Oct 6, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript October 6
October 6, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Read the transcript of the full news briefing here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Jen Psaki: (00:04)
Okay. Just one item for all of you at the top tomorrow, the President will travel to Elk Grove Village, Illinois, a trip he had planned to do last week to meet with public and private sector leaders who have implemented vaccination requirements. The President will visit with a company local to the Chicago area that is imposing its vaccine requirement ahead of the OSHA rule. The President’s message will be clear: vaccination requirements, work, vaccination requirements get more people vaccinated, helping to end the pandemic and strengthen the economy. That’s why he’s leading on implementing vaccination requirements for a hundred million workers, 2/3 of all workers in the United States, and that’s why we’re seeing growing momentum for vaccination requirements across the sectors and across the country. Alex, go ahead.
Thanks Jen. I was hoping to get you to weigh on three different debt limit scenarios since there’s so many in development.
Jen Psaki: (00:53)
So off the top, Senator Mitch McConnell has proposed for Republicans to either support a short term hike in the debt limit through December, or to support a expedited reconciliation process where Democrats would vote to hike it long term. What’s the White House response to that? Is there support for either of those from the President? And then, I was hoping to get clarification on something the President said yesterday. He seemed to suggest that he would support a carve out in the filibuster if all else failed to hike the debt limit. Is that where he stands, would he be open to that?
Jen Psaki: (01:27)
Well right now, and perhaps this is the awkwardness of 4:15, while people are still meeting on the Hill, right now, democratic members are meeting on the Hill to discuss options on the path forward. I think Republican members may also be meeting, or discussing among themselves. My understanding, at the point I walked out here is that there’s been no formal offer, made a press release is not a formal offer. And regardless, even the scant details that have been reported, present more complicated, more difficult options than the one that is quite obvious in the President’s view and is in front of the faces of every member up on the Hill. We could get this done today. We don’t need to kick the can. We don’t need to go through a cumbersome process. That every day brings additional risks. So they’re discussing up there. We’ll obviously be in close touch with them as we will continue to be, and we’ll see where we, where we are at the end of today.
And then, one foreign policy question, just the White House have a position yet on the weaker force to Labor Prevention Act, which passed unanimously in the Senate? And just broadly in that same context, how do you respond to the criticism from the Senator Rubio, and some Republicans that the administration is sort of letting Beijing have some advantage on human rights abuses to try to over their cooperation on climate?
Jen Psaki: (02:45)
Well, we would absolutely dispute that notion. Unlike the former President, this President has spoken out against human rights abuses, has raised his concerns about human rights abuses directly with President Xi. And we have done that at every level from our National Security Team. In terms of the legislation, obviously we have spoken out about our concerns of human rights abuses in Shenzhen, and I would also note that the President also led an effort to have coordination on the international stage to address this issue, unlike for his predecessors. But I’d have to talk to our legislative team about specific views on the piece of legislation. I know I spoke to briefly last week, but I’ll come back to you with that. Go ahead, Steve.
[inaudible 00:03:29] reached a deal with the Chinese today for President Biden and President Xi to have a virtual summit before the end of the year. Do you see this happening around the June 20 Summit? And what’s the advantage of them seeing each other face to face?
Jen Psaki: (03:41)
Well, as I understand it, what came out of the discussions was an agreement to continue a dialogue at a very high level. So what we’ve said, of course, and we to continue to believe is that leader level engagement is an important part of our effort to responsibly manage the competition with China, especially given the coalescing of power in Chinese leadership, we’re still working through what that would look like, when, and of course the final details, so we don’t quite have them yet.
Secondly, the President indicated last night that he had spoken to President Xi about Taiwan. Was this in their more recent phone call, and what exactly did he tell him?
Jen Psaki: (04:22)
So you didn’t ask this, but some others have asked this. He did not have a new call that you’re not aware of. So just for full clarity on that. He has spoken with him twice as you know, and certainly, reiterating our position, which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, and our view that we need to uphold our commitment under the Act. That is what the President reiterated to President Xi last time he talked, and is something that is raised nearly every time he speaks at a leader level, and at other levels as well.
One last thing and sorry to prolonge; the Energy Secretary [inaudible 00:04:57] in a conference today did not rule out a ban on crude oil exports to keep us energy prices down. Is that something that’s seriously being looked at?
Jen Psaki: (05:07)
I would defer to the Energy Secretary, but I don’t have anything new to report on that, from internally in the White House. Go ahead.
Speaker 1: (05:14)
Hey Jen. So I understand that you’re obviously waiting for more details of this proposal from the Senate Minority Leader, but, would the President and accept a short term deal to raise the debt ceiling while you try and find a broader path out of this crisis?
