Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:52 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay. Happy Wednesday. I have a couple of notes for you at the top.
Today, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge released a statement committing to do everything in HUD's power to stop evictions for families with HUD assistance or families who rent in housing that is insured by the Federal Housing Administration. This is part of delivering on what the President announced -- or we announced in our statement just a couple of days ago.
And while the Emergency Rental Assistance funds are in the hands of state and local governments, one of the critical roles that the administration can continue to play is to act as a leading hub to convene states and cities and to share best practices, as we have done at two major eviction prevention summits.
So, this morning, Treasury published examples of simplified forms that are being used effectively by Emergency Rental Assistance programs around the country. I think Ebony may have asked a version of this yesterday -- a question about this. But Treasury has repeatedly discouraged undue documentation burdens that limit access for eligible families and is sharing these example forms to make it easier for state and local governments to put that into practice.
Places that have are seeing results. I mentioned Virginia yesterday, but, as an example, Virginia is the second-highest nationwide distributor of ERA funds in the nation and has given out $223 million to tenants and landlords in need.
Virginia followed Treasury's guidance to eliminate documentation burdens that slow down application processing for eligible families. And the state was able to significantly cut down application processing times by streamlining what is often the most time-consuming part of the eligibility verification and a barrier for people applying.
So this is a process that we're trying to share best practices, and the Treasury Department is trying to simplify these forms to make it easier for families.
As I mentioned yesterday, we're going to continue to highlight what the bipartisan infrastructure deal will mean for families across the country, as we will digitally as well. Right now, there are up to 10 million homes with lead service lines and pipes. Children in up to 400,000 schools and childcare facilities are at risk of exposure to lead.
For kids, high exposure to lead can negatively affect academic performance and can lead to cardiovascular disease later in life. And the President clearly thinks that's unacceptable, as do a number of members of Congress. And that's why the deal makes the largest investment in clean drinking water in American history, replacing all the nation's lead pipes and service lines, from rural towns to struggling cities. The deal invests in water infrastructure across America, including in Tribal nations and disadvantaged communities that need it most.
I wanted to also take a moment to recognize the passing of Pentagon Force Protection Officer George Gonzalez, who was tragically killed yesterday in the line of duty. His life was one of service, a veteran of both the police and the military. He served the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Transportation Security Administration, and the United States Army where he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq. He lost his life protecting those who protect the nation. We mourn his loss and offer condolences to his family.
Two more short notes -- hopefully helpful. This morning at the White House, as part of our ongoing efforts to every -- to do everything we can and engage everyone we can to encourage vaccinations, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team convened a historic gathering of all living, former U.S. Surgeon Generals, including Dr. Antonia Novello, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Dr. David Satcher, Dr. Richard Carmona, Dr. Regina Benjamin, and Dr. Jerome Adams.
These esteemed public health leaders who served under both Republican and Democratic Presidents discussed the importance of ensuring that communities of color, those hardest hit by the virus have the information and access they need to get vaccinated. And they discussed how we can work together, of course, moving forward.
Last point for all of you: The President spoke -- or called, I should say -- Shontel Brown last night and extended his congratulations to her. He is focused on delivering for the people of Ohio and across the country, as is she. We know his agenda, including investi- -- investing in our country's infrastructure; helping grow our economy, creating good-paying, middle-class jobs is broadly popular with the American people. He's laser focused on delivering. More Democrats means more ability to deliver on that.
I know you were up way too early this morning, based on my television. (Laughter.) I've been waiting to do that joke all week.
Here we are. Go ahead.
Q: I appreciate the pun, Jen. Thank you.
A few questions all on the same topic -- short ones, perhaps.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q: Yesterday, the President said Governor Cuomo should resign. The governor has not done so. Has the President called the governor?
MS. PSAKI: No.
Q: Has anyone from the White House called the governor or the governor's staff?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I'm aware of.
Q: When was the last time the President and Governor Cuomo spoke?
MS. PSAKI: I would have to check on that.
Q: Okay. And there's two more on this. If the governor refuses to resign, does the President want to see him impeached and removed from office?
MS. PSAKI: The President made clear yesterday that Governor Cuomo should resign, and believes -- and I believe we should start with that. There's obviously a process that's going to proceed, and leaders in New York spoke to that yesterday. We'll leave it to them to speak to that.
But the President believes Governor Cuomo should do the right thing: resign and leave space for future leadership in New York.
Q: Okay. And then there's been a lot of discussion in here, including from the President, in recent days, about the vital role that governors play in the nation's COVID response. In this period, while Governor Cuomo is still in office, does the President have confidence in him leading New York State's response to the pandemic?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, again, the President made clear, because of the abhorrent allegations that were made public yesterday, that it is time for Governor Cuomo to resign.
At the same time, we do not want the people of New York to be impacted in a negative way, as they're working to fight COVID. And we're going to continue to work with the administration in New York, with leaders in New York, to continue to fight COVID. That will continue. And obviously, if leadership changes in the state, we will work with a different leader.
