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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, February 23, 2024

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, February 23, 2024

James S.  Brady Press Briefing Room

1:40 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everybody.

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think it’s Frid- — it’s Friday, right?

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  (Laughs.)  Good point.  Good point.

Okay.  A couple things at the top before we get into questions.  (A cellphone rings.)  Somebody wants to take that?  (Laughter.)  Don’t want to interrupt your call.

Okay.  So, I want to address some devastating news out of Oklahoma.  As a parent, I was absolutely heartbroken to learn about Nex Benedict’s death.

Every young person deserves to feel safe and supported at school.

Our hearts are with Nec- — Nex Benedict’s family, friends, entire school community in the wake of this horrific and gut-wrenching tragedy.

I know that for many LGBTQ+ students across the country, this may feel personal and deeply, deeply painful.

There is always someone you can talk to if you’re going through a hard time and need support.

The President and his administration launched the 988 line to help, and we have a line dedicated to serving LGBTQ+ young people that can be reached by dialing 988 and pressing “3.”

Through devastating tragedies like these, we must support each other and lift one another up.

Now, in another news that we learned — that came out this week is how the people of Alabama woke up to shocking news.

The State Supreme Court has put access to fertility treatments at risk for families who are desperately trying to get pregnant.

It’s unimaginable for people who want to become parents, and it’s a devastating example of the kind of chaos and confusion that has resulted from the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

There are reports that families seeking fertility care don’t know what to do or where to turn.  Doctors are afraid to pr- — of prosecution.  And families in other states are worried they might be next.

But this is not the first time reproductive care has been disrupted in Alabama, a state where women are already living under a total abortion ban.  The state has no exceptions for rape or incest.

This is the same state whose Attorney General threatened to prosecute people who help women travel out of state to seek the care that they need.

And it’s not just Alabama.  We’re seeing this chaos play out across the country.

The day Roe fell is the day that the floodgates opened for Republican elected officials to dictate some of the most personal decisions families can make.

Now, as a result:

Twenty-one states have abortion bans in effect.  In nearly all [these] states, doctors can be charged with a felony for simply doing their jobs.

Twenty-seven million women of reproductive age now live in states with abortion bans.

Over 380 state bills restricting access to abortion care were introduced just last year.

And congressional Republicans have proposed three national abortion bans.

It doesn’t stop there.  Believe it or not, it doesn’t stop there.

Birth control access is under attack.  Women are being denied care for ectopic pregnancy.  And now, with this decision out of Alabama — Alabama, IVF is under attack.

So, we want to be really clear here: It is absolutely unacceptable to this administration when women are denied the care that they need.  It is unacceptable.

President Biden and Vice President Harris will continue to fight to protect access to reproductive healthcare and call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law for all women in every state.

Now, as you saw this mo- — morning, we are excited to announce that on March 1st, President Biden will welcome Prime Minister Meloni of Italy to the White House to reaffirm the strong relationship between the United States and Italy.

The leaders will discuss shared approaches to address global challenges, including their commitment to continue supporting Ukraine as it confronts Russia’s aggressions, preventing regional escalation in the Middle East and delivering humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, developments in North Africa, and close trans- — transatlantic coordination regarding the People’s Republic of China.

They will also discuss Italy’s G7 presidency and coordinate in advance of the N- — of the NATO Summit in Washington.

And finally, earlier today, you heard directly from the President when he delivered remarks and issued a statement to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine tomorrow. 

We mourn — we mourn the many Ukrainian lives who have been lost as a result of Russia’s unprovoked and unlawful war, and we are committed — committed to com- — continuing to support the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia’s vicious and brutal war in Ukraine.

As part of that commitment, we sanctioned over 500 targets today to impose additional costs on Russia for its repression, human rights abuses, and aggression against Ukraine.

The Department of Commerce is adding more than 90 companies to the Entity List for their activities in support of Russia’s defense-industrial base and war effort.

And the Department of State is designating three Russian individuals who were connected to Navalny’s imprisonment and the Russian government’s harsh treatment of him.

The U.S. government has designated over 4,000 entities and individuals in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine over the past two years, the strongest set of sanctions ever imposed on a major economy.

And we will continue — we will continue to take actions to ensure Mr. Putin pays an — an — a steeper price for his aggression abroad, the repression at home.

At the same time, we need House Republicans to join us — to join us in standing up to Putin and to take action by passing the national security supplemental bill to ensure we can continue to support Ukraine.

Time is of the essence and Ukraine cannot afford for House Republicans to continue to delay.

Before I continue, we will have the week ahead later to all of you.  I don’t have that in front of me at this time.  But, obviously, we’ll share that with all of you.

Go ahead, Zeke.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  We’ve heard some sharp words from the President, from yourself, criticism of the Speaker for not bringing up the Ukraine aid to the floor.  Has the President reached out directly to the Speaker at all since their last conversation a month ago?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we have- — I don’t have a — a call to read out to you about a call between the President or — and the Speaker. 

You — look, want to be very clear here.  We’ve been — we’ve been — and it’s been clear to all of you, and you’ve all have reported this as well.  We know for a fact that if this bill — this national security supplemental were to go to the floor, it would get bipartisan support.  This is in the House — in the House, obviously.  We know that House Republicans would support this.  We know that House Democrats would support this.

All — all he needs to do — all the Speaker needs to do is bring this to the floor — it will get support — instead of playing political — political games here, instead of playing political stunts. 

