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White House. Press Briefing by Joe Biden’s Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre May 8 2023

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Happy Monday.  Let’s get straight to it. 

Good afternoon.  Today is Monday, May 8th.  That mean it is the 128th day of 2023.  And yesterday, according to leading accounts, we witnessed the 201st mass shooting in this country this year.  That means we are averaging more than one a day.  More than 200 mass shootings in 128 days.  Credible estimates show that more than 14,000 people have died this year from gun violence. 

This is a crisis.  It is a crisis that the Republicans in Congress are refusing to address.  We are talking about the number-one killer of kids in America, and Republicans in Congress are saying there is nothing that we can do about it.

Schools, shopping malls, churches, movie theaters, grocery stores, temples — places that are a part of our everyday lives, that are essential to our everyday lives — day after day are coming under attack from weapons of war that have no place — no place on our streets. 

This is about protecting our kids, our places of worship. This is about protecting our everyday life. 

Congress must address this crisis.  Yesterday, the President once again — once again asked Congress to send him a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, ending immunity for manufacturers, requiring safe storage, enacting universal background checks.  It’s just common sense.  It’s just common sense.  And it’s what the American people want — majority of the American people want.

When we have 200 mass shootings in less than 130 days — more than one a day — this is a crisis.  Congress must do something about it.

Now, as many of you are tracking, we have multiple agencies and multiple countries working together to humanely manage the border when Title 42 public health order lifts on Thursday, just — in just a couple of days.

Now, given all that House Republicans have had to say about our plan, you would think they’d have some grand alternative.  But think again. 

Earlier this month, House Republicans voted to fire 2,000 Border Patrol — Patrol agents.  And this week, they’re taking up a bill that once again demonstrates that House Republicans are more interested in campaigning on immigration than actually solving it.  

The bill, H.R. 2, would be a disaster for border security and Christmas morning gift for human smugglers.  It would lead to more unlawful migration by blocking off lawful pathways to protection.  It would trample on our nation’s core values and international obligations in a boon to dictators around the world.  

And instead of providing the needed resources for more border security technology and asylum officers and judges, it would waste taxpayer dollars on an ineffective wall — again, an ineffective wall that can’t even withstand heavy winds, let alone sophisticated criminal smuggling networks. 

If the President were presented with H.R. 2, he would veto it.  He won’t let House Republicans make things worse despice [sic] — despite their best efforts. 

Finally, a short time ago, as you all saw yourselves, the President and Secretary Buttigieg announced plans for new regulations that would require airlines to compensate passengers and cover expenses for meals and hotels when airlines are at fault for travel disruptions.  

A year ago, no major U.S. airline would guarantee any compensation beyond the price of just the ticket.  Thanks to President Biden’s urging, 9 major airlines cover hotels, 10 airlines cover meals, and 10 airlines now rebook passengers for free. 

During the State of the Union, President Biden also called on airlines to guarantee free — fee-free family seating, and several major airlines rose to the occasion, including American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and United Airlines.  

These announcements build on the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to promote competition in the American economy and lower costs for hardworking Americans.

With that, Chris, the floor is yours.

Q    Sure.  I wanted to see if the President has been briefed on the investigation into the shooting in Texas, allegations there may have been ties to white supremacists or white supremacist ideology involved.  What updates has the President received on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Just a few things about the shooting — the horrible shooting that we saw.  Eight Americans, including children, were killed this weekend in the latest act of gun violence to devastate — to devastate our nation.  Several others are still fighting for their lives.

The President and the First Lady are praying for the victims that — that are injured, their families, and for the broader community in Allen, Texas.  And we are grateful to the first responders who acted quickly and courageously to save lives.

We have federal, state, and law enforcement — local law enforcement are working closely together to investigate — continuing to investigate this attack.

Over the weekend, as you all know, the President directed federal agencies to provide any additional needed support to the local community there. 

As far as — as far as the shooter, it is an ongoing investigation, and so I would certainly refer you to the federal law — federal, state, and local law enforcement who are coordinating to investigate the attack.

But broadly speaking, as it relates to the right-wing organization that he was connected to — or has been reported to be connected to — we have spoken out consistently about the concerning rise in hate-fueled violence in this country.

And as you know, the President has talked about this in great length, including in discussing how we need to restore the soul of this nation.  And so that’s why the President directed homeland security team on his first day in office to begin developing what began — what became the first-ever National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. 

The President continues to certainly stay abreast and briefed on the situation, but certainly not going to get ahead of the investigation that’s currently happening on the ground.

Q    And which right-wing organization are you referring to?  And, specifically, has the President been briefed on possible, you know, reasons for the attack?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As I just stated, the President continues to — to be briefed on what’s going on on the ground.  I’m not going to go beyond what the reporting is to the ties to right-wing organization.  I’m just saying, more broadly, what we have done in this administration the last two years, how seriously this President takes it. 

You heard him speak many times about the soul of the nation and the importance of fighting for the soul of the nation.  And that’s something that he’s going to continue to work on.  Homeland Security, clearly, has a team put in place that the President directed them to — to — to — to — to lead on his first full day of office. 

