk about the hostage deal, the temporary ceasefire.  That is why it is so critical and important to get that done.  That is why you’ve seen this President and his administration work 24/7 to get that done, so we can get a temporary ceasefire, so we can get that humanitarian aid into Gaza, so that we can get those hostages — and we have American hostages that are — that are part of that number as well.  We want to get those hostages home to their families, to their loved ones.
And the President is not going to stop.  You heard him yesterday in New York.  He’s not going to stop until we get that done.  So, I’ll leave it there.
Let me let the Admiral finish.
MR. KIRBY:  (Laughs.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Danny.
Q    Thanks, Karine.  Thanks, Admiral.  I’m just going back to President Macron’s comments about not ruling out Western troops on the ground in Ukraine.  Has President Macron discussed that suggestion with President Biden at all?
MR. KIRBY:  I — I won’t go beyond the — the readout of the conversation.  I don’t have anything more to add on that.
Q    And very briefly, you said as well that President Biden has said before that he would not send U.S. troops to Ukraine in a combat role.  The French Foreign Minister suggested Western troops could be sent for demining or arms production or cyber.  Is there a possibility that — is that something that would be considered by the U.S?

MR. KIRBY:  No.  The only U.S. military personnel that — that are in Ukraine are associated with the embassy as part of the defense attaché office, and they’re doing important work in terms of helping us with the accountability of weapons and systems that are provided to Ukraine.
The President has been clear: There’s not going to be U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Raquel. 
Q    Thank you so much, Karine.  Hi, John.  One about Gaza and another one about Ukraine.

On Gaza.  What makes the President confident the ceasefire can be reached in a week?  Any breakthroughs that — that made him confident about that?
And any comment about the number of civilians dead in Gaza reaching 30,000?  How many more will have to die until the U.S. agree with a permanent ceasefire?

MR. KIRBY:  We don’t want to see one more die, which is why this pause we’re working on is so important.  The President was reflecting updates that he’d been getting from the national security team about the progress of those talks.

We’re hopeful and, as I said early, cautiously optimistic that we can get there — and hopefully in short order.  But it’s been — it’s been a lot of — lot of diplomatic work, a lot of negotiations to try to get us to this point. 

And we’re not there yet.  I think that’s important to say.  The President made that clear too.  It’s not — you don’t have a deal until you have a deal.  We don’t have a deal right now.

But as for how many more should die, again, I’ve said many times before, the right number of civilian causalities is zero.  We don’t want to see one more person, in- — innocent person killed in this conflict, which is, again, why this six-week-or-so pause could be so effective in terms of reducing the number of civilian casualties and giving us some breathing space to get more humanitarian assistance in and potentially talk about an end to the conflict.

Q    Another one on Ukraine, very quickly, because Senator Schumer described the meeting on Ukraine as the “most intense” he ever had in the Oval Office.  How does the President feel about it after the meeting?  Does he believe a deal can be reached?  He’s more or less optimistic about it?

MR. KIRBY:  The President believes that it’s important to continue to have these conversations.  He’s — he believes it’s important to make sure that — certainly, in the Speaker’s case, that he makes the case for why it’s important for this supplemental funding.

Obviously, the big purpose of the meeting today, as Karine already let you guys know, was really about preventing a government shutdown.  But, clearly, they had the opportunity to talk about the national security supplemental, and the President made his case.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, April.

Q    A couple of topics.  One, with the grassroots communities meeting with the President and — and administration officials.  Going back to the Dearborn, Michigan, issue, you’ve got a large contingent of Arabs, you’ve got a large contingent of Muslims, as well as Jewish people.
Karine, you just said you’re listening.  For both of you, as you’re listening, are you taking anything in as to what they are saying in these conversations?  Are you acting on any of what they’re saying?

MR. KIRBY:  Absolutely.  We take these conversations very seriously.  And — and without getting into specific details or disclosing some of the things that we’ve been hearing, we — we are taking them on board.  And we are — we are willing to adjust the — the way we’re approaching the conflict and the way we’re talking about the conflict to — to reflect those concerns.  But we’re taking them very seriously.

Q    So, as you’re taking them in and taking them seriously, it sounds like you’re acting on some of what they’re saying.  Is it more on the political front, the humanitarian front, or national security front that you’re acting on with — with these grassroots conversations?

MR. KIRBY:  I can only speak about the national security implications here.  And I can tell you very much that — because we’ve — the National Security Council has been a part and parcel of these conversations, and we’re coming back from them, we feel, informed, more educated, and certainly more understanding of some of the concerns that are out there in the Arab community and — Arab American community.  And, again, we’re — we’re taking that on board, and we’re doing — and we’re acting on it.

