Joe Biden

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

December 07, 2022

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:00 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It's almost like you guys were not expecting me to be out. (Laughter.)

Q: You caught us off guard.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't know.

Q: Day 625 of the administration --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't know, right?

Q: -- and it finally happened.

Q: Shockwaves. (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As we go into 2023, you know, just going to do things a little different.

All right, good afternoon, everybody. I just have a couple things at the top, and we'll get started.Today, on the 81st anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the President met with a group of 23 World War Two veterans, family members, and volunteers, and thanked them for their service. 

The veterans traveled to D.C. on an Honor Flight from Austin, Texas, to attend the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Observance at the World War Two Memorial on the National Mall. 

These veterans served on the homefront, across the Pacific and European theaters.

Today we remember and pay tribute to the 2,403 service members and civilians that died during the attack on our forces at Pearl Harbor and honor the extraordinary contributions that these veterans made to guide our nation through the world's darkest moments.

I'd also like to offer an update on open enrollment. As of today, nearly 5.5 million signed up for healthcare through the ACA Marketplace since the start of open enrollment last month -- a continued record-breaking pace for enrollment in quality, affordable healthcare. 

The Biden administration has made expanding access to health insurance and lowering healthcare costs for America's families a top priority. And under their leadership, the national uninsured rate reached an all-time low earlier this year.

Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, which congressional Republicans want to repeal, four out of five consumers can find a plan that costs $10 or less a month. Additionally, 13 million Americans will continue to save an average of 800 bucks a year on coverage.  

Open enrollment continues until January 15th, 2023, for states using the platforms. Americans without health insurance or those who need to renew it for 2023, should go to between now and December 15th to ensure that their coverage begins on January 1st, 2023.

We've also got some really good economic news and I know you all are excited about. Gas prices have now hit lowest levels since January. The national average is 3.36 bucks per gallon, down about $1.66 per gallon since June and about 18 cents below where they were when Putin invaded Ukraine. In 11 states, the average gas price is $2.99 or less.

That -- that decline is saving Americans' families with two cars about $170 a month. 

President Biden committed to addressing Putin's tax hike at the pump, and he is doing just that.

Finally, this morning, the President signed the Speak Out bipartisan legislation -- Speak Out Act -- I should be clear there -- bipartisan legislation that will enable survivors to speak out about workplace sexual assault and harassment, increase access to justice, and make the workplace safer for everyone.

Today's bill was passed thanks to part of -- to the extraordinary leadership of Gretchen Carlson and other survivors and advocates, as well as Congress- -- Congressmen [Congresswomen] Lois Frankel and Cheri Bustos and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Mazi [sic] -- and Mazie Hirono.

One in three women report having sexu- -- having faced sexual harassment in the workplace, and people of color, low-wage workers, and LGBTQI+ individuals are also disproportionately impacted -- individuals are also -- I'm sorry, disproportionately impacted. The threat of legal retaliation can silence survivors while allowing predatory workplace behavior to continue unchecked. 

The Speak Out Act creates a critical national standard, empowering survivors by prohibiting the enforcement of pre-dispute nondisclosure agreements -- those are NDAs -- and non-disparagement clauses in cases of workplace sexual assault or harassment.

This bill builds on the Ending Forced Attribu- -- Arbitration of Sexual Harassment -- of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, which the President signed into law earlier this year, which made it easier for survivors of sexual assault and harassment to bring suit in court and to avoid being forced to arbitrate their legal claims.

Together, these laws help protect the safety and wellbeing of Americans -- American workers and make our workplaces safer, fairer, and more just.

With that -- oh, hi, Josh. How are you? I haven't seen you in a long time. 

Q: I know, you said that last time.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I feel like I don't see you enough. Clearly -- clearly, I miss you.

Q: Well, I have a thousand questions for you. (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go -- go for it.  

Q: Let's just go.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Shocker. 

Q: Two subjects.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Okay, Josh.

Q: On the Georgia Senate election: With Senator Warnock's re-election having 51 Senate seats, what does that mean for possible changes in how the White House approaches its policy agenda and confirmation process?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me just -- I want to give you a little bit of color on the call. I know some folks had some questions about how the call went. 

So, Senator Warnock -- well, first, as you know, the President called Senator Warnock last night when we got back from Phoenix, Arizona. And -- and Senator Warnock thanked the President for the call, and they talked about their partnership and the importance of their continued work together in the months and years ahead. 

Look, what I would say to your question, Josh, about what this means for moving forward, when it comes to the President's legislative agenda, when it comes to Democrats' legislative agenda, it's that it gives us a little bit more breathing room, a little bit more ability to deliver for the American people. 

The President has been very clear these past almost two years that his main priority, his main objective is to make sure that the American -- the American public, the American people -- when it comes to the economy, we build it from the bottle -- from the bottom up, middle out -- giving people real opportunities. You see that in his economic initiatives and priorities, his plans. 

