Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, August 31, 2022

HomeWorld News

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, August 31, 2022

 James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 3:02 P.M. EDT MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everybody. Q    Good afternoon.

 
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

3:02 P.M. EDT 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everybody. 

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I have a few things at the top for everybody. 

Okay, so I wanted to provide you an update on our efforts to support the people of Jackson and the state of Mississippi.  The President spoke with the mayor of Jackson this morning, and the FEMA Administrator also spoke with the governor.  The President last night also immediately approved the governor’s emergency declaration request, directing his team to surge assistance to the state. 

FEMA has personal — personnel on site in the State Emergency Operations Center and is coordinating with the State Emergency Management Team to identify specific resource requirements. 

The Environmental Protection Agency is deploying a subject-matter expert to support the emergency assessment of the Jackson water treatment plants and is working to expedite delivery of experiment [sic] — sorry — equipment needed to repair Jackson’s water treatment plant.

We are committed to helping the people of Jackson and the Mississippi — and the state of Mississippi during this urgent time of need. 

We are saddened by the tragic loss of life and destruction as a result of the severe flooding in Pakistan.  We send our deepest condolences to all the individuals and families impacted.  The United States stands with communities in Pakistan as they experience severe flooding and landslides. 

Yesterday, USAID announced it is providing an additional $30 million in humanitarian assistance to support the people affected by the severe flooding.  With these funds, USAID partners will prioritize urgently needed support for flo- — for food, nutrition, safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene, and shelter assistance. 

A USAID disaster management specialist is also in Islamabad to assess the impact of the floods and to determine additional humanitarian assistance that the U.S. government may provide. 

The United States has and will continue to be a strong supporter of the people of Pakistan.  We are the — we are the single-largest humanitarian donor to Pakistan, having provided over $33 million in humanitarian assistance.  We will continue to closely monitor the situation in Pakistan for further needs following this horrific tragedy. 

Also, this morning, we announced new public- and private-sector actions to strengthen the teaching profession and support schools as they address teacher shortages. 

The new efforts include commitments from leading job platforms — such as — such as ZipRecruiter, Indeed, and Handshake — to make it easier for Americans to find teaching opportunities.  They include new initiatives from teacher unions and organizations to expand high-quality pathways into the teaching profession. 

Secretary Cardona and Secretary Walsh also sent a letter to state and local leaders outlining a series of actions they can take to support teachers and schools. 

And earlier this afternoon, First Lady Jill Biden, Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, Secretary Cardona, and Secretary Walsh met with public- and private-sector leaders here at the White House.  They discussed short- and long-term strategies to address the teacher shortage and the actions the President has already taken to address longstanding staffing challenges facing our schools. 

This includes the $130 billion the President secured through the American Rescue Plan for school districts across the country to hire, retain, and support teachers. 

We are committed to addressing the teacher shortage and giving students, families, and educators the resources they need for a successful and safe schoolyear this year. 

And lastly, I want to take a moment to recognize International Overdose Awareness Day.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 107,000 Americans tragically died from a drug overdose in 2021. 

Today the Second Gentleman and Dr. Gupta, the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, will meet with families from across the country who have lost loved ones to deadly drugs like illicit fentanyl. 

For far too many years, the overdose epidemic has been destroying American lives and causing pain and heartbreak for families across the country. 

As the President said in the State of the Union, beating the overdose epidemic is a key part of his agenda.  The President’s strategy expands access to high-impact public health services while reducing the supply of illicit drugs like fentanyl. 

As part of that strategy, the Department of Health and Human Services announced today around $80 million in grants to support prevention and treatment for substance use and overdose prevention. 

While this funding will help communities across the nation, we need more resources to match the scale of the problem.  That’s why the President’s fiscal year 2023 budget proposed a significant increase in funding to beat the overdose epidemic and save lives.

With that — hello, Chris.

Q    Hello.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good to see you back in D.C.

Q    Yeah.  So, last night, the Justice Department released a photo of top-secret documents found at Mar-a-Lago.  Has President Biden seen the photo, been briefed on the photo?  And does the White House believe that there was national security at risk by having these documents there? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as I’ve said many times — and I get how you’re asking the question; I hear you, Chris — we’re just not going to comment on the investigation — anything — any underlying pieces of the investigation, any content of the investigation. 

This is an ongoing, as you all know, investigation that the Department of Justice — an independent investigation that the Department of Justice is doing. 

We are not going to politically interfere.  We are not going to comment on anything connected to the investigation.  And we’re just going to keep it there.

Q    Sure, but not on the investigation, the legal process, the FBI — but as the President’s role as Commander-in-Chief, overseeing national security, you have top-secret documents — some potentially involving human sources there.  You know, is that something that the President is keeping tabs on or that’s part of his intelligence briefing?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as far as top-secret materials or classified materials, look, the President has said he believes — he said this very recently — in the importance of properly handling classified materials.  But in — in regards to this specific case, again, we’re just not going to comment from here. 

We want to make sure we’re — what we’re doing is, like, out of an abundance of caution — right? — to not comment on an ongoing investigation, not to politically interfere. 

This is an independent investigation that the Department of Justice is doing.  And this is something that the President has talked about during his campaign, making sure that they have that independence — the Department of Justice has that independence as it relates to investigations. 

And we’re just not going to comment any further. 

Q    And on tomorrow’s speech, does the President plan to talk specifically about Donald Trump in the speech tomorrow?  And does he feel, like — you know, when he’s talking about the battle over democracy in this country, does he feel like things are moving in the right direction, the wrong direction?  What can you tell us of what the President is going to talk about tomorrow?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t want to — I don’t want to get ahead of the President’s speech.  It’s not a good thing to do, as you know. 

But, you know, the President thinks that there is an extremist threat to our democracy.  The President has been clear as he can be on that particular piece.  When we talk about our democracy, when we talk about our freedoms, the way that he sees it is the MAGA Republicans are the most energized part of the Republican Party.  That extreme — this is an extreme threat to our democracy, to our freedom, to our rights. 

They just don’t respect the rule of law.  You’ve heard that from the President.  And, you know, they are pursuing an agenda that takes away people’s rights, so — which is what the President said last week on Thursday.  You all heard him.  This is what the President said yesterday.  And that’s what he’s going to continue to say. 

