Jun 23, 2022

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 6/22/22 Transcript

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 6/22/22 Transcript
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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 6/22/22. Read the transcript here.

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Karine Jean-Pierre: (00:00)
Good afternoon, everybody. Okay. Today I would like to welcome Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm back to the briefing room. Secretary Granholm is here to talk about gas prices and Putin’s price hike, which you just heard the president talk about just about an hour ago. So we’re really glad to have her here. Secretary Granholm home flew in over 800 miles, we were counting this up just this morning to be here with all of you to take your questions because we know how important this is to us and to the president. And so therefore she’ll have some brief remarks and then she’ll take your questions. Okay. All yours.

Jennifer Granholm: (00:43)
Great. Thank you, Karine. Hi everybody. So as we all know, the summer driving season is underway and Americans are paying more at the pump every time they fill up their gas tank. This is a global problem. There are two causes for it, which these high prices derive from.

Jennifer Granholm: (01:04)
One is of course, Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. Russia was a very high exporter of oil. Because of the invasion of Ukraine, countries like the United States and Canada rightfully have said we are not going to take any Russian oil, therefore about a million barrels per day have been taken off the market as a result of that. And secondly, the supply and refining capacity constraints that have been created by COVID-19 in the United States, but also around the world.

Jennifer Granholm: (01:37)
Since Putin’s buildup of troops began, our citizens are paying an additional $2 per gallon. And of course, other countries are dealing with this as well. If you went to the UK today for a gallon equivalent, you would be paying $7.71 cents. If you went to France, you’d be paying $ 8.49 cents. If you went to Canada, you’d be paying over $6 per gallon. If you went to Singapore, you’d be paying over $9 per gallons. This is happening around the world. And President Biden, like all other leaders around the world, are grappling with this for their citizens. And the president is doing everything he can to reduce prices for American families.

Jennifer Granholm: (02:23)
So as you heard today, the president is calling upon Congress to suspend the national gas tax for the next 90 days. Suspending the tax, the gas tax, is going to provide families immediate relief from this Putin price hike. Of course, suspending the federal gas tax on its own will not solve the problem. It’s why the president is also doing several other things.

Jennifer Granholm: (02:49)
One, he’s calling upon states as well to consider doing gas tax holidays on the state side. He’s urging oil companies to use their profits to increase output. He’s calling upon the industry to pass along the decrease in oil prices, which we have seen at the barrel level over the past week, for example, at the pump. And he is demanding that the industry come to the table with some solutions on refinery, which is what is going to happen tomorrow when I’ll be meeting with the biggest refiners.

Jennifer Granholm: (03:29)
Collectively, we know that these steps will save American families their hard-earned dollars every time they fill up their gas tank. Of course, this sits in a context because the president has said that he is willing to use the full span of his authorities to help lower prices. Just to remind you, of course he’s used the biggest tool at his disposal, which is our strategic petroleum reserve, releasing a million barrels per day to try to stabilize supply even as demand increases too, especially with this summer driving season.

Jennifer Granholm: (04:05)
He is also rallied other countries to release from their reserves as well. Collectively about 240 million barrels are being released from reserves around the world. And he’s increased the share of biofuels in gasoline that can help lower prices at thousands of gas stations. And of course at the same time we are working to save money for people, have people save money by cutting other essential costs. For example, help with heating bills, weatherization, other ways that citizens are trying to grapple with these high fuel prices, energy efficiency, rental assistance, for example.

Jennifer Granholm: (04:50)
The fact is that no president alone can control the price of gasoline and we need more players at the table. So the president’s asking Congress to act, he’s asking states to act, he’s asking the oil and gas industry to do their part as well. And I will say that many domestic producers have been heeding the president’s call to increase domestic supply in terms of at the wellhead. Some I know have made the claim that this administration is in the way of domestic production, but the numbers here are inarguable. We are now at close to record levels of oil production here in the US, averaging now 12 million barrels a day.

Jennifer Granholm: (05:34)
Under this president, the country is producing more oil on average than it did during the Bush, Obama or Trump administrations, but still we need more creativity and collaboration to get us through this unprecedented situation. And so tomorrow, as I mentioned, I’ll be speaking with executives from the major domestic refiners to discuss actions that government and industry can take to increase capacity and to safely operate their existing refineries and to overcome the hurdles that are in the way to meeting America’s demand and to increase supply.

Jennifer Granholm: (06:16)
With so many businesses enjoying high profits, our message is simple that this is the time to reinvest those profits that will enable them to better meet the needs of our citizens instead of using it for shareholders or stock buybacks. We are not against profit. We are encouraging these oil and gas companies to invest, to help their fellow citizens, to help their own workers. We need them to come to the table.

Jennifer Granholm: (06:51)
The real truth is that as long as our nation remains overly reliant on oil and fossil fuels, we’ll feel these price shocks again. This is not going to be the last time. The next time there’s a war, the next time there’s a pandemic or another hurricane, these extreme weather events we are experiencing, they will impact the access that we have to fossil fuels. The only way out of these boom and bust cycles is to break that sole reliance. And that means diversifying our fuel sources by deploying clean energy.

Jennifer Granholm: (07:26)
And that’s why we’re laying a foundation for this clean energy economy with the president’s bipartisan infrastructure law. That’s why the president has invoked the Defense Production Act to increase domestic manufacturing of these key clean energy technologies. It’s why we need federal clean energy tax credits to get the private sector jumping headfirst into these new markets, which will all make us secure, both from a national security perspective and an energy security perspective so that we are not under the thumb of petro dictators like Putin.

