Apr 6, 2021

Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript April 6

Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript April 6
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsPress Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript April 6

April 6, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.

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Jen Psaki: (00:00)
Hi, everyone.

Speaker 1: (00:37)
Hey, Jen.

Jen Psaki: (00:37)
Hello. Happy Tuesday. No bunny today, I promise.

Speaker 2: (00:45)
Chicks, perhaps?

Jen Psaki: (00:46)
Chicks, maybe. Candy. A couple of updates for all of you at the top. We provided a bit of an update on what the jobs cabinet has been up to since the president announced the American Jobs Plan last week. So just wanted to provide you a little bit more of an update. As we noted yesterday, they’ve been hard at work throughout the congressional recess, making calls to Democratic chairs and Republican ranking members of the relevant committees and to appropriators. They’ve led briefings from major House and Senate caucuses. Secretary Buttigieg will meet with the Moderate New Democrats Caucus this week. The Office of Public Engagement will lead calls throughout this week with private sector, rural and agricultural stakeholders, climate groups, local chambers of commerce, faith leaders, minority leaders, community college groups and more. And the Office of Legislative Affairs is coordinating about 30 briefings for majority and minority committee staff of committees with jurisdiction over the American Jobs Plan.

Jen Psaki: (01:45)
These efforts will continue, of course, when members return to Washington. And as I noted yesterday, the president looks forward to welcoming members to the White House. And as we have that locked in, we’ll provide more details to all of you. Today, Vice President Harris joined the COVID response teams weekly governors meeting to discuss our country’s pandemic response, the progress we’ve made and the work to come in our fight against the virus. The vice president highlighted the country’s work and the pandemic response to date, including today’s announcement that the president will announce officially later this afternoon that we’ve reached 150 million shots in arms since entering government. And that by April 19th, all adult Americans will be eligible to get the vaccine. That doesn’t mean they will get it that day. It means they can join the line that day, if they have not already done that beforehand. She also noted the important work to come in particular around ensuring access to the vaccine in every community and building confidence in the vaccine in every community.

Jen Psaki: (02:45)
She highlighted best practices to ensure equity remains at the cornerstone of our vaccination effort. She also touched on the $3 billion in funding, largely from the American Rescue Plan that will enable states and cities to support community-based organizations and launching new programs to increase vaccine access, acceptance and uptake. And there was some more news today about how that will be distributed and used. She’s also in Chicago today, focusing on vaccine equity. In Chicago alone, the CDC will invest $33 million to support efforts to increase vaccine distribution and access with a specific focus on communities of color. Also today, in his weekly update, part of the same call, I should say for clarity. COVID response coordinator, Jeff Zients announced there will be more than 28 million doses across channels this week. Cumulatively over the past three weeks, we will have sent out nearly 90 million doses of the vaccine. He also stressed to governors that while we continue to make strong progress, it is critical that we continue to mask up and socially distance. Josh, why don’t you kick us off?

Josh: (03:50)
Thanks, Jen. On the vaccine and vaccination announcement, we’ve kind of known for weeks that you’d see this ramp up in production. And I’m curious, why move up the timeline now? Is there a desire to make sure that people who are hesitant or reluctant to get a vaccine feel like they can do so? What’s the thinking there?

Jen Psaki: (04:15)
Well first, the president had already announced that he was asking states to move up their timelines. So this is more providing clarity to the American public who may tune in to the president’s remarks or clips that you all share on the news that they’re all eligible. It provides clarity, it reduces confusion and it ensures that Americans who are not yet vaccinated who are looking to get vaccinated, they know they’re all eligible. All adults, I should say, on April 19th.

Josh: (04:43)
And then secondly, it’s been about a week since the president announced his infrastructure plan. Lots of states, counties, cities are wondering how they would qualify for any money. Do you have any details on what that process would look like?

Jen Psaki: (04:57)
Sure. Well first, ultimately it will be up to Congress and something we’ll have a conversation with members and committees about that’s part of why it’s so important to engage at a committee level and staff level. And many of you who have been through a journey like this before, know this, but let me just reiterate some of the pieces of the process. Funding for transportation projects can typically be allocated through two different types of grants. And we expect a mix to be discussed. Either formula grants or competitive grants. Formula grants are allocated to states based on certain criteria, like the number of miles on an interstate highway or a population in a given urban area. Most of our existing transportation funding flows through formula grants, which gives states a lot of flexibility on how to prioritize and spend their federal dollars based on what their needs are.