And here’s the thing: The President is not going to shy away to call out what he clearly sees is happening in this country.  And, you know, again, MAGA Republicans are this extreme part of their party, and that is just facts.  And that’s what he’s going to continue to lay out.

Q    On the speech tomorrow, can you explain a little bit the decision to do this as a primetime event?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The President takes what he’s talking about — again, not to go into — not to go into specifics about the speech — but, as you know, we’re calling it the “soul of the nation.”  He takes that very seriously when we — when it comes to our democracy. 

As you might remember, the President laid out his thesis — right? — the foundation for what he calls the “soul of the nation” — fighting for the soul of the nation, the battle of the soul of the nation — in an Atlantic op-ed back in August of 2017.  And again, that is the thesis, that is the foundation, when you read that article. 

And that’s what he talked about during the campaign.  That’s what he talked about during his inaugural — Inauguration Day.  And not only are we fighting for the soul of the nation, but we need to continue to be vigilant. 

And, you know, there’s a clear through line if you — if you read that article and you look at what — the speeches that he’s made.  So that article talked about Charlottesville.  You think about January 6th.  I mentioned the Inauguration.  You think about what we’re seeing today.  You think about the battle that continues. 

And so — but what the President believes, which is a reason to have this in primetime, is that there are an overwhelmingly amount of Americans — majority of Americans — who believe that we need to continue — we need to save the core values of our — of our country.

Q    And on last night’s filing, you have said in the past that the President was not briefed ahead of time on other aspects of the investigation.  So just to be clear: Was the President briefed on this latest development yesterday?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The President has not been briefed on this latest development.  He has not been briefed on anything that’s connected to this particular criminal investigation, which is — we’re not going to comment.  Again, it’s an independent investigation.  At this time, we’re just not going to comment on it.  We are going to let the Department of Justice continue its — its independent investigation. 

Q    Karine, the President yesterday weighed in pretty forcefully about threats to the FBI and FBI agents.  Is he satisfied, is the White House satisfied that FBI agents are getting the protection that they need as a result of these threats?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, you know, just like the President, just want to say this — and the President spoke to this very forcefully, very clearly yesterday, as you all heard him: He’s rejected defunding the police.  He rejects defunding other law enforcement, including the FBI.  The President has called for boosting police funding through the COPS program and hiring 100,000 additional officers.  He also included over $10.8 billion for the FBI in the most recent budget. 

And so, the — the way that he believes this and we have said is that the men and women who bravely serve in law enforcement to keep us safe, to keep our community safe, to keep our country safe deserve the resources and support they need to do their jobs, and not seeing their budget slashed.

So, he has provided additional funding, and he wants to make sure that they are kept safe.  I cannot speak to what — you know, specifically what they’re seeing and how — you know, what they’re seeing at the FBI.  I would refer you to them specifically on what potential — you know, what’s coming in as — as far as their protection.  But clearly, this is something that’s important for the President, which is why he’s included it in his budget.

Q    Okay.  On a separate topic, what — what additional assistance is the White House planning for Ukraine?  And will you need congressional approval for funding that additional package? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, $40 billion was approved by Congress, in a bipartisan way, of as- — of assistance not too long ago.  We announced — well, under this President’s leadership, we’ve provided unprecedented amount — about $13.5 billion — in security assistance. 

And — and the assistance that most recently was announced — last week, I believe — will begin in the next several months and continue over the coming years.  It’s intended to support Ukraine’s defense capabilities for the long term. 

So you’ve already seen our commitment to Ukraine for the long term, as it’s related to what we announced last week, which is about $3 billion, which was the largest once — once — at-once tranche that we’ve announced. 

And, you know, we’re going to continue to meet both the urgent and the long-term needs.  And that’s what you saw from the — the most recent — the most recent announcement.

Look, just that announcement and the announcement prior to that, it’s about 19 presidential draw — drawdown of security assistant [assistance].  That was the one before the $3 billion.  That was the one before the $3 billion was — the presidential drawdown.  That’s — that was the 19. 

So you have seen consistent support for Ukraine.  We have always said we have been incredibly impressed by their bravery and what they’ve been able to do to fight for their freedom, to fight for their democracy, and that’s important for folks to know. 

This has been a bipartisan effort, and all because of an unprovoked, brutal war that was started by the Kremlin.  So, we’re going to conti- — you’re going to continue to see those efforts.  And we are in daily conversation with the Ukrainian government on what else their needs might be. 

Q    And lastly, will the U.S. send a representative to Mikhail Gorbachev’s funeral or do anything else to commemorate his death?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t — I don’t have anything to preview or to announce at this time on that piece. 

Go ahead.

Q    Just back to yesterday’s speech from the President.  He obviously was critical of some senior lawmakers, he said, for saying things to the effect of “If such and such happens, there will be blood in the street.”  He was obviously also very clear that any threats, attacks on the FBI law enforcement agents — that those were not acceptable. 

Given all of that, I’m just wondering whether the President would be open to having direct conversations with some senior lawmakers, some of whom he has known for many years, to tell them to cut it out. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have any calls to preview
or any conversation on this specific subject.  As you know, we try to keep our conversations with lawmakers private, and so nothing there to preview or to add. 

Look, you know, we have been — long been clear that when the Department of Justice independence — sorry that the Department of Justice and the FBI — you know, as I just said, like, we need to — we need to not attack our brave men and women who protect our country and who protect our communities.  And you just heard me lay down what funding this President has put forward and has announced and — to do just that. 

So, you know, the President was just reemphasizing that violence or threats of violence has absolutely no place — no place in our society, which we should all agree on, regardless of the point of view.  It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle that you’re sitting on, we need to denounce that.

And so, when you are inciting violence or when you are making comments the way that we’ve heard over the weekend for some — from some leadership and some members — members in elected office, that’s a dangerous thing.  And the President is not going to shy away from calling out — calling out those types of comments.

Q    I guess, just without previewing specific conversations that may have happened or could happen in the future, you know, if he believes this kind of rhetoric is potentially harmful or dangerous to law enforcement, you know, does he feel that he has a responsibility to do everything he can — actually, I think he made that very clear yesterday — by, for example, again, reaching out to some of these members directly and having that conversation with them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, MJ, I hear your question, but all you have to do is turn on the TV and hear from the President directly on how he feels about what he’s hearing.  And he’s been very clear about that. 

