Press Briefing by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:15 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody.
Q: Good afternoon! (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm like, "Geez, I'm all by myself up here." (Laughter.) Okay.
So, we have another special guest joining us today, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who is here to highlight how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will help close the digital divide in America for more than 30 million Americans who do not have access to reliable, high-speed Internet, particularly in minority and rural communities.
As you all know, the Secretary is a member of the President Jo- -- President's Jobs Cabinet, who was deeply involved in negotiations on the Hill that culminated in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, a once-in-a-generation investment in our nation's infrastructure and competitiveness.
Today, the Secretary will discuss the role of the Department of Commerce in implementing this bill to build up broadband infrastructure. This will deliver for the American people by teaching digital skills, getting kids the devices they need to succeed, and improving overall accessibility and affordability.
And after she is done giving her remarks, I will -- we'll take Q&A. And I'll make sure to guide that and get people in the front and get people in the back.
Secretary. All yours.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Good afternoon, everybody.
Q: Good afternoon.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Well, first of all, thank you for inviting me here today. It's a pleasure to be with all of you.
I suppose before I talk about broadband, I just want to take a moment to recognize what an incredible accomplishment it was last week to get the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill accomplished.
I can tell you, prior to this job, I was governor of Rhode Island for six years, and every year, we thought -- we were told an infrastructure bill was "around the corner"; "It's going to come, Governor. The infrastructure money is coming." But, of course, it never did.
And President Biden delivered. President Biden stepped up; he led. None of this could have been done without his leadership. He was so personally engaged, working across the aisle to compromise, to get results, to deliver for the American people. And that's what happened.
And I don't think we can underestimate the impact of this. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will help Americans and deliver for Americans.
As it relates to the Commerce Department, it is going to enable us at the Commerce Department to fund key priorities that will have very tangible, positive impacts for American workers and businesses.
Just to tick off a few things: It's substantial funding for NOAA to increase climate resiliency and restore and improve coastal habitats. It is, very excitingly, permanent authorization for the Minority Business Development Agency and $1.6 billion to that agency. MBDA, which resides in the Commerce Department, is the only federal agency solely focused on promoting the growth, development, and resiliency of minority-owned businesses. So it's -- it's pretty incredible.
But today I'm going to focus particularly on broadband, as Karine said. President Biden has set a very ambitious goal for his administration that we must connect all Americans -- all Americans, regardless of where they live -- to high-speed, affordable Internet. And thanks to the passage of the bill, we will be able to accomplish just that.
The Infrastructure Investment Act allocates $65 billion to expand broadband in communities all across America to create low-cost options and subsidize the cost of service for those who need it. Of that $65 billion, about $45 billion will be coming to the Commerce Department at NTIA to administer that program.
I will say this is an area that I am particularly passionate about, having been a governor during the pandemic and being with people who didn't have broadband -- children who couldn't go to school, people who couldn't go see a doctor or a therapist. It is heartbreaking and it showed, in a very real and human way, how broad- -- how essential broadband is. And the fact of the matter is: We have to close the digital divide. Period.
And this infrastructure bill will allow us to do that. And the $48 billion coming to the Commerce Department will allow us to do that.
Beyond the physical infrastructure -- laying fiber -- affordability is just as important. Affordability is just as important as access. It does a family no good if there's broadband in their community but they can't afford it. Closing the digital divide means both providing the broadband and making sure it's affordable.
So, the investments in this bill will help ensure every American can access affordable, high-speed Internet, which means requiring funding recipients to offer a low-cost affordable plan - everyone who gets a penny of this money is required to offer a low-cost, affordable plan; provide federal funding for broadband services to low-income families; requiring providers to be transparent about pricing to help families do comparison shopping for services where they have competitive options.
I will confess this is going to be a massive undertaking for the Department of Commerce, but we're up for it. We've been planning for months, and we're up for it.
We plan to work in close collaboration with states, counties, cities, community-based organizations, and the private sector in partnership to develop grant programs which will ensure that we roll this out in an efficient manner.
Broadband is the gateway to economic opportunity. And so, in order to open that gateway, we're putting equity at the center of everything we do.
I will say: To truly transform our economy into one that works for all Americans and one that will make our country more competitive on the world stage, we have to make investments in a way that is equitable and just.
And we view this lens across all of the work we do at the Commerce Department, and it will be particularly front and center with the broadband work that we will be doing.
It will not be easy. This will be technically difficult. This will requi- -- it's an implementation challenge. But it is necessary. It is necessary.
And I believe -- I know that implementing this in partnership with our partners on the ground, we will be able to close the digital divide, close the innovation divide, and achieve the President's goal of making sure that every American, regardless of where they live or the color of their skin or their income, has access to broadband.
And I will say: 30, 40, 50 years from now, we will look back on this as the turning point, as a critical turning point. Because now that we're moving even more toward a digital economy and a data economy and a tech economy, nobody can be left behind. And that means everybody has broadband. And due to the President's leadership, we're going to be able to deliver on that.
So, with that, I will turn it over to you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. Thank you.
Go ahead, Weijia.
Q: Thank you, Karine. Thank you, Secretary, for being here. Can you walk us through the logistics of how the money is going to be allocated? From what I understand, at least $100 million will go to states.
