Joe Biden

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

September 06, 2023

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon. Hey, hey.

All right. A couple things for -- for you all at the top, and then we'll get going.

So, in an hour, President Biden will meet with leaders of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents 22,000 workers of -- at -- at West Coast ports, and the Pacific Maritime Association, whi- -- which represents shipping companies.

The President will congratulate them on finalizing a new contract, which was ratified with overwhelming support from union members.

He will also recognize the work of Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, who helped reach an agreement.

The contract covers 29 ports, including the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which handles 40 percent of our nation's cargo containers. It guarantees a 32 percent pay increase over six years.

The President will also discuss his administration's pro- -- progress strengthening America's ports and supply chains.

Thanks in part to the work of the President's Supply Chain Distribution [Disruptions] Task Force, we've suppli- -- we -- we've seen supply chains unsnarl.

Our ports moved record cargo levels over the last two years. We have overcome the massive supply chain problems that increased prices around the world, and East-West ocean shipping prices have plunged nearly 90 percent. That's all helped lower inflation.

And thanks to Bidenomics, we are working our infrastructure and supply chains even stronger.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation Law -- or, I should say, Law -- is making significant investments to modernize our ports. The Ocean Shipping Reform Act is cracking down on foreign shipping companies to lower prices for goods. And the CHIPS Act and Inflation Reduction Act are strengthening our supply chains for things Americans use every day.

Today, Russia launched a new wave of air strikes against the people of Ukraine, killing at least 16 people and wounding dozens more.

These brutal Russian attacks underscore the importance of continuing to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their territory against unprovoked, unjustified Russian aggression.

That's the message that the Secretary sent. Secretary Blinken, as you all know, is carrying that message with him on his trip to Ukraine today. And it's esp- -- and it's a message the United States is sending today by announcing a new security assistance pa- -- package, which includes more ammunition for artillery and HIMARS systems, Javelin, and anti-armor systems as well; tank ammunitions for our Abram tanks, which will be arriving in Ukraine soon; and air defense system to help Ukraine protect its people from air strikes like those they faced today.

The Kremlin could end this war at any time by withdrawing its forces from Ukraine and stopping its brutal attacks. Until it does, the United States and our allies and our partners will stand united with Ukraine as long as it takes.

Earlier this year, when we made our bipartisan budget agreement, we made promises to the American people, along with congressional Republicans and congressional Democrats. Unfortunately, House Republicans, unlike Senate Republicans, are considering breaking that explicit promise due to demands from extreme members of their party.

Breaking this promise would inflict painful costs on the country, making troops and Border Patrol agents work without paychecks, hurting our economy, and undermining our ability to fight high-stakes, real-life crisis like fentanyl and natural disasters.

As part of this Unity Agenda, the President -- President Biden is urging Congress to provide $800 million in emergency funding to fight fentanyl trafficking and counter the deadly substance being illegally imported from China.

Congressional Republicans are -- are on a -- on record taking -- talking about the urgency of fighting fentanyl. Now is not the time to set us back; it is time to fight that and to keep their promises.

We should all work together to give the DEA, the Border Patrol, and Department of Homeland Security the anti-fentanyl funding President Biden is seeking so that we can save lives. Remember, real lives are at stake here.

And, finally, too -- I know folks are having -- have this question, so I'm going to preempt the questions, hopefully -- your first question on this. The President tested negative for COVID-19 this morning, following negative tests on Monday night and also yesterday. He is not experiencing any symptoms, which, of course, is a good thing.

The First Lady is doing well, as well. And she remains in Delaware, which is also a good thing.

The CDC guidelines recommend, as I said before, as you all know, a combination of masking, testing, and monitoring for symptoms. The President is doing all that he can, of course, in consultation with the -- with his physician. And so, he's keeping -- keeping with the CDC guide- -- guidelines, as you all know.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. You did preempt my first question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, good. That's good.