And you all have reported — I believe Politico reported — how there is no direction for this — for this — for this Republican co- — caucus in the House.  They don’t have a plan. 
And it’s easy to do. 

This is something — and I’m going to be really blunt here.  Lives are at stake.  If you think about what’s happening in Ukraine, if you think about what’s happening in the Middle East, lives are at stake here.  This is about saving lives, and they can get this done. 

This is also about the national security of the American people.  So, if he truly stands with the American people, he would get this done.  Put it on the floor.  It will get bipartisan support.  Put it on the floor.  Stop playing political games.

Q    In your topper, you mentioned the Alabama decision.  Is there any actions the federal government can take or is looking at taking to try to help women who are trying to get in vitro fertilization services?  (Inaudible) hospital network that — that stopped the practice now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look — and, look, I don’t have anything to share at this time.  I know you’re asking me are there any policy actions — right? — that we can take from here.  Look, what we will say here is that the fix here is — is not — is — is Roe v. Wade.  That’s the fix.  That’s how we get to a place where we fix what’s going on and stop the chaos that we’re seeing in these states. 

That’s the fix.  It is a legislative fix that needs to come from Congress.  That’s what we need to get — to get to a place to.

I don’t have anything to announce here.  But it is unimaginable of what families are now having to deal with and how this could spread to other states.  And this is the chaos — the chaos that comes from the Dobbs decision, that comes from what Republicans have been doing since the Dobbs decision. 

And so, we have to get this right.  We have to get this fixed by making sure Congress acts and gets Roe — become — makes Roe the law of the land.  The courts got it wrong.  The courts got it wrong in this.

Q    And then, last from me.  Last month, the President said that he did not have any additional executive authority to act on with regard to the border.  He met with governors this morning, where he apparently told them that he was looking and talked to his lawyers and seemed frustrated with his lawyers as he’s trying to devise some executive actions.  We did some reporting on that in the last couple of days as well.

So, is the President currently contemplating any additional executive actions on the border?  What are they, and when will we see that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we don’t have any actions to — to announce today — no decisions.  And this is something that I’ve actually spoken to the President about.  No decisions have been made on this. 

Here’s what we know, and here’s the bottom line.  There is no executive action — no executive action that the President can take — no matter how aggressive it could be, can deliver the significant policy reforms and additional — additional resources that Congress could have provided that Republicans rejected.  Right? 

There’s nothing — no actions that he could take that would have been — that would be as — as — as tough, as fair as this bipartisan — bipartisan legislation that came out of the Senate, obviously, that we worked on for — for months. 

And that’s what would have actually dealt with this, what was happening at the border, dealt with the immigration situation.  And this is what Republicans rejected.

And so, look, I don’t have any decisions to — to make at this time.  What we believe is that that piece of legislation that came out — bipartisan piece of legislation that came out of the Senate, that would have been the way to move forward here. 

And, again, Republicans in the House decided to block that.  They decided to go a political direction.  They decided on issues, on policies that were included in there that they believed in — that they, at one point, believed that’s how to move forward to deal with the border — they — they rejected it.

And so, again, don’t have anything to announce at this time or any decisions — to be even more clear, any decisions that have been made right now.  But we had something at — on the table that came out of the Senate in a bipartisan way, and they decided — and they rejected it, meaning the Republicans in the House.

Go ahead, Selina.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  On the Alabama IVF ruling.  How concerned should American families be that this could spread to other conservative states?  And does this president need to do more than simply calling for the codification of Roe v. Wade?  Does he need to go further here, since this does deal with —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look —

Q    — a separate issue?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And I hear your — your — your question here.  Yeah, they should be concerned.  They should be concerned.  On your first part of your question, they should be concerned that this should — could spread in other states.

This is the chaos that has come out of the Dobbs decision.  This is the chaos that has come out of — of getting ri- — rid of Roe, which was the law of the land for almost 50 years. 

And so, look, what needs to happen — I mean, the way that we fix this or the way that we get to a place where women feel protected, where women can make decisions on their own body, where families can make a decision on how to move forward in –in growing their family or starting a family is to — is to get Roe and Wade to — Roe v. Wade needs to be the law of the land.  That’s the fix.  That’s what needs to happen.

And there is — that is the — the best way to move forward here.

Q    And on the border deal.  The President had earlier said that he was out of options when it comes to executive actions.  Does the fact that he’s considering other actions mean that there was more he could have done earlier? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I —

Q    So, what changed here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to be very clear.  The bottom line, the only way to — we could have had move forward — we could move forward in a effective, more comprehensive way was to move forward with the bipartisan — bipartisan legislation that came out of the Senate.  That was the way that we believe would have been a fair — it was a — one of the toughest, one of the fairest bipartisan border security bills that we have seen in decades. 

It would have dealt with giving resources that’s needed at the border.  It would have dealt with dealing with policy issues as it relates to immigration.  And that’s what — the way we should have moved forward.

A couple of things it would have done: establish a fair — a more efficient process for asylum claims with consequences for those who do not have a legal basis to remain in the United States; provide more resources to secure the border and process claims — Border Patrol agents, law enforcement personnel, and detection technology to combat fentanyl trafficking, asylum officers and immigration judges; make our country safer, our border more secure, while treating people fairly and humanely, consistent with our values as a nation.

Republicans rejected this bipartisan agreement that came out of the Senate.  That’s something that the President worked with in a bipartisan way, obviously, with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate for months.  They rejected that.