And then, is it totally up to the states to determine what projects to launch? Or will there be federal oversight? But basically, I'm trying to understand how the money is going to get funneled through and how the remaining money is going to be allocated.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yes. Thank you. So, in terms of the practicality of it, each state will receive $100 million, as you said. The remaining money will be allocated based on need, based on how many underserved households there are in that state.
So, the whole name of the game here is to focus on the underserved and the unserved and on affordability. We have to make sure that we don't spend this money overbuilding. So -- which means we'll have to work very closely with the FCC and using their maps to make sure that we focus the money where broadband doesn't exist now.
So, we plan -- everyone gets $100 million. Beyond that, it'll be based upon unserved, based upon need.
We're going to give out a grant, per state. And each state will then give grants to sub-grantees on the ground.
We are, as I just said, very focused on equity and making sure there's affordability and ubiquity, which means we have to be flexible. Like in a state like Rhode Island, where I'm from, there's no "rural Rhode Island." So -- you know, it's a city -- it's an urban place. So, the needs in a place like Rhode Island will be more around affordability, inner-city access.
Contrast that with New Mexico -- completely different topography. You know, 50 percent of people on Tribal lands don't have broadband. We need to account for the flexibility there, which is why it's going to be a state-by-state.
There will be a tremendous amount of federal oversight and transparency. Every state has to put their plan online for everyone to see. And we are going to have very strict criteria to make sure that we achieve the goals of affordability and access.
Q: And when do you think the first expansion projects will get underway?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: I'm sorry, say it again.
Q: When will the projects get underway? When do you think states will physically start to implement?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yeah, so, you know, I will say, first, we have to have the law, and then it'll take us some time to get set up -- you know, some number of months.
So, I mean, it is -- it's hard to say. I would say, you know, well into next year.
Q: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm trying to pick people I haven't called on.
Q: Secretary, I'll step in. With this new --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hold on a second.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yamiche. Go ahead, Yamiche.
Q: Thank you --
Q: Secretary, a question for you --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hold on a second, sir.
Q: Can you guarantee people living in Internet "dead zones" --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sir --
Yamiche, go ahead.
Q: This is about Internet "dead zones" --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead, Yamiche.
Q: Secretary Raimondo, thank you so much for taking my question. The first question I have is: Can you talk a bit about how quickly Americans will feel the impacts of this and as well as if there are some more longer-term goals that maybe are 10, 20 years down the line? Can you just talk a little bit about the timing of this?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: So, I say, first, there -- you know, we are already implementing. You know, in the Rescue package, Commerce received some money related to broadband, and we're already putting that out now. There's a Tribal initiative. There's a rural initiative. USDA -- it has that; we're working with them. So, some Americans will start to see relief, you know, this year -- soon.
As I just said over here, the rest of this, I think it will take us some number of months to start getting the money out the door. It'll be staged in. We want to get relief out there as fast as possible but in a quality way.
So, some of the affordability metrics, you know, and providing subsidies, that can happen more quickly. Laying fiber across America, that will take time. But we'll be creating jobs at every step of the way.
Q: And could I ask you one other quick question just about -- can you talk a little bit about the equity portion? Are there percentages or numbers you want to hit? Maybe you won't speak to them publicly here, but I'm wondering how the -- how you're going to measure success.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Every single American has access to high-speed, affordable broadband, which means truly affordable.
Q: Does that include people living in --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Kristen. Kristen, go ahead.
Q: -- Internet "dead zones"? Internet "dead zones"?
Q: Thank you, Secretary. Appreciate your being here. Obviously, as a former governor, you know the importance of the coordination with governors and the various states. Can you talk a little bit about the outreach so far? And are you taking the lead on that, in terms of being in touch with these various governors as they implement these changes?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yes, yes. So, we've all -- I should tell you, we've been preparing for this. We are figuring out already how we're going to staff it within the Department of Commerce; you know, how we're going to hold -- you know, make sure we have accountability. I've already had several convenings with governors. I've been speaking with governors, with mayors, with Tribal Leaders. And we will -- now that this is official, we're going to significantly ramp up that engagement.
Q: And just to follow up very quickly, as you talked about, you need to target rural areas and then more urban areas. How do you determine which areas you're addressing first? Is it an all hands-on-deck approach? How can we expect to see the rollout happen?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: We are asking each state to give us a plan. So, we are mandat- -- you know, we are saying to them, "Show us a plan that guarantees every single person in your state has access to high-speed, affordable Internet." And then we're going to evaluate that plan, adjust it, provide technical assistance to make sure at the end of the day we hit the goal.
Q: And just to push you on the timeline a little bit: Some of the physical infrastructure projects are estimated to take six months to a year. Is that about the same timeline that you're tracking for this?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Look, some -- it is really hard to say. We have to be flexible.
Laying fiber in a place with the mountainous, difficult topography, that could take years.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You in the back, here. Go ahead.
Q: Thank you. Thank you, Karine. And thank you, Secretary Raimondo. I want to ask you about implementation; it seems to be the focus of a lot of our questions. One year from yesterday, the midterm elections will take place. Can you guarantee that people all around the country will see that implementation take place before the midterm elections? And what type of projects are you looking at, in terms of implementation, between now and then?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: So, certainly Americans will feel and see in their communities much of the progress that we'll -- that the Biden administration is overseeing -- I mean, from the Rescue package to the Infrastructure package. It is not the case -- I think every community will see activity and action. Some communities will start to see, you know, people working laying fiber.
But I also think it's important to be realistic, and you have to be honest with people, which is to say we want to get this right. You know, it's more important to get it right than to rush.
