Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Olivia Dalton
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Belvidere, Illinois
12:07 P.M. EST
MS. DALTON: Good af- -- good afternoon, everyone. As you know, we are en route to Belvidere, Illinois, where the President will mark the reopening of the Belvidere Assembly Plant, a plant that Stellantis closed indefinitely in March of 2023.
Under President Biden, the plant is reopening, bringing back more than all of the -- more than all of the 1,200 jobs lost and at higher wages. And Stellantis is investing in new multibillion-dollar battery manufacturing, which will add over 1,000 more UAW jobs.
Stellantis is also locating a parts distribution center in Belvidere in 2024.
President Biden will celebrate the labor movement and the fights it has led to increase middle-class wages, ensure record corporate profits mean record wages for workers, and build our economy from the middle out and the bottom up.
The reopening is a key result of the historic contract between the UAW and the Big Three. And it's the latest example of the President's economic agenda facilitating wins for workers and communities across the country.
This reopening will create thousands of jobs -- rehiring and retooling for EV and EV battery manu- -- battery jobs in the same communities where auto jobs have created good-paying union jobs for decades.
Thanks to the contract the UAW negotiated, UAW autoworkers will get more in wage increases in four and a half years than they did over the past 22 years combined.
President Biden will be joined today by UAW President Shawn Fain, Governor Pritzker, Acting Labor Secretary Su, White House Senior Advisor Gene Sperling, UAW Local 1268 President Matt Frantzen, and Representatives Foster and Sorensen are on the plane with us as well today.
Speaking of collective -- effective collective barga- -- bargaining, this morning, the President applauded SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for working together in good faith towards an agreement that allows our entertainment industry to continue telling the stories of America.
Over the last three years, workers have won historic victories that ensure record pay, record benefits, and an economy that grows from the middle out and bottom up.
SAG-AFTRA members will have the final say on this contract. But President Biden believes the sacrifices they've made will ensure a better future for them, for their families, and for workers who deserve a fair share of the value they helped create. Welcome news.
(Representative Foster walks past the press cabin of Air Force One.)
Uh -- little congressional cameo there.
As you all know, we are also about a week out from an extreme Republican shutdown. Just 40 days ago, extreme House Republicans marched us to the brink of a damaging government shutdown, then they shut down Congress for three weeks because they couldn't decide who should lead them.
Rather than addressing our urgent needs at home and abroad, House Republicans are now wasting time on radical bills that make extreme cuts to Meals on Wheels and WIC, food and water safety, education, law enforcement, and more.
These partisan bills break the bipartisan agreement that two thirds of the House Republicans voted for and that they can't -- now they can't even pass them in the House.
The clock is ticking. We're just eight days from a shutdown that would undermine our economy and national security, hurting families and businesses across our country in the process.
An extreme Republican shutdown would force service members and law enforcement officers to work without pay, risk significant delays for travelers, undermine public health, and cut off funding for small businesses.
That is unacceptable. House Republicans should stop playing political games and follow the lead of the Senate by getting to work on bipartisan bills that deliver for the American people -- do their jobs to prevent a shutdown.
Finally, yesterday, President Biden directed the U.S. military to carry out a self-defense airstrike in eastern Syria against a facility used by the Iran Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and affiliated groups.
The precision strike was conducted in response to the recent attacks that were directed by the IRGC and affiliated groups against U.S. and Coalition bases in Iraq and Syria.
We took this strike to disrupt and degrade the freedom of action and capabilities of these groups directly responsible for attacking U.S. forces who are in Iraq and Syria as part of our mission to defeat ISIS. We're making it clear that these attacks are unacceptable and cannot continue.
President Biden and the United States government are fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities. And we want to be clear that we continue to urge against any escalation.
Q: Thanks, Olivia. Two subjects for questions. First, Secretary Blinken suggested a unity government of some kind under the Palestinian Authority for the West Bank and Gaza. Why would the people in Gaza want that? What -- how would that work?
MS. DALTON: Well, look, I think, you know, you heard Secretary Blinken yesterday talk about the fact that in the -- you know, in the future, the Palestinians deserve -- deserve self-determination. They deserve a say in what their future government looks like.
And obviously, we know that the Palestinian Authority is the authority in the West Bank. And we would certainly expect to see them play some sort of role in the -- in the future here.
Q: And then, secondly, with regard to the supplemental, I just wanted to clarify: Would President Biden sign a supplemental with funding for Israel with no funding for Ukraine, or does he want there to be funding for Israel and Ukraine in anything he signs together as a combo?
MS. DALTON: Look, it's really hard to get into -- too deep into hypotheticals when we haven't seen a bill yet. But I think we've left no ambiguity about our position here, which is that we want to see -- we want to see Congress move forward on funding critical priorities.
It's critical to America's national security that Congress support Israel and Ukraine in their fights against terrorism and tyranny. And we've got to help millions of innocent civilians devastated by Putin's war in Ukraine and the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
So, what we have said was: We will not accept a standalone Israel-only bill that abandons Ukraine, fails to stand up to Putin and his brutal aggression, and doesn't provide urgent humanitarian assistance.