And we believe that is the direction — that is the bottom line for us.  That’s what — that’s the way we should have moved forward.  We just — I don’t have anything to announce or any decision that’s been made.

Q    Just real quickly, though.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    Roe v. Wade versus trying to protect women’s rights to IVF treatment: They are two separate things.  So, is the administration looking at protections for the latter?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I don’t have anything to share on any policy changes or any policy updates for all of you.  We have to understand how this started.  This started because of what happened with Roe — the Dobbs decision to overturn Roe, something that was a — a — you know, a Roe was — was — was, you know, constitutional for almost 50 years — almost 50 years.  And that got overturned. 

And the moment that got overturned, that day, Republicans started to work and take action.  I just mentioned 380 pieces of legislation to go against what women’s — difficult decisions that women’s need — women need to make about their bodies, about their family, about how they’re going to move forward, about the care that they need — 380 pieces of legislation across the country.  That’s what is happening.  That’s what’s happening right now. 

And so, the chaos has been started — was started the day that happened — the day Roe was overturned.  And the only way to fix this — the best way to fix this is to restore Roe.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  The President made an appeal this morning to the governors at the White House, asking them to kind of go back to their states and talk to their congressional lawmakers about passing the Ukraine aid bill.  I’m wondering if that is sort of the next course of action where you’re thinking about targeting the Speaker and top House Republicans in their districts. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, the President had an opportunity to — to engage with governors of both — obviously of both parties, which is something that he does yearly.  And they have important — important items to speak on — to speak to on the agenda.  And obviously, this is a — this is an issue that governors care about. 

We know that even with the bipartisan deal for the border security, obviously, that came out of the Senate, we got support from governors.  We got letters from governors.  We got letters from that included c- — mayors from — from the cities that were being affected.  So, we know that we got support from them. 

And so, one way, obviously, to get the Speaker to do his job and put it — put it on the floor and actually take it up is for governors to speak up as well. 

And I believe that they have.  Obviously, the letter was a key part of that. 

And so, look, there are — there are many, many items on the agenda to discuss.  This is something that’s important when you think about immigration, when you think about what’s happening at the border and how it’s affecting these — these states, these governors. 

So, yeah, I think it’s important for — one way the President to show leadership is to also say — and — and governors to show leadership is to — to be very clear what this means to them, to their constituents back at home. 

Q    Are you planning to follow up with them in, you know, the next week if they have had those conversations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, we’ve been in regular touch with governors.  Obviously, we — there was a billion dollars that we were able to secure to help governors deal with the — the migrant situation, the migrant issue over the past several months. 

So, we’ve been in constant communication with governors, with mayors.  And so, those conversations continue.

What you were able to see is the President leaning in and showing how important it is to move with the — with the bipartisan deal, as it relates to the border — obviously, border security and — and also, obviously, the national security supplemental, since we are — we are speaking about the — the two-year anniversary tomorrow of Ukraine being — being attacked by Russia. 

So, all of these things are important.  We’re talking about our national security — our national security — the importance of our national security for the American people.  And we’re also talking about our border and what we need to do to make sure that we deal with the border challenges. 

Q    I have a quick one on the meeting that he had in California with Navalny’s family.  We did see the readout that you put out.  You know, the President has spoken a little bit on it.  But what specific assurances did he offer Yulia?  Because the sanctions package was already in the works — right? — to mark the anniversary of the two-year war.

What did he tell the Navalny family that he can do?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So —

Q    — to protect them?  I mean, did he advise her not to go back to Russia?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to be really careful and not speak to a private conversation that the President had.  That is something that we don’t do here.  I’m not going to go beyond the readout. 

But, yes, was the — was the sanction package in motion before Navalny’s death?  Yes.  As you — as you know, tomorrow will be a two-year anniversary. 

But we added to — we added to the package — obviously added additional sanctions once we learned about Navalny’s death. 

So, both are true.  In this case, both can be true and are true.  And so, I just am not going to go beyond a conversation — a private conversation. 

Q    Did he ask her not to go back to Russia?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not — I’m just not going to do that.  Obviously, it is her decision to make.  I’m just not going to get into — into private conversations.

Go ahead.

Q    Border deal aside, the White House is actively discussing taking executive action on the border, as the governors mentioned earlier today, and as we’ve reported.  So, why now?  Is the border deal just a jumping off point to new executive actions that the President can take?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m not going to comment on any individual policy option that’s being speculated in the media.  I’m just not going to do that. 

What we have been very clear — the bottom line is the way to have moved forward was with this border deal.  That’s the way —

Q    But there is executive actions that are now being considered that weren’t considered before.  So, why?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not — I’m not going to get into any policy discussions that are possibly happening or — or how- — however it’s being reported.  I’m just not going to get into that. 

What I can say is the bottom line here: We believe no executive action, no matter how aggressive it could be or — or could look would have been as — as significant as the border deal that came out of the Senate in a bipartisan way.  No action. 

And let’s not forget: Republicans rejected that.  And so, don’t have anything to go — to go on beyond that. 

Q    On Alabama.  What’s your message to the clinics in Alabama that have proactively paused IVF treatments?  Are they making the right call?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I can’t speak to the decisions that the clinics are making.  That is for them.  They are, you know — you know, there are safety concerns.  There’s legal concerns that they have to weigh and decide on.

What we can speak to is the chaos that has been created because of the overturning of Roe, and we see this.  And it is devastating.  It is devastating.  It is dangerous to women. 

