Oct 18, 2021

Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript October 18

Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript October 18
RevBlogTranscriptsJen Psaki White House Press Briefing TranscriptsPress Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript October 18

October 18, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Read the transcript of the full news briefing here.

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Jen Psaki: (07:53)
Hi everyone, good afternoon. Okay, I have a update for all of you on some of the President’s outreach and engagement as it relates to Build Back Better in his legislative agenda. He spent the weekend continuing his deep engagement on behalf of his economic growth agenda for the middle class speaking with members who were represent the full spectrum of views of Hill Democrats about the pathway forward on both his human infrastructure and physical infrastructure plans. He spoke, as I think some of you reported this morning, with representative Jayapal at the White House, and will have a number of additional conversations by phone with members of both chambers and who also run the gamut, in terms of their views as we proceed through the course of the afternoon. Tomorrow, he will host two different meetings with house members here at the White House, one with moderates and one with progressive members. We’re encouraged by the accelerated pace of talks and are eager to get this done, to meet the urgent needs of families who have been contending with high costs, outdated physical infrastructure, the increasingly devastating threat of climate change, and tax system that gives special treatment to the rich and corporations at the expense of middle class families, no matter how hard they work. As you also saw, we also announced this morning that on Wednesday, the President will travel to Scranton, Pennsylvania, going back home some might say, to continue to rally support for his bipartisan infrastructure deal and Build Back Better agenda. There continues to be strong broad agreement in Congress and among Americans of all stripes, political stripes, about the values at the core of the president’s agenda, ensuring our economy works for the middle class, not just those at the top. Alex, why don’t you kick us off.

Alex: (12:21)
Two foreign and one on nominations. To start, can you update us on the status of the U.S. and Canadian missionaries that were kidnapped in Haiti over the weekend? What’s been the U.S. involvement in tracking them down, has the president been briefed on this, and is there any update on sort of their status?

Jen Psaki : (12:38)
Sure. The president has been briefed and is receiving regular updates on what the state department and the FBI are doing to bring these individuals home safely. The FBI is part of a coordinated U.S. Government effort to get the U.S. citizens involved to safety. Due to operational considerations, we’re not going to go into too much detail on that but can confirm their engagement. And the U. S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is coordinating with local authorities and providing assistance to the families to resolve the situation. We can’t get into too many details, I should say, about the individuals and their identities because of privacy act waiver considerations.

Alex: (13:14)
And then can you comment on reports that China tested a Nuclear Capable Hypersonic missile over this summer to the surprise of U.S. officials. Are accurate, and do these raise concerns about China’s nuclear capability?

Jen Psaki : (13:27)
Well, I know Secretary Austin was asked this question this morning and addressed it, but I’m not going to comment on this specific report. I would echo what he said, which is generally speaking, we’ve made clear our concerns about the military capabilities that the PRC continues to pursue and we have been consistent in our approach with China. We welcome stiff competition, but we do not want that competition to veer into conflict, and that is certainly what we convey privately as well.

Alex: (13:57)
And then on nominees, the Biden Administration at this point has a smaller percentage of nominees confirmed than his recent predecessors.

Alex: (14:03)
… Has percentage of nominees confirmed than recent predecessors, what do you make of this who’s to blame? I mean, is this the fault of the Senate, or is this in part because you have been focused on the COVID response and the build back better agenda, and is there a concern that this will affect government at this point?

Jen Psaki : (14:18)
We are concerned about the obstruction of our nominees, and while we have made progress over the course of the last several months, back to the transition even, of putting forward qualified nominees to serve in key and vital positions across government, there have been unprecedented delays, obstruction, holds on qualified individuals from Republicans in the Senate. What is also true if you look historically, and we can get you some numbers on this after the briefing to give this to you in more data specifics, is that many of our nominees, a huge number of our nominees passed with overwhelming majorities of Democrats and Republicans. They can be voted through by unanimous consent. You don’t need to use all of the hours on the floor to get it done. Yet, there has been time after time obstruction that has prevented qualified nominees from being in vital positions whether it’s in the national security roles, in the Defense Department, the State Department where we’ve seen ambassadors held for weeks and months at times, or even our economic nominees who are unquestionably qualified but have been unable to move forward and serve in these positions.

Jen Psaki : (15:29)
So I would say that the blame is clear. It is frustrating. It is something that we wish would move forward more quickly, and there is historical precedent, of course, of moving these forward through a faster process. Go ahead.

Speaker 2: (15:42)
Thanks, Jen. I just want to see if you can elaborate a little bit on something you just said that you’re encouraged by the accelerated pace talks on infrastructure. What changed? Is there something that’s different now?

Jen Psaki : (15:53)
The President is certainly feeling an urgency to move things forward, to get things done. I think you’ve seen that urgency echoed by members on the Hill who agree that time is not unending here, and we are eager to move forward with a unified path to deliver for the American people.

