Jul 30, 2021
Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre White House Press Conference Transcript July 30
July 30, 2021 press conference with White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Karine Jean-Pierre: (00:00)
Fire season and ongoing efforts to strengthen prevention, preparedness and response activities. This was a follow-up to the meeting the President convened last month with Cabinet officials, governors from Western states and private sector partners. During today’s event, the President highlighted the heroism of our firefighters who undertake dangerous work to keep Americans safe, and he discussed the actions his administration is taking to improve emergency preparedness and keep Americans safe.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (00:33)
The President and the Vice President then received an update from the governors about the situation on the ground. They discussed what their administration can do to support state and local response efforts, and ensure the federal government’s response is as quick and effective as possible. Driven by extreme heat, prolonged drought and the changing climate as well as decades of forest management decisions, the 2021 wildfire season continues to outpace the devastating 2021 season in terms of large fires to date. Already this year, FEMA has approved 20 fire management assistant grants to help states pay for the cost of fighting these fires. The President has been receiving regular reports on how wildfires are impacting communities across the country, and he will continue to closely monitor the severity of this situation.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (01:32)
Cuba, on Cuba meeting today that the President’s having, since the historic protest we witnessed in Cuba on July 11th, the President has been watching the events closely, as we have stated before. He’s made clear that Cuba is led by a failed and repressive regime, and that communism is a universally failed ideology. That’s why from the start, the President has said that addressing this moment was a priority for the administration. We have said many times that Cuban-Americans are the best ambassadors for freedom and prosperity in Cuba. As part of that, today, the President will host Cuban-American leaders at The White House to discuss the demonstrations and the administration’s response. In addition, we also announced yesterday that the president is nominating Cuban-American Frank Mora, to be the next us ambassador to the Organization of American States, a vital forum where we have and will continue to regularly urge the countries of the hemisphere to support the fundamental freedoms of the Cuban people.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (02:41)
And I know you love these. This is our vaccination update. They’re so great. We’re always happy to share them with you. So today, we recorded over half a million new shots in arms, the highest number since 1st of July And the average number of people getting their first shots each day is up 30% over the past week alone. And this is the third week that states with the highest cases have the highest vaccination rates. Every day, Americans are making the choice to get vaccinated. This is an encouraging sign, but we need everyone across the country to have the conversation with someone they know who is unvaccinated about getting the shot. This is how we will stop the spread of the Delta variant, and as we all know, save lives.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (03:32)
Finally, I have a quick preview of the week ahead for all of you. The next week, this next coming week, the President will continue engaging with members of Congress to pass the bipartisan infrastructure deal, which will deliver historic infrastructure investments that will drive economic growth and create good paying middle-class jobs. Also next week, the President will meet with Dr. Eric Lander, his science advisor, and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy about his plan for preparing for future pandemics. On Tuesday, the President will deliver remarks on the administration’s progress delivering vaccines to the world to fight this pandemic globally. On Friday, we will deliver remarks on the jobs report. As you all know, it’s the first Friday of the month. And lastly, President Biden will then travel to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where he will remain over the weekend. Alex, please take it away.
Sure. [inaudible 00:04:36] So I have a couple of quick questions on Congress. First, the eviction moratorium, lawmmakers are scrambling to find a legislative solution, but you said today that you’d like to see the [inaudible 00:04:52] extended. I know you all have cited this important decision and we’ve been progressing to a deal with it, but why not just extend it and have that legal fight and give Congress a little more room to work.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (05:04)
As we’ve stated, Alex, and to your point about Pelosi, the Supreme Court said that it could only be extended with congressional authorization. That was their decision. That’s how they were able to strike it down and that’s what they said needed to happen. And so this bill that Pelosi is asking for, this would meet that requirement if successful. So this is important. It’s incredibly important to move forward. And so the administration is working, is going to work together with leaders in Congress on potential avenues to extend the eviction moratorium to protect these vulnerable renters and their families. We understand how critical that is, how important that is. It has been a lifeline to so many, so many Americans here. So this is a public health concern, as you can imagine, that we think should be supported by both Republicans and Democrats. So we support the Speaker’s effort and we will do everything that we can to move this forward.