When you see the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, the infer- -- inflation -- Inflation Reduction Act, which I just mentioned at the top, and when you think about the American Rescue Plan, the first big piece of legislation that this President passed with only Democratic votes, which met the moment that he walked into with an economy that was really tanking, and he helped make sure that people got shots in arms, helped the economy get back on its feet. And we've seen these successes, which in the last two -- two -- two years. 

Again, this is going to give us a little bit more of that breathing room to get things done, to continue to move forward with what the American people want. 

And they were very clear in the midterms. What the American people want is they want to continue the agenda that the President has had the last two years.

Q: And then secondly, on the National Defense Authorization Act, it doesn't include a military COVID vaccine mandate. Is the President's objection to removing that mandate so strong that he's willing to veto the NDAA?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me just first say -- I'll answer that question, but I do want to make a few points here. 

So I don't want to get ahead of the process. As we know, there's the -- there -- we know there's the conference language. There's still the legislative process that has to move ahead on this. 

And so, again, I'm not going to get ahead of the -- of the vote, or I'm not going to get ahead of the President. But every year, as you know, the NDAA has some provisions we support and some we do not. And what the President is going to do is he's going to judge this piece of legislation -- this bill -- on its entirety when that occurs. Again, there's a process moving, there's a process that's happening, and so we're going to let that happen in Congress. 

I will note -- just to be very, very clear here -- what we saw, what we think happened here is Republicans in Congress have decided that they'd rather fight against the health and wellbeing of our troops than protecting them. And we believe that it is a mistake what we saw -- what we saw happen on the NDAA, as it relates to the vaccine mandate.

Making sure our troops are prepared and ready for service is a priority for President Biden. The vaccination requirement for COVID does just that. 

I'll add one more thing. Just a -- just a little bit of a point -- a data point here so all of you have this. Look, before COVID vaccine existed, nearly 700 Department of Defense personnel and service members died of COVID. Almost 100 of them were active duty. And so, since this past spring, there has been one death due to COVID. So vaccinations work and save the lives of our service members. So we believe that it was a mistake.

Go ahead.

Q: I just want to go back to your comment on "breathing room" that you just said. If you could, with a look ahead, going forward, lay out for us where you think you'll have the most breathing room. Is it specifically judicial nominees? Kind of, what's the list of what --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we've been very clear --

Q: -- what you get out of this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- that judicial nominees is a -- is a priority for this President. That's something, clearly, that we want to move forward on and continue -- continue our successes. 

We've -- you've seen the success of judicial nominees as it relates to this President's first two years, making sure that we have put forth a historic amount of Black women to -- you know, to judgeships. And so the President wants to continue to do that. Our nominations, as well -- moving forward on that. 

So that is something that we have said. Those are clearly priorities. Don't want to get too far ahead of what the President is -- wants to do or what that legislative process. He's going to continue to have those conversations -- congressional leadership. 

But, again, look, we saw -- we saw the results. All of you reported on the results of the -- of the midterms. And, you know, Democrats -- and not just Democrats, pardon me -- but the American people were very, very clear on what they wanted to see. They wanted -- they want Congress and the President to continue to fight for women's rights and our freedoms. They want to protect our democracy. 

They don't want our Social Security or our Medicare to be put on the chopping blocks. And that's what Republicans officials were putting out there as their plan. And so we're going to continue to deliver for the American people. 

What you saw Senator Warnock do and what you saw Democrats do this past -- this past election is run on the President's agenda, run on an agenda that was successful. 

And -- and so that's what -- this was a success for Democrats but also for President Biden.

Q: Why not lay out that agenda now, given that the results are in? If you could walk us through the thought process behind that, and when we then might hear the President. Are we going to hear some kind of speech on that?

And then just quickly, what is sort of the thought process in terms of bipartisan agreement? The President, after the midterms, had said that working with a divided chamber would be -- make life for Democrats more difficult. Does he still believe that? And what areas were there -- are you going to pursue?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you say that last part again?

Q: That the President had said that a divided chamber in the Congress would -- would make the reality for Democrats in Washington working more difficult. It would be tougher to do your job, get things passed, if you don't have the House. What -- going forward, kind of, where -- where are the areas of bipartisanship that you could (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, there's so many areas of bipartisanship that the President sees. When it comes to delivering for the American people, on the economy, on healthcare, on issues that they truly care about, we can do that in a bipartisan way. 

There's no -- there's no reason that that couldn't be done. You know, when we talk about the government funding, last year, it was done a bipartisan way. This year, it should be done in a bipartisan way, because when you think about what's in the -- what's -- what the specifics are in that funding, you think about public education. You think about public health, right? You think about our national security. All of those things are not partisan issues. 

But I will also say, when the President has his meeting with the Big Four, the Republican and Democratic leadership on Congress -- in Congress, just last week, he was very clear. You saw the readout. And you heard me say this as well, which is, you know, this past almost two years, there were more than 200 pieces of legislation that the President signed into law that were bipartisan. That is -- so it is possible to get things done. 

The President was in Phoenix, Arizona. He talked about the CHIPS and Science Act. That was done in bipartisan way to bring back jobs to the U.S. -- manufacturing jobs in the U.S. And under this presidency, more than 700,000 manufacturing jobs have been created. 

