Aboard Air Force One
En Route Milwaukee, Wisconsin
11:41 A.M. EDT
MS. DALTON: Hi, everybody. How are you today?
Okay. As you heard — I just want to do a word on Hawaii at the top, which I know is front of mind for everyone.
As you heard from FEMA Administrator Criswell yesterday, the Biden-Harris administration has mobilized a robust, whole-of-government response to support immediate and long-term rescue and recovery efforts in Maui.
Since the onset of the horrific fires in Maui, dozens of federal departments and agencies have been working with state and local partners on the ground to assess ongoing needs and provide resources and personnel to support response efforts.
This morning, we released a factsheet detailing all of the actions underway, which you can find on WhiteHouse.gov. And as of this morning, there are almost 500 federal personnel deployed to Maui to assist residents in their greatest time of need.
FEMA has deployed more than 140 Urban Search and Rescue personnel, who have integrated with the Maui Fire Department to help conduct search and rescue operations across a search zone that is several miles wide and encompasses thousands of predominantly residential structures.
In Maui, FEMA has provided 50,000 meals, 75,000 liters of water, 5,000 cots, and 10,000 blankets, as well as shelter supplies to the county government for distribution.
As the President has said, we will be in Maui as long as it takes and provide everything they need. You can expect to hear more from the President at the top of his remarks today about the ongoing whole-of-government response he has marshalled to support the people of Hawaii.
And when — and I would also just like to add, because I know many of you have asked, that we’re currently having active conversations about when a visit to Hawaii might be possible.
Turning to today’s visit to Milwaukee. As you know, tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate investment in history. In Milwaukee today, the President will discuss how Bidenomics and his Investing in America agenda are ushering in a manufacturing boom and attracting more than $110 billion in business investment and clean energy manufacturing.
Today, the President will tour Ingeteam, a clean energy manufacturing company that produces on-shore wind turbine generators. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, the company expects orders to double next year.
Ingeteam also recently announced that, spurred by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, they will begin expanding and manufacturing EV charging — charging stations across Milwaukee.
In addition, today, Siemens is announcing that will — it will manufacture solar inverters in Kenosha County thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act.
Across Wisconsin, companies have committed over $3 billion in manufacturing and clean energy investments under President Biden’s leadership.
The President will be joined today by state and local leaders, including Governor Tony Evers, Senator Tammy Baldwin, and Congresswan [sic] — Congresswoman Gwen Moore.
Also today, ahead of tomorrow’s anniversary, the Vice President is traveling to Seattle to visit McKinstry, a company working on the design, construction, and operation of energy-efficient buildings. She’ll be joined there by the Second Gentleman, Energy Secretary Granholm, and Washington state leaders.
Today’s visits are examples of the impact the Inflation Reduction Act is having across America just one year after it was signed.
Tomorrow, the President will discuss the law at length, not just the impact it has had unleashing a manufacturing boom, but also how it is lowering costs — healthcare costs, from insulin to prescription drugs to insurance premiums.
Speaking of lowering costs, the President promised to fight for hardworking families and to fix problems in the student loan system. This administration is already — has already approved over $116 billion in debt cancellation for 3.4 million Americans, no matter how many lawsuits, challenges, or roadblocks Republican elected officials or special interests put in our way.
When this administration began, hundreds of thousands of borrowers weren’t accurately getting credit for student loan payments that should have delivered them forgiveness under the income-driven repayment plans or were placed into forbearance by loan servicers in violation of Department of Education rules.
The President was determined to right this wrong. And yesterday, the President announced that we have begun to discharge loads — loans for the 804,000 borrows who qualify for $39 billion dollars in student loan relief as a result of fixes to income-driven repayment plans.
This week, those 804,000 borrowers who have been in repayment for over 20 years will start to see their student debt canceled. Over 614,000 of them will have all of their remaining federal student loan debt canceled once this action is complete. Just yesterday, the Department of Education discharged loans for more than 200,000 of these borrowers.
And we’re not done. As the President announced earlier this summer in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, we will continue to pursue an alternative path to deliver student debt relief to as many borrowers as possible as quickly as possible. We will use every tool at our disposal to get student loan borrowers the relief they need to reach their dreams.
With that, Fatima.
Q Does the President intend to address at all the criticism that it’s taken, you know, a long time to actually make comment about the Hawaiian fires?
MS. DALTON: Well, first of all, I would point out that the President first addressed in public remarks the wildfires last Thursday in Salt Lake City. He spoke to this. He put out a statement last week. And he began marshaling a whole-of-government response from day one.
So, the fact of the matter is: This President has been on it from the beginning, marshaling a response across dozens of agencies, across the government to get Hawaii everything that they need. He’s been in regular contact with the governor, with other officials, with his senior team. And we have provided and are continuing to provide everything that the state is asking for.
Today, you’ll hear from his — from the President directly on the latest status of the — of the recovery efforts. And I won’t get ahead of what he’ll — he’ll share in those remarks today, but certainly, from the very beginning, the President has been on top of this, and he will continue to be.
Q Olivia, can I ask you: Does the White House have a comment on the indictments out of Georgia?