We proposed all of those pieces in our supplemental because each of those is crucial to our national security.
Q: And a follow- -- a follow-up on that. The President told us on the tarmac that he's open to discussions about the border. Has he entertained any members of Congress to talk about that lately, or --
MS. DALTON: So --
Q: -- has he reached out to them?
MS. DALTON: So, look -- so, what we've said about this is President Biden has supported comprehensive immigration reform since day one. That's why, you know, he put comprehensive immigration reform forward on his first day in office.
And if Republicans want to have a serious conversation about reforms that will improve our immigration system, we are open to that discussion, as the President just said a few moments ago.
What we -- we disagree with is many of the policies contained in the Senate Republican border proposal they put forward. And further, we don't see anything in that proposal about creating an earned path to citizenship for DREAMers and others.
And so, we believe that Congress should fund the President's supplemental request to secure the border now. But,
you know, as the President just said a few moments ago, he's open to serious discussions on border security. Nothing to preview specifically there, though.
Q: Couple of questions on the UAW, Olivia. I just asked the President about a UAW endorsement and whether he will be bringing that up with Shawn Fain. He said they will be "fine." Does that mean he thinks an endorsement is inevitable at this point?
MS. DALTON: Well, as you know, this is an official White House event, so I'm bound by the Hatch Act not to talk about 2024 political events from here.
What I can just say is that the UAW -- the President is proud to have joined UAW workers on the picket line in Belleville, Michigan, just recently. And he looks forward to joining UAW President Shawn Fain on this visit.
And he's also really proud of the agenda that he's delivered, the fact that he has helped support new investment in our workers and communities, inclu- -- including the opening of the Belvidere plant that we're o- -- we're going to be visiting today.
Q: And then, a quick one. You know, I also asked him about the UAW's plans to now unionize Tesla and Toyota workers. And he said he "absolutely" supports that. Does that mean the administration plans to offer any resources to the UAW for such unionization efforts?
MS. DALTON: Well, look, I think -- without speaking to this specifically, what I would -- I would just make two points. One is that the administration is very freq- -- frequently in touch with the parties as these kinds of labor issues go on. I would also just point out that the UAW's agreement -- the tentative agreement they have in place with the Big Three had consequences far beyond the -- the Big Three. And we already saw that, last week, Toyota announced wage increases for workers in their plants.
So, you know, more to come on that.
Q: Are Iranian proxy groups getting the message after another retaliatory strike? They didn't stop after the first one. What makes the administration think this one will be effective?
MS. DALTON: Well, they certainly should get the message. We've launched strikes on October 26th. We followed through with another precision strike last night on a warehouse in eastern Syria.
And the takeaway from that is that the President is not going to back down when it comes to protecting our troops, protecting our interests in the re- -- region.
He won't -- I'm not going to telegraph anything going forward. But he's been pretty clear that he will be swift and deliberate and decisive in going forward if he sees a need for us to confront additional threats, and we're not going to tolerate attacks on our troops.
Q: And any more detail you can provide on the four-hour humanitarian pauses that Kirby had mentioned earlier?
MS. DALTON: Yeah, I mean, I think -- you know, I think John did a pretty detailed laydown of this earlier. And I would refer you to the IDF for how they plan to implement and operationalize this.
But broad strokes, as we understand it, they're going to move forward with daily four hours in pauses in the north with three hours of notification in advance. This should hopefully give some room for pe- -- civilians -- innocent civilians to move out of places where there's heavy fighting going on, heavy hostilities going on; be able to access the two humanitarian corr- -- corridors we also announced this morning; and move to places that are safer.
We also, in conjunction with that, are continuing to work on stepping up and accelerating the flow of humanitarian aid in from the south to meet these people as they come through those humanitarian corridors.
We were pleased to see that 106 trucks got through yesterday. Now I think we're over 750 trucks total to date. And obviously, we want to see all of that good work continue. It's a significant and good step today.
Q: Has Israel announced it officially yet -- since we don't have Internet or Wi-Fi? (Laughs.)
MS. DALTON: I -- I can't speak to that. I actually haven't seen, myself, but I know that we've heard directly from the Israelis that this is (inaudible).
Q: Olivia, when asked on the tarmac whether the President was frustrated with Netanyahu, he said that it's taking a little bit longer than he'd hoped. Was he referring to something specific, whether the -- the hostage release or the humanitarian pauses? Do you have any context there of what he's hoping would have happened faster than -- than it has?
MS. DALTON: You know, I -- far be it from me to go beyond the President. But I'm happy to take that and get back to you.
My assumption that -- was that you were -- you know, I think your question was a follow-on to the question about humanitarian pauses that was -- that he was answering, so --
But I will go get clarity on that.
Q: Olivia, on the -- the President also said that -- when asked about the three-day pause for hostages, he said he asked for "a lot" longer. Can you tell us how much longer he asked for?
