James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:51 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody. Okay, so — come on in, guys. I have two housekeeping things, and then we’ll get started.
So we are excited to welcome Olivia Dalton, our new Principal Deputy Press Secretary, into the briefing room and to our team. Olivia returns to the White House after serving as the Director of Communications and Spokesperson at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
Olivia and I have known each other for more than a decade, right? We’ve been friends for more than a decade. And so, I am very excited for her to join our team and to be working with all — all of you as well.
And one other thing before we get started. We wanted to continue our press team tradition in the briefing room. I just want to take a moment to congratulate and celebrate Andrew. He is getting married this coming Saturday. Continuing that tradition. Come on, guys. (Applause.)
Q Who’s doing rapid response for that? (Laughter.)
MR. BATES: I probably am. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Just wanted to say, to add to that, the love he shares for his best friend, movie pal, and partner, Megan Apper, is wonderful. We’re wishing them the best as they embark on a lifetime of love and happiness.
And — and so, of course, like we have done in the past, let’s start this off right — or finish this off right. A little sash. Here you go, my friend. (Laughter.) We’re continuing the tradition. We got to continue the tradition. There you go.
Q Put it on.
(The Press Secretary puts a sash on Mr. Bates.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, am I doing this right? All right.
Q Stand up with it. (Laughter.) Stand up with it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Come on. Come on, Andrew.
(Mr. Bates stands.) (Laughter and applause.)
Q Oh, that’s nice. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And — okay, and one more thing. And with that, there is a — a special guest — a surprise guest for Andrew in the briefing room. Megan Apper, stand up. There we go. Oh, she was right there. (Applause.) Andrew, did you see her?
MR. BATES: No, I didn’t. (Laughter.)
(Mr. Bates and Ms. Apper hug.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And, Megan, we’re taking it to the next level. Here. (Laughter.) And here’s yours as well.
(The Press Secretary gives Ms. Apper a hat and sash.)
Okay. All right.
We take marriage and wedding very seriously here — here on the press team. Okay, all right. (Laughter and applause.) Congratulations, guys. We’re so excited for you.
MR. BATES: Thank you so much.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I think Andrew is going to be gone for, like, 10 days, right?
MR. BATES: Yes.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So don’t bug him. Bug us. And really, really excited for you. And congratulations to you. Thank you for coming to surprise him. (Laughter.)
MR. BATES: Now, Karine is going to marry us. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: “And right now…” — (laughter).
Okay. I do want to do that one day, but no one will take me up on it.
But in all seriousness — okay. So, we know you all had a couple of questions on the Ukraine counteroffens- — offensive that they’ve been doing the last week or so, a couple of days.
And so, we wanted to invite our NSC friend, John Kirby, to come into the briefing room and take a couple of questions. So, I will let him do that. He’s going to do about 15 minutes. I think he — I’m sure he has a topper and take a few questions. And, of course, we have the event at 3:00, so we’re going to make sure that we get to as many people as we can today.
Go ahead. All right.
MR. KIRBY: Congratulations. There’s no way what I’m about to say can top that. (Laughter.)
I have two things I wanted to start with. One is on Pakistan and the other Armenia and Azerbaijan, quite frankly. And then I know there’s going to be questions on what’s going on in Ukraine, and I’m happy to take those.
But, on Pakistan, just a quick update on our assistance during this difficult time of flooding. And I think you’ve all been seeing that and covering that. The devastation is pretty severe: 33 million people affected; 1,400 hundred have — have died; almost 13,000 have been injured. Infrastructure literally washed away, to include almost 2 million homes and more than 4 million acres of farmland.
So, the United States continues to stand with Pakistan and the communities inside Pakistan, and we’ll help them as much as we can.
I think you may have seen on Friday, last week, that the USAID Administrator, Samantha Power, was in Pakistan to meet with flood-affected communities. And during that visit, she was able to announce that the United States was providing an additional $20 million in humanitarian assistance to support the people of Pakistan.
That brings to $53.1 million total of our support this year just to support disaster resilience and flood response in Pakistan, with $50 million for emergency flood relief and $3 [million] in resilience programming.
But it’s not just financial assistance. And you’ll probably hear more about this from our folks at the Pentagon. But — but yesterday, a total of nine aircraft run by U.S. Central Command delivered more than 400 tons of relief supplies to — through USAID’s Dubai warehouse in support, again, of the flood response.
And our assistance to the people of Pakistan is being determined, of course, by U.S. personnel on the ground. USAID has deployed a disaster assistance response team to lead the U.S. government’s humanitarian response efforts in Pakistan. And again, we’re going to continue to support them as much as we can.
On Armenia and Azerbaijan, some of you have asked some questions about that. I think you probably saw our statement yesterday — the one that Secretary Blinken issued. We remain deeply concerned about reports of continued attacks along that border, including reports of shelling and significant damage to civilian infrastructure.
