Joe Biden

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

September 26, 2022

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:27 P.M. EDT

Q: Hello!

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi. Oh, so friendly. Hi. Good afternoon, everybody.

Q: Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, a couple things at the top.

We would like to announce that President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Biden will host President Emmanuel Macron and Mrs. Brigitte Macron of France for a state visit to the United States on December 1st, 2022.

This will be the first state visit of the Biden-Harris administration. It will underscore the deep and enduring relationship between the United States and France, our oldest ally.

Our close relationship with France is founded on our shared democratic values, economic ties, and defense and security cooperation. The leaders will discuss our continued close partnership on shared global challenges and areas of bilateral interest.

This afternoon, the President will deliver remarks at the third meeting of the Competition Council. The President will highlight progress made on his competition agenda in the last year, which is helping lower prices for consumers; raise -- raise wages for workers; and promote innovation throughout the economy.

At today's meeting, the President will also announce new action to spur competition among airlines, expose and limit airline fees, and most importantly, save money for American families.

Add-on fees hit the most vulnerable Americans the hardest. The President will highlight how companies sneak fees onto bills, prevent customers from seeking the full price of what they're buying upfront, and how they use termination fees to make it harder for consumers to switch their service providers. In fact, the median American household loses an estimated $5,000 a year due to lack of competition.

The actions the President will announce today are part of his commitment to continue tackling that and bringing down costs.

Tomorrow, the President will continue this focus with rem- -- with remarks at the -- at the White House on how he is lowering healthcare and prescription drugs acr- -- costs for seniors and families across the country, and working to strengthen Medicare and Social Security.

Last year, a family of four saved an average of $2,400 on healthcare through the American Rescue Plan that President Biden signed into law.

And now, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden signed into law about two weeks ago, Medicare will finally have the power to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. Seniors will see their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs limited to a $2,000 a year.

For decades, Big Pharma and special interests had blocked Medicare from negotiating lower prescription drug prices. President Biden and Democrats in Congress put an end to that through the Inflation Reduction Act, while every single Republican official voted against it.

Not only that, Republicans in Congress continue to advance legislation to cut Social Security and Medicare and put these programs on the chopping block.

So, President Biden will speak to all of that and more tomorrow.

I wanted to also acknowledge the dangerous and backwards court ruling in Arizona Friday evening. This is a complete abortion ban, one that forces survivors of rape and incest to carry their pregnancies to term, and women with medical conditions could face dire health risks. Healthcare providers would face imprisonment of up to five years for fulfilling their duty of care.

This ban would take Arizona women back to more than 150 years and subject them to a law from 1864, a time before Arizona was even a state.

Arizona is now the 16th state where Republicans official have stripped women of their rights through extreme, unconscionable, statewide abortion bans. And Republicans in Congress continue to advance Senator Graham's proposed national abortion ban.

The President and the Vice President believe that Congress must act urgently to codify Roe and protect women's access to abortion and healthcare. For millions of women enduring these daily attacks on our most fundamental rights, the risks -- too many risks are at stake.

Finally, tomorrow we will be joined in the briefing room by FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, who is in Miami today to assess ongoing hurricane planning and preparedness efforts.

Over the weekend, the President approved Florida's emer- -- emergency assistance request as soon as he received it and directed his team to surge federal assistance to the region well before landfall.

FEMA has pro- -- pre-positioned supplies at strategic locations in Florida and also Alabama. That includes generators, millions of meals, and millions of liters of water.

FEMA also has staff on the ground supporting, planning, and preparation efforts.

Tomorrow, Administrator Criswell will provide an update on the efforts underway in Florida -- Florida to prepare for Hurricane Ian, as well as ongoing recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and also Alaska.

We look forward to welcoming her, and she will be glad to give you the latest information and, of course, take all of your questions.

Aamer, you want to kick us off?

Q: Yes, thank you. First, does the administration have any reaction to former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden being granted, by Vladimir Putin, Russian citizenship?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, since I believe there have been criminal charges brought against him, we would point you to -- to the Department of Justice for any specifics on this.

Q: I wanted to also ask you about your, just, announcement on the Macron state visit. This comes -- this announcement -- about a year after things got a little bit bumpy for a while in the relationship with the AUKUS announcement. And I guess my question is: Why France -- getting this first honor? How much of this is -- one, I guess, has the relationship come first -- full circle back to being in good stand? And is part of this about repairing the relationship?

