Nov 23, 2022
White House Press Sec. Karine Jean-Pierre, Dr. Ashish Jha and Dr. Anthony Fauci hold briefing 11/22/22 Transcript
White House Press Sec. Karine Jean-Pierre, Dr. Ashish Jha and Dr. Anthony Fauci hold briefing 11/22/22. Read the transcript here.
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Karine Jean-Pierre (01:33):
Hi. Hi. Hi. I know. I bring bearing gifts. I have some Thanksgiving cookies for all of you.
I came on the right day.
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:42):
Happy holidays. There you go. You guys have got to pass this around.
Are these from the White House or did you bake them yourself?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:53):
If you have time to bake, I’ll be [inaudible 00:02:04].
Karine Jean-Pierre (02:04):
It would be quite impressive, wouldn’t it be? I know. Okay. Good afternoon everybody. Today I’m joined by White House Covid Coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, and Chief Medical Advisor to the President and NIAID Director, Dr. Fauci. As you all know, Dr. Fauci is retiring next month, and I’m honored, so honored to have him join me today one last time, one more time at the podium. And he’s going to discuss the importance of getting your updated Covid vaccine shot ahead of the holidays. For so many Americans throughout our fight with Covid , Dr. Fauci has been a source of information and facts. But Dr. Fauci’s leadership and legacy stretch far beyond the past couple of years, as you all have known him. It actually goes back even further, as I was just stating, whether it be HIV-
Dr Anthony Fauci (06:03):
As good as post-infection protection is, the immunity and protection wanes over time. Let me put it into some perspective for you. If you get vaccinated with measles or infected with measles, the duration of protection is measured at a minimum in decades and likely for a lifetime. That just happens to unfortunately not be the case when you’re dealing with coronavirus and particularly SARS-CoV-2, so you need to update the protection that we know is good protection. Next, we have the complicating issue that we can’t do anything about is that you have the emergence every several months now, historically, of variants. Remember Delta, Omicron, BA.4, 5, BQ1.1, the things that we’re all hearing about and reading about and seeing? You don’t have that. With another example, just getting back to measles, which we’re all familiar with. There were no variants of measles. I always got infected with measles when I was a youngster because I’m old enough to not be getting the vaccine.And that measles is the same measles that’s circulating now in the developing world, it doesn’t change. And that’s the two major reasons for getting a booster.
The booster is bivalent. People get confused with that word. What does bivalent means? There’s two components. One is the ancestral original vaccine that we all got, and the other is the updated BA.4, 5. So then people ask appropriate questions. Do they really work? What are the parameters to see if they work? There are two parameters. One is what the vaccine does in boosting an immune response. We refer to that in the medical circles as immune correlates. And then there’s the real world vaccine efficacy. If you look at the recent data that has now been coming out from the companies as well as academic investigators, it is clear now, despite initial bit of confusion, that the BA.4, 5 bivalent booster, what we refer to as the updated vaccine, clearly induces a better response against BA.4, 5 and the sub lineages of BA.4, 5 than does the ancestral strain.So from a pure immunological standpoint, it looks quite good.
Clinical efficacy data from the CDC will be released. In fact, it already has been released. It was supposed to be released at 11:30, which is clinical efficacy data, looking at real world data of hundreds of thousands of people, looking at the capability of the virus to protect against the real world BA.4, 5 that has been circulating. And we know that that is really quite good. So you have immunological data, and you have now clinical efficacy data. Everybody was asking the question, where’s the clinical efficacy data? Now it has come out with the CDC MMWR this morning. So we know it’s safe. We know that it is effective. So my message and my final message, maybe the final message I give you from this podium is that please, for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated Covid-19 shot as soon as you’re eligible to protect yourself, your family, and your community. I urge you to visit vaccines.gov to find a location where you can easily get an updated vaccine. And please, do it as soon as possible. Thank you.
Dr. Ashish Jha (09:51):
Well, hard to follow Dr. Fauci, who I would argue has been the most important consequential public servant in the United States in the last half century, and a leader and a role model for so many of us. So Tony, thank you. So thank you for reviewing the safety and effectiveness data. I will tell you, it is remarkable to me what data have come in, in the last month. I was here in front of all of you a couple of months ago talking about what we expected. All of the evidence that has come in the last month has far exceeded our expectations on the efficacy of these vaccines. And the safety data continues to be terrific. Today I want to focus on a new six week sprint that the administration is announcing to get more Americans or updated shots before the cold and winter season really settles in.
Now, I want to start off by saying we are heartened to say that we are not alone in this effort. Just yesterday, 12 of America’s leading medical and clinical societies, I’m talking about the AMA, I’m talking about American College of Physicians, the American Association of Family Physicians, I’m not going to list them all 12, but they all join together with one simple, strong recommendation for all Americans, which is go get your updated Covid vaccine shot and go get your annual flu shot right away. Now, why did they do that? Why did America’s physicians, speaking as a unified voice, say that? Because they know the best way to save lives this holiday season is to ensure that all Americans, particularly seniors, get their updated Covid vaccine and their flu vaccine. Now, we’ve already had 35 million Americans have gotten their updated Covid vaccine, including 16 million seniors. And we are encouraged by steady and strong week by week numbers.We’re seeing about four to five million Americans getting it every week, but we are working hard to reach even more Americans, especially older, more vulnerable Americans.
So as I said today, we’re launching a six week sprint to help Americans get their updated shot by the end of the year. As part of this effort, with our limited resources that we have, we are making a series of announcements and series of efforts to expand community based Covid-19 vaccine efforts. So let me lay out some of them. We’re announcing $350 million in funding to help community health centers meet people where they are with facts, with vaccines through proven methods like partnerships with faith-based groups and mobile vaccine clinics. We’re announcing an additional $125 million to help local aging and disability networks to get older and more vulnerable and disabled Americans vaccinated. This will include efforts at senior centers across our great country.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CMS, is going to be issuing guidance today reminding nursing homes that they are required to educate their residents on the benefits of Covid-19 vaccines. And they are required to offer vaccines to residents. And nursing homes that don’t do these very basic things will be referred for greater oversight and possibly face enforcement actions. We’re doubling down on our trusted messenger’s work because we know that makes a difference. We’re working with national and local organizations, state and public health departments, pharmacies. You’re going to hear schools and colleges and universities announce that they’re hosting clinics. All of this we think is going to make a difference. Also, what will make a difference is more paid media efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services designed to reach tens of millions of Americans, for instance, that are watching the World Cup through television and through digital ads. Bottom line is that we’re doing everything we can in the next six weeks to help families get their updated Covid shots by the end of the year because it’s the best protection for this winter.
And remember, for a majority of Americans, this is going to be a once a year shot, one Covid shot once a year just the flu shot. Now, while I’m encouraged by the work that so many are doing, we need everybody to step up. We need to make protecting our loved ones an important part of the conversation we have around the Thanksgiving table, an important part of the conversation we have in the days and weeks ahead. Because here’s what we know, if folks get their updated vaccines and they get treated, if they have a breakthrough infection, we can prevent essentially every Covid death in America. That is a remarkable fact two and a half years after we found this virus first in our country. But it’s going to take all of us to make that happen. So please, don’t wait. Get your Covid shot, get your flu shot. That’s why God gave you two arms. Get one in each arm if you want. Go to vaccines.gov, and let’s do everything we all can to protect the American people. Thank you.
Karine Jean-Pierre (14:37):
Okay, we can take a couple questions. Go ahead, Steve.
Dr. Jha, why is a six week… Why is this necessary? Are the numbers lagging?