And so, what we’re going to do is continue to speak out against that and make it very clear that — that the court decision that was made was wrong.  And — and, yeah, you know what?  This could — this could get spread.  This could go beyond Alabama.  And that is a scary thought for many families across the country, certainly many women across the country. 

Q    Last question.  You mentioned there’s no readout with the President and the House Speaker.  The — one of the — one of the messages in the G7 call, according to John Kirby, will be that the President will do everything he can to get Congress to pass that funding.  Has there been any reach-out from the White House to try to get a call or a meeting in the books since he is the person between that funding and the White House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I — I get the question.  But let’s not forget, for the past several months, NSC and other parts of, obviously, the President’s administration have had regular conversation.  You’ve heard Jake Sullivan speak to going over to House and the Senate to talk to Republicans and Democrats about the aid, about the importance of the Ukraine aid. 

You’ve heard that conversation.  You’ve heard him say this from this podium.  And we also know that there is bipartisan support.  We saw it coming out of the Senate.  And there’s bipartisan support in the House.

What the Speaker — the pressure here needs to be on the Speaker.  The Speaker needs to do his job and actually take this up, put it to the — if he were to put it to the floor, it would have bipartisan support. 

But we’ve been doing our job.  We’ve been having those conversations with congressional members.  And, you know, it’s — it’s unfortunate that the Speaker chooses to turn this into a political — a political football here. 

This is not what this is about.  This is about our national security.  This is about the American people.

Go ahead, Ed.

Q    On the sanctions —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — that were unveiled today.  What makes these sanctions any more effective than the hundreds announced before?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  So, a couple of things, as I just mentioned.  So, first of all, these sanctions are cumulative, so we have to look at it in that way.  These are 500 new targeted sanctions that are now being sanctioned — the targets are being sanctioned for the first time, so that’s important to note. 

These targets are within Russia’s defense industrial base, its financial system, and it will continue to impose costs on Russia to make it harder to carry out its brutal war and vicious war in Ukraine. 

We will continue to make sure that we hold Putin’s aggression accountable and raise the cost on his — on — not — not just him but also his enablers.  But we also, as I’ve said — as I’ve stated, we need Congress to act.  They need to do their job.  They need to provide the assistance that Ukrainians need to continue to fight Putin’s brutal war. 

That’s what they need to do.  They need to be able to make sure that we provide Ukraine’s — Ukrainians with the assistance to defend themselves.  And so, we are continuing to urge the Speaker.  Again, if the Speaker were to put this on the floor, we would see bipartisan support for the national security bill.

Q    I guess, asked another way, you’ve — there have been 4,000 sanctions now in the last two years.  It hasn’t stopped the war.  So, to what extent — or how should the success of these sanctions even be measured —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look —

Q    — if that hasn’t happened?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I totally get the question.  Look, we believe they’ve been effective.  Right?  That’s what we believe.  The goal of sanction export control is to increase — again, increase the cost of — of Mr. Putin and his enablers.  And it’s clear that our sanctions and imports controls are having an impact. 

And so — and it’s not just them.  It’s — obviously, Russia had been forced — because of we’re — we’re raising the stakes on Russia and their — and his enablers, we see Russia being forced — right? — to turn to countries like Iran and North Korea to get the arms and ammunition it needs to carry out this war. 

And I want to read — I want to just lay out an example from Bloomberg.  Bloomberg reported last month that Russia’s government has tapped almost half of the national wealth funds available — available reserves as it pours money into the — its defense budget at the expense of Russia’s other needs. 

When you think about Putin’s own oil c- — own oil czar, they have li- — he’s linked the fact that Russia has been forced to sell its oil at heavily discounted prices to our coalition’s increased enforcement of oil — oil price cap in recent months.

So, we have seen the impact, we believe.  Again, this is cumulative, what we were able to sanction — again, 500 additional targets.  And we believe that it has had an impact.

Q    On the Alabama IVF ruling, you have spoken out just here forcefully about it.  The Vice President did yesterday and continues to on her national tour.  The President tweeted about it and issued a written statement. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    When might we see him more publicly speak out about this issue?  We keep hearing — at least we keep hearing from voters and Democrats who say, “Where is he on this?  Why isn’t he talking about –”

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I’ve —

Q    “– an issue of such urgent concern?”  Presidential focus, time, statement in public instead of on paper is very different than sending you out here or tweeting about it or sending the Vice President on the road.  So —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, Ed, I think the President has spoken about what the attack on reproductive rights on — what the attack on women being able to make choices on behalf of — of their own healthcare and getting the healthcare that they need, the actions that he has taken, whether it’s executive actions and what, obviously, his agencies have been able to do — DOJ, HHS — I mean, those have been done because of this President, and he has spoken to this many times. 

The day that Roe was overturned, you heard from the President.  The President was the only person that spoke to this on — on that day.  And I would argue that a statement from the President is incredibly powerful, is important.  He spoke to this through — through his statement.  And the President has been very clear where he stands.

He believes that we need to continue to protect women’s right to make a decision, reproductive rights decision — reproductive health decision, pardon me.  And that’s where we’re going to continue to be.  That’s where he’s going to continue to be.  And we’ve been very clear about that. 

