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Press Briefing by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre – September 2 2023

12:37 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi.  Good afternoon, everybody. 

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  So, today, President Biden will celebrate the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disability [Disabilities] Act and the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act.

President Biden fought for the passage of both bills when he was senator because he believed then, just as he believes now, that the federal government owes dignity and respect to every American, especially those with disabilities.

Soon, on the South Lawn, the President will be joined by Americans with disabilities and their families, members of Congress, and advocates.

And he’ll be introduced by Selma Blair, a woman who is challenging stereotypes about what people with disabilities can do.

Today, as we celebrate these landmarks — these landmark laws, the Biden-Harris administration remains committed to moving America closer to the promise of equal opportunity for everyone.

And later this afternoon, the President will convene his Cabinet to get an update on the progress we’re making on pressing priorities for the country, including implementing the historic legislation he has signed into law, balancing the promise and peril of artificial intelligence and taking action on gun violence.

With that — hey, Josh.

Q    How are you, Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good to see you.

Q    Good to see you.  Happy Monday.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Happy Monday indeed.

Q    All right.  Two major subject areas post-non-shutdown.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    Speaking McCarthy has said he has not spoken with President Biden on Ukraine, and that his objection to the funding is that the White House has not shown, quote, “how we’re going to win and what is our mission.”  End quote.  What does winning look like in Ukraine?  Does the President plan to speak with Speaker McCarthy?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — look, I don’t have any conversations to — to read out or a planned conversation with the Speaker.  Look, the Speaker was on TV yesterday — on television yesterday, showing and speaking to the commitment that he has made to the Ukrainian people.  And he said yesterday, “I support being able to make sure Ukraine has the weapons that they need.” And he — in fact, he said that multiple times yesterday.  So, he has made publicly his support to Ukraine.

There’s a bipartisan support, as we have seen from day one, for continued funding — for funding, I should say, in Ukraine.

And look, let’s not forget what the purpose of this is for.  This is for the con- — to see the continuation of the brave people in Ukraine to fight for their freedom — right? — to fight for their democracy.  And so, that’s what we want to continue to do.  That is — that is what the President wants to continue to see. 

And not just us — there are Republicans and Democrats in Congress — in a bipartisan way, he wants to see the funding in Ukraine continue.

Q    And then, secondly, in light of the CR, has President Biden or anyone in the administration been in touch with our allies about Ukraine?  Are they having to address concerns?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we have been in touch with some of our — with our allies and partners, certainly, about — about Ukraine, and we — that is something that we have done for some time now over the past — I don’t know — 17, 18 months, and — and so, that’s going to continue.

The President, as you know, was able to bring more than 50 countries together to contin- — to show their support for Ukraine.  That’s our partners and allies. 

You saw what he was able to do with the NATO Alliance; they are the strongest that they’ve — that Alliance is the strongest that’s ever been.  And so, that commitment is — is going to continue, that con- — commitment — our message to the world is going to be, you know, the President continuing to restore our leadership, as we have seen, and — and continuing to strengthen that — that alliances.

Look, we are going to — you know, we’re going to continue help to Ukraine as long as it takes. 

And the President said yesterday, what we have seen from extreme Republicans’ actions does not help.  It doesn’t help with our allies and partners.  It does not. 

But we’re going to continue to deliver for the American people, and we’re going to continue to advance our national security priorities, because by helping Ukraine, we are also — also protecting and — and delivering for the American people and our national security.  So, that’s important as well.

Go ahead, Mary.

Q    Just to follow up on that.  You know, the President said yesterday that, you know, “We’re going to get it done,” when asked about aid for Ukraine.  How can you be so sure, though, especially given the Speaker’s potentially perilous future?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Because the Speaker has said himself, yesterday, that he wants to continue to support Ukraine to make sure that they have the weapons that they need.  He has said it multiple times even yesterday. 

We’ve seen bipartisanship on this — on this issue to continuing the funding for Ukraine.  This is a — you know, the President said it: The Speaker and the overwhelming majority of the Congress have steadfastly supported — supported Ukraine.

So, there is a bipartisan support for this from the beginning.  It’s going to continue.  We have heard from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and that’s what we expect.

Q    And on the Speaker’s future.  Does the President think that Democrats should bail out Kevin McCarthy if it comes to that?  Should Democrats help him stay in that role?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the President was asked this question yesterday by one of your colleagues, and he said he doesn’t have a vote, right?  That’s something for House Republicans to figure out.