So there's ways to do that. The bipartisan infrastructure legislation -- a historic piece of legislation that's going to fix our infrastructure and our roads, our -- you know, our roads, our tunnels, our bridges -- and that was done in a bipartisan way. So, there's many ways that we can do that. The President is willing to reach across the aisle, as he has been during out -- throughout his career to get things done for the American people.

Q: And a timeline he'll lay out the legislative agenda?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I don't want to get ahead of the President. I will let him, you know, speak to that when the time comes. What I am saying is the President is going to continue to have conversations with congressional leaders. He did just last week, just -- just a week ago or so. And he wants to make sure that we can continue doing -- moving the country forward in a way that helps the American people.

Q: Thanks, Karine. So, the deadline for Biden to decide whether to declassify thousands of documents related to the assassination of John F. Kennedy is looming. It's December 15th. Is that declassification still on track, or will the administration seek to extend?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have an update for you on that particular question on declassify- -- declassification of those documents. Once we -- once we have more to share, we certainly will. I don't have anything to preview at this time.

Q: Oh, one more thing. I wonder if you can preview some of the remarks Biden is going to make tonight at the vigil for victims of gun violence. And he's spoken frequently on the campaign trail in public about the desire for an assault weapons ban. Does -- is that out of the water now that there's divided government?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, there's 51 Senate -- Democratic senators now. So, that -- that matters. Like I said, it'll make things a little bit easier. But, yes, to your point, it is a divided government.

But, look, far too many Americans are losing their lives and loved ones to gun violence. We are seeing communities being broken up, families being destroyed because of gun violence.

And so, tonight, the President will join survivors and families impacted by gun violence to deliver remarks at the 10th Annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence. The vigil is a service of mourning and loving remembrance for all who have fallen victim to the ongoing epidemic of gun violence in America.

As you all know, as you just mentioned a little bit about the assault weapons ban, but also, the President signed the most significant gun safety legislation in 30 years this summer. But it's -- he feels it's not enough. He believes that we need to do more, and he's been very vocal about that these past several months. He continues to call for an assault weapons ban to be passed by the Senate and send it to his desk. 

So, he's never going to stop showing up. He's never going to stop talking about this. He believes that speaking up and making sure that the American public is aware what his priorities are is important as well, and, look, in fighting for the scourge of gun violence that is killing our kids, leaving holes in our families and tearing up communities -- tearing our communities apart. So, he's going to keep continue to speak to that.

Go ahead.

Q: In the wake of the midterms, the President has traveled to two states that were critical to 2020 but also where Democrats did quite well, in Michigan and Arizona. Should we expect a trip to Georgia anytime soon?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, don't have anything to preview at this time on any trips that the President will be having in the next couple of weeks. 

You know, of course, we've been to Georgia many times during even this presidency and always look forward to going back. But don't have anything to preview at this time.

Q: Can I ask on the funding negotiations? Republican Leader McConnell yesterday made pretty clear that they hadn't made any significant headway on any of the major issues, including a topline, and said that that would likely lead to CR if it didn't change soon. 

How does the President view his role in these negotiations? I understand the critical role Shalonda plays. I understand there are House Democrats, Senate Democrats, House Republicans, Senate Republicans. Given the timeline here, what does the President view as his role, his necessity here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Well, look, just last week, as I was mentioning when he met with congressional leadership -- that was part of the readout that we provided to all of you, is how important it is to get this government funding done. 

He believes -- and I just stated this moments ago -- he believed that we were able to do this in a bipartisan way last year and we should be able to do that in a bipartisan way this year. We have the time to get that done.

And to your point, yes, our OMB Director, Shalonda Young, is leading the process. She was -- she knows how to get this done. She knows how to reach across the aisle to get to make sure that we deliver for the American people.

These are not partisan issues. These are real critical issues that we're talking about. We're talking about the different specifics of the government funding that matter to the American people.

So, like I said, the President spoke to leadership last week. It was part of the readout that we provided to all of you. And he'll continue to have those conversations.

Q: And just real quick: Is the administration, at this point, opposed to any CR into next year?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I'm not going to get ahead of what's happening right now in Congress. What we believe is that, you know, we should be able to have an omnibus bill, like we have done in the past, and it should be bipartisan. And we have enough time to get that done.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Is the White House following the events in Germany in which 25 members of a far-right group were detained for planning to overthrow the state? And is the U.S. offering any help or intelligence-gathering on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we applaud the German government and its law enforcement and special forces for their diligence in combating violent extremism and keeping their citizens safe and their government facilities secure. 

We would refer you to the German government specifically and law enforcement authorities for questions about the investigation specifically on that.

We remain in contact -- in close contact with our government counterparts and are standing by to assist if asked.

Q: Also on foreign policy: Is the White House concerned about Belarus moving troops? Is there concern that that might be the opening of another front in Russia's war against Ukraine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, you know, we've been very clear about -- about what is -- what Russia is doing. Right? We've been very clear that it is important to stand with the Ukrainian people. It is important to -- for us to help the Ukrainian people fight for their democracy, fight for their freedom.

