Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan En Route Rome, Italy

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Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan En Route Rome, Italy

2:36 P.M. EDTMS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hey, everyone.  Welcome to our travel to our trip to Europe — the President’s first trip to Europe as Preside

2:36 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hey, everyone.  Welcome to our travel to our trip to Europe — the President’s first trip to Europe as President of the United States.  We’re really excited about the stops we’re about to make.

We have the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to read us in a little bit about what’s going to happen the next couple days.

Go ahead, Jake.

MR. SULLIVAN:  Great, thanks.  So I’ll start just by walking through what to expect tomorrow and over the course of the weekend and then a couple of toplines on COP26, and then I’m happy to take your questions, although you probably have more questions for Karine about other things.

Q    You don’t want to talk about that?

MR. SULLIVAN:  About Build Back Better?

Q    Yeah.

MR. SULLIVAN:  Other than the fact that making these investments in American strength will be very important to our national security going forward, I’ll leave it to the experts.

So — so, tomorrow, we’ll start with a meeting with the Pope.  The President will have some private time with him, and then there’ll be an expanded delegation meeting as well to discuss a range of issues of mutual interest, from climate to an equitable global economic recovery.

He’ll also meet with the Cardinal Secretary at the Vatican.  He will meet with the President of Italy and the Prime Minister of Italy.  Obviously, we’re not just coming for the G20, we are coming to underscore the importance of the U.S.-Italy alliance and U.S.-Italy partnership as well.  And so he’ll spend time with the two senior leaders in the Italian government. 

And then he will meet with the French President, President Macron.  And they’re going to literally cover the waterfront, in terms of issues facing the U.S.-France alliance but, frankly, facing two likeminded democracies — from counterterrorism in the Middle East; to great power competition; to economic, trade, and technology issues.  

Then, on Saturday, he will participate in the first session of the G20, which is an economics and health session.  And he will also have the opportunity to meet with the E3 — the leaders of Germany, France, and the UK — on Iran to touch base on where things stand right now with respect to trying to resume negotiations for a return to the JCPOA and the European and American shared concerns about the state of play with Iran’s nuclear program.  So, that’s Saturday.

Then Sunday, in addition to two sessions of the G20 — one on climate and one on sustainable development — President Biden will also host a supply chain meeting.  And we will get you the participant list.  But it’s a group of likeminded states from multiple continents to talk about how we can coordinate better to deal with both the short-term supply chain disruptions and challenges and long-term supply chain resilience.

And then we will head off to Glasgow on Monday for COP26.  Obviously, he’ll give his major statement on behalf of the United States at the conference on Monday.  He will also host a meeting on Build Back Better World, B3W, with both the G7 and with recipient countries from multiple continents to talk about where we’re taking this infrastructure initiative — high-standards, climate-friendly, transparent, ambitious infrastructure initiative — in the years ahead.

He will also have other bilateral meetings while we’re in Glasgow, but we’re still sort of finalizing the details on those, so I’ll come back with more information about the “who” and the “when” as we go.

I guess just kind of two or three other things to put on the table before opening for questions.  The first is: Really, in the runup to this G20, it’s been the U.S. and Europe together driving the bus on the significant global issues, whether it’s the Global Methane Pledge and the ambitious climate commitments heading into COP26, or it’s the work together to get the global minimum tax done to be cemented and ratified and agreed at the G20, or it’s the joint work on COVID-19.

And I think you’ll see the U.S. and Europe front and center at this G20 as we deal with the fact that neither the leaders of Russia nor China will be present in the room in Rome.  And so that dynamic will be interesting to watch unfold.

And then, finally, we are trying to work through some remaining climate-related deliverables at the G20, language in the communiqué, as well as ensuring that we’re not just dealing with the current pandemic.  But one of the things the G20 is focused on is how we prepare the global community better for future pandemics to prevent, detect, and respond to them going forward.

And that’s — that’s all I’ve got to say for now, and happy to take your questions.

Q    Can you kick off — can you kick off with a little more detail about the Iran meeting?  What do you expect to come out of that meeting with the E3?  And can you also confirm, Jake, now whether or not the President will be meeting with the President of Turkey in Glasgow?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I anticipate he will meet with the President of Turkey in Glasgow.  I don’t have confirmation, but I think that’s the present expectation.

