Jen Psaki: (00:00)
… operations. Today, the port of Los Angeles is expanding to 24/7 operations, which means it has nearly doubled the hours that cargo will be able to move out of its docks. This follows the same commitment from the port of Long Beach a few weeks ago. the international longshore and warehouse union has announced its members will work those extra shifts, adding needed capacity to clear existing backlogs. Large companies are announcing they will use those extended hours to move more cargo off the docks so ships can come to shore faster. Walmart, UPS, FedEx, Samsung, Home Depot and Target are using more off peak in nighttime hours to increase throughput. These commitments will move more goods faster, including toys, just in case you were wondering, appliances, my kids are, and furniture that American’s purchased online or at their local small businesses and parts that are sent to US factories for our workers to assemble into products, which will strengthen the resiliency of our supply chains.
Jen Psaki: (00:55)
It was inevitable, as we’ve talked about a bit in here, that there would be economic challenges coming out of the pandemic. That is why President Biden has been just as focused on this as he has on the other challenges, which he addressed in the American Rescue Plan. These commitments are critical and obviously we’re going to continue to build on it from here.
Jen Psaki: (01:14)
I also wanted to note that earlier today, the president signed HR2278, a bill which gives federal designation to the 1300 mile September 11th National Memorial Trail. The multi-use trail symbolizes resiliency and character while linking the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Flight 93 Memorial. As the bill notes, this is a trail of remembrance to honor the fallen and keep their memories alive and as a celebration of our nation’s resilience and perseverance since September 11.
Jen Psaki: (01:44)
Finally, I wanted to note that the FDA issued guidance for the food industry that provides voluntary short-term sodium reduction targets in a wide variety of processed, packaged and restaurant foods. On average, Americans consumed 50% more sodium than recommended, which is linked to high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease and stroke. And we believe that today’s action will lead to a 12% reduction in average sodium intake over the next two and a half years, making this a critical step forward. Josh?
Great. Thanks, Jen. Two quick subjects. First with today’s consumer prices report and President Biden’s pending choice about leadership of the federal reserve. How patient is this administration with inflation consistently running above the Fed’s 2% target?
Jen Psaki: (02:29)
Well, as you know, Josh, from following this closely, we obviously defer to the federal reserve and their projections and official targets, which they make regularly. I would note that we’ve seen a decrease over the course of time, and that is still evident if you look month to month with the data that came out this morning. So between the second quarter and third quarter of this year, monthly inflation increases have actually decelerated by 50%. And just to give you more specific data points, it was around 0.8% and then it went down to 0.4%, hence 50%. So we think this decrease reflects the view of the federal reserve continues to be and many Wall Street forecasters, which continue to predict, project that inflation is expected to continue to decelerate in 2022 and beyond as we come out of the pandemic.
Jen Psaki: (03:17)
So it’s not about patience to us. We certainly understood and knew that when we were coming in, when the president was coming into office and he was coming in at a time where we needed to turn the economy back on, where he was coming in at a time where unemployment was high, where wages were down, demand was down, which as you know, once you build up when demand increases, that can result in an increase in prices, that over time as the economy is turning back on, we’d see some of these transitory effects. That’s what’s been predicted. That’s what we have been planning for. And of course, next year we expect it to come down as outside forecasters are projecting.
Got you. Secondly, Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe told AP that he was frustrated by the delay in passing infrastructure saying, “They’ve all got to get their act together and vote.” What does President Biden believe he can do to make talks move faster and show verifiable progress for Democrats who are seeking office right now?
Jen Psaki: (04:18)
Well, time is not unlimited, Josh. And certainly the president and our entire senior team is continuing to press all members about the need to move forward and to find a way to unify around a package that can deliver results to the American people. It is certainly notable that, of course, former Governor McAuliffe, he has an election coming up. And so his timeline may be a little pressed by that. Doesn’t take an outside political analyst to tell you that, but certainly the president would like to move forward. He’s pressing members to move forward. He’s been very engaged over the last several days as he has been throughout, as have members of our senior team. And as I said at the outset, time is not unlimited. Go ahead.