Q: But, on that, will he be testing again tomorrow before he boards the flight? And will he be testing in India and Vietnam?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have any timeline on his test -- on his testing cadence. I can tell you that he'll be doing that in -- regularly, as -- in consultation, as I've said before, with his physician, as you -- as -- and we've been, you know, pretty -- pretty -- pretty transparent on letting you all know when he's tested. We shared that on Monday. We shared on Tuesday. And, certainly, we shared that today.

And so, we will, certainly, let you know what that will -- what that will be.

But we've been very clear: All travelers who are going to India will be tested, including the President. As I mentioned, the President was tested today and tested negative, which is a good thing. We're happy to hear that.

Q: Secondly, the Vice President gave an interview to my AP colleague, Chris Megerian, today. And she told Chris that all those responsible for the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and ensuing violence must be held accountable, even if that means former President Trump.

In short, does the President agree with those sentiments?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just step back for a second -- just try to go beyond or past the -- the headlines for a moment, because I think it's really important. You'll see that the President -- the -- that the -- that the Vice President -- Vice President Harris spoke very clearly about how everyone is entitled -- everyone is entitled to their rights but that everyone has to follow the rules as well.

So, as you know, she is a former prosecutor. She knows that very well and understands that. She was affirming -- certainly, affirming her belief in our systems of laws, which is of -- something that, of course, the President shares and believes in.

I'm not going to go beyond that. I think her remarks were very clear, if you go beyond -- certainly, beyond the headlines. And so, again, she was re- -- reaffirming -- or affirming her belief in our system.

Again, this is something that, of course, the President believes in. And we're going to be -- continue to be very mindful -- I'm going to continue to be very mindful here, and I'm going to let the Department of Justice do -- do their job independently. And so, I'm just going to leave it there.

Q: Thanks, Karine. CDC guidelines for people who are exposed to COVID say that you should wear a high-quality mask anytime you are around others inside your home or indoors in public.

The President, of course, did wear that mask in the Medal of Honor ceremony, but then took it off and didn't ta- -- put it back on. Was that a mistake?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I'm going to be -- I'm going to share a couple of things with all of you here and just start with what the ceremony was all about, because it's incredibly important.

The President took off his mask, as I said he would, to deliver incredibly powerful remarks about this captain -- Captain Taylor -- and what he did in service to our -- our nation. And he wanted to honor the captain.

And for a brief time afterwards, he also didn't have his mask on, as you just laid out. And he left, as planned -- as it was planned, he left when there was a pause in the program in order to minimize -- to minimize his close contact with attendees who were -- who were about to participate in a reception.

And I -- you all reported that, noticed that he left when there was a pause in the program, because, again, he wanted to minimize, certainly, his impact on folks who were there.

And so, look, you know, we have to take this all into context. I think it's important that we do this. We are in a different phase -- right? -- as we have said many times, with COVID. This is kind of going on the third year of -- coming out of this pandemic. We believe we're in a very strong position to fight -- to continue to fight COVID. And this is not new. People -- you know, people know what it's like to have COVID, know what it's like during this time.

I think what's the most important is: The President tested negative a couple of hours before this event. He tested negative yesterday. As I just mentioned, he tested negative on Monday. He tested negative today. He has no symptoms.

And I think it's important to also look at the context as well. And for a brief moment afterwards, yes, he did have -- his mask was not on, and then when the brief- -- when the program paused for a moment, he stepped out.

Q: But he didn't put it back on. Is he out of practice? Is he, like so many Americans, in a different phase?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I -- what I can say is: We got to put this all in context. Afterwards, we -- we planned for the President to leave when there was pause in the program so that it would minimize -- it would minimize him being in the room. He did just that.

And I also would -- would want to add is: Before the -- the event started, the President spent a good amount of time with the captain -- Captain Taylor -- and his family. And everybody was masked because he wanted to spend that quality, important time hearing from this hero, hearing his stories, and really thanking him one on one -- also with his family around him.

And so, the President, in every way that we could, yesterday, followed the CDC guidelines. And, again, he had -- yes, he had his -- his mask off briefly. And then when -- when there was a pause, he walked out.

