Sep 27, 2023
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 9/25/23 Transcript
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 9/25/23. Read the transcript here.
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Reporter 1 (00:04):
Ms. Jean-Pierre (00:06):
Hi, everybody. Oh, the cameras. Oh my goodness. I’m camera shy. Okay. Good afternoon, everyone. Happy Monday. This week, as House Republicans’ chaos continues to march us toward an extreme Republican shutdown, we are calling out how a shutdown would damage our communities, economy, and national security, and we’re going to hold extreme House Republicans accountable. We’re going to hold them accountable for the reckless cuts they are demanding as a condition, as a condition for keeping the government open.
With that, I’m looking forward to having the Secretary back here again to give you a lay-down of the impacts, and to talk about what the extreme Republicans… what they’re about to do is going to really impact families and Americans across the country. If you think about it, the risk of vital nutrition assistance for nearly 7 million mothers and young children who count on WIC, prevent farmers from being able to access new loans, and delay housing loans for rural families. And that is what we’re looking at if this shutdown, this Republican shutdown occurs. With that, Mr. Secretary.
Secretary Vilsack (01:18):
Thank you. Well, good afternoon, everybody. It’s certainly a pleasure to be here today. I think most of you probably understand and appreciate that the work of the Department of Agriculture spans a number of mission areas. We are not only responsible for supporting farmers, we also ensure a stable food supply, and we also provide nutrition assistance, vital nutrition assistance to millions of Americans. That’s why it’s so difficult to face where we are today with an extreme House Republican effort to recklessly steer our government towards a preventable shutdown that would put many of the critical services that we care about deeply at USDA at risk.
I know about this firsthand because I was Secretary of Agriculture during 2013 when we had a shutdown, and I remember then the needless challenges and disruption that it caused. So today I thought it would be important to highlight some of the impacts of this extreme Republican shutdown, what impact it would have on rural Americans, farmers, families in need.
Let me start with WIC. WIC is a program that impacts and affects over 50% of all the newborns in this country. Nearly 7 million pregnant moms, new mothers and young children, count on WIC every single day to receive support, nutrition assistance support. With a shutdown, what we would see across the United States is a denial of those benefits and opportunities. In some cases, it would be literally within a matter of days after the shutdown. In some cases, it may be… in some states, it may be literally in a matter of weeks. But clearly, during the course of a shutdown, millions of those moms, babes, and young children would see a lack of nutrition assistance.
And it’s not just the WIC program as important and significant as that is. It’s also about our farm economy. Now is a time when farmers are harvesting their crops, and they’re seeking marketing loans which allow them and assist them in ensuring that they get a decent price for their crop. When we have a shutdown, farm service agency offices in virtually every county of this country shut down, and those loans are not available.
It is not just about farm loans. It’s about newlyweds who have decided to purchase their first home in a rural small town. Perhaps they’re getting a loan guarantee from a bank that is guaranteed by USDA, or perhaps they’re getting a direct loan from USDA to be able to purchase that home. With a shutdown, those loans don’t take place. And it’s conceivable in those circumstances, not only are they not able to close the loan, it’s also conceivable that they may lose the deal. So this is a matter of real consequences when we are faced with a shutdown.
It’s not just about rural America, it’s also about our natural resources. As you probably know, the USDA is responsible for maintaining 195 million acres of national forest and grasslands. These are often places where people go to recreate. And when they do, they provide tourism dollars to communities in which they are going and spending time. When we have a shutdown, those national forests shut down, and they’re closed. And so those family trips don’t take place, and those tourism dollars are not spent, and the jobs they support are at risk.
It’s not just the services that go to the American public. It’s also those who work for USDA. We anticipate and expect that more than 50,000 of those who work for USDA will be furloughed. And when they’re furloughed, it means that they don’t receive a paycheck. Because they don’t receive that paycheck, their local economies get impacted and affected.
And I could go on for some time, but the reality is that when there is a shutdown, we’re looking at a significant disruption of the lives of millions of Americans. Republicans have called for a CR, and I’ll just say two things about that.
It just is basically carrying forward the extreme cuts that we see and saw in the budget that was proposed in the House Ag Appropriations Committee. At the time, I said the budget was pathetic. It was punitive, and it was petty. And I would say that that also continues to be the case.
Not only do we have the WIC initiative that wouldn’t be funded, but we’re also looking at the failure to fund the Firefighter Fix, which puts at risk the firefighting staff necessary to combat the nearly 44,000 fires that we’ve already experienced in the Western U.S. today.
So I’m here today to suggest that there are real consequences to real people in a real way when there is a shutdown, especially one that ought not to happen. And I’m hopeful that at the end of the day, it doesn’t happen.
Ms. Jean-Pierre (06:22):
Thank you, sir.
Reporter 2 (06:25):
Once there is a shutdown, how long can you keep nutrition assistance going?