Jennifer Granholm: (08:02)
So we are looking at some significant challenges in the way of ensuring that American people have access to affordable clean energy, but we’re going to use every lever that we have across the federal government to overcome these challenges. So thanks for that and I’m happy to answer any questions.

Kaitlan Collins: (08:21)
Secretary Granholm, you said that this will bring immediate relief if it gets passed to drivers, but if there’s no guarantee from companies that they will pass on these benefits to those drivers, isn’t there a chance that this passes and consumers, drivers see no benefit whatsoever?

Jennifer Granholm: (08:37)
Well, it’s one of the reasons why I’m meeting with the refiners tomorrow, the oil companies tomorrow, to ensure that they would pass this on. Second, we have some evidence of this because in the very recently and even ongoing, there are states that have actually cut their gas tax. And Penn Wharton did a study about whether that was actually passed through and they found that the majority of it in fact was. So I get the nervousness about that, the mistrust about some of that, but our recent history suggests, and this just came out this study on June 15th, that there will be a passing through and we want to make sure that happens.

Kaitlan Collins: (09:22)
And did you and President Biden consult with Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill about them actually being willing to pass something like this before the president’s speech today?

Jennifer Granholm: (09:31)
Well, as you know, we’re in touch with Congress all the time, and I know that there are a number of proposals in Congress that have already been proposed. I think Senator Kelly and Congressman O’Halloran, I think there were supportive statements from a number of members of Congress today. So that is ongoing. That conversation is ongoing. I know that Speaker Pelosi just put out a statement and said that she’s going to bring it to the caucus.

Speaker 1: (10:02)
Yeah, thank you. So if in this meeting tomorrow the refiners don’t play ball or are not responding in a satisfactory way, what is the administration prepared to do? What emergency powers is the administration prepared to use? What’s the next step here?

Jennifer Granholm: (10:19)
Yeah, let’s just take it one step at a time. I believe that we are going into this to have an earnest conversation with them about what it would take. We know that there have been six refineries closed since 2020, I think five of them in 2020 and 2021. And we want to ask, is there capacity to bring something back online, to expand? So let’s see how that conversation goes. I don’t want to assume anything. We know that they are feeling the pressure, not just from the administration, but from people out there about the price at the pump. And it’s important that they listen to their own employees, as well as the communities that they serve.

Speaker 1: (11:06)
Is this the kind of thing where the DPA could be used?

Jennifer Granholm: (11:09)
It’s a tool. It’s certainly a tool. Let me just be clear about this. I want to hear from them, is there a chink in the supply chain that is preventing some refinery from coming back online? Is there something that’s difficult to acquire? Those are the kinds of questions we’ll be asking.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (11:27)
In the back, yeah.

Speaker 2: (11:28)
Thank you. Thank you, Secretary Granholm. The president has set up the war in Ukraine and the subsequent price hikes that have resulted that “We will be stronger and the world will be stronger and less reliant on fossil fuels when all this is over.” So I’m wondering, does he fear that by pausing the gas tax, that by giving a sort of gas addicted economy another hit, that he might be slowing that transition away from fossil fuels?

Jennifer Granholm: (11:56)
I think what he’s most concerned about is what real people are experiencing right now in their pocketbook. This, especially for moderate, for low income people who have no choice that they have to get to work, this is really what the president is fixated on. How do we provide relief to real people? We can, we want to, and we must move to a clean energy future. And we can accelerate production right now.

Jennifer Granholm: (12:22)
Let’s be very clear that fossil fuels will remain in the mix of the energy system of the globe for years to come. This is why we call this a transition. The president’s goal is to get to net zero by 2050. And that suggests that there will of course still be a need for fossil fuels. But we also know that everything we’re experiencing in terms of these extreme weather events, we spent $150 billion as a nation last year cleaning up after these extreme weather events that are all fueled by climate change. So we have to do both.

Speaker 2: (12:59)
And then I guess if you’re putting yourselves in the shoes of some of these refiners or some of these oil producers, what guarantee can the administration give them as you’re asking them to increase production, but more regulation as you pursue that transition isn’t coming down the pike for them as you’re asking them to lower prices.

Jennifer Granholm: (13:18)
We’re asking them to increase supply. We’re not telling them we’re going to increase regulation on them. We are hopeful that they will see the opportunity of investing as well in this clean energy future. In fact, a number of these refineries have transitioned to biofuels and that’s good. We want to see them be part of this clean energy future as well. So we want to build more energy. We want to build clean energy, and we know that ultimately that’s where our security will lie.

Speaker 2: (13:46)
Thank you, Secretary.

Speaker 3: (13:50)
Secretary Granholm, you and the president have framed this war Ukraine as the primary driver of the spikes in energy costs that’s the largest contributor to overall inflation, but the Fed chairman was on the Hill today.

Speaker 3: (14:03)
Overall inflation, but the fed chairman was on the hill today. Testified he was asked a question, “Is the war, the primary driver of inflation?” And his answer was “No.” How do you square that? Is he wrong?