Q: Thank you, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q: Thanks, Jen. Can you walk us through what changed from Monday to Tuesday, when it comes to the eviction ban? On Monday, Gene Sperling stood here and said the CDC has been unable to find the legal authority for even new targeted eviction moratoriums. There are many people across the administration who said the same thing. And yet, the CDC did just that yesterday. So what changed?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it's important to take a step back a little bit before that, to Sunday, when we were engaged -- the administration, the White House was engaged directly with the CDC, at the direction of the President, to ask them to look into what legal options, if any -- if any existed -- there were to extend the eviction moratorium.
That process was underway for a couple of days. The announcement yesterday was a reflection of exactly that.
And when we put out a statement on Monday, right before Gene Sperling came out to the briefing, right before we came out to talk with all of you, that also made clear in there that at that time they had not yet found a legal pathway forward.
What was announced yesterday was not an extension of the existing moratorium, which was, of course, national; it was a more limited moratorium that was going to be impacting and helping areas that were hardest hit by COVID. So, different than the last moratorium. That was also reflected in the statement that we issued on Monday, that that was the President's ask -- to look into a more limited moratorium.
They did that. They -- and yesterday's announcement was a reflection of that process.
Q: So, what's your message to progressives who say they're worried that President Biden's concerns about the constitutionality of this move will end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy and motivate opponents to go ahead and file suit now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would first say the President shares their desire, their commitment, and their interest in keeping renters and people in their homes, and that is exactly why he took the step of asking the CDC to look into what legal pathways forward there were. And yesterday's announcement was a reflection of that.
We don't control the courts; we don't know what they will do. We are all aware of the Supreme Court decision at the end of June and what was outlined in their decision at the end of June.
This is also going to be a temporary -- temporary solution regardless, and a longer-term solution will require legislative action. But his message to anyone who's been a passionate advocate is that he shares their concern, he shares their commitment. He wants renters to be able to stay in their home, and that's why we took this step over the last few days.
Q: And on one other topic, if you don't mind. I know that the President has asked the Defense Secretary to look into the possibility of making the COVID vaccine mandatory for servicemembers, but according to the U.S. Code, it's actually the President who has to grant a waiver to the military to make vaccines mandatory. Has he granted that waiver yet? And if not, does he plan to do so?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President is looking for a recommendation from the Secretary of Defense. That hasn't been made yet. And when -- if and when that is made, I would expect he would respond accordingly.
Go ahead, Kelly.
Q: The earlier moratorium used the same legal justification that the new one is using, which, in layman's terms, is about preventing the spread of disease if you evict people at a time of pandemic. So the only real difference is narrowing location, but the rationale is the same.
So, after the President was clear that it wasn't legal, Gene Sperling was clear that it wasn't legal, is this a "roll the dice and see if it gets challenged" position from an administration that may be doing something it knows is not on legal standing?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President would not have supported moving forward with any action where he wasn't -- didn't feel there was legal standing and legal support.
We obviously don't control what the courts do. And we have, of course, seen what the Supreme Court decided and how they ruled, which was not related to public health -- as you well know, Kelly -- and was related to the relationship between the landlord and the renter.
But this is different in that it is more targeted, it is focused on counties with higher substantial case rates to protect renters, and the CDC ultimately decided to adopt it.
I would also note that the conditions have changed. The rise of the Delta variant, especially in communities where there are large numbers of unvaccinated individuals, where there are growing case numbers, is certainly something that has raised the alarm for us, it has raised the alarm for members of Congress, and it has certainly added to the need to take this additional step.
Q: We were in the event with Dr. Murthy earlier, and he talked about the likelihood that boosters would eventually be required. For Americans who are sort of taking it on their -- themselves and trying to seek out a third shot, what is the administration's view of those who are trying to, you know, "self-boost," for lack of a better term?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I've never heard that term before, but -- (laughter) -- I am -- it's interesting.
Okay, I would say that what we've been conveying to officials around the country who have implemented this in some places is that this is not in alignment with the guidance of the public health -- of public health officials, whether that is the CDC or the FDA. And we are certainly in touch with local officials on that matter and conveying exactly that.
We also, at the same time, are prepared if the FDA decides that they are going to recommend a booster. That is why we ordered the number of doses we did order several months ago, because we are like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and always want to be prepared. So we're prepared for that, but it is not what the FDA and the CDC are recommending, and we are conveying that directly to officials.
Q: Thank you, Jen. There's been a major push here recently to protect tenants from being evicted right now. Why isn't more being done to help the landlords who are struggling to pay their bills because they're not being paid?
MS. PSAKI: Well, actually, the landlords can benefit from exactly the same emergency rental assistance that renters can benefit from.
Q: But, right now, as we understand it, many states are not distributing that money. The Washington Post says that this measure could drive thousands of minor landlords to bankruptcy.
MS. PSAKI: Well, that's exactly why -- and I'm happy to have you as a partner in this effort -- we are trying to advocate for states, localities to get this money out. There's no reason it's not going out to landlords, to renters; no reason that people who are eligible are not benefiting.
And we've seen a number of states -- red states and blue states -- do this very effectively. Texas is an example I used yesterday. Virginia is one I highlighted today.