Dr. Ashish Jha (14:47):
No, look. We’ve had very consistent, as I said, about four to five million shots going in. There are a couple of things. We are obviously now entering a higher risk part of the year. Why? Because each of the last two years, we’ve seen a substantial increase in cases as we got into December and January. So this is a really important moment to announce this effort. We think that if people do this now and do this over the next couple of weeks, it’s going to protect them over the holiday. So we think this is exactly the right time to make this. And the administration is obviously deeply committed to making sure we’re doing everything we can to protect the American people.
Speaker 1 (15:21):
For Dr. Fauci, two questions, if I can. Hospitalizations for the flu at this point in the season are the highest and over a decade. Why is the flu so bad this year? And how much protection is the flu vaccine providing for those who have gotten it?
Dr Anthony Fauci (15:36):
Yeah. Well, let me answer the second question first is that the vaccine is well matched to the circulating strain. So that again, is another really good reason to tell people what Dr. Jha and I and others have been saying about get your flu vaccine because that’s one of the issues that we’re going to be dealing with this winter that we can do something about. When you have seasons of very low flu, which got kind of bumped off the table by Covid, when you have respiratory illnesses that circulate, they sort of have niches that you very rarely have one and the other at its peak.
So when we were at a peak with Covid, all the other respiratory illnesses, including RSV and including flu, were very, very low compared to other years. When you now open up in society, people now maybe are under vaccinated, not everybody’s wearing a mask, we’re trying to get back and are getting back to some degree of normality, you almost have a rebound effect of something that was very low for two seasons. If you look at the flu over the last couple of years, in the peak of the Covid back in 2020 and 2021, we were having the lowest flu seasons on record. So it’s not surprising that we’re seeing it return back.
Speaker 1 (16:57):
One more, if you don’t mind.
Dr Anthony Fauci (16:57):
Speaker 1 (16:58):
This is your last appearance at the podium. You became a household name in large part because of your appearances here at the early stages of Covid. What do you want Americans to remember about your service in government?
Dr Anthony Fauci (17:12):
Well, I think what I’ve accomplished in my 54 years at the NIH and my 38 years as the director of NIAID, although Covid is really, really very important, it is a fragment of the total 40 years that I’ve been doing it. So I’ll let other people judge the value or not of my accomplishments. But what I would people to remember about what I’ve done is that every day for all of those years, I’ve given it everything that I have and I’ve never left anything on the field. So if they want to remember me, whether they judge rightly or wrongly what I’ve done, I gave it all I got for many decades.
Speaker 2 (17:58):
I’m hoping I can ask quickly about also the XBB variant that’s rising from India and Singapore. What should Americans expect as that variant continues to rise? And just to take a step back, I know you were encouraging folks here to get their latest booster, but should Americans expect what we’ve been seeing in terms of more cases, not as many hospitalizations, just a step back, what should Americans expect when it comes to Covid?
Dr Anthony Fauci (18:24):
Well, what Americans should expect is from our experience that you never can definitively say what to expect, but you should really take some comfort in knowing that we have within our wherewithal to mitigate anything that comes our way. Because we have flu vaccines, we have Covid vaccines, we have testing, we have the option under certain circumstances with good judgment to wear masks where appropriate in indoor congregate settings. So we can do a lot to mitigate any surge. One thing we were coverage with looking at other countries such as Singapore, which had a big XBB, they had increase in cases, but they did not have a concomitant major increase in hospitalizations. So we’re hoping that a combination of people who’ve been infected and boosted and vaccinated, or people who’ve been vaccinated and boosted and not infected, that there’s enough community protection that we’re not going to see a repeat of what we saw last year at this time.
Speaker 2 (19:31):
Is the latest booster effective against XBB?
Dr Anthony Fauci (19:32):
Well, XBB is one that evades immune response as measured by antibody, which is one of the elements, not the only element of protection, much more as cellular T-cell responses protect you against severe disease. The protection is diminished multifold with XBB. If you look at the best and then it goes down a bit, with one, it goes down with B, BQ 1. 1, it goes down even more with XBB. It doesn’t fall off the map, but it goes down. So you could expect some protection, but not the optimal protection.
Karine Jean-Pierre (20:10):
We’ve got April, and then Alex in the back.
Dr. Fauci and Dr. Jha, Dr. Fauci first, and Dr. Jha, first on the issue of Covid and mask wearing. We’re not talking about mask wearing in this moment. Masks and the word masks have become a pejorative in some parts of this nation. Can you talk about the importance of mask wearing as you’re worried about the holidays and people gathering together? And then on the gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas, what do you recommend for families who may have some who boosted and may have some who are not boosted, may have some who have not had a vaccine at all?
Dr Anthony Fauci (20:48):
Well, I think your first and second question are related because what it really tells you is that we have multiple interventions and multiple actions we can take to protect ourselves, so there’s a whole spectrum. Masking is one of them. Now, we’re not talking about requirements or mandating. We’re talking about if you are in a situation, and each individual person evaluates their own risk and that of the risk of their family members. For example, a person who’s 25 year old living alone versus someone who has an elderly parent or grandparent or someone who’s immune compromise. First of all, everybody should be vaccinated and boosted with flu and with Covid.
Whether or not you wear a mask or another thing we shouldn’t underestimate is testing. So when we are gathering at a family gathering for Thanksgiving or for Christmas or for any other holiday as we get into the winter, it makes sense that you might want to get a test that day before you come into a place in which you might be infected and spread it, or other people who might be there, in order to protect. So masking is important, but you
Dr Anthony Fauci (22:00):
You can count masking, vaccine, boosting, testing, all of that is part of the spectrum of protecting yourself and your family.
Speaker 3 (22:09):
But what do you say about the word mask now being a pejorative in some communities-
Dr Anthony Fauci (22:12):
No, it shouldn’t be. I mean, you’re absolutely right. I mean, I know sometimes when you walk in and you have a mask and nobody has a mask, you kind of feel guilty. You shouldn’t feel guilty. You look terrific.
Speaker 3 (22:23):
I have no problem wearing a mask. Thank you.
Karine Jean-Pierre (22:26):
We’re going to move on. Go ahead, Alex. [inaudible 00:22:27] you’re being disrespectful. Hold on, hold on, hold on. Wait. I did not call on you, Steven. Go ahead Alex, you’re next.
So my first question is last year of… Two questions. The first is last year we were really kind of hoping that the holiday season would go well, sort of look normal. And then Omicron came along and sort of disrupted a large chunk of January, February schools, flights. Are we seeing a similar dynamic, especially with some of these new sub variants coming along? And then my second question, Dr. Fauci, for you specifically, what was the most difficult moment of the pandemic response for you throughout the last two and a half years?
Dr. Ashish Jha (23:15):
Yeah, I’ll start with the first and then obviously Dr. Fauci can answer the second. So the short answer is no. First of all, you can’t predict with any certainty. So we don’t know what Mother Nature’s going to throw at us. That said, these sub variants, obviously we’re tracking them very closely. The good news is, even if you see a diminishing of our vaccines, they’re still effective against these sub variants, way more effective than the original vaccine. So I feel very confident that if people continue to get vaccinated at good numbers, if people get boosted, we can absolutely have a very safe and healthy holiday season. There’s always a caveat here of things out of the left field you can’t predict and you can’t… But nothing I have seen in the sub variants makes me believe that we can’t manage our way through it effectively, especially if people step up and get their vaccine.
Dr Anthony Fauci (24:09):
So that’s a really difficult question to answer. But the most difficult because we’ve all lived through almost three years of the most horrendous outbreak that we’ve experienced as a society in well over a hundred years. But there are certain things that stand out. I mean, I could probably write an essay on all the things that were difficult time. But one of the things as a physician whose goal in life is to care for patients and to prevent and treat illness and [inaudible 00:24:42] suffering, is that I remember back in my days in medical school and when I was an intern and a resident, when a patient came in, whether or not the patient didn’t like you, was angry with you, whether it was a rich person or a poor person, you treated everybody the same because you cared about them and you wanted everyone to walk out healthy.
