Nov 15, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript November 15
November 15, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Read the transcript of the full news briefing here.
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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (12:25)
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (13:10)
Okay, I just have one item for all of you at the top. Obviously, an exciting day here at the White House. But also wanted to note that the President, which we announced of course, signed an executive order this morning on the implementation of the infrastructure bill, which laid out six main priorities to guide implementation. Including, investing public dollars efficiently, effectively, of course, avoiding waste and focusing on measurable outcomes for the American people. Buying American and increasing the competitiveness of the US economy, including through implementing the Act’s made in America requirements and bolstering domestic manufacturing and manufacturing supply chains, creating good paying job opportunities for millions of Americans by focusing on high labor standards for these jobs, including prevailing wages and the free and fair chance to join a union. Investing public dollars equitably, including through the Justice40 initiative, which is a government-wide effort toward a goal that 40% of the overall benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy flow to disadvantaged communities. Building resilient infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of climate change, that helps combat the climate crisis.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (14:23)
And finally, coordinating with state, local, tribal and territorial governments in implementing these critical me investments. We also announced yesterday that former Lieutenant Governor and former Mayor Mitch Landrieu will be leading this effort. And the executive order also started a task force that will be co-chaired by National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, and of course our new Implementation Coordinator, Mitch Landrieu, and will include a number of members of our cabinet. With that, Colleen, welcome. I don’t think I’ve engaged with you in the briefing yet, so welcome to the briefing room.
Thank you, it’s nice to be here. So the bill is being signed, and now we’re…
… next week. The bill is being signed and now we’re going to spend the money. So I wanted to ask a little bit about if the president has been in touch with governors about how the funds are going to be spent, and I wanted to know if you could talk a little bit more about the potential oversight mechanisms in place for how the public is going to be able to know how the money is spent.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (15:23)
Sure. Well, first I would note… And I know you are all eager to have a list of exactly who is attending today, and I expect someone will ask me that question. We are still getting attendees lists and people who are still RSVPing, believe it or not. This is sometimes how it works. It is open press. You will see the group, but let me just note – I know this wasn’t your question, but since this is a popular one – some of the people who will be attending today. You reminded me of it when you asked about governors. Governor Kate Brown of Oregon, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, Mayor David Holt of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina. Again, this is not everyone, but just to give you a sense of the bipartisan group who will be attending.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (16:07)
Also members of Congress, as you know, because we put out, I think, the list of people who will be speaking: of course, Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer will be in attendance. Other members of leadership: Senator Cassidy, Senator Collins, Senator Portman, Congressman Reed, Congressman Young, and others, as well as a number of business leaders, union leaders, and others.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (16:28)
I would say that Mitch Landrieu is starting his job today. He’s going to be in attendance at the ceremony today. He’ll be traveling with the president tomorrow and then he will be getting to work right away. As our executive order is an indication of, the president is very focused – they call him Sheriff Joe for a reason – on the implementation of this, making sure we prevent waste, fraud, and abuse, and that we are working directly for hours a day, which is what Mitch Landrieu will be doing with governors, local officials, and others. I expect we will have more to say on how that will work, what that work will look like, as Mitch Landrieu gets his role underway.
Can you talk a little bit about how the president’s message is going to be to voters as he takes steps this week? How is he going to explain to the voters how the spending plan is going to help deal with inflation and supply chain issues?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (17:22)
Sure. Well, let me give you; I know he’s going to speak in about an hour and a half, depending on how long the pre-program is; but a little bit of a preview of what you’ll hear from him today. I think that will also be an indication of how he’ll talk about some of these plans when he is out in the country.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (17:39)
One, you’ll hear him convey today that he’s also frustrated by the negativity and by the infighting that we’ve seen in Washington over the last couple of months. He’s tired of it too, and that he knows that what the American people expect is that leaders are going to be talking about issues that matter to them. The issues that they’re talking about at their kitchen tables, in their communities, in community centers, at their kids’ soccer games, or whatever it may be. How can I get a good paying job? How can I make sure my kid will succeed? What are we doing to make sure that we are setting up the next generation for success in the future?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (18:16)
And so what you’ll hear him talk about today is how this bill, the bipartisan infrastructure plan, will impact people’s everyday lives. You’ll hear him convey that America’s moving, and life is going to get better for people across the country, and that this is part of his effort to finish the job – part of it – in getting the pandemic under control, making sure we are addressing rising costs, bringing costs down for the American people, and making us more competitive.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (18:47)
So what you can expect to hear from him today is what I’ve just outlined, and as he goes around the country, he’s going to dig into how these issues, how the benefits of these packages will impact people’s everyday lives, what they talk about at their kitchen tables. Go ahead.