Q    And I know, as this meeting happened, it was about preventing a government shutdown.  But, again, there is an intertwining of foreign affairs, national security involved in the budget.  But is there a concern that it continues to be kicked down the road?  Because we’ve been kicking the — the can down the road since last year, and it just keeps going and going —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    — and going.  We keep coming to this point.  Is there a concern about that?

MR. KIRBY:  Absolutely.  I mean, when you don’t — when — you know, one of the things that’s — that’s been unfortunate throughout this appropriations process now, for two — you know, for the entire time we’ve been in office, is the use of continuing resolutions to try to keep the government going.

And just — not to — not to get into too lon- — too long an answer here, but when you’re ba- — basing everything on a CR, that means there’s certain things, like, for — in the defense world, where you can’t — you can’t enact new contracts for weapons systems or ships or airplanes because a CR only allows you to fund to last year’s numbers.  So, you’re limited.  You can’t start some new programs, and you can’t even pay for some programs using new funds because you’re — you’re stuck with the last year’s funding.

 So, it absolutely has an effect on national security.

Q    So, the CRs are crippling the military — the U.S. military capabilities?

MR. KIRBY:  It is definitely making it harder for the Defense Department to continue to support our global requirements when you are talking about continuing resolution funding.  It definitely hampers your flexibility.  No question about it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  We need to start wrapping up. 
Go ahead, Anita.

Q    Thank you so much, John.  I’ll start with Israel then move on to Ukraine.  You just said it’s not about trying to beat the clock to Ramadan, in terms of a ceasefire.  But how concerned is the administration about the possibility of escalation during Ramadan, during this holy month, and how, you know, it’s going to be seen for U.S.-backed troops to be attacking Muslim —

MR. KIRBY:  We’re mindful of the sensity — sensitivities, of course, around the month of Ramadan and the import- — the spiritual importance of that to — to the — to the Muslim world.  Of course, we understand that.

What — what we don’t want us — we — we want to see this temporary ceasefire in place as soon as possible.  And, again, if we can get the agreement for several weeks, it would take you through Ramadan anyway. 

The clock that we’re worried about is the — the hostages.  We can only assume that they are being held in abhorrent conditions and that their health is at risk, their lives are at risk.  We want to get them ba- — out as soon as possible.

Q    And then, just quickly, on Ukraine.  After this difficult conversation — or this intense conversation, sorry, in the Oval Office, are you looking at other funding possibilities — Lend-Lease or loans to Ukraine or weapon sales to Ukraine? 