With respect to the E3+1 — there’s always got to be some new configuration — it’s an opportunity to closely coordinate with our key European partners, at the leader level, on a joint negotiating position as we work towards a resumption of negotiations. 

It’s also an opportunity to level-set on our understanding of Iran’s progress on the nuclear program since they left the JCPOA.  And obviously, we all have deep concerns about the forward progress of that program since the lid was lifted and they began to operate outside of the constraints of the JCPOA.

So, those will be the two main elements of the meeting, fundamentally centering around a shared strategy and solidarity and unity in our approach, which of course will be a study in contrast with the previous administration since Iran was one of the areas of most profound divergence between the previous administration and the Europeans.

Here you’ll see Chancellor Merkel, President Macron, Prime Minister Johnson, and President Biden all singing from the same song sheet on this issue.

Q    Do you have any specifics you expect on COVID?  And specifically, will there be any discussion of the intellectual property waiver for poor nations to make the vaccines?  Is that something that you’re going to be looking at?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I think — two things to say on COVID.  The first is that the main thrust of the effort on COVID-19 is not actually traveling through the G20; it’s traveling out of the summit the President hosted just a few weeks ago where more than 100 countries and more than 100 nongovernmental organizations came together to set ambitious targets. 

And the next turn of the crank on that will be a ministerial that Secretary Blinken hosts in the coming weeks.  And that’s about getting more commitments in terms of vaccine sharing, treatments, the — what’s required to actually get shots in arms, and all the other elements of emergency response. 

What the G20 will be focused on is the future.  How do we prevent a future pandemic?  How do we ensure that the world is coordinated in a way that it wasn’t sufficiently coordinated when COVID-19 hit last year? 

And then in respect to trips, because that is a issue centered at the WTO and we have the ministerial coming up in a few weeks, certainly it will be a topic of conversation in Rome, but it will not be decisional in Rome, because that will be decisional among trade ministers at the gathering of trade ministers as part of the Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Geneva in a few weeks’ time.

Q    Just to follow up on pandemic preparedness, Jake: Secretary Yellen released a letter to her colleagues together with Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani.  Is that what you’re talking about in terms of the new financing mechanism, as well as coordination mechanism, for future pandemics?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, we’re looking for not the ultimate final product of a financing mechanism or the ultimate final product of a taskforce or a board that would operate as kind of a global coordinating body going forward, but rather clear direction from leaders that we want to develop both of these ideas, make them real, and have them become part of the architecture going forward.

So, the hope is to have in the communiqué a statement of intent that we will work towards these two outcomes.

Q    When you talk about climate deliverables, are you referring to things that the G20 will announce or actions that the administration plans to announce?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, I’m talking about what we want to secure, in the context of the G20, as agreements across all the leaders of the G20 to provide wind in the sails going into COP26.  And, you know, for example, the G7 announced a commitment to end overseas financing of coal.  And our goal is to achieve a G20 agreement on that, which would be quite significant.  And so we will see whether that is possible or not.

Q    Hasn’t the most important part already happened with China saying they won’t do that anymore?  Hasn’t that already — that’s been a —

MR. SULLIVAN:  It’s certainly helpful.  But at the end of the day, it’s, of course, one thing to say it in a speech; it’s another thing to put your country’s name to a communiqué, and that’s what we want to see happen in Rome.

Q    On the Pope meeting, does the President plan to talk about the U.S. Conference of Bishops and abortion?  Do you expect that to come up?

And on climate, the Build Back Better plan has the single-largest investment in climate in history by Congress, but it’s clearly a compromise, it’s pared back.  Do you — what’s your message to developing nations who see that he can’t even get that passed by the time he headed to Europe this morning?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I think the President of the United States being able to stand up in the world stage and say he is working towards a massive, multi-hundred-billion-dollar investment in climate and clean energy is just a profound signal to the world of America’s seriousness on this issue.  I think it will be welcomed by the developing and developed world alike.

In addition, President Biden stood up at the U.N. General Assembly and said we’re going to double our international financing for climate commitments so that the U.S. is pulling its weight and then some when it comes to that 100 billion-dollar-a-year Paris commitment. 