MS. DALTON: Certainly not going to comment on that. Would refer you to the local authorities.
Q And just to follow up on that question broadly — I’m not surprised you’re not commenting; that’s what you’ve been doing for the other three as well. But the issue of democracy was one that President Biden ran on in 2020 and in the — ahead of the midterm elections. At what point does he want to or will he comment on the broader implications about democracy that are represented in these cases, without delving into the legal part that he obviously wants to stay away from?
MS. DALTON: Well, look, I think you’ve heard the President speak on a number of occasions about restoring the soul of our nation, making sure that we’re protecting our foundations of our democracy. But you’ve also heard this President, even before he was in office, talk about the importance of restoring the independence of the DOJ. And so, you know, we have to hold both of those things.
And with respect to the cases that are underway, with the respect to ongoing criminal cases, that’s certainly why we’ve continued to observe the independence of the DOJ, to respect that and make sure that we don’t — to weigh in and — and overstep here.
Q Do you have any concern at all that atten- — the country’s attention won’t be on the IRA anniversary that you’re promoting some and other parts of Bidenomics because people are so focused on the legal issues involving the former President?
MS. DALTON: Well, look, you all will make your editorial decisions, but this President will stay focused on delivering for the American people. That is his job. That is his priority.
And, you know, I think we’ve seen this movie before, actually. Right? You know, the President has continued to — over the pa- — in recent months to travel around the country and talk about the ways in which the Investing in America agenda, all of the legislation over the past two and a half years that he’s managed to get passed — the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act that we’re celebrating today and tomorrow — are delivering major private-sector investment, bringing supply chains and manufacturing back to our shores, delivering good-paying jobs to the American people. That’s what the President is foc- — focused on. That’s what he’ll continue to talk about.
You know, we certainly can’t speak to what others are spending their time on.
Q Is the President and is the White House confident that the President’s message on selling his economic agenda is reaching Americans? And are they giving him the credit that you all see is — is enough on these economic pieces?
MS. DALTON: Well, look, I think when you look across the country, you know, the polling that we see is that indi- — individually, these — the legislation the President has passed, the policies he has passed is incredibly popular — you know, when you look at the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law supported by 76 percent of the American people, 72 percent of the American people strongly supporting the CHIPS and Science Act, 80 percent of the American people supporting the provisions of the IRA that cut costs for prescription drugs and bring down healthcare premiums.
So, his agenda is incredibly popular. The — what we’re doing today is getting out there and talking to people about it.
Q Why do you think that people don’t connect that agenda with him in public polling?
MS. DALTON: Look, I think — you know, you’ve heard me and other officials talk about the fact that we recognize the American people have been through a rough few years coming out of a pandemic, facing the spikes in inflation that were created by Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine just 18 months ago. And so, coming out of that, we’re now starting to see the impact of, again, all of this historic legislation the President has managed to get passed, the impact of Bidenomics taking root.
We’re starting to see that in terms of almost record low unemployment, inflation coming down by two thirds over the past year, and the United States embracing the — the strongest and fastest economic recovery of any G7 economy in the world — you know, talking about real wages rising for the American people, faster among people in low- and middle-paying jobs.
And so, these are the kinds of things that — you know, they’ll take time for people to feel. But we believe we’re headed in the right direction and people are going to increasingly see that, and the President is going to keep talking about it.
Q Olivia, I have two. Both are at the risk of being a little pedantic. But when you said that you’re discussing times to potentially go to Hawaii, does that mean the President is committed, in fact, to visiting Hawaii when the time is right?
MS. DALTON: Well, I would — you know, first of all, I don’t want to get ahead of what the President may say in his remarks today. But what I can tell you is: We’re actively having conversations about the possibility of visiting Hawaii, when that might be possible. I think the — as you know, the issue here is there’s an active search and rescue underway that we want to be mindful of.
The President is constantly, whether — you know, in these kinds of situations, mindful of not wanting to divert resources of any kind away from that. And so, you know, we’ll continue to be in conversation with the FEMA Administrator and state and local officials to understand what timeline —
Q But you’re not committing yet to going?
MS. DALTON: I’m not going to get ahead of the President. But I — I think, you know, as I’ve communicated, we’re actively discussing the timeline on a possible visit.
Q And I wanted to ask: Karine was asked yesterday about the President’s remarks in the Park City fundraiser, about the “ticking time-bomb” in China. There were sort of two elements of it. One was him broadly saying that the Chinese economy was struggling and had some demographic challenges, which I think everybody agrees with. But he cited some specific economic data, their GDP. Some of the demographic stuff that he spoke about, the — the Chinese say just simply isn’t true.
I’m wondering if the difference here is that the President garbled some data, as can happen to anybody, you know, if they’re talking about the economy, or if he was, in fact, saying what the U.S. has sort of concluded is the actual state of the Chinese economy.
MS. DALTON: I think I’m going to let the President’s words speak for themselves. But, you know, I’ll also say: The President will continue to be forthright and direct about his views on the PRC.
And separately, we’re going to remain focused on managing competition with China responsibly and making sure that the United States is equipped to outcompete the rest of the world in the decades ahead.