So, I think people will see their state putting together a plan. They'll see us starting to move out on that plan. But, you know, not everybody is going to have broadband a year from now.
Q: A year after President Obama signed the Recovery Act, he acknowledged that this idea of shovel-ready jobs is not reasonable; it doesn't exist. Would you agree with that statement, in terms of what President Obama said after the passage and his signature on the Recovery Act back in 2009?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: It depen- -- look, there's all different kinds of projects. There are many projects that are shovel ready; I can tell you that from being governor.
You know, in my state there are many projects that are shovel-ready, need money to be added.
There are others -- and broadband is an example -- that require more planning, that require thoughtful technical planning.
So, the whole point of the Infrastructure package is to deliver for Americans. I promise you this: A year from now, many, many people will be working in high-quality jobs because of this package.
But I also promise you that the President wants us to get it right. And if it takes a little longer to lay the -- you know, lay the groundwork for fiber and broadband, then we're going to do that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jacqui.
Q: Thank you, Karine.
Q: What's your message to people who live in Internet "dead zones," ma'am?
Q: Madam Secretary, thank for you taking my question.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: I can't hear you. I'm sorry.
Q: I wanted to ask --
Q: (Inaudible) question?
Q: I wanted to ask -- thank you -- about the deadline that your department had imposed to get voluntary data from semiconductor manufacturers and other companies. Did your department receive all of the information that it was looking for from these CEOs?
And then also, what's your reaction to China appearing to be angry about TSMC's compliance with your request? They called it "extortion of confidential information from chip firms" and talked about concerns that U.S. could use this information to sanction Beijing. What's your reaction to that?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yeah, so the deadline was yesterday. So, it's -- we haven't yet had the opportunity to go through all the submissions. I will tell you, over the past couple of weeks, I have spoken to the CEOs of a number of semiconductor companies -- including TSMC; asked them for their compliance; and they all said that they would be complying and sending us the information that we're asking for.
It is laughable to suggest that it's coercion, because it is voluntary. We're asking them to cooperate with us. And the truth is that this is what --
Look, President Biden has said to us on his team, "Use every tool that we have to deliver relief for the American people around supply chains." And so, that's what we're doing. This is a tool in the Commerce's toolbox, and we're using it -- and, I think, to great effect.
And every CEO I've talked to, including TSMC, has said it's a good idea. It will increase transparency in the supply chain, which will cut down on bottlenecks. And that's why they're complying -- their own choice.
Q: Does China's reaction make you think that the U.S. should have a more clear strategy toward possibly defending Taiwan, given their response to this? You've called the semiconductor shortage a "national security crisis." They're, obviously, being very responsive to the White House probe for more information, and they're hedging on that. What do you think about how we should approach Taiwan -- defending Taiwan?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: I think that -- I think what I've said, which is that the lack of domestic production in America of semiconductors poses not only an economic threat, a national security threat. And we need Congress -- the House -- to pass the CHIPS Act or USICA as quickly as possible so that we can get to the business of making more chips in America.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And we're going to take two more.
Q: And are pushing for that --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q: -- vote to come up soon?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yes, tomorrow would be great.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, we'll just take two more so we can let her go.
Go ahead. You in the back. The gentleman who -- in the middle, yeah.
Q: Thank you. You've mentioned in a couple of answers the jobs created from this. I'm curious: Is there a workforce right now that is able to fulfill this broadband expansion? How it -- I mean, do you -- would you have to train people how to do this?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Such a good question. Such a good question. So, I would say: yes and no. But we -- in working with Congress on this portion of the bill, we specifically said, "Keep it flexible so we could use some of the money for workforce training."
And to the question of equity, that -- the folks that we train ought to look like America. Right?
Like -- and to the question of: What will Americans see? What they're going to see soon is people in their community -- men, women, people of color, white people -- laying fiber.
And, today, we don't have enough trained people. No, we don't. But some of this money will be used for workforce training so that we can train folks and, in the process of doing that, diversify, you know, the ranks of electricians and technicians and folks who are, you know, deploying the fiber in America.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Your turn.
Q: I want to ask you about broadband, but just first: Your Commerce Department made a really consequential decision to add NSO Group to its entity list. And could you talk a little bit about what -- was there a specific breach that led to that? Was there evidence that their software is being used to monitor U.S. citizens? What was it that led you to make that decision?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yeah. Usually we don't comment on the details. I will simply say it went through the same process -- interagency process that all of these decisions go through. We came to a determination that it was necessary for national security in order to impose that.
Q: Okay. And then on the broadband question: Congress exempted the Infrastructure Bill -- this $42 billion pot of money that you have from the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires a number of things in terms of public notice --
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: I'm having bad flashbacks to law school. (Laughter.) Administrative law.
Q: Well, it's really important for journalists because we use things like the Freedom of Information Act to get information on how government is spending money that might be going to private-sector companies.
So, since we don't have that, how do you expect us to hold you accountable for how this money is being spent?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Yeah, yeah. So, I'll confess I haven't gone that deeply into the weeds of that particular provision. But I will say this: As I said here, we are deeply committed to transparency. The way to build public trust is transparency.
As a result, every single state plan is going to have to be put online. So, you can comb through every detail of every plan to see where every penny goes. And I think that's really important.
Q: Thank you so much. Thank you.
