Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:35 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. I heard a "oh, wow." I'm not even going to ask why. (Laughter.)
All right. Good afternoon, everyone.
Q: Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just have one -- one thing at the top for all of you. First, I want to -- to wish a Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate.
This evening, the President and the First Lady will host a Hanukkah reception at the White House. Following a blessing and the menorah lighting, the President will address the rise of antisemitism in the U.S. and around the world, and reiterate that we must continue to forcefully reject all form of hate, antisemitism, and violence in our country.
The President and First Lady will also mark a new tradition: adding the first-ever White House menorah to the White House collection, marking the first Jewish artifact to be added to the White House archives, which was made by the White House Carpentry Shop.
Last week, the President launched a new effort to develop a national strategy to counter the scourge of antisemitism. Earlier this year, he convened a first-of-its-kind summit to combat hate-fueled violence. The President has secured the largest increase in federal funding ever for the physical security and -- and [of] non-profits, including synagogue and Jewish community centers.
With that, Darlene, you want to kick us off?
Q: Yes, ma'am. Is there any comment that you'd like to offer on the fact that the January 6th Committee is -- has held its final public hearing, is wrapping up its work, is preparing to release the report on Wednesday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I'll first say, and you've heard me say this many times, and the President as well: We've been very clear from the beginning that what we saw on January 6th was the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War. And the President has been very clear: Our democracy continues and remains under threat, and we all have a -- have a part to protect it.
The committee has been doing important bipartisan work to get to the truth of what happened on that very day so we can -- we can make -- so we can make sure that that doesn't happen again. So I'll leave it there.
Q: What about the committee's referrals of four members of Congress to the House Ethics Committee for ignoring subpoenas to participate in the investigation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know what, Darlene, that's a very good question. And what I would say to you is that you would have to ask those -- those very Republicans their own -- to speak for their own actions here and have them explain themselves.
Look, I'm not going to get into the weeds of the investigation from here and the process. But, again, you should have them explain themselves on this very issue.
Q: And one last question. Republican-led states have asked the Supreme Court to intervene and not allow Title 42 to expire on Wednesday, as a different court has said. Is there any reaction to that? And is the administration in some way hoping that the Court will intervene and extend Title 42 to help you all out of this situation that is brewing at the border?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I'm not going to get into any legal determinations or speculations or, you know, jump -- get ahead of the process here. DOJ is clearly leading this investigation. What I can tell you is what the Homeland -- Homeland Security has been doing.
As you all know, Secretary Mayorkas was at -- was at the border just last week. He talked about how they are surging resources to the border, and we have additional robust planning underway.
But we need Congress to give us the funds we've requested to do this in a safe, orderly, and humane way. And here's the thing: If Republican in Congress are serious about protecting the border, if they are serious about securing the border, if they are serious about the challenges that we're currently seeing, that they should be able to -- be able to get involved here and make sure that the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security have the resources they need -- they are going to need to do their jobs.
I know you guys are seeing some charts behind me. But, again, just listing out this is what is needed. This is what we're asking -- that $3.5 billion of a funding request that we're asking of Congress.
And also, this is what we have been doing to surge resources at the border to deal with -- to address the -- the -- when the -- when Title 42 is -- has to be lifted on Wednesday.
Q: To follow on that, the mayor of El Paso said over the weekend that the influx of migrants on Wednesday will be incredible. He said it will be huge and that they're not prepared to deal with it with the current resources that they have.
So, you know, you have the chart up here, but, you know, can you walk us through what the plan is to help that city?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Absolutely. So let me just give you what the DHS is doing, and this includes making sure that we give assistance to those various cities, like El Paso.
For example, DHS has deployed additional agents and processing capabilities to El Paso, and 23,000 agents are working to secure the southern border.
Let's not forget: Those 23,000 agents is a -- that is a historic number. And that's because of the work that this President has done. And so that's the most ever that we've ever seen doing this work. And it's in addition to nearly 1,000 border patrol processing coordinators.
DHS has also put in place technologies like linear ground detection systems and autom- -- automated surveillance towers, and is increasing security at ports of entry. They're also adding 10 soft-sided CBP holding facilities.
But, again, we need Congress to provide us the additional resources we've requested to do this in a safe, orderly, and humane way. If they are serious -- Republicans in Congress are serious about securing the border, then they should assist in making sure the men and women at the DHS have what they need to get this done.