What the President is going to continue to do is deliver for the American people.  He’s — while they are pur- — cl- — clearly showing chaos and not able to do that — deliver for the American people — he’s going to focus on growing the economy.  He’s going to focus on growing the middle class. 

And as it relates to anybody else, the Democrats — that’s their decision to make.  That’s where — that’s for Democratic leadership and House Democrats themselves to figure that out.

Q    You mentioned the President doesn’t have a vote here, but surely this is something that the White House isn’t — is discussing with leadership on the Hill?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Absolutely, that is not something ab- — we are not —

Q    There has been no conversation between —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is something — we — we do not get involved when it comes to leadership conversation.  That is something for House Democrats, House Republicans — in this particular instance — to figure out. 

Q    And can you just clarify one more thing?  Because we’ve heard Matt Gaetz and others put a lot of attention on this.  That — what exactly did the President mean yesterday when he was asked if he could trust the Speaker on the next deal, and he said, “We just made one about Ukraine.”  We just heard Matt Gaetz again on the floor, insisting there’s been some secret deal made between the President —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I’ll —

Q    — and the Speaker. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll leave Matt Gaetz to speak for himself and what he — what he meant on whatever he just said.  Right now, I hadn’t have a chance to — to listen to — to the congressman because I was getting ready to come out here. 

Look, I mean, just on trust, more broadly — you know, I know, we’ve been asked that question.  Look, it’s not about trust; it’s about Congress doing their basic duty — is to keep the government open.  That’s what this was about.

When it relates to what the President said, I’m certainly not going to go beyond what he said. 

But what we know — what we know is that there’s bipartisan support for this deal.  Again, Speaker McCarthy was on the air multiple times yesterday saying that he wants to — he certainly wants to continue support for Ukraine to get the weapons that they need.  And so, we’re going to hold them to that.  That is something that he has said.  That is a commitment that he has made.

Q    When the President said “We just made [a deal] about Ukraine.”

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I’m saying is that there’s been a bipartisan — there has been a bipartisan focus and agreement to continue the funding for Ukraine.  That is what we’re looking at.  That is what we’re speaking to.  And that’s what we’re going to see.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just to follow up on that.  How critical is it for the White House that Speaker McCarthy remain in power for the time being?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It is not up to us to decide.  It really isn’t.  That is up to the House Democrats and House Republicans more — more — more specifically, House Republicans to decide on that — on that action or on that way forward.

Q    But surely, I mean, it’s not in the White House’s interest to undergo an extended fight and chaos over the speakership.  What are the President’s thoughts on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The President says we — he — we don’t have a — he doesn’t have a vote in this matter.  That’s what the President said yesterday.  He does not of — have a vote on this matter.  It is something for House Republicans to decide. 

And, look, you’re right.  There is chaos in House Republicans.  I mean, what we saw this weekend should not have happened.  It should not have happened. 

I mean, thank goodness that the government is open and that we’re — and critical programs are now moving forward. 

But we should have never — they should have never marched us to the brink that they did.  And it is their basic, basic, basic duty to keep the government open. 

And so, we’re just not going to get involved.  That is for House — House Republicans to decide.

Q    And a question on Ukraine funding.  Are you able to outline for us how much the U.S. has left in funding for Ukraine, both military and humanitarian, until the new funding bill is approved?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, any specific questions on the funding that is left, I would have to — I’d have to refer you to the Department of Defense.  They’ll be — they’ll be more — more able to share what is the presidential draw- — drawdown authorities — what’s left there. 

But look, we — you know, it is enough to — for us to meet the — meet Ukraine’s urgent battle- — battlefield needs for a bit — for a bit longer, but will remaining — we’ll be maintaining our — our steady cadence of PDAs, for sure. 

But it is not the long-term solution here.  It is not the long-term solution.

Q    Can you confirm that the President is planning to call allies that — that funding for Ukraine will continue?  There’s a story that’s breaking right –

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I don’t have any calls to preview for you at this time with allies or partners.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Congress was not able to pass the 12 bills to fund the government in the last four months since the President reached the broad spending deal with them on June 2nd.  What gives the White House confidence that they’ll be able to do that in the next 45 days?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Because it’s their — again, this is their — their basic, basic, basic duty is to keep the government open.  We shouldn’t have to wait 45 days.  House Republicans should not have to wait 45 days to do their jobs. 

And one of the things that Speaker McCarthy learned is, you know, that you have to do your job — right? — which is why, I think, we moved — he moved forward.

And so, look, this is something that Congress — is their duty to do — is to keep the government open, to make sure that federal government employees get paid, to make sure these cr- — these critical, important programs are — are — continue to be paid — paid-in so that families across the country — American families, the cou- — the country are getting those critical programs.  And so, this is their basic duty.  This is their basic duty.

