Dec 19, 2022
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Dr. Ashish Jha 12/15/22 Transcript
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Dr. Ashish Jha 12/15/22. Read the transcript here.
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Good afternoon, everybody.
Speaker 1 (00:06):
Okay, so today in the press briefing, we are saying goodbye to two of our amazing interns. I think they’re here somewhere. Ah, there they go. Kate Howell and Molly Feldman. They have been great, great additions to our team these past several months, and they are now going back to school, hopefully enjoying the holiday before you go back to school. But thank you so much for your hard work. And today we have a familiar face with us to talk about how the President’s Winter Preparedness Plan as Covid 19 increases as we head into the holidays. And so Dr. Jha is here to talk about this plan and take some questions as well. Dr. Jha?
Dr. Jha (00:52):
Great. Thank you KJP. Good afternoon, everyone. Good to be with all of you again. As expected, we’re seeing Covid rising across the country this winter. And while Covid isn’t the disruptive force it once was, we are focused on ensuring that the US is prepared for this winter no matter what the virus throws at us. As you know, we have the tools, we have the infrastructure, and we have the know-how to manage this moment. And that means protecting people, preventing hospitalizations and deaths.prep And the key is this. We don’t want this winter to look like last winter or the winter before. And our Winter Covid 19 Preparedness Plan helps us do just that.
So how do we do that? First, and you’re not going to be surprised to hear me say this, the most important thing Americans can do is go get their updated Covid 19 vaccine right away. Now, you heard this from Dr. Fauci just before Thanksgiving. You heard this from me, and I will repeat again, the updated Covid 19 vaccine is your best protection against the version of Covid we’re fighting right now. Second, a critical component of our Winter Plan is making it even easier for Americans to access the tools that will protect them this holiday season. Vaccines, tests, and treatments.
So let’s talk about tests. Today we’re opening up covidtests.gov for a limited time this winter to give Americans another easy option to access testing when there’s a greater need as there is right now. Starting today, each US household can order up to four at-home tests free from covidtests.gov with tests starting to ship as early as next week, the week of December 19th. And as we’ve said for months, we’re operating in a resource constrained environment in the absence of additional congressional funding for the nation’s covid response. And that means we’ve had to make some tough choices. Like in the summer, we were forced to suspend the covidtests.gov program so we could preserve our tests. Why did we want to preserve our tests? Because we knew there would be a moment, later in the year, when Covid cases would rise again. So we preserved the tests so we could have them on hand for exactly this moment. And if we don’t get more funding, we won’t be able to send more tests out to the American people.
Next, we’re standing ready to support states and communities with medical personnel, supplies and other resources as the president has been committed to doing since the first day he took office. Today, Secretary Becerra is sending out a letter to all governors, underscoring that our partnership with state and local leaders has been essential to fighting this virus. But the Secretary also made clear we need them to step up right now to get ahead of this increase in covid that we are seeing across the country. And he outlined all of the federal supports available to set up more vaccination sites, more pop-up clinics to get more shots in arms, to expand tested treatment programs, including new tested treat programs sites that the Federal Government can help with to make key supplies, like at-home tests, widely available, and things that the Federal Government can do to support hospitals and health systems as needs arise. Because the bottom line is this, we’re all in this together.
Fourth, we are accelerating our efforts to protect the highest risk Americans, building on the considerable steps we have taken. Now, I want to remind everybody that more than 90% of Covid deaths in the US have occurred in people 50 years of age or older. And in recent months, we’ve seen Covid deaths really concentrated among those 65 and above. And while we’ve seen many older Americans step up and get the updated Covid vaccine, there’s still too many older Americans who have not gotten their immunity updated, who have not gotten themselves protected.
Under half of nursing home residents have gotten their updated Covid vaccine. So we are working very closely with leadership of nursing homes across America, and we have asked them to step up to do more. We’ve developed a winter playbook for nursing homes and long-term care facilities to help them take action to make it easier to get vaccines onsite in nursing homes, to make sure that treatments are available onsite in nursing homes, to improve indoor air quality, another strategy that can make a really big difference. And we are reaching out to governors where nursing home vaccination rates are low to offer personalized support.
Now, before taking your questions, let me close with this. We don’t want this winter to look like last winter or the winter before, and it doesn’t have to. What’s different is that we have an updated vaccine that targets a version of the virus we’re fighting, but we need people to get that vaccine. It’s free and widely available. What’s different this winter compared to last winter is we have highly effective treatments that are widely available if people get sick. But obviously, we need doctors to prescribe them. We need people to get them. This winter, we can keep people safe. We can prevent hospitalizations and deaths. We can minimize disruptions. The administration has been planning for this moment. We are doing our part. We’re prepared. But the bottom line is we need other leaders to step up as well. Governors, mayors, people who have been terrific partners throughout this entire pandemic.
But here’s what I know. If every American does their part, if every American goes out and gets an updated vaccine, if every American gets treated who’s eligible for treatment, we can have a very different winter ahead. And that is a goal of this effort. So with that, let me stop, take questions and KJP, I’ll turn it back to you.