So, I think the question of American contribution to maintaining the goal of 1.5 degrees, to galvanizing global action on this issue — we are crossing and surpassing every bar that I think could reasonably have been set.  And we’re excited to show up at COP26 because America is back in a leadership position on climate in a way that will be broadly welcomed.

And you —

Q    But just to be specific on that — just to be specific on that, Jake, how much in the framework that the President announced will be slated for climate financing to help developing nations?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m sorry.  Say that again.

Q    How much in the framework that the President announced this morning would be slated for climate financing for developing nations?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, his commitment on climate finance is distinct from the domestic investments laid out in the framework.  That commitment is an ongoing budgetary commitment, and it relates to the contribution the United States will make through its annual budget process year by year. 

Coming back to your earlier question, I said at the podium yesterday that I’m referring to my colleagues who work on that set of issues in terms of anything to do with reproductive health.  So, I don’t have anything for you on it.

Q    Can I ask, to follow on climate, what kind of announcements in terms of administrative action, separate from legislation, we can expect?  I know methane had been floating out there.  Are there other executive actions that you’ll be announcing?

And then, on the Turkey meeting, President Erdoğan has obviously pushed for — to buy U.S. fighter jets.  There’s been questions about doing so because of interoperability and Russia.  Can you kind of detail your approach to handling that request when it comes?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, as you know, Turkey no longer participates in the F-35 program.  And with respect to the F-16 program, there is a process that has been in place for many years for how countries proceed to make requests to purchase fighter jets and related equipment.  Turkey is in that process, and that process will continue.  And I don’t have anything more to add to that on that topic.

And the answer to your question is: Yes, the United States will have additional announcements, both in terms of what we will do on the international climate front and what we will be doing with other countries, including really building on the Global Methane Pledge.  We think we can substantially add the number of participants in that pledge, which is a 30 percent reduction in methane by 2030.

But in terms of the rest of those, we will do a separate briefing — I’m not sure when; I’ll defer to the experts on that — where we walk through the key elements. 

Secretary Kerry will be joining us in Rome, so I also think, given the immense amount of work he’s put into this, he deserves the right to come to you guys and walk through what the — what the outcomes we expect in terms of what we’re putting on the table.

Q    Jake, real quick, with regard to France: How has the U.S. relationship evolved?  And should we expect any new partnerships?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We feel very good about the intensive engagement that we’ve had with France over the course of the past few weeks.  Secretary Blinken has been in Paris.  I’ve been in Paris.  The President has had two very constructive, positive phone conversations with the French President. 

We’re eager to have the conversation tomorrow because the agenda really is overflowing.  There are so many issues on which we and France come from common values, common perspectives, common interests, and need to be aligned in terms of our policy approaches.  So, I expect tomorrow to be a constructive and deeply substantive meeting. 

I do expect there will be a statement coming out of the meeting.  I think it will be a forward-looking statement that details areas of cooperation between the U.S. and France in counterterrorism, on the Indo-Pacific, on issues related to how we deepen our own dialogues in energy and technology and other areas.

So, there will be a number of substantive elements to that statement that you will see when it comes out after the meeting tomorrow.

Q    Jake, can you comment on the limitations on press access at the Vatican meeting and how this lines up with U.S. values on media?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, I would defer to my press colleagues in terms of the ins and outs of that.  But I would just say, broadly, as a matter of principle, the United States will always advocate for access for the free press — and especially for our good friends in the American press who travel with us on these long flights over — to be able to capture and chronicle the President’s engagements. 

We’re actively engaged in that, and we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Q    Can you give us some deliverables on debt restructuring as well as global supply chain?  What can we expect?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, on supply chain, I think what you can expect is the President will make announcements about what the United States itself will do, particularly in respect to stockpiles, to improving the Ameri- — the United States’ capacity to have modern and effective and capable and flexible stockpiles.

And then there will — we are working towards agreement with the other participants on a set of principles and parameters around how we collectively manage and create resilient supply chains going forward. 

I don’t want to get ahead of what comes out of it, so I will just say, broadly, that we are expecting some solid outcomes from the supply chain meeting — some of them from us directly and some agreed with others.