We’re actively engaged with both the Armenian and the Azerbaijani government to see what we can do to end this violence. In fact, Secretary Blinken spoke with both the President of Azerbaijan overnight as well as the Prime Minister of Armenia.
We’ve long said — but it remains, I think, important and it needs to be said again — that there can be no military solution to this conflict. We urge restraint from any further military hostilities. We also encourage both governments to reestablish direct lines of communications across diplomatic and military channels, and to recommit to a diplomatic process to resolve the — to resolve the crisis.
Q Are we witnessing a turning point in the war in Ukraine?
MR. KIRBY: I think what you’re seeing is certainly a shift in momentum by — by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, particularly in the north.
Now, we’ve been talking about this for quite some days now — this long-planned counteroffensive. It’s really two counteroffensives, Steve; you got one in the north and one in the south.
Clearly, we’ve been watching closely. And the events in the north are — are more dramatic than what we’ve seen in the South.
I would let President Zelenskyy determine and decide whether he feels, militarily, they’ve reached a turning point. But clearly, at least in the Donbas, the — there’s a sense of momentum here by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
And so what we’re going to do is continue to support them as best we can.
Q Does it feel like the Russians are just turning tail and run — or running? Or what are the Russians doing here?
MR. KIRBY: Well, I want to be careful not to speak for a foreign military. But, I mean, certainly in the north, we have seen Russians evacuate, withdraw, or retreat from their defensive positions, particularly there in and around the Kharkiv Oblast.
They have left — they have left fighting positions. They have left supplies. They have — they’re calling it a repositioning, but it’s certainly — they have withdrawn in the face of Ukrainian Armed Forces that are clearly on the offense.
But, Steve, it’s — I mean, obviously, these are some dramatic events we’re watching, but it’s war. And war is unpredictable. And I think we’re going to watch this as closely as we can, but it’s really the Ukrainian Armed Forces that — that should speak to the progress they’re making.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, we got to get out of here at 2:35, so let me — go ahead, Jonathan.
Q What early signs are the U.S. seeing of a Russian response to the counteroffensive? And what fears do you — do you and your Western allies have for how Putin, now that he’s taking these defeats, may escalate things further?
MR. KIRBY: Good question. So you’ve already seen, over the weekend, the Russian military hit some infrastructure targets in Ukraine. It looks like they were largely going after the power grid. Mixed success, I think. Not all their strikes hit the targets or at least damaged the infrastructure to a maximum degree.
But that was certainly what we would anticipate or what we analyzed as a response to what the Ukrainians were doing up in the north.
It remains to be seen what their next steps are going to be here as the Ukrainians remain on the offense up in the north and to continue to pursue a counteroffensive down in the south.
They were invaded. They have a right to defend their country and their territorial integrity. And that means going on the offense. It doesn’t mean just defending.
And, Jonathan, I know everybody is focused, rightly so, on what we’ve been seeing in the last few days. But I think it’s important to remember that even from the get-go here, way back in February and March, that the Ukrainians were still on the offense as well as on the defense in this war. And it’s a very dynamic situation.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Can I follow up quickly on that? Is there any concern that Russian repositioning would include repositioning in Armenia because of the response?
MR. KIRBY: We have not seen that. What we want to see — what we want to see is the hostilities stop. Now, the Russians apparently brokered a ceasefire overnight that was almost immediately broken. So, obviously, we want to see there be a ceasefire that can stay in effect.
But we haven’t seen any indication that Russian forces are repositioning.
Now, I will remind, and I think you know this — I mean, they did have a peacekeeping presence there. And as far as we know, that peacekeeping presence is still there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. A couple more. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, John. The U.S. and its allies have taken into careful consideration, kind of, the dynamics on the ground as they’ve considered new support or assistance to send to the military. Has the current state of play changed or shifted what type of capabilities the U.S. is willing to send to Ukraine in this moment?
MR. KIRBY: Well, I won’t get ahead of future security assistance packages. I do think you’ll see another one here in coming days, Phil. We’re in lockstep with the Ukrainians, talking to them every day. Secretary Austin just held another contact group last week with 50-some-odd countries. And, of course, the Ukrainians were present.
So, there’s real-time discussions going on with the Ukrainians about what their military needs are. And I would also add that many of the systems that we’ve been providing in just the last few weeks and couple of months have proven instrumental and effective in the Ukrainians’ ability to go on the offense and to be actually quite effective on the defense in the last several days and weeks, to include, of course, those advanced rocket systems that we’re — that we’ve talked about so much. They’re using — they’re using them with great effect.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sebastian.
Q Thank you very much. Two questions please. There’s been some pretty unprecedented expressions in public by various officials in Russia, whether it’s Kadyrov or some municipal —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q — elected officials — but discontent with what’s going on, even if they’re coming from different directions. Is there any indications that Putin faces a threat to his two decades in power?