And again, he’s not going to shy away.  He believes — and I have said this a couple of times at this podium at this point — is, as President, he has the obligation to speak out against threats against our democracy, against violence.  It is — he believes, as President, you have the — you have the strongest platform, if you will, the strongest voice, and that’s what he’s going to continue to do.

Again, he’s not going to step away from it.  He’s not going to shy away from that.  I think any of those legislators or any of those elected officials, all they have to do — I’m sure they have seen the clip over and over again from your network and others about what the President has said yesterday and how forceful he was, how passionate he was.  And that’s just — that is going to continue.

Q    And just one more quickly on tomorrow —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  One last one.  Go ahead.  (Laughs.)  Yeah.

Q    Just given that, you know, you all have billed it as being related to the battle for the soul of America, which is something that he obviously ran on back in 2020 — the threats to democracy that he obviously saw as being very real two, three years ago, does he believe that those forces are very much still at large now?  Or does he believe that there has been some progress since he came into office?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, he believes that it continues.  He believes that we need to continue to fight for our democracy.  And he’s been very clear.  You look at the extreme wing of a party — the MAGA Republicans — it’s not stopping.  It is continuing.  And we heard it over the weekend, as you’re asking me about the President talking directly with legislators. 

And this is — this is an important time.  And he is — again, he’s not going to shy away from it.  He’s going to continue to lift that up and what he sees and what he’s going to call out.  And, you know, he believes that there are a majority of Americans who disagree with that, who disagree on the attack of our core values as a country, and he’s going to speak directly to them tomorrow.  That’s what you’re going to hear.

Okay.  Go ahead, Nancy.  And then I’m going to come to the back and then I’ll come —

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Over the past week or so, we’ve heard many Republicans argue that this President ran as a uniter and now he’s calling MAGA Republicans, which is a very large swath of the American populace, semi-fascists.  He is arguing that they’re a threat to democracy.  Does the White House believe that this is a fair criticism by Republicans that this is not unifying language?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll say this, Nancy: Sadly, there are more examples than I can count on how we have seen recently armed attacks on federal law enforcement. 

There are a couple of things I just want to say here. 

You have Representative Paul Gosar has posted videos depicting him attacking the President and members of Congress. 

You have Representative Majority [sic] Tay- — Marjorie Taylor Greene has publicly expressed support for shooting prominent Democratic elected officials and suggesting physically assaulting transgender school officials. 

You have Representative Madison Cawthorn has said, falsely, “If our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, then it’s going to lead to one place, and that’s bloodshed.” 

And just last week, you had Governor Ron DeSantis suggested that Dr. Fauci should be physically assaulted.  And former President Trump has done the same many, many times. 

Look, and many of your colleagues have actually talked about and reported on this dangerous trend that we’re seeing.  And — for example, the New York Times headline from this month — “As Right-Wing Rhetoric Escalates, So Do Threats and Violence.”

And so, these are things that we have to call out.

Again, I was talking — I can’t remember who just asked me the question — I was talking about soul of the nation, something the President has talked about since 2017 when he wrote that article in The Atlantic.  And he’s called it out then.  He called it out January 6th.  He called it out Inauguration Day.  He called it out last week.  He called it out yesterday. 

So there has been a consistent callout from the President about what he’s seeing from an extreme part of — of this party, of the Republican Party.  And historians, I would argue, would say the same.

Q    I have a question about Jackson, Mississippi.  You talked about the help that’s coming from FEMA and the disaster declaration, but, clearly, Jackson is going to need an entirely new water system.  They’ve been having big problems even before this latest crisis.  What kinds of federal resources are being dedicated, can be dedicated to what could be a billion-dollar price tag to provide Jackson with an entirely new water system?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things.  As we’ve said, the administration is — is committed to helping the people of Mississippi during this urgent — urgent time of need.  And so, we’re going to prioritize that and making the long — and making the long-term infrastructure investment needed to all to — to ensure all Americans just across — across — have access across the country, but, clearly, in the state have access to clean water.  So that is something that we’re committed — that long-term — that long-term need.

So, just a couple of things just to list out that we have provided and that we are doing from the federal government:

$450 million was provided through the American Rescue Plan for water upgrades across the state.  The city has allocated $20 million of its ARP — that American Rescue Plan funds — for water and sewer infrastructure needs. 

You have $75 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support the state to provide clean and safe water this year, with an additional $429 million available to the state over the next five years.

There is $30.9 million through the EPA’s revolving loan funds for treatment and distribution system improvements for Jackson, Mississippi, specifically. 

For — again, for long-term support, earlier this year, we announced $300,000 as part of the administration’s Just- — Justice40 Initiative for the Army Corps to conduct a validation study to reduce flooding from the Pearl River in Ja- — Jackson, Mississippi.

So, we continue to work with Mississippi’s congressional delegation to improve the projects moving forward.  But as you can see, we’re committed and we’re going to continue to help the people in Mississippi.

I’m going to go to the back, and then I’ll come back up.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  On Iran, the EU’s foreign policy chief said this morning that he expects a deal in the coming days.  Is this also your assessment?  And is this maybe the reason why the President had a call with Israeli Prime Minister Lapid today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me give you a little bit about Lapid.  We’ll have — we’ll have a readout momentarily on that. 

So the President spoke with the —

Q    You already sent it.  It went out already.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It was already?  Okay, there we go.  You guys are ahead of the game.  I think I’m thinking about something else.  Okay.

The President spoke with Prime Minister Lapid this morning to consult on global and regional security challenges, including threats posed by Iran and Iran-backed proxies.

The President expressed appreciation for the warm reception during his July trip to Israel — a visit that — a visit that illustrated the unbreakable bonds and friendship between our two countries.  He also committed to sustained coordination to implement the announced trip deliverables.  The President further emphasized the importance of conduct- — concluding the maritime boundary negotiations between Israel and Lebanon in the coming weeks.

As it relates to the EU and — look, we’ve said many times from here we’re just not going to negotiate in public.  As you know, last week we conveyed our feedback about Iran’s comments on the EU’s proposal directly to the EU.  And so, we’re not going to say more than that, we’re not going to negotiate from here, and we’re not going to go into details on contents or our response.  So, we’re going to keep it there.