Jen Psaki: (05:48)
Competitive grants are a more targeted way to direct funds to specific policy goals. Often based on criteria set by Congress. For example, the popular TIGER grant program that was set up in the Recovery Act considered how a project could contribute to job creation. And that was one of the big factors that was determined as programs were being… Or states were applying for funding. We’ve also mentioned the administration’s proposal for a competitive grant program to fund 10 of the most economically significant bridges in the country. So that type of application would be through competitive grants. So again, this is something that we will be working through with Congress, with committees of jurisdiction. Though, it will be a mix of those two types of grants would be our expectation. And as states, who all have excellent questions, including local reporters we engage with that, that is what they can expect in terms of the process. Go ahead.

Speaker 3: (06:43)
Thank you. The FBI keeps a watch list with information about people who are known or reasonably suspected of being involved in terror activities. Two people on it from Yemen had been apprehended at the border. How concerned is President Biden about terrorists possibly trying to take advantage of gaps in the border to get in and kill Americans?

Jen Psaki: (07:03)
Well first, let me convey that these type of incidents are very uncommon. And CBP and DHS can speak more to the timeline and the specifics, of course, in these particular cases and encounters. But encounters of known and suspected terrorists are very uncommon. They do underscore the importance of the critical work that is done on a daily basis to vet those at the border. DHS works not just at the border, as you know, but also with international partners to share intelligence and other information, including to prevent individuals on certain watch lists from entering the United States. They adjudicate individuals encountered at and between ports of entry against several classified and unclassified databases. So while this is rare, this is a reflection of them doing their jobs.

Speaker 3: (07:49)
Another quick one about the border. The DHS secretary is reportedly looking to finish some gaps in the Southern border. How does that fit with President Biden’s day one executive order to stop border wall construction?

Jen Psaki: (08:02)
Well, while construction remains paused to the extent permitted by law. So some has already been funded through congressional authorization and funding allocation. But as agencies develop for a plan… It’s paused while agencies are developing a plan for the president on the management of the federal funds. When the administration took office, as you referenced, funds had been diverted from congressionally appropriated military construction projects and other appropriated purposes, toward building the wall. And wall construction was being challenged in multiple lawsuits. And for much of the wall, I should say, not all of it, by plaintiffs who alleged serious environmental and safety issues. Under those circumstances, federal agencies are continuing to review wall contracts and develop a plan to submit to the president soon. It is paused. There is some limited construction that has been funded and allocated for, but it is otherwise paused.

Speaker 3: (08:55)
And then is the White House concerned that Major League Baseball is moving their all-star game to Colorado where voting regulations are very similar to Georgia?

Jen Psaki: (09:04)
Well, let me just refute the first point you made. First, let me say on Colorado, Colorado allows you to register on election day. Colorado has voting by mail where they send to 100% of people in the state who are eligible, application to vote by mail. 94% of people in Colorado voted by mail in the 2020 election. And they also allow for a range of materials to provide, even if they vote on election day, for the limited number of people who vote on election day. I think it’s important to remember the context here. The Georgia legislation is built on a lie. There was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Georgia’s top Republican election officials have acknowledged that repeatedly in interviews.

Jen Psaki: (09:59)
What there was, however, was record setting turnout, especially by voters of color. So instead, what we’re seeing here, for politicians who didn’t like the outcome, they’re not changing their policies to win more votes, they’re changing the rules to exclude more voters. And we certainly see the circumstances as different.

Speaker 3: (10:16)
And one quick [crosstalk 00:10:17].

Jen Psaki: (10:16)
But ultimately, sorry, let me add one more thing. It’s up to Major League Baseball to determine where they’re holding their all-star game.

Speaker 3: (10:22)
Okay. A quick one from a colleague who cannot be here. You’re talking about the new vaccine eligibility deadline. Is the supply ramping up quicker than expected? And if not, what does moving the eligibility deadline up actually do in practice? Like are more people going to get vaccinated faster?

Jen Psaki: (10:44)
That’s our hope. Absolutely. And we have expedited the supply. So there’s been nearly 90 million doses provided to states in just the last three weeks. And that certainly is an increase over the weeks prior. That’s part of it. But also we want to provide clarity. We’re at the point with our supply and with our distribution to states that we think it’s time to provide that level of clarity. Now, it’s not just about the vaccine supply. We’ve also increased the number of pharmacies, more than doubled the number of pharmacies that are distributing the vaccine. We’ve also increased our commitment and our funding of community health centers, of mass vaccination sites, because we also know people need to have places to go. Mobile vaccination vehicles, et cetera. All right. Go ahead. Go ahead, Kelly.

Kelly: (11:29)
On the vaccines. Is this about leading governors to move more quickly? Or is this about reacting to what governors have already done? Because most states that already moved their eligibility, it sort of seems like the president is now affirming a date that for many people was already the real [crosstalk 00:11:46].