Q: Secretary, do you have a message for people living in Internet dead zones? Can you guarantee there'll be -- they'll get access to broadband?
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Thank you, guys.
Q: It's a real simple question.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: I hope you get out to enjoy the weather.
Q: Yeah, it's beautiful.
Q: So no comment on --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much for your time.
Q: -- people living in Internet dead zones, right? Okay.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. It's going to be an interesting briefing.
I have a few things for all of you at the top.
So, today, the Biden-Harris administration is announcing a set of concrete steps to accelerate investments in our ports, waterways, and freight networks. ? These goals and timelines will mobilize federal agencies, get money out of the door for high-impact projects faster, and lay the foundation for successful implementation of the historic investments included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal for our supply chains, jobs, growth, and competitiveness.
This action plan will increase federal flexibilities for port grants; accelerate port infrastructure grant awards; identify project locations for coastal navigation, inland water -- waterway, and land ports of entry; and launch the first round of expanded port infrastructure grants.
Outdated infrastructure has real costs for families, as we all know, for our economy, and for our competitiveness. We're seeing that right now, even as we move record goods through our ports, with supply chain bottlenecks forming that lead to higher prices and lower [slower] deliveries for American families.
Even as we take immediate action, we have a chance to make lasting fixes through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal includes a total of $17 billion to improve infrastructure at coastal ports, inland ports and waterways, and land ports of entry along the border.?
This is the single-largest federal investment in our ports in U.S. history. And these investments will improve the efficiency, sustainability, and resiliency of these hubs of commerce.
As you all know, the President will be visiting the Port of Baltimore tomorrow, where he will further discuss the administration's Port Action Plan and the historic investment in ports in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.
Today, our U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, released a "Community Toolkit for Addressing Health Misinformation," continuing his administration's work to combat health misinformation during the pandemic and beyond.
As you all know, earlier this year, Dr. Murthy released a Surgeon General's Advisory, warning people about the urgent threat of health misinformation. The toolkit released today builds on his effort offering practical guidance for trusted community leaders -- like healthcare professionals, school administrators, teachers, and faith leaders -- to understand, identify, and stop the spread of misinformation.
This is particularly timely: Yesterday, Kaiser Family Foundation released its Vaccine Monitor findings outlining that belief in pandemic-related misinformation is widespread, with 78 percent of adults saying that they have heard at least one of eight different false statements about COVID-19 that they either believe to be true or are unsure if it is true or false.
As we continue our effort to vaccinate more Americans, including children, it's mission critical Americans have access to accurate information so they can make health decisions based on facts.
Last week, for the fourth time, Republican members of the Senate Small Business Committee blocked a vote and refused to show up to a hearing on Dilawar Syed, a qualified, uncontroversial nominee, to be the Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration.
This is a position important for helping small businesses across the country. And Dilawar has had a successful business career and is endorsed by more than 200 groups and individuals, including the Chamber of Commerce. If confirmed, he would also be the highest-ranking Muslim in this administration. But Republicans, whose justification for opposing his nomination keeps shifting as argument after argument falls flat, continue to block a vote on his nomination.
If for some reason they don't believe he should be confirmed, they should just say so and vote no. Instead, they are obstructing a vote from even taking place. As the SBA works to help small businesses build back from the devastation caused by this pandemic, we call on these Republican senators to do their job and show up and allow a vote on this qualified nominee.
And that's all I have. Go ahead, Alex.
Q: Thanks, Karine. Two quick ones on infrastructure and then one on COP26. To start, obviously, we're all pretty interested in the timing for this bill. And the President said yesterday, in his WKRC interview, that Americans could see some of the funds go out, quote, "literally in a matter of weeks." What exactly could we expect to see happen that quickly? And is there a risk that he and other administration actors are overpromising at this point, when, you know, the Secretary just mentioned that it could take months for a lot of these programs to go forward?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I think -- I think there's what you call "shovel ready" and "shovel worthy." These are things that you will hear us talk about a lot. And the Secretary actually did say there are projects that are shovel ready and ready to go, and that is actually a real thing.
One of the things that the President talked about last night -- he identified, like, the Brent Spence Bridge as a major example of a project he expects to get funding. Right? He -- the ideal [sic] will also help -- the deal will also help transit expansion projects, including Valley Metro Northwest Phase II extension in Phoenix, Arizona, and Met Council Gold Line Extension in St. Paul, Minnesota.
So, you know, we're -- we're going to be working to pinpoint areas of the greatest need where these investments will make the big differences in the daily lives of families and create jobs.
So, we'll have more to share in the near future, but there -- you know, there are projects that are ready to go, and we're going to identify that. And we'll have more to share as the days come.
Q: And then following up, actually, on Trevor's comments on oversight, you all have talked about how important preventing waste and fraud and abuse are to the President. So, can you speak about what specifics the administration is putting in place to prevent that? And how involved will the President be? Is he looking at deputizing like a similar role to the "COVID Czar" or potentially doing what President Obama did with him and having the Vice President oversee implementation? Are any of those things on the table?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, those are all great questions. As soon as, you know, we sign the bill, we should -- I know you're asking me about timing, which will happen soon. As the President said on Saturday, he wants to make sure that the people who worked very hard on both sides of the aisle are there for the bill signing.
So as soon as we get that done, we'll -- we will share more. We'll share more about the implementation. And you're right, we want to make sure there is accountability. That is something that's going to be incredibly critical and important to the administration.