Q    So the International Energy Agency summer report shows that the Russian revenue from oil exports increased 40 percent from last year.  It seems that the sanctions are not cutting off revenue to the Russian president.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So this is exactly why — I think you’ve heard us say this before — President Biden and the G7 leaders have directed relevant members of their team to explore a mechanism to set a global price cap.  You heard us talk about that when the President was in Europe — most recently, in Germany.  And this would be for Russian oil and — and starving Putin of his main source of cash and forcing down the price of Russian oil to help blunt the impact of Putin’s war on the pump.

So, it will be discussed further this week at the G7 Finance Ministers’ meeting.  This is happening on Friday.

The U.S. has already taken strong action on — action to ban Russia oil, and U.S. allies have announced plans to wind down their own imports of Russian oil.

But again, Putin, as you’ve heard us say, has continued to try to find new markets for Russian oil.  This is the most effective way, we believe, to fit — to hit hard at Putin’s revenue.  And doing so will result in not only a drop in Putin’s oil revenue but also global energy prices as well.

Q    But why not signal the policy change for long-term support to oil — open oil production here at the U.S. or natural gas pipelines here in the U.S. to undercut the Russian supply of oil on the global market?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, we think that working with our allies in making this announcement, this price cap on Russian oil, is going to be very effective. 

Again, you’ve heard directly — you heard the President speak about this very recently.  We’ll hear more on Friday how this is going to work.  And it is not just us; it is also a partnership with our allies, the G7.

So, again, we believe this is going to be a — a way to really hit Russia financially.  And so, that’s kind of the process that we’re going to take moving forward.  And also, as you know, we’ve taken — we’ve also taken actions already that we think has had an effect.

But again, as we know, as I just stated, Russia is always looking at other markets, which is why doing this particular piece, we think, will be effective.

Q    But those other markets are China and India.  Is the President then going to use his relationship to stand up to China and India and say, “Stop buying oil from Russia”?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we’ve been also very clear about that.  I don’t have anything more to add.

But, again, we think by doing these price caps is going to hit Russia in a way that is going to be the most effective. 

So, again, the G7 finance ministries are meeting on Friday to talk more about that, and we’ll have more to share.

Okay.  Go ahead, Phil.  I haven’t called on you in a bit.  And then I’ll come down.

Q    When it comes to voters, how does the President differentiate between the ultra-MAGA folks who he sees as an extremist threat to democracy and the average GOP voter?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, can’t talk about voters from here, as you know.

Q    (Inaudible) average individuals.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No — oh, no.  I get you.  Not going to — I just need to say that, right?  Just to — just to be clear.

I mean, the President has been — has been really clear about the leadership — right? — the MAGA Republicans in leadership.  They’re the ones who have the platform.  They’re the ones who — again, the extremist part of the Republican Party; they’re the ones who, you know, folks listen to in their own party. 

And by inciting violence, by trying to take away — they’re the ones who are the legislators and trying to take away our rights, trying to take away our freedoms.  And that’s who the President is speaking to.  Right?  He’s being very targeted in that way and calling that out and saying, you know, “We can’t allow our democracy to be attacked in this way.”

And they have a responsibility — right? — they have a responsibility in how they’re doing their business on behalf of their constituents.

Q    So, for folks sitting at home, when the President is talking about preserving the soul of the nation and these threats to democracy, he’s not referring to those individuals; he’s talking about Republican leadership?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, let me be — be very clear: It’s not just Republican leadership.  It’s not just that blanket.  Right?  He is talking about an extre- — an extreme portion, like extreme part of the party.  He’s been very, very clear about that.

He was just in Maryland, as you all know, and he talked about Governor Larry Hogan and talked about how he is a conservative Republican who does not — who is not in that bucket.  Right?  He was very clear, and he was very purposeful in saying that and being respectful to conservative Republicans who are not part of that extreme.

So, again, I want to be very clear here: This is not a blanket statement.  This is calling out what we have seen for some time, since 2017, as the President wrote about in his article.  Right?

When you are — when you are supporting an authoritarian figure, as we have seen, who is leading — currently leading — the former — the former President, you know, and — and saying the — inciting the violence that you are or wanting to take away our freedoms, you know, it — we need to say something.  He’s not going to shy away from that.

Q    Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    Karine, now that the FDA has authorized this new COVID booster, can you say whether the administration is confident you’ll have enough of these new boosters for everyone who wants one?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, to answer your question, yes, because we have planned for this.  But want to say a couple of things about the FDA. 

So, the announcement is an important step to getting updated COVID vaccine boosters, which we expect to provide additional protection against the variants of COVID circulating in the U.S. to the American people while we wait for the CDC to make its clinical recommendation.  So, there’s still another step, so we want to be very clear about that. 

We’ve been working for months to be prepared for this moment and to get shots into arms this fall and through the end of the year, so we are prepared to do that.

So, with FDA’s authorization, doses can be shipped now to tens of thousands of sites nationwide and shots in arms can start as soon as possible after CDC issues its recommendation later this week.  All states have ordered doses already.  So there has been some orders that have been done. 

And to make sure vaccines get to communities quickly, primary care providers at community health centers and rural health clinics across the country are able to order vaccine directly from federal government, and long-term care pharmacy networks can also order a vaccine directly.  And as we work to ensure that our highest riks [sic] — risk Americans get protected.

Teams have already started the process of packing and shipping doses across the country.  And pending, again, CDC action, we expect shots in arms to begin in earnest starting after Labor Day weekend.

We’ve been working with providers, clini- — clinicians, local health departments, and other critical groups to vaccinate — for vaccination efforts.  And we’ve been doing all of this preparation despite the lack of funding from Congress.  But we have been prepared for this particular moment to make sure that we get shots in arms. 

Q    So even given that lack of funding, you feel you’ll have the supply — you’ll be able to get enough doses to get to everybody who wants one?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  So, again, despite the — the Congress failing to provide us with funding that would have bolstered our campaign, clearly, we’re not — you know, that would have happened — we’ve been preparing by working closely, again, with local — local departments, clinicians, and other groups. 

Look, we’re still leveraging a comprehensive public education program, as I’ve just stated. 

