Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese En Route Phoenix, Arizona

1 month ago
AMERICA NEWS NOW

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Phoenix, Arizona

12:31 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we’re pleased to be joined by the National Economic Council Director, Brian Deese, today — right behind me.  I’ll give you — I’ll give a quick overview and then turn over — turn over the floor, or the aisle, over to him.

As you know, we are in route to Phoenix, Arizona, where President Biden will discuss the American manufacturing boom at TSMC’s semiconductor material manufacturing facility as the company makes two major announcements about building advanced semiconductors in the U.S. 

To mark the importance of these announcements, the President will be joined by a range of CEOs including Apple’s Tim Cook.  He’ll also be joined by Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Governor-Elect Katie Hobbs, and several members of the state’s congressional delegation. 

During his remarks, the President will discuss how TSMC’s new investments in Phoenix are a result of his economic plan, including the CHIPS and Science Act.  Today’s announcement is just another example of how President Biden’s economic plan is growing the economy from the bottom up and middle out, creating jobs, revitalizing manufacturing, strengthening our supply chains, and giving families more breathing room.

And with that, I’ll turn it over to Brian Deese.  Okay.

MR. DEESE:  Thank you so much.  I would note the one and only Mayor Bottoms is here today too.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  She wanted to see what this was all about.  (Laughs.)

MR. DEESE:  This is pretty exciting. 

So I’ll be super brief and happy to get to your questions.  I think you’re all tracking this, but I would just say, as we think about the day and what we’re trying to accomplish, I think about it in sort of — in four categories. 

The first is with respect to the TSMC facility that the President will be visiting.  This is a — what I think is being referred to as a “First Tool-In” ceremony where — it’s a term of art for semiconductor facilities but not breaking ground.  They built the facility, but now they’re starting to actually put together the operations inside this — inside this production facility.  The President is excited to see that progress up close and personal. 

Second is the announcement TSMC is making about its plan to expand to a second fab and, in particular, a commitment to build those most leading-edge chips at the three-nanometer level here in the United States. 

For those of you who have been following this, a big part of the motivation behind what became the CHIPS and Science Act, which the President really started on in his first month in office working on, was to try to re-position the United States leadership in that leading edge of the semiconductor ecosystem where the United States has fallen to having no production here in the United States.  So that’s the other big component of this. 

The third is the opportunity to talk with the broad — the broad spectrum of the semiconductor industry from consuming companies: Apple, which is, you know, the single largest customer of TSMC; AMD, you know, another big chip consumer; but also Micron is here — is a leading memory chip producer; as well as NVIDIA, ASML. 

And to have all of these CEOs together to mark this occasion, I think, is a reflection of the fact that this is about more than just one groundbreaking, but how we build out this innovation ecosystem for semiconductors in the United States.  And Secretary Raimondo and I will be spending some time with those CEOs and the President, as well, to really talk through where we are on our strategy, what we need to work together on, and make sure that we are providing clear guidance to the industry on issues, including on the export control side in addition to the implementation of the CHIPS bill.

And the last piece is that — you know, and I think the President will be speaking to this — is that coming to Phoenix is about more than just semiconductors, because what you’re seeing on the ground in the greater Phoenix area — Secretary Raimondo was here back in August to announce that Corning and AT&T are entering a partnership to build fiber optics here in the Phoenix area to meet demand to build out broadband deployment in the country.

We’re seeing a major electric vehicle battery manufacturer, KORE Power, who set up facilities here.  I was in New Mexico in September meeting with the KORE Power CEO who was talking about this emerging ecosystem in the southwest of battery manufacturing, et cetera. 

So that’s what the President will speak to, is that you — what you’re seeing, you know, in economic terms, that’s the industrial strategy that we’ve talked about, that’s investing in the country and laying the foundation for private sector investment.  But in very practical terms, this is what happens in a community if you are able to bring manufacturing, innovation, job opportunities, and economic opportunities for years to come as well.

So that’s what we’ll be focused on here on the ground in just a little while.  And with that, should we rock and roll?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Go ahead, Aamer.

Q    So, I just wanted to ask a little bit about generally a mood question — a mood question about going into —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Inaudible.)

Q    But you have the likely incoming House speaker talking about this being — such bipartisan bills being corporate welfare.  Is this the end?  Is this — are you guys essentially on a last hurrah for, sort of, this kind of bipartisan legislation?