Jen Psaki: (05:29)
Well, as I said a few minutes ago, we don’t need to kick the can, we don’t need to go through a cumbersome process, that every day brings additional risks. And you heard many of the business leaders convey that. Even as we look to risk tomorrow, the next day as the American people are looking at their retirement accounts, worrying about their social security savings, members of the military worrying about their payments. We don’t need to incur that risk uncertainty. And I think it’s important to also remember, we’re at this point because Republicans in Congress treated the savings accounts and retirement savings of the American people, social security checks of retirees, and veterans benefits like a game of monopoly, putting the stability and security of the American people at risk. We’re at this point, because Republicans in Congress blocked efforts by Democrats to raise the debt limit and protect the full faith in credit of the United States, despite having voted for it three times during the Trump administration. So obviously, as has been reported, the vote has been delayed, there’s still an opportunity for Republicans to join us, and being adults in the room, and ensure that people have confidence in the economic security, in their own retirement savings.
Speaker 1: (06:35)
Minority Leaders proposal, though, seems to go out one of the key arguments that the President was making yesterday about why he’s opposed to using budget reconciliation, which is that it would take time, it’s cumbersome, it could lead to unexpected scenarios. So, is the Minority Leader taking off the arguments against reconciliation by offering this one month extension? And if not, then what are your remaining objections? Is it simply that you don’t want Democrats to take a vote that will put a specific dollar amount?
Jen Psaki: (07:05)
Democrats are very willing to be the adults in the room and take a vote to raise the debt limit. They’re not even asking Republicans to do that anymore, since they’ve clearly shown their refusal to do exactly that. The point I’m making is that there is a very clear, the least risky option here that can ensure that there is confidence from the American people about their own checking accounts, about their own retirement savings. That’s something Republicans still have the opportunity to participate in and be a part of.
Speaker 1: (07:33)
And just on Afghanistan, if I could, the ISIS-K suicide bomber who carried out the attack that resulted in the deaths of 13 US service members and dozens more Afghans had been released from the [inaudible 00:07:44] prison at Bagram Airbase just days before that attack took place, when the Taliban took control of that base. Should the Biden administration have done more to secure Bagram, or transfer ISIS-K prisoners outside of that? And do you now accept that this would not have happened, had the United States retained control of Bagram?
Jen Psaki: (08:03)
Well, I can’t speak to the specific case; I’d leave it to the intelligence community to speak to that, so I’d point you to them. I’d remind you that as it relates to Bagram, there was a decision made to close Bagram, because it wasn’t strategically in the interests of the United States and our national security to keep it open with 5,000 troops there, protecting Bagram at a distance that was far away from the capital, and far away from where people from the embassy would be evacuated. So, that was the broad based decision. I understand you’re asking me a different question than that, but I just wanted to reiterate.
Speaker 1: (08:37)
Would he have made the same decision had he known that it would result in-
Jen Psaki: (08:40)
Again, I can’t speak to this particular report. I point you to the intelligence community. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (08:44)
Thanks Jen. Congress has passed countless short term government funding measures. They have funded the government for 48 hours before. Wouldn’t a short term debt ceiling hike be preferable to default?
Jen Psaki: (08:57)
The preference would be just getting this done today, so we can move on to more business for the American people. And that option is still on the table.
Speaker 2: (09:06)
But, the White House brought in all of these banking CEOs today to talk about how catastrophic it would be if the US were to default. Why not send the markets that assurance, if you have the opportunity, that at least for the next eight weeks, the debt ceiling is going to be secure?
Jen Psaki: (09:24)
Well, if we’re looking at the best options, why kick the can down the road a couple of more weeks? Why create an additional layer of uncertainty? Why not just get it done now? That’s what we’re continuing to press for, and that’s our first choice. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (09:40)
Thanks Jen. A week ago, the National School Board’s Association wrote to the President to say that their teachers feel like some parents protesting recently could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism, and then the Attorney General put the FBI on the case. So does the administration agree that parents upset about their kids’ curriculums could be considered domestic terrorists?
Jen Psaki: (10:02)
Well, let me unravel this a little bit, because the national school board association is not a part of the US government. I’d point you to them. What the Department of Justice said in a letter from the Attorney General is that, “Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values.” That is true. These were threats against public servants, threats against members of the school board. Regardless of the reasoning, threats and violence against public servants is illegal. That’s what he was conveying from the Department of Justice.
Speaker 3: (10:33)
But the Department of Justice does now have the FBI on this. Something that the School Board’s Association is asking for is for the administration to consider using the Patriot Act to investigate some of these school board protestors. So would the administration be okay with the FBI using the Patriot Act to surveil these parents, if that is what they decide?
Jen Psaki: (10:52)
I don’t speak on behalf of the National School Board Association, I speak on behalf of this government. The Attorney General can put out a letter, they will take actions they take, and I would point to them for more information.
Speaker 3: (11:05)
And something that you said on Monday after some protestors were hounding Kyrsten Sinema into a restroom. You said the President stands for the fundamental right of people to protest, to object and to criticize. So does the President support the fundamental right of these parents to protest at school board meetings?
Jen Psaki: (11:21)
Of course, but he doesn’t stand for the fundamental right, I assume you don’t either, for people to take a violent action against members of public servants. And that’s what the threats are about. And so, no, he doesn’t stand for that. No one should.
