Joe Biden

Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Olivia Dalton and Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu

January 31, 2023

Aboard Air Force One
En Route New York, New York

10:57 A.M. EST

MS. DALTON: All right. So, as you know, we are on our way to New York City, where President Biden will announce a major investment in one of the largest infrastructure projects in the country.

In New York, the President will be joined by New York Governor Kathy Hochul, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Leader Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Booker, Senator Menendez, Mayor Adams, and Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg, as well as White House Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu, who's here with me this morning.

In addition to the Hudson Tunnel Project commitment, the President will announce that the administration has awarded nearly $1.2 billion from the Infrastructure Law's new National Infrastructure Project Assistance discretionary grant program for nine major projects across the country.

As evidenced by today's trip to New York, yesterday's visit to Baltimore, and Friday's travel to Philadelphia, the Biden-Harris administration continues to focus on implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and delivering real results for the American people.

With that, I'll turn it over you.

MR. LANDRIEU: Thank you so much. It's great to be with you guys.

As you know, $1.2 trillion to rebuild the country and build a better America: roads, bridges, airports, ports, waterways, clean air, clean water, high-speed Internet, and an entire clean energy economy. We have $185 billion out of the door.

Last year, we had 7,000 projects that are in some level of formation. And this year, we expect to have 20,000 more by the end of the year.

We started off this year with a bang. As many of you know, y'all were with us when we announced the big bridge program about four weeks ago, where the President went to the Brent Spence Bridge with Leader McConnell and talked about bipartisanship and trying to figure out how to get it done.

And this year is all about implementation and execution.

On that day, you may recall that the Vice President was in Chicago, on the South Side. The Secretary was in Connecticut announcing a program. And, of course -- not that day, but a few days later -- both the Secretary and I went to the Golden Gate Bridge to talk about a $400 million investment to fortify that bridge in the event that they would suffer from another earthquake -- essentially, to put brake pads on it and to make it more resilient to make sure that that bridge is in place.

Today, actually, we're making another major announcement of nine Mega projects across the country that are in your briefing. But the biggest of which, of course, is the Hudson Tunnel Project that we're talking about today, for the casing on the end of it.

As you guys know, yesterday, the President was in Baltimore announcing another portion of this, because this is also part of the Northeast Corridor and high-speed rail, which is critically important to getting people out of cars onto rail, actually making it more safe, making it more climate friendly, and then, of course, providing thousands of jobs.

So this particular project today that we're talking about -- I want to show you this. This is Manhattan. This is New Jersey. This is the Hudson Tunnel.

As you can see, this is part of a much larger -- it's the biggest infrastructure investment program in the country. This is part of the Gateway Program. And there are a bunch of different projects that are part of that.

This particular portion today is right here at the Hudson Yards, which is the entrance of the tunnel, which is the first critical step to making sure that all of this is done.

Two of these other projects are (inaudible) funded in the Northeast Corridor, and the President was, last year, in New Jersey at the North Portal Bridge.

So, this is a really critical part. It's $293 million of a $600 million program that's just the first part of a much larger $16 billion program for the Hudson Tunnel that the federal government is a major part of.

Today, also, we're announcing that we have investments not only in the Brent Spence Bridge -- so they got a part of the big bridge program, and they got part of the Mega program. Because, as you guys said, we pushed a lot of these programs together.

They're also announcing funding for the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge, $150 million; the Metra UP-North line in Chicago, Illinois; the Alligator River Bridge in North Carolina; the I-45 and U.S.-75 corridor in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the Roosevelt Boulevard multimodal bridge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; I-10 freight corridor -- $60 million in Mississippi; and the Watsonville-Cruz Multimodal Corridor in California.

This is $1.2 billion for nine projects. So, when you put all of these things together, you start to see now the country taking formation in how this money is getting out, starting to get to the ground, coming out of the ground, and providing jobs.

We expect that on the project today -- the casing project and then the entire tunnel project when it's done -- is going to create 70,000 high-paying jobs and actually get tons of folks off of -- out of cars and into the street and, of course, make life a whole lot easy.

You know, these tunnel -- this particular tunnel, the Hudson Tunnel, was really hurt by Sandy as well. And there was some deterioration at it. So, we're actually building an entirely new tunnel not far away from the old one. And when that new tunnel is built, we'll start working on the old tunnel.