Thank you. Dr. Jha, moving out from the US borders for just a second, certainly one of the risks that face this nation is additional spread from a big outbreak in China. Can you give us a sense of whether the US Government was aware or made aware in advance that Paxlovid would be made available in China? And can you give us any sense of what talks are happening behind the scenes to help get Western vaccines and medicines to that country?
Dr. Jha (07:16):
Yeah, so on this specific question of Paxlovid, the US Government was not involved in any way and so really refer you to Pfizer, but we were not involved in that in any way, shape or form. On the broader question you were raising, Jeff, what I would say is this, since the beginning of this administration, the president has been very clear that we think it’s really important for the world to benefit from the fruits of American scientific innovation. We have been the largest donor of vaccines in the world, almost 700 million doses, many bilateral, many through COVAX, and the President’s been very clear, we stand ready to help any country that needs help in terms of vaccines, treatments, anything else. So that offer stands globally for any country that could benefit from it.
Would it be fair to characterize this as the US and other western countries are encouraging China to import MRNA vaccines, but not necessarily with strong US involvement. Does that give them cover that they may need?
Dr. Jha (08:18):
No, but what I would say is we stand ready to help any country in the world with vaccines, treatments, anything else that we can be helpful with. We have been the biggest donor of vaccines, as I said, almost 700 million doses, and that stance of being helpful, being ready to help, continues and hasn’t changed.
Dr. Jha, looking at the most recent Covid numbers we have, it looks like Covid cases were up 45% or 50% week over week, last week, but Covid deaths were up 60%. Why are Covid deaths spiking more dramatically than Covid cases are?
Dr. Jha (08:56):
Yeah, it’s a good question. So some of that is, by the way, data irregularity, just to be clear. We’re in a different place with data. We get data less often. So in general, we have seen Covid cases go up. We’ve seen hospitalizations go up. Deaths are just starting to rise. I do think that that standard link we’ve seen between cases and deaths are going to be different because there’s less testing. So it’s going to be later to see cases go up. But so far nationally, in our analysis of the data, death numbers are just beginning to rise. We obviously want to make sure that does not go any further. We know we can prevent nearly every death from Covid if people get their updated vaccines and people get treated. So we continue to press that message.
And are you considering a return to other restrictions, masking on planes, vaccine requirements?
Dr. Jha (09:45):
Yeah, so I think we’re in a very different place with this virus than where we were two years ago, where we were last year. What I would say is we now have the tools that we can manage our lives much more safely than we could couple of years ago. And the most important thing I think people need to be doing is, first of all, they’ve got to get their updated vaccines. And then there’s a whole host of tools that people can use to keep themselves, their families, safe. Testing, masking, improving indoor air quality, being in better ventilated places and treatments, of course. So we think that is the strategy of the administration, that we want to encourage people to use those tools and given how widespread and how available those tools are, I think if people did that, we could get through this winter safely.
Speaker 2 (10:27):
Thank you, Corinne. Dr. Jha, just to follow up on Jeff’s question, with China relaxing at Zero-Covid policies, what specific contingency plans do the administration have to deal with a potential outbreak or new variants, particularly with the increase of travel between the US and China and during the holidays and in the lunar new year? And do those considerations at this point include any talks of a travel ban?
Dr. Jha (10:55):
Yeah, so we have a very robust surveillance program where we use for travelers as people come in, in terms of identifying people who are infected, tracking variants. That continues. And we generally are using wastewater, using other mechanisms, constantly monitoring for variants, both here, as well as with our partners around the world, in Europe, in South Africa, in other places. I think all of that is a really important part of how we have become far more effective at being prepared for new variants. And if there are new variants that emerge, I’m confident that we will be able to identify them.
Speaker 2 (11:31):
Speaker 3 (11:34):
Dr. Jha, are we still facing a tripledemic where RSV, flu and Covid are all surging at once over the holidays?
Dr. Jha (11:41):
Yeah, so we have seen certainly in the last month, three highly contagious respiratory viruses. As you mentioned, RSV, flu and Covid. Let me tell you what we know about them. RSV nationally looks like it has clearly peaked and it’s on its way down. There’s still places that have very high levels of RSV, but nationally, there’s no question in my mind, RSV is heading down. Flu is rising in many parts of the country, probably the worst flu outbreak we’ve seen in a decade there. And there are some places where flu may be peaking, but it’s very early data, but a lot of flu out there. Again, the worst in a decade. And then, we talked about Covid where clearly, it’s on an upswing with increasing number of cases.
Speaker 3 (12:24):
One other question. Back in September, the President publicly said that the pandemic is over. How has that complicated the messaging to keep Americans vigilant facing Covid?