On voting rights, can you tell us any more information about how the President’s meeting with [inaudible 00:06:09]?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (06:08)
Absolutely. Oh I’m so sorry.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (06:12)
So as you stated, the President and the Vice President are hosting Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer at The White House today, later this afternoon, and they’re doing this because they want to make sure that they continue having the conversation on protecting the sacred right to vote because it’s such incredibly, it’s an incredible priority for them. The President and the Speaker, Leader Schumer are regularly in touch about this, but they wanted to have this meeting in person to talk about the next step. This is both personal to the President, as we’ve talked about many times, having fought for voting rights his entire life. He spoke about it in Pennsylvania not too long ago, just a couple of weeks ago. And he’s going to just continue having those conversations.
One more, on the CDC document that was just leaked, the Washington Post obtained the CDC PowerPoint that suggested the situation surrounding the Delta variant is more dire than the administration has characterized it. I wanted to read a few quotes from it. It said that given higher chances of current vaccination coverage, universal masking is essential to reduce transmission with the Delta variant, “Delta variant breakthrough infections maybe as transmissible as unvaccinated cases. Risk of infection is reduced threefold in the vaccinated population.” And so President Biden has repeated over and over that this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated like this PowerPoint [inaudible 00:07:46] about that. He’s also promised to level with the American people. So his comments yesterday, was he being completely upfront about the challenge with the Delta variant? This PowerPoint would suggest it’s a little bit more dire than he laid it out to be. And why wasn’t that made public? Why didn’t it have to be to the public? And then lastly, I mean, why aren’t we seeing universal recommendations for universal masking? Why is it just in areas of high transition when the CDC seems to be suggesting universal masking?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (08:21)
Okay, Alex, that was a lot. No, I appreciatetThe question. It’s actually a very important question and we need to, and I’m happy to address all of them. So since May, just wanted to step back a little bit, since May, the CDC and the administration have been crystal clear about the increased risk of the Delta variant in our pandemic response. And so I just want to run through a couple of examples, because this is such an important moment that we’re in, in fighting this pandemic. So in May, out of the concern of the spread of Delta, we restricted travel to India, where it was growing. That is that we did in May. And so as you know, that was many months ago at this point or a couple months ago at this point. In the month of June, doctors from the admin blitzed local constituency and national media with over 400 media interviews with a clear message. Delta is a serious threat and getting vaccinated is the clear solution.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (09:16)
So that was in the month of June, for the month of June. Throughout June, the President, Jeff Zients and our medical experts spoke dozens of times to the threat that Delta poses. On July 4th, the President made clear that COVID-19 “has not been vanquished and Delta is a powerful variant.” This is what the President said on July 4th. And in light of recent reporting, it is worth noting that Dr. Wilensky said eight days ago that the Delta variant is the most infectious respiratory disease she has seen in the last 20 years, her 20 years of her career. Our message has always been clear throughout. We need more people to get vaccinated, to stop the spread of this variant. And so we have to continue to make that effort. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people infected with Delta have higher viral loads, meaning more virus in their body than with previous variants.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (10:17)
The last two did not have that. And so this is what we’re seeing in the Delta. High viral loads mean you are more likely to spread it. So in the rare occasions that vaccinated people get Delta in a breakthrough infection, they may be contagious. And this is what we heard from CDC this week. And so the most important takeaway, and I want to be really clear about this, because this is critical for all of you who report about this and for those who are watching, we should have, the takeaway is we should have from this guidance and any follow up reporting is actually pretty simple. We need more people to get vaccinated. That’s the answer. We need more people to get vaccinated. That’s if we want to stop the spread of this variant and avoid mutations, we can. So we just need to get more people vaccinated. And the good news is that the vaccines work. So we got to get out there and make sure people get vaccinated.
Karine, the President said for the early months of this administration, that those who are vaccinated and wearing masks and doing all those steps could look toward the 4th of July as that independence opportunity. We now know the CDC is basing some of this new science on a 4th of July party that happened in Massachusetts, where the Delta variant was predominant. We saw the vaccinated people were passing it and so forth. Does this give the President pause about making recommendations about what the public can do? Because he encouraged people who were vaccinated to gather on the 4th of July. A group that did so is now sort of a poster example for the CDC of what can happen with this variant.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (11:53)
You know, Kelly, the President has always said he’s going to follow the science and he’s going to listen to public health experts. That’s what we do. That’s why we are all-
Karine Jean-Pierre: (12:02)
Experts, that’s what we do, right? That’s why we are all following the CDC guidance on masking. And, so that’s our north star, as we have, Jen has said earlier this week. Look, the job of all of us in this room is to communicate the truth about where we are in the pandemic and, this is the something the president has said from day one, and also highlight how we can get out of this pandemic. So, the vaccines work, that’s the truth. We know masks work. That’s the truth. They save lives and prevent spread of this dangerous Delta variant. So, we need to help in communicating the actions we are telling the American people to take and getting vaccinated and wearing a mask. If you’re in an area where there’s lots of virus circulating, it’s more contagious, you have to wear a mask.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (12:47)
I know I have one more question that I actually didn’t get to for Alex, that I want to make sure that I answer. Which is just before the CDC release more data publicly or this data. So, just wanted to say that the CDCs first and foremost priority is getting the American people information as quickly as possible. And so that’s what they did on Tuesday. They got it as quickly as they can. They’re going to be releasing this data today, as you know, and it was clear that vaccinated people have the ability to Tran transmit and an action needed to be taken quickly. And that’s why they did it. They did it ahead of releasing the data. And they’re going to do that today, as I just mentioned.