And then I’ll come back to you, as we get closer to the B3W meeting, with more specifics. 

Q    (Inaudible) meeting likeminded countries at the G20.  But obviously, the G20 has a lot of countries that are not likeminded with the United States.  Is the G20 becoming more divided?  Is it harder to find common ground now than it was before?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, you know, it’s interesting.  If you look back over the course of the past few years, I think it would be hard to find as genuinely significant and substantive an outcome of the G20 as the G20 agreement on global minimum tax.  That’s a big piece of business.  And everyone from China, to Saudi Arabia, to Indonesia, to Mexico, to Argentina, to the United States, to Europe has agreed to that. 

I think we will have really substantive climate deliverables, which has traditionally been a point of division within the G20, that shows our capacity to work on a huge issue. 

And I do expect we will have some positive announcements around the global health architecture going forward. 

So, on the global economy, on climate, and on global health — genuine common cause among all countries, but that doesn’t mean we see eye to eye with all G20 participants on everything.  And so, there are circumstances where it makes sense for us to work together with likeminded states as well. 

I would say, specifically this year, you have the unusual circumstance where, for reasons related to COVID-19 in particular, you don’t have the leaders of China or Russia present at the G20.  That’s a factor: they’re absent.  And so, it’s not a matter of pulling countries together and excluding Xi Jinping or Putin; they’re not coming. 

So, we will continue to drive forward with our partners to continue to make progress against these big challenges. 

Q    (Inaudible) future pandemics, but obviously the world is not doing enough now to meet its own goals for inoculating people against COVID-19.  Can the G20 step up its current efforts to get vaccines out there? 

And what more is the United States prepared to do to do that?  Obviously, you’re donating more vaccines than anybody else already, but the goals are not being met right now. 

MR. SULLIVAN:  Look, I’ll give you an example just from the past few days, which didn’t get the attention it deserved.  The U.S. brokered an agreement between the African Union and Moderna that included not only increasing the number of doses the African Union would get, accelerating their delivery, but actually, the U.S. agreed to replace deliveries to the United States with deliveries to the African Union to take our doses later. 

That’s just the next step in a drumbeat of commitments the U.S. has made, and we’re actually delivering on those commitments.  We’ve donated more doses than all the rest of the world combined already, and we’re on track to end up delivering more than a billion in total. 

And the President has shown that we can actually rally the world, get concrete commitments, and see action. 

His view, though, is that we have to think much more broadly than the G20, which is why he held this summit that involved not just the major economies, but the developing world as well.  And Tony Blinken will follow up with the foreign ministerial on that. 

So I would just say the main vector on the immediate COVID response is happening in a track that includes the G20 countries but is running parallel to the G20 process.

Q    Do you have a better sense of — do you have a better sense of if MBS is coming, if the President might see him? 

And I know you said, when you briefed a couple days ago, that the President was going to look to, kind of, address the energy crisis that’s going on right now.  Can you flesh out what form that’ll take, what deliverables he’s looking for on energy, specifically?
MR. SULLIVAN:  So, he will have the opportunity informally to consult with the key energy consumers.  And we are engaging, at multiple levels, with the largest consuming countries in the world to include China as well as India, Japan, Korea, the Europeans, and others.  And he will have those conversations at the G20.  We will see what comes as a result of those conversations. 

But our view is that the global recovery should not be imperiled by a mismatch between supply and demand.  And action needs to be taken, and we’ll work with consumers on that. 

On the producer side, my understanding right now is that the Crown Prince is not attending the G20.  But we will see what happens actually in Rome. 

Q    Can we ask just one on — a follow-up on that, if I can.  Can you recon- — or how do you reconcile the White House’s position of pushing OPEC and Saudi, in particular, to produce more while also seeking a climate change agreement where people reduce their emissions and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels?  Do you see any sort of broad contradiction there?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I really don’t.  And I think the fundamental proposition that President Biden came to office with was: We need to execute a clean energy transition.  And the word “transition” is really important. 

This is not a light switch.  We’re not flipping off all use of fossil fuels in our economy overnight.  We still have need for those fossil fuels during the transition period to make sure that our economy is working, jobs are being created, working families have their homes heated at night, and so forth. 

