Joe Biden

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

April 08, 2024

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Madison, Wisconsin

12:25 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Here we go. So, from day one, President Biden vowed to fix the broken student loan system and make sure education was a ticket to the middle class, not a barrier to opportunity.

Today, we are heading to Madison, Wisconsin, where the President will announce his new plans to cancel student debt. If these plans are finalized, more than 30 million people would stand to benefit from student debt relief when combined with the steps we have already taken.

The Vice President, Second Gentleman, and Secretary Cardona are also fanning out across the country to talk to Americans who have received debt relief thanks to the Biden-Harris administration. The President will continue to use every tool to deliver as much relief as possible to as many people as possible, no matter how many times Republican elected officials try to stand in his way.

Second, last night, the President, as you all know, called Coach Dawn Staley from the University of South Carolina to congratulate her and the team on their undefeated season and national championship. Yesterday's game was fantastic and capped off a woman's tournament that generated record ratings.

On behalf of the White House, we congratulate the University of South Carolina and all the athletes who have accomplished so much for their teams and their -- and their sport. It was really a March Madness to remember.

And finally to mark the eclipse, the White House released a video -- hopefully, you all got to see it before we took off this morning -- on social media with the President reminding people to wear protective eyewear. The President hopes that everyone enjoys the eclipse but hopes they also play it safe and protect their eyes.

With that, I am happy to take some of your question.


Q: Thank you. Congress is back this week. Apart from the national security supplemental, money for Ukraine and Israel, is there any legislation the President would want to see Congress send him before they break again for recess in a couple of weeks?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, thank you for the question. I think it's really important. You mentioned the national security supplemental, which we all know passed in a bipartisan fashion, overwhelmingly, in the Senate, 79-29. And now we want to see Speaker Johnson put that national security supplemental on the floor. We know it would get overwhelming support. We want to see that moving forward.

We also want to see Congress move forward with the border security negotiation that came out of the Senate. It was done in a bipartisan way. The President, obviously, was involved in that. And so, we know that the last president, President Trump, told Republicans to reject that proposal and not put the -- not put majority of Americans first.

A majority of Americans want to see that proposal move forward or -- not even the proposal -- want us to take action on the im- -- immigration system, which has been broken for decades. And we want to see that proposal move forward because we believe that proposal, if it were to move forward, it got to the President's desk, and he were to sign it, it would be not just the toughest but also the fairest -- getting support from U.S. Chamber of Commerce and also the Border control -- Patrol folks.

In addition, there is -- the Senate should pass the bipartisan tax deal passed by the House, which would expand the Child Tax Credit for millions of families and support construction of hundreds of thousands of affordable homes.

Congress should extend funding for the Affordability [Affordable] Connectivity Program -- you heard us talk about that recently -- which has helped over 23 million households save 30 to 75 bucks each month on their monthly Internet bills.

And then, finally, Congress should pass the bipartisan bill to reauthorize and reform Section 702, which provides irreplaceable information on almost every threat that the American people expect their government to find and stop: terrorist plots, illicit fentanyl, ransomware and other cyberattacks, Russian -- Russian war crimes, and many, many more.

So, there's a lot for Congress to do, and we hope that they take -- they take action.

Q: Sec- -- second, will the President be able to see any of the solar eclipse --


Q: -- today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- I -- I don't have any information on that to share with you. Obviously, as I stated at the top, the President wants to make sure -- it's exciting time. We know millions of Americans are excited about the -- the solar eclipse that's going to happen today. We want to make sure that they protect their eyes, they have the protective eyewear. I just don't have anything to share on -- on -- right now, at this moment, on -- on the President.

Q: On Section 702, does the White House have a contingency plan if Congress allows this to lapse? And then what would be -- you mentioned a few of the risks, but what are some of the ramifications if this provision expires?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I -- I don't want to get ahead of the most important point -- right? -- the provision underpinning the government's most critical foreign intelligence tool, Section 702, is set to expire on April 19th and -- along with other provisions. And we're -- and we're laser-focused on working with the Hill to prevent that from happening. And so, that's our focus. That's what we're going to do.

And -- and I -- I think I've mentioned this already about what it -- what -- what Section [7]02 provides: irreplaceable information on almost every threat that the American people ex- -- expect their government to find and stop. And so, we urge Congress to -- to reauthorize it now.

The bipartisan bill that the House will take up this week includes some of the most extensive reform we've ever seen to protect the privacy of Americans and to strengthen guardrails to ensure accountability and transparency in how this critical authority is used.

The administration strongly, strongly supports the reauthoration -- reauthorization and the of -- and reform bill. And so, don't want to get into hypotheticals from here. We are going to do everything that we can to get this done.

