Mar 15, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript March 15
March 15, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She addressed the conditions of child migrant facilities on the border. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Jen Psaki: (00:00)
We’ll come circle back around, if that works.
Jen Psaki: (00:01)
Okay. A couple things at the top, as you all know, the president is launching his Help Is Here tour to communicate directly with Americans about how the rescue plan is helping them and their families. The tour will make clear that help us here and that we’re on the path towards crushing the virus and rebuilding our economy.
Jen Psaki: (00:19)
A number of these pieces you know, but just to add a few more details. Tomorrow the president will travel to Delaware County, Pennsylvania to highlight how the rescue plan invests in small businesses, a key component of the package, including minority-owned businesses so they can really hire and retain workers while keeping them safe. The vice president and second gentlemen will be in Denver, also meeting with small business owners. That will be a big piece we’re highlighting tomorrow.
Jen Psaki: (00:46)
On Wednesday, the first lady will travel to Concord, New Hampshire to underscore how the American Rescue Plan provides $130 billion to help schools reopen. The second gentlemen will convene a listening session in Albuquerque, New Mexico with working women, including teachers. Education Secretary Cardona will do a remote local media tour to talk about school reopenings. I think you can see what the theme is of that day.
Jen Psaki: (01:10)
On Thursday, the administration will showcase how the American Rescue Plan provides emergency aid to cover back rent, help homeowners catch up on their payments and provide funding for families recovering from homelessness.
Jen Psaki: (01:24)
Then on Friday, President Biden and Vice President Harris will travel to Georgia, as you all already know, to underscore how they and Congressional Democrats fulfilled their promise in delivering $1,400 checks to finish the job of $2,000 in direct relief to millions of Americans.
Jen Psaki: (01:41)
The second piece of just, the last piece, I should say, at the top is, many of you saw the news out this morning that Gene Sperling will be joining the team here to run point on the implementation of the rescue plan. I’ve known him for a long time. I’ve worked with him previously. But to give you a few highlights, Gene has spent more than a decade at the highest level of government, including as senior treasury official and as the only person to serve as NEC director twice.
Jen Psaki: (02:08)
As we’ve talked about a bit in here, there are a number of economic officials who will be playing roles in implementation, so he has especially an interesting and relevant background in helping pull all those levers. Gene was also, played a key role in helping steer Detroit out of bankruptcy and on the path to renewal, and he quarterbacked support for small businesses and economic assistance for unemployed Americans. He will work with the heads of White House policy councils and key leaders at federal agencies so we can get funds out the door quickly, maximize its impact, accelerate the work that the administration is doing to crush COVID and rescue our economy. As I’ve noted in here before, the president felt it was important to have a point person who could, of course, pull all of these levers.
Jen Psaki: (02:51)
With that, go ahead, Zeke.
Thanks, Jen. Millions of Americans started to receive direct deposit checks over the weekend. Has the president given any thought to you of how he wants Americans to use that money? Does he particularly want them to spend it to stimulate the economy?
Jen Psaki: (03:06)
Well, it’s a great question. I think that the president believes that this relief will help Americans get through this difficult period of time and they will use it for different means. Some Americans will use it to ensure they can put food on the table. That certainly is a form of stimulus. Some will use it to ensure they can pay their rent. That’s also a form of stimulus. Some will use it to payback some loans they may have taken out. It’s really up to family to family. He wants them to have the discretion on how they’re utilizing these funds, but he pushed for this additional $1,400 check and was adamant about that because he knows people need a bridge to get to the other side of this economic downturn.
On a different subject, the Vatican today said it would not bless same-sex unions. The president is a devout Catholic. Does he have a personal response to that?
Jen Psaki: (03:58)
I don’t think he has a personal response to the Vatican. No. He continues to believe and support same-sex unions, as you know, and he’s long had that position.
Then, finally, the president is the head of the Democratic Party, what message is he sending by not calling on the New York governor to resign? Number one. And number two, tomorrow is the usual weekly call with governors. Governor Cuomo is still the head of the National Governor’s Association, he usually attends. Is he still welcome on the White House [inaudible 00:04:26] call?
Jen Psaki: (04:27)
Well, let me first say that, like everyone who continues to read stories, and new developments seem to happen every day, we find them troubling. The president finds them troubling, hard to read, and every woman who steps forward needs to be treated with dignity and respect.
Jen Psaki: (04:46)
The New York attorney general is pursuing, of course, an independent investigation against Governor Cuomo and that is appropriate. The president believes that’s appropriate, as does the vice president. The investigation needs to be both quick and thorough, consistent with how serious these allegations are. Of course, our objective though, here, continues to be to get the COVID pandemic under control and we don’t want the people of New York or any state to be impacted negatively. We will continue to work with a range of governors, including Governor Cuomo, who I would expect would join the call tomorrow, we’ll leave that up to him, but in order to continue to coordinate on getting the pandemic under control and economic assistance out the door.