And then separately from that, it's a little bit late in an administration for the first state dinner, but obviously COVID was around. What's the calculation in how this administration thought about now it's time to actually do one of these state dinners?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, on your first question, we deeply value our relationship with -- with France, which is, as I mentioned at the top, our oldest ally; with our bilateral relations founded on shared democratic values, economic ties, and defense and security cooperation. We work closely with France on the full range of global challenges, as you all know, including the war in Ukraine.

It is for these reasons that the President and First Lady thought it was important to welcome this close and valued partner to the White House for their first -- their first state visit.

As you know, President Macron and President Biden have had multiple conversations over the President's first 19 months and have met a few times -- most recently, as you all know, last week at the -- at UNGA. And so, again, this is a valued -- deeply valued relationship and one of our oldest allies.

On your second question, you're right, COVID certainly has delayed many of the in-person events a President traditionally hosts at the White House. But the President and the First Lady had been welcoming foreign leaders to the White House, including on working visits and official working -- official working visits throughout the administration.

But as you stated, COVID has delayed many -- some of this as well.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. One quick housekeeping note on Florida. You mentioned the FEMA plans. Has the President spoken to Governor DeSantis ahead of the storm? Does he plan to?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have -- we don't have any calls to preview or that's locked in to share at this time.

Q: Okay. And I want to ask you about the new poll that was out this weekend -- this ABC-Washington Post poll. It shows 56 percent of Democrats want the party to nominate someone other than Biden. And for people under 40, 75 percent want the party to pick someone different. Is the President concerned by this? How's he digesting a number like that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, I'm -- I'm very limited on how I can discuss any kind of elections. I will reiterate what we have said many times from here, what the President has said many times, even recently -- as recently as the "60 Minutes" interview -- is that he intends to run. I don't have any more announcements on that.

But, look, the President will -- will say, as I'm saying right now, is his focus is not on himself; his focus is on continuing to deliver for the American people.

After taking action -- we just talked -- I just talked about the Inflation Reduction Act; how important Medicare is now going to be able to negotiate, be able to lower costs for -- for our seniors; and how important it is -- cost is going to go down as well, as it relates to -- to energy bills.

I mean, these are things that the President has done for the past 19 months, making sure that manufacturing is resurgent. We saw that in the New York Times article. And we have been able -- in the first 19 months, about 700,000 jobs -- manufacturing jobs have been created right here in this country because of the work that this President has done.

And, you know, we -- I said this at the top: We have done everything that we can, every -- the President has made lowering costs for the American people a priority, has made the economy a priority for the American people.

And you think about the American Rescue Plan: Republicans didn't vote for that. You think about the Inflation Reduction Act: Republicans didn't vote for that. In fact, they put forth an agenda that wants to take away the gains that we have made by fighting -- by winning against one of the most powerful special interest groups.

But go ahead.

Q: You just ticked off this list here, but the poll actually shows that the President is deeply underwater when it comes to the economy. Is there anything the White House plans to do differently? Do you need to do -- the midterms are in 44 days. Does there need to be a course correction?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I can't talk about the midterms.

Q: But this isn't about, like, a --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no. No. I'm -- no --

Q: -- campaign strategy here.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I'm about to answer your question. Give me a second here.

Again, I have to say this -- right? -- I cannot talk about the midterms from here, because you did mention the midterms.

What I can say is -- and we talked about this in our August memo -- we are going to go out there -- not just the President, the Vice President, the Cabinet Secretaries -- you have congressional members in their district, as well -- and we're going to talk about how we have delivered for the American people.

Here's the thing: When you think about Medicare, you think about Social Security, you think about the pieces of legislation that we have passed, they are very popular with the American people, with Republicans and Democrats. And so, that is also important to note.

So, look, we're going to keep getting out there. The President loves going out to -- you know, to states across the country, to communities across the country, talking directly to the American people. And that's what we're going to do.

I understand what you're saying about the poll. I understand what you're saying about the President's numbers.

But what we are going to focus on is how we are going to continue to deliver for the American people, especially at the most important things that matter to them: lowering costs, making inflation a priority when it comes to his economic agenda, making sure we don't leave anybody behind, build an economy from the bottom up, middle out. And that's going to be the President's focus.