And then, just to push you on Steve’s question and Danny’s question about the French President, are you — you know, has — does President Biden think it would be a good idea if France were to go into Ukraine (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  As for other funding, I’ve said before: There’s no magic pot of money here that we can dip into.  We need the supplemental funding.  We asked for it in October.  And, again, it was done in good faith and in consultation with our Ukrainian partners.  We need that funding.
Look, we’ll let President Macron speak — he — for his military and what he is or is not willing to do with — with his troops.
The President has been clear: He does not support U.S. troops involved in this conflict in Ukraine.  And I’ll leave it at that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  (Inaudible.)  Go ahead, Annie.
Q    Thanks so much.  Admiral, I just was hoping you can help me a square, sort of, two strains of conversation in this room.  One has been about the, sort of, conditions that the United States wants to see before Israel goes into Rafah.  The President himself referenced this last night, saying that he’d want to know about plans for evacuation before they go in and take out the remainder of Hamas.  Separately, we’ve been talking a lot about a ceasefire that could start as early as, you know, this weekend. 
So, can you help me understand: Is the idea here that there would be a invasion of Rafah before the ceasefire, or it’s going to come after the ceasefire?  I just —
MR. KIRBY:  So, the —
Q    I’m trying to understand wh- — how these two things are connected.
MR. KIRBY:  I understand the confusion.  But you actually do have to kind of consider them a bit separately.  And, again, I don’t want to speak for the Israelis.  The — they should speak to the operations they are or are not planning.
All I can tell you is that we’re — we haven’t been presented any kind of a plan to provide for the safety and security of the refugees there.  And we’ve said very clearly: We would not support Rafah operations unless or until there is a credible, achievable plan to provide for their safety and security.
So, I can’t tell you what timeline the Israeli Defense Forces are on, in terms of Rafah operations.
At the same time, we are in active negotiations, and we are hopeful that we’re getting to the conclusion or near the conclusion of those discussions and negotiations over a temporary ceasefire, which would, if enacted, last perhaps as long as six weeks from the time it was signed on to by both parties. 
In that six weeks, based on the — the idea of a temporary ceasefire, of course, there would be no fighting, which means civilian casualties will come down; damage to civi- — civilian infrastructure will be stopped; you’ll have breathing space to get more humanitarian assistance in; and, of course, not unimportantly, we’d have the ability to get all those hostages out.  The idea is to get them all out — all the hostages that are — that are remaining. 
Q    Is that in the plan —
MR. KIRBY:  But it would have to happen over stages.
Q    Is that when this —
MR. KIRBY:  So, if — wait.  So, if we were able to get this in place — I can’t give you a date certain on the calendar, but if we did, you can expect, should both sides abide by their commitments, several weeks of no fighting.
Q    So, would that mean that a Rafah invasion wouldn’t happen, or it would just be delayed until after the ceasefire?
MR. KIRBY:  There would be no fighting for the — for the entirety of the agreed-to timeframe.  No fighting anywhere.
Q    Thanks.  John, just on the Oval Office discussions today.  Speaker Johnson came out and — and — as he said before, that, you know, the southern border has to be addressed before — before Ukraine aid and funding.  They are saying that this shouldn’t be done legislatively; more so, that it should be done by rolling back executive orders or changing it from an executive perspective.  Is that part of these discussions?  And is the White House ruling out undoing some of the executive orders from earlier on in the administration?
MR. KIRBY:  I’d say a couple of things. 
First, the President has taken executive action at the border.  And he — and he certainly will continue to do so as appropriate and within the bounds of the law. 
He’s also said y- — that in order to make the changes, the fixes to border security, you got to have new legislation.  A lot of this has to do with capabilities, funding — I’m sorry, capabilities, personnel, and — and resourcing, infrastructure.  You can’t just make that happen through executive action, all of that.  You’ve got to have funding behind it, which is why the supplemental request was so important.  And the one submitted in October included border security. 
And the President said months ago he was willing to have a discussion with members of Congress about border security.  Border security was in the supplemental request.  And we worked with the Senate to get a bipartisan deal arranged that — that the Speaker said he absolutely insisted on.  And then, when it was delivered to him, he said, no, he didn’t want it. 
Q    So, there would have to be a legislative component to this if, let’s say, the Republicans are saying you can un- —
MR. KIRBY:  In order to —
Q    — unlock Ukraine funding if you were to do something executive-wise on — on the border?
MR. KIRBY:  We were willing to have a discussion — and did, with the Senate — about border security and Ukraine funding, as well as Israel and the Indo-Pacific.  That’s — we’re still willing to have those discussions. 
The — the Speaker has to decide exactly what he wants to do here and then move out.  He says he wants to act in a timely fashion on Ukraine.  Well, let’s go.  Let’s get them what they need.
And the President is more than willing to have discussions about the border.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  We’ve got to wrap it up.  Go ahead, Tam.  Last question.
Q    At what point do you declare the supplemental dead or too late to help Ukraine?
MR. KIRBY:  We need it now.  I wouldn’t even begin to speculate about what would be too late.  We’re already, in some ways, too — too late.  They lost the town of Avdiivka because of — literally because of ammunition.  So, in some ways, it’s already having a dramatic effect on the battlefield.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks.  Thanks, Admiral.  Appreciate it.