Q    Also, a government employee union is arguing a lawsuit that the debt limit unconstitutional.  What is the White House’s response to this?  And does the White House welcome this lawsuit, given how it could affect negotiations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to speak to any ongoing lawsuit.

Q    Then one last thing.  The Amba- — Ambassador Burns has met with the Chinese foreign minister.  It’s a high-level meeting; the highest since the President met with President Xi.   Could this, you know, signal an unfreezing of communication?  And, you know, could the Secretary of State’s visit get back on track?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as we’ve spoken — and I’m going to get to your last question first — the — Secretary Blinken has said this as well: He — his visit to PRC will be rescheduled when we — when — when conditions allow, when we believe the time is right. 

We anticipate that there are a number of engagement that U.S. official — officials in due course.  We’ve talked about Secretary of Treasury, the Secretary of Commerce also visiting China at some point when we believe the time is right. 

And we have always called — to your first question now, Chris — we have always called for reliable channels of communication between the United States and the PRC.  And so I’ll just leave it there for now.

Go ahead, Mary.

Q    Leader McConnell has made it pretty clear that there’s little room for the Senate to be involved in negotiations over the debt limit, that this has to be worked out between the President and the Speaker.  What does the President make of McConnell’s hands-off approach here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, we’ve been very clear.  Look, there shouldn’t be negotiations on the debt — on the debt limit.  This is something that they should get to regular order and get to work on.  We should not have House Republicans manufacturing a crisis on something that has been done 78 times since 1960. 

This is their constitutional duty.  Congress must act.  That’s what the President is going to make very clear with — with the leaders tomorrow. 

Congress must avoid default without conditions — without conditions — as they did three times before in the last administration.  Re- — Democrats joined Republicans, put their po- — politics aside — Democrats did — and made sure that that occurred, that happened. 

So this is — the President is not going to, you know, change course here.  We’ve been very, very clear that they need to do — they need to do their job.

Q    What I’m getting at is that the President has a good relationship with Mitch McConnell.  You know, they have been through this before, certainly.  His relationship, by the President’s own admission, with McCarthy is not very strong.  They have not done this before.  So the fact that Mitch McConnell is — is taking a bit of a back seat here and saying that this is something that has to be worked out between the President and Speaker, is that a problem for the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The Leader — well, Leader McConnell is going to be here tomorrow.  He’s actually going to be joining the other three leaders with the President to have a conversation about how important it is for the — for the Congress to do their job.  He’s actually going to be here to have this discussion. 

Look, I’m not going to speak for Leader McConnell.  All I can tell you is what the President has said over and over again: When it comes to — when it comes to the debt limit, we should not default, we should not be a deadbeat nation.  We have never been a deadbeat nation.  We’ve always — Congress has always done the right thing, done their constitutional duty, and gotten this done. 

This is a — they are manufacturing — House Republicans are manufacturing a crisis.  They should get back to regular order, which is dealing with the debt limit, as Congress must do.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I’m so- — go ahead.  Go ahead, Mary.

Q    Just a super quick one on Title 42.  Secretary Mayorkas has said that he’s not worried about Title 42 expiring, that you are prepared, that he feels confident.  Is the President confident that you are doing everything you can to be prepared for this incoming surge?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We are confident that with the tools that we have in front of us, that we are doing everything that we can.  We have a robust multiagency plan to humanely manage the border through enforcement, deterrence, and diplomacy.  And we’re implementing that plan with our regional partners using the few tools we have remaining because, again, Congress has failed to act. 

The President had — has taken action on this issue of the border since day one — since day one.  And what we’re seeing from Republican officials, what we’re seeing from Congress — Republicans in Congress — is they want to play politics.  That’s what they want to do.

They want to play politics and actually not deal with an issue that we — that has challenged us for decades.  This is nothing new.  But it has challenged us for decades.  And so the President is doing everything that he can in his power, but he needs Congress to act.

Go ahead.

Q    What are the President’s expectations for the substance of the meeting tomorrow?  He’s got a very hardened position, as you have articulated.  Speaker McCarthy has as well.  Do you expect that there will be some form of trying to move the ball?  And will the American people have a chance to see any of this through our presence — the pool — or the President being willing to take questions about the meeting or anything like that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, there’s going to be a pool spray at the top for all of you.  And — and so, clearly, you will be able to capture at the top the meeting.  It’s going to be in the Oval Office.  So I can share all of that with — with all of you.  And it’ll be at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow.

So you have that information of the when, where, what, and why.

The President — we’ve been very clear, and he’s going to make it clear: Congress — it’s Congress’s constitutional duty to act, to prevent default.  That’s what the President is going to be very clear about.  And that’s what we hope.  That’s what we hope comes out of this, is that Speaker McCarthy does the right thing — something that he did three times — three times in the last administration.