Q    And government funding now goes through November 17th, which is right around the time that the President is expected to be in San Francisco for APEC.  What discussions are happening about what impacts that could have on the President’s meeting with leaders of — of China and other countries?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I just don’t have any — I’m not going to get into hypotheticals from here. 

Again, they don’t have to wait 45 days to get this done.  They really don’t.  There’s no excuse for another crisis.  That is what the President said yesterday.  And they have to stop the games.  They have to stop playing these games.  That’s, again, what the President said: They have to get to work and stop playing games and do their duty or else we’re going to be in the same place that we were this weekend a month ago — a month from now.

And so — and, you know, what they’re doing instead is pursuing these 30 percent cuts.  We’re talking about education.  We’re talking about Meals on Wheels.  We’re talking about really critical programs that Americans are — are — need just to move through their day-to-day lives. 

And so, we can’t be focusing on that.  They need to keep the government open, continuing to do that: their basic, basic duty. 

Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, thanks.  One point that Speaker McCarthy made repeatedly on “Face the Nation” yesterday was that he wants any additional funds for Ukraine tied to congressional action on border security.  Is that something that the White House would consider supporting for a vote on Ukraine funding?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I think the American people are fed up.  They’re fed up of the political games, the political stunts that House Republicans are doing on our national security and also our government. 

You have a President who has delivered record funding — record funding to make sure that we have additional — record additional Border Patrol, federal employees at the border.  This is something that he has done and has delivered on.

And instead, extreme — these extreme House Republicans — what did they do?  They just passed, two weeks ago, a — proposed cutting DHS funding by 8 per- — 8 percent.  They’re the ones who are saying that they want to defund DHS.  That’s what they’re saying. 

Meanwhile, you know, we — we’re trying to do everything that we can to make sure that we deal with what’s going on at the border. 

But as it relates to Ukraine funding, there’s bipartisan support.  We’ve heard that from Republicans and Democrats.  And we appreciate the bipartisan support that we have seen for Ukraine.  And we ho- — we — we are confident that we’re going to continue to see that.

And so, look, this is about freedom and democracy against the — against Russia’s invasion, aggression against the Ukrainian people.  And this is also about — about protecting our national security as well.

Q    And then, does President Biden plan to go to Senator Feinstein’s funeral service on Thursday in California?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t — I don’t have any schedule updates for the President this week to share.

Q    In the back, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Danny.  I’ll come to the back.  Go ahead, Danny.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  The Kremlin said this morning that Western fatigue over Ukraine is going to grow in the United States and other countries.  After what happened here in Washington this — this weekend, I mean — you know, how do you respond to that?  What can the United States do to prevent that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, here’s our message to Putin.  He has built — the President has built a coalition of more than 50 countries — right? — he providing — to provide aid to support Ukraine.  That is what the President has done.  And we have rallied more than 140 countries to condemn Russia’s invasion into — into Ukraine.  That’s what the President has been able to do.  

There is strong — a very strong international coalition behind Ukraine.  And if Putin thinks he can outlast us, he’s wrong.  He’s wrong. 

And so, we will have another package of aid for Ukraine soon to signal our continued support for the brave people of Ukraine. 

And so, that’s our message.  If he thinks he can outlast us — that is, Mr. Putin — we believe he’s wrong.

Go ahead.

Q    Karine, following on that, the Financial Times reported Russia has successfully avoided Western sanctions on almost all oil exports by using Chinese yuan to avoid those sanctions.  What confidence do you have that those sanctions — that this is continuing to work?  And how can the White House continue the same path using sanctions to try and change Russia’s behavior without enlisting China in some way?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we have worked with our — we’ve worked with our allies and partners to immobilize half of Russia’s reserves — about $300 billion.  It’s cutting Russia off from a key source of its economic resilience. 

Last year, rather than its forecasted budget surplus, Russia suffered a budget deficit, despite record oil and gas revenues.  And that’s what we saw last year.

And now this year, their fiscal situation has deteriorated even further.  In just six months, the price cap on Russia — Russian oil has contributed to a significant decline in government oil revenue at a key junction in the war, down nearly 50 percent from a year prior.  And as of June, the budget deficit for the first half of the year has reached 90 percent of the projected full-year deficit. 

So, we will continue to impose further pressure on Russia going forward.  And that’s going to be our focus.