MR. KIRBY:  Yep.  You bet.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Give me one second.  Hi. 
Q    Hi.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  Go ahead.
Q    So — so, in the p- —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I had something to say, and I changed my mind.  Go ahead.  (Laughter.)
Q    I mean, all right.  So — so, in the past, you’ve described Speaker Johnson’s proposals as “not serious” regarding government funding, the border —
Q    — Ukraine.  In the Oval Office today, was Speaker Johnson serious?  Did he meet the threshold that the White House has set in the past?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things.  I know some — I know that Senator Schumer said it was intense.  Yes, the meeting was intense, but it was also very productive.  And I think that’s important to take that into account.
A couple of things that I would say is that all four congressional leaders agreed with the President and the Vice President that a shutdown is unacceptable.  But, as you all know, the clock is ticking.  It is ticking.  It has been ticking for some time now. 
And it continues to do so — right? — as it relates, obviously, to — to a potential shutdown but also — but also what we’re seeing — right? — with the national security supplemental.  This is something that we put forth back in October. 
And as it relates to that, all four leaders also understood the gravity — the gravity of the situation in Ukraine.  And they heard — and here’s the thing, they heard a sobering account from the CIA Director, who was in the room, about — about how Ukraine has lost ground on the battlefield — you heard me say that at the top — in recent weeks, because of congressional inaction. 
And so, this is the reality.  This is the reality that Ukraine is in.  This is the reality that we’re in when we talk about our national security.  And this is the reality that Congress is in.  They have not taken action.  And so, we are seeing what’s happening currently in the battlefield in Ukraine.
So, as the President said, there are consequences, and the consequences are incredibly dire.  Congress must take action.  We have to support our national security.  And that is what the President — that was the message that went into — during that — during that meeting.  And that’s how we saw the meeting play out.
All four congressional leaders were in agreement on those — on those two pieces that I just laid out here.  It is incredibly important to move forward.  The clock is ticking here.  The clock is ticking.
Go ahead.
Q    Thank you, Karine.  House Speaker Johnson and the President had their first —
Q    — face-to-face, one-on-one meeting.  What can you share about how that went? 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, yes.  And I think, obviously, the Speaker spoke to this himself when he was at the Sticks.  The President and the — and Speaker Johnson had a moment after — after the meeting — after the group meeting. 
I’m going to be mindful here.  It was a private discussion, so I don’t have a readout for all of you.  But it was — you heard — again, you heard from — from the Speaker on how — on his — his side of things.  I just don’t have anything else to share on — on the private meeting that they had.
Q    Okay.  Well, earlier, you just said that this was a very productive meeting. 
Q    On the Ukraine funding front, what was productive about it?  It seems like nothing has changed.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, look, I mean, there’s work to do, obviously.  Right?  There is work to do.  And we have said, if the Speaker puts this on the floor, it would get bipartisan support.  We believe that.  We’re talking about the national security supplemental, obviously.  It would have su- — bipartisan support.
I just laid out how all four leaders heard directly from the CIA Director about how dire it is and what we have seen the last couple of months in Ukraine because of the congressional inaction.  I mean, that is dire — right? — that they heard dire reports from the CIA Director on what is currently happening.
And, you know — and it’s not that — just that; it’s what you all have reported from what’s coming out of Ukraine and what we have seen as — as recently as last week when — when Russia took over one of the — one of the critical cities in Ukraine.
And so, look, the evidence is there.  They heard from the CIA Director.  The reporting — all of — you all have been reporting.  We’ve heard from President Zelenskyy directly about this.  It is — there are consequences here.  There are consequences. 
And — and, you know, Congress needs to act.  The House needs to act.  Senate acted.  Seventy to twenty-nine, they passed a bipartisan — in a bipartisan way this national security supplemental.  Now we need it to go to the floor.  We know — we know, hearing from Republicans in the House, that there would be bipartisan support. 
So, yes, it was productive in the sense that everybody was in agreement on what needs to happen next.  Now, we need to see that action in Congress.
Go ahead, Akayla.
Q    Yesterday, a U.S. airmen died after he set himself on fire —
Q    — outside an Israeli — or outside the Israel Embassy.  Was the President aware of his death?  Did he have any sort of response to it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, the President is aware.  And we can — I can say that it is — obviously, is a — it’s a horrible tragedy, and our thoughts are with the family of the servicemember at — during this — I could — we can’t even imagine this hor- — horrible, difficult time.
The Department of Defense and the Metropolitan Police are looking into this.  So, we’re not going to get ahead of that.  So, I would certainly refer you to them.  But it is — it is a horrific tragedy, what — what occurred the other day.
Q    Is there anything new that you can share about the President’s visit to the border on Thursday?  Does he have any plans to announce any executive actions?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have anything to — I’m not going to get ahead of the President.  Don’t have anything to — to announce at this time.  We’ve — we’ve spoken to executive actions.  I’ve spoken to that many times. 
We think the bottom line is: The way to have dealt with this border — the challenge that we see the border, what we see with this immigration — broken immigration system that has been broken for decades, is if we — if Republicans had moved forward with — with the bipartisan deal that came out of the Senate.
