Joe Biden

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

September 26, 2023

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Wayne County, Michigan

11:42 A.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hello. Hi, hi, hi, hi. Sorry for the delay. Okay, I got one thing at the top, and then we can get going.

So, today, President Biden will -- will punctuate his vocal support for autoworkers by joining UAW members on the picket line in Wayne County, Michigan.

President Biden is fighting to ensure that the cars of the future will be built in America by unionized American workers in good-paying jobs instead of being built in China.

And he is succeeding: Car companies are making record profits, and since President Biden took office, the U.S. economy has added 235,000 auto jobs. That's over four times as many auto jobs per month and over five times as many auto manufacturing jobs per month as under the previous presi- -- administration.

So, as American auto- -- automakers have earned record corporate profits, the President believes the American autoworkers responsible for creating the value should get a record contract. That's why we're headed to Michigan today.

And while President Biden is no stranger to a picket line -- in fact, he joined a UAW picket in Kansas City back in 2019 -- today will mark the first time as a sitting president has visited a picket line in modern times.

This is an important message to America's autoworkers and to every hardworking American across -- across the country.

And with that, go ahead, Seung Min.

Q: Can you tell us where specifically in Wayne County he will be -- which plant?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have any specific details to share with you for secur- --

Q: Why not?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm going to answer.

Q: Oh, sorry.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: For security reasons and given the unprecedented nature of this visit. As I just mentioned, it is an historic visit. And this is an active picket line. And so, we're not able to provide the exact location in advance, again, as I mentioned, for security purposes. And so, as you know, when the President makes public stops, we don't advertise exact street -- right? -- and corner.

He's visiting this one -- again, an active picket line -- so we want to be incredibly mindful. But because of those precau- -- precautions, we have expanded both the print and the local press pool to give additional media the opportunity to cover the President on the ground.

But, again, because this is an active -- an active picket line, we -- we just have to be incredibly careful. And so, there are security concerns.

Q: And on another topic. As far as the U.S. is aware, is the Russian Black Sea -- Sea Fleet Commander, Viktor Sokolov, dead or alive? Has the U.S. made a determination? Ukraine claimed that he was killed yesterday.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we've seen the reports, and certainly we are -- we are aware of the video. I just don't have anything to confirm at this time. But obviously, we're aware of the reports.

Q: You said, just now, he's the first president in modern U.S. history. Are you aware of any other president who has --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I am not.

Q: -- ever been on --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We're just -- we're just being careful here. (Laughter.)

Q: You're being careful?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, as we like to do when we use the modern history.

But no, I'm not aware of any -- I mean, you guys -- I think I've seen reporting that some of you have tried to figure out if there has been another sitting pres- -- president that has done this. And so, I don't think anybody has a -- have been able to find that.

So, this is -- I mean, guys, this is really a historic -- a historic event, a historic day -- what the President is going to be doing.

And, look, I've said this many times, you know, over and over again: This is the most pro-union president in modern times.

And -- and so, you know, he is continuing to show his -- his support. This president -- President Joe Biden -- he has continued to so -- show his support for union workers -- in this case, autoworkers. This is something that he believes.

And you see that in his economic policy and his -- in the big pieces of legislation that he's gotten to -- to pass and also sign -- that he puts workers at the center of it, right?

When he talks about the middle class, he says the -- the middle -- the unions built the middle class. That is something that he has said for years. So, what you're going to see is this president continuing to -- to stay in -- in line or in -- in the same vein as what he's been saying for -- for some time now.

And so, again, a historic trip -- he's looking forward to it. And you all will be able to experience that history.

Q: Does this undermine his ability, potentially, and the administration's ability, potentially, to be a deal breaker -- or not a deal breaker -- a deal broker, I should say, between the two sides? I mean, he's also had lots of meetings with car company CEOs --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: -- over the last couple of years, and he's pushing the agenda for EVs. Does it undermine that at all, do you think?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I don't think so. Look, he also has spoken to all the parties, as you all know. He spoke to the -- the automakers, certainly, before he left for India, as we have stated before.

Look, you know, and I said this at the top: He believes that the -- the women -- the women and the men of UAW deserve a fair share of what the -- of the value that they've been able to help create, right? And it is -- record profits should lead to a UAW record contract. That's what he believes.