Q: Just very quickly, should those guidelines still be the same? They're a year old now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is --

Q: Do you stand by those recommendations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is not for me to speak to. It truly isn't. This is something that CDC decides on. They are the experts. They -- they are the ones who -- who, certainly, provide the guidelines. It is not for me to speak to.

Go ahead.

Q: So, the trip tomorrow is a go?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There is no change. There is no change. I mean, remember, Steve: tested negative on Monday, tested negative Tuesday, tested negative today. Has no symptoms -- the President doesn't have any symptoms. Nothing has changed with his travel.

Q: And do you have a dollar figure on the new Ukraine package?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have a dollar figure. I would -- I would refer you to the State Department and the Department of Defense. I know that the State Department talked about this a little bit, so I would refer you to them.

Q: And the Saudi decision to extend their oil production cuts -- what's your reaction to that? How does that complicate your effort to lower gas prices?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, it -- it doesn't complicate our efforts. We've been very clear. The President has said at the -- at the -- at the top, or the center, of his economic policy is lowering costs for Americans, right? And -- and so, our focus is going to be abou- -- about American consumers, how we can continue to do that.

If you look at what we've been able to do th- -- from last summer to this summer -- lowering gas prices by a -- by a dollar twenty cents -- that is -- that is because of the work that this administration has done. And so, we're always going to be focused on how -- what -- you know, what -- what steps we can take to continue to lower prices for Americans.

That's why last week was so important, when we talked about the first 10 drugs -- that first tranche of -- of drugs -- pharmaceutical drugs that Medicare is going to be able now to negotiate, right? Another way, coming out of the Inflation Reduction Act -- one of those key provisions to make sure that we continue to lower -- lower costs for Americans. That's going to be our focus.

Q: And is Brett McGurk going to bring this up while he's meeting with Saudis this week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm not -- I don't have anything to share about -- about the agenda. I know that Jake Sullivan -- clearly, our National Security Advisor -- laid out that it was an array of -- of items that was going -- was going to -- was being brought up on his trip. So, I just don't have anything beyond what Jake shared on that particular piece.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Given the President's departure is now 24 hours away, have you formulated any sort of contingency plan if he can't attend? Would the Vice President go in his place? Would he participate virtually? Can you elaborate on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have any contingency plans to read out to you.

What I can say: There's no changes to his travel. I think -- again, he tested negative on Monday, tested negative Tuesday -- Tues- -- on Tuesday, tested negative today, which is very good, right? And he is -- he is certainly -- doesn't have any symptoms, as I mentioned at the top. And so, I think that's a good thing, right? And so, the President is going to continue to do his -- his job.

We -- we are expecting to -- to travel tomorrow.

Q: Then on oil. I know the administration is currently trying to refill the Strategic Pe- -- Petroleum Reserve, but if prices continue to spiral out of control, would you consider tapping it and selling more on the market to lower prices?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't want to get too much into hypotheticals of what may or may not happen. Just want to be very careful. Clearly, that's something that the Energy Department focuses on, as it relates to that piece of refilling -- refilling.

So, I'm just not going to get ahead of what the Energy Department might do. And so, I'm just going to leave it -- kind of leave it there.

Q: And then, lastly, on the auto workers strike -- or a potential strike. The President is going to talk today; he's talked many times about being the pro-un- -- the most pro-union president in U.S. history. So, would he rule out invoking the Taft-Hartley Act to stop a strike or if the auto workers do decide to invoke a strike on September 14th?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, not going to get ahead of hypotheticals.

Look, the President truly believes in collective bargaining, right? And one of the things that we -- I think, if anything, what this event that we're about to see the President speak at should show is that it works, right?

You have the West -- the West Coast ports -- they came together, and they were able to come to an agreement in a good-faith -- good-faith way. They came to the table. And that's what the President wants to see. And so, he's optimistic that that's going to be the way forward -- that they're going to come to an agreement.

But, again, you know, he believes in collective bargaining.

Not going to get ahead. Not going to get into hypotheticals from here. But doesn't -- doesn't take away the support that this President has for the u- -- for the -- for the union, as he's had not just as president, but as the vice president and as senator.