MR. KIRBY: Well, I think that’s going to be up to the Russian people to decide. I mean, we have taken note of
public statements by public officials. And certainly, it’s not — not insignificant, because it’s not the kind of thing you have typically seen.
Mr. Putin has tried to obscure the war in Ukraine since it started — actually, I’d go so far as to say before it started. He calls it a “special military operation.” It’s a war. And he hasn’t been honest with his own people about what he’s doing there or why he’s doing it and what he’s doing it with. And he certainly hasn’t been honest with the Russian people about the struggles that the Russian military have had in the conduct of this war, to include casualties and losses of equipment and systems.
So, yeah, we know that he’s coming under more criticism, but it’s going to really be up to the Russian people to decide how they handle that.
Q And my other question was: Is what’s happening around Nagorno-Karabakh, in Armenia — is Azerbaijan taking advantage of the fact the Russians are in a real mess on, you know, the other side of their country?
MR. KIRBY: It’s difficult for us to say with certainty what the motivation is there. As you know, this has been — these tensions have been long running since the end of the Soviet Union and broke out into full-scale war in 2020.
So it’s really difficult to know what — you know, what was the lit match here that started this. It’s possible that there could be some notion by some leaders that, you know, Russia is preoccupied. But again, I think we need to be careful speculating on that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: In the back, go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Yeah, I wanted to ask you: Chinese investors were the most active buyers of U.S. real estate last year among foreigners, often paying cash for farms, homes above market rates, in many cases pushing American buyers out of the markets.
At the same time, housing is becoming a crisis. There is an increasing number of homelessness in the United States. Black ownership of homes is below what it was in the 1970s. I’m wondering, given the fact that a known adversary — in this case, China — foreign buyers are buying up U.S. real estate — in some cases, farms around military installations — is this on the administration’s radar? And what is being done, perhaps, to study this or to protect Americans from making sure that homes remain affordable and so on?
MR. KIRBY: I think the question of homeownership is a little bit out of my — out of my swim lane, but — but —
Q No, this is actually a national security issue, particularly when it comes to around military installations.
MR. KIRBY: What I will tell you is that the President has been nothing but clear about our concerns about Chinese unfair trade practices and economic practices.
Q This isn’t about trade. This is about —
MR. KIRBY: I understand, ma’am. Let — I —
Q — national security and buying up land around military installations.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I’m probably not the right person to ask about homeownership here in the United States.
Q This isn’t about homeownership. This is about buying up land around military installations.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re going to — we’re going to keep going.
Q Is that a concern to this administration?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, April.
Q I sent this to your office last week. They’ve had a week to look at this, including the articles.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, we’re going to — we can get back to you afterwards. We got to move on.
Go ahead, April.
Q Thank you.
Q Two questions, John. Two questions. Going back to your comments about the struggles that Russia is having with this war —
MR. KIRBY: Yes, ma’am.
Q — does that change the mindset — the global mindset about the perceived status of Russia being a superpower with their struggles, as you just said, in this war?
MR. KIRBY: I think, you know, look no further than how the Defense Department has characterized Russia. They — they’ve talked about Russia being an acute threat. And I think that’s a accurate way of putting it.
They clearly still have a military capable of inflicting great damage and casualties. And we’ve seen that, sadly, to some effect in Ukraine.
Now, clearly — and I’ve talked about this many times — they have not — they have not overcome struggles and challenges with respect to command and control, logistics and sustainment, unit cohesion, integration of air and ground. I mean, they — they have met with many problems of their own making in Ukraine. There’s no question about that. But it’s still a very large and very powerful military. And Mr. Putin still has an awful lot of military capacity left at his disposal, not just to be used in Ukraine, but potentially elsewhere.
Q All right. And the second question — last question. On domestic national security issues: Bennie Thompson, the Chair of House Homeland Security Committee — he said that water insecurity in this nation is a national security threat. You have Jackson, Mississippi. You had Baltimore, Maryland, just recently. Flint, Michigan, we’re told, is no better than what it was; it may even be worse.
There are other places around this nation that are facing water issues. What do you say about the comment that water insecurity in this nation is a national security threat? And could you explain it?
MR. KIRBY: I think, you know, April, writ large, issues of resource security around the world ends up affecting our national security. And certainly, the United States is not immune to the problems that are caused either through infrastructure needs or through climate change.
But in general, when — when the country or any country faces, you know, famine, flood, drought, or natural disaster, it can create security issues that the United States military sometimes will have to respond to.
So, you know, you’ve got the National Guard that gets –they’re fighting wildfires, and they’re involved in helping, back home here, with floods and other natural disasters.
So, I mean, it does — those kinds of issues do back up on the national security establishment, as you would think that they would. That’s why it’s important that, you know, we completely fund the Defense Department; they have the capabilities to help out people, just like I talked about in Pakistan a few minutes ago and certainly here at home.