This is why we're doing as much of this outreach and engagement as we're doing, and simplifying forms, making it easier for people to understand.
Q: Okay. And then, on immigration, it's been almost four months since the President told migrants, "Don't come. Don't leave your town." Almost two months since the Vice President went to Central America to say, "Do not come." But people are coming in record numbers. Does the President think his immigration plan is working?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President continues to convey to anyone, as you've said, who wants to come to the United States: Now is not the time to come. It is not the time to come and try to go through irregular migration.
We want to have an effective process where you can apply for asylum, where you can apply for legal status. We have increased our investment in areas like the Central American Minors Program, allowing people to apply from within country so they are not making that dangerous trip.
There's more that needs to be done. We've also instituted a number of additional steps recently, including expedited removals, to move people out of the country more quickly. But it's a -- we're still at work on improving a process and improving a system that was very broken when we took office.
Q: So, the message to migrants is the same, even though they are coming -- a 21-year high, 210,000 encounters at the border last month?
MS. PSAKI: And I would also note the number of people who were -- who were removed from the border, which is an important part of the context, which is almost half of that number.
Q: But he's saying, "Don't come." And they're coming.
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a number of factors, as you well know, that are happening in these countries. And we're working to address those as well, and the Vice President is leading those efforts.
We don't expect that to be a switch, but addressing root causes in these countries -- corruption, economic downturn, people are fleeing a range of challenges, persecution -- those are issues we need to address at the same time.
Q: Thanks, Jen. Sort of a housekeeping question.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q: Given the status of COVID and the Delta variant, what is the status on the permanent pick for an FDA commissioner?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have an update for you. Obviously, the President would love to have a permanent pick in place and wants to nominate the right person, but I don't have an update on the timeline for that.
Q: But what's taking so long?
MS. PSAKI: He's not going to get -- he's not going to expedite it if he does not -- has not identified the right person to nominate quite yet.
Q: And on the Governor Cuomo issue: If this is potentially such a stain on the party, the President -- as the leader of this party -- why not pick up the phone and ask him to resign at this point?
MS. PSAKI: I think the President was pretty clear publicly; he asked him to resign yesterday.
Q: No plans to call him, though?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any -- no plans to call him to preview, no.
Go ahead, Jeff.
Q: Jen, sort of picking up on Kelly's question: The WHO today called on countries basically to put a halt on booster shots of the COVID vaccine. I know that's not the policy yet of the United States, but it does appear as though we're moving in that direction -- at least for people who are immunocompromised. What's the White House reaction to his call to put that off until at least the end of September so that poorer countries can get more vaccine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Jeff, we feel that it's a false choice and that we can do both. We announced just yesterday that we hit an important milestone of over 110 million vaccines donated to the world. That is more than any other country has shared, combined.
We also made clear that that is the beginning, and we also started to donate the 500 million doses of Pfizer we've purchased. We will start to donate those later this month.
So, we've taken action on the global level far more than any country around the world. We're asking the global community to also step up. We saw some action at the G7; more needs to happen. But we believe we can do both.
We also, in this country, have enough supply to ensure that every American has access to a vaccine. We will have enough supply to ensure. If the FDA decides that boosters are recommended for a portion of the population, to provide those as well. We believe we can do both, and we don't need to make that choice.
Q: All right. On a separate topic, is the White House tracking the case of the Belarus Olympian who was forced to go to the airport and then ended up going to Austria instead of back to her own country? And is the U.S. providing any assistance to her or anyone else from the Belarusian team?
MS. PSAKI: We are aware of the case. I would have to check if there's direct assistance. The State Department may be the best source for that, but I will check with them and see if there's anything to provide to all of you.
Q: Who inside the administration signed off on the legality of what the CDC proposed yesterday? Is that the CDC's lawyers, the Justice Department?
MS. PSAKI: The CDC's lawyers, as well as our Counsel's Office -- yes. I'm not aware of the Department of Justice's engagement, but of course, that might make sense. I would have to check on that.
Q: And then, you know, the President alluded yesterday to -- "Look, if this gets struck down in court, if nothing else, it buys time for the federal funds from the state level to be kicked out and disbursed." How much of that was a driving force behind the decision to move forward with this? Like, "We need to figure out some way to buy time as states figure this out. Let's just go ahead with this."
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President would not have supported moving forward if he did not support the legal justification. He is old school in that way.
But I would tell you that regardless of what is decided by any court -- if anything is decided by any court -- this is not a permanent solution. It is extended through the beginning of October. And I think you've seen that recognition by a range of members of Congress and leaders and advocates who have been so passionately talking about the need to extend the eviction moratorium. It would require legislative action.
The other piece of this that I know we keep talking about but is really a solution here, and that's why we keep talking about it, is getting this money out to states and localities. This is really about money -- right? -- and funding. And all these states and localities have money to extend the moratorium in their states by a month or two months.
There have been challenges that are understandable, including the fact that there's no federal infrastructure for distributing this money. The states are doing it on their own. There are challenges where even well-meaning landlords and others are trying to figure out how to accept applications.