Jennifer Granholm: (14:13)
I didn’t hear what he said on that, but I think most people acknowledge that the price of fuel is a big driver of inflation. And in fact, they have put large percentages on it. And so we know that the war in Ukraine having driven up the price of fuel, because it crimps supply. It’s a total supply and demand question we’ve got to make up for the million barrels per day that have lost. We will have a demand problem when China opens up after COVID, there will be additional upward pressure on supply. This is why we need not just in the US, but we need globally more supply brought on board. And so-

Speaker 3: (14:50)
His full quote was, “No inflation was high before, certainly before the war in Ukraine broke out.”

Jennifer Granholm: (14:57)
Well, I think most would say that the price of fuel has exacerbated inflation.

Speaker 3: (15:04)
And is there any concern that this gas tax holiday will increase demand and then thereby increase inflation? Some economists and analysts have been raising that.

Jennifer Granholm: (15:14)
Yeah, I understand that. And I also know that this president is focused on costs for real people as well. And this cost of gas is the most tangible, most real for people at the pump. So he wants to do everything. He understands the importance of a… He’s very concerned about inflation, obviously. It’s a top priority, and he’s also concerned about this price at the pump, and he’s going to do what he can to do to resolve that.

Speaker 3: (15:43)
[inaudible 00:15:43] Secretary.

Speaker 4: (15:43)
Thank you for being here. Senator Manchin said he’s not yet a yes on this. Steny Hoyer said, he’s not sure that they have the votes to pass this. Why is the president proposing something that doesn’t have the support of Democrats yet for it to pass?

Jennifer Granholm: (16:00)
This is a conversation, right? So that conversation is ongoing. And I know that those Democrats are also concerned about the price they’re constituents are paying the pump and Republicans are as well. I mean, that is the issue. So hopefully… In the past, Republicans have introduced a gas tax holiday and there’s no time that’s more acute than right now.

Speaker 4: (16:21)
What is the strategy to get it past… The president, obviously making this announcement ahead of the July 4th holiday, what is he going to do to get those Democrats and Republicans on board to pass this? And, and how does he respond to the criticism from some Republicans that this is a stunt because he doesn’t have the votes?

Jennifer Granholm: (16:38)
Well, he’s going to be having these conversations with Democrats and Republicans. I would hope that both sides of the aisle are listening to their constituents about getting relief. I think the citizens will be the loudest voice in the room.

Speaker 11: (16:50)
You had a question?

Speaker 5: (16:50)
Yeah. Two sort of decision making questions. One, why 90 days, is there a belief that after 90 days the market will stabilize?

Jennifer Granholm: (17:01)
It’s the summer driving season is how they were framing this, how the focus was on.

Speaker 5: (17:06)
And what would be the proposal to Congress to backfill the highway trust fund?

Jennifer Granholm: (17:11)
Yeah, I mean-

Speaker 5: (17:11)
And do you have an estimate for how much the trust fund will be hit?

Jennifer Granholm: (17:17)
10 billion. About 10 billion and yeah, clearly we do not want to see the highway trust fund hurt. So the president is asking for Congress to backfill. That could be, obviously we’ve seen a 1.6 trillion reduction in the deficit. There are ways to be able to identify the funds to be able to do this. And he’s asking that the trust fund be repaid.

Speaker 5: (17:37)
But is the administration putting forward any proposals?

Jennifer Granholm: (17:39)
He’s having those conversations with Congress.

Speaker 11: (17:42)
Did you, have you still have a [inaudible 00:17:44]?

Speaker 7: (17:45)
Yeah, sure. I do have a question. I do wonder if there is a particular point where the president decides to invoke these emergency power he’s talking about, is it if gas breaches a certain level? Is it, if you don’t hear the right things from the administrators? I also wonder about the tone and the timber of the conversations tomorrow. The president has been very [inaudible 00:18:08] critical of them. I wonder what your conversations are.

Jennifer Granholm: (18:12)
Yeah. I mean, honestly, we are going in good faith asking them this question about what can be done. What would it take? What do you need to open up additional refining capacity? Obviously they’re making huge amount of profits. It’s not about funding, but perhaps there is something that they need some additional help with identifying a supply chain issue. I just don’t know. So we’ll see, we’ll have that. This is an honest, earnest conversation tomorrow asking how can we be partners in providing relief for people at the pump?

Speaker 7: (18:44)
And are there any hard lines where emergency powers are invoked with gas prices?

Jennifer Granholm: (18:48)
We have not. We have not drawn any lines in the sand at this moment.

Speaker 11: (18:51)
Okay. Two more Nancy. And then Anita.

Speaker 6: (18:54)
Thank you so much. Secretary Granholm for being here, just following up on Kristen’s question. What do you say to lawmakers who are already calling this federal gas tax holiday, a gimmick and saying best case scenario, it’ll save drivers about 20 bucks a month?

Jennifer Granholm: (19:08)
Well, it there’s no doubt this is a modest… If it were just the federal gas tax, right, 18 cents is a modest amount. But if you combine it with, if the states… Not all states would do it, but certain states might be willing to, some already have, you combine it with that. If the oil and gas industry is willing to reduce prices to the extent that historically they have, when the price per barrel has come down. So for example, right now, the price per barrel has dropped about $10 since last week. So it’s about 110, roughly, dollars per barrel. Normally when you see that kind of a drop, $10 per barrel, the rule of thumb is that you see a 25 cent drop in the price at the pump. So we’re going to be asking why that hasn’t happened yet, and when that will happen.