But look, the bottom line is: Despite a failure for — by Congress to act — as we’ve been asking, as you know, for the past several months — we’ve prepared with resources so we can meet the moment with these — with these boosters.

Q    And if I could just follow up real quick on the student loan announcement from last week.  We’ve been hearing from some loan servicers and advocacy groups who are concerned that there’s not going to be enough time in this four-month period to get everybody’s applications processed and their balances adjusted before repayment starts.  I guess, could you kind of respond to that concern?  And then is there anything the White House could do?  Maybe extend the pause if all those balances haven’t been adjusted by January 1st?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So just want to — you know, just want to reiterate that this is a priority for the President.  This is a priority for the Secretary of Education.  You’ve heard them both say that. 

And look, there’s also — we’ve got experience here.  They’ve got experience with this.  The Department of Education has already canceled $32 billion in student loan debt for over 1.6 million borrowers, which has never happened before, which is unprecedented.  That has happened in the last 19 months. 

And so, you know, the administration will be launching a simple application — just to go down through the process — by early October for folks who don’t know.  If you would like to be notified when the application is open, you can go to the StudentAid.gov to sign up for notifications. 

Once a borrower completes the application, they can expect relief within four to six weeks.  That’s what we are — have determined.

Borrowers are advised to apply before November 15 — so there are — there is a deadline there — in order to receive relief before the payment pause expires on December 31st, as you all know, this year.

The Department of Education will continue to process applications as they rec- — as they are received, even after the pause expires on December 31st. 

But again, just to — we are encouraging people to do it before November 15th. 

We — and we are going to do everything that we can.  The Department of Education is — has been committed to doing this, and there is precedent for them doing that for 1.6 million Americans previously.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  On a speech tomorrow, will the President be outlining any new policies or proposals designed to safeguard democracy or protect voting rights?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’m — I’m not going to go into details into his speech.  I will not get ahead of the President.  You know, I talked a little bit about the soul of the nation and what he’s talked about before.  And I’m just not going to get into further details of the speech itself. 

Q    And on Mississippi, does the President have any plans or is there any discussion about him going down there to personally meet with people who are affected by this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Nothing to — nothing to read out or preview about a trip to Mississippi at this time. 

Q    And will he speak to the governor personally?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As I — as I stated, the FEMA administrator spoke — spoke to the governor, I believe, last night.  The President, this morning, spoke to the mayor, as you — as you all know.  And we’re just going to be in close touch from our administration to theirs to local — and the local governments — local folks as well to make sure that they have the need that they — they have the — the resources that they need.

Go ahead, Peter.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  There’s a big problem now that “rainbow fentanyl,” which is designed to target children, has been found in 18 states.  What specifically is the President doing about this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we just talked about the day — the Overdose Awareness Day that — that we are observing today.  I just laid out what the Second Gentleman and others are doing with — within this administration. 

And, you know, we are going to continue to focus on the steps that we’re taking, that we have taken.  You have the $80 million that DHS just announced today on drug prevention.  And the President has taken many steps; he’s made this a priority to make sure that we attack a very dangerous — very dangerous drugs, serious drugs in this country.

Q    But 300 overdoses a day now.  We know how the fentanyl is coming into the country; it’s coming right across the southern border.  The DEA administrator says so.  So when is the President going to do something more to stop this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I will say that we have seen a 200 percent increase of fentanyl seizures, which means that we are — we are doing the job of catching drug traffickers.  Two hundred percent — hold on — two hundred percent increase —

Q    But Americans’ —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — just, again, seizures.

Q    — life expectancies are going down at a rate not seen in a century, and part of that is being driven by drug overdoses.  So what is the President going to do to stop it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And we have — we agree.  We agree.  We see those some — same numbers as well. 

But the fact that we’re — you know, we are securing the border.  The fact that we are securing record levels of funding from DHS so they can stop illicit drugs from entering into the country.  The fact that it’s not just drug traffickers that we’re dealing with as well; we’re stopping — stopping financiers.  This is what’s happening with this — under this administration.

Look —

Q    But it’s not —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But, look —

Q    — being stopped.  Three hundred overdoses.  This has been designed to target —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I —

Q    — children.  Drug cartels in Mexico —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I hear you.

Q    — want to kill American kids.  What is this President doing about it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I hear you.  I just — I just laid out: 200 percent of — increase of drug, fentanyl seizures.  That is a dangerous drug that we are taking off the street.  We are going to continue to focus.  This is an important, important priority for this President. 

And I just want to talk about how you’re saying that they’re — you know, they’re just — the border, right?  And how the border — whatever you just stated — I just want to clear this up.  Migrants who —

Q    People are coming in.  Fentanyl is coming in.  People are dying.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hold — hold on.  So migrant — migrants who attempted to enter the country illegal — illegally are taken into custody by Border Patrol agents.  That is how it works.  That is the process that we are taking.  They are then either expelled by the court order under Title 42, transferred to ICE custody, or monitored through Alternatives to Detention Program as they await further processing. 

We have made 3,000 arrests in the first three months of launching an aggressive campaign to combat the multi-billion-dollar human smuggling industry.

When it comes to — when it comes to what’s happening with drug overdose: This is something that the President cares about.  This is something that the President has laid out a plan to make sure that our kids; our babies; our, you know, young Americans here in this country are not continuing to suffer from that, are not continuing to be given — or access to drugs.  This is something that’s incredibly important to this President. 

So to say that we’re not doing enough, Peter, is just falsely, categorically wrong, especially on a day that we are observing what needs to be done.  And — and we have announced — DHS has announced $80 million to prevent that.  So we are doing the work. 

And here’s the thing, Peter, if — look, if Republicans want to help us stop overdose and stop our kids getting overdose because of these dangerous drugs, because of these fentanyl that we’re seeing in the streets, we’re happy to work with them.  But they’re not. 

I’m moving on, Peter.

Q    But just one —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m moving on.  I’m moving on. 

Go ahead.  Go ahead, Karen.  No, Karen can go. 

Q    Yeah.  Karine, who’s the audience for tomorrow’s speech in Philadelphia?  How are people selected to attend?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — oh, the aud- — the folks in the room?