Q    We’ve asked about this before.  The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is once again concerned they are not being brought into conversations about potential executive orders and other actions taken by the White House, saying that what they’re reading about, at least, is unacceptable to them and they haven’t had much dialogue with the White House about it.  Are there any plans to — to remedy that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, first, we —

Q    To meet with them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No decisions have been made.  I want to be very, very clear about that, again.  And I would say that we are in regular communication, regular contact with members of — of the Hispanic Caucus, members of the Progressive Caucus, just members of —

Q    Well, they claim they’re not.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  From my understanding, and I’ve asked about this, we’ve been in regular communications with them.  And so, obviously, we respect — we respect congressional members.  We work — we work very closely with them on many, many issues. 

We’ve been in regular communication and regular contact.  We just don’t have any decisions to make on any executive actions.  We just don’t have any decisions that have been made.  And that may be why they haven’t been talked to about that particular issue. 

But I would say, as it relates to immigration, as it relates to what we’ve been trying to do, certainly as it related to the bipartisan agreement that came out of the Senate, we were in regular discussion.  No decision has been made.  No decision has been made here. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  We know what the governors told us that the President told them about the border and what he’s considering with regards to executive actions.  Just for the sake of clarity, can you tell us what the President told them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to go into private conversations.  I’m just not.  The governors can speak for themselves.  I’m just not going to go into it.

Q    Okay.  And Tammy Duckworth, the senator from Illinois, is talking about legislation that could protect IVF at the federal level.  If Congress were to pass legislation to protect IVF, would President Biden sign it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I have not seen the legislation.  I have not talked to our Office of Leg Affairs about it.  So, I want to be super careful here.  Obviously, Tammy Duckworth, the senator, is a — is a close colleague, someone we’ve worked very closely with.  So, I just would need to talk to our Office of Leg Affairs.

We believe the best way, honestly, to get this done, as it relates to the chaos that has been created, is to get Roe to — to become law of the land, and that’s something Congress can do.  I just — I want to be careful.  I just don’t want to speak to that particular legislation.

Q    And are you actively trying to get additional funding for the Border Patrol or some of the other funds to help deal with the border situation added to the CR or whatever vehicle might have to move to avoid a government shutdown?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we’re always having active conversations on what else we can do to make — to deal with the challenges at the border, obviously.  Don’t have anything specific to lay out on any additional funding.  Obviously, there was additional funding that we requested in that border security supplemental. 

Obviously, there would have been additional funding if the House — House Republicans would have moved forward with that bipartisan agreement that came out of the Senate and Republicans didn’t reject it outright.  Obviously, that would have been helpful to what’s happening, the challenges at the border.  I just don’t have anything to share on the specifics.

Go ahead, (inaudible).

Q    Several on the border, Karine.  But the northern one, it’s not as dramatic as in the south, but there are different and more and more reports on migrants crossing the border to come to the U.S.  Is the administration worried?  Is it in contact with the Canadian government to try to stop the flow? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we are in constant communication with our Canadian counterparts, obviously, on a range of issues that — including migrants attempting to cross the border.  Don’t have any new announcements to make.  But we are constantly having those conversations with our counterparts in Canada.  I just don’t have anything for you at this time.

Q    How worried is the administration that it’s happening more and more (inaudible)? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I’m not going to — to put a gauge on this on how worried we are.  But we do have constant communication with our counterparts on a range of issues, including the one that you just laid out to me.

Q    And on the sanctions.  The Canadian government today, in parallel, announced its own package of sanctions against Russians and Russian entities.  How — how was the coordination happening, the — the planning of all of this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, obviously, I just laid out that we are in constant communication with our Canadian counterparts on a range of issues.  Obviously, Canada has been a — a strong partner with us, along with 50 other — 50 — or 49 other countries — obviously, NAT- — including NATO — NATO Alliance, as well, and what the President has been able to do to bring a strong front as it relates to helping Ukraine beat back with Russia’s aggression.

I don’t have any specific conversations to lay out on how that coordination — potential coordination worked.  But we are in constant communication with our Canadian counterparts.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  On the consideration of these new executive orders for the border.  What changed between the time President Biden said, “We are a nation who says, ‘If you want to flee and you’re fleeing oppression, you should come,’” and now? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t understand.  What — what do you mean?  The — your question, I don’t get —

Q    As a candidate —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — how it’s connected to the —

Q    — President Biden was telling people to come to the border.  So, what has changed since then?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I don’t have a context of this quote that you’re giving me.  But what I will say is this.  The President took this issue very seriously of what is happening at the border and what — and the immigration system as a whole.  Right? 

And we have said over and over again, this is a system that has been broken for decades, under the last administration, as you know, which was a Republican administration, and other administrations before that.  And he took this so seriously that the first piece of legislation that he put forth on day one was on immigration reform.  That is what counts, and that is what matters.

And for the past several months, we worked with Republican senators and also Democrats in the Senate to try to come up with a fair and tough piece of legislation that would deal with border security.  That was — let’s not forget — endorsed by the border union patrol.

And that’s how seriously the President has taken it.  We’ve done this for months, and House Republicans have gotten in the way.  The Speaker has gotten in the way. 

And so, we want to deal with this issue.  This is an issue that majority of Americans care about.  House Republicans, the Speaker got in the way.

The question really is for the Speaker: What changed?  Speaker Johnson, what’s changed?

Q    Something else President Biden has promised is a more humane border policy than Trump.  So, why would he even be considering now a border policy that is more similar to Trump?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What border policy are you talking about?