Obviously, the deadline for this is April 19th.

Q: Do you have an update on the Gaza hostage talks in Cairo? And I think Jake is meeting with some hostage families today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have anything on the Jake meeting with hostage families. I would certainly refer you to the National Security Council.

As you know, there were reportings on the Di- -- Director Burns being in Cairo over the weekend. Certainly can confirm that for all of you.

I'm not going to get into details of those talks. As you know, they're incredibly sensitive. And -- and we're doing everything -- this administration is doing everything possible to broker a deal that secures the release of all hostages and leads to an immediate ceasefire. And there is no -- no higher priority for us at this time.

Q: And -- and Israel's withdrawal from parts of Gaza, what do you make of that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm just not going to get into the -- Israel's -- Israel government op- -- operations -- military operations. I'm just not going to get into. I let them speak to it for themselves.

Go ahead, Mario.

Q: Yes, Jamie Dimon today, Morgan Chase's CEO, said that -- suggested that the LNG exports were political, the ban was -- were -- was political. Does the administration have any response to that assertion at all?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, we want to be really clear about the facts here. And the facts are: We announced a temporary pause on pending additional approvals of LNG report [export] licenses to evaluate the economic and climate impacts on consumers and communities. I've mentioned this before -- very recently, last week at the podium.

Meanwhile, record domestic oil and gas production is helping meet our immediate needs while we make the historic investment needed to transition to a clean energy economy.

The President has been very clear that climate crisis -- that the climate is indeed -- climate change is a crisis. He's going to do everything that he can to deal with this. He's -- he's been the most -- yeah, he's taken the most progressive, ambitious actions on dealing with climate change. And we have to deal with the facts. That's what we have to deal with: the facts.

Q: On the student debt plan -- the second student debt plan. The -- the earnings-to-borrow ratio that's being applied to for-profit universities -- if you took that ratio, it would also apply to almost 80 percent of undergraduate degrees, some HBCUs. Why isn't that being applied evenly? It looks like you're targeting the for-profit universities.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Just a couple of things. Obviously, the Department of Education is going to be really squarely focused on this, but I'll say a couple of things.

We're committed to holding colleges accountable when they leave students with mountains of debt and without good job prospects. That's our commitment.

And so, we'll be issuing proposed rules on the policies announced today in the coming months. So, we'll be able to address those specific questions in the coming months. But obviously, the Department of Education is -- is monitoring all of this as well.

Q: And does the White House have any response to what Senator Fetterman said this weekend about squatting? He took a pretty firm stance against that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So, I -- you know, I'm always very careful on what -- what congressional -- congressional members say. You know, I'm going to obviously let -- let the senator speak for himself.

As I said before -- I also spoke to this last week at the podium -- it is critical that communities take action to address this issue in a way that works best for them. While this is a local issue, it is important that we protect the rights of both property owners and also renters.

But I also want to be clear here: Anyone found guilty of a crime should be held accountable. And that is something that we've been consistent about from here.

The bottom line is this: Everyone in every community in this country wants the same thing. They want their families to be safe, and we want to see that.

Q: Just one follow-up on that. Democrats are talking about a bill that would eliminate -- would ban back- -- criminal background checks for renters. That would include convictions for squatting. Does the administration support that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I haven't seen that particular legislation -- what Democrats are working on -- so, I want to be super mindful and not comment on that. Obviously, I need to check in with our Office of Leg Affairs.

But we've been very clear: Understanding this is a local issue, local government needs to address this, I don't want to get ahead of -- get ahead of where we might be on that.

Q: Karine, Steve asked about the withdrawal of troops in southern Gaza. I just want to ask, is that something that the President and Netanyahu talked about last week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have anything beyond the readout that we all shared with you.

Obviously, the purpose of that call last week was about protecting humanitarian aids who are in Gaza. That was the purpose of that call. And we have also said that Rafah operations was not part of that. So, it was really focusing on that, what -- what is -- you know, what is Israel doing to protect humanitarian aid -- aid workers, but also, six innocent civilians in Gaza, and that was the focus of the call.

It was a 30-minute call. It was very direct. And so, don't have anything beyond what we've read out to all of you.

Q: On Ukraine. I know you've been asked similar things. But if -- if the Democrats were to support Speaker Johnson, if you were to bring that to the floor, is that something -- would you be opposed to Democrats kind of helping out Johnson there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, that is -- and you're talking about as it relates to the -- the national security --

Q: Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- supplemental? Look, we've been always very clear, Democrat -- you know, Leader -- Leader Jeffries -- he's the Leader. He -- he will -- he will determine what's right for his demo- -- for his caucus -- obviously, the Democratic Caucus. We're not going to step into that. We'll let them figure out how they want to move forward.