Jen Psaki: (05:29)
Go ahead. Oh, we’ll go to you, Steve, next. Go ahead.
Phil Mattingly: (05:31)
Thanks. Just two quick ones, Jen. Given how fast moving the situation has been, does the president believe that his administration has a handle on what’s happening on the southern border right now?
Jen Psaki: (05:41)
We certainly do. Let me just give you a bit of an update on a couple of the steps that we’re taking. First, let me say that, like COVID, obviously a different issue, but we recognize this is a big problem. The last administration left us a dismantled and unworkable system, and like any other problem, we are going to do everything we can to solve it. Our focus here is on solutions. Let me just walk you through a couple of the steps, and we’ve done this a little bit, but there’s always, of course, developments on considerations that are underway.
Jen Psaki: (06:18)
First, we’ve updated, or we have not, but CDC has updated guidelines to return to full capacity. This will help expand capacity to move children more quickly out of CBP facilities. That’s an important step. The implementation of that is, of course, ongoing.
Jen Psaki: (06:32)
There’s now an embedding at the president’s ask of HHS and ORR staff with CBP, which will allow government to more quickly ID, vet, confirm sponsors and family members of the unaccompanied minors, and will lead to quicker placement. As you know, or as all of you know, big issues here are expediting what’s happening at the border. None of these Border Patrol facilities are made for children and we want to move them as quickly as possible into shelters and then into homes.
Jen Psaki: (06:59)
FEMA, this was an announcement over the weekend, is now supporting, providing support at the border, adding extra capacity to HHS for quick processing to avoid overcrowding. We hope this will help quickly get children into HHS and ORR facilities and placed with vetted sponsors and families. The president’s very focused on expediting what’s happening at the border at every step in the process.
Jen Psaki: (07:22)
Then this happened on Friday, but it didn’t receive a lot of, there was a lot going on, so I just wanted to highlight, we rescinded the 2018 MOU between DHS and HHS, which we believe will encourage families and sponsors to come forward without fear of additional immigration enforcement. We’ve seen this as an issue where family members or even sponsor families are worried that this will mean they will be tracked and this rescinds that. We’re also looking for additional facilities, and this remains a focus.
Jen Psaki: (07:53)
We recognize this is a problem. We’re focused on addressing it. That’s just five steps we’re taking and we’re continuing to evaluate what additional steps can be taken to address the situation at the border.
Phil Mattingly: (08:04)
Okay. Just one more, real quick. For the $130 billion in education funding, one of the big issues with past pots of Ed funding is it will be obligated, but getting it spent takes time. Will that be part of Gene’s mandate, ensuring the money is not just obligated, but it actually goes out the door to make the fixes that these schools need to actually get students back into place?
Jen Psaki: (08:22)
He’ll absolutely be coordinating with the Secretary of Education, Secretary Cardona, who’s going to be holding an education summit soon. I believe it might be next week. I’m not sure if they’ve announced it yet. Hopefully, I’m not getting ahead of them. Part of that is working with schools and school districts on identifying best practices and sharing them, figuring out how to ensure that the schools who need funding get the funding. There will be a requirement that schools who get funding have to do a report within 30 days of how they will reopen their schools. A big part of the implementation, of course, it will be led by the Department of Education, but that is a pivotal part of the rescue plan and one the Americans strongly support. Certainly, Gene would have a role in coordinating that.
Jen Psaki: (09:04)
Steve : (09:04)
Jen, is Mexico doing enough to stem the flow of migrants across the territory?
Jen Psaki: (09:10)
Across the territory from South America into Mexico?
Steve : (09:14)
Jen Psaki: (09:15)
We work extremely closely with the country of Mexico on addressing what is a challenge for us and certainly a challenge for them. There’s always more that can be done, Steve. I think part of our engagement is having those diplomatic conversations and having discussions about what more can be done at all the borders.
Steve : (09:35)
Separately, on North Korea, have you reached out to them and tried to engage in dialogue and have they responded in any way?
Jen Psaki: (09:42)
I know there were some reports over the weekend on exactly that. I can confirm that we have reached out. We, obviously, have a main series of, a number of channels, as we always have had, that we can reach out through. We also are focused on consulting with many former government officials who have been involved in North Korea policy, including from several prior administrations. We have and will continue to engage with other Japanese and South Korean allies to solicit input, explore fresh approaches. We’ve listened carefully to their ideas, including through trilateral consultations. Of course, diplomacy is always our goal. Our goal is to reduce the risk of escalation. But to date, we have not received any response.