And, as you can imagine, this is something that's so important to the President. And so, he'll, you know, be getting regular updates as we move forward and be very engaged on this.
Q: And then, on COP26, how involved is the President sort of remaining in these talks as they go forward? And is he optimistic there will ultimately be a deal?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I'll say this: The President is definitely very engaged. We have White House officials who are there currently at COP26. Secretary Pete Buttigieg, that's where he basically left after leaving here, speaking with all of you.
And so, again, we're very engaged. We have White House official staffers there as well who've been in and out of COP26. So, yeah, we're just going to continue to have those conversations and we are optimistic.
Q: Thanks, Karine. I know that the President is not going to sign the bill until next week, likely when members of Congress can join him. But why is there not a more urgent effort to have him and members of his staff and Cabinet out on the road selling and explaining the various components of the infrastructure bill and Build Back Better?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I -- I will say this: The President is doing local media, as we -- as Alex was just asking me about Cincinnati, and that is a way that's really important for -- to hear the President's voice, to talking directly to the American people. We'll see more of that.
The President is going to be going to Baltimore tomorrow. And we'll continue to see the Secretaries that we had -- we've listed who are going to be out there really selling this bill, as you say.
But let me just add a few things. So, it's going to be the -- the Cabinet is Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Transportation; Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm; Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who was just here, clearly; Interior Secretary Deb Haaland; and EPA Secretary [Administrator] Michael Regan, who's actually at COP26 right now; as well as Cabinet members, administration officials who will play a major role implementing this agenda. And we'll -- you'll see them out there over the next coming days and continue.
I mean, those -- that's one of the reasons we had Secretary Buttigieg here, that's one of the reasons we had Secretary Raimondo: because you all are writing about this and people are watching, and we want to make sure that they hear directly from us.
Q: Understood. And I know that there is going to be an effort to get people out into the various --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yep.
Q: -- communities across the country, but you do have some of your fellow Democrats who say, "We want the President to be more vocal. We want him to be out there and explaining this and explaining the various components." Because you are talking about --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: -- these big pieces of legislation, and you still have the second piece of it, which hasn't passed yet.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We're working very hard on, and we're very optimistic, as the President says.
Q: Is it a missed opportunity, though, to not --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean --
Q: -- have him and other top officials out in a more robust way right now or in the past week?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But the President is out tomorrow. He's going to be in Baltimore. He's going to be talking about this.
Q: But that's one event this week.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. And he'll continue to do more. And I would -- I would actually argue that he has been out there. Any time that, you know, I've traveled with him, many of you have been part of the pool where he talks about both the infrastructure bill and he's talked about the Build Back Better Act. And he's been to multiple states doing that over the past several months. Look, that's going to continue.
But I think what he wants to make sure is that we get this signed, having all the parties -- both on the Republican side and the Democratic side, who were very, very instrumental in getting this done -- and then we'll continue -- you know, we'll continue making sure that we're selling this, talking to the American people.
And you're right, this is a complex piece of administ- -- a piece of -- not administration -- piece of legislation, but they're also very popular. We know -- right? -- that the American public wants infrastructure; they -- it is very popular. They want to see the modernization of that hit-hard infrastructure. So we're going to continue to push forward.
Q: And one more, if I could.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely.
Q: And Secretary Raimondo was asked about this, but I'm curious for your take. Some of what was announced today and what Secretary Raimondo was talking about is an effort to create jobs as well, but you are dealing with worker shortages right now. So, how do you deal with the worker shortages given your ultimate goal of creating jobs?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so -- are you talking about the Port Action Plan that we --
Q: Yes. Yes.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. So, let me -- I just want to say a couple of things about that. So -- and what it's going to do in the short term, which is critical and important.
So, you know, while we're moving record amounts of goods through our ports and to shelves, we understand the frustration that Americans feel when backlogs lead to higher prices or delayed goods. So, today's announcement builds on the steps we've already taken to help address the supply chain challenges we've seen globally because of the pandemic. So, I just wanted to make sure that was clear.
And that is part -- that is kind of part of what the President has already done, which is partnering with -- partnering with the ports of LA, Long Beach, along with leading retailers and shippers like FedEx and UPS, to move goods in and out of those ports 24/7.
So, within weeks, the Port of Savannah -- the third-busiest port in the country -- will have five pop-up sites in Georgia and North Carolina that will help ease congestion on the shipyard. So, within 45 days, we'll be launching $240 million in grants to improve ports. And in the weeks and months that follow, billions of dollars in additional money will be flowing to improve our critical port infrastructure.
And bolstering this work is historic levels of investment. We've secured through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, which includes, as I mentioned, $17 billion for ports and tens of billions of dollars more for roads, bridges, rail, and other links in the supply chain.
Combined, these steps are going to create good-paying jobs, fix our supply chains to generate [for generations] to come and lower prices for working families. And so that's really important -- the good-paying jobs -- when we talk about, you know, that -- the labor shortage. That's -- the President has talked about this: the importance of making sure that we're paying people wages that are competitive so that they're able to -- you know, to come back into the workforce. So that's mission critical there as well.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Thank you, Karine. During that interview yesterday with the Cincinnati TV station, the President apologized for being late. He said it was due to "little foreign policy issues." What was he referring to?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you can imagine, you know, we're not going to read into, you know, every aspect of the President's day. He meets regularly with his National Security Council and advisors. Some meetings go -- you know, go right on time, and some meetings go a little longer. But I'm not going to read anything specific to that or anything to share on that.