Thanks, Jen. We’ve got the meeting later on today between President Biden and President Xi.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (19:08)
We’ve been told that there won’t be a huge emphasis on trade. I wonder, though, given the fact that the US-China trade agreement is nearing an end, China is still falling very short of its pledges to buy more goods and services; wondering why that isn’t going to be a bigger factor in that discussion.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (19:30)
Well, Andrea, I know we did a preview call last night, but let me reiterate a couple of the highlights of what will be the focus of the meeting, which we expect to run for a couple of hours later this evening virtually.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (19:43)
One, the meeting, in our view, is an opportunity to set the terms of the competition with China in a way that reflects our interests and values; insist that the PRC play by the rules of the road. So there are areas, of course, of concern, as it relates to the economy, where the president will certainly express this concern, express his view that China should be playing by the rules that the rest of the global community expects, raise our concerns with a number of their actions, and discuss areas where our interests align. As you know, Ambassador Tai gave a speech just a few weeks ago outlining where we are in phase one. She is running point and the president entrusts her to lead these negotiations and discussions around trade, tariff reviews.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (20:31)
That’s why there’s a lot to discuss in this discussion. There’ll be a call late tonight – have your coffee now – to read out this call, and there could be a range of topics discussed, but it’s really under her purview. He entrusts her to do that, he’s regularly briefed, and that’s why there’s a lot of other topics that will be discussed.
Is he going to foot stomp, though, his insistence that China make good on those promises?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (20:54)
Well, certainly the president will express areas where he feels China should be taking additional action, should behaving in a different manner that is more aligned with the rules of the road and the expectations of the United States and the global community, so you can certainly expect that coming out of the meeting.
That’s one more on oil and gas. We just saw President Biden take action now in terms of protecting oil and gas development on Native lands, on tribal lands. But later this week, the US government will open up for auctions many, many acres, an area larger than several states, actually, to oil and gas leasing because of this legal situation. There are critics who say that you should have done more to [inaudible 00:21:45] this action, and I wonder if you can just say, what action could potentially be done? Are there any last-minute steps that could be taken to prevent those options from going forward?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (21:57)
Well, the president did – as you know, Andrea, but just to get others up to speed – issue an executive order pausing oil and gas leasing on public lands and in offshore waters to facilitate the identification and implementation of long-needed permitting and leasing reforms. Shortly thereafter, the Interior Department canceled the pending offshore oil and gas lease in the Gulf of Mexico, known as Lease Sale 257. So what you’re referring to, I believe, is the fact that in June, a federal district court in Louisiana stopped the president’s leasing pause and ruled that the Interior Department is legally required to go through with the sale of the Lease Sale 257, which is what what Andrea is referring to in terms of putting up a bunch of lease sales, oil and gas lease sales.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (22:42)
We believe the decision is wrong and the Justice Department is appealing it. So it’s in the courts. It’s in legal process. We’re required to comply with the injunction. It’s a legal case and legal process, but it’s important for advocates and other people out there who are following this to understand that it’s not aligned with our view, the president’s policies, or the executive order that he signed. Go ahead.
So you can’t take any last-minute action to prevent this from going forward.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (23:07)
I would point you to the Justice Department. They, of course, are appealing this, and I would point you to them for any legal action or what their options are.