But instead of doing that, Donald Trump — they listened to Donald Trump, the former President, and they made it about politics.  They did not make it about an issue that majority of Americans care about.  They made it about politics and Donald Trump.  And that is unfortunate.
What I will say is just — and I said this yesterday in the gaggle; I’ll say it again.  As you all know, he’s going to travel to Brownsville, Texas.  He’s going to meet with U.S. Border Patrol agents, law enforcement, and local leaders, and he’s going to discuss the urgent need to pass the bipartisan — bipartisan proposal that came out of the Senate.
And we believe that if this proposal — this legislation were to become law, it would be, yes, the toughest but also the fairest.  And let’s not forget, it was — it was supported by the Border Patrol union, U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  And, you know, you don’t see that type of support for a bipartisan piece of legislation nowadays. 
And so, he’s going to reiterate to congressional Republicans to stop playing politics, to focus on the American people, to get this done.  If they are serious — if they are serious about giving the U.S. Border Patrol agents what they need, if they are serious about fixing the immigration system, they would get politics — push politics to the side and do — do the work on behalf of the American people.
Go ahead, Kelly O.
Q    Speaker Johnson referred to a separate second meeting with him and the President.  You referred to it as “a moment.”  Was it a separate sit-down?  Was it planned that the President would make that time available?  Or did that just kind of come out organically —
Q    — after their meeting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I think the — I think the President, you know, wanted to have a one-on-one conversation with Speaker Johnson.  They did.  It was — it was — it happened after the group meeting.  It was a brief — they spoke briefly.  It was a private discussion.
And so, that’s how we would call it.  It happened after the briefing.  He pulled him to the side while the other — other three left.  And they had a moment; they had a conversation.  I wouldn’t get too — too into the semantics here.  I would just say they had a moment, and I think it’s important that the — the President believed it was important to have a moment and to have a brief conversation with the —
Q    So, that sounds more like something that just came up today, not on the planned schedule —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean —
Q    — as you set the day.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I — it wasn’t — it wasn’t a planned — on — on the planned schedule.  I think the President wanted to have a one-on-one conversation with the Speaker.  He did that.  And it was an — he believed it was important to do. 
Don’t have a readout of it, obviously.  It was a private discussion, a private conversation.
Q    And if there were any agreement — if the Speaker had accepted a premise from the President or if they had made any kind of a more formal decision in that moment, would that be something you could share?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I think we’ve been very clear what we want to see, and it doesn’t change.  Right?  What we want to see is the national supplemental, as it was passed out of the Senate in a bipartisan way — 70 to 29 — to deal with our national security, to deal with what’s going on in Ukraine, to deal what’s going — what’s going on in the Middle East and Indo-Pacific — let’s not forget — we want to see that passed.  We want to see — because that hasn’t changed, right? 
So, there’s no separate deal here.  What we want to see is this national security supplemental be put to the floor.  And we know — we know, because we’ve heard from congressional House Republicans, that it would pass in a bipartisan way.  That’s what the President wants to see.
And they heard — these — the Big Four heard directly from the CIA Director about how dire — the consequences are dire.  And we’ve seen that.  We’ve seen Ukraine has lost ground in the battlefield. 
And so, we need to see that action.  We see — we need them to — to move forward on — on the supplemental.  That’s what the President wants to see. 
And obviously, there’s the other issue of a potential shutdown.  The clock is ticking on that as well.  They got to move.  They got to move and stop focusing on extreme positions here.  We got to move.  And this is about the American people.  That’s what this should be about. 
Go ahead, Selina.
Q    Thanks, Karine.  You said the Big Four all understand the gravity of the situation in Ukraine.  But does the President actually trust Speaker Johnson?  Did this move the ball forward at all in terms of convincing him to put Ukraine aid on the floor for a vote? 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, he needs to do — this is Speaker Johnson — needs to do what’s best for the American people.  He needs to do what’s best for our national security.  He needs to do what’s best for our countr- — our country.  He needs to put our national security supplemental on the floor.  That’s what we know.
The last time there was a vote on Ukraine, it got more than 300 votes — more than 300 votes, including many, many House Republicans.  That’s the reality. 
And so — and also keeping the government open — there are critical programs that the American people need.  If the government shut down — shuts down, Americans don’t get those critical programs that they need. 
And so, look, I can’t speak for, you know, the — the Speaker and what he’s going to do.  What I can speak for and what we can continue to reiterate from here and what the President can continue to reiterate is how important it is to move forward.  There are national security consequences here, as I’ve laid out moments ago.  And there’s also critical programs — important programs that the American people — as it relates to keeping the government open.
It is literally a basic duty that Congress has, and Republicans in — in the House are getting in the way of that, and they should not. 
Q    And the President sounded confident or optimistic that a government shutdown could be avoided.  But we’re only days away.  No bill text has been released.  There are still many, many policy disputes. 
Q    So, where is that optimism coming from?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, the President is an optimistic person.  You guys know that.  He talks about that often, in many speeches that he gives — he — he gives to the American people about optimism and possibilities.  That is a president who believes in that. 