Dr. Jha (12:34):
Yeah, so I think the President was also very clear that Covid is not over. Covid continues to pose a challenge for us. That is true, that Covid is not over. And obviously, we continue to see people getting infected, getting sick. Unfortunately, too many Americans needlessly dying of Covid. And so, I think the President has been very clear on this even since that day about the importance of people getting vaccinated, people getting treated, and obviously, I’ve been out here making that same message.
Two more. Go ahead, John.
Dr. Jha, thank you.
Karine Jean-Pierre (13:00):
Two more. Go ahead, John.
Dr. [inaudible 00:13:02], thank you. Two questions for you. One is, are there particular hotspots right now you’re concerned about when it comes to COVID rise? And then secondly, based on all three of the viruses you’ve been discussing, can you talk to us about the strain on the nation’s hospitals?
Speaker 4 (13:16):
So particular hospitals, we’re seeing cases increase in about 90% of the country. So it is a real sort of rising in lots of places across the country. So there’s not one that I think is in particularly worse off. Obviously, the levels are different across the country, but it is rising pretty much uniformly. And it makes sense, right? We just had the Thanksgiving holidays. It’s getting colder. Even in the southern parts of the country, it’s still getting colder. Obviously, we tend to see more in the northern half of the country because it is colder up here. People are spending more time indoors. In terms of hospital strain, this is something we monitor very, very closely. We look at a whole bunch of national data every day. We are talking to states and jurisdictions every day. Well, not every state and every jurisdiction every day, but on an ongoing basis, I would say in the last 10 days, I have probably spoken to I or members of my team a dozen or more states and cities.
And our first question is, how are the hospitals doing? Do you need more help there? We have a very clear plan if a city or a state gets in trouble where they really just can’t manage that they can reach out to the federal government. We have a whole set of resources that we can value. We can send in equipment, we can send in personnel. So we stand ready to help cities and states if and or when they need it. Obviously, the single most important thing we can do to make sure that there aren’t constraints and there aren’t real problems with hospital capacity is that people got vaccinated, they are far less likely to get hospitalized for both flu and COVID. And that’s the biggest thing Americans can do to make sure their hospitals are functional for all the other reasons we need hospitals.
Karine Jean-Pierre (14:46):
Karen, last question.
Are you concerned that Americans who are testing positive but doing so on at-home rapid test aren’t reporting that to government agencies? So the case counts right now might be dramatically lower than what we’re actually seeing for spread across the country?
Speaker 4 (15:02):
Yeah, it’s a really good question. What I would say is, first of all, I’m a huge fan of home tests. I think they’re convenient, they’re cheap, it’s great. One of the problems of home tests, really the major problem is that they don’t often get reported. So we do have through this NIH effort called makemytestcount.gov I think that people can report their tests, but we have other mechanisms we use to monitor infection levels. So for instance, wastewater gives us very good insights into how much infection there is in a community. So we have seen case numbers often be lower than what you might expect if people were doing more PCR tests or more public health tests. But we’re tracking infections through other mechanisms and obviously we’re tracking infections and hospitalizations. So that gives us a very good sense of the burden of disease as well.
The last point I will make is when people test at home, if they test positive, the first thought every single American should have is am I eligible for treatment? The truth is we have fantastic treatments. Anybody over the age of 50, anybody with chronic disease should get evaluated. Personally as a physician, I think it’s very clear to me that anybody in their 60s or above should be treated, like there should be a good reason not to treat somebody. And there are rarely a good reason, meaning most people should be getting treated right now. And that is a message we’ve been delivering to doctors and nurses. That’s a message we’ve been delivering to the American people. If you get a positive test at home, stay away from others so you don’t infect them and get evaluated to get treated.
On the funding that is being used to purchase the new test for this new round for people to get things sent to their houses, were there cuts to other COVID programs in order to pay for those tests?
Speaker 4 (16:43):
Yeah. So let me talk about how we’re able to do this. So we paused the program at the end of the summer because we wanted to make sure that we still had supply for a winter potential increase of cases in the winter. [inaudible 00:16:59] is while we, as I have mentioned from here before, while we took a lot of the resources we had for tests to purchase vaccines and treatments, we still had some resources left. We didn’t deplete the whole supply. And so we had money in the American Rescue Plan to still be able to buy some more tests. That combination has allowed us to do this. It is on a limited basis. We’re not going to be able to keep this open forever.
Okay, thank you, doctor.
Speaker 4 (17:23):
Thank you very much and thanks everybody.
Karine Jean-Pierre (17:26):
All right, happy holidays.
Speaker 4 (17:26):
Karine Jean-Pierre (17:27):
Okay. Just a couple things at the top and then we will take some questions. So today is the final day of the US Africa Leader Summit, a summit that has underscored the US commitment to reinvigorating partnerships across the continent. President Biden, Vice President Harris and other officials across the administration have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the leaders from across Africa over the last couple of days, including at last night’s dinner here at the White House.