Speaker 15: (23:13)
Just following up, [inaudible 00:23:15] tangentially related to China and trade. When you guys look at tariffs right now, do you view them purely through the prism of the administration’s China strategy, or do you consider them as part of a potential tool in the tool belt as it relates to increased prices? I ask because the Treasury Secretary this weekend said, if you pull up tariffs, it probably would make some difference in the price increases. You had business groups send a letter in the last couple days, asking the administration to consider using them. Is that something you’re viewing through the lens of the price increases, or is it purely separate and fully along the lines of the China strategy?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (23:49)
Well, it is part of the China strategy, but it is also something that, even while we have been pursuing phase one enforcement, which is what Ambassador Tai gave a speech about a couple of weeks ago, we’ve restarted our domestic tariff exclusions process to mitigate the effects of certain tariffs. Because, as you said, there are certain industries that are impacted and there are areas where they don’t generate strategic benefit, but they raise costs on Americans. So that is all a part of the review, and certainly part of the review is, our China relationship is the backdrop for it, but also the impact on Americans, how we’re strengthening the middle class, is the priority and the focus for the president. I will say, just on the China meeting, one of the things to, as you look at this meeting and where it’s falling, the president and the national security team feel that the president is coming into this meeting really from a position of strength. If you look at where we were nine, 10 months ago, and if you look at how we outline our approach to China, many months ago, we talked about the importance of rebuilding our alliances, our relationships, coordinating with Europeans and other key partners in the world on how we’re approaching this relationship. We have made enormous strides in building those relationships, including on the president’s trip just two weeks ago, where he had a range of conversations.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (25:09)
In addition, the president has also emphasized the need to come to this relationship, one, through the prism of competition, from a position of strength as it relates to what we’re doing at home. Today, he is signing this infrastructure bill, and this infrastructure bill is essential and important for many reasons, but one of which is, for the first time in 20 years, we will be investing more in infrastructure than China. That is going to strengthen our competition at home in addition to putting millions of people to work.
Speaker 15: (25:38)
One more on the economy. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey came in at lowest levels since November of 2011. Look at the story that you guys have made clear, you believe you have, on what the president has accomplished in the last 10 months. You’re also seeing all of your own numbers. What do you attribute that to? Is it just inflation? Is it coverage? What does the White House think is driving consumer sentiment to be at that low level?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (26:01)
Well, I would say, without being an economist, we look at most of these data points through the prism of COVID. We know that we are in this place we are in now because of COVID, because of the impact of the pandemic. That has led to inflation. That has led to supply chain issues. We know that even on a fundamental human level, people are tired of the pandemic. So it’s hard to get into the psychological mind, which this is a measure of, of course; different than some other data. But we see that consistently across a range of data and a range of economic analysis and even polling, as it relates to how the current state of play in the country is impacting the American people. Go ahead.
Speaker 16: (26:48)
In that same vein, can you just expand on that as it relates to the poll that came out this weekend? You’ve got the president’s popularity down to 41%, approval on his handling of the economy down to 39%, and then you see the response to his legislation, which is pretty popular.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (27:04)
Speaker 16: (27:04)
Where’s the disconnect there, in that his legislation right now, infrastructure particularly, is significantly more popular than he is?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (27:12)
Well, what we see this as is an opportunity, because we know that the president’s agenda is quite popular, as you noted. As you can see in the poll, the American Rescue Plan, the infrastructure deal, are some of the most popular major pieces of legislation in the last 20 years. The bipartisan infrastructure deal and the Build Back Better agenda are very popular, and on COVID, polling shows there is support for our vaccine requirements.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (27:37)
We know also… And I’ve been doing press and communications for some time; I will tell you that you don’t design a communication strategy around infighting within the Democratic Party in Washington. That is not how you typically design it. That has been a necessity in order to get this legislation done. And looking back, the president would’ve done the same thing, because he wants to deliver for the American people. But now is an opportunity for the president, the vice president, I’ll note; and he’ll mention this today, our cabinet, to be out in the country, connecting the agenda, the impacts on people’s lives, moving beyond the legislative process to talk about how this is going to help them. We’re hoping that’s going to have an impact.
Speaker 16: (28:13)
But you don’t see the infighting in Washington within the Democrats’ own party is the reason for the president’s approval rating is where it is, do you?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (28:21)
Well, we think, one, there’s a couple factors. One is, there’s a fatigue from COVID. We see that in poll after poll; in your poll, in many other polls that have come out around the country. People are sick and tired of COVID and the impacts on the economy. We understand that. We’re tired of it too. That’s why this is the number one priority continues to be getting COVID under control. I was just noting the fact that how we have spent our time and how our time has been consumed here is by getting this bill across the finish line. There’s absolutely no regrets about that. This is going to continue America moving again, make a fundamental difference in people’s lives. But it hasn’t allowed for all of the time we would typically be out there talking about the benefits, as the bill was not finalized; it wasn’t finished. We’re looking forward and eager to do that.
