Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Raleigh, NC
3:29 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Today, President Biden is traveling to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he will visit a mobile vaccination bus and highlight the ease of getting vaccinated, encourage vaccinations, and mobilize grassroots vaccine education and outreach efforts.
The President isn't the only one out today getting the word out about local efforts to vaccinate more Americans today. The Second Gentleman and Dr. Murthy are hosting a press call to highlight new ways the administration is encouraging young people to get vaccinated, including new efforts from the private sector targeting young people.
The First Lady and Dr. Fauci are in Florida today visiting an innovative vaccine sites, including in a drive-through site and one at a hockey arena that are getting Floridians vaccinated.
And the Vice President is meeting virtually with local community groups and members that are doing the grassroots work to encourage vaccinations across the country.
In his remarks, the President will highlight some of the incredible work North Carolinians are doing to get their community members vaccinated, Governor Cooper's commitment to center equity in his COVID response, and also his administration's work to get North Carolinians vaccinated.
The President will also remind Americans about the growing threat of the Delta variant and that the vaccines are effective against the variants.
Okay. Zeke, you want to -- you want to kick us off?
Q: Thanks, Karine. First, just following up on the President's remarks a few minutes ago: Could you clarify what the President said what -- that the -- the bipartisan package had to move "in tandem" with the Democrats-only package? Is the President saying he will not, under any circumstances, sign this bipartisan agreement unless Democrat -- the Democrats' unilateral package also passes?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me just first say that the American people wanted to see a compromise. They wanted to see a government that works for the people. And that is what we saw today. That's what the President did. And compromising means giving in some places, but also finding common ground.
Ultimately, this does not have a gas tax in it. It doesn't have an electric vehicle tax. It does not raise taxes of Americans who make more than -- who make less than $400,000. And this is a big win.
And so, the way that the President sees this is that -- we have always said that the President, in April, had two plans: the American Jobs Plan and the American Family Plan. And he has always been clear that he intends to pass both.
The infrastructure bill contains the core of the American Jobs Plan and the reconciliation bill will be the vehicle to pass the American Families Plan. So, his intention is to make sure that he -- we move forward with both.
Q: But the President said before that one was -- that the -- the Jobs Plan necessitated the Families Plan. Is that the case: He needs the Families Plan in order to get -- in order for him to sign that bipartisan agreement?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He's saying that he wants to do both at the same time. That's what he wants to do. He wants to make --
Q: So it's not a red line, though?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I'm going to let his words stand. And what he is saying -- that he's not going to give up on his legislative priorities. That's what he said in April. That's what he was saying today.
He wants to make sure that infrastructure -- this investment, this historic investment -- this agreement that was made today is done. Right? And we should be, you know, celebrating that -- the fact that we got this bipartisanship.
But he also wants to make sure that his investment in people -- the "human investment," as he has called it -- is also done. Because we have to make investments that help -- that help people down the -- down the line, that does generational investments, and also economic investment.
Q: Does he still favor --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So that's his focus.
Q: Sorry to cut in.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no. It's okay.
Q: Sorry about that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q: Does he still favor a corporate tax increase as part of reconciliation, now that it didn't make the bipartisan package?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the one thing I will say is that -- like I said, we're not going to raise taxes on people who make less than $400,000; that this is -- this is a win. This -- there's no gas tax. Right? There's no -- any kind of like taxes in that -- in that regard. And so that's a big win.
And so, he wanted to make sure that we do not put the burden on the American people, that these plans pay for itself, and that's going to be the focus. And we'll have more, and we'll continue to share when we have more.
Q: He talked about the Democratic Party being a divided, but a rational party. Is President Biden having any conversations today with Senator Sanders or any of the other members who wanted more in this bill? What's his outreach right now to progressives?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I -- I don't have any meetings to preview or conversations to preview. As you know, he's headed -- we're all heading to North Carolina today to focus on the importance of getting vaccinated and making sure that we lift up the work that -- that's being done in North Carolina today.
But he has a good relationship with Senator Sanders. They have spoken multiple times over the last 150 days or so. And he'll continue to have those conversations.
As we know, the President has been all hands -- "all-hands-on-deck" on this. Right? He's had multiple conversations with congressional members. He's had them over in the Oval Office. His staff -- his senior White House staff has -- this week, has been back and forth to the Capitol, having those conversations.
So, that's not going to end. This is the beginning of, I think, this bipartisan structure -- infrastructure framework is a first step to get to what we need to be doing for the American public, which is making sure that we invest in them and in their future.