Q    Well, Axios is reporting that the legal authority Biden is considering using powered Trump’s Muslim ban and similar sweeping restrictions at the border.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get into — get into or comment on individual policy option that’s being speculated right now.  As I said before, no decisions have been made.  We want to make sure — the President has been very clear: He wants to make sure that our country is safer, and we need more Border Security, abv- — obviously, to secure our border.  We’ve been very clear about that.  And we want to do it while treating people fairly and humanely, and that is consistent with our values.

But, look, Republicans continue to get in the way.  Speaker Johnson has gotten in the way of this.  And so, a lot of these questions are for him.

We did our job.  The Senate did their job in a bipartisan way on — there are provisions in that — polic- — policies that are in that legislation that Republicans agreed with at some point, not very long ago — just last year — that they agreed with.  And now they’re rejecting it.

Go ahead.

Q    Karine, with regards to the sanctions on Russia, you mentioned that previous sanctions, you said, had been effective, in part, because Russia was forced to go to other countries like Iran and North Korea to get resources. 

Still, though, the war is not over.  How can you make the argument that those sanctions have been effective if they’re still getting those resources from those other countries, wherever they get them from?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, we believe — and I just laid this out moments ago — that we have seen an impact.  I talked about Bloomberg.  I talked about what their — Putin’s own oil czar has had to do.  I mean, this is the — I mean, what we have been able to impose on — on Russia has been pretty significant.  It has been pretty significant, when you think about the — another major economy — the most that we’ve ever been able to do on any major economy.  And as — as I’ve stated, this is cumulative.  Right?  This is a — this is a continuation.  And we believe, as has been reported, that we have seen — that we have seen some impact here. 

We’re going to continue to use every tool — every tools in our — in our tool belt, obviously.  We’re going to develop — developing new tools to make it harder and costlier for Russia to fuel its war machine.  That’s what we’re going to do.  And at the same time, we need Congress to do their jobs, we need House Republicans, we need the Speaker to put on the floor a national security supplemental plan that we believe and we know will get bipartisan support. 

We’ve heard from Republicans in the House; we’ve heard from, obviously, Democrats in the House.  That’s what we need the — the House to do. 

Q    And on the border.  I know you’ve said you couldn’t or wouldn’t get into specific executive actions being considered or not considered.  But bottom line: As a — as a policy, does the administration believe that asylum laws need to be strengthened?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to be —

Q    And — but the reas- — the —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know.  I know. 

Q    I know.  But the reason I asked that is that the bipartisan bill — and you said the President would sign it — 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, he would.

Q    — would strengthen asylum laws.  So, I just want to be sure: The administration does believe that asylum laws need to be strengthened?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Obviously, because it was in — as you just stated — in the bipartisan legislation that came out of the Senate that the President’s team worked very closely on.  I just want to be very, very clear and very careful.  Decisions haven’t been made.  I’m not going to get into any internal — internal policy — individual policy, pardon me, option that’s being speculated in the press.  I’m just not going to do that from here.  But no decision has been made. 

Q    And finally, on a separate topic.  I know the U.S. has had a complicated relationship with Mexico before.  I wanted to get the White House’s reaction to President López Obrador doxing a New York Times reporter in a press conference.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, well, I — well, I’ve not seen that.  Obviously, that’s not something we support.  We believe in the freedom of the press, obviously, which is why we do this on — on — almost on a daily basis. 

And we — we — it is important for the press to be able to report on issues that matter to the American people freely in an — in a way that, obviously, you all feel secure and safe and in a way that you’re not being doxied [doxed] or attacked.  That is — you know, that is something that we will, obviously, reject. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  One follow-up on Nex Benedict and then another one on a —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — separate subject.  Given that Nex’s family said they had been bullied in the months prior to their death, specifically about their gender identity, and the family also says that Nex was physically assaulted the day prior to their death, does the White House think that this case should be the subject of a federal hate crime investigation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to be really careful.  That is something for the Department of Justice to decide on.  I cannot speak to that.  Obviously, our hearts go out to — to Nex Benedict’s family.  It is a tragedy that is awful. 

And I said this at the beginning, and I’ll say it again: Every kid should feel safe and should feel protected when they go to school.  And this should not be the case. 

But that is something — as far as any legal action, that’s something for the Department of Justice to decide. 

Q    And then the Florida Surgeon General defied CDC guidelines this week suggesting it’s fine to send unvaccinated kids to school amid a measles outbreak there.  This comes as the CDC says that routine childhood vaccinations hit a 10-year low in 2023, putting about a quarter of a million kindergarteners at risk for measles. 

Does the administration support tightening the kinds of philosophical and religious exemptions that are increasingly being used to defy school childhood vaccine mandates?  And what else is the administration doing to promote the importance of childhood vaccines, especially against the backdrop of this nationwide uptick in measles outbreaks?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, just a — a couple of things.  As it relates to the outbreak, the CDC is actively monitoring these cases.  And as you know, we have — the White House Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response remains in close and regular contact as we continue to — to work and monitor what’s going on on the ground. 

And we want to make sure that communities feel safe, obviously.  So, any questions on — specifically on that, I would refer you to the CDC. 

Look, you know, responding to measles outbreaks, which are now, obviously, occurring in every region of the world is a priority for this administration.  Meas- — measles, as you know, is highly contagious, infect- — infectious — contagious infection.  But it is easily prevented with routine child- — childhood vaccines. 

We are providing technical support to the — for example, to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, and we are donating, as well — make sure that there is a vaccine alliance, which has provided millions of measles and other vaccine doses to low- and low-middle-income countries. 

