James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:53 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you heard from the President just this morning, this administration is ready to help the people of Florida in every way possible. And when the storm passes, we will be there to help Florida rebuild and recover. We are committed to seeing this through.
Yesterday, President Biden spoke with Governor DeSantis, as well as Tampa Bay Area mayors, to discuss the steps the federal government is taking to help Florida prepare for Hurricane Ian. And tomorrow he will visit FEMA’s headquarters to receive a briefing on federal response efforts for Hurricane Ian.
Already we have deployed significant federal resources to the region to help prepare for the hurricane. We have more than 1,300 federal response workers on the ground in Florida. There are 3.7 million meals and 3.5 million liters of water pre-positioned in Alabama, 110,000 gallons of fuel, and 18,000 pounds of propane are pre-staged for immediate deployment. Three hundred Army Corps personnel are on the ground to support power and fuel assessments. Three hundred ambulances are supporting local officials. And multiple federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams are deployed to Florida and Georgia.
As the President said this morning, this storm is incredibly dangerous and life threatening. Heed warnings from state and local officials. If you’re told to shelter in place, please do so. Shelter in place. Additionally, we know that disruptions from hurricanes can pose challenges to markets. But the latest projections show that major refineries should not be impacted by Hurricane Ian.
As the President said today, oil and gas companies should not use this moment as an excuse to raise gas prices.
I also want to speak to the sham referenda that Russia has staged in occupied areas in Ukraine. These referenda were straight from the Kremlin playbook. They were manufactured and manipulated. Ukrainian civilians were forced to cast ballots under the watch of armed guards. We have seen videos and reports of armed officials going door to door, intimidating voters and stopping Ukrainians on the street and forcing them to vote.
These so-called referenda have been an exercise in coercion and disinformation executed by puppet authorit- — authorities following orders from Russia.
Based on our information, every aspect of this referendum process was pre-staged and orchestrated by the Kremlin. Weeks, if not months ago, Russian officials planned to announce these pre- — pre-determined outcomes. The Russian government instructed security forces to occupy referendum workers as they collected votes and the Russian government falsified the results to advance the lie that the Ukrainian people want to be part of Russia.
But as we all know, to the contrary, the world has seen very, very clearly that Ukrainians do not want to be part of Russia.
In reality, the Ukrainian people are continuing to fight for their independence with support from the United States and allies across the globe. They have courageously resisted Russia’s invasion. The Ukrainian people have defended their territory heroically and at significant cost.
In occupied areas of Ukraine, Russian forces have committed war crimes and atrocities — killed thousands of civilians and subjected thousands more to filtration operations. And it is in these occupied areas that Russia would have us believe, against all evidence and also all logic, that the Ukrainian people have suddenly chosen to join Russia.
But we know the truth: These referenda are illegitimate and, frankly, outrageous.
We expect Russia to use these sham referenda as a false pretext to try to annex Ukrainian territory in flagrant violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.
In fact, Russia’s actions are transparently fraudulent and have no legal significance whatsoever. We will never recognize these illegal and illegitimate attempts at annexation. Regardless of Russia’s claims, this remains Ukrainian territory, and Ukraine has every right to continue to fight for their full sovereignty.
In response, we will work with our allies and partners to impose additional economic costs on Russia and individuals and entities inside and outside of Russia that provide support to this action.
We will rally global opposition to Russia’s attempts at annexation, including at the United Nations.
And we will continue to stand with Ukraine as they defend their territory and sovereignty as we have been doing for the past several months.
And today, the United States is announcing an additional $1.1 billion package of weapons and equipment for Ukraine through the Ukraine Security Assistance initiative. This includes 18 new High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and — also known as HIMARS — which Ukraine has used so effectively on the battlefield. It is — also includes hundreds of armored vehicles, radars, and counter-drone systems. We will not be deterred from supporting Ukraine. We will continue to stand with the Ukrainian people and provide them with the security assistance they need to defend themselves for as long as it takes.
With that, go ahead, Zeke.
Q Thanks, Karine. On the storm, can you provide an update on what the President has been doing today? As the storm bears down in Florida, has he been making phone calls, receiving briefings? Who’s been briefing him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So he’s been receiving regular briefings throughout these last couple of days. As you know, he met with the FEMA Administrator yesterday. He will continue to get briefings as well today. He will most likely continue to make calls as well. I don’t have anything to read out at this time.
But as you heard him speak about this this morning at the top of his event, he — he laid out his thoughts, he laid out what the federal government is doing and the response that we are providing. We are surging our efforts. We are making sure that we are there for the people of Florida. We will continue to do that. You will hear again directly from this President tomorrow when he visits FEMA to get — to get an update. But again, this President has been all hands on deck at this moment.