Jen Psaki: (11:46)
And he had called for them to move this date forward a couple of weeks ago. So he had also called for the date to move forward from May 1st as well. So he is certainly confirming for the public that everyone is eligible around the country. That is a great deal of clarity. They don’t have to go to their local state web…

Jen Psaki: (12:03)
Around the country. That is a great deal of clarity. They don’t have to go to their local state website and see when they’re eligible. They know that they are eligible on April 19th, every American out there who is not vaccinated.

Jen Psaki: (12:11)
This is also part of the effort here and part of what he’ll be conveying later today is to communicate to seniors and people who have seniors in their community, maybe members or their family. This is the time to go now to ensure seniors who are your loved ones, your family members, people in your neighborhood to go now, because the lines are going to become longer. There are going to be more people waiting. So he’ll also be sending that clear message.

Kelly: (12:34)
So this is more about public education and accomplishing a particular goal. Is that fair to say?

Jen Psaki: (12:40)
We certainly wouldn’t be at this point, had we not purchased enough supply to vaccinate every adult American, had we not increased the number of vaccinators who can distribute the vaccine, put them in shots in arms and had we not massively increased our investment in places where people could go. So it’s a signal that one, we’re delivering clarity, but also we are at a point where there are enough, there’s enough supply. There are enough vaccinators. There are enough vaccination sites that every American adult is eligible April 19th. That is a accomplishment for the medical field. That’s an accomplishment for the people who are running the operational piece. It’s an accomplishment for the medical experts locally, who are running these programs in different states.

Kelly: (13:26)
Briefly on Georgia. When the president voiced his support for [inaudible 00:13:33], does he have any regret now that by doing that, by adding his voice, it may have contributed to the environment where MLB makes this decision and then there are these economic consequences to people in Georgia when he and the vice president were there and couldn’t do the car rally, and had talked about wanting to thank Georgia? Georgia has been important to the president, vice-president electorally. Is there a sense of regret that perhaps he tipped the scale with his rhetoric, even if he doesn’t have a direct cause and effect?

Jen Psaki: (14:01)
He was answering a direct question during an interview with ESPN about the opening day baseball, something everybody… Not everybody, most people in the country appreciate and enjoy. And he was simply conveying that he would support that decision, if that decision was made by Major League Baseball. Just like he would support decisions made by private sector companies.

Jen Psaki: (14:20)
We’re not standing here and calling for companies to boycott. That’s not what our focus is on from the White House. We do believe that the focus on Georgia is a reminder that… And should be a reminder, I should say, that this is much bigger than Georgia. That Georgia was just one of the first states to act on a concerted effort, to use easily disprovable conspiracy theories to fuel their attempts to make it even harder for eligible Americans to vote.

Jen Psaki: (14:47)
But according to the Brennan Center, as of March 24, 361 bills with restrictive provisions have been introduced in 47 states around the country. So this is not just Georgia. This is something we are seeing a prevalence of this, a pattern around the country of an effort to make it more difficult to vote.

Kelly: (15:08)
Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader still in Kentucky said many positive things about the friendship and personal relationship he’s had with the president for a long time. A fine man, and so forth also says a moderate he is not. Does the president still identify as a moderate within the Democratic party, or do you feel that he has moved more… Or does the president feel he has moved more to the progressive way of his own party?

Jen Psaki: (15:33)
I don’t think this will surprise you, but the president is not eager to be labeled by anyone in his party, or certainly even by his friend, Mitch McConnell. And he is now president of the United States. He governs for all Americans. He is encouraged by, we all are encouraged by, the openness we’ve heard from some who would identify as a moderate Democrats or Republicans of discussing components of the package that he has proposed. And he’s looking forward to having that conversation. Go ahead, Jen.

Jen: (16:00)
Two questions on the Federal Reserve Board. Is there any update on the efforts to fill a vacancy, the vacancy on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors?

Jen Psaki: (16:09)
I don’t have any personnel update for you. I’m happy to check and see if there’s any update we can provide.

Jen: (16:13)
Thank you. And then also has President Biden spoken to the Federal Reserve Chairman yet, Jay Powell?

Jen Psaki: (16:19)
I don’t have any call to read out either.

Jen: (16:21)
So you can’t say if they’ve spoken yet at all?

Jen Psaki: (16:22)
I don’t have any update on it.

Jen: (16:24)
Let us know, please if you can.

Jen Psaki: (16:25)
I absolutely will.

Jen: (16:26)
Okay. Thank you very much. And then also one other question about phone calls. Has President Biden spoken to President Obama about how to pass the infrastructure bill? Has President Obama given him any advice on how to pass that bill?