Q: Karine, do you -- does the White House have a reaction to the school shooting in Russia today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, of course, we condemn any violence. That's something that the President always calls out. Is important that -- he feels it's important that we speak out, especially when you hear about violence in schools. So, I will -- I'll leave it at there.

Q: I'd also like to return to a topic that we broached on last week in the briefing about the British Prime Minister's economic plan. The British pound is falling significantly, in part also because of the Fed's actions here on the dollar, but also in reaction to her plan.

The President has often and regularly criticized trickle-down economics. Is he a fan of her plan? And is there a concern about the volatility in the currency markets?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'll say the first part is -- and she said this -- I believe Prime Minister Truss said that, you know, when she was asked on one of the Sunday shows yesterday, and she said that the United States is one of our -- their closest allies. And we will say the same; the UK is one of our closest allies. And so, we will leave their policy decisions to themselves.

But to your question about the pound: So, on Friday, as you all know, the President and the Vice President met with senior members of the economic team and got an update on the global economic developments, as they regularly do.

Our economic team reported that because of our economic strategy, which is focused on long-term growth and investment, increased manufacturing and fiscal discipline, we are able to navigate these challenging global times from the strongest possible position.

The Res- -- the American Rescue Plan helped us recover from within -- with twin health and economic crises we were facing better than most other economic -- major economies.

Remember, we are all dealing with global challenges, just around -- clearly, around the globe. And as the President's economic legislation -- including the Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act -- are encouraging investment right here in the United States.

I just mentioned a moment ago how 700,000 manufacturing jobs were created just in the U.S. in the last 19 months. A lot of that is because -- all of that, really, is because of the work that this President has done. And that will make our economy stronger and more resilient to the years to come.

So, again, we feel that we're in a better position to deal with the global challenges. And I'll leave it there.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. With these poll workers in Ukraine being taken around by armed escorts and forcing people to fill out ballots on the spot, should we expect the United States to issue new sanctions this week in response to these sham referendums that are being conducted?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just first say that we will never recognize -- recognize this terr- -- never recognize this territory that -- this territory as anything other than as part of Ukraine.

This -- when it comes to the sham referendum, the sham votes that we're seeing in the last couple days, we will continue to work with our allies and partners to hold Russia accountable and support Ukraine for as long as it takes.

As far as what we are doing, we are prepared to impose additional swift and severe economic costs on Russia, along with our allies and partners, in response to these actions that we're seeing currently if they move forward with annexation. We've been very clear about that.

As you all saw on Friday -- G7 Leaders' Statement -- the United States will never, ever, again, recognize this territory as anything than part of Ukraine. We stand with our partners around the world in rejecting whatever fabricated outcomes Russia announces. And you will hear more from us in the coming days on this.

Q: So, there could be action on that this week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we'll hear more from us in the coming days.

Again, these -- these referendums are a flagrant violation of the international law. You heard that directly from the President at UNGA last week. And it's an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity that underpin the international system and are the foundation of the United Nations Charter. You heard the President say that, specifically, just a few -- like, just a few days ago.

Q: And with the warnings that we saw from Jake Sullivan, Tony Blinken, all of these figures yesterday, about the catastrophic warnings that they say that they've communicated to Russia if Russia chooses to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, does the United States believe that -- even if it's still low, does it believe the chances of Russia using nuclear weapons is higher now than it was in February, in March, given what's happened on the battlefield?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as far as any evidence or the chances -- look, we haven't seen that at this time. We take these threats, though, very seriously. But we have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture at this time.

So, again, haven't seen any evidence of it. But we take this incredibly seriously.

Q: On the issue of the President speaking with Governor DeSantis, we saw them side-by-side a little over a year ago when they were together with the Surfside incident and so forth. Does the President think it's important, when you have this nature of threat to millions and millions of Americans, to have a conversation with a governor?

I know, there's a lot of administrative and bureaucratic steps that are in place to provide resources. But does the President believe it's important to speak to a governor in these circumstances?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, what the President believes is that it's important that federal resources is provided for the people of Florida. That is the most important thing -- to make sure that we are there for them in this time of need. And that's why the President reacted right away to make sure that the -- that we are able to surge resources before. And he did this before landfall. And so that is the most important thing.

It's about the people of Florida; it's not about public officials, especially in this time. And so, again, the President, as President of the United States, as President for folks in red states and blue states, he's going to keep that commitment.