But we’re not — this country is not immune to the same sorts of pressures by climate change and other infrastructure issues that other countries are.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, last question.
Q Thanks. Can you talk about the Taiwan Policy Act that’s getting marked up in the Foreign Relations Committee tomorrow? We know you’ve had some problems with it. Are you working with Democrats on the committee to get that language changed? And what specifically do you want to see coming out of it that makes you feel good about that piece of legislation moving forward?
MR. KIRBY: Members of our legislative team and the administration here are in discussions with members of Congress about this proposed legislation. I don’t want to get too far ahead of it because it is proposed legislation, but as we do normally, we are working with members of Congress about it and as it goes forward.
But I would just remind that we have been deepening our involvement and our support for Taiwan in this administration. You saw that just a week or so ago, announced another round of arms sales to Taiwan — more than a billion dollars. It will give them capabilities to deal with the kinds of threats that they continue to face, certainly from the PRC.
So we’ve been adamant about being committed to Taiwan’s self-defense and moving that forward. And we look forward to working with Congress on this proposed legislation as it — as it works through the process, but it is working through the process.
Q You don’t want to say what you want changed?
MR. KIRBY: I think that’s about as far as I’ll go today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.
Q Can you define what your job is at the White House?
Q Thank you, John.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you, sir.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Thanks, John. All right, just have one topper for you. We have about 25 minutes before folks have to gather for the event at three o’clock.
So, this afternoon, President Biden will be joined by thousands of Americans in celebrating the historic Inflation Reduction Act here at the White House. The President will highlight how this historic legislation will deliver for middle-class families and why it’s a major win for them over rich special interests.
The President is proud that this bill delivers on promises that Washington has made to American people for decades, like lowering costs for families and finally taking aggressive action to tackle the climate crisis.
In his remarks today, the President will note that while Republican members of Congress could have joined in a bipartisan effort to fight inflation, instead they unanimously opposed lowering costs for the American people. And they have now unconscionably doubled down by declaring their top economic priority is to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act. Think about that.
The Inflation Reduction Act has already led to announcements of new manufacturing jobs being created in the United States, including from companies who weren’t planning to invest more here before the law. But they want to cancel those jobs, take away those jobs.
Americans have been forced to pay two to three times as much as people in other countries for prescription drugs for so, so long. But Republicans want to tie Medicare’s hand again. It’s flat wrong.
The President will also call out congressional Republicans for stopping us from capping the price of insulin at $35. And that they are going all out to prevent the IRS from stopping rich lawbreakers who are taking advantage of everyone else.
Now, today’s CPI data show more progress in bringing global inflation down here at home, thanks in part to the President’s actions and the fastest decline in gas prices in a decade. But there’s still more work to do to bring prices down, which is yet another reason why the Inflation Reduction Act that the President — that President Biden is speaking about this afternoon is so critically important.
I also want to say a word — a few words about the bill that Senator Graham just introduced just a couple of hours ago in the Senate — a national ban on abortion, which would strip away a woman’s rights in all 50 states. It’s wildly out of step with where the majority of Americans are.
Today, while President Biden and Vice President Harris are focused on the historic passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and taking action to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, healthcare, and energy, and unprecedented action to address climate change as well, Republicans in Congress are focused on taking rights away for millions — millions of women across the country.
While we are fighting for progress, they are fighting to take us back.
President Biden and congressional Democrats are committed to restoring the protections of Roe. And they are committed to doing so in the face of continued radical steps by elected Republicans to put personal healthcare decisions in the hands of politicians instead of women and their doctors, which threatens women’s health and their lives.
That’s what at stake — that’s what’s at stake right now in this country. And the American people need to use their voices.
With that, Chris, you want to take — kick us off?
Q Yes. How is the White House preparing for the potential strike on railroads? Is there the capacity through other means to move goods through the country? You know, what is being done right now to get ready for this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me just first say that it’s important to remember that the unions and companies are still at the table, which is incredi- — incredibly important. They’re negotiating in good faith, as the President and Cabinet Secretaries have pushed for these past several months.
And we have made crystal clear to the interested parties the harm that American families, businesses and farmers, and
communities would experience if they were not to reach a resolution.
A couple of things I would say about — basically, a contingency plan is what I think you’re asking me here — is: So we are working with other modes of transportation, including the shippers and truckers, air freight — air freight to see how they can step in and keep goods moving in case of this rail shutdown.
The administration has also been working with relevant agencies to assess what supply chains and commodities are most likely to face severe disruptions and available authorities to keep goods moving.
So, again, we’re really working with and trying to figure out with other modes of transportation how to move forward.
Q And has the President been — has the President been working the phones himself? Who has he spoken to directly?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So just a couple of things on that. Look, the President has been involved in this and the Cabinet Secretaries have been involved since the early days of this effort. The administration has made hundreds of calls and meetings with unions and companies since early spring and will continue to do so.
