Dec 14, 2022

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 12/13/22 Transcript

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 12/13/22 Transcript
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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 12/13/22. Read the transcript here.

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Karine (00:00):

Good afternoon, everybody.

Audience (00:02):

Well, good afternoon.

Karine (00:11):

I know we have some serious business ahead of us today, but as you know, sometimes a girl just want to have fun. Come on, I’m trying. I’m trying, guys.

But in all seriousness, this afternoon, we are celebrating a truly historic moment for marriage equality. And so, I brought a friend with me, who is an icon, really doesn’t need any introduction, but we are thrilled that she is here. We are honored to have her here with us today on this important day. Cyndi Lauper, who has been advocating, as many of you know, for LGBTQI+ community for decades, particularly to end youth homelessness. Cyndi will be performing this afternoon and I thought I’d invite her in front of all of you all today to say a few words.

And Cyndi, thank you so much for coming. The podium is yours.

Cyndi Lauper (01:04):

Thank you.

Hi. I just want to tell you, I came here because I wanted to say thank you to President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, Vice President Harris, and all the advocates and his team for once, our families, mine and a lot of my friends and people you know, sometimes your neighbors. We can rest easy tonight because our families are validated and because now we are allowed to love who we love, which sounds odd to say, but Americans can now love who we love. And bless Joe Biden and all the people that worked on this, for allowing people not to worry and their children not to worry about their future. Thank you. And thank you for being supportive. And hey, I will sing out to you. Thank you very much.

Karine (02:17):

Thank you, Cyndi. Thank you so much. Okay. Thank you so much, Cyndi, for coming. Again, this is an extremely historic day, a proud day for me and so many of us here at the White House and so many Americans just across the country. And we’ve truly will be looking forward to Cyndi performing on the South Lawn today. I know we don’t have a lot of time, and so we’ll go straight to questions.


Zeke (02:42):

Thanks, Karine. It was in the news that the former [inaudible 00:02:47] was arrested in the Bahamas. Did the president receive a campaign donation from him? Many prominent Democrats did, some Republicans did as well. Will the president return that donation? Does he call on all politicians who got campaign donations that may have come from customer money to return those funds?

Karine (03:04):

So look, I’m covered here by the Hatch Act, limited on what I can say and anything that’s connected to political contributions from here. I would have to refer you to the DNC.

Zeke (03:15):

I’m asking the president’s opinion though. Does he want those people who-

Karine (03:20):

No, you asked me two questions. You asked me about will he return the donations and then you asked me about his opinion. I’m answering the first part, which is I’m covered by the Hatch Act from here. I’m limited to what I can say and I just can’t talk to political contributions or anything related to that. I cannot speak about it from here.

Zeke (03:37):

And then, to his opinion though-

Karine (03:39):

I just cannot speak to this from here, even his opinion, even his thoughts about the contributions, donations, I cannot speak about that from here.

Audience (03:49):

And then, are you covered by the Hatch Act?

Karine (03:50):

I am covered by the Hatch Act, which I’m happy to say over and over again, because we believe in the rule of law here.

Zeke (03:56):

A different topic. Next week, Title 42 is coming to an end, how is the administration preparing for that? And what more is the president prepared to do to stop people crossing the border regularly, as seen in many cases?

Karine (04:11):

So what we are doing to prepare, we are asking Congress, as you all know, for the resources. We’ve been coordinating with leaders across the Western hemisphere, as you all know, we’ve reported on meetings that we’ve had and actions that we have taken. We’ve got anti-smuggling operations with Mexico, Guatemala, up and running. And so, that’s been incredibly critical as well. We’re working to combat misinformation from smugglers. And as was the case before Title 42 and remain the case after it. Individuals who attempt to cross the border unlawfully and don’t have a legal basis to remain will be subject to removal and we’ll certainly have more in the coming days.

But look, you’ve heard this say this before and we put the question to Congress and what are they going to do here. Republicans are asking how are we going to secure the border, I’ve listed out on ways that we’ve tried to work on that. But we’re also wanting to do this on a bipartisan way. The president’s about to sign this marriage equality bill, which was done in a bipartisan way. So we know how to do that. We know how to work with republicans. Republicans know how to work with us. So why don’t they work with us on this particular issue, that is important to Americans across the country? And we’re asking for them to join us on this issue as well.

Go ahead.

Speaker 1 (05:35):

The president said he’s convinced inflation will continue to go down, but we have of course seen some unexpected spikes over the last past year. So just to be clear, is the White House confident that inflation has in fact peaked?

