Jul 2, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript July 2
July 2, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Brian Deese joined her to discuss the June job report numbers. Read the transcript of the full news briefing here.
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Jen Psaki: (00:00)
… Director, Brian Deese joining us, who will give us an overview and then take some of your questions. With that, I’ll turn it over to Brian.
Brian Deese: (00:08)
Well, I was going to say it’s a sign of the progress that we’re making that the last time that I came here, the briefing room was significantly less full than it is right now. We are making progress across the board in all ways, except I guess now you guys are significantly more squished. So yeah, happy to spend a couple of minutes with you guys to just provide a little bit more context. You all heard the president discussing the employment report that we got today. So I just wanted to provide a little bit of additional context on how we are looking at that data in the context of what we’ve seen over the course of the last couple of weeks and the last week in particular.
Brian Deese: (00:45)
So obviously a strong and encouraging jobs report today 850,000 jobs created last month. That takes us to more than 3 million jobs created since the president took office. Under the hood on that, I just want to just raise a couple of issues. First is, in addition to a strong job story today, we saw a strong story about wages, wages for workers. Average hourly earnings were up 3.6% over the year. And if you take out the pandemic, some of the movements in the pandemic, we’ve seen the largest three month increase in wages on record. Records go back to 2006. And so I think what we’re seeing here is a labor market where as employers are increasingly looking for employment and jobs are plentiful, they are paying higher wages and people are taking jobs at a faster clip. Good news on both fronts. The second is, obviously there’s the payroll survey and the household survey, the household survey is what feeds into the unemployment rate. A couple of things under the hood in the household survey that may be of interest to you.
Brian Deese: (01:56)
First is around labor force participation. We saw an increase in labor force participation among the prime age working populations. So for those workers age 25 to 54, we saw an increase in the pandemic, certainly because of some particularities around teenagers and also early retirements that prime age workforce is particularly relevant and so we keep an eye on that. The second is if you look at the broader definitions of unemployment, which have been particularly something that we and others have followed over the course of this pandemic, one notable thing this month is a marked decline in the number of people who were working part-time for economic reasons. So this is a category that the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks, where people would like to be working more hours, but are only employed part-time. We saw 644,000 person decline in that figure over the course of this past month. Again, a sign that those who are wanting to work more are having an opportunity to do so.
Brian Deese: (03:03)
I would also know that there was a slight uptick in the number of long-term unemployed. That number has come down since the president took office. But that’s an issue that is a reminder that we continue to have challenges in an economy that is coming back from an historic pandemic. And we are still down more than 6 million jobs from where we started. So we still have a lot of work left to do. Third point is just to put this report in the context of a set of economic data and indices we’ve seen over the course of the last week in particular, it’s been a heavy week for economic data. So just a couple of things I wanted to flag. We saw consumer confidence come out earlier this week, and not only did we see the index increase for the fourth straight month at very high levels now in terms of consumers’ current and future sentiments about the economy, but a record level of consumers are seeing the job market as improving.
Brian Deese: (03:58)
In fact the share of consumers that say that jobs are plentiful in the economy is now at a 21 year high. So again, consistent with a strong recovering labor market here.We saw both the Congressional Budget Office and the IMF come out this week with updated growth projections. The CBO in particular doubled it’s projected growth for 2021 from 3.7% to now 7.4%. And if we achieve that growth in that range, it would be the highest in nearly 40 years. But also, notably, the CBO not only increased its growth projections, but projected downward where unemployment will be next year and also downwardly revised its projections for ten-year deficits. So actually its growth estimates increased its projections for future deficits as a share of our economy came down from where it was projecting in February. Likewise on the IMF front, projections of growth at 7% for the US economy. And in their words, the fastest pace in a generation.
Brian Deese: (05:08)
Also this week, notably, we saw the OECD reach an agreement with 130 countries endorsing a global minimum tax of at least 15%. This has been a priority for President Biden in our economic strategy from the beginning of this administration to try to help to galvanize a global effort to actually end the race to the bottom on taxes and to encourage multinational companies to invest and compete on quality and price and not on the effectiveness of being able to strip profits into low tax jurisdictions. Historic announcement this week, and an important milestone in our effort to get that done this year. Number four, and then I will take your questions, is I just wanted to also let you know in terms of actions that we’re focused on to try to help address issues that consumers are facing increased competition and lower prices.
Brian Deese: (06:11)
I want to confirm that there was some reporting this morning that the president is indeed intending to direct the Department of Transportation to engage in a series of rulemakings to protect airline passengers and to promote fair competition in the airline industry. This may sound esoteric, but I’ll make it very simple, particularly for any of you who have flown or are intending to fly now that that that’s more available. These rulemakings will specifically ensure that if a passenger pays to check a bag, they should get that fee back if the bag doesn’t arrive on time. Also, if the passenger pays for a service like WiFi and it doesn’t actually work, that you will get that fee back quickly.
Brian Deese: (07:01)
And also the president will direct DOT to ensure a rulemaking that will establish clearer upfront disclosure of fees. One of the challenges in being able to clearly understand baggage fees, change fees, cancellation fees at the time of the purchase of an airline ticket, so that consumers have more and better information in understanding what they actually are paying for. And that this direction will be part of a broader effort that the president will release shortly around driving greater competition in the economy in service of lower prices for American families and higher wages for American workers.
Brian Deese: (07:49)
So with that, I’m happy to take your questions, with one caveat, which you will hear me say every time I come to talk about monthly employment data or anything else, which is every piece of data is uncertain. We don’t put too much stock in any one month’s data. We’re looking at longer term trends. And certainly as we assess the trend over the longer term, we feel like we are seeing a strong and accelerating recovery connected to and driven by the president’s economic strategy.