Q    Following, it came out in the Wall Street Journal that Wang Yi is going to be visiting Washington, D.C., in the near term.  Do you have anything for us on a potential Xi visit?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything further beyond what the President shared not too long ago about meeting with President Xi.

Go ahead, April.

Q    Karine, digging in the weeds a little bit about talks, about these appropriations: What is the construct of these meetings that the White House is having with Republicans or Democrats and Republicans are working on these appropriations? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I have said for many, many weeks now that as — as House Republicans were leading us to the brink of a potential shutdown, that members here of the White House — we had our Office of Legis- — Legislative Affairs.  We had the OMB Director, Shalanda Young.  She’s — I think she’s spoken to this very recently.  Had regular conversations and have been in regular conversations with members in Congress. 

I don’t have anything specific to share.  I’m not going to go into private conversations. 

But we’ve also been very clear, like, while we have had dialogue with members of Congress, this is something — when it comes to keeping the government open, when it comes to, you know, moving forward with this deal that the President made with Congress — “a deal is a deal,” as you’ve heard us say many times — it is up to them.  It is for them.  This is their basic, basic job is to keep the government open. 

Q    So do you believe that there’s a ramp-up?  Or is it still the same in efforts to prevent kicking the can down the road again with another CR?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But they shouldn’t have to.  They shouldn’t have to wait 45 days — right? — to deal with this.

House Republicans could get this done.  We should not have to wait 45 days.  There’s no excuse for another crisis here.  This is what the President said yesterday.  They got to do their jobs.  We should not be — we should not be looking towards 45 days from now and trying to figure out what — where we’re going to be.  This is something that they can take care of now. 

Q    And lastly, you said “chaos.”  Does this chaos that includes this motion to vacate — does that put a chink in all of the works to try to move towards getting a new budget solution?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, the chaos is clear.  I mean, you all have reported it.  What we’re seeing with House Republicans is pure chaos. 

There’s extreme group of people in — in the — in the Republican Conference that is putting forth these extreme pieces of legislation that is hurting — that would hurt American families.  I just got — talked about talked about the 30 percent that they want to cut in Meals on Wheels, education — you name it — programs that are critical — critical to Americans across the country. 

That’s what — that’s the chaos.  That’s what they’re trying to head us down the road.  And they almost — almost shut down the government. 

And so, it is — you know, let’s not forget — and I — I believe the director said this yesterday — like 200 Democrats — more than 200 Democrats voted to keep the government open.  So, we know where House Democrats are.  Right?  We know that they want to do their jobs. 

It’s the chaos that we’re seeing from House — from House Republicans that led us to this crisis.  And we don’t need this.

Q    So, the motion to vacate has nothing —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The motion of vacate has nothing to do with us.  That has absolutely nothing to do with us.  That is something for House Republicans to figure out.  And we’re going to let the leadership figure that piece out. 

Q    Follow-up on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  The White House has been clear, of course, that you don’t want to negotiate further on further cuts after the deal in May.  But would — first, does the President believe that the deficit is something that should be reduced?  And would he be open to some kind of bipartisan commission looking at deficit reduction as part of a spending deal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can say — tell you for sure is that the President — everything that he has put forward — when you look at the policies, even the legislation that have become law — deals with lowering the deficit.

Even that budget agreement that we saw back in June — May, June — that was agreed upon, bipartisan, that was voted by two thirds of the House Republicans — that lowered the deficit by $1 trillion in 10 — over 10 years. 

So, clearly, this is a president that wants to focus on lowering the deficit.  This is something that you hear him talk about almost every time he talks about the economy and where we are — growing the economy, growing the middle class. 

So, obviously, this is — this is an issue that is important to the President. 

I’m going to move around.  Go ahead.

Q    Governor Newsom has picked Laphonza Butler to fill California’s open seat.  What does the President think about that appointment?  And has he called or does he plan to call?  Has the Vice President also called?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I — I don’t have any calls or — or conversations to read out.  I can say that we respect the governor’s, certainly, appointment — his decision.

Laphonza Butler has spent her career fighting for the rights of — of women and working people, just by looking at — certainly, by her career.  And she’s a — she’s succeeding — she, herself, succeeding a — a trailblazer by breaking more barriers. 

And so, again, we respect the governor’s — governor’s appointment.  I don’t have anything to read out on — as far as calls. 

And I would — probably, you should reach out to the Vice President’s Office to see if — if she’s made a call. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

Last month, on Ukraine funding, Jake Sullivan said that — on September 21st — that the $24 billion was needed for this quarter that we’re in now so that there wouldn’t be a disruption.  Can you — at what point does that disruption begin or happen?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the — the battlefield on the ground changes, right? 