Secretary Vilsack (06:31):
To make sure I understand your question. The SNAP program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will continue at least for month of October. Now, if the shutdown were to extend longer than that, there would be some serious consequences to SNAP.
The WIC program that I talked about today, which is for nearly 7 million moms and children, that program expires, if you will, or stops immediately when the shutdown occurs. We have a contingency fund at USDA that might continue it for a day or two. Some states may have leftover WIC benefits that have not been spent, which could extend it for a week or so in that state. But the vast majority of WIC participants would see an immediate reduction and elimination of those benefits, which means the nutrition assistance that’s provided would not be available.
Ms. Jean-Pierre (07:18):
Go ahead, MJ.
Reporter 3 (07:20):
Is there any scenario where if there is no deal and there is a government shutdown, that the administration could explore the possibility of exercising any authority to extend the funding of the WIC program past the one or two days that you just mentioned?
Secretary Vilsack (07:36):
There is no authority. Unlike the SNAP program, we don’t have that capability. At least for a period of time with SNAP, for a month or so. So if we have a shutdown, WIC shuts down, and that means the nutrition assistance to those moms and young children shuts down.
Reporter 4 (07:57):
Thank you. You mentioned a government shutdown could harm farmers and prevent them from accessing new loans. Help us put this into perspective for Americans. At the end of the day, what should Americans expect? Could this even lead to higher food prices, for instance?
Secretary Vilsack (08:11):
What it leads to is a tremendous amount of stress for those farm families. Just to give you a sense of this, many farm families require off-farm income to be able to keep the farm, and oftentimes they need that loan, that marketing assistance loan, to be able to make sure that they maintain the farm. So it puts at risk the small and mid-size farming operation in terms of their ability to get credit when they need credit, their ability to pay their bills when they need to pay their bills, the ability to make sure that they can harvest their crop.
If they can’t harvest the crop or they don’t get the marketing assistance loan, then they’re in a situation where they don’t profit. And if they don’t profit, they risk losing the farm. So it creates a tremendous amount of stress. For what reason? There’s no reason for this shutdown. At the end of the day, we had a deal, a deal that the Senate passed with a majority of senators, a deal that passed the House with a majority of not just Democrats, but also Republicans voting for it, a deal’s a deal. And to me, there’s no reason for us to be even having this conversation.
Reporter 5 (09:22):
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Over the weekend, the President mentioned that food safety was also at stake. So can you give us some examples of how during previous shutdowns, the absence of food and environmental inspections impacted public health?
Secretary Vilsack (09:40):
Well, I think you would want to visit with the folks at FDA. You need to understand that our food safety responsibilities are divided. The USDA has responsibility for meat, poultry, and processed eggs. FDA has responsibility for everything else. I can tell you that in terms of meat, poultry, and processed eggs, we’ll continue to have food inspection, but that may not necessarily be the case with the FDA. So I think you want to talk to the FDA.
I’ll show you how silly this is. If you order a pepperoni pizza, we’re guaranteeing the safety of it because there’s meat on that pizza. If you order a cheese pizza, you’re looking at FDA.
Reporter 5 (10:22):
So are not all food inspectors considered essential workers? Just one’s affiliated with meat and…
Secretary Vilsack (10:28):
Well, I can’t speak to what HHSS does or what FDA does. That’s why I think you should visit with them. But our inspectors will be on site. But here’s where there is a potential problem, and that is if there is a situation and circumstance that requires lab analysis, well, now that’s a different story. So that may impact and affect our ability to detect animal diseases as quickly as we need to, which in turn could affect the supply of food. So it’s complicated, but our food inspectors will be on the job.
Ms. Jean-Pierre (11:04):
Thanks. And then we’ll go to back one.
Reporter 6 (11:06):
On the potential 50,000 furloughed workers, do you know where those workers… What programs those would be impacted on? Do you know what we’re looking at right now?
Secretary Vilsack (11:14):
It’s across the board. It’s in every county of the country. We have a presence in every county of the country. So it’s going to impact and affect literally every county in the country. It’s FSA offices, it’s Rural Development Offices. It’s NRCS conservation employees. It’s some of the Forest Service employees. It’s a lot of the researchers and people who work for the Agricultural Research Service, ARS. It’s administrative staff. You can have people working on the job, but if you don’t have the administrative people behind it, the job doesn’t get done. It’s incredibly disruptive. Incredibly disruptive.
Reporter 6 (11:52):
And then on another deadline in Washington, how confident are you that a new farm bill will be passed by the end of the year? Or is an extension more likely?
Secretary Vilsack (00:00):
Secretary Vilsack (12:03):
I think that this chair and ranking members of both committees are working hard to get this done. I would say this, in order for it to get done, it’s important for them to understand the importance of using all the tools that would be available for all of the challenges that they face. Not just the Farm Bill, but the budget. When you undercut and underfund the budget, as some are proposing cutting it by as much as in some cases 20, 30%, you undermine the ability of any Farm Bill, regardless of whether it’s passed or not, to be implemented. And so our challenge at USDA is to provide technical assistance and help to get them to yes, and that’s what we’re doing. We’ll continue to work. Our hope and belief is that the farm community and rural areas need certainty and consistency, and we’ll do everything we can to make sure that this thing gets passed as quickly as it can. But it’s pretty tough to do. If there’s a shutdown. You can’t do it.