Q    Being present in a room together, is there an expectation that that simple act of coming together and being in the Oval Office will somehow move the ball?  Because what you’re talking about is the same position the President has held for a while and McCarthy has too.  So do you have an expectation of movement?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I want to step back for a second.  And I really appreciate the question.

But for — let’s look at this for the American people who are trying to figure out — who may not know what is it that we’re talking about.  So let’s look at it through the American families’ eyes for a second.

If you buy a car, you are expected to pay the monthly payments.  If you buy a home, you are expected to pay the mortgage every month.  That is the expectation.  That is the spending that you put forth or spending that you may have done before, and now you’re paying every month.

If you do not pay your car payment, if you do not pay your mortgage payment, then your credit is going to be bad.  It’s going to hurt your credit.

So let’s look at Congress for a second.  This is spending that they’ve already done, they’ve already spent.  Let’s not forget the $2 trillion Trump tax cuts that they were willing and happy to vote for.

So we’re telling them — or saying to them: Do your job.  Pay for something that you’ve already spent on.  That’s it. 

This is spending that has already occurred.  They need to do the right thing that has been done 78 times since 1960.  It’s that simple.  It is very, very simple.  It is the right thing to do.  It is their constitutional duty.  It is not complicated at all.

And so the question is, really, to Speaker McCarthy: Why did you bring us here?  Why are you manufacturing a crisis that should not exist?  That is the question for him to answer.

Go ahead.

Q    Do you expect the President to arrive at this meeting tomorrow with any proposals other than a clean debt limit increase?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The President is going to be as clear as he’s been these last several months, as clear as I’ve been, as clear as other administration has been — members of the administration has been, which is: They need to do their job.  They need to get this done on behalf of the American people and do their jobs.

Q    And does he think that he can successfully convince Kevin McCarthy to change his position in this meeting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  They’re going to have a conversation.  The President is going to make himself very clear, as he’s done for several, several months now, since almost the beginning of this year.  And he’s going to be really clear about it.

Look, they’ll also discuss a separate process for budget and appropriations.  Remember, that’s regular order.  That is the way that we’re supposed to be doing this — having a negotiation on budget, not connecting it to the debt ceiling.  That’s not what we’re supposed to be doing here.

So, you know, the President has laid out a plan to grow the economy and cut the deficit by $3 trillion over a decade.  He’s actually put forth a plan that shows how he’s going to cut spending — that’s what he has done — not tied it to the debt limit, as Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans have done.

Go ahead, Steven.

Q    So if they are operating on two separate tracks, is there any signal the President is prepared to give tomorrow that perhaps, when it comes to the question of fiscal 2024, that perhaps the President would be willing to accept some sort of federal spending reduction in exchange for an immediate clean debt ceiling?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, Steve, I hear the question.  I understand the question.  The President said to Speaker McCarthy, “On March 9th, I’m going to put forward what I value, what I believe is important to the American people, how we’re going to move forward in fiscal year 2024.”  He did that.  He showed how he’s going to decrease the debt by $3 trillion over 10 years — the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years. 

He did that.  He was very clear.  And he didn’t connect it to the debt limit.  It’s not something that we’re supposed to be doing.  It is regular order to have that conversation, without attachment, about budget and appropriations.

So the President is willing to have that conversation, but they have to do their job.  They have to pass a clean debt ceiling — debt limit.  They have to do that.  That is what they supposed to do.

Q    We heard a bit from Secretary Yellen yesterday about this question of the 14th Amendment.  The President, in his interview on Friday, suggested that he’s not ready to go there yet.  Can you clarify the administration’s position on that question?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m — the President has been really clear Congress must do everything they can to prevent a default.  They must do their job.  That is the President’s position.  And that will — that’s what it’s going to continue to be.

Q    Okay, one more question —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, sure.

Q    — and that is, you know, you referred to this — when it comes to guns, you said this is a “crisis.”  You talk about it being 201st first mass shootings this year.  The President’s position is known, but can you describe his engagement on this crisis today?  What’s he doing about it today?  Because many Americans, they’re certainly happy to hear that he’s engaged on airline prices and airline compensation, but what about this issue that many Americans agree with you is a crisis?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, many Americans should know and understand — and hopefully — and I’ll repeat it here — that the President has signed more than a dozen executive actions to deal with this issue, more than any other President, in a historical fashion, because he has said that gun violence is an epidemic.  He has said that; he has called it that.

This is a President that has worked on this issue as a senator, as Vice President, and as President.  He has done everything that he can, using the tools that are in front of him, to deal with this issue.

Now, will there be more work to do and more things that he can do?  We’ll see.  We’re always looking for how do we move this along to a way — to a place where our schools are safer, our communities are safer.  This is so incredibly important.

We — you know, I mentioned, you know, 14- — more than 14,000 of our fel- — fellow citizens have lost their lives.  One is too much.  One person losing their life is too much.