Jen Psaki: (08:21)
So good news on hiring, but we saw an increase in Black unemployment. Unemployment for Black men is about 10%, almost double what it is for white men. Do you expect to close this gap? And which policies are going to be the most important for getting that?
Brian Deese: (08:39)
Well I’m glad you raised the issue and certainly it underscores why it’s so important to not let up on the strategy that we’ve been putting in place to drive a strong recovery as fast as we can to get to full employment. One of the things that we know is that one of the most powerful ways of actually addressing disparities within the labor market and particularly the persistent gap between unemployment rates for whites and people of color is to have a strong economy that is operating at full employment, where employers are seeking to have a wider scope and people who want to enter the labor force, want to find jobs, have more options and have more leverage and have more power in the labor market.
Brian Deese: (09:28)
So you’ve heard the president talk about this. He went to Cleveland and laid this out in a speech that an explicit part of his strategy is to have policies in place to get us to full employment as quickly as possible. I would note to your question about the most important policies, the American Rescue Plan was unique across the world in terms of fiscal responses to this pandemic crisis, the United States stepping in and having a more aggressive fiscal response than almost any country in the world. And what you’ve seen as a result is that most independent projections pulled forward by a year or more their projection of when we will get to that full employment. But as we assess what it means to get to a full employment economy, we believe it’s critical to look at that from an inclusive perspective and not just look at the headline unemployment rate and recognize that these persistent barriers that have driven those divergences in employment outcomes need to be at the center of what we’re trying to address and part of what we want this economic recovery to achieve.
Jen Psaki: (10:35)
Brian, I wanted to ask you about the OECD tax agreement. Are you concerned at all that that could get held up, that the US could have trouble enacting its part of that? And also there were several countries that are in the European Union that didn’t sign on. Is that going to be a stumbling block to actually make it happen?
Brian Deese: (10:58)
So we see the announcement this week as both a historical milestone and really important momentum to actually achieving both of the elements that you said. Momentum to enact a corporate tax reform in the United States that would not only help to improve US competitiveness by making it more attractive to invest here in the United States, rather than invest in shifting production and profits to low tax jurisdictions, but also raise revenue that we could invest in productivity enhancing measures like investing in universal preschool. Along the lines of president has laid out. And in fact, one of the principle arguments against the kind of tax reform that the president has laid out is, “Well, if the United States acts, what happens if the rest of the world doesn’t come along?” Well with this OECD announcement, we’re actually demonstrating that the world is prepared to do that.
Brian Deese: (11:53)
And obviously, it connects to a set of constructive conversations we’re having with leadership and the relevant committees in Congress right now about moving forward the president’s corporate tax reform. And this is a process, to your question about the remaining countries, this is a process we saw at the G7. There were questions would G7 come along and endorse this framework? And of course they did. Now we have 130 countries endorsing this framework and we’re going to keep working at it. We’re not there. This is a milestone in the process. But seeing a real strong signal of momentum toward the ultimate goal.
Jen Psaki: (12:26)
Hey, Brian, I wonder if you could address that competition initiative that you mentioned, give us a little bit more flavor of what’s coming on that. And then secondly, I wonder if you could address the chip shortage is still hurting… Ford, for example, is down 27% in June. How much of a drag do you think that’s going to have on the otherwise rosy outlook you just presented?
Brian Deese: (12:51)
Sure. So on the first I would say, I won’t get ahead of the president, you can anticipate the president’s going to be having more to say about this shortly. It’s an issue that we’ve been working on across the whole of government, and the actions that I outlined with respect to the Department of Transportation is one element of it. But I think at the core just is this is really about trying to recognize that actually having more competition and more competitive markets is actually key to driving strong, durable, shared economic growth. And in particular, we’ve seen increasing evidence that the lack of competition in a variety of markets can actually reduce choices and increase prices for consumers, for small businesses, and actually also hurt wages and wage growth for workers in the labor market. And so we’re looking at an effort across the government, looking at the different antitrust statutes and the different measures that agencies can take to try to improve competition and actually improve the opportunities for businesses to compete fairly without being impeded as well. So we’ll have more to say about that, but that’s the basic contours of it.
Jen Psaki: (14:03)
Just chips [inaudible 00:14:07].
Brian Deese: (14:06)
Oh, chips, yeah. Yeah, so look, this has been an issue that we’ve been focused on for some time. It was a focus of the president’s a 100-Day Supply Chain Review, and we’ve been in constant and close contact with the auto manufacturers, consumer electronics producers, and also then the chip manufacturers themselves. I would say in the short term, I think we’re hearing signs of there’s are some improvement in the challenges. I think the second quarter clearly was a point where you saw that impacting both on the production side and the employment side. At least the indications we’re hearing from industry participants is that you should expect some improvement sequentially over the second half of this year. From our perspective in the policy side, it’s why we’re incredibly focused, you’ve seen the president laser focused, on trying to move and enact his proposal for $50 billion to invest in semiconductor production manufacturing resilience here in the United States. That’s the long-term answer-
Brian Deese: (15:03)
…. production, manufacturing and resilience here in the United States. That’s the long-term answer to this issue and that’s passed through the Senate. We’re now working with the House to try to advance that legislation as well. And we look forward to getting that to the president’s desk as soon as possible.
Jen Psaki: (15:16)
[inaudible 00:15:16]. Oh, sorry, [inaudible 00:15:18]
Speaker 1: (15:20)
Just to get back to full employment, what are the metrics that the administration will look to, to determine when the US has reached full employment? And then on manufacturing, why aren’t manufacturing jobs lagging so much, up only 15,000 in June, it’s still 480,000 below pre pandemic levels?