MR. DEESE:  We certainly don’t believe that has to be the case.  I think, you know, one of the things the President said the day after the election in his post-election press conference was that he’s prepared, he’s eager to sit down and work with anybody who has good ideas.  He’s demonstrated his ability to do that, and he’s going to continue to do that.

It also will mean Republicans demonstrating that they want to work with him.  So we’re going to have to — we’re going to — you know, we’re going to have to see.

You know, I guess I’d say two things.  One is: If you go back to early in the administration, and you asked most people, you know, “Would it be possible to actually get multiple historic bipartisan pieces of legislation through this very narrow Congress in strong bipartisan fashion?  Could we get infrastructure done after decades of not getting it done?  Could you do something on chips and semiconductors?” — there would have been a lot of skepticism, a lot of pessimism. 

So, you know, we’ll see.  We understand the reason for skepticism.  We’re not in any way naïve to how challenging, you know, the circumstance will be.  But there’s lots of places where — I think there’s a lot of bipartisan appetite to get things done.  And so, certainly that’ll be — you know, our (inaudible) will be to try to do something.

Q    One of the first tests of that bipartisan relationship will be this government spending bill.  Senator Shelby said the two sides still are apart.  He suggested there might be a need for some kind of short-term CR.  What’s the White House view on that?  And do you think you can reach some kind of agreement before the December 16th deadline?

MR. DEESE:  Yeah, look, I mean, those conversations are ongoing and fluid.  And, you know, I — even — you know, even as — over the course of the day today, the President had a productive lunch yesterday with Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Shelby, building on the conversation he had last week with congressional leadership.  And I think his message to them is — continues to be our message, which is: Keep working at it; get something done.  Everybody agrees that having a stable, yearlong funding bill is better for our country, it’s better for our economy, it’s better for our national security.

So we just want to — you know, we know that those legislative conversations are happening in very real time, but, you know, we’re just going to keep encouraging people to try to stay at it and get that done.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Okay, sure.  I wonder if there’s anything in the President’s remarks or if he tries to do anything to assuage people’s worries about divided government, you know, with McCarthy saying, you know, Republicans shouldn’t work with Democrats and all of that stuff, and if all this stuff comes to a screeching halt.

MR. DEESE:  Well, look, I think the President’s presence here today with business leaders from across the country and around the world to demonstrate commitment to implement a bill that was bipartisan in its vision, bipartisan in the votes in both the House and the Senate, and will be bipartisan in the implementation, I think, you know, underscores what is possible if we actually keep the national interest in mind. 

You know, it was one — I remember back — it was one of the first meetings that the President did with congressional leadership in late January of 2021, right after the President came into office, where he had Senator Cornyn, I believe Senator Young was there as well, others, all focused on this idea that semiconductors was a place where we could get things done. 

And there’s been a lot of skepticism over the course of 18 months about whether something could actually get done.  A lot of points where people said this isn’t going to happen, the politics are too hard and complicated. 

And so, you know, I think the part of the President being here is — a big part of the President being here is to underscore the importance of implementation to make sure that we’re hitting our marks to talk directly with CEOs, to be on the ground and understand what their needs are, to be clear about what our approach is going to be.  But I think it also, you know, sends a signal about the potential, the opportunity if we actually, you know — if we stay focused on, you know, what the American people want to stay focused on.

Q    Brian, two other priorities, shifting gears.  One of them, the outbound investment screening mechanism that you guys were, I think, at some point trying to get out before the end of this year.  Is that executive order still going to come before the end of the year, or is it slipping into the new year?

MR. DEESE:  So, I don’t have anything for you on the timing.  We’re still working on it.

Q    Okay.  And then the other one: The President has said that he’s going to ask Congress to work with him on a windfall tax for the oil and gas companies.  With the House obviously now in Republican control and this likely being blocked, are there any other avenues that you could address these, you know, “excess profits,” as the President calls it?

MR. DEESE:  Well, it’s a great question.  I’m glad you gave me the opportunity to answer it.  Because if you go back, what the President said — and I believe that was — it was Monday or Tuesday, November — early November; I think it was November 1st or November 2nd.  What the President said was that the market dynamics we were seeing where you had high retail prices that Americans were paying at the gas pump, and those retail prices weren’t coming down as fast as wholesale prices — in an environment where companies were generating record profits, that was not an acceptable outcome. 

And that he — what — he reiterated what he had been saying for several months, which was to call on the industry to take action to try to lower prices, increase inventories, to try to give the American people a break and increase the energy security in the United States.  And if we didn’t see progress, then he was going to come back and work with Congress on appropriate solutions.  That’s what he said.