Speaker 1: (05:07)
Thanks, Jen. On the supply chain issue. Secretary Buttigieg is saying that there may be challenges for last minute shoppers. Secretary Yellen says there could be isolated shortages of goods in the coming months. So can you give us a realistic breakdown of what Americans could be facing on these shortages come the holiday season? What are we talking about?
Jen Psaki: (05:27)
For shipment of goods, which I assume is what you’re asking about.
Speaker 1: (05:29)
Jen Psaki: (05:29)
So the reason that the president has been working so hard for months, long before the last few weeks, to address supply chain issues is because he knew they were multifaceted and that they were impacting a lot of different industries. I know you’re asking about shipments and the shipment and movement of goods. And obviously the announcement today related to the ports is a reflection of action taken by the president, by this administration to have an immediate impact. Obviously there’s more that we will continue to press to be done as we’re looking to increase the shipment of goods moving more quickly. That’s one of the bottlenecks in the supply chain that will help address those concerns people have.
Jen Psaki: (06:14)
Look, I can’t make a prediction for you that we’re going to solve every issue tomorrow and next week. We’re not. We’re coming out of an economic crisis caused by a pandemic. But what we are doing is using every tool at our disposal to ease the impact on the American people, ease the impact on families as we look to the holidays, but certainly beyond that.
Speaker 1: (06:37)
But should Americans expect that this will get worse before it gets better?
Jen Psaki: (06:41)
I’m not going to make a prediction of that from here. We know there are a number of issues that impact the supply chain. I don’t want to make a prediction because it’s not just one issue. Certainly increasing the capacity at ports, not courts, at ports, and increasing the number of hours will have a positive impact. There’s no question about that. But there are other issues that impact the global supply chain, including the pandemic, something that we are working 24 hours a day to help address around the world. That’s impacted manufacturing in some countries, manufacturing of goods in some places, and reducing the supply in some places. That’s one of the factors too. We’re also working to address that. It’s not just one issue, but certainly we’re going to use every lever at our disposal to address it, to address the bottlenecks as quickly as we can. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (07:33)
Let me ask that a slightly similar but different way.
Jen Psaki: (07:36)
Speaker 2: (07:37)
Based on everything being announced today, can this administration guarantee that holiday packages will arrive on time?
Jen Psaki: (07:46)
They are not the postal service or UPS or FedEx. We can not guarantee. What we can do is use every lever at the federal government disposal to reduce delays, to ensure that we are addressing bottlenecks and the system, including-
Jen Psaki: (08:02)
… Addressing bottlenecks and the system, including ports and the need for them to be open longer hours so that goods can arrive and we can continue to press not only workers and unions, but also companies to take as many steps as they can to reduce these delays.
And on the company’s aspect of this, there’s just a few lines about what exactly Walmart is committed to today. They’re increasing use of nighttime hours significantly and projects they could increase their throughput by as much as 50% over the next several weeks. This is a company that was frequently maligned during the democratic presidential primary is paying workers pretty bad wages in the view of those that were running. Did the administration seek any assurances from Walmart that these changes won’t affect their store workers or that there might be some kind of either pay raise or other labor assurances for those that are going to have to work these extra hours?
Jen Psaki: (08:59)
I think you’re very familiar, Ed, with where the President stands on the minimum wage. The fact that it’s long overdue to increase the minimum wage, something that he has been quite vocal about for a range of companies. It is also true that we recognize that families, people across the country, are purchasing whether they’re toys or gifts or just household goods from a range of suppliers, including Walmart, and we are working to ease the burden on them at the same time. But we are not taking our foot off the gas pedal of pressing for an increase in the minimum wage for and for companies to do the right thing. Go ahead.
Thanks, Jen. You guys have had this task force since June. There’s an executive order back in February and talking about how the President’s been on top of this for months, but it seemed to get a lot worse before it’s gotten better, and often pointing to the pandemic as being a contributing factor. We’ve been in the pandemic for a year and a half now. So why did it take until today to get these kinds of commitments that we’re seeing from the various groups that are here at the present today?
