James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:27 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everyone. Okay, we have a special guest, as you all know, today. Today, we have Mayor Landrieu — Mitch Landrieu, Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator — who is here to talk about one of the President’s favorite things: Infrastructure Week. In fact, he loves this week or this —
MR. LANDRIEU: Decade.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — decade, right? He calls it “Infrastructure Decade.” So that’s what the President has coined it to be.
So, Mitch, the podium is yours.
MR. LANDRIEU: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thank you.
Hey, everybody. Karine, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
I thought maybe what I’d do is make a couple of comments, and then if anybody has any questions — you all okay with — with that?
Q Sounds good.
MR. LANDRIEU: (Laughs.) All right.
All of you may remember, but on November 15th, 2021, just a short 18 months ago, President Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, a $1.2 trillion once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness.
We say “once in a generation” because it hasn’t happened in our lifetimes and, quite frankly, it may not happen again in the — in the near future.
As you know, this is a critical part of the President’s Investing in America agenda, which is growing our economy from the bottom up and the middle out.
We’re making historic investments and delivering real results for working families across the country. This investment is not only creating good-paying jobs but it’s encouraging private investment, and it’s creating new belief and confidence in the idea that when we come together, we can actually do really big things in America.
While “Infrastructure Week” was a punchline under our predecessor, it is now a reality. And it is now, in fact, going to be a “Infrastructure Decade.”
Next week actually is Infrastructure Week, but now the difference is we’re in full progress. We’re breaking ground, we’re turning dirt, and we’re getting it done.
There is no way for us to get from work to home to our kids’ schools to our mosque, our synagogue, our church, to our playgrounds, to keep the economy humming, to get goods from our ships to shelves without good roads, bridges, airports, ports, and waterways.
There’s no way to keep our economy humming, to make sure that everybody in America has access to knowledge, to make sure that farmers have access to precision agriculture or people that live in rural areas have access to telemedicine if we don’t have access to high-speed Internet, which is why this bill also makes sure that that happens everywhere in the United States of America.
The President and the Vice President think that everybody in America has a right to clean air and safe water, which is why there are billions of dollars to make sure that we get lead out of the pipes; to make sure that we clean up abandoned mine lands; to make sure that we clean up orphan wells, superfund sites, and brownfield sites; to make sure that the Great Lakes are cleaned up and the Everglades and the coastal parts of America.
And then, finally, to get ready for the existential crisis that is upon us now, the climate crisis, we all need to prepare for a clean energy economy. That is why this $1.2 trillion bill is so critically important to the people of America. And that is why it was on the top of the President’s list.
We’re going to do this on time, on task, and on budget. We’re actually getting it done.
To date, we have announced over $220 billion in funding for over 32,000 projects, reaching over 4,500 communities in every state in the nation, all of the territories, and D.C. And today, we are launching a new map at Build.gov to showcase our progress not only for the 32,000 specific projects but for the major projects, highlighting all the signature projects in all of the states, territories, and in D.C.
Now, that’s a lot of projects and investments in a short period of time, so let me dig into some of the details and tell you what that really means.
Under President Biden’s leadership, we have begun repair on over six thou- — 69,000 miles of roadway, over 4,600 bridges. We’ve invested in over 3,000 new clean transit buses and school buses for our kids.
We have invested in hundreds of port projects, including 13 major port and waterway projects.
We’ve begun construction on hundreds of airports, including 70 that are already getting terminal upgrades across the country, and more.
Now, these projects, as you must imagine and have heard the announcements, grow by the week. Just take a look at the work that’s happening across the country as we speak.
In fact, today we’re breaking ground in New Haven, Connecticut, on the Walk Bridge, which runs from New Haven to Mount Vernon, New York — a crucial connector on the Northeast Corridor for the Metro-North Amtrak and freight lines.
Also today, the Corps of Engineers is breaking ground on the final phase of a $2.9 billion flood resilience project in Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area in North Dakota to better protect that major health, education, cultural, and commercial center from flooding.
Next week, the First Lady will be doing a Tribal broadband project kickoff in Alaska. We’ll also be announcing new funding awards for FEMA resilience grants, which are much needed. And I will break ground next week on $1 billion series of locks along the Mississippi River in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri with the Corps of Engineers, a critical project for our farmers and agricultural community as we move goods up and down the mighty Mississippi River.
Now, this is happening all across America, from coast to coast and in the Heartland and everywhere in between. All of you will recall, I hope with great fondness, that the President kicked off the new year at the Brent Spence Bridge on the Ohio-Kentucky border, where we’re investing a total of $1.6 billion for that existing bridge, and then we’re going to build a new one right next to it to relieve the congestion and improve travel time reliability on one of the most critical arteries of our nation’s supply chain. And we’re breaking ground on that project, actually, later this year.
We’re also seeing some early projects get started and actually get finished.
Just a few weeks ago, I was in San Diego at the West Mission Bay Bridge to celebrate the replacement of a 70-year-old bridge spanning the San Diego River. That was the largest project in the city’s history, and it’s going to transform the day-to-day commute of the folks that live in that area.
Now, as predicted by President Biden, our investments in infrastructure are motivating the private sector to manufacture and build things in America. We are in the midst of a “Made in America” manufacturing boom all across this country, and we have the receipts.