Brian Deese: (15:40)
Well, I’ll take the second half of your question first. And obviously we can have a glass and maybe it’s half full, maybe it’s half empty. But I would say sequentially, what we’ve seen is progress in the manufacturing sector both in terms of employment and production. And it’s important to remember where we’re coming from. We had a pandemic and a historic economic crisis that cratered production and has created huge supply chain challenges and bottlenecks over the course of the economy. But I think what we’re seeing now is demand has come back faster than anticipated in large part because of the success of the vaccination effort and the historic fiscal response that the United States has taken. And you’re seeing manufacturers respond. And certainly there’s going to be some short-term issues to work through, but I think part of the job growth that we saw in June is reflective of the sectors’ ability to start coming back here. And the first half… On full employment.
Brian Deese: (16:46)
So look, our approach is to look at this from an inclusive perspective. Our approach has been to say, what does it mean to actually have an economy that is working for everybody and where workers who want an opportunity to be full participants in the labor market have that opportunity? That means not only looking underneath the hood of the traditional unemployment rate, at the significant discrepancies we’ve seen historically on racial and ethnic lines, but also on parents and women, and what are the barriers to full participation in this economy. And so you certainly see that from the perspective of the Biden economic strategy to try to invest in the drivers that are actually going to increase labor force participation, increase the productive capacity of the economy by driving inclusive growth, shared growth, the kind of growth that we think will be durable across time.
Jen Psaki: (17:44)
Courtney. This is may be the last one. Go ahead.
Right back here. Hi.
Brian Deese: (17:49)
I wanted to ask you a little about the infrastructure and the ongoing negotiations on the Hill. The House passed its INVEST in America Act, I believe it was either last week or this week. And House transportation chairman, Peter DeFazio, has said that he wants the policy in that bill to be how they flush out the framework that the president agreed on, the bipartisan framework. Is that something that you would agree with? Is the policy in there what you want? It looked like at the end of the day, are there certain policies you would want to keep in the final bill?
Brian Deese: (18:21)
So that was a vote that happened earlier this week. And I congratulate Chairman DeFazio and the committee and the House for progressing that. This is the process. This is the… You’re seeing the legislative process work. You saw the Senate committee pass a surface transportation reauthorization unanimously out of committee with Chairman Carper, Ranking Member Capito there. And now you’ve seen a transportation reauthorization pass out of the House as well. And as we’ve said for some time, the expectation is that the legislative process will now work the way that it has. And as part of the bipartisan infrastructure framework, moving from a framework agreement to piece of legislation. As the president has said, the committee chairman are going to be part of that process. The process is happening in the Senate right now. But obviously working between the Senate and the House is a key element of this. So I think it’s an important milestone. And Chairman DeFazio has shown extraordinary leadership on this issue and we’re going to keep working on it. This is the legislative process in real time working it’s will.
Jen Psaki: (19:42)
Thank you, Brian, so much for joining us. He’ll be back.
Brian Deese: (19:45)
Thank you all.
Speaker 2: (19:47)
Jen Psaki: (19:47)
Okay, sorry. Go ahead. All right. Just two quick items for all of you at the top. As we shared from the podium a few weeks ago, the White House recently established the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force co-chaired by the secretaries of commerce, transportation, and agriculture, to bring a whole of government approach to addressing the near term supply chain bottlenecks and supply constraints. The task force has been actively engaging with a broad set of stakeholders to diagnose problems and identify solutions. And we want to share a few examples of recent engagements given this is of great interest. Alex asked about it just a few minutes ago, or a version of it. On home building, Secretary Raimondo and senior commerce officials have been meeting with timber and logging companies, saw mill operators, retailers, appliance makers, and home builders from across the nation. And will meet in the coming days with affordable housing and labor leaders to ensure the challenges in the home building supply chain are thoroughly understood from every angle to address bottlenecks in the sector.
Jen Psaki: (20:46)
On semiconductors, which affects many industries, including everything from autos to everyday electronics around our homes, Secretary Raimondo has continued to bring together semiconductor producers and users to build trust, improve transparency and facilitate data sharing. Since March, the Commerce Department has supported nearly $75 billion in direct investments from both US and foreign businesses and domestic semiconductor manufacturing. And as for the Department of Transportation under Secretary Buttigieg’s leadership, the agency is helping address the country’s truck driver shortages by supporting state DMVs as they return or even exceed pre pandemic commercial driver’s license issuance rates. In 2021, an average of 50,000 commercial driver’s licenses have been issued each month, which is 14% higher than the 2019 monthly average and 60% higher than the 2020 monthly average. So clearly their work is ongoing, but wanted to provide you a bit of an update about their outreach. Finally in vaccine sharing news, on Sunday we’ll send, this Sunday, we will send 1.5 million doses of Moderna to El Salvador.
Jen Psaki: (21:49)
Sorry, we’ll do the week ahead. As we look to the week ahead, which of course includes this weekend because the president has a busy schedule, on Saturday he will travel to Traverse City, Michigan with Governor Gretchen Whitmer as part of the administration’s nationwide America’s Back Together tour to celebrate our country’s progress against the virus. While there, he will visit a cherry farm where he will highlight the benefits of the bipartisan infrastructure framework and what it will do to deliver to communities across the country. After his visit to Traverse City, he will travel to Wilmington, Delaware where he will remain overnight. On Sunday, the president and the first lady will return to the White House where they will host a 4th of July barbecue with essential workers and military families on the south lawn. At 7:30 PM on Sunday night, the president will deliver remarks to celebrate Independence Day and independence from COVID-19.