Jennifer Granholm: (20:01)
So there could be some much more significant help. And I will say that the energy information administration has projected that by the end of the third quarter, because the oil and gas industry has increased and is intending on continuing to increase supply. It’s not refining, but supply at the wellhead, that we will see gas prices at about 437. They are projecting at the end of the third quarter. Now all caveats aside, because who knows what could happen in the global economy, if you know the EU, China, et cetera, all of that is still very front of mind. So project forecasts are always subject to all of those caveats, but we’re hopeful that we will start to see this come down and this is one step in that direction.

Speaker 11: (20:51)
Okay. [inaudible 00:20:53] ask question.

Speaker 8: (20:53)
Thank you. Thanks. Just a quick question on refining capacity, especially when we’re talking about sort of asking refiners to produce more, that sort of takes time, right? I mean it’s more sort of appears to be more of a medium term solution. What, according to you, how much of an impact do you think that will have immediately on gas prices?

Jennifer Granholm: (21:13)
Well, this is the question to ask them. I mean, obviously building a new refinery is a much longer strategy, right? But they have… There have been refineries that have been announced to be closed. There have some that have recently closed. What is the capacity? These are the questions, what is the capacity to bring some of that… And what is their capacity to bring more capacity online? These are the questions that we’ll be asking.

Speaker 8: (21:36)
And a quick one on some of the industry participants who are expected at this meeting tomorrow with you, are expected to talk about sort of urging the administration, not to ban fuel exports. And that is something that we’re reporting from sources. I’m just sort of wondering what your response to that would be if such a demand is made and are you considering such a decision in the first place?

Jennifer Granholm: (21:58)
Yeah, I will say this. There have been an awful lot of solutions that the president has been considering over the… Since the war began, since these prices started to jump up and I don’t think anyone is taking anything off the table, he’s not proposing that at this moment, but he’s not willing to take tools off the table, but we do want to listen, for sure. And there may be consequences that have to be considered on doing something like that would have adverse impacts on everyday citizens. And we don’t want that either. Okay, great. Thank you. Appreciate it. Thanks everybody.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (22:42)
Okay. Just have one thing at the top and we’ll take your questions. 175 million Americans hold at least one credit card. And in 2020 credit card companies charge customers 12 billion in penalties, including billions in late fees. Today, the consumer financial protection bureau announced that it is taking a step, a first step to review excessively high late fees, including how these fees are affected by inflation and how they contribute to credit card companies’ profits, Americans deserve transparency and a little more breathing room in their family budgets. This is just one of the ways the Biden administration is going after excessive fees that companies use to hide the true cost of products. From airline tickets to high speed internet service agencies are taking action to make prices clearer upfront so that consumers can save money by choosing the best deals for them. And with that, Josh?

Speaker 9: (23:48)
Thanks two subject areas. First, we heard the president today say what he would like to see Congress, states, and companies do on oil production. What is the case that he is making to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates for increased production ahead of his visitor? Should we expect the rest of the world to kicking more supplies than they have committed to already?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (24:12)
Well, as you know, the president’s going to be going to the middle east next month and there’s going to be an array of subjects that they will be discussing. He’s going there for the GCC plus three, Saudi Arabia is clearly hosting that. Middle east is an important part of the region. They’re going to be talking about yes, energy security, but a whole host of other things, including way to make peace, national security. I don’t have any… We don’t have a specific list of details of what is going to be discussed next month. And as you know, Saudi Arabia is the chair of OPEC plus, and we welcome the steps that they have taken as it relates to oil production. But again, they are the chair of that. Again, energy security will be part of the conversation, but not the only thing. And we’ll see what happens next month.

Speaker 9: (25:14)
And then secondly, on the president’s upcoming travel, does he plan to meet with Turkish president, Erdoğan, with regard to Finland and Sweden being in NATO?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (25:25)
We don’t have anything to preview for you as far as any bylaws that may occur at NATO or G7 as a whole. Clearly he’s leaving on the 25th returning on the 30th to Europe. As… When we do, we always share those bylaws with all of you as it, as it relates to Ukraine and NATO, they were having, I’m sorry, not Ukraine, Finland. And they were having a trilateral conversation with the… On their NATOO application. And so we leave it to them to speak to where that progress has been.

Speaker 10: (26:04)
Thanks. Great. A couple more questions on guests. One is a housekeeping. Can you say which companies are attending meeting tomorrow? Is it all seven that were on the initial letter?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (26:13)
Oh my goodness. I should have called on you. She was right here to answer that question. I do not have a… I know I’m trying to get to everybody, try to give everybody love here. It’s not easy, so many of you to cover. But I would suspect it’s the, as you stated, the folks who received the letter, I don’t have a list in front of me, clearly. And, but I would suspect those are the seven CEOs that will be joining tomorrow.

Speaker 10: (26:45)
And then I want to circle back on a question that you were asked yesterday that you said that this was the first step, but the president expressed this sentiment again today on really laying down a hammer on these big oil companies. And so why is he not in the room tomorrow to express this message himself?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (27:04)
Well, the president talked about this, as you just stated earlier today, the secretary of energy Senator Granholm, who was just standing before you is going to have those conversation. And what we want to see as a solution, come up with ideas. There will be representatives from the White House who will be in the room as well. So that will be happening. And the hope is that there are ideas that come out of this. There’s some resolution, some solutions that come out of this. And so, we have to wait and see how that goes, but that is the first step. The second step, as I said yesterday, is hopefully to come up with some ideas and how to move forward and how to bring up their capacity. Because that’s what we’re talking about here. Because we have the crude oil, the crude oil is there as the secretary was just saying, we just need the oil refineries to refine that oil so that it could help bring down gas prices.