In fact, this administration’s investments have now driven over $470 billion dollars in private sector manufacturing and clean energy investments, which are creating good-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree. And you have been read into all of those things.
In particular, there have been major new private sector announcements in electric vehicle charging; EV battery; rail, fiberoptic, and cable manufacturing since this infrastructure was signed just 18 months ago.
Now moving forward, our progress on infrastructure goes hand in hand with our economy’s trajectory. You see the foundation of a strong economy is literally our country’s infrastructure.
And as the President often says and reminds us: When we invest in America, when we invest in ourselves, we win.
So, “Infrastructure Week” is a punchline no more. It is here. President Biden and Vice President Harris have delivered.
Now, it’s Employee Appreciation Week, and so I would be remiss if I did not just take a minute to thank all of the folks that have made this possible. The President has always said, when we come together, we can do big things in America.
So, the President, the Vice President, all of the Cabinet members, all of the federal employees — we have 5,000 new of them who have been working on this project — the partnership with the mayors and the governors, the partnership with the business, the labor, the private sector, the faith-based community, and, of course, Congress have made this possible. The President, the Vice President, and the Cabinet have made over 300 trips to talk about this across the country.
And as the President often reminds us, this is what a one-team, one-fight mission looks like and why America can do big things when we come together.
So, 18 months in, we hit the ground running; we’re now seeing real, tangible progress. And now it’s time for us to finish the job.
Thank you all very much. I’ll be happy to answer questions that you might have.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Mitch, can you give us a sense of how the debt ceiling debate and potential negative outcome will impact the infrastructure spending and the law? And can you also give us a sense of how red states are taking the money, and if anyone who voted against it is saying “no thanks”?
MR. LANDRIEU: Let me — let me — let me do this backwards. They’re taking it fast — the red states — and nobody has returned a dollar. Everybody has been a ready and willing partner, and, of course, as I said, these projects are in all 50 states. They are touching 4,500 communities. They’re in the territories, and they’re in D.C.
On the debt limit, I’ll make just a couple of comments. I know that you all have spoken a lot about this. But as the President said, America is not a deadbeat nation. Avoiding default is a basic duty of Congress. And, in fact, this is a manufactured crisis.
And as the President said, and as I’ve said to many of you today, the President’s Investing in America agenda is working. Got to keep the progress going: 12.7 million jobs; 800,000 manufacturing jobs, which is the proof of the manufacturing boom that we have; 3.4 percent unemployment; a Made in America manufacturing boom.
And, of course, as Moody’s said — and you all have all heard this and reported this — a default is going to cost us 800,000 jobs, push us further into recession, raise the cost of everything, including borrowing. And that really kind of threatens to do all of this major progress going forward.
And my sense is that we have never been here before, at least at this particular point. Nobody wants to see it happen. The consequences are unpredictable, but it can’t have anything but negative consequences on the work that we’re trying to do.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Peter.
Q Thank you for being here.
MR. LANDRIEU: Sure.
Q If I can ask you about the debt ceiling conversations — not that you’re privy to every one of these, but obviously you’re privy to the process of trying to build around the country right now. How critical is the idea of permitting reform? Is that something the administration would be open to because you think it would make the job easier, and something you should embrace going forward?
MR. LANDRIEU: Well, that — they’re not necessarily connected. As you know, when — when you have the incredible opportunity that we have in front of us — 12.7 million jobs, a 3.4 percent unemployment rate — any President in history would trade President Biden’s numbers right now because nobody has come close to them. That’s, in two years, what most presidents have not been able to do in four years.
So when you’re trying to build new things and you’re trying to build things fast, you got two major issues that you’re working through: one of them is permitting, and one of them is workforce. And, of course, from the beginning, we have been working on getting things built faster and permitting things faster.
As you know, Senator Manchin had a bill; that bill failed. That bill has now been reintroduced. The President continues to support that bill.
On the executive branch side, we’re doing everything we can to speed up how we actually greenlight projects. We want to dedupe, you know, series, because things used to go in sequential order. We want to make sure that we have the right data. We want to make sure that we’re doing the right community involvement, because if you don’t, that has a higher risk of litigation. And then finally, we want to make it faster to go on clean energy.
All of those things are in play, and we continue to work.
Q So permitting reform helps? It doesn’t hurt, in your view?
MR. LANDRIEU: It does, but they’re not necessarily connected. They were bills —
Q Right. But just broadly for building.
MR. LANDRIEU: Absolutely, 100 percent, it’s better. We got to go faster. We got to do better. And we got to do more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Arlette.
Q Are there any contingency plans being put into place when it comes to these infrastructure projects in the event that there is a default?
And then secondly, I know that you are talking to local officials across the country. You are a former mayor yourself. Have you had any conversations with mayors expressing concerns about the lifting of Title 42 and the impacts that’s having in their communities?
MR. LANDRIEU: Well, the Secretary was here yesterday on Title 42. And I’m going to let him address that — and Karine — as we — as we go forward.
And, no, I haven’t had any conversations with them about that.
But as it — as it relates to contingency plans, let’s just be kind of clear about this. A lot of the money that was in the infrastructure bill was forward loaded and is not going to necessarily have an impact on specific projects, irrespective of what happens in Congress, unless Congress repeals the bill and there’s no — there’s no legislation to do that.
However, remember, there — there — these things don’t exist in isolation. So we have hired lots of new employees. If those employees have to stop working, that’s a challenge.