And so, I don’t want to give a date.  I’m hesitant to give a date.  Because given of the changing dynamics and what that looks like, I — as I mentioned, DOD, certainly, would have more information on the funding.  So, I’m certainly not going to go beyond what the — what the National Security Advisor said here. 

But, look, you know, we’re talking about — you know, we’re talking about what we know we have left.  We have enough for a PDA authority to meet Ukraine’s urgent battlefield needs for a bit longer, as I’ve said, but it’s not the long-term solution.  It is not the long-term solution. 

So, any, like, specifics on, you know, the PDA and what’s left, I certainly would refer you to the Department of Defense, but I don’t want to get into a date from here because of the changing dynamics of the battlefield. 

Q    And just — just to reiterate: Beyond McCarthy’s comments this weekend and past support, there’s no — you’re saying there’s been no conversations between the White House and leadership about a potential agreement that contours of how to get the funding approved?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What we’re saying is there’s bip- — there’s obviously bipartisan support for — to continue the funding to Ukraine. 

We’ve heard that specifically from Speaker Mcrain just –Speaker Mcrain — Speaker — Speaker McCarthy just yesterday, multiple times, saying that.  And we’ve heard that from, you know, Democrats and Republicans in Congress. 

So that’s what we want to see.  We want to see the — the commitment.  We want to see that, you know — that — that McCarthy keeps his commitment to the people of Ukraine that he has said he wants to — continuing that — to continue that funding for — to make sure that Ukraine gets the — get the weapons that they need.  And that’s what we want to see. 

Q    Karine —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  So, staying with that topic.  Yesterday, when I asked the President about the prospect of future deals with Speaker McCarthy, he said you — “We just made one about Ukraine.”  But it sounds like you’re saying they didn’t just make one about Ukraine. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I’m saying is that we know that there’s bipartisan support — right? — for Ukraine funding.  And that’s — that is what we’re saying.  We’re saying that there’s bipartisan support; there has been.  We appreciate the bipartisan support that we’ve seen for Ukraine from the beginning, and we believe that’s going to continue. 

And so, that is what we — we see.  And that’s how we see this moving forward. 

Q    Well, why would the President say that he made a deal if he didn’t?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just saying that what we’re seeing currently from Congress is that — is that there has been — right? — there has been overwhelming support.  That is what the President said.  A majority of Congress showing overwhelming support to have — to continue that support for Ukr- — Ukraine.  And that’s what we’re going to continue to — that’s what we want to continue to see. 

Q    Did the Speaker provide some kind of back-channel assurance that he would bring Ukraine funding —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t think he —

Q    — up for a vote?  Is that what he was referring to?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, no, I don’t even think the Speaker needs to do back channel.  He said — he himself said yesterday that “I support being able to make sure Ukraine has the weapons that they need.”  He said that.  He has — and we expect him to — to keep his word on that. 

Q    But then I guess I’m just trying to understand what the President meant when he said —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m —

Q    — “We just made [a deal].” 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, what I’m saying to you is that we have seen bipartisan support from Congress for — to continue the funding in Ukraine.  That’s what we expect, and that’s what we want to continue to see.  We’ve seen — we’ve heard from Speaker McCarthy himself just yesterday saying that he wants to continue that support.  And that’s what we want to see moving forward. 

Q    Is it possible the President made a deal that you don’t know about?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just — I’m just saying that I’m not going to go beyond what the President said.  Just not going to go beyond that.

Q    Was what he said true?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to go beyond what the President said.

Q    So you won’t say that it — what he said was true?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to go beyond what the President said.

Q    You’re declining to say that what he said was true?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just answered.

Go ahead.

Q    Me?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yep. 

Q    Thank you.  Governor Newsom vetoed legislation in California this weekend that would have allowed workers to collect unemployment pay while on strike.  Does President Biden support unemployment pay for striking workers?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can say is that the President certainly supports, you know, collective bargaining.  He supports that workers should be able to ask for fair pay and fair benefits.  That is something that he supports, because he supports, certainly the right to strike.  I’m not going to get into the particulars of this partic- — of what Governor Newsom signed. 

But what I can say is: The President is always supporting union — union workers and, certainly, working people.

Q    And the UAW strike is now in its third week.  Is there any concern that the President’s appearance on the picket line may have frustrated auto companies and prolonged discussions?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can say is that the President did something that was historic, right?  He went to an active picket line to show his solidarity for union workers — for the men and women of UAW, and he was proud to do that. 