Jen Psaki: (10:05)
Well, I will say that we have had, maybe everybody wasn’t here for this, but we have had the chairs of our Supply Chain Task Force in here at least twice to provide updates on the work that has been ongoing under this administration. One of those issues has certainly been ensuring that there aren’t bottlenecks at ports, but there are a lot of other issues that we’ve been working to address in the global supply chain. One of them has certainly been the increase in the vulnerabilities in our food system, and something that we’ve seen impact some communities across the country and impact the price of goods sometimes when people go to the grocery store. That’s one of the reasons the President pressed for more competition, why Secretary Vilsack has been focused on this as one of his primary issues, one of the reasons we announced the food supply chain loan guarantee program.
Jen Psaki: (10:56)
And I would certainly say that over the course of the last several months, when people go to the grocery store and they’re trying to buy a pound, or two pounds, five pounds, however big their family is of meat, that’s an issue that has been impacting them nearly every single day. We also know that there are issues in the supply chain as it relates to housing and the cost of housing across the country. That’s one of the reasons the President has been so focused and the Supply Chain Task Force has been focused, and there’s money also in some of his proposals he signed into law to address that issue to reduce the cost of lumber and make sure that that is available so that new houses can be built and we can address the housing shortage and address housing prices.
Jen Psaki: (11:35)
So I would say for average people sitting at home, they’re not focused just on the port. Of course they are. They’re focused on getting their goods, but they’re focused on the cost of goods. They’re focused on how much meat costs. They’re focused on what their checkbook looks like and we’ve been working to address each of those issues in the supply chain from the beginning of this administration.
A lot of the remedies you guys have come up with are going to take some time to actually have an impact. I mean, expediting commercial driver licenses for truck drivers, getting ports to 24/7 hours, this is going to potentially take some time. Is there any consideration that the President would declare a national emergency, have the military help with this kind of thing, or get money from the National Defense Fund to try to help these companies that are now having to work overtime hours with labor shortages?
Jen Psaki: (12:28)
Well, we are continuing to press and look for ways that we can address the bottlenecks in the supply chain, and this is an important and vital step. We want to of course give the time to implement it, to your point, but we will continue to look for any additional steps we can take to ease the burden on families across the country.
And then if the President has also applied to this situation as a good reason to pass the bipartisan [inaudible 00:12:53] infrastructure bill, why then did he not push for a vote on that bill when he had a chance a couple of weeks ago so that this time could be truncated a little bit?
Jen Psaki: (13:04)
Well, because you need the majority of people in Congress to vote for something in order to sign it into law. And also because as it relates to addressing a range of issues in our economy, as much as wages are up and unemployment is down, we also recognize there are longer term issues we want to address including inflation. And that is something, well, it is going to come down next year, and those are the predictions, the build back better agenda, the President’s economic agenda will help bring that down. That is what 17 Nobel laureates have told us and have told all of you. So he wants his entire agenda passed and that’s what he thinks will be good for the economy long term, and you of course need the majority of votes in both congresses to get that done. Go ahead.
In sort of a summary of this, presidents get blame or credit for a whole range of things that they may not have direct control over. Is there a sense in the White House here that the president could be blamed for a frustrating holiday season or shopping season if these goods don’t flow? Is that an active concern that’s motivating some of these steps?
Jen Psaki: (14:04)
Well, I think, Kelly, what’s motivating some of these steps is the President wants to ensure the American people are able to order goods, they’re able to get toys delivered to their home, they’re able to go to the grocery store and be able to afford meat and any goods that they want. He understands and we all understand that daily costs, as much as wages have gone up, as much as unemployment has gone down, as much as a lot of progress has been made on the economy, he understands these are issues that are impacting people in their day-to-day lives. I also in response to an earlier question, we can’t over-promise here and I’m not going to do that from here because there are a lot of issues in the global supply chain. We knew that from the first day. That’s why he set up this task force. That’s why this has been a top priority and we’ve been attacking those issues one by one because we know they have different challenges and different solutions.
Any update yet on the President signing the debt ceiling legislation?
Jen Psaki: (14:59)
As soon as it comes to the White House, the President will sign it and we’ll keep you up to date. As you well know, but for others who may not be following us or have followed this as closely, it can take some time to process, but as soon as it gets here, we’ll sign it and we’ll let all of you know.
Speaker 3: (15:11)
Thanks, Jen. Can you tell us anything about the conversation with President Biden and Senator McConnell last week, what they spoke about, and also, could you clarify how many times they’ve spoken directly since he took office?