Steve : (10:29)
Are you surprised by that? That they haven’t responded?
Jen Psaki: (10:29)
Well, Steve, as you know, because you follow this issue closely and I know have covered past administration, this follows over a year without active dialogue with North Korea, despite multiple attempts by the US to engage. Diplomacy remains our, continues to remain our first priority. I think you can all anticipate that there will be a continued expansion of engagement with partners and allies in the region, and this will, of course, be a topic of discussion.
Jen Psaki: (10:57)
Speaker 1: (10:57)
Yes, can you bottom line for us again, what is the hope and expectation from this Help Is Here tour this week?
Jen Psaki: (11:06)
Over the next couple of days? A big focus is we want to take a moment, or take some time, more than a moment, to engage directly with the American people and make sure they understand the benefits of the package, how they can benefit from the package and how it’s going to help them get through this difficult period of time in our economy and our economic recovery and also give them a sense of how we’re going to use it to help address the pandemic. We recognize that signing the bill is just a first step in getting the money out the door, ensuring people know how they can benefit. How it will help their local communities is an important part as well.
Speaker 1: (11:43)
Clear to say you’re trying to sure up the strong support for the law as it already exists?
Jen Psaki: (11:48)
Well, I would say the bill is already quite positive. But what the president recognizes from his own experience is that when it’s a package of this size, people don’t always know how they benefit and what it means for them. Last week, I was talking to him about one of the pieces of the package, the checks, and he asked me to explain to him, “How do you explain to people how checks get out the door?”
Jen Psaki: (12:14)
This is what’s on his mind, right? How do people know how this money will help their schools? How do they know how this will help get vaccines in the arms of their friends and family members? He believes the American people deserve every high-level person from our administration out there explaining, discussing, taking input, and that’s what his team will be doing.
Speaker 1: (12:35)
While he does that, there are a lot of Americans who see him going to take these trips this week to promote this popular law and think, “Okay, but why can’t he take time to go down to the border?” I know you said last week and you’ve said it before, it takes a lot of resources to get him there, it’s taking a lot of resources to get him to Pennsylvania and Georgia this week, the vice president out West. Why not take the time to schedule something to go there as well?
Jen Psaki: (13:00)
Well, I would say that his focus is on developing solutions, pushing his team-
Jen Psaki: (13:03)
… that his focus is on developing solutions, pushing his team, encouraging his team to develop solutions that will expedite processing at the border, that will open more facilities, that will ensure kids are treated with humanity and also treated safely. And that’s his focus and so that’s where he’s putting his efforts on immigration,
Speaker 2: (13:21)
What is the status of allowing cameras into some of these facilities? We’ve been asking for weeks about whether or not the press will ever get a chance to see the border patrol or the HHS facilities.
Jen Psaki: (13:32)
We continue to support transparency here from the White House. DHS oversees some of the facilities, HHS oversees some of the facilities. I know that they’re working through how to provide access in a way that abides by COVID protocols and also protects the privacy of people who are staying in those facilities. Oh, go ahead.
Speaker 2: (13:51)
I just have one Cuomo thing. Has the President himself spoken to the governor?
Jen Psaki: (13:56)
Speaker 2: (13:57)
Has anyone here at the White House spoken to the governor?
Jen Psaki: (13:59)
Not that I’m aware of, no.
Speaker 2: (14:00)
Jen Psaki: (14:00)
Speaker 3: (14:01)
Thank you. First, a question about workplace safety. OSHA is up against a deadline set by President Biden to decide whether or not there need to be emergency temporary standards for COVID-19 safety for the next six months. Is there any concern that additional federal regulations and the cost of complying with them might be a burden on businesses already trying to… They’re already struggling to survive.
Jen Psaki: (14:28)
Well first, the President signed an executive order, which I know you’re familiar with, back, maybe the third day he was in office because he wants to ensure that workers are, of course, safe. He’s asked the American people to do their part to help quickly beat the virus, and he’s directed OSHA to determine if an emergency temporary standard was necessary to protect workers from COVID. So his objective is actually to protect workers and members of the work force. OSHA has been working diligently, but we, of course, believe they should have the time to get it right and time to ensure it’s right. So we’re waiting for them to make a conclusion.
Speaker 3: (15:10)
As the voice of the White House, how hard would it be to convince people in some states that are trying to open up quickly that there are new federal rules that they need to follow instead?
Jen Psaki: (15:24)
Well, there are no new federal rules yet. We will let OSHA put out their guidelines and then, of course, we will work to ensure that people understand why and that they support workers being safe, which I think even many owners of businesses would support.
Speaker 3: (15:38)
And then on immigration, does FEMA’s arrival at the border mean that the administration feels what is happening down at the border is a disaster?