Q: You mentioned surging resources. I had asked you in September specifically about El Paso. And you had said at the time that DHS, the administration was surging resources to the region, working quickly to -- working to quickly decompress the area.
Has that surge of resources been maintained for the last several months? And is this -- is that sustainable? You know, now, if you're talking about another surge of resources, you know, is that on top of what had already been done in September? And how long can you keep doing a surge like that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. I mean, that's one of the reasons we're asking for additional funding -- that $3.5 billion. And, look, that'll scale up air and ground trans- -- transportation capabilities to move migrants from processing to less crowded Border Patrol sectors and quickly remove them if they don't have a legal basis to remain; set up additional CBP funding -- holding facilities -- pardon me -- and speed up the processing time so individuals can have their asylum claims heard faster; hire more than 300 additional agents to join our force of 23,000 agents working to secure the border; secure additional technologies and equipment, like automated processi- -- processing systems, law enforcement radios, upgraded surveillance and inspection technologies, and much more; increase support for border cities and towns like El Paso.
Look, this is why we're asking Congress for this additional funding. Again, if Republicans in Congress are serious, if they want to help the men and women at the DHS, they certainly will assist and get this funding to us to get this -- get this additional support and resources to -- to the men and women at DHS.
Q: Karine, is the Biden administration looking at sending migrants to Mexico via the expedited removal process if Title 42 ends?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I know there have been -- been a lot of rumors, a lot of speculations. I just -- I'm not going to go off of everything -- I wouldn't go off of everything that you're hearing quite yet. But we will have some more to share tomorrow, and there will be a call too on this very -- on these very -- varyia- -- varying issues.
Q: Oh, thank you. And there's estimates of 50,000 migrants in Mexico waiting to cross if Title 42 ends. Is that accurate? And would that overwhelm the Border Patrol people?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don't -- don't have a number for you at this time. What I can say is that we know smugglers will try to spread misinformation to take advantage of these vulnerable migrants. But I want to be very clear here: The fact is that the removal of Title 42 does not mean the border is open. Anyone who suggests otherwise is simply doing the work of these smugglers who, again, are spreading misinformation, and which are -- which is very dangerous.
When Title 42 goes away, as we are -- as we have to do because of a court order, which is on Wednesday, as all of you know -- we will go back to Title 8, which allows a process to make sure that people can make their asylum claims heard. Those who do not have a legal basis to remain will be quickly removed.
And so we will continue to fully enforce our immigration laws in a fair, orderly, and humane manner. But again, we need Congress to deliver on the funding that we're requesting from them.
Q: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q: The President has been very unequivocal of his criticism for his -- from -- to -- toward his predecessor related to January 6th and in the wake of January 6th. But does he agree with the statement from Congresswoman Cheney today that the former President is unfit to hold any office in this country?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as it relates to January -- as it relates to the January 6 committee, we've been pretty clear on here -- right from here, we're going to be very -- very careful to not to politicize this process at all. The committee's work has been substantive and based on facts. Some of the actions that they are taking involve potential criminal investigation, as you -- as you know. So I just want to be very careful and refer you to the Department of Justice on those, because this administration and the DOJ conduct criminal investigation independently, free of any sort of -- any kind of political interference or any interference at all.
But what I can say and what you've heard from this President these past two years is he's going to consistently speak out about this, about what happened on that day, and will continue to speak out about defending our democracy against ongoing threats, and he's not going to shy away from that. But we're just not going to comment any further. As you know, this could be there -- there is a potential criminal investigation.
Q: Okay. And one more on immigration. A couple months ago, Jake Sullivan was in this room, was talking about the intensive diplomatic effort that's underway, particularly with three countries, that had started to kind of drive the makeup of the composition of some of the migrants where we have little or no diplomatic relations with those countries, which complicated things on the asylum side.
Have here been any breakthroughs or any agreements on those particular diplomatic efforts, particularly in the lead-up to Wednesday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as you know, the President of Ecuador is -- was here. That wasn't the main topic, clearly. One of the topics was migration. And, you know, I can go more into that, if you will.
But, look, we have some good examples of how diplomacy has worked, with the Venezuela enforcement initiative we announced earlier this year to address the record number of Venezuelan nationals arriving at the border.