The White House also, back in — on July 15th, they took a step in creating the Presidential Emergency Board. And so, after a careful deliberation to find experienced members who could be trusted by both sides, they formed that board, which provided the framework to restart negotiations.
So that was July 15th, but they have been — they have been in constant communications since the early days of spring.
Q So the President — yes or no — is personally calling union lead- —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Oh, I’m happy to share that as well.
Yes- — just yesterday, while he was in Boston, the President called both the unions and the companies to alert to — to avert a strike. And, again, you know, as a reminder, it is just a — it’s just the latest engagement.
So, yes, the President has been engaged, as I just laid out. And again, the administration has made hundreds of calls since early spring. And you have the Secretaries — of Labor involved; you have the Secretary of Agriculture involved; you have the Secretary of Transportation — have been directly engaged since the early days.
Q And last thing: Does the President plan to cast his ballot in the Delaware primaries today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share about that at this time.
Q On the inflation report that came out today — you know, the President promising the Inflation Reduction Act will do just that and bring down costs. But this bill does not address food or housing prices of which we are seeing going up. So what is your message to Americans who are seeing these rising costs? And are you confident that you’re doing enough to finally bring these down?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President has said for some time now, when it comes to his — his number-one economic priority is to deal with inflation, is to make sure that we are lowering costs for Americans — for the American people; for American families; Americans who have to come around the table, you know, once a month in particular to figure out how are they going to pay those bills.
Again, this is why the event that we’re having in less than 45 minutes to celebrate and talk about — you’ll hear from the President about the Inflation Reduction Act — is so critical. That is why Democrats and this President took — took the — you know, did the hard work to get that done, is to lower costs on healthcare, to lower costs on prescription drugs, and also energy costs as well.
Look, when you look at the data, the inflation data, look, we’re seeing more progress bringing global inflation down in the U.S. economy as I just stated moments ago. Overall, prices have been essentially flat in our country these — these last two months. That is welcome news for American families, with more work still to do.
As you know, every day this summer, gas prices have come down. We are at about $1 — have come down, on average, $1.30 a gallon. That is because of the work that this administration did with the leadership of this President.
This month, we saw some welcome moderation in the price increases for food at the grocery store. It’s moderating, which is important. And real wages are going up again for the second month in a row, giving hard families — hardworking families just a little bit of breathing room that you hear the President say.
Look, but we understand that there is more work to do, and that is something that we are very, very focused on as well. But the — more work that we have to do to get this more down — cost down for American families.
Q But this bill doesn’t address groceries or rent. So how long should Americans expect those prices to remain high?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’re — again, we’re going to do everything that we can to lower prices. But let me — but we have taken concrete actions to lower food.
For example, there’s the doubling cropping — double cropping that USDA is making it easier for U.S. farmers to grow food in America, increase food supply, and lower food costs for American families.
There’s the fertilizer, which is also important in — where fertilizer prices spiked following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and remain at high levels. That’s why the President took action there. And USAD [USDA] have — has committed $500 million to lower fertilizer costs for farmers and increased supply.
There’s the ocean shipping as well. The President signed into law a historic reform of ocean shipping indesr- — industry.
All of these actions are going to help lower costs.
Again, we understand that there’s more work to do. But we have to understand that the infa- — the Inflation Reduction Act, it is a historic piece of legislation. It is going to make a big — it’s going to be a big deal for families — change their lives — as you look at prescription drugs and for Medicare benefici- — beneficiaries; as you look at energy cost for — for American — American families. That is still a big deal.
Is there more work to be done? Absolutely.
Q Back on the rail talks. Is there any progress being made in these talks, Karine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, we — as I mentioned, the President spoke to — to both the unions and the companies yesterday. We have encouraged — we continue to encourage both sides to continue the conversation — the talks at the negotiation table.
We are encouraged that they’re doing that in good faith.
And so, again, the Secretaries that I mentioned — Secretary of Department of Labor, Secretary of Department of Transportation, and Agriculture — have been working through this since early spring. And we’re committed to make sure that we get — that we are helpful here.
Q How damaging will a strike be to the U.S. economy, which seems to be in sort of a fragile stage at this point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I mean, we’re going to be very honest: A shu- — a shutdown would have a tremendous impact on our supply chains, as you all know. It’s going to have a ripple effects into our overall economy, on the American — on American families.
A shutdown is not acceptable. That is not something that we want. It risks harming families. It risks farming — harming businesses and whole communities. And we have made that clear, empathetically [emphatically] and repeatedly, to both parties. So we’re aware of the impact this might have, which is why, again, the President put together the PEB — the board — back in July to make sure that there was a negotiation framework to make sure that we’re neutral arbiters that could help get to a solution here.
I’m going to try and get around because I haven’t — go ahead, Steve. And then I’ll come back.