Karine (05:47):

So look, I know the president was asked this question. He also said, “I’m not able to predict this,” as well in his comments today. So look, one of the things that I want to say is today is a welcome news to American families just across the country. The annual Consumer Price Index has fallen for the last five months. And so, that’s important to note. And last week, we learned from the Producer Price Index, PPI, rose at its slowest annual rate since May 2021. And near term consumer inflation expectations fell. So we have more work to do, as we know. The president has been doing a lot of work on getting that gas prices down and we have seen that fall about a dollar and 75 cents. Millions of Americans are going to save about a hundred bucks per year on health insurance because of the work that the president’s done, because of the Inflation Reduction Act.

And so, look, we know there’s more work to do and we’re going to continue to do that. But again, the president said we’re not able to predict, but we have seen some good signs from the data CPI, PPI. And so, we’re just going to continue to do the work, to make sure that we do what we can to lower costs for American families.

Speaker 1 (06:59):

And you mentioned today is obviously a big day for this administration, for the president. I’m wondering if he’s shared with you any of his personal reflections. The public has been with him as he’s sort of evolved on this issue. And for you personally, you are the first openly gay press secretary, what does this day mean for you?

Karine (07:12):

Personally, this is a big day for me, but not just me. There are many colleagues that I work with here who are allies, who are also part of the community, who are very incredibly proud. We’re going to see about 2,000 to 3,000 people out in the South Lawn who have worked. We’re talking about activists who have worked on this issue for decades and people who are purely affected by what is happening today, the signing of this bill. I was just with the president, I see was going through his remarks.

And the thing that I remember, was 10 years ago, many of you all have played this on your networks today, when he was on Meet the Press. And he said something that really no other national elected official was saying at the time, that marriage is a proposition, and it’s about who you love. I’m going to mess up his quote,

Karine (08:00):

… but who you love, but also about if you’re going to be loyal to that person, and I think that’s important, and that is something that, again, he said 10 years ago when many people were not saying that, many people in his position, and he has always been an ally. I think I speak for many of us at the White House today, that we could not be prouder to be working for this administration, to be working for this particular president, and to be working on all the issues that are going to change Americans’ lives, and as we have seen historic legislation over the last 22 months.

Speaker 2 (08:34):

Karine, aside from the arrest of Sam Bankman-Fried, what actions can you take to protect people from the collapse of the crypto market?

Karine (08:41):

We’ve taken … Certainly, this administration has consistently urged Congress to take action to address regulatory gaps posed by digital assets and support legislative efforts to enact crypto legislation to better protect American consumers. Just last month, secretary Yellen, in fact, called on Congress, “To move quickly to fill the regulatory gaps.” That’s a quote that she said herself. The administration has identified what those gaps look like. But, again, we have urged this is something for Congress to do. We have urged Congress to take action and will continue to do that.

Speaker 2 (09:18):

Jake was a little unclear on this yesterday. Does the president plan to travel to Africa next year?

Karine (09:24):

Look: don’t have anything to preview at this time. As you said, Jake spoke to this just yesterday, 24 hours ago, and there will be an announcement about a broad-based commitment to travel to the continent in 2023, as it relates to the president, as it relates to the vice president, as it relates to cabinet secretaries as well, but we’re just not going to get ahead of that announcement. But, again, don’t have anything to preview today, but we’ll have something for you soon.

Phil (09:54):

Okay. Just following up on the Title 42 question. There is a bipartisan framework in the United States Senate. There is a vehicle moving right around the time of the Title 41, Title 42, potential deadline. Is the administration all in behind trying to get something done in this very tight period of time? Do they feel like the Tillis-Sinema framework isn’t quite there yet? How are you looking to do that?

Karine (10:13):

Look: we’re encouraged by the bipartisan conversations happening on immigration reform currently in Congress. As you know, on the president’s first day in the White House in his administration, he put forth a comprehensive immigration reform because he understood how important this issue was. Protections for Dreamers: that’s what was in that legislation that he put forth. It put forward cutting down the asylum backlog, modernizing our outdated immigration system, and so we’re going to let the process play out. I’m not going to get ahead of it. As you know, there’s negotiations happening on this framework that’s being led by Senators Sinema and Tillis. But, again, we’re encouraged by it and the president put that out there on day one that this is important that we needed to get this done.

Phil (11:01):

Then, on another topic, just real quick, there’s been some positive smoke signals on omnibus negotiations, where they’re going. Do you feel like the process is getting closer to the end game you guys want at this point or is too early to tell?