Go ahead, Gerren.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Today is the funeral service for Angela Carr, one of the three victims of the Jacksonville murders. I know the President said that he did not reach out to the family because one of the family -- the family did not want to be contacted. Has that changed? Has there been any additional communication with the family or with the community in Jacksonville?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have calls to read out to you at this time. I would refer you to the powerful words that the President said when he was in Florida on Saturday. He ended his remarks -- while he was there on the ground, of course, dealing with another tragedy -- right? -- of folks who lost so much in a rural area after -- after the -- after Hurricane Idalia hit -- and he -- but he wanted to make sure, while he was in Florida, that he spoke to the people of Jacksonville.

And he talked about where we are as a country and how everybody needs to step up to fight back and speak out against -- against what we're seeing -- right? -- against -- against these hateful attacks. And so, that's -- the President is going to continue to do that. He's going to continue to be incredibly forceful and speak -- speak against this type of hate.

And when you're silent, you're complicit. You heard that directly from this President.

I don't have any calls to read out at this time, but if we have -- if we make -- if those calls do happen, certainly we would share that with all of you.

Q: And just a follow-up?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.

Q: During the President and Vice President's meeting with civil rights leaders on the anniversary of the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, there -- there were -- there were requests for the United We Stand Summit to be brought back, to be brought to Jacksonville, in particular. Have there been any prelim- -- preliminary conversations about that?

And, more broadly, does the White House believe that there should be legislation, perhaps an anti-Black hate crime similar to the anti-Asian one that was signed in 2021? Or does the White House believe that the laws on the book, including the Antilynching Act, is sufficient to address the -- the rise of anti-Black hate crimes?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, there's a couple of things that you just asked me there. The first thing is there has been preliminary discussions, conversations with the organizers of the summit and us, clearly -- or -- or the civil rights leaders, I should say -- on the summit. Don't have anything that -- to share at this time on -- but we're looking at when we could have this, a date.

I can't speak to Jacksonville. Don't have a location about Jacksonville. But certainly, there's -- are initial conversations happening.

As it relates to the antilynching bill or any other piece of legislation, don't have -- don't have anything to announce. But, look, let's not forget -- and I know you've reported this -- the antilynching bill took decades upon decades to get to where it was, where it got passed and the President was able to move -- was able to sign it. It took a long time to get that piece of legislation. A lot of hard work was put into getting that done.

And so, you know, it's an important piece of legislation. As it relates to -- as it relates to anything additional, I just don't have anything to share at this time.

Go ahead.

Q: If the President continues to test negative, will he wear a mask in India? For how many days? And will he do anything else to change his behavior as he's around so many world leaders?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, it's a good question. Look, as you know, there's about, I believe, a 10-day window -- right? -- once the person who was in close contact. The President is going to follow CDC guidance. And, as I mentioned at the top, that includes masking; that includes testing -- testing is not recommended to -- to be every day for a person who was close contact; and socially distancing.

And so, we're going to continue to -- certainly to monitor for any symptoms. He has not had any symptoms for the past three -- three -- three tests -- three days, if you will. And so, we're going to continue to -- the President is going to continue to move forward in close consultation with his physician. I just don't have anything else to add.

Q: Sure. So, he would continue to mask up then for 10 days past the exposure point? Is that the plan at this point?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say is that the CDC -- when it comes to the 10 days, the CDC guidelines recommends a combination of masking, testing, and monitoring for symptoms. And the President is going to do all of that in close consultation with his physician, as he has been doing the last three days. As I mentioned, tested negative on Monday, tested negative on Tuesday, tested negative today, and doesn't have any symptoms.

Q: And then, just really briefly, the White House has obviously been pushing Congress to pass a CR. We are coming closer to that end-of-September deadline. What is the President doing specifically to make sure that that happens? Is he speaking with Democratic leaders? Is he speaking with Republican leaders?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I can say this -- and I've mentioned many times our Hill engagement from here with OMB Director and also our Legis- -- Legislative Affairs Office and -- and others -- senior-level officials here from the White House. And so, those folks, as you can imagine, meet -- they meet regularly with the President, and they give -- they give him updates on budget negotiation. So, he is constantly being updated by -- by those staffers.