And, look, you know, you hear the President talk a lot about dignity -- right? -- and making sure that American families, American households have the dignity. And this is part of it: being able to sit at -- around the kitchen table and be able to -- be able to deliver for your family, be able to pay your bills, and do it in a way that's -- you know, that has that dignity that -- that should -- that should be -- you know, that should be presented to you.

So, look, this is an opportunity that he took. As you know, Shawn Fain invited him today. He had -- he -- he gladly accepted. This -- today is about the autoworkers. That is what today is about. It's about standing in solidarity with the union -- union members.

Q: On Senator Menendez. Does the President think that Senator Menendez should resign?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I -- I was asked this question yesterday. Look, this is a -- a serious matter. We take this very seriously, as I said yesterday. We -- we think the senator did the right thing by stepping down from his chairmanship.

As it relates to -- as it relates to resigning, that is something that --- that's up to him and the leadership in the Senate.

But look, we take this very seriously.

Q: It's just that there's a -- there's more than a -- you know, there's a handful of senators who are now calling for him to resign. So did -- does the President think that he can still be a good public servant in the face of these allegations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is up to the Senate body, that is up to the Senate leadership, and that is up to Senator Menendez.

But, again, we see this, indeed, as a serious matter.

Q: Does the President have any concerns that public trust in the Senate as a body would be impacted if someone like Senator Menendez stayed in office?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I can't speak to -- I can't speak to the public trust.

What I can speak to is this president -- at least as it relates to the Senate, you know, that -- again, that's for Senate leadership to speak to. That's for the Senator -- Senator Menendez to speak to about, you know, how -- how the public views the work that they're doing and -- and how they're moving forward.

What I can say is that we have been able to secure some incredibly recor- -- important record -- you know, record pieces of legislation that is going to change the lives of Americans, when you think about the Bipartisan Infrastructure -- Infrastructure Law, which was a joke in the last administration.

By -- you know, as you know, Infrastructure Week -- now it's Infrastructure Decade, as the President said. That's going to change Americans' lives and their livelihood and creating good-paying job -- good-paying union jobs. That matters. When you think about the CHIPS and Science Act, when you think about the Inflation Reduction Act.

So, we have worked with this -- with senators and House members to get this done, to get really important legislation through. And so, that's what's going to be our focus. And so, that's what we're going to be zeroed in on.

Q: And on the decision to come to the strike -- I mean, this is really historic. It is unprecedented. Could you give us any more detail on how the President came to this decision? I know he got an invitation and he accepted the invitation. But did he have any other conversations? How did he get to this point?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I mean, I'm not going to go to --blow by blow to the President's decision. As you know, as I mentioned -- and you all know and reported on it -- Shawn Fain sent an invite, the -- the president of UAW -- and he gladly accepted.

But from the beginning of this -- right? -- the President has always said for -- for -- for almost his entire career -- right? -- that he stands by the side of union workers.

And so, he sees this as an important moment. It's not the first time that he's done and -- been at an active picket line, especially for UAW. I just mentioned how he did that in 2019, so it's not uncommon for him.

And he thinks and he believes, as someone who is seen by labor, by union -- and he believes this -- as the most pro-union president that -- and -- and he shows it with his policies that he wanted to stand in solidarity of the workers.

Today is about the workers. That is what today is about.

Go ahead.

Q: So, just to clarify: Today is about the workers. But will he be meeting with the auto executives while he's in town? And why not?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any other -- besides going to see a -- going to be part of an active picket line, I don't have any other meetings to read out at this time.

Q: When was the last time --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: This is really about autoworkers.

Yeah.

Q: When was the last time the President spoke to Speaker McCarthy about the shutdown or -- or --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, go ahead. I'm sorry. Sorry.

Q: And is he willing to let the Speaker kind of twist in the wind and let the government shut down for -- until something was -- something is resolved?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, to be very clear: It's up to the Speaker to twist in the wind.

I mean, seriously, this is -- a deal is a deal. The President made a deal with the Speaker and -- a bipartisan deal that was voted by two thirds of House -- House Republicans back in -- back in June -- May/June. And this is something that they -- they know how to fix. The House Republicans -- the extreme House Republicans know how to fix this -- right? -- which is doing their job -- their basic job, which is getting this done.

And so, I think the President was asked this question, if he's spoken to Speaker McCarthy recently, and he answered that question. It is -- he -- I believe he said, "No."

Q: Is it still "no"?