So when I see people in this country because of the divisiveness in our country of not getting vaccinated for reasons that have nothing to do with public health that have to do because of divisiveness and ideological differences. As a physician, it pains me because I don’t want to see anybody get infected. I don’t want to see anybody hospitalized, and I don’t want to see anybody die from COVID. Whether you’re a far right Republican or a far left Democrat, it doesn’t make any difference to me. I look upon it the same way as I did in the emergency room in the middle of New York City when I was taking care of everybody that was coming in off the street. So that’s the thing that troubles me most about this.
Dr. Ashish Jha (25:46):
Speaker 4 (25:47):
Dr. Fauci, only 13% of-
Karine Jean-Pierre (25:50):
Hold on one second. We have a process here. I’m not calling out on people who yell and you’re being disrespectful to your colleagues and you’re being disrespectful to our guests. I will not call on you if you yell. And also you’re taking time off the clock because Dr. Fauci has to leave in a couple of minutes. I’m done. I’m not getting into a back and forth with you. Go ahead Jeremy.
Speaker 4 (26:15):
Dr. Fauci, but she’s [inaudible 00:26:19].
Karine Jean-Pierre (26:29):
It is not your turn. It is not your turn.
Speaker 5 (26:35):
You can read a press briefing. You need to call from people across the room. She has a valid question. She’s asking about the origin of COVID.
Karine Jean-Pierre (26:40):
I hear the question.
Speaker 5 (26:44):
She’s the best person to-
Karine Jean-Pierre (26:46):
I hear your question, but we’re not doing this the way you want it. This is the disrespectful… It is. I’m done, Simon. I’m done. Simon, I’m done. I’m done with you right now. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead. You’re taking time away from your colleagues. Go ahead.
Only 13% of adults have gotten this updated booster. 78% of adults have completed their primary series. Which of those numbers is more important in your mind in terms of anticipating how bad this winter surge could be, if there is one, and the number of hospitalizations and deaths. And then a second question for you as well.
Dr Anthony Fauci (27:21):
Jeremy, they’re both important. So I don’t want to say one is more and then diminish the other, but the people who are most at risk are the unvaccinated. I mean, we have 68% of our population is vaccinated. That means that we have 32% of the population that’s not. And if you look at the data, they are just profoundly striking of the curves of death and hospitalization of unvaccinated versus vaccinated versus vaccinated and boosted. So there is a relatively smaller difference in vaccinated and unboosted versus vaccinated plus boosted. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get boosted, but the real danger is the people who have not been vaccinated. So that’s where we expect, if we’re going to see a problem this winter, it’s going to be among those people.
And then as you reflect on the end of your time in decades in government service and particularly your handling of the pandemic, did you imagine that this virus would still, as we are here today, be killing two to 300 people a day?
Dr Anthony Fauci (28:25):
Did you imagine the level of cases and what is your outlook for the future of this virus as you look in the next several years?
Dr Anthony Fauci (28:35):
No, I did not imagine that. I don’t think any of my colleagues imagined that we would see a three year saga of suffering and death and a million Americans losing their lives. The thing that was most disturbing or something I referred to an answer to one of the other questions was the continuation of multiple variants evolving over time completely unlike something like measles. And that’s the reason why I gave the measles comparison. Where I think we’re going is that sooner or later, and I hope it’s sooner, we’re going to equilibrate to a low level when there’s enough background cross protection, that unless we get a completely far away out different variant, we’re likely going to see a continued lowering and lowering. Maybe we’re going to see blips at winter and stuff, but hopefully it gets down.
The message that Dr. [inaudible 00:29:32] and I are trying to get to you today is that we can make that happen much sooner by vaccinating and by keeping updating on your booster. It’s just really as simple as that. We’re going to get there. We can get there with less suffering if we use the interventions that we have. If you want to let nature take its course, we’re ultimately going to get there. But we’re going to lose a lot more people than we need to.
Dr. Ashish Jha (29:56):
Can I just add one more quick thing to that. I mean, look, there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died this year because people were under vaccinated. People weren’t boosted. And it is not blaming the people who died. It is blaming the fact that we have a lot of people out there spreading misinformation, undermining people’s confidence in vaccines, was a paper out last week that showed that death numbers in many European countries were much lower, because their booster rates are much higher. So the key point here is at this point, we can prevent nearly every death in America from COVID, but we can’t see this as a horse race of let’s get an anti-vaxxer and let’s get a… We know what the evidence is. The science on this is crystal clear. People get their booster. If you get infected, the chances you’re going to end up super sick in the hospital is exceedingly low. That’s the message people need to get their updated vaccine
Speaker 3 (30:56):
In the back. For Dr. Fauci, last question.
Speaker 6 (30:59):
Me? Sorry. Thank you so much. Dr. Fauci, if I could just ask you to reflect on the early days of this pandemic and the mixed messages that were coming out of this White House and how that affected people’s trust and how you’re going to take that message forward in future pandemics and the importance of trust and how you would advise Dr. [inaudible 00:31:21] and his colleagues to emphasize that in future pandemics.
Dr Anthony Fauci (31:25):
Well, there was really a difference early on in the first weeks to months of the outbreak because we were dealing with truly a moving target. And when you’re dealing with things like reporting and discussing with the press, making recommendations, making guidelines, you have to make it on the basis of the information that you have at that time. But what’s happening is that we were not dealing with a static situation. We were dealing with a dynamic situation. First, we thought it was just animal to human, didn’t spread well from human to human. Then we found that it spread very well, and then we found out that it spread enormously well, then we found out that it was aerosolized. Then we found out that 50 to 60% of the people who transmit it don’t have any symptoms at all. So the recommendations that were based on what you knew in January when you get to March, April, and May, they will change.
Understandably, that leads to a question on the part of the public is why they keep changing things. A simple comparison and an analogy. In January two plus two equals four. In April, May, August, September, two plus two still equals four. When you’re dealing with an evolving outbreak where the information you get changes from week to week and month to month, we’ve got to probably do a better job of when we talk to the public, explain that this is a dynamic situation that could change. I’ve said that from this podium multiple times. When we were talking about, for example, do we need to do anything different now when we had 15 cases? I said, but however, semi colon, this could change. The only thing people heard when they throw it back at you. Well, you said we don’t have to worry about anything. So you just got to make sure you always underscore the dynamic nature of what you’re dealing with.
Speaker 6 (33:26):
But Dr. Fauci, I’m sorry to contradict you, but there was some dubious advice, some questionable medical advice coming out of non-doctors at this podium. How do you think that affected the progress of this pandemic
Dr Anthony Fauci (33:41):
Well, you remember if you were around at this podium, I contradicted those, which set off a whole series of things in my life. But yeah, I mean we have to continue, and we were just talking about this a little while ago. The way you counter misinformation and disinformation is that to do whatever you can as often as you can to provide correct information. The people who have correct information, who take science seriously, who don’t have strange way out theories about things, but who base what they say on evidence and data need to speak up more because the other side that just keeps putting out misinformation and disinformation seems to be tireless in that effort and it’s going to be very difficult.
Speaker 7 (34:33):
How are you preparing for you aggressive oversight from House Republicans, the new majority next year that they’ve been promising?
Karine Jean-Pierre (34:38):
So hold on one second. Dr. J’s going to stay to take a couple more questions, but Dr. Fauci actually has to go. So thank you so much, Dr. Fauci.
Dr Anthony Fauci (34:45):
I can answer his question.
Karine Jean-Pierre (34:48):
Answer it. I’m just trying to keep on time.