This has been a partnership between the federal government and the state government and, of course, two states, so it's a really complicated plan. And we want to thank, clearly, Senator Schumer and -- and all of the senators who have worked on this, as well as the two governors, who are all part of happen- -- continuing to help make this happen.

Q: There was some confusion yesterday at the Frederick Douglass Tunnel. Ten years came up about -- I think it was like 10 years to complete the project. Is that accurate?

MR. LANDRIEU: I don't know what the exact timeline is. But all of these projects are massive projects that take time. The part is -- the point is, A, to get the money out of the door, which is, of course, what the President has been able to do when he passed a once-in-a-generation bill.

You know, people have been talking about this forever. And so, now the most important part was to get the money. Now we have to get it out the door. Now we have to get it to the ground. And that was what yesterday was about.

So, I'll get you the timeline on that. But nobody should be surprised that these things take time to do. But we're going as fast as we possibly can.

Q: I have a question on your meeting with Elon Musk just a couple of days ago.

MR. LANDRIEU: Moving off of rail and on to Musk already?

Q: (Laughs.) Specifically, you know, if you can talk a little bit about what was discussed. And also, did Tesla reach out to set up that meeting? Or was that something (inaudible)?

MR. LANDRIEU: I won't talk much about what was discussed except to say that part of what we're trying to do here -- remember, I said roads, bridges, airports, ports, waterways, clean air, clean water, and a clean energy economy. And as you can see, the private sector has come into this space in a really dramatic way.

Every major auto manufacturer has decided to actually move into the building of electric vehicles. Tesla was there -- they weren't there first; they were one of the first -- and they're -- they have a big footprint. So, we've been talking to all of the folks in the private sector to just try to listen to where they are, what their concerns are, how we can work together.

You know that we have to -- there's a substantial amount of money in this bill to help with the -- with the creation of critical minerals. You know that there's money in here to build battery plants, because we've made a lot of announcements around that, in partnership with the private sector. You also know that we have to get the supply chains right.

And then, finally, we have to create security so that people know that that's a place to charge. And so, electrical vehicle charging stations are a critical part of what we're doing. We have to lay down 500,000 of them. But that's only a small portion of the total that's needed.

So, Tesla is a big player in the market. And that meeting was just one of many meetings we have, having general discussions about where they are, what are they thinking about, what are their pros, what are their cons, and, you know, just having a general discussion about the implementation of the bill.

Q: On today --

Q: Sorry, just a quick follow-up. You know, in terms of, sort of, just the meeting, because it's Musk and, you know, the relationship he has had, at least online, with the President -- I mean, does this sort of signify sort of a shift? Why did the -- why did the White House decide to finally meet him?

MR. LANDRIEU: Well, again, just in the course of the day-to-day work that I have to do and the team at the White House, so the National Security Council -- the National Economic Council and, of course, the climate folks -- we're in constant touch with the folks that run all of these companies. So this is nothing, A, out of the ordinary or unusual, and it is in the cour- -- in the course and scope.

You may not have been paying attention to my whereabouts the day before, but I was actually in San Francisco. And what had happened was Tesla was having an announcement the next day -- a $3.6 billion investment to build an entire new plant to build the next level of batteries. And we missed each other and just said we'll catch up and -- if we can see each other in Washington, D.C.

So it was run-of- -- run-of-the-mill course of how we talk and make sure that our doors are open to everybody.

Q: What's the thinking behind the timing of the intense focus on these projects this week? Like you just said, we're talking about projects that might be 10 years off because of their scope. It's a -- it's a two-year-old bill at this point. What's the reason for such a focus on these (inaudible)?

MR. LANDRIEU: First of all, it's a year and a half, not two. It happened on November 15th, almost -- less than two years ago.

Secondly, we have intense focus every day, all day. It's all about "hurry the hell up and get it done," from the President's perspective. So that's just the way we roll.

And so we are continuing, as you know, the constant drumbeat of announcing getting money out of the door quick. Again, you guys are aware of these; we do them every day. They're massive announcements all over the country. It's too hard for you guys to keep up with, actually.