Q If I could just follow up on this question. So the President’s Emergency Board didn’t just create a framework, it proposed recommendations — recommendations accepted by 10 of the unions and the companies. Two unions that are talking about the dispute have not accepted these recommendations. What’s the President’s view of those recommendations? Is he urging them to accept the recommendations before Friday’s deadline?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m not going to get ahead of the conversations that are happening right now. What we are saying is we want to see — continue to see the good faith — we believe that the negotiations, the conversations are happening in good faith; we want to continue to see that. They are — continue to be at the table. And so that’s what we’re going to con- — push for at this time.
Q This specific issue is a question of the workers’ rights to take time off. They say that they should have the right to call in sick, pay respects to their relatives when they want to take bereavement. And they’re not able to do that. Is the President sympathetic to that? Because that’s the primary issue here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so, as you know, the President strongly supports collective bargaining as the best process available for employers and working people to reach mutual acceptable solutions.
But here’s the reality — and this is what the President understands — which is, you know, he’s focused on how this is going to hurt families and farms and businesses and communities. They could be harmed by this rail shutdown. So —
Q Even —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, he encourages them to continue to negotiate at the table in good faith.
Q Given the potential risk of harm, is the President prepared to sign a bill enacting the recommendations of the President’s Emergency Board?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, you know, the rail companies — we — again, we have to remember that they are — and the unions have worked out agreements in previous negotiations. This is not the first time, and they can do this again.
So we are going to encourage them to stay at the negotia- — negotiation table and — and in good faith, and come up with the solution this time around, as they have done many times before.
All right, I’m going to try and go around.
Go ahead, way in the back.
Q So, I’d like to ask you about Senator Graham’s bill. You just said that this is “wildly out of step” with how the American people feel. But throughout the years and even recently, there have been many polls that show — his bill calls for a 15-week ban — that even amongst people who would like abortion to be legal, when it comes to bans at 15 weeks, 20 weeks, 24, there actually is support for that. So is the White House open to work — to speaking with Senator Graham about some kind of compromise?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So — so two things I want to say there. The first thing is: The senator’s proposal would keep in place the most extreme — the most extreme state-level abortion bans that ban all abortions and have no exceptions for health — for health, rape, or incest. That’s just what his bill would do.
It also provides no exceptions for women who may need access to abortion for their health. That’s what his bill does. It is an extreme piece of legislation, and it is in line — from what we are seeing from Republicans on these extreme agendas — that is not in line — that is not in line with the majority of Americans.
One last thing, and then I’ll move on: I’m going to quote Lindsey Graham from August 7th, 2022. And he said, “I’ve been consistent. I think states should decide the issue of marriage and states should decide the issue of abortion.”
And so there — you know, that’s from his own — his own mouth, and now he wants to do a national ban.
I’m going to move around. We actually have 10 minutes or less. So I’m going to move around.
Go ahead. Go ahead. And then I’ll come back.
Q Thanks, Karine. What exactly would the Inflation Reduction Act do to reduce inflation in the short term?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I — I — when you look at the lowering costs, in particular, for Americans, I think that’s important when you think about how inflation has — has increased cost for American — Americans.
If you think about the hundred dollar — saving $100 per year on premiums with ACA; when you think about lowering costs for our seniors, capping that at $2,000 a year instead of thousands and thousands of dollars a month — that lowering of cost, as we — as we deal with a time that is difficult for many, many Americans.
Look, experts, economists has said themselves that this would be — the Inflation Reduction Act would — would be beneficial to — that 300 — that extra $300 billion in deficit that is really important, as we have — right now have $1.7 billion [trillion] in deficit deduction [reduction] under this administration. It would — it would help lower that even more, which is incredibly important.
And so, look, we’ve heard from Republicans and Democrats who were U.S — U.S. Treasury Secretaries who said it would lower inflation.
We’ve heard from — more than 126 economists said it would lower inflation.
And so I think that is — that is also an important fact that we point to when we talk about the importance of the Inflation Reduction Act, the importance of lowering cost for American — for American families, even as you look at the energy cost as well.
Q But some of the savings that you’re pointing to wouldn’t kick in until 2024 or 2026. So is it fair to suggest to people that somehow they’re going to see some inflation reduction right now while they’re hurting the most?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, that — that is actually not true. So, just — this is — just for some folks who are watching: Consumers, families, and small businesses owners can head to CleanEnergy.gov — as it relates to the energy cost component, the lowering of cost — to learn more about how they can start saving money immediately.
Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, tax credits and rebates — that is real. Inflation Reduction Act credits and rebates available today include a 30 percent credit to cover the cost of insta- — installing roof — rooftop solar; up to 10 percent credit to cover the cost of installation materials and other energy efficient improvements, like energy-savings windows and doors; a $300 tax credit for purchasing efficient heating and cooling equipment, like a heat pump or central air conditioner; a tax credit of up to 7- — $7,500 for purchasing a new electric vehicle.
