Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:18 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh. Uh-oh, that doesn't sound very good. Let's see what we got today.
Okay, let me first say: This is the People's House. It should be a place all can see. We are saddened by the tragic loss of life after the lightning strike in Lafayette Park last night. Our hearts are with the families who lost lives -- who lost loved ones. And we are praying for those still fighting for their lives.
The National Park Service and local law enforcement have been providing updates, and I would direct you to them for any additional information.
As you may have seen, on Monday, the President and the First Lady will travel to Eastern Kentucky with Governor Andy Beshear and his wife Britainy to visit communities devastated by flooding in recent days. They will also survey recovery efforts to -- at one of the region's FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers.
We have been closely monitoring the floods since they began, and our hearts break for the families of those who have lost their love -- lives or are missing.
And for all of those who have been impacted, the President quickly directed his team to surge federal support to the region and authorize additional disaster assistance for Eastern Kentucky last weekend.
Since then, FEMA has provided more than $3.1 million to support impacted individuals and families in their recovery efforts. More than 400 state and federal search and rescue and water rescue personnel, as well as members of National Guard, are on the ground supporting search and rescue efforts.
And earlier this week, Secretary Becerra also declared a public health emergency for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which gives the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services beneficiaries and their healthcare providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs.
And finally, the board coalition of support -- the broad, pardon me, coalition of support for the Inflation Reduction Act continues. Today, over 40 major companies, including Levi Strauss, Logitech, Shell, Lyft, Unilever, and more sent a letter urging Congress to pass the Inflation Reduction Act because it will combat inflation, lower prices for Americans, invest in manufacturing, and transition our country to a clean energy economy.
And a bipartisan group of former EPA administrators called this package the "most significant piece of climate legislation in United States history."
And finally, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represent communities across the country, said they are counting on Congress to get this bill done without delay because it will take critical steps to lash -- to slash carbon emissions, provide affordable healthcare, and so much more.
And with that, Josh, it's game day. It's game day for you.
Q: It is! It is!
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Welcome to the Super Bowl.
Q: Yeah, so let's -- let's start by going there. First, on two subjects. The jobs report today came in stronger than expected, but some economists and some financial markets say that there's fears that means inflation can stay elevated. What does the White House think this report tells us about inflation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, today, as you saw from the President's statement, the unemployment rate matches the lowest it's been in over 50 years. That's 3.5 percent. More people are working that -- than at any point in American history. And we have -- bringing back all of the jobs -- all of the jobs that were lost during the pandemic.
And so we quickly -- what the President did was quickly repair the labor market that was dam- -- that was caused because of COVID. The labor market was damaged, as you all know, that supply -- the supply chain. There wasn't a COVID response -- comprehensive COVID response.
And so that was the President's primary goal and the goal of the American Rescue Plan. And let's not forget that passed in April of his first year. Only Democrats voted for this bill. And because of that, because of the American Rescue Plan, we saw -- we are seeing -- or we are coming off of a very strong economy. And so that is important. That labor market is important.
And so -- and so we can see how the American Rescue Plan was effective, what -- the jobs that we have gained back.
And just a couple of examples: U.S. manufacturing is back with the fastest recovery since the early 1950s. And the passage of the CHIPS bill that will only strengthen our manufacturing -- manufacturing more. And we are seeing that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act is already increasing the amount of infrastructure jobs.
That is all good news. And so that is how we see this current jobs report. And we're going to just continue to do the work. Inflation clearly is something that people truly feel at home, around their kitchen table. And the President has a plan to -- to address that, including what he's -- what we've been able to see with gas prices coming down, more -- a decline that we haven't seen like this in over a decade. And so all of these things are important.
And also, we're going to do everything that we can to encourage and continue to talk to legislators to pass the Inflation Reduction Act.
Q: So just to clarify, though, you don't think this report tells us much about the path of inflation going forward? Or do you think it does?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What we think is that this is good news, what we saw -- right? That means when we gain back all the jobs that were lost during the pandemic, that's a good thing. That's a good thing to have more jobs out there and regain that. That's -- as you know, as someone who co- -- covers the economy. And we're at 3.5 percent.
So all of those things are -- are really important.
When it comes to inflation, again, the President has a plan. He's going to continue to do his part on reducing costs for families. And we're going to let the Federal Reserve do their job, be independent. They have the monetary kind of tools to deal with inflation, and we leave that work to them.
Q: Okay. And then, secondly, given China's actions on climate and the military dialogue with the U.S., does the White House think Speaker Pelosi bears any blame for the rupture? And do you worry that the relationship with China could devolve further?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I'll -- we'll -- and you've heard us say this before: The Speaker had every right -- every right. It is her right to have gone to Taiwan. Members of Commer- -- Congress make those decision. We do not tell them what they can or cannot do or where they can travel. We have said this many times before: We provide a full, thorough briefing when they do travel.
And -- and so, again, there was no reason to have this escalation that we're seeing from China.
You know, it is -- it is fundamentally irresponsible what they are doing. And we'll continue our efforts to keep open lines of communication with Beijing while defending our interests and values in the region.
This is what the world expects of the United States and China, and we encourage Beijing to keep this commitment as well when it comes to the dialogue -- the climate dialogue that was cancelled and -- the military and climate dialogue that was cancelled.
So this is -- again, she had every right. There's precedence for it. We talked about 25 years ago, when Speaker Gingrich went to Taiwan.