Q: Still "no," yeah?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don't have anything to read out. It's -- you know, what the Pres- -- I mean, that was less than 24 hours ago. But as you -- as you know, a lot of things happen in -- in 24 hours. I just don't have any -- any readouts to share with you at this time.

Look, I mean, when it comes to a potential shutdown, which does not have to happen, it would be a Republican shutdown. This is something that they can avoid. We made a deal very early on in the summer.

And, you know, it was, again, a bipartisan deal. This is something that -- that Americans want us to do -- right? -- to work in a bipartisan deal. The President was able to deliver on that.

They have to fix it. It is up to them to fix whatever chaos is going on right now with these extreme Republicans in the House. It is up for them to fix.

Q: Does the President think he can do anything to help avert a shutdown?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It is up to Republicans to avert this shutdown. It really is.

I just want to -- I really want to just lay out a couple of -- a couple of quotes, right?

Speaker McCarthy: Some individuals "just want to burn the whole place down."

Representative Frank Lucas: There are "folks who want to use this -- this as an opportunity to blow up the place."

Representative Garret Graves: "The arsonists [here] lit their house on fire."

Representative Matt Gaetz. And I actually said this quote on Friday, and I'll say it again. "We will have a government shutdown, and… we cannot blame Joe Biden." "We cannot blame House Republicans [Democrats]." End quote.

Representative Jerry Carl: "I truly think that they want it shut to -- they want it shut down."

And then the last two are actually Republicans -- extreme Republicans in the House who have said -- this is Representative George -- Representative George San- -- Santos and Anna Paulina Luna who have tweeted, "Shut it down." Another representative, Ralph Norman, said, "Let's shut it down."

So, it is -- you know, it is -- it is these extreme House Republicans and some other Republicans who are calling out these extreme House Republicans who are saying that they want to shut it down.

And they're doing this -- let's not forget -- because there is a -- they are providing a long laundry list of extreme provisions or extreme -- extreme asks that's actually going to hurt the American people.

That's what they are saying. This is what they're holding, saying that this has to be rammed through in order to -- in order to keep the government open.

We have a deal. We have a deal.

Q: Karine --

Q: Today is all about solidarity with workers. Would the President support a renewed push to get the PRO Act passed? And has he communicated that at all with Senate leadership?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything -- I don't have any policy pieces or anything like that to announce. What the President is going to do is stand in solidarity with -- with UAW -- clearly, autoworkers today, as they are going through their process -- it is their process -- as they're going through this negotiation.

The President believes record profits should lead to a record contract. He's been very clear about that.

And he believes that, you know, this is -- when it comes to automakers, when it comes to the UAW, they are -- you know, this is the future. Right? This is the future of cars. Cars need to be made in America. This is what -- something that the President has been working on with his policies the last two years.

And so, I just don't have any policy announcement or agreement that the President is going to make today. He's going to stand in solidarity with the workers.

Q: Has the White House made a determination as to which of its staff are essential versus nonessential? I know the OMB had conversations with Cabinet agencies, but I'm wondering if the White House has had those internal discussions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. We're moving through -- we're having those internal discussions. I don't have anything to -- you know, to lay out as to what that's going to look like.

As I mentioned on Friday, OMB was starting to have those conversations with agencies. Certainly, we're having these internal conversations as well. So, those are happening.

Don't have anything to share at this time.

But, look, this doesn't have to happen. The shutdown does not have to happen. This Republican shutdown can be avoided if extreme House Republicans would just do their job and do the work that Americans expect them to do, which is keep the government open, which would fund -- right? -- really important, critical programs that the American people need.

You heard directly from Secretary Vilsack yesterday when he laid out, for example, the WIC program, which would hurt 7 million Americans across the country. Right? We're talking about women and children. We're talking about nutrition.

And so, it is -- it is unfortunate if this happens. But this is the chaos -- this is the chaos that we're seeing from House Republicans.

Q: Does the President support the UAW using this visit as a -- as a way to encourage others who are not necessarily UAW members to also stop working?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I can't -- I really can't speak to -- to the actions of what UAW is going to do.

All I can say is, this is why the President is coming: to stand in solidarity with workers. This is what this visit is about.

I don't know any -- anything really specific about the question that you're asking. I get -- I get the question that you're asking.

Q: They're encouraging others to join in solidarity, and they're citing the President's visit.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the President is joining the workers in solidarity, right? That's what he's doing.