Speaker 10: (28:01)
And finally, what does it say to-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (28:03)
-gas prices.

Speaker 10: (28:03)
And finally, what does it say about the prospect of the White House winning congressional support on this idea? That just minutes after the President finished speaking on this, Nancy Pelosi sent out a very lukewarm statement about its prospects on Capitol Hill saying, “We will see where the consensus goes.” That is hardly a vote of approval.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (28:21)
Look, we have immense respect for the speaker. I think she also said that she was going to bring this to her caucus, which is also important to note. Look, this is just the beginning of the process. The president talked about this about an hour and a half ago, and we will continue to have conversations with Congress, congressional members and their staff. Look, just to step back for a second and really talk about how this president sees this. He sees this as an opportunity, a straightforward, simple way to deal with the pain that the American people is dealing with, giving them some relief at the pump. That’s what we’re talking about. It’s straightforward. It’s simple. The president would like Congress to act. We’re talking about 18 cents per gallon, which is going to go a long way. If you look at the average of states, that’s 30 cents. Just looking at those two things, that’s almost 50 cents. That’s going to go a long way. For three months. That’s it’s. Three months.

Speaker 10: (29:20)
That’s an if.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (29:20)
That’s a if, but-

Speaker 10: (29:21)
It’s all predicated on if.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (29:22)
Yeah, absolutely. But we’re going to continue to work hard and to get the American public some relief. We’re talking about three months, 90 days, during one of the busiest driving times in our country for American people, American families. That’s how this president sees this. I’m going to call on folks. Go ahead, Steve.

Speaker 12: (29:42)
Thanks, Karine.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (29:44)
If we have time, I’ll come back. I just want to make sure I-

Speaker 10: (29:46)
Yeah, absolutely.

Speaker 12: (29:48)
The secretary laid out the questions that she wants to ask the oil executives tomorrow. Is there a working theory that the administration currently has as to why the oil companies have not already increased their refining capacity?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (30:02)
There’s no working theory on our part. What I can say is, let me just lay out some facts here. So as of this morning, crude oil prices have dropped by nearly 15% from two weeks ago, about prices at the pump have barely … But prices at the pump have barely budge. The last time the price of crude oil was $110 a barrel, the price of gas was $4 and 60 cents a gallon. Today, it’s about 35 cents higher. That difference is a result of companies record high profit margins for refining oil. Refiners margins have tripled since the beginning of the year. In just the first three months of the year, the biggest oil companies made 35 billion dollars. Four times, four times what they made in the first quarter of last year.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (30:53)
So they would have to speak to that themselves as to why they’re not bringing up their capacity, because again, the crude oil is there. We need them to refine that oil so that we could bring up the capacity and so therefore the gas prices could come down. That’s what we’re asking them to do. The conversation will happen tomorrow with Secretary Granholm. There will be white house of officials as well in the room with her. And so they’ll have that conversation and hopefully we can get to some solutions and some ideas.

Speaker 12: (31:22)
The secretary spoke about creativity. Do you have any sense of what she meant by that?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (31:25)
We’ll hear. We’ll hear from them directly. She’ll hear from them directly about what ideas that they might have to get their capacity up. Go ahead.

Speaker 13: (31:37)
This topic of a tax break has been out there for weeks, if not months. And you’re just talking now about starting the conversation. Why is it just starting now?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (31:48)
Look, this is something … The president talked about this even on Sunday. So some of you who were there with him … And for him, he wanted to make sure he looked at the data. He wanted to make sure he spoke to his economic team. And it was just an important piece of it. But I do want to take a step back. If we look at the last several months, if we look at what has happened during the time that Putin amassed his forces along the border of Ukraine, we have seen gas prices rise by $2 per gallon. That is just the facts. That is what we have seen. And the President has taken historic action. So yes, it’s been a couple of months, but he has taken action.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (32:33)
He has not just been sitting around waiting to make a decision on this. He’s taken action on the strategic petroleum reserve, where we’re seeing 1 million barrels of oil per day. That is happening. The ethanol 15, which is our homegrown biofuels, which he took action on that. And we’re hoping to see, what we’re going to see is, a few thousand gas stations in middle America, across the country. Hopefully that has an impact on that as well. And the 240 million barrels of oil that he rallied his partners across the globe to do. So those are actions that he’s taken. And so this is just another solution. I want to make sure that we’re not looking at gas tax as the only solution. It is one of an array of actions that the President is doing.

Speaker 13: (33:22)
I totally understand that, but again, why is it just happening now? And secondly, what was the threshold for him where he said, I want to push for this now?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (33:29)
Again, he spoke to this. He said he’s going to look at the data. He’s going to talk to his economic team. He did that. The thing about this is he took actions, as I mentioned. And with the gas tax, holiday gas tax, the way that he sees it is it’s a direct, straightforward way to deal with something that the American public is really not feeling any relief right now at the pump. And we’re also in the season, we’re in the summer season as well, where a lot of people are traveling. And so these next three months are critical for many families, American families. So the timing also makes sense as well when you think about where we are with families traveling the next three months during the summer time. Go ahead.

