Joe Biden

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

November 03, 2023

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Brunswick, Maine

1:35 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi, everybody. Okay. I have a -- bear with me. I have a few things at the top.

Okay. So, good afternoon, everyone. Today, in Lewis- -- Lewiston, Maine, the President and the First Lady will pay their respects to the victims of the horrific shooting attack last week. They will spend time with families and community members grieving after this senseless act of violence and express heartfelt gratitude to the courageous first responders, devoted nurses, and everyone else on the frontlines of this response.

The President also -- will also deliver remarks honoring this community while calling on lawmakers to do more to prevent such tragedy from ever happening again.

Senator Co- -- Senators Collins and King and Representative Pingree are traveling with us into Lewiston. The President and First Lady will be greeted by Governor Mills, the Lewiston mayor, and Auburn mayor as well.

Last Sunday, at the -- at the President's direction, Greg Ja- -- Greg Jackson, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, traveled to Maine.

He has been on the ground all week to ensure the entire federal government is coordinated in our response. He has been working to streamline federal resources and identify any unmet needs and closely coordinating with the governor's team throughout.

The President has taken historic action over the last two and a half years to end the gun violence epidemic tearing our nation apart.

Congress has a responsibility too. They must pass on assault -- an assault weapons ban. They must enact universal background checks, require safe storage, and end immunity from liability for manufacturers.

Congress has the power to ensure an event like this does not happen again. The time is now to act.

And today, continuing our 10 days of 10 drug series, we're highlighting Novo- -- NovoLog and Fiasp, an insulin product selected for Medicare price negotiation as part of President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act.

More than a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries have diabetes, and they may -- they -- and they need insulin. Last year, nearly 800,000 seniors spent hundreds of dollars a month for li- -- lifesaving drugs while Big Pharma ra- -- raked in record profits and spent $400 million on lobbyists to keep prices high for Americans.

One of those seniors is Dawn, from New York, who takes NovoLog to treat her diabetes, who -- and who has been forced to decide which bill to pay late so that she can afford her lifesaving medicine.

For years, politicians talked about taking on Big Pharma to lower drug prices for seniors. President Biden and congressional Democrats finally got that done by passing the Inflation Reduction Act without a single Republican vote.

As -- as a result, for the first time ever, instead of drug companies charging Americans whatever they want to -- for lifesaving drugs, Medicare will be able to negotiate lower prices and the out-of-pocket costs for insulin is capped at 35 bucks for seniors like Dawn.

And finally, today, the Departments of State and Defense announced a new package of weapons and equipment for Ukraine to meet their critical battle- -- battlefield needs. The package is partially drawn from existing U.S. military stocks using presidential drawdown authorities that Congress has previously given -- given us, including additional munitions for Ukraine's air defense, ammunition for U.S.-provided rocket system, artillery rounds, javelins, and anti-tank systems to help Ukraine as they defend their sovereignty and independence against Russia -- Russian brutality.

We're also sending Ukraine equipment to strengthen its air defenses against Russia's use of u- -- Iranians' UAVs using the Ukrainian Security Assistance Initiative -- USAI -- through which DOD contracts out new equipment to be built for Ukraine.

Today's announcements exhaust the remaining USAI funds currently available to support Ukraine. And why [while] we do have remaining PDA authorities to continue to fulfill Ukraine's immediate battlefield needs, we're beginning to provide Ukraine with smaller PDA packages in order to stretch out our ability to support Ukraine for as long as possible.

The people of Ukraine are on the frontlines in the fight for freedom and democracy as we head into what will likely be another brutal winter full of Russian attacks.

It is critical that Congress send the world an important message about America's resolve and take action to pass the President's national security supplemental request and show Vladimir Putin and the rest of the world that the United States continues to stand strongly with Ukraine.

And with that, you want to kick us off?

Q: Thank you, Karine. I have three questions: two on the Middle East and one on Lewiston.

The first: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netana- --Netanyahu rejected calls for a ceasefire unless hostage are -- hostages are released. And Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said his group is prepared for anything based on a continuation of Gaza bombardments. Does the administration believe that escalation in this conflict has already occurred?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just say -- the first thing on the Prime -- Prime Minister of Israel and what -- and the statement that he made.

Look, this is something that we are going to continue to discuss with Israel. We've been clear about our position. You've heard that from Secretary Blinken today, even, and why it could be valuable to have a pause to get aid in and -- and hostages -- hostages out. And so, I'll leave it at that. Not going to get into private diplomatic conversations.

But we've been very clear. Again, as you saw, the Secretary of State -- Secretary Blinken is in Israel right now. He's in the Middle East. And he spoke -- you know, he's been very clear -- very clear about this. So, I'll leave it that. I'm not going to get into diplomatic conversation.