Jen Psaki: (15:22)
I’m just not going to detail that further from here. He has known Senator McConnell for a long time. He does believe there are areas they can agree and can work together and he’s going to continue to seek opportunities to do that.
Speaker 3: (15:36)
Also, today there’s some reporting today that Senator Sinema says she has directly communicated to the White House what she is and is not willing to do in these negotiations. Is that accurate, and if so, can you give us any sense of what your understanding is of where she is in particular on prescription drug prices?
Jen Psaki: (15:52)
We’ll let her speak to her position on that particular issue. I will note that lowering the cost of prescription drugs is something the President is deeply committed to and-
Jen Psaki: (16:02)
… president is deeply committed to, and the vast majority of the American people would like to see happen. It makes sense for Medicare to be able to negotiate the price of prescription drugs, that’s why he proposed it and put it in this package, but I’ll let her speak to her position.
Speaker 4: (16:15)
[crosstalk 00:16:15] direct contact with the White House on this, is that accurate?
Jen Psaki: (16:17)
We have, of course, we’ve been in consistent contact with Senator Sinema. From a high level, of course as you know, the president has spoken with her and met with her a number of times. She’s been in touch with senior members of our White House team. We’re working with her, we’re working with Senator Manchin, We’re working with a range of Democrats to move this legislation forward.
Jen Psaki: (16:35)
Speaker 4: (16:35)
Thank you. Reuters is reporting that the administration is in touch with oil and gas producers about how to bring down rising fuel costs. I was wondering if you could say which companies, and if you’ve asked them to increase production, and if so, how they responded.
Jen Psaki: (16:50)
I’m actually not aware of any contact with oil and gas companies around this particular issue.
Speaker 4: (16:56)
There’s other reporting that suggests that administration officials, including Secretary Granholm, Vilsack, and Blinken met last night to discuss rising fuel prices. I was wondered if you could confirm those names, and also, what are the options that they were discussing?
Jen Psaki: (17:12)
Well, we are very well aware, for a range of issues, and we should talk about those, that the American people are of course impacted by rising prices of gas in some parts of the country, not all, and also, looking ahead to the winter season and looking at natural gas supply out there. Maybe they don’t look at it exactly through that prism, but I would say we do. Of course, the president has asked his economic team, as they do on any range of issues impacting in the public, to continue to discuss what the options are that we can take to address these shortages.
Jen Psaki: (17:49)
Now, we know that some of the issue here is supply as a result of the pandemic. There’s a natural gas shortage around the world, hence, the need for the United States to continue to export natural gas. There are a range of, of course, options that we can look into to help address, but I’m not in a position yet to outline any additional steps we can take.
Speaker 4: (18:11)
Could you say if the administration has a preferred oil price per barrel?
Jen Psaki: (18:16)
I’m not going to outline that from here.
Jen Psaki: (18:19)
Speaker 5: (18:19)
Is there any concern in the White House of the embrace of the Fed’s use of transitory at best makes your job more complicated month-over-month to explain what’s going on with inflation, at worst could be misleading for folks who don’t necessarily get that transitory may mean in a year or longer?
Jen Psaki: (18:35)
Well, the way we view it is that it’s important to preserve the independence of the Federal Reserve and that can give the American people and the markets confidence in what their projections and their predictions are. That’s long been how these issues have been approached throughout history, and we think that’s important to continue that trend. Transitory, I guess I don’t have an assessment of how many people know exactly what that means or what that means to them. We know that what the Federal Reserve and Wall Street economists and others are projecting is that the rate of inflation will come down next year. What that means is that as people have seen an increase in some costs of goods over the course of the last year or so, as the economy’s turning back on, and as I would note we were turning from a period of time where the unemployment rate was high, people didn’t have a lot of excess money and wages to spend on goods, so naturally the demand has come up over the course of the last year, that that is the projection is it’s coming down.
Jen Psaki: (19:34)
I wouldn’t say it’s complicated it for us. We look at things over the long term and we know that if the American people, businesses, the markets, can rely on the independence of the Federal Reserve, that’s good for the economy and good for the integrity of that.
Speaker 5: (19:48)
I think to put a finer point on, I just mean that everyone was saying transitory in February and March, I understand the nuance and the economics of what’s going on.