And that's what we have done. That's what the President has done along with our partners and allies, and bringing NATO together in a historic way. And so that's what we're going to continue to do. And we're going to be very clear and loud about that and -- and say -- and say that we applaud what Ukrainian -- what the Ukrainian people are doing.

And when it comes to what we're seeing from Russia, they are -- they are -- you know, they are the ones who are attacking another country. They are the ones who are stepping on -- on their -- on their freedoms, on their democracy. And we have to continue to call that out. And we have to continue to make sure that we're providing the assistance to the Ukrainian people to continue to fight.

So, we've been very clear on that. We've been very clear on -- it's important that folks stand on the right side of history on this when it comes to fighting our -- for democracy. And I'll leave it -- I'll leave it there.

Q: But on Belarus specifically?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, don't have -- look, I don't have anything specifically on that. I have not seen the reporting on Belarus. It would not be surprising, as I remember you all reported on Belarus very early on in this -- in this -- in this continuous war.

But, again, the President has been very clear: Like, we -- it is important to stand with the -- with the Ukrainian people as they're fighting for their lives, as they're fighting for their democracy and their freedom. And being on that side of history is -- is incredibly important.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. I want to follow up on the vigil that the President is going to attend tonight. In the wake of the mass shootings in Colorado and Virginia, the President said he wanted to revive his push for the assault weapons ban. Where does that stand? Is he going to push for that in the lame duck?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I just -- just to speak a little bit to why the President continues to talk about this, and I talked -- spoke about it just moment ago: He believes that it is incredible -- incredibly important, as President, for him to continue to speak to this, for him to continue to put this at the forefront, the importance of getting the assault bans weapon -- weapons ban.

And so -- and he -- he is grateful for the bipartisanship that we saw just months ago on getting that gun reform to really fight gun violence -- something that we hadn't seen in 30 years.

But he believes we need to do more. And he -- it's not just legislation, it's also the work that he has done throughout his administration. The President put out the Safer America Plan, which is a roadmap for additional actions needed to reduce gun -- gun crime.

As part of that, the President continues to call, again, for an assault weapons ban to be passed by the Senate. And he believes that is one of the best actions we can take to reduce gun violence and save lives. And the President feels very strongly about that. And whether it's in the next three weeks or beyond, the President is not going to take his foot off the -- off the gas pedal on getting that done.

You know, again, he's going to continue to talk about that. He's going to continue to make sure that it is a priority for his administration and be very clear with Congress on how important it is to move forward with this.

When we saw the assault weapons ban in place 30 years ago, in 1994, when the President was very much a big part of getting that done, we did see crimes go down as it relates to that particular bill. And once it sunset 10 years later, we saw an increase. So, he's going to continue to fight for it.

Q: And I hear what you're saying in terms of the timing. I guess part of me is curious about the mechanism. I had a chance to interview incoming Congressman Maxwell Frost who, of course, made it a key part of his platform to fight against gun violence. And he ca- -- has called for a vote on the assault weapons ban in the Senate saying, quote, "I think it's important to put it up for a vote even if it doesn't pass because it gets people on the record." And I wonder if the President shares that perspective, that it is worth putting it on the floor for a vote --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President --

Q: -- even if you don't have enough votes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I understand. I understand what -- what is being laid out and said to me. Look, the President believes that we need to get something done. That's what he wants. He wants to make sure --

Q: He wants to see a vote in the Senate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, he wants to see -- he wants to see the Senate get it done. He wants to see, obviously, a vote in the Senate. He wants to make sure -- he wants to see the assault weapons ban get done. And he believes that is what's going to save the lives of families and communities across the country.

Q: And I just wanted to ask you about the antisemitism forum. The Second Gentleman said today, "There is an epidemic of hate facing our country. Let me be clear: Words matter. People will no longer say the quiet parts out loud; they are screaming them." Obviously, very powerful words. I'm wondering what, if any, actions the White House, the President thinks can and should be taken to deal with this issue.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the President has been very clear. You know, I was talking to him about this earlier today. And, look, he said -- he said what I've always said here -- is: Silence is complicity. Right? And that is true. And we need to speak out against hate, bigotry, antisemitism, and Holocaust denial -- are disgusting and have no place in America -- period. 

Let's not forget, in 2017, the President put out -- put forth an op-ed that -- that talked about what he saw in Charlottesville, and the hatred, the antisemitism that we saw, that we -- that you all reported on. And so he's been consistent on calling that out, talking about the soul of our nation, talking about how important it is to really speak out against this type of hate that we're seeing.

Q: Given how critical it is to the President, why didn't he attend today? Why didn't he make remarks?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, here's the thing that I want to be really clear about. Again, I just talked about 2017, how the President has been out front; he was out front as a former Vice President. He put out, again, an op-ed being out front on this critical issue and what we were seeing. And someone lost their lives -- right? -- someone lost their life on that day. 

