James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:04 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, everyone. Happy Friday.
Q Happy Friday. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s been a long week. It’s been a long week. Okay, I got a couple toppers for all.
So, President Biden’s economic plan is working. And thanks to his Rescue Plan and our successful vaccine program, America continues to add jobs at a record place — pace: 620,000 a month on average and over 5.6 million jobs created since he took office. Americans are getting back to work.
Because of the success of that effort, our economy has the resilience we need to weather the challenges posed by this virus, more Americans are going back to work, and more Americans feel safe going back to work.
That’s why we added 531,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent — the lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic, and a place that the CBO projected, before the Rescue Plan was passed, that we wouldn’t reach until the fourth quarter of 2023.
Unemployment has decreased this year more than any other year in U.S. history. And the number of Americans filing for unemployment each week has declined from nearly 900,000 when President Biden took office to under 270,000 this week.
Because of the decisive action the President took with the Rescue Plan and his efforts to fight the pandemic, our economy has rebounded at a rate unsurpassed in modern history, far outstripping those of our peer countries. And because of that, businesses were able to stay open, schools were able to reopen, and Americans are able to get back to work.
It’s been a busy week making strong progress in our fight against COVID-19, so I also wanted to give an overview of this work — the work that we’ve been doing around the pandemic, in fighting the pandemic.
On Monday, we hit 80 percent of adults with at least one shot and 70 percent of adults fully vaccinated. And we’re still vaccinating hundreds of thousands of Americans every day.
Last Tuesday, CDC’s decision made 28 million kids age 5 through 11 eligible for vaccination. This was a huge sigh of relief for parents and means 95 percent of Americans are now eligible for vaccination.
Since then, you’ve seen kids rolling up their sleeves at pediatrician offices, pharmacies, and children’s hospitals. Many more will this weekend and next weekend — just like my little one. She’s going to be getting her shot on Wednesday. And I thank the team — the awesome team for putting a plan in place to making that happen.
So, thanks to our preparation, we’re already getting children protected from this virus.
And yesterday, we rolled out vaccination requirements that will cover about 100 million American workers — two thirds of workers in the U.S. These requirements have already helped reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans 12 and older by about 40 percent.
A few other key points on yesterday’s announcements:
They are going to save American lives and help our economic recovery. To quote just one outside economist, Yale Professor Larry Samuelson, “Economic recovery requires solving the public health problem. Vaccines are our most powerful tool in bringing the virus under control.”
They boost vaccination rates, on average, by 20 points, often to over 90 percent. More vaccinations means saving American lives and it means avoiding COVID-related absences in the workplace.
And we continue to see companies implement these requirements effectively and with little of the concerns that reporting cites.
Today, Pfizer, with the collaboration of the NIH, showed incredible, promising data for its antiviral pill that treats COVID. This is all subject to pending regulatory reviews, but our understanding is that this is an incredibly promising possible tool in our first against — in our fight against the virus, with vaccinations being the most important tool.
So, let me be clear: The work is not over. We have tens of millions of Americans left to vaccinate, and we remain more than vigilant in this fight against the virus. But what is clear right now is that the President’s plan to accelerate the path out of the pandemic is working. We are saving American lives and helping our economy continue to recover.
And, finally, we have a very short preview of the week ahead for next week.
On Monday, the President will welcome the Milwaukee Bucks to the White House to celebrate the team winning the 2021 NBA championship.
On Thursday, the President will honor America’s military members and veterans at Arlington National Cemetery. He will participate in a Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and deliver remarks the — at the National Veterans — the National Veterans Day Observance at the Memorial Amphitheater.
And, with that, I will give it to you.
Q Thanks. Can you give us an update on who the President has reached out to today in his push to get Build Back Better and BIF to the finish line? He said, when we saw him this morning, that’s what he was going to do in the Oval Office. Any update you can give us?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, like you said, he was pretty clear this morning at the end of his comments on the economy, on the jobs numbers, that he was going to go — go back into the Oval Office and going to continue to — continue to, you know, close this out.
So, the President, as he stated, is in close touch with House members, advocating for yes votes for the Build Back Better Act and the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Like he said this morning, it’s all about giving the middle class breathing room. And if — and we, you know — we continue to say, “If you’re concerned about costs, that’s one of the best arguments for passing the Build Back Better Act, which will take some of the biggest financial trends that have worked against middle-class families, like high cost of prescription drugs, and be a down payment against inflation by getting more Americans into the workforce.”
So, he’s going to continue to work the phones. He’s going to continue to stay in close touch and stay in lockstep with Speaker Pelosi on — on getting this done.
Everybody — there’s a sense of urgency, as you’ve heard us say, from everyone, from all the members on the Hill, to get this done for the American people. And inaction is not the answer, so we’re going to try and get this done.
Q Is there anyone specifically who he’s talked to today that you can —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any calls to preview or to read out at this time, but as — as you can imagine, as he said himself, he’s getting to work and keeping in close touch with the folks on the Hill.
Q House leadership indicated today that it’ll take some time to get the CBO score ready. With that in mind, why is the President urging lawmakers, as he said this morning, to vote yes on both of these bills right now? Why not give these folks some time to — to see what the CBO says and do their jobs?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, the Build Back Better framework that the President put forth and also the bipartisan infrastructure bill is paid for.