Part of this is also in terms of getting information out. Why are the doctors not here in the briefing room to take our questions? Why have we not had a COVID briefing? When we got some update from Dr. Lewinski, that was a phone briefing provides information. But, the public is eager to know more about what the Delta variant can do.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (13:43)
You know what Kelly, I would argue that we had the President of the United States speak to this yesterday. He gave a more than 30 minutes speech about where we are as a country. I mean, he is a trusted voice. He’s the leader of our country.
But he’s not a scientist.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (14:00)
No, but we heard from him, right? We heard from the President yesterday, we heard from the President about the Delta variant and vaccinations in general. The day before yesterday, when he was in Pennsylvania, when he was supposed to talk about Buy American, which he did, but he led off talking about the vaccinations. We have had our doctors on your networks, on many of the networks that are here talking, probably all of them talking about the Delta variant all throughout these last couple of days. So they have been out there, they have been talking about it. And yeah, we heard from directly for Dr. Lewinski herself.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (14:35)
So, this is something that we’re going to continue to do. We’re going to continue to make sure that we communicate directly with the American people and also work hand in hand with local governments and state governments as well.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (14:47)
Speaker 1: (14:48)
Thank you. Just to follow up on all of that, that you mentioned, the CDCs data that was released on Tuesday. I think the question is why doesn’t that guidance match the internal memos guidance? Because, on Tuesday they updated the mask guidance to say you only have to wear it in places that have high or moderate transmissibility. The internal memo that was leaked says, “Given higher transmissibility and current coverage, vaccine coverage, universal masking is essential to reduce transmission.” So, one why don’t the recommendations match? And two should the American public anticipate updated guidance that includes universal masking and also new guidance about large gatherings and how many people should gather given what we are seeing from Provincetown?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (15:42)
As you know Weiza, we do not make those types of decisions from here. And when it comes to the science, when it comes to guidance, that that comes from CDC. So, the questions that you just asked me, I refer you to CDC about those slides and what you saw in the slide specifically that comes from them. And, they will have that specific kind of information for you that you’re trying to get here.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (16:09)
I will say though, I think the most important thing, and I don’t want to get away from this because this is, what’s the most critical thing here is that people need to get vaccinated. That’s the answer. If we want to make sure that we curb this pandemic, that we curb the COVID-19. That we fight. That we win this fight that we’re in. We have to get people vaccinated. That’s why the president calls this a pandemic for the unvaccinated. We have to make sure that we take care of each other and that they not just take care of themselves, but take care of each other. And, we’re talking about our kids who are 12 and under who can’t get vaccinated for talking about our grandparents, right? We’re talking about older people in our lives that we want to make sure are taken care of. And so that is, if anything, that should be one of the main reasons people get vaccinated to make sure they take care of their families and their community.
Speaker 1: (17:02)
Has the White House reviewed the CDCs internal memo and slides?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (17:04)
I don’t have anything to say about that. I could look into that.
The analogies are helpful to understand that the Delta variant is as contagious as chicken pox or more contagious than the common cold or Ebola. Are these things that they’re going to present to the public to help us understand?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (17:23)
The data’s being released today, I believe, right? Right? Right? So, it’ll be available. It’s being released today.
Speaker 1: (17:32)
And, one more, just follow up on Kelly. Of all the weeks not to have a COVID briefing, why this week?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (17:38)
I mean, I know that’s the question you all are asking me, but they, the doctors have been on national television all week speaking to this. Answering the questions on your networks. So, they’ve been out there talking about. They’re not hiding. They’re actually having the conversations with anchors and hosts and answering the hard questions about the Delta variant. About the CDC masking. And so they’ve been out there. They’re not hiding, they’re actually speaking to this almost every day.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (18:08)
So, and we heard from the president of the United States yesterday, for more than 30 minute speech that many of you were in. So.