You have seen — what are the potential cuts? A 22 percent cut is going to impact what the federal workforce can do or cannot do. If you have a default and it slows the economy down, it’s going to have a natural impact on everything that we’re doing in the country and the public and the private sector.
But — but the specific technical answer is: A lot of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding was pre-loaded and is not, at this moment, in play on the kind of discussions they’re having on the Hill.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, two more.
Go ahead, James.
Q Thank you, Karine. Thank you, Mayor. Secretary Buttigieg has appeared where you’re standing now and discussed how federal funds will be used to redesign urban areas that are assessed to contain infrastructure that was racist in its original design and its original execution. Are you collaborating with him on that effort? Are any of the infrastructure funds you’re talking about being used for that purpose?
MR. LANDRIEU: Well, as you know, equity is really important to the President of the United States for the very simple reason that he thinks that unless we go forward together, it’s hard to go forward at all — so, first thing to remember.
And this administration believes that diversity is a great strength, not a weakness, and that if we’re going to do all of this stuff, it’s not just a matter of trust; it’s — it’s a matter of numbers as well. That’s first.
The second part of it is this: There are, in fact, highways, waterways, roadways — if you ask anybody in the African American community or communities of color, “Where do you live?”, they will often say, “I live on the other side of…” — and it’s usually a railroad track or water or a highway that split historic neighborhoods.
There is, in fact, $4 billion, both in the infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act, to fund a program that’s called “Reconnecting Communities.”
I was actually in Fort Lauderdale the other day looking at some of the damage from the flood that they had. And the mayor was showing me a railroad track that had separated two areas. Now, they have an option: They could run a highway across it or they can build a tunnel underneath it to reconnect the neighborhoods.
This administration thinks that historically underrepresented neighborhoods that have been split apart — families split apart, businesses split apart — they can be reconnected to actually heal the community and create greater economic opportunity — is actually a very thoughtful thing to do.
And so we’re working on that not only with roads and bridges but with clean air and clean water — which is what lead pipes is about — clean air and clean — and — and clean buses so the kids shouldn’t be getting off of school buses drinking that exhaust like Linus, you know, having that dust thing following behind him.
All of those things are a part of the work that we’re trying to do in the infrastructure law.
Q So, where the urban redesign piece of it is concerned, is it you or Secretary Buttigieg who enjoys final disposition over the allocation of those funds or the selection of the projects, et cetera?
MR. LANDRIEU: As the Infrastructure Coordinator, I don’t have final disposition over anything. My job is to herd cats. And so — (laughter) — as — as a consequence, what we’ve done is we’ve had 17 different Cabinet-level meetings, working with each of the Cabinet Secretaries so we can coordinate their activity.
I’ve asked each of the governors in the country, on behalf of the President, to appoint an infrastructure coordinator to help coordinate with us. And then I’ve talked to 1,700 mayors across the country so all of our teams can work.
But all of the Cabinet Secretaries are the ones that are ultimately responsible for making the final decision on all the grant programs that come to them. And then, of course, the other half of this bill is formula funding, where it goes by — goes out by operation of law.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Last question.
MR. LANDRIEU: Sure.
Q Thank you, Mayor, for being here. I have a question about the power plants and the administration’s clean energy goals. Yesterday, about the EPA’s new power plant regulations, U.S. Chamber of Commerce raised concerns about the carbon reduc- — carbon reduction goals, stating that they “go too far, too fast.” They said that these rules could threaten power supply and raise energy prices, harming the entire economy.
How do you make sure — you know, how will the business — the Biden administration convince the business community that your proposal is viable and not harm the economy?
MR. LANDRIEU: Well, it’s an excellent question. And I’m — and I’m going — I’m going to send you to Administrator Regan to answer the details of that question.
But as a general rule for all of this, remember, we’re doing three things: We’re building the team, we’re getting the money out of the door, and then we’re trying to tell the story. Everything requires a balance. It’s all about timing. It’s all about focus.
Every — with everything that we do, somebody will say, “You’re going too fast.” Somebody will say, “You’re going too slow.” Our job is to try to get it just right and to make sure that this economic boom that we’re having is steady and stable and that we continue to grow.
As — I will end where — where I finished, the President said this is the backbone, this is the cornerstone of the economy. He has created 12.7 million jobs. We have 800,000 manufacturing jobs — 3.4 percent. We have momentum now, and we ought not do anything or take any action that slows us down.
Thank you all so much.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Thank you so much, Mayor.
MR. LANDRIEU: Thank you for having me.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, thank you.
All right, a couple of things and then the pool is going to have to gather at some point, and then we’ll just continue.
So, this Sunday marks one year since a gunman killed 10 innocent Americans at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. The President and First Lady are praying for those killed and for those who continue to bear the attack scars, both physical and mental. We’re thinking too of an entire community that, like our country, was shaken by this attack but then found unity, purpose, and resolve and emerging even stronger.
This attack was a direct blow at the soul of the nation.
More broadly, the President continues to take action to address these overlapping scourges from issuing a first-ever National Strategy for Domestic Terrorism to signing landmark hate crimes legislation to convening a historic Unite- — United We Stand Summit at the White House.
We have substantially increased federal resources to prevent and respond to targeted violence and terrorism. The President signed the first major gun safety legislation in 30 years and has taken more executive action to reduce gun violence than any other president.