So, we are monitoring this.  It is important that, obviously, we do everything we can to mitigate the situation.  But CDC is actively aware, obv- — obviously, actively monitoring these cases that we’re seeing across the country. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  So, in addition to the sanctions, is the President supportive of, you know, confiscating frozen Russian assets and using it for Ukraine’s reconstruction? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things, because this is a little bit complicated.  And I want to take a step back for the folks who — who are, clearly, watching the briefing.  I understand that you all understand this.

But in 2- — 2022, we worked together with our allies and partners to quickly immobilize almost $300 billion of Russia’s sovereign assets that they had held internationally when they launched their brutal invasion of Ukraine.  That joint action to cut off Russia’s access to a significant amount of funds has made it much riskier for Russia to fund its war against the Ukrainian people and boost their defense spending while also mana- — managing their economy. 

So, now we’re going to continue to be in active conversation with our allies and partners, including the G7, as well as members of Congress, on additional steps to seize Russia’s aggres- — to seize Russians’ — Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and to ensure Russia pays for the damage it has caused.

I don’t have any new announcement to make.  But it is a bit complicated because, as I said, we’re talking about international — kind of an int- — it’s been held internationally.  So, it is a little bit more complicated.

Q    Are there other countries who are planning to, you know, take that action? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would refer you to other countries.  I can’t speak for other countries here.  But I just wanted to make sure we laid out it is complicated.  It is not as simple as it — as it may seem.  But, certainly, don’t have any new announcements to make at this time. 

Go ahead, Karen.

Q    Thanks.  What’s the view from the White House right now about how conversations are going about government funding and spending bills next week — or ahead of next week’s significant deadlines —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I mean —

Q    — for a shutdown?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, and we’re — you know, we’ve been here before and we’ve always been very clear: House Republicans have a job to do.  Their basic duty is to keep the government open.  They need to not play politics here.  They need to not play politics here.  They need to get this done.  We’ve been very clear about that.  And — and it is their job.

If you think about it, and I’ve talked about this before, House Republicans — two thirds of the House Republicans voted for the deal last year.  And just early this year, they reaffirmed that deal.  So, what’s the problem?  What’s the problem here?  They need to get this done.  They need to get this done. 

There are important programs that the American people need.  And so, they need to move forward and make sure we keep the government open.

Q    I feel like I’ve asked you this before deadlines.  But are you anticipating another short-term funding bill, another CR?  And is the President okay with that this time around too?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m not going to get into legislative negotiations from here.  But, look, it is — we got to be really clear.  Like, these are programs that are critical, that are important to the American people.  And it needs to get done.  It needs to get done. 

So, I’m not going to get into negotiations from here.  House Republicans need to do their jobs here.  They need to get to work.  And they need to make sure that we — they avoid, they prevent a needless shutdown.

Q    And are White House officials involved in any conversations, like Leg Affairs, with congressional leaders this weekend about getting closer to something?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I can say that OMB — OMB and our Leg Affairs team are in touch with lawmakers from both parties every day on the need to keep the government open. 

But, again, this is — this — this problem is a problem of the House Republicans’ making.  It’s not something that we can fix for them.  This is something that they can deal with.  This is something that they need to actually work on.  And they need to get to work here.  They need to get to work.

Go ahead, Ed.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I want to try a little bit different on the executive actions, possibly, on the border.  The bills are stalled.  So, why wait three years, now, in to take alternatives or take possible executive actions on the border?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What are you talking about?

Q    Well, you mentioned the — the bill, the when — the first week in office, the President issued his bill that — for immigration reform and then the negotiated Senate bill.  Those are both stalled.  The House is not taking them up.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think you’re seeing it very differently than we are.  We’re saying that the President took it very seriously.  He took it very seriously by taking action on day one, putting forward a comprehensive immigration policy legislation that he wanted Congress to act on.  They did not act on it. 

We — we taken actions on our own.  And we’ve been able to secure some funding to deal with what we’ve seen at the border.  But we need more.  We need more.  And we’ve said this.  We have said this for the past three years.  And House Republicans have continued to get in the way. 

In the last couple of months, we worked with Senate Republicans and Democrats for — for several months to come up with a border security that is tough, that is fair, that’s supported — that was endorsed by the Border Patrol union.  The Border Patrol union endorsed this — this legislation.  Repu- — Republicans rejected it. 

So, this is — this is something for Republicans in the House to speak to.  We’ve worked with the Senate in a bipartisan way to get this done, to actually deal with an issue that matters to the American people, in a bipartisan way.  And House Republicans have allowed politics to get in the way. 

And Speaker Johnson left early after — if you think about the national security supplemental that had to — we had to take out — they had to take out the border security from it because that’s what the Speaker wanted.  That was done out of the Senate.  It was passed.  And then, the Speaker went home early and is gone.  He went on — they — he went on vacation early. 

And so, this is — this is truly a question for the Speaker.

Q    Well — but my question is — is: Now we’re hearing about executive actions that could be taken.  Why wait this long —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I have been very —

Q    — to look at executive actions?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ve been very clear: We have made no decisions on that.  I’m not going to get into policy discussions or hypotheticals that we’re hearing right now.  Be very clear. 

But the focus here should be what happened in the Senate in a bipartisan way that Republicans have rejected.  That is — that is the reality that we’re in here, Ed.  That’s the reality.

