Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Olivia Dalton
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Virginia Beach, Virginia
1:37 P.M. EST
MS. DALTON: Good morning -- afternoon, actually. As you all know, the President is traveling to Virginia Beach today to lay out the stakes of efforts by MAGA Republicans in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid.
Virtually every Republican budget in the last decade has tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid, and it's important to remember what that means. That agenda would raise healthcare costs for seniors, working families, and Americans with pre-existing conditions, and cause millions of people to lose their coverage.
It means more than 100 million people with pre-existing health conditions could lose critical protections, that tens of millions of people could see their prescription drug coverage scaled back. Forty million people's healthcare insurance coverage would be at risk, including a million Virginians. That's one in eight people in -- across the commonwealth.
And over 7 million seniors and people with disabilities could receive worse home care and nursing care. Millions of people could lose access to substance use treatment or mental health care. And over 500 rural hospitals would be at risk for closure.
That is what Republicans are calling for by putting the ACA and Medicaid on the chopping block. And today, the President will call them out for that.
We also have some late breaking news. Exciting news. Today, the President Bi- -- today, the President announced his intent to nominate Julie Su to serve as Secretary of the Department of Labor.
Julie is a tested and experienced leader who will continue to build a stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive economy that pres- -- provides Americans a fair return for their work and an equal chance to get ahead.
Julie has spent her entire life fighting to make sure that everyone has a fair shot, that no community is overlooked, and that no worker is left behind.
Over several decades, Julie led the largest state labor department in the nation, cracked down on wage theft, fought to protect trafficked workers, increased the minimum wage, created good-paying, high-quality jobs, and established and enforced workplace safety standards.
Julie is a champion for workers, and she has been a critical partner to Secretary Wals- -- Walsh since the early days of this administration.
She helped avert a national rail shutdown, improved access to good jobs free from discrimination through the Good Jobs Initiative, and is ensuring that the jobs we create in critical sectors like semiconductor manufacturing, broadband, and healthcare are good-paying, stable, accessible jobs for all.
We urge the Senate to take up her nomination quickly so that we can finish the job for America's workers.
And with that, I will take your questions.
Q: Okay. I have a question about TikTok. So, I wondered if the President is encouraging Americans to follow the government's lead and take TikTok off the phones.
Could you hear me?
MS. DALTON: So, we've been clear about our concerns about apps like TikTok. As you know, there's a CFIUS review that's ongoing.
The Biden administration is focused on the challenge of certain countries, including China, seeking to leverage digital technologies and Americans' data in ways that present unacceptable national security risks. That's why we're taking every step we can within the executive branch authority, including enacting the first-ever presidential directive defining additional national security factors for CFIUS to consider in line with this administration's national security priorities like protecting Americans' sensitive data.
And last year, President Biden put forward an executive order to protect Americans' sensitive data from collec- -- collection and utilization.
So, we'll continue to look at other actions that we can take, and include -- that includes how to work with Congress on this issue further.
Q: On student loans, I know that you know that arguments started today in the Supreme Court. Many legal experts have said, basically, that if this plan was released earlier, that it would have a stronger argument in the courts. I guess, could you explain why the administration didn't release it earlier, even though Biden promised on the campaign trail for debt cancellation?
MS. DALTON: Well, look, the bottom line is: We're confident in our legal authority, which is why we've taken the case all the way to the Supreme Court on behalf of 40 million Americans who need a little bit more breathing room, who need an opportunity to get back on their feet coming out of this pandemic and preparing to restart their loan payments.
So, you know, we are focused on -- on -- on that. We're focused on and we're confident in our legal auth- -- authority to carry out this program, which is why we rolled it out in the first place. And I think you heard the administration's lawyers making a very strong case in the court today.
Q: But why not release it earlier when we were still in the throes of the pandemic?