Jen Psaki: (15:47)
I know that we always get into the fun of labels around here, but I would say our focus is on solutions. And this is one of the steps that the President felt would help, not become a final solution, but help expedite processing, help ensure that people who are coming across the border have access to health and medical care. Clearly the numbers are enormous. This is a big challenge and it certainly is a reflection of using every lever of the federal government to help address that.
Speaker 3: (16:16)
With FEMA though, specifically their mission is helping people before, during and after disasters. We’ve heard you say that it’s a problem, that it’s a challenge. Is it now a disaster?
Jen Psaki: (16:27)
I appreciate the opportunity. I do like your mask. But I will say that FEMA is there to help ensure that the people who are at the border, who are coming across the border, have access to HHS and ORR shelters, that we can swiftly place them with vetted families. They’re playing a number of roles there to address what we feel is a significant problem and a significant challenge. I think we haven’t been hiding about that.
Speaker 3: (16:58)
The quick final one. DHS said that the FEMA plan for 90 days would be to receive shelter and transfer unaccompanied children. Does that mean that the federal government now is moving beyond the message from the last couple of weeks, which was now is not the time to come?
Jen Psaki: (17:17)
No. We are doing both. It’s a complicated problem, no doubt about it. We are sending the message clearly in the region now is not the time to come, but also we want to ensure that people are treated with humanity who are children, who are unaccompanied children. That’s who we are as a country and so we are doing both. Go ahead.
Speaker 4: (17:39)
Thanks, Jen. Given what we’re saying at state legislatures in terms of tightening voting restrictions, some groups are saying that the White House should consider reprioritizing voting rights over infrastructure. Is that something that’s under consideration here at the White House, to reprioritize and focus on voting rights now that the ARP is out?
Jen Psaki: (18:00)
Well first I would say that H.R.1, as you all know, has passed the House. S.1, I believe, will be, I think put forward officially later this week, or that’s what reports suggest. We are working closely with senators who we’ve engaged directly with on this, with staff. And we are very deeply engaged in working with members of the Senate and their teams on how this can move forward.
Jen Psaki: (18:25)
I wouldn’t say one is over the other. Voting rights and ensuring people have access to voting, that it is easier not harder, is a core priority for the President. That’s why his team is so engaged in this process. And of course, investing in infrastructure, ensuring that we can create good, clean energy, union jobs is also a priority. You have to walk and chew gum as President of the United States, and certainly he believes both are imperative and important.
Speaker 4: (18:55)
And then on infrastructure, is there a concern that any tax increases, as related to the package, that would slow down economic growth at all?
Jen Psaki: (19:04)
Well, there isn’t a package yet, right? I know there’s lots of conversations in Congress, and we’re certainly working very closely with them in consultations. Obviously the President will have more to say about what he wants to pursue next as part of his Build Back Better agenda.
Jen Psaki: (19:20)
The President remains committed to his pledge from the campaign that nobody making under $400,000 a year will have their taxes increased. His priority and focus has always been on people paying their fair share, and also focusing on corporations that may not be paying their fair share either. So that remains his overarching approach. But there isn’t a package yet where we’re talking about pay floors yet, so I expect we can have more conversations about that down the road. Go ahead.
Speaker 5: (19:50)
Jen, thanks. Two questions. One, the treasury secretary said yesterday that the wealth tax is something you haven’t decided on yet and can look at. Is that on the table as an approach to pay for some of the next round of plans from the President?
Jen Psaki: (20:04)
Well, I know Senator Warren has put forward a wealth tax and the President shares her view that middle-class families are paying more than their fair share and those at the top are not doing their part. So certainly he has that shared objective. He laid out, during the campaign, his own plans for fixing this, which are different from Senator Warren’s. But certainly, as we get to the point about discussing taxes and tax reform, or reforms of the tax system, that they share an objective.
Speaker 5: (20:35)
Just to be clear, the Treasury Secretary said it was something you haven’t decided on yet. Is that accurate? [crosstalk 00:20:41].
Jen Psaki: (20:41)
Well, I think it’s how to pursue it. what I’m conveying is that there is a shared view that those at the top are not doing their part, obviously that corporations could be paying higher taxes. That continues to be consistent with what the President talked about. He had a different proposal he put forward than the one Senator Warren has put forward. As is always the case with democracy in action, when it’s the appropriate time, I’m sure they’ll discuss and he will discuss with others what their views are of how to address this moving forward.
Speaker 5: (21:09)
And then also, the EU is starting legal action against the United Kingdom for not honoring Brexit conditions. Does the US support this action and is the President particularly concern given his support for the Good Friday Agreement?