And, look, that initiative has resulted in a drastic 90 percent drop in the number of Venezuelan nationals arriving at the border. Average daily encounters are down from 100 -- about 1,100 a day to 200.
So, look, those -- those diplomatic conversations have helped. You know that we've held a -- like a leadership forum, right -- in L.A. not too long ago, a couple months ago, where we talked to -- we talked about what's going on with the Western Hemisphere with those leaders, and came up with some -- with a plan on how to deal with that. And so that's because of this President's leadership.
And we'll continue to have those conversations. I don't have anything to share with you at this time. But we'll -- you know, we'll have more in the upcoming day -- days.
Q: Two things, on the same topic. You were asking for $3.2 billion, roughly, from Congress to help pay for all these new or ongoing plans across the border. Let's say that money comes in the omnibus this week. What's the plan after that to work with Congress to address this issue?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Like, beyond --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Beyond?
Look, we have -- I mean, Ed, we have -- from day one have asked Congress to help us with this issue -- right? -- by putting forward their immigration reform bill. That's on day one that the President had requested that, had asked that. That's to deal with modernizing the immigration -- this broken immigration system that we currently have, and also to really protect DACA recipients and do so much more.
And so we have -- we have reached out. We've done outreach to Congress. We have asked them and -- by -- by acting, again, putting forth this -- this -- this piece of legislation.
Q: And it's resulted in virtually no change in immigration policy with Democrats in charge. So --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I mean -- well that's -- I -- I --
Q: -- how is it going to get any easier when Republicans are in charge?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I -- look, again, we are -- we've asked for the $3.5 billion. We're going to continue to ask Congress to -- to assist in helping with -- especially congressional Republicans, to help us with what's going at the -- at the border, if they are -- they are indeed serious about doing that.
But, look, even with that -- without their assist, without many Republicans being involved here -- congressional Republicans -- we have secured more resources for the border than any President before tha- --who preceded him, who preceded this current President. He has the most agents ever. As I said, the 23,000 agents.
And let's not forget: He's taking historic action to seize record levels of fentanyl from entering our country and taking thousands of smugglers off the streets. And that's without congressional -- many congressional Republicans assisting here.
So the President has made this a priority. Now, as we're -- as Title 42 is going to be lifted on Wednesday, because -- due to a court order, we've put forth a $3.5 billion funding request from Congress. If they are serious about this -- if congressional Republicans are serious about this, they would take the -- take this up instead of doing political stunts.
Q: This is going to be big news, and it is big news, across the Western Hemisphere, because migrants aren't just coming from the Northern Triangle anymore; they're coming from Chile, from Peru, from Ecuador -- whose president is here today -- Venezuela, Colombia, of course. What is the White House's message to somebody who may see this somewhere in the Western Hemisphere and think, "After Wednesday, it's going to be easier to get into the United States"?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, first, I want to say the President of Ecuador has been a very good partner to us on this very issue. So I want to make that very, very clear.
But, again, I -- I stated this to Steve, and I'll say this again: The fact that the removal of Title 42 is happening in just a day or two doesn't mean that the border is open. It just doesn't mean that. When Title 42 goes away, we will go back to Title 8, which allows for a process to make sure that people can have their own asylum claims heard, and those who do not have a legal basis to remain will be quickly removed. That doesn't change the process that we have been moving forward with since day one of this administration.
Look, we are surging -- surging assistance to the border, as I've laid out very clearly, as Secretary Mayorkas has, the past week or so. And so we're going to continue to do that.
But again --
Q: So, in plain English, to migrants who might be thinking about it, what should they do after Wednesday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just laid that really clear. It -- it would be wrong to think that the border is open. It is not open. And I just want to be very, very clear about that.
Q: You -- we're meeting here just minutes after, as Darlene pointed out, they referred the presumed next Speaker of the House to the Ethics Committee for defying a congressional subpoena. Not really been here before. Can the President foresee working with a House Speaker who defied a subpoena from his colleagues?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. I do want to go back for a second to your immigration question. One of the reasons that I want to be very clear that -- to folks that the border is not open and we will remove, using Title 8, is because by not being very clear on that, we are doing the work of the smugglers who are going to put forth misinformation. So we want to be very clear on that piece.