And you have seen him do that over the course of the 19 months when there has been extreme, extreme events, extreme weather that has happened, again, in blue states and red states. And he has done his job as President to make sure that we are there for the people in the state.

Q: Is there any concern, if there was a perception that there might be politics or personalities or disagreements among individuals that would get in the way -- not so much of the flow of the information, but if people are wondering, is there anything that could stand in the way of the response if a President and a governor might not speak?

He didn't speak to the governor of Mississippi during the water crisis with Jackson. Thus far, he has not spoken to Governor DeSantis.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And so -- and that's a perfect example, Kelly O. When you mentioned the governor of Mississippi, they -- you were right, they didn't speak, and we still were able to deliver for the folks in Jackson and for the folks of Mississippi. You had our EPA Administrator on the ground. You had FEMA Administrator on the ground. And not just them, but also folks who work for those -- for those two agencies. And you had the Army Corps of Engineers.

And so we put the full -- the full power of the administration. We surged resources on the ground to make sure that we did everything that we can to help the people of Mississippi. This is the same; there's no difference here. We're going to do the same in Florida as we've done in other -- in other states.

As I mentioned, Administrator Criswell will be here tomorrow. She is in Miami, as we speak, current -- as I speak currently. And she'll be here, and she will lay out what we, as an administration, is doing for Florida and other -- and other -- and other states, like Alaska and any others that need our assistance at this time. And -- and she'll lay that out and answer any questions that you all may have.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Karine. I have a couple questions. One is that, last week, you were asked about Puerto Rico and any plans that the President may have to make a trip down to Puerto Rico. Is he planning to go? Can you provide us any guidance on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sorry, I'm having a little bit of a hard time hearing you.

Q: Yeah. Puerto Rico. I know you were asked last week about the President -- possible travel plans. You didn't have anything to say last week. Do we have an update on whether the President does intend to travel to Puerto Rico?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We don't have any- -- anything to preview at this time. We continue to closely monitor the impact of Hurricane Fiona is having on Puerto Rico. I'll just reiterate just a couple of things for folks who may have missed this.

But as you all know, when he was in New York, the President announced the federal government is covering 100 percent of the cost of debris removal, emergency protective measures for the next month in this recovery.

The President also increased critical needs assistance from $500 to $700 to support individuals and families with immediate or critical need as a result of being displaced from their primary dwelling.

And as of today, there are hundreds of federal response workers on the ground in Puerto Rico supporting operations, planning, power restorations, debris removal, and urban search and rescue.

As far as travel, we don't have anything to share at this time.

Q: And then, also, on Iran, we saw continued protests in Iran over the weekend. I know that, last week, we did get indications from the State Department that there were efforts the United States was taking to ensure Internet access remained available. Are there any other measures, steps the U.S. government is intending to take to support protesters in Iran?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I'll lay down the steps for a second. But I just want to make very, very clear here -- and we have been very clear, the U.S., on our position with what we're currently seeing in Iran: The President stated at UNGA, "[W]e stand with the brave citizens and brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights."

Women in Iran should have the right to wear what they want, free from violence or harassment. Iran must end its use of violence against women for exercising their fundamental freedoms. There must be accountability for Mahsa's death.

What we are doing -- I'll lay out a couple of actions that we have taken as it relates to the Internet.

On September 21st, the Iranian government cut off, as you know, access to the Internet for most of its 80 million citizens as -- as courageous Iranians take to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini.

The United States is taking action to support the free flow of information to the Iranian women -- sorry, the Iranian people, specifically -- more broadly.

On September 23rd, which was this past Friday, the Department of Treasury issued an updated general license that will increase support for Internet freedom in Iran and authorize technology companies to offer the Iranian people more options of secure outside platforms and services.

With these changes, we are helping the Iranian people access tools that are better equipped to counter the Iranian government's effort to surveil and censor -- and censor them as well.

If we have any more information, we will share that with all of you.

Go ahead.

Q: Just to follow up on your answer about the UK pound: So are you saying that the administration doesn't think that currency volatility is so serious right now that the U.S. government will need to take action right now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we continue -- we're going to continue to monitor the global markets. What we are laying out is what -- the meeting that the President had with his economic team, how seriously we're taking this, how closely that we are, you know, having conversations with our team.