Dr Anthony Fauci (34:54):
The answer is if there are oversight hearings, I absolutely will cooperate fully and testify before the Congress have asked. You may not know, but I’ve testified before the Congress a few hundred times over the last 40 years or so. So I have no trouble testifying. We can defend and explain and stand by everything that we’ve said. So I have nothing to hide.
Speaker 7 (35:25):
A quick follow up [inaudible 00:35:26].
Karine Jean-Pierre (35:25):
All right, thank you, Dr. Fauci.
Dr. Ashish Jha (35:25):
Do we have time for a couple questions?
Karine Jean-Pierre (35:26):
You’ll take couple [inaudible 00:35:29] you can pick up and then we’ll try and get some more around.
Speaker 8 (35:32):
The administration has requested $10 billion in this lame duck session for the urgent COVID needs that still remain, that’s less than half of what you had even requested during the summer. Is that sufficient in your mind to meet these needs, not just to deal with COVID, but the strains on the hospital system we’re seeing from flu, from RSV, and at a time when you’re making these kinds of urgent requested warnings, is it undercut at all by what some of the rhetorics we’ve been hearing even from the president? You talked about this Thanksgiving being different some than what we’ve seen in the past and just two months ago we talked about this COVID crisis being over as we know it.
Dr. Ashish Jha (36:05):
Yeah. So yeah, you’re absolutely right. We’ve asked for $10 billion, I think 9.7, about $10 billion. It is less than what we had requested back in March. And that’s because we have pulled resources from other things. I’ve talked to you about this from this podium, the really critical other public health needs that we have pulled resources from to buy vaccines, to buy treatments. Even the resources we’re announcing today are from other really important programs. But that $10 billion is now critical. It is to make sure that we do have enough vaccines and treatments and tests to get Americans to a point where eventually, as this response changes and we more normalize vaccine treatment purchases through the regular health system, we want to make sure that we do that in an orderly way. We want to make sure that we got uninsured and underinsured Americans covered. So we need obviously need resources for that.
What you heard from Dr. Fauci is we are at a point where this virus continues to evolve very, very rapidly and we updated the vaccines. They are working great right now, but the virus will continue to evolve and at some point down the road next year we have to update the vaccines again. The truth is that for the long run management of this virus, we need variant resistant vaccines. We need vaccines that prevent transmission. What you have seen is China make a very large investment in mucosal vaccines because they understand that that’s how you deal with respiratory viruses. America is falling behind on this really important technology. A major part of our request is for funding for public private partnerships to move those kinds of technologies forward, to move the next generation of treatments forward. So we are trying to be prudent, obviously, in requesting resources that we think are absolutely essential and necessary. And now all I can say is Congress needs to do its job and step up and protect the American people.
Speaker 9 (37:54):
Thank you for the allowing me to ask question. Dr. [inaudible 00:37:57], my question simply has to do with vaccine mandates. Even if the vaccine is safe, even if the vaccine is effective, there’s always been a question since the beginning, should they be mandated? Should people lose their job? Should military members be forced out of the service over these vaccine mandates? And to this day, I don’t think the administration’s backed away from those mandates. Is it fair at this point in the endemic to back away from vaccine mandates and do what you’re doing today, which is simply encourage people to get their vaccines?
Dr. Ashish Jha (38:31):
So I think mandate decisions are always made at the local level by… I have had a vaccine mandate that I have been subject to for 20 years for a flu vaccine because as a physician, the hospital where I worked said I could not step foot on campus after, I think like December 1st or something if I didn’t have my flu vaccine. Was that appropriate? The hospital thought it was because they said that’s how we make sure we protect other healthcare workers and that’s how we protect patients. So this idea that in specific circumstances we can’t have vaccine mandates, we’ve had them forever. Right? George Washington had a vaccine mandate. Well, they weren’t quite vaccines then, but they were inoculations against smallpox. This is as old as America. We’ve done this. The military decides what it needs to have a healthy working fighting force. This is a decision up to our military leaders. Individual employers can make these decisions. So we’ve had a long history of this, of individual, local decisions on these kinds of issues and I think that is completely appropriate.
Speaker 10 (39:39):
I just want to pick up the point that Dr. Fauci was making about misinformation. Under the stewardship of being on Musk, Twitter seems to be welcoming back some people who spread COVID vaccine misinformation, Marjorie Taylor Green’s personal account being reinstated for example. Do you see that as a problem as you’re trying to battle misinformation?
Dr. Ashish Jha (40:00):
Well, as Dr. Fauci said, and it is something that we were speaking about earlier. The best way I believe to counter misinformation and disinformation is to spread good information, to spread science based information, to have trusted voices. So I started my comments by reminding everybody that America’s physicians, like the real leaders of American medicine, the people you trust for your cancer care and your heart care and your pediatric care are out there telling you, you need to go get a vaccine. You can decide to trust America’s physicians or you can trust some random dude on Twitter. Those are your choices. But I think the key here is to get trusted voices out there spreading truth, spreading science based information. And for journalists and for people who run platforms of what I would say is you should be thinking about what your personal responsibility is and do you want to be a source of misinformation and disinformation? That’s up to those individuals. But I really think it’s really important for us, for me to be spreading good information.
Speaker 11 (40:58):
So Dr. Fauci said that it is not surprising there’s this rebound effect with the flu this season. Why then does it seem like the country is caught so flatfooted by?
Dr. Ashish Jha (41:12):
What do you mean caught flatfooted?
Speaker 11 (41:13):
Well, people in this country are struggling to get basic antibiotics and antivirals. Why?
Dr. Ashish Jha (41:22):
So we have plenty of packs of it. I’ve not heard people struggling.
Speaker 11 (41:27):
The flu and RSV.
Dr. Ashish Jha (41:29):
So I don’t know what antivirals you’re thinking about for RSV. There aren’t any that I’m aware of. There is a monoclonal that’s for very, very high risk children. We have that. We have plenty of that. So I don’t think anybody’s struggling… I’m not aware of anybody struggling to get the monoclonal for high risk children, immunocompromised children.
Speaker 11 (41:46):
CNN headline today. Shortages of antivirals and antibiotics compound the stress of a rough season for viral illnesses and kids.
Dr. Ashish Jha (41:53):
Again, I’d have to look at the specifics. What I would say is we often see shortages of individual antibiotics. I’m not aware of antivirals that are in shortage. The single most important thing that people need to do to protect themselves in this moment where we have a lot of flu, still have a decent amount of RSV, still got a good amount of COVID. The single most important thing people need to do is go get vaccinated. It keeps you out of the hospital. It keeps you from getting particularly sick. We have plenty of flu vaccines. We have plenty of COVID vaccines. We have plenty of COVID antivirals. As I said, I think the country is ready. We’re ready to support hospitals that are getting into trouble. We have been working with jurisdictions over the last month, meeting with them. If hospitals need help, we’ve offered that and we stand ready to help hospitals get through this moment.
Karine Jean-Pierre (42:42):
Just two more.
So previously you talked about getting your vaccine or your booster before Halloween. We’re now well past that. Is administration behind on this? You’re doing a six week sprint for the end of the year, but you were saying to get fully protected for the holidays, this already had to happen before. Why wasn’t there the sprint, this outreach before when it really would’ve had a bigger effect?
Dr. Ashish Jha (43:00):
Well, no. So two things. First of all, we have been talking about this, I would say pretty consistently for a couple of months now. And I was out here talking about people getting it before. Look, it is certainly not too late. If you think about the holidays that are coming, it takes a couple of weeks to get maximal benefits from your booster. You start getting it relatively quickly. People go out and get vaccinated this week. They will have a lot of protection during December, January, February onwards, the time that we socialize the most. So we have been doing a lot to keep vaccines and vaccinations happening. What we’re doing now is redoubling that effort and making it very clear that people need to go out and get vaccines.