Jen Psaki: (16:37)
They speak regularly. They of course were president and vice-president, but they are also friends and they share a bond of serving through eight years of the Obama/Biden Administration, but also a personal friendship and kinship and he speaks with him regularly. But we’re not going to read out those calls. Go ahead.

Speaker 4: (16:54)
Jen, you went through some of the numbers on the increase in supply and the pharmacies, but kind of following up on what Kelly had been asking too. Should we look for the president to maybe move up that July 4th circle date that he had said about Americans being able to gather in small groups? Can that also move up now, given that the eligibility is moving up by two weeks and the pace of vaccinations is increasing?

Jen Psaki: (17:18)
Well, we’re certainly encouraged by the fact that we are vaccinating. Our team is vaccinating, our experts across the country, I should say, are vaccinating an average about 3 million people a day, which is far larger than any other country in the world. But we know that it’s not just about having the supply or eligibility. It’s also about people in the country, eligible adult Americans, going to their community health center, going to a mass vaccination site, going to a pharmacy to get vaccinated and get that shot in their arms. So any changes we would make in advising the public, we would certainly do in close coordination with the advice of the CDC and our health and medical team. I don’t have any expectation of that at this point, but we’re always looking at how we can provide clarity to the public.

Speaker 4: (18:01)
And you had said that the lines might start getting longer. So seniors should start getting their shots now just to make sure they’re not doing it when it gets clogged up. Are you concerned that because the eligibility has expanded that the supply can match that? That you can still be on pace to vaccinate all American adults who want it by the end of May?

Jen Psaki: (18:19)
We will have enough supply by the end of May and we certainly remain confident that we will continue to be able to provide the supply that states need to vaccinate people in their states. And we’ll continue to provide supply also independently to the pharmacies, which is a program that has started out as a pilot and has been incredibly successful. So we are confident in what the path looks like ahead, but we also constantly contingency plan. We know things happen. Trucks break down, there are issues in manufacturing sites, as we saw just last week and we are constantly contingency planning about steps we need to take to ensure we have adequate supply out through all of our programs.

Speaker 4: (19:01)
The president continues to urge Americans to be vigilant. We expect he’ll do that today in his remarks, but over the weekend, we saw Americans traveling for the holiday weekend. We saw totally packed baseball stadium in Texas yesterday. Basically there are Americans across the country who are doing exactly what the president is telling them not to do. Is the message… Are Americans not hearing this or they hearing it and ignoring it?

Jen Psaki: (19:23)
I think the president recognizes that this has been a long and difficult journey for the American public. We’ve been, the country has been shut down in one form or another for more than a year now and people have missed birthday parties, weddings, baseball games, going out to restaurants. It is difficult. It is hard and what he’s asking people to do is to sacrifice a little bit longer and he will continue to make that case and make that argument.

Jen Psaki: (19:50)
Now, while we saw the baseball game as you noted and other events over the weekend, and we certainly anticipate as the weather gets warmer, there will be a temptation. We’ve also seen communities where local mayors, businesses have conveyed to their communities that we need to hang together. We need to remain vigilant. We need to wear masks and we will get through this together. So we are hopeful that that’s exactly what the majority of communities in this country will do. Go ahead.

Speaker 5: (20:21)
Thank you. A couple of clarifying questions just on the vaccine stuff. One, does this change the date at all by which there is an expectation everybody is vaccinated? I mean, does that move up? Is there [inaudible 00:20:36] everybody to be vaccinated.

Jen Psaki: (20:39)
In getting to a point where the majority of the American public is vaccinated is about more than supply. So what this announcement is conveying is we are at a point with the supply we have available, the number of vaccines, vaccination sites, vaccinators, where we believe everybody in the country should be eligible, can get in line by April 19th. Many people will have been in line or will even be vaccinated as we’ve seen by the numbers before then. But it is going to take the American people going, masking up, socially distancing and going and getting vaccinated. We’re going to make that as easy as possible, but there are roles that we can play and then there are roles that the public have to play.

Speaker 5: (21:17)
I guess my question is once they get in line by the 19th, how long that line ultimately may be. There’s not a new update on that?

Jen Psaki: (21:24)
I don’t have a new update on that. I think it’s just important for clarity purposes to convey it doesn’t mean everybody will be vaccinated by April 19th, which is I know why you were asking the question. It means that everybody will be eligible to go to their local pharmacy, go to their community health center, mobile vaccination site, mass vaccination site on that date and moving forward.

Speaker 5: (21:44)
One more unrelated to the vaccine. Over the weekend there was a reporting that at Guantanamo, a facility was closed and some detainees were consolidated.

Jen Psaki: (21:53)
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 5: (21:53)
Is that indicative at all of the Pentagon’s review of closing GTMO? Of the president’s plan and in a timeline to potentially make that proposal to close GTMO?

