Aboard Air Force One
En Route Rosemount, Minnesota
1:00 P.M. CST
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Welcome to our trip to Rosemount, Minnesota. The President, as you all know, will visit Dakota County Technical College, which serves almost 3,000 credit students and 10,000 noncredit students. The majority of jobs supported by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will not need a four-year college degree. Community and technical colleges will provide the training and skill development needed to help workers access those jobs.
Dakota County Tech offers more th- — more — thank you — more than programs in civil engineering, construction management, electrical construction and maintenance, electrical line worker and welding technology — all of which will be needed to implement the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
For example, electrical line workers will be needed to lay transmission lines across the country and upgrade our electrical grid to accommodate renewable power sources and be resilient to climate change and cyber threats.
And Dakota County Tech hosts a number of transportation-related programs. Through a partnership with General Motors, it trains highly-skilled service technicians for GM dealers and service centers.
The college also hosts the Minnesota State Commercial Driving Skill Center to recruit and train commercial truck drivers to meet current and anticipated industry demands for commercial driver’s license certifications. It has a 2.8-mile Decision Driving Range for training CDL drivers, which is the only facility of its kind in the region, serving over 250 agencies, including law enforcement, fire, municipal road, and paramedic departments.
We have no plans for the President to drive a car today. You never know.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, paired with the historic $24 billion investment in workforce development in the President’s Build Back Better Agenda, will prepare millions of workers for high-quality jobs and put community colleges at the center of America’s efforts to prepare the workforce of the future.
The bi- — the law will also deliver for Minnesotans by reconstructing the Interstate 35W and funding the Link project for rapid transit in downtown Rochester — something of great importance to the people of Minnesota.
With that, where do you want to kick us off?
Q Jen, thanks so much. Two things real fast. One, with what we’ve seen with the Omicron outbreak, does that suggest the U.S. needs to do even more — in terms of global vaccine distribution — in coordination with other countries, particularly given some questions with Chinese vaccine distribution?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, we welcome any country around the world doing more to contribute to our effort to fight the global pandemic as long as they’re doing that with no strings attached, which is how the United States approaches our contributions and donations around the world.
I would just note that beyond the more than 275 million doses sent to the world — more than every country combined — we also have been quite focused on ensuring that we are leading the world in helping train health workers to administer vaccines, running local media campaigns to increase vaccine confidence, launching mobile vaccination clinics. Specifically, USAID has deployed nearly $1.6 billion to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to fight the pandemic, including more than $61 million to South Africa alone.
So, I would say we continue to be — the United States is far and away the largest provider of not just vaccines and doses but also support in a range of capacities, including healthcare workers’ training, the ability to get shots in arms of any country in the world. And we welcome and we encourage and we would ask other countries to step up and do more in this moment.
Q Secondly, Friday’s jobs report is likely to show that foreign-born workers are — have nearly recovered all the jobs lost during the pandemic. Given that fact, does the United States need to increase the number of worker visas to maintain economic growth next year?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to — our focus continues to be on ensuring that American citizens and legal permanent residents are connected with and find the jobs that they need in the market. And we certainly know and understand that right now it’s a workers’ market. Right?
And we are encouraged by that — the fact that companies need to compete for workers with higher wages, with greater benefits. And that’s something that is — you know, is Joe Biden’s economy working, in our view — the greater competition from the industries for workers.
So, beyond that, our focus — of course we want comprehensive immigration reform. Part of that is, of course, worker visas. But our focus right now is ensuring we are aligning American citizens, legal permanent residents with positions and jobs in the workforce.
Q Jen, on the WTO TRIPS waiver: The WTO has now postponed its Ministerial Conference because of the Omicron variant. Is there any push by the United States to go — to get this TRIPS waiver done, even though the ministerial isn’t going to happen? I mean — and what can the U.S. do to ensure that actually happens? Would it make a difference? Or are there other measures that are just as effective?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Well, first, of course it would make a difference, but it’s not a silver bullet. And I would say that Ambassador Tai, who’s in the lead on this effort, has never stopped working.
And as you know, Andrea, from covering this, the work continues in between ministerials. This is a consensus-based decision. So it’s, of course, not only on the United States to — organization, I should say — the WTO. And tech space negotiations do take time and require everyone being on board.
Those can continue. Obviously, we would anticipate the meeting would be rescheduled. But the work on the tech space negotiations, the building of consensus — something Ambassador Tai is in the lead on — is continuing, and we’re continuing to press for that.
I would say that our view is we support, of course, the TRIPS waiver, as you know, but we also believe that there are a number of ways that we need to approach — lead on getting the global pandemic under control. One of those is, of course, being the world’s largest provider of vaccine doses, prov- — the world’s largest provider of know-how, also pushing and encouraging pharmaceutical companies to provide know-how to countries as well.
So, there’s a range of steps that we are taking, we will continue to press on, even as Ambassador Tai is leading these efforts and continuing the work on the tech space negotiations.
Q I just want to follow up real quickly. Does the Omicron variant and the emergence of this new variant make this a more urgent task? And is there some sort of deadline that you have in mind to get the TRIPS waiver — to get this whole effort done?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we would like to see it done, but we also recognize that it’s a consensus-based organization. And we have been working to build that consensus. And we’ve said from the beginning it would take some time, as tech space negotiations do.