Look, we've been very clear, and I said this at the top, I think even in my -- in the first question that I got from Darlene: The national security supplemental -- if we want to help Ukraine, if we want to keep our commitment to Ukraine as they are fighting for their freedom -- the brave people of Ukraine fighting for their freedom, we got to get that national security supplemental done. That is what is going to -- we got to do our part. We have to do our part. And what we have seen in the past several weeks, several months is Ukraine is losing ground in the battlefield. And that's because of congressional inaction.

And so, we have to continue our support, as we've been supporting them for almost -- more than two years now. And they are fighting for their freedom, their democracy against Mr. Putin's aggression.

And so, look, we know what happens if we do not deal with tyranny, if we not -- if we do not stop at a dictator. We know how history has played out in the past. And so, this is critical. This is important.

If that -- if Speaker Johnson were to put that supp- -- national security supplemental on the -- on the floor, we know that it would get overwhelming support. But as it rel- -- as it relates to Democrats and how they're going to move forward, I would have to leave it to Leaders Sc- -- Leader Jeffries.

Q: Just -- just one more quick one on Trump and abortion. I know the campaign put something out, but just on the policy position that he's taking, any response?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I do. So, obviously, don't want to comment on 2024 election. Going to be really mindful.

But I have a couple of things that I want to say here. So, the only reason that -- that extreme abortion bans are now in effect all over the country is because of the judges the previous President and Senate Republicans put in the courts. The only reason that women are being denied lifesaving and even unrelated procedures and turned away from emergency rooms as a result of those bans is because of the judges the previous President and Senate Republicans have put in the courts.

The only reason that Republicans' officials are able to take radical actions like banning IVF and criminalizing doctors for providing care is because of the judges the previous President and Senate Republicans put in the court.

When it comes to the fundamental freedoms at stake and the devastating healthcare effects that Republican officials' extreme agenda mean for more and more American women every day, we need to be clear-eyed here.

Just look at the extreme law about to go into effect in Florida, as one in three women live in states with bans -- with bans.

Just look at the budget. Look at the budget 80 percent of House Republicans put out that bans abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest.

The President is absolutely clear, his administration -- the Biden-Harris administration -- has been very clear: We need to restore the protections of Roe, and that's what we're going to continue to fight for.

Q: Karine, the Vatican, today, put out a new document that states gender-affirming operations risk, quote, "threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception," and also denounces attempts to obscure, quote, "the sexual difference between man and woman."

Obviously, the President is a devout Catholic. I'm wondering if he has seen that document and if he has any comments on it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I -- I'll say this: So, we are pleased to see that the document you just mentioned, Tyler, further the Vatican's call to ensure that LGBTQ+ are protected from violence and imprisonment around the world.

However, the President will continue to be an advocate for the rights, safety, and dignity of the LGBTQ+ community, including transgender people, here in the U.S. -- and not just here in the U.S. but also around the world.

And I just don't have anything else to add.

Q: What about the -- what about the more specific comments about gender theory and -- and transgender individuals?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I'm going to be really careful and -- and the President's role to -- to litigate internal church policy. It's not -- that's not his role. So, I'm going to be super careful there.

But I can speak to the President's stance, and he's always been very clear on the importance of protecting -- or having protections for the transgender community and the broader LGBTQ+ community. And that's been very clear since day one of his administration.

Q: And just one more on student debt. Does -- the President's previous attempts to cancel student debt have been struck down by the courts. What is the level of confidence within the administration about the ability to -- to go forward with the plan that he's going to lay out in more detail today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we know that Republicans' officials, obviously, in the past, have done everything that they can to oppose the President's -- the President's effort to give Americans -- millions of Americans a little breathing room.

So, while we can't prevent them from -- from filing lawsuits against this plan, the President will never stop fighting on behalf of borrowers, no matter how many times Republicans try to stop them.

You know, we -- as I just stated at the top in answering your question, we know what Republicans are going to do. We can't stop them from that. But it's also not going to stop the President on acting and taking action like he's doing today.

Q: And just one more quick one. Did the President -- you said the President called the coach of South Carolina. Did he watch any of the game last night? And did he invite them to the White House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'll have more to share. We'll have more to share on -- on a potential visit to the White House. As you know, that is a common -- that is a common -- common event for the champions to come to the White House. So, we'll certainly have more to share.

I have not had a second to ask him if he was able to watch the game last night, so I don't have anything to share on that.

Q: One quick follow-up.


Q: Why is the --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Which -- which follow-up? (Laughs.)