He spoke to the governor, as — as I just mentioned moments ago. He spoke to three mayors, as we read out to all of you yesterday. And if there are any further calls, we’ll be sure to read those out.
Q And in the conversation with Governor DeSantis, is there anything more you can offer in terms of the substance of that discussion? Any requests from the governor for additional federal assistance or disaster declarations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just to give you a little bit — and we kind of laid this out yesterday. They spoke yesterday. The President wanted to relay that his prayers are with the people of Florida and that Florida will have the full force of the federal government.
Again, we are committed to continued close coordination between the federal and state government as we respond to this emergency. Yesterday, when the Administrator was at this very podium, she mentioned how there were members of her team that was traveling with the governor yesterday. And so that will continue — we will continue to see that partnership.
And again, we will have the full force of the federal government and resources to the people of Florida.
Q And just on the Nord Stream pipeline explosions there — is there any update in terms of a formal U.S. government assessment of those apparent explosions? Was this an act of sabotage, or is there an assessment of culpability there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we have been in touch with our European partners there about the apparent sabotage of the pipelines. We are supporting European efforts to investigate this, as I just kind of laid out. It’s still under investigation.
As you all know, these pipelines were pumping gas into Europe — are not, pardon me — are not pumping gas into Europe at this time. Nord Stream 2 was never operational. And NS1 has been shut down for weeks because of how Russia is weaponizing energy.
Q And no assessment of that (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No assessment as of yet. The investigation is still underway, and it could take some time. So just letting you all know what we expect — that it will take some time.
Q Thank you. Just a couple follow-ups on what Zeke here — on some specifics.
Now that the storm has made landfall, can you give us a better sense of how often the President is going to be briefed? Do you think it’s an hourly situation or —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have any specifics on hourly or every 30 minutes or every few hours. Just know that he is very much — very much keeping an eye on what is happening with the storm. He has been in regular touch with the FEMA Administrator. He spoke to her today. And he has been getting — I’m sorry, he spoke to her yesterday, as you know.
If there is more co- — if he speaks to her again, we will surely read that out. But this is something that has been top of mind. And I was — as I — as I said, with the administrator yesterday, I was in the room with him when he called the three mayors. And it has come up in every meeting that I have personally had with him.
And so, again, this is top of mind. We are going to put the full force of the federal government to — the people of Florida. And, again, they are in our prayers. And they — and we — we have been very clear to make sure that the folks in Florida listen to local and state officials at this time.
Q And on the DeSantis call, did they just speak about the hurricane? Could you elaborate more on the tone of the conversation, given the complex relationship there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, there’s no politics in this, when we talk about extreme weather, when we talk about what we’re seeing right now with a Category 4 hurricane about to — any moment now about to — to hit the coast of Florida.
This is about the people of Florida. This is about two people who — who wanted to have a conversation on how — how we can be partners to the governor and — and his constituents, and make sure that we are delivering for the people of Florida.
That is the focus, and that’s going to continue to be the focus these next couple of days.
Q One quick final one.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q What happened in the hunger event today? The President appeared to look around the room for an audience member, a member of Congress who passed away last month. He seemed to indicate she might be in the room. What happened there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So the President was, as you all know — you guys were watching today’s event, a very important event on food insecurity. The President was naming the congressional champions on this issue and was acknowledging her incredible work. He had — he had already planned to welcome the congresswoman’s family to the White House on Friday. There will be a bill signing in her honor this coming Friday.
So, of course, she was on his mind. She was of top of mind for the President. He looks — very much looks forward to discussing her remarkable legacy of public service with them when he sees her family this coming Friday.
Q He said, “Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie? She must not be here.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I totally understand. I just — I just explained she was on top of mind. You know, this wasn’t — what we were able to witness today and what the President was able to lift up in this — at this conference at this event was how her — her focus on wanting to deal with, combat food — food insecurity in America. And this is something that he was lifting up and honoring.
And, again, he knows that he’s going to see her family this coming Friday. There’s a bill signing that’s going to happen in renaming a VA clinic in Indiana after the late congresswoman. He knows that he is going to see her family, and she was at top of mind.
Q The State Department’s Amos Hochstein, within the past few days, has met with the Saudi Prince MBS. What is the U.S. telling Riyadh and OPEC more broadly about an upcoming (inaudible) decision?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don’t have any details of — of that meeting. As you know, that is indeed — we had some White House officials in the region most recently. I don’t have any more details to share.
Q The UA- — the EU said any deliberate disruption of the Nord Stream pipeline would be met with robust and united response. Does that united response include the U.S.? And what type of responses should we expect, given how important that asset is to the region?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as I just mentioned before, it’s going to take some time to see who — to see who is behind this. And so there is a investigation underway.