But I think it’s also important to note that, you know, even as we’re working right now, even as our doctors are working around the clock right now to answer some of the questions that are unknown about the efficacy of vaccines, about the transmissibility of the variants, that the most important thing we can do is get more people vaccinated, get more people boosted.
And we will continue to encourage other countries to step up and do more to provide vaccine doses and know-how to the global community as well.
Q Fed Chairman Powell today spoke —
Q On inflation —
Q Can I get in one?
Q On inflation, does the White House have a new thought on the transitory nation [sic] — nature of inflation, especially given Fed Chairman Jay Powell’s comments about how it’s time to retire the term “transitory”?
MS. PSAKI: Well, no matter how you want to label it or view it, our view is that — and the view of the Federal Reserve, private sector forecasters, and the markets — has been and remains that inflation will ease over time — whatever you want to call it — and that our supply chain issues and higher prices are rooted in the pandemic, which will subside as we get it under control — which is, of course, our number one priority, is getting the pandemic under control.
We certainly know how frustrating these price increases are, and we’ve been — on working families and the impact on them. And that’s why we’ve been moving our supply chain to 24/7, unclogging our ports, tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower gas prices, and other steps that we know will work.
We also know that a global pandemic is causing global supply chain challenges and resulting upticks in inflation. That’s why we’ve been laser focused on that since day one.
I would say, though, that the question right now isn’t what you call it; it’s what you’re going to do about it. And that’s why I think it’s important for the American people who are sitting at home, having understandable concerns about any price increases they see — whether it was a month ago, two months ago, or anything they’re seeing today — the President is using every weapon in his arsenal to fight inflation.
What are the Republicans putting forward? They’re screaming from a bullhorn. They’re tweeting about it. They have absolutely no plan. And what the American people should know and understand is the President has a plan, has had a plan from day one to fight the pandemic, to address price increases, to get the supply chain moving. We’d welcome them working with us on that.
Q And then, on SALT, Omarova for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency — there’s been some calls from the Senate for the White House to withdraw her nomination. Any reaction to that?
MS. PSAKI: We continue to strongly support her nomination, and the President feels she’s eminently qualified for the position. That’s why he chose her for the role — or nominated her.
Q So, no plans to pull that nomination whatsoever?
MS. PSAKI: No.
Q Still confident that she could get through?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
Q On Trump supporter — there are supporters of the former President who are calling on Republicans in Congress to block a CR if there is a federal vaccine mandate. Do you have any — does the White House have any response to that? And are there any concerns that that could slow down the government funding process in the short term?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re — we are working in close coordination with leaders in Congress, Democrats and Republicans, to ensure the government stays open.
Let’s just take a step back and think about the absurdity of that call. They’re calling for the government to shut down, prevent essential services from going out to people across the country, because they’re upset about our efforts to save people’s lives. I’ll just leave that there and see if any Republicans on the Hill agree with that.
Q Jen, can you say anything more about why the President’s remarks on supply chain were delayed, and what he’s going to prev- — can you preview anything he might say in them?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. So, it just happened to be a very busy day yesterday, I think, as you all know who were here, including the President’s remarks on the pandemic. He had the meeting with CEOs, a number of whom were in town. We didn’t want to shorten that meeting. And we felt it just would make more sense to — since he was traveling today, to just reschedule those remarks to provide an update on Wednesday.
Q Omicron is in Canada. Is there any thought to revisiting the decision about opening that border?
MS. PSAKI: The President’s decisions related to travel restrictions will be based on the recommendations of his health and medical team. They have not advised that to this point, but we will continue to assess what steps we need to take to keep the American people safe.
Q And tomorrow the Supreme Court is hearing the Dobbs v. Mississippi case. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, reversed, substantially changed, and abortion rights are severely curtailed, what will the President do about that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President has — is obviously a strong supporter of a woman’s right to choose, the protection of Roe v. Wade.
Obviously, I’m not going to speak to a court case that will be heard tomorrow at the Supreme Court, but he has long called for Congress to take action to solidify Roe v. Wade in — in – you know, re-solidify Roe v. Wade.
Let me just add anything here. He also believes Mississippi’s law blatantly violates women’s constitutional right to safe and legal abortions. The ca- — this case presents a grave threat to our women’s fundamental rights as protected under Roe v. Wade.
Of course, every American deserves access to healthcare, including reproductive healthcare. He’s deeply committed to the constitutional right established in Roe.
As you know, the Department of Justice filed a brief in the case and will participate in the oral argument. And he is committed to working with Congress to codify the constitutional right. That’s what — what he’s focused on.
Q On negotiations at the WHO on a possible pandemic treaty: Can you clarify the administration’s position on this? And would you accept — I have to record myself, sorry — would you accept such a treaty that would be internationally, legally binding?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know Secretary Becerra spoke to this yesterday. He conveyed that the United States is committed to working with member states to take forward the recent recommendations of the working group on preparedness and response. That includes developing a new WHO convention, agreement, or other international instrument and making agreements to improve the effectiveness and agility of international health regulations.
Of course, that’s in all of our interests. We expect that tomorrow at the conclusion of the session they’ll have more to say on it, but I’m not going to get ahead of that.
Q And then on Taiwan: Would the U.S. support Taiwan’s plan to send a military attaché to Guam? And what role does the administration see Taiwan playing under the new Global Posture Review?