And so there’s no contradiction between, in the short term, ensuring there’s not supply disruption and, over the course of this decisive decade of the 2020s, dramatically accelerating the adoption of renewables, the electrification of the automobile sector, the decarbonization of the power sector, and so much else.

So, I think there’s a certain “gotcha” quality to this idea that we have to at once pay attention to energy supply today and work towards a net zero future — that somehow those are in conflict. 

Inherent in the notion of a transition is that we will need to make use of fossil fuels for some years to come, and inherent in that reality is that the President’s responsibility is to ensure that there is sufficient supply to keep our economy going. 

Q    Jake, can I ask you about something that the past summit in — the East Asia Summit, the President announced a new — that the U.S. is exploring about a new economic framework in the Indo-Pacific.  Can you explain a little bit more about that?  I mean, obviously, one question that comes to mind is: Is the President warming up to the idea of rejoining to CPTPP?  Or is this something entirely new?

MR. SULLIVAN:  He’s referring to something other than CPTPP.  And I would just say, stay tuned.

Q    Does the U.S. believe that Iran is ready to return to talks?  And do they have any preconditions that they’ve laid out?

MR. SULLIVAN:  It’s not entirely clear to me yet whether the Iranians are prepared to return to talks.  We have heard positive signals that they are, but I think we have to wait and see when and whether they actually show up at the negotiating table.  And we’re prepared to negotiate in good faith for a return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA.  We hope they are as well. 

Q    Any thoughts on their new negotiator?  Any thoughts on their new nuclear negotiator?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’ve never met him.

Q    Do you think that they’re trying to stall?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m sorry? 

Q    Do you think that they’re trying to stall for time?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m not going to characterize.  All I’m going to say is we think the clock is ticking and it’s time for all of us to get back to the table and get this thing done.

MR. SULLIVAN:  All right.  We good? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think we’re good. 

Q    Can you do one more on Taiwan?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So —

MR. SULLIVAN:  I don’t know, we’re (inaudible).  (Laughter.)  No, I’m just kidding.  No, no, but seriously —

Q    Can you —

MR. SULLIVAN:  — when I get the hook —

Q    Can you confirm — because the Taiwanese President confirmed for the first time of U.S. military presence, for training purposes, in the country.  Can you confirm that and whether Taiwan consulted with the U.S. before announcing that?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So I’m not going to get into questions related to characterizing President Tsai’s remarks today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Thanks, guys.  Thank you so much.  Thanks, Jake.

Q    Thank you.  

Q    Hi, Karine. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi.  My turn.  Okay.  I’ll try and find a good spot here.  I don’t have a — I don’t have a topper or anything.  So —

Q    We can jump right in.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, good Lord.  Okay.  Let’s do it.

Q    It seems like President Biden made an announcement about a framework that isn’t actually a deal.  Is — did he get any sort of assurances from the progressives that they were behind this?  And if not, why did he make this announcement today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, the President has — as you all know, the President has spent the last couple of weeks hearing from multiple sides — right? — having folks come up — progressives, moderates come to the White House, listening to all sides.  And today, he put together a Build Back Better framework.  And he’s confident that it will pass and it’s going to deliver — it’s going to deliver for the American — American working family. 

And the thing about this — the thing about this — this bill — this framework: It is historical.  It is trans- — it is transformational.  It is something that has pieces of elements — of policies that we’ve — that we have — we — that has — that has never happened before.  Right?  And so, this is incredibly important.  And so, this is why the President put that together. 

And so, you know, as he’s always said, we’re going to deliver on transformational change for the middle class so that they can get ahead.  You know, this is the most fundamental shift in supporting hardworking families over the wealth — over the wealthy in modern history.  And so, these are all things that could — that is incredibly helpful. 

Let me just list out a couple of things:

  • the largest investment in childcare and early childhood education in history with the first national universal preschool program.  That’s progressive.
  • the largest investment in climate and clean energy in history — around six times the size of climate and clean energy investment in the Recovery Act, and the second-largest climate in history.
  • the largest expansion in healthcare coverage since the Affordable Care Act, leading 7 million people to gain new coverage.
  • perpetuating the largest one-year drop in childcare poverty in history through the extension of CTC, which we know has cut child poverty by half — the CTC was in the American Rescue Plan, which was also a historic piece of legislation, and what we’re doing is continuing that investment.
  • a new investment in housing that is — that is greater than the entire current annual budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

And the last, final thing I’ll say: This is going to be paid for.  What he put forward in a framework will be paid for and it will not raise the taxes of a household or an individual making less than $400,000. 