Look, the President has said from -- from -- from the be- -- as you know, the President -- when he was President, when he was Vice President, when he was a senator -- he has always been willing to work across the aisle to get things done on behalf of the American people. He said this right after the midterms. We were very clear that we want to continue to work in a bipartisan way.
We've gotten more than 200 bills signed by this President that were bipartisan bills. And let's not forget the historic pieces of legislation.
Just on Friday, the President was in Delaware talking about the PACT Act, a bipartisan effort that's going to help millions of veterans across the country.
Let's not forget not too long ago, just last week, we were on the South Lawn celebrating gay marriage. And that was also a bipartisan piece of legislation. More than 5,000 people -- Americans were standing outside on the lawn.
So we have had those successes. We've had the CHIPS and Science Act, and we have had others -- the bipartisan infrastructure legislation. So it can be done.
As it relates to McCarthy or any other -- any other Republican who, to your question about their role in any of this, I would ask them. This is a question for them to answer about their own actions and for them to explain.
Go ahead, Peter.
Q: When is the President going to sign the NDAA?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He's going to sign that later this week.
Q: Okay. Sign it "later this week." You can't identify for us the date?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have a date for you, but he'll sign it later this week.
Q: Can I ask you specifically then on the President's thinking on the fact that this NDAA obviously includes the termination of the military vaccination program?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, every NDAA -- and I -- I've said this a couple times in the past 10 days -- has some provisions we support and some we do not. Clearly, the President was opposed to rolling back the vaccine mandate. But we saw that Republicans in Congress decided that they'd rather -- rather fight against the health and wellbeing of the troops than protecting them.
So making sure our troops are prepared and ready for service is a priority for this President. The vaccination requirement for COVID does just that.
And while the President opposes this repeal, but -- with more than 98 percent of our active-duty troops vaccinated, that means that he -- overwhelming bulk of our force is in compliance with the requirement and remains protected against COVID. Because we've seen more than 98 percent of them are fully vaccinated.
Q: So to be very clear: Would the President welcome those who left the service or refused to get vaccinated if they now say, "I want to serve the United States military"?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, that is something that the Department of Defense has to decide on specific service members. What I can tell you --
Q: But would he welcome them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, that -- again, they have a process on how that runs -- the Department of Defense. We will let them run that process. What we can say is that, you know, the President -- as I mentioned, he's going to sign the NDAA.
He was very clear, I was very clear from here about how -- you know, how he -- he opposed the fact that congressional Republicans removed the vaccination mandate from that piece of legislation.
Q: Let me ask you one more question, just to punctuate what we've been saying about what happened on the Hill today. Obviously, we're getting the executive summary, getting new details about all of this. And I know you don't want to get -- interfere in any form with what the Department of Justice is going to decide. But the fundamental motivation for the President running for office was, as he described it, this "battle for the soul of the nation."
About 964 people, as I have counted so far -- I think is the latest number -- have been charged for their role as rioters. But we heard from Jamie Raskin today: "Ours is not a system of government where foot soldiers go to jail and masterminds and ringleaders get a free pass."
If no, quote, "masterminds" or "ringleaders" are charged, will the Pre- -- how does the President sort of view the status of this battle for the soul of the nation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I'm certainly not going to get ahead of any legal outcome that can -- may come out of it.
Q: What's the status of the battle for the soul of the nation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look -- but the President -- I said this just moments ago -- he believes that our democracy is still under attack and that we have to do everything that we can to protect it. He gave two very -- very important speeches on our democracy and where we stand today.
And so we -- again, he believes we have to do everything to protect it. And not only do -- does he believe that, but a majority of Americans who -- who exercise their right to vote during the midterms believe the same as well.
And so, again, we have to do everything that we can to protect it. That's what the President believes. He's going to continue to speak to this.
And, you know, what we saw on January 6th, as the President has said, was -- it was an attack on our democracy si- -- it was the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.
Q: Just a question on migration. The President tasked the Vice President with studying and working on the root causes of some of these issues. I'm wondering if there's any update from this side of the White House on what she's been doing and what she will continue to do as we're expecting an influx at the border after Wednesday.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, the President appreciates the partnership that he has with the Vice President. You're right, that has been her charge, to work in a diplomatic way on finding the root causes of -- of migration. I don't have anything to lay out specifically on what that work looks like.
