Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre En Route Arvada, Colorado
September 14, 2021
12:43 P.M. MDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hey, everyone. Continuing our West Coast trip here. All right, good morning. As you all know, today the President will travel to Denver, Colorado. That's where we're headed, obviously.
The President will deliver remarks at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden [Arvada], Colorado, to underscore how the investments in his Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and Build Back Better agenda will help tackle the climate crisis, modernize our infrastructure, and strengthen our country's resilience while creating good-paying jobs and — good-paying, union jobs and advancing environmental justice.
As the President made clear yesterday, the climate crisis is here and it won't go away without ambitious, decisive action now. That's why we need the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and the full Build Back Better agenda, and you'll hear the President speak more to that today.
With that, I'm happy to take your questions.
Q Thanks, Karine. Two questions. First, can we get the White House response to the new Woodward and Costa reporting that General Milley was concerned about President Trump potentially going rogue after January 6th, that he took steps to restrict the former President's ability to take a strike? Has General Milley spoken to President Biden about any of this? Is there a White House response?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: For that, as you can imagine, Alex, I refer you to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of Defense on that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — on that question.
Q And then, on the upcoming September 18th protests, has the President been briefed about the possibility of violence? What sort of involvement is the White House engaging in with Capitol Police about that possibility? And what are you guys monitoring?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, federal law enforcement agencies and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department are in a heightened state of alert and actively sharing information to ensure appropriate protective measures and operational response plans are in place.
The U.S. Capitol Police have a comprehensive security plan, which has been briefed to congressional leadership. The Department of Homeland Security noted in the recent National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin that there are continued calls for violence on multiple online platforms associated with conspiracy theories, and DHS continues to share such information with relevant partners.
We hope Saturday remains peaceful. To the extent needed, executive branch law enforcement agencies are postured, prepared, and ready to assist Capitol Police.
Q At the U.N. next week, is the President planning a COVID summit — a virtual COVID summit to set a vaccination target rate of 70 percent worldwide?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Air Force One experiences turbulence.) Thanks — wow, it's getting bumpy. (Laughter.) Okay, hold on, everybody. We'll make it through.
Thanks, Steve, for the question. So, we don't have anything to formally announce, but it is — it is safe to assume we are actively planning on COVID-19 engagements for the President on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly high-level week as part of President Biden's ongoing effort to rally the world to end this pandemic. I anticipate there will be an opportunity for the President to engage with his counterparts on this issue during UNGA week.
We have been leading — we have been leading the world on ending the pandemic, and we will continue to do so. We've donated approximately 140 million doses to more than 90 countries, with at least 200 million additional doses going this year.
We're having active discussion on how to best end the pandemic. We will continue to rally the international community to raise the level of our collective ambition level and to take urgent actions as we see fit as we move forward.
Q Out of — out of the G7 countries, the United States is 6, I think, in its vaccination rate. Are you doing more to encourage vac- — are you encouraging states to mandate — to have their own vaccination mandates?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we are encouraging everyone — as you can imagine, Steve — from the private and public sector to take actions to require vaccination.
So, last week, as you know, we took big and strong actions as part of the Pres- — as part of the tools that we have — right? — in our toolbelt to boost vaccinations from the federal government as a part of our "wartime effort" — as we've been calling it since the President took office — to pull — to pull every lever to stop the spread of COVID. We certainly advocate for local leaders to do the same.
This is, again, a wartime effort that we need to do anything — everything that we can to end this pandemic.
Q Karine —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can I just say congratulations to you on your — on your moving up in the world?
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm sorry that we won't see you in the press briefing room anymore or on the plane. But it's really exciting.
Q Thanks a lot. Thank you.
What tax changes would the President like to see from the Senate that were not included in the House Ways and Means proposal?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, I'll say this: Like I said yesterday, and I'll just repeat a little bit of it, you know, President Biden, you know, outlined three basic principles.
One of them was the middle class and working Americans are already paying enough, right? And so that's why the Build Back Better plan lowers taxes for over 50 million families through Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, and Dependent Care — and Dependent Care Tax Credit.
And number two, we need to level the playing field for working families and small businesses.