Speaker 2: (16:09)
Does the sense of urgency have anything to do with the President’s trip coming up in just a matter of eight working days? Does he feel the need to get this wrapped before he leaves?

Jen Psaki : (16:18)
The good news is that there are phones and video conference capabilities overseas for every president and individual, so I’m not here to set new deadlines or timelines. But it is also true that we have been at this for some time. The President proposed these plans back in the spring. He has participated in dozens and dozens of calls, of meetings, of engagements with members to hear their viewpoints, to understand where they’re coming from, to reach consensus, and we are at a point where we feel an urgency to move things forward and the pickup of meetings is a reflection of that.

Speaker 2: (16:52)
Just quickly on voting rights, I just wanted to get your reaction to the President of the NAACP who’s on the record saying that the administration’s lack of urgency on this issue is “appalling.” He says, “The lack of priority on this issue will be the undoing of the legacy for this president.”

Jen Psaki : (17:08)
Well, I would say that the lack of urgency in Congress, in the Senate, among Republicans in protecting people’s fundamental right to vote is also frustrating to the President and to this administration. The United States Senate needs to act to protect the sacred right to vote which is under unrelenting assault. No question. We agree with leaders from the NAACP and other activists who have expressed that concern. It’s under unprecedented assault by proponents of the big lie and Republican legislatures, state legislatures across the country. It is urgent. Senate Democrats have been working hard to draft legislation that I would note includes traditionally bipartisan provisions, protecting people’s fundamental right, making it easier and more accessible to vote. I’d also note the President will be engaging with in a couple of calls, in addition to these build back better calls, with members which we’ll provide a readout to all of you on this afternoon, about the voting rights legislation that will be put forward.

Jen Psaki : (18:06)
But I would say that right now, the question for us, and I bet you we share this view with a number of civil rights leaders, is for Senate Republicans and what kind of leaders they want to be. Are they going to play a role in making it easier and more accessible to vote? Are they going to protect this fundamental right, or are they going to continue to be obstreperous, to use a word of the President has used in the past, and put Democrats in a position where there is no alternative but to find another path forward? So it’s really up to them. These are bipartisan proposals that have had bipartisan support. We’re talking about people’s fundamental rights. Go ahead.

Speaker 3: (18:39)
Does the President feel the need to mediate the current war words between Senators Manchin and Sanders we’ve seen play out?

Jen Psaki : (18:45)
To mediate the war of words. I would say the President has been in touch with both senators, not to mediate words, but to better understand the path forward and what are priorities to each of them, and he will continue to play that role.

Speaker 3: (19:01)
Then two quick ones on policy. Senator Manchin has been pretty clear about his position or opposition to a clean energy standard for a while now, publicly. Presumably that’s given your team time to try and figure out workarounds to that. Does the President still believes he can meet his emissions goals if a clean energy standard or CEPP is not in his final proposal?

Jen Psaki : (19:20)
Well, President Biden has been clear about what he supports, a hundred percent clean power by 2035 is a goal he committed to over a year ago as you all know. This is why I think you’re asking about it and he remains committed to it. The good news is there are a range of good ideas and proposals out there from members of Congress about how this legislation can help meet that goal. And there is no question in our minds. There is important debating right now happening about what the components of the climate proposals will be in these packages, that these packages will have a historic impact on addressing our climate crisis.

Jen Psaki : (19:57)
I’d also note, can I say one more thing? I’d also note that the President also has not waited for legislation. He has led the shift toward electric vehicles. There are components in these packages that also will help move that forward, phased out super pollutants like HFCs to greatly reduce emissions, made across government investments in clean energy like offshore, wind and solar, made historic commitments to use every lever at his disposal to advance environmental justice and spur economic opportunity. So it is absolutely pivotal that these pieces of legislation have climate components and they will to address the climate crisis, but he has also not waited for that. He’s also taken actions of his own accord.

Speaker 3: (20:33)
Then one more, one of the critical [inaudible 00:20:36] in the package is tax enforcement, and I know you’ve discussed this a couple of times the last couple of weeks. But given the scale of the ramp up we’ve seen from the banking industry in opposition to the proposal you’ve laid out, what’s the sense from the White House in terms of the pushback against that, or if they’re concerned about the future of that proposal?

Jen Psaki : (20:50)
Well, it should not be lost on anyone that the lattice opposition to these proposals and the biggest ad spending against them is from the biggest banks who simply do not want to be bothered by additional reporting on inflows and outflows. That should not be lost. We can certainly get you the numbers or it’s publicly available out there on how much money is being spent and how vocal this opposition is.