Q: Got it. Okay. And do you expect him to be doing more of these local TV interviews as part of his sales pitch for infrastructure?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, we do. I don't have anything to preview. The one in -- the one that he did last night with Cincinnati was the first, but we're hoping to get him out there more, as we've been talking about, so the American people can hear it directly from the President of the United States.
Q: Okay. And just one more on the funding for infrastructure. And I apologize because maybe it is just me --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, it's okay.
Q: -- but I still don't really understand how all the money is going to be allocated. For the broadband piece, the Secretary made very clear states are going to get a finite amount of money, they'll distribute it, and the rest will be allocated based on need. For all the rest of the money, how will it be distributed? Does it go to states first? And will the federal government determine what projects that they will be assigned to?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have the specifics for you right now, but I can tell you the agencies that'll be involved on the specific components, right?
So, Department of Transportation on how this will improve our -- will be in charge of how this improve our ports, rails, bridges, and our supply chain, right? That's -- that's kind of obvious there.
The Department of Interior is going to be on strengthening the climate resilience and the impact of Native communities.
We have the Department of Energy, which is going -- it's going to be focusing on repairing our electric grid.
Department of Commerce on getting high-speed Internet to every American, as we just heard from the Secretary herself.
You have the Environmental Protection Agency, and they're going to be replacing lead pipes and addressing pollution.
So those are kind of how it's going to be break- -- broken down into agencies. The specifics on that, I don't have to share with you today, but I promise we are -- the Secretary talked about this just now, which is transparency is going to be key here. And so we're going to make sure that the American public and all of you know how we're going to move forward on implementing this.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Thanks, Karine. As the President promotes this infrastructure bill, we know that Leader Schumer wanted a vote in the Senate on the much larger social spending bill by Thanksgiving; that's what he's hoping for.
Are there any details you can provide about any outreach the President will be doing to Democrats this week? I know they're away and out of town on recess, but any outreach that he's doing to those key moderates, like Senator Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so I don't have anything to read out for you today on any calls that he's made or any scheduled meetings or anything in that nature. But as you can imagine, the White House -- White House officials, my colleagues are constantly in contact with members and also staff.
And as you know, last Friday, they voted on a rule in the House to make sure that the Build Back Better Act was voted on the week of November 15th.
So we're -- as the President said himself yesterday, in the last couple of days, he's very optimistic on making -- on getting that done and will continue to talk to Leader Schumer, will continue to have those conversations on the Senate side as well, to make sure that this gets delivered.
Q: Does he see that as a feasible timeline with moderates wanting to see more information from the CBO?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, he sees this as an urgency, right? And we've said this before: Like, members understand how important it is to get this out, to get this done. We got the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal -- this once-in-a-generation investment, very historic. And now we're going to make sure that we get the Build Back Better Act done.
Q: And one more, just really quickly, on COVID. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is vowing to fight against the President's vaccine mandates for private businesses. He outlined today a few bills that he would like, which would include optouts for that vaccine mandate. And he said, quote, "We need to stop bossing people around."
Does the White House have any response to this or any concern that this could move a state like Florida in the wrong direction?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, I'll say this: You know, as I said yesterday, DOJ will be defending these kind of indi- -- these lawsuits -- these individual lawsuits.
You know, we're confident in our authority to protect American workers. As this -- this virus is killing 1,100 -- about -- approximately 1,100 Americans a day. This is an obligation that the Department of Labor has to protect workers who face grave danger. And it's -- it's derived from a law passed by Congress that's been around for more than 50 years.
So, this is an authority that the Secretary of Department of Labor has. This is -- when you -- when you think about grave danger, when you think about 1,100 people dying a day, that is -- that is -- that is, I think, you know, an authority that he can use to make sure that people feel safe in their workplace and that they don't get sick.
So, you know, what we continue to advocate with from here is to push businesses to move forward with their policies now. These are policies that are protecting workforces and avoiding disruptions related to employees getting sick with COVID, as I just mentioned; expanding the workforce; and saving lives. That's the business that we're in.
That's why we put together, this President put -- moved forward with this comprehensive vaccination effort very early on in his administration: to make sure that we get to a place that we can get out of this pandemic.
And, you know, the question is really -- that I have is: Why are these legislators, these Republicans, getting in the way of that; getting in the way of saving lives; getting in the way of us making sure that the economy is working as well, and getting out of this pandemic? And so that's the question for them.
Q: So, after Congress has passed the infrastructure bill, how much can American -- the American people expect that inflation will be reduced as a result of that over the next 12 months, say?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. I don't have a specific number for you. I'm happy to -- to, you know -- to talk to our economics team and get something more granular there.
But as we've heard from experts -- whether it is an economist expert or the 17 Nobel laureate economists -- have said that this bill -- the Build Back Better Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure -- will ease inflation.
So, that's really important. That's something that we -- you know, when we talk to -- when we hear members are afraid of going big, we say, "Well, this is going to actually help us in the long run," especially as we see -- with prices going up, we see the inflation continuing to be out there. And so, that is really an important message that we have.
I don't have, like I said, a granular number for you. But we know this from economists who have said that these two bills will help do that.
Q: Okay. Another topic: election integrity. A couple of my colleagues wrote a piece documenting nearly a dozen cases where people have violently intimidated or threatened U.S. election officials. There was one example where a man told election officials in Vermont that he would put a pistol in their mouths and pull the trigger. None of these cases that we documented -- in none of them were any of the people arrested, charged, or prosecuted.