You just signaled that the country’s behind the eight ball on getting boosted though.
Dr. Ashish Jha (43:42):
No, I think we’ve had slow, steady progress, but the bottom line is strong and steady progress. But the bottom line is we need more Americans vaccinated. And the weather’s starting to get colder outside, as you can tell. And we know that this virus, in the last two years, each of the last two years, we’ve seen substantial increases late
Dr. Ashish Jha (44:00):
… December into January and so going out and getting vaccinated right now is a great way to protect yourself, if that pattern holds.
Speaker 12 (44:07):
The federal government purchased 171 million doses of this updated vaccine and so far you’ve got 35 million into arms. That seems like a far cry from what the government has paid for. Is your expectation that you’ll ever hit that 171?
Dr. Ashish Jha (44:25):
Yeah, let’s talk about the purchase we made. First of all, our goal was to make sure we had enough vaccines for everybody. In rural areas, for instance, you end up having to deal with the fact that you might have a vial of five doses and are only able to give out three, so that’s always something that we factor in. Second is over time there will be updates. FDA may and again, I don’t want to get ahead of FDA, at some point make a decision that the Bivalent vaccine is what you want to use as a primary series. When FDA makes that decision, if they make that decision, we want to make sure we have plenty of vaccines for that. We have made these purchases thinking across all of the ways in which Americans will need vaccines and have made decisions to make sure there are plenty of vaccines available for Americans wherever they are. In rural areas, in urban areas and I think that was a really good decision to make sure that there’s plenty of access, no matter how our vaccine usage shifts.
Speaker 12 (45:17):
I don’t know what the numbers are for the flu, but are you expecting that year after year, some number of Americans will get their updated vaccine and what number are you hoping to achieve?
Dr. Ashish Jha (45:28):
Yeah, we don’t have a target. I do at this moment, I do believe that given where we are with Covid and the evolution of this virus, I do expect that for majority of Americans, they will need an annual Covid vaccine to have maximal protection. If you think about it, a majority of Americans were eligible for a booster last fall. If they got it last fall, they’re eligible again this fall. Again, it’s hard to make specific predictions about this virus, but all the signs and all the evidence we have suggest that we’re probably going to need to update our vaccine again the next year and have Americans get vaccine again next year. Right now our focus is, let’s get Americans protected this fall and winter with the updated Covid vaccines we have.
Karine Jean-Pierre (46:11):
All right. Thank you so much Dr. Jha.
Dr. Ashish Jha (46:13):
Karine Jean-Pierre (46:14):
All right. Thank you Dr. Jha. It’s just one thing at the top and then we can get going with some questions. Since this weekend’s tragic shooting in Colorado Springs, we’ve learned more about those killed in the senseless attack. All started there Saturday night, like so many Americans, going to work, going out with friends and families, but lives were cut short by senseless and an act of violence. Kelly Long had just turned 40 last week. Her sister remembered her publicly as a and I quote, “Wonderful person who was loving and caring and sweet and always put others before herself.” A friend of Kelly’s recalled her being supportive and selfless and had looked forward to seeing her for Thanksgiving this week.
Daniel Austin. Austin was just 28 years old. He was a bartender and entertainer at Club Q who overcame being teased by peers in school as a child and found joy in performing. Daniel’s mother Sabrina was one of his biggest fans and would bring friends and family to his performance at Club Q. She said and quote, “He lit up a room.” Derek Rump was also just 38 years old. His friends told the Washington Post that Derek was quote, “What made Club Q.” A bartender, performer and an avid Britney Spears fan. Friends and customers remembered Derek for making everyone feel welcome at Club Q. They talked about his positivity, kindness and generosity, recalling he had a heavy pour and was a great listener, but Derek helped people outside Club Q too. When the pandemic hit and some of his friends and colleagues struggled with rent and groceries, Derek stepped in to help.
Ashley Paul. Her sister remembered Ashley as a loving mother and wife who leaves behind an 11 year old daughter. Ashley’s sister described her as being a devoted mom, for whom her daughter was at the center of her life. She spoke about the hole that will exist for their family this Thanksgiving and forever after. Raymond Green Vance was only 22 years old, just 22. His family described him as a kind, selfless young adult with his entire life ahead of him. Raymond had recently gotten a new job at Colorado Springs, at FedEx distribution center and was working to save up money for an apartment. He was part of a tight knit family, who had spoken about the irreparable heartbreak in their lives.
This attack occurred on the eve of transgender day of remembrance, when the community was already mourning the transgender people, especially transgender women of color, who have been killed over the past years and added two more to that count. This attack also comes amidst a rise in violent rhetoric and threats against the LGBTQI+ people across the country. While we don’t know yet for certain the motive of this attack, hate has no place in this country and neither do military style assault rifles, which is why we will continue to push for an assault weapons ban. Over and over again we have seen these weapons used to inflict death and terror in our communities just across the country. Weapons of war do not belong on our streets, in our churches, in our movie theaters, in our malls, in our groceries, in our schools or in our nightclubs.
The courageous actions of Richard Fierro and Thomas James and others we are still learning about, stopped the gunman before he could kill others. Richard and Thomas are heroes and we are so grateful for their quick action and there are no words, no words at all that can bring comfort to those who are grieving, but we stand with the community of Colorado Springs and the LGBTQI+ community. I will add the President just moments ago spoke to Richard and his wife Jess. He offered his condolences to them and also his support and talk through what it’s like to grieve. As you know, the President, that is something that he is able to do very personally and thank them, thank him for his bravery and again for his just instinct to act and the ability, by him doing that, saving maybe dozens of lives. With that, Chris.
Two questions. First off, on what you’re just speaking of, given the anti-trans rhetoric that has been so prevalent, even in the wake of the shooting, what plans does the President have to speak more about this? What else does the White House plan to do on that specific issue?
Karine Jean-Pierre (51:44):
I would say that the President has been very vocal about speaking against violence. As you’ve heard him many times before, over the past, not just 20 months, but throughout his career. He’s been very clear that hate, political violence, have no place, no place at all. Not just in our political discourse, but just in everyday lives of American people. We will continue to do that. We will continue to call this out. We will continue to be very clear. When you see this type of hatred, again, I want to be very careful because there’s an investigation going on, so I don’t want to get ahead of the investigation, but just more broadly, hate and political violence has no place, no place in any community.
The other question I have is Republican leader McCarthy is in El Paso today, probably going to make some kind of announcement involving the Homeland Security Secretary. How does the White House respond to criticism that it’s lost control of the border and given the change in leadership of Customs and Border Protection, what changes does White House have in mind about how it wants to manage the flow of migrants from the border?
Karine Jean-Pierre (52:52):
Just a couple of things. I know I’ve heard that Kevin McCarthy’s at the border and the question that we have for Kevin McCarthy, who’s soon to be be Speaker McCarthy, what is his plan? What is he doing to help the situation that we’re seeing? What is his plan? He goes down there and he does a political stunt, like many Republicans do, that we have seen them do, but he actually is not putting forth a plan, a plan to help us deal with an issue that we’re all seeing, that you all are reporting. One of the things he can do is he can go to Texas Senator Ted Cruz or any members of the Republican caucus from Texas, who voted against the President’s request for record funding to support the hardworking men and women at the Department of Homeland Security and whether they’ll vote for it when it comes up again.
We have put a solution to this. We have said, here are the ways that we can deal with this. On the President’s first day in the White House, he put forth a comprehensive immigration plan because he knew how important it was to move forward with getting this done, but let me just say a couple of things and then I’ll take other questions. Here’s the point the President has done. He secured record funding levels to DHS to support the more than 23,000 agents working day and night to secure the border, under Secretary Mayorkas leadership. He put forward, again, a comprehensive immigration bill on day one. We’ve partnered with Mexico and Guatemala to tackle the criminal smuggling networks praying on immigrants. Those efforts have already resulted in thousands of arrests because of the work that this President has done. He brought 20 leaders together to collaboratively manage the immigration challenge impacting the whole Western hemisphere and we’re stopping Fentanyl before it even makes it to the streets of the United States.