All of these things could happen and are available to folks. Those rebates are available to folks. Those tax credits are available to folks today.
I’m going to get — go around.
Q Back here?
Q Back on Iran, Karine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, go ahead.
Q Karine, let me push —
Q On Title IX?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you. Okay. On Title IX. Thank you. The comment period just ended yesterday. It was swamped with comments. A lot of people writing in and saying they don’t like this. It’s going to hurt women. It’s going to hurt girls in athletic fields and dorms and locker rooms. Does the administration share those concerns, A? And, B, if enough people oppose it — the revisions, adding gender identity and sexual orientation — will the administration pull back and drop it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I would refer you to the Department of Education who would have details here — the more specifics on this.
But more broadly speaking, a couple of things for you: We certainly appreciate each of the comm- — comm- — commentators or commenters, if you will, for taking the time to share new views — their views about the proposed amendments to the department’s Title IX regulations. This is a critical part of any regulatory agenda process, from hearing from others, from hearing the comments that Americans may have about the process.
The department reviews each and every comment to help inform the development of the final regulations. That’s how the process works. And we’re not going to prejudge its process here, as we would not for any regulatory agenda that happens through various agencies — just across the federal government.
The promis- — the promise of Title IX remains as vital today as it has been over its five decades. And the department is committed to its full and fair enforcement.
Any more details, I would refer you to the Department of Education.
I’m going to keep going. We don’t have — just a few minutes.
Q While the administration certainly has the opportunity to celebrate achievements like legislation, is there any concern that there’s a dissonance between the current economic moment and the kind of celebration you’ll have this afternoon on the South Lawn about the Inflation Reduction Act when today’s figures show that inflation is still a great concern; when we’ve talked about the Amtrak situation, and so forth? Is there a disconnect there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I think if we look at the picture more broadly about what this means — because we have to remember the Inflation Reduction Act is historic. If you think about how — how electeds like the President and Democrats in Congress, other Democrats, for decades have been trying to fight Big Pharma, have — taking that to head for the last few decades to make sure that Medicare, that our seniors are able to not pay thousands of dollars a month. And that is a huge, huge historic — historic win for the American people.
It’s not about us celebrating; it’s about the win for the for the hist- — for the American. And that’s what you’ve seen. When you see costs that are going to come down for our seniors, when you see costs that are going to come down for American families — as I just listed out for energy costs — are going to come down; when you think about the healthcare costs — are going to come down — that is a fight that we have been having for some time in Washington, D.C. That is a huge — a huge win for the American — the American people.
We understand — and I’ve said this many times, the President has said this many times — that there’s more work to do. But if you look at the President’s economic plan just more broadly, you think about the American Rescue Plan that helped puts a few hundred bucks in people’s pockets during one of the most difficult times in the early — early beginnings of the pandemic. You think about how it helped turn our economy back on, how it helped get shots and arms, how it helped give us an a historic economic — economic growth that we have seen, how it helped create 10 million jobs alone in this President’s administration, how it helped lower unemployment that — unemployment to 3.5 percent. All of that is part of the broader economic plan that this President has had.
You think about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law; that’s going to create jobs. You think about — you think about the Infrastructure [Inflation] Reduction Act; that’s going to create jobs. Bring manufacturing back home so we can actually create jobs right here — you know, good union, paying jobs.
That is a huge deal. That is what the Inflation Reduction Act does. Only part of — which is only part of the Americans’ economic plan — I’m sorry, the President’s economic plan.
So, yes, we think it’s important because this is a huge win for the American people, and we were able to beat special interests. So that is — wealthy special interests. That is really important.
Go ahead, Jenny.
Q May I ask one more follow-up on the rail negotiations? To Steve’s good questions, one other thing that the President could do is asked Congress to extend the window to negotiate further since, you know, you have a couple of days left. But if you’re trying to avert a shutdown and everyone is at the table, is the President open to doing that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, this is, again — and I’ve said this already — this is — has been done before, these types of negotiations. They’ve gone through this process, and they’ve come to a resolution in the past. And that’s what we’re going to focus on.
We’re going to make sure we encourage folks to stick at — stick at the negotiation table to come up with a resolution. This is important. This is important because of what this can mean for the American — the American people, what this could mean for American families. Again, our administration, our Secretaries have been at this since early — since early spring. They’ve made more than 100 calls, as I’ve just laid out. They’ve been in regular communication with both sides.
And we encourage them to please negotiate in good faith. This is incredibly important, and this is why we have been engaged for the past several months on this.
Q So if you don’t see enough progress, let’s say, by tomorrow night, is the President open to asking Congress to extend that window? Or are you just not getting ahead of —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I’m just — we’re going to continue to encourage folks to stay at the negotiation table in good faith. And that’s what — the work that we’ve been doing the past several months.