And so we're go- -- we are not going to, you know, give a --- give any -- any more than that on the Speaker's travel.
Q: Okay, you just said you're not going give any more on the Speaker's travel, but I'm going to ask a similar question, in a way.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q: Because I think that you guys have said repeatedly that it was her right to go, her decision to go. But now, like my colleague just said -- now that you've seen the results, now you've seen what has happened, do you feel that these escalated tensions in the region were worth any message that Pelosi's visit sent?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I'm going to say what I just said. The Speaker had the right to go to Taiwan. She's the Speaker of the House. She should speak to the impact of her travel on her own. That is for her to answer. And our focus is on defending our interests, as we have said many times, and the values in the Indo-Pacific. And that's what we're going to focus on.
Q: Back on jobs, I know you guys are excited about the jobs report, but ev- -- for most people, wages are just -- wages for those jobs are just not keeping up with inflation. So fundamentally, is the anxiety we're hearing from Americans about the economy really an issue of wages and benefits? And what is the administration still doing to work on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we -- we understand what Americans are feeling. The President understands that very personally. This is why he has done the work that he's done this past 18 months to get the economy going again.
And now, with the -- with inflation as well, with costs going up for Americans, he's focused on that. And, you know, this is something that we continue to watch very closely, and we're going to continue to do the work to make sure that Americans feel relief.
And so, that -- that work doesn't stop, and there -- we know that there's more work to do. But as it relates to the jobs report and where we are and how the economy is moving forward, the strong labor market does matter. The strong labor market does say a lot about the economy. And then we're going to just continue to do the work that we need to do, that the Americans are waiting -- the business of the Americans are the -- they are waiting on us -- want us to do.
Q: Thanks, Karine. Russia said today that it was ready to discuss a prisoner swap, with regard to Brittney Griner, in private. And President Biden just told us that he was hopeful and working on it. Can you give us a sense of where things stand? And have those private discussions begun?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we've said this and Secretary Blinken spoke to this earlier today -- this morning: We have made a substantial offer to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home. They need to be home. They should be home. They are being wrongfully detained. That is something you've heard us say.
This morning, Foreign Minister Lavrov said publicly that they are prepared to engage, through the channels we have established at the President's direction. As Secretary Blinken said this morning, as I just mentioned, we will continue to pursue those.
This -- this is something the President and national security have had on top of mind. This is a priority for them.
We need to bring them home. We need to bring Brittney home. We need to bring Paul home. And we're going to continue to do the work that we have been doing in this administration to make sure that U.S. nationals that are being wrongfully detained, that are being held hostage come home.
And so, as far as the negotiations -- we say this all the time: It remains -- not remains to be seen, but it -- but we are -- we have to keep the negotiations private. And -- and we'll continue to do that. And so -- but, also, we will continue to -- to call on Russia to take the substantial offer that we put in front of them seriously.
Q: On a separate topic, is the White House following the Alex Jones trial? And do you believe that he should have to pay millions of dollars for the misinformation about Sandy Hook?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have to say I'm not following the Alex Jones trial. I'm going to -- since that's still going on, we don't comment on -- on any trials or litigations or -- that's -- that's happening.
Our hearts go out to the families that lost their loved ones. It was a tragic day. That is -- you know, the President knows that very personally. He's met with the families.
And we continue to do everything we can to protect our communities from gun violence. That's why he was proud to sign the bipartisan piece of legislation that came before him a couple of weeks ago. That's why we're going to continue to do the work to make sure that we protect kids in school; that we protect people going to the grocery store; that we protect, you know, communities and families.
Q: Lastly, Governor Abbott of Texas said today he started sending busloads of migrants to New York in an effort to share responsibility with other states. Does the White House have a reaction to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, it's the latest stunt from the governor -- another stunt of busing de- -- busing desperate migrants across the country. And he's using them as a political -- you know, as a political ploy. I mean, this is what he's been doing, and it's shameful.
And I've said this before -- I was asked this last week -- and it's costing -- it's costing the state of Texas $1.5 million. That's what this game that he's doing, that he's playing is costing Texans -- $1.5 million.
And we have seen him do this before. He so- -- his so-called "Operation Lone Star" put National Guardsmen and law enforcement in dangerous situations and resulted in a logistical nightmare needing federal rescue.
His secondary inspections of trucks crossing into Texas cost a billion dollars a week in trade at one bridge alone without turning -- without turning up a single case of human and -- or drug trafficking.
So this is, again, a -- there is a -- and I -- again, I talked about this last week: There's a legal process that we have going on right now. And if he cared about it, if he was really, really serious, he would let that process move through, but instead he wants to play politics; and -- and, you know, use the lives of migrants who are desperate to be here, who are trying to find a better life for themselves -- and use them; and also costing his constituents millions of -- over a million dollars. That's what he's doing.
Q: Jeff just mentioned this, but he -- the President was asked about Brittney Griner, and he said, "I'm hopeful." What is it that is making him feel hopeful right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, he's the President; he has to feel hopeful, right? This is something that is important to him. I don't think -- if he -- if he had said something else, it would -- it would not have -- you know, that's -- you know, you want to make sure that you're -- he's zeroed-in, he's focused on what the task is at hand.
His team is working on this -- his national security team. You've heard from Secretary Blinken. You've heard from us.