So this came from listening — listening to all sides — again, progressive, moderates.  And he put this together with the understanding that this is something that should pass.

Q    Karine, the White House said this morning that you expected that this would have the support of Democrats.  At that point and now, have you had assurances from Senators Manchin and Sinema or from progressives in the House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’m not going to speak to, as you can imagine, any of the lawmakers, but we’re confident that this historic framework will earn the support of every Democratic senator because, again, he spent the last couple of weeks listening and talking to senators, to House members, and hearing them out.  And this is what this framework is coming from. 

Look, we have spent countless of hours over the last many weeks working with lawmakers — not just the President, but also his staff in the White House.  And so — and we have consulted a broad swath of House and Senate Democrats, as I just mentioned.

And so, you know, there are still details, of course, to be ironed out, and the framework will guide the drafting of the legislation language.  And we — we see progress.  We see today as making progress and moving forward to getting this done for the American public. 

Q    Karine, did the President want a vote on the infrastructure bill today?  And did he ask House Democrats for that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Could you say that one more time?  You’re — it’s hard to hear you.

Q    Did the President want a vote on the infrastructure bill today?  And did he ask House Democrats for that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you — you know, as you know, the mechanism on how legislation move forward, we leave that to the Speaker — Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer.  That is — that is for them to decide. 

The President has been very clear he wants to see both pieces of legislation get passed so he can sign them and really make some transformational change for the American public — working public.

Q    (Inaudible) he wanted a bill, he wanted a deliverable as he headed to Europe so he could show Xi and Putin and autocrats that democracy works.  And he’s talked about that frequently — I mean, in terms of democracy versus autocracy.  What message does it send to countries like that, leaders like that if he can’t deliver and close the deal before he departed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, I disagree with the characterization of your question.  And this is a question that actually the national — our National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, has spoken on the last — the couple of days ago. 

And look, you know, we believe that he’s coming — the President is coming into the G20 and COP26 with a — with — you know, with strength.  He’s been a leader since we stepped — he stepped into the White House from day one.  And he’s going to continue.

Jake talked about the summit that he brought together with world leaders and more than 100 countries that come together and have that conversation about climate change and what we can do, the Paris Climate Accord that we — he — we signed back on right — on the first day.

So we’re — he is doing the chain — the work on the global stage.  And if anything — and this — Jake just said this to all of you: If anything, this framework will show that the — that the President is going to put together — is working together with Congress to put this — put forth a transformational, historical piece of legislation.

Within that legislation, if you look at climate change, an investment that is — that we’ve never had before in the country — in this country: more than $500 billion.

Q    Why isn’t paid leave a bigger priority for the White House, especially during a pandemic that’s disproportionately impacted women?  

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Catherine, I would say, it is a big priority.  I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t characterize that that way either.  It’s not that it’s a — it’s not a bigger priority.  It’s a — very much a priority.  That’s why the President included it in his Build Back Better Agenda. 

Right now, the President wants to move forward with a bill that’s going to — that’s going to get passed, that’s going to get all of the — you know, all of the members that he needs to make this — you know, to push this forward — this historic piece of legislation.

And so, he’s going to continue on working on paid leave.  That is — it doesn’t —

Q    What does that mean exactly: “continue to work on it”? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That means — that means he’s going to continue to work with Congress.  He’s going to continue to work with Speaker Pelosi.  He’s going to continue to work with members of Congress who, clearly, very much care about this on both the House and the Senate side.  It doesn’t end — it doesn’t end here. 

Like I said, he — it was important to him and he included it in the original Build Back Better Agenda, and we’re just going to continue to work on it.

Go ahead, Josh.