Now this afternoon, the president will address the summit one more time at this afternoon’s discussion on food security and food system resilience. This week, President Biden and Vice President Harris have had the opportunity to announce new initiatives that will empower African institutions and citizens. The president reaffirmed our resolved to work collaboratively with African governments, businesses, and civil society to strengthen people to people ties, ensure more inclusive and responsive global institutions, build a strong and sustainable global economy, foster new technology and innovative… Strengthen innovation, strengthen health systems, and prepare for the next pandemic, tackle the food security and climate crisis, support democracy and human rights, and advanced peace and security.
The Biden Harris administration plans to commit at least $55 billion in Africa over the next three years working closely with Congress and more than $15 billion in private sector investment deals were announced at the US Africa Business Forum. And of course you’ve heard the president announce plans this week to plan to travel to Africa and to continue the work over the course of this summit and to strengthen our partnership across the continent. I also want to talk about something that affects millions of people across the country every day. And with the holiday season upon us and in the light of the tragic news about Twitch this week, we think it’s important that we shed light on the resources available to any American dealing with mental health challenges or emotional distress. Tomorrow said the second gentleman, Douglas Emhoff and leaders from Department of Health and Human Services will visit a local 988 call center and meet with crisis counselors who are providing mental health and suicide prevention support to people from all backgrounds and walks of life.
The 988 Suicide and Prevention Lifeline provides free, confidential, 24/7 support to Americans across the country experiencing suicidal crisis or severe emotional distress. Anyone anywhere in the country can call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org to reach a live trained counselor. And thanks to the president, our administration has invested $ 432 million in getting the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline up and running in communities across the country, an 18 fold increase investment from the previous administration.
So before we go into questions, I’ll repeat myself one last time here for all of you, all of those who are struggling, we stand with you and our administration will keep fighting for you. One last thing before we… Well, lastly we really take question is I want to give you guys a little bit of the week ahead, just a quick look here. This evening, the President will travel to Wilmington, Delaware.
Tomorrow, the president will visit and speak at a town hall at the Major Joseph R. Beau Biden the III National Guard Reserve Center in New Castle, Delaware. This is a capstone on the Department of Veterans Affairs PACT Act Week of Action with over 90 events and counting held across the country to encourage veterans to sign up for healthcare, get screened for toxic exposure, and submit a claim if they are experiencing a toxic exposure related condition. The president will speak with veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors to discuss the historic expansion of benefits and services resulting from the Bipartisan PACT Act. I anticipate a preview with more details will be shared ahead of the event, so please stay tuned to that.
Afterwards, the president will return to Washington DC for internal meetings and more holiday receptions. Friday evening, the president will return to Wilmington, Delaware where he will remain over the weekend. On Monday, the president will return to Washington DC and in the evening he and the First Lady will host a Hanukkah holiday reception in the Grand foyer right here in the White House, in the residence to be more precise. We’ll have more to share on next week’s guidance in the coming days, but we can also confirm today that next weekend the president and First Lady will celebrate Christmas at the White House. And with that, Zeke, you want to kick us off?
Karine, just a going to [inaudible 00:22:31] to start off with. I’m hoping you can shed some light on the apparent radio miscommunication that kept the White House press pool, separate press pools from the President’s [inaudible 00:22:39] the White House today.
Karine Jean-Pierre (22:41):
Yes. Give one second because I do have something to share on that. So there was no emergency, just to be clear, or a security situation, and appears that there was a radio miscommunication upon departure. Vance picked up the White House staff and press that were left at the Convention Center, so also White House staff were also left as well, and we waited to start the press briefing until everyone returned to the White House. We share an appreciation for how important it is for the press pool to travel with the president, and this remains a priority for our entire team. We sincerely apologize for the confusion and inconvenience. And just to reiterate, we also sadly left White House staff as well at the Convention Center. So it was not just the press, so just wanted to make that clear again. But with all seriousness, we do apologize for that.
The president in his remarks earlier alluded to a trip to Africa himself. Do you have details on when he might go and where he might go?
Karine Jean-Pierre (23:43):
And I know that Jake spoke to this when he was here on Monday as well. Look, I don’t have anything to share at this time. What I can say is, and this is basically what Jake said on Monday, is that the vice president and a number of cabinet officials, they’re all looking forward to visiting the African continent in 2023. Just don’t have anything to preview at this time.
And then, I’m sorry, back on COVID, talked a lot about the importance of Americans getting vaccinated. Latest CDC data shows that only about 14% of Americans have actually gotten the updated vaccines. Does the president believe that he or his administration bear some responsibility for not being able to convince the vast majority of Americans to get these updated shots that we heard from Dr. [inaudible 00:24:29] so important in this?
Well, let’s not forget, when the president walked into the administration, he put forth a comprehensive COVID vaccination plan. That did not exist before he stepped into the administration. That helped get more than 200 million Americans across the country fully vaccinated, and also made sure that there was equity at the center of his plan. Look, we’re in a different phase as you’ve heard us say in this pandemic. And we are going to encourage people to get that new vaccine.