This is something -- again, he has -- he has been -- top of mind. Bringing U.S nationals home who are being wrongfully detained, who are being held hostage has been a priority of his. And you have ke- -- he -- you know, there's no other place but to be hopeful and to do the work that we need to do to get this done.
Q: But as far as you know, it wasn't a reference to necessarily some specific development or developments that is now making him feel hopeful?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No. I wouldn't read into it. I think, you know, as President, he's doing what presidents do: you know, giving hope. His -- you know, their families are watching. Their families are listening to everything that we're saying. It's important to give them hope. And I'm hoping that they continue to be hopeful. That is important as well, as President -- to make sure that you -- you portray that as well.
Q: I just have a monkeypox question. It's pretty well documented at this point that there's a good amount of frustration within the LGBTQ community -- people saying that they're having a hard time getting vaccines. I wonder, first -- I have two questions -- what the President's overall message is for that community, people who are saying they feel kind of let down by the administration and its response to monkeypox.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me just first say that the President is going to do everything that he can to end this outbreak. He's going to use every -- pull every lever to fight monkeypox. And, you know, back in May, when he was in Asia, he was asked about monkeypox, and he said, you know, we should be vigilant. And that was back in May, when we heard about the first cases.
And so, his -- his administration has been hard at work making sure that we have a comprehensive response. And what has happened -- and I talked about this a little bit too -- is that it has evolved rapidly.
So there -- we had monkeypox back in 2003; we had it in 2021. Small cases, but it has rapidly evolved. And this is not uncommon for the dynamic of an infectious disease to change. And that's what we're seeing.
And anytime we saw change happening or we saw that we needed to meet the moment at the time, whatever was happening with the increase of cases, we met that moment -- you know, scaling up our vaccines and testing as it became clear that the virus was spreading more rapidly than other monkeypox outbreaks, as I just mentioned; very aggressive steps that makes sense -- that makes sense to the moment that we're dealing with.
And you heard me, you heard us this week with our monkeypox response: 600,000 doses have arrived in jurisdiction, which is going to be incredibly helpful. We have 150,000 doses that were supposed to come in November; that is now coming in September.
We've scaled up the capacity of testing to 80,000, which is also very important to make sure that we do that.
The public health emergency that HHS did yesterday, that is going to help the CDC come up with data to how we do one to -- one vaccine to five vaccines.
So, we are increasing the vaccine supply. Again, this has been rapidly changing over the last couple of months and we're meeting the moment at every -- at every turn.
Q: So is there a specific message for the LGBTQ community --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Q: -- for -- from President Biden?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, you know, this is a -- this is a time that -- that -- yeah, we understand how the community feels. It's very concerning.
And I want to be really careful because I -- it's important that we don't stigmatize any community. And so -- and so that is also important for us.
Look, the President is going to do everything that he can to make sure that we end this outbreak. He is working on this. His team is working on this every day. He's regularly updated. He knows what's happening. He knows how this is being handled. He knows that we are doing everything that we can to increase the va- -- the vacc- -- the vaccine supply, which is going to make a difference.
And let's not forget we announced the monkeypox coordinators just this week: Bob Fenton, who is an expert in mass vaccination site. He's an expert in FEMA leadership. So he knows how to deal with these type of emergencies.
And so, we're going to continue to -- to -- just to be zero [laser]-focused on this.
Q: So if you are a member of an at-risk community, and you're unable to get a vaccine right now -- which, again, we're hearing stories of that -- is the federal government's recommendation that you pause or at least reduce sexual activity until you can get vaccinated?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I will say is: You should talk to your medical provider. I am not a medical provider. But I would say talk to your medical provider and get -- get the information that you need so that you are protecting yourself and you know how to move forward. That is the first thing that we tell folks with -- at any -- with anything. Right? We did that with COVID, and we'll do that with this as well.
But I do want the community to know and folks -- Americans -- to know in general that we are laser-focused on this and we are going to do everything we can to end this outbreak.
It is a -- it is also a priority for the President, which is why we have a rapid response team now in the White House as well.
Q: Yeah, thanks, Karine. Is the strong jobs report today enough for the White House to say that there won't be a recession on the horizon?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'll say this: The strong labor market is what we're looking at. Right? That tells us, because of the strong labor market and that -- that being one of the many economic indicators, it shows us that we are not in a recession, that we are in a transition. And that is very important to note.
And, look, we have to understand that we are in a different place with the -- in this world right now than we have ever been. We are coming -- we're in a pandemic, right? -- dealing with a pandemic. It's more manageable now, but there's COVID. There's a war in Ukraine.
All of that -- all these factors also play into where we are right now, plays into the inflation being up, plays into what we were seeing with gas prices; now we're seeing them come down. It plays into what we're seeing with food increases; now we're seeing that come down a bit as well.
And so these are not -- this is not a normal economy. Secretary Yellen did a great job laying that down last week at the Treasury De- -- at the Treasury Department and talked about the impacts -- the outside impacts -- and about how that has affected the economy.
But right now -- but because of the work that this President has done -- the American Rescue Plan, the bipartisan Infrastructure legis- -- law now -- and also now CHIPS Act -- this is going to make a difference as well.
Q: At one point, you said that a recession was not inevitable. Is he -- you know, is the White House now ready to say a recession won't happen now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But I'm going to just -- Joey, I'm going to go back to what I just said: We are not -- this is a -- we are living in a different time -- right? -- when you have a war happening, when you have a once-in-a-generation pandemic.