Jen Psaki: (22:40)
And later that night, the National Mall will be open for the traditional Independence Day fireworks display so friends and family can gather together to celebrate our independence from the virus. On Monday, the president will not have public events. It is a federal holiday and next week we will have more details hopefully in the coming days, but he will continue to amplify the benefits of the bipartisan infrastructure framework, the American Families plan. And again, we’ll have more announcements about in the coming days. Last thing, Emily, who many of you know, she’s going to get embarrassed, is a part of our amazing press team. She is a spokesperson on economic issues, not an easy thing. So she’s here, hasn’t been in the briefing room today. So I wanted to welcome her here and thank her for all her pro work and also to Chairman Schiff who let me steal her from him, which I’m very grateful for every day. So just wanted you all to know Emily, if you don’t already know Emily. Josh, go ahead. Josh definitely knows Emily.
Yes. Given last night’s announcement on holding federal executions, is the president satisfied with the moratorium as it stands for or does he want to go further? And does he believe that Justice Department lawyers should continue to seek the death penalty in cases or should they hold off?
Jen Psaki: (23:49)
Well, I will first say, Josh, that the president made clear, even during his first conversations with then Judge Garland about the job that he wanted to see an end to executions. And the announcement that was made today is he’s pleased to see that the attorney general is taking steps forward which will put a stop to executions at the federal level during this review. And that is what’s ongoing and he feels that’s an important step forward in delivering on that discussion.
And then secondly, with regard to the president and sexual assault cases and kind of where they are in the military chain of command, the president stopped short of where Senator Gillibrand is about having independent prosecutors [inaudible 00:24:32] felonies that call for more than a year in a prison. What is the White House’s thinking on kind of the decision relative to that proposal?
Jen Psaki: (24:40)
Well, first I would note that we put out a statement from the president and let me just highlight some components of that for all of you, because this was an important step forward in his view today. He strongly supports Secretary Austin’s announcement that he’s accepting the core recommendations put forward by the Independent Review Commission on military sexual assault. He views sexual assault as an abuse of power and a front to our shared humanity. And sexual assault in the military is doubly damaging in his view as it also shreds the unity and cohesion that is essential to a functioning US military and to our national defense. He also noted, and just to answer your question, that he looks forward to working with Congress to implement these necessary reforms. He’s grateful for the leadership of Senator Gillibrand, the work of Senator Ernst, Representative Spear and Representative Mullin who have worked in strong bipartisan way to move this forward. And certainly he feels that this announcement and the decision by Secretary Austin is a step forward. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (25:37)
Same two subjects. First to the death penalty. There had been a campaign pledged to introduce legislation to end the federal death penalty. Is that still coming up?
Jen Psaki: (25:47)
Again, I would say that the president felt it was so important that it was a part of his discussion with the attorney general when he interviewed him and talked to him about the job. He is now, the attorney general today announced that there will be a halt in executions while there’s an important review. And the president feels that’s an important step forward.
Speaker 3: (26:04)
Some advocates have called on him to commute all federal death penalty sentences. So it’s different than what the attorney general did. Has there been any discussion [inaudible 00:26:12]
Jen Psaki: (26:12)
There is review that was just announced. I don’t expect that we would speak to that while it’s ongoing.
Speaker 3: (26:16)
And then on the sexual assault report, it found in part, I’m just going to quote here, “A wide chasm between what senior leaders believe is happening under their commands and what junior enlisted service members actually experience. As a result, trust has been broken between commanders and the service members. It’s a scathing vote of no confidence on a predominantly male military leadership.” And I’m just curious in his discussions with the secretary of defense or with uniformed leaders, if he, the president, has talked to these guys at all about the fact that this persists and is now called out in this report.
Jen Psaki: (26:56)
Well, he’s certainly spoken with Secretary Austin about it. He’s spoken publicly about his concern, about what he’s seen and the reports of sexual assault in the military that were happening, of course, long before he became president. And he also called out, in a statement today. He wanted to recognize the experience of our service members who have survived sexual assault and the bravery of those who’ve shared their stories with the world and advocated for reform, which is something he felt was important to note and call out today. I would also note that Secretary Austin in coming out and accepting these core recommendations is taking an action step to change and hopefully change the course of what we’ve seen over the last several years. Something the president certainly applauds and support.
Speaker 3: (27:39)
But it’s going to take until at least 2023 to get much of this implemented. And we’ve got a bill in the Senate that has 60 votes, at least, bipartisan. Is there going to be a push by him to say, yes, let’s do this? It’s another example of bipartisan cooperation, it addresses this issue. [inaudible 00:27:56]
Jen Psaki: (27:56)
He noted in his statement that he looks forward to working with Congress to implement these necessary reforms and to promote a work environment that is free from sexual assault and harassment for every one of our brave service members. And yes, it is also the military, the leadership in the military, Secretary Austin, someone the president nominated and works with on a daily basis who accepted these recommendations and they need to be implemented. That will take some time, but that’s a forward step that was taken by our own military. Go ahead.
First on housekeeping if I can quickly. We saw the debris when we arrived here at the White House earlier today, the president and first lady were back at the White House when the tornado warning was in effect yesterday. Where did the president and first lady shelter during the tornado warning?
Jen Psaki: (28:38)
That’s a great question. I don’t know if they were back from their trip yet, or if they were arriving shortly back from their trip. They were here at the White House. I don’t have any more details on whether they were moved.
Will you follow up for us possibly-
Jen Psaki: (28:48)
I’m happy to. Sure.
Let me ask you, as we head into the July 4th very quickly, obviously the White House has said repeatedly that shots are safe, they’re effective, they’re available, but obviously many states with the lowest vaccination rates are governed by Republicans right now. What risks does the White House believe those pockets of non-compliance might pose to other Americans, to the rest of the country right now?
Jen Psaki: (29:12)
Well, I think the guidance from medical experts is very clear. If you’re vaccinated, you’re safe. If you are not vaccinated, you’re at risk of getting the virus. And the Delta variant, the transmissibility of it, which we’ve seen from medical experts who have made clear that it is far more transmissible, it can be deadly, it can make people incredibly sick, is just a reminder of what risks people are putting on themselves if they don’t get vaccinated.
