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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre En Route Raleigh, NC

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Raleigh, North Carolina

2:00 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  A couple things at the top.  I know we’re going to have to go real quick here.

So, you all heard from President earlier on the tragic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland.  This morning, the President conveyed senior members of his team for a briefing — convened, pardon me — senior members of his team for a briefing on the ongoing response.

During his — this morning’s briefing, the President directed his team to ensure all federal resources be made available to assist in the immediate search-and-rescue efforts and subsequent rebuilding of the bridge.

The President spoke with Governor Moore, Mayor Scott, Senator Cardin, Senator Van Hollen, Congressman Mfume, and the Baltimore County Executive to discuss ongoing rescue efforts and commitment to provide any and all necessary federal assistance.  He also spoke with Secretary Buttigieg, who is on the ground right now.

The President will continue to receive updates from his team.  And throughout the day, White House and adminis- — and administration officials will remain in close contact with the state and local officials.

Our prayers are with everyone involved in this terrible accident and all the families, especially those waiting for news right now.  We’re incredibly grateful to the brave first responders who immediately rushed to the scene.  To the people of Baltimore, we’re with you and we — and we’ll [you’ll] have our support for as long as it takes.

And today, as you know, we’re on our way to Raleigh, North Carolina, where President Biden and Vice President Harris will lay out their vision to protect and strengthen the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and Medicare and lower healthcare costs.

Their vision stands in stark contrast to the vision laid out by congressional Republicans through their most recent budget proposal.

Forty-five — this is what they laid out — 45 million Americans, including 1.4 million North Carolinians, would lose health insurance; 100 million Americans would — with preexisting conditions would lose those protections, including 1.8 million people in North Carolina; young people would be kicked off their parents’ coverage; prescription drug prices would skyrocket, stripping Medicare’s authority to negotiate lower prescription drug costs, repeal 35-bucks-per-month insulin and $2,000 po- — $2,000 out-of-pocket cap for healthcare costs.

All right.  Let me just get to the last thing because I —

And today, the President approved an urgently needed assistance package for Haitian security forces to help them protect civilians and critical infrastructure against organized and targeted gang attacks.

Our assistance package for up to $10 million, which draws from excess Department — Department of Homeland Security stocks, may include weapons, ammunition, bulletproof vests, and helmets.

Our support is intended to help Haitians restore security, order, and the rule of law and protect civilians, while at the same time remaining committed to supporting Haitian-led effort for a peaceful transition of power.

With that —

Q    Yeah, hi —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi, Chris.  Yeah.  Sorry, I couldn’t find you.

Q    Hello.  So, is the President going to send a proposal to Congress asking for more funding?  Is it going to be a supplemental proposal?  What is that going to look like?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Which — which part are you —

Q    Sorry, the bridge.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  On the bridge.  Okay.

So — so, you heard him.  He’s directed his team to move heaven and earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible.  And the President and his team his team will — will be with the people of Baltimore, as you know, every step of the way.

His expectation is that federal government will cover the entire cost to rebuild this important bridge in the region.  We will work with Congress to ensure this happens, obviously.  But ri- — we are going to cover the cost, and we’re going to make sure that we work on Con- — with Congress on all of this.

Q    And — and, obviously, you know, the President has made infrastructure a big part of his administration.  You know, what is this incident — you know, the fact — you know, a crowded harbor, a boat striking this bridge — you know, big picture, what does this kind of say about the — the status of America’s supply chains and infrastructure?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, right now our focus is on the resc- — search-and-rescue efforts.  That’s what we’re going to focus on right now.  Obviously, we’ve been in touch with Governor Moore and a- — and local elected officials on — on the — on the ground. 

And so, look, you know, we’re going to focus on that.  We’re going to make sure that we rebuild this bridge.  We’re going to do everything that we can, move — as — as I said, move heaven and earth to get that done.  We’re going to work with Congress.

And, of course, we’re going to monitor all of the, you know, supply chain and all of the potential effects of this.  But we want to focus on the search and rescue that is critical right now in this — in these — in these upcoming hours.

Q    Karine —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — just to quickly follow up on that.  I mean, any early assessment on how this incident may impact shipping along the East Coast?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, this is very similar to what — obviously, what Chris just asked me.  Look, we’re going to monitor all of those things.  Our focus right now is the search and rescue and to — and the promise that you heard the President make to the people of Baltimore, the people of Maryland that we’re going to do everything that we can to provide the federal assistance to get this bridge back.

But — well, obviously, we’re going to monitor —

Q    And a quick one on, you know, the President’s point about moving heaven and earth.  Does that mean the White House and the administration are willing to waive any environmental review process, any permits that are required to build the bridge?  I mean, are you thinking about —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, there was already a bridge there.  So, it’s like — it’s replacing a bridge that already existed.  So, I mean, let’s not forget that piece of it.

So, we’re going to work with — work with the state.  We’re going to do everything that we can to get a bridge that was already there that obviously collapsed back up.  And it is an important bridge to the people of Baltimore and the people of Maryland.  So, let’s not forget that piece as well.