And that's what the Secretary talked about last week when she explained the economy, when she explained where we are currently. And so that also matters.
But at the same time, we do have a strong labor market. And that indicator tells us a lot about -- about the trajectory of the economy. It does not show that we're in a recession. And I'm -- not just me, not just -- not just the folks in the White House are saying this. You're hearing this also from economists.
I'm going to go back down. Go ahead. And I'll come up.
Q: Thanks. Just to go back to Jeff's first question about the channel between the Russians [sic] and the U.S. What more can you tell us about that channel? Is it at the staff level? Who's engaged in talks? And are those talks on that channel now underway?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There's still -- we have kept the lines of communication open, as I have just said, on -- on just -- on a bunch of levels, as you -- as you know, as we've talked about before, with Beijing. We've been communicating with them. The President spoke with President Xi last -- last Thursday. That was the fifth time that he spoke with him.
We have always said how important it is to have the open line of communication and open line of dialogue. That still is the same.
But again, you know, China's actions right now -- it's fundamentally irresponsible. There is no need, and there's no reason for this escalation.
If you're talking about the Speaker -- this is what we're talking about -- the Speaker going to Taiwan, which is precedent, there's nothing unusual about that. We have seen it before. Members of Congress have visited multiple times to Taiwan this year alone.
And so, you know, this is a -- you know, this is something that is not needed.
And so we're going to continue to condemn the actions that we have seen. And, you know -- and we have said that China may take -- were going to take steps like this, and we expect that they will continue to react both in coming and over the long -- longer-time horizon.
Q: The ambassador, after he was brought here for the démarche, published an op-ed in the Washington Post. And, essentially, he concluded that the Taiwan issue could lead the U.S. and China to conflict. What's your response to him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I'll say this -- and you were asking me this: You know, we're going -- we're going to keep our regular communications with our PRC counterparts. So that's number one -- as we're talking about the démarche.
After China's action, we summoned PRC ambassador to the White House on Thursday to démarche him about the PRC's provocative actions. We condemned the PRC's military actions, which are irresponsible, again, at odds with our longstanding goal of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
We made clear to the ambassador that Beijing's actions are of concern to Taiwan, to us, and to our partners around the world. We highlighted yesterday's G7 statement rejecting Beijing attempt to coerce and intimidate Taiwan, and expressed our support for ASEAN statement overnight about the importance of de-escalating tensions.
Finally, we made clear once again, as we have done privately at the highest level and publicly, nothing has changed about our One China policy. Nothing has changed.
We also made clear that the United States is prepared for what Beijing chooses to do. So we will not seek or do not want a crisis.
At the same time, we will not deter from operating in the seas and skies of the Western Pacific.
So that is our message to -- to our counterparts. That is our message to Beijing. And that's what we've been communicating.
Q: Just one for me. In Moscow today, a Kremlin spokesman said the U.S. is trying to solve the Brittney Griner/Paul Whelan situation with "microphone diplomacy" and that any deal might be put at risk if you talk about it publicly. Are you concerned that the announcement that the U.S. has made this substantial offer puts the deal in jeopardy or in any way at risk?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, because we've been very clear that we're not going to negotiate in public.
You know, we wanted to be very -- very upfront about what we were doing. That's why we mentioned the substantial offer. And we expect or we advise Russia to take it seriously.
And it is important for Brittney to come home. It is important for Paul Whelan to come home.
The President is going to do -- is going to work every day very hard with his national security team to make that happen, and also with the other U.S. nationals who are being -- who are being wrongfully detained and held hostage. We are showing that this is top of mind and a priority for this administration.
Q: Thanks, Karine. Why do you think people are continuing to drop out of the labor market?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that one more time. What are you -- can you say more?
Q: The labor force participation rate is at its lowest level of the year now. Why do you think that is?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, participation actually ticked up. And -- for --
Q: It declined 0.1 percentage points to 62.1 percent -- the lowest level of the year.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So it actually ticked up for prime-age workers, when you look at 25 to 54, and for workers 65 and plus. The tick down this month was actually about teenagers. And it's important to keep in mind that the labor force participation rate has bounced back relatively quickly compared to its pace in the past. So we have seen an uptick in the labor force.
Again, what we saw this month was a tick down with teenagers.
Q: Okay. And then on foreign policy, President Biden's approach -- foreign policy approach -- did not prevent Putin from invading Ukraine. What makes you so sure that his approach here is going to prevent China from invading Taiwan?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Putin is now a pariah on the world stage. And that has happened because what the President did is he brought together the NATO Alliance. They are stronger than they ever been. We are about to welcome Sweden and Finland, which has expanded the Alliance, which is incredibly important.
And if you look at what's going on with Russia's economy, it's -- it's not doing too great right now. And that's because of what we have been able to do as a unit, what we -- what we have been able to show our force of strength. The sanctions have actually had effect on Russia. And so that matters.
You have seen leadership from this -- this President that would not -- if NATO would not have -- the strength of NATO and how they've come together would not have happened if it wasn't for this President's leadership.
Q: So is President Biden's goal here then to make Xi a pariah on the world stage?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I'm just speaking to Russia.