Speaker 1: (18:17)
Speaker 2: (18:18)
Thank you. Building off of your point, the vaccines work, then why is the President asking vaccinated people to mask up? If there’ve been just 0.0035% of the 161 million fully vaccinated Americans who have had breakthrough case.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (18:37)
Let me give you the facts about the Delta variant and maybe this’ll help, Peter. It spreads more than twice as easily from one person to another. And, it’s spreading rapidly. It is really just across the country. And that is just the fact. Two months ago, only 1% of COVID in the US were Delta. Now, more than 80% are Delta. And, so this is where we are today with this vaccine and we are listening to the experts, the CDC guidance, and this is what they are telling us.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (19:08)
If you live in an area that is highly contagious, and that has high levels, they are saying they are saying, giving the guidance of wearing a mask to protect yourself and to protect your community and your family. That is the guidance that we’re getting.
Speaker 2: (19:25)
And, some the preliminary stuff we’ve seen from the CDC says this new guidance for vaccinated people to mask up is based on data from people who got sick, partying in Provincetown, massachusetts has the white house seen any proof that COVID is spreading. Vaccinated people are spreading COVID who are not going to big parties.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (19:44)
Here’s what we know. And, I just going to repeat again, we need to get people vaccinated. That is really the answer here. That is what we’re seeing from… that’s what we’re hearing from CDC. That’s what we’re even seeing from these slides is that people need to get vaccinated. That is how we fight the Delta variant. That is how we fight COVID.
Speaker 2: (20:03)
And then last one, the President said yesterday, it is still a question whether the federal government can mandate the whole country to get vaccinated. He said, “I don’t know that yet.” Does that mean he has asked the Justice Department to see if it’s legal.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (20:18)
Speaker 2: (20:19)
To make everybody get a vaccine?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (20:20)
Okay. So, when he said that about the mandate across the country, I would encourage you to read his statement and make sure you read the contents of his remarks. So, a national vaccine requirement is not under consideration at this time. That’s where we are with that.
Speaker 2: (20:37)
But, has he asked the Justice Department to see if it’s even possible?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (20:42)
I don’t have any more to add to that.
Speaker 1: (20:45)
Karine Jean-Pierre: (20:45)
A lot of questions, I would say about the super spreader event in Provincetown. More than 800 cases, but 74% of people there are fully vaccinated. So, doesn’t that at least suggest that maybe breakthrough cases aren’t rare?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (20:59)
But, that’s not what the data shows us. That’s not what we’ve gotten from CDC. We know that it is the breakthroughs that do happen with vaccinated people are rare. And so right now, what the CDC has told us is because they do know that there are some breakthrough cases we have to make sure we’re masked. And so again, we just have to continue to make sure people get vaccinated. That is the answer. That’s how we got to move forward. And, that’s what we’re focused on here at the White House.
So we’re supposed to see that as more of a one-off event?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (21:31)
Karine Jean-Pierre: (21:33)
What I’m saying is that, what we’re focused on our message is very, very clear is that we want to make sure that people get vaccinated. That is, yes, that is one event, but what the CDC guidance tells us is that the breakthroughs have been rare. This is what the public health officials have said. Like, yes, there are breakthroughs, but they have been rare. But the problem is that it is now contagious, right? And, so that’s why they’re asking us to wear a mask.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (22:01)
Where before with the last two variants that we’ve seen it, we weren’t seeing that we weren’t seeing vaccinated people pass that along. And, so now that has changed with the Delta variant. That is how serious this variant is. That’s why our message continues to be, please get vaccinated.
On the eviction moratorium Speaker Pelosi in her statement said that only 3 billion out of an allocated 46.5 billion has actually gone out the door. So, what is the administration doing to help get more money out the door faster?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (22:30)
Yeah. So that’s a good question because that shouldn’t be happening, right? We are aware that the monies are taking some time from… It’s already out in the states, sometime getting to where the folks who really needed the rental, direct renters and lawmakers. So, what we have done these past couple of days is we made an announcement last week that $1.5 billion of that ERA went out in the month of June. And that was the most that we saw in the last five months.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (23:01)
And so we continue to work to make sure that people are being made aware that this is in existence. Look, this shouldn’t be happening. States should be making sure that these monies are getting out as quickly as possible. And so we, and just this week, we had a day of action to promote the availability of the rental assistance, which reached tens of millions of Americans last week. The treasury released new data, which I just mentioned with the 1.5 billion. And then, so what we know is that these funds can continue to be dispersed to renters and landlords until 2025. And, so these emergency rental assistance are so critical. They’re so important. And so we’re making sure that we continue to work with local governments to get that out.