That doesn’t change what the President has said many times, again, supporting collective bargaining, allowing the negotiations to continue with all parties, and making sure that they have — they have the ability and the right to ask for fair pay and fair wage. 

And so, that’s what we believe.  We think that it’s good that they’re continuing to have these negotiations and continue to have the conversations. 

And let’s not forget, you have the West Coat [Coast] port, right?  You have the — you have the — the Teamsters — right? — and UPS.  Collective bargaining works.  So, we’re going to let this process move forward. 

Go ahead.  Go ahead, Anita. 

Q    Ms. Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Anita. 

Q    Thank you so much.  I have a Ukraine question and then a question about the refugee cap.  Just starting with Ukraine.  Slovakia has elected a new leader who says they will not send one more bullet to Ukraine.  They say that they have bigger problems than Ukraine.  How does the White House see this splintering of NATO unity?  And what is the administration going to do to bring NATO back together?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, and I’ve said — and I kind of answered this question in a different variation of the question.  But the President has been able to bring together countr- — our allies and partners in a historic way to support Ukraine and the brave people of Ukraine as they’re fighting, certainly, towards to protect their democracy.  That is something that the President is going to do. 

NATO Alliance — it’s the strongest that it’s ever been because of what this President’s leadership has been.  We’re going to continue to certainly have those conversations with our partners and allies. 

But, look, and I said this earlier, it does not help — it does not help what we see House Republicans doing.  It doesn’t.  And that’s just the reality of it. 

But we’re going to continue to bring our partners and allies together as we support the people of Ukraine, as they’re fighting Russia’s — Russia’s unjust aggression.

Q    Ms. Karine?

Q    Okay, on the refugee cap, which was announced on Friday.  The administration has set the cap yet again at 125,000 people.  But the State Department says that only 51,231 refugees were admitted up to — up to this point.  So, number one, is this number including Afghans who were given humanitarian paroles?  How does the administration plan to reach this target of 125,000?  And what else is needed to get you to that — that aspiration?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, one of the things, as you know, that we’ve tried to do is we’ve tried to improve, certainly, the system.  I don’t have specific numbers on — on Afghans. 

But, you know, one of the things that we did — we implemented a number of efficiencies within state and DHS to reduce processing times.  State has also approved 51 new local offices.  So, we have taken steps — and that’s just a couple of things — to make sure that we’re improving the system.  And so, we’re going to continue — certainly, continue to do that. 

And so, look, we said, when we first set this target, that it was going to be ambitious.  We knew that.  We knew that 125,000 is an ambitious number.  And within — within the progress we’ve made, we feel that we are — we are better positioned to meet those goals this upcoming fiscal year, and so that’s what we’re going to try to do. 

Q    Karine? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And we’ll continue to go around. 

Q    Ms. Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Brian.

Q    Thanks, Karine. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    I wanted to ask about the President’s legislative priorities.  I mean, given that what House Republicans are doing right now — continuing to threaten to shut down the government in 45 days and hold up the Ukraine funding — is that it for what the President can do legislatively for the foreseeable future?  Or are there other legislative priorities where he thinks there might be a coalition with House Republicans?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, the President — you saw what his priorities were in the budget negotiations, right?  We also — we also wanted to make sure we’re protecting Medicare, protecting Social Security, right?  Those were things that were incredibly important to the American people. 

Yes, Ukraine funding is also really important as well, which is why we’re — we are — we are confident that we’ll continue to see this bipartisan support for the Ukraine funding. 

And so, look, you’re going to see the President meet with his Cabinet in a couple of hours.  We’re going to talk about the importance of implementing the historic pieces of legislation that he’s been able to pass. 

And when you think about the Inflation Reduction Act, when you think about how that’s going to lower healthcare costs and what’s that’s doing — right? — capping 35 percent [dollars] for seniors when it comes to insulin, that’s really important.  When you think about beating Big Pharma in the first 10 tranches of — the fen- — the first 10 tranche of — of pharmaceutical drugs, that’s where the cost is going to go down. 

All these things are incredibly important.  We see — we have to implement — continue to implement these important pieces of — of legislation that is currently now law.  And that’s going to be the President’s focus. 

And also protecting Americans, right?  Protecting Americans — making sure we’re keeping Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. 

And so, that’s going to be the focus. 

You’ve heard us talk about the Unity Agenda and how important that is.  Those are ways — if you want to see what the President believes he can move forward — how he can move forward with a — with a — in a bipartisan way with Congress, look at the Unity Agenda.  And so that’s going to continue.  He’s going to continue to try to move with that as well.

Q    On disability, please?  