Speaker 14: (34:16)
A quick follow up to that, and then something else, you keep referencing the data that the President wanted to look at.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (34:22)

Speaker 14: (34:22)
What specifically data did he look at that got him to-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (34:25)
I think he talks to his economic team. They present him with information that he needs, with any other decision that he makes that deals with a decision like this. A decision that he has to make that’s going to really have a direct effect. This happens with any decision that he makes. But look, here’s the thing, the most important thing here is the way that this president sees this on top of all of the actions that he’s already taken, which I just listed out. He sees this as straightforward. He sees this as simple. He sees this as something that can have a direct effect on the pocket books of many Americans across the country. This is one of the ways that he feels that we can have an effect, a real effect. And this is something that the American public wants to see. This is something that they’ve been asking for, how, in ways that we can lower the cost at the pump.

Speaker 14: (35:25)
Is the administration still considering gas rebate cards for Americans also, and how much would be on those cards and is the chip shortage complicating that decision?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (35:34)
I don’t have any more on that to share besides the gas tax holiday. Look, the president is looking at many options. I just don’t have any more on the gas card holiday.

Speaker 15: (35:45)
[inaudible 00:35:45]. Follow up.

Speaker 16: (35:46)
Thank you. I have two foreign policy questions. First one, Afghanistan, the White House released a statement saying that the President will assess options of helping the Afghani people after the earthquake, whether it’s via USAID or federal government partners. Can you give us what kind of help that the United States will offer? And second, how can you make sure that this help will not fall into Taliban hands?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (36:12)
All good questions. Let me just say the United States is deeply saddened to see the devastating earthquake that preliminary reports indicate took the lives of at least a thousand people in Afghanistan. President Biden is monitoring developments and has directed USAID and other federal governments partners to assess US response options to help those most affected. The United States is the single largest donor of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. And our humanitarian partners are already delivering medical care and shelter supplies on the ground. We are committed to continuing our support for the needs of the Afghan people as we stand with them during and in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy. Again, I just wanted to give a little bit of what we have committed. More than 720 million since August, 2021 directly to humanitarian partners. So this aid does not go to the Taliban. The aids goes directly to the Afghan people via humanitarian partners on the ground.

Speaker 16: (37:23)
And another question on Russia, the Russian government spokeswoman said that the United States is destroying, what she called destroying, bilateral relationship that already are in lamented state. And she’s accusing the US of not allowing Russian planes to pick up Russian diplomats and their families from here and insinuating that they might do the same. So how do you assess her response? Is it, you think, that actually the Russians have thought of the United States relations now at stake? Do you think that the diplomatic relationship are in jeopardy or it just the usual statement?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (38:05)
You’re talking about the bilateral relationship with the US and Russia. We have to be very clear here, what we’re seeing currently. This is Russia invaded a sovereign country. They started this war. We’ve been talking about the gas tax. We’ve been talking about inflation just in general, global inflation and the challenges. A lot of that, when you look at gas and you look at food, that’s because of Russia’s war. This is something that if president Putin wanted to stop this and wanted to end this war, he could and he attacked another country’s democracy. So the president has been very clear. He is going to make sure that we defend democracies, that we defend freedoms, and he rallied, helped to rally the West and NATO to make sure that was a forceful response to what Russia is doing. And so this is the question that the spokesperson is asking or the statement that she’s making. It really goes back to them. What are they doing for their bilateral relationship? This is something that President Putin has caused, not us. Try and go with [inaudible 00:39:26]. Oh, go ahead, Jenny.

Speaker 17: (39:29)
Thanks, Karine. Two quick ones. One on insulin. [inaudible 00:39:33] Collins introduced a bill today and I’m wondering if you’re involved in that, supporting it, or are you negotiating something separate on reducing the price of insulin, which the President talks about a lot with Mansion and Senator Schumer as part of a broader reconciliation package?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (39:49)
So on that particular piece of legislation, I would just have to go back to the office, our office of ledge affairs to get more information to provide to you. So I just want to make sure I get that right. As you stated, the President has talked about insulin, the importance of bringing down price and cost for families. He he’s had several events where he has talked about that specifically. Right now, I would have to probably after this, I’ll go and check with them and get specifics on that piece of legislation for you.

Speaker 17: (40:15)
One more on your favorite topic, of the China terrorist, which just seems to have become like a stale debate inside the White House, because it’s-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (40:24)
Stale debate.

Speaker 17: (40:25)
Well, I think there’s two sides and one argues that it helps inflation, one argues that it doesn’t. Can you give us any sense of where the President is coming down on this because you guys are deliberating your decisions for a long time, and know if it does help inflation, if he does support that view, then why not?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (40:46)
Well, no decision has been made, as you just stated. They’ve been discussed, he’s been discussing, the President’s been discussing this with his team. We just don’t have anything to share at this time.

Speaker 17: (40:55)
No timeline?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (40:57)
No timeline, decision hasn’t been made. It’s being discussed with the team. That’s all.