Yeah. I think people are applying, where we’ve heard tens of thousands of people have applied. They’re just waiting for the funds to be disbursed.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (23:54)
Yeah. I hear you. And that’s why we’re encouraging the states to get that out as soon as possible they have it. They need to get that out.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (24:01)
Yep. Got you.
Speaker 2: (24:02)
Karine Jean-Pierre: (24:02)
Get that out. Yep, go ahead, Joe.
Karine, given the seriousness of the Delta variant, are there conversations in the White House or between the White House and scientific advisors about more lockdowns, partial lockdowns, or anything along those lines?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (24:16)
So that is something that, I know this was asked to me yesterday. The way we see this is that we have the tools in our tool belt to fight this variant, to fight this vaccine. And we are not, we are not going to head towards a lockdown. We want to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can, because after passing the historic Rescue Plan, we have the resources to make sure that doesn’t happen. So our role, again, is to make sure that we get people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Look, these vaccines are free. They’re easy to get, they’re never been easier to get vaccinated. So, that is the number one thing that we’re trying to do, is making that happen. We have the resources to do that, that’s what we’ve been able to do this past six months. We’ve been able to get more than 160 million people fully vaccinated, 80% of that are people who are over the age of 65. And so, that’s what we’re going to continue to do, and so our goal is to make sure that we are not headed towards that. That is not going to be the direction that we take, because we have the tools to prevent that.
You said yesterday that the new requirements for federal workers could be an example for other employers. Can you just explain, will federal employees’ data be collected when they submit their vaccination status, and will the federal government be paying for the tests that they take, if they do not attest to being vaccinated?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (25:47)
Well, the agencies will pay for the cost of regular federal employee screening tests. So that’s how that’s going to move forward. And the agencies are going to be implementing this program themselves. So there’ll be in charge of how that moves forward. And so that’s kind of how that’s going to be dispersed, the program.
Just on another topic. Lastly, the New York Times reporting, and others that President Trump pressed the Justice Department last year to declare falsely that the election was corrupt. Do you have a reaction to that, and would your Justice Department, the Biden Justice Department do anything about that?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (26:23)
So, President Biden has been clear that he believes it is absolutely vital to have a Department of justice that is free from undue political influence, and these revelations underscore why that’s important. Go ahead, [inaudible 00:26:37].
Speaker 3: (26:37)
Please Karine, just a followup on [Mary-Alice’s 00:26:40] question, your number, at least percentage wise was right from the CDC stuff study. It says about 74% of [inaudible 00:26:46] cases had been fully vaccinated in the cluster. So just to clarify, it’s still the belief of the administration and the public health officials that break through cases are rare on that?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (26:55)
So, what we’ve been told by CDC and what we from our public health house expert is that they are rare. I mean, but here’s the thing, and this is what we keep trying to say, is that we got to get people vaccinated. That is what we have to focus on, that is why we’re seeing the Delta variant, and so that is what we’re working on as an administration. That’s what the president talked about; he talked about incentives, he talked about ways to do this in a more robust way, and this is the way we’re going to be focused on, is making sure people get vaccinated.
Speaker 3: (27:28)
So, that was my followup, which is, it’s very clear that those who are vaccinated see symptoms, hospitalizations, death. There’s no question about it when you look at the data, how concerned are you guys that people see a headline like that about breakthrough cases or headline from the slide about transmissibility, and it undercuts your efforts to say, “Vaccination is the answer, vaccination is the solution”?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (27:50)
Well, I just talked about what we’ve seen the last couple of days; the rise in numbers and people getting vaccinated. And so if anything, we’re seeing people are out there who are unvaccinated clearly getting vaccinated. And so, that’s critical, that’s important, the numbers and the data shows that. And so, that’s what we’re going to continue to do is making sure that people can do to get vaccinated. Yeah.