Speaker 3: (11:34)
John Carey says that after France was cut out of the Nuclear Submarine Deal, and they were upset enough about being left in the dark that they pulled their ambassador. He went to the President and quote, “The President literally had not been aware of what had transpired.” So what else are you guys not telling the President?
Jen Psaki: (11:52)
Of course, he was aware of the French being upset. [crosstalk 00:11:56] Let me finish, I know John Carey quite well, he, of course, was aware, the President, of the French-
Jen Psaki: (12:03)
He of course was aware, the president, of the French being displeased about the deal with the Australians. John Kerry also speaks regularly to the French as a part of his role as the climate Envoy. He’s someone who also served as Secretary of State. He’s someone, I alone traveled to France with him 25 times. He of course conveyed to the president what his read was of what they were specifically unhappy about and how to help address it.
Peter Ducey: (12:28)
You said this president’s first love is foreign policy, so why doesn’t he know about these things in real time?
Jen Psaki: (12:35)
Of course he knew about the French being displeased about [crosstalk 00:12:39], let me finish-
Peter Ducey: (12:40)
Literally had not been [crosstalk 00:12:41].
Jen Psaki: (12:41)
Peter, I would encourage you to ask John Kerry specifically about the context of his comments. The president and the former secretary are also good friends. He relies on his counsel as he does of many members of his National Security team, but that certainly is not what he was intending to [crosstalk 00:12:57] convey. Go ahead.
Speaker 4: (12:58)
Let me ask you quickly. Yesterday the president said that he would to be speaking with Mitch McConnell as it related to the debt limit. Has that conversation happened and what did he tell him?
Jen Psaki: (13:08)
They have not spoken. I think what the president has repeatedly conveyed is that he’s certainly open to, as he has shown throughout the course of his presidency, having conversations with Democrats and Republicans, when he feels it would be constructive.
Speaker 4: (13:21)
You said they will be speaking. So you were saying he was saying they will at some point [crosstalk 00:13:26]-
Jen Psaki: (13:25)
At some point, if it’s constructive in moving things forward.
Speaker 4: (13:29)
[crosstalk 00:13:29] Does the president trust Mitch McConnell to be an honest broker in this process?
Jen Psaki: (13:33)
I don’t think this is about trust. This is about he has known him a long time, but this is about whether you’re going to be a leader and take steps that are not based on political calculations and more based on what’s in the interest of the United States and the full faith and credit of the United States.
Speaker 4: (13:50)
The president discussed that there was a possibility of a filibuster, a carve out as it related to the debt ceiling. If that were the case, would the president be open to a filibuster carve out for voting rights? Where does that line got drawn for the president?
Jen Psaki: (14:03)
The president was just simply conveying that there are a range of options that leaders on the hill are discussing. I think you all have reported that or your colleagues on the hill have, nothing more than that. We’ll be in touch with them and we’ll see what the next best options look like. But what is very clear is that there is an easy, risk free option here that Republicans could allow Democrats to vote to raise the debt ceiling. We could be done with this today.
Speaker 4: (14:28)
Can I just follow really quick? Why wouldn’t the president, given that relationship he has with Mitch McConnell, just call Mitch McConnell and have this conversation with him. Why do this through public [crosstalk 00:14:35]?
Jen Psaki: (14:35)
What’s the conversation about?
Speaker 4: (14:38)
I don’t know. They have the relationship. He’s the one who said he could bring the two sides together. So wouldn’t there be some value in having that conversation [crosstalk 00:14:43]-
Jen Psaki: (14:43)
We know what the risk-free option is here. We know what the clear path forward is here. I think the president has made no secret about his belief on that. Go ahead.
Speaker 5: (14:52)
Has the president had time to absorb the criticism of the Fed Chairman, and then specifically, what does the White House believe should happen, fed policy, about investments made by top officials there?
Jen Psaki: (15:05)
Well, we obviously leave the independence of the Fed to an independent Fed, Federal Reserve, and I’m not going to speak to that from here. The president’s confident in the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and beyond that, I don’t have any personal announcements for you.
Speaker 5: (15:18)
Given that confidence and also given what you just said, I mean, how close is he to making a decision on that?
Jen Psaki: (15:24)
I don’t have anything to preview for you at this point.
Speaker 5: (15:27)
Yesterday, the president said he would sign a reconciliation bill that included the Hyde Amendment. You told us earlier this week that he remains opposed to that. So is he backtracking on a campaign promise, something that’s a lot of his supporters believe strongly in?
Jen Psaki: (15:44)
Well, the president’s position hasn’t changed. The context of his comments were that there’s still a negotiation happening. There’s a range of views. His view remains what is reflected in his budget which he released in may, which shows that getting rid of the Hyde Amendment was a priority. That remains his position. This is a package that’s still being negotiated and he said as much last night as well. Go ahead.
Speaker 6: (16:10)
Just confirming what you told Peter, the president, when he signaled yesterday that it’s possible that the Senate could change its rules, that we should not read that as him expressing support for that notion.
Jen Psaki: (16:18)
The president was simply reporting out what you already have reported out, which is that there are a range of options being discussed on Capitol Hill.