MS. DALTON: Far be it from me to go beyond what the President just shared. It's obviously more than we have shared about the details of those private conversations. So, I'm just not going to go any further at this moment.
Q: Can you give us any details on what the President learned yesterday during his meeting with senators who traveled to Israel, Saudi, and Egypt?
MS. DALTON: So, last night, the President had a good, productive meeting with members -- Senators Graham, Cardin, who led that CODEL of senators to Israel, to Saudi Arabia, and to Egypt. They had a conversation about the latest on the situation on the ground in Israel and Gaza.
I can also tell you that the President raised at the end with this group the importance of continuing to fund -- provide funding to Ukraine to make sure that they have everything that they need to meet their battlefield needs in the fate of -- in the face of Russia's brutal aggression and to meet the humanitarian needs on the ground there.
So, just wanted to add that he had, you know, also raised that in the context of last night's discussion.
Q: There's been suspicious white powder sent to election offices in Washington State. Is the White House tracking that at all or paying attention?
MS. DALTON: This is the first I'm hearing of it, but that doesn't mean that our folks are not tracking this. But I would refer you --
Q: Is that something you could circle back with?
MS. DALTON: I'm happy to take the question and follow up.
Q: Olivia, a group of Senate Democrats have sent the White House a letter asking for assurances on the steps Israel is taking to mitigate civilian casualties. They want transparency around the weapons they're being asked to approve. Is that something the White House is willing to entertain?
MS. DALTON: Well, look, the -- what I'll say is the White House, the President, National Security Advisor, Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, members of this administration have continued to have very direct conversations about -- with Israeli counterparts at every level to discuss very directly the importance of minimizing civilian casualties and the expectation that our arms are provi- -- you know, any arms we provide, those are provided, you know, with the -- on the expectation that recipients will comply with international humanitarian law and the rules of war, so -- and the laws of war.
So, that is something that we've communicated at all levels very directly, and we'll continue to do so.
Q: Olivia, two quick questions. One, did the President watch the Republican debate last night -- do you know?
MS. DALTON: I know that this meeting with the -- you know, the senators who came over ran into the evening. I know he was in the Oval Office until after 9:00 p.m. last night. So, I don't know if he was able to catch any of it after he finished working.
Happy to find out more, but he was in the -- in the Oval Office working pretty late last night.
Q: And then on the decision for the FBI headquarters to move to Greenbelt, Maryland. Can you discuss anything about the President's involvement in that decision?
MS. DALTON: This was a GSA-led process. The GSA worked to implement their best practices around their site selection process. They also implemented the -- you know, came to a final decision based on site selection criteria that -- that was in place in consultation between GSA and FBI from the outside with input -- outset with input from outside stakeholders.
I can tell you it was a fair and transparent process. The Greenbelt location was determined after reviewing that the loca- -- the 61 acres in Greenbelt is both the lowest cost to taxpayers, most transportation options for FBI workers, and we had the most assurances about the expeditiousness with which the project could get underway.
So, a lot of criteria there. For anything further, though, I would refer you to GSA, which has been really leading the process.
Q: Anything you could say about reports of resumption of military-to-military communication between the U.S. and China?
MS. DALTON: I don't have anything for you on that right now. Happy to take it, though.
Q: Is there anything you can tell us about Ambassador Jack Lew's first week, ho- -- his role in all of these talks, you know, just anything about what's been going on with the ambassador since he's been confirmed and sworn in?
MS. DALTON: It's -- I'm sure it's been a busy first week. I don't have a -- you know, a rundown of everything he's done this past week. But I'm also happy to take that and circle back with you.
Q: Anything you can say about the disconnect between the President's approval ratings and the victories Democrats had earlier this week?
MS. DALTON: Well, look, polls don't matter; elections matter. You know, and now we've seen three resounding outcomes -- in 2020, in 2022, and in 2023 -- that voters have overwhelmingly marched to the polls, rejected extreme policies that, you know, roll back women's fundamental reproductive rights; that, you know, sell -- sell out middle-class Americans to rig the system for the wealthy; and, you know, threaten cuts to things like Social Security and Medicare.
Instead, reporter- -- voter -- not reporters; you guys are a different crew -- voters have repeatedly embraced the President's policies, which put middle-class Americans first and end generations of trickle-down economics that didn't deliver for the American people.
Just two nights ago, we saw, yet again, evidence that the American people are embracing the President's policies, are embracing the progress we're making, and their rejecti- -- rejecting the sort of politics of hate and division and fear that we're continuing to see from Republican lawmakers -- continuing to reject these calls for extreme national abortion bans, for cuts to Medicare and Social Security, and the kind of doubling down that we've continued to see despite what overwhelmingly Americans have said that they want.
Q: Just a housekeeping question. I see we have a guest stenographer. Will there still be transcripts from --
MS. DALTON: Yes.
Q: -- this trip?
MS. DALTON: Yes.
MS. DALTON: Okay. Thanks, everybody.
Q: Thank you.
12:27 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/367594