Q    Yeah, who he is the speaking in front of. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, I don’t have that information for you.  Clearly, he’s going to be — folks from the Philly area who will be clearly participants — that’s normally how we do events.  We invite local leaders.  We invite local — you know, local residents to the event to watch the President speak. 

I don’t have a full list or full way of our process, but that’s normally how we do our events. 

As you know — as you know, you’ve attended some of our events and it’s usually people connected to the party or people — not party — but connected to elected officials locally and the state as well.

Q    And on the CDC booster, specifically as it relates to the President, if the CDC director — excuse me, the new boosters — if the CDC director signs off on the boosters as expected tomorrow and they do start rolling out next week, can we expect the President to get his booster shot next
week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have any dates to announce yet on — on when he will get it.  But obviously, the President was just infected with Omicron, and is really well protected, as you all know, right now against — against COVID. 

So CDC has always provided that guidance on timing for boosters as it relates to prior infection.  And they’ll do that here as well, as it relates to the President and your question. 

But he will absolutely get his updated booster and will encourage eligible Americans to do the same when — when he’s able to.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Just a — on Jackson, again.  Just to follow up — I know you’ve been asked a couple times about it.  But in a January speech, the President singled out Jackson, Mississippi, as well as Flint, as two communities that could be benefited from the infrastructure package and specifically men- — mentioned their water system.  Does the administration still believe that Jackson, through the infrastructure package, can receive the funds that it needs to actually fully replace its water system? 

And just a follow-up to that is: What is the timeline?  I know the money is on the way.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    You guys have released statements saying the funding is on the way.  But what is the timeline for residents on the ground to actually start feeling the impact of that infrastructure package funding?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So the impact — when it comes to them getting — the residents getting their water back, clearly, we want them — that timeline to happen as soon as possible, and so that is our hope, rather — sooner rather than later. 

And so, we’re going to continue — we are committed to — to work with the people of Jackson and the state of Mississippi during this urgent time of need, as we just said, on making that happen because that’s imperative and important for people to have clean water and running water. 

Look, I just listed out a number of — of items from the American Rescue Plan — $450 million.  Twenty million of that was given to the city and that was through the American Rescue Plan, and that was for water and sewer infrastructure needs. 

So, already, that funding was given to the city to deal with that imperative, that really important need — $75 million.  As we talk about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, $75 million was given to support the state to provide clean and safe water for this year.  And so — with an additional $429 million available to the state over the next five years. 

So you see that long-term commitment that’s coming from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  And as it relates — another piece of that, which is coming through EPA’s revolving loan funds — funds that we see for treatment and distribution system that we saw 30- — $30.9 million going to Jackson specifically. 

So we are committed.  The funds have been provided.  We are going to continue to work with the cities, and we’re going to continue to work with the state. 

As you know, Mitch Landrieu is the — is the coordinator for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  He is a former mayor, as you all know, from New Orleans, in Louisiana, so — which is very close to Mississippi.  Clearly, he is committed to this.  He’s traveled around the country, meeting — meeting with electeds, meeting with folks on the ground on how — on how things are going and how we can be helpful.

As far as the date or a timeline, I don’t have that for you.  But clearly, we have — I just listed out our commitment and where the fundings and the money has gone to the state of Mississippi and Jackson as well. 

Q    When residents in these communities are — hear those numbers, they’re going to be wondering why does this keep happening then.  So, I mean, has the administration identified any impediments, whether it’d be the formula-based funding or the actual state process of implementing these funds that —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So —

Q    — that actually prevent the impact from being felt immediately? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s a very good question.  And if I were — if we were in the community, we would be frustrated as well, which is why the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, as I just laid out, has a — there’s — there — there’s an initial funding, and it goes for the next five years.  Right?  That is a long-term investment that you are seeing from this administration to the folks in Mississippi and to the people in Jackson.

So, again, we’re going to continue to work with the, you know, local elected officials to see what else we can do to be helpful.  We are — we are remaining to want to assist the — you know, the community as they’re going through this really tough time. 

But you have seen the financial commitment.  You have seen how the funds for the Infrastructure Law, as you were asking specifically, has been allocated.  And not just that, the American Rescue Plan, as well.

And we’re going to have the — we’re going to continue to have that conversation.

Q    And I just have a quick one.  Is there a specific date for when the application opens for student loan relief at this point?  And why the, kind of, lag time — the delay in actually having a system set up, given there was a lot of time taken to deliberate over this decision?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as I just stated just moments ago, there — there — we’re going to have — we’re going to have more from the Department of Education to be notified when the application is open. 

And again, we’re going to — we — we have a website that people can go to, StudentAid.gov, to sign up for notification.  So those notifications will go — will go up, and borrowers will have — will have to complete that expectation.  And it’ll be within four to six weeks.  We — which is a good amount of time to make sure that they — that they apply before November 15th. 

But it doesn’t just end there, right?  We have said that the Department of Education will continue to process application, even as they are received, even after the pause expires on December 31st. 

So we’re going to continue to work with borrowers, but we — we do have to put a plan in place so that folks know how — how the process works.  Again, they can go to the ­­– to the website and apply, get those notifications.  And we have been giving out information on how the process can work. 

This is not the first time.  We’ve done this before — right? — with this — in this administration.  Those — that $32 billion in student loan debt that we were able to — to cancel.

So the Department of Education — there’s a precedent here.  The Department of Education knows how to work this through.  And we’re — we are committed to make sure that folks get the information and get the need that they — they get the need —

Q    Just to be clear, there’s no date yet, though?  There’s no date yet for —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, for the application?

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I don’t have a date here to share with you, but that’s something that the Secre- — the Department of Education is following through.  We’ve laid out our process.  We’ve laid out the timeline.  We have said we’re going to continue to process application even after the pause on December 31st, and we’re committed to that. 

Again, this is not the first time; there’s precedent for this.  We have — this particular administration — Department of Education — has done this before. 

I’m going to continue.  Go ahead.

Q    Oh, yeah.  On the event yesterday in Pennsylvania, the President explicitly campaigned for certain people.  And correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it was an official White House event, not a campaign event.  Can you share some context on your thoughts on that?  Because he was very explicitly saying, “Please elect certain people.”

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So the President can say a lot — can a lot further than I can from here.  He does not have — he is not bounded by the Hatch Act the way that we are.  And so — so I’ll say that first. 