Karine (11:14):

We’ve been very clear on this, Phil, as you know; I think you’ve asked me this question almost every time you’ve been in the briefing room. I know you love appropriation. I understand that. Our view is this, and I’m repeating myself here as we’ve talked about this over the past couple of weeks, certainly since the midterm elections, which is there was a bipartisan agreement that was done last year on this, and we believe that it could be done again this year and there’s enough time to get this done. This is not a partisan issue. We’re talking about bipartisan issues here when we talk about the American people, national security, right? We’re talking about public health, public education, all key issues that matter for all Americans across the country. And so, again, we are just going to continue to encourage Congress to act and to get this done.

Speaker 3 (12:04):

Thank you. Does President Biden support or oppose legislation that has stalled in Congress to create a 9/11-style commission to investigate the US response to the COVID pandemic? What is the White House position on this?

Karine (12:19):

I think this has been asked before; I think during Jen’s tenure. I don’t have anything more to add or more to look into on this. I would have to go back to the team and see if our position has changed, but nothing new for you.

Speaker 3 (12:30):

What was the position?

Karine (12:31):

No. I’m just saying I know that this has come up; I just don’t have anything new to add. I’d have to go back and ask and to see where we are on that.

Phil (12:41):

But does the administration support it or has it already?

Karine (12:44):

I just answered your question. I said I know this has come up in the past, but I don’t know if we’ve changed our position. I have to go back to see exactly where we are on that particular question.

Phil (12:53):

Okay. Thank you.

Karine (12:54):


Speaker 4 (12:55):

Is there a sense today with the president signing the Respect for Marriage Act that makes it settled in America? Or is there still some concern that, based on some of the comments from Justice Thomas or the potential for other litigation, that this could still be an issue that would be explored in the US?

Karine (13:14):

I think a couple of things there. Look: this is an important civil rights accomplishment that was achieved in a bicameral and a bipartisan way, and it got that support. When the president signs it today, it will build on generations of civil rights advocacy that brought us to this historic moment, so that’s important to note.

But, look: we understand, in spite of this important legislation, it is also true that there are extremist conservatives who appear bent on taking away fundamental rights, including marriage equality. This bill provides an important measure of security and state stability for LGBTQI+ families, but their children will also get the attacked, as we know, sadly, and their legal attacks on marriage equality will continue to persist.

And so, there is absolutely more work to be done for the LGBTQI community. And so, you’ll hear from the president, he’ll talk about that, the work that needs to continue to get done. And so, that is something that he understands. This is, again, an important step forward, but we also have to pass the Equality Act. That is also something that the president has called on from the beginning of his administration and will continue to do, but we cannot ignore how important today is, how important this moment is, and how it actually builds on all the work that has been done across the past couple of decades.

Speaker 4 (14:43):

Thanks, Karine. Today the president talked about his economic agenda, saying that it was part of the reason why we’re seeing inflation easing. Does he also credit the Fed and the rate hikes as a reason why we’re seeing inflation ease?

Karine (14:59):

I’m just not going to respond to any actions that the Fed has taken. They are independent. We are never going to comment about that. We believe they have the best monetary policies to deal with inflation, but not going to comment on the actions that they’ve taken or the actions that they’re going to take. Look: as we know, the president an economic policy, economic plans, that we have seen him execute over the past 20-plus months, that has shown to have been effective in where we are with our economy right now, to have shown that we’ve been able to grow … well, create, I should say … 10.5 million jobs that matter, especially after what happened when he walked into the administration with the pandemic, with what was happening with the economy, the bipartisan infrastructure and legislation, creating jobs, good-paying jobs.

And, that will continue. He feels, as you heard from him today, this morning, that we need to continue to make sure that we build an economy from the bottom up and middle out

Karine (16:00):

… and that we don’t leave anyone behind. And so that’s what he’s going to continue to focus on.

Speaker 5 (16:04):

So is it fair to say that he thinks in large part it’s because of his agenda?

Karine (16:07):

Well, we have said, we have said what we are seeing today with the economy being as strong as it is and what we have been able to do with job creation, and we believe that a lot of that is because of his economic policies now. As it relates to inflation and what we’ve been seeing with inflation, of course the president has made that his number one top economic priority and making sure that we bring costs down. And that’s why he’s taking actions on gas prices. That’s why he signed the Inflation Reduction Act because he wants to make sure that we’re lowing cost for the American families.

But we have to remember what the president inherited here. When he walked into this administration, we were dealing with the economy that was struggling. We were dealing with Americans who were losing jobs and so he was able to turn that around and that’s what he means about his economic policy. Go ahead, Steven.

Steven (17:05):

Thanks, Karine. President is about to enact a landmark piece of civil rights legislation, but I was hoping you could speak to the concerns that some have expressed that what’s actually in the bill could be read as something that codifies discrimination. There’s a section here that speaks to the ability of non-profit religious organizations, faith-based social agencies, educational institutions, employees of those organizations to deny services, accommodations, facilities, goods, advantages, privileges to gay couples. So how is that not codifying discrimination?