We have the tools. We have the tools that we know work when it comes to COVID, when it comes to this pandemic. And we’re going to continue to let folks know to utilize those tools. And so you’ve seen, as I started this briefing saying we’re seeing a familiar face in the press briefing room. And that’s because we’ve been trying to be very consistent on pushing that message out and letting people know that they need to get the new vaccine. It is important. We know it works, especially as they’re going to see their grandparents, as they’re going to see families, how important it is to get that new vaccine for themselves, but also for their loved ones. Look, we believe we’ve had a comprehensive message, we’ve had a comprehensive plan. But again, we are in a new phase of this pandemic and we just have to continue to beat the drum and we’ll continue to do that.
Speaker 5 (25:50):
Thanks, Karine. On immigration, we’ve talked to so many border patrol agents and leaders who are just really worried and anxious about the possibility of Title 42 ending next week. Big picture,
Speaker 6 (26:00):
Picture, what is the administration doing right now to get ready for that?
Karine Jean-Pierre (26:03):
So a couple of things that I want to lay out, and I laid this out before, but I want to reiterate it here, is that we’re doing the work. We’re going to do this in a safe and humane way and we will have more to share on the proposed preparedness next week before the December 21st date, but look, we also need Congress to act. It is important that they deliver the resources we requested for the Board of Security and Management. They need to pass the comprehensive immigration reform that we have put forth. On day one, the president put forth a comprehensive reform plan that dealt with protecting for Dreamers, cutting down the asylum buildup that we have been seeing, especially because of what the last administration did. They completely gutted the system and we know that this has been a multi-decade long problem.
We need to modernize the system and this is something that the president has put forth and we are looking for Congress to act. We are asking Congress to act. But in the meantime, what we have been able to do is the President, as I’ve mentioned before, has secured historic funding. We have 23,000 border security agents at the border and that is the most amount that we’ve ever had and that’s because of what the president has been able to do. We have worked to launch a historic anti-smuggling operations that are taking thousands of smugglers off the streets. But look, the reality is we need Congress to take action. We need to do this in a bipartisan way as we have done, as the president has been able to do more than 200 times during his administration.
Speaker 6 (27:44):
There’s been some reporting out there that the administration is considering changes to the asylum policy, potentially making it so someone can only apply for asylum if they’ve already been denied for another country like Mexico. Is that true? Is the administration considering any changes to policy?
Karine Jean-Pierre (27:58):
So look, I know there’s a lot of rumors out there about that, a lot of speculation. I don’t have anything to announce at this time or from here at this time. What I would encourage people to do is to read the Department of Homeland Security. They put out forth a six point plan on how they’re going to move forward with dealing the post December 21st deadline when Title 42 indeed lifts, but don’t have anything more to announce about any new plans from here.
Speaker 7 (28:27):
Okay. Thanks, Karine. DHS warned in a memo obtained by CNN this week that the end of Title 42 will, “Likely increase migration flows immediately into the US,” so I’m wondering how many migrants are you expecting to try and cross into the US through the southern border next week and is the administration prepared for this anticipated surge?
Karine Jean-Pierre (28:50):
So look, we have an intensive, all of government effort underway to prepare, as I was stating earlier when I was being asked a question by Mary. We’ll have more to share ahead of the December 21st deadline. But in the meantime, DHS is surging resources to the border, as you’re probably seeing it in El Paso. I talked a little bit about this on Monday, where over the last 72 hours, they’ve moved thousands of individuals out of the city. They’re doubling down on the anti-smuggling operations that the president launched months ago. They’re also working with our international partners to discourage disorderly mass movements across the border.
Moving forward, expect us to continue leaning in on our successful strategies like these and like our parole program for Venezuela nationals, which has drastically reduced the number of Venezuelans attempting to enter unlawfully and will continue to drive messaging in the region to counter disinformation from smugglers. So that’s another thing that we have to keep an eye on, is how the misinformation that’s going to be going out to smugglers in the next couple of days, and so we have to make sure we’ll work together with all of you, our team will, to make sure that that doesn’t happen because that is one of the big issues that we’re seeing when it comes to migrants trying to cross the border.
Speaker 7 (30:10):
Are you aware of this warning from DHS and do you have an estimate of how many people you’re expecting will try and cross the border when Title 42 [inaudible 00:30:18].
Karine Jean-Pierre (30:17):
Look, I don’t have an estimate to share with you. What I can tell you is that Department of Homeland Security has put out a six point plan. As you all know, Secretary Mayorkas was at the border just recently to talk about this plan, put out a statement, and so we are focused. We are focused and we are prepared. We will have more to share in next coming days on this piece. But again, we have done the work from this administration by securing record funding and we are asking Congress for Congress to act. We are not asking for political stunts. We’re we continue to see political stunts from many Republicans out there and that’s not how we’re going to fix this issue. They want to secure the border. We’ve been doing that work on our own and we’re asking them to, “Hey, you know what? There’s an immigration reform plan that the president put out on the first day.” They should work with us and do this in a bipartisan way.