Q    And then one more, if I may.  In fiscal year 2023, at the border, there were 24,000 Chinese nationals that had illegally crossed and 288 were deported.  And the National Border Patrol Council President says that the vast majority of them coming across now are military-aged men.  What’s the level of concern for the White House about these military-aged men?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, this is a — this is — continues to be a concern for this for — for this administration.  So, we’ll — we’ll just start there.  But speaking specifically to individuals just in general who pose a — a risk to public safety and national security regardless of nationality, they are detained as they undergo immigration proceedings and are removed if they do not have a legal basis to remain in the United States.

Global migration is at the highest since World War Two.  And that means we work with our international par- — partners to bolster their enforcement capabilities while expanding economic opportunities and lawful pathways. 

That’s what we’ve been able to do for migrants deserving of protection, specifically under the President’s Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection and Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity. 

And again, I go back to that bipartisan agreement that came out of the Senate.  And that would have been a — a step forward here.  It would have been a piece of legislation that — that, as I’ve said, would have been tough, it would have been fair, and it was endorsed by the Border Patrol union, and Republicans in — in the House rejected it.

Go ahead, Gerren.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  A group of progressive lawmakers led by Congresswoman Barbara Lee and 200 organizations sent a letter to the President this week urging him to take executive action, including executive orders, to advance a range of bills that have been introduced by Democrats that have been stalled in Congress, including H.R. 40, which the President said he supports, to create a reparations commission, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, as well as resolutions to protect Black history and create a banned books weeks in — in light of these bans we’ve been seeing in states like Florida. 

Has the White House received this letter?  And does the President believe that his racial justice agenda has been effective?  And does he think that he — he can do more through executive action?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me just say that a lot of — and, yes, we have received the letter, and a lot of the items in the letter that has been — the issues that have been outlined is some of the — is some of the causes that the President has championed over the past three years. 

The President has taken, as you know, historic actions as it relates to voting rights here, strengthening voting rights on the federal level.  He’s taken action to raise wages.  Let’s not forget the actions that he’s taken — because he’s taken the actions on building an economy from the bottom up, middle out, we have seen, as it relates to unemployment for the Black community.  When he walked in, it was at 9 percent.  Now it’s at 5 percent.  Always more work to be done.  But that matters. 

Black wealth has jumped up to 60 percent since the pre-pandemic days. 

He supports a study of reparations and continues the — as — and the continuing impacts of slavery and signed an executive order to — to deal with racial equality on his very first day in office, as it relates to the federal government and what agencies can do better.  And also, you know, he’s spoken about banning of books as it relates to Black history.

So, the President is going to — is committed to making sure that we address racial inequalities here, and he’s going to take — continue — and he’s going to continue to take action to make sure no communities are left behind.  And as I just stated, he’s taken historic executive action on this issue.

This is a priority for this President.  When he walked into this administration, he talked about the different — the different crises that our country was dealing with: climate change, it was COVID at the time, the economy at the time.  Racial inequality was part of that as well.

And so, he’s committed.  He’s committed.

(Speaking to an aide.)  I know.  You’re trying to get me.  (Laughs.)

Go ahead, sir.

Q    Thank you.  During last year, in December, the administration sold weapons to Israel, bypassing Congress.  Why can’t the U.S. do the same for Ukraine right here and right now, given their desperate need of weaponry?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, we need — we actually need funding.  We need this — we need this funding in order to get Ukraine what they need.  It’s gone.  You’ve heard — you’ve heard — you’ve heard the Admiral speak to this.  You’ve heard the National Security Advisor speak to this from this podium.  It’s gone.  There is no more.

We need Congress to do its job and to pass much-needed assistance — security assistance that the Ukraines need — Ukrainians need.

Q    But we’re talking about a sale of weaponry.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  If there’s — I mean, there’s a lot more to this, right?  There is actual — their actual funding that we need to make sure that we get so that DOD and so that the –obviously, the Pentagon can do what it needs to do in order to give the — to give the security assistance that is needed, to give — to give the — to give the weapons that they need to pro- — to fight against Ukrainians’ [Russia’s] aggression.

You’ve heard the Admiral speak to this today on his — in his gaggle, and you’ve heard him talk about this multiple times. 

There are — there is an assistance that we have to provide to them.  That is — it’s not a — we just don’t have it now.  We’re done.

Q    If there — if there is no success on the Hill, would you consider selling weapons to Ukraine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, the way to deal with this is to pass this national security supplemental.  The way to actually help the people of Ukraine to fight for their sovereignty, to fight for their democracy, to fight against — against Mr. Putin’s aggression is to actually pass this national security supplemental. 

That would get bipartisan support in the House.  It will.  That’s how we’re — we move forward here.  There’s no other way to actually do this in a bipartisan scenario.  It’s there.  And Speaker — Speaker — the Speaker needs to do his job.  Speaker Johnson needs to take this up. 

We know that the bipartisan support exists.  We’ve heard from Republicans speak to this directly and very recently.  So, why doesn’t he just do his job and stop putting politics in front of this? 

This is why I don’t want to get into hypotheticals, because there’s an option that exists.  There’s an actual oct- — option that exists.  And the Speaker is putting politics in this.  And that’s not how we should move forward.

All right, everybody.  Thank you so much.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  See you tomorrow — not tomorrow.  Tomorrow is Saturday.  (Laughter.)

See you next week.

2:32 P.M. EST

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2024/02/23/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-february-23-2024/

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