But right now, we will focus on, this year, about execution. So my t- -- my team's job, along with the President being our leader, is to -- is to build the team, get the money out of the door, and then tell the story.

And so as we're doing that, we just want to make sure that everybody continues to stay focused. And because of the timing of the way the programs work, the notices of funding opportunities that are going out, people applying for the grants, us being able to award the grants and us being able to announce them -- these are coming in the current course and scope of what we're doing.

So, this year, the first thing was a big bridge. This is the Mega. And then you can expect a whole host of other announcements like this to demonstrate to the American public that we're doing the job the President asked us to do.

Q: From your perspective, doing this every day, have you seen a shift in the public awareness or appreciation of these projects as it's gotten bigger, and as it's gotten --

MR. LANDRIEU: You know, it's a myth that people don't know about these projects. If nobody knew about it, people would quit taking credit for all of them. And, of course, Republicans and Democrats, especially people that voted against the bill, talk about them all the time. As Nancy Pelosi said, even those people that voted no want the dough.

So I think the public is acutely aware because they drive by or they walk by them all the time. And so whenever they -- wherever there's a road project or a rail project going on, it is more likely than not it got a substantial amount of federal funds in it because the President's commitment was to rebuild.

Really simple: "I'm going to use the power of my presidency to bring people together and get big things done." And this is bringing the receipts over and over and over again. And I think people pick it up and understand it.

Q: Mitch, House Republicans have talked about the need to cut spending to raise the debt limit. If spending cuts or budget caps went into place, what risks could that pose for the infrastructure projects you're talking about?

MR LANDRIEU: Well, we'd build less. That would be -- that's -- I mean, if you have less money, you build less. And so, I haven't -- I haven't had, in my travels or conversations with one person of whatever stripe who said, "I want…" -- "I don't want a road," or "I don't want you to fill the pothole," or "I don't want a new bridge," or "Please let me keep dirty water," or "By the way, I don't really need high-speed Internet because I don't want to talk to anybody." Nobody's -- we haven't had that conversation.

And so I just think -- again, I'm not in the business of politics, but in general policy, if there are folks on the Hill that want to take away money from projects, they ought to, I think, identify which projects they don't want, and then maybe we can have that discussion with the American people.

Q: Have you identified those projects for them --

MR. LANDRIEU: No.

Q: -- in any conversation?

MR. LANDRIEU: No. I've identified the ones that they say they wanted built. That's what's happening. Everybody -- as you know, when you look at these things -- and maybe you should -- you know, we'll get you some information on this. Every one of these programs is way oversubscribed. So $1.2 trillion is a huge amount of money. It's the most that we've ever had. But on every one of these application processes -- of course, which is available to you -- you can look at how many people applied. And then, of course, only about 10 percent of the -- 10 percent of the projects are getting a "yes."

So we should have a fairly good scope of what all the asks in the country are at this time. And I assure you that I have not had one person, whether they be Republican or Democrat or independent, say, "Please stop funding projects in my district because we need to save money." I haven't heard that yet. And if I do, we'll -- you know, we'll deal with it at that time.

Q: Just as a follow-up --

MR. LANDRIEU: You might ask them that.

Q: How are you planning sort of proactively to sort of deal with forced cuts to your budget?

MR. LANDRIEU: Well, we're full speed ahead. I mean, we're in the exe- -- by the way, there's -- the Congress has got an important job, which is to pass the law. This law is passed. We're in the business of execution. That's -- that's our job. And until we receive a direction otherwise, we're full speed ahead every damn day. You know, as the President said, "hurry the hell up" mode. And that's our mission from him, that's his directive, and that's what we're doing.

Q: Hey, Olivia, can we get --

MS. DALTON: Yes.

Q: Yeah. Cool.

MS. DALTON: Thank you, Mayor.

MR. LANDRIEU: You all done with me? Y'all say, "Mitch, we're finished with you and you're boring, so go." (Laughter.)

All right, thank you.

MS. DALTON: Okay, I can see the waves below, so I'm going to try to stay upright long enough to give you guys a couple of updates you're looking for.

On Tyre Nichols: We haven't had a briefing or gaggle since we all saw the horrific footage of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols's death last week. So I wanted to take a few minutes to address that here.