Jen Psaki: (21:22)
Yeah. Let me see if I have something on this for you. And if not, I’m happy to get something for you after the briefing. We continue to encourage both the European Union and the UK government to prioritize pragmatic solutions to safeguard and advance the hard one peace in Northern Ireland. We would, of course, encourage you to speak to those governments directly about any legal actions.
Jen Psaki: (21:46)
President Biden has been unequivocal in his support for the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. This agreement has been the bedrock of peace, stability, and prosperity for all the people of Northern Ireland. We also welcome cooperation between our British and Irish counterparts on the Northern Irish border protocol. Go ahead, Hans.
Just quick housekeeping line.
Jen Psaki: (22:03)
When does Gene start?
Jen Psaki: (22:06)
Let me see what I have here for you. I do know he’s currently in California and so he’ll be working remotely for a period of time until he has his vaccine. Let me see if I have a timeline for him. I’ll check on that for you, Hans.
Just a quick follow up, and maybe have two. But will he be in the West Wing or the EOB?
Jen Psaki: (22:31)
Where will his office be?
Jen Psaki: (22:33)
Well, he will be working remotely for some period of time. His title will be White House American Rescue Plan Coordinator, and Senior Advisor to the President. Try to fit that on a card, I don’t know. Long one, but impressive. He’ll work out of the White House and have a team working with him. In terms of where his office will be, I’m not sure that’s been formally determined quite yet.
Okay. Zeke’s question was sort of, “Does the President have any opinions or thoughts of how Americans should be spending that they’re getting the stimulus checks?” More broadly speaking, all this money is going to be coursing through states and localities, cities. Does the President have any preferences? Does he have any red lines? What they shouldn’t do? If there are any tax cuts, would that bother him? How is he thinking about the money once it goes out the door to states and localities?
Jen Psaki: (23:20)
Well, the original purpose of the state and local funding was to keep cops, firefighters, other essential employees at work and employed. It wasn’t intended to cut taxes. So I think he certainly hopes that that’s how the funding is used. But part of the implementation of it will be under the purview of our soon to be starting coordinator and senior advisor to the President. I’m sure he’ll be focused on that.
As money’s coming in to states and localities, and in some cases it hasn’t been as disastrous as was maybe earlier thought it might be and the short fall isn’t as great, some of the states and localities could find themselves with surpluses. So I guess what you’re saying here is that the President, and Gene by extension, would be opposed to any tax cuts that any states or localities would pass through. That they’d rather have it be more on the building front or more on the hiring front. Am I hearing you correctly?
Jen Psaki: (24:14)
Well, I think the intention, as we’ve long talked about, was to keep people in their jobs and their roles, those are like cops and firefighters and others. If there are surpluses, I’ll have to talk to our NAC team of what considerations they have for that particular issue. Go ahead.
Speaker 6: (24:30)
Thank you. Appreciate it. Just circling back to Governor Cuomo, the Washington Post reported on Sunday that a top Cuomo advisor, who also happens to be New York’s vaccine czar, called party officials to gauge their loyalty to Cuomo amid his sexual harassment investigation. I wanted to see if the President is concerned that vaccine distribution in New York has become politicized, and is the administration taking any steps to make sure that political favoritism is not tainting access to vaccine [inaudible 00:25:07].
Jen Psaki: (25:08)
Well, first let me say, we all read those stories. One was in your outlet, there are a number of other stories out there, and certainly we found them concerning about this inappropriate reported behavior. There are a number of checks in the system, I will say. The CDC has the ability to track and monitor distribution. We’ve talked about this a little bit before as it relates to equitable distribution of vaccine supply. So every vaccine box is tracked and we know where it’s going and the CDC can track that and monitor. We work to ensure that it is equitably distributed and that there are not steps that are taken that are concerning.
Jen Psaki: (25:53)
The other piece is that we work with local health officials across the state, right? We work with officials who are overseeing distribution in all the…
Jen Psaki: (26:03)
Who are overseeing distribution in all of the different cities, localities, to ensure that they are getting what they need, that there are no breaks in the system. And we are engaged across the board, especially in a state like New York, and we certainly track any concerns that come up.
Jen Psaki: (26:20)
So, we were concerned of course, about the reports of this inappropriate behavior, but we also have a number of steps that are already in the system to ensure that the people of New York, the people of any state, the vaccines are distributed fairly and equitably.
Speaker 6: (26:39)
Given those reports over the weekend, did you take any extra steps to take another look at, especially in New York, because the allegation is quite concerning, I would think for not only New Yorkers, but all Americans.
Jen Psaki: (26:51)
Of course we are constantly monitoring. I’ve not been made aware of any incidents that have been raised in relation to this report. There are regular reports out of states that we take a look at, even before this report. But if there is, I can see with our team, if there’s anything new, as it relates to this report from this weekend.