Speaker 6: (16:25)
I want to ask you separately. The ambassador designate to India was seen reportedly at an event in Los Angeles last week, an art gallery event, that featured the art work of the president’s son Hunter. The ethicists who have pointed to this arrangement have expressed concern that the president’s son selling art could potentially put the president in a situation where those who seek jobs, either in this administration or favors from this administration, could put this White House in an awkward position. First of all, what is the White House’s response to the fact that an ambassador nominee was at this event, and secondly, should we expect to see more people who seek jobs in this administration attending events like this in the future?
Jen Psaki: (17:13)
Well, to be clear, we’ve spoken to the arrangement that is run by the gallerist and Hunter Biden’s representatives that the White House provided suggestions for. I’d refer to the gallerist for questions about the event as the representatives of Mr. Garcetti, in terms of his attendance. [crosstalk 00:17:34]
Speaker 6: (17:34)
Just to follow up, this is exactly what ethicists said they were worried.
Jen Psaki: (17:37)
What is specifically?
Speaker 6: (17:39)
The fact that the president’s son-
Jen Psaki: (17:40)
That he reportedly attended an event?
Speaker 6: (17:42)
Well, that the president’s son would be selling artwork and then meeting potentially with people who would seek to buy it. If you have attendees at that event who might be seeking either jobs in this administration or favors from this administration, isn’t it an awkward situation to put the president in?
Jen Psaki: (17:57)
Again, the gallerist has spoken to, we’ve spoken to the specifics what the gallerist has agreed to, and what recommendations were made. I’ve done that several times. I don’t have additional details for it from here. I point you to them. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (18:09)
So does this White House not have any concerns about the photos that have emerged showing Hunter Biden at that gallery alongside perspective buyers?
Jen Psaki: (18:17)
I point you to the gallerist on specifics of the restrictions that were put in place.
Speaker 7: (18:22)
Great. But what about the position of this White House? This is a president who ran on being transparent and you’ve got-
Jen Psaki: (18:28)
And we [crosstalk 00:18:29] were very transparent about what recommendations were made to the gallerist, and I would again, point you to them or the many times I’ve spoken about that from here.
Speaker 7: (18:36)
Just to clarify, has the president’s position on doing away with the filibuster changed?
Jen Psaki: (18:42)
No, it has not changed. Go ahead.
Speaker 8: (18:44)
Thanks, Jen. The administration reportedly will invest $1 billion into making rapid testing COVID kits available, but there are concerns that the tests will be too expensive. I think a lot of Americans are wondering is there a universe where these available tests will be free or affordable or at least less expensive than $25 a pop?
Jen Psaki: (19:05)
Yeah. So there’s no question to your point that there has been a huge increase in an interest in testing and getting tests and making them and people going out and being able to get them easily. We announced a $2 billion investment in September. So right now we’re on track to double the number of rapid at-home tests on the market by early November, and we’re also now on track to triple the number of rapid at-home tests on the market, and thanks to the approval of ACON, sorry, this Monday, which accelerates the pace we’re now on track to triple the number, triple the number, not double. I apologize.
Jen Psaki: (19:40)
So right now with these investments, we’ll be at 200 million tests per month starting in December with tens of millions more coming on the market in coming weeks. We’re also working to ensure that these tests, in addition to making them more available, so you go to CVS or Walmart or wherever to get them, we’ve been working hard to make sure they are accessible and available in pharmacies, and community centers, in schools, so we’re also working to do that simultaneously and separate from that. We recognize there’s a need. We recognize we needed to do more and we are pleased by the fact that we are now on track to not only triple by November, but also quadruple by December.
Speaker 8: (20:21)
And then there was a school shooting in Texas today. The school safety group, every town says that this year has been the most dangerous back to school period for students since they began tracking the data in 2013, that some 30 instances of gunfire on school grounds since August 1st and today’s shooting means that number is out of date. Is the administration discussing ways that schools can keep children safe from school violence from gun violence [inaudible 00:20:47]?
Jen Psaki: (20:48)
Absolutely. I mean, one, I would say the president has been an advocate for doing more for gun safety measures through the course of his career. Not only did he fight to get the Brady Bill passed, he fought for the assault weapons ban. It remains a cause of his public life in office. We of course are frustrated by the inability to get common sense gun reforms through Congress. We should be able to get universal background checks approved. They’re supported by the vast majority of the public, as are assault weapons bans. But in addition to that, we also have taken a number of steps both by working through the Department of Justice, to increase our Strikeforce teams that are going out to specific communities and cities to help address violence. A lot of that is driven by gun violence. That’s something that we’ve been implementing from there, and of course our Department of Education is engaged in this effort as well. Go ahead.
Speaker 9: (21:42)
Thanks, Jen. Yesterday’s hearing by a Facebook whistleblower underscored several major issues with the company, including as long as many senators pointed out, issues with Section 230. On the campaign trail, Biden said that Section 230 should “immediately be revoked” and that it should be revoked because “Facebook is not just an internet company, it is propagating falsehoods they know to be false.” Does the White House stand by that assessment to the Section 230 given the recommendations?