And I will say that attacks on critical infrastructure of our European and NATO Allies is a matter of concern for us. And we will continue to be vigilant on this and coordinate with our Allies and partners.
But, again, the investigation, as we understand it, is going to take some time, and it’s — it’s underway.
Q The Energy Secretary said today in interview with Bloomberg that all energy infrastructure operators in the Baltic Sea area, as well as U.S. LNG ships bringing LNG over to the EU needed to be on, quote, “high alert,” given we’ve seen with the pipelines. Has there been a shift in the U.S. security posture in the region because of the allegations of potential sabotage?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don’t have anything to share on any shift of security posture in the region. But, look, we take this — you know, we take this very seriously, and this is of concern to us.
And so, again, we are going to — we’re going to — to let the investigation happen — occur. It’s going to take some time. And we will be there for our European partners and allies, and — and also our NATO Allies.
Q You detailed this strenuously at the top. This was so transparent and so telegraphed, in terms of the referenda and sham annexation efforts. Why wait until after annexation to take action, in terms of imposing costs economically? Is this a legal issue? Is this making sure people are united? Why wait until it’s done when you know it’s coming?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So that is the posture that we are all taking with our allies and partners. Look, we are — we are — but, again, it does not take away from the fact — the — the pure fact that we are prepared to impose swift and severe economic costs on Russia when they move forward with annexation on individual entities inside and outside of the — of Russia that provide support for this action. And, you know, we will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine as they defend their territory.
Look, you know, there’s — there was a process here; we knew this was coming. This was part of the Kremlin playbook. And — but if they do indeed move forward and they move forward with the — with the annexation, we will be prepared with our partners and Allies.
Q And just one more quick follow-up, because I’m trying to get my head around the response. If the late congresswoman was top of mind for the President and her family was expected to be here and that’s what he was thinking about, what — why was he looking for her? I’m not trying to be snarky here. But I —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I mean — and I’m —
Q I don’t understand the connection between what you’re saying and what he said there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And, again, I think people can understand, I think the American people out there who, you know, watch the briefing from time to time, maybe at this moment, will understand when someone is at top of mind. And — and this was such an important — such an important event, when we’re talking about hunger, when we’re talking about food insecurity, when we’re talking about these champions, these congressional champions who were in the room, who have worked in a bipartisan way.
You know, we don’t talk much about bipartisan actions that we see in Congress at this time. And as he was naming folks, he — she was on top of mind, and he understands and knew that she was — he was going to see her family on Friday for this bill signing.
Again, I don’t think it’s all that unusual to have someone top of mind, especially as there’s a big event — two big events — today and also Friday — that is going to occur. And so he’s going to see her family. They’re going to honor her. They’re going to celebrate her. And he will do a bill signing for this really critical — let’s not forget — this critical, important issue for millions and millions of Americans across the country.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. Back on the Nord Stream pipeline, whoever attacked the pipeline — and it may take a while to figure out who it was — would the U.S. consider that to qualify as an attack on a NATO Ally worthy of retaliation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don’t want to get ahead of the investigation. We have to see — we have to see who is behind this at this time. I understand the question, because it is a pipeline and it is going to affect our — certainly, our NATO Allies.
But we want to see where the investigation goes. And, again, an attack on critical infrastructure of our European allies and NATO — our European partners and NATO Allies is a — is a matter of concern for us.
But we will — we will be there and we will be ready to — be ready to react once we have — the investigation is completed.
Q Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia has the right to defend itself with nuclear weapons and that NATO would be too scared of a nuclear apocalypse to retaliate. Is he right about that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me say this again, and I’ve said this many times from this podium, so have my colleagues: There is one person responsible for this war, this war that was started by the Kremlin, this war that was started by Putin. And he is that person.
He is responsible for this war. And he decided that he wanted to attack — brutally attack Ukraine on this unprovoked war. And this is — this is on him. This is on Putin. Putin is the one that could stop this war any time.
And look what we’re seeing from the people of Russia. They are protesting. They’re signing petitions. Many of them do not want to fight this war or die for this war. You know why? Because it is incredibly unpopular.
This war is not a popular war for President Putin. And what we’re seeing in Ukraine is we’re seeing the Ukrainian people bravely — bravely defend their fre- — their freedom, bravely defend their sovereignty.
And, you know, when we hear comments like that, we put it back on Putin. Again, this is Putin’s war. He can end this.
Q But is Medvedev right that NATO would be too afraid of a nuclear apocalypse to retaliate if Russia were to use nuclear weapons?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I will say this: We take Russia’s threat to use nuclear weapons seriously. And we have been saying that the last couple of days in this briefing room. You’ve heard that from the National Security Advisor as well. You’ve heard that from the President last week when he was at the U.N. But we have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture. And to be clear, we will not be deterred from supporting Ukraine.