Speaker 6: (27:13)
And also, on Cuomo’s following up from an earlier question, it’s our understanding that Governor Cuomo, he doesn’t merely participate in these calls, these COVID calls, but he has in fact, leads them and is a big player, in terms of organizing them. And so we’re curious if the president has any concerns with that, with his sort of level of leadership over this critical piece in the COVID response.
Jen Psaki: (27:42)
Well, it would be up to the NGA to determine if they were to make a change on that front. It’s also up to the legislature and others in New York to determine if he still has the confidence of the people in the state. But our focus from here, from the federal government, is of course supporting that independent investigation, which we adamantly do. But also working with governors across the country, with the NGA, with the DGA, with others, to address issues that come up, or hear from them and listen to them and work with them on addressing COVID, getting the pandemic under control, et cetera. And we will continue to work with a range of governors across the country.
Speaker 6: (28:24)
[inaudible 00:28:24] administration, it was not set up this way. My understanding is under the Trump administration, Vice President Pence was doing these weekly calls. And this has been a shift to go from Pence to somebody like Governor Cuomo in this point. So I’m wondering if perhaps the White House wants to shift it back towards the White House or away from the NGA, which happens to be led by a governor who has a lot of things going on in the state at the moment.
Jen Psaki: (28:48)
Well, one of the reasons that it’s been set up to engage directly with governors, is that there were operational aspects of the way the last administration approached COVID and approached COVID the distribution of vaccines or approach planning and engagement with governors that wasn’t working. They didn’t feel they had the information they needed. They didn’t know when they were getting vaccine supply. And our effort was to work much more directly in a range of means, in a range of ways, up and down the ranks in these states to ensure that we were addressing the local needs as they came up. So I’m not aware of any plan to shift that approach.
Speaker 6: (29:28)
[crosstalk 00:29:28] comfortable with Cuomo essentially leading these weekly calls?
Jen Psaki: (29:32)
Again, I think he’s in that position because he is head of the NGA. And it’s up to the NGA to determine if that’s where they want to see things moving forward.
Speaker 6: (29:39)
Just quickly on immigration, given the FEMA deployment to the border, I wanted to see if the administration is going to ask Congress for any additional emergency money to secure the border or fund resources to houses or provide additional care for children who are there?
Jen Psaki: (29:58)
The problems is I’ve one, there’s an immigration bill that we have certainly proposed that we hope that members of both parties will take seriously and engage in a constructive conversation about. The issues and challenges we’re facing are not solely about funding at all, but I’m not aware of additional requests for immediate funding. I’m happy to check on that as well.
Speaker 6: (30:21)
And then one absolute last question, [inaudible 00:30:24], this is related to some appointments at the Department of Justice.
Jen Psaki: (30:28)
Speaker 6: (30:29)
My colleague, Nancy Cook of Bloomberg News wrote a story last week, I believe, noting that liberal groups are growing concerned that there are a number of attorneys who are being appointed to top positions who have a background of defending large companies, including connections to Apple and Facebook.
Speaker 6: (30:46)
And these groups are asking that some of these attorneys have recused themselves in matters of antitrust matters. I’m just wondering if the administration or the White House shares that concern and is considering asking them to recuse themselves on some of these larger, big tuck antitrust matters that will be coming up presumably?
Jen Psaki: (31:03)
I’d have to look at it more closely. It may be a decision for the Department of Justice to make, but I will look more closely and see if we have a view from the White House about recusals. Go ahead.
Speaker 6: (31:12)
Jen Psaki: (31:13)
Oh, okay. Go ahead. Go ahead in the back. Go ahead in the back.
Speaker 7: (31:15)
Thank you very much, Jen. A quick follow up on the border, does President Biden plan to visit the border?
Jen Psaki: (31:22)
I don’t have any trips to preview for you at this point in time. If we do, we will certainly preview them.
Speaker 7: (31:26)
Something he’s considering or talking about?
Jen Psaki: (31:29)
I don’t have anything to preview for you.
Speaker 7: (31:31)
Okay. Going back to the vaccine, I know you say the goal is to vaccinate Americans first, but I want to go back to the AstraZeneca supply sitting here in the US without approval.
Jen Psaki: (31:40)
Speaker 7: (31:41)
Many cultures are seeking, Brazil is also seeking access to the supply. Brazil is in urgent need. Scientists around the world is saying to Brazil is a threat. So the word right now, the situation there, the crisis there. Dr. Fauci said last week, that the most important thing to do in Brazil is to get more people vaccinated as soon as possible. But Brazil is troubling.