And three, the President has been really clear about this — about not raising taxes on anyone earning less than $400,000 per year. So that's — that's the goal. And the way that we see it is the Ways and Means proposals are critical — a critical step toward accomplishing that — just that.
So, we're looking forward to continuing to work with our partners in Congress to reform the tax code so that the highest-income Americans, richest corporations pay their fair share, and to finance critical investments in this country's future.
So we're going to work with them and just continue to move forward.
Q And one more, Karine. There's a report out that the U.S. and the European Union have agreed to cut methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Is that accurate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have anything to offer on that at this moment, but expect that the administration will have more to say in the upcoming days.
Q I have two Joe Manchin questions. One, the daily Joe Manchin question: Has the President spoken to Senator Manchin lately about any topic on the phone? And does he have — does he or the White House had any initial reaction to the Freedom to Vote Act — the voting rights Joe Manchin compromise that was unveiled today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, on your first question: I don't have any calls to read out at this moment. Like I've said before, the President and White House officials are in constant communication and contact with members on the Hill, their staff.
And, you know, this has been in — this has been, for us, all hands on deck in making sure the President's agenda moves forward, especially because, as we know, the Build Back Better agenda and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal is going to help the American people, creating good-paying union jobs, making sure that we give tax cut to middle-class families.
So that's been critical and important to the President and his administration, and we're continuing to do that.
On your second question — the voting rights legislation that's been worked on: Look, as you know, the President strongly supports voting right protections. We are encouraged by the momentum that we're seeing in the state — I'm sorry, in the Senate. Pardon me.
As you know, we have worked closely with Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi these past several months on this particular issue, and the President has spoken many times about his outrage on the legislation — the waves of anti-voter laws that he's seeing. He's talked about it in Philly, in making a big speech there; in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when we visited there on their — the 100th commemorative anniversary most recently.
So this is something that the President is going to continue to work with Congress on.
Q One housekeeping question. When might we expect the announcement of the President and First Lady getting their booster shots for the COVID vaccine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That's a great question. As you know, this is all another — you know, another part of ending this pandemic. I don't have anything to share at this time. As soon as we know, we'll be sure to share it with all of you.
Q U.S. intelligence agencies are seeing early signs that al Qaeda militants are returning to Afghanistan. Has the President been briefed on that? And, secondly, if he has — or what's the response of the U.S.? What's the U.S. prepared to do about that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know — first of all, on your first part of a question, the President is always — normally briefed regularly on — during his PDB and on any national security issues. So I don't have anything to call out specifically, but that's something that you all know because we share that.
And so, you know, as the President has talked about this many times, and so has Secretary Austin and so has Secretary Blinken about the — having the over-the-horizon capabilities, which is something that is critical as we talk about counterterrorism and we have seen worked in Yemen and Syria. And so that is the posture that we're going to continue to have as we look — as we look at what's happening and focus (inaudible).
Q President Biden yesterday said, in talking about the larger bill — the $3.5 trillion that could be — it could be as much as $3.5 trillion, which again suggests that he's willing to settle on a different number. Is $3.5 trillion a hard and fast number for him, or is he willing to take on a lower figure as others like Joe Manchin want?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, Alex — look, he supports $3.5 trillion, which is a bill that — you know, that he proposed — a legislation that he proposed. And he's going to continue to work with Congress in making that — pushing that agenda through.
You know, I'm not going to clearly negotiate from here that — that's what we're not going to do. We'll let Congress do their — do the work that they're doing, and we're going to continue working with Congress very closely.
Q But is it fair to say that it's not — $3.5 trillion is not a line in the sand, or whatever words you want to use for him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say is that his Build Back Better agenda, his Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal is important to him and it's critical because it's going to help the American public by cutting middle-class — giving the middle-class family, you know, a tax — cutting taxes there, and making sure that we lower healthcare — healthcare prices and all of the things that's important and critical — union — good-paying union jobs.
So that's what we're going to continue to focus on. Again, I'm not going to negotiate from here. But this is — this is a piece of legislation that the President is working on and tru- — and strongly supports, and is proud of, as he — as we're trying to get this done (inaudible).