Jen Psaki: (22:05)
Well, the president has long said as you referenced that tech platforms must be held accountable for the harms that they cause and he has been a strong supporter of fundamental reforms to achieve that goal. This includes Section 230 reforms. It also includes privacy and antitrust reforms as well as more transparency that should also be on the table, and he looks forward to working with Congress on these bipartisan issues. He’s also called, I would note because there are a number, a range of issues that were raised during the whistleblower’s testimony yesterday, on the FTC to adopt rules to address unfair data collection and surveillance practice, practices in his executive order on promoting competition in the American economy. So yes, more needs to be done. Reforms should happen. We also need to do more on privacy and antitrust, and certainly watching testimony yesterday, raise a lot of those issues again for people. Go ahead.
Speaker 10: (22:55)
Thanks Jen. Does the president have any intent of speaking with Senators Manchin or Sinema at all this week?
Jen Psaki: (23:01)
I can’t predict for you day by day. We have been in touch with Senator Manchin and Sinema at a senior staff level and certainly I wouldn’t rule it out.
Speaker 10: (23:10)
I wanted to ask a follow up question on an earlier question about the Hyde Amendment. The president has not been shy about his opposition in recent years to the Hyde Amendment. As you mentioned, he made that clear in his budget blueprint. He made that clear as a candidate when he was running for president. So can you explain why it is he’s saying that he would sign this bill either way, with without this language?
Jen Psaki: (23:31)
He’s reflecting that it’s a negotiation. It’s ongoing. We don’t know what the final product will look like. Go ahead.
Speaker 11: (23:38)
Jen, can I ask a little bit about energy prices? Gas prices in the U.S. are fairly high. We’re seeing exceptionally high prices of certain energy products into Europe right now. Is the U.S. domestically considering a release from the SPR to break down oil prices at this time?
Jen Psaki: (23:53)
I’m not going to make any prediction of that from here. I would note that we have seen, as you said, some ticks up in parts of the country, also as of-
Jen Psaki: (24:03)
… some ticks up in parts of the country, also as a follow-up to Hurricane Ida, because the hurricane hit a region that is a key center of the nation’s oil production and refining infrastructure. So that’s something we’ve been working to focus on, and we took actions in the days and weeks following to help address that, including, at the time, authorizing several million barrels of this strategic petroleum reserve exchanges. We’ve also taken steps including engaging with members of OPEC. We’ve also taken steps to reach out to the FTC to ensure they are using every available tool to monitor the US gasoline market and address any illegal conduct. But I’m not going to make any other predictions at this point in time. We’re continuously monitoring. We’ll look to take additional steps as needed.
Speaker 12: (24:45)
Are you or would you consider restricting LNG exports to, I guess, head off the type of shortages and price spikes that we’re seeing in parts of Europe?
Jen Psaki: (24:54)
I’m just not going to make any additional policy predictions at this point in time.
Speaker 12: (24:59)
Overall, these are fundamentally price crunches on non-renewable sources of fuel, and we’re heading into COP Summit here. Do you worry that this could impact the pledges that countries are willing to make? Will other governments get weak-kneed about going green at a time when they’re facing brewings or political crises at home over really skyrocketing prices of non-renewable fuel sources?
Jen Psaki: (25:23)
We certainly hope not. I think what COP26 is about is to continue the conversation on the international stage at the leader level that has been going on below the leader level, continuously basically, about our need to work together to address the climate crisis. One of the greatest national security crises, the presidencies, a number of other world leaders agree on that front. Certainly we all want to keep gasoline prices low, but the threat of the crisis, the climate crisis, certainly can’t wait any longer. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Speaker 13: (25:58)
Thanks very much. You sound pretty lukewarm about the McConnell idea. If the Democratic caucus were to get behind it, is it a given that the President will get onboard?
Jen Psaki: (26:09)
We’ll see where things are. This is an ever-moving news cycle.
Speaker 13: (26:13)
Because as we speak, there seems to be some positive vibes there regarding this, whereas you’re giving [crosstalk 00:26:20].
Jen Psaki: (26:20)
I would say actually, in my read of it, there is a diversity of views in the Democratic caucus, as is to be expected. And they’re meeting now. We’ll be in close touch with them, so I just don’t want to get ahead of that process. Go ahead.
Speaker 14: (26:34)
I know we’re still a few weeks away from the G20, but I wanted to see if the President would be open to meeting with Putin again at the G20. And does he feel like his last meeting with Putin was effective? Does the President feel like he’s seen any change in Russia or Putin’s behavior since then?
Jen Psaki: (26:48)
Well, I don’t have any predictions for you on the bilateral meetings. That’s something that we’re still working through at this point in time, every day. And in terms of how constructive his meeting was with President Putin, as he said at the time, we didn’t expect it to be a light switch where all of a sudden everything would be hunky-dory in the relationship. It’s not. We have remaining concerns. But it was an opportunity to express them at a high level, see what work could be done over the course of the long-term to address it. So I don’t know that we’re going to do a month-by-month assessment. It’s something that we have continued conversations with members of the national security team about many of the issues were raised. Those are ongoing. We’re continuing to strive to make progress.