As it relates to the Hezbollah leader, so, we obviously are aware of -- of Hezbollah's leader's speech today. So, we will not engage in a war of words. That's not what we're going to do from here on Air Force One or even at the podium.

The United States does not seek escalation -- we've been clear about that -- a widening of the conflict that Hamas brought on to Israel.

And so, what I'll say is this -- is that we and our partners have been clear: Hezbollah and other actors, state or non-state, should not take advantage of the ongoing conflict. This has the potential of becoming a bloodier war between Israel and Lebanon than in 2006.

So, the United States does not want to see this conflict expand onto -- into Lebanon. The likely devas- -- devastation for Lebanon and her people would be unimaginable and -- unimaginable and is avoidable.

And so, again, we've been very, very clear about that part, as -- as well. Like, you heard from the Secretary -- Secretary of State on the -- on these two -- on this -- on these two things that I just laid out yesterday and again today.

Q: Karine, a follow up --

Q: Karine, a quick question on -- on Israel. Just -- the President's comments this morning, when asked about bringing American hostages home, he said, "They are coming home." And we were just wondering if he was really striking an optimistic tone or if there is some kind of mass release being planned.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we've been very clear that getting Americans home who are being held hostage is a priority, and it has been a priority since -- since these horrific events -- since Hamas attacked Israel back on October 6th -- pardon me, October 7. And so that is a priority.

Obviously, this is a president who is optimistic. Those important diplomatic conversations are continuing to happen.

As I mentioned, you see the Secretary himself -- Secretary of State that i- -- who is -- is in Israel today and is also going to be going to Jordan this weekend. So, they'll -- we're going to continue to be optimistic. We're going to make -- continue to make this a priority.

We want to get the Americans and -- and others who are being held hostage -- we want to get them home to their families.

Q: Any plans of a mass release being planned? I mean, any -- any -- anything that you can share about that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not going to get into diplomatic conversations. As you know, we were able to get the two Americans home, and they're now with their family. And so, that was -- that was due to diplomatic conversations. Just not going to get into any -- I'm not going to read out or lay out any -- any of these private conversations that are ongoing. But we've been very clear about this being a priority.

Q: And I have one on -- on the Hezbollah leader's speech today. I mean, he -- sure, he warned of, you know, a wider conflict. But one way to view his speech is also that Hezbollah is perhaps not planning an immediate, full-scale conflict and full-scale battle. Is -- does the White House view it that way?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I mean, look, that is something to ask the -- the leader. That's not some- -- I'm not going to get into the leader's mind here.

We've been very clear on our end that we -- we -- that is not something we want to see in the region. We've been very, very clear.

Again, I'll just refer you back to what the Secretary said today and yesterday about this. And we've been very consistent on that.

Q: Karine, what's the White House's view on a "laddered CR," as the Speaker Mike Johnson has described it, where, I guess, different areas of the appropriations would be expiring at different dates. Like, is the White House willing to consider that or is that something that you would reject out of hand?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we've been really very, very clear about -- so, obviously, as it relates to the national security bill that the House -- that -- on Israel that the -- the GOP House bill, obviously, the President has been very clear. We put out a SAP. We said that the President would veto it. And so, we've been very clear about that.

As it relates to the -- the broader national security package and domestic package -- as we talk about Israel, Ukraine, and the other domestic pieces of the supplemental -- we believe, you know, there is bipartisan support. These are -- these are -- these are emergency requests that have bipartisan support.

And so, certainly, we want to see that moving forward. As it relates to anything else -- I know you're asking about the CR to avoid a shutdown; I believe that's --

Q: Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- what you're asking about -- that is for them to decide, right? That is -- they have to do their job. They have less than two weeks to get this done, to keep the -- keep the government open. That is what Congress is -- like, one of their main duties is to keep the government open. That is up to them to -- to figure that out. We're not going to get into what that's going to look like.

When the President said -- when he -- when we almost got close to shutdown the last time -- this is not -- this could be avoided. We should not be seeing a, you know, GOP House leading us to this potential crisis.

Q: Karine, Senator Dick Durbin became the first U.S. senator, yesterday, to call for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Meanwhile, a group of progressive senators sent the President a letter asking about his humanitarian aid request. And among their questions were, "What political authority would administer Gaza after an Israeli operation?"

What is the White House's message to members of the Democratic Party who perhaps do not share the President's view on this war?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, we've been very, very clear on this. And, again, Secretary Blinken actually spoke to this in his opening remarks before he took questions with the press corps that's traveling with him, which is: Now is not the time for a permanent ceasefire.