Jen Psaki : (21:13)
I would note that the top 1% is responsible for $163 billion a year in owed but unpaid taxes. So this proposal we’re talking about is about preventing high income individuals who are not typical wage earners, meaning they don’t get paid through standard payroll, W2’s. The vast, vast majority, I think it’s something like 97% of wage earners, are paying the taxes they owe. We’re not talking about that here. We’re talking about the highest income individuals, 1%, who are responsible for $163 billion a year in owed but unpaid taxes.

Jen Psaki : (21:47)
There are discussions, active discussions I would note, with Senator Wyden, others in Congress, about how to ensure this is absolutely targeted at those who evade tax obligations, including on the cap and potential exemptions. But let’s be clear what this is about. It’s about big banks deciding to protect wealthiest Americans that get away with not paying the taxes they owe by fighting this common sense solution and we want to be clear about that. Go ahead.

Andrea: (22:12)
I wanted to ask you about Moderna and the kind of [inaudible 00:22:16] that exists on production levels. What is the Biden administration doing to sort of lean on this company? Kessler has talked about using the tools that are available. Are you going to use the Defense Production Act, and how soon could that happen, and how quickly could that get production going?

Jen Psaki : (22:35)
I don’t have any new actions to preview for you, and I think what you were alluding to, but for others who didn’t see, Dr. Kessler did not mince words in his expression of what Moderna should be doing here which is sharing their know-how with other parts of the world in order to increase capacity and production, something that we definitely support. So the process of technology transfers, as you know, involves teaching another company how to make a vaccine that takes specialized scientists in transferring intellectual property. We absolutely want that to happen. But my understanding is also that the U.S. government does not have the ability to compel Moderna to take certain actions, but it is something we support, we want to happen, and Dr. Kessler has been quite vocal about it as well.

Andrea: (23:23)
Is the President going to get involved in this discussion in any way, in terms of maybe reaching out to the CEO? He’s had conversations with others CEOs, of course.

Jen Psaki : (23:30)
I don’t have anything to preview on that front. I think there had been some questions which is why mentioned that we don’t have the legal ability to compel. That doesn’t change regardless of who’s having the conversation. But certainly we have been pretty crystal clear about what we’d like to see happen here.

Andrea: (23:45)
Let me just follow up on that. The Defense Production Act does give you certain tools. Have you ruled out in using it in this case?

Jen Psaki : (23:52)
I’m not here to announce, preview, or rule out anything, but just to convey that our position continues to be that we would like to see them share their know-how to address this global pandemic.

Andrea: (24:04)
Can I just ask on the nominations question. You mentioned the economic nominees [crosstalk 00:24:08]. To what extent does it hurt you that you don’t have key treasury nominees in place to help you as you’re addressing these questions that we’re discussing now, in terms of the economic impact of the measures in the legislation?

Jen Psaki : (24:23)
You mean implementing measures when once they’re passed into law?

Andrea: (24:26)
Right. I mean, you don’t have the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs. There are certain people for policy, the sort of key policy makers at Treasury who would be advising Secretary Yellen are not in place. Does that hurt you in your effort to move forward?

Jen Psaki : (24:47)
Well, Andrea, I think there’s no question first that there are career employees in every agency, including the Department of Treasury, who have vast experience and play vital roles at this moment in time. It is also true that the preference of any president is to have the individuals they’ve nominated, qualified individuals who have unquestionable credentials serving in these roles. That is the preference that does make things easier, then that is what we would like to see moving forward. Go ahead.

Peter: (25:15)
Thank you, Jen. There is a mask requirement inside DC restaurants, yet President Biden and the First Lady were not wearing masks while walking around a DC restaurant on Saturday. Why?

Jen Psaki : (25:26)
Well, I think what you’re referring to is a photo of them walking out of a restaurant after they had eaten, masks in hand, where they had not yet put them back on yet. So I would say, of course there are moments when we all don’t put masks back on as quickly as we should, but I don’t think we should lose a forest through the trees here, and that our objective here is to get more people vaccinated, make sure that schools and companies around the country can put in place requirements to save more lives and keep people safer, and not overly focus on moments in time that don’t reflect overarching policy.

Peter: (26:02)
It was not just exiting the restaurant though. He was walking through the restaurant with no mask on. There is a carve-out for people under two or people who are actively eating or drinking, so I’m just curious why the President was doing this.

Jen Psaki : (26:14)
I think I just addressed it, Peter.

Peter: (26:16)
Okay. Why did the President break his promise not to enter into any decisions about what cases the Justice Department should bring and not bring?

Jen Psaki : (26:26)
How did he break his promise?

Peter: (26:27)
Well, he was asked if the DOJ should prosecute people who divide January 6th committee subpoenas, and he did not say, “I will let the Justice Department decide.” He said, “Yes.”