Speaker 14: (27:31)
Do you have any update on Afghanistan and how many Americans are still there? And does the President feel the Taliban’s cooperating still with efforts to get those remaining Americans out?
Jen Psaki: (27:41)
We remain, through appropriate channels, of course, in touch with Taliban officials. In terms of the specific numbers, I’d point you to the State Department, and they have the most updated number on that, given they oversee that process. Go ahead.
Speaker 15: (27:54)
There’s been some reporting that Senate Democrats are claimed to exempt the short-term debt limit increase. So given that we now have some reporting on that, can you just give us some guidance on what the White House thinks about that idea?
Jen Psaki: (28:05)
Not yet. I have to dig further into that reporting, not to question it, and talk to the team here about where things stand. And as far as when I came out here, they were still meeting. But we’ll venture to get back to you as soon as we have something more concrete to convey.
All right. Thanks, Jen. When the President was talking today about Republicans and the debt ceiling, he said, “If they don’t want to do the job, just get out of the way. We’ll take the heat. We’ll do it.” When he says, “We’ll take the heat,” what did he mean by that? What political risk is he acknowledging there for Democrats?
Jen Psaki: (28:35)
Well, I think one of the reasons we’re at this point is because Republicans in Congress would rather bet on a misleading and inaccurate campaign season talking point. We’re not betting that that’s going to work, but his point, the President’s point, is regardless, we’re willing. Democrats are willing to vote alone, without any Republican votes, to raise the debt ceiling. You just need to allow us to proceed with that vote.
And on the testing question that had come up with the rapid tests, this $1 billion investment will quadruple the tests by December, in addition to everything else from the past couple of weeks. But why has it taken so long to get this rapid testing to this point where it will be by December when Europe is flooded with rapid tests? Is it the authorization process and the timeline on that, or is it on the production side, or both?
Jen Psaki: (29:24)
Well, one of the things we’ve been working on is to increase production, as you know, and also increase … I would say that the demand for these tests here has increased a lot in the last several weeks. So we’re also working to meet that and ensure that we are meeting the moment here in the United States. In terms of the specific mechanics, I would encourage you to ask the COVID team that question.
Speaker 14: (29:43)
Are we missing the moment though by … The demand has gone up in recent weeks because kids have gone back to school. Should this have been ready for back-to-school so that you could go to a CVS or any of the pharmacies or government sites and get these?
Jen Psaki: (29:54)
Again, we just announced last month an enormous investment. We’re quadrupling availability by December, tripling by November. I think that is speaking to how seriously we take this and how we’re working to ensure there are accessible, cost-effective tests out there and available to the public. Go ahead.
Speaker 16: (30:12)
What plans does the White House have to address the risk of oil spills from existing platforms, existing leases that are still operating?
Jen Psaki: (30:21)
You mean like the one that happened in California?
Speaker 16: (30:23)
Jen Psaki: (30:24)
I would really point you to the Department of Energy for specifics there.
Speaker 16: (30:28)
[crosstalk 00:30:28] policies on stopping future leases, possibly things like that. But this is an ongoing threat that happens as offshore drilling continues. Is there interest in investing in the infrastructure of the pipeline to enhance for safety, shutting them down? What are your thoughts on that?
Jen Psaki: (30:43)
Well, again, as we’ve seen, and there’s been an ongoing investigation about what exactly was the root cause here. So I don’t want to speak to that as that’s been ongoing, but beyond that, I would point to the Department of Energy.
Speaker 16: (30:54)
Two very quick things on the spill. Does the White House have a working theory on what caused the spill? And secondly, you would update on resources as they dispatch to respond to this.
Jen Psaki: (31:03)
Sure. I think I do have an update on federal resources. Let me see. On the leak, just so I don’t forget to answer this part, it’s still under investigation. As you may know, the oil has stopped leaking. The pipeline has been removed from service. In terms of our government efforts, 4,788 gallons of oil have been recovered. And 11,360 feet of containment boom has been deployed. As of yesterday, six miles of shoreline have been cleaned. 328 response personnel with additional assets are on the way, have been deployed. As we said earlier this week, the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration investigators are on the ground in the Unified Incident Command Center. On Monday, we also issued a corrective action order to the operator mandating immediate corrective action, including performing a root cause failure analysis, integrity assessment, and remedial work plan. Beyond that, unified command, of course, who are on the ground would have any additional steps we’re taking that are up-to-date. Go ahead, April.
Jen, we see there are crisis moments. Everything is in crisis mode here, but there are other issues that are percolating as well that some feel are at crisis levels, black agenda issues. The vice president just had the heads of Divine Nine in a meeting. Frank, good, direct discussion, we were told, about issues, particularly voting rights. What is the President expecting when it comes to dealing with the black agenda, particularly with those that have this small window like voting rights and also the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act? What is he expected to do? What is he planning on committing to make sure these things happen?