And so, look, he’s going to continue to be optimistic.  He brought the Big Four here to have these critical, important conversations about how to move forward here. 
And it’s about the American people.  This is not about the President here.  We’re talking about the national security supplemental.  We’re talking about keeping — keeping the government open, even our border challenges.  This is about the American people. 
So, we have to be optimistic.  But he’s — we’re going to continue to do the work.  When the Big Four — when the congressional members left, what was agreed upon is that their teams would continue to have conversations, obviously — with our teams — OMB, Office of Leg Affairs — to continue to have those conversation on how to — how to certainly deal with what’s going on with the potential shutdown, as the clock is ticking. 
And we’re going to continue to push — to continue to push to make — to — to, you know, reiterate the importance of putting that national security bill on the floor.  It already came out of the Senate in a bipartisan way.  It needs to go to the floor and the House.
Q    Is it more and more likely we’ll just get another CR?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I can’t speak to — I’m not going to speak to, you know, how — you know, the — how — how Congress is going to move with a procedure.  I’ll leave that up to them and how they want to move with the CR, if there is a CR.
What we are going to continue to re- — reiterate and say from here is how important — important to get that national security supplemental through, how important it is to continue to keep the government open. 
And we’re not going to stop talking about the border.  You’ll see the President in — on Thursday in Texas talking about how important it was to — you know, to get that bipartisan Senate agreement. 
And because of — again, because of the former President, Republicans decided to reject a bipartisan agreement that was supported by the Border Patrol union, that was supported by U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which you don’t see very often in this current political climate.
Go ahead.
Q    The CIA Director’s participation, was that planned well in advance?  Was that the President’s idea?  Did he show maps?  How — how did all that go?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m not going to go into specifics and details on — on the meeting.  What I can say is that the CIA Director was there.  He laid out the — the consequences, how dire they were.  He talked about what was going on in the battle- — in a battlefield, obviously, and how Ukraine was losing ground, which is important. 
I think we believe — the President believed it was important to hear directly from the CIA Director.  Let’s not forget the meeting that the President held not too long ago, just last month, had the National Security Council folks in there, other folks from the intelligence community. 
So, this is — this is — this is a normal, obviously, situation that we’ve had before in making sure that the Big Four hears directly from the intelligence community, and that’s what you — that’s what happened today. 
I’m not going to go into specifics, but he was very clear. He laid it out for them — how dire the consequences are right now.  And Ukraine needs our help.  The brave people of Ukraine who have been fighting for their democracy, you know, they need continued — continued assistant from us.  And it’s not about just their democracy.  It’s about our national security as well.
Go ahead, M.J.
Q    Speaker Johnson again called on President Biden to take executive action on the border.  Does the White House, at this point, believe that it has many more executive actions that it can take, or does it believe that it’s come close to exhausting those options?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Here’s what I will say, M.J.: We believe in order to deal with what’s happening at the border, you need a legislative solution.  You do.  It doesn’t matter — we don’t think — we don’t believe — the bottom line is: We don’t believe that an executive action would — would amount to what this legislation — this bipartisan legislation would have — would have been able to do if it was enacted into law — if it was passed, obviously, and enacted into law.
And what it would have done is been the toughest but also the fairest deal, with providing resources, obviously, that’s needed for law enforcement, and make some key changes as it relates to the immigration — immigration system.  That’s what we believe. 
I don’t have anything to share about any additional executive action.  As I’ve said before, don’t have a decision here to — to share with all of you. 
But we fundamentally believe that if that bipartisan agreement that came out from the Senate was — was moved or was even voted out of the Senate and then, obviously, moved to the House and enacted into law, it would have been the first step, that beginning step, to deal with a real issue that majority of Americans care about.
Anything else, I just don’t have an- — anything to share.
Q    I have a question on a different topic.  Former President Trump suggested recently that his mugshot and his legal troubles are being embraced by Black people because they understand what it’s like to be targeted and discriminated against. 
I just wonder: You know, you are a White House that prides itself on, you know, your relationship with the Black community, its, you know, outreach to the Black community.  The President himself talks frequently about how he believes he won in 2020 thanks to Black voters.  What was his response to that comment from the former President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, and I do have a couple of things to say about that.  I want to be really careful because it was said — he said it as a candidate.  Obviously, don’t want to comment on 2024.  But speaking separately — right? — speaking apart from that and just being very candid here, it’s repugnant and it’s defice — divisive to — to traffic in racist stereotypes.  That’s what we have seen.  And that affect all Americans, right?  You’re tearing up all Americans by doing this. 