Jen Psaki: (22:03)
The president remains committed. That is his desire and the outcome he would like to see. Obviously that process would be overseen by the Department of Defense. So I would refer you to them for more specifics about that. Those moves and that announcement. Go ahead.

Speaker 6: (22:17)
So another foreign policy question. President Zelensky of Ukraine, he has said publicly that that country needs to join NATO to avoid a war in the Donbass region with Russia. We know that he brought that up on his call with the Canadian Prime Minister. Did he bring that up with President Biden on their recent call? And I guess more importantly, what is the president’s view on that issue?

Jen Psaki: (22:47)
Well, one, that has long been the aspiration of Ukraine and one that has been raised in a range of conversations with US officials over the course of several years. I would defer to them. We would of course, defer to the Ukrainian government on reading out what they raised on the call with the president. But, in addition to our reassurances that are consistently made to Ukrainian officials of our support for them and support for their sovereignty, we’re also discussing our concerns about the increase in tensions in the ceasefire violations, regional tensions with NATO allies, and certainly would be here to hear from them as we have for years about their aspirations and the process they need to go through.

Speaker 6: (23:39)
But as far as an official White House position on whether they should be able to join NATO soon. Is there a position?

Jen Psaki: (23:42)
Again, it’s been an aspiration of Ukraine’s for some time. We’ve long been discussing that aspiration with Ukraine. We are strong supporters of them. We are engaged with them and working to push back on the de-stabilizing actions, but that’s a decision for NATO to make and we’ll continue to be recipients of their interests.

Speaker 6: (24:03)
Okay and you said

Jen Psaki: (24:03)
You know, recipients of their interests.

Speaker 6: (24:03)
Okay. And you said a minute ago that the Georgia voting rights law was based on a lie.

Jen Psaki: (24:09)
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 6: (24:09)
We had a poll yesterday that showed that more than half of Republicans believe that the election was stolen from Donald Trump and that the Capitol riot was led by left-wing agitators. Is there a public policy response to disinformation?

Jen Psaki: (24:28)
Well, first to disinformation in general?

Speaker 6: (24:31)
Yeah.

Jen Psaki: (24:32)
Look, I think that the prevalence of disinformation is something that is of concern to the president. He believes there is a range of reasons for it. Some relate to the platforms. Some relate to the individual actors who are promoting and provoking destabilizing activities and actions through their rhetoric. He’s spoken to that in the past. This is certainly an issue that the president is focused on and he will work with his team on addressing through policy measures, but I don’t have anything to preview for you.

Speaker 6: (25:06)
Okay. Just one more quick thing on the American jobs plan.

Jen Psaki: (25:09)
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 6: (25:10)
There’s a Moody’s estimate that you have cited, and basically their estimate is that 2.7 million jobs will be created over 10 years, if that plan is passed as it’s been proposed. I think that works out to something like $850,000 per job. Given that are you open to ideas about a more targeted way, a cheaper way of achieving the same goal in terms of number of jobs created?

Jen Psaki: (25:40)
Well, we’re always open to hearing from members of Congress and on their ideas and what they think should be a part of the package. At the end of the day, the president’s red line is inaction. He won’t tolerate inaction on rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. Something that has long been outdated. He believes that we need to invest in that, so we can improve the lives of ordinary Americans and make it easier to do business.

Jen Psaki: (26:07)
He also believes that investments in long-term economic growth will create good paying jobs. There was another study that showed that about 75% of these jobs, a Georgetown study I should say, would go to workers who did not have college degrees. And that is certainly a population in this country that needs extra assistance, and it would be highly targeted in helping give a leg up to people who need that help. He also believes that we need to invest in order to help us out-compete China and invest in our own emerging economies to do that, and that we need to invest in the American people. That the American people are the backbone of our nations, of our country and that is part of our proposal in this package. Go ahead. Go ahead.

Speaker 7: (26:54)
Thank you. Just two questions. One on vaccine again, is there any thought being given to a federally organized vaccine hospital of some kind? Does the president see that maybe as some kind of tool that could be used or would he lean more on the side of people who’ve raised objections over privacy and so on?

Jen Psaki: (27:12)
Well let me be very clear on this. I know there’s been lots of questions. The government is not now, nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential. There’ll be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential. As these tools are being considered by the private and non-profit sectors, our interest is very simple from the federal government, which is American’s privacy and rights should be protected, and so that these systems are not used against people unfairly.