Speaker 16: (29:09)
But just quickly on infrastructure, you said at the top that the president’s message is going to be that it’s going to get better. He’s going to lay out how this is going to impact their lives. What is the timeline on this, particularly what he is signing today, of when will Americans start to see this in their communities in a very real way?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (29:28)
Well, there are some components that we are going to see rather quickly, and some that will take a little bit more time. Part of what our focus is on, as you saw the president, and I announced at the top, sign the executive order on implementation, creating this task force, name somebody who’s going to oversee it, and we’re going to get components of this done as quickly as possible. I would note, though, this is not designed to be a stimulus bill. This is designed to be something that is spent out over time. What the president feels this bill is going to help do is have an impact over the short, medium, and…
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (30:03)
… do is have an impact over the short, medium and long-term by putting people, more people back to work by investing in our infrastructure, by making sure people know that there are industries of the future that we are investing in. We’re creating good paying jobs for the long-term as well. And I’m not saying you’re doing this, but sometimes people compare this to the Recovery Act of 2009. It is not that. We are not in the middle of an economic, a historic economic crisis right now. This is an opportunity to build our country back better, build our industries back better. And that’s what we are going to work to do as we implement this bill. Go ahead.
Speaker 17: (30:39)
Thanks, Jen. A couple more China questions in advance of tonight’s meeting. Has the president been briefed on China’s hypersonic test this summer and does the president intend to bring up that hypersonic test in this meeting?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (30:52)
I’m not going to get into classified intelligence briefings with the president from here. Obviously, the president receives a presidential daily brief every single day and certainly he is up to speed on anything our intelligence community is reviewing. And I know there will be there and you know there will be a readout later this evening where they will talk in more detail about the topics that are discussed at this meeting. But beyond that, I don’t have anything to preview.
Speaker 17: (31:18)
That test has been described by analysts as China’s Sputnik moment or the start of a new arms race between China and the US. Does the president see it that way?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (31:28)
I don’t have anything more to speak to it beyond what I’ve said.
Speaker 17: (31:31)
And the president this summer told Peter here that he does not consider President Xi an old friend. How would you describe their relationship going into this meeting?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (31:43)
Well, I can confirm Peter. He still does not consider him an old friend, so that remains consistent. You’ve heard the president note in the past that President Xi is somebody he’s spent time with. He’s had face-to-face conversations with. And because of that, the president feels that he’s able to have candid discussions with President Xi, someone with whom he can raise directly areas where we have concern, whether it’s security issues, whether it’s economic issues, whether it is human rights issues. And he will certainly do that this evening during the call, but he will also look for areas where we can work together and where there are areas where there is a cohesion of opportunity moving forward.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (32:27)
So it gives him the opportunity, it gives him the ability, I should say, to approach this multi-hour meeting with a level of candor to be direct, not to hold back and to continue that moving forward. I’ll note that because of the kind of the dancing of power in China that this relationship, these ongoing discussions between President Biden and President Xi we feel is a key part of having intense diplomacy with a country that it’s important to do that at this stage. But the long history helps enable him to do that effectively. Go ahead.
Thank you. Ahead of this meeting with President Xi, is President Biden considering a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics this winter?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (33:10)
Well, I know you’re asking this because there have been reports out there or questions, I should say, about whether or not President Xi will raise the question of the Beijing Olympics. We don’t know if he will or will not, and we’ll leave that to them to preview, but I don’t have anything beyond that for you. I’ve outlined for you what the president will talk about and discuss in his meeting and that’s what our focus is on from this end.
Okay. There are a few reports from over the weekend that the vice president is unhappy. Can she expect the president’s automatic endorsement if she decides to run herself in either 2024 or 2028?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (33:50)
Well, first of all, the president selected the vice president serve his running mate because he felt she was exactly the person he wanted to have by his side to govern the country. She’s a key partner, she’s a bold leader. And she is somebody who has taken on incredibly important assignments, whether it is addressing the root causes of migration at the Northern Triangle or taking on a core cause of democracy in voting rights.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (34:16)
So that is who the president selected. I don’t have any of whether she will run, when she will run. I will leave that to her, but I can tell you that there’s been a lot of reports out there and they don’t reflect his view or our experience with the vice president.
And so you guys have not heard that the vice president or key members of her staff are unhappy?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (34:37)
Here’s what I know, Peter. I know that the president relies of the vice president for her advice, for her counsel. She’s somebody who is not only taking on issues that are challenging. She’s not looking for a cushy role here. No vice president is, no president is. And that she’s somebody that is a valuable member of the team. And he expects to also, you can all expect to be out there out in the country on the infrastructure bill. And he’s looking forward to having around there too.