We're working through those challenges, but that is a solution for the short term, and that's why we've talked about it and why we've spent so much time investing in that as well.
Q: And then just one more quick one. The President was very sharp on just, kind of, his perspective on Republican governors put -- or blocked, I guess, specific potential public health options, and echoed something you said yesterday in a very sharp tone: Either you're with it or move out the way.
Is that an intentional shift? What's driving kind of a very sharp tone in regards to these specific actions by Republican governors?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me be also clear that, as the President said yesterday, the vast majority of leaders -- and as I've said too -- continue to step up and do the right thing. People like Governor Hutchinson have been traveling their state, hearing from their communities, and answering questions about the vaccine.
We're also in constant communication with our nation's governor. So even as we called out steps that -- and he called out steps that we felt should've been taken by the governors of Florida and Texas -- we're in touch with those offices about providing additional assistance and seeing if we can figure out what their needs are and how we can help meet them.
And we had our first FEMA team on the ground in West Virginia just days after entering government. Right now, our Surge Response Teams are working hand in hand with the hardest-hit states that are not traditionally blue and Democratic states -- Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana -- focusing on everything from contact tracing, technical expertise, and vaccine confidence.
But at the same time, that wasn't an evaluation -- a partisan evaluation or assessment; that was an assessment of what isn't happening that would help protect people's lives and save people's lives. And there are leaders who are not stepping up and are getting in the way of the American people -- companies and others -- who are trying to save lives and stop the spread of Delta.
And we are going to keep calling that out. That's not meant to be partisan. It's not meant to be political. It's just meant to convey that more action is needed in some parts of the country, even where there are many states where positive action is being taken.
Q: Yeah, you mentioned that the new moratorium is a targeted one and not one that's nationwide as justification of why this is -- meets the legal threshold. But Gene Sperling, earlier, actually pointed out -- he said, "To date, the CDC Director and her team have been unable to find legal authority, even for a more targeted eviction moratorium that would [just] focus…on counties with higher rates of COVID spread." So I'm trying to just pinpoint what exactly is different than what they were looking at then that makes this now a --
MS. PSAKI: That was also in our statement. We said, "to date," and we looked at all the -- and we were continuing to look at all of the legal authorities and options, as were the lawyers at the CDC and our lawyers, to see what we felt was legally viable. That process was a couple-day process. It wasn't concluded on Monday when Gene Sperling came to the briefing room. Yesterday it concluded, and of course, they made the announcement as a result.
Q: And then one more question. What is the White House doing to push forward the nomination of David Chipman at the ATF? The vote could hinge on the vote of Senator Angus King, in Maine, who has been pushed by the local Maine sportsman groups and national gun rights advocates. Has the White House reached out specifically to Senator King on this issue? And is the White House fully committed to Chipman, or might it go with a different nominee at some point?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I'm not going to read out private conversations with members of Congress, but I will tell you that we knew this wouldn't be easy. ATF hasn't had a confirmed director in six years and only one confirmed director since the position became Senate-confirmable.
So we've been eyes wide open into the challenge from the beginning. But we are disappointed by the fact that many Republicans are moving in lockstep to try to hold up his nomination and handcuff the chief federal law enforcement agency tasked with fighting gun crimes. It speaks volumes to their complete refusal to tackle the spike in crime we've seen over the last 18 months.
This is someone who has 25 years in distinguished service to our country as an ATF agent. He has the exact set of skills and experience we need to revitalize the bureau's work to crack down on gun trafficking, keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
So certainly, yes, we stand by his strong qualifications and nomination.
I'm just going to jump around and then I'll come back. Okay. Go ahead. In the middle. In the middle. Go ahead.
Q: Question on --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, oh, sorry. Go ahead, right there. In the middle, right there. In the middle. Yeah. I'm trying to get to people I haven't gotten to.
Q: Thank you. I appreciate it.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay. And then right in front of you. Go ahead.
Q: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
MS. PSAKI: You -- go ahead. You're good. You're good. It's fine. We can do everyone.
Q: On infrastructure, when you talk to local officials about this, they're really excited about the possibilities of what might happen, but they can't say with any certainty what they're actually going receive and what they're actually going to be able to do. So as this bill advances, you know, what would you say to folks who are wondering how much of these big pots of money are actually coming to our community? And how quickly, assuming it passes, might they find out and see those benefits?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, one, we have put out state-by-state factsheets. And if different businesses or communities haven't seen those, we're happy to provide them.
It is true that, as is true with any piece of legislation, there are components of these -- the project funding that would be through grants and some through applications that -- where communities will have to apply for funding. Obviously, it would be in our interest to get that going as quickly as possible, and the Department of Transportation and others will implement that.
But we have been pretty clear about benefits that will help every community: replacing lead pipes, making sure people have access to broadband, making a historic investment in climate.
I know people are asking -- and I think you're asking specifically about people who are -- who want to know if their specific bridge is going to be repaired. Some of that will be through grant funding; some of it will be through, you know, funding that will be designated in the piece of -- in the bill. But, you know, it will, of course, take a little bit of time to implement, but we'll be eager to get that done as quickly as the bill is signed into law.