And yet, shooting after shooting tells us there is so much more work ahead to protect public safety, national security, and the fundamentals of our democracy.
Last year, right here at this podium, when this had occurred, I shared the stories of the victims in this attack. Their stories are still with us. They were retired law enforcement, community figures, church volunteers, and substitute teachers. They were mothers and fathers, one of whom was out buying a birthday cake for his son. They were innocent people who had their lives senselessly stolen from them as a consequence of a toxic combination of hate and easy access to weapons of war.
We also honor the bravery of those in law enforcement who responded quickly and with professionalism in Buffalo and who risk their lives every single day to protect and serve their communities across America.
And speaking of that — speaking of brave law enforcement officers, today the White House will welcome over 500 police officers and their families for a special open house tour in celebration of Police Week.
Officers were invited through a diverse set of organizations representing and supporting police officers, and will include members of local and state police forces from across the country, as well as members of the U.S. Capitol Police and the United States Secret Service.
Today, the President is also proud to nominate Dr. Phil Johnson [sic] — Jefferson — pardon me — Dr. Phil Jefferson to serve as Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Last year, the Senate confirmed Dr. Jefferson to the Board of Governors in a strong bipartisan vote of 97 — 91 to 7. And we look forward to his swift confirmation as vice chair of the board.
In addition, the President is nominating Dr. Lisa Cook, who the Senate just confirmed last year, to an additional full term as member of the Board of Governors.
Dr. Jefferson and Dr. Cook will continue to bring valuable insight, expertise, and continue — continue to — continue — continue to make sure that the Fed, at a critical time for economy and — for our economy and families across the country.
The President is also proud to nominate Dr. Adriana Kuge- — Kugler to serve as a member of the Board of Governors. Dr. Kugler is a highly qualified and respected economist with deep expertise in the labor markets, worker mobility, and youth unemployment. She started her career at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, served as chief economist of the Labor Department, and was confirmed last year with bipartisan support to serve as U.S. executive director to the World Bank.
These nominees understand that this job is not a partisan one, but one that plays a critical role in pursuing maximum employment, maintaining price stability, and supervising many of our nation’s financial institutions. We are confident these nominees will help build upon the historically strong economic recovery we have had under the administration.
We are grateful to Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown for his leadership, support in moving these nominations forward quickly.
Tomorrow morning — and this is the week ahead for all of you. Tomorrow morning, the President will travel to Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., to deliver the 2023 Howard University Commencement Address. The — the President will then travel to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where he and the First Lady will remain over the weekend.
On Monday, the President and the First Lady will return to — to Washington, D.C., as we mark Police Week. On Monday, the President will release a video to celebrate and honor law enforcement officers, including those who have given their lives in the line of duty as part of the National Peace Officers Memorial Day.
On Tuesday, the President, the First Lady, and the Second Gentleman will deliver remarks at the celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month. The Vice President will also attend.
On Wednesday morning, President Biden will honor 2021-2022 Medal of Valor recipients from across the country in the East Room for that ceremony.
The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor recognizes extraordinary acts of heroism and bravery on the part of our nation’s public safety officers, represents the highest national award for public safety officers. The Medal is awarded annually by the President to firefighters, law enforcement officers, or emergency service — service officers who have exhibited exceptional courage regardless of personal safety in the attempt to save or protect human life.
Later, the President will travel — on Wednesday, next week, the President will travel to Hiroshima, Japan, to attend the G7 Leaders Summit — May 18th through the 21st. The President and G7 leaders will discuss a range of the most pressing global issues, including the G7 unwavering support for Ukraine, addressing the dual food/climate crisis, securing inclusive and resilient economic growth, and continuing to lead a clean energy transition at home and for our partners around the world.
And before we take questions, I just want to take a minute to wish all the mothers in this room and across the administration and, of course, across the country a Happy Mother’s Day ahead of Sunday.
As the President said in his presidential proclamation recognizing this holiday: Across the country, mothers are caring for children; providing families; driving innovative — innovative — innovation across every field; serving at the highest levels of government, including in our military and across the administration; running companies; being journalists, as well — let’s not forget; and they’re helping drive our economy forward.
So this weekend and every day, we recognize the — the great strength and contributions of moms across the country, including the moms working night shifts and second jobs to support their families.
It’s why President Biden, Vice President Harris, and this administration are working to ensure all moms have a — have the support they need and the opportunities they deserve by working to fully implement the President’s Maternal Health Bluepin- — Blueprint, a whole-of-government approach to address the maternal health crisis; investing in childcare providers through the American Rescue Plan; expanding the Child Tax Credit; signing historic infrastructure, manufacturing, and clean energy legislation into law as part of the President’s Investing in America agenda to create good-paying jobs for women in sectors where they have been previously underrepresented; ensuring women have access to and coverage of healthcare services, including behavioral care; and ensuring that new and expecting mothers can thrive in workplaces through new legislation to bolster protections for pregnant workers and nursing parents.
As much as I love serving as Press Secretary for the President of the United States, getting the word — or being the name “Mama” will always be my favorite title. So it is a special day for many of us. I am sure people here in this room understand.
And so, with that, Happy Mother’s Day.
And, Zeke, I know this time next year, we’ll be saying soon-to-be Happy Father’s Day for you. So, very exciting.
Q Thanks. (Laughter.) Thanks, Karine.