But, again, we appreciate her partnership. And I would probably refer you to her office on anything specific on the work that she's doing.
Q: Okay. And then on -- on another topic. The President said, when he was in Nantucket, that he will be getting his physical before the end of the year. I'm wondering if you have any update on when that will be and if those results will be made public before whatever announcement he might make about his future political plans.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm not going to get ahead of his future political plans. Not going to do that from here. As you know, I'm covered by the Hatch Act. So we respect the rule of law from here, so I'm not going to even touch that.
But what I can say, and I've said this before: The President is in good health and maintains an active lifestyle, as his doctors have said and as a -- as a number of independent experts also told the New York Times and others, just to highlight that for a second.
He will have a physical in the upcoming months, and the results will be released like they were most recently, in the same way. And it will -- we will be transparent.
Q: So is it still the case, as he told reporters in Nantucket, that he'll be getting it before the end of the year, or has that -- has that timeline changed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don't have a specific timeline. All I can tell -- tell you is that in the incom- -- in coming months, we will -- he will have a physical, and we will certainly release those results in a transparent way, just like we did last year. That hasn't changed.
Q: I know you've been asked about this before, but just yesterday, Representative Cuellar told "Face the Nation" that he wants to see President Biden go to the border. He said it doesn't have to be for a photo op, but a leader has to show images of being up there in front. So does the President have any plans to go to the border? Is now a good time to go?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Like you said, I've addressed this before. Look, the President's focus right now is to come up with solutions, is focused on making sure that we have the resources to manage what -- the challenges that we're seeing at the border. And right now, we -- as you know, we have a budget request in front of Congress. And, again, if congressional Republicans are serious about dealing with the challenges that we're seeing at the border, they will assist.
Q: But given what we're seeing at the border --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I just answered the question. I just said we've -- we've litigated that back and forth here for the past two weeks or so. The President's focus right now is to make sure that we have the resources to manage what's happening right now.
Q: Does the President -- or, excuse me, does the White House plan to do anything to tweak the rules in the Inflation Reduction Act to accommodate France and Germany? Both countries have asked the U.S. to grant Europe the same exemp- -- exemptions -- excuse me -- for nations with free trade deals for green subsidies.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don't have anything here to share than what I've said probably about a month or -- month or so ago. We are talking to our -- to our European allies about the, you know, exceptions that they -- or, the -- the issues that they may have. Just don't have anything to share at this time.
Q: France and Germany sort of re-upped those requests within the last two days. I'm just wondering, has the White House responded yet, either publicly or privately, to those?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don't ha- -- I don't have anything to share with you on a response. But it is a conversations that we were -- we have been having with our -- our European counterparts.
Go ahead, Jacqui.
Q: Thank you, Karine. El Paso's Democratic mayor has declared a state of emergency. And he said that he would only do that when he felt he could no longer keep his community or the asylum seekers safe. He's saying that that time is now, ahead of Title 42 expiring. What is the White House response to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we have -- from day one, President Biden has taken steps to reduce disorderly migration while expanding legal pathways for orderly migration. We are in constant communication with the mayor of El Paso.
And, look, I talked about the Venezuelan enforcement initiative that's helped drop the -- the -- the migration -- which is, as you know, an initiative -- a drastic ni- -- by a drastic 90 percent drop. And we're going to continue to do that work.
Look, we're surging -- we're surging resources to the border. We're going to continue to do the work that is needed. I -- we saw from -- from the graphs what that looked like, what the resources were. We're going to ask for the additional funding -- the $3.5 billion additional funding requests from -- from Congress.
And we -- you know, we want to make sure that we're really, truly addressing this challenge. Again, the 23,000 agents that we're currently seeing at the border, that is because of the work that this President has done. And -- and these are -- you know, this is a historic number of agents that we see at the -- at the border -- at the border.
Again, we're going to continue to ask for additional funding from -- from Congress to assist us in dealing with this challenge at this time.
Q: The resources, though, that you laid out at the top, specifically in El Paso -- you know, there's -- there's video that was just released by one Republican member of Congress to show that it's really not making a difference. There was one Border Patrol facility on Friday. He says there are 4,600 migrants in that facility; its capacity is 1,040. And we're still -- you know, Title 42 is still in place with -- they're at four times their capacity right now.