And while I don't have any specific calls to read out, he's in regular touch with members of Congress, as he has, about a numerous amount of issues, and -- and -- you know -- and also in order to keep up on -- on the government-funded -- government-funded process that's going on on the other side of Pennsylvania.

So, I'll say this: His message in private is the same as it is in public -- as it has been, as we have been saying as well -- which is there's no reason to -- for a government shutdown. It is important for Congress to keep their promise that they made to the American people and do their job. That is it. We've been very clear about that.

And, you know, I've said this, and he'll continue to say this as well: When it comes to the government supplemental funding, lives are at stake. These key, important government programs need to continue to be funded.

And so, we're going to continue to say that. Congress has a job to do. They need to keep the government open.

I'm going to go around. Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. I wanted to ask you about G20. What is the President's view about the achievement the G20 has done so far under India's presidency?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we commend the Prime Minister -- Prime Minister Modi and his leadership of the G20 this year. And we are committed to helping ensure that India has a successful G20 host -- as -- as they host it this year. And so, that's going to be -- continue to be our commitment.

During -- during Prime Minister Modi's visit here in June, as you covered very closely, the President and Prime Minister shared their determination to deliver on shared priorities at the summit. And so, the President is very much looking forward to continuing that work with the Prime Minister and other leaders later this week as we head out tomorrow.

Q: And when they meet on a bilateral meeting, I think on Friday, what will the main issues to be discussed during that time?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I'm going to -- we're going to have more to share as we get closer. Tomorrow, we're going to do a gaggle on the plane on our way out -- out to -- on our way -- headed to the G20. And I'll have someone from NSC join as well and -- who will be able to lay out specifically some more -- some more meat on the bones, if you will, on what the G- -- G20 is going to look like, especially the first day.

And so, I'll -- I'll let that -- let that happen. And you'll hear directly from NSC on that piece.

But look, you know, we are -- we're -- again, we're committed for this to be a successful -- a successful summit. We'll have more to share, certainly, on -- on the bilateral with the Prime Minister.

Go ahead.

Q: Hi, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I haven't seen you in a while.

Q: Good to see you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good to see you.

Q: House Republicans have just sent a letter to National Archives requesting unredacted records from the office of then-Vice President Biden. Does the Whi- -- does the White House support the transparency on these records?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I'm just going to let -- I know the White House -- my -- my team at the White House Counsel's Office has responded to this. I'm just going to let them deal with that -- that information. I just don't have more -- more to share --

Q: Okay. The -- the letter --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- on that question.

Q: The letter sites email traffic between Kate Bedingfield and Eric Schwerin -- who's a longtime Hunter Biden business associate -- in which Bedingfield signed off on quotes that should be used to respond to media inquiries about Hunter's involvement in Burisma. How do you respond to criticism that that shows there was no wall between then-Vice President Biden's work and his family's business dealings?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I understand the question. I appreciate the question. I get the question. I'm just going to let the White House Counsel team answer that question.

Q: I have another question about fact-checking here at the White House. The initial statement from the President about the passing of Governor Bill Richardson included condolences for his wife of 50 years, Barbara, and their daughter, Heather. That line about Heather, the daughter, has been removed because they didn't have a daughter named Heather -- or a daughter. So can you walk us through how these press releases are factchecked; who signs off on them in the end; and then, in this case, how this error was made?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we apologize for the error. Certainly, that is not something that, you know, we want to do, right? We want to make sure that we get this information out clearly and in a straightforward way to the American people. So, that was not done intentionally.

And certainly, when we realized that error, it was removed from the website.

We do have fact checkers here. We do have multiple people who take a look at -- at the press releases, especially from the President. This was just a miss, unfortunately. And we apologize for that miss.

And so, again, as soon as we realized it, we removed it from the website.