So the President was supposed to be meeting this afternoon with congressional leaders. Why was that meeting rescheduled? And can you give us an update on when it will be rescheduled to?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, just to give you a little bit of an update on that. So, as Speaker McCarthy said, this was a decision pretty much decided by all principals. And the President and the four congressional leaders will meet early next week. When we have a date, certainly, we will share that with all of you.
Staff will continue to meet. They’re going to meet today and over the weekend, so that will continue.
The meetings have been productive over the past few days, and leaders wanted to continue before they regrouped. Again, you know, as we’ve said, we’re not going to certainly negotiate in public. We’re going to let these conversations continue today. These are private conversations.
And as we’ve said over the weekend and — once we have a date locked in for early next week, we certainly will share that with all of you.
Q And then could you clarify a little bit of what — what they are discussing and what they are — in these meetings? I understand you don’t want to negotiate in public, but the President’s position had been that there should be no negotiation around the debt limit at all, that Congress should just raise it.
So if the President says there should be no negotiation and they are talking, does that mean he’s backed off his opposition to negotiating to raise the debt limit?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, not at all. He has been very clear: We are not going to negotiate over the debt limit. That is something that Congress should act on. That is their constitutional duty.
What they have been talking about — again, I’m not going to get into the specifics — but we have talked about how Congress should get back to regular order, having those appropriations conversation, having the conversation on budget. And that is what the President said he is willing to do — willing to have that conversation.
But, again, we cannot have a default. And I’m going to be very clear and you’ve heard this from other — other leaders as well is — is that all of the three — the three of the four have said that we have to avoid default. They’ve been very clear that we have to take default off the table. I will let you guess who was the fourth that did not say that.
Q And then, just on a different topic, HHS — this is about an hour or so ago — confirmed that a migrant, a six-year-old boy, died in HHS custody a couple of days ago. He’d been in custody for a number of weeks, we’ve been told.
Has the President been briefed on that incident? And is there concerns that the system isn’t prepared to handle all the people who are being interdicted right now at the border and (inaudible) custody and, as a result of the ruling, denied? Has he ordered any sort of investigation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, thank you for the question. It is — it is sad news. It’s deeply saddening to hear. And we are certainly aware of the tragic loss, and our hearts go out to the family. And it is, as I just mentioned, being a mother and celebrating Mother’s Day on Sunday, it is a very devastating news.
There is a medical investigation that was opened on May 10th, and so I don’t want to get ahead of that. We got to let the investigation go through. And so any specific questions, certainly, I would have to refer you to HHS.
I haven’t actually spoken to the President about this. So I don’t have any information if he — he’s been briefed on this. But I can say that there is a medical investigation that’s — that was — that was opened on May 10th. And we’re just going to let that go.
I think I’m getting the sign for the pool. So if the pool wants to — which way should — they should — they should exit this way.
Q And would the President try to reach out to the family of —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don’t have anything to preview at this time. Obviously, we are saddened — very saddened by — by this — by this loss and by the news, and just don’t have anything to share about any outreach from the President on this.
Q Just to talk a bit more on the timeline of the debt ceiling. It’s May 12th today. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said a default could happen as soon as June 1st. Other forecasters, including CBO today, are backing up early June. What is the drop-dead date that the White House and Congress need to reach a deal so that a bill gets to the President’s desk in time to avoid a default?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, this should have happened a while ago. This is a manufactured cri- — crisis, as the President has said, as you just heard from the mayor who was just here at this podium. This is — should have been taken care of by Congress, as their constitutional duty, a while back.
This is not a normal place for us to be, to have — to have House Republicans hold our economy hostage. That is not a nor- — that is not the norm.
The regular order, as I just stated when Zeke was asking me the question, is that we’re supposed to have a conversation about the budget. We’re supposed to have a conversation about appropriations. We’re not supposed to be here at this moment where we’re still waiting for Congress to do something that is been done 60- — 78 times since 1960.
Q But we are here in this moment, so what is the level of urgency to get it done?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There is — there is a lot of urgency. Obviously, there’s a lot of urgency. We’re talking about potentially millions of jobs being threatened because of what House Republicans are doing. We’re talking about potential devastation to our retirements account for American families.
So this is an incredibly important point that we’re in. That’s why the President has used his bully pulpit for the past several months, since February, saying Congress needs to act, Congress needs to move forward, Congress needs to do their constitutional duty.
So we’re going to continue to do that. I just said, three of the four that met with the President on — on Tuesday said that default should be off the table. So we’re all in — all on the same place. It’s the Speaker that needs to really answer this question.
Q And just a quick follow-up. How worried are you that as we get closer to that date, there will be threats to the economy? We saw back in 2011, just getting close to the X date resulted in a lot of (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, we are worried. We are very worried. And when you think about default could — as I said, 8 million jobs; cause a recession; devastate retirement accounts; increase unemployment by 5 percent; increase costs for families; halt Social Security, Medicare, veteran care, and all other government payments. Those are the things that could happen if this threat that House Republicans have put forth moves forward.
I mean, yes, we are very concerned about this.
Q You’re outlining the impacts of a potential default, but at what point should Americans at home start preparing themselves for these impacts?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we — we’re hoping that it doesn’t get to that. We really are. We’re — that’s why we’ve been very vocal. The President has been very clear. That’s why he had this meeting on Tuesday, to be — to be straightforward and frank. You know this President doesn’t — is not afraid to be really honest. And — and that’s why he went to New York, to speak directly to the American people, to let them know what’s at stake.