So is the view that this is working, that that -- that those resources are working that you guys have said are from the -- you know, the work of this President? Is that sufficient? Is it working?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we're asking for $3.5 billion in additional funding to help us -- right? -- with the challenges that we're seeing. So if congressional Republicans are serious about this, serious about dealing with what -- the challenges that we're currently seeing, then they would assist in helping making sure the men and the women of the DHS has the resources that they need.
In the meantime, the Department of Homeland Security is surging resources to the border and have additional robust planning efforts underway.
And so, again, we're asking for additional funding. We are surging resources. But if they truly, truly want to assist, instead of doing political ploys like they have been for the past several months, they will, you know, adhere to our funding requests that we've put forward.
Q: A little bit to Ed's question, though: You know, this push from the podium to get Republicans to send more resources to the border -- a lot of them say that, you know, they hesitate to throw more money at a problem when the Homeland Security Secretary is saying that the border is secure. And some of the people who would have to vote on that bill also don't have a lot of details on, you know, what's in it and where that money goes.
But that -- all that aside, you know, if you're saying that Republicans aren't doing the work to get this done, and then you have someone like Joe Manchin saying, well, the President has the ability to ask for an extension; he should be asking for an extension because we're at this point where you've got a deadline and a crisis -- is that within the President's authority to do that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we remain -- we're -- we remain under a court order to lift Title 42. That is a court order.
Q: Aren't you guys driving it though?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is -- that is a court order that is telling us to lift Title 42. And we're going to comply because we follow the rule of law. That is --
Q: But the administration sought to lift it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is -- but it is a court order. That is --
Q: Started by you guys.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It was a court order that has been provided to us, and so now we have to comply. And that is -- we have to comply by December 21st. It is -- it is a law that has been --
Q: So you're saying you don't support lifting Title 42? Or --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I'm saying is that -- I -- what I'm saying -- that it is a court order that has been presented to us that we are going to comply with.
So you've asked a couple of questions, and I'm going to answer them if you give me a second.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, in the funding request, the $3.5 billion, I've already listed them out. I'm happy to do them again:
You scale up -- we want to scale up air and ground transportation capabilities to move migrants to processing to less-crowded Border Patrol sectors and quickly remove them if they don't have a legal basis to remain.
Set up an additional CBP holding facilities and speed up the processing time so individuals can have their asylum claims har- -- heard faster.
Hire more than 300 additional agents to join our force of 23,000 agents working to secure the border. 23,000 -- that is historic. We've not seen that before. And again, that is because of the work that this President has done giving historic fundings to the Department of Homeland Security.
Secure additional technologies and equipment like automated processing system, law enforcement radios, upgraded surveillance and inspection technologies, and more increased support for border cities and towns like El Paso.
So the $3.5 billion, there is a plan for it. There is a way forward in getting the resources that the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security need to do the work at the border.
And -- but what we have been hearing from Republicans and seeing from Republicans in Congress is political ploys. They're not assisting. They're not offering any assistance -- many of them are not. And so we are asking, right now -- if they are serious about this, they are serious about dealing with the challenges, then they would -- they would adhere to our funding request.
And I want to be really careful: Again, look, you know, Title 42 is going to be lifted. Yes, it will. But they're -- we are going to move to Title 8.
The border is not open. And so, I want to be very clear about that, because we're doing the smugglers' job if we spread misinformation.
And -- and so, again, just want to be very clear about that. And so I'm going to move on.
Q: Karine, with regards to Manchin, just to put a fine point on it, because he did go on to say that "I think [the] administration is doing that or will do that" with regards to an extension. There are no plans to ask for any sort of an extension, is that what you're saying?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can tell you is we are required by a court order to lift Title 42. That's December 21st. And we're going to comply with that order.
Any other additional questions about any legal actions, I would refer you to Department of Justice.
Q: And you've said that "the border is not open." You said that a couple of times. Will the President deliver that message in person next month in Mexico at the North American Leaders' Summit?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I don't even have a trip to announce at this time today. All I can tell you is that we are in plans, in conversations. So don't even have anything to confirm, to -- to speak to a hypothetical.