MS. DALTON: Well, look, I think what's important to remember is that the emergency ending doesn't change the legal justification for the program. There was a national emergency. Millions of borrowers were nega- -- negatively impacted by the pandemic and faced the risk of default on their student loans due to that emergency.
And, you know, our position is: Congress gave the Secretary of Education the authority to take steps to prevent that harm, and he's doing that.
Q: Olivia, should there be -- should there be a federal ban on TikTok?
MS. DALTON: I don't have anything in addition to what I just shared with your colleague.
Q: But would the President suppo- -- when you say they're looking at other actions, what might that entail?
MS. DALTON: I'm not going to get ahead of anything. As I just laid out, you know, we have serious concerns with apps like TikTok. There's a CFIUS review underway. And we're looking at what else we might be able to do, including working with Congress.
Q: Olivia, on the Energy Department analysis about the Wuhan lab leak theory, is the White House concerned about the leak, meaning the leak of the information? And are you doing anything to find out where it came from? Because it exposes some disconnect in the administration.
MS. DALTON: I'd refer you to the White House Counsel's Office on that. I don't have anything additional to share on this at this time.
I think, as you heard from my colleagues over the last couple of days, the President has directed the intelligence community to get to -- to get to the bottom of the COVID-19 origins. He believes it's critically important information that Americans need and that we need in order to prevent future pandemics and ensure we're all better prepared.
That said, the intelligence community has not come to a consensus, and he has directed, you know, the intelligence community to continue to make any additional insights we pick up along the way available to Congress and the American public.
Q: Has he issued any new direction in the wake of this reports of Energy?
MS. DALTON: I don't have anything new to share on that today.
Q: Olivia, is the President concerned that Senator Fetterman's health and absence away from the Hill will complicate Julie Su's confirmation process?
MS. DALTON: Look, I think, you know, with respect to Senator Fetter- -- Senator Fetterman, I don't have anything additional to read out in -- in the, you know -- in the -- you know, in -- with respect to conversations with the senator or her -- or his team.
But I would want to reiterate that as the President has -- and First Lady have previously shared, they're thinking about John, Giselle, and the entire Fet- -- Fetterman family at this moment.
Millions of Americans go untreated with depression every day. Senator Fetterman did the right and brave thing by getting the help he needs.
And we're grateful to Senator Fetterman for leading by example and taking the time he needs to get healthy.
Q: Just clarifying, he hasn't spoken to Senator Fetterman since he checked into Walter Reed?
MS. DALTON: I don't have anything to read out for you at this time?
Q: Or Giselle?
MS. DALTON: I haven't -- I don't have any conversations to read out to you at this time.
Q: On the student loans: With the Court at 6-3 conservative bent, are there contingency plans in place or anything, given the fact that, you know, it could expire as early as June?
MS. DALTON: Look, we're focused on plan A because we're confident in our legal authority to carry out this program, which is why, again, we initiated it in the first place. So I think you heard strong arguments from administration lawyers today in court about our legal authority to execute the program. And we're focused on that.
Q: But if the President is committed to seeing debt cancellation, why not even consider whether the Supreme Court will shut this down?
MS. DALTON: Because we're confident in our legal arguments. And we're really focused on making those arguments in a strong way at the court, which is exactly what administration lawyers did today.
Q: Is the President aware of these reports that Rupert Murdoch showed campaign -- Biden campaign ads to the Trump White House?
MS. DALTON: Look, here's what I'd say about that: Regardless of any new revelations about, you know, bias or behavior in the 2020 campaign, President Biden won the most American -- the most votes of any candidate in American history because he had the vision, message, and record that put the interests of hardworking Americans first.
And these kinds of revelations aren't particularly surprising to anyone who has tuned into Fox News lately.
Q: Does it raise concerns about the upcoming election -- the presidential election, given if -- you know, what happened in 2020?
MS. DALTON: You know, I'm just going to be, out of an abundance of cautious -- caution, very careful about commenting on elections going forward due to the Hatch Act.