Karine (17:33):

So a couple of things. Let’s walk through what’s in the piece of legislation that the president’s signing in a few minutes. It codifies federal recognition of same-sex marriages. That matters. Technically, the Defense of Marriage Act from the 1990s was still on the books, but essentially dormant because of the Obergefell decision. This repeals DOMA and ensures federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

It requires states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages performed in other states i.e. if Obergefell or Loving falls and you get married in Massachusetts, Alabama still has to honor the marriage, meaning if your husband, wife gets sick an Alabama hospital would still be required to let you see them. That matters for so many millions of American across the country. I know there’s questions about religious liberty and so we believe that the RFMA contained strong protections for houses of worship and religious non-profits. And this question was well litigated throughout the legislative process where it passed with both chambers of bipartisan support.

And I think that matters. Bicameral bipartisan support was had for this piece of legislation. And so look, as the president said 10 years ago, as I mentioned, it comes down to a fundamental question of who would you love? Who do you love? And will you be loyal to that person? This law ensures that it realized for all person and that’s why so many faith leaders and religious traditions have advocated in support for this bill.

So it has gotten support in a bipartisan way across the country in Congress during this time where people say we can’t get things done. Here we have, this piece of legislation that has gone bipartisan support. Go ahead.

Speaker 6 (19:26):

Thanks, Karine. On immigration, how concerned is the administration that there will be this unprecedented surge of migrants trying to come across the border once Title 42 goes away?

Karine (19:37):

So look, as you note, as I know you guys are all tracking, the Secretary Mayorkas is in El Paso today and he’s assessing operations and he’s speaking to the workforce down there. He’s also meeting with local officials who have been incredibly important partners as we rebuild our asylum system. The Department of Homeland Security is working to quickly decompress what we’re seeing in the El Paso area, for example, and safety and efficiently screen and process migrants to place them in immigration enforcement proceeding.

Over the last 18 months, DHS has deployed enhanced automated processing system, automated surveillance towers, rescue beacons, and additional personnel to the sector. In addition to that, CBP has deployed additional agents support the sector. That’s on top of the mobile processing units, medical screening personnel, and nearly 1, 000 border patrol processing coordinators DHS already had deployed in the area.

So look, this is something, again, the first day of the president’s administration, he put forth a comprehensive immigration reform bill because he understands how important this is. We have taken action. We have given the Department of Homeland Security historic funding to deal with this very issue. And so we’re going to continue to monitor to this. As I had mentioned, Mayorkas was down in El Paso to talk to local officials who have been great partners with us.

And so again, we’re going to do the work, we’re going to be prepared, and we’re going to make sure we have a humane process moving forward.

Speaker 6 (21:17):

There are some lawmakers who are arguing that Title 42 should be extended somehow. Does the White House believe that’s even possible?

Karine (21:26):

So look, we are required by court order to lift Title 42 by December 21st. That is the court order that we have been given. And Department of Justice is going to lead that effort and what happens next. So I’m not going to get ahead of that. But again, this is a court order that we are following here. Go ahead.

Speaker 7 (21:47):

I wonder if the White House is worried that the inflation data which came out this morning was leaked. There was big market movement about two minutes before it came out. And I’m just wondering how the White House has viewed that.

Karine (22:00):

Yeah, I’ve seen that reporting. Look, we think that it’s being a little bit, how do I say, I think there’s too much weight being put into that in how the market may have moved in a minor way. I don’t really have much more to add to that, but I have seen the reports on it. And again, I think it’s just being a little bit, we’re looking into it a little bit too much I think.

Speaker 7 (22:32):

Is the White House and Treasury looking into it at all or are you just not worried about it?

Karine (22:37):

Look, I think that… Look, I can tell you this, there were no leaks from here. I can tell you definitively, or at least I’m not aware of any leaks. And I know they were very strict security protocols to prevent leaks. But I think, again, people may be reading a little bit too much into this, into some of the minor market movements. And so anything more, I would refer you to the Department of Labor. Go ahead.

Speaker 8 (23:07):

Just to follow up on what Steve asked. We understand how the legislation was framed and will be signed by the president. Do you anticipate that this administration will go back or the Democrats will go back and try to clean up the language in the legislation so it does not codify discrimination?