What I'm saying about China is that there's no reason for Beijing to have escalated the way that they have. There is no reason. The policy has not changed. We are still in line with the One China policy. The Speaker had every right to take that trip. And so that is -- that is something that they need to speak to.
Q: Okay. And then, last one. Why is the President bragging today about gas prices?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because it's gone down.
Q: It's still $1.72 higher than when he took office.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It has gone -- it has come down in a way that we haven't seen its trajectory coming down in over a decade. And it is --
Q: It's still over $4 a gallon though.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay --
Q: Is that good?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You want to talk to a nurse or a teacher or a firefighter if -- if having that little bit of breathing room doesn't matter to them?
Q: Are nurses and teachers and firefighters saying, "Gas prices are only $4.11…" --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm saying that --
Q: -- "…this is great"?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm saying that that -- that even that little bit of breathing room matters to families, especially during the summer when people are traveling, when people are trying to do what they can for their families, when people are trying to think about "What are we going to do with our kids?" -- driving to camp, driving to see other family members across the country. This matters.
When you think about 85 cents per month for a family member, you think that doesn't matter for everyday Americans? That matters.
And the reason we're seeing that is because of the work that this President has done the last several months. It's because of what -- the historic tapping of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve -- 1 million gallons per day until September. That matters. Because of all the work that he continues to do when it comes to inflation.
So he's going to continue. There's more work to be done. He's going to continue to do that work.
But I -- to say that -- that the changes, the drop that we have seen in -- in the -- at the pump per gallon doesn't matter, I think that is wrong. I think that is not true. And I think that does give a little -- a little bit of space and breathing room for families. And it's important.
Q: To the back?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'll come to the back in a second.
Q: Thank you.
Q: You have announced the travel for Monday to Kentucky, but you did not indicate whether that is contingent on the President's COVID status. And you said the pool would be covering that as well.
We've had two instances now where the pool has not been able to fully cover the President with the remarks the other evening and today. And so a little, kind of, of our press business here: That's a concern to our collective organizations here that we don't have the full pool able to cover the President as we would like.
We certainly understand that he has COVID and that that is a concern, but our organizations have been covering in person for the whole two-plus years of COVID. And so will he be going to Kentucky regardless of his COVID status, and will a full pool accompany him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can I -- as you know, when it comes to the White House protocol, we go above and beyond. The fact that the President is testing every day is not -- that's not what everyday Americans do. Because he is in a unique situation, our testing protocol is -- is -- you know, is more than what it should be -- right? -- norm- -- more than what every -- everyday Americans do.
So we -- he's been testing every day since he -- since he came off Paxlovid. And the reason why you know that he's positive is because we've been testing him, and we've been transparent about that.
Look, this -- Kelly O., this is a unique situation with unique circumstances.
Q: Well, but is your point about that that he -- I mean, he's testing every -- we know he's the President.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yep.
Q: Many of us test every day as well in order to be here. He is positive. What is the point of that? I mean --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, because you were asking me --
Q: I mean --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'll answer --
Q: -- our concern is: Will he travel and will the pool go with him? And we would like to have the full pool represented if the President is going to do events here on the White House campus.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right. Well, I was explaining what has been happening the last couple of days, right? It is a unique situation with unique circumstances.
Q: It is. It is a unique situation.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Our job is to keep you all safe. It really is. That's what we want to make sure.
You've seen -- you saw the doctor's letter; the President is still testing positive. So we need to make sure that we are not being irresponsible -- right? -- that we are making sure that you guys are being kept safe.
But everyone was 15 feet away from him today -- if you're speaking about that -- outside and masked. And so that is also important.
Now, as it relates to his travel on Monday, he will only travel if he tests negative.
But I also wanted to address -- what I was addressing is the last couple of week. It sounds like, there's been, you know, some questions about that.
Q: Or the other option that we have used is to have a virtual event where the full pool would be able to participate and be able to cover the President, ask questions. He's taken questions, I think, from Peter and others.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And he took a question today from someone. Yeah.
Q: Right. But it's only a limited pool. So we are just again, on behalf of all of my colleagues, asking for --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Completely -- completely understand.
Q: -- representation (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I would -- I would also say from here is that we have been transparent with all of you about the -- when it comes to COVID and giving a letter every day. We -- our job -- again, the President is in a unique position; we are all in unique positions. And we have to make sure that we adhere to protocols that are given to us and make sure that he's safe and you all are safe as well.
But to your first question -- I was kind of addressing just this past week. But to your first question, he will not travel unless he is negative. Of course, he will not. He would -- we would not do that.
Q: Thanks so much, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'll come to you.
Q: I was hoping -- could you address a new CBO analysis about the Inflation Reduction Act that says it would have almost no impact or a negligible impact on inflation in 2022 and 2023?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I'll say this: You know, leading economist have said that this Inflation Reduction Act that's been anala- -- analyzed by them, that's been looked at by these economists will indeed reduce inflation. And we've heard from 126 leading economists, including seven Nobel Prize winners. They say it -- it will put downward pressure on inflation. Five former Treasury Secretaries, yesterday, from bipartisan administrations, say it will fight inflation.
That's former -- we're talking about former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers; former CEA Chair Jason Furman; Maya MacGuineas, President, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. All have said that it will fight inflation.