Are we living in a country where there's impunity around these kinds of issues? And what level of confidence do you have in the Department of Justice to actually police these issues?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I -- we have all the confidence in the Department of Justice. On these particular issues, I -- clearly, I can't speak to them here, so I would refer you to the Department of Justice on any specifics there.
But we have complete confidence in the Department of Justice.
Go ahead, Kaitlan.
Q: Thanks so much. Yesterday, some Senate Democrats sent the President a letter on high gas prices and how to combat those, including suggesting banning crude oil exports. Is President Biden considering banning those oil expert -- exports?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Which oil -- the oil exports from?
Q: The Senate Democrats wrote a letter asking the President to ban crude oil exports.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, got it. The crude -- got it.
So, the administration is closely -- is closely and directly monitoring the situation. As we've said before, we've communicated with FTC -- right? -- to crack down on illegal pricing and are engaging with countries and entities around the OPE- -- OPEC Plus on increasing supply.
We're looking at all the tools in our arsenal. We're very concerned about the impact of high energy prices on consumers, especially as we enter the colder months. And so, we're continuing, like I said, to monitor the situation. And we're going to do everything that we can from here to address.
Q: So is that something that President Biden is considering?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can't -- I don't have anything specific for you. I can just tell you what we've been doing here, which is calling on OPEC to increase their supply.
We've been looking at, you know, the -- monitoring the situation.
I mean, one of the reasons why the President said no to paying for a Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill with a gas tax is because of this.
And so, we're going to continue to just keep an eye on this. And like I said, we're going -- you know, we have tools in our toolbelts that we can potentially address this with.
Q: So, the only other tool that we've heard mentioned, though, from the administration is maybe tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We haven't really heard anything else specific that the President is considering. Does that -- is that because he feels that his hands are tied when it comes to what he can actually do to try to combat high gas prices?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I wouldn't read it -- read it that way. We just don't have anything right now to announce.
But like I said, we're monitoring this. And we're -- we're working through what is it that -- how we can actually address this.
Q: And one logistical question: Is there a summit happening next week between the United States, Mexico, and Canada here at the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any information on that. I'm happy to check with the National Security Council.
Q: Okay. Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, no problem.
Q: Thanks, Karine. With respect to the Line 5 pipeline replacement, is one of the possible outcomes from whatever happens after the study a reduced output?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me -- I -- I'm going to use this opportunity to have some clarification here. So, I think there was some confusion yesterday about the Line 5, so I just want to clarify again.
So, Peter's question yesterday was about the current Line 5 -- your colleague. And on the current pipeline, as you know, the State of Michigan is objecting to the continued use of its easement for the current pipeline.
Additionally, Canada has decided to invoke the dispute resolution provision of the 1977 Transit Pipelines Treaty on the current pipeline.
We expect that both the U.S. and Canada will engage constructively in those negotiations. Canada is a close ally -- a key partner in energy trade as well as efforts to address the climate crisis and protect the environment.
These negotiations and discussions between the two countries shouldn't be viewed as anything more than that and certainly not an indicator that the U.S. government is considering shutdown. That is something that we're not going to do.
As it relates to the current pipeline: In addition to those negotiations, the current pipeline is subject to litigation between Enbridge and the State of Michigan. And those parties can speak more to the process.
So, what I -- what I think confused some folks here is that there are -- there are, as a result, a consent decree -- as a result, there is a suggested potential replacement for a portion of the Line 5.
The Army Corps of Engineers announced an environmental impact study of that potential replacement in June, which is what I was talking about yesterday. And that's the study I mentioned.
And so, that was announced in June and is about the potential replacement, not the current line -- which is what Peter had asked yesterday.
So, again, nothing new to share on the current line. We expect the U.S. and Canada to engage constructively on it.
I don't have anything else to share about that.
Q: But -- but knowing that the current pipeline needs to be replaced and that there is this study ongoing, would a possible outcome from that study be a choice that limits output?
And also, what's the timeline for that study? I had seen some reporting that a decision could come after the reconciliation vote, and that could be as soon as next week.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have a timeline on the study. Again, this is the Army Corps of Engineers who are taking this under. I don't have anything more to share.
Q: And I want to ask you another story that's just breaking from our Justice Department reporter. Two sources are telling Fox that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is the foreign policy advisor mentioned in the former Clinton lawyer -- Michael Sussmann's indictment.
I understand that this just came across while you're at the podium --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Yeah.
Q: -- so you haven't probably had a chance to read into that, but what is the White House comment on that?
And is there any conflict here -- given that there has been news around the indictment, is there any conflict here that would preclude Sullivan from being able to carry out his duties?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you just said, Jacqui, I'm just now hearing this, so I don't have a comment for you at this moment. I don't know anything about what you're -- you're just mentioning, so I'd have to talk to our team.
Q: Okay. There -- and there has been news around the dossier though, over the last couple of weeks, and sort of this feeling that it's falling apart after the revelations that the Clinton-tied lawyer had lied to the FBI.
Now knowing what we know about the dossier, is there any concern that there was a lot of focus or too much focus on that during the President's campaign?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Jacqui, I refer you to the Department of Justice. I am not going to comment on that from here, from the podium.