Q Karine, on the Inflation Reduction Act.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. (Laughter.) There’s so many people. There’s so many hands. I’m so sorry. It’s just hard to —
Q I wanted to ask about something a little later in the week. The President is delivering a keynote at the United We Stand Summit.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q I wanted to try to get a sense of his remarks or what he’s going to say, but also I wonder if he’s introducing any initiatives, executive orders. There are some critics that say he needs to do more than just speak out about hate.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, really quickly, just to give you a bit of a preview: This week at the White House, as you just mentioned, the President is going to be hosting the United We Stand Summit to counter the corrosive effects of hate-motivated violence on our democracy and public safety.
The summit will highlight the response of the Biden-Harris administration in communities nationwide to these dangers and put forward a shared vision for a more united America. As you know, President Biden decided to run for President after the horror of the hate-fueled violence that erupted in Charlottesville back in August 2017 — Charlottesville, Virginia.
And since taking office, his administration has consistently taken steps to counter hate-motivated violence — from signing the bipartisan COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to releasing the first-ever National Strategy for Counter- — Countering Domestic Terrorism; to signing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act; and the most significant legislation in three decades to reduce gun violence.
This bipartisan summit will highlight heroes from across America who are leading historic work in their — in their communities to build bridges and address hate and division — including survivors — and hate-fueled violence.
We know that even as our nation has endured a disturbing series of fueled — hate-fueled attacks from Oak Creek to Pittsburgh, from El Paso to Poway, from Atlanta to Buffalo, Americans remain overwhelmingly united in their opposition to such violence.
We will have more specifics on deliverables, but wanted to give you a preview of what that’s going to look like. Again, we’ll have more on deliverables for you on that.
(Cross-talk by reporters.)
Oh, okay. All right. We got to — we got to end this, but go ahead.
Q Okay. Just one more — one more question. I know that there’s some criticism about whether the President will take his limousine to London versus other world leaders. The Palace has referred everybody to you guys. I wonder what your — (laughter) — what your take is.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m not going to comment on details around the President’s security; we never do that. It’s not a good thing to do. Right? This is the — this is the President’s security. And I would refer you to the United Kingdom government — (laughter) — and the boarder [broader] logistics of the Queen’s funeral.
More broadly, what I can share is that the President has visited the United Kingdom twice since taking office: first, to the G7, as you all know — some of you traveled with him in Cornwall — and, second, to COP26 in Glasgow.
In the leadup to both of these visits, our team worked seamlessly with the UK government — our colleagues there to ensure all presidential travel requires were met. Again, we look forward to working again with — in close coordination with their team. But, again, it just would be inappropriate for me to comment on the Pre- —
Q So is it a yes or no?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughter.) We don’t — we don’t do yes-and-nos here.
All right, go ahead.
Q That’s a yes?
Q That’s a yes. (Laughter.)
Q The Census Bureau reported today that income inequality increased for the first time since 2011. They didn’t have a reason for that. But can — do you have any comment on why that might be, particularly when inequality has been a top concern for the President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that — say that beginning part again. I missed that. “Income inequality…”
Q Income inequality increased for the first time since 2011.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, I — I would have to talk to the national economic team on that specific question.
Okay. All right. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. Over the weekend, the Vice President said that the border is “secure,” but we’re on track to close the fiscal year with 2 million encounters, breaking last year’s record.
Last month — in the last month alone, fentanyl seizures were up 200 percent, and we’re on pace to break that record
also this year. So how is the border secure?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we see record seizures of fentanyl at the border show we’re actually catching fentanyl before it enters the country. So that’s how we see that.
Look, as far as the border, we’re taking unprecedented action. We had to fix something that was broken, especially by the last administration. We’ve secured record levels — this is what we have been able to do — of funding for the Department of Homeland Security.
Remember, many Republicans voted against that. Many of them who would like to invite me to the border have actually voted against that. We’ve made over 3,000 arrests as part of a first-of-its-kind anti-smuggling campaign. We’ve installed border technology and set up — set up joint patrols with Mexico and Guatemala to catch traffickers.
We’ve got Mexico to agree to pay $1.5 billion to improve border processing and security through smart, proven border management solutions. And the President brought 20 world leaders together to collectively manage migration flows across the Western Hemisphere.
Compare that to the Trump administration, which largely just tried to build a wall — an ineffective wall — along the border and couldn’t even finish that in four years. We’re certainly doing a lot more to secure the border and could be doing even more if Republicans would stop their obstruction.
That’s it. I’m going to just take one last. I’m actually breaking the rule here. I’m taking one last question. Go ahead, Tam. Just one last question.
Q It’s just a very quick follow-up. You probably do not have an answer. But will the President be meeting with the King when he’s in the UK? And what about Prime Minister Liz Truss?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any — anything to share on his schedule — anything further than he will be attending the funeral on the 19th. And nothing else to share on his schedule to the UK.
All right, thanks, everybody.
2:43 P.M. EDT