Jen Psaki : (26:37)
Well, let me reiterate, and I put out a statement also on Friday night on this, where I conveyed clearly that one, the President continues to believe that January 6th was one of the darkest days in our democracy. He also continues to believe that the Department of Justice has the purview and the independence to make decisions about prosecutions, and that continues to be his view and that it continues to be how he will govern.

Peter: (27:03)
You say that that is his view, but that is not what he said.

Jen Psaki : (27:06)
I just conveyed what his view is, and that is also how he has operated, how he has governed, and how he will continue to govern, and I think that’s what’s important for people to watch.

Peter: (27:15)
So then what’s changed since last year when he said, “I will not do what this President, former President Trump does, and use the Justice Department as my vehicle to insist that something happened.”

Jen Psaki : (27:24)
Well, since you’ve given me the opportunity here, former President Trump used his office to incite an insurrection. He put political pressure on senior DOJ officials to propagate lies about the election to the point where they threatened to resign in mass. I think there’s hardly a comparison there.

Peter: (27:39)
But he said, President Biden said, “The Justice Department and my administration will be totally independent of me,” and he said he would not enter into any decisions about what cases the agency would bring and not bring. How is that not exactly what he’s doing?

Jen Psaki : (27:52)
And he has not and he will not, and [crosstalk 00:27:54] criminal prosecutions are their [crosstalk 00:27:56] sole purview. Criminal prosecutions are the sole purview of the Department of Justice. That is the President’s position. That is what he-

Jen Psaki : (28:03)
Department of Justice. That is the President’s position. That is what he nominated the Attorney General to operate under. That is exactly what the Attorney General is doing, and those are the actions that people can watch from this administration.

Speaker 4: (28:13)
As the public reflects on the life of Colin Powell and his public service, people are also now aware that he had a breakthrough case of COVID, in addition to cancer and had some vulnerabilities. Because he was fully vaccinated and got COVID that took his life, any concerns about how that will be interpreted publicly, or how does that affect the message from the White House about the importance of vaccinations?

Jen Psaki : (28:39)
Well, as people saw in the statement issued by the President, very personal statement about his personal relationship, this is obviously a heartbreaking tragedy for the country, and one the President is feeling personally. There are extremely rare cases of deaths or hospitalizations among fully vaccinated individuals. That has been the case even before the death of Colin Powell, especially among older people over a certain age, and people who have underlying health issues, or people who are battling other diseases. That has been the case.

Jen Psaki : (29:14)
It is also the case, and this is important for people to know and understand out there who are concerned, that an unvaccinated person has a more than 10 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to a fully vaccinated person. So there is no question that vaccination, that taking precautions can save lives. And it is still true, and this raised that, certainly, the death of Colin Powell, that underlying health issues, fighting other diseases, is something that can lead to greater risk.

Speaker 4: (29:45)
And the administration, on the issue of the Texas abortion law, is seeking redress from the U.S. Supreme Court. Can you speak to that?

Jen Psaki : (29:52)
Well, as we’ve spoken to a few times, including in statements from the President, he continues to believe that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. He supports efforts to codify Roe v. Wade, and he is going to fight efforts. Obviously the Department of Justice will be in the lead on that, against efforts to prevent women from having access to fundamental rights that they should have to protect their own health and make decisions about their own health. Go ahead, [inaudible 00:30:17].

Speaker 5: (30:17)
Thank you, Jen. Just a couple follow ups-

Jen Psaki : (30:19)

Speaker 5: (30:20)
… and then a couple questions on Haiti. Is there anything that you can share about the President’s last interaction with General Powell, whether they spoke on the phone, in person?

Jen Psaki : (30:28)
Yeah, that’s a good question, [inaudible 00:30:29]. I should have asked that question. I haven’t, so let me see if I can get some more colorful a view on that.

Speaker 5: (30:34)
Thank you. And then to follow up on what Peter was asking, just to be clear, does the President believe people who defy subpoenas should be criminally prosecuted or not?

Jen Psaki : (30:46)
It’s up to the purview of the Department of Justice to make that decision.

Speaker 5: (30:49)
When he was asked that very question on Friday, he said yes. Does he stand by that answer?

Jen Psaki : (30:55)
He believes it’s an independent decision that should be made by the Department of Justice, and they’ll make that decision.

Speaker 5: (31:01)
And then on Haiti, is the President considering sending in the U.S. military to help rescue the Americans who were kidnapped?

Jen Psaki : (31:09)
I would really point you to the Department of Defense to speak to that, and to my colleague over there, John Kirby. But again, where our efforts right now are focused are with officials on the ground, including from the FBI, working closely with our diplomatic team and the U.S. Embassy in Port au Prince, who’s coordinating with local authorities, providing assistance to the families, and also working to get the U.S. citizens involved to safety. But I don’t have any additional details at this point.

Speaker 5: (31:36)
And then just given the kidnappings, will the administration reconsider using Title 42 specifically to deport Haitians?