Q: Sure. And President Biden said he conceded or gave up a lot in this bill, but technically he's still going for everything else in the reconciliation bills. Did he really give up anything?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me just say this: This historic bipartisan infrastructure framework will make life better for millions of Americans. Right? It will create a generation of good-paying jobs and economic growth; position the U.S. to win the 21st century, including combating the climate crisis.
As we've talked about, the President is committed -- again, and I've said this already -- to the full legislation agenda, which is including the care economy, expanding childcare, additional investment in clean energy, and passing a budget resolution that enacts his legislation priorities.
So that is his commitment. And, as we know, when we compromise, you give up a little; you know, you give a little.
Q: But he didn't give up anything. I mean, he's going to get everything through -- he wants through reconciliation.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But, I mean, he said it himself: There were some things that, you know, he did give up on. But, I think the bottom line is that, that red line that you were talking about -- like that -- that was the red line that was not crossed. Right? We didn't -- we're not rising -- raising taxes for people who make $400,000 -- less than $400,000. And there are no gas tax -- tax on this.
So this is a big win. We have a bipartisanship deal. This is something that the President, in many ways, was elected to do, because people -- the American people really believed that he was able to do this, and he did. And so we're going to move forward on that.
Q: Karine, about the vaccination rates and at the event today -- so, given that we're seeing the vaccination rates in the South and the West go down, but there's some COVID cases rising in some of these states, is the White House worried that some of these July 4th celebrations might lead to, like, regional surges in the coronavirus -- may become a super-spreader event?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible) every part of the country, we have seen a dramatic drop in cases. We've seen a drop -- dramatic drop in deaths and hospitaliz- -- hospitalizations since we took office.
For vaccinated people, as we all know, it's safe to see friends and family with no masks, go to a concert. You see people going out to restaurants, weddings even, vacations, or have a Fourth of July party, which is right around the corner.
But we do see varying vaccination rates across the country. We will continue to build trust with local messengers.
These local leaders the President will be highlighting today are mission critical to the next phase of our work. Like, we know when the President -- as you all know, when the President travels somewhere, that local news that they get in that local community is tremendous and is incredi- -- and is incredibly important.
So we'll continue our vaccinations program as well. So there's a shot -- a shot waiting for people when they're ready. It's never been easier to get vaccinated. It's free. Right? It's easy to get. We have worked really hard. The President has worked really hard to make that happen.
And to reiterate, we are doing everything we can to help states get more Americans vaccinated. That's why the President is in North Carolina today.
Ultimately, though, this is an individual decision. This is a personal decision. We've been clear, and so is the science. The science is very clear. As we know, the Delta variant is contagious and more severe, but the vaccines protects against it. So we encourage -- every day we can, we start -- we encourage the American people to get vaccinated.
Q: Following up on that, at what point do you concede that the people who want to get vaccinated have been vaccinated, the people who don't want to get vaccinated aren't going to get vaccinated? And then what does that next step look like?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't think we concede that. I think we have to make sure, in order to -- for us to get back to normal, which we're starting to do, we have to make sure that people are getting vaccinated. We have to make sure that we're working with people on the ground who are those trusted ver- -- voices. And they're talking to their neighbors and getting their neighbors vaccinated if they haven't been yet. That's the only way that we're going to be able to also fight these variants that we're seeing.
So it is in -- it is mission critical to make sure that we do all that we can to get people vaccinated. That's what we've been doing as an administration these last 150 days.
Q: Karine, has the President or anyone in the White House watched General Milley's comments yesterday on critical race theory or Secretary Austin's comments? And what's the administration's view in general on what the Republicans are saying about the teaching of critical race theory?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me tell you where we stand. We -- we should teach our kids the truth: America is a great country, but there have been some dark chapters in our history.
As the President said in Tulsa, "We should know the good, the bad, everything. That's what a great -- that's what great nations do: They come to terms with their dark sides." Slavery is a part of this nation's history, so was the brave work of Black and white Americans and putting an end to it.
Our children should learn all of our history. We don't think politicians trying to score political points by banning parts of our history in our classroom is a good thing. So we trust our teachers to teach our kids the facts and the truth.
Q: Karine, just quickly, to follow up on Jeff's in question. We've already seen some Democrats criticize the framework that the White House and these senators came up with. Did the White House brief other Democrats on this framework before they came out and said they agreed to it? And what do next steps look like to make sure that the entire party is unified on the path forward that the President has laid out?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, like the President said outright: Today's agreement is a crucial step forward in realizing the economic agenda for the American Jobs Plan and the fruition of hard work with both parties.
This is, you know, the largest -- he said this -- the largest investment in public transportation in history. It will connect every American to broadband, eliminate lead pipes to stop kids from drinking poisoned water, and makes critical progress on the climate crisis -- including by making the largest investment in EV infrastructure in history, investment in clean power infrastructure, clean transportation infrastructure, and climate resilience.