Q: So, two questions -- one about gun violence. And you just alluded to efforts to combat gun violence. The White House has recently touted these strike forces that are going into a few cities, talking about that. Are there any plans to expand that? Kansas City, for example, has had 91 homicides this year, most of them gun related. And how do these DOJ efforts differ from the ones that were going on in the Trump administration when there was a lot of ballyhooed effort about going into cities to fight crime?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I'm not as familiar nor can I speak to the Trump administration efforts. What I can tell you is that the Department of Justice identified these five or six cities where officials from our team, who are experts, could work in lockstep to help crack down on gun trafficking and preventing guns from getting into the hands of people who shouldn't have them.
And we will see. It's early stages of the process. We will see what the success looks like. We're quite hopeful.
In terms of whether they have intention or plans to expand, I would point you to the Department of Justice and see what they have to say about that.
Q: And my question on evictions is: What role did Congresswoman Bush's protests play? A number of Democratic leaders were giving her a lot of credit for raising the issue. I know the Vice President spoke to her Monday. What role did that play in the ultimate decision of the White House to move forward with the new order?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don't think anyone could hear Congresswoman Bush's own personal story and experience and see her advocacy and her passion, and not be moved by that. I know a number of members of Congress were moved by that as well.
What I will tell you is that the President had a number of calls with Speaker Pelosi over the weekend. Her advocacy, her commitment to looking to see -- kicking every tire, just to go back to the analogy of yesterday -- to see what was possible is something that was certainly impactful and influential with the President. But I would just reiterate that the President called for the extension of the moratorium back in January. CDC extended it three times. We also have spoken to this over the course of the past several months, and we've been in close touch with a range of members of Congress.
So, absolutely, the passion, the advocacy of a number of members is something that I think everybody watched closely, but I think it's important to note that we all share the same objective and have from the beginning.
Q: Thank you, Jen. Thank you. Thank you. It's been a while, so I'm hoping to ask you two questions if that's all right.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
Q: First about the coronavirus pandemic, and then about -- a follow-up to Governor Cuomo, the report on him.
On COVID-19, former President Trump has called for China to pay the United States more than $10 trillion in reparations as a result of letting the coronavirus escape Wuhan and infect other countries causing, of course, 600,000 American deaths and economic devastation. President Biden hasn't called for reparations from China. Does he support them? Does he think that China should pay us financially for what it has allowed to spread?
MS. PSAKI: Our policy hasn't changed.
Q: So, is he open to --
MS. PSAKI: Did you have another question?
Q: Yes. In a follow-up to the report on Governor Cuomo's sexual harassment, a lot of men in politics have been accused of sexual harassment. President Biden was accused by female Secret Service agents of skinny dipping in front of them, offending them, according to former Washington Post reporter Ronald Kessler, who's an author as well.
His former Senate aide, Tara Reade, accused him of sexual assault. The Washington Post and The New York Times published multiple accounts of women who objected to the way President Biden touched them. Should there be an independent investigation of allegations into the President as there was into Governor Cuomo?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say, the President has been clear and outspoken about the importance of women being respected and having their voices heard and being allowed to tell their stories and people treating them with respect. That has long been his policy, continues to be his policy.
That -- those were -- that was heavily litigated during the campaign. I understand you're eager to come back to it, but I don't have anything further other than to repeat that he has called for the governor to resign.
Q: If and when the Senate passes the bipartisan infrastructure deal, would President Biden like to see the House come immediately back into session, or is he okay waiting until the recess ends at the beginning of next month?
MS. PSAKI: He certainly is going to be guided and be talking regularly with Speaker Pelosi about what she recommends and what she thinks is the best path forward looks like.
Q: And you guys have said you guys are not going to return to lockdowns. Now, is that based just on current COVID conditions or -- Dr. Fauci, today, in an interview warned that he is worried about a potentially worse variant that could more effect vaccinated people. So, is the guidance on lockdowns just based on current conditions or is that just a -- and could change -- or is it forever more are there not going to be lockdowns?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins have both spoken to this in recent days. And what they have conveyed and what it's based on is the fact that we have made a significant amount of progress in the past six months -- even as we are fighting the Delta variant, the most transmissible variant we have seen -- and that includes 70 percent of the American people getting their first shot -- 160 -- more than 162 million Americans at this point.
That's progress. That ensures that a lot of communities are going to have a great deal of protection, and we're in a different place than we were when there was the period of lockdown, so it's a reflection of that.
Go ahead, Katie.
Q: Thanks. The President, sort of, dismissed a question yesterday about whether he would call Governor DeSantis to discuss the situation on the ground in Florida. Does he feel that there is no point in personally reaching out to leaders in Texas and Florida?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, just to give you an understanding of how this works: Our team, led by COVID Coordinator Jeff Zients, is in touch with all of the governors and is -- we are working closely with the Florida -- Florida public health officials and the governor's team to see if we can send a team down there to help address their needs.