Speaker 1 (13:02):
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. A follow-up on that is to what extent would a shutdown affect the ability of your Ledge Affairs folks and maybe negotiations with the Hill on the Farm Bill? Could the Farm Bill reauthorization be delayed, because everyone is dealing with the consequences of a shutdown?
Secretary Vilsack (13:22):
So here’s how it works. Some senator or representative has a great idea about how they might be able to solve one of the problems they’re trying to solve with the Farm Bill. They call our office for technical assistance. The phone’s not going to get answered, because no one’s there. Why aren’t they there? Because we’re in a shutdown. That’s why it’s so ridiculous for us to even talk about this. The speaker needs to do his job. He fought for it, he negotiated for it. He needs to do the job and get the job done.
Speaker 1 (13:55):
Thank you. Switching gears to a slightly different topic. Has the Department of Agriculture seen anything in the purchase of farmland by Chinese corporations or Chinese nationals that would suggest a threat to national security or food security? Or those concerns that we’ve increasingly been hearing about, are those overblown?
Secretary Vilsack (14:16):
Well, I think there’s concern as there was in the North Dakota circumstance where the Chinese interest was purchasing land near a military installation. I think there’s legitimate concerns in that space, and I think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve articulated the need as a department to be more engaged in the CFIUS process. I would also say that I think there’s work to be done to give us the tools to be able to do an even better job of ensuring that we know when these transactions take place. It’s complicated, but every county has their county recorder and any given day, somebody may walk into that recorder’s office and file a deed. And there’s no way of knowing precisely whether or not that is a Chinese purchaser. So we need to work on how we might be able to collect the information and be able to analyze that information in a timely way, so that we would determine whether or not a threat exists or not.
Speaker 1 (15:12):
So it sounds like you’re not confident in the current system as it’s set up to necessarily monitor?
Secretary Vilsack (15:16):
Well, it’s not that I’m not confident. I think we’re confident in the job we’re doing today because we are able to identify circumstances, as was the case in North Dakota. I think that if folks are looking for a full proof system so that nothing gets through the cracks, then I think there are ways in which we can be helpful, and we can improve that process. Being part of CFIUS, I think is part of it. Being able to collect information in a way that allows us to go a little bit deeper and a little quicker would be helpful as well.
Speaker 2 (15:52):
We’re going to wrap it up.
Speaker 3 (15:53):
So how would the shutdown affect programs that are used by farmers, like crop insurance? And as part of the country is under really extreme drought conditions, do you see a need for supplemental funding to come in and help folks plant their crops?
Secretary Vilsack (16:08):
Well, I think there are certain circumstances where, not withstanding the fact that we have a pretty good safety net, that there are some types of crops that would need a little bit of additional help. Florida and Georgia in particular, I think of two states where there are significant needs and challenges, fortunately that the shutdown does not impact and effect crop insurance, but a failure to extend the farm bill or get a farm bill done could, which is why we don’t want to shut down, so they can work on the farm bill to get it done. And we don’t have the disruption to the WIC program, the firefighters, the farm loans, the home loans, I could go on. And she would probably want me to do this, to spend all of your time talking about it.
But the point of this is it’s very simple. There are real impacts. There are real impacts to real people on a daily basis when Congress and the House and house Republicans don’t do their job. And Americans expect, and this is what drives people crazy outside of Washington when a deal’s not a deal and when the work that you’re supposed to do doesn’t get done and doesn’t get done on time.
Speaker 2 (17:21):
Thank you, sir.
Secretary Vilsack (17:22):
Speaker 2 (17:23):
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Okay. Just two quick things. I also wanted to say a note of welcome to our new employees starting at the White House today. Our new Deputy directors of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox. This is all on the heels, as you all know, of this historic announcement that the president and the Vice President made just on Friday. So we could not be more thrilled to have them on board here and look forward to introducing them to you all very soon as the Office of Gun Violence Prevention gets up and running. And one last thing before we open it back up for questions. As you all know today, Jewish communities in the United States, Israel, and around the world are observing a sacred holiday. So let me say that the President, the First Lady and all of us at the White House are extending our best wishes for an easy, fast, and a meaningful Yom Kippur. And with that, Will, you want to kick us off?
Speaker 4 (18:26):
Sure. Thank you. I have two things. Why did the White House choose to have the President take his latest Covid booster out of public view? Isn’t this a time when given the promotion of boosters and how important they are that the public might want to see that the President have it?