And if you look, we’re now — just about a month later, the price at the pump has come down by 40 cents a gallon.  The price of diesel is now on the cusp — in the next couple of days is likely to fall below $5.00 a gallon.  That’ll be the first time since March that the price of diesel is down.  The price of gas at the pump is now lower than it was anytime in 2022.

And we are starting to see that spread between wholesale prices — the price that companies pay for the product — and the retail prices — what we pay at the pump — closing as well.  

So, that’s progress.  And, ultimately, you know, the President’s ultimate focus is on making sure that the American people are getting a break.  So, I would note that progress. 

I would also say we continue to have conversations with members of Congress and the industry to make sure that we’re looking at any and all appropriate measures to include, for example, in the Northeast, where we’ve been very concerned about low levels of inventories.  We’ve seen some progress on that over the course of the next — over the course of the last couple of weeks.  But we are paying very close attention to that.  We’ll continue to monitor it.

Q    So, your threat worked and there’s no more need for a windfall tax to work with Congress on that?

MR. DEESE:  No, I guess what I would say is that the President has been consistent over the course of the last set of months of what outcome he is encouraging and what he wants to see, which is that the American people pay lower prices when the prices come down and that we make sure that we’ve got enough resilience in our own energy system that we don’t expose the American people to, you know, price shocks or supply shortages.

That will continue to be our (inaudible), and we’ve made — you know, over the course of the last month, we’ve — we’ve made some progress on this one.

Q    I have a question about layoffs in the tech industry.  I know you guys consistently say that you don’t see a recession happening now or potentially not in the next several months.  But a reason that a lot of these companies are giving is because of the glo- — uncertain global economic outlook.

Given how you view the economy, would you encourage these companies to avoid layoffs now and wait to see how things shake out?  Or what’s your message to workers who are laid off and are wondering about the state of the economy, given, what you say, how the economy is doing?

MR. DEESE:  So, you know, I — I’d start with — you know, I’d start with Friday’s employment report.  So, that was for the month of November.  And we saw continued, sort of, resilience in the labor market — 263,000 jobs created in — in the month. 

And, you know, we’ve been in a historically unique period in the post-pandemic period.  But it’s worth remi- — you know, just orienting: If you go back the decade prior to the pandemic hitting, so post-great financial crisis — in that decade —  over the course of that whole decade, average monthly job growth was 160,000.

So, you know — now, the 260 [thousand] that we saw in November is down from the 600,000 a month that we were seeing earlier in the year, but that’s what we expect and anticipate and want to see in the labor market that is normalizing.

So, you know, we saw continued strong job growth.  If you look across industries, you know, consi– continue to be solid across the board.

Obviously, individual companies will make their own decisions on that front.  But we continue to have a historically strong labor market that is generating job opportunities for people who are looking for jobs, who are looking to change jobs and take a new opportunity.  With wages rising and unemployment at, you know, 3.7 percent, it is a historically good opportunity for workers in the labor market right now.

We’re obviously, you know, very focused on monitoring where we are and where we think we’re going.  And there are, you know, lots of challenges that we’re navigating through economically.  But I think that, you know, the labor market and the resilience of the labor market overall, at a macro level — and that’s what — we look at, you know, the economy overall — continues to show a striking degree of resilience.

Q    What does the President want to hear from Tim Cook and the other executives today?  And what does he want to tell them?

MR. DEESE:  Well, I think that what he wants to tell them is that the United States, the federal government, is fully committed to doing its part to invest in the country and to lay the foundation for a thriving and growing semiconductor industry and, more broadly, a thriving and growing set of industries connected to, you know, the core areas where we see economic opportunity in the future to include clean energy.

And that they can operate now with a degree of certainty that would — you know, so many operating company businesses tell me that what they need is certainty.  And now, on the back end of the legislative efforts that we have pushed through, they have long-term certainty that there will be capital on the table; that there will be a partner for investing in workforce and the training necessary to build — you know, to get the talent that they need; and that there are long-term tax incentives for them to build and grow in the United States.

So, that’s what he’s going to underscores to them.  And also to make clear that he wants these companies to build and grow in America.

We’re seeing them make those announcement.  But he’s — he wants to — he wants to see them continue to do that.  We’re going to be a partner to that, but we’re also going to have high expectations for that. 