When he decided to run in 20- -- in 2019, to be President, he talked about the soul of a nation. He talked about the increase of hate and what he was seeing. And there's been many times at this podium and many times this President himself has called out the bigotry, the antisemitism that we have been seeing, and he'll continue to do that. 

I talked about this -- how important it is for the Second Gentleman because of his stor- -- his historic role and how he belongs to that -- to the Jewish community and how important it was for him. And, again, he represents the administration. He is the Second Gentleman. 

But look, just a couple of things. I do want to lay out what we have done:

At September's United We Stand Summit, our administration announced a series of actions and commitments to take on hate-fueled violence. 

President Biden has established the first ambassador-level Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism and appointed the renowned Holocaust expert to the role. 

So these are actions that he has taken most recently, in the last almost two years, and I think that shows his commitment to this issue. That shows his commitment in fighting antisemitism and fighting hate.  

Go ahead. Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Senator Manchin now has an amendment to the NDAA he's hoping to advance on the floor for his permitting reform provisions. Does the White House support -- continue to support the effort at this stage?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President believes we must pass the permitting reform bill so that the -- that the U.S. can realize the benefits of the historic investments in the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. He supports permitting reform. 

As I said just a couple of days ago, we will continue to work with Congress and find the best path forward so we can enact a bill -- enact this bill. So it is a priority for this President. 

Q: If I could just follow up to your answer to Josh's question -- and I think John Kirby said the same thing this morning -- that it was a mistake for the provision rescinding the vaccine mandate to be included in the NDAA. But specifically, Josh asked you if the President would veto the NDAA if the provision remains. Is the President threatening to veto the NDAA?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just answered that question, which was: There's a process in place. We talked about the conference language. There's a legislative process that it has to go -- go -- go forward, right? I'm not going to get ahead of votes. I'm not going to get ahead of what that process is going to look like. 

The President is going to look at the NDAA in its entirety and make his judgment on that. 

And I'm not leaning any way here. I'm just laying out the facts of how this works. 

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks. Karine, following up on Kristen's question about the assault weapons ban push from the President, he said specifically, on Thanksgiving, that he was going to count the votes to see if there were enough votes to do anything during the lame duck. Has he counted the votes? Has he made any determination?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I don't have any determination to share with you at this time. What I can say is the President is committed and believes that we need to get an assault weapons ban. He has been very, very clear about that. He is -- he's appreciative of what Congress was able to do with the -- with the -- the piece of legislation that got passed just a couple of months ago on making sure that we deal with gun violence in our communities. That was something that we hadn't seen in 30 years. But he believes we need to go further. 

Again, I exp- -- I -- you know, I tried to explain a little bit about his thinking, about how -- why he continues to talk about this. He believes it's important for him, as the President of the United States, to have this conversation, to put this at the forefront and continuing to do this, because we're seeing what gun violence is doing and how it's destroying our communities and what it's doing to our communities.

Q: Do you expect him to make a determination on votes in the lame duck in the near future?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, there's -- there's a lot happening -- right? -- in the next couple of weeks. I just said whether this happens in the next three weeks or beyond, this is -- continues to be a priority for this President. 

Q: And then, is the administration following the situation in Peru, where the president has said that he is going to dissolve the congress before a third impeachment vote? Do you have any response or comment to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we -- we've seen the reports, and I -- I believe the NSC -- the NSC team is looking at that. Of course, this is a developing -- developing news, and I don't have anything to share on that today. 

But, again, we've seen the reports, and NSC is certainly looking at this.

Go ahead, JJ.

Q: Georgia elections official Brad Raffensperger said yesterday that he'd like to see Georgia lawmakers take a look at ranked choice voting or runoff alternatives. Does the White House have any thoughts on the structure of state elections or whether archaic election systems need to be updated or changed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So don't have any position from the White House to share on this today. Of course, I read the reports. I just don't have anything to share at this time. 

Go ahead. Go ahead.

Q: Karine, sorry to push again one more time, to follow up on Kristen and Catherine. I hear what you're saying, that the President has always and will always push for a ban on assault rifles. I think the difference is that he himself went a step further and said -- in response to whether that would happen during the lame duck session, he said, "I got to make that assessment as I get in and start counting the votes." 

So I guess my question is: I know you said a determination hasn't been made, but has he started counting the votes? Are there conversations between him and lawmakers about where they stand?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President has always been very clear to lawmakers that he has conversations with how important it is to get the assault weapons ban done. That is something that has been continuous, and that has happened across his administration, across a couple of months of his administration. That will never stop.

You know, I get the question. And I just answered -- kind of answered it and said, "Don't have a determination for you at this time." 

But what I can say is, it doesn't matter if it's the next three weeks or beyond, the President is going to continue to fight for this. Right? This is something that is very personal to him. This is something that he worked on as a senator and got done.

And let's not forget, you know, we were able to see a gun reform legislation -- or gun violence -- a piece of legislation that's now into law get done. Something that we hadn't seen in 30 years. And it was done in a bipartisan way. 