Speaker 2 (18:43):
Yeah, so I think you all saw the physician’s memo, his report on Saturday. So certainly if you haven’t, you should take a look at it. So the president got his vaccination. As you know, he has an incredibly busy schedule. He got his vaccination at the earliest moment that he could, and that’s what we were able to do work that would work in his schedule. So that’s what happened last week. And certainly, as you just laid out in your question, we are certainly engaged in a robust campaign, and it is incredibly important to us that we encourage the public to get vaccinated. That has been the way that we have moved forward when we have moved forward with this comprehensive kind of vaccination program that the president put forth from the beginning. And so it doesn’t require a photo op of the president to be doing that… A presidential photo op to be more clear.
So we thought that we needed to get that done, get that on his schedule. We did. And it doesn’t stop us for having a robust engagement with the public to make sure that we get it across the importance of folks getting their vaccines, not just the updated Covid vaccine, but also RSV and also the flu shot.
Speaker 4 (20:02):
I have a second one, and I’m changing topics.
Speaker 2 (20:02):
Yeah, go ahead.
Speaker 4 (20:02):
Is the White House working with the Senate on a clean CR? Is there any reason for optimism on the-
Speaker 2 (20:04):
Look, I’m going to be very clear as I was on Friday, as Secretary Vilsack was very clear just even before he walked out of the briefing room, which is, look, this is something for House Republicans to get done. This is a deal that the President made with Republicans back in May, and a deal is a deal, as we’ve been saying, this is something for them to fix. And so they have to get this done, not because of us, not even because of the deal with the President, but because of the American people. We just heard the Secretary of Agriculture lay out what will happen to women and children, 7 million women and children who are part of the WIC program across the country, 7 million if this shutdown happens. And this is indeed a Republican shutdown. So they’ve got to get to it, they’ve got to fix it, and they’ve got to stick to the deal that the President made with them earlier in the summer. MJ, welcome back.
Speaker 5 (21:03):
Thank you. It’s good to be back. I know that you got a number of questions about Senator Menendez on Friday, but now that the Senator himself has said that he is not going anywhere, and given that President Biden is the leader of the Democratic Party, does the President believe that a person who is facing allegations that are as serious as the allegations confronting the Senator, that there is any place for somebody like Senator Menendez in the Democratic Party?
Speaker 2 (21:30):
So I’m going to be very clear. This is a serious matter. We see this as a serious matter. And we believe the Senator stepping down from his chairmanship was the right thing to do, obviously, the right thing to do. As it relates to anything else, any decision that he has to make, that’s certainly going to be up to him and the Senate leadership to decide. But of course, we see this as a serious matter, and I’m just going to leave it there for now.
Speaker 5 (21:55):
Just quickly on the trip to Detroit tomorrow, what changed? Can you give us a sense of what went into the decision for the President to go stand on the picket line and show that kind of solidarity with the workers there?
Speaker 2 (22:14):
Well, the president is a union guy. You heard him say that many times. He is the most pro-union president in modern times. That is not something that he’s given himself that title. That is something that labor unions have given to him, and he wears that very proudly. And as you all know, the president of UAW invited him to attend and he accepted. But look, this is the president that’s made it very, very clear that he believes that corporate profits should lead to a record UAW contract. And before the strike even occurred, he made public announcements about this. He spoke to the parties on both sides of this. He has made it very, very clear that he supports union workers. He supports the UAW workers. And tomorrow, which you’re going to see, is historic, right? This is going to be a historic visit, and the president’s going to continue to show his support, not just from the last couple of years, but as he has been in the public eye as a senator, as a vice president, his support for unions.
And you’ve seen this in the last two years with his pro-union policies, making sure that his pro-union policies are indeed pro workers.
Speaker 5 (23:28):
So should we take from the visit that the president is explicitly taking the side of the union workers as opposed to the companies?
Speaker 2 (23:35):
Well, he has been very clear, right? He is pro UAW. He is pro workers. That is this president, right? He has said, the unions built the middle class. This is something that he said over and over again, he’s always been on the side of workers. He believes that there is an opportunity here, and he is encouraged, and he’s pleased by seeing both sides
Speaker 2 (24:00):
… sides continue to have that conversation. It is their negotiation to make. This is why he says he believes in collective bargaining, and he believes that there could be a win-win agreement here. But he’s always going to stand on the side of workers, always.
Oh. Okay. I’ll come to you after, Joey. Go ahead. Go ahead, Steve. Go ahead.
Speaker 7 (24:18):
The Trump’s decision to visit the UAW workers play into your decision to go?
Speaker 2 (24:24):
Absolutely not. This is a decision, to visit the picket line was based off his own desire. This is what the president wanted to do, to stand, to stand with auto workers. That’s what you’re going to see the president do tomorrow. And he, as you all know, Sinn Féin’s invitation from last week, he accepted that invitation and is proud to do so.
Speaker 7 (24:44):
And secondly, does the president endorse the specific terms of the latest proposal by UAW leadership, or is there room for further compromise?