And I don’t have much more to add because I’m always — even myself, I try to be very, very careful from here.  But again, he is in a different category than we all are here.  And I’ll just leave it as that.

Q    It was an official event, correct?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It was — it was an official event.  Tomorrow night will be an official event as well.

Go ahead.  I haven’t — I know.  I was supposed to call you last time and I didn’t.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  So yesterday, during his speech, the President reiterated what he sees as a serious need to pass an assault weapons ban.  This is, of course, something he said before; that’s not new.  But as he continues to push for this, how does he expect that to happen realistically with the way things are in Congress?  And what specifically is he doing, if anything, to help change that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, so I’ll say this: You know, the Pre- — look, the President is going to continue to call on Congress.  As you know, when it comes to the assault weapons ban, that is something that is important to the President.  He was one of the leaders of that 30 years ago — the assault weapons ban back in 1994. 

And again, he has been trying to work on — work on bringing back the assault weapons ban after it sunset in — 10 years after.  And he’s done that as Vice President and he’s doing that now.

A couple of things that I do want to say is: When it comes to actions that he’s taken, he’s had more executive actions dealing with — dealing with gun violence than any other President at this time.  When the Bipartisan Law passed to deal with — to deal with gun violence just recently, just a couple of months ago, many people said that wouldn’t happen, and it happened.

So, many people have said we couldn’t get things done, and we got it done.  So, the President — as you heard him say, he is determined to do that.  He’s determined to make that happen.  He’s going to continue doing the work that he has done for the past 19 months and having those conversations with Congress — congressional members in — in calling for them to take action.

And we have seen the House take action, which many didn’t think that was going to happen either, and they took action on the assault weapons ban. 

So we are a lot further, we would argue, under this administration, dealing with gun violence, even dealing with pushing further the assault weapons ban than we have been in 30 years.  And so, I think that says a lot for this President’s leadership.  And that says a lot for what he’s — his commitment in making sure that we protect our communities, we protect kids going to school — right? — we protect people from going to grocery stores — right?  — and not feel like they — their lives are in danger.  It’s a first step, and there are many steps to take.

Q    And lastly, with all the attention on the former President’s handling of classified information — not asking you to comment on that specifically — but can you say with certainty to the American people that President Biden in his time as President has not mishandled, improperly stored, done anything improper with classified information?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   No.  And then I’m going to move on.

Go ahead. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you, Karine.  I have two questions, one on the speech tomorrow and one on COVID. 

On the speech tomorrow: President Biden said in his victory speech in November 2020 that he sought this office to restore the soul of the nation.  So where does the White House believe the country is in that restoration process?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, he has said this before — that it’s going to take some work.  You have heard him say that.  You’ve heard us say that.  But what he’s not going to do is shy away, again, from calling out extremism that he is seeing — these MAGA Republicans.  He is not going to shy away from that.

Is there more work to do?  Absolutely.  Do we have to continue to protect our democracy?  Yes, we do.  That is the reality that we’re in — protect our freedom; you know, protect our rights.  And that’s what he’s going to continue to do day in and day out.  And you’re going to continue to hear that from him not just Thursday, not just yesterday, but that message is going to continue.

Q    And on COVID, many employers have robust return-to-office plans that will begin after Labor Day.  And just yesterday, some Wall Street banks announced that they are going to be ending entirely testing, vaccination, masking requirements.  How would the White House respond to those companies?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I leave that the — up to — to the companies to decide what’s right for — decide what’s right for their employees.  Clearly, there’s CDC guidance that we always recommend people to follow, but I leave that to the private — private organization.

Go ahead.

Q    I have a domestic question and an international question.  First of all, how does the President plan to commemorate 9/11 this year?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s a very good question.  Don’t have anything to preview at this time.  And when we will, we’ll share that.

Q    And then, moving on to Venezuela.  A U.S. citizen detained in Venezuela has said on the record, quote, “Our government has abandoned us.”  So how does the administration respond to a statement like that?  What is the administration doing to try to get the 10 Americans who are detained in Venezuela out?  Is a prisoner exchange possibly in the cards?  And, you know, how are you working that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re talking about — the person is talking about our government, right?  Not the Venezuela —

Q    Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  I have not seen that reporting.  I’ll say this: You know, we try — we’re very careful in not negotiating in public and being mindful of not putting any — you know, any lives at — more at risk, so I’m just not going to share anything further from here at this time.

Oh, gosh.  I’m going to go around.  Have I — okay.  Go ahead, and then I’ll come — I’ll come back, guys.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Can you talk a little bit — in regards to tomorrow’s speech, can you talk a little bit about the timing?  You’ve said a bunch of times that this is a theme that he’s discussed for many years.  So why now is the time to do it in such a primetime fashion?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Because he thinks our democracy is at risk.  Because — I mean, you know, when I talk about taking away our freedom, June 24th, the decision from the Supreme — Supreme Court Justice on the Dobbs decision — that was a decision to take away our constitutional right.  That was an important — important moment for our country.  It put women’s lives at risk.  And it’s not just, you know, reproductive rights; it’s going to be other rights as well, as we heard from Supreme Court Justice Thomas.  He made that very, very clear.

And then, after that, we heard from leaders of the Republican Party saying they wanted a national ban. 

So, we’ve seen recent efforts to take away our rights as Americans from an extreme — again, an extreme part of — of their party — those MAGA Republicans that you’ll — you’ll continue to hear us talk about.  And so, that is continuing and it hasn’t stopped.

And I just listed out what recently — what recently leadershi- — leaders in Congress have said about attacking law enforcement individuals who are — protect us; you know, attacking their own colleagues from the other side of the aisle — that’s dangerous.

Again, the President is not going to shy away from speaking up, from speaking out.  And he is — it is very important for him to speak directly to the American people, as I have said.

And this is — kind of goes into Phil’s question.  He believes a majority of Americans want to protect our democracy.  He believes a majority of Americans wants to protect our freedom.  That’s where he believes the majority of the country is, but we have to keep talking about it.  We cannot shy away from it.