Q: President Putin traveled to Belarus today. Does the administration have any concerns that there might be additional collaboration between the two countries? Any concern that, you know, Belarus may be providing additional military support to Russia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we have long been concerned by Belarus's role in Russia's aggression. Belarus has enabled Russia's war against Ukraine, providing support for Russia and allowing Belarusian territory to be used as a staging ground for Russian forces.
Look, we continue to monitor Russia's force posture closely. That's something that we have been doing and will continue to do, including a Belarus -- in Belarus, and remain in close contact with Ukraine as they valiantly defend themselves against Russia aggression. So we're continuing to do that.
Q: China acknowledged their first two COVID-19 deaths since they changed their strict pandemic control policies. Does the administration have any concerns that this change could affect, you know, the global supply chain, the global economy? And has the U.S. been in touch with China about it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don't have anything to read out on any conversation with China. Clearly, all of the -- all of these things, as it relates to the economy, we keep a close eye on. But as you know, we -- we are just not going to comment on China's policy.
What we're focused on -- focusing on right now is making sure that Americans across the country get the new vaccine. We know -- we know the tools that work to protect us from COVID, and so we're going to continue to speak directly to the American people on what those tools are. And, again, we -- we encourage Americans to get that new vaccine, especially ahead of the holidays.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, go ahead. I'll come to the back in a second. Go ahead.
Q: You mentioned that the President has been in touch with the mayor of El Paso, but has he talked to --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I said "we" -- we've been in touch with him, with the mayor -- our administration.
Q: Have you been in touch with any of the border state governors?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any re- -- calls or readouts to provide on any particular conversations. But beca- -- we have an inter-governmental affairs shop, and clearly they tend to be in close touch with mayors and governors across the country. I just don't have anything to provide for you at this time.
Hunter, go ahead.
Q: I'm interested -- so, does -- you know, how important does the President think it is to get the Electoral Count Reform Act passed, you know, in these final days of Democrats ruling the House? What message would it send to pass that ahead of this anniversary of January 6th?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I think -- we've been very clear on that particular piece of legislation. We support it. We continue to believe this as a priority and has seen -- and has seen bipartisan support, as you know, in both the House and the Senate. And we hope Congress acts and sends this to the President's desk.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q: Thanks, Karine. Oh, you want to go first? I'll go next.
Q: Thank you so much. Karine, I have two questions. To follow up on the COVID in China, Dr. Fauci has said that he worries about a new -- relaxing of the zero-COVID policy going to result in a new wave of infection in China and result in new variants. Is the United States considering any, you know, precautions, like, you know, that the travelers from China have to produce, like, a negative result test in the coming month?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, it's -- the way that we see it is it's important that countries focus on getting people vaccinated and making testing and treatment easily accessible. And so we continue to carefully monitor the state of the pandemic globally so that we can continue to stay ahead of it. That's always -- we've -- always heard to say that we want to be one foot ahead.
And so, I don't have anything more to share on any specific, you know, policy as it relates to China.
Q: Second question. So, on the same day when Twitter banned several journalists' accounts last week, and one of the Chinese human rights activists was also -- who is based in Seattle -- her Twitter account was also banned without any warning. So does the White House worry about this trend to reporters and activists -- their voice is being affected on the Internet?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You're talking -- say that one more time, the --
Q: Yes. So, her name is Wang Qingpeng. She's a Chinese human rights activist based in Seattle. And the same day of all -- you know, a lot of our colleagues here, including VOA's Steve Herman was banned, her account was permanently suspended without warning. So, you know, like, the reporters and human rights activists, their voice is being affected on the Internet. Is that a trend that the White House is worrying about?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, social media companies, they make their own independent decisions about content moderation. But our support for free speech and free press is well documented. Just -- Twitter, as you know, is a private company, and they will make their own decision, so -- on content moderation.
But our support, again, for free press and free speech has been well documented, and so I'll leave it there.
Q: Karine, could I go?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, go ahead.
Q: Thanks. I wanted to ask about: There's about 100 nominees that are under consideration in the Senate that have not yet been confirmed this year. What's the plan going into next Congress if you can't get them all confirmed this week? Will you renominate them all?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, clearly our nominee -- our nominees are important. The renomination process is clearly important. But I -- you know, I know that people have questions on this. I've gotten it a couple of times. But we just don't have more information to share on what we will do. But right now, we do not have any updates to preview at this time.
But, clearly, I get -- I get the importance of the question. I just don't have anything to preview on what's next -- on what it's going to look like in the next Congress.