And then just something tied to an ongoing court case. Why did President Biden suggest that Kyle Rittenhouse on trial in Kenosha is a white supremacist?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (35:19)
So Peter, what I’m not going to speak to right now is anything about an ongoing trial nor the president’s past comments. What I can reiterate for you is the president’s view that we shouldn’t have, broadly speaking, vigilantes patrolling our communities with assault weapons. We shouldn’t have opportunists corrupting peaceful protests by rioting and burning down the communities they claim to represent anywhere in the country.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (35:43)
As you know, closing arguments in this particular case, which I’m not speaking to, I’m just making broad comments about his own view. There’s an ongoing trial. We’re awaiting a verdict. Beyond that, I’m not going to speak to any individuals or this case.
But the president has spoken to it already. And his mom now, Kyle Rittenhouse’s mom came out saying that the president defamed her son and she claims that when the president suggested her son’s a white supremacist, he was doing that to win votes. Is that what happened?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (36:13)
I just have nothing more to speak to an ongoing case where closing arguments were just made. Go ahead.
Given the National Guard is on standby though in Wisconsin right now, Jen, does the White House or the president have any message to those who may stir up trouble regardless of the outcome at the end of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (36:28)
Well, I can give you a little bit of an update that we are in contact, the White House’s in contact with state officials at the request of community leaders. The Department of Justice’s community relations service has provided trainings and deescalation and contingency planning to local community organizations. And they’re prepared to provide any further assistance that is needed.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (36:48)
But our message I would say is that President Biden ran on a promise to bring Americans together and to turn down the temperature on the angry divisive rhetoric and actions we saw over the past four years, that’s his overarching objective. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t understand. Of course, he does. When emotions are high, when passions are high, we’re here to provide support. And obviously we’re going to wait for any verdict to come out. And beyond that, certainly we are hopeful that any protest will be peaceful.
Speaker 18: (37:19)
Broadly on the state of America right now, inflation obviously, at a 31-year high right now. Americans are seeing their dollars, their paychecks stretched right now. Why should Americans not be concerned that injecting another $1.75 trillion or more would further raise inflation?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (37:36)
Because no economist out there is projecting that this will have a negative impact on inflation. And actually what it will help do is it’ll help increase economic productivity. It will help economic growth in this country, that and the Build Back Better agenda will help reduce inflation will help cut costs for the American people over the long-term.
Speaker 18: (37:58)
But as you acknowledged, that’s over the long- term. So I guess for those Americans who are really struggling with the bottom line right now, what is the president doing now like immediately to try to directly impact the rising costs that Americans are witnessing?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (38:11)
Well, the number one thing that the president can do is help get COVID under control. That we know is the root cause of inflation and the pricing increases we’re seeing for a range of reasons. That is the best step that he can take, that the administration can take to help get it under control. I’d also note though in many of his proposals, but his Build Back Better agenda that is currently working its way through Congress and we’re eager for the House to pass this week. There are a number of components in there that will lower costs next year for the American people. Cutting childcare costs in half. Making preschool free for families starting in 2022 saving families $8,600.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (38:48)
Leading to the construction of additional housing units. We’re seeing housing in the cost of rent as a major driver of costs for families across the country. And even on issues like negotiating prescription drugs, there are people across the country that are paying a lot of money out-of-pocket for insulin. It will cap the cost at $35. The president has a plan for lowering costs for the American people.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (39:11)
No one is denying that inflation and any elements of raising costs is an issue for the American people. The question is what are the solutions? We’re proposing solutions. In the short-term, we have to continue to get COVID under control. In the medium and long-term, we want to pass this agenda which economists will tell you, including Nobel laureates, this will help address inflationary issues over the long-term. Go ahead.
Speaker 19: (39:32)
Thanks, Jen. We’re seeing some reports that Russia carried out an anti-satellite weapons test over the weekend and they potentially created some kind of debris in space. I’m wondering if the president’s been briefed on that at all. And if the White House has a response beyond what we’ve heard from-
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (39:47)
I have seen these reports. I know that the State Department was going to issue a statement about it. So let me refer to them on any commentary on at this point.
Speaker 19: (39:55)
And then American journalist, Danny Fester has been free from prison in Myanmar I’m wondering if the US was involved, the US government was involved at all in his release.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (40:06)
I would again appoint you to the State Department. They would have the negotiating team that would’ve been engaged with any officials or others there playing a role in getting him released. I would point to them for any more details.
Speaker 19: (40:16)
I got to ask this. So does the president intend to announce his pick for Fed chair this week?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (40:22)
We’ll see. I have nothing to preview for you quite yet. I understand the interest.