Speaker 7 (31:13):
And then in terms of the funding negotiations on Capitol Hill, we’ve seen this administration’s president at times play a more hands-on role, a more hands-off role in some negotiations, depending on the situation. What’s the case with these negotiations? How involved has the president been?
Karine Jean-Pierre (31:27):
Which particular negotiations are you talking … Are you talking about-
Speaker 7 (31:29):
The spending bill.
Karine Jean-Pierre (31:30):
The spending, oh, the spending, the omnibus bill-
Speaker 7 (31:32):
Karine Jean-Pierre (31:32):
… more broadly. So look, we’re encouraged by the bipartisanship that we’re currently seeing, the progress that we’re seeing in Congress from leaders and the progress that they’re making, so it’s a key step on the path to a full year government funding bill that delivers for the American people. We’re optimistic that members of both parties can build on this progress and produce a funding bill that can pass the House and Senate signed into law by the president. But to your question though, look, the president has been very engaged. He’s been talking to congressional members. He had the Big Four here not too long ago and this was in the readout. The government funding was the main priority that they discussed and we have our team here. We have Shalanda Young from OMB, I have mentioned this before, who’s the director who has been playing point on this, who knows how to work across the aisle and do things in a bipartisan way. And she is leading that effort along with our Office of Leg Affairs, who have had multiple calls, multiple meetings in getting this done. Look, this was done in bipartisan way last year and we believe it can be done in a bipartisan way this year as well.
Speaker 7 (32:37):
Are you confident this one-week stop gap will pass in time [inaudible 00:32:40]
Karine Jean-Pierre (32:41):
I mean, we have said, I said this earlier, if Congress needs a little bit more time to get this done, they should take that time, but we believe there’s enough time to get the omnibus done, and so we are encouraged by what we’re seeing in that progress and we believe that it can get done in time. [inaudible 00:33:01]
Speaker 8 (33:01):
Thanks, Karine. The president mentioned in his statement yesterday about the Sandy Hook killings, the anniversary, again, his push for an assault weapons ban, and also talked about moral guilt and not having done more over the last 10 years. There’s only a couple weeks left in the lame duck. Can you give us an update on just what the next steps are that he sees for this White House, for this administration, and getting that assault weapons man passed?
Karine Jean-Pierre (33:26):
So look, we have been in close touch with Senate leadership on this. As you just mentioned, this is a priority for this president. It has been for some time. He was a leader on this during his Senate days and also as vice president and so he’s going to continue to push for this. Whether this happens in the next couple of weeks or it happens in the next several months, he is going to really work hard to get this done. He’s talked about it at almost every moment that he can. Every time that he had an opportunity to talk about the shootings that we have seen, how it’s destroyed our communities, how it’s destroyed families, he’s going to continue to lift that up to the American people. Again, we’re going to have those conversations with Senate leadership, we have been the last couple of days, don’t have a timeline for you. This is indeed a priority for this president in his administration. We have seen the work that he’s done this first year and a half. He did the most executive actions on gun violence than any other president, and so clearly, this is a priority for this president.
Speaker 8 (34:31):
Beyond speaking about it, is it really that? Is the strategy basically to use the bully pulpit. I mean, that’s other steps?
Karine Jean-Pierre (34:39):
That’s an important strategy. I mean, the President has one of the most powerful bully pulpits in the country, in the world, even, right? And so we’ve seen him use it in an effective way to get historic pieces of legislation done. And so he’s going to continue to do that, but we’re also having conversations with Senate leadership. That will not stop or end when it comes to this issue. Okay.
Speaker 9 (35:02):
Thanks, Karine. Just before you came out, the president had authorized the release of documents related to John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and since you’ve been at the podium, the National Archives have started posting those documents. Can you talk about that decision to release those and also address 70% of the documents are being released, 30% still are not? What is taking so long in the other 30%, given it’s been 50 years?
Karine Jean-Pierre (35:28):
So look, as you know, this has been a commitment of this president. The president’s actions have led to public release of over 14,000 records, including approximately 12,000 today, just to give everyone specifics here. As a result, we’re talking about 97% of the collection is now available to the public. This reflects, again, the president’s commitment to making these records available to the public to the greatest extent possible, consistent with national security, so this is a commitment that the president has been making for some time or made some time ago. President Biden believes all information related to President Kennedy’s assassination should be released to the greatest extent possible, consistent with, again, national security. That’s why he directed the acting archivist to conduct a supplementary six-month review of a subset of the remaining redacted records to ensure they are disclosed to the greatest extent possible. He also directed all remaining redacted information to be disclosed to the public when the basis for the continued restriction of that information no longer outweighs the public interest. So obviously, there’s a national security component here, but he is committed to getting that information out, and right now we’re seeing more than 97% of the collection that’s out there for folks to review. Okay.
Speaker 10 (36:48):
Thank you, Karine. I have two questions for you. Congressman Cohen and Wilson from the Helsinki Commission introduced a resolution, urging President Biden to take steps to suspend or terminate Russia’s rights and privileges at the UN Security Council. Does the president support this effort? What steps he can take? Is this goal achievable?