Q: Thanks, Karine. What kind of outreach has the White House done, specifically to the six House progressives who voted against the infrastructure deal?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any outreach to speak to at this moment. As -- as I've said many times before, we are in constant communication with members on the Hill. But I don't have anything to share at this moment that's specific.
Q: And also, a Republican member of Congress today shared a video on Twitter in which she appeared to attack -- to be shown attacking Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and the President. Twitter has put a disclaimer on his tweet now. Does the White House have a position on how social media companies should be -- should be moderating this type of content?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'll say this: You know, there is absolutely no place for -- of any kind of -- no place for any violence of any sort in this political system. And, you know, I don't want to go any further than that. I leave it to the social media platform on how they're going to move forward on that.
But there is no place for the -- for any type of violence or that type of language in the political system. And it should not be happening, and we should be condemning it.
Q: Thanks, Karine. A question on another topic. But first, on infrastructure: Obviously, the administration has had months as we're watching -- we were watching this bill go through the process of making its way through Congress. Why don't we have a concrete list of projects that will be pursued first? And why don't have a clear timeline on when those would -- will be implemented?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We'll have something soon. I mean, this is something that, clearly, as you said, we've been working on for a long time. And there was a process, right? There was a legislative process that was happening.
And now we're in a place where we're going to sign -- the President is going to sign this legislation soon into law. And once that is done, we will have -- we will lay out our plan. We will be transparent.
That's one of the reasons why we're bringing the Secretaries here for the different components of the bill to talk to all of you, to take your questions on how they're -- how they're thinking about this, how they're going to be implementing this to the American public.
And we'll have more -- we'll have more to share.
Q: Okay. And then, we were told much earlier this year that the President would be getting his annual physical later this year. It's obviously later this year. The year is almost up. So, when will he be getting that physical? And will we get the full results of that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I was just thinking -- right? -- it is later this year. It's November. I don't -- (laughter) -- the year is flying by.
I don't have anything for you. As Jen has said and we have said, that is going to happen. And once it does, we will be transparent about it.
Q: But it will for sure be done before the end of the year?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- that's -- I think that's what we have said in the past. We would get this done -- we'll make sure to get this done and share it with all of you when it gets done -- when it happens.
Go ahead. Go ahead, Tam.
Q: I have a seasonal question that I apologize for in advance. But will the President be pardoning turkeys this year? (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, wow.
Q: A lot of people have asked me; I am now asking you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, it is a -- it is a regular tradition. So, I'm assuming that will be happening. I don't have any news or any schedule to share with you on that particular pardoning of the turkey event, but I'm sure that we'll have something soon.
Q: Okay, on a much more --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But thank you for -- thank you for the question. (Laughs.)
Q: Very serious stuff. But, actually, on a more serious note --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: -- parents will be getting their second-to-last Child Tax Credit payment -- expanded tax credit payment -- later this month. What message does the White House have for them?
Many families have come to count on this. It's obviously part of BBB, but there's no -- there are no guarantees. And this is sort of a cliff that's hanging out there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, that's a very good question because that Child Tax Credit has really benefited families -- giving families that tax cut, that middle-class tax cut that's so critical.
It's cut poverty by 50 percent -- childhood poverty -- children poverty by 50 percent. So, it's been -- it's been incredibly important.
But this is why the President is going to continue to fight for the Build Back Better plan. This is why he's going to continue to talk to members on the Hill to make sure that this has happened.
But he is optimistic. We talked about this rule that was voted on -- for -- last Friday -- for November 15th to make sure that the Build Back Better Act is voted on in the House that week. And so, he's very optimistic.
But you're right: This Build Back Better Act is about -- its pro-families, right? It's pro-people. And it gives people that breathing room that they so need, that they haven't had in many, many years. And there -- we haven't seen that investment in people.
So, the President is going to continue to work for the Child Tax Credit. He's going to continue to fight for the paid leave -- all of the things that are in this -- in this bill. We think about childcare, eldercare, making sure that -- you know, making sure that prescription drugs are affordable and not taking a huge chunk out of your -- out of your paycheck.
So, all of these things that's part of the Build Back Better Act, he's going to continue to fight for it. And that's the message.
And there's a reason -- right? -- that he put it -- he put the Child Tax Credit in the American Rescue Plan -- another historical piece of legislation -- because he was trying to meet the moment of what the American family was going through during this pandemic.
Q: I'm told we have to wrap.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, okay. I'll take -- I'll take one last question.
Q: Two quick questions. As of yesterday morning, the President said he hadn't spoken to the governor-elect of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin. Has he tried calling him again?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't -- I don't have anything more to read out from what we have -- what I said at the podium last week. I don't have anything more.
Q: And, also, obviously, when a President goes on something like a sales tour of his infrastructure plan, where he goes matters and sends a message. So, can you talk about why specifically the Port of Baltimore was picked versus a lot of the other ports, like Savannah --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: -- or Los Angeles?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, he'll speak to that tomorrow. So, I don't want to get ahead of the President. But he'll have a -- he'll lay that out for all of you as to why he's there.
But, as you can imagine, it's very important to the supply chain and all the work that he's doing to make sure that we deal with the issue that we're having currently.
Q: Do you have an update on Ethiopia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That's all I have for you guys.
Q: Thank you, Karine.
Q: You forgot the back.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I called on the -- I called on the back. We had Raimondo take pictures from -- take questions from the back, guys.
2:11 P.M. EST
Joseph R. Biden, Press Briefing by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/353308