Q: On COVID, you all relaunched the program where people can order tests online last week through USPS. Can you provide an update on how that's going? And when's the plan to close that? How long do people have to order?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That's a good question. Let me check in with Dr. Jha's team. I know that it's been very successful. I think there was a pretty high number of folks requesting for testing. I don't want to get ahead without checking with -- in with him on the exact number. But it has been -- you know, it has been very successful. But I don't have a time -- a timeline on how long it's going to be made available to Americans.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q: The latest "Twitter Files" show that the intelligence community was actively involved in discrediting the Hunter Biden laptop story. Does it bother the President and those at the White House that a government agency like the FBI was involved in suppressing a legitimate news story?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I'm just going to refer you to the FBI. I'm not going to comment from here about that.
Q: Thank you so much. On migration and Title 42: In June this year, the President was in Los Angeles and with other leaders. They signed a (inaudible) Declaration on Migration. So can you maybe update us on what's happened since? And is the administration generally happy with what other countries in the hemisphere are doing to tackle this issue?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we had a very good -- as you know, a very good meeting with those 19 or 20 countries from the Western Hemisphere. And, as you said, we laid out, Aurelia, a declaration.
Look, we met with -- the President is -- has had a very good relationship -- President of Ecuador was here. They've been a very good partner on dealing with the migration issue. We've -- we've talked about the Venezuela initiative.
So, there has been some progress on how we're moving forward with the Western Hemisphere and the migration issue that we're dealing with. But, look, you know, we're going to continue to have that diplomacy, and that is something -- the reason that we have seen the success, the reason that we've seen that 90 percent drop in Venezuelans coming into the country is because of the President's leadership on this.
Q: Hey, Karine. Jamie Raskin, when he was doing the criminal referral in the House today, he brought up the Insurrection Act and its prohibition on people holding any -- people being disqualified from future office.
My question is: Does the White House think that that would apply to the presidency, and are there any concerns about having prosecutors make a decision that, in theory, could have --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Could you -- could you say that again?
Q: Yeah. So, Jamie Raskin did a criminal referral of Trump and others. And he brought up the Insurrection Act, and it bars people from holding future professional office -- any major office in the U.S. Does that apply to the presidency? And are their concerns about prosecutors, as they look at that case, making a decision that could affect one of the President's opponents?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I would -- I would refer you back to -- back to the committee. That is not something that I'm going to comment from here about.
Look, we're talking about -- you know, we're talking about -- you know, we're trying to be very careful here. A criminal investi- -- a potential criminal investigation that's going to go to the Department of Justice that they are going to have to make a decision on, we're just not going to get involved in any way, even with that question that you're asking me. Just going to be very -- very -- very -- very careful here. We don't want to interfere in any political way. And we're just not going to do that in this administration.
But I would refer you -- with that specific question that -- that the congressman made, the statement that he made, I would refer you to him.
Q: In that case, on immigration -- I have a quick one on that. It sounds like you're teasing some policy announcements for tomorrow. Would that be an executive order? And are you looking at expanding the -- people able to apply for asylum online and fly into the country?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm just not going to get ahead of any potential announcement. I would just say, you know, stay tuned, and we'll likely have a call on it.
Q: Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q: Karine, Texas Governor Abbott said that if Title 42 expires, that the border would be, quote, "total chaos." Is that a correct assessment? Or what's your response to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Here, what I can say -- and I've answered this question many -- many which ways from your colleagues today. What I can say is that Department of Homeland Security is surging resources at the border at this time, and we have additional robust planning efforts underway. And, you know, we need Congress to give us the funds we've requested to do this in a safe, orderly -- in a safe, orderly, and humane way.
And again, I'll say this -- this one last time: If Republicans in Congress are serious about the border -- border security and actually address -- addressing this challenge, they would ensure that the men and women at the Department of Homeland Security have the resources that they need to do their jobs. And so that's what we're going to continue to ask for and request.
But, again, we are doing the work. The President has been doing the work at the border since day one by first putting forth the immigration reform legislation and also securing funding -- historic funding to Department of Homeland Security, that 23,000 agents -- that matter. That is something we have not seen under any other President. Now we're asking Congressional Republicans to assist and do the same.
3:19 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 https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/359176