We have a plan, we’ve been putting that forward. McCarthy has no plan. The Republican party has no plan. They do nothing except do political stunts.
Is there a change in approach? Given that you’re changing leadership at CBP, does that signal that the administration’s going to change course at all?
Karine Jean-Pierre (55:12):
We feel that we have a plan that we have put forward. We are happy to work with Republicans in a bipartisan way, as the President has done for the past 20 months and more than 200 pieces of legislation that he has been able to be done in a bipartisan way, signed into law, so this is something that can be done. Instead of doing political stunts and making this about politics, why don’t soon to be Speaker McCarthy actually put a plan before us, actually come to the table and put some work into it? Go ahead.
How do you go about breaking the log jam on guns on Capitol Hill? Is it even possible?
Karine Jean-Pierre (55:51):
The President, as he says, as you’ve heard him say personally, he’s an optimist and so we’re optimistic that we can get this done. The President’s not going to stop until we ban assault weapons. This is something that he did 30 years ago. As you know, you’ve heard him talk about it When he was a senator in 1994. He was able to put that forward and it saved lives. Unfortunately, it’s sunset 10 years later. The President’s going to continue to work on that.
People didn’t think we would get even a bipartisan legislation on the gun reform bill that the President was able to sign into law just a couple of months ago. People didn’t think that was going to happen and we were able to get that done. Again, we’re going to just continue our efforts, continue having those conversations because we have to keep our community safe.
Secondly, is there an update on the potential rail strike? Is the President talking to any of the parties?
Karine Jean-Pierre (56:45):
Just a couple of things on that that I want to say just at the top because I think it’s important. I know I spoke to this on the plane yesterday. As the President has said from the beginning, a shutdown is unacceptable because of the harm it would inflict on jobs, families, farms, businesses and communities just across the country and a majority of unions have voted, as you all know, I know you guys are following this very closely, to ratify the tentative agreement that we saw back in September. The best option still is for the parties to resolve their differences themselves and that’s what the President’s going to continue to call on.
To your specific question though, Steve, the President is indeed involved directly, but I don’t want to get into details at this time, but he has been involved. He remains focused, again, on protecting America’s families. We have to avoid a rail shutdown. It will harm, again, families, businesses and farms and so we’re going to continue to speak to this. The administration is in touch, again, to your question, with parties involved, as we have been since before the tentative agreement was reached.
To that question, the White House does seem a lot more hands off this time around though than you were before the last strike deadline. SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson this morning said that there’s been, “No real engagement yet at this point from the administration.” Can you explain what’s different this time around? You keep pointing to the fact that the best option is for the parties to resolve this themselves. Is that because you don’t want Congress to get involved or is that because you’d like his unions to resolve this amongst themselves without involvement from the administration?
Karine Jean-Pierre (58:29):
There’s a tentative agreement, as you all know about. I just said, the President has been directly involved. He’s been in touch. The administration more broadly has been in touch with respective parties. Secretary Walsh, as I mentioned yesterday, has been in touch. We have been involved since before the tentative agreement. The President laid out, as you all know, a path forward, but this is something that he believes that the parties should resolve themselves. They should come to the table in good faith and get this done on behalf of the American people.
Can you explain how the President’s been involved though, just given that one of the union President’s saying he hasn’t seen any real engagement-
Karine Jean-Pierre (59:10):
I mean you’re talking about-
So far you’ve only told us that he’s been briefed, but you haven’t given us-
Karine Jean-Pierre (59:13):
No. This is the third time I’m saying he’s been directly involved. You’re talking about one union President, there are 12. You’re talking about one. I said I’m not going to provide any details at this time. The administration more broadly has been also in touch with parties. Yes, the President, he’s been briefed, but he has actually been directly involved. Not going to get into more details on that, but you’re talking about one President out of 12 and I know that they voted yesterday, this particular union that you’re speaking of, but again, we are calling on all parties to come together and resolve this.
On a separate topic, the President has said that during the holiday season he plans to sit down with his family, just talk about his intentions for running or not for re-election 2024. Can you give us any insights into what those discussions will look like over the Thanksgiving holiday in particular?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:00:10):
Going to be careful here. It’s an upcoming election, so don’t want to dive into that too much here, but I just repeat what the President has said many times, what I have said many times at this podium, is that the President intends to run, he plans to run. He said himself, as you just laid out, Jeremy, that he’s going to have a private conversation with his family. Certainly not going to lay out what that conversation could look like or potentially be. That is the President’s, clearly, prerogative to have that conversation with his family, to make that decision, but not going to dive too much into this because it’s an upcoming election. The President intends to run and I’ll leave it there.
Speaker 13 (01:00:50):
That private conversation, [inaudible 01:00:54] private conversation?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:00:55):
I have no idea. It’s a private conversation, that, by the way, I will not be part of, hence a private conversation.
Speaker 13 (01:01:01):
On the directly involved. He was directly involved ahead of the September agreement being reached. Are you saying he’s been directly involved this week?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:01:13):
I could say this. He’s been directly involved since before there was even a tentative agreement. That has not stopped. The President has been kept abreast as to what is happening and he has been directly involved because he understands how important it is to make sure that we do not have a rail shut because as I laid out, it would have a really serious effect on American families.
Speaker 13 (01:01:37):
Just trying to figure out, who this week, in the closing days before notices may have to go out, in the administration, is in touch with the unions? Is it the labor secretary? Is it somebody else in this-
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:01:48):
I’ve been very clear that Secretary Walsh has been in touch with the respective parties in this and he has continued to stay in touch with, again, the parties that are involved in this agreement, but again, I’m not going to get too far ahead of that. Look, he’s encouraging, Secretary Walsh specifically, he’s encouraging sides to reach a resolution that prevents a threat to a shutdown and that’s been our focus. Clearly there’s other folks in the administration, but Secretary Walsh played such a pivotal role in the tentative agreement and so he’s easy to point to because he’s the Secretary of Labor and has been, certainly, directly involved.
Speaker 13 (01:02:35):
Is there a date in the next week or so, at which point y’all have to elevate this, if there isn’t an agreement because again, there’s going to be disruption for industries that rely on that?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:02:45):
Oh, we know. We understand. We understand that there will be a disruption. We have been very clear about that. Again, the President has been directly involved. Don’t have any details to provide at this time. Secretary Walsh has been involved as well, as you know, as the Secretary of Labor and the administration more broadly, as well, has been in touch with the parties involved in this really critical, important issue.
Speaker 8 (01:03:10):
I think just to drill down on this part of it, not to belabor the point, but there was almost a celebration in the Rose Garden two months ago with the President, with these labor leaders, with management. Is the President surprised to see that so many of these, obviously not all of them, but four out of the 12 of these unions have actually rejected a deal which he tried to sell, as a strong deal for labor for these workers involved?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:03:32):
I want to be very clear here. The tentative agreement that we saw in September actually helped to prevent an immediate disruption to the economy. That was important that we were able to prevent that. This administration worked to bring unions and rail companies together to reach that agreement and it kept our rail system working and prevented a disruption, again, to our economy, so that was an important moment as well. Look, we’re going to be very steadfast in saying that all parties need to come together, they need to come together in a good faith and we have to prevent a rail shutdown.
Speaker 8 (01:04:12):
Two other questions. Yesterday the President said that he heard about the appointment of the special counsel when we all did. I wonder if you can elaborate on that? Was the President truly just informed based on media reports? Is there not a process in place with the DOJ in which that would be communicated?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:04:26):
There’s no process in place. We are not involved. When it comes to a criminal investigation, the Department of Justice has its independence. We respect that independence. We are not involved. We were not forewarned. We learned just like you all did.