Speaker 7: (32:04)
So when can we expect that this country that need it right now and can use right now, because they have their approval there, when can we expect they can have access to maybe the supply? Maybe June or July, can you-
Jen Psaki: (32:22)
We are engaged with a range of countries, I’m certain with Brazil as well about their requests. And we are, of course focused, the president is focused on ensuring that all Americans, all adult Americans are vaccinated. That’s the first objective here. But we are looking forward to being players in the global community, his effort to address the global pandemic.
Jen Psaki: (32:44)
There was a significant announcement made on Friday coming out of the Quad summit about supply that we have agreed to, to work with the Quad members to provide to a range of countries and regions. And we are certainly open to discussing and considering when we can provide additional supply. But I don’t have anything to preview for you, predict in terms of the timeline. [crosstalk 00:33:07] We’re going to have to just go on, because otherwise, we’re not going to get to everybody. Go ahead.
Speaker 8: (33:11)
So a new poll from NPR in [inaudible 00:33:14] said that nearly half of Republican men won’t get the vaccine when it’s available to them. And I know that last week you said that the democratic administration might not always be the best messenger to communicate to everyone kind of the importance and the benefits of getting the vaccine. And so I just wanted to ask if the White House was making plans to try to boost Republican receptivity to the vaccine, and can you share what any of those ideas are?
Jen Psaki: (33:38)
Sure. First, the president’s goal is to vaccinate all Americans, not just those who voted for him. Right now, the phase we’re in is that demand for the vaccine still outstrips supply. We won’t be in that phase forever, but right now the big issue is access and people wanting to have access to the vaccine. And so we’re focusing on how to make it as convenient and accessible for Americans as possible.
Jen Psaki: (34:04)
And I talked about this very briefly last week, but we know we need to meet everyone where they are, and that includes conservatives and ensure there are trusted messengers who lead the way in those engagements. 81% of Republicans said they would trust their own doctor or healthcare provider, in some polling that came out this weekend, to provide reliable information about a COVID-19 vaccine. This is consistent with what I was conveying last week. And some of the data that we’ve seen internally about how, yes, there are a number of prominent officials out there who, if they were more vocal about getting the vaccine, we’d certainly support that. But also doctors and local healthcare providers, we see poll after poll, are one of the most trusted authorities in communities, regardless of people’s political affiliation, as our religious leaders and local leaders as well.
Jen Psaki: (34:58)
So we are very mindful of that and thinking of ways to support, empower, help fund those efforts. We’re also meeting regularly with conservative groups, faith leaders, and rural stakeholders, to partner with them in boosting vaccine confidence. But I also have a couple of examples that I found interesting; hopefully you do as well.
Jen Psaki: (35:19)
We are focused on earned media and establishing partnerships with trusted messengers right now. We will quickly move to a big public campaign, which will be run out of HHS. There’s even some funding in the American Rescue Plan for that. That will be a part of it, that hopefully we’ll have more to say on in a couple of weeks. But a couple of examples: tomorrow Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins will be hosting an event with evangelical leaders to discuss the vaccine and how we can partner with them.
Jen Psaki: (35:46)
Dr. Collins has appeared on the 700 Club. We also have done of course, a range of engagements with different communities where there’s vaccine hesitancy, Dr. Nunez Smith on the Shade Room, Dr. Fauci did an interview with Gloria Estefan, which now I want to go find and watch myself, as I’m sure many of you do.
Jen Psaki: (36:03)
So we are trying to be creative on earned media to meet people where they are, but we’re also mindful of empowering, supporting local trusted voices, because we’ve seen that in poll after poll, to be an effective way of reaching a range of communities.
Speaker 8: (36:19)
Dr. Fauci said recently that for President Trump getting involved in this would be a game changer for encouraging Republicans to take the vaccine. Did you guys agree and does President Biden want to see Trump get involved in this messaging?
Jen Psaki: (36:33)
Well, if former President Trump woke up tomorrow and wanted to be more vocal about the safety and efficacy of the campaign of the vaccine, certainly we’d support that. But also, I think what’s important to note is that as I noted, 81% of Republicans said they would trust their own doctor or healthcare provider, and that’s an important place to invest.
Jen Psaki: (36:55)
Every other living former president or most of them, if not all of them, has participated in public campaigns. They did not need an engraved invitation to do so. So he may decide he should do that. If so, great. But there are a lot of different ways to engage, to reach out, to ensure that people have a range of political support and backing, know the vaccine is safe and effective. Go ahead, Yamiche.
Yamiche Alcindor: (37:20)
Thanks so much. First question is back on the border, there were lawyers who interviewed some children that were in facilities. The children described sleeping on the floor, being hungry, not seeing the sun for days. How is that acceptable for the Biden administration to keep children in those sorts of conditions, given the fact that you said you were an administration that was going to be more humane than the previous one?