Q: Olivia, two questions. One, has the President decided whether he's going to accept a bill that would overturn the D.C. Council's action on the criminal code in the city?
MS. DALTON: Just a couple of things on that. I think you might be aware we issued a statement of administration policy on that. So I'd reference -- refer you to look at that statement -- SAP.
But broadly speaking, the President has been clear that we have to do more to reduce crime and save lives. And he has outlined how he anticipates we should do so in his Safer America plan.
Q: All right. Second question. Is there any concern here? I mean, the President is going to rail against Republicans today for their plans that they've advocated in the past. Is there any likelihood that Senator Schumer would see to it that these bills wind up on the President's desk?
MS. DALTON: Sorry, I didn't hear the end of that.
Q: Right. So is there a concern here that somehow Senator Schumer is going to put these bills on the President's desk?
MS. DALTON: I'm sorry, which bills?
Q: The bills the President is going to be railing against today -- the Republican plans. I mean, there's no chance they're going to become a bill that would wind up passing the Senate, right?
MS. DALTON: I'm not sure I'm entirely tracking what you're saying.
But, look, the President is going to outline his plans to continue, you know, focusing on bringing down medical costs, protecting and strengthening programs like Medicare and Medicaid today.
And he's talked about the fact that when he introduces his budget next week, you'll see that it will invest in America, lower healthcare costs, protect and strengshen [sic] -- strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and cut the deficit by more than 2 million -- 2 trillion dollars -- "T" with tr- -- trillion with a "T" -- over the next 10 years. And he'll do all of that by -- without, you know, having taxes go up by a single penny for people making under $400,000.
So, you know, he'll contrast that with Republicans plans. You know, they've repeatedly put Medi- -- Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act on the chopping block. And, you know, call on them to put their plan forward. You know, they've said that they want to balance the budget. They've also put forward proposals that would blow up the deficit by $3 trillion. So how do you square the circle?
And if past is prologue, we anticipate seeing Republicans put forward the same kinds of policies -- slashing Medicaid and the Affordable Health Care Act -- and jeopardizing these critical programs that so many millions of Americans depend on. And you'll hear from the President about that today.
Q: Any plan -- any updated travel to Ohio? Any plans to travel to Ohio?
MS. DALTON: No new news for you there.
But as you know, the President has been engaged from the earliest hours since the derailment. You see that Administrator Regan is back there today. The President has directed his team to stay on top of this, and they are.
As of last night, 535 families have received direct outreach from federal response officials on the ground. So he's going to stay on top of this and make sure that his team is too.
Q: Just quickly, Julie Su has faced some criticism over her handling of unemployment benefits in California during the pandemic. How is the administration prepared to defend her on that?
MS. DALTON: Look, when the pandemic hit, red and blue states were dealing with fragile, outdated technology. And under Julie's leadership, California took important steps to process a historic number of claims -- one in five in the entire nation.
Julie believes that our safety nets must be strengthened. And during her time at DOL, she has worked with states to set a big-table national approach to these issues because they are a national problem.
And I'll add that, since taking office, President Biden has prioritized combatting potential fraud relief funds just as he did aggressively and successfully as Vice President.
The President has worked closely with DOL, empowered inspectors' general to strongly monitor programs, secured historic funding in the ARP to strengthen anti-fraud programs, and appointed a chief pandemic prosecutor at the DOJ to go after fraudsters and help better safeguard COVID relief money.
Our administration also provided $2 billion in additional UI administrative funding to detect and prevent fraud, promote equitable access, and ensure the timely payment of benefits.
Q: I think I know the answer, but any comment on the McCaul legislation today, specifically the TikTok legislation that would allow the President to ban TikTok nationwide?
MS. DALTON: I don't have anything additional to my previous comments.
All right, thanks, everybody.
1:49 P.M. EST
Joseph R. Biden, Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Olivia Dalton Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/359878