You know, we have been clear the United States will support Ukraine as they defend their country and their democracy against Russian aggression for as long as it takes, as have our allies and partners, including the G7. And that’s what I can speak to. I can speak to — to your question, I can speak to what our allies are willing to do, and that’s continue to defend and to he- — well, to help Ukraine defend for their sovereignty.
Q And then, just very quickly, you said yesterday that the U.S. was ready to assist in the investigation if needed. As far as you know, is the U.S. providing any assistance in the investigation right now? And what kinds of assistance would be most helpful from the U.S.?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don’t have any specifics to lay out for you at this time. But again, as you know, as I’ve mentioned a few times just now, is that the investigation is underway. And this is something that is of concern to us.
Q Karine, thank you. Just to follow up on Nancy quickly: Is it on the table for the U.S. to have a or engage in a nuclear response as retaliation if Russia were to launch a nuclear attack?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we — the President has said — said this, and so has — so has Jake Sullivan. We have characterized the consequences a number of ways, as you’ve heard from him — Jake Sullivan and others — and many others on our team, which is including catastrophic, severe, and decisive. We stand by all of them.
The key point that — when we say “consequences,” we — will be real, and they will be extraordinary. And we —
Q So it’s not off the table?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We have said — but we have said that we have made that very clear. Jake Sullivan said this I believe on your Sun- — on your — on your network — your Sunday show, where he’s comm- — he has communicated privately to the Russians, and they understand what the consequences will be. We are not going to lay them out here in public.
Q I want to give you the opportunity to respond to something that was tweeted out today by the Russian government that said: “Joe Biden threatened to end #NordStream. @POTUS must give a definitive answer whether the United States acted on its threat on September 25[th] and 26[th].”
Now, an administration official has called that “absurd,” but I just wanted to give you a chance to respond from the podium.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President said that NS2 wouldn’t become operational and we would work with Germany on that. And he was right, because Germany took the step in February to freeze it, which was widely reported by all of you. And so that is what the President was talking about at that time.
Q And — but just broadly, to the allegation that they’re making online that somehow the U.S. is responsible.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No.
Q Okay. And, Karine, our CNBC team is reporting that the President is going to be briefed by his senior economic team later today on the economy, particularly amid concerns about what’s happening in Europe and the UK specifically. One administration official saying, “The view continues to be that the United States is in a stronger position than any other country to navigate these global challenges, period.”
But my question for you: Has — have concerns about a potential recession increased, in the President’s mind —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So —
Q — given what we’re seeing globally?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Here’s what I will say — and the President talked about this a little bit on Monday during his — during his event.
So, he wants the American people to know: Because of American’s resilience and the economic strategy that we have pursued for the past 19 months, the United States of America is a stronger position than any other country to navigate these global challenges. And that’s just period. That’s the way we see it. That’s the way his economic team sees it.
And that’s because jobs are up, incomes are up, people are back at work. And American manufacturing is roaring back up to — close to 700 thousand — thousand new jobs just this past 19 months.
And let’s not forget the legislation wins that you have seen from this — from this — from the Democrats in Congress, when you think about the Inflation Reduction Act that is going to help us lower ta- — lower prices for the American people.
So, of course, we are always watching closely, and we will continue to watch closely.
As you stated, the President will meet with his senior members of his economic team and will — he met with them on Friday. He’ll — he will meet with them again today to get an update on the global economic developments, as he regularly does.
But we feel like we are in a very strong position to weather these global challenges.
Q Will the Treasury Secretary be there as well (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, in attendance — I can share that with you — it’s going to be the President’s eco- — senior economic team, including Secretaries of Treasury, Commerce, and Energy, the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Go ahead, Michael.
Q Thanks, Karine. Obviously, the President spoke with the three Tampa Bay — Tampa-area mayors yesterday, but the storm took a turn to the south last minute. So has the President spoken with any of the mayor’s being directly impacted by landfall?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have any calls to preview at this time. Once we do, we will preview those calls.
As you know — and we say this all the time — is our team is in regular touch with local officials on the ground, especially at this time. As we’ve heard from FEMA and heard — and the administrator and her team, they are on the ground trying to help in every way possible.
And we have put the full force of the federal government when it comes to making sure the people of Florida have the resources they need. I just listed out at the top of my — top of the briefing on all of the kind of resources, manpower or womenpower that’s on the ground — water, food.
And we will continue to move in that direction, making sure that the folks of Florida get what they need.
If we have any calls to read out, we will surely share that with all of you.
Q And speaking of federal resources, the governor is asking the Defense Department to provide additional airlift capacity in anticipation of a massive high-water recovery effort. Do you — are you aware of that request? And do you expect it to be granted?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’ve heard — I’ve heard — I’ve heard some reporting on that request. I would have to check with our team to see where we are with that particular request from the governor.