Karine Jean-Pierre (37:11):
Yes, we do support that effort. Can you say the question one more time? I just want to make sure.
Speaker 10 (37:21):
Karine Jean-Pierre (37:23):
Make sure I have this right.
Speaker 10 (37:25):
… asks the president, urges the president to take steps to suspend or terminate Russia’s rights in the UN Security Council.
Karine Jean-Pierre (37:34):
Oh, UN Security Council, got it. So look, Russia’s conduct in Ukraine is a violation of the UN charter and is an affront to the core mandate of the Security Council. And we see it as an outrageous, it is outrageous for a permanent member of the UN Security Council to be violating the charter and raging such a brutal war on Ukraine, including by trying to inflict such widespread human suffering and targeting critical infrastructure. We successfully led a vote in the UN General Assembly to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council and we have worked to prevent Russia from taking leadership positions elsewhere in the UN system. We’ve been very consistent on this. If there were a path to suspend Russia from the UN Security Council, we would pursue it immediately. Unfortunately, we don’t see the UN rules changing, and so we are focused on continuing to take actions to isolate Russia, including in international organizations, and hold Russia accountable, including through sanctions and enforcement actions we announce today, as you saw.
Speaker 10 (38:42):
A follow up on Patriots for Ukraine, also. Since there was no announcement on this yet, I would like to ask if the president is even considering sending Patriots to Ukraine and what’s the White House’s response to
Speaker 11 (39:00):
To warnings coming from the Kremlin about possible consequences if the US sends Patriots to Ukraine.
Karine Jean-Pierre (39:08):
So, let me take your last question first. Look, the only provocative moves are being made by Russia. And Russia is the aggressor here. And we should never forget that. We should never forget who actually started this war and it was Russia. So that’s that’s point one. Point two, the United States is not now, nor has it been at war with Russia. This is responding to what we’ve heard from Russia this past 24 hours. We’ve been doing exactly what President Biden told President Putin we would do one year ago, if Russia attacked Ukraine providing security assistance to help Ukraine defend itself. That’s what you have been seeing from this administration, from this White House. Finally, while I don’t have any new security assistance packages to speak of today, as you all know, President Biden has been clear about this. The United States will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes alongside our allies and partners as the people of Ukraine defend their country, as they defend their freedom, as they defend their sovereignty. And we will continue to do that.
Speaker 11 (40:13):
But any announcement this week as it was reported by the US media-
Karine Jean-Pierre (40:16):
I just don’t have anything to share with you at this time. Go ahead, Jaida.
I’m wondering if the White House has any reaction on two bills that move through the US Senate. One is on TikTok. If the Senate voted to ban TikTok from all government issued phones, let’s start with that one. Does the White House have feelings on that bill?
Karine Jean-Pierre (40:33):
So as I’ve said before, want to be very careful on commenting on any specific legislation at this time. So we’d refer you to Congress on the next steps. We don’t get involved in the process as we’ve done in the past. But look, just more broadly, there are a range of tech app applications and products that are not allowed to be used on the White House and other federal government work equipment for security reasons, including TikTok. We will not go into any further details about security policies that we have here, but I’m not going to get into the process. I know that this just happened, so we’re going to let Congress move forward with their process on that one.
What about the Senate bill that would essentially Huawei’s access to US banks, the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s one of the sponsors of that bill. Does the White House have a position on that one?
Karine Jean-Pierre (41:25):
No, don’t have a position on that one at this time from here. Go ahead.
Speaker 12 (41:28):
Thanks. Americans clearly divided about immigration from the White House perspective though should Americans be supportive or concerned with the end of Title 42, which obviously stops most migrants from being able to apply for asylum?
Karine Jean-Pierre (41:44):
What Americans should know is that the President has done the work to deal with what we’re seeing at the border, since day one. What Americans should know is that the President put forth an immigration reform policy to make sure, sure that we’re dealing with a broken system, to make sure that we’re able to protect Dreamers, to make sure that we deal with the backlog that we’re seeing with asylum seekers. To fix the gutted system that has been around for some time, but certainly was gutted by the last administration. And the work that the president has done, he wants to do this in a bipartisan way, but what we’re seeing is Republicans continue to move forward with political stunts. Many of them are doing this and we continue to see this for over the last several months.
So the president has done the work, he secured record funding, again, I mentioned 23,000 agents that are at the border, who are working night and day to protect and secure the border. And that’s because of the work that this president has done. And we’re working on anti-smuggling efforts as well. And so, look, what the American people should know is that we have taken the steps, we’re taking the step to prepare for when Title 42 is lifted next week. And you saw that from the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Mayorkas was very clear about that. He laid out their six point plan when he was at the border just a couple of days ago. And this is an administration that has taken this very, very seriously.
Speaker 12 (43:14):
But does the White House think that ending Title 42, Trump Air policy is a good thing?