We've been very clear. It would -- it would benefit Hamas, given th- -- giving them time to regroup and plot a new attack or new attacks, and support -- we support humanitarian pauses -- we've been clear about that -- in the fighting -- temporary, localized stoppage. And that would -- that is different. That is very much different than a permanent ceasefire.

A pause to get hostages out and -- and -- in and out to allow -- to -- so -- so humanitarian aid can be allowed in and out, obviously, and a pause to save innocent lives. That's what we've been clear about. That's the difference for us. And that's what we've been calling on. And those are the -- you know, those diplomatic conversations that we're having.

Q: Karine, there's --

Q: Are you done, Francesca? Sorry. I didn't --

Q: Go ahead.

Q: -- mean to interrupt. Sorry. (Laughter.) Didn't mean to interrupt.

Karine, there's been --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So nice. (Laughter.)

Q: I'm trying my best. We're all one big happy family.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What a gentleman.

Q: I wanted to ask about the reporting, I think, in Politico that Democrats are kind of being told to be prepared to accept some immigration and asylum proposals in the supplemental that maybe unsavory, that they may not like. Does the White House have a position on how far you're willing to go on some of these immigration proposals?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I mean, I have to be very clear here. Those reports are just not accurate. As we've said repeatedly, Congress needs to take action to support Ukraine and to provide sufficient resources to the border. I talked a little bit about this at the podium yesterday.

Our immigration system is broken. We've -- we've said that. It's not -- we're not the only president that has to -- that has been dealing with a broken system. Republican presidents have too. Demo- -- and the other Democratic presidents have too.

And only Congress -- and this is the reality -- only Congress has the power to comprehensively address it.

And so, that is why, on the first day of his administration, the first piece of legislation the President put out was a immigration -- immigration reform bill to Congress -- a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

So, Republicans say they are serious about this, about -- about dealing with the border. This is an opportunity for them to do that. Now is the time for them to get to pro- -- to -- them to prove it by getting serious and providing resources the federal government needs to fully support DHS southwest border operation and invest in our immigration agency to expedite and improve processing capacity.

What we have seen from them in the past, you know, is bills that actually take away key law enforcement to be at the -- at the -- at the border.

While the President is adding and has added CBP and law enforcement at the border, they put bills trying to take that away.

And so, we can't politicize this. We got to take this very seriously. And now is the opportunity for them to show that they're serious.

Q: Karine, just one quick housekeeping note. Yesterday, it was 74 Americans and their families. Do you have an updated number on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I do. I do. Give me one second. I do have some numbers for you here.

So, again, we talk about diplomatic efforts and diplomatic conversation. That's something that the President believes in. And because of those efforts, ano- -- another large group of Americans are expected to depart Gaza today via the Rafah Crossing. Providing rolling numbers of Americans and family members is challenging.

And -- but I can confirm yesterday Embassy Cairo assisted more than 100 U.S. citizens and family members who had departed Gaza. We know additional U.S. citizens and family members departed Gaza yesterday who did not seek assistance from our embassy team. But we continue to be focused on getting as many Americans out as quickly as possible, and we expect more Americans to depart over the next several days.

But, of course, this is a fluid situation. Intense diplomacy -- again, intense diplomacy has been underway to open the Gaza side of the border for foreign nationals and some wounded Palestinians as well.

And, again, this is part of the diplomacy that we've been saying has been so critical to getting this done.

Q: We've also seen the President have lots of meet- --meetings with Jewish leaders. When he had the meeting with Muslim leaders, he did that behind closed doors. Why hasn't he been more public with his meetings with Muslim leaders?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We have been -- look, we have said -- I think I may have said this sometime this week that the President and his administration has had direct outreach to -- to the Muslim community, to the Arab and Palestin- -- and Palestinian Americans. We've been doing that. And we're going to continue to do that with that community and also the Jewish community as well.

We know a lot of -- many -- many people are hurting right now, and the President understands that and wants to hear from -- from these communities.

And so, as you -- as you heard us this week, we announced another -- another strategy to deal with antisemitism, more specifically in -- in college -- on college campuses. We talked about that earlier this week. We talked about our -- our strategy to combine -- combat -- pardon me -- Islamophobia.

So, we've been -- we've been very clear about that. And that -- and when we think about hatred in these communities, that is something that the President and this administration has been (inaudible) putting out policy to combat that since last year, December.

And so, this is important to the President. And so, we'll continue to speak to that.