But, again, the President has been very clear he is going to do everything that he can, his administration, his — the federal agencies who are closely involved and aligned with — with the — with the Florida government to make sure that we deliver what they need.
This is a critical time. We are praying for the people of Florida, but of — but, of course, we have — they have the full support of the federal government at this time as well.
Go ahead, Steven.
Q I’m sorry to have to do this, but I’m compelled to ask you to go one more time back to the question about Congresswoman Walorski.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not sure why. Why? Why one more time?
Q Well, because I think — frankly, honestly, I think the memory of the congresswoman in history requires some clarity here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hmmm —
Q Can you explain where the mistake was made? Did the Pres- — was the President confused? Was something written in the teleprompter that he didn’t recognize? Can you just help us understand what happened?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, you’re jumping to a lot of conclusions.
Q No, I’m simply seeing — seeking to find —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, but you’re — but I —
Q — out what happened here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I hear you, Steven. I’m — I’m answering the question, that you’re jumping to a lot of conclusions.
I just answered the question. If I had said — if that had been the case, I would have stated that. Right? I clearly have stated what you just laid out.
What I had said is that she was on top of mind and that he is going to see her family in just two days’ time, on Friday, to honor her, to honor her work, to honor — to honor her legacy, if you will. I just mentioned this. It’s going to be a renaming of a VA clinic in Indiana in her name. And, you know, that is — that is what he was thinking of.
He was thinking about her as he was — as he was naming out and calling out the congressional champions on this issue — on this really critical issue that’s going to help millions of Americans. And that is — that is — that is what the President was focused on.
Q Would you be prepared to release the prepared remarks that the President had in the teleprompter just so we could understand?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not understanding why — why that would be — would be necessary. We always share the remarks that the President had — even, you know, delivered. That’s probably going to be up on the website. Not really sure what that has to do with anything.
I just answered the question about her being on top of mind. I don’t think that’s any — that’s unusual. I feel like many of us have gone through that particular, you know, time where someone is on top of mind and you call them out and you mention them. Especially in this — this type of context, if you think about how he’s going to the see the family in two days; if you think about how, when he sees them in two days, it’s going to be for such an important moment, assigning — signing a piece of legislation that’s going to rename a VA clinic in her state — that’s important — if you think about this issue and how important this issue is.
And he was, again, calling out congressional champions for this particular issue.
Q All right. Let me ask you about something else.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, sure.
Q The President’s schedule tonight —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — has him attending a political fundraiser while the storm is hitting the state of Florida. Is it still his intent to go to the fundraiser, or will he stay here at the White House and monitor developments?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we don’t have anything to — any changes in his schedule. He has been really steadfast and very clear and has spoken multiple times on what is happening in Florida and what we are seeing with Hurricane Ian and other hurricanes right before those — Hurricane Fiona as well, as you all know.
And so his administration is on top of this. He, again, signed the declaration for Florida, even before landfall — right? — the moment that the governor asked for assistance from us. Within hours, the President signed that declaration.
You can see how focused he is on it. You can see how important of an issue this is. And sadly, this is not the first extreme weather scenario that we have had to deal with under this administration for the last 19 months.
And you have seen — and I think you would agree, Steve — and you have seen this administration respond with efficiency, respond with the full force of resources, and — and certainly take this incredibly seriously.
Q The schedule has coverage — press coverage of the fundraiser tonight as restricted. Is the White House willing to lift that restriction and see to it that cameras are allowed in to videotape the President’s remarks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, that’s a political event, so that’s something for the DNC to speak to directly.
Q Karine, North Korea launched two short-term ballistic missiles off its east coast. Does the administration see this as timed to Vice President Harris’s visit to the DMZ? And are there any additional security precautions being made in light of that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll — I’ll say this. So, as you know, North Korea has a history of doing these types of tests, so it’s not un- — you know, it’s not unusual. It is something that they do, historically. North Korea can speak for itself on why. That’s not something that I’m going to speak to from here.
What I can speak to is our rock-solid commitment to the security of our Japan and South Korea allies. And the Vice President’s trip is a demonstration of that commitment.
Q And just on the permitting bill, you put out a statement yesterday after Senator Manchin withdrew the proposal. What is the administration’s view of this legislation going forward? And is there any preferred vehicle for this — for this bill? Senator Capito suggested the NDAA might be a possibility (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. So, first, I want to say that the President wants the government to remain open and is glad that — to Congress for making progress on the continuing budget resolution, so I want to state that very clearly.
But at the same time, the President believes we must pass the permitting reform bill so that the United States can realize the benefits of the historic investment in the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law as well.