Karine (23:26):

Look, what we’re saying to you today is that this piece of legislation was done in a bipartisan, bicameral way and it will make a difference for millions of Americans across the country. And we’re going to celebrate this moment. We are going to celebrate the activists and the families who have worked very hard the last couple of decades to make this happen. And that is what’s important, and that’s what you’re going to hear from this president today. Is there more work to do? Absolutely. There’s always more work to do. And you’ll hear directly

Karine (24:00):

… from the President. I’m certainly not going to get ahead of him at this time. But again, this is an important moment, a historic moment that we should not forget what it means to many, many millions of Americans across the country.

Speaker 9 (24:11):

To quickly follow up on that, so he’ll sign that today and you say there’s more work to do, or is he endorsing additional work to try and change-

Karine (24:19):

I don’t have anything to preview from here. As I said, there are extreme conservatives who are going to continue to attack this, who want to take away fundamental rights. We saw what happened just in June with the Dobbs Decision, and so you should take that very, very seriously. But again, this is an important day, and we’re going to celebrate this day with thousands of people who will be standing or sitting on the south lawn and hearing from Cindy Lauper and the President and the First Lady and the Vice President. It’s a really good day. It’s a very good day.

Speaker 10 (24:58):

[inaudible 00:24:59] just get one or two more in before [inaudible 00:25:00]

Karine (25:00):

Okay. Go ahead, Michael.

Michael (25:01):

Thanks, Karine. There are reports that the administration is considering slashing the number of Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans arriving at the border would be eligible for asylum while creating new narrow pathways for those nationals to apply for some legal status here. The concern is this was a model that was actually designed by Stephen Miller in the prior administration. So is it true that the administration is considering this new structure for these foreign nationals?

Karine (25:36):

Look, I was asked this question last week and we don’t have anything new to preview or to discuss at this time about any policy changes or any policy announcement, so don’t have anything to add. But I have heard those reportings and I did speak to this last week as well. Okay.

Speaker 14 (25:56):

Oh, sorry. Thank you.

Karine (25:58):

I don’t have much time, so-

Speaker 14 (26:01):

No, foreign policy question, I was wondering, there have been clashes at the border between India and China and the pensions are pretty high between the two countries. Is this something the administration is concerned about?

Karine (26:13):

Look, we are glad to hear that both sides appear to have quickly disengaged from the clashes. We are closely monitoring the situation. We encourage India and China to utilize existing bilateral channels to discuss disputed boundaries. Again, we’re glad to see that there’s been some disengagement on the clashes at this time. Go ahead. I think you allowed your colleague to go ahead of you, so-

Speaker 11 (26:40):

Thank you. With the Republicans about to take control of the House, are there additional economic policies the President wants to implement in the next couple of months?

Karine (26:47):

Look, the President has always been clear. He is working for the American people, American families, to do everything that he can to lower costs as we’re talking about the inflation that we’re currently seeing as being one of his number one economic plans here. Then, as you’ve seen him act on gas prices, as you’ve seen him act on Inflation Reduction Act, we’re going to see early next year the real effects of the Inflation Reduction Act as it relates to bringing down healthcare costs, energy costs, so the president’s never going to stop. He’s going to continue to do that work. He’s always happy to work with Republicans and looking to reach across the aisle as we’ve done with the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, as we’ve done with the Chips and Science Act in order to create jobs and bring jobs back, manufacturing jobs back to companies, back to the country. So we’re going to continue to do that. That will never end or never stop. Okay. Go ahead.

Speaker 13 (27:46):

Thanks, Karine. Is the White House whipping against Senator Bernie Sanders War Powers Resolution that’s set for a vote in the Senate tonight?

Karine (27:54):

Look, we’ve spoken to this before. I don’t have anything much more to add. I know my colleagues actually was asked this question last week. I don’t have anything more to really discuss or lean into on this.

Speaker 13 (28:08):

Bernie Sanders just said that he’s dealing with White House opposition to it right now, so just hoping for a confirmation of what all is going on there.

Karine (28:17):

Look, I’ll say this. We’re in touch with members of Congress on this thanks to our diplomacy, which remains ongoing and delicate. The violence over nearly nine months has effectively stopped. As we have seen during this administration, the situation is still fragile, and our diplomatic efforts are ongoing. So we want to make sure that this is not impacted and the people of Yemen do not suffer or that any of the progress we have made is overturned. Again, I really don’t want to get ahead of the progress. We continue to work with Congress on this. We are having the conversations. I just don’t want to get ahead of that.

Speaker 13 (28:51):

So it sounds like he might veto that if it comes to his desk-

Karine (28:54):

I’m just not going to make a prediction. I’m certainly not going to make a prediction of what the President is going to do, is not going to do. We’re having conversations with members of Congress and I will leave it there. Thanks, everybody.

Speaker 13 (29:05):

Thank you.

Speaker 12 (29:05):

Thanks, everybody.

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