Q You mentioned over-the-horizon strikes as a possibility to deal with al Qaeda terrorists. Does the White House have any response to the visual investigations that come out from very prominent outlets, like the New York Times and the Washington Post, showing that the last over-the-horizon strike in Kabul, as U.S. troops were departing, did, in fact, not hit a terrorist target?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't — I know that that is still being — that the U.S. Central Command is conduct- — is continuing to assess the results of the airstrike in Kabul, which is what you're talking about —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — the one that happened on August 29th. So I don't want to get ahead of that. We don't want to get ahead of that assessment. And I would refer you to the Department of Defense for anything further on that piece.
Q Also, on Afghanistan, can I ask: Yesterday, my understanding is there was some criticism — I'm thinking of, say, from Senator Bob Menendez — to ensure that more Biden officials participate in these Senate Foreign Relations Committees. My understanding is there's sort of a threat of a subpoena even. What is the White House's response there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would defer you to the Department of Defense on that or the State Department — whoever he was speaking of that he wanted to see before the (inaudible).
Q Karine, the President, yesterday, spoke about the importance of climate change throughout the day, addressing it. At one point in Cal OES, he talked about how not all of his climate measures got into infrastructure, and he talked about the importance of his reconciliation package. If the climate measures in the reconciliation package are slimmed down, would the President sign it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me just say that, you know, we're committed to strongly — strongly to climate components, both in reconciliation and the infrastructure deal. You saw the President speak to this the entire trip, as you're mentioning, Zolan. We think that they are critical to not just building back, but building back better, especially when, as President Biden said yesterday, one in three Americans have experienced some kind of extreme weather event this summer.
So, climate change — he talked about this; we're in code red — is a real — (turbulence on plane) — sorry, it's really bumpy. Hold on, everybody. (Laughs.) And this administration feels we can play a key role in preventing it from getting worse.
But the Biden climate agenda doesn't hinge on just reconciliation or infrastructure package alone; rather it's integrated, as you all know, throughout both and is a key part of everything we do in the whole-of-government effect [sic] — effort launched on day one.
We are looking at every sector of the economy for opportunities to grow clean energy jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially in the decisive — in this decisive decade, all in a way that is consistent with our NDC.
Q So does that mean it's not a red line then? Does that mean if — if it is slimmed down, that the administra- — that he would, you know, potentially sign it and that you would pursue those measures through regulatory action?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, it's basically what I said at the top, Zolan, which is, like, he's committed, you know, to climate — the climate components in both the reconciliation and infrastructure deal. And he's going to continue to talk about that. He's going to continue to push that forward.
But I just wanted to, you know, also add and highlight the actions — the climate actions that we have taken since day one of the administration by: rejoining the Paris Agreement — Paris Climate Agreement that — we did that on day one; restoring leadership at home and on the world stage so that every country understands the urgency that science demands. To tackle the climate change, the United States hosted a first-ever U.S. global summit. As a country, we committed to bold, ambitious climate goals, including reducing emissions from 2005 levels by 50 to 52 percent in 2030; producing 100 percent clean electric by 2035; and reaching net-zero emissions economy wide by 2050.
And so, this is something that he's going to continue to be committed to and using all of the tools at his disposal. And this is, again, a whole-of-government approach, but he's — he strongly supports — he strongly supports the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and the Build Back Better deal.
Q One more thing. On the Woodward book, is the President aware of these reports? Is he alarmed by them? And what does he think?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I could say this: The President today is focused on his trip today to Denver, Colorado, to talk about what we have just been laying out: the Build Back Better agenda; clearly, climate change and what we saw this past 24 hours in his trip to Idaho and Sacramento. That's the focus of the President right now.
Q One last thing on climate change, given that that's a focus of today: Does the White House intend to announce anything formally soon about the President's either in-person or virtual participation in COP26?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to announce today on any participation by the President (inaudible).
But we are landing, folks.
Q Hold on.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hold on. It has been a rocky, rocky road. All right, thanks, everybody. I'll see you on the ground.
12:59 P.M. MDT
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|