This is -- also amounts to two thirds of the resources the President proposed in the respective jobs -- American Jobs Plan categories.
And as the President also made very clear, on dual tracks, we're going full steam ahead for the rest of his Build Back Better Plan -- this is what I was saying earlier: He's not going to give up on his legislative agenda -- working with the Senate on a budget resolution that includes a fair tax system for the middle class, human infrastructure, the American Families Plan and other essential investments. And we're going to keep working together with -- with every segment of our party and across the aisle to get all of this done.
So, we're going to continue to talk to, you know, Republicans and Democrats to get this done. As you know, this bipartisan -- bipartisanship that we came together with was 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, and so we're going to continue that work.
Q: Senator Schumer recommended the White House extend student loan benefits through March this week -- the college student loan benefits -- (inaudible), where we're not paying back the interest. Is that something that's under consideration by the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let me -- let me get back and talk to our team. I don't have any update on that right at this moment. As you know, COVID really, really hurt many Americans, including students. And so let me get back to you on that. I don't have any update.
Q: The President is in North Carolina today, and the First Lady is in Florida. Did the White House, you know, pick areas that are particularly under-vaccinated? Or how did it choose to go to the states where it's really kind of ramping up this outreach effort?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. You know, as I said at the top, or as you just mentioned, you know, members of our administration are blitzing the country to highlight the efforts -- local communities hard work to get more people vaccinated.
You know, the local efforts are making a difference, you know? And we -- we are -- this is a grassroots operation that we've been talking about for the past couple of weeks.
And so this is incredibly important to have our principals out there. Like I said earlier, when they're there, they get that -- you know, they get the local press there to lift up what they're doing on the ground. And everything that folks are doing on the ground is critical -- is mission critical in getting people vaccinated. And we have to continue to make sure we get the word out there and people understand why it's so important to get vaccinated, in order to continue to get back to normal.
Q: Karine, we have the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's visit to the White House tomorrow. Can you preview what the President hopes to accomplish? Should we expect announcements on security at the Kabul airport and other -- and any updates on the timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So -- (Air Force One experiences turbulence) -- it is bumpy.
So, this visit is a -- is, first, is -- is first about our ongoing commitment and support to the Afghan people and to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
As we continue to undertake our security transition, Afghanistan has experienced a significant COVID outbreak of the Delta variant, and we will be providing 3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the people of Afghanistan to be shipped as soon as next week, pending logistics. We are also providing oxygen and other supplies.
The newest COVID support, which is -- which is from the tranche of the 55 million doses we announced on Monday, is distinct from the further $266 million in humanitarian assistance Secretary Blinken announced on June 4th.
We are also continuing security assistance through DOD's Afghan- -- Afghanistan Security Forces Fund to provide financial support to the Afghan National Army National, Afghan National Police, Afghan Air Force, and Afghan Special Security Forces, including the special mission wing.
Congress appropriated over $3 billion to ASFF in 2021, and the President has requested over $3.3 billion for 2022.
Second, the President will emphasize the need for unity, cohesion, and for the Afghan government to focus on key challenges Afghanistan faces.
We will welcome both President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah. And one of the important messages we will be stressing is the need for the leaders to be a united front as they address security and other challenges.
(Air Force One experiences turbulence.) It's getting bumpy here. We're about to land. Here we go.
Third, we will -- third, we will emphasize our continuing diplomatic support for the peace process and for all Afghan parties to engage in good faith in that process.
Obviously, these are significant challenges to this complex peace effort, but we believe that a negotiated political settlement is the best way to end the conflict, and we'll continue to support those efforts.
Since 2002, the United States has provided nearly $88 billion in security assistance; $36 billion in civilian assistance, including $787 million specifically intended to support Afghan women and girls; and nearly $3.9 billion in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
Q: Nothing on the airport that you're expecting? Nothing on the Kabul airport that you know? No announcements on --
Q: (Inaudible) Erdo?an meeting --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I mean -- so, as far as the security situation/assessment in general, we are seeing elevated attacks on ANDSF and Afghan government versus a year ago. Right? But no increase in attacks on our military or presence since February 2020.
We assess that we had not -- if we had not begun to draw down, violence would have increased against us as well after May 1st. So, the status quo was not an option.
So, we would also note that the -- much of this is Taliban violence, but some is attributable to other groups, like ISIS-K, that were obviously not part of any negotiations or engagements, and that the Taliban is also fighting.
Q: Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.
3:47 P.M. EDT
Karine Jean-Pierre, Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/350593