That’s why you see the President prioritizing an econo- — an economic agenda that is focused on reversing the failed trickle-down policies of the past and embracing, sort of, the Bidenomics agenda — right? — the — attracting private investment to our shores, bringing back manufacturing and supply chains that for decades flew overseas to China.
These are the kinds of policies the President is focused on and that we’re seeing are strengthening the United States’ ability to compete in the decades ahead vis-à-vis the rest of the world.
Q May I follow up on that?
Q The President is going to Milwaukee today. It’s a week before the GOP debate next week. Was that in any calculation in why you guys are going to Milwaukee today?
MS. DALTON: Well, as you know the — the Hatch Act precludes me from speaking about politics from here. But what I can tell you is: Today we’re going to visit a clean energy manufacturing plant that is bringing manufacturing and investment and good-paying jobs to Milwaukee.
We’re also highlighting an investment by Siemens in Kenosha County, which is bringing more jobs and investment to the region — that coupled with the fact that we see that Bidenomics is delivering for people across the state of Wisconsin.
Over the past two and a half years, we’ve seen 150,000 jobs created in Wisconsin, 155,000 small business starts, and unemployment has now come down to 2.5 percent in the state.
So, we think that all adds up to a really great reason to travel to Milwaukee and highlight the impacts of the Inflation Reduction Act ahead of the anniversary tomorrow.
Q I just wanted to follow up on Justin’s good question. I understand saying that you’ll let the President’s words speak for themselves, but the question he was asking is because his words weren’t clear. Are — is that U.S. data or is it Chinese data that he was referring to — that 2 percent?
MS. DALTON: I don’t have, you know, crosstabs for you here, Jeff, but I’m happy to follow up with you on that. But I think I’m going to let the President’s words speak for themselves on that.
Q I mean, that’s just — just to explain why we asked that. Like, it — it’s totally — as Justin said, like, people mess up numbers all the time. I do. We all do. But if the U.S. has different figures for China, that’s interesting. And he revealed that — or maybe he didn’t — at that fundraiser, and that’s why we’re asking.
MS. DALTON: Yeah, I’m not going to — I don’t have anything further to illuminate on that question.
Q Just two of my questions. Is the President worried about a government shutdown at the end of September?
MS. DALTON: Look, I — you know, we worked in good faith to negotiate a bi- — good — a bipartisan budget agreement a couple of months ago. We’ve held our end — upheld our end of the bargain. They’ve upheld theirs so far. We c- — expect that to continue.
We don’t believe that there’s any reason we should have to have a government shutdown — that congressional Republicans should bring us to that point. We think that we can work together to meet the needs of our country and the urgent needs that we put forward. And beyond that, I won’t get into, sort of, speculating about that kind of possibility.
Q And there was a report a few days ago that the President was preparing to roll out additional executive action on background checks, and I wondered if you had any update on that or if we can expect any additional movement on — on gun violence.
MS. DALTON: Well, certainly, as — as you know, the President has been a vocal advocate for stronger gun safety laws for his entire career, championed the Assault Weapons Ban back in the Senate in 1994, and has never stopped being the tip of the spear on this issue.
As President, he has signed more executive action than any president in history on gun safety to strengthen our community safety, our school safety, and combat the scourge of gun violence that has become the number one killer of kids in America.
So, certainly, you saw that with the historic legislation, the Bipartisan Safer Communities law, that we’re continuing to implement and work with law enforcement to make sure we’re maximizing the full implementation and intensifying our efforts to implement that law completely.
And, as you know, one of the most recent executive orders that he announced back in Monterey Park in — in March, I believe, included initiating a rulemaking at the Department of Justice that would expand the use of background checks to the full extent possible without passing new legislation.
So, I don’t have new action to announce on that today. But certainly, back in March, he previewed that that rulemaking would be coming at some point.
Q Can I follow on — it’s a two-part. One is: Congressional Republicans have floated a CR that would go to early December. Would you — would the President be willing to sign that?
And the second is: Senator Schatz has said that he wants to add emergency relief for Hawaii into the supplemental request that was transmitted by the White House last week. Are you guys supportive of adding additional Hawaii-specific funding to that amount, or do you think it’s necessary?
MS. DALTON: I’ll have to take your first question and get back to you.
On the second, I think, you know, with respect to the supplemental request, as you know, we’ve requested $12 million in disaster assistance in the supplemental that we put forward last week. The — FEMA believes that, in the very near term, the agency has what it needs to meet its urgent — most urgent emergency needs.
But, certainly, we hope that Congress will work a- — work with us to deliver the assistance that we have requested in the supplemental so that we have what we need to meet their needs over the coming (inaudible) —
Q But you don’t anticipate adding to that request now that the fuller scope of Hawaii is coming into —
MS. DALTON: I don’t have anything to announce at this moment in time. But, of course, OMB Director Shalanda Young and our senior staff at the White House continue to work with members of both parties in Congress on the supplemental request and making sure that our agencies have everything that they need to support the disaster response, as well as manage the border effectively and safely and make sure Ukraine continues to get everything that they need.
11:59 A.M. EDT