Q: But is -- I mean, is it a dismissing of the CBO though? And is it fair? I mean, is it -- is it appropriate to brand it as the Inflation Reduction Act when it will have such a little effect in the next two years, when people are feeling it right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, if you think -- if you think about the -- the reduction act legisla- -- the Inflation Reduction Act, it will have an effect also on drug costs, lowering prices for pharmaceutical costs, which is going to make a difference in a big way to seniors, to families.
When you think about Medicare being able to negotiate, something that we have been wanting to do for decades and not have been able to do that; when you think about energy costs, utility bills coming down; when you think about the $300 billion that's going to go to the deficit that we've already -- the deficit coming down that we already saw in -- $1.7 trillion last year, that is going to make a difference. That is going to fight inflation.
And so, it should be called the Inflation Reduction Act because that's exactly what it's going to do. It is an anti-inflation bill that the President is grateful for, and it's historic in all of the ways that I just laid out.
And let's not forget: You know, you have maj- -- the majority of Americans who support the different components of this bill, and so that is important. This is something that the President has been working on for a long time, and also making sure that corporations pay their fair share. And that is also important. And not increasing taxes on Americans who are making under $400,000.
Q: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All of that happens.
Q: On another topic, on Afghanistan, can you just talk about how the White House will be marking the anniversary of the withdrawal from Afghanistan --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So one of --
Q: -- what type of plans to honor the 13 service members?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So one of the things that I can say is that, you know, this time last year, the President had to make a tough choice, which is ending a civil war -- a 20-year civil war in Afghanistan, as you all know, that put our troops -- number one, put our troops at risk and also cost -- cost us $2 trillion.
And he made a promise -- $2 trillion was spent. And he made a promise that he would not -- he made the decision to bring home our troops, get them out of harm's way, and make sure that -- you know, make sure that we're able to have that over-the-horizon counterterrorism that we sh- -- we saw this past weekend; that we can still make sure that it's not -- it's not a safe haven for terrorists in Afghanistan and still do the job that we need to do in keeping the Americans safe. And that -- and keeping our Americans' interests. And that's what the President showed this past week in a very clear way.
So when it comes to -- when it comes to the anniversary, we will -- it's an appropriate opportunity to honor the service and sacrifice of those we lost and as well as recognize the many people we saved.
We had a lot of -- we've lost so many lives. More than 2,000 military members have lost their lives in Afghanistan. But we also want to be thankful to the folks who -- who did everything that they can to save -- save lives as well last year.
We are focused on how we are on a stronger strategic footing now that the war is over. We are continuing to help people leave Afghanistan and resettle in the United States through Operation Allies Welcome. We will continue to ensure we remain vigilant and appropriately positioned to counter any terrorism threat, as you saw the President do this past Saturday.
Q: (Cross-talk by reporters.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm so sorry, I'll come to the back.
Q: Just a follow-up on some of the questions. You guys have made it clear that the Speaker had the right to travel to Taiwan and that was her prerogative. But there's a difference between her ability to do that and whether the White House agrees with that decision. They're two totally different things. And I understand the reason the President did not explicitly say to her "Do not go" is because he respects that line and that independence of that governing body and her leadership.
At the same time, we have seen an escalation of tensions between the U.S. and China directly as a result of Speaker Pelosi's visit.
So I'm wondering why the White House is hesitant to publicly criticize the decision to travel, given that, privately, White House officials raised concerns before she traveled and continue to raise concerns about that decision.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because it's her right to travel, and there's a precedent for this.
Q: But whether or not it was her right, which you've established, the result of that right has created problems for the White House and the administration.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, my answer is not going to change. It was her right to travel. There's precedence for this. Nothing has changed in the sense of our One China policy that's guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. Nothing has changed in our perspective.
And so, again, it is the right for the Speaker to travel wherever she pleases, wherever she chooses. She is the Speaker. She's a member of Congress. Our job is to give her the information that she needs to make that decision on her own.
Again, anything more about how she feels about the travel, her thoughts, I would refer you to the Speaker.
Q: And then just one more on the economy. Was the White House, was President Biden, the top economic officials here at all surprised pleasantly, likely, that -- about the number today? Obviously, it beat expectations by quite a bit. What was the reaction inside the White House? Is there any sort of background or color you can give us about how the news was received?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I do want to talk about the market expectations. I know I talked about it here when Josh asked me yesterday, so -- which we -- which were around 250,000. And what we always try to do is put those market expectations in context.
So this jobs number was better than expected. That's what -- how we see it, to answer your question. It was better than expected. We have officially gained back -- when you talk about gaining back all the jobs that were lost during the pandemic -- and we did it faster than the past downturns -- that's a good thing. That's a good thing for our economy. That's a good thing for -- for Americans.
And so, that is what we're going to continue to do. We want to make sure millions of families have the dignity and the peace -- you hear the President talk about that. He said this today -- the peace of mind that a paycheck provides, and that is good news. We saw this as good news for -- not for us, but for the American people.
I'm going to go to the back. Oh, my goodness. I'm going to Ed, and then I'll come -- I'll come around.
Go ahead, Ed.
Q: Yeah. Thank you. On the Super Bowl --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: On the Super Bowl.
Q: On the Super Bowl. So the President talked about creating 613,000 manufacturing jobs since February of 2020. But only 41,000 of those have actually been created; the rest have been added back. So is that misleading the American public?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, we -- we don't think so. I mean, if you -- I just talked about this. If you think about -- when we talk about U.S. manufacturing is back, it -- it's still the fastest recovery that we have seen since 1950. That matters.