And then so for clarity though, what risks, to my question, what risks do you think those pockets of non-compliance pose? Not just to themselves, but to the rest of the-
Jen Psaki: (29:44)
I wouldn’t look at it as pockets, Peter. I would look at it as individuals in those pockets who are not vaccinated are certainly at a significant risk given the transmissibility of the Delta variant.
But you don’t think that risk is larger than those individuals-
Jen Psaki: (29:55)
If individuals are vaccinated in those areas, then they are protected. We have seen, also had some news this morning about the effectiveness of J&J. But-
Jen Psaki: (30:03)
… also had some news this morning about the effectiveness of J&J, but also we know that Moderna and Pfizer are effective in fighting and protecting individuals from the Delta variant. I’d also note that we announced just yesterday, our plans for our surge team, largely in response to the rise of the Delta variant across the country. That will include the physical deployment of personnel, virtual assistance, direct sharing of resources. We’ve already deployed a team to Colorado to collaborate with the local Department of Health in Mesa County. And that’s something we will continue to work with communities across the country to implement, to address the rising threat of the Delta variant.
Speaker 4: (30:37)
And given the White House is going to fall shy of its 70% goal for at least one shot in the arms of adults right now, is the White House done setting goals? Will you continue to do that? Or do you think that they’re no longer effective?
Jen Psaki: (30:49)
Well first, that’s one way of describing it. Another way of describing it is that we are on track once the data comes in to ensure to report that 70% of adults 27 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That’s a significant step forward, something we’re incredibly proud of. It’s a reflection of the leadership of the president, of the organizational expertise of the team he’s hired. And that’s an enormous step forward. That’s also why deaths and hospitalizations have fallen by more than 90% since January. We feel it’s important to set bold, ambitious goals, even though we are on track to reach that goal for individuals 27 and up, our job is not done. The work continues even on July 5th.
Speaker 4: (31:29)
On COVID will we set a new goal? Is there a new goal or target?
Jen Psaki: (31:32)
I have no new goal to set today, but again, we feel that it’s important to set bold and ambitious markers and hold ourselves to account. Go ahead.
Speaker 5: (31:40)
Thank you, Jen. Is the way that I was concerned that some vice-presidential staffers reportedly feel like they work in a, “Abusive environment.”
Jen Psaki: (31:48)
Well, I would first note that I try not to speak to or engage on anonymous reports or anonymous sources. I will say that the vice-president is an incredibly important partner to the president of the United States. She has a challenging job, a hard job, and she has a great supportive team of people around her. But other than that, I’m not going to have any more comments on those reports.
Speaker 5: (32:09)
Okay. Hoping to clarify the administration’s position here on defunding the police. You say the president does not want to defund the police. Is the president concerned then that last year, the now associate attorney general Vanita Gupta said it was, “Critical for state and local leaders to heat calls from Black Lives Matter and movement for black lives, activists to decrease police budgets.”?
Jen Psaki: (32:33)
Well, let me first say that as a Fox news report that came about in February quoted, “Current and former police chiefs, and more than 53 cities across the country, as well as the national fraternal order of police are assuring they’re supportive the nomination of Vanita Gupta, President Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, praising her leadership and record and urging the Senate judiciary committee to quickly confirm her to the post.” I don’t know that that was your report or not. But it was certainly one from your network.
Speaker 4: (33:01)
Okay, so that’s the Fox report. Thank you. In Senate testimony, she said she wanted to decrease police budgets.
Jen Psaki: (33:08)
She also made explicitly clear in her confirmation process that she opposes defunding the police. And the president, most importantly, did not run on defunding the police. He’s always opposed defunding the police. I’ll also note because you’ve asked this question before or a few times over the last several days, that when we talk about individuals in Congress and their support for funding or opposition to funding for the police, I think what the American people are most focused on is how people vote, what their record is, which is a public record.
Jen Psaki: (33:38)
And I will note that while the president ran on and won the most votes of any candidate in history and a platform of boosting funding for law enforcement, after Republicans spent decades trying to cut the cops program, which again is public record. We don’t need to undervalue the intelligence of the American people. The president ran on increasing that funding. It’s in his budget. In president Trump’s budget, he significantly cut that. So that’s a change. And the American Rescue Plan had a great deal of funding for local and state authorities. Something that can support funding for local police in communities across the country, something [inaudible 00:34:13]. It doesn’t require me telling you names of individuals who oppose the American Rescue Plan, every Republican opposed the American Rescue Plan and I don’t have time to read out all their names today.
Speaker 5: (34:23)
Okay. Okay. On another subject, the official White House account tweeted yesterday, the cost of a 4th of July cookout is down 16 cents from last year. 16 cents?
Jen Psaki: (34:34)
There has been a reduction in some of the costs of key components of the 4th of July at 4th barbecue. That was what the tweet was noting.
Speaker 5: (34:42)
Does the White House think that 16 cents off a barbecue has more of an impact on people’s lives than gas being a dollar more this 4th of July?
Jen Psaki: (34:51)
I would say if you don’t like hot dogs, you may not care of the reduction of costs. You don’t have to like hot dogs.
Speaker 5: (34:56)
You can’t buy a hot dog for 16 cents [crosstalk 00:34:57].
Jen Psaki: (34:59)
I will say that what we are most focused on is the fact that we’ve created now more than three million jobs since the president took office, that’s what we’re focused on and continuing to implement additional components of his economic Build Back Better agenda. Go ahead, Andrea.
Just going to switch gears completely.
Jen Psaki: (35:15)
Great. Hot dogs.
So the president of Belarus has to shut the border to Ukraine. You’ve expressed concern about those calls for travel. Can you give us an update on what’s happening there and what your reaction is to that? Is it time to take more serious action?