Jen Psaki: (27:43)
There is a movement, as you know, in the private sector to identify ways that they can return to events where there are large swaths of people safely in soccer stadiums, or theaters and that’s something that’s where the idea originated and we expect that’s where it will be concluded. We will be providing some guidance, which will look like an FAQ, a frequently asked question. I hate acronyms. But that provides important answers to questions that Americans have, in particular around concerns about privacy, security or discrimination soon. I don’t have an exact date for that yet.

Speaker 7: (28:18)
Okay. And if I might, another question on Iran. It’s pretty clear what the characters for Iran, that’s obvious. But given that the previous administration, just batted them with pretty much everything he had apart from the wall. What’s left in terms of the stick, when answering these negotiations? What is left actually apart from the wall?

Jen Psaki: (28:40)
What would Iran want out of it? Is that what you’re asking?

Speaker 7: (28:43)
No, I said what’s the stick? You’re coming with a carrot, which is we’ll bring you back in and so on, dismantle all this stuff and we’ll eventually give you sanctions relief. That’s pretty clear. But they withstood the sanctions under the Trump administration and their effect on the increase the activity in the nuclear-

Jen Psaki: (29:01)
Well if you go back historically, just a few years before the Trump administration to the Obama Biden administration, sanctions were put in place, which incentivizes, in many ways, getting them to the table to have the discussion about the joint plan of action. So look, I would say at this point, today’s the first day of discussions. As you know, these discussions are happening in Geneva and they’re happening through our European counterparts and partners. We expect them to have difficult portions. We expect this to be a long process, and we continue to believe that a diplomatic path is the right path forward, and there are benefits to all sides.

Jen Psaki: (29:41)
When the Trump administration pulled out of the joint plan of action, what they left us with is a far decreased visibility of Iran’s nuclear capability, of inspections at their sites, of an understanding of how close they were to acquiring a nuclear weapon. That’s not in anyone’s interest, certainly not the American people. Go ahead.

Speaker 8: (30:04)
Jen, Senator Schumer’s office said last night that the Senate parliamentarian had ruled in favor of additional reconciliation bills. I wondered if the administration have any view on that ruling? And in light of this ruling, is this the likely path that the president will take with the Senate, in terms of getting this infrastructure bill across the finish line?

Jen Psaki: (30:27)
Well, the president continues to believe, less than a week after he announced the plan I’ll say, that there’s a bipartisan path forward. And we are encouraged not just by 80% of the public that believes that it is long overdue to invest in infrastructure that not just roads, rails, and bridges, but there is a way we should, a role of the federal government can play in rebuilding the infrastructure of our economy and helping support American workers for the 21st century.

Jen Psaki: (30:56)
This is a mechanism, as you know. Reconciliation is a mechanism for passing budgetary bills in Congress. We will leave the mechanisms and the determination of the mechanisms to leaders in Congress. But right now, less than a week after he announced the American jobs plan, our focus is on engaging with Democrats and Republicans, with staff, with committee staff, inviting members to the White House next week. And we are encouraged by some of the statements that have been made about components of the package, where we could find agreement.

Speaker 8: (31:30)
On the infrastructure, some Republicans have quibbled with the way infrastructure should be defined in the bill. Does the president feel that he has to convince Republicans of what should be used in an infrastructure bill before it can actually persuade them to vote for it?

Jen Psaki: (31:51)
Well, I’ll give you a little bit of a homework assignment. There are some Republicans who have previously called for investment in workforce development, as part of comprehensive infrastructure investment. Some have called for that. Some have previously called for investing in broadband and the expansion of broadband as a means of expanding infrastructure. Some even have a reference to replacing pipes as a means of infrastructure. So, I would suggest that many of their constituents would be surprised to hear that those are not infrastructure projects, and I’m sure with a little Googling, you can all figure out who those all are.

Speaker 8: (32:30)
Just one more-

Jen Psaki: (32:30)
In the back.

Speaker 9: (32:31)
Hi. At his press conference, the president said all children and grandchildren will be writing doctoral thesis about whether democracy or autocracy succeeded. What’s his own measure of success there, is it American GDP versus Chinese GDP ultimately, or is it the sphere of influence of both countries around the world?

Jen Psaki: (32:53)
That’s a big, broad question. A good one. Look, I think the president is, when he talks about that, he’s not just talking about economic growth and development. That’s certainly is part of it. He’s also talking about our values and what message we send to the world and to our children. And so it has quite a broad meeting and that’s, I think, reflective and reflected, I should say, in how he has approached his presidency and identified the crises we’re facing. I think he wants, he has grandchildren now, so maybe he wants the rest of us to be able to tell our grandchildren what role did we play in addressing racial injustice? What role did we play in addressing the climate crisis? What world did we play in helping rebuild the workforce of the future? And what role did we play in standing up for our values around the world? So has quite a broad meaning, but I think that’s a reflection of his approach to his presidency.