It is, again, divisive and repugnant.  And it’s coming from, obviously, a former president of the United States.  And in any context, it is profane to compare the long, painful history — the long, painful history of abuse and discrimination suffered by Black Americans and — to something that is totally different than self-serving purposes. 
That’s what we saw from the former President.  A former president — let’s not forget, this is c- — where this is coming from. 
And that is not — as you stated in — in your question to me, M.J., this is not what Joe Biden wants to see.  He has been always very clear that hate has no safe harbor here.  He’s all about making sure we move forward with shared values, making sure that everyone — everyone in this country has the dignity and the respect that they deserve — every community.
And so, that is what we need to hear right now, not a div- — divisive, repugnant statement from a former — former president that really tears apart a painful history that a community — that a community has gone through — the Black community.  And it is — it is repugnant.  It is absolutely repugnant.
Q    Just to clarify, is that description reflective of how the President himself —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I speak for —
Q    — is —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — the President of the United States as the White House Press Secretary.  Absolutely.
Q    He’s aware of the comments, though, from the former President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Ab- — he’s aware of the comments.  I’ve spoken to him directly about these comments.  He’s aware.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q    Thanks.  Back on the Ukraine aid.  You’ve said several times during this briefing that the House should put on the floor the bipartisan bill that the Senate has already passed.  House Speaker Mike Johnson said after the meeting that he was very clear with the President that the House is “actively pursuing and investigating all the various options” on that.  That doesn’t sound like he is ready to just take that Senate bill and put it on the floor. 
Can you tell us what he said to the President about the “various options” that the House would consider?  Are they going to break up what the Hou- — what the Senate has already passed?  Would they put something into it?  What did he tell the President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What — what we are supporting right now is the national security supplemental that came out of the Senate.  That’s what we want to see.  That’s what we want to see put on the floor.  That’s what we’re going to continue to make sure we push forward.
There is bipartisan support.  You’re talking about one — obviously, one member — one member in Congress.  But we have seen other members, other Republicans who have said they would support this, who have said they — they want to have bi- — they want to vote on this national security supplemental.  It would get — we know it would get bipartisan support.
And so, that’s what we want to see.  We’re going to be consistent on that.  That’s how we want to see the House move forward.
Q    But did the Speaker tell the President he would not put that Senate bill on the floor as it is right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would let the Speaker speak for himself.  I think you were speaking about a con- — another congressional member.
Q    No, I’m saying —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I’m so sorry.
Q    — Speaker Johnson said that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Well —
Q    Af- — after the meeting, Johnson said that he told the President that the House is pursuing and investigating various options on the security — supplemental security bill.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We have been very clear: We want to see the national security supplemental that was passed out of the Senate go to the floor of the House.  We know it would get bipartisan support.  That’s what we want to see.
And what I said — and you — you are correct, all fours — all four congressional leaders understood the gravity as it relates to the national security supplemental, as it relates to Ukraine — the gravity of the situation in Ukraine.  They heard directly from the CIA Director: We want to see the national security supplemental that — that came out — 70-29 out of the Senate.  It should be put to the floor.  We know it would get bipartisan support.
Go ahead.
Q    Hi, Karine.  Thanks.  You’ve referenced several times that the bipartisan Senate border bill has been endorsed by the union that represents Border Patrol agents.  Brandon Judd, the president of the National Border Patrol Council — the main union for the Border Patrol agents — will actually be joining Donald Trump on Thursday for his border visit.  And he said he actually did not receive an invite from the White House.  And we were wondering what your response to that is and if there was any reason why.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I — I — we’ll have more to share on what Thursday is going to look like.  We’ll have more to share on who is going to be joining the President.  I don’t have anything beyond — beyond what I just laid out.
But it is a fact that the — the Border — the Border Patrol union did indeed support the bipartisan proposal that came out of — of the Senate.  And I think that’s important to state.
I can’t speak to him being with the former President in Texas.  That’s for him, obviously, to speak to.
And we’ll — certainly will have more as we get closer to Thursday.
AIDE:  One or two more. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, April.  Go ahead.
Q    Karine, this week, the Vice President has been talking to groups about voting rights.  She — as you said at the top today, she’s going to Selma on Sunday to commemorate Bloody Sunday.  But the actual date of Bloody Sunday’s anniversary is March 7th, the day of the State of the Union Address.
Now, with that said, is the President going to deal with the issue of voting rights within the State of the Union Address that happens to fall on the historic date of Bloody Sunday?  And what can he say and what will he say as we are now voting without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act?  It’s been completely gutted, so —
Q    — what’s he going to talk about?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re right.  It’s been completely gutted.  And it’s shameful that it’s been completely gutted. 
I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s State of the Union Address.  I want to be really mindful.  The President is working on it.  And obviously —