Jen Psaki: (37:43)
Well, let me first say this is heartbreaking. It’s a very emotional issue for a lot of people, and it’s very difficult and challenging. And obviously, these CBP facilities are not made for kids. So one of the reasons or a driving reason why the president has pushed to take all of the actions that I outlined earlier when Phil asked the question, is because we want to expedite getting these kids out of these CBP facilities as quickly as possible. And that’s our goal and our objective and into shelters as quickly as possible then into sponsored homes while their cases are being considered and adjudicated.
Jen Psaki: (38:21)
We are trying to work through what was a dismantled and unprepared system because of the role of the last administration. It’s going to take some time, but we are very clear-eyed about what the problems are, and very focused on putting forward solutions.
Speaker 7: (38:37)
And I understand the idea of these facilities not being desired by children, but children being hungry, sleeping on the floor, not being allowed outside for days at a time, why is that acceptable to go on, even for one more day? Why is that something that’s not being outlawed right now? How is the administration not stopping that today?
Jen Psaki: (38:52)
Well, Yamiche, it’s not acceptable. But I think the challenge here is that there are not that many options. And we have a lot of critics, but many of them are not putting forward a lot.
Jen Psaki: (39:03)
Well, the options are, and we have a lot of critics, but many of them are not putting forward a lot of solutions. The options here are send the kids back on the journey, send them to unvetted homes or work to expedite moving them into shelters, where they can get health treatment by medical doctors, educational resources, legal counseling, mental health counseling. That’s exactly what we’re focused on doing. And this is an across the administration effort that we are committed from the top to making changes on as quickly as possible.
Speaker 9: (39:31)
You just talked about vaccine hesitancy. I know you said that there are going to be resources for Dr. Fauci and others in the administration to go out and reach out to trusted sources. Based on polling and conversation with the experts, the government is not the answer for reaching a lot of the GOP men in particular that were found to be hesitant of the vaccine. Is it a waste of time to have those officials go there? And are there other things that the government should be doing that maybe are different than having the face of the people that many of these voters don’t trust being the ones talking to them?
Jen Psaki: (39:59)
I don’t mean to cut you off, but I think I just answered this exact question earlier with some of the specific steps we’re taking and examples of people we’re putting forward in our efforts to empower, support local medical doctors, experts who are a very powerful and impactful voices in a range of communities. So, that’s exactly we’re doing. And I could not agree with you more. We agree with you that we are not always the right voice. The Biden administration, or somebody standing at this podium to a range of conservative communities. And we have to meet people where they are, which is why we’re taking a number of approaches and using a number of tactics
Speaker 9: (40:36)
[inaudible 00:40:36] of black leaders. Some black experts saying that there was too much focus on the hesitancy in the African-American community and that might be used as an excuse for not having enough access to black people in this country. That this administration and others focus too much on black people and their hesitancy for the vaccine.
Jen Psaki: (40:53)
I may not be understanding your question. We’re not-
Speaker 9: (40:56)
I would say this. Leaders say that black people’s hesitancy to the vaccine might be used as an excuse for low vaccination rates as well as access to the vaccine. So there are some that are saying, when you talk too much about African-American people and their hesitation to the vaccine, that that then becomes an excuse. That those are the arguments that African-American leaders and others are making right now,
Jen Psaki: (41:18)
An excuse within the community or an excuse for us?
Speaker 9: (41:21)
Yeah. The excuse for the administration and others to say black people aren’t getting vaccinated at higher rates because they’re hesitant.
Jen Psaki: (41:28)
I would say that we just look at the data. Our objective is to ensure that all American adults have access to the vaccine, are vaccinated and that we are doing everything we can to reach communities and people where they are. So, our approach has been based on the data and the statistics we were looking at. We have taken a number of steps, including putting forward supporting more community health centers. Now there are 900 mobile clinics to get into communities, mass vaccination sites to ensure that the vaccine is accessible and in a range of communities, where we did through data, see hesitancy. So I would just refute that. I don’t think that’s an accurate description of our approach. I know we have to wrap this up here, because I think you guys have to gather for the event, but-
I just want to interrupt here with some news at Dallas at CVP FEMA is setting up a detention center at the convention center that can palate the house 3000 migrant immigrant teenagers. Is that consistent with the administration’s stated values and what protections are being put in place in that facility to make sure that these teenagers are cared for?
Jen Psaki: (42:39)
Well, I’d have to look at the specific report. I would say that we have been looking at additional facilities to open, to move children, unaccompanied children, into facilities where they can receive access to healthcare, educational resources, mental health resources, legal resources. And certainly we would ensure that we are meeting the standard that we have set out, but I’d have to check into those specific reports, since they happened while we were up here.
Jen Psaki: (43:06)
Thank you everyone.