As you just -- as you heard from the President last week, he was outraged and deeply pained to see the video. He spoke with Mr. Nichols's mother and stepfather to express his condolences and commend the family's courage and strength.

Tomorrow, White House officials will also travel to Memphis, Tennessee, to attend the funeral for Mr. Nichols.

When President Biden spoke with Mr. Nichols's family last week, he told them that he was going to be making the case to Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. To that end, President Biden spoke yesterday with Representative Horsford and plans to host a small group of Congressional Black Caucus members at the White House this Thursday to discuss police reform legislation and other shared priorities.

President Biden is committed to doing everything in his power to adjust -- to ensure our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fra- -- fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all.

When Senate Republicans blocked the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act from reaching his desk last year, President Biden signed an executive order that mandated stricter use of force standards and accountability provisions for federal law enforcement, as well as measures to strengthen accountability at the state and local level.

But as the President has said, executive action can't take the place of federal legislation, and we need Congress to come together and take action to ensure our justice system lives up to its name.

Q: Does the White House have any reaction to Congressman Santos recusing himself from his assignments?

MS. DALTON: I haven't seen that news, but I'd be glad to follow up with you.

Q: Olivia, can I ask -- on Title 42, we've gotten kind of conflicting information on whether that'll be shut down in May when you guys lift the COVID emergencies. So can you kind of walk through exactly --

MS. DALTON: Look, here's the deal on this: We proposed to lift Title 42 earlier and were blocked by court orders. Extending the public health emergency one month to May 11th doesn't change that. We do not know when the Supreme Court will rule on this matter or what might lift its -- when it might lift its stay. But what we do know is that unlike congressional Republicans, we have a plan to lift Title 42 in a safe and orderly way.

Q: So just to be crystal clear on that: If May comes, the Supreme Court has not acted yet, you expect Title 42 to remain in place even though you've lifted the emergency?

MS. DALTON: Look, we -- I don't have anything additional to add. We don't know when the Supreme Court will rule on this matter or what it might say.

Q: On the McCarthy meeting on Wednesday, House Republicans say they want a path toward a balanced budget. Does the White House think a balanced budget is a good goal and something it should pursue for the economy?

MS. DALTON: Well, look, let's start by talking -- let's look at what President Biden has done to reduce the deficit. The President has cut the deficit a record $1.7 trillion, the largest decline in American history. His Inflation Reduction Act reduces it by hundreds of billions more, whereas the deficit increased every single year under Donald Trump. His four years in office are responsible for 25 percent of our total national debt from the last 230 years.

And the first bill that House Republicans passed this year would add $114 billion extra to the deficit by helping billionaires cheat on their taxes. That's on top of the $2 trillion in ta- -- Trump tax cuts favoring the wealthy that they propose extending.

So when President Biden says he will work to reduce the deficit, he's not just said it, he's acted on it. And, you know, he wants to hear Republicans' plans to do the same.

Q: Yeah, but is that a continued goal going forward for the President?

MS. DALTON: Look, the President said he's happy to talk with anyone with ideas to responsibly lower the deficit. And he's put forward several proposals to do so by making the rich and big corporations pay their fair share.

But what's the Republican plan? Is it to cut Social Security and Medicare? Is it to raise the retirement age?

Speaker McCarthy claims he doesn't want to do what he has previously voted for in this regard. He should share what his plan is.

Q: Just a quick question on Ukraine, Olivia. Yesterday, the President said he is not giving Ukraine any F-16s. This was during the gaggle. So we just wanted to understand, is he still willing to sell Ukraine F-16s?

MS. DALTON: I don't have anything to add to the President's comments.

But I think, as you all know, we're sending a significant amount of weapons and security assistance to Ukraine right now to help with their ongoing battlefield needs in response to Russian aggression. You know, we've sent artillery, ammunition, armored vehicles, critical air defense capabilities. We're in regular contact about their battlefield needs, and I expect we're going to have more security assistance to announce soon.

And with that, I think we are a few feet off the ground, so I'm going to go take a seat. Thanks, everybody.

Q: Thank you.

11:14 A.M. EST

Joseph R. Biden, Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Olivia Dalton and Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/359529

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