Speaker 18: (41:01)
Thank you. I had a question again about Afghanistan, but on the humanitarian parole program. CBS had some reporting a couple days ago that showed that for those Afghans that are applying for parole remotely from still Afghanistan, that 90% had been denied. 90% of some 5,000 applicants at this point. Is, in the White House’s view, is that program which President Biden pointed to as really the main relief program for those that aided military officials, is that program working as it should be?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (41:34)
So we are aware of the report. We are reviewing it at this time. So we’re not yet public … We’re not ready to speak about it publicly, but I do want to give a little perspective as you’re asking about how this works. So the report outlines our efforts under the humanitarian parole process, which is separate and distinct from the refugee process. As you know, [inaudible 00:41:58], I know you’ve followed this closely humanitarian parole has strict criteria that requires applicants-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (42:03)
… parole has strict criteria that requires applicants of protection needs to be so urgent that they are unable to wait a while on an application to receive protection via US refugee admissions, and in process. The refugee process is typically how such applicants relocate to the United States. So that’s one piece. But also it requires applicants to leave Afghanistan before completing the mandatory screening and vetting. The vast majority of Afghans applying are still in Afghanistan. So that’s kind of the confusion there.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (42:37)
So we are proud to have welcomed nearly 80,000 Afghans to this country, through the Operation Allies Welcome, which is an unprecedented historic effort, and more than any other nation. We continue to welcome additional Afghan allies and vulnerable Afghans and will do so over the coming weeks and months. The State Department is also actively assisting eligible individuals to leave Afghanistan. In fact, we recently set up a processing hub in Qatar to process eligible Afghans for special immigrant or refugee status. But we are going to review the report. I can’t speak to that right now, but I just wanted to make sure we gave you a lay down-

Speaker 18: (43:16)
What was it in CBS?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (43:17)
Yes, we’re reviewing it.

Speaker 18: (43:19)
Okay. Because that was based off data released by USCIS.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (43:23)
Again, I’m just telling you that we’re reviewing it and then we’ll get back to you on that.

Speaker 18: (43:28)
One more refugee question too. The administration committed to admitting 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. There were USCIS officials that recently released data that showed US admitting Ukrainian, not just refugees, but also asylum seekers at the border. My question is, does that commitment for 100,000 include those who crossed the border?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (43:50)
Let me get information for you on that. So I can get an update on that particular program and we can get some breakdown and get back to you on that piece. Okay. Hold on. Let’s see. I already called on you. Go ahead.

Speaker 19: (44:04)
It’s great.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (44:06)
No I can’t call on you if I call on him. I feel like it’s a classroom. Go ahead.

Speaker 19: (44:12)
Two questions on COVID. First, if you could just give us a status of where things stand with talks with Congress on funding and what the administration’s planning is right now for funding for testing in the fall, after the funds were diverted from that.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (44:27)
So, as you know, the virus has not been waiting for Congress to act, and we have been clear that a lack of funding would force us to make hard decisions including last week, by having to pull funds from essential response needs like testing capacity for some of our urgent needs for vaccines. When we notified Congress of pulling funds early in June, we made clear to Congress the continued need for additional funding. The consequences we have long warned of are real. Our fight for COVID funding is active and regular and robust because COVID, as we all know, is not over and we risk even more severe and lethal consequences for American people if we do not secure this funding, even if members of Congress may think otherwise. And so that was your first part of your question and what was the second part of the question?

Speaker 19: (45:21)
So second part was last week during the hearing, one of the Senate Republicans who’s been supportive of approving the funding requests, Mitt Romney was expressing frustration at the request now, after that funding had been diverted. He had said, “For the administration to say they could not purchase these things and then after several months divert some funds and then purchase them is unacceptable and makes our ability to work together and have confidence in what we’re being told very much shaken to the core.” I mean, is this process now sort of spoiled because of the way the administration had done that with that funding? Is there any prospects for this funding to actually get through Congress now?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (46:00)
Just to respond to what Mitt Romney said, look, if you go back to January, we’ve been working with members of Congress, whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican on funding needs for the COVID response. We have been very active in doing that since then. We’ve hosted countless briefings, conference calls, shared more than a dozen funding tables all in a bipartisan basis. And these engagements has had full account of every dollar that has been spent and allocated on the COVID medical response and a full accounting of the entire American rescue plan, which goes well beyond the direct medical needs.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (46:41)
Above and beyond we have been transparent. We have broken down how we have been spending the funds. We’ve been doing this for several months. And so the bottom line is every day that Congress fails to act puts us further behind other countries in securing that COVID response funding and the resources that we need. And so again, we have been transparent. We have laid things out. We have had a 385 page document that I know Jen came out and shared it with all of you. And so this is incredibly important. We, we need Congress to act. We need Congress to move and we need Congress to act.

Speaker 20: (47:27)
[inaudible 00:47:27] do you have a follow up?

Speaker 21: (47:27)
Thank you. Lawmakers serving on the January 6th committee are getting security details we’ve had Supreme court justices get threats. Is president Biden going to do anything to address these growing threats of violence against public figures? And have there been any security changes here at the White House, given that we’re seeing threats on the line?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (47:45)
I can’t speak to any security changes here. You guys are here every day so you see for yourselves. Look, the President has spoken against the violence that we have seen and the threats, the intimidation that we have seen against Supreme Court Justices. He’s been very clear it is inappropriate. It should not be part of our political discourse. And he has condemned that from himself and also he just recently signed the security funding that’s going to be for the Supreme Court Justice. He signed that this past Thursday.

Speaker 22: (48:32)
Could you follow you address the [inaudible 00:48:36] by the FDA?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (48:37)
Say that one more time.