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead. 

Q    Thank you.  Two questions on the border, if I can.  New York Governor Kathy Hochul says the border is too open right now.  Does the President think that the border is too open?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, here’s what I will say: The President, on his own, without the help of Republicans in Congress — let’s not forget, he put forward a comprehensive piece of legislation to deal with immigration reform.  Remember, this — this immigration system has been broken for decades.  And it’s been three years.  That’s been almost three years since he put forth that piece of legislation. 

And three things — there are three things that he has moved forward in when it comes to his plan and looking at — looking at the border. 

There’s enforcement.  And so we’ve deployed additional troops and federal agents to the border and removed or returned more than 250,000 individuals since May 12th alone.  That’s what we’ve been able to do without the help of Republicans. 

And deterrence — we’ve had the largest expansion certainly of a pathways to — pathways to — pathways in decades. 

And we’ve made clear that attempting to cross the border unlawfully will result in prompt removal, a five-year ban on — on reentry, and potential criminal prosecution. 

And let’s not forget the diplomacy that we have done with the region, including Mexico, to deal with this issue.  Because it’s not — this is a — this is a regional issue that we’re seeing with — as it relates — as it relates to — as it relates to unlawful migration.

Q    So, when the President looks at what’s happening at the border, he sees a border that is effectively closed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I’m saying is that the President, without the help — without the help of Republicans, is doing everything that he can to deal with the border.  That’s what he’s been able to do, while Republicans tried to push forth a CR to limit — to take away the federal — the federal agents that we see at the border.  That’s what he’s trying to do. 

They’re trying to politicize it and make it worse — make it worse.  That’s what Republicans are trying to do and ma- — turn it into a political stunt. 

The President is actually dealing with the issue that’s in front of him by getting record funding, 25,000 federal agents at the border.  That is something that this President has been able to do. 

I’m going to move around.  Go ahead, Karen.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  A couple on COVID.  Does the administration have any regrets about the rollout of this new COVID vaccine given reports of insurance snags and some supply issues with getting this vaccine out?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, this is something that we’re certainly aware of and want to make sure that the system works for everybody.  And that is something that — you can just look at what we’ve done the last 10 — the last three years on this issue — right? — making sure that — we make sure that people — that every American across the country who wants a vaccine will get it. 

So, certainly we are aware of what consumers have experienced: these unexpected issues of — of a point of service.  And so, HHS is going to work with insurance.  They’re going to work with — work with the issues that we’re currently seeing to resolve this quickly.

And so, this is certainly a top priority for this administration as it relates to a comprehensive vaccination program.  This has been a priority since day one of this administration.

Q    And — and are you worried that if people are frustrated not being able to get their shots now, they might give up and that could lead to a worsening situation in the fall and winter?  And then just a follow-up on the President’s involvement in messaging —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m not going to get too much into, like, the hypotheticals here.  We’re going to quickly — HHS is dealing with this issue.  Certainly, we’re aware of it, and we’re going to quickly addresses this.  They’re going to quickly address it. 

And so, you know, we are — we want to make sure that folks who want to get a vaccine get it.  And so, HHS is on it.

Q    You talked about why the President didn’t do his shot on camera like we’ve seen in — saw him do in previous rounds, and you talked about the messaging campaign the administration would do with this new shot. 

Why hasn’t he done anything to promote this and encourage people to get their shots?  And will we see him do that in the near future?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have anything to — to lay out on — on what else the President’s going to do as it relates to the — the new — the new boosters for — for COVID.

What I can say is there are Secre- — Secretaries or an administrative official across the — across the — across the federal government here, for the White House, that are indeed very much involved in making sure that they get the word out there.  Right? 

We saw — we saw — just the other day, we saw the Second Gentleman get involved and show how — his process of getting his shot.  And we’ll see that from others across — across the administration.

Look, we are in a different time and a different place with COVID as, clearly, we’re all sitting here.  Most of us — most of us are — I’m assuming many of us have gotten our COVID shots.  And so, that is important to also note: that we are in a different place. 

And we are in a different place because of what this President has been able to do, because he took a comprehensive approach, because he wanted to make sure that — that Americans across the country were able to have — to get this COVID vaccine.  And not just that — other treatments to deal with COVID. 

So, you’ve seen his commitment to this.  And — and we see how it looks like now that we’re coming out of this pandemic.

Just don’t have anything to share on his — on his — further involvement with the President.

Q    On disability, Ms. Karine.  Nothing is asked on disability.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Peter.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Would President Biden ever try to get out of a meeting by pulling a fire alarm?  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Are you talking about something specifically?