So that is ongoing. It doesn't mean we aren't going to call out when we think there's more steps that can be taken, but that's an ongoing process, and we're hopeful about making progress there moving forward.
Q: Okay. And the President had a meeting earlier today about preventing future pandemics. Can you give us a readout on what he heard or discussed? And what's the administration learning about -- about that issue?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the President's view is that, even as we're fighting the pandemic and we're continuing to fight it, we need to do everything we can to prepare for future pandemics.
That means making sure we have the funding we need, and we're headed toward a historic number in this infrastructure bill on that front, but also making sure that he engages with our nation's top scientists and experts -- and Dr. Lander is certainly one of them -- about how we should prepare, how we should think about preparing.
So it is part of an ongoing discussion and ongoing focus that we can't keep our eye off of that, even as we're fighting the current pandemic.
Q: So does the President feel strongly that that funding should be preserved in the reconciliation package?
MS. PSAKI: He feels confident there's going to be a historic amount of funding in the reconciliation package and is pleased to see that.
Q: To go back to Cori Bush for a second, can I just confirm or ask: Did the President himself personally ever speak with Representative Bush?
MS. PSAKI: I don't believe so, no.
Q: Okay. And in terms of vaccines, what does the White House -- or what does the administration intend to do to get other countries to step up and meet some of those vaccination goals?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know it was a part of the discussion at the G7, and there was a significant announcement made by G7 countries about their contribution to the global effort. That's an important step forward.
But I think you've also seen international public health experts convey that we're going to need 10 million -- 10 billion, 11 billion -- more doses than we currently have in the global community.
So, I think our effort is going to be continuing to make this a front-and-center discussion at global engagements, at global meetings, whether it's UNGA or the G20 or meetings we will have in the future, because it is going to require all of the richest countries in the world, including the United States, to step up, to increase vaccine donations, to increase manufacturing capacity.
So, I think it's more about making it front and center in the global agenda, which the President is indicating he will intend to do -- continue to do moving forward.
Q: Just two questions, Jen. The President -- we know President Biden has called on Cuomo to resign -- Governor Cuomo -- but in the meantime, does the White House intend to strip him of his leadership position on those biweekly governor COVID calls?
MS. PSAKI: I'm not sure when the next one is scheduled. But again, I would convey that our objective is not to hurt the people of New York in the fight against COVID. If he is no longer the governor of New York, which is certainly what the President made clear of his -- is his preference, then we will engage with other people. But we are not going to take steps to hurt the people of New York in the fight against COVID.
Q: And just a second question. Should renters be prepared for the eviction moratorium to end for good on October 3rd? What is the White House's thinking on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it really depends on whether there is legislative action or not.
Q: One more question on the eviction moratorium. I'll approach it this way: The President may support the legal justification, but he also publicly gave voice to doubts about the constitutionality. What's the White House's message then to Americans who heard what happened yesterday, heard what was said at this podium on Monday, can't square the two, and are now disappointed that the President is signaling that he doesn't respect the rule of law.
MS. PSAKI: I'm not sure there are Americans evaluating it to that degree; maybe there are some of you have talked to, I don't know. What the President has -- his message to the American people, especially those who are concerned about losing their homes, being kicked out of their homes, is that he's going to do everything in his power to make sure they can stay in their homes as long as possible. That is not just an extension of the eviction moratorium -- which, obviously, a step was taken yesterday; it is also about using every tool at our disposal to get this money out.
Again, states have the funding to extend the eviction moratorium in their own states. That's because there was funding in the American Rescue Plan to get that done. So that includes asking his team, members of his Cabinet, whether it's -- whether it's Secretary Fudge, who obviously made an announcement today, or the Department of Treasury, who made an announcement about the simplification of forms -- that this is a priority, that they are to use all resources at their disposal to make sure they're communicating with Americans, that we're making it easy to get this funding out because that's the overall objective.
The overall objective is not about one tool; it is about keeping people in their homes. That's the goal.
Q: But the President is a lawyer; spent 36 years in the Senate, was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, eight years as Vice President, half a year as President. He speaks often about democracy versus autocracy. He's issuing or overseeing this order from the CDC in the face of doubts about its constitutionality, which he seemed to echo yesterday.
If there's no inconsistency here, the President is -- I mean, there are many people out there who say that the President is essentially not giving voice to the ethic that he campaigned on. He didn't call Congress back. He asked Congress to act; it didn't. How do you square all that?
MS. PSAKI: You know I'm going to ask you who's saying that.
Q: Well, there are plenty of people who are saying it. They are not just Republicans.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, I'll leave that to others to figure out. But I think what's important to note here is that the President would not have moved forward with a step where he didn't feel comfortable and confident in the legal justification.
It is also a reality that there are legal steps that have been taken by the Supreme Court in the last few months, and we have spoken to that publicly. We're not going to hide from that. But he asked the CDC and his legal experts to look at what is possible. This is a narrow, targeted moratorium that is different from the national moratorium; it's not an extension of that. It's a different moratorium, from a policy and legal standpoint. So, he felt comfortable in the justification and the legal approach to this effort.
Q: A quick follow-up on that, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh, go ahead.