And so, look, the President has done the work.  He’s asking Congress to do their job.  Let’s do some legislation — more legislation — on top of the bipartisan legislation that he was able to sign this summer.  So let’s do more.  Let’s really do something that we can make sure that this is long — no longer an epidemic in our — in our communities and in our schools.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  After the Louisville shooting in April, the President, as he did yesterday, called on Congress to ban assault weapons.  He made clear, as you just did now, that this is a crisis, and he pointed to the previous executive actions that you just talked about.  But we didn’t really see anything else from the President.  So if this is a crisis, why aren’t we seeing the President talk about this more forcefully?  Why isn’t he out around in the country rallying people, putting pressure on members of Congress?  When are we going to see that kind of engagement?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  More than two dozen executive actions that he’s taken, more than any other President — more than any Pre- — other President.  He’s been in the administration, as President, for a little bit more than two years.  Two dozen actions that he’s taken. 

He’s had to visit — we’re about to, sadly, have the anniversary of the Buffalo shooting, and then Uvalde.  Two places that the President went to comfort the families who were — who lost their children and who lost their loved ones.  And from there, he continued to do the work. 

He signed — we signed — he signed, as I mentioned to Steve, as you all know and covered, a bipartisan — bipartisan piece of legislation, the Safer Communities Act.  So this is a President that has taken action.

And the sad part — and I get the questions that are coming to me, as they should be; I am the spokesperson for the President.  But where’s Congress’s responsibility on this?  Where’s their responsibility on this?  We need legislation.
It is frustrating — and I am sure you all are frustrated too — to talk about this over and over again, one — averaging out to once — one mass shooting a week.  That’s not okay. 

Q    But I guess the question is: Other than saying in these statements after every mass shooting, “Congress needs to do this,” what is the President doing to actually get Congress to act?  Because we don’t see, from a public-facing perspective, much other than these statements as of late.  And the President himself has said that he believes he’s reached the extent of his executive authorities.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Right.  That’s right.  Congress needs to act. 

He’s using his bully pulpit.  He’s being very, very clear — talked about it during the State of the Union, talked about it many times before — about the horrors of gun violence in our community, in our schools, in our temples, in our places of worship.  As we continue to see, this is a President who has been incredibly vocal — and not just him; the Vice President, the First Lady. 

I mean, Jeremy, I appreciate the question, but Congress has to act.  There has to be legislation coming from the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue.  There has to be.  Two dozen pieces of executive action in two years that this President has done.  Historic.  That is historic. 

So, you know, look, I want the American people to know that this is an epidemic that — as they know themselves, some of them having suffered potentially gun violence in their community or in their families.  This is a President that cares about making sure that their communities are safe and they feel safe with their kids going to school. 

So we’re going to continue to use the bully pulpit.  He’s going to do that to call out Congress.  And they have to act. 

Q    And then, just on the debt ceiling right quick.


Q    In terms of the meeting tomorrow, what you’ve described so far is the President going into this meeting, reiterating the position that we all know he has held publicly for a while.  House Speaker McCarthy will likely do the same thing on his end.  Is that really conducive to any kind of progress?  Do you think there will be any progress out of that?  And is the President going to go into this with any kind of proposal about how to formalize the budget and spending process, for example, to try and move the ball forward?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The fact that there’s a meeting in the Oval Office with the four leaders tomorrow I think is an important thing.  I think that shows the American people how important it is.  That shows that the President wants to bring them together to have this conversation. 

The President has been very clear: This is Congress’s constitutional duty to take action to not default.  He’s going to continue to reiterate that, as he should — as he should make very clear that Congress needs to act.  That is what he’s going to do. 

You’re — you all — some of you will have an opportunity to see that at the top of the meeting — the four leaders together with the President.  And he’s going to be very clear about this.  He’s not going to mince words that — he has not in the past several months. 

So I’m not going to get ahead of the meeting.  I’m not going to get ahead of what’s going to come out of the meeting.

I think — we believe it’s an important step that the American people are going to see, that you all are going to see, and that they’re going to have — a conversation that’s important. 

Go ahead, Francesca.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Picking up there though, the White House says that on Wednesday the President will travel to New York to talk about the pri- — talk about House Republicans’ debt limit bill and how it’ll roll back spending in areas that the White House says will be detrimental.  So doesn’t the framing of that event, though, suggest that you don’t expect there to be much movement tomorrow?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, they still have a — they still have a — a budget or a plan connected to the debt — to their debt limit.  Right?  They — that’s what’s connected to it.  So they’ve been very clear, and they shared with us how they see spending cuts.  And we’re going to call that out.  We’re certainly going to call out how they want to — how they want to cut programs for veterans, healthcare.  It’s going to be detrimental. 

Cutting wasteful spending on Big Pharma — right? — is what we put forth.  You know, more than $200 billion.  And Big Oil — $31 billion. 

So we are making sure that we’re cutting wasteful spending, and so we put forth a bill or a plan for fiscal year twenty-twenty- — 2024 that has been very clear.  And they’re doing the opposite — healthcare, public safety, law enforcement, education.  And that doesn’t reduce the deficit, not at all. 

So we’re going to be — they still put that out there.  We’re going to call that out and make sure that the American people understand what the — what it is that the President is going to fight for on behalf of the American people. 