Jen Psaki: (32:46)
He wants to get both done. He wants to sign them into law. As you know, and you’ve told me in the past, the black agenda is bigger than voting rights and bigger than the George Floyd Police and Justice Act. Both are hugely important. The President has committed to getting them both done. He wants to sign them into law. We need Congress to move forward on both to get that done.
The black agenda is huge. It’s vast. But in this moment, there’s a small window of time before elections happen. And the concern is that this president is not doing enough. He has not armed the vice-president or helped her to be able to fight the fight for these things.
Jen Psaki: (33:22)
I would say the vice-president is more than capable of fighting the fight in the lead on this particular issue and any issue.
So how has-
Jen Psaki: (33:29)
The vice-president of the United States, pretty powerful.
Right. But the argument is that the President is not supporting her with the tools that she needs.
Jen Psaki: (33:37)
Which tools is he not providing to her?
[crosstalk 00:33:40] filibuster for voting rights. And that’s in her portfolio. You have one of her friends and a Democrat strategist, Bakari Sellers, who says her portfolio is trash because he’s not supporting her in the way that she needs to be supported for this to pass. So what do you say? Can he, will he, shall he push for the filibuster for voting rights, even if he’s doing it, thinking about it for the debt ceiling?
Jen Psaki: (34:04)
Well, that’s not exactly what I conveyed earlier, but I will say that the President has conveyed many times that getting voting rights done, signing it into law, is top of his agenda. The vice-president, one of the most powerful people in the world, is leading this effort. She is his partner. She’s the first in the room, the last in the room, and he’s going to continue to work by her side to get it done. But beyond that and the legislative process and how that will work, I don’t have any update on that front. Go ahead.
Speaker 17: (34:32)
Sticking on voting rights, with S4 being introduced in the Senate, the President has over and over talked about the pathways that voting rights legislation could take. The same thing that he … Apparently yesterday, you said he was alluding to when he said real possibility, we’re talking about what could possibly happen on the hill. He’s never talked about voting rights with any real possibility of a filibuster. And there’s a real frustration, some people got arrested just yesterday, among activists on the voting rights issue. So other than where we’re frustrated, we stand with you, what do you have to say to activists who are saying this White House, the President isn’t doing enough on voting rights specifically?
Jen Psaki: (35:11)
I think that was just the question I just answered. No?
We’re trying to get an answer from you. It’s a legitimate question. We’re trying to-
Jen Psaki: (35:18)
I’m not saying it’s not. I’m not saying it’s not. I would say that the President is also frustrated that voting rights has not been done. He’s also frustrated that Republicans are so afraid of making reforms that would make it easier for people to vote that they have blocked this effort. And he is frustrated that, despite everything that’s happened around the country, there isn’t more of a movement to get this done. I don’t mean by activists. Certainly there’s a movement there. In Congress. What he was speaking to yesterday was the fact that there is live conversations right now about a range of options on the debt limit. He was not speaking to anything beyond that. And that’s what is happening on Capitol Hill in this particular moment. That’s it. And so-
Jen Psaki: (36:03)
… on Capitol Hill in this particular moment. That’s it. And so, I would convey to activists that he is absolutely committed. He wants to get this done. He wants to sign it into law. The Vice President just had meetings today on it. She is in the lead on this effort, as one of the most powerful people in this country, maybe even in the world, leading this effort.
Journalist 1: (36:19)
[inaudible 00:36:19] I mean, he’s the president. So, when I talk to activists, they say, “You’re the president. If you’re frustrated, do something.” So, I guess that what we’re-
Jen Psaki: (36:28)
Congress is a separate body.
Journalist 1: (36:31)
Jen Psaki: (36:32)
It’s a separate body. You need 50 votes to change the filibuster. You also need the majority of votes to pass legislation into law. He has made clear that he wants voting rights to be passed into law. He will continue to advocate publicly, privately, and continue to be a partner to the Vice President. He absolutely feels this is essential and we need to get it done. Go ahead, Patsy.
Thank you, Jen, I want to follow up on Taiwan. Administration officials, including yourself I believe on Monday, and Secretary Blinken today essentially have issued warning to China, urging China to stop its military activities in Taiwan. However, China has ignored that and, in fact, it has dialed up, sending even more military jets. So, what does that say about the probability of US deterrence on this issue?
Jen Psaki: (37:18)
I think the Secretary of State spoke to this earlier. I don’t think I have anything more to add to what he said.
Can I just follow up?
Jen Psaki: (37:22)
How concerned are you that these recent activities might actually escalate and then draw the US into some sort of great power war with China? And so, what are you doing to maintain tensions beyond kind of ad hoc meetings, like the Zurich meeting that Jake Sullivan-
Jen Psaki: (37:37)
I wouldn’t call a meeting with our National Security Advisor and his counterpart an ad hoc meeting. Obviously, we raised our concerns through a range of channels. The State Department also put out a public statement, a proactive statement, on this, which is not something they do frequently. And the Secretary of State spoke to it today.
Do you have regular meetings to make sure that things like this don’t escalate into something bigger?