Jen Psaki: (19:55)
Yes, I know you do.
Speaker 5: (19:56)
But when the deceleration is happening slower perhaps than people a few months ago and people are still paying 10 or 15 or 20% more for meat and they’re saying, “Why was it supposed to be transitory three months ago, four months ago, and we’re still here?” does that make things more difficult to explain as to why that’s the case?
Jen Psaki: (20:13)
Well, it requires us explaining, and through working with all of you as well, that the cost of meat is also related to a competition and the small number of large meat producers who have a dominance over the market, and the fact that a lot of these issues are not as simple as a one-sentence explanation, and that different industries have different issues in the supply chains, different issues that are causing some increases in prices, and also because we all understand the American people are not looking at cost-to-cost comparisons from this year to two years ago, they’re looking at cost-to-cost comparisons to their checkbooks from eight months ago or 12 months ago. Even though factually, if you look back to two years ago, things may be comparative, that’s not how people look at things. Our objective here is to tackle each of these issues with the approach that we think will help address it in the shortest term.
Speaker 5: (21:05)
Just one more on supply chains. To what degree is the work of the taskforce underscored just how limited the options may be for federal government dealing with, I think, global economic first time coming out of a once-in-a-century pandemic type of situation right now?
Jen Psaki: (21:20)
Well, I think there are some realities about an economy turning back on and moving from a period where there was low demand, where there was not the production of goods, even of a range of supplies the American people are looking for, that as it’s turning back on and as demand has increased as it did, that there would be ups and downs. That’s what we’re experiencing right now. Our hope and our intention is to continue to implement policies that will help address this over the long term and ensure that we can address inflation over the long term, which is exactly what the president’s agenda will do.
Speaker 6: (22:00)
Thanks, Jen. On the issue of wages, has the president given up on the idea of a $15 minimum wage or is that something he still intends to pursue, and if so, when?
Jen Psaki: (22:09)
Absolutely, he wants to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. He remains committed. As you know, it was in an earlier package and then was not approved by the parliamentarian, but it is something that he’s still absolutely committed to increasing. He thinks it’s long overdue.
Jen Psaki: (22:24)
Speaker 7: (22:25)
Thanks, Jen, I have two questions. The first is just on the rules around the employer mandates around vaccinations.
Jen Psaki: (22:35)
Sure. OSHA regulations?
Speaker 7: (22:37)
Yes, the OSHA regulations, sorry, getting to the White House today or yesterday and what’s next, how long you think it will take for the White House to review, since this is an emergency situation and has been framed as such, and then how long it would take to implement. What’s the timeframe for this actually happening now?
Jen Psaki: (22:58)
Sure. We don’t always typically pay attention to the OIRA process, which is understandable, but what’s happened right now is OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, they created these regulations. They’ve been working expeditiously to develop an emergency temporary standard that covers employers with a hundred or more employees, so that’s of course what you’re referring to, but just to get us up to speed here, to ensure workers undergo weekly testing or are fully vaccinated to protect employees.
Jen Psaki: (23:36)
As part of the regulatory review process, what happened yesterday is the agency submitted the initial text of the emergency temporary standard to the Office of Management and Budget. Now what happens is that it will be reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, OIRA, which is a division of the Office of Management and Budget that does regulatory reviews. We don’t, as a longstanding practice, comment on the timeline of how long that takes, because we want to allow that process to happen, but-
Jen Psaki: (24:03)
… takes because we want to allow that process to happen, but it should be an indication that it’s there and now it is being reviewed. Once it is finalized and through the [inaudible 00:24:11] process and review, it will be posted publicly in the federal register and you will all have access to every detail of it.
Speaker 7: (24:18)
One other question on a different subject. World Bank and IMF are having their annual meetings just down the street from here right now. There’s obviously a lot of questions around the leadership there. Does President Biden have confidence in the leadership of the IMF and the World Bank, given the questions about the integrity of each institution? Is he concerned about China’s growing influence of international financial institutions where the US is still the biggest contributor?
Jen Psaki: (24:49)
Well, I believe the treasury department did express concern about a report that was recently issued, so it certainly point you to that. Otherwise, the president does continues to have confidence. Go ahead.