Q: Thank you. You mentioned that the President is "old school," and Steve noted that the President spent a significant amount of time in the Senate and is also a lawyer. When -- what was the moment that the President became certain that he was on solid legal standing to move forward with this extension? And what was the argument -- specific legal argument that won out and changed his mind? Because yesterday he seemed to be weighing the two -- the two options.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, as I've been discussing, the justification from the legal team is that this is a different moratorium. It's narrow. It's targeted at the highest -- at the areas highest impacted. It is not an extension of the national moratorium that was struck down just six weeks ago.
Q: So is the sense here that, you know, this is temporary, it's still an open question about the constitutionality, but --
MS. PSAKI: It is temporary. It was extended until Oct- -- or October 3rd.
Q: Okay, so it's still a question of whether or not it's constitutional but it's worth it?
MS. PSAKI: I didn't say that. I would --
Q: I know, but is that the sentiment?
MS. PSAKI: He would not have advocated for and supported moving forward with something if he was not comfortable with the legal justification.
Let me just go around.
Q: Thank you, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead to the middle here.
Q: Yeah, thanks, Jen. Two quick questions. First, I was hoping you could preview a little bit the President's meeting tomorrow with the AAPI leaders. I'm just curious what they'll be discussing and why you chose to invite them to the White House this week.
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. Well, I should have had more of a preview for you, but I will tell you that the President looks forward to meeting with leaders of the AAPI community tomorrow. They will discuss a range of topics including, of course, economic investment; the fight against COVID; voting rights, which is certainly an issue that is of great importance to a range of communities who have been quite active on this issue; and, obviously, continuing discrimination that members of the AAPI community experience.
We've also -- proud of the number of nominees from the AAPI community that we have put forward for a range of important jobs in the administration.
But those are some of the topics on his agenda, and I'm sure they'll come ready with a number of topics they also want to discuss.
Q: And one, quickly, just on COVID.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q: The President, yesterday, was asked whether he thinks more cities and states should follow New York City's lead and institute rules, you know, essentially requiring people to -- who have been vaccinated to go to their restaurants and stuff like that. And he said, "I do," but then he later seemed to suggest maybe it should fall more on those businesses.
I was just hoping you could clarify: Does the President -- would he urge, you know, cities and states to follow New York City's lead? Or does he feel that it's more, sort of, a private-sector matter, where businesses should be the ones, you know, taking the lead on this type of thing?
MS. PSAKI: Well, both. I mean, there are steps that are going to be taken by localities. There will be steps taken by businesses. The President supports local efforts to keep communities safe; they're going to be different from community to community.
And our view is that any verification program should meet a few standards: accessibility -- it needs to be free and available in paper and digital formats; it should be secure and private; nondiscriminatory, given equity is at the center of our agenda.
But he does -- we know -- we will see more local communities do more and more things in this space, including verification and employee mandates that will incentivize vaccinations. And we're encouraged and supportive of innovative steps at the local level.
I just want to jump around. Go ahead, to the back. Yeah, go ahead.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Oh, I'll go after. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Give -- go ahead.
Q: I have two questions. One on Quad. Earlier this year, during the virtual summit, Quad countries decided on vaccine production. Has the President set a deadline or timeline for when these vaccines will be produced for the rest of the world?
MS. PSAKI: I don't believe there's a deadline that has been set. It's a good question. Let me see if there's anything more specific.
Obviously, working with the Quad on COVID vaccines is an important part of our -- oh, let me see. Okay. Thank you for the question because I was like, I know something more on this.
Our Quad partnership is on track to help produce at least 1 billion doses of COVID vaccines in India for the Asia region by the end of 2022. So, that is the timeline. Obviously, more -- hopefully more sooner rather than later, but that's the timeline for the work with the Quad.
Q: My other question is about the kids of legal immigrants. Because of the aging-out process, many of them feel that they will be deported back to a country where they have never lived. Some of them have been moving around the city, meeting the congressmen, at the White House as well. One of them, at least, has met the President in Pennsylvania. Has the President given any assurance to these kids that, instead of focusing on their studies, they've -- they are now right to focusing on (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: For DACA recipients? Or --
Q: The legal immigrants -- kids of legal immigrants, not the DACA recipients. Because the aging-out process, they might be forced to go back.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. It's a great question. I'll have to check. Obviously, taking steps to ensure we are providing a legal pathway to citizenship, and especially for kids who came into this country, as you referenced, you know, innocently with their family members. But I will see if there's anything new to report on that front.
Go ahead, in the back.
Q: I wanted to ask about a different moratorium -- the payments of student loans -- that expires at the end of September. What is the White House doing, at this point, to get ready for that date and figure out next steps?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any preview for you on what determination will be made on that front.
Q: Do you have any information on how you're preparing? I mean, we got to the point of the moratorium that we've been talking about earlier, where you're at the date.
MS. PSAKI: Yep.
Q: What are you doing between now and that date?
MS. PSAKI: We are certainly well aware of the date, well aware of the impact. But I don't have anything to preview in terms of a decision.