So, look, we hope that this is not going to happen. We hope that the Speaker agrees with the other three leaders in Congress and take default off the table.
Q And the President has said that he’s likely going on this foreign trip, but it’s a possibility he would stay behind. What would trigger that decision for him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say right now, Arlette, is that he’s expecting to go. I can say that for sure in this moment, that he’s expecting to go.
Q And if I could, on Title 42, really quickly. You know, the President has answered questions about Title 42. But we haven’t seen him do — hold a formal event to talk about this. He had that meeting yesterday with Blinken and Austin and Mayorkas, which was behind closed doors. Why not have the President out there speaking about Title 42 and the expectations that people should have around it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So the President took more than 40 questions just this week alone.
Q That’s not an event.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well — no, no, no. But he — he took your questions twice this week and answered many of — many of those questions on Title 42. He answered the questions that you all asked, and I think that’s an opportunity for the — for the American people to hear directly from him.
A week ago today, he sat down and had a one-on-one — one-on-one interview with one of — one of your — one of — one of your colleagues here — not here but, clearly, in one of the networks here — and talked — was asked about Title 42. So the American people have heard from the President.
When we — when we — again, when we were in New York and, again, right when — after the meeting, you heard directly from the President after the meeting that he had with the — with the Big Four, if you will. And he gave remarks and then took questions.
So the American people have heard directly from him, especially when he laid out how that conversation went with the Big Four.
Go ahead, Joey.
Q Thanks, Karine. You described the discussions this week between White House officials and congressional staff as “productive.” What from those talks do you believe is pointing to the signs of progress?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into — into details of private conversations. What I can say is from just — just a little bit of what I can give you is that it’s been productive. It’s been continuing since they — the four — the Big Four met on Tuesday.
They’re going to meet today. They’re going to meet over the weekend. And I think that should kind of tell you that the conversations are going in the right direction.
I just don’t have more to share about the private — the private details of — of the meetings.
Q And is the White House open to spending caps on future discretionary spending as a way to perhaps appeal to Republicans who have been demanding cuts in the — in a package?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Appreciate the question. I’m just not going to negotiate from here.
Q But do you think that right now we’re closer to some sort of agreement than we were at the beginning of the week?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to get into negotiation from here.
Q Thank you, Karine. The President said that he would stay in town until this gets finished, and you said today that he is expected to leave for Japan on Wednesday morning. So does that mean you are confident that this is going to get done before Wednesday morning?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re — we’re confident that the conversations, at least what — as it relates to the budget and the economy — as we said, we have to get back to regular order and have those conversations. And the President has said he’s — he’s willing to negotiate and happy to debate about his budget versus Republicans’ budget.
Remember, his budget is going to cut the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years, and it’s going to invest in America, which is what the President truly cares about and we’ve seen him do the last two years.
So, look, we’re — he’s expected to go. We’re going to continue to have conversations. He’s going to continue to tell Congress to do their job. It’s their constitutional duty to deal with the debt limit, as they have done 78 times since 1960. None of that has changed. And so, again, expect it to go, and I’ll leave it there.
Q But has the marker for whether he will stay in town changed? Because initially, he said, “until this gets finished.” Now it sounds like you’re saying “as long as there’s progress being made.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I’m not — no, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that — I spoke to the President about this. He wanted all of you to know that he’s expecting to go.
That’s where I will leave it. I’m not going to go into private discussions. I’m not going to go into negotiations — not going to do that from here.
What I can say is that the President, from him — and wants all of you to understand and know and wants me to communicate that he’s expecting to go next Wednesday.
Q And then one more follow-up on Title 42. You said that the American people have heard directly from the President. Why haven’t migrants heard a message from the President or the Vice President — either of them — explaining the new rules or reiterating, you know, what the Secretary said yesterday: not to come here if you’re not going to qualify for asylum? Wh- — where are they in terms of communicating with the people who are trying to come in?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think hearing from Secretary Mayorkas is a powerful messenger. He was at the border. He has — was here for more than 50 minutes taking all of your questions. He’s been on TV doing kind of a ro- — round robin today and other days as well this week. And he’s been very clear what the message is to — to migrants who are coming.
Look, our message has been very clear for the past — past couple of weeks, especially as we’ve been putting this plan together, really, for the past — past two years, which is: We got a robust plan in place to humanely manage the border through enforcement, deterrence, and diplomacy.
We’ve been very clear. We want a system that’s humane, that’s orderly. That’s what the President said on the first day that he walked into this administration, putting forth a piece of legislation that is comprehensive. Remember, this is a — this is a problem that is decades-long.
Secretary Mayorkas said: The last time that we have changed the law or we’ve seen laws change around this issue was back in the ‘90s. It is more — more than time to address this issue.
The President is using the tools that he has in front of him to deal with this issue. And — and so, he’ll continue to do that, but — but we have to have Congress acting.
And I think — I think the President is speaking very loud and clear this week — or taking, I should say — taking questions from all of you, and also doing an interview and answering a question about Title 42 and immigration, how we’re moving forward. I think it’s also important.
Q Thank you.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You moved up. Moved up in the world.
Q (Laughs.) The weather is much better from up here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The weather is much better from up there.