Speaker 8: (25:00)
The president’s commission on a review of the Supreme Court’s suggestion of reforms is said to be wrapping up its work this week. Have the commissioner chairs presented their findings to the president yet? Has he had a chance to review them in advance of what we expect to be some sort of public report?
Jen Psaki: (25:13)
Right. Here’s where this stands. This is a day of processes in the government, and how fun. The commission will release the draft preliminary discussion materials tomorrow, which is their timeline or was their deadline and they will meet that timeline. These have not been submitted to the White House for edits or feedback, and their release will be followed by a public meeting of the commission on Friday. They will then form their final report and submit it to the president in mid November. That is the process that will transpire from here.
Jen Psaki: (25:45)
Like we’ve said previously, our objective here is to allow for this process made up of a diverse range of experts and voices to move forward and represent different viewpoints. We’re not going to comment on it or the president wouldn’t comment on it until a report is final and he has the chance to review it at that period of time.
Jen Psaki: (26:06)
If I may, let me just remind people of what they are looking at so that when you see this preliminary discussion materials release, you will know what you’re looking for. The commission on Supreme Court is a group of about 30 members representing a wide spectrum of different viewpoints. It’s mission was to evaluate a number of questions that have prompted calls for reform in a number of different areas. Importantly, it will analyze both arguments in favor and against such proposals.
Jen Psaki: (26:33)
The topics they’re examining include the origins of the reform debate, the court’s role in the constitutional system, the length of service and turnover of the justices on the court, the membership and size of the court and the courts case selection, rules, and practices. That’s what they’ll be looking at, which will be reflected in the preliminary discussion materials. Go ahead.
Speaker 9: (26:56)
Thank you so much. On these new land border crossing rules, what happens if fully vaccinated people present themselves for asylum at an official port of entry? Will they be allowed to ask for asylum and begin their immigration proceedings?
Jen Psaki: (27:09)
This is the Title 19 different from Title 42. Title 19 applies to individuals who have the proper documentation to come into the United States. It would be a different process and Title 42, as you know, remains in place.
Speaker 10: (27:24)
Kenyan president is meeting with President Biden tomorrow. They’re going to talk about the need to bring transparency and accountability to domestic and international financial systems, which is rich considering the revelations in the Pandora papers that the Kenyan president owned whole network of offshore companies. How do you square that with the fact that he’s kind of a poster boy for bad behavior?
Jen Psaki: (27:44)
The president has a range of meetings diplomatically with leaders where he has shared interests of the United States and their country, and may also have areas where there’s disagreement. The president has been quite vocal, as you all know, about the inequities in the international system, financial system, and also domestically. That’s part of his … Let me finish my answer. That’s why he’s proposed what he’s proposed domestically. He’s made no secret of that. Certainly that’s something he would convey as applicable, but that doesn’t mean you don’t meet with people you have disagreements on. His view on this has been quite clear and I don’t think he will hold back. But I would remind you, we have a range of interests in working with Kenya and working with them on issues in Africa and the region. That will be the primary focus of the meeting. Go ahead.
Thanks, Jen. [crosstalk 00:28:37].
Jen Psaki: (28:36)
Last one. Last one, Karen.
Thanks. The White House told governors yesterday to be ready in early November to start vaccinating kids ages five through 11. There was a poll in September from the Kaiser Family Foundation that said a third of parents are going to do this right away. 32% of parents said they wanted to wait and see. You guys have been doing this now for nine months to try and encourage adults to get vaccinated. What do you do the same to encourage parents to get their kids vaccinated and what has to be done differently given this unique age group? What are the concerns there?
Jen Psaki: (29:09)
Well, we certainly understand. You’re a parent. I’m a parent. Parents are going to want to go and ask their doctor questions, ask their pediatrician questions, better understand the safety, the efficacy of the vaccine. Yes, of course, it wouldn’t be available until it’s fully through the gold standard FDA approval process. But we know that. We understand that.
Jen Psaki: (29:29)
What we will be doing is of course, knock on wood, when this is approved, empowering local medical experts, pediatricians, doctors who can speak to this, who can answer questions as they have them, we’ll be encouraging people to speak to their doctors. I’m sure as we get closer, if we get to that point, we will have more to say about how we’ll be communicating with parents and meeting them where they are. Thanks everyone.