So the President is going to continue to fight for this. He believes that getting this done, getting the assault weapons ban is going to save lives, and it's going to -- it's going to save communities. And so he's going to put this at the forefront, continue to talk about it, and work very hard to get that done.

Q: But the question to him was specifically about these next three weeks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I hear you.

Q: So I know there's no determination, but I --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I -- I actually -- I just answered that question. (Laughs.)

Q: But I just -- can you just tell us whether that process has started, to count the votes?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I -- look, I don't have a -- I don't have anything else to preview --

Q: Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- for you or if that process has occurred or happened. I hear what you're saying. I am telling you it is a priority for this President. He's going to continue to fight for this, whether it's in the next couple of weeks -- right? -- of this -- of this -- of this legislative session, as we're, you know, coming to the end of the year or beyond. And what I can tell you for sure -- what I can tell you for sure is, he has prioritized this. It is a -- it is important for him to get this done. And -- and, again, it could be the next three weeks or beyond. We are going to -- we're going to work very hard to get -- to deliver this for the American people. 

Q: And then one more on the new margin in the Senate.

Now that the Vice President won't have to break the tie as often, in theory, and she has more flexibility in her schedule and time, will that impact her portfolio, travel schedule at all?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I don't believe so. No.

Q: Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would reach out to her team specifically, but I don't believe so. The Pres- -- let me just say: The Vice President has been a great partner of the President this past two years. You know the successes that they both have had in the, clearly, Biden-Harris administration on getting things done for the American people when it comes to the economy, when it comes to lowering costs, when it comes to fighting inflation. And that is something that we're going to continue to do. We just talked about the gun violence reform legislation that was passed just a couple of -- couple of months ago. 

All of that was done in partnership with the Vice President. And he appreciates all the work that she has done on -- on these issues.

Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q: Thank you, Karine. The White House and the President were very vocal about Georgia's new election law when it was signed in March of 2021. The big argument from the White House was that it would suppress voting. But there was record turnout in the primary, there was record turnout in the general, record turnout in the runoff in early voting, absentee ballots, and in-person voting. So is the DOJ going to drop their lawsuit against the state?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can't speak to DOJ's actions and what they're going to do.

Q: The President, though, called it "Jim Crow in the 21st century" and a "blatant attack on the Constitution." So does he still see it that way?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'll say this: I'm not going to speak to the Department of Justice legal actions. That's something for them to -- to speak to. What I can say -- and not -- not going to get into specifics of your question, but you guys -- you all have reported this, that there was suppression, that -- that we saw that throughout -- through that -- throughout the Georgia election. So that is something that was reported on. So I leave it to those reports.

But, look, even with that, the American people came out. They came out in a historic fas- -- fashion to make their voices loud and clear.

When it comes to democracy, when it comes to protecting our democracy, when it comes to making sure that we're protecting our economy, we're protecting Social Security and Medicare, this is something that the American people spoke very loud and clear. And they did that because of the success that this President has had on his legislative agenda, because of the -- of what the President has been able to deliver, because of what Democrats has been able to do and making sure we had a sharp message for the American people to see the contrast, right?

Republicans wanted to put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block. That's what they wanted to do. That was their plan. And, you know, people have said -- I've heard some of your colleagues say earlier this morning -- that stunning- -- it was a stunningly bad cycle for Republican senators. And a lot of that is because of their agenda. It is because they embodied the ultra-MAGA ideas. 

And even with all of that, the American public came out, and they put a lot of that to rest, a lot of what the pr- -- what the Republican officials were putting forth, their plan, to rest. And they said it very loud and clear: We want to -- we want the special interests to pay their fair share. We want Social Security, we want Medicare to be protected. And we want women's rights to be protected as well.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Just one more. On Twitter, Karine. The Twitter Files had released that the company typically required an official or law enforcement finding that materials were hacked in order to exercise their company policy to restrict certain stories or reporting. And the journalist who released the material noted that, in this case, around the Hunter Biden laptop story, there was no official or law enforcement finding that appeared in the material that he was given.

So my question to you is: Did anyone from the Biden team communicate to Twitter that this material was -- was from ha- -- or this reporting stemmed from hacked materials?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you talking about the campaign?

Q: It would have been the campaign or anyone around the family. Just wondering, because the -- in the Twitter Files released and what Matt Taibbi said, he noted that, typically, the company would require a law enforcement or official finding that something was hacked in order to exercise their hacked materials clause, and that they didn't -- he didn't see that in what had been given to him.

So, I'm wondering if it was communicated, even informally, by someone around the President or the President's family or the campaign that this was hacked material or could have come from hacked material, given that there was so much concern, especially after the 2018 foreign interference situation, that that could be something that we would see in that election. So I'm wondering if there was that communication there surrounding the Hunter Biden laptop story.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I can't speak to decisions made by -- by the campaign from here. That is not -- it is a political campaign, so I can't speak from that from here -- to that from here. I'm covered by the Hatch Act. And so I'm just not going to comment on the question that you're asking me.