So we’ll have that debate.  Right?  He’s happy to have that debate.  But when it comes to the debt ceiling, when it comes to the debt limit, they got to do their job.

Q    To put a fine point on the sp- — on the spending talks, when would the President imagine that separate process beginning?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have a timeline for you.  The President said he’s happy to have that conversation, happy to have that debate.  Clearly, that will have to happen.  I just don’t have a timeline for you. 

We have been very clear.  We’ve laid out our budget for fiscal year 2024.  I just mentioned the $3 trillion cuts and — that he has to — the $3 trillion that he has put forward to — to reduce the deficit over 10 years. 

And — and so we’re just going to continue to be clear about that.  But I just don’t have a conversation that’s going to happen on — particularly on the spending.

We have to get — we have to deal with the debt limit.  We must — we must deal with the debt limit.

Q    Just to follow up on some of the questions Jeremy was asking.  You know, the President did deliver remarks today.  He did not mention the shooting in Texas. 

You know, you talk about using the bully pulpit.  But is he fully using the bully pulpit?  Is he fully using the weight of the office to push for these actions that he keeps saying he wants Congress to move forward on?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes.  I think two dozen executive actions speaking on it over and over again.  He’s been very clear about the epidemic that we see in gun violence across the country.  He has been clear not just as President, as Vice President, as senator.  And he’ll continue to do that, not just him — the Vice President, the First Lady, as well.

We have used the full weight of the administration to do all that we can, use the tools that we have to deal with this issue. 

But the fact remains, Karen, is that we need legislation.  We need federal legislation to deal with this issue.  We have seen some state legislation, as you know, banning assault — assault weapons, which is incredibly important.  And I’ve lifted those up from here.  So there are states out there who are doing the job, doing the work to keep their communities, their constituency safe.  But we need federal legislation. 

That — it is — it is truly a non-starter.  We need them, on the other side of, again, Pennsylvania, to do their job.

Q    You mentioned Buffalo, you mentioned Uvalde; the President traveled there.  You said it’s frustrating to talk about this over and over again. 

Is it frustrating for the President?  And is that part of the calculation that you’re not talk- — having him talk about every shooting, because of the frequency that these are happening?

How do you make the decision of where he goes and which events he talks about, because of how much they’re happening right now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   So in case I’m not clear: It is frustrating for the President, it is frustrating for the First Lady, it is frustrating for the Vice President, it is frustrating for the Second Gentleman that there is this gun violence epidemic going on, which is why the President has signed two dozen executive actions to try to do everything that he can from his perch, from — from the — from the executive — executive perch, to do everything that he can.

And so, again, we’re going to call on Congress to act.  They have to.  They have to.

I just — I just said 14,000 Americans — 14,000 Americans have dealt with this type of violence — gun violence across the country.

This is the only country in the world that has this going on right now.  The only country that has to deal with gun violence, mass shootings in this way.  That shouldn’t be.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  I have two foreign policy questions.  First, on Syria.  Does the administration still consider President Assad a war criminal?  And would Arab countries that normalize with him be subjected to U.S. sanctions?

And then I have another question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So let me — let me just lay out, because I know you’re asking about the Arab League, so let me just lay out our position on this.

Any — any specific questions on the actions that they took, I certainly would — would refer you to Arab League for questions on their decision.  But more broadly, as the Arab League Secretary General said over the weekend, this decision does not mean all Arab League countries have normalized with Syria, and this does not mean that Syrian crisis is resolved. 

Our partners tell us they intend to use direct engagement with the Assad regime to push for progress on priorities, such as reaching a solution to the Syrian crisis, expanding humanitarian access, and creating safe conditions for refugees to return, ensuring ISIS cannot resurge, and countering captagon trafficking from Syria. 

While we are skeptical of Assad’s willingness to take the steps necessary to resolve Syria’s — Syria’s crisis, we are aligned with our Arab partners on the ultimate objectives. 

We have been consulting with our partners about their plans and making clear that we will not normalize relations with the Assad regime and that our sanctions remain in full effect. 

We continue to become [believe] that — a political — a political solution, as outlined in the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254, remains the only viable solution to the conflict.

As far as — as sanctions, again, we stressed — we have stressed to regional partners engaging with Syrian regime that credible steps to improve the humanitarian and secretary [security] situation for Syrians should be front and center in any engagement. 

We have also made clear to our partners across the region that our sanctions, including those mandated under the Caesar Act, and various executive orders remain firmly in place.  We are consulting with partners about their activity so they do not risk sanctions consequences.

We remain committed to upholding, again, the Caesar Act, even as we continue to work with our Arab partners to identify ways they can provide assistance to Syrians that is in line with the U.S. law.

Q    I have another question.  Just quickly. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Yeah.