Speaker 4: (28:14)
We were all being tested every single day, at a certain point, we were not being tested. I’m curious what the current status of White House staff testing is, and whether given this new transmission, there are plans to ramp up that testing?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (28:25)
So we’re going to continue to follow the guidance that’s been led out, that’s been handed. And so, all of that is going to be determined, our testing is going to be determined by the White House Medical Unit. We continue to get tested here, the staff does, so does the President. And so, that’s how we’re going to continue to move forward.
Speaker 4: (28:44)
So when you say, “Guidance,” I think the current guidance is only if there are symptoms, if you’re vaccinated, is that the current status-
Karine Jean-Pierre: (28:49)
Yeah, but we also have stated in the past, when a staffer’s around the President, they get tested, and because we’re around the President of the United States, we get tested pretty regularly. That’s something that we have shared in the past. There’s nothing new there. And we’re going to continue to follow what the White House Medical Unit entails for us to do, as staff, and for the President.
Speaker 5: (29:12)
On the eviction moratorium, why didn’t the White House wait until yesterday to publicly inform Congress that it was then we need to do extend it legislatively?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (29:21)
Well, let me just first say about the eviction moratorium, because this is, I think really important. We know that this has a disproportionate effect on those Americans, both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, and President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability. But like we’ve all said today, unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available. So the Supreme Court’s ruling stated that clear and specific congressional authorization would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium through July.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (30:01)
So one of the things that I do want to say that we have been doing, we have had this whole of government effect to get the word out about the availability of the rental assistant and to support grantees to ramping up their efforts. And so that is our focus, because we know that getting that funding to renters and landlords is incredibly key and important. So we’ve been doing that since day one, and now what we’re saying right now, what we have been saying is that we’re going to work with Congress to make sure that we’re able to extend it. We support a Speaker Pelosi in her efforts, and what she is trying to do actually speaks to what the Supreme Court laid out in making sure that there is a continuation of the eviction moratorium,
Speaker 5: (30:44)
Right, but the Supreme Court ruling was more than a month ago. And we waited until this week to tell Congress that they needed to do it, and you effectively jammed them two days before the moratorium ended.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (30:53)
We’ve been having conversations with Congress for some time about this. This is something that we have been working with them with some time about how do we move forward. And so this is we’re going to continue to do that, and we appreciate Speaker Pelosi’s efforts, and we’re going to work closely with her on getting that done. And again, from day one, this administration has been working to make sure that we really take care of the most vulnerable in this country who’s been affected by COVID-19.
Speaker 5: (31:22)
There was some confusion over military service members being mandated get the vaccine. The President said yesterday it was all about timing, and recommended the DOD study it, the DOD later put your own statement out. But what did he mean that’s all about timing when he also said that the numbers are going to get worse before it gets better?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (31:44)
So, I’ll say it is, the President is asking the Department of Defense to look into how and when they will add COVID to the list of mandatory vaccinations for our armed forces. Anything else, I refer you to the DOD?
Speaker 5: (32:00)
For both civilian and military service members?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (32:03)
I just noticed that the Department of Defense. That’s who he’s been talking to about getting that done.
Speaker 5: (32:09)
Okay. And then just on a separate note, it was reported this morning that Senator Sinema, a key Dem swing vote says you will not in putting off this vacation plans to vote on your 3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. What’s your reaction to that?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (32:26)
Oh, look, I know that this has come up, and I just want to be really clear about this and what Sinema actually said. And so, I’m not going to clearly negotiate or anything like that at the podium, but it’s important to be clear about what the Senator said. She is going to vote to proceed with the debate on the budget resolution. She expressed reservations about the top line, which she’s been clearly clear about, and other senators have said the same, but she’s not standing in the way of moving this process forward.
Speaker 6: (32:59)
Thanks, Karine. You’ve been clear that the position of the administration is around the importance of getting vaccinated, but I had a followup to Alex’s question earlier, because a lot of Americans do not know if they are in an area with substantial or high levels of transmission. So while you are trying to get vaccination rates up, is it the position of the administration that local officials in those affected areas should bring back mask mandates?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (33:24)
Well, local officials are going to look at the vaccination rate in their area, and they have the flexibility to put that into place, to put mandates into place, as we’ve seen across the country. That is not our role here. As the federal government, we are not mandating a mask wearing, we’re following, again, CDC guidance, and we encourage local governments and states to adhere or to take a look at the guidance, and make sure that they keep people safe, right? They keep their community safe and they keep people in their state safe. So that is what we encourage. And at the same time, I’m going to be a broken record on this, because this is true, this is the case, we have to make sure we continue to get people vaccinated.