But what I can say more broadly is: Of course, it's up to these companies to make their own decision about the content on their platforms and to ensure content follows their own standards and policies. But I'm just not going to comment on a decision that was made during the campaign.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Karine. I have two questions for you. Following the explosion near the border with Ukraine, Poland just accepted Germany's offer to deploy Patriot missile defense systems to Eastern Poland. But initially, the Polish government said that Patriots should be delivered to Ukraine. So can you comment on the deployment? And I'm wondering if the President sees a need to transfer Patriots to Ukraine, either by NATO and the -- or the U.S., considering continued Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, to your first question -- so we would leave it to Germany and Poland to speak about the specifics of what is being provided. That's for them, their own governments to speak to. As a general matter, we welcome Allied efforts to bolster NATO's collective defenses. 

And to your -- to your last question about NATO and how this could be provided: Look, we're in close -- close contact with Ukrainians about their security assistance needs, as you've heard us speak to many times from this podium, and have been working to provide Ukraine with air defense systems to help them protect their country.

But I -- again, I don't have anything to preview today -- for you today on this -- on that particular issue.

Q: One more, if I could.


Q: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said recently that Hungary will ratify Sweden's and Finland's membership in NATO early next year. Does the President have any update from Turkey, which, it looks like, will be the only holdout?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I would refer you to the Turkish government to speak about their own position. Certainly not something that we're going to do from here. 

But what I can say is that we have been a strong supporter of Finland and Sweden's applications for a NATO membership and worked with the Senate to move quickly to ratify their applications. And so we have welcomed the rapid ratifications by our Allies, and we urge all remaining Allies to compete -- complete their own ratification process as quickly as possible.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Are you guys confirming reporting from Bloomberg today that the President will travel to Mexico and meet with the Mexican president on January 9th and hold a trilateral with López Obrador and Trudeau on January 10th for the North American Leaders' Summit?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We're -- we're still working through the plans. Nothing has changed since I was last asked this question. And we'll let you know if we have anything more to share.

Q: And on the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, are there any details you can share about any bilateral meetings he's holding? And given the focus of competition with China and the National Security Strategy, do you expect it to be a big topic at next week's summit?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don't have any bilateral meetings to share at this time on -- on the Africa Summit -- Leaders Summit that's happening next week, as you just stated. We -- and I mentioned this a little bit at the end of our -- of the briefing on Monday: We've invited 49 African heads of state to Washington, D.C., for a three-day summit to highlight how the U.S. and African nations are strengthening our partnerships to advance shared -- shared priorities.

The summit reflects the U.S. strategy towards Sub-Saharan Africa with empha- -- which emphasizes the critical importance of the region to meet this era's defining challenges.

We will have more, as we do normally, background calls and more to share on -- on what is to be expected during those -- that three-day summit.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. My colleague had asked you on Monday about the drug shortages question, and I just wanted to follow up on that. Is this something that the President has been engaged in? Has he been briefed on medicine shortages?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me just say this and a lit- -- share -- share where we are. So, as I've said -- as you mentioned, on Monday, I was asked by your colleague -- I believe, Ben -- the administration is closely monitoring for the possibility of any national shortages. Medicine shortages are -- are not uncommon and is closely monitored and led by FDA and HHS, who are experts on this. Right? This is their focus. 

Health officials are in close communication with manufacturers around these medicines. While we cannot force a manufacturer to make more of any drug, the conversations have been focused on understanding their supply and production levels, as well as if there -- if there are any needs that we can assist with to ensure steady supply. We stand ready to help if there is a need.

As -- also as part of these conversation, FDA and HHS are in touch with manufacturing associates who continue to tell the public that they are seeing strong supply chains for these products.

So that work, again, is ongoing. And as a reminder, we stand ready to help states and jurisdictions as they face the confluence of winter illness.

But, also, importantly, we are aggressively pushing everyone to get their flu and COVID shots. I said this on Monday. It is important to do. That is how folks are going to protect themselves and their families, especially as we're going into -- continuing the holiday season.

So, we stand ready to provide resources to states, like ventilators and PPE, as well as personnel to help in hospitals.

Just last week, Secretary Becerra sent a letter to the nation's governors reminding them to request those resources if they need to -- if they need it. Again, this is something that FDA and HHS is managing.

But as I just stated, we are -- we are ready to help when needed, when those requests come in.

Q: The FDA and agencies don't have much visibility into the supply chain issues. They've said that they're really dependent on the industry to give them information on any issues and whether there are shortages. Does the White House think it's time for the FDA to get more involved so that they can get better information from companies?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I just stated in my -- my layout here that FDA and HHS are in touch with manufacturing associates who continue to tell -- to tell the public that they are seeing strong supply chains for these products. So, that's what they're hearing, that's what we're all hearing from these manufacturing associate -- associations. So, I'll leave it -- I'll leave it there. But, again, I would refer you to FDA and HHS, as they are indeed the experts on this.

But I've been very clear -- you saw Secretary Becerra's letter that I just laid out -- we are ready to help, and we have told states to certainly ask for help if they need it. And we'll be ready to act.