Speaker 2 (24:54):
So I’m not going to get into negotiations from here. This is for the parties to negotiate. We’re not going to speak to what’s being put at the table. What we have said over and over again is that we believe there’s an opportunity here for a win-win agreement. We believe with corporations having record, making record deals, UAW should have a record contract. And that’s what the auto workers deserve. That’s what workers deserve more broadly. Go ahead, Joey.
Speaker 6 (25:25):
Yeah. Did President Biden reach out to the auto companies to notify them that he would be going to join the picket line with UAW?
Speaker 2 (25:33):
I don’t have any readouts of any calls that has been made regarded to this as it’s related to the companies. As you know, we have said many times before that he’s spoken to the companies, he’s spoken to all parties. As you know, we have two members. Jean Sperling, a member here of the White House, a White House senior advisor, and also as you know, the acting secretary, Julie Su, have been in touch, in regular touch with all parties as they are negotiating this process. But I don’t have anything to read out, except that the president was pleased to accept the invite that was given to him, that was provided to him by the president of UAW. And he’s always going to stand by the side of workers.
Speaker 6 (26:24):
And can you provide us some more information on the details of the format of the event? Is he going to be speaking? What exactly will he be doing? And where in Wayne County, Michigan is he going to actually be going?
Speaker 2 (26:33):
So we don’t have any details, specific details at this time. Look, this is going to be a historic trip that’s going to underscore the president is the most, indeed most pro-union president in history. And so that’s what you’re going to see. He’s going to join the picket line, standing in solidarity with the men and women of UAW. That is important for the president, he believes, to do. And as they continue to fight for a fair share of value of they helped create. If you think about what the record, these corporations, the record profits that they’ve been able to make, they believe and we believe that they’re owed a fair share of that. Okay.
Speaker 8 (27:20):
Thanks, Karine. Just to clarify, since President Biden will be making this trip, does this mean he supports the 40% pay increase and 32-hour work week that the workers are asking for?
Speaker 2 (27:28):
I’m not going to get into the details of what’s being negotiated right now on the table, certainly with the parties. What we are saying is that we support the auto workers. That’s what you’re going to see with the president tomorrow. This is a historic event, a historic trip. And this continues, continues to show how indeed this president is the most pro-union president in history, and he stands by the side of workers. This is what you’re going to see tomorrow.
Speaker 8 (27:55):
And separately. The White House has made it very clear that it’s on Republicans to avoid the government shutdown. Not on the White House, but our latest polling shows that a higher percentage of Americans would actually blame the shutdown on the president and the Democrats, not on Republicans. Why do you think that is? And should the President be out there speaking more on this issue?
Speaker 2 (28:14):
We’re going to be very clear. This will be a Republican shutdown. This is extreme House Republicans who have made it very clear, that the chaos that we’re seeing in the House, they are marching us towards a government shutdown that shouldn’t be happening. This shouldn’t be happening. This is the job of Congress. One of the basic jobs of Congress is to keep the government open. A deal was made. I can’t speak to your polling, but what I can speak is to the facts. The facts is a deal is a deal. It is up to them to keep the government open. This is something they can do. They know how to fix this, and it is an extreme, extreme part of the Republican Party that is holding this, holding this because they want to ram through extreme policies that’s going to hurt the American people.
So we’re going to continue to be very clear about this. We’ve talked today about the food safety. You’ve heard me talk about education, housing, law enforcement, Meals on Wheels, Headstart. So much more will would be affected by this if this Republican shutdown happens. So we’re going to continue to be very clear about it. And it is something that they can fix. They can fix this.
Speaker 8 (29:26):
But does it show that the president needs to be messaging more to the public about this?
Speaker 2 (29:30):
Look, the president was very clear early this summer when he put this deal together, a bipartisan deal that two thirds of Republicans voted on. And that’s what the American people want to see. We saw that in the midterms, right? That’s what they want. They want to see us continue to work in a bipartisan way. That’s what the president did. Now, we’re going to continue to be very clear, this is a deal that they all agreed upon not too long ago, just a couple of months ago, and now they can’t stick to the deal. So we’re going to be asked the question, we’re going to answer it straightforward, we’re going to lay out the facts, but this is something for Congress to fix. Go ahead. Dave, you’re upfront today.
Speaker 9 (30:08):
Yeah, I am.
Speaker 2 (30:08):
Speaker 9 (30:08):
First time in the first seat. Good to see you.
Speaker 2 (30:08):
Good to see you.
Speaker 9 (30:12):
I want to press you a little bit on what you just said. You said that the president supports the auto workers. Does that mean that the president is siding with the auto workers over the auto companies?
Speaker 2 (30:22):
What we’re saying is we’re not going to get into negotiation. When it comes to the negotiation, that is something for the parties to decide on, that is something for them to discuss. But me saying that the president supports the auto workers, that’s not anything new. When we’re talking about a president who is the most pro-union president in history, it is nothing new for the president to stand by the workers. That is nothing new for the president to say, “I’m going to stand by the men and women of UAW. Make sure that they get their fair share. Make sure that they get a win-win agreement here.” We believe this agreement can be a win-win agreement for all, but we’re not going to litigate the specifics of the negotiations.