It is -- you know, we do -- I just want to reiterate our condolences to the family. And I think the President actually spoke -- he was shouted a question over the weekend about -- I believe on Saturday -- about Bill Richardson. And he spoke to -- he -- he responded to that. And I know Bill Richardson was a friend to the President.

And so, again, our -- we apologize for -- for that error. And certainly, that is not something that we want to see happen. And it is not -- it is not a common occurrence -- right? -- that happens from this White House.

Q: Has the source of the error been identified and dealt with to prevent it from happening again?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, we will do our best. What I can say from here -- and committed to saying from here is that we will do our best to make sure that that doesn't happen again.

Again, it was an error. We apologized. I apologized just now. And we certainly removed that, as you just stated, the moment that we realized that that error was made.

Q: Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Yeah, thanks, Karine. You mentioned the President's supplemental request earlier and lives being at stake. Senator Rubi- -- Rubio, whose state is recovering from Hurricane Idalia, says the $16 billion in dis- -- in additional disaster relief should be decoupled from the additional funding sought for Ukraine. Of course, that's the part of the request that seems to be opposed by many Republicans.

Is it the administrati- -- is the administration willing to separate these requests and seek the FEMA disaster aid independently to ensure it gets to the hurricane victims and Hawaii wildfire victims as quickly as possible? Or do you see that these things have to be grouped together for the request?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I've been asked this question multiple times over the last -- I don't know -- 10 days about -- your specific question about this -- about the supplemental funding for Ukraine and also what has been requested by FEMA, which is the $16 billion.

Look, we see them both as incredibly important. I just laid out at the top what we saw happen in Ukraine: 16 civilians died.

We -- we are going to see the President go to the G20, talking about our commitment for Ukraine and making sure that the people of Ukraine -- who are bravely fighting for their sovereignty, for their democracy -- has what they need to fight against Russia's aggression.

We have been very clear about that. We believe that has been done in a bipartisan way, and we have said we appreciate the bipartisanship that has come out -- out of -- out of Congress in getting this done.

It is important. It is important to help a country continue to fight for their democracy.

And so, we believe, as the United States -- this President believes, as a -- as a leader, that this is part of our -- part of our job -- right? -- part of our duty to make sure that Ukraine continues to fight, again, for their sovereignty, for their democracy.

And look, $16 billion to make sure -- we've seen, you all have covered what's been happening the last two years under this administration, specifically, on what we've seen with extreme weather, extreme temperatures, and what that's doing to communities.

We were in a rural community on Saturday. The President was there. You all saw what -- what -- what happened to these communities. There should -- it should be done. It should be -- that $16 billion should be moved forward for communities across the country.

We're not going to get into hypotheticals from here about decoupling anything at this time.

What we believe are these are vital, important government programs that need to be funded, that Congress should act on, that has been done in a bipartisan way. And so, that's what we're going to continue to stick to.

Q: But if it could more quickly get that FEMA funding to them --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I --

Q: -- why not do that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear -- I hear your question. I just laid out why each are incredibly important to move forward with. And so, our goal here is to get that done. We're having those conversations here at the White House with folks on the other side of Pennsylvania, as I just mentioned, to get this done.

These are vital programs. These are vital, important government programs that need to be done. And so, that is the message that we are going to be very clear about. As I said, the President says that privately and also publicly.

Go ahead.

Q: On the UAW, as the deadline gets closer, does the stance or the position of the administration change? I know in previous labor disputes, for instance, you know, you've invited the negotiators here and tried to hammer out a deal as that deadline approached. Is that something that rises to this level with -- with the UAW and the automakers?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, we've -- have had conversations -- I had mentioned Gene Sperling being the lead on having and -- being part of conversations for us at the White House, which is, I think, incredibly important.

We've seen what Julie Su has been able to do -- the West port -- the West Coast ports, as you'll see in less than an hour, from -- hearing from the President.

Look, we believe in collective bargaining. I don't have anything else to sha- -- to share. Don't want to get into hypotheticals from here.