Jen Psaki: (35:34)
As you know, we have put in place a number of sanctions over the past several weeks in coordination with our European partners. I had not seen that report before I came out here. I will talk with our national security team and see if there’s any additional actions or calls that are happening today.
And then on the international front, these OACD talks are now going to be heading into the G20 meeting that’s coming up. The treasury secretary will be going. Can you just from where you sit, sort of say what your primary goal is for this upcoming G20 meeting on the finance officials and what the president is saying to the treasury secretary about what you’d like to see get done?
Jen Psaki: (36:14)
Well, I would say obviously the Treasury team and the treasury secretary will preview what the focus of their trip is. As you know, and as you asked my colleague, Brian Deese about, certainly a component of that will be about the global minimum tax and moving that across the finish line. I will note, and he touched on this a bit, but we are quite encouraged and it is a positive sign in our view that there are 130 countries representing more than 90% of global GDP who have come together to support the Biden administration plan for a strong global minimum tax. And of course, there’s more work to be done, but that will be certainly a focus, but otherwise I would defer to the Treasury department in previewing the secretary’s trip.
And then president is going to be speaking later on today to the National Education Association. What is his primary concern? And you’ve talked a lot in here about Critical Race Theory. Is this something that he’s going to bring up in terms of the teaching of American history?
Jen Psaki: (37:14)
Well, I would say first he’s married to a teacher and a long time teacher, still a teacher. And so certainly, educators and making sure he is communicating and conveying his commitment to the education system and the role of educators in the country is always going to be close to his heart. I will certainly expect that he will talk a bit about his plans and initiatives, whether it’s the American Jobs Plan or the components of the American Families Plan, which will be critical to school communities across the country. But I think that would be the focus of his remarks. Go ahead.
Speaker 6: (37:47)
On Afghanistan. The president said earlier, he does not think the draw down will be done in a few days. The Pentagon has said it’s ahead of schedule of the September 11th date. So what is the latest date that the White House is looking at right now?
Jen Psaki: (38:00)
Well, we currently expect it to be completed by the end of August. So as you know, the president decided to withdraw remaining US troops from Afghanistan and finally end the US were there after 20 years. I know there’s been some reporting about Bagram which I expect it may already be out. There’ll be a statement from the secretary of defense on that sometime today. But in terms of the timeline, we currently expect it to be completed by the end of August.
Speaker 6: (38:24)
Okay. And when it comes to the translators that have applied. Not just translators, drivers, engineers, people who have really put their lives on the line for the US that are waiting on these applications, is it true that the administration is considering housing them in several countries in Central Asia while they wait for those applications to either be accepted or denied?
Jen Psaki: (38:45)
Been some reports about conversations, I’m not here to confirm any conversations. What I can tell you is we’ve identified a group of SIV applicants who have served as interpreters, translators, as well as other at-risk categories. They will be relocated to a location outside of Afghanistan. There are a range of options, but that will happen before we complete our military draw down by the end of August, in order to complete their visa application process from there. In terms of locations or numbers, I’m just not going to be able to get into those specifics for security reasons.
Speaker 6: (39:18)
Only, and can you explain why the president was signing the July 4th weekend when he was being asked questions about Afghanistan as to why he did not want to answer further questions on that matter?
Jen Psaki: (39:29)
I think when he was trying to convey to all of you is that he is heading into July 4th weekend, a weekend for family, a weekend to celebrate America and that he was ready to be done answering questions. It wasn’t related to Afghanistan. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (39:45)
Following up there. One of the questions that you punted on was that the fighting is getting closer and closer to Kabul. If the government falls, if there is a blood bath in Kabul, is there any circumstance where the US is reconsidering, is thinking about sending troops back?
Jen Psaki: (39:59)
I think it’s really important to remember what the president conveyed when he made his announcement or how we kind of got to this point. First when he announced our draw down, he made clear that the Taliban would have been shooting at US troops again after May 1st. And the withdrawal deadline negotiated by the previous administration kind of set that timeline.
Jen Psaki: (40:20)
Also when he came into office, we had the lowest number of us and partner forces in Afghanistan, since the early days of the war, an agreement, as I just noted was already in place. And the military stalemate between the Taliban and Afghan forces was at a height. He also asked for a review of genuine realistic options to advance and protect US interests. The review did not sugar coat what the likely outcomes would be or rely on best case scenarios. And we were emerged from that with a clear eyed assessment, the best path forward to advance American interests, which is his focus and his role as the commander in chief and the president of the United States and ending the war in Afghanistan after 20 years so that we can address the global threat picture, so that we can protect our men and women serving was his priority. So that continues to be, and we’re continuing to move forward toward our withdrawal plan by the end of August.
Speaker 7: (41:12)
Can I ask you a follow-up? So you said yesterday, you were asked about the end of the Supreme Court term, you reiterated the president’s commitment, should there be an opening to nominate an African-American woman. He said a year ago that he was creating a list, that he would release that list for further venting. Can you tell us what the status is? Is there going to be a list of potential nominees that’s released for us to see?
Jen Psaki: (41:33)
Well, there is not an opening on the Supreme Court, so that’s not a current hypothetical we’re even dealing with right now. He made clear at the time, or maybe around that time, that he would nominate an African-American woman to serve on the Supreme Court should there be an opening while he’s president and he remains committed to that, should there be an opening. Go ahead, David.
Jen, about a little more than a week ago, the agreement with the Iranians to allow inspections to continue at the main sites expired. And a couple of administration officials, including I think the secretary of state had said that it would be a big problem if we lose inspection continuity. So now we’re a week out. Is it your understanding that we have no inspection continuity? And tell us how this affects the way the president is hoping that all of this will unwind? How do you actually get to an agreement if you’re not sure that things have been diverted along the way?