Speaker 8 (01:04:43):
Lastly, the President obviously turned 80 this weekend. It was a year ago on his birthday that Dr. Kevin O’Connor, his chief physician, released a very thorough analysis and medical report. I’m wondering if you expect that to happen again. Will we get an annual physical from the White House Medical Unit?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:05:02):
The President is in good health and maintains an active lifestyle. That is from the doctor, he shared that with me. He will have a physical in the upcoming months and the results will be released in the same way that it was last year.
Will he be doing that before he makes his future political…
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:05:20):
Look, I don’t have a timeline for you. We are going to provide the information just as transparently as we did last year, this time around as well and it will be happening in the next couple months.
Speaker 14 (01:05:34):
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:05:34):
I’ll come to you the back.
Speaker 14 (01:05:36):
How much of a priority is it for the White House to get a legislation to protect Dreamers passed during the [inaudible 01:05:43]?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:05:44):
As you know, when it comes to DACA, it is something that is very important to the President. I don’t want to get ahead of… You’re talking about in the next couple of weeks? I’m not going to get into
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:06:00):
… any specifics on the agenda for the next couple of weeks. As we have said, we’re going to have conversations with leadership in Congress, but I’m just not going to get into specifics.
Speaker 15 (01:06:13):
And also, a bipartisan group of Senators are urging the administration to reconsider its decision not to give advanced drones to Ukraine. Is that something the President is open to?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:06:23):
Say that one more time.
Speaker 15 (01:06:25):
His decision not to give advanced drones to Ukraine, is that something that the President is open to reconsidering?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:06:32):
I would have to see this. This is a bipartisan letter?
Speaker 15 (01:06:36):
Yeah, a bipartisan group of Senators have sent a letter. They’re urging him to reconsider this decision.
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:06:42):
Okay. I would have to look at this letter and talk to the National Security Council. I’ve not heard of this letter. And I’m sorry, I’ll come to the back after.
Speaker 16 (01:06:50):
Yes. I just wanted to follow up also on the lame duck session and see if the administration is still prioritizing passing the debt limit. And secondly, on student loans, is there an estimate for when the legal challenges will start wrapping up? The President said back in October that he thought relief would go out in two weeks and, of course, that has come and gone, so what should people expect in terms of timeline for when these legal challenges [inaudible 01:07:17]?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:07:17):
So, look, on your first question about the debt ceiling, and I’ve said this before, it should never be a matter of political brinkmanship. We’ve been very clear. Congressional Republicans voted three times to lift the debt ceiling under the previous President, three times that they were able to do this. Congress must once again responsibly address the debt ceiling before its expiration. The sooner they act, the better for our economy and our country. We would welcome Congress resolving this issue during the lame duck. That is something that we are certainly open to and want to see and we are consulting closely with Congressional leadership on the issue. Again, it should not be used as a political brinkmanship. On your question on student loans, you are talking about what specifically?
Because you said, two weeks has passed, but as you know, we have sent this up to the highest court of the land, the highest court of our nation to make sure that we move forward quickly with making sure that the student loan relief that the President put forward, his plan, gets to the American people very quickly. As we know, there are about 16 million people who signed up and have been approved to get that relief, and so we think it’s incredibly important to make that happen. We believe very strongly and we are confident in our legal authority to carry out this program. But, again, I want to be very clear here, and I’ve said this many times before, it is really unfortunate that we see Congressional officials and special interest groups try to block this.
The way that this President sees the student debt relief, he sees it as an opportunity to give Americans a little bit of breathing room, American families, to be able to start a family themselves, to be able to buy a house, to be able to really move forward with their lives in a way that they have that opportunity to do so with, again, a little bit of that breathing room. So we’re going to continue to fight. The President knows how to fight here. He wants to fight for the American people and so we’re going to continue to make sure that we get this done. [inaudible 01:09:41].
Speaker 17 (01:09:42):
On the debt, you said that you welcome Congress resolving this issue. Two questions about that. First, the definition of resolving this issue. Are you thinking just a little bump up to get through a month or are you thinking permanently resolving this issue, as some Democrats have recommended?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:10:00):
I appreciate the question. I’m just not going to get into specifics on how they’re going to move forward on doing this. What we believe is it should not be used as political brinkmanship. This should be done. It was done three times under the previous President by Republicans and so there’s no reason why we can’t do this again.
Speaker 17 (01:10:16):
And you said that you would welcome Congress doing this. Is the White House actively working to get Congress to address this in the lame duck?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:10:24):
So, look, as I’ve said before, we are continuing to have conversations, we always do, with Congressional members just on a regular basis as we do here at the White House. I don’t have anything specific to read out, any conversation to read out. But, again, this is something that we welcome. Again, we do not believe this should be used as political brinkmanship.
Speaker 18 (01:10:50):
Thanks a lot. I wanted to ask you about the statement that you made right at the top talking about the need for an assault weapons ban. This is probably the best time in terms of moving that type of legislation forward during the lame duck session given that Republicans will take over the House in January. So what is the administration doing to move this forward during this limited window that you have right now to move that legislation forward?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:11:16):
So, look, the President has always been very clear when it comes to the ban on assault weapons, which is something that we have to get done. It’s a priority to him and it has been. He was a leader on that issue on getting that legislation done 30 years ago. Under his administration, we were able to get the gun reform, bipartisan gun reform legislation done just a couple of months ago, and this is something that’s going to continue to be important to him. I think we’ve talked a little bit about the priorities of the lame duck, but he wants to have conversations with Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to talk about what lame duck priorities is going to look like.
But, again, when it comes to banning assault weapons, this is something that is personal to him. This is an issue that he’s worked on for so long. It should have happened months ago. It should have happened years ago. And we should have communities that are safe for our kids. We should have communities that are safe for families. We should have communities that are safe for Americans across the country. But I’m not going to get into specifics on priorities.
Speaker 18 (01:12:38):
[inaudible 01:12:38] the same way that there is this narrow window to move this legislation forward right now?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:12:42):
Say that one more time.
Speaker 18 (01:12:43):
Do you see it in the same way that you have this narrow window during the lame duck session to move this legislation forward?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:12:50):
This particular legislation, you’re talking about the ban on assault weapons?
Speaker 18 (01:12:55):
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:12:55):
Look, I just said we haven’t laid out our priorities just yet. We’re going to have conversations with Democratic and Republican leadership in both the House and the Senate to talk about what the priorities are going to be for the next couple of weeks. But clearly, clearly this legislation is important to the President. He has talked about this many times. He put it out in a statement most recently after the horrific events that we saw at Club Q, and he’s going to continue to speak to it. Yes, Steven.
Thanks. Just once more on the rail labor dispute. The President a couple months ago called the tentative agreement a big win and it wasn’t just the fact that a strike at the time was averted. He was talking about the substance of the agreement. So now that the rank and file, the workers in four of the unions, have rejected that agreement, is the President pulling back on his endorsement or does he still think this tentative agreement should be implemented?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:13:45):
Well, here’s what we’re saying, is that it averted a horrible downturn in our economy by that tentative agreement. It was a big deal. What it could have done to our economy would’ve been devastating. And so right now we are asking the parties involved to come together in good faith and resolve this. The President is directly involved, as I have said, Secretary Walsh has been involved, as I’ve said, and not just now but before the tentative agreement. And so, look, the tentative agreement was indeed important, again, because it stopped a horrible potential downturn again to our economy.