Q    How many drafts?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  I’m not going to get into that. 
But what I can say is obviously the President understands, and you’ve seen him do this a couple times before — right? — address Congress, and not just address Congress — speak directly to the American pe- — to American people in primetime about the state of the Union —
Q    Right.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — about what he sees is important to the American people, how to move forward.  And you’ll see him address that.  Just not going to get ahead of that.
As it relates to voting rights, look, you’re right.  You know, the access to — to voting has been compromised in many ways.  It’s been gutted, obviously, as you just laid out.  And let’s not forget the action that the President took very early on in his administration.  He signed an executive action to deal with vo- — voting rights access on the federal level.
And so, he took that very, very seriously, and he continues to call for Congress to take action here on voting rights. 
And so, I’m not going to speak to the President’s State of the Union and if that’s going to be included.  You’re right, it’s going to be on a — on a very important anniversary of Selma.  I just don’t want to get ahead of the President at this time.
Q    Okay.  So, let’s stick with State of the Union and then something different.  So, State of the Union is typically optimistic about what’s going on in the country.  Is the state of the Union strong at this point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to let the President speak to that.  But, look, I think I was asked this question earlier about the optimism of this President.  He is optimistic.  And you hear him say — he tends to end many of his speeches — and I kind of said this a little bit — about possibilities and how important it is. 
And, you know, as President, as authentically Joe Biden, he believes in possibilities.  He believes in all communities, as we’re talking about voting rights, to have the possibilities — to not be left behind. 
And you see that in every policy that he’s moved forward with, especially his economic policies.  You see that in all of the legislation, to make sure that we have equity at the center of all of these important pieces of legislation and policies that we move forward with.
And he wants to make sure that we build a — for example, an economy from the bottom up, middle out.  And we have seen — we have seen some successes in these communities.  We have seen success in the economy, turning it around.  It was at a tailspin when the President walked in after what we saw the last administration do to the economy.
And so, look, he’s going to continue to do the work.  Again, I don’t want to get ahead of this President.  You’ll hear from him directly, obviously, on that day on the state of the Union.  But he is always optimistic.  And I think it is important — I think, for him, it is important, as you speak to the American people, you have to show that optimism, even if there are still a lot of — as there’s still a lot of work to be done.
All right.  Go ahead, (inaudible).  I’m going to start wrapping it up.  Go ahead.  
Q    Thank you, Karine.  Speaker Johnson left here saying that — “Border first.”  Do we know what he wants at the border?  There’s many actions that the President could take.  Does he have anything that — that he’s demanding, and is there anything the President could give to compromise so he would move up Ukraine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, here’s the thing, Cristina — and I appreciate the question.  I don’t even think he knows what he wants.  No, ser- — and I say that very seriously. 
They first asked for — when we put forward the national security supplemental, it had border security in it, and we were told by the Speaker and others we need to deal with the border security challenges first.  You had a bipartisan group of senators coming — coming out of the Senate, working for four months with — with the White House to put forward a bipartisan piece of legislation that dealt with a important, important — important challenge that we see at the border in immigration.
And then, so we did that.  We moved that forward.  We presented it.  And it — we were told, “No, no, no, no, no, we want — we don’t want the border security; we want just the national security supplemental without border security.” 
Then, the Senate goes back, and they pass the national security supplemental without the border security — 70-29.  We did that — or they did that, and the Speaker refuses to put that to the floor.
So, what is it that he really wants here?  If you look at the border security deal, that proposal, it has — components of that has what the Speaker has been talking about for years.
So, the question is really for him.  Like, you know — and — and let’s not forget why that happened.  That happened because Donald Trump told them — told Republicans that if they move forward with the border security negotiated deal that came out of the Senate in a bipartisan way, that it would help this current president — it would help President Joe Biden. 
And they put politics — they put politics first, instead of the American people.  That’s what we’ve seen.  That is what has been developing.  You all have written about it.  That’s what we have seen.
Now, we’re going to continue to talk about the dire needs that we’re — the consequences that we’re seeing in Ukraine, as you just heard me say over and over again during this briefing, and the importance of getting that national security supplemental done.  They heard directly from the CIA Director — right? — today. 
We’re going to continue — the President is going to go to Texas — Brownsville, Texas, to be more specific — to talk about the importance of moving forward with the border security challenges, that particular negotiation that came forth in a bipartisan way. 
And let’s not forget: The clock is ticking on the government shutdown.  This is not how our government should be done — moved here — run here.  You know, House Republicans need to do their jobs.  They need to do their jobs.  They need to do what is best — what is best for our national security, what is best for the American people.
I know you guys are probably tired of hearing me speak.  We’ll see you guys tomorrow.
Q    Thanks, Karine.
3:24 P.M. EST

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