Speaker 19: (40:26)
And can you just confirm again that we’re expecting to have a press conference with the heads of Mexico and Canada?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (40:32)
I have not. I know I said that last week. I have not. The schedule’s constantly changing so let me just another fresh look at it and we will confirm any details for you after the briefing. Go ahead, Shelby.
Thanks. There’s been reporting indicating that there’s a lower vaccination rate in some of the intelligence agencies. Congressman Chris Stewart had said that some are up as high as 40% unvaccinated. There’s also been similar reporting on vaccine holdouts at key military bases. RealClearPolitics said there’s around 10% of highly educated and trained personnel refusing the vaccine at one of their top weapons testing base.
So with the vaccine deadlines looming, is the administration concerned about the impact on national security if some of these percentages remain high? And secondly, is there any sort of contingent plan in place in the event that we see a number of personnel taken off because of this mandate?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (41:23)
Well, I would first point you to the Department of Defense. There uptick numbers of people who are getting vaccinated are quite high, so that’s not consistent with what I have heard and they can give you more specific details. And I don’t know if this is applicable to the agencies that you have mentioned, but we know in some components of the federal government we’re in a little bit of a delay in people entering the information and data for their vaccination status.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (41:45)
And that’s something that we’re encouraging people and workers to update as needed as we lead up to the timeline. So that does not sound consistent with the data that I understand to be accurate, but I would point you to any agency on the specific percentages within their agencies.
So there’s no concern about a number of personnel in any of these agencies having to leave the workforce because they’re not vaccinated?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (42:10)
Well, those numbers are not consistent with what I understand to be accurate. So I would point you to the agencies on the numbers and the specific percentages per agency. Go ahead.
Speaker 20: (42:20)
Thanks, Jen. One on China and one on infrastructure. You just mentioned again as part of your broader China strategy working with allies, coordinating with them. In anticipation of tonight’s meeting, have you brief partners in Asia and Europe on sort of what you hope to achieve from this meeting? And do you plan to give them a readout after how it went where you might have to coordinate with them?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (42:40)
Yes, we are in regular contact. The president saw a number of allies and partners just two weeks ago. Our state department officials, our national security team are in regular touch and I’m sure there will be continued coordination after the meeting.
Speaker 20: (42:53)
Great. And then one more on Mitch Landrieu in his new role, is he expected to be involved in the effort to promote the infrastructure package around the country traveling with other cabinet members are going to be doing? Is that part of his role?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (43:08)
We’ll see. I think he’ll be traveling as I noted with the president tomorrow, but I expect at least for the early stages that his focus will be keeping his head down and getting this, the implementation off the ground. He is a very effective communicator, a former mayor, a former lieutenant governor. So I’m sure we will utilize him to be out there explaining the implementation plan as well. Go ahead.
Speaker 21: (43:30)
Thanks, Jen. On Belarus, the situation in Belarus. Is there anything specific that you can share that the White House is doing or can do to help in the situation, such as the president considering a call with Putin as some other leaders have?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (43:45)
I don’t have anything to preview on that front for you. We continue to work in close contact or stay in close contact I should say with our EU partners and other allies who are working to hold the Lukashenko regime accountable for its ongoing attack. And that includes preparing follow-up sanctions in close coordination with them. So we’re working to continue coordination with them on these efforts. I don’t have anything in terms of a Putin call to preview.
Speaker 21: (44:10)
Any indication that Russia is involved indirectly, directly in any fashion or form?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (44:17)
I don’t have anything on that from here.
Speaker 21: (44:19)
One other question. Can you share some details about tomorrow? It’s a swing state. Why New Hampshire and why this particular bridge?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (44:28)
Sure. Let me just say one thing on the last piece just so I note it. Well, I don’t have anything to convey in terms of engagement. I tell you that we are still calling on Russia and encouraging them directly to use its influence to press the Lukashenko regime to cease its callous exploitation and coercion of vulnerable people. There’s no question they have that relationship and that ability to impact.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (44:51)
Okay, to go to your New Hampshire question, quickly searching topics. The president is going there because has there is a broken down bridge that needs to be repaired. It’s an opportunity to highlight how this-
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (45:03)
… And he is. It’s an opportunity to highlight how this infrastructure bill can help communities, help people who are taking their kids to school, help people who are holding their breath as they’re going across bridges worrying about the safety and security of how they’re traveling to do exactly that. So that’s why he’s headed to New Hampshire tomorrow to highlight that, highlight this bridge that is decrepit and needs to be rebuilt and show people visually what the impact will be so they can understand how it will help impact their lives. Go ahead.