Jen Psaki: (42:35)
I think we certainly expect there could be challenges on the road to getting an agreement. And we’ve lived through a version of this before, as have you. I will say that consistent with what the secretary of state said, we believe Iran must comply with the IES inspectors and it must comply with its obligations under its safeguards agreements with the IEA.
Jen Psaki: (42:54)
We’re working with allies and partners to reinforce broad support for the IEA and the director general as he and his team carry out their important work. And certainly our message has been from the beginning, but I will reiterate, that one of the reasons to move forward and to continue to pursue a diplomatic agreement, to re-engage with our partners P5 plus one partners and the Iranians even indirectly, is because we want to have that reliable access and understand and have visibility into what the Iranians are up to and how close they are to acquiring a nuclear weapon. Obviously we’ve just concluded the sixth round of talks. Everyone’s back at their capitals. I don’t have anything to preview for you in terms of a next round, but that certainly is our hope in terms of a next step.
Just following on the question you’ve got for in Afghanistan. When I asked the president during that previous event on the economy about Kabul, he said, “We’ve worked out an over the horizon capacity that we can be value added, but the Afghans are going to have to do it themselves with the air force they have.” So if we just understand what he said and then your answer before to Kaitlin, is he essentially saying if Kabul falls, it is not our primary responsibility at this point, we’re happy to go help, but it’s completely up to you?
Jen Psaki: (44:14)
He’s saying that, as we said in the beginning, he asked for a review and an assessment of what the impact could be of our decision to withdraw troops. We asked them not to sugarcoat that, they didn’t. There has been intel assessments that have been out there from our own government. We’re certainly aware of those. We have never taken a step back from those, from the podium or from the president of the United States. At the same time, what I think he was conveying during his answer to you, David, is that we will also continue to work collaboratively as we always have with a range of countries that share our interest in countering the re-emergence of a serious external plotting capability emanating from Afghanistan, should that emerge. We will maintain over the horizon capacity and that is something that will continue as well as our security assistance to the Afghan national security forces. But they will be in the lead as has always been the plan when we withdraw our troops, go ahead-
Jen Psaki: (45:03)
… as has always been the plan when we withdraw our troops. Go ahead.
Speaker 8: (45:03)
Thanks, Jen. Sha’Carri Richardson, the US track star, has been suspended following a positive test for marijuana use. Does the president support that penalty, or does he want to see her be able to represent the United States fully at the Olympic games this summer?
Jen Psaki: (45:18)
I would say first that this was an independent decision made by the US Anti-Doping Agency, and not a decision that would be made by the US government, as is appropriate, and we will certainly leave them the space and room to make their decisions about anti-doping policies that need to be implemented. I will also note that Sha’Carri Richardson is an inspiring young woman who has gone through a lot personally, and she also happens to be one of the fastest women in the world, and that’s an important part of the story as well. So this is an independent decision by the US Anti-Doping Agency, but I also felt it was important to note who she is and her history.
Speaker 8: (45:59)
And can I ask a follow- up on Afghanistan? When it comes to the vulnerable Afghan employees we’re talking about that could be moved to other countries, what assurances does the administration have to them that they can be moved safely, that these visa applicants can be moved safely? Isn’t there a target now on their backs, now that the Taliban knows that they’re potentially going to be moved?
Jen Psaki: (46:18)
Well, [Sean 00:46:18], I think one of the reasons that I’m not going to get into security details about what third country they might go to and how many is exactly for that reason. But certainly, our timeline is to relocate these individuals to a location outside of Afghanistan before we complete our military drawdown. I’d also note that we will continue even after we have our military drawdown with a presence in Kabul, a diplomatic presence as well on the ground there, but certainly that’s the goal of our timeline, and the reason I’m not getting into more specific details. Go ahead, [inaudible 00:46:49].
Speaker 9: (46:48)
I have two quick questions on voting rights. One is actually a logistical question.
Jen Psaki: (46:54)
Speaker 9: (46:54)
He said yesterday that he intends to kind of tour around and go and speak on this issue. Will he give remarks next week? Can we get any guidance on where he might go?
Jen Psaki: (47:03)
Sure. He is eager to do that, as is evident by his mentioning it to you all yesterday and over the last couple of weeks. And I think, as you would know, hopefully, in his statement yesterday, he is profoundly disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision. It’s just a reminder of how important it is to move forward on federal legislation, how important it is and urgent it is that Congress restore the Voting Rights Act. And it’s a reminder of what the stakes are here, which is that our democracy is on the line. As I noted in the beginning, we are still working out and finalizing details for next week, so I just don’t have anything to preview in terms of travel or the focus of his travel at this point in time.
Speaker 9: (47:41)
Another related question which is actually on the remarks he gave yesterday about the Arizona voting decision. I just wanted to clarify something, so I’m going to quote. He said, “It is mildly positive, in the sense that there is a remedy available based on the particular voting decision.” I was just confused what he was talking about with mildly positive.
Jen Psaki: (47:58)
I’d have to look more Closely at the specific statement. I think that the president views this issue broadly as one where we need to continue to use every lever at our disposal, whether that is actions taken by the Department of Justice, that the attorney general has already announced some of in the last few weeks, or it is efforts that we have underway, led by our vice president, to engage with civil rights groups, state legislators, and the American people to push back on anti-voter laws at the state level. But that’s broadly what his view is, and I think what he was trying to project in the statement. Go ahead, Jen.
OPEC+ has been stuck in talks around raising oil production to ease prices. Is the White House concerned about high oil prices? Has the president or anybody in the administration been in touch with allies who are involved in OPEC to talk about this? And then somewhat relatedly on gas prices being high in the US at peak travel time, probably even more so because of kind of the pandemic getting better. Are you concerned about that for Americans at a time when it does seem like there are a lot of economic data points working in your favor, that this one that Americans really do feel day in, day out is not in a great position?