Jen Psaki: (37:59)
Of course, we do, as you well know. Go ahead.
Journalist 2: (38:01)
I have another debt ceiling question, but zooming much farther out. Earlier today, Jamie Dimon suggested getting rid of the debt ceiling altogether so that this scenario would not happen again. Secretary Yellen seemed to lend her support to that idea of getting rid of the debt ceiling altogether in the past. Has she spoken with the president about that idea? And does he have a position on sort of the larger question of whether or not it should or shouldn’t be abolished?
Jen Psaki: (38:30)
Right now, our focus is on raising the debt ceiling and the limited amount of time we have left to do that and do it without impacting the retirement savings accounts, the social security, and the economic security of millions of Americans. There’s plenty of time to have a conversation after that.
Journalist 2: (38:46)
Quick. Follow-up. You were asked about the Uyghur anti-slave [crosstalk 00:38:52] bill.
Jen Psaki: (38:52)
Yeah. You asked me about it last week too, or the week before. I don’t remember. Yeah.
Journalist 2: (38:55)
Yeah. You noted several times that the President has put out statements and sanctions as well. Does this administration… does the President feel that there’s anyone in his administration that is opposed to this kind of bi-partisan legislation?
Jen Psaki: (39:11)
I think it’s all about taking a look at the legislation and figuring out if it’s something we’d support moving forward, every component of it. And I’ll check and see if we have a statement of administration policy on it.
Journalist 2: (39:22)
But you don’t know if anyone in the administration who currently opposes this?
Jen Psaki: (39:25)
Again, we’re not talking about whether or not we think the treatment of the Uyghurs is outrageous. It is. We’ve all said that. We’re talking about a piece of legislation that has several components, and so I just want to make sure I go through the proper process with that. Go ahead.
[inaudible 00:39:42]. I was just wanting to talk to you about food shortages real quick. I’m not sure if you were looking here, but I just wanted to say that on food shortages, we’re seeing in schools the supply chain is kinked and affecting school lunches to the degree that kids are having bread, but meat with no bread to make sandwiches, for example. And grocery stores, ahead of the holidays, are limiting the amount of food that you can actually purchase. So, in regard to the debt ceiling talks, if the Senate votes no, ahead of Thanksgiving, ahead of Christmas, and the coming holiday season, if they say no, what will that mean in the big picture for this nation and food shortages and other product delinquencies?
Jen Psaki: (40:32)
Well, look. I would say, I just want to make sure we’re sending a clear message here about what the impacts of different things are. I know that’s why you asked the question. You’d have to get me more information about how broadly the school issue you’re referencing is. I have not heard that from the Department of Education. It doesn’t mean that it is not the case in certain schools, but if you have more information on that-
I do. [crosstalk 00:40:56].
Jen Psaki: (40:56)
… come share that with me. I would say that we know that unless Congress acts to raise the debt limit, what we’re talking about here is people’s retirement savings, their social security benefits, their economic security being at risk. That could mean all sorts of things, to your point, about people’s economic security, especially people who are at or below the poverty line or above the poverty line. And we’re seeing the impact on markets across the country. We don’t want that to be the case, of course. That’s why we’re working to prevent this from happening.
Jen Psaki: (41:33)
I would say in terms of the cost of meat and the cost of goods, we think there’s a range of issues here. You referenced the supply chain. Another issue is the fact that there’s not enough competition among big meat producers. It’s something Secretary Vilsack spoke to when he was here just a few weeks ago and something our Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice also are working to take steps to address. Go ahead.
Speaker 18: (41:58)
Thank you, Jen.
Real quick. One more on the shots. We do have an approval for Flowflex, I believe is the name of the rapid results test. And we were expecting today to hear more information about that. But I’ve written about this. And the New York Times is saying that one of the problems even, in going to places like CVS to get a test, is in some places you can’t even buy a rapid results test. And being that school is in session and that we are going to be having more events, for example-
Jen Psaki: (42:32)
So, Mona, that’s exactly why we just announced a $2 billion investment that’s going to quadruple the number of tests that are available at schools, community centers, and also to purchase at home.
[crosstalk 00:42:42] I’m talking about-
Jen Psaki: (42:44)
It’s starting to happen now. Go ahead.
Journalist 3: (42:45)
Thank you, Jen. Just to follow up on John Kerry’s comments.
Jen Psaki: (42:48)
Journalist 3: (42:49)
You mentioned that he was, of course, aware of the displeasure after the deal was announced. Was he not aware of something before the deal was announced? Was he not aware that the French were [inaudible 00:43:00]? Was he not aware of the French deal on conventional submarines?
Jen Psaki: (43:05)
Look, I think right now, what our focus is on is moving forward. As you know and as President Macron spoke to, they’re going to be meeting next month. We’re working to finalize the details of that. As you saw, our National Security Advisor and members of our national security team have met with their counterparts or high-level officials in recent weeks. So, at this point, what our focus is on is how we work with the French moving forward.
Thank you, Jen.
Jen Psaki: (43:29)
Speaker 18: (43:31)