And what we can speak to is what we're doing here in the U.S. Our U.S. strategy -- economic strategy is focused on the long-term growth and investment, increased manufacturing, and fiscal discipline -- has positioned our country to navigate challenging global times from the strongest position possible.

Again, we're going to continue to monitor all of -- all -- as we always say, we cont- -- we monitor the indic- -- all indicators. We'll also monitor the global markets as well.

But what I can speak to is what we are doing here to -- to take on these global challenges, as we have been for the last 19 months.

Q: Thanks. And then, on the President hosting the Atlanta Braves today, I'm wondering if you or the President has any thoughts about some of the controversial -- about the team name -- the Braves name, the so-called tomahawk chop, any thoughts on that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we -- we believe that it's important to have this conversation. You know, and -- and Native American and Indigenous voices, they should be at the center of this conversation.

That is something that the President believes. That is something that this administration believes. And he has consistently emphasized that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. You hear that often from this President.

The same is true here. And we should listen to Native American and Indigenous people who are the most impacted by this.

Q: Thank you, Karine. Two questions. One on Italy. How do you foresee future cooperation with the right-wing coalition that won the election in Italy yesterday?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, on the election specifically, I -- you know, I'm not going to go and engage in any hypotheticals -- right? -- because we still have some time here. It's a -- it's a NATO Ally, as you know; a G7 partner; and member of the EU.

So we will -- we will work with the new Italian government on the full range of shared global challenges, including supporting Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia's aggression.

But -- but, again, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals. Again, they are a NATO Ally, a G7 partner, and a member of the EU.

Q: One more on Russia. As mobilization in Russia continues, many Russian men try -- thousands of Russian men try to leave the country, and Europe is split on that. Some European countries, including Baltics and Poland, turn them back. Others argue that Europe should welcome them and give them refugee status.

What's your position? What President -- what's President Biden's position on that? And is the U.S. willing to grant those men refugee status here in the U.S.?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I would leave other country -- I would let other countries speak to their own policies. I'm not going to speak to the -- to other countries' policies from here.

But what I can say, for our part, for the U.S.: We have been clear to distinguish between the actions of the Russian government and its armed forces in Ukraine and the Russian people, many of whom have spoken out against this unjust war.

We see that just in the last couple of days, as we see the protests continuing in Russia. So, anyone seeking refuge for persecution, regas- -- regardless of their nationality, may apply for asylum in the United States and have their claim adjucated [adjudicated] on a case-by-case basis.

That's where -- that's how we see our role here and our part in this.

Go ahead.

Q: Yeah, thank you. Does President Biden shares Zelenskyy's assessment that Putin is not, quote, "bluffing" when it comes to his threats about nuclear weapons?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I mean, we've been very clear on this: that Putin's nuclear threat against Europe are irresponsible, and it's reckless. We -- you've heard the President say this. You've heard the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan; he was most recently on a few Sunday shows. And the consequences of nuclear use would be disastrous for Russia and the world, and Russia would be a pariah on the world stage.

So this is not new rhetoric. We have heard this before from Russia. We have heard this before from Mr. Putin. They have made these threats before, over the course of the -- this conflict this past six months or more.

We, of course, take it seriously. Again, we take this very, very seriously. Though I would add that Russia itself has said many times that a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought. This is something that they have said, including earlier this year in the P5 joint statement.

As the President made clear, any use of nuclear weapons on any scale should be dis- -- would be -- should be and would be -- would be disastrous for the world and would entail severe consequences.

Q: Well, and regarding these catastrophic consequences that Blinken, Sullivan, yourself have said would occur if there are nuclear weapons used, I mean, can we assume that these would be consequences beyond sanctions, that there would be some sort of military response? What more can you say of what "catastrophic consequences" mean here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look -- and Jake Sullivan said this -- said this yesterday as well -- is that we have had private conversations. He -- the NSC and his team has had private conversations and communicated privately, directly to the Russians, and they understand that. They understand exactly what -- what those consequences would be.

We are not going to lay that out in the public. We are not going to have these negotiations or share these conversations in public.

But again, to reit- -- reiterate what our national security advisor said just yesterday, is that they have made that very clear and spoken directly to the Russians, and they understand.

Q: Are there any plans for President Biden to relay that directly to Putin in some way?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We don't have any calls to preview at this time.

Welcome back.