Jen Psaki: (49:22)
Sure. Well, Jen, let me first say that there are, of course… We have seen an increase in the price of oil, as anyone has seen, as they’ve seen us who watches data. It will be of course a topic of discussion as you noted when OPEC meets over the coming days. I’m not in a position to speak to those conversations from here. I can say that currently, we expect there is enough spare oil production capacity globally. And as you know, because of the restart of global economy and resumption of normal consumer activity, there is some impact on oil market conditions.
Jen Psaki: (49:53)
On your second part of your question on the impact of individuals and consumers, absolutely. I mean, that’s one of the core reasons why the president was opposed to a gas tax, and was opposed to any tax on travel or vehicles, vehicle mileage, because he felt that would fall on the backs of Americans who were returning to their workplaces, who were driving their kids to school, and that was a bottom line or red line for him in the negotiations. As you know well, the price of gas is often linked of course to oil prices. That will again be a topic of discussion over the coming days, but I don’t have anything to preview on that front. Go ahead.
Speaker 10: (50:31)
Thanks, Jen. On the subject of infrastructure, there are a number of Republicans on the Hill that have raised concerns about the idea of giving the IRS $40 billion to basically correct them on tax cheats. They’ve just had a lot of concern, one of which is that they think that this raises the possibility of abuse by the IRS. I’m just wondering what the administration’s response to that is. And also, how pivotal is this IRS component to paying for the president’s infrastructure plan?
Jen Psaki: (50:58)
Well, first, I think it’s a key pay-for, and one that was agreed to by a bipartisan group who negotiated the deal. And for clarity, what it actually would do is ensure that the IRS has the support, the staffing, and the resources needed to ensure the wealthiest Americans are paying what they owe. That’s exactly what it would do. We have some estimates of what that would raise in terms of pay-fors. Those are actually quite conservative when you look at what many economists suggest across the board, but it is a paid-for that was agreed to, and one that does not violate what was a red line for many Republicans, which was, in these bipartisan negotiations, doing anything to change the 2017 tax law. We will of course go to that when we go to reconciliation, but that was a red line as it related to these negotiations. Go ahead.
Speaker 11: (51:48)
Jen, we saw that the president was exasperated this morning when he was asked several questions about Afghanistan and Bagram. Bear with me for a second, but 20 years ago, we were a nation full of people. Most Americans were gung ho, full of patriotism to go get those people who had attacked our country in 2001. 20 years on now, where we seem to be average Americans for just shrugging their shoulders at the fate of Afghanistan. They may have Afghanistan fatigue. Does the president feel that way? Does he Afghanistan fatigue, and does he sense that in the American people?
Jen Psaki: (52:28)
First, I would say that the president has long felt, as many Americans have and many leaders have, that the war in Afghanistan was not one that could be won militarily. That’s why we have supported diplomatic negotiations and discussions, and we will continue to be engaged in those moving forward. And again, we’ll continue to have a diplomatic presence on the ground even after we bring our men and women home. As commander in chief, you have to make decisions about how to protect the men and women serving. When the May 1st deadline was set, that provided us a timeline in which the president had to make a decision about bringing our men and women home, or beginning that process so that they did not risk greater threats on the ground. He went through an entire review and assessment by his national security team to jump to that conclusion. And I will also reiterate that we will continue to provide security assistance, humanitarian assistance, and be partners to the government of Afghanistan in the months ahead, as is evident by the fact that he hosted leaders here just last Friday.
Speaker 11: (53:30)
[inaudible 00:53:30]. Does he feel that way, do you think?
Jen Psaki: (53:34)
I would say I think people are a little over-reading into his response to a series of a Q&A leading into a holiday weekend, when he had already answered three questions on Afghanistan. And he just said, “This is the fourth question,” and he then went on and answered a couple of additional questions. The president could not be more proud of the men and women serving who have served over the last 20 years, and he is going to use every opportunity he can to thank them for their service, thank the families of those fallen service members who served proudly and bravely in Afghanistan. But this was a decision he made because he felt it was in the best interest of our national security and the United States. Go ahead. Oh, okay. I think you guys have together. Okay, go ahead. You’re the last one.
Speaker 12: (54:11)
You mentioned that a COVID-19 search team was heading to Colorado. Do you have an update on when one could be arriving in the state of Missouri? And could you speak to the broader concern that the administration might have about the Midwest as a region? And then I do have one other question after that.
Jen Psaki: (54:28)
Sure. Let me see if I have… Oh, we are also working with closely with the Missouri Health Department in identifying needs there, and we’re prepared to mobilize a team to Missouri where the focus is on vaccine confidence, efforts at the epidemiology surveillance and sequencing support related to the delta variant. I would say our concern is where there are communities where there are lower vaccination rates, because it means more people are at risk. And we are going to continue to do everything in the power of the federal government, whether that’s providing supply, whether that is sending surge response teams, whether that is ensuring people understand where they can get access, or whether it’s communicating directly to young people, people under 27 who have a lower vaccination rate. That will continue in communities in the Midwest or in any parts of the country where there are lower vaccination rates. Thank you. Have a great-
Speaker 12: (55:21)
[inaudible 00:55:21] and following up on the president’s visit yesterday to Surfside, once that investigation is complete and we know more about what caused the collapse, is there legislation potentially [inaudible 00:55:33] supportive of federal legislation that would address issues like building standards, and condo association oversight, and building recertification?
Jen Psaki: (55:40)
Let’s see what the investigation concludes, and then we can have a discussion about the next steps. Thank so much, everyone.
Speaker 12: (55:47)
Jen Psaki: (55:47)
Have a great weekend.