Q: But it's not creating those jobs. It's adding back the vast majority and creating 41,000.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But we're talking about recovery -- right? -- the fastest recovery, and that matters. And so, that's why the CHIPS and Science Act is so important. Because one of the things -- when you think about manufacturing jobs and you think about Made in America; when you think about investing manufacturing here, that is what we're trying to do. And that's what the CHIPS -- now law -- is going to do as well: making sure that we are investing here, making sure that we're -- when we talk about the chips, when we talk about semiconductors, making sure that that is ha- -- being done here -- created here and being kept here.
That is -- that's something that you've heard the President talk about over and over again, and now we're going to see that. When you think about strengthening the supply chain -- I've been asked about national security -- strengthening our national security.
So, all of that is important to the President. We're going to see that with this act. But, look, manufacturing is indeed back. We are recovering that -- since the 1950s. And that's what we're talking about. Now we're going to create more jobs.
Q: Yeah. And on the economy -- the economy created 32,000 jobs since February of 2020; as you said, has added back the rest of those jobs. Is that the significant progress for working families the President is talking about?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We have to step back to where we were 18 months ago, where the economy -- there were 20 million people who were collecting unemployment benefits. That's what was happening when we -- when the President walked in. There was COVID that was killing 3,000 people -- Americans -- a day. Schools were closed. Businesses were shutting down.
This is not -- we're in a different place than when the President walked into -- into the White House. That matters in this story as well. The American Rescue Plan has gotten to -- us to a place where we're seeing a strong economy. The labor market is strong.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is going to make important, critical changes to our infrastructure that's going to matter as well. We're going to continue to create more jobs.
So, right now -- you know, I was asked what we thought about the news; we think it's good news for the American people. We think we're still heading into a transition, to more stable and steady growth. That's how we see things. But, again, you know, we're going to continue to do the work on behalf of the American people. That's what -- the President's focus.
Q: Thanks, Karine.
Q: Thanks, Karine.
Q: Oh --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, that's fine. You can go, and then Karen.
Q: Okay, go ahead.
Q: Thank you. (Laughs.)
Q: I wanted to follow up on a question that was asked earlier about Governor Abbott's actions. You called it a stunt. But what kind of support is the administration offering cities who are receiving these migrants? There was a report the Secretary of Defense denied the mayor of D.C.'s request for support from the National Guard. So what kind of support is the administration offering? And if you're not, why
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we would refer you to the Department of Defense specifically, which makes the decision on the question of the National Guard, as it relates to D.C. -- the mayor of D.C.
FEMA is also -- FEMA is providing support, including through grant funding. So we are helping in that regard. We have had constructive conversations with Mayor Bowser and her team; we'll continue to do that. We are committed to working with them, as we do with all other electeds as well.
But we are supri- -- we are indeed providing support through FEMA and having those conversations with leaders.
Q: And then, is anyone from the administration talking to Governor Abbott or his office? Are there any kind of conversations --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I do- -- I don't have any calls to read out to you besides what else I just said at the beginning of that -- the original question.
Q: Oh, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I'm so sorry. Go ahead, Karen. I'm sorry.
Q: Thank you. Just one on the next couple of days, and then one on monkeypox. You were very clear that the President would only travel if he tests negative, but with so much going on on Capitol Hill over the next couple of days, if the President were to test negative, would he stay in Washington over the weekend to monitor the progress on the Inflation Reduction Act? What would his engagement be like?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to read out for his schedule over the weekend. As you know, the President is in --is in the White House Residence working, as he has been for the past several days, and we will continue to give regular updates from the doctor -- from his personal doctor, as we have been the last several days. And if any of that changes, we will be sure to let you all know.
Q: Okay. And on monkeypox: Senator Gillibrand, on Wednesday, asked the President to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase the supply and access to vaccines. Is this something the President is actively considering right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, no news on -- on that piece. But I do want to say: By doing the public health emergency, that does provide some -- some production of the vaccine, as I just mentioned earlier. It gives -- it gives HHS the tools to figure out how do you get from one vaccine to five vaccines. That's going to be really important as we're fighting monkeypox and trying to end this outbreak.
And so, a couple of things that I just wanted to -- specifically what -- the FDA has identified a potential solution that would allow us to significantly increase the number of doses available to the administration.
It would change the method of administration for Jynneos. Under the proposed approach, a fifth of the current vaccine dose would be administered a different way than it is currently, without risking the overall safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. And, you know, we'll let FDA speak more to this.
But this is an important -- the public health emergency is going to be really critical as we are trying to up the vaccine supply.
Q: But, Dr. Jha was on ABC today, and he was talking about working with manufacturers to make more doses here in the U.S. Is there anything you can share on efforts right now --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: -- with the federal government to do that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I would refer you to the FD- -- to HHS specifically. I don't have anything more to share on that.
But it is an important tool that -- that HHS deployed yesterday -- when you think about the public health emergency. And it will have an effect, and it will make a difference as we as we talk about vaccine supply.
(Cross-talk by reporters.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, now I'm going to come back. I'm going to come back. Okay.
Courtney, I haven't -- I haven't saw -- called you in a while. Go ahead.