Speaker 9 (31:02):
Following up on that though, a strike could have potentially huge impacts for the economy. According to NBC news polling, 37% of registered voters, just 37% approve of the president’s handling of the economy. He’s had a 56% disapproval, the highest of his presidency. And 74% of registered voters say they have major or moderate concerns about the president’s age and mental fitness. How troubling is that?
Speaker 2 (31:27):
Here’s what we’re going to focus on. We’re going to focus on exactly what you just asked me, the first question, which is how do we continue to support the workers? We’re not going to get into the litigation of the negotiations here, but what we’re going to do is continue to show how much this president is working for American families. You just heard from secretary here, who laid out what it means if there’s a shutdown and why it is so important for Republicans to keep to their deal. That’s what we’re going to focus on. You see the Bionomics, I get it. I get that Americans right now, they’ve been through a lot, they’ve been through the pandemic, this global pandemic that we’re coming out of. They have been through what we’ve seen because of Russia’s war in Ukraine, and we saw inflation spike. We saw what’s going on with what Americans are feeling every day.
This is why this president has been so zeroed in, so laser focused on lowering costs for Americans, and we’ve done that. And a lot of the policies that the president has put forward are indeed popular. Bionomics has worked so well that you have Republicans in their own districts, in their own states taking credit for things that the president pushed forward, policies that the president has pushed forward, legislation that they didn’t even vote for, if you think about the American Rescue Plan, the Inflation Reduction Act. So I get the polling that you’re laying out. I get that, but we can’t be focused on that. We also have to be focused on really speaking directly to the American people. The next three days, you’re going to see the president go to three states to do just that.
Speaker 9 (33:04):
But 37% approve.
Speaker 2 (33:06):
I hear you. I hear you. Look, our focus is going to be on what we can do to continue to deliver for the American people. Polls are polls. They are going to be all over the place. They don’t tell the whole story actually. And that is just the way a poll is. What we’re going to focus on is how we can continue to do the job that the president promised that he would do, is make American’s lives a little bit better, give them that breathing room. I’m going to go around. I know, I always forget to call. Linda Sise, let me call on you. Go ahead.
Speaker 10 (33:45):
Thanks, Karine. You just said the president doesn’t want to get into the specifics of the negotiations, but is he perhaps interfering in these negotiations by visiting the picket line tomorrow?
Speaker 2 (33:55):
We never get into the specifics of negotiations, not in public. We’re not going to do that. That is something for the parties to decide on when it comes to negotiations. We’ve always been very clear about that. They’re meeting, they have negotiating, and we are pleased to see that. When it comes to the president going to the picket line, he’s doing it because he wants to stand in solidarity with the workers, which is something that this president continues to do and has done for the past several year, is stay on the side of workers. And you see that. You see that with his policies and you’ll see that tomorrow.
Speaker 10 (34:30):
And one quick one on Covid. There are a lot of people who are struggling to get appointments. There’s confusion about with insurance companies. Is there some sort of concern at the White House right now that this shift in responsibility to the commercial market from the federal government has not gone as smoothly?
Speaker 2 (34:48):
So we’re certainly aware of consumers having experienced unexpected, at least with insurance coverage, denials at the point of service. We’re aware of that. HHHS, as you know, is working with insurance plans and pharmacies to resolve this quickly. Look, it’s a top priority for this administration to assure that everyone can access this updated vaccine. And so HHS is working through that. And so any specific additional questions about that, certainly I would refer you to HHS. But we’re taking this very seriously and HHS is working through that. Go ahead. Kayla.
Speaker 8 (35:23):
Thanks, Karine. Moody’s warned today that a government shutdown could have a negative impact on the country’s credit rating. It’s the last major credit grader to assign the U.S a top rating. Is the president concerned that the political brinkmanship that we’ve seen this year is hurting the country’s reputation, specifically on the economy, on the world stage?
Speaker 2 (35:45):
So look, I’m going to leave all of the economic analysis to others. I’m not going to get into it from here. But we know that, and I’ve said this already a couple of times, that what we’re seeing from Republicans in the House,
Speaker 2 (36:00):
[inaudible 00:36:01], especially the extreme Republicans in the House, what they’re going to do potentially leading us to a shutdown is going to hurt American people.
If you think about it, the 3.5 million jobs that have been created under this president, the under 4% unemployment rate, I would not understand, or we do not understand why they would put our economy at risk. That’s what you’re just laying out. Why would Republicans in the House put our economy at risk when we have seen the improvements over the last two years?
So I’m going to leave it to the experts to speak about the economy and what that looks like. But this is a question for them. This is something that does not have to happen. It does not have to happen.