He supports the permitting reform, as you know, as you — you stated, from my — from my statement yesterday. The administration will continue to work with Congress and find the best path forward so we can enact this bill. Clearly, the Congress leads the way on the mechanisms on how bills will move forward. And so, we’ll leave that up to leadership. But again, we will work closely with them.
Q Thank you, Karine. Yesterday, President Biden mentioned Rick Scott and Ron Johnson, as well as Kevin McCarthy, warning about those three specifically and what the country would it look like if they were in control. I wondered if you could talk about whether this will continue to be a theme for the President.
And also he doesn’t often mention Mitch McConnell in that context with those. And so, does he view McConnell differently from some of these —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No. I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t go that far. What I would say is that those are the three that have been very vocal about the GOP agenda. Those are the three that have been very vocal about — about putting Medicare and Social Security on the chopping blocks.
You know, we — when you think about — when they say “protect the lives of unborn children,” they mean a national ban on abortion that puts doctors and nurses in jail for performing miscarriage management — management or saving the health of the mother.
When they say — and I just mentioned this — when they say “save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare,” they want to slash private Social Security and put Medicare on the chopping blocks every five years.
And so, this is what we have seen from the — from these three in particular. I mean, McCarthy was someone that we talked about because he had the GOP agenda — the GOP agenda, which does not have a commitment to the American people, which does not have a commitment in making sure that Americans get lower medical costs, or seniors get lower medical costs, or fight inflation.
Matter of fact, the first thing that he wanted to do was get rid of the Inflation Reduction Act, which would actually hurt Americans.
And so that is why we’re calling them out. They’ve been very vocal and very out front about their GOP agenda, which is not about the American people, which is about their own, you know, fight for Big Pharma, their own fight for wealthy special interest. And we are doing the complete opposite. We are fighting for the American people.
Q The President this week has talked about the importance of competition, tweeting, “Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation.”
There’s some legislation on the Hill dealing with antitrust and big tech, including one cosponsored by Amy Klobuchar, that is waiting for a vote to be scheduled. Does the President have any opinion on that? Is he pushing for a vote? Does he want Chuck Schumer to call for a vote on that before the election?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share on that particular piece of legislation. I know that this is something that the senator has been fighting for for some time and working on for some time.
But the President has been very clear about his — his concern about the power larger — large social media platforms have over everyday lives. And as long as — as — has long argued that tech platforms must be held accountable for the harms that they cause.
And so, the President will continue to call that out. I don’t have anything specific on that particular legislation.
Q Lastly, I just wanted to return to this question of the congresswoman. And I think we all totally get why she’s top of mind. You’ve made that case pretty effectively.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, thank you.
Q But I think the confusing part is why, if she and the family is top of mind, does the President think that she’s living and in the room?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t find that confusing. I mean, I think many people can speak to sometimes when you have someone top of mind, they are top of mind. Exactly that. And it is also — if you put it into the context, it’s not like it happened without — outside of context, right?
It happened at an event where we were cha- — we were calling out the champions — congressional champions, in particular, of this issue — this important issue, when it comes to food insecurity, something that this administration has led on — led on from the beginning of this administration, not just across the country but also globally.
You heard him talk about food insecurity last week at the U.N. and the investments that we have put forward as — as the — as the United States of America and helping — and helping deal with that.
Look, he was at an event — you all saw, you all watched, which is why you’re asking the question — right? — where he was calling out, again, congressional leaders — a bipartisan leadership that we have seen on this particular issue.
And, again, he’s going to see her family in just two days, and she was on top of mind. I mean, I don’t — that is — I mean, that is — that is not an unusual — unusual scenario there.
Q Karine, I have John Lennon top of mind just about every day, but I’m not looking around for him anywhere.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: When you sign a bill for John Lennon — Lennon as president then we can have this conversation.
Q Why doesn’t he just apologize?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — go ahead. Go ahead.
(Cross-talk by reporters.)
Q Thanks, Karine. There are —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q These moments of confusion are happening with increasing frequency.
Q Why not just apologize?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Excuse me. There are reports that —
Q Americans are watching this and are having concerns. What do you say to that?
Q There are reports that Treasury Secretary Yellen —
Q What do you say to that?
Q — is looking to leave the administration —
Q This is a legitimate question. We need to have some answers.
Q — at the end of year. What can you tell us about that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m sorry, somebody was yelling over you, so —
Q No, we were asking about the mental acuity —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q — of the President.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q I said there are reports that —
Q This is a valid question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q — Treasury Secretary Yellen is looking to leave Secretary Yellen is looking to leave the administration —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It is not your turn to speak, and you’re being rude to your colleagues, and let your colleague answer the question.
Q You might be being rude to us by —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q There are reports that —
Q — not answering the question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No. I — you’re yelling and — over your colleague. So that is incredibly rude.