He's -- he is, you know, clearly doing this and showing example -- what it looks like to stand with women -- the women and the men of UA- -- of UAW who are asking for what he believes is a fair share --

Q: And look --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- a fair share of --

Q: Which politicians --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- of a profit.

Q: -- will join him on the picket line?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, there will be -- when he lands, there will be some politicians from Michigan that will certainly be greeting him. And so, we'll have a list --

Q: The lieutenant governor?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I believe so, but we'll have a list to share with you as we do -- as we do every time we -- we land in a -- in a state. I just don't have -- I just don't have the names in front of me right now.

But, again, this is not about anybody else but the union workers, the autoworkers today. That is what it's about.

Q: Michigan is an important political swing state. If this strike goes on for a while, it could hurt the economy in Michigan, and that could come back and hurt the President's chances of reelection. Does the White House have any plans for how to bolster the economy if this strike goes on for a long time?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, you know, I'm going to be really careful -- 2024 Hatch Act. So, I'm not going to speak to any political outcomes or how this plays into next year's election.

What I can say is the -- is this: You know, obviously, we always look at any potential impacts -- right? -- these types of situations may lead to, especially this -- this particular strike. Don't have anything specific to share at this time.

But look, you know, the negotiations are happening. They are talking, which is really important.

And we're going to leave it to the -- we leave it to the UAW and the Big Three to continue to have that conversation. We are -- certainly, we're not part of that. We're not part of the negotiations.

But certainly, we are here to help in any way. I just don't have anything else to share beyond that.

Q: One more on government funding, if I may. If -- if the -- is the White House preparing for the possibility that in the Senate fallback CR that the administration is talking to Senate leadership about -- is the administration prepared for the possibility that there will be no or very little Ukraine supplemental money in that CR?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we're very -- and we've said this many times: We're very proud of what we've been able to get in a bipartisan way as it relates to the funding for Ukraine. It is important that continues.

And so, you know, we believe a bipartisan majority in Congress is -- are committed to supporting Ukraine.

And as you mentioned, the Senate -- you've heard that from Leader Schumer, you've heard that from McConnell multiple times in just the past couple of weeks -- how they are both -- they are both supporting making sure that we continue that funding.

So, we're going to continue to work with members of both parties in the Senate. You heard from Jake -- say that. He was at -- Jake Sullivan, our National Security Advisor, was in the -- was at -- was at the podium recently saying how he's had conversation with both -- both sides, talking about the importance of securing that supplemental funding as part of the continuing resolution.

And so, you know, that -- that -- that funding, let's not forget, will -- will ensure the support for the Ukrainian people as they are bravely fighting for -- for their freedom, fighting for democracy, which is important.

That's why the President has shown this leadership for almost -- you know, almo- -- clearly more than a year, a year and a half with -- with our allies and parters -- partners, with NATO so that we can shore up that support.

So, that support is not just from us. It's from our allies and our partners as well.

Look, we're -- we're committed to continuing these conversations. We are grateful for the bipartisan support that we've seen.

And so, those conversations are going to continue.

Q: Karine, if the government shuts down, will the President remain in town until it's resolved?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say -- look, the President could be a president anywhere -- right? -- anywhere he is.

I can say that the President is going to be here this weekend in Washington, D.C. -- yeah, "here," meaning -- we're on a plane. Be in --

Q: He will be in the air? (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- Washington -- he'll be in Washington, D.C. this weekend.

Look, again, the shutdown -- this Republican shutdown does not have to happen. It does not have to happen, and it's going to hurt the American people.

I just don't have anything else on his travel, but I can say that he'll be here this weekend.

Q: Will anybody else be joining -- any -- anybody else from the administration be joining the picket line? The Labor Secretary --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, yeah --

Q: -- anyone else?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, there is a -- the President, you know, normally travels with a -- you know, with the senior staff. There is senior staff here on the plane.

You know, this is something -- this is historic, because this is a sitting president who's going to be joining an active picket line. And he -- it's going to be about his support for the auto -- autoworkers, for the -- for the union members.

I don't have anything else beside that.

Q: Any estimates on when the President's executive order on artificial intelligence will be coming out?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything new to share on that. As you know, that's something that the President certainly is committed to. I just don't have anything to share on that.

Q: Would you invite him to come back and chat with us on the way back on -- or on the way to California?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) I will -- I will -- I will do my best.

Q: He's welcome anytime. (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. I know.

Okay, guys, thank you so much.

Q: Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Enjoy this historic stop.

12:01 P.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/365706

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