Jen Psaki : (31:47)

Speaker 5: (31:48)
Given that it illustrates how dangerous the situation is there?

Jen Psaki : (31:52)
Well, I think there’s a couple of things to unpack here that are very important for people to understand. One, Title 42 is used… As you know, but just for everybody… across the board, no matter what country you’re coming from. There are about 90,000 people where Title 42 was applied in August. The vast, vast, vast overwhelming majority of those people were not from Haiti, but we applied Title 42 because we’re in the middle of a global pandemic across the board.

Jen Psaki : (32:19)
I would say that in this case, one thing to note is that we know that the efforts to kidnap people, to seek ransom, are prominent in places like Haiti. Not the only place, but they are targeted toward U.S. citizens, people who are presumed to have the funding and ability to pay those ransoms. That’s one of the reasons why we put out, the State Department put out a warning in August. It’s something we have seen rise since 2019. But that is a different issue than sending people of Haitian origin back to Haiti, and something that’s evaluated at TPS. It’s not what you asked about, but it’s something that’s evaluated by the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. Go ahead.

Speaker 6: (33:04)
Thanks. [inaudible 00:33:05] that Senator Manchin has kind of put out, which is that he wants to cap the Child Tax Credit to families making under $60,000 a year, and add a work requirement. I know that you’ve said previously that the White House is okay with some instances of these programs, that you don’t want to negotiate from the podium. That being said, this represents what would be a pretty dramatic scaling back of what’s been a signature part of the President’s legislative accomplishments so far, and something that he and the Vice President have touted pretty publicly. So, to echo Phil’s question on climate in some way, is this within the realm of possibility? How do you guys react to this, Senator Manchin kind of throwing down this marker?

Jen Psaki : (33:49)
Well, I’m not going to react directly to Senator Manchin’s point of view, because that’s not particularly advantageous at this point in the negotiations. But I will say the President proposed an extension in the Child Tax Credit because he feels that it’s something that can not only help families make end meets, it can help bring more women back into the workforce, and it is a vital part of his proposed packages. He has also in the past supported, and continues to be open to supporting, what can be called means testing or can be called caps on income, and there are a range being discussed, but I’m not going to speak to it further than that.

Speaker 6: (34:29)
OPEC failed to meet it’s output targets for September. You have sort of spoken about what [inaudible 00:34:37] the White House was able to get those enhanced production levels, and now we’re seeing that they’re not hitting them. I know that you’re not a member of OPEC, but we also know that-

Jen Psaki : (34:46)
Not me personally, and not the United States. Neither one.

Speaker 6: (34:48)
Neither. Unless you have vast oil reserves that we’re not aware of.

Jen Psaki : (34:52)
No. It would be a very interesting part of my bio. I’m not.

Speaker 6: (34:57)
But the U.S. obviously can exert sort of major influence here. So with having missed this mark, are you trying to do more? Can you do more?

Jen Psaki : (35:08)
We are continuing to press through member countries, member countries of OPEC, even as we are not a member, to address the supply issue, and work to address it here as well. I would also note that what we’re also working to address is more of a logistics issue of how we are moving supply around the country, which means there are shortages in some places and not others, and that’s something that we are also working to address. We are certainly well aware of the impact on any increase in gasoline prices, or any cost on the American people, and we’re going to continue to use every lever at our disposal. It is not a short term option, of course, but I’d also remind everyone that our NEC directors sent a letter to the FDC about looking into price gouging, something that we will continue to press. They’ve said they would take up, and they will of course be in the lead on that, but that’s something we also watch closely.

Speaker 6: (36:01)
Just a last quick one. Could you kind of flesh out the thinking during the President’s travel schedule? I mean, not to dismiss the great state of Connecticut, or even Scranton, a place that obviously holds some nostalgic value for the President. But it’s been pretty clear that the sticking points at this point are West Virginia and Arizona. We saw it play out with Bernie Sanders that Joe Manchin doesn’t necessarily like people coming into West Virginia and telling him what they think that he should do, but why doesn’t the President focus more of his attention on those states, particularly with his travels, and tries to make a case for [inaudible 00:36:34]?

Jen Psaki : (36:35)
Well, as you’ve watched the President’s travel, what he is trying to do, we are in a national media environment, I would say. We do have a press pool made up of many of you who come with us to Connecticut or Pennsylvania, who can raise and elevate the issues that the President is talking about, and why they’re of importance to the American people, and raise questions of course as you want to raise them. So the President had planned, of course, to go to recognize the incredible service of his longtime friend, former Senator Chris Dodd, and the opening of a center at the University of Connecticut, and also felt it was an opportunity to elevate the issue of childcare, and the issue of the shortage of childcare centers, the cost of childcare.