Q: Could you be more specific? You said a "large group" is expected today. Does that mean dozens?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I also said that it's -- it's -- it's really hard. It's challenging -- right? -- to give exact numbers. And so, we will do our best, obviously, to -- to provide as -- numbers as they come in. But this is also a very fluid -- fluid situation. The -- the -- you know, the -- what's happening on the ground is very dynamic.

But, again, these are intense diplomatic conversations that are happening that has led to -- by the President's direction, to get -- to get the Rafah Crossing open so that American citizens and other foreign nationals can -- can leave Gaza if they choose.

Q: Thank you. First -- two questions, one international and one domestic. When it comes to Gaza, your messaging has been very clear about the ceasefire, about the human- -- the need for a humanitarian pause. But even as you and the White House have been putting out this message, we've seen increasing numbers of Democrats calling for a ceasefire.

So, is there a concern that your message is not getting through? Just today, we saw 50 members of the DNC write a letter to the President calling for a ceasefire. So, is there any concern that the messaging, specifically to members of your own party, about the ceasefire is not working?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, we are going to continue to be clear, right? We're going to continue to speak in -- in -- with complete clarity here.

And, you know, I -- let me just take a step back a little bit. You know, Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas, which has said -- it said that it will -- it will repeat October 7th until Israel is eliminated. That's what Hamas said. We heard them -- we heard from them directly.

Israel has an added burden because Hamas has taken civilians as human shields for its terrorist in- -- infrastructure but does not lessen the responsibility for Israel to act consistent with the laws of war.

It's critical to distinguish between terrorists and civilians. Every civilian death is a tragedy -- Palestinian, Israeli. Every loss of life -- it's heartbreaking. And the President believes in the sanctity and dignity of every innocent life.

So, the people of Gaza didn't ask for this. Hamas doesn't speak for them and instead places them in greater danger.

So, we know there -- there has been enormous loss there and that too many families are grieving, too many have been lost, and too many have been hurt, and too many are missing. And we will continue to do everything that we can to get lifesaving assistance to those who need it. And -- and we just been very -- very clear about that.

I know you said you had a domestic -- you had a domest- --

Q: One domestic. So, we do have elections next week in Ohio, Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky. We've heard the former president, President Obama, doing robocalls in Virginia. Is President Biden going to be involved in any of those elections?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because it's an upcoming election, don't want to speak to -- don't want to speak to -- to the election on Tuesday. I would refer you to the -- to the DNC to ask -- you know, to refer your questions to them and ask anything specific about what the President might be doing. So, refer that -- I refer you to them.

Q: Karine, I have one on the jobs report. The Wall Street take on the numbers today is that growth is slowing and that at some point the Fed will take its foot off the brakes, potentially leading to more inflation. Why is the White House view on this out of consensus?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, not going to -- I'm definitely not going to comment on the Fed and whatever monetary policy or actions that they're taking. They are independent. And we are going to -- I'm just going to leave it there and -- and just not going to comment on the Fed.

Q: And any -- any comment on the growth piece of it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, that I can comment on. And so, look, Bidenomics -- what you're seeing -- what we believe you're seeing from this data, the jobs report today is that Bidenomics in action. And, you know, 150 [thousand] jobs were created. Throughout the President's administration, we've seen more than 14 million jobs created under this President. Unemployment continues to be at under 4 percent. That's for 24 months now -- for the longest stretch for over 50 years.

Remember, we always say you got to look at the trend. You hear that from Jared. You hear that from Lael. It's important to look at the trend. Share of working-age Americans with jobs is higher than before the pandemic and record share of working- -- working-age women have jobs. And that's important.

And what we're seeing on the other side is they want to continue to push MAGAnomics, which is failing the middle class. The President cares about the middle class and wants to build out -- build that up from the middle up -- the -- the middle out, bottom up.

And you're continuing to see Republicans talking about cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; raising costs for hardworking families.

There is a difference between us. The President sees this very, very differently. And so, that's going to be our focug- -- a focus and make sure that we have an economy that works for us.

Q: Just quickly, the administration is confident that -- that grow is going to continue and that, you know, what Wall Street is talking about in terms of there being a slowdown in what we're seeing --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we have said -- and -- and you know this, Nandita, you -- we have said that we're -- we're -- we're in a transition -- right? -- to a slower and steady growth. And that's what we're seeing.

But it doesn't -- it doesn't negate the trends that we're seeing, right? Doesn't negate the fact that unemployment is under 4 percent, which is -- which is something that we've seen, again, for 21 months. Doesn't take away the fact that this president, under his presidency, has created 14 million jobs.

And so, it's slow and steady growth as we s- -- as we're going into this transition.

Q: Karine, do you have a week ahead?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sorry?

Q: Do you have a week ahead?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have a week ahead. We'll get that to you all.