Q    I saw the statement you released on Jake Sullivan’s strip to Saudi Arabia.  He’s meeting with his counterparts — UAE, India, and the Saudis.  Is this mainly or partly to counter China’s influence in the Middle East?  And how do you describe U.S.-Saudi relations as we stand?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I would say this: the National Security Advisor regularly meets with leaders and senior officials from countries around the world to advance and protect the interests of the United States.  This is not unusual; this is actually very common.

As you may have mentioned, he also met with the UAE national security advisor.  He also met with the national security advisor of India. 

So we continue to work with Saudi Arabia on a host of U.S. interests, including strengthening the truce in Yemen, and a range of other issues.  And so I’ll just leave it there.

I’ll go around.  Let me go to the back.  Actually, I haven’t called on you.  And then I’ll come to you.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Could you confirm that Biden is having a telephone call with the Mexican leader, López Obrador, tomorrow and what the topics are?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t — don’t have a call to confirm at this time.

Q    Okay.  And do you have any color about who else is going to be in the room for the debt ceiling negotiations tomorrow and whether Biden will have —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I wouldn’t call it a “debt ceiling negotiations.”

Q    Talks.  Conversation.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would call it — I would call it a conversation between the four leaders and the President.

Q    And will Biden speak after that meeting in any way to the press?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything else to add on his schedule.  As I mentioned, this — the conversation will happen at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow.  It will be in the Oval Office.  There will be a pool spray.  It’ll be the four leaders and the President.

Q    Just them, or is anybody else in there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s all we have at the time, that’s going to be — at the moment, that’s going to be in the meeting.

Q    Thank you.  You just said this gun violence epidemic isn’t happening anywhere else in the world. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The mass shootings that we’re seeing.

Q    Yeah, the mass shootings.  I mean, in a country like Serbia, they had two mass shootings in 48 hours.  Immediately, the government announced sweeping new legislation to disarm the country.  This is the most powerful country in the world.  And what we have, as you said, is executive orders, but mostly, like, statements and flags flying at half-mast.

Is it a sense that it’s not only frustration, but that there isn’t anything more the President can do, and anything he would do would harm his campaign?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What’s your last part of the question?

Q    I mean, is this the sense that he’s not speaking more about it because he feels there’s nothing that can be done because Congress is not in a position to do anything and that it wouldn’t help if he went, you know, more out and spoke more about this and engaged more about this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, the President is asking for Congress to act because we need legislation.  We need federal legislation to deal with this issue.

And to your point, the President has taken action as President in taking executive action — more than two dozen — because he’s taken this very seriously — more than any other President.  Historic amount of actions.  I think that should tell you how seriously this President takes it.  I think that should show you how he has made this a priority. 

I think this also should show you that he sees this as an epidemic — gun violence that’s happening across the country, in our communities, in our schools.  And he wants and he’s going to continue to call for Congress to put forth real legislation banning assault weapons, because we should not have weapons of war on the street; making it — you know, making it tougher to make sure that it doesn’t get — guns doesn’t get into the wrong hands.  And so that’s what the President is going to continue to call for. 

Obviously — obviously, he takes this seriously.  But he is — he has said himself — I think Jeremy was saying this to me — he’s limited in what he can do.  He is.  That’s why Congress needs to take federal — federal legislation.  They need to take action on this, and so we’re going to continue to call for it.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Another question on the debt limit, to follow Francesca.  What should congressional leaders take from the fact that he’s already scheduled this meeting on Wednesday to talk about the debt limit?  Is he suggesting that he already believes that he’s going to leave these talks without a solution, without a path to avoid default?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No.  I’ve — what I — what I was saying earlier before — I’m not going to get ahead of the conversation that they’re going to have tomorrow.  The President is going to be very clear.  But the President is also going to lay out what — what House Republicans have put forth.

Remember, there is this plan, this — this plan that’s connected — should not be connected to the debt limit, but that they have connected — that’s going to hurt American families make ends meet.  Veterans — veterans program, healthcare programs, Meals on Wheels — those are real things that’s going to — that they’re suggesting to cut 22 percent.

So the President, of course, he’s going to do what he always does and call that out.  Nothing new, nothing different. 

They’re going to have a conversation tomorrow.  He’s going to make clear where he stands on the congress- — Congress, making sure that they do their job, do their constitutional duty.  We’ll see what happens.

Q    But doesn’t this speech suggest that he thinks that they’re not going to find a way to separate those two or to avoid default?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get ahead of a meeting that’s scheduled for 4:00 p.m. tomorrow.  I’m just not.  I have been very clear what the President is going to do, what he’s going to focus on, what he’s going to make sure and make very loud and clear what he said to you.  He’s going to said it — say it to them in the Oval Office.

Congress must do their job.  They must take care of making sure that we do not default.  We should not become a deadbeat nation.

Seventy-eight times since 1960.  Seventy-eight times since 1960.  Three times in the last administration — a Republican administration.