Q: Thank you. So, it's been about a month since the President unveiled his plan for the $10- to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness. I know that there was going to be an application available in early October. I'm just wondering if you can give any updates on whether or not that's still going to be the

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We'll have something to share on that very, very soon on the application process and the next steps. I don't -- once we have that, we'll share with all of you.

Q: And several state attorneys generals are planning, you know, court challenges once this is unveiled. What -- can you talk at all about what is, sort of, going on inside the administration to bolster against this or --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I leave that to the Department of Justice. I know that when we announced the student loan relief, they put out on their website kind of a legal -- kind of a legal layout of how they came to making their legal determination. So again, I'll leave it to them.

But look, you know, there's always a lot of noise around the student loan debt relief. And at -- the bottom line is, this is going to give us some breathing room to many Americans -- tens of millions of Americans.

This is going to be an important -- an important step forward in giving people an opportunity to save some money and put money down on a house -- right? -- to start their family. Ninety percent of Americans who are going to be able to benefit from the student debt relief are making less than $75,000 a year.

So, this is an important -- we think -- we believe it's important for working families. It is important for people who are just looking for a little bit more of -- you know, a little bit more of help in their everyday lives.

Q: And then, my second question is on this framework House Republicans unveiled last week should they take the House

after the midterms. I know that senior Republican leaders have been touting a lot of these different bullet points: investigation, power, hiring more police officers, a parents' bill of rights. Like what -- what are you all thinking as they keep playing up their framework and giving interviews about it? I mean, what is the --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Specifically about the GOP agenda, or -- can you --

Q: Yeah. I think -- I think the subpoena power and the power to investigate is probably, I would imagine, a concern inside the White House. But I'm wondering, you know, as you watch these sorts of these Republicans talk about it, what is the thinking here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, our thinking is we are going to focus on the here and now. We're going to focus on the wins that we have been able to make for the American people. You all saw it. You all reported on it. When you think about the CHIPS Act. You heard me talk a couple times already about the Inflation Reduction Act. You've heard me talk about the American Rescue Plan, how that got that got our economy turned back on. I just talked about the student debt relief.

That's the -- what the President is going to be focused on. Whether, you know, the GOP take the House or not, again, I have to be careful what I say from here, from the podium. That's a hypothetical that we're just not going to entertain at this point.

At this point, we're going to make sure that we are doing everything that we can to lower -- to lower costs. And, you know, I will say this: Republicans are doing the complete opposite. They're not wanting to lower costs for the American people. Again, voted against the American Rescue Plan, voted against Inflation Reduction Act that helps lower costs for the American people.

But, again, we're going to stay steadfast in making sure that we continue the work.

Q: You have a two o'clock out. Can you take a few more?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. I'll take a few more.

Q: Karine? It's been two months, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead.

Q: Is the White House confident that a government shutdown will be averted at the end of this week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look -- and I've spoken to this a couple of times -- we are -- we believe that this could be averted. This is not the first time that we are in a position where, you know, we're talking about the C.R. It was done last year, and it would -- it could be done again this year. So, we -- we encourage Congress to get it done.

Q: Is the President going to be talking to lawmakers this week to try and (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything for you to preview at this time on any conversations that the President is having. I can say this -- and I've said this many times before -- our -- we have our teams here in the various departments who are having regular conversations with members of Congress and their staff in a bipartisan way. Because this thi- -- we think this is something that should happen and needs to happen.

Go ahead.

Q: Can you give us an update on U.S. aid to Pakistan? And can you also tell us to what extent the U.S. is worried that catastrophic flooding in the country -- a country that's nuclear armed with a history of military coups could lead to political instability and insecurity in Pakistan?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we'd have to go back to the team to get any more specifics on what we have talked about already about the aid that we have provided for Pakistan. We have been in close communications with folks and making sure that as they're dealing with the flood -- as the people of Pakistan are dealing with the flood, that they have, you know, aid, especially from us.

I don't have any specifics on anything else that -- beyond what we have already shared. But I'm happy to check with the team and lay out and get some more updates for you.

Q: Is there anything you can say on the, kind of, concerns that this humanitarian issue could lead to a security --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we always have that concern. That's something that we monitor very closely. I just don't have anything more to share on what you've already laid out.

Go ahead.