Q    A Democratic member of Congress pulled a fire alarm around a series of votes.  No fire.  Is that appropriate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can tell you is I have not talked — spoken to the President about this.  And so, just not going — just not going to comment. 

I will leave it up to — I know there’s a House process moving forward right now.  I’ll leave it to the House.

Q    Okay.  Since President Biden is so pro-union, is he okay with 75,000 healthcare workers possibly walking off the job
this week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can tell you is that — I’ve said this many times already this morning: The President believes all workers — all workers, including healthcare workers and those that make their work possible — they deserve a fair pay.  And they deserve fair — a fair benefit.  That’s what the President believes. 

He believes that collective bargaining works.  That is — we’ve seen that play out in the past even couple of months when you think about the Teamsters.  You think about the Teamsters and — and UPS.  When you think about the West Coast ports.  Right?  We see that play out. 

And so, it is important that — that we — you know, we see that continue. 

And I’ll have — and I’ll have to say, like, the Treasury Department laid out recently a major report that unions and collective bargaining are good for the overall economy and help raise wages at — for everybody, whether they are a union member or not.  And I think that matters.

Q    Would he consider joining them on the picket line if they strike?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I don’t have anything else to share on — on the President’s schedule.  What I can say is that this — when — when we see this type of collective bargaining, when we see this type of — you know, the report that I just laid out, when — when unions and — unions do collective bargaining, it actually helps our economy overall and it raises wages.  And I think that’s important for all — not just union members, also non-union members.

Q    And a couple days ago, looters were terrorizing businesses in Philadelphia.  What is the White House doing about that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, obviously, any coordinated theft and vandalism that occurred in Philadel- — in Philadelphia is — is destructive and simply unacceptable.  That’s what we say.  And we’ve always said that.  Any type of vandalism, any type of violence, we certainly denounce that from here. 

The acts of these individuals harmed local businesses, as we — you saw — as we saw — and the communities that depend on them.  But I also want to be clear, because the police — the police commissioner in Philadelphia did say — and he said this on the record — that looting was the act of opportunists taking advantage of unrelated protests. 

But, obviously — obviously, and we have been very consistent here — when it comes to any sort of vandalism, certainly looting, or any type of violence, we are going to — we are going to simply condemn that.  And it is unacceptable.

AIDE:  You have time for one more. 

Q    Ms. Karine, about disability —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead, Cristina.

Q    — there’s no seat here in this room —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Cristina.

Q    — for disabled journalists.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Can you tell us if the President has had any one-on-one conversations with Leader McCarthy about Ukraine funding in the past two weeks?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any — any conversations to read out. 

As you know, the President very often keeps in — keeps in touch with House and Senate members.  That is something that he does on a regular basis. 

As — as far as a specific conversation, I just don’t have anything to read out.

Go ahead.

Q    So, it’s possible the President and the Speaker spoke?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just don’t have anything to confirm.  I — I really don’t.

I — as I said, the Speak- — the Speaker — the President regularly has conversations with members of Congress.  I don’t have any specific conversation to read out.

Q    Can we make a request that between now and the next briefing perhaps we could discern — ask the President what deal he was referring to in his comments yesterday so we can have a better idea? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So —

Q    Because I think this will continue to have oxygen around it until we have clarity about — is this a new deal?  Is he referring to the budget topline?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I apprec- — I appreciate — I appreciate the question.  What I can say for sure is that what we believe, as it relates to Ukraine, is that there has been — continues to — continues to be bipartisan support from Republicans and Democrats in Congress. 

Q    That’s not responsive to whether there is a deal.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I hear you.  I hear what you’re saying.  I’m just saying speaking to this particular, kind of, issue — broader issue — right? — we believe that there is a — continues to be bipartisan support.  We think that’s incredibly important. 

Speaker McCarthy has spoken to this.  And — and that’s what we want to see.  We want to see continued support for the people of Ukraine as they bravely fight against Russia’s aggression. 

Q    On another matter, the President’s son will be going to a court appearance tomorrow.  We know previously that was believed to have been something that would resolve the case.  A lot has transpired in between.  Will this have any impact on the President’s schedule tomorrow or how he will be getting information about that? 

I recognize it’s a personal matter, but will that court appearance have any impact on the President’s schedule?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I will say it’s — to continue to say it’s a personal matter.  I’m just not going to get into it from here. 

Thanks, everybody. 

White House, Washington, DC

, October 2, 2023

Source:  WH.gov  – Big New York News BigNY.com
– Midtown Tribune News

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