Speaker 22: (48:37)
I’m sorry. Yeah, there are reports today that the FDA is preparing to ban JUUL, which is an extremely popular e-cigarette that’s used by millions of people, primarily young adults to stop smoking cancer-causing combustible cigarettes. Is that true? And if so, is the president involved in that decision making?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (48:54)
I would refer you to the FDA. I don’t have anything for you on that at this time. Go ahead.

Speaker 10: (48:58)
Two questions. One foreign, one domestic. I’ll just follow up on the violence we’re talking about. As we get closer to the Supreme Court decision on Roe, there’s a group that has been distributing flyers around Washington DC, but also across the country and also online called Jane’s Revenge that declares there will be a night of rage, looting, burning, rioting if Roe is overturned. What message does this White House have in advance of that ruling as we get closer to it?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (49:29)
Again, violence and destruction of property have no place in our country under any circumstance and the president denounces this action. Actions like this are completely unacceptable regardless of our politics. So we have denounced that and we will continue to denounce any violence or threats.

Speaker 10: (49:49)
Okay. And the foreign question. With respect to the President’s trip to Israel, he is potentially scheduled to meet virtually with the Indian leader Modi. Does the White House have any comment on the Indian authorities demolishing the homes of people who have been protesting the derogatory comments made by Indian authorities against the prophet Mohamed. They’ve been having their homes destroyed by bulldozers in recent weeks. Is there any chance that the President will be pressing the Indian leader to protect Muslim minorities in India?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (50:26)
So I don’t want to get ahead of the President’s schedule. We will have more in the upcoming days on exactly what the President’s going to be doing on that trip. I don’t want to speak to — clearly the President, we have said this, he’s a straight shooter. He has no problem talking to leaders about humanitarian rights, about freedoms, about the importance of democracy. This is something that the President has done in the past. I can’t speak to specifically what’s going to be on the agenda and what their conversation’s going to be.

Speaker 10: (50:58)
But generally just the fact that people’s homes are being demolished right now.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (51:01)
No, I understand that. I’m just saying the President has no — he is a straight shooter and speaks very frankly and when it comes to humanitarian rights has no problem having those direct conversations, leader – leader conversations.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (51:20)
I’m going to go — Go ahead, Neils. Neils?

Speaker 23: (51:22)
Yes. Thank you. Has there been, as we’re looking at the student loan piece, that there was a number of senators and house members over at the AFL CIO this morning led by Chuck Schumer who were renewing their push for the president to cancel student debt. I know that there needs to be a decision on that by the end of August. What is the status of that decision? And what is the status specifically of the legal review that we know has been underway in terms of what exactly the President’s authorities may be?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (52:02)
So, we’re still continuing, the President, the administration, to assess options of cancellation. We have not made a decision yet. As the President said, just recently, I think on Sunday, he expects to make a decision on that soon. I do want to add no one has been required to pay a single dime of student loans since the President took office, which is 41 million borrowers, provided 20 billion in targeted debt relief to 1. 3 million borrowers. We just don’t have a decision that’s been made and he actually spoke to this most recently.

Speaker 23: (52:35)
And more broadly on questions where there are these sort of legal questions about what the executive authority is versus when you need to go to Congress. On the gas tax, obviously I think there’s a general assessment, but to suspend a tax you need Congress involved.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (52:51)

Speaker 23: (52:51)
But sort of how much is going on here behind the scenes to try and review options for when you need to go look to Congress for something versus something that can be done at the executive level to help bring down costs and deal with inflation and help people with their pocketbooks?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (53:13)
I mean, look, when it comes to the gas tax holiday, the way that the President sees this, it’s a simple, straightforward way to deal with an issue that’s really hurting families at the gas pump. If you look at the next three months where it is going to be a very busy three months of families going on vacation driving, maybe across the country, whatever families do, it is important that we really have an action and have a reaction to what families are feeling. And so this is the way that the President — when he made the decision, he understood, it’s a simple, straightforward way. It is 18 cents at the federal level. It is average out 30 cents in states. If oil refineries and companies do their part, that’s almost a dollar per gallon. So this is real for many people. This is very real for everyday Americans and incredibly important. So the way that the President sees this, he wants to make sure that we do something that the American people are going to feel directly. I think I’m being given the — I’ll take one more.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (54:18)
One more. Okay. Go ahead, sir.

Speaker 24: (54:23)
Yeah. You just mentioned that dollars, that people would feel that’s real. It’s three months though. Then what do you tell people who are all of a sudden going to be paying a dollar more in three months? Why build in volatility like that when people are already very anxious about this economy?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (54:39)
Well, as the secretary said, we’re going to take this step by step. We are, I think, like I said, the next three months, the next 90 days is when American families, people are going to be driving the most. We saw this as an important time to do this now or in this timeframe. The President feels that this is going to have a direct effect. We’ll talk more about what the next steps are. The president is not afraid to use his executive authority. We have said that. He said all things are on, on the table to make sure that we lower cost for American families, so he’s going to continue to look at other options. But again, this is not the only solution. This is not the only solution. This is one way to deal with high prices, gas prices in particular. Talked about the strategic petroleum reserve. We talked about the ethanol 15. All of these things are important actions that the President has taken.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (55:39)
But for now with the gas tax holiday, we encouraged, we ask Congress to act. Okay. Thanks everybody.

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