Q    Thanks.  On the phaseouts, Child Tax Credit is gone in a year; universal pre-K, six years; childcare, six years.  Critics say that you’re hiding the real costs.  Supporters worry that these benefits to families in need will go away.  What is the thinking on the phaseouts?  Are they hiding the costs?  And what are the risks if they don’t get renewed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll say this, Josh — and we have had this — we’ve gotten this question, similarly, in the past couple of days. 

Look, again, what we’re seeing is historical.  What we’re seeing in this Build Back Better framework we have not seen before.  It is going to change the lives of working families and — especially after what we saw — you’re mentioning, you know, Child Tax Credit; you’re talking about childcare — what we saw in this past year with the pandemic and how much it really hurt working families.

Look, we’re talking about investment in childcare, in families, in caregiving.  These things are so critical, giving people — giving American families, the middle-class — a little bit of time to breathe, some room to breathe.

So, this is the beginning.  This is — this is going to be incredibly transformational, as we keep saying.  It is going to make a change in people’s lives.  And so, we’re going to just continue working on those very key critical issues.

But we can’t — we cannot look at this and not say,
“This is something that has not been done and never been done.”  And we should be proud of that.”

Q    (Inaudible) cost could be greater than advertised if these are renewed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that again.

Q    No worries that the cost could be greater than advertised if these programs are renewed and extended?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s not — that’s not what we’re working towards.  Right?  We’re making sure that these — these investments are going to be paid for, right?  We’re going to be raising — it’s going to — making sure that the wealthy pay their fair share, which is a big part of this.  And, you know, that’s going to make sure that we raise the revenue to make sure that this is paid for.

And so, the way that we look, actually, at the bipartisan Build Back Better Framework is that it’s going to actually generate close to $2 trillion, which is — also means that that’s the savings that it’s going to generate. 

So, that’s how we’re looking at this.  We’re going to make sure that we add zero dollars to the deficit.  That’s the commitment that we’re making.  And also making sure that we do not raise taxes on any one household making less than $400,000 or an individual making $400,000.  That has not changed.  That is our commitment.

Q    Karine, I think cynics looked at this morning and said the President didn’t want to go to Europe without, you know, facing these headlines about not being able to get a deal, so he announced a sort of “half-baked, almost there, but still missing really key components” framework without any assurance that it would actually kind of satisfy all parts of the party.  So, I’m wondering why that’s wrong. 

And, you know, the President and the Speaker both spoke in pretty stark terms about what this next week meant for him and his presidency and the future of the Democratic Party if there’s no infrastructure vote by the end of the month.  But doesn’t that sort of leave the President kind of crippled heading into Scotland and having kind of been embarrassed by his party by not being able to get this across the finish line?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We see today as a path forward.  We see this as progress.  Speaker Pelosi just held her press conference.  She said there’s a path forward.  They’re moving forward with this.  And she’s very confident that they’re on a path.  Right?  And I think her being the Speaker of the House — I think that sends a big message and that says a lot.  And so, they’re moving forward on this.

And let me just add: You know, this is — again, this is transformational.  This is historical.  He’s spent the last couple of weeks listening to all sides and put together a framework that he believes is going to get the votes of Democrats in the Senate and Democrats in the House.  And so that is incredibly important.

I mean, this is going to create jobs.  This is going to build our economy and help the nation build back better.  And so, we see this as — a vote for the Build Back Better Framework is actually a vote to build the economy that works for everyone.  I mean, that’s what this — this framework is going to do.  And we’ve actually heard a lot of praise for this President’s framework today from organizations just across the across the board.

So, this is something that he took his time working with his staff, listening, again, to a broad swath of, you know, congressional members on both — in both chambers to put this together.

Q    But to that point, the — you could argue that the louder statement from the Speaker would be to actually have scheduled a vote on infrastructure, which she did not.  And so I’m wondering what the game plan is if we run out of surface transportation money at the end of the month.  How do you guys expect to proceed on that, especially since whatever the President unveiled today did not seem to be compelling enough to get progressive House Democrats on board to take that vote?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I wouldn’t say it’s not compelling enough.  I wouldn’t say that.  I mean, listen, the Speaker just had her press conference.  She talked about the path forward.  She said there’s a — there’s a — there’s a text of the bill that’s being worked through.  This is the Build Back Better framework that’s out there that people can take a look at. 