Speaker 6: (34:07)
And a question with respect to Cuba and the ongoing policy review, I know there’s a meeting today, but has there been any movement on actionable steps? Specifically, does the President plan to lift travel restrictions between the US and Cuba, and make it easier for Cuban Americans to send money to their relatives on the island? Both of which are issues he campaigned on.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (34:28)
Nope. And both important issues that we understand, to the Cuban people. So we’re not going to preview any specific actions here, that is not something that I’m going to do from the podium. I will say that, on the remittances, this is a complex issue that requires coordination with experts that will help to inform the administration’s policy. So at the President’s direction, the Department of Treasury and State will form a Remittance Working Group to review available options, to establishing those channels.
Speaker 7: (35:03)
Karine, may I followup please, on Cuba? Right back here, may I followup on Cuba, please?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (35:03)
Speaker 7: (35:04)
Thank you so much. You may have noticed those protests last week across the street from the White House, I don’t know if you or anybody from the White House happened to speak to those protesters, but I did. And it’s anecdotal, of course, but they say they see no difference between the policy of president Biden towards Cuba and the policy of former President Obama towards Cuba. Is the approach the same of those two presidents? Of President Biden currently, and the former president, President Obama?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (35:36)
I’m going to be really clear here. So since day one, we have said many times, many, many times that the Cuban-Americans are the best ambassadors for freedom and prosperity in Cuba, that’s what I said at the beginning. Today, the President is going to sit down and to meet with Cuban-Americans and leaders at the White House. That’s what he’s going to do in just a few hours, to discuss the demonstrations and the administration’s response. And so, including applying new sanctions on Cuba-
Karine Jean-Pierre: (36:03)
Bonds. And so including applying new sanctions on Cuba, on Cuban leaders, and establishing internet access for the Cuban people. So we want to lift up the Cuban people, and that is going to be our focus. On July 22nd, the Treasury’s office of foreign assistant control sanctioned one of the Cuban individuals and one Cuban entity for serious human rights abuses and the repression of peaceful pro-democratic protests in Cuba that began on July 11th. So we are going to continue to lift up the Cuban American people… I’m sorry, the Cuban people, and we’re going to have a conversation, as I just mentioned, the president will have one today and we’ll probably have more to read out from that. Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead Jane.
Speaker 9: (36:44)
Thanks [inaudible 00:36:44]. Just really quickly following up on someone’s question on the eviction moratorium. You said that you’ve been working with Congress for some time now, is there anything you can share in terms of who you’ve been talking with and when that started? Because Democratic leaders quite frankly seem pretty surprised that it’s now their responsibility. Obviously we know the Supreme Court decision has been out for a month, so what can you share in terms of that?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (37:09)
I don’t have specific meetings or conversations to share. Look, what I want to make really clear is that we’re going to work with Congress to get this done, because we understand the importance of the eviction moratorium to everyday people, especially after what we have seen this past year with COVID-19. That is a priority for us and we work with Congress on so many different issues and have so many different conversations and this is going to be a priority. And so we support what Speaker Pelosi is trying to do now.
Speaker 9: (37:40)
Do you have any response to Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez calling your handling of the situation reckless and irresponsible? Because the White House hasn’t shown leadership.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (37:51)
I disagree with the Congresswoman because as I stated, and I’ve laid out from day one, we have been working on the emergency rental assistance. We have been making sure working with local governments to get those funds out. Just last month, we saw $1.5 billion in just one month in rental assistance, which was more than the last five months. So we have been working very hard in a whole of government approach that we do here at this White house in this administration. And we’ll continue to do that.
Speaker 10: (38:24)
Thank you. Back to Senator [inaudible 00:38:26] comments, which she noted her reservations about the price tag. Do White House negotiators and the president support Senate Democrats scaling back the reconciliation deal?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (38:37)
This is a process that we’re going through, this is a negotiation process. We’re going to continue to engage congressional members on the hill when it comes to reconciliation and also clearly the bipartisan infrastructure deal. So I’m not going to stand here and try to negotiate from the podium. I’m going to congressional members do that. We’ll work closely with them. We understand how incredibly critical this is. This is part of the build back better plan that the president has put forward, his economic policy for this country. And he is all in on this. He brought people here to work with both sides of the aisles to bring this bipartisan deal on the heart infrastructure. And we’re going to continue as well with the whole build back better plan.