Q The — the CBO released new projections for the current economy. And this fiscal year, we’re projected a deficit of $1.5 trillion. Last year was $1.4 trillion. The President talks about cutting the deficit. What happened?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So the President has a track record of historic deficit reduction. We have seen that: $1.7 trillion in the last two years. That is more than any other president has done in their — in their first two years. So that is historic. That is — I should say in recent years.
And that is something that the President continues to be committed to, because if you look at his budget that I just stated moments ago, $3 trillion. That’s what he said he’s going to cut the budget in the next 10 years. So he is committed to that.
And if you look at the Inflation Reduction Act, if you look at other pieces of legislation, it actually helps to cut the deficit. So the President is — is committed.
And if you — just to do a little deep dive on the budget, it cuts $200 billion in spending by strengthening Medicare’s power to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices. It cuts $30 billion in spending on tax subsidies on Big Oil companies. It reduces the deficit by $100 billion by fully funding the IRS so there are enough agents to thoroughly look at the taxes of billionaires and others — reduces the deficit by more than $1 trillion by making billionaires and the wealthiest pay their fair share.
That’s what we’ve put forward. The Republicans in the House put something very different, the complete opposite, that’s going to hurt American families by cutting veteran — veteran care, by cutting healthcare, and also making sure that, you know, law enforcement as all — as well is cut.
And so that’s what they put forward. And this is the conversation that is happening right now with the staff — the staff members.
Q One more on consumer sentiment. Consumer sentiment went down to 57.7. It’s a number, but it — it fell from — from a significant — significant amount. Is the President concerned going forward that consumers are getting less confident about the economy as we go into the end of the year?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So a couple of things. I’m glad you asked that question. So the University of Michigan’s release actually cites the threat of default as a reason for the full faith in consumer sentiment.
So, kind of to Weijia’s question, they’re paying attention — or someone who asked me a question about: Have we talked enough to the — to the American people? They’re actually paying attention. They’re listening to what’s happening and what they’re hearing from Congress, Republicans in the House, saying that they’re going to threaten essentially — not saying but laying a plan that says they’re going to potentially hold the American economy hostage.
So — so the same way refusing to pay our bills would make a — a bank lose trust in you, Congress failing to pay our country’s bills would make the world lose their faith in the United States. And that’s what we’re seeing from this particular — University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment.
Q So does that number then make the President more likely to come to a deal on the debt ceiling?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There’s no deal to be had on the debt ceiling. There’s no negotiation to be had on the debt ceiling. This is something that Congress needs to do. This is something that they need to act on. This is something that is their constitutional duty. The President has been very clear about that — very clear — and he will continue to do so.
Q So, a G7 question — assuming the President goes. Prime Minister Kishida said that one of the reasons —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I heard that under your — under your breath there. (Laughs.)
Q You know, I’m assuming he’s going. So —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q The Prime Minister has said one reason he wants to hold the G7 in Hiro- — in Hiroshima is to draw attention to the — the threat of nuclear weapons. I know there’s likely going to be some sort of joint ceremony with the G7 leaders acknowledging this. But I’m wondering: As the leader of the country that made the decision to use an atom bomb there, is President Biden going to give any separate remarks or have any separate acknowledgement of events there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Scott, I appreciate your question. We’ll have more to share and more to preview in the upcoming days.
So, look, the President and G7 leaders are expected to discuss a range of the most pressing global issues, including G7’s unwavering support for Ukraine, addressing the dual food and climate crisis, securing inclusive and resilient economic growth, and continuing to lead a clean energy transition at home and for our partners around the world.
As soon as we have more details to share of what his day-to-day is going to look like on this trip, we will certainly share that and likely hold background calls as well with some of our policy experts in the NSC to lay out the specifics.
Go ahead, Jacqui.
Q Thank you, Karine. Can you tell us how many migrant children are presently in U.S. custody?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I would refer you to the HHS. I — I don’t have — don’t have those numbers in front — in front of me.
Q Their website has not reported any data on this since January, and they’re typically reported once a month. So in light especially of this migrant death of a child a couple of days ago, I just want to know why that data is not there and if it’s being kept somewhere else, if it’ll be released to us.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, first, as I will reiterate — as I mentioned to Zeke, who asked this question — our hearts go out to the family members.
It is a devastating news and incredibly sad- — saddened to hear that news. There’s a medical investigation that started on May 10th that’s going to — we’re going to allow that process to continue.
As far as the data, that is something that comes from HHS, so I would have to refer you to them.
Q Will you — will the administration be working to track that down? Because especially after the New York Times report that HHS lost contact with 85,000 children over the course of the last two years and lost immediate contact with a third of migrant children, that data not being there is
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I expect HHS to provide that data. That is something that they would have for you — to share with you. I just don’t have a da- — that data right at this time.
Q On the — on the ruling in Florida last night against these releases and the Biden administration’s statement in that legal filing that 45,000 individuals are going to be in custody by the end of this month — right? — if they go forward with this process of releases, what’s the backup plan now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me just say on the ruling that you just you — just laid out to me: So, look, the way we see that — it’s sabotage. It’s pure and — and simple. That’s how that reads to us.
The claims that CB- — CBP is allowing or encouraging mass release of migrants and — is just categorically false. That is not what’s occurring. That is not what’s happening. And it is a — it is a harmful ruling, and the Department of Justice is going to fight it. That’s what we’re going to see. And we’re going to continue to use every tool that we have to make sure that we are dealing with this issue in a humane and orderly way.