Q    Thanks.  I have two foreign policy questions.  First of all, the Taliban has agreed with China and Pakistan to extend the Belt — the Belt and Road Initiative to Afghanistan, which potentially brings in billions of dollars in infrastructure projects to modernize Afghanistan, which we know is the Taliban’s vibe.  How concerned is the administration about China’s influence in Africa?  And what can the U.S. do to counter this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we’ve always been very clear that we’ve — we’ve certainly have had concerns.  But our — our — we’ve been very clear that our — our movement — how we move forward with China is through competition, not conflict. 

We’re certainly not going to comment on — on conversations and relationships that other countries have with China.  We’re going to focus on how we’re moving forward and how we’re trying to make sure that we continue to be competitive — why the CHIPS and Science Act was so important. 

And we’ve shown our competition by bringing manufacturing jobs here, creating more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs.  And that’s going to be our focus.  Clearly, we want to make sure that our — the lines of communication with China is open.  I just — I just laid that — how important that is.  But I’m not going to speak to other — other relationships that they have specifically with other countries and what deals have come out of that.

Q    And quickly to Tehran, the government of Iran has hanged two men for quote, unquote, “blasphemy” because of their social media posts.  How does the administration see this?  And do you think you might react to this?  And if so, how?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we always call out human rights violations.  That is something that the President has conversations with — with — with leaders that he meets with — our allies and partners and anyone else that he has — has conversations with — heads of states. 

I have not spoken specifically to our team here about that particular incident.  That is certainly devastating to hear.  And just not going to get ahead of at — of what I just said without talking to our teams.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  The President — you know, you have laid out all the things that the White House wants to tackle, from the country careening toward a debt limit crisis, to, you know, the southern border preparing for up to 12,000 illegal crossings a day, potentially, after Title 42 ends this week.  You opened the briefing talking about the crisis of gun violence. 

Why is the President talking about meal vouchers for canceled flights and holding a movie night at the White House with all those things going on?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Because he’s President, and there are multiple things that the President do- — does.  And he can talk about the potential manufactured crisis that House Republicans have put forth and that could happen if they don’t get back to regular order. 

He can talk about how he’s delivering for families.  I think the airlines announcement that the President made is incredibly important to American families across the country.  I hope you think so as well. 

I mean, when you think about what — what American families have to pay out of pocket because of things that are not their fault — this is important. 

You asked me many times what the President is doing to lower cost for the American people.  We just heard from the President. 

So that is one way that he is using and making sure that the administration works for American families.  He should talk about that.  He should talk about those things.  He should be able to do multiple things as a President, and that’s what you’re seeing from him today.

Q    But he talked about, you know, Memorial Day flights, but that’s three weeks away from now.  He said, you know, preparing, looking ahead to Memorial Day Weekend.  So it causes the question of, you know, is the President really focused on today’s biggest issues when everyone in here is asking about Title 42, the debt ceiling, mass shooting over the weekend, and we didn’t hear the President talk about any of those things.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Regular American families — everyday families are thinking about Memorial Day Weekend.  They are.  They’re thinking about how are they going to travel with their family, with their kids.  They care about what the President said today.  So that does matter. 

Title 42 — what’s happening on Thursday, the lifting of Title 42, we’ve been talking about it over and over again for the past several weeks, about how we’re preparing for the lift of Title 42, the programs that we put in place without the help of House Republicans or House — Republicans in Congress more general.

And the debt limit — something that we’ve been talking about for months — again, a manufactured crisis.  There is a process here.  Republicans are refusing to use the process.  They —

Q    I just hear (inaudible) a disconnect —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — are refusing to use the process. 

There’s no disconnect.

Q    — between him being the —


Q    — the uniter-in-chief and you guys —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  There’s — there’s no —

Q    — “calling out,” as you always talk about it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  There’s no — there’s no disconnect.  There’s no disconnect.  It is very clear. 

The President can do multiple things at the same time.  He can call out ways that the American people are being harmed — harmed by not — Congress House Republicans refusing to do the job that they’re supposed to do — something that they have done, Congress has done more broadly 78 times since 1960.  Yes, he’s going to call that out.  That’s regular order to do your job, to do your constitutional duty.

And then talk about what we’re doing to make it a little bit easier for American families to travel.  Yeah.  You know what?  Some regular folks — regular folks are thinking about Memorial Day.  Some everyday Americans are thinking about how they’re going to visit their grandparents, how they’re going to visit family members, how are they going to get around the country around Memorial Day weekend.  That is incredibly important to American families.

Q    Thank you.  On the spending cuts, is there anything that the Republicans have proposed that the President would be open to?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that one more time?

Q    I understand that the spending cut conversation is separate from the debt ceiling conversation, but are there any spending provisions that the Republicans have proposed — spending cuts — that Biden would be open to?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the President is willing to have a conversation with House Republicans, with the Speaker — a separate conversation on their budget proposal. 

So we’ll have that conversation at some point.  What he wants to make sure is that the debt limit gets taken care of, that they do their constitutional duty. 

The President himself has put together an Invest in America plan that he calls — that’s going to grow the economy from the middle out, the bottom up, while reducing the deficit, as I mentioned many times, by nearly $3 trillion, by making the wealthiest and big corporations pay their fair share, and cutting wasteful spending on Big Pharma and Big Oil.  That’s what he put together. 