Speaker 10: (39:24)
And back to COVID. I know you said it’s up to the CDC and health officials to lead on new recommendations, but has the White House or the president asked them to look at new restrictions, possible restrictions surrounding large group gatherings given the Delta variant?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (39:40)
Again, we follow the science and we listen to public health officials. That’s how we move forward with this.
Speaker 11: (39:48)
Karine, speaking of the science, Karine.
Speaker 12: (39:49)
Hi, switching topics, the Biden administration earlier this week laid out there plan on addressing root causes in Central America, including combating corruption in the region. It comes days after Guatemala special prosecutor against impunity was fired. The state department has suspended cooperation with Guatemala’s attorney general. So how does this affect the White House’s work in the region and does this cause any setbacks?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (40:20)
Thank you for the question. Yes, it is something that we were very aware of. So the situation in Guatemala, look, it’s important to us to make sure that corruption, as we’re dealing with the northern triangle, is dealt with, hold on, I did have something that I wanted to share with all of you if I can find it really quickly. Just give me a second. I don’t have it with me, but it’s something that we’re aware of. And as you could imagine, as we’re dealing with the northern triangle, as you just stated, it’s critical and important that when we’re dealing with these countries and talking about how we’re going to help them with the root causes, that corruption is something that doesn’t affect the process that we’re trying to make. And when we do deal with the northern triangle countries, it’s not giving money directly to the government, it’s working as well with the organizations on the ground. So that is also critical and important. And so we’re going to keep an eye on that. We’re going to stay focused on that as well. And we should have more to share on the Guatemala situation.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (41:52)
Oh my gosh. I totally forgot. Oh my goodness give me one second. Our fun Friday. Okay for our last question for our fun Friday Zoom, reporter hailing from black information network, Vanessa. Hey Vanessa Tyler, how are you? Oh, we cannot hear you. I can’t hear you Vanessa. There are questions in the room for sure.
Speaker 8: (42:40)
Karine, how do you track the status of the Delta variant? The COVID Delta variant?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (42:48)
I don’t understand the question.
Speaker 8: (42:50)
Well how do you test that it’s the dominant strain in the area when people just have whether they’re COVID positive.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (42:56)
We don’t test. We don’t test it. We listen to public health scientists and they tell us that it’s the Delta variant. I don’t even understand why would they explain.
Speaker 8: (43:07)
Have they explained their process of how they’re turning it into the Delta variant?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (43:10)
I mean that’s what they are telling us. I laid out how contagious it was and I laid out why we needed to act on the Delta variant. I laid out-
Speaker 8: (43:21)
The answers we get is because they say so without a lot of-
Karine Jean-Pierre: (43:24)
Well they’re the experts. It’s not just day. These are scientists. These are experts. I just said that… Hold on one second. Hold on one second. I just said that Dr. Wenski said just recently in her 20 year career, she had never seen a variant that was so contagious. So this is 20 years of her career. So this is absolutely, absolutely a major, major problem that we are trying to deal with. That’s why we heard from the president yesterday. That’s why we keep talking about people need to get vaccinated. So that is the way that we’re trying to move in this administration, making sure that we are protecting people here, making sure that we’re dealing with this pandemic in a way that is effective and that’s how we’re going to move forward. I’ll take another question. Go ahead Eugene.
In April, the chief of staff told [inaudible 00:44:21] that the education department was doing where the president could forgive student debt and that review would be done in a matter of weeks. We’re at a matter of months. I’m just wondering where that review stands.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (44:32)
So this is the student-
The student debt forgiveness, the president signing away 10,000 to 50,000, which is a big-
Karine Jean-Pierre: (44:41)
The president, as you know, supports Congress providing 10,000 in debt relief. And he continues to look into what the debt relief actions can be taken administratively. I don’t have an update on that at all. Right at this moment. Look, the department of education is working in partnership with colleagues at the department of justice and the White House to review options with respect to debt cancellation. And so again, I don’t have any update. Okay, we’re going to have to wrap up. We’re going to have to wrap it up, guys. We’re going to have to wrap up. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you everybody. Oh my gosh. Can we hear you now? We still can’t hear you. I’m so sorry. Are you on mute? Okay, so we’re trying to retry to hear you and we cannot. Vanessa, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. Do you want to write a note? Let us know what your questions are? All right, Vanessa. We’ll try next Friday. Okay, I can’t hear her though. I can’t hear. All right guys. Vanessa, we’ll see you. We’ll try and do it next week.