Speaker 22: (45:32)
You just talked about how the infrastructure bill is one of the reasons why the White House thinks the President Biden is coming into this meeting tonight with President Xi with a position of strength. But legislation in Congress that would actually address boosting competitiveness against China, the USICA or the formally known Endless Frontiers Act is pending in Congress.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (45:52)
So many names.
Speaker 22: (45:53)
I know. So I’m wondering if the White House is doing anything to advance that bill in the House and to dislodge it or do they prefer this other version that House Democrats are working on?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (46:04)
So, the president is certainly eager to see USICA pass and he believes it would be an important step forward, an important opportunity, perhaps in a bipartisan manner to send the message about our commitment to helping industries and make us more competitive here in the United States. I would say, though, that the reason why the infrastructure bill is such an important component of our competition is because we are at the point now where we are about 13th in the world in terms of our infrastructure around the country.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (46:33)
And we’re seeing even as it relates to supply chain issues that we need to do a lot more to ensure that goods and services can move across our country. China has done more to invest. So it is a very key and pivotal component of the president’s commitment to approaching the relationship from a position of strength. But we are eager to see it pass. We’re engaged with members and leadership in the Hill. I don’t have anything from here in terms of the particular components of it, but we would like to see the bill pass. Yes.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (47:05)
Speaker 23: (47:06)
On that front, is there any hope in the White House that this bill that he’s signing today will not be a one-off and will in fact be like a turning point for future bipartisan agreements like USICA or others? Like what’s your assessment of whether he can turn this into political momentum?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (47:22)
Well, I think today, what we’re focused on is the fact that there hasn’t been a big historic impactful bipartisan bill signing at the White House in sometime. I guess there’s a lot of ways to view that, but, the president is grateful and he will note this in his remarks for the support of everyone from Mitch McConnell to a range of members in both sides, both houses who supported this legislation because they think it’s the right thing for the American people, the right thing for their states. The president will continue to his, the door of the Oval Office will continue to be open to working in a bipartisan fashion.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (47:59)
And the president’s view is there are many ways that we can do exactly that and that’s what the American people expect. They expect and hope for us to be able to work across the aisle. He’ll also note that he is a president who believes that consensus is a good thing. That compromise is a good thing and that that is how you get things done in this town and that we can’t be so stiff in what we believe and our way or the highway in order to get things done. And he’s hopeful that that sends a message that he is open to and eager to have opportunities to continue to work together.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (48:32)
But he can’t determine how everybody’s going to vote in Congress. We know that. But he is somebody who wants to govern for all people, pursue opportunities to work in a bipartisan way. Today is a great example of that, and we’ll continue to look for ways to do it moving forward.
Speaker 23: (48:46)
Follow up. Does he have any expectation that out in the country, this success, this ceremony will translate into an improvement in his poll numbers, his handling of the economy, any of that?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (48:55)
Well, as I said a little bit earlier, there’s no question that able to go out there and talk about and sell a package that actually exists and we know the details of is easier than the alternative. And the president will be out there tomorrow. He’ll be out there Wednesday. The vice president will be out there around the country. Cabinet members will be out there talking about how these packages benefit the American people and the direct impact they’re going to have on their lives. We can’t predict for you what that will mean two months, six months from now.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (49:27)
But there’s no question that is a more positive means of communicating from here than litigating every up and down of the sausage making in Congress. Go ahead.
Speaker 24: (49:38)
Yeah. Is it the White House’s expectation that the house will take action, take up a vote on the Build Back Better plan before the Thanksgiving break? Where are you seeing things right now in terms of timing on that?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (49:48)
Well, I would note for you that when a number of House moderates put out a statement a couple of weeks ago, they conveyed that this was the week that they felt was the time to move forward on this legislation. We agree. They’ve been waiting for justification, validation, I would say, of the White House projections on the pay force and the legislation. We’ve seen that every component of information the CBO has put out has been consistent with our projections. There have been a number of other outside economists and experts who’ve also conveyed that the nature of this legislation.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (50:27)
So we are hopeful that we will continue to move forward toward getting this bill passed this week as has been the plan for some time now.
Speaker 24: (50:34)
Would you view it as a setback if there’s not a vote this week?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (50:37)
We plan to move forward. We’re not going to call votes from here. We’ll leave that to the speaker, but we’re moving forward. Go ahead.