Karine Jean-Pierre (43:19):
What I’m telling you is that it was a court order that we are following, and we’re going to follow the law when it comes to what the court has decided to do. What I can tell you is what the president has done over the last two years to make sure that we’re dealing with border security. We hear it from many Republicans, right? You guys report on it. Many Republicans say over, and over and over again that we need to do work at the border, that we need to secure the border, but yet they refuse to work with us on this piece of legislation. Instead, what they choose to do is do political stunts. That doesn’t help.
Speaker 12 (43:56):
Can I ask one question about Afghanistan? There are negotiations about including the Afghani Adjustment Act in the spending bill. There’s been a group of retired ambassadors who’ve been pushing for its inclusion. The Biden administration has tried to get this in the spending bill before, unsuccessfully. What is the administration doing differently this time to get it to try to do that?
Karine Jean-Pierre (44:17):
So as you know by your statement, we strongly support the ongoing congressional efforts to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act and we urge Congress we’re going to continue to do this, to send the legislation to the president to provide a path to permanent legal status for Afghans who have joined our communities and resettled across our country through Operation Allies Welcome. So that is something that we’re going to continue to ask for Congress to act. We first asked Congress to pass this legislation back in August of 2021 and have been working with members of Congress from both parties to try to pass it, ever since. And we know that there is a bipartisan support for this bill, and that negotiations in the Senate are ongoing. It’s important to take care of our Afghan allies who took care of us during the 20 years of the years that US was at war in Afghanistan. So we take this very seriously, we strongly support it, we’re going to continue to have conversations with members of Congress and continue to urge them to get this done.
Speaker 13 (45:20):
We need to gather in a few minutes for [inaudible 00:45:23], take one or two more?
Karine Jean-Pierre (45:24):
I’ll take one or two more. I’ll take one. One from the back that I haven’t taken one. Go ahead.
Speaker 14 (45:28):
Big screen. Jake Sullivan was in here on Monday instead, an engagement with Russian counterparts was planned for this week on [inaudible 00:45:35] case. Do you have any updates on that or can say whether that happened?
Karine Jean-Pierre (45:38):
So as you know, we want to be really mindful of any conversations that we have as we’re talking about negotiations. So we’re not going to speak about that in public. I don’t have anything to share. But so that you know, and we’ve said this before, and Jake has been very clear, the president has a very clear, when Americans are wrongfully detained or held hostage, we take that very seriously and we are going to do everything that we can to bring Paul Whelan home. That is a priority. But certainly we’re not going to talk about steps or any conversations in public because we want to make sure that we get this done.
Speaker 14 (46:15):
And just one other question, can you give us an update on Mayor Garcetti’s nomination as Ambassador to India? Does the president need to resubmit his name to the new Congress? Where are you guys at with that?
Karine Jean-Pierre (46:24):
So look, as you know, this is a priority and continues to be a priority for us. Mayor Garcetti is well qualified to serve in this vital role. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee as voted Mayor Garcetti out of committee unanimously after reviewing this matter thoroughly. And we’re hopeful that full Senate will confirm him promptly. And so, we’re going to continue to support him. Okay, good. Emily?
Speaker 15 (46:50):
Thanks Karine. I have to follow up on Title 42. I know you said you guys are hopeful that the omnibus gets passed, but what kind of preparations are being done in case it doesn’t and communities do get overwhelmed and need some resources? And also does the administration fear that the end of Title 42 will lead to a spike in COVID cases of the country?
Karine Jean-Pierre (47:07):
So let me just talk a little bit about, there’s $3 billion for board of funding. So a couple of things. Again, if Republicans are serious about this, we put for some $3 billion plan that we are asking for Congress to support, here’s what it would do. It would ensure that the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security have the resources they need to secure our border and build a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system. The funding will integrate surveillance towers, inspect technology, border patrol rotary wing aircraft and helicopter aircraft sensor upgrades, tactical marine time surveillance system, and also law enforcement radios, faster asylum claim processing and so much more. So we believe it’s incredibly important to get that done as well.
But to your question about the winter surge, how Dr. [inaudible 00:48:01] was talking about this from the podium. Look because of the president’s president’s work and what he’s been able to do throughout his administration, the American people have tools, we know what works and to protect themselves from COVID, and we continue to encourage them to use the tools, as we always have. Now on Title 42, we are required by the court to lift Title 42 and we plan to comply with that order. But Title 42 or not, every individual encountered at the border is screened and processed by border patrol agents before they’re placed in removal proceedings. And like I’ve said a couple times already, Department of Homeland Security has been on top of this. We are prepared, we are ready to do this in a humane way and in a safe way. And so, it is something that the president has been working on since day one of his administration.
Speaker 15 (48:55):
Karine Jean-Pierre (48:55):
Speaker 13 (48:56):
Karine Jean-Pierre (48:57):
Speaker 13 (48:58):
Do you have time for one more screen?
Karine Jean-Pierre (48:59):
Got to go. Thanks everybody.