Q: Thanks, Karine. I wanted to ask you about abortion quickly. The President has talked about, immediately after the fall of Roe, making abortion pills more accessible, intervening if states tried to prevent people from traveling, intervening if pharmacies wouldn't give medication that was needed. How are you keeping track of issues that come up in those areas so that the President can act or the Justice Department can act? How are you collecting information and being made aware of what's going on all over the country?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So that -- that is what the Department of Justice -- as we talk about travel and we talk about medication, that's with the Health and Human Services. And so, we leave it to them to -- to enact what the President -- the executive orders that the President put forth.
And clearly, the President is updated pretty regularly.
There's a task force that his -- one of his executive orders was able to create. They met a couple of days ago. They -- they were -- the President signed another executive order on the Medicare waiver; that's going to help low-income women get that healthcare, to be able to pay for that healthcare that they need. And that's also under the purview of HHS. So they'll have all the information there.
But that -- the Department of Justice would be better to answer that question -- HHS.
And, of course, the President is updated, but they hold that -- that information.
Q: And has there been any -- I don't want to call them "hot spots" or something, but -- issues of concern that have bubbled up, meaning you get a lot of complaints about one thing or a lot of issues in one area that you're hearing from Justice or from HHS?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to share at this time. I would -- I would refer you to HHS for more specifics or anything -- any update.
Q: Karine --
Q: All the way in the back, please?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm just going to call -- I -- I'm going to call on a couple more.
Go ahead, Andrew.
Q: Thank you. Two questions for you on different subjects. The first: Last night, Senator Graham tweeted, when he called a "word of advice" to the Democrats who support the Inflation Reduction Act. He said, "If you expect the CR to deliver a political payoff with 60 votes, you might want to rethink."
Is the President at all concerned that getting this reconciliation deal through will cause Republicans to retaliate when it comes time for budgeting for 2023, for instance, by shutting down the government?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What the President cares about is anti-inflation. What he cares about is low- -- lowering cost for the American people. What he cares about is lowering drug costs for seniors and making sure that Medicare is able to negotiate -- something that he cares about very personally. He's been working on for decades.
Look, this is -- this is the question that Republicans need to answer; this is what you should ask them: Why is it that they are willing to not fight or not support a bill that's going to help the American people, that's going to help the middle class? Why are they willing to hold the water of corporate America? Why are they willing to push corporate welfare?
It is -- you know, it is something to be -- what we're seeing right now is really something. I mean, we are talking about a piece of legislation that 126 economists, broadly -- Republicans and Democrats -- are supporting and saying that it's going to bring back down inflation; that five former Treasury Secretaries -- Republican and Democrat -- saying it is going to fight inflation.
I mean, it is -- it is just shameful to see what is happening.
So if they really, really want to do the work, and we welcome them to come and do the work, they should work with Democrats in Congress and get the work done for the American people.
I'm going to take one way in the back. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q: One -- one more -- one more for me? It's just -- one with --
Q: For me, Karine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Do your -- go ahead, Andrew.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. And then we'll go to the back.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Thank you. On the subject that Tyler asked about yesterday, the DHS IG. During his campaign in 2020, the President said that he would not fire inspectors general, as his predecessor had, because the job of inspectors general is to keep the government honest.
How does -- how does an inspector general who tells his staff to not recover deleted text messages that could help in a congressional investigation, does not notify Congress that there are missing text messages as he's required to by law, et cetera -- how does that keep the government honest?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we -- we're looking at the facts and the situation. It is being investigated. So that is -- you know, we just don't speak to that. We know what members of Cong- -- the Congress have been saying. We understand the concerns. I hear what you're saying. But there is -- it's being looked at at this time. And so, we're just not going to comment on personnel announcement at this time.
Go ahead, way in the back.
Q: I just want to --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q: Thank you so much, Karine. I'm wondering: Since minimum wage in the U.S. has been, I think, about $7.25 for decades, is it possible under the Biden administration for minimum wage to change?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I believe it has changed in the past 18 months. That's one thing that we have seen is, like -- is the minimum wage going up and -- and workers and companies working with their --
Q: Well, I think -- I think the goal is --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- workers on that.
Q: -- what? -- $15 an hour? Are you headed in that direction?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, what we want to make sure is that we are delivering for the American people, making sure that they have an affordable living. That is something that we are always focused on.
I know that Congress is -- is always working on the issues of minimum wage, so I point you to them.
As it comes to us -- as it reaches out to us, look, the labor market is strong. That matters. We -- we're going to continue to make sure that we deal with inflation, lower the costs for American people, as we've been doing.
We're -- our focus right now is the Inflation Reduction Act. So we're going to continue to encourage our -- our friends to support -- to support that bill.
I'll take one last one.
Q: Karine, on church vandalism, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. All right.
Q: Karine, when it comes to church vandalism, you talked to -- the White House sent out a statement today: how they want to protect churches, other houses of worship, synagogues. Can you first comment on that? And then also, just the timing of that release, why now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is some- -- the President has been very clear about condemning violence of churches, of synagogue.
It is not the political discourse that we -- that, you know -- that we support. That should not be happening. People should be able -- to be able to -- to go to church, to be able to -- you know, be able to do it, whether in a Catholic Church or a synagogue, without fear. And it is shameful that that is happening.
And the President has been very clear about this, condemning vandalism. And so, we're going to continue to speak out against it.
Q: Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, guys.
3:14 P.M. EDT
Joseph R. Biden, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/357149