Q Can we have an answer to the substantive question here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q We’re just trying to get an answer, Karine. “Top of mind” is not an answer.
Q There are reports that Treasury Secretary Yellen is looking to leave the administration at the end of the year. What can you tell us about those reports? And then also, are you preparing for the departure of any other administration officials by the end of the year?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as has been previously reported, Chair Rouse will return to Princeton University at the end of her two-year public service leave, likely early spring of 2023. And while we are prudently planning for potential transitions, post-midterm elections, neither Secretary Yellen or Brian Deese are part of those plans.
Q Thanks, Karine. I just wanted to see if you have anything more in terms of a response to the North Korean missile launches. Was the President briefed specifically on this today? And does this change the Vice President’s plans to visit the DMZ tomorrow?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So just some — some topline things here. I’ll point you to the Department of Defense statement, which assessed this test didn’t pose an immediate threat to the U.S. personnel or territory of our allies.
And also, the United States condemns, as — as we have said many times, when we have seen this — this behavior, the DPRK’s ballistic missile launches. These launches are in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions and poses a threat to the DPRK’s neighbors and the international community.
The United States is committed to the defense of our allies — South Korea, Japan. And we continue to call on North Korea to engage in diplomacy.
As it relates to — to the Vice President’s trip: So, as — as you all know, on Thursday, which is tomorrow, as part of her trip to the Republic of Korea — ROK — the Vice President will visit the DMZ.
Nearly 70 years since the Korean Armtis [Armistice], the visit will underscore the strength of the U.S.-ROK alliance and United States commitment to stand beside the ROK in the face of any threats posed by the Democr- — Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The Vice President will tour sites at the DMZ, meet the servicemembers, and receive a operational briefing from U.S. commanders.
The Vice President will reflect on the shared sacrifice of tens of thousands of American and Korean soldiers who fought and died together, and will reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the ROK’s defense is ironclad.
As you just could tell, that — that — that travel, that trip is going to continue.
Q Thanks, Karine. Can you address Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar’s comments on Fox about the administration needing to do more on the border? He’s, you know, obviously been critical of the administration in the past, but is the White House ignoring the congressman, as he appears to be contending?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’ve not seen those comments. What I can say and what we have said many times from here: Every individual encountered at the border is either expelled under Title 42 or placed in removal proceedings. That remains to — to be true.
We are working to expedite the asylum process timing and have brought it down from years to months for many recent encounters.
Of course, we could expedite the process- — processing time even further — and you’ve heard me say this many times — if congressional Republicans would quit blocking our actions and start supporting the comprehensive immigration reform proposal that the President proposed on day one. And, you know, we have — we inherited a decimated — a gutted immigration system. And the President took this so seriously that, on day one, again, he put forth a comprehensive plan.
So, we will — we would — we would look forward to having congressional Republicans join us in dealing this with issue.
Q On the hurricane, the President had some strong words for oil and gas executives. I wanted to ask: Is he, is the White House following individually with those executives to speak directly about these kinds of concerns? Any plans of bringing them in, for example?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have any actions here to preview for you at this time. But, you know, as — as I’ve noted, wholesale gas prices have declined about three times as much as retail gas prices over the last month. And in addition, oil and gas companies are making record profits and need to pass these savings on the consumers at the gas pump now.
So the President is making that very clear. We are making that very clear. And we’ll leave it as that. If there’s more to preview, we certainly will share that.
Q Yeah, thanks very much. Just back to Florida for a second. Can you talk a little bit about how long the conversation was between the President and the governor? And also, did they touch on any other topics, like the governor sending the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the call was just focused on the hurricane that — the hurricane response. There was no other topic that was discussed on the call.
I don’t have a timeline of how — or a timing of how long the call was. I think the important thing is that the call happened, that the President was able to connect with the governor.
They both agreed that — that they would stay in — they would — that the President would be there to have the full force of the federal government behind — behind — behind Florida, for the people of Florida. And he — they are — they were committed to continued close coordination between the federal — federal and state government, and so — as we respond to the emergency.
That was the commitment that the ma- — they made. That was a conversation that was had.
Again, the FEMA Administrator has spoken to the governor. She spoke to the governor many days ago. She said here — and I’ll just reiterate, as I just said moments ago — her team has been on the ground with the governor and his team. And we will continue to work in close coordination.
Q Thank you so much. On the global economy, the strong dollar has an impact beyond the borders of the United States — obviously, on many countries. So is this something the administration is discussing with allies and partners? And how coordinated is the economic response? Because we get warnings about, you know, global recession almost every day.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So the U.S. government, including the Department of Treasury, are always in touch with our allies and partners, including the UK, on the global economy.
I don’t have anything further to share on that piece. But again, this is — as I mentioned, when it comes to the global economy, this is something that we are clearly watching very closely. And — but we feel, as I stated a second ago, that we are in a strong position. The U.S. economy is in a strong position to deal with the global challenges ahead.