Jen Psaki : (37:19)
And that’s something, yes, that applies to people in Connecticut, where people are paying 25% of their income on childcare, a much higher percentage than people should be paying, but that is something that parents and communities can relate to across the country, whether or not it’s a swing state, or whether or not it’s a state where votes are questioned. And Pennsylvania is certainly a state, as you know, close to the President’s heart, but one where he has the opportunity to elevate some components of his Build Back Better agenda of the infrastructure package, to explain to the public why these are important issues he’s fighting for. So, I think it’s all through the prism of what’s most constructive, but we recognize people like what’s in there, they don’t know what’s in there, and he’s going to be out there doing more of it. Go ahead.

Speaker 7: (38:02)
Sort of a broad thematic question. You’ve spoken of the urgency the President feels toward his Build Back Better agenda and voting rights, the people in the country who believe that the administration is not strongly enough pushing for immigration reform. What’s this White House’s message to those people who are now directing their criticism toward the President directly, and saying he’s responsible for the fact that nine months in, we haven’t seen action on these matters? How does the President internalize that criticism? Does he feel it’s misdirected or not?

Jen Psaki : (38:32)
Well, look. The President knows that when you’re President of the United States and you’re sitting in the Oval Office behind the resolute desk, or whatever desk you choose, that the buck stops with you. He also knows, having served 36 years in the Senate, that you need partnership in Congress to get bills passed, and that’s the only way to make permanent change happen. So while he has taken action, executive actions in a lot of these areas to put in place positive change, whether it’s voting rights, whether it’s doing more to have a more humane immigration system, in order to have fundamental change that is going to make people’s lives better, that is going to fix broken systems, you need Congress to act. That’s how our system is set up historically. We’ve seen on immigration, of course, two attempts to move things through the parliamentarian. The President’s support in legislation has supported those efforts, and he’s going to continue to work with Congress to get that done.

Jen Psaki : (39:32)
And on voting rights, again I’d reiterate what I said a few minutes ago. The President is going to be engaged with Democrats and a range of members about the vote that’s happening this week. It is something he believes it’s a fundamental right, and his view is this question is really now on Republicans and what role they’re going to play in history. That’s what he would tell people.

Speaker 7: (39:50)
I guess my question is does he feel that the criticism of him is unfair?

Jen Psaki : (39:54)
I don’t think he has the luxury of analyzing the fairness or unfairness of criticism. Go ahead.

Speaker 8: (40:00)
Thanks. I know that we mentioned climate earlier, talked about climate earlier. I was wondering though, when it comes to the Clean Energy Performance Plan, if that is not in the Build Back Better plan reconciliation bill, if that is not in there, how can the U.S. meet the climate goals that the President has set out?

Jen Psaki : (40:23)
Well, I’m not going to speculate what’s in or out, as the negotiations are continuing. What I alluded to earlier is the fact that there are a range of climate ideas and proposals that are out there, both from what the President has proposed, and also other ideas proposed by members of Congress, Democrats in Congress, about how to help address the climate crisis. And there’s no question that whatever lands in the bill, it will have a historic impact in addressing the climate crisis. But I also touched on a number of the steps that he’s taken through his own executive actions and leadership to address the climate crisis, and we remain confident about our ability to meet the goal.

Speaker 8: (41:01)
I guess, so this White House feels like… And I understand you can’t say what’s in or out of the bill, but you feel like you can meet your climate goals without a clean energy plan for power. You feel like that is possible. Can you explain how that would be done?

Jen Psaki : (41:18)
Again, there’s a range of proposals out there. As these proposals move forward, we’ll continue to have a discussion about this. But we are confident that these packages will have an enormous impact in addressing the climate crisis. There are a range of ideas out there that have a great deal of support in Congress to do exactly that, and they’re also a range. But I’m not going to outline those from here while these negotiations are ongoing, but we remain confident in our ability to reach our goal.

Speaker 8: (41:45)
Can I ask you just quickly, when it comes to the idea of means testing, talking to a lot of experts on inequity and economic inequality, one of the concerns that they have with means testing is that you can lock in some of this inequality that the White House has said it is so concerned about, and that they feel like means testing really…

Speaker 8: (42:03)
… are concerned about, and that they feel like means testing really can lock out people who really need help, and really not allow the changes that this White House has said are needed. How does the White House respond to that, when people say that means testing is not the way to deal with these type of economic inequalities and inequities?

Jen Psaki : (42:21)
Well. Means testing, I think. Always has a bad connotation. And what we’re really talking about here is a cap on income. So we’re talking about targeting and focusing the President’s proposals, in some areas, on people who need help the most under a certain income, and not providing this aid, assistance, whatever it may be, to people who are in higher income brackets, who may not need that assistance. So it is actually about protecting, saving, ensuring that assistance, and that tax cuts and that a little bit more breathing room is given to the people who need it, and not the people who need it less.