Q: And I wanted to ask one more question about the Justice Department.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q: The slot for Solicitor General is still open. With
the Supreme Court ending -- first session ending several months ago, at this point, and going into some cases that I'm sure the administration really cares about, where are you at on picking someone? And what are you doing to get ready for that?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have anything to preview for you on any personnel announcements or decisions.
Q: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Shelby.
Q: Thanks. I wanted to ask about a Harris Poll released this week that indicates the majority of Americans believe the worst of the pandemic is still ahead. And this is a big change from a few weeks ago. And so this is despite, as you said, 70 percent of Americans being vaccinated and CDC data showing that the vaccine is protecting vaccinated Americans from serious illness.
So, why is the American public so panicked? And is the White House concerned at all that it's fueled this dramatic shift in public sentiment?
MS. PSAKI: That we have fueled it?
Q: Yeah, through -- you know, like returning the mask recommendations for vaccinated Americans. Is there -- is it concerned at all? What can it point to as a reason for Americans --
MS. PSAKI: I haven't really taken a close look at this poll.
What I will tell you is that a poll before this -- I believe it was a CBS poll -- showed that more vaccinated Americans were concerned about the rise of Delta than unvaccinated. So, it was -- that was even prior to the mask guidance putting -- being put in place.
And certainly, as people see, you know, the rise in cases in certain communities -- unvaccinated communities -- of course that's concerning. We understand that. But we also believe that it is our responsibility to provide accurate public health information and also make clear to people the impact of being vaccinated and the fact that the vaccines are doing exactly what they should do, which is protect the vast majority of people from serious illness and hospitalization.
But, yes, we are -- we know that it is a -- it is a challenge. And fighting a pandemic and communicating about it is a challenge. But certainly, that's why we do as many briefings as we do, why we come out here every day as we do, and why we'll continue to allow our public health guidance to be -- to be in the lead.
Q: Yeah, on infrastructure: The House Speaker is still saying that the reconciliation bill and the infrastructure bill should be connected. Which bill would the President like to see on his desk first: the bipartisan infrastructure bill or the reconciliation bill?
MS. PSAKI: The President looks forward to signing both into law, and he's eager to do that. We've certainly made progress.
And I'll also note that, on the reconciliation package -- which I know we haven't talked about a lot because the infrastructure bill has been front and center -- but in the meantime, behind the scenes -- which is, by the way, where most of the work happens in places like the White House -- our legislative affairs team has had over 375 meetings and calls with members and senior congressional staff about just the reconciliation package.
Q: But there's no preference from the President whether he wants to see the reconciliation first? Or --
MS. PSAKI: He's going to stay in close coordination and rely on the guidance and leadership of Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi.
Q: And how does -- as the leader of the Democratic Party, how does he get House Speaker Pelosi on the same page that they're not connected?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think the President has been clear that he wants to sign both into law. We're encouraged by the movement of the infrastructure package forward. And we've been doing a lot of work behind the scenes, and the President will continue to advocate for, publicly, the reconciliation package, given how important his Build Back Better agenda is to him.
Q: We're told you have a hard out shortly. Just one or two more.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.
Q: The President made an announcement on Lebanon recovery today. Can you outline that for us?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q: And also, give us a sense -- given the fact this is the one-year anniversary of that blast that devastated Beirut,
how important is Lebanon's political and economic stability to the United States, given the crisis it's in right now?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. It's very important. On behalf of the country, the President sent his deepest condolences to all those who were injured, lost loved ones, and still struggle to recover from the trauma from the catastrophic explosion at the Port of Beirut one year ago.
Today, we actually did a video from him that we're happy to provide to anyone who is interested.
We also recognize that the people of Lebanon have suffered more over the past year because of avoidable political and economic crises.
So what we announced today is -- we -- nearly $100 million in new humanitarian assistance. That is on top of the almost $560 million in humanitarian aid that we have provided to Lebanon over the last two years.
We recognize the important role Lebanon has played in the region, as you referenced, and also their role in hosting over 1 million Syrian refugees for a number of years. And we're quite proud of our longstanding support for the Lebanese people.
And the President urges his fellow leaders in capitals around the world to also step up their support for the Lebanese people. No amount of outside assistance, of course, will be enough to repair the pain from the blast just last year.
Okay. Nikki, go ahead.
Q: Great. Are there any plans for the President to hold a press conference before he goes to the beach?
MS. PSAKI: I expect he might take some questions at some point, but no plans for a formal press conference. We've got a lot going on here, as you all know.
Q: And then, also any chance that Team USA might be visiting post-Olympics?
MS. PSAKI: I hope so. They're invited. I'm inviting them here to my house -- (laughter) -- anywhere you want to come.
I hope so. I have nothing to pre- -- I don't have anything on the schedule, but certainly that's a tradition and the President is probably as obsessed with the Olympics as I am, if not more, so I expect there'll be an invitation at some point.
Q: Jen --
MS. PSAKI: I think we have to wrap it up to -- thank you, everyone. Have a great day. See you tomorrow.
1:41 P.M. EDT
Joseph R. Biden, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/351924