Go ahead, you in the back.
Q Thank you. I wanted to ask about something you said yesterday. But really quickly, Ambassador Rahm Emanuel has been in touch with the family of Navy Lieutenant Ridge Alkonis. And a number of U.S. senators have sent a letter to the Japanese government asking him to revisit his case. I know the President has a lot on his plate, but is this something that he’s been briefed about?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That one I would have to just check with his team. Since they’re — like, to your point, there’s just so much going on. So let me just check with the — his team on that particular question.
Q My second question is: During his second press conference, the President said of the midterm elections, “I’m not going to say it’s going to be legit.” His subsequent preferred voter reforms, those did not pass Congress. And then yesterday, you said, “We are confident in the integrity of our elections here.”
My question is: What gives Biden the confidence, six weeks out from those elections, that he didn’t seem to have at the beginning of the year?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, can — can you do me a favor? Can I just go back and see his answer there? Because I want to see what context he was answering that question and how it was asked. So in order to give you a fulsome answer, I actually need to do that, just to be fair to you and to be fair, certainly, to the President, as I represent him up here. So let me — let me do that, and then I can get back to you on that particular question.
Q Okay then, just to try one more time: Does the President believe that in his reference to the late Representative Jackie Walorski — who, you have said from the podium numerous times, he respects the work that she has done, he’ll be meeting with her family to honor her work — does he believe he handled that reference appropriately? Or is this something that he would like to get back?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Get what? Like, to get back what?
Q When he said, “Where is Jackie?”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I know this is a question that many of you have had. I’ve answered it multiple times already in this room. And my answer is certainly not going to change.
All of you may have views on — on how I’m answering it, but I am answering the question to the way that he saw it and the way that we see it.
We have to remember as well, is that, you know, this was an important event today. This was an event about food security. This was a be- — event about how we’re going to take the steps to get to eradicate hunger by 2030. And that is something that the President takes very personally. That is something that the — we wouldn’t be doing this event that has not happened since President Nixon — right? — that was 50 years ago that an event like this occurred at the White House.
So, clearly, this is something that is important. Clearly, this is something that he really honors, both Republican and Democratic congressional champions, when it comes to this issue.
Again, she was at the top of mind. He is going to be seeing her family in two days to honor her, to honor the work that she has done. And — and, you know, this was a remarkable legacy that she had, and we should be honoring that.
I’m going to go to the back. Go ahead. Go ahead, all the way in the back.
Q Thank you so much. Food insecurity: Governor Gavin Newsom has been successful in keeping universal school lunch — the program in California; they’re seeing lots of great results with that — and I know that’s an aspect of what they’re talking about today and that the administration — the Biden administration does support universal school nutrition. However, the program was scrapped, and I’m wondering if there’s any way to circumvent Congress in keeping free school lunch.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So the American Rescue Plan — is what you’re talking about — provided — provided states to have those types of — those types of programs in schools.
And again, this was a — this — when you think about the American Rescue Plan and all that it afforded — how it turned the economy back on, how it allowed states to really give a little bit of breathing room to their own constituencies, whether it is at schools, whether it is helping small businesses get back on their feet, and let’s not forget opening schools as well — this is something that Democrats in Congress, including the President, had — had — had a zero focus on — like, zeroed in on that focus on. And it was — it was — it was a bold action that the President believed needed to be taken.
And let’s not forget it also helped to really deal with the child poverty in communities that have — that have really been hurt by this.
And so, look, don’t have anything new to share on — on that piece of — that question that you just asked me. But we have — I think it’s also important to highlight how important the American Rescue Plan — how much it changed lives.
Q But it — will it — is there any potential that universal school lunch will come back —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What — what —
Q — within this next couple of years?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, don’t have anything to preview. But I will also want to list out how important that American Rescue Plan was. And it gave states the funding to do just that — to do what you were laying out — and how critical that was at the time during a pand- — beginning of a pandemic or in — you know, at the — even in the middle of a pandemic because it lasted for some time — to deal with that issue.
Don’t have anything else to preview. I don’t have anything else to share about what Congress is doing on that particular issue.
But, again, that is why this food insecurity issue that we dealt with today, this conference that we haven’t seen in 50 years, and what the work of the agencies have been doing just for the past several months to deal with food insecurity — the fact that we are trying to end hunger by 2030 — and not just us, in a bipartisan way with Congress, with this President. And so that is our work ahead to see if we can get to that goal.
And we put out a factsh- — a factsheet. We listed out the way that we’re going to get there.
Q But real quick —
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I’m — oh, all right. Thanks, everybody. I’ll see you on Friday. Thanks, everybody.
2:45 P.M. EDT