Speaker 11 (36:40):
I have a question on student loans. I know that they’re restarting on October 1st, potentially the same day that a government shutdown could start. Is there any consideration of pushing that date back or is there any guise that you have for borrowers about what they should expect if workers at the Department of Education won’t be available to assist them?
Speaker 2 (36:58):
So a couple of things. I do want to lay this out. So look, when it comes to student loans, it’s obviously our top priority, especially as we talk about the president’s economic plan and giving people a little breathing room, especially on their monthly payments.
So that’s why the president also launched, as you all know, the most affordable repayment plan ever, which is the SAVE Plan. So if this happens, if Republicans in Congress go down this road of shutting down the government, we anticipate that key activities at Federal student aid will continue for a couple of weeks.
But however, if it is a prolonged shutdown, lasting more than a few weeks, could substantially disrupt the return to repayment effort and long-term servicing support for borrowers.
So the Department of Education will do its best to support borrowers as they return to repayment, as we have been saying for the past several months. But an extreme Republican shutdown, if this occurs, could be disruptive and just to maybe more… I think about more than 28 million federal student loan borrowers restart payments.
So this is something that does not have to happen. These are political games that we see from the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue and it does not have to happen. It does not have to happen. So that’s how we foresee this moving forward. Okay.
Speaker 12 (38:23):
Thanks. I wanted to further understand a little bit the president’s trip tomorrow. It seems like by going to stand with workers at a picket line, the president is literally standing with them in the terms that they’re seeking in the contract dispute.
But when you’re asked about some of the specifics of that, you seem to be saying you guys don’t want to get into the specifics of the dispute. So is he not standing with them on the terms with which they’re trying to negotiate?
Speaker 2 (38:50):
I mean, to be very clear, he is standing with them to make sure that they get a fair share. That is what he’s standing with them on. He’s standing with them and we’ve said this, that they get… The record profits mean a record contract for UAW. That is why he’s going. That is what he’s standing for.
Now they’re going to negotiate what that looks like for them, right. That’s what they’re doing right now. That’s what collective bargaining is all about. They’re going to talk it through what a win-win agreement looks like. But what we definitely agree on is that they deserve a fair share. They deserve a fair share of the value that they helped create. That’s what the president is saying.
But the details, the specifics of what that looks like, what makes both sides happy or anything at the negotiation table, that is for them to decide. That is for them to decide.
Speaker 12 (39:42):
But it seems like he’s taking away the… Some past presidents have been an arbiter between two sides that are in conflict. It seems like by going to the picket line, he’s not an arbiter between the two sides. He’s choosing a side by stating-
Speaker 2 (39:55):
But we have said over and over again that this is the president that stands with union workers. This is-
Speaker 12 (40:02):
Right. But that’s why it’s confusing where you’re saying we’re not going to talk about the terms.
Speaker 2 (40:05):
No, no, no. I disagree. It is not confusing. What he is saying, and we’ve been very clear, he stands with union workers, he stands with the workers. He has said, and they have said, he’s the most pro-union president in history and that is what he’s doing. He is going to stand in solidarity at the picket line with the workers.
Now, they are at the table. They are at the table trying to figure out what this agreement is going to look like. They are going to decide the specifics of that agreement. What the president is saying is… And he always says this, this is nothing new. He always says he stands by union workers and he is going to stand with the men and the women of UAW. That continues to be the case. Go ahead Katie.
Speaker 13 (40:45):
So I’m sorry. Oh my goodness.
Speaker 2 (40:47):
You going to ask the same question? I’m not going to change my answer.
Speaker 13 (40:50):
[inaudible 00:40:50]. It’s fine. I’m going to ask again.
Speaker 2 (40:52):
No, feel free and I’m going to give you the same answer.
Speaker 13 (40:54):
Is he [inaudible 00:40:54] or is he visiting the picket line? Is he standing with them? Is he walking in the picket line?
Speaker 2 (40:58):
He’s going to join the picket line.
Speaker 13 (41:00):
So does the White House see any political risk in doing this?
Speaker 2 (41:05):
What the president understands is that he wants to be on the side, and is and has been on the side of workers. That is something that he has said over and over and over again.
Speaker 13 (41:16):
So when he asked earlier that if he’s siding with the workers over the companies, he is indeed siding with the workers.
Speaker 2 (41:22):
He is standing with the auto workers. He is standing with the workers. We are not involved in negotiations. That is something for them to decide what is going to work for the parties that are involved. But he is standing with the auto workers. That’s what the president is doing. He got the invite from the UAW president, he accepted and he’s going to go and do what he has said that he does all the time, which is stand with union workers.
What you’re going to see is he’s going to be standing with men and women of the UAW, and that is important to the president.
Speaker 14 (41:57):
Speaker 2 (41:57):
All right, I just got to go around guys. I got to go around. Yeah, go ahead. I’m trying to call on people I haven’t called on yet.