Q: I'm going back to the eclipse.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, okay, okay. (Laughter.)

Q: Why is the President traveling today? Did he not want to be at the White House for this, you know, big moment? I mean, during the last eclipse, President Trump was at the White House and watched from the balcony. So, just --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We all saw that moment, yes.

Q: Just wondering if this current president --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We all know that moment. And, hopefully, you saw the President's video on the eclipse.

Look, we know -- we know how exciting this is. We get it. We know that people are going to want to watch it, obviously. And I said this multiple times already: We want them to do it safely, put some -- the -- your protective eyewear on to do this.

Look, but student loans matter -- right? -- giving -- giving Americans student loan relief also matters, right?

Q: True, but you could talk about student loans any day of the week.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.)

Q: The eclipse only comes around, you know, once every 40 years.

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

But, you know, the President has a different schedule. And the schedule certainly is -- is focused on -- on what he's doing on behalf of the American people.

And, look, you know, what he announced today con- -- and as -- as it's obviously also connected to other announcement that he's -- he's made on -- on student -- on student debt relief -- is going to help at least 30 million Americans across the country. That matters.

And I think when we go to Madison, Wisconsin, which the President is -- is really looking forward to do and having -- and him laying out what he's -- what he's announcing, I think folks there are going to be excited to hear about that too.

And so, look, it's an exciting day. Yes, there's an eclipse. But, you know, the President -- it's not going to stop the President from traveling and being -- going directly to the American people and talking about a plan that he pro- -- he promised that he would deliver on -- deliver on, even though Republican officials have tried to stop it.

Q: Can I ask you about the articles of impeachment against Secretary Mayorkas and the trial this week? House Republicans clearly believe that he violated the law there. Do you all take this as a sign that some law has been violated or just that it's a -- a representation of a frustration with border policies?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. And I've talk- -- I've spoken to this many times before. Obviously, this is not their first attempt.

And as the President has said, "History will not look kindly on House Republicans for this blatant act of unconstitutional partnership." This impeachment stunt already failed once on the -- on a bipartisan vote. And it drew bipartisan opposition again in February, as I know you're tracking.

Instead of wasting time on these kinds of political games, Republicans should -- should want Congress to deliver more resources and stronger border security. We talked about that. There is a bipartisan border security proposal that we were able to ha- -- make happen in the Senate, as you all know. That took a couple of months. And the former President told Republicans to reject it.

Hopefully, they will do the right thing and be where majority of Americans are when it comes to the immigration system and fi- -- fixing -- fixing that -- a system that's been broken for decades.

So, if -- this is not what the American people want or expect from their leaders. They want us to deliver on real, real solutions -- solving problems that they have -- including, as I just mentioned, the border security.

Q: Is the administration still considering executive actions at this point?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I've also been very clear about this, and I think the President has been as well: This administration has been -- the only real solution, we believe, in dealing with the border challenges that we're seeing and -- and fixing the immigration system, again, that's been broken for decades is moving forward with this border security proposal.

Again, I stated this at the top; I'll state it again. You've got the Border Patrol union supporting this; you have the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It was done in a bipartisan way -- the negotiation -- coming out of the Senate. You know, we believe this is the way to move forward.

And it would be, yes, tough but also fair. And it would be the first -- I think the first -- the first legislation, if it were to get through and the President were to sign it, that we have seen in some time.

And so, a majority of Americans care about this. Let's get to work. Congress should get to work and get this done.

Q: If it doesn't look like it's going to happen, though, before the end of -- before the end of President Biden's first term, is it something that the administration thinks is important enough to move on unilaterally?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the President has taken so many actions over the last three years. And he started off putting forth his own -- his own proposal -- a comprehensive immigration proposal the first day -- first day that he walked in -- the first piece of legislation that he wanted to move. And three and a half -- three -- three years -- more than three years, Republicans got in the way at every turn. Every turn, they got in the way of getting things done.

And so, we finally came to the end of the -- end of last year, had a conversation -- Republicans in the Senate, Democrats in the Senate -- to get this done. I mean, that's pretty impressive to be able to come out with a bipartisan proposal.

The former President got in the way and told -- and told Republicans to reject it because it's going to help Biden -- I mean, you all reported that -- and hurt him. And that's unfortunate.

So, look, there's been many times where we've been told that we're not going to get things done in a bipartisan way, and we've been able to do that in the past three years. So, that's not going to stop us.

We're going to continue to call on Republicans to -- to -- for them to reject what the former President told them on not doing -- on not moving on this -- and to move on this on behalf of no politics, not partisanship, but on behalf of the American people.

All right? Thanks, everybody.

Q: Thank you.

12:47 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

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