We believe that, you know, if both sides come in good faith, that, you know, we're going to continue to be optimistic here. We're going to continue to be optimistic on moving forward.

So, just going to leave it there. I'm going to let the unions and, certainly, folks who are at the table continue to have the conversations. But I'm just not going to get into hypotheticals from here.

Q: I guess what I'm trying to ask -- and apologies for not doing it better the first time -- (laughs) -- is that --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible.)

Q: -- you know, with the ports and with the freight rail -- those were seen as very important to keep the economy moving forward -- the supply chain. Is that how this is viewed with the automakers? Is this -- if there were a strike, does the administration view it in the same kind of harm that they saw the other two situations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we're going to -- I want to be careful. Don't want to get into hypotheticals about what could or could not happen.

What we are saying is that we know collective bargaining works.

I mentioned the West Coast ports, the Teamsters and the UPS, which we just saw a month or two ago. And that's important.

The President is going to continue to encourage parties to negotiate in good faith towards an agreement that prevents any kind of shutdown, and that's what we have done -- that's what we'll continue to do -- many times before this.

And so, we're going to continue to monitor the negotiations. I just don't have anything beyond that, besides being very clear in how -- and what the President believes and wanting to make -- make sure that folks negotiate in good faith.

Go ahead, Karen.

Q: Thanks. Is the First Lady the only member of the Biden family that's tested positive for COVID since this weekend?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would -- I would refer you to the First Lady's office. I don't have anything further besides, like -- you know, if there were close contacts on that side, I just don't have anything else to share besides the First Lady.

Q: And to go back to the medal ceremony from yesterday. You said, today, to my colleague, that "the President, in every way that we could, followed the CDC guidelines." And you made a point to say that beforehand, when he was meeting with Captain Taylor, he was masked so he could have that time with him. Then why not wear a mask when he was putting the medal around his neck and he was so close to him like that? Was that an oversight by the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can --

Q: Was he supposed to there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can tell you is that the President took off his mask to deliver incredibly powerful remarks about the captain.

That was done, certainly, on -- I think, on purpose -- right? -- wanting to give him that Medal of Honor. And it's important. He -- it was important to him to speak to -- to speak to the heroics of -- of the captain, and that's what you saw.

And afterwards, obviously, he still -- he didn't have his mask on. But afterwards, as we planned -- as it was planned, we made sure that when the program was paused, that he was able to leave right after. We wanted to make sure there was a short amount of time that the President was there. And so, that's what you saw.

And, look, their -- the CDC guidelines, as you know, is -- is masking; is testing; and is, certainly, having close con- -- monitoring -- monitoring any symptoms. The President doesn't have any symptoms. He tested negative a couple hours before the event. He tested negative today.

I think what's really important is that the President -- to put this all into context -- that the President doesn't have any symptoms, and he's been testing negative.

Q: And you've emphas- -- emphasized the pause and that he got out of the room to minimize that. But yesterday, you had said that he would remove his mask when "sufficiently distanced from others indoors." That was not very sufficiently distanced when he was next to Taylor yesterday.

So, going forward, if he is that close to people, over the next couple of days -- as he goes to these meetings at the G20 -- should we expect to see him masked if he is engaging with world leaders like that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the President is going to masking in the next -- in this 10-day period. He is going to be masking. He's going to be making sure that he is getting tested regularly, in consultation with -- certainly, in consultation with his physician. And -- and so, we will keep those CDC guidelines.

Again, he wanted to make sure he had those really important remarks to share about the heroics and what the captain -- Captain Taylor did on behalf of his country. So, yes, he took off his mask.

And then -- but what we made sure to happen is that there was a brief pause -- when there was a pause in the program, the President left, so to minimize his -- his impact or his -- in his impact towards the attendees who were there. And so, that was done on purpose. That was done very purposefully so that, again, he wasn't -- he wasn't there for too long.