You know, I — clearly, I leave all the mechanics of the — of Congress to her and Leader Schumer.  But there is a path.  And one of the reasons the President put this framework together is because he wanted to have a bill that he believed — from talking to, again, you know, Democrats in the House and the Senate — that he thought would be — would go through — right? — by listening and hearing feedback.  So that’s incredibly important to understand. 

And, again, this is going to be — this is historical.  This is going to change the lives of working families and that deserve — that deserve a little bit of a breathing room.

Q    Can you clarify a little bit about the President’s plans for press conferences and remarks?  Can you outline?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ll have more to share.  I don’t have anything to share right now.  But you’ll be — you guys will hear from the President.  I just don’t have anything to share right now.

Q    Is he planning to take communion with the Pope, do you know?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s something that’s very personal, as you can imagine.  His faith is something that’s very personal to him.  I don’t have anything to share at this time about that.

Q    Is there a plan B on prescription drugs?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, we’re going to continue — again, we’re going to continue working on that.  Clearly, prescription drugs is something that the President has talked about personally when he talked about his — what he and his family had to deal with when their — their mom — when their mother reached, you know, an age where they had to take care of her.  And he talked about that incredibly personally.  So, we’re going to continue to fight for it and so, kind of, move forward with that. 

But that is clearly something that is really, really important to the President.  He does not believe people should be paying — working people should be paying so much — you know, twice as much, sometimes — than they’re bringing home for prescription drugs.

Q    Get we get any details on what the President has been doing during the flight?  Has he been calling members?  Has he been in touch with Pelosi or leaders?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He has been — as you know, the First Lady is on the flight as well.  So, he and the First Lady have been, you know — how have — how long have we been flying?  Like two, three hours?  I don’t even know. 

I don’t have any specifics on — on his — what he’s been doing the last couple of days.  But as you can imagine — I know people ask, “Is he going to continue to be engaged?”  As we know, the phones work in Europe, so he’s going to continue to certainly be engaged with congressional members.  And he has, you know, his — my colleagues, his White House team back in D.C. who are going to continue to do the work and talking to congressional members on the Hill. 

Q    Can I ask — so, Secretary Blinken has just ordered a review of the Afghanistan withdrawal.  Is the timing of that pertinent to him leaving — you know, for the President to leave towards G20, where he undoubtedly will receive a lot of questions on the issue of the withdrawal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I wouldn’t connect the two.  I haven’t — I — this is — I’m just now hearing about this.  I wouldn’t connect the two.  I don’t have much more to share about that. 

Yeah.

Q    On the campaign trail, he was pretty clear that he supported 12 weeks of federally supported paid leave for — family leave, parental leave.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I can’t hear you, man.  I’m so sorry.

Q    I’ll shout louder. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re so far away.  (Inaudible.)

Q    On the campaign trail, President Biden was very clear he supported 12 weeks of leave.  It was a promise he made.  He clearly was pushing for it but it fell short.  What is the White House’s message to millions of Americans, working mothers, and other caregivers who were counting on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, you know, the President believes strongly that we need national and comprehensive paid leave and medical leave in this country, as you just stated, Ben, that he campaigned on.  You know, and that’s why he proposed it and has continued to fight for it.  And he will continue to fight for it in future legislation, and we’ll keep working with the House and Senate to find a path forward. 

You know, ultimately, the President believes this is the framework that will pass the House and the Senate to get — and he wants to get — to get to his desk, clearly.  And that’s why he put that framework together. 

But I just want to add this, so you guys all know: This bill will be the largest investment in childcare and early education in history, benefiting more than 20 million children per year; the largest effort to combat climate change, as I’ve mentioned, in history; and the most transformat- – transformative middle-class revitalization bill in generations, cutting taxes for 50 million families while reducing some of the largest — largest expenses that families face. 

So there is a lot in this piece of legislation that’s going to hurt — that’s going to help everyday families, working families kind of grow that — the economy for middle-class families, which is critical and important. 

And yes, paid leave, medical leave is something that was critical and important to him.  He campaigned on it.  And he’s going to — he’s going to continue to work on that. 

Thanks.  Thanks, everybody. 

3:19 P.M. EDT