Speaker 9: (33:47)
Is he using the competition with China point as a key selling point with Republicans on infrastructure and pressing away the appeal in other areas it’s not going to work, the idea that there’s a danger of falling behind China? Does he hope pragmatically that will strike a chord?

Jen Psaki: (34:05)
Well, there is agreement, cross Democrats, Republicans, frankly the American people, that we need to do more to invest here at home in order to compete with China. And he has conveyed too, that his, and I have I guess as well, that our approach to our relationship with China is to come to that relationship from a position of strength. And that includes investing at home, ensuring that our workforce, our infrastructure, our broadband access is at a rate where it would strengthen our own infrastructure and workforce here so that we compete globally. There’s also been proposed legislation. I’m not sure if it’s been formally dropped yet, but by Senator Schumer and others that is focused on how we can better invest in our workforce to compete with China. We anticipate there’s an opportunity for that to be bi-partisan, because investing in our workforce here is something that Democrats and Republicans can agree on.

Speaker 9: (34:59)
Quick off. Is the president disappointed by the pace of vaccine distribution in the District of Columbia and does it potentially strengthen the argument for statehood?

Jen Psaki: (35:09)
Well, he’s spoken about statehood in the past, but I would say that we track every community. We track every State and locality and how distribution is going and how to improve it and make it more effective, and we work very closely with leaders. One size doesn’t fit all. And in some cases, that means we increased distribution to pharmacies, we increased distribution to mobile vaccine sites. And so that’s certainly something that’s ongoing with leaders around the country, including of course, with leaders in the District of Columbia. Go ahead in the back. Oh, go ahead, [inaudible 00:35:41].

Speaker 10: (35:41)
Oh, thank you, Jen. I want to follow up on the Vienna talks. So, is the White House satisfied or content by this first round of talks between what they call the P4 plus one in Iran?

Jen Psaki: (35:55)
Well, we’re only on the first day. So I will allow the team that is negotiating on the ground to give more of an assessment of how they feel the talks have gone.

Jen Psaki: (36:02)
… on the ground to give more of an assessment of how they feel the talks have gone.

Speaker 10: (36:04)
Can you explain if those talks are in direct between the Europeans, the Russians and the Chinese and Iran, why do you have a high ranking US official in Vienna since you don’t want to talk directly with Iranians?

Jen Psaki: (36:17)
Well, I think it’s important to convey to our partners, our P5+1 partners too, that we believe diplomacy is the best step forward, is the most appropriate step forward. And Rob Malley, who is somebody who’s experienced, who’s been a part of negotiations in the past, is certainly inappropriate level individual from the government to be there.

Speaker 10: (36:36)
So is the White House position till now that no lifting of any sanctions until Iran comply?

Jen Psaki: (36:42)
Well, I think we expect, as I conveyed yesterday, that a big part of the conversation will be how Iran can come back into compliance and what would be required of the United States. But we’ve been clear that we are not anticipating any steps at this moment. We’ll allow the negotiations to continue.

Speaker 10: (37:02)
And allow me, on Iraq, tomorrow you’re going to hold the strategic dialogue between the United States and Iran. As you know, the President has been talking about reviewing troops numbers all over the world, including Iraq. Is this a topic that obviously will be high and center on these talks? What do you expect from these talks? How are they different from the previous one under the previous administration?

Jen Psaki: (37:24)
Well, one, these meetings will further clarify the coalition forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government and solely for the purpose of training and advising Iraqi forces to ensure that ISIS cannot reconstitute. And I think that’s a difference from how it was described previously. This will also be an important opportunity to discuss our mutual interests across a range of fields, from security to culture, to trade and climate. And obviously these are proceeding soon and I’m certain we’ll have a readout once the discussions conclude. Thank you. Go ahead.

Speaker 11: (37:58)
Thanks, Jen. Bloomberg reported earlier today that President Putin plans to take part in the virtual climate summit later this month. Has the Kremlin reached out to confirm his attendance?

Jen Psaki: (38:08)
I’m sorry. Say the last part one more time.

Speaker 11: (38:09)
Has the Kremlin reached out to confirm his attendance?

Jen Psaki: (38:13)
We’ve invited about 40 heads of state to attend the climate summit. And I expect as we get closer, we’ll have confirmation about who will be participating in the summit.

Speaker 11: (38:22)
Okay. And one more. Senator McConnell’s comments yesterday to encourage Republican men to go get a vaccine, was the White House in touch with Senator McConnell as part of the effort to address vaccine hesitancy, or was the President in touch with them before he made those comments?