Q    Can you talk — give any color of how he’s preparing for the speech?  I mean, the guidance — the schedule today seemed not so full.  I mean, is he spending much of his day, you know, going through drafts with staff?  Is he practicing it?  What — kind of what’s, kind of, the process —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, this is an important speech for the President.  We’re talking about a theme, to your point, that he’s talked about since 2017.  So, yes, he’s — he’s working through the speech with his — with his senior advisors, with his staff.  He’s continuing to do the business of the American people by meeting with staff on issues on items that are critical and policies that we continue to work through to make sure that we do the work.  He continues — always going to continue to do the work of the American people.

But, yes, to your point, he’s going to look at — he’s going to look at drafts.  He’s going to write his speech, and you’ll hear directly from him tomorrow.

Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Angola just had a very peaceful and well-organized election last week.  And, as you said, the U.S. was following and the results are there.  So, the for- — the President João Lourenço was reelected, and I would like to hear the view of the White House on the Angola elections.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, so don’t — don’t have anything more to add.  And to your point, we congratulated — last week, on Friday, we congratulated the people of Angola for making their voices heard. 

As we’re talking about democracy, as we’re talking about elections, this is an important moment for the people in Angola.  We continue to observe — we’re going to continue to observe the process.  I know I’ve said that last week.  But I don’t — I just — I just don’t have more to add.

And, you know, the United States supports the democratic process and — through our ongoing democracy and governance programs by observing the election, as we — as we’ve done.  And, you know, we share a partnership with the country — with the country of Angola.  I don’t have more to say to what I just added.

Q    My other question is: As you know, President Biden announced a big investment for Angola.  So, last time, he — you just told me that the reason why is because they are seeing some progress in the country.  Can you elaborate a little more about the view of the U.S. in Angola in the last five years?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as I was just saying that we see a partnership with Angola, we will continue to work with them, with the government closely — whoever, you know, the chosen government that the people elected — to deepen our cooperation and shared priority.  So we’re going to continue to do that. 

And, again, including democracy, as I’ve been talking about; including economic and investment growth, global health security and public health, and climate energy goals to create a better future for the — for all Angolans.  And that is a commitment that you’ll hear, that you have heard.  I think that’s what the President was saying to you on Friday.

And, again, we commend the people of Angola for making their voices heard.  And that is important, that we see a democratic process happening there.

Okay.  Oh, go ahead.  I’m sorry.  I haven’t called you.

Q    On the subject of the COVID booster shots, we’re now two and a half years into a pandemic, lots of people are really tired of thinking about COVID.  How will the administration convince people to get yet another booster shot?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we have learned — we have a lot of lessons learned from how we started this — this process very early on in his administration with the comprehensive strategy that we had in getting shots in arms.

We know it works.  I talked about — a little bit about that already, which is working closely with doctors and clinicians, making sure that we’re having — educating folks on the ground on why this is important, why this campaign on getting people this — this booster to folks and, again, shot in arms.

And one of the things that we have seen that worked really, really well is the trusted voices.  That is also an important thing that we have seen.

But just a reminder that before we entered office, less than a third of adults wanted to get a shot and more than 87 percent have at least one today.  That is the product of the work we’ve done to reach folks through trusted messengers and build access.  Those are two key factors that we cannot forget. 

First, we’re planning a public education campaign, building on lessons we’ve learned, as I just stated, and focus- — focusing on those most at risk.  That’s always important here.

This will include leveraging deep partnerships, as I mentioned, across sectors to meet people where they are and — and to — you know, and — and just as a reminder: You know, to do this, HHS tests messages weekly, surveying at least 1,500 people who are on the fence about getting their booster shot and tracking shifts in trends, and works with trusted messengers to communicate with the public.

And so we have a plan, and we’re going to ultimately use that plan.  We’re going to leverage what we know worked before.  And we believe this is an important moment for the American people.

But again, FDA made that decision.  CDC still has to make their decision.  So we don’t want to get ahead of — ahead of this.  But we are prepared, orders have already been made, and we’re going to make sure that, you know, we get those shots in arms.

Q    Karine, one more?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  One more.  Oh, my gosh.  Who have I not called on in a long time?

I’ve never seen you in the room before.  Go ahead.

Q    Hi.  Sophia with Axios.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    Hello.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hello.
Q    I’ll ask about the Hill and White House priorities on the Hill.  Democrats have managed to pass the Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS, among other big bills.  Student loan forgiveness is costly.  I know the White House has not projected an estimate yet.  But, you know, many take this to see that — right? — like there may not be many more priorities that involve Senator Manchin’s support.  What do you make of this? 

And, you know, if — if that’s not true, what is the White House priority for the next, you know, legislative plan?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, Sophia, welcome to the Briefing Room.  Happy to see you.

So, we’re focused on working with members of Congress of both parties and — on government funding bills that’s — that that would invest in our communities and people — and people, reduce cost for fam- — working families, and help grow our economy from the bottom up and the middle out, as you hear us say.  So, that’s something that’s coming up that we’ll be very focused on in this administration and, clearly, with congressional members.

We’re working with leadership in both chambers toward an efficient, straight- — straightforward September work period.  And we know Democratic appropriators have been working hard to prepare for that particular legislative piece — that — the government funding — funding bills.

And we’re going to press ahead with confirmations — don’t forget that; that is also very important — including judicial confirmations, continuing to put well-qualified judges on the bench that are devoted to the rule of law and that represent the diversity of the — of our nation, as you have seen historically done by this administration.

We’re also implementing the landmark laws we have passed, as you just mentioned, for the middle class, which is the Infla- — including the Inflation Reduction Act that’s already creating manufacturing jobs and will lower many families’ biggest cost.  CHIPS, as you — as I’m sure you’re thinking about, to bolster our competitiveness with China and also keep bringing jobs back from overseas and more.

So there’s a lot to do — judicial; there’s the — there’s the government funding bills; and there’s also making sure that we’re implementing these historic pieces of legislation that were passed early on.

Q    Thank you, Karine.

Q    A follow-up on —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We got to go.  We got to go.  But I’ll be back tomorrow, guys.  Thank you, everybody.

Q    Karine, is the President tracking the situation in Ethiopia?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Why don’t you come back and talk to us, and we’ll answer that.  But I also — but I also will come — I’ll be back tomorrow too.

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Come on up, Simon.  Come on up.

4:08 P.M. EDT