Q: Okay. Okay.

Q: Two questions on Maine, Karine. One, when you read off the -- the folks who were traveling with the President today, it sounded like the entire Maine congressional delegation except for Jared Golden is on the plane. Does he plan to meet the President on the ground?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have any -- any update on his -- on his involvement for today. We can certainly -- I can double back to make sure -- maybe we left him off. If not -- if he's not here today, I would just refer you to his office.

Q: Sure. And does the President have any plans to push Congress to pass a national red flag law following the Maine shooting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, we've been very clear about the red flag laws and how important that is. I was talking about it in our topper. You know, he's d- -- he's -- he's directed the administration to improve public awareness of red flags in states that have them.

There is more than $100 million in federal funding available right now for the -- for this purpose thanks to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to support that implementation. So, that was one of the, clearly, important pieces of that -- of that act.

The -- the Justice Department also issued model red flag legislation to encourage more states to adopt these laws. And since the model legislation was released, Michigan, Minnesota have enacted red flag laws.

So, we recently convened a dozen states to encourage them to use federal funding to implement their red flag law. So, there's federal funding right now -- right? -- so, for -- for states to do this. It's, again, more than $100 million.

We're going to continue to work with states to get this done, encourage them to move forward with the red flags law. Obviously, this is something that the President thinks it's really important. He signed -- he signed the act that had that provision in it. And so, we're going to continue to working (inaudible).

Q: But that's different than pushing Congress --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- no, I --

Q: -- to do so.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we are -- we've been very clear what we think Congress should do, right? We -- an assault weapons ban, right? You'll hear that from the President today as he addresses the community that's mourning, lost way too many lives. One -- one life is too many.

And so, we've been clear on what we believe: common- -- commonsense gun -- gun reform; obviously, the ban on assault -- assault weap- -- law on assault weapons ban.

And so, these things are incredibly important, so that's going to -- what -- that's what we're going to focus on.

As it relates to red fla- -- -flag laws, there -- there is funding right now for states to take that on. We're going to work with states to -- to make sure that they enact that and encourage them to enact that in their -- in their own states, obviously.

And so, that's going to be our focus for that.

Q: Karine, this is the first mass shooting since the Office of Gun Violence Prevention has been stood up. What tangibly have you been able to do differently this time that you couldn't before?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I mean, it's just been recent -- right? -- as you just stated, that we just -- just announced that offi- -- office very, very recently.

And what I would say is -- I -- I've mentioned how Greg is on the ground and has been on the ground this whole entire week -- I talked about this a little bit yesterday -- him being on the ground, having the office there actually helps -- helps -- helps them coordinate with the FBI and, certainly, DOJ to vic- -- victim services. That's really important because when something like this horrific, horrific event happens in a community, there's a lot of assistance that families and people need on the ground.

So, worked with HHS to deploy behavioral health and public health staff support; coordinated the school reopening strategy with the Department of Education -- as you know, the schools had to be shut down when they were searching -- searching for the shooter; worked with local leaders to support community-wide engagement and memorial events occurring in the wake of this tragedy.

So, look, there are things that we have been, I think, concretely able to do on the ground because of this office. The office has, obviously, a broader kind of -- a broader action, which is trying to make sure that we are accelerating the -- the more than two dozen executive actions that the President has signed. And also -- also, the -- the first in 30 years vi- -- gun violence prevention law that the President signed last year.

So, there's still a lot of work to be done. But in order to -- to save lives, Congress needs to do a lot more. And the President is going to call that out, too, as well.

Q: Do you think Congress has the appetite for an assault weapons ban, given the Safer Communities Act's passage?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, there are too many lives being lost -- too many lives being lost. And we're going to see that. We're going to see a community that's in mourning today.

And, you know -- and the President -- obviously, the First Lady is going to be with him as we're there for this community, going to offer whatever resources are needed. And we're going to be with them as long as they need us.

But we shouldn't -- this shouldn't be a conversation. The -- the conversation -- "if they have an appetite" should not be a question. Really, it should not. They should be -- they should be taking action. "They" meaning Republicans in Congress. They should have the appetite to try and save a life.

Q: What will the President's message be to these families today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you'll hear directly from them -- from him, pardon me. So, certainly not going to get ahead of his message. I talked a little bit about it at the top.

Certainly, he's going to be there for them, sh- -- let them know that the federal government, that the Biden-Harris administration is there for them as long as it takes, have -- you know, be that Consoler- -- Consoler-in-Chief that he has been.

And so, you know, I'll let the President speak directly to what he'll say to the community. You'll hear from him.

Q: Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, everybody.

2:03 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/367538

Simple Search of Our Archives