Thanks, Jen. To follow up on what you’ve said about bipartisanship, by our count, there’s just six of the 32 Republicans in the House and Senate who voted for the bipartisan bill that will actually be there at the signing ceremony today. Is the president frustrated that more Republicans aren’t coming so he can highlight like actually with everybody around him, the bipartisan work that went into this bill?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (51:03)
The president believes that today is an opportunity to celebrate a bipartisan success that will have a huge impact on the American people. He invited everybody who supported it because he felt that was the right thing to do. Whether people come or not, that’s their choice. The president will still be elevating, talking about the impact of this package as a bipartisan package that will help the American people. I would also note that one of the other things he’ll highlight is that we’re going to work with governors and mayors, and he’ll continue to highlight in the days ahead, I should say, to implement this moving forward.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (51:35)
And we don’t do it through the prism of somebody’s political affiliation. He’s going to work with and Mitch Landrieu will be working with Democratic governors, Republican governors, Democratic mayors, Republican mayors, and really what is most important to the American people is what we do from here and how it’s going to impact them and make their lives better, less than the attendance that at bill signing.
And that gets into my next question. The New York governor said today that there will be no MTA fair hike because of the funding that’s coming from this infrastructure bill. Do you have other examples of immediate impact just like that? Like what can we see in the next couple of days?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (52:09)
We will. Look, I think the president signing this bill today, the implementation coordinator is starting his job today. We will certainly have more updates in terms of immediate impact in the days and the weeks ahead. Obviously, some governors and mayors can anticipate roads that will be rebuilt, big bridges that will be rebuilt that are long overdue, how this will help replace lead pipes that are in schools and people’s homes across the country, making sure families, and the president will talk about at this today, who have been sitting in McDonald’s or Walmart parking lots to get their kid broadband access, moving forward soon, they won’t need to do that anymore.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (52:47)
So you will see mayors and governors talk about that in the days, weeks, months ahead, but we’re just at the beginning of implementation and we’re eager to get it started as quickly as possible. George, go ahead.
Yeah. In your answer to Colleen, you talked about the short term campaign. Let me ask you about longer term. You were here in 2010 when President Obama signed the ACA, gave a couple of speeches and then moved on. Is this going to be longer term selling? Are we going to see him a year from now at bridges and so on?
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (53:21)
A year from now is an eternity away. I will note. The president wants to spend some sustained time out there communicating with the country. There’s a lot of ways to do that. Certainly, he loves getting out in the country. No one loves a bridge or rail more than President Biden. So you’ll certainly see him out there. You’ll see the vice president out there quite a bit over the coming weeks as well. You’ll see cabinet members out there as well, fanning across the country and talking about the direct impacts on people’s lives.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (53:55)
So, you can certainly anticipate, George, that a couple weeks, months from now, we will have a whole bevy of events and photos and interviews that the team here will have done, including the president, to go out there and communicate directly with the American people. Okay. One more, one more. And then we’ll go. Yeah, one more. Go ahead.
Speaker 25: (54:15)
Thank you. I want to ask you, even though you said earlier, you’re not going to comment necessarily on the trial that’s happening, but when we look at the case of Ahmaud Arbery trial, and we’re seeing what’s happening on the outside of this trial, and then you have one where just a pastor, Reverend Jesse Jackson, coming into a courtroom is seen as threatening, and then 100 pastors coming this Thursday to pray outside of the courtroom. What was the president’s response to that? Even though the judge reprimanded the lawyers, however, it still speaks to what’s happening in our criminal justice system, the unfairness.
Speaker 25: (54:51)
Even in the Rittenhouse trial, how race has really still taken precedence over in both cases and people are wondering what’s happening next.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (55:01)
I appreciate your question, and I just want to be clear that I don’t want to comment on from here is ongoing trials, where the cases are being heard, where the jury is still making decisions. And that’s just a responsibility we have from here. I have as the spokesperson for the White House. I will note that, of course, the president has watched, and you’ve heard him talk about the impacts that what he has seen across the country, protests, the emotions, racial injustice, whether it’s in our legal system or it’s in policing and the reforms that need to happen.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (55:35)
And that is something where there one event, of course, there are many events that have deeply impacted him and made this a priority for him and this White House. I know, as there are verdicts and we will have more to say, but I just am limited in what I can convey beyond that from here. Okay. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.