Part of the White House’s messaging, part of the industry’s messaging is the majority of the unions involved have actually ratified the contract. So I guess the question is, if you’re urging both sides to come to the table, the companies don’t have a particular incentive to do so. Are you suggesting that the President would not sign a bill that would impose the terms of the tentative agreement on those four unions?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:14:59):
Look, I’m going to get into hypotheticals from here. What I’m saying is we have been very clear that both sides need to come together to reach a resolution that prevents a threat to a shutdown. And that’s what we’re going to continue to be very clear about.
Speaker 19 (01:15:17):
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:15:18):
I keep forgetting, I’m so sorry.
Speaker 19 (01:15:20):
I’ve got two questions. You said a couple of times that the President’s going to wait to have conversations with Republicans and Democrats in Congress before laying out the agenda. The President said that he was planning to have members of Congress from both parties, the leadership, coming over to the White House. Is there any update on the plan for that meeting, when it’s going to take place? Have invitations been sent out? Has the Presidents started to have those preliminary conversations with leaders?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:15:44):
I don’t have anything to preview at this time on members coming to the White House. When we do, we’ll certainly share that with all of you.
Speaker 19 (01:15:54):
And then, on a separate topic, we’ve learned through recent reporting about President’s granddaughter living here at the White House. I was wondering if you have any more details on whether she plans to continue to live here and whether any other family members or other people besides the President and the First Lady live at the White House?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:16:11):
I don’t have anything further to share on that.
Speaker 20 (01:16:16):
I’d like to follow up on Steven’s question, is there a point at which the White House would welcome Congressional intervention on the rail labor dispute? And, I guess related to that, what are the concerns that the President has to Congress intervening on this at some point?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:16:32):
So, look, we are in continuous contact with Congress on this issue as we have been for months, and don’t have anything more to share or preview at this time. But, again, we’re going to continue to have those conversations with Congress and we will convey that view after we have those conversations with Congress.
Speaker 20 (01:16:55):
So it sounds like there aren’t specific concerns about Congressional intervention if it reaches that point.
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:17:00):
I’m just not going to get ahead of any process here. That’s a bit of a hypothetical. I’m just saying that we have been in conversation with Congress, we have been for the past several months, and will continue to do so. Go ahead.
Speaker 21 (01:17:15):
Thank you so much. A foreign policy question. So the crackdown on protests in Iran continues and the latest numbers we have by a human rights group is of more than 70 people killed by security forces last week alone. So it looks like sanctions or statements don’t have much of an effect on the regime in Tehran. What are the next steps that the administration is considering?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:17:40):
So let me just first say we remain gravely concerned about the intensifying violent crackdown on peaceful protestors in Iran who are demanding their equal rights, their basic human rights. We are particularly concerned about recent reports from Iran on this specifically. The Iranian government has now killed hundreds of people, if not more, in its crackdown according to credible reports by human rights organizations. We condemn the Iranian authorities that have arrested and fired on peaceful protestors. The targeted arrest of journalists, human rights activists, teachers, and cultural figures, and the continued disruption of the internet inside Iran.
For decades, Iran’s regime has denied fundamental freedoms for its people and suppressed the aspirations of successive generations through intimidation, coercion, and violence. The United States stands with the Iranian women and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their bravery and we will continue to use all available tools to pursue accountability. As you know, we’ve laid out actions that we have done from here to assist and to make sure we hold folks accountable. Don’t have anything new to share from here, but we are always looking at potential other ways to hold folks into account.
Speaker 22 (01:19:06):
Karine, want to do a couple more.
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:19:07):
Speaker 2 (01:19:12):
Follow up on Chris’ questions on the border. You were saying the administration has been clear about its plan. There actually hasn’t been an official statement on whether or not the administration will appeal the December 21st court order that would lift Title 42. Will the administration appeal or will it not?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:19:28):
So just a couple things here. In many ways, we’ve been preparing. I just want to make sure that you’re aware that, I know we get questions about if we’ve been preparing for what to do once Title 42 is lifted, we’ve been preparing for this. We’ve been working to accelerate asylum process times to those without a legal basis to remain and can be removed promptly. And we’ve set up anti-smuggling operations with Mexico and Guatemala, as I mentioned. As we prepare to transition to the next phase of our work to manage the border in a safe, orderly, and humane way, the Department of Homeland Security will continue to double down on those proven strategies. And you should expect to hear more from them in the coming weeks on how we’re preparing for this because I know that’s been a question. Look, I’m not going to get into any specific legal movements of what we’re going to be doing. That’s not something that I will do from here. I leave that in the hands of the Department of Justice.
Speaker 2 (01:20:27):
Okay. And right now, for Venezuelans, which make up a large portion of people coming to the border, the administration has given a very limited humanitarian parole for the overall numbers of migrants coming. And, basically, Title 42, every other Venezuelan coming to the border, that’s lifted. You were just saying expanding asylum. Does that mean that those migrants would be allowed to ask for asylum or would there be another policy expedited removal or otherwise to turn them away? Would they be allowed to ask for asylum or would they be turned away?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:20:59):
It’s a great question. I’m going to let the Department of Homeland Security, as I just said, they’re going to have more. They’ll share more on how they’re preparing for what will happen once Title 42 is lifted. I’m not going to get ahead of them and they’ll lay out their process.
Speaker 2 (01:21:13):
It sounds like though there’s no commitment here to actually follow the court order on December 21st.
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:21:21):
It’s not up for me to decide. It’s something for the Department of Justice to make that decision, is what I’m saying. This is for the Department of Justice to decide.
Speaker 2 (01:21:28):
A follow up, Karine. Just a quick follow up.
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:21:30):
Speaker 2 (01:21:32):
Question I’m ready to give a follow up on [inaudible 01:21:33].
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:21:32):
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Speaker 23 (01:21:36):
Yeah, thanks very much. You said from the lectern that the wedding of Naomi Biden and Peter would be a private one and that it would be closed to the media. Yet, I’m reading all about it and looking at pictures on the Vogue website. Could you just talk us through what happened there?
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:21:51):
So, first of all, let’s level set here for a second. This was not a national security meeting. This was not an economic meeting or economic summit. This was a young couple’s wedding with their friends and family. This is what this was. This is what happened here on Saturday. And, secondly, just to be very clear, Vogue did not attend the wedding. They were not there. So what you’re reading is inaccurate. They did not attend the wedding. As I told you all before, there was no press access at the wedding. It was a private family event. And so, wait, you’re asking me the question. Let me just lay this out for you and then I’m happy to take one follow up and then we’re going to go. The couple asked that their wedding events be closed to the media and it was. It was a closed event, a private family event.
Vogue did a portrait shoot on Thursday afternoon before the wedding in the green room. I would also remind you that many photos were released to the public on Saturday after the wedding to everyone. Vogue actually held their photos. They embargoed it until today so it would give ample time for the photos to be in the public sphere. And so it is inaccurate, completely wrong. It is not right to say that it was open, to suggest that a Vogue cover was open to the press. It was not. And so just want to be very, very clear what you’re reading right now is not accurate.
Speaker 22 (01:23:24):
Yeah, I mean, I wasn’t suggesting-
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:23:26):
But that’s what you just said.
Speaker 22 (01:23:27):
No, my question was, he had said it was going to be a private wedding.
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:23:32):
Speaker 22 (01:23:32):
I mean, it seems as if you were saying the media would not be allowed access on the wedding day, but I think that those of us might think that dressing up in a wedding dress, having a photo shoot, talking about the wedding is coverage of the wedding.
Karine Jean-Pierre (01:23:47):
The wedding was private, it was a private family affair. There was no press access to the wedding. We were very clear about that. There’s no reason to mince our words here. The family and friends were invited to this wedding. It was a private event. It was a young couple’s wedding. It was a joyous occasion. Again, the reports out there are inaccurate and false.
Speaker 24 (01:24:12):