House Republicans want to cut.  They want to cut and gut investment in veterans care, Meals on Wheels, education, public safety, and take care — take healthcare and food assistance away from millions of people. 

Someone — one of your colleagues just asked me, “Why is the President talking about Meals on Wheels?”  That is so important to American families.  These cuts — these 22 percent cuts that they put forward actually — for American families across the country, it helps them make ends meet.  It makes them — it helps them make ends meet.

So the President should talk about that.  But I’m not going to get ahead of the President on what he’s going to — as it come — as it relates to the budget and spending and the appropriation process, which is regular order, which is something that we should negotiate about.  I’m just not going to get ahead of the President right now.

Go ahead, T- — Ted.  Todd?  Sorry.  (Laughs.)  Todd.  Sorry, Todd.  Sorry.

Q    Thanks.  I have a — I have couple of Texas questions, if you don’t mind.


Q    On the shooting in Allen, has the President reached out to Governor Abbott about this to talk about ways that they might find common ground on reducing gun violence?  Is there any common ground that you think there might be between them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   No, it’s a good question.  I don’t have any calls to read out at the — at this time. 

Look, the President has been very clear about this issue.  He’ll continue to be very clear about this epidemic that we’re seeing across the country.  He’ll continue to call on Congress to act.

We’ve lifted up — as I mentioned earlier before to one of your colleagues — some of the states who have done some real work on dealing with gun violence.  I don’t have — I don’t have any calls to read out to you at this time with the governor.

Q    He’s not — he’s not going to Texas?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just don’t have anything to read out at this time.

Q    On — and on the border, Governor Abbott announced just a little while ago he’s sending another 450 National Guard to the border.  He said some pretty tough words for the President.  He calls it a “Biden-made crisis.”  He said the cartels are working in collaboration with the President and the federal government to facilitate illegal border crossings.  And Governor Abbott said, quote, “We are being overrun by our own federal government.  Texas is being undermined by our own federal government in our efforts to secure our border.”

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, you know, there’s a way to handle those type of announcements — and the governor knows this — and — and in order to be helpful to what’s happening, and that’s by coordinating with federal authorities, something that he refuses to do, something that he doesn’t do.

But, you know, his first call always tends to be, when it comes to this issue, is — has been — when it comes to this issue, dealing with the federal government — has been to Fox News.  That’s what he does.  That’s where his first call goes.  That’s where he likes — that’s how — that tells you what he’s up to.

This is just about political theater for him.  This is not really dealing with this issue.  It’s about creating more chaos.  It’s about creating more confusion at the border.  That’s what he wants to do.  That’s what he chooses to do.

And that’s not what we want to do.  We’re see- — we’re do — we’re u- — we are — put into place a robust plan, multiple a- — multiple agencies.  You’ve seen Mayorkas on the border very recently.  He was on Sunday’s show just this Sunday to talk about what we’re doing.  The DHS has been very clear.  The State Department has — has had press conferences.  The Pentagon briefed on this just last week. 

We’re using the tools that we have in front of us to deal with this issue.  Republican officials want to do something else.  They want to campaign on this issue.  They want to do political stunts.  That’s what we’re seeing from the governor — governor of Texas.

Q    Beyond Title 42, do you have any other updates for us yet on the end of the public health emergency and anything in the healthcare sphere that the administration is seeking to address?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we’ll certainly have more to share as it relates to PHE, the public health — the public health emergency. 

As you know, we are at a different place of the pandemic.  Over the last two years, this administration has made significant progress in our ability to manage COVID-19 in a way that protects life and health ahe- — and no longer meaningful disrupts the way that we live our lives.

As you all saw, the World Health Organization, just a couple of days ago, announced that COVID-19 pandemic no longer qualifies as a global health emergency.  And so, in anticipation of the COVID-19 public health emergency ending in just a couple days, on Thursday, the administration has been preparing for months and taken significant steps to ensure all Americans have continued access to life-saving protections, such as vaccine treatments, tests.  And we have worked to ensure that nation — that the nation is well prepared to manage the risk of a virus going around.

Look, the — what we have seen this past two years is because of the work that this President has done to put forth a comprehensive plan to deal with COVID-19.  It is — we have had the largest vaccination — adult vaccination program in U.S. history: over 270 million people, Americans, receiving at least one shot of a COVID-19.  COVID-19 deaths have — have declined by 95 percent.  New COVID-19 hospitalizations are down by 88 percent.  And COVID-19 cases — deaths globally are at least the lowest level since the start of the pandemic — pandemic.

So, it’s not over.  But, as we know, the worst days are behind us.  We are in a different place of the pandemic.  And so we’ll have more to share in the next day or two on how we’re going to move forward and more specifically.

Q    And does that include on the operations internally in this building as well as the country at large?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to share yet on White House protocol as it relates to this news on — on Thursday, what’s going to happen on Thursday.  But as soon as we have more to share, we certainly will share that…..

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