Speaker 15 (42:03):
You had said earlier that the president had spoken to the companies, presumably you meant the automakers. We know he had spoken to them before his trip to India earlier this month. Has he had any more recent-
Speaker 2 (42:14):
I don’t have any calls to read out. I don’t have any calls to read out.
Speaker 15 (42:17):
If the auto companies asked to meet with him tomorrow when he’s in Michigan, would he consider that?
Speaker 2 (42:22):
I just don’t have any more details what the trip is going to look like tomorrow. Go ahead Danny.
Speaker 16 (42:28):
Yeah. On this situation in Nagorno- Karabakh, thousands of refugees are leaving the territory at the moment. How concerned is the president about this, and Armenia has said that this amounts to ethnic cleansing. Is that a term that the president would agree with?
Speaker 2 (42:43):
So we certainly are watching closely the reports. This is something that I would have to refer you to my NSC colleagues to give you any update on. Certainly it is concerning, but this is something that they’re keeping an eye on closer than we are here. So they’ll give you an update specifically. Go ahead.go head, go ahead. No, go ahead.
Speaker 16 (43:04):
Speaker 2 (43:04):
Speaker 16 (43:07):
Thank you Karine. I just wanted to ask you about the situation at the Southwest border. As we know, some cities are claiming that they’re at a breaking point with regards to the humanitarian crisis that is ongoing down there. I know that there was an agreement signed with Mexico over the weekend. I wonder if the administration is in touch with these cities down on the border and if there’s other actions that the White House is considering to address the issue that is taking place down at the border.
Speaker 2 (43:29):
I’m going to have to point you to the readout from CBP. As you just mentioned, they issued a readout of their conversation with the Mexican government over the weekend regarding their engagement. So certainly would have you reach out to them and they could lay out specifically how that engagement went and also refer you to the readout more specifically as well.
Speaker 2 (43:52):
Okay. Go ahead.
Speaker 17 (43:54):
Thank you. So in a recent meeting with the Prime Minister of South Korea, Xi Jinping expressed his support for resuming annual trilateral summits with China, Japan and South Korea. I was just wondering if the administration has any comment on that development.
Then additionally, recently the Japanese Prime Minister replaced both foreign and defense ministers. Is there any concern that this could impact the US ROK Japan partnership, especially given that it’s happening so soon after the Trilateral Summit?
Speaker 2 (44:24):
To your first question, I certainly would refer you to Japan and ROK for specifics of their plan for the trilateral cooperation with the PRC. So that is something that I would refer you to.
But we here, certainly the United States, respects the ability of nations to make sovereign decisions in the best interest of their people, just as the United States takes steps to responsibly manage our relationship with the PRC and also with our other partners and allies. What was your second question? This is about the Japan…
Speaker 14 (44:55):
Yes. Recently the Japanese Prime Minister replaced both his foreign defense ministers. I was wondering if there was any concern about how that could impact the US ROK Japan partnership?
Speaker 2 (45:05):
So first I would refer you to the government of Japan on any personnel decisions that they’ve made. Look, you saw the relationship continue to deepen and grow just a couple weeks ago now at Camp David when there was a trilateral summit, which was historic and truly important.
So we’re going to continue to work closely with our Japanese counterparts to enhance that relationship. So that certainly has not changed. We have to go. Sorry. We have to go, guys. All right. Go ahead.
Speaker 18 (45:35):
Speaker 2 (45:36):
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Speaker 18 (45:41):
Thanks. Has President Biden had any engagement with House Republicans about the shutdown?
Speaker 2 (45:46):
I don’t have any engagements to read out to you. As I said last week, we have OMB Director Shalanda Young, who has been in regular touch with members in Congress. We have had our legislative affairs office who has been in regular touch. Don’t have anything to read out on any conversation that the president has had specifically on this.
But as you know, we say this often, is the president is in regular contact with congressional members on an array of issues. But again, when it comes to this, when it comes this, this is something that they can fix. I mean, when we talk about a Republican shutdown risking the vital nutrition assistance for nearly seven million mothers and young children who count on WIC, prevent farmers from being able to access new loans and delay housing loans for rural families. I mean, that is something that the secretary laid out very well and in detail. He’s been in this place before, back in 2013, where he had the same role in the Obama/Biden administration.
This would be devastating for American families. This does not have to happen. A deal is a deal. This is a deal that two thirds of Republicans voted on and they should move forward. They can fix this.
Speaker 18 (46:53):
As you mentioned, the president helped broker this deal. So why doesn’t he do something to put it into place?
Speaker 2 (46:57):
Because he already brokered the deal. He already brokered the deal. He already broke the deal. They voted on it. He brokered the deal, they took it back, McCarthy took it back to the House. They voted on it. It went to the Senate. They voted on it. Two thirds of Republicans voted on it.
This is for them. This is for them to fix. It was already voted on. So a deal is a deal. They have to stick to it. Also, it is one of their number one jobs. Number one jobs. One of their top jobs is to keep the government open so that American families don’t have to suffer. All right guys, thank you.