This is something that the President was very clear that he wanted to make sure happened — that as we move forward with these historical investments and as yesterday score from the Joint Committee on Taxation indicated and as shown by the numbers calculated by economists across the administration, which aligns with the JCT’s and the — what I’m talking about is the Treasury blog that came out yesterday that laid out — you all — you saw that reaffirmed by Moody’s analysts.
This bill is fully paid for by asking the wealthy to contribute their fair share and that is exact- — exactly how we’re going to move forward with that and also reduce the deficit.
So, the big thing that we continue to say is: The time is now to take action. As we saw from — from Tuesday, the American public wants us to move. They want us to move forward and actually deliver, and so that’s what we’re trying to do as an administration: deliver for the American public and make sure that this transformative bill really truly moves forward so it can make a difference in people’s lives.
Q Thanks. The — Speaker Pelosi just put out a “Dear Colleague,” saying it is important that they advance both bills today. And you were just referring to the President’s comments, where he’s called for them to vote right now.
Is it the President’s expectation that these — there will be votes today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, so I can’t speak for the mechanism — like I don’t have the schedule — you know, the floor schedule, as you can imagine. But the President has been very clear that he wants these passed; he wants these bills moved forward. You know, if it’s today, that’s wonderful. That’s great. Because, by moving them forward, we are making sure that we’re taking action for the American public.
So, we’re going to, again, work in lockstep with Leader — with Leader — Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer to get these done. But, you know, we have confidence in her and in her leadership, and so we — I leave it to them on when this is going to get done.
Q Again, I just want to follow what you’re saying about the cost, because the — Moody’s Analytics says that, you know, as — as the bill is right now, in static terms, it would add modestly to the deficit over 10 years. So, the numbers are different if you account for potential economic growth, like you were referring to, but that’s hard to guarantee.
So, can you give assurances right here that this will be 100 percent paid for when everything is said and done? Because right now, moderates don’t feel like they have those assurances.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, we can give assurance that it will be 100 percent paid for. That’s what we have seen for Moody’s, as I mentioned. That’s what we put out — you know, numbers ourselves, the scores ourselves — to show that it’ll be more than paid for, but — to pay for — for the bill.
And so, we are confident. We are keeping that promise: making sure that people who make less than $400,000 do not see any taxes — tax — taxes on them and also just making sure that it doesn’t add to the deficit.
That is the — that is the red line, if you will, that the President had when it came to this — to his economic policies.
Q If I could just ask you one more follow-up really fast. When you — to that point of what the arguments that the moderates are making, you know, they were — they’ve made arguments similar to what — how you started.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q You started by saying that there’s these positive economic numbers, these positive job numbers —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — and that that might be indication that such a big spending package just isn’t necessary right now. So, what’s your — what’s your answer to that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So —
Q — that this is — actually plays to what they’re saying?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, two — two parts. What I was saying is that the numbers that — the jobs numbers that we saw today is an improvement. We’re seeing that the economy is moving forward, and the reason why is because of the American Rescue Plan. The reason why is because we’re getting shots into the — in people’s arms. The reason why is that people are feeling more comfortable. They’re going back to work because they’re getting vaccinated. And that American Rescue Plan — that historic bill that the President passed and only Democrats voted for — actually put money in people’s pockets, actually gave a middle-class tax cut to families. That was incredibly important.
So, what we’re trying to do is continue that investment with his economic policy — the Build Back Better Act and the infrastructure bill, which are also transformative, as I just said, and historical.
So, what we know and what we have — what we understand is — and one of the best arguments that — to make for the Build Back Better Act is that 17 Nobel Prize winners in economics, as you’ve heard us say and the President say, agree that it will reduce inflationary pressures, which is so important and so critical right now. The Wall Street analy- — analytics firm, Moody’s, said the same thing again yesterday.
So, Build Back Better is fully paid for and will even reduce the deficit over the long term, as numbers from Moody’s, JCT, which is the — which is what came out yesterday and what our administration put forward in that Treasury blog that I mentioned yesterday.
So that’s what we have, and that’s what we understand.
Q Thank you so much. Democratic Representative Joyce Beatty said today that the House could vote today on Biden’s trillion-dollar infrastructure package but could postpone action on the Build Back Better plan over its cost. And I wondered if you could say if that is acceptable to the President or if he sees it as a betrayal of progressive demands.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here — here’s what I — I’ll say to that: It’s like I — you know, I’m not going to negotiate or, you know, give — you know, speak to hypotheticals from here.
Our main thing is that we want to see the — both bills done. We are working in lockstep with Speaker Pelosi. And as you know, the President and his team has been talking to members and their staff for the past several weeks; we’re continuing to do that today. And we’re going to get this done. Inaction is not the answer, and we got to move forward and deliver for the American public.
Q On a separate topic: Biden, today, mentioned that his administration had secured millions of doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 pill. Could you give us any detail on how many millions, when the delivery is expected, and how much it’ll cost?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t — so, as far as the contract — because that would be a contract component — so, like you said, we’re securing millions of doses should the — should this receive — right? — the regulatory approval, as the President said.