Q    Could the White House tap funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to potentially rebuild this bridge?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we’re going to cover the entire cost of — to rebuild the important bridge in the region.  We’re going to work with Congress to ensure this happens.  We’re going to be in close touch with Governor Moore.  And so, we’ll work hand in hand with this team on whatever is needed to make sure that happens.  I just don’t want to get ahead of it.

Q    Karine, has there been any update on the Middle East — the peace talks and if there’s any assurances yet from Israel about protection of civilians in Rafah?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, I think it might be happening right now.  National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Minister Gallant had a good, productive meeting.  And so, they discussed on how — the best way to ensure Hamas’s lasting defeat in Gaza. 

Jake also conveyed Pres- — President Biden’s ironclad support for Israel’s security and defense against all threats, including Iran.

They also discussed the need for Israel to do more to sustain and expand humanitarian assistance going into — into Gaza.

Jake also welcomed Minister — Minister Gallant’s commitment to take additional steps to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

So, I think it’s important that Jake had this meeting — or is having this meeting currently.  And so, those conversations, as we have said consistently over the past several months, they’re happening daily with — with our count- — with our counterparts.

Q    So no additional fallout from the U.N. Security Council yesterday?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ve been — we’ve been very clear about this.  We’ve been very clear where we stand here.  Our position remains the same.  It has not changed.

So, we remain committed to supporting Israel in its fight against Hamas, which has said it wants to repeat October 7th again and again until Israel is annihilated, because we cannot expect Israel to accept a situation in which their citiz- — their citizens, including — I’m sorry, continue to live under active threat. 

At the same time, as I just said before, it is critical that Israel do whatever possible to — to prevent civilian casualties and to conduct operation as strategically and precisely as possible in target operations to protect civilians, including Rafah.

As you know, this meeting that Jake is having with the Minister is an exter — is an extra day added on because they believed it was important to continue the conversation.  And I think that’s important to note as well.

Q    Karine, really quickly on a different subject.  Venezuela’s regime blocked the leading opposition candidate to Nicolás Maduro from participating in July’s election.  I mean, many polls have shown that the opposition candidate was actually leading Maduro.  Does the White House have any reaction to this?  And would there be potential consequences, like sanctions, if there’s not a free and fair election?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Obviously, we’re deeply concerned by the National Electoral Council’s decision to prevent the registration of the democratic opposition party’s candidate, Dr. Corina Yoris.

We are working with our — with other members of the international community to ensure that Venezuelans can participate in inclusive and competitive elections and urge the representatives of Maduro to allow all candidates to run.  We support the will and right of Venezuelans and the Venezuelans’ political parties to select their presidential candidates. 

We are monitoring the situation closely.

To your question about sanctions — as we stated back in January, not too long ago — we are committed to maintaining sanctions relief if Maduro holds up — upholds the commitments outlined in the agreed-to Barbados electoral roadmap.  It is critical that the Maduro regime recognize and respect the right of all candidates to run.

And so, we urge — obviously, we urge Maduro to do just that.  I don’t know have any —

Q    And just real quick on the bridge.  I might’ve missed it at the top.  Has the President talked to congressional leaders yet?  Schumer, Johnson — he’s talked to them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, yeah.  So, meeting — I’m so sorry.

Q    About — about the bridge and about what he’s going to ask Congress to do.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I — I can’t speak to the leadership in Congress.  I can speak to — we did give out a readout of the delegation — the Maryland delegation that he reached out to — obviously, Governor Moore, the mayor.  I just don’t have anything outside of that.

Obviously, the Office of Leg Affairs is always in close touch with leadership and congressional — obviously, congressional members.  I just don’t have anything specific to read out as to the leadership.

Q    And Congress is out for the next two weeks.  Do you have any sense of the timeline on how quickly this funding is going to be needed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  This is for the bri- — this is going back to the bridge?

Q    For the bridge.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I — I don’t have a timeline for you.  The President’s commitment is ironclad.  And, obviously, you heard him: We’re going to move heaven and earth to make sure that we re- — that brad — that bridge — we replace that bridge.  We know it’s important to — to the community, to — to Maryland, more broadly.  And it is definitely a commitment.  You heard it directly from this President.

Q    Are you trying to reschedule the U.S.-Israeli meeting that Netanyahu withdrew from?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, as you know, National Security Advisor, as I just mentioned, and also Minster Gallant, their team is having — continuing their meeting, which is important, and — from yesterday, to discuss Israeli operations — military operations in Gaza, including alternative course of action for dealing with Hamas presence in Rafah while protecting civilians.

So, I think that’s important.  That conversation is continuing.  I just don’t have anything to share beyond that.

Q    And another quick one on the bridge.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    There were some indications that the ship had previous safety issues.  Is the White House exploring any new regulations for foreign ships to avoid something like what happened today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I — look, I don’t want to get into — into speculation on what’s out there right now.  As you know, Secretary Buttigieg is on the ground.  He’s on site.  You know, there’s going to be, obvi- — an investigation, so I don’t want to get ahead of that either.

And with that, we’re going to have to — we’re going to have to wrap it up because we’re literally landing.

Thanks, everybody.  We’ll see you on the ground. 

2:11 P.M. EDT

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2024/03/26/press-gaggle-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-en-route-raleigh-nc/

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