Jen Psaki: (38:37)
I don’t have any private conversations to communicate about, but certainly we see it as a positive for any member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, to be out there advocating for their supporters, people who follow them, who listen to them, about the safety and the efficacy of the vaccine. Go ahead.

Speaker 9: (38:57)
Thanks, Jen. Following up some of what Ken was asking about reconciliation. For there to be a sort of second [inaudible 00:39:04] reconciliation [inaudible 00:39:06], so to speak, it would have to be by the end of this fiscal year. And concerning what you just said about from the Biden team, the only red line is inaction. Does President Biden see there being any deadline for Congress to move on the job plan? Would he like to see it by the end of the fiscal year or by the end of the calendar year?

Jen Psaki: (39:22)
He’d like to see progress by may and certainly a package through by the summer.

Speaker 9: (39:29)
And then on Afghanistan, we’re getting very, very close to the May 1st deadline to pull out the remaining 3500 troops. It doesn’t frankly look like the registration is going to meet that deadline. Why, at this point, should the American people have confidence in your ability to finally end this war if you’re not going to meet sort of this initial deadline?

Jen Psaki: (39:54)
Well, first it wasn’t a deadline we set, but the President, this president, has conveyed that it would be difficult operationally to meet the timeline of getting all troops out by May 1st. He has also consistently over the course of the last decade spoken out about his concerns about the war, and that has consistently been his view, even back when he was Vice President and it wasn’t aligned with everybody else in the administration. So that should hopefully give people confidence about his commitments, but it’s also an important decision, one he needs to make in close consultation with our allies and also with our national security team here in this administration. And we want to give him the time to do that.

Jen Psaki: (40:37)
Go ahead in the back.

Speaker 12: (40:38)
Good afternoon. What does the president, who we know is Catholic, say it to Catholic doctors, Catholic institutions, who are fearful that if the Equality Act passes, it has the potential to trample on their conscience rights? What does the president say to those people who are concerned about that?

Jen Psaki: (40:57)
He has a difference of opinion and he respects their difference of opinion, but he has been a supporter of the Equality Act and he also is a practicing Catholic and attends church nearly every week. Go ahead, Kelly. Oh, go ahead.

Speaker 12: (41:11)
Separate question here. Chicago saw 131 homicides through March of this year. Last year at this time 98. The White House’s reaction to that number. And then is there anything the federal government is planning or willing to do to step into the city of Chicago and tamp down the deadly violence? Just recently a 13 year old boy was shot and killed there.

Jen Psaki: (41:31)
Well, I appreciate you raising the fact that there’s a prevalence of violence, sometimes at the hands of guns, something the president has fought for throughout his career, which is ensuring that we put in place more gun safety measures. We work with communities to invest in community violence prevention. He’s actually proposed funding to do exactly that, something that many groups support, because they believe in order reduce violence in order to address the prevalence of violence in communities like some in Chicago, that we need to spend the money from the federal government to do exactly that.

Speaker 12: (42:08)
[crosstalk 00:42:08] put any resources right now immediately, rather than waiting for laws and waiting for community events or what have you to take place. People are dying on the streets by the day.

Jen Psaki: (42:19)
Well, again, I appreciate you raising it because one thing we don’t talk about enough is the fact that beyond mass shootings, there are additional people who die in cities, sometimes young kids, nearly every single day as a result of violence. He has proposed funding. We would support acting on that and that’s what we’ll continue to advocate. But I think we’ve got to move on. Go ahead, Kelly.

Kelly: (42:39)
Is the administration looking at how you’re going to talk about the number of jobs created from the infrastructure package? Because citing the Moody’s numbers from Secretary Buttigieg and Brian Dee’s talking about 19 million when that was really talking about a much longer timeframe. So since you aren’t giving us administration centered numbers, can you add some clarity to where the numbers for jobs should be if the Secretary and Mr. Dee’s overshot in their comments?

Jen Psaki: (43:10)
I think as the Secretary said in an interview yesterday, it is important to be clear and to be specific about jobs numbers, to provide clarity to the American people. We’ll have state by state fact sheets out soon, I think, but it’ll be hard to have state by state job creation numbers, because we won’t know the specifics because of all of the bidding processes that will take place as it relates to infrastructure. But Moody’s ran an analysis that showed that the economy would create 19 million jobs over the next decade. If Congress passes the American Jobs Plan, almost 3 million more than if it doesn’t. So that is what the impact would be of the American Jobs Plan, 2.7 million to be totally clear. These are millions of jobs that won’t be created if Congress doesn’t act to pass this plan. We see that as a positive, but we also will be very clear and articulate exactly what numbers of jobs it will create.

Speaker 12: (44:06)
Thanks, Jen.

Jen Psaki: (44:06)
Thank you everyone.