Q: Following up on the question about whether concrete actions are expected out of today's roundtable on antisemitism, one of the Jewish groups that participated is calling for a national strategy to address the issue, and another wants the President to appoint a task force charged with creating a national action plan. Is the administration looking at anything like either of those proposals?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, that meeting just occurred, I think, at 11 o'clock. I don't have any -- a clear readout on what -- on what was actually asked or talked about. I know you just laid out a few things. So, I would just need to go back to our teams and see how we're going to move forward. Don't want to get ahead of what -- you know, of what could be -- what could be put forward on the next steps. Just don't want to get ahead of that.

In the way back.

Q: Thanks. Thanks, Karine. On TikTok, I want to ask you about -- so Maryland and South Dakota became the latest two states to ban TikTok on state devices. Is the federal government, is the President considering doing something here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm not going to comment on TikTok while a CFIUS -- the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States -- review is ongoing, as you know, to address concerns posed by this particular app.

Generally speaking, the Biden administration is focused on the challenge of certain -- of certain countries, including China, seeking to leverage digital technologies and America's data in ways that present unacceptable national security risk.

But, again, I'm just not going to comment on -- on a ongoing review.

Q: Just one more on -- President Xi is now in Saudi Arabia speaking with the King and the Crown Prince. There was much fanfare around his visit. Does the President feel slighted at all with his visit, which didn't get as much pomp and circumstance?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm sorry, say that one more time.

Q: So, there were dances and fanfare around the visit from President Xi coming, and the President didn't get the same kind of reception in Saudi Arabia. I'm wondering if there's any slight --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: They met in Bali -- right? -- with -- with --

Q: They met in Bali, but I'm talking about when the President went to Saudi Arabia to visit MBS and -- the Crown Prince.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And so, your question is --

Q: My question is: Does he feel slighted that --


Q: -- there wasn't the same kind of fanfare?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, not at all.

We're going to keep moving. Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. I have two questions. The first on NDAA. Something that wasn't in the draft that got released today is legislation to prevent a future president, or President Biden, from imposing a Schedule F and moving gobs of civil servants into the excepted service.

Would the President -- I won't ask you if he would veto the NDAA without it, but would the President support or encourage adoption of an amendment to prevent this from happening in the future? It was one of the first things he did as President.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I want to be very clear. It's still -- you know, this is still in process. We know -- you know, one thing very clearly with this -- the vaccine mandates and there's still a process going -- a legislative process going. I don't want to get ahead of that. So, I'm just not going to comment right now as there's negotiations, and -- and this piece of legislation is still moving through the process.

Q: And then, second, there are reports in the last day or so that the President is poised to appoint a new Northern Ireland envoy, but that envoy would focus more on economic development than the Brexit, Northern Ireland Protocol border situation. If the envoy will not be focused on that, does the President plan to get more involved to ensure a smooth implementation of the Good Friday Agreement? The 25th anniversary is coming up in a matter of months.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not going to get ahead of the special envoy and what their -- what their purview is going to be or not be. I'm just not going to get ahead of that.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Karine. I just wanted to follow up on TikTok. I know you said you can't comment, but the U.S. business operations of the company have effectively been in question for nearly three years. And I'm wondering at what point you think there might be an outcome, one way or another, on whether it can operate here.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm just not going to comment on an ongoing review that CFIUS is doing. And, as you know, the review is -- is ongoing to address the concerns posed by the app. I'm just not going to comment from here.

Q: But the FBI Director has said publicly on Capitol Hill that it does pose a national security concern, but company executives said just yesterday they believe they're on a path to resolve those concerns. So, does the administration have a view on whether those concerns can be resolved?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I talked about the challenges that we -- that are certain, that we -- that we're currently seeing. So, I can say this more broadly: that we're taking the steps we can to address these types of challenges.

For example, President Biden issued the first-ever as -- presidential directive, defining additional national security factors for CFIUS to consider in -- in line with this administration's national security priorities, like protecting America's sensitive data.

And last year, President Biden put forward an executive order to protect Americans' sensitive -- sensitive data from collect- -- collection and utilization.

The Commerce Department, with interagency support, is working to implement this EO and utilize other related authorities. And we will continue to look at other actions that we can take on this -- on this matter. But I'm just not going to comment on this specific issue.

Q: And finally, on voting rights: Are there any specific elements of either the Electoral Count Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act that the White House is seeking to add on to any year-end spending bill?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you say the first part of your question?

Q: On voting rights -- voting rights has obviously been a huge priority of this administration, and there's a suggestion that there could be some type of voting rights push here in the final weeks of the year, that some elements of existing legislation could be added on to a year-end spending bill. Has the White House been discussing this with leadership?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I've -- I've spoken to this a little bit, about the -- about the importance of -- of the President supporting the electoral -- the electoral piece. I don't have anything else to share on that. We're going to let Congress continue to negotiate and move forward with how they're moving the next couple of weeks, but don't have anything specific.

I haven't seen any language or anything specific about what you're asking on voting rights and others. 

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

2:52 P.M. EST

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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