Q: Senator Rick Scott has a bill that he's proposing that, essentially, is supposed to require universities with high endowments to pay some of the financial aid when it comes to tuition. Does the administration -- have they seen the bill? We were told by Rick Scott's team that they sent a letter to the administration. Have you seen the bill? And does the administration believe that universities do have some type of responsibility when it comes to lowering the cost of higher ed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I have not seen this bill. I would have to talk to our office of Leg Affairs on this particular piece of legislation by Rick Scott.

Look, we have been very clear and so -- so has the Department of Education. The Secretary there has said, you know, has put into -- policies and processes in place to make sure that universities are playing their role and not raising costs on students and universities.

But I have not seen this piece of legislation, so I can't comment on it from at this point.

Q: Thank you, Karine. Does President Biden think America's big cities are safe?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you say more?

Q: Well, we know that thefts and robberies are up about 20 percent in the first half of this year. So, I'm wondering if he thinks Americans big cities are safe.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you talking about the New York Times story specifically? Or is that what you're referring to?

Q: Yeah, they had some stats. The murder rate still 30 percent above its 2019 level. They're all from the Council on Criminal Justice.

So, we've seen some high-profile examples of this. The Washington Commander's running back was being mugged. He got shot. Karen Bass, member of Congress, had her house robbed. These are high-profile people.

So should everyday Americans who are not in the public eye feel safe in America's cities?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I'll say this: That same story also stated that the crime is complicated and multifaceted.

Look, this is a President who has secured historic funding to make sure that law enforcement has what it needs -- is especially -- and he was able to do this in the face of opposition from Republicans.

During a time where -- where he inherited a rising crime rate from the previous administration, the President put forth the American Rescue Plan. And in that very -- in that very plan, there was more than $300 billion to go to local -- local states and local cities to make sure that they were able to hire law enforcement -- law officers. They were able to hire, you know, firefighters. They were able to hire people that were critical to their needs as they were dealing with a pandemic. Republicans voted against that.

Q: So, I guess -- just the original question: Does President Biden think America's big cities are safe?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It is not -- it is not a -- it is not a "yes" or a "no" question; it is very much a question of what has he done. That's how we see the question is: What has he done to make sure that cities -- and it doesn't matter if it's a big city or a small city, it doesn't matter if it's in a red state or a blue state -- what matters is that we have the funding and we have done the work, put the policy forward to make sure that the cities, whether it's big or small, have what they need to protect their community.

And that's what this President has done -- again, without the help of Republicans.

Q: And my last one on this. Jen Psaki says that crime is a "huge vulnerability" for Democrats. Why would she say that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, again, I can't do electoral politics from here, as you know. But I kind of -- I don't agree with your characterization of what she actually said.

But I'll say this, and I've already I've already said this already: The past few months, what we've been able to do is create a pretty much clear split screen of what we are doing to deliver for the American people and what Republicans refuse to do.

We are making sure that -- that we have Medicare and Social Security, and we make sure that the Big Pharma is not upping costs for our seniors -- right? -- and making sure that we give them a little bit of breathing room.

And, you know, you have Republicans who want to cut Medicare. They want to sunset Medicare. They want to set sunset Social Security. You have this GOP agenda that was put out by the House where they want to go after the Inflation Reduction Act, which will have an effect that will actually hurt Americans.

And so, I think there is a stark contrast here that we've seen in the past several months -- I would argue the past 19 months.

And this is the last question. I know we have to -- at two o'clock, we have to go.

Go ahead, Steve.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Just wanted to ask you about this pretty extraordinary open letter sent to the President by the workforce of the Office of Inspector General at DHS, essentially saying that the Inspector General Joseph Cuffari should be removed, that he -- that the workforce cannot complete their mission with Cuffari in his position.

They say that he no longer has the support of the workforce, has permanently damaged the reputation of the office. This is apparently the office that, for months, sat on the news of the January 6th -- the text messages from the Secret Service and, according to reports this summer, blocked deeper investigations into those text messages.

Has the President seen this letter? Does the White House have a response?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we have heard about some of the issues with this particular inspector general, and we're -- we're going to take a look at those. That's what I can share with you at this time.

But as far as any personal -- personnel announcements, I don't have anything to share.

Again, we have heard of some of these issues, and I can say to you from here that we're going to take a look at them.

All right, we'll see you guys tomorrow. Thanks, everybody.

2:08 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

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