Speaker 8: (42:59)
But does that put more administrative burden on how these programs are implemented, when you do means testing?

Jen Psaki : (43:04)
I’m not sure what you mean by that.

Speaker 8: (43:06)
The administrative burden, in that-

Jen Psaki : (43:07)
On whom?

Speaker 8: (43:07)
… In that you have to prove, people have to prove that they don’t make money, or that they don’t make enough money, or they have to prove that they’re working, et cetera. So that puts a burden on those people have to make those criteria.

Jen Psaki : (43:18)
Well, but we’re talking about people filing taxes, and it’s based on what their income is typically. That’s something they would already do.

Jen Psaki : (43:25)
They would benefit from a range of programs, as they already have, since the President took office, whether it’s the child tax credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, other proposals that we’re talking about, targeting it at the people who need help the most, not additional proof, but targeting it at certain income levels. Go ahead.

Speaker 9: (43:44)
All right. Thank you, Jen, just two quick questions. The first you had alluded a minute ago, to the press pool, traveling with the President of Connecticut, and later this week, Scranton.

Speaker 9: (43:53)
In a week and a half, he’s going to the Vatican. I wonder if the White House can commit to that meeting with the Pope, which is a historic meeting being public, or the press pool will have access to that.

Jen Psaki : (44:05)
Well, I would first say that when we visit another country, often it is the conditions of what that country or what that entity proposes. And we always work for more access, we always fight for more access as we travel around the world, as you know. In terms of the specific press access for the Vatican, I don’t have any updates for you on that.

Speaker 9: (44:27)
Okay. Secondly, there’s been a couple questions from my colleagues about Senator Manchin and markers that he has laid down, which he’s done publicly. Senator Sinema, who’s also a crucial person in this dialogue, has done all that-

Jen Psaki : (44:41)
All members are crucial.

Speaker 9: (44:42)
… Sure. She’s done a little bit less of that publicly. There’s been some consternation as to what her wishes and demands are in this. Does the White House have a good understanding of that? And if so, is it sharing that with Congressional Democrats?

Jen Psaki : (44:59)
There are a range of conversations happening behind the scenes. I’ll let these Senators outline their proposals, what they support and don’t support themselves.

Speaker 9: (45:07)
But on the White House side, do you guys know what she’s wanting, to be in or out Of the building?

Jen Psaki : (45:12)
Again, we’ll let them all speak for themselves. I’m not going to confirm or give more details from here on their positions.

Speaker 10: (45:17)
DHS announced that they’re bolstering their intelligence to better gather information, and to monitor and predict migrants coming from South America and Central America.

Speaker 10: (45:29)
Well, why is this happening now? And why wasn’t it in place already? So, I suspect that …

Jen Psaki : (45:34)
I’m not actually sure what you’re referring to. I’d have to dig into it further. Is it a specific program, or …

Speaker 10: (45:39)
Yeah, sure. NBC News reported earlier today that they’re building an intelligence gathering cell, which DHS has confirmed to me as well, that they’re doing, to help better monitor and predict migrants that are coming, that could help DHS get resources to the border if they see migrants coming. It could also help with messaging, to combat whatever messaging that is happening in that country, I guess.

Jen Psaki : (46:10)

Speaker 10: (46:10)
What spurred that? And what are the goals for that?

Jen Psaki : (46:13)
I think the Department of Homeland Security would really have all the details on this. I’m happy to check with them or connect you with the right person over there for more details, but it’s really under their purview.

Speaker 10: (46:22)
Okay, and one question, I guess.

Jen Psaki : (46:23)

Speaker 10: (46:23)
With this bolstering of intelligence, especially in South America, where we saw many of the Haitian migrants coming from, I guess, how does this affect the White House, the Biden administration’s goal to address root causes, which has been mostly focused in Central America?

Jen Psaki : (46:41)
Well, let me dig, let me get more details on this exact program. We can talk more about it tomorrow, or offline or what have you, and I can connect you to someone at DHS too.

Speaker 10: (46:49)
Okay, thank you.

Jen Psaki : (46:50)
Go ahead, Karen.

Karen: (46:51)
Thanks, Jen. The President was asked Friday night by ABC if he supported term limits for the Supreme Court, and he said no.

Karen: (46:57)
He has said that before, he talked about that during the campaign season, but that appears to be the area in that draft report, the materials last week that has agreement, bipartisan agreement. Why is he ruling that out now, before getting the final report in a couple weeks?

Jen Psaki : (47:14)
As you know, he hasn’t reviewed the final report, which, again, is an assessment. It’s not recommendations. Obviously, you all have seen the draft out there and there was a public meeting on Friday to discuss.

Jen Psaki : (47:26)
So I think it’s more reflection that his position hasn’t changed. He hasn’t reviewed the report yet. And I’m sure when he does, we’ll have more to say.