Again, before -- and the reason why I mentioned the before piece: Because the President saw this to be so important that he did take some time with the captain and his family -- and everyone was masked -- and wanted to make sure that he did his part as well and was protecting -- being protective of -- of -- of the family and the captain.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Karine. We've asked a lot about the President's use of a mask and CDC guidance. But I want to ask about CDC guidance specifically, because there is -- you know, going into the fall, kids going back to school, CDC still recommends universal indoor masking for kids in school, students, staff. And that seems out of step with some of the studies around the usefulness of masks for kids.

There was a piece in the Atlantic, and I'll just read you a quote from it. It says, "We reviewed a variety of studies -- some conducted by the CDC itself, some cited by the CDC as evidence of masking effectiveness in a school setting -- to try to find evidence that would justify the CDC's no-end-in-sight mask guidance for the very-low-risk pediatric population, particularly post-vaccination. We came up empty-handed."

So, especially with the President going to Congress to ask for more money for a new vaccine and more money for the CDC, should we keep funding these studies if the CDC is not making guidance that follows the results of those studies?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Here's what I'll say: We did something that the last administration was incapable of doing, which is putting forth a strategy to really, truly deal with COVID-19 and this pandemic. They were incapable of doing that.

We put forth a comprehensive plan, and we are now in a different place than we were two years ago, a year ago. We are in a much better place to fight COVID-19. And we have the tools, and that includes masking, that includes vaccinations.

And as you know, CDC and FDA said they're going to have vaccine by mid-September. And we're going to make sure and con- -- continue to do what we have done the past couple of years -- is inform folks -- let them know that these new vaccines are here, that they have to make sure to take the -- and their flu vaccine and also the RSV.

All of these things are incredibly important because we know what works. We do. I mean, we know what works. We are in a different place than we were two, three years ago.

Q: Do -- do we know what works though?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But let me --

Q: I mean, the CDC does not --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But --

Q: -- seem to be responding to the data.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'll say this -- and you're talking about schools?

Q: Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: CDC -- they're the experts. They're -- they use science to come to -- to come forward with their guidelines. And it is important that we allow them to do their work.

And we believe that we are in a different place. And all you got to do is look around. Look around to where we are today and where we were when we first started in this administration. And that's because we put forward an -- an -- a comprehensive plan with tools to make sure that we dealt with the pandemic, that we dealt with COVID in a real way.

Let's not forget where we were when the President started off: Thousands of people were dying a day. A day. A day.

And so, that is -- that is, like, the reality. So, clearly, something that we have done, from the moment that we stepped into this administration to now, has worked. And that's because we followed the guidance of the CDC. We let FDA do their work. That's the scientists. That's the experts. And that's why we are in a much better place than we are today.

I know you're asking me about data, but all you got to do is look at where we are as a country.

Q: I -- I know, and I -- I am looking around. And, you know, 16 states don't have any mask mandates -- or, sorry, 16 states follow CDC guidance closely for schools. Nine states have banned school mask mandates. There's a patchwork, basically, of -- of --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, but here's the thing --

Q: -- protocols. And -- and so, when the CDC is saying one thing and people are obviously --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: These are --

Q: -- in a better place --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Here's the thing, these are guidelines by CDC. These are not mandates --

Q: Should they be revised?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hold on. These are not mandates. These are guidelines by CDC -- what they recommend, what they believe would work.

Is it up -- is it up to the schools. It is the decisions of the districts at -- level -- right? -- to decide what they want to do with the guidelines that they've been provided by CDC. That's why we always say: Go to CDC.gov, where you'll get information on how that works.

But I do want to say: CDC advice for individual and community actions -- you know, they're -- they're tied to hospital admissions level. And want to be really clear: When you look at that, they are about 93 percent of the country. And so, they -- they have the best information for us.

These are guidelines. To be very, very clear: These are guidelines. And it is up to local officials and local -- local leaders to decide how they want to move forward. That's why what you just laid out -- it's different. There's a reason why it's different: because they make the decision.

I'm going to keep going.

(Cross-talk.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, we -- oh, okay. All right. We've got to go. We've got to go. Sorry, guys.

Q: Catch you next time.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Next time, my friend.

Q: Thank you, Karine.

1:59 P.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/364809

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