And — and so, just last night, ICE announced that it is adding thousands more beds.
But, look, Republican elected officials continue to play games here, they continue to have political stunts, and they don’t want to solve this problem. They want to use it, again, as a — as a campaign tool for them.
And so, what we want to make sure is deal with this challenging circumstances. That’s what we have done since day one of this administration.
Go ahead, Steven.
Q Just a couple follow-ups to the questions asked by my colleagues in the second row. First is: What’s the White House’s message to progressives who are reading about the substance of the talks about spending caps and they are — might be expressing some nervousness? What’s the message to them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Just not going to negotiate from here. We’re going to have a conversation, as they have been having. The President is happy to have a debate to compare what he’s put forth to show his values for the American people, as it relates to his budget and investing in America, how he’s going to cut the — cut the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years.
That is something that the President is willing to have. And — and, you know, we’re just not going to negotiate from here.
The — the House Republicans have been very clear how they see moving forward and the cuts that they’ve put forth — those 22 percent cuts in veterans and healthcare and public safety — that’s going to hurt American families. And I’ll just leave it there.
Q And a follow-up to Scott’s question. When the President goes to Hiroshima, will he issue an apology on behalf of the United States for the use of the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Not going to — not going to get ahead of what next week is going to look like on the President’s schedule. Just not going to get ahead of that.
Q Thanks, Karine. Just to follow up, you just described the ruling as — from last night as “sabotage, pure and simple.” But it ju- — it does change how the administration potentially handles the situation on the southern border for at least the next 14 days. So what changes may or may not be made policy-wise on the southern border?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say — look, I said this already: It’s a harmful ruling. We’re going to let the Department of Justice deal with this ruling. What we’re going to do — and I just mentioned, ICE has — has announced adding a — thousands more beds. And so, we’re going to use the tools that we have in front of us to deal with this issue.
But look, we need Congress — beyond that, beyond the ruling, beyond what we’ve seen from the sabotage, as I said, pure and simple — this is sabotage — we want Congress to act. We want Congress to take action. And we just have not seen that.
Again, the President is going to use every tool that he has, as he has been for the last two years, to get this done. But we need to see Congress act.
Q The — the ruling came from the state of Florida. The governor there, Ron DeSantis, commented about it today. He said, “Maybe it will prompt some introspection in the Biden administration. I doubt it very seriously. What they’re doing is a total disgrace, so thanks to Florida for stepping up.”
Do you have any —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just — let me just lay out a couple of things that we have done the last two years. First of all, we’re asking Congress to act. We’ve been very clear about that. The President put — put forth a proposal to fix this broken system that has been broken for decades. I mentioned how Secretary Mayorkas said and — we haven’t seen new laws since 1990s. And so, the President requested additional funding to prepare for this transition, both as part of his first and second budget request and again this past December.
Another thing that we have done is — the President has done — is diplomacy. We worked to restore our alliances with key partners across the western hemisphere. You have seen the type of diplomacy that we’ve been able to do with our western hemisphere partners to deal with this issue.
The 20 leaders — let’s not forget — that met in California just the end of last year — world leaders — they came and they signed onto the — the Los Angeles Declaration for Migration. That was really important.
We’ve worked with Mexicom, we’ve worked with Colombia, we’ve worked with Canada, we’ve worked with Spain and others to step up enforcement, expand legal pathways, and more.
So, we’re doing that. We’ve expanded legal pathways. We’re surging, also, resources to the border. All of these — all of these things are incredibly important.
And let’s not forget, we also have the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that helped harden our ports of entry.
So this is what we’ve been doing for the last two years — last two years.
And so, again, what we’re seeing from Republican officials is completely shameful because it’s political play. That’s what we’re seeing.
I think I’m about to be pulled. Okay, I’m going to do one last one.
Q Thanks, Karine. Just to follow up on your comments that the decision was sabotage. To be precise, are you saying that the Florida attorney general was attempting to sabotage your policy or the Trump-appointed judge in Florida (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here’s what I — here’s what I’ll say. I won’t go into specific person. I can say that migrants who do not have a lawful basis to remain will be quickly removed, just like 1.4 million migrants who were expelled last year alone. So that’s the truth, right?
But even before Title 42 lifted, the Attorney General of Florida filed suit to sabotage our effort to humanely and effectively manage the border. And so that’s what we’ve been seeing from Republican officials over and over again for the past several months.
Instead of trying to deal with an issue or talking to the federal government how to deal with an issue maybe in their state or in their city, they don’t do that. They actually sabotage what we’re trying to do.
And I just laid out what we have been doing, what this President has been doing for the last two years — expanding legal pathways, surging resources to the border, making sure that our diplomacy was back on track after what we’ve seen that was devastated by the last administration from the President.
So we’re going to continue to do that, use the tools that we have in front of us to deal with a real challenging issue. And that’s what you’ve heard from Secretary Mayorkas, you’ve heard from Department of State, you’ve heard from DOD for the past several weeks of how seriously we’ve taking this issue now that Title 42 has been lifted.
Thank you, everybody. See you next week.
Q Thank you, Karine.
2:18 P.M. EDT
Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2023/05/12/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-and-infrastructure-implementation-coordinator-mitch-landrieu/