Karen: (47:33)
But if he’s indicating publicly now that he doesn’t support, he said, just no, a one-word answer, that he doesn’t support the proposal that does have the most widespread and bipartisan support, as stated by that committee. Is the takeaway now that any changes to the court are not likely to happen?

Jen Psaki : (47:48)
I think the takeaway should be he hasn’t reviewed the report or the assessment from the Supreme Court Committee, and that is consistent with what his position has been in the past. Go ahead.

Speaker 11: (47:58)
Thank you, Jen. Does the White House have any reaction to report of two airstrikes today on Tigray, not in Ethiopia?

Speaker 11: (48:06)
Also last week, the President received the first African leader at the White House, the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta. What were the major achievements, and who is the next African leader to visit the White House?

Jen Psaki : (48:19)
Well, I know the President enjoyed his meeting with President Kenyatta. We made a significant announcement as it relates to COVID vaccines that we were going to be donating to Africa, and the African Union, through the course of that meeting. I don’t have anything to preview in terms of a next meeting. Go ahead, Francesca.

Speaker 11: (48:36)
But do you have any reaction to the airstrike on Ethiopia?

Jen Psaki : (48:39)
I will get you something after the briefing. Go ahead.

Francesca: (48:41)
I have a couple for you.

Jen Psaki : (48:42)

Francesca: (48:42)
Another comment the President made on Friday was that he was convinced that the spending legislation was going to get done. But they’re not going to get the 3.5 trillion, we’ll get less than that, but we’re going to get it. Then he said, “And we’re going to come back and get the rest.”

Francesca: (48:57)
What did he mean by, “We’re going to come back and get the rest?” Does he mean another reconciliation bill next year? What did he mean by that?

Jen Psaki : (49:03)
He wasn’t predicting a legislative vehicle. I think what he was conveying is, we all know this is less than 3.5. There are discussions and negotiations in Congress about what that will look like, and things that are not included in here, he will continue to fight the future.

Francesca: (49:18)
Okay, and you mentioned a bunch of meetings that the President is having.

Jen Psaki : (49:22)

Francesca: (49:22)
Virtual, or calls …

Jen Psaki : (49:24)

Francesca: (49:24)
We saw him go up to Capitol Hill. Has he given any consideration to Terry McAuliffe recommendation, that he just sit, all the leading lawmakers in a room and say, “You can’t leave, until you get a deal done?”

Jen Psaki : (49:35)
The President’s been doing this awhile, 36 years in the Senate, with all respect for the recommendations of anyone outside. And he’s going to continue to work with Democratic leadership about having the kinds of meetings and engagements that will help move this across the finish line.

Speaker 11: (49:48)
Lastly, on his schedule, do you expect that he will campaign in Virginia for Terry McAuliffe before he leaves for Europe this month?

Jen Psaki : (49:55)
I don’t have any scheduling updates today. Go ahead.

Alex: (49:58)
Thanks, Jen, two questions. You’re on administration that said multiple times that its commitment to Taiwan in rock solid. Given this rock solid commitment, what does the President’s stance on letting the Taiwan mission here officially change its theme to the Taiwan Representative Office?

Jen Psaki : (50:11)
I would point you to the State Department.

Alex: (50:12)
Okay, just one more. Rahm Emanuel’s confirmation hearing to be the next US ambassador to Japan is Wednesday. If confirmed, what is the President hoping that Rahm Emanuel will bring to the table, when it comes to strengthening US-Japan ties?

Jen Psaki : (50:26)
I think he’s hoping that he will bring his commitment to public service, and broad experience in policy making, to have a strong position in Japan from the United States. Go ahead.

Speaker 12: (50:37)
[inaudible 00:50:37].

Speaker 13: (50:38)
You were asked earlier in the briefing about whether this urgency to get to a deal was driven by the President’s travel script schedule. I want to go at it from a different way.

Jen Psaki : (50:46)

Speaker 13: (50:46)
Because there is at least one real deadline, October 31st, as it relates to the Surface Transportation Bill, that’s been a sort of informal marker for leadership. Can you rule out that the President would cancel or postpone the trip, if there are votes scheduled around that time, in order to work the vote?

Jen Psaki : (51:04)
I think you can all fully plan for the President to be traveling to Rome and Glasgow on his scheduled trip.

Speaker 13: (51:10)
Has he given any direction to Congressional leadership, because he would want to be, presumably, here for a vote, to schedule any votes accordingly, to try to get it done before his departure, or to wait until afterwards?

Jen Psaki : (51:20)
There are a range of ways to sign legislation into law, even if the President is not here.

Speaker 14: (51:25)
Thank you, Jen.

Jen Psaki : (51:26)
Thanks, everyone.

Speaker 15: (51:26)
Thanks, Jen. Thank you much.

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