Some- — one of you mentioned this sort of — you know, the idea of — this CHIPS bill is anything — you know, far from corporate welfare.  There are strong requirements associated with any company that is going to receive funding under this.  And we’re going to — and we’re going to stick true to the legislative intent.

I think what he hopes to hear from them is, number one, to understand their commitment and their plan, but also to hear, you know, as he often does in these environments, to just hear very candidly from them what are they concerned about, what do they see on the horizon, what are they planning for, where do they see the biggest challenges, and where can we more effectively partner together.

I was just talking to, you know, Senator Kelly, who’s here on the plane, about how to — how — how, on the ground, the Arizona delegation is helping unleash extraordinary educational resources that this state has with ASU and community colleges and otherwise; that when you get states, localities, universities, community colleges, businesses working together, oftentimes you can make things happen that people previously thought were, you know, hard to do or impossible to do.  So, that’s the other thing he’s going to want to hear from them.

Q    Thank you.

Q    Can I ask about the backlog of oil tankers in Turkey?  I know this is only a few days into the price cap.  But, one, is there any concerns about the global oil supply with what we’re seeing with this backup?  And then, just generally, with the caveat that we’re only a few days in, what impact do you see the price cap having?

MR. DEESE:  Yeah.  Well, let me start with the latter and then go to the former.  I mean, you know, our — we don’t ant- — we don’t anticipate that the price cap is going to have any material impact on global price.  And, you know, that was by design that, you know, if you dial back, the price cap was a response to the EU insurance ban and an effort to try to implement in a way that would reduce revenue for Putin and the Russian regime without increasing global oil prices.  Obviously, early days, but if you look at where the market is and also, you know, futures, it would indicate that the market is digesting the price cap in that way.

With respect to the issues in Turkey and elsewhere, we’re closely monitoring situation, but I think it’s too early to make any — you know, any judgments there.

Q    Can I ask you, on another issue, the — what you know about the latest on the talks for a new labor contract for West Coast port workers, and what’s the risk that these talks go similarly to the rail talks that went back and forth and you ended up figuring it out but with a lot of drama?

MR. DEESE:  So, it’s an issue that we have been following very closely.  And for those of you who haven’t been paying super close attention, the management and labor for the West Coast ports had a deadline of the end of June to reach an agreement.  They both voluntarily came through that deadline and said they would continue to operate without a lockout or without a strike, and continue to stay at the table and negotiate in good faith. 

They have continued to do that.  Secretary Walsh has continued to stay very close to the parties, encouraged them to continue making progress and to try to, you know, be helpful where we can.  These are, you know, collective bargaining negotiations happening at the table as they appropriately should. 

So, you know, that — that continues to be where we are.  I would — I don’t have a — I don’t have a sort of — a super real-time update on where things are other than to say that, you know, those parties remain at the table, focused on trying to resolve their differences rather than, you know, escalating.

Q    What’s the current outlook on getting an extension on the Child Tax Credit?  There’s some Senate Democrats who would like to see that, you know, in this omnibus and are saying, essentially, there shouldn’t be any of these corporate tax extenders if you’re not going to have a CTC component to it.

MR. DEESE:  Yeah.  You know, with respect to prospects, we’ll have to see.  Right?  You know, a lot is up in the air right now, legislatively, and there’s a lot — it’s like a 17-dimensional — lots of different things going — you know, going on right now.

On the — on the policy side, we certainly agree that — that if Congress is going to do anything with respect to extending tax cuts for companies, they should take action to try to help, you know, working people and families.  So that — that certainly is where we are.  But we’re going to have to see, you know, where these conversations unfold over the course of the next several days. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.

Q    Thanks, Brian.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, thanks, Brian.  Okay.

Q    Thanks very much.

MR. DEESE:  See you, guys.  Enjoy the ride — the long ride. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, guys.  Aamer, what you got?

Q    Two things.  On Georgia today, any action for the President to try to get out the vote in the last minutes? 

And then secondly, do you have any update on the North American Leaders’ Summit next month and if it is indeed happening next month and the President —

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

Q    The North American Leaders’ Summit, is it —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  So let me take that one first.  We’re working — we’re working with — we’re working with the government of Mexico on that.  I don’t have anything to share, or anything to preview at this time.  But we’re in conversations, clearly, that — you know, that relationship is very important to the President.  And — but once we have something to preview, we certainly will share that.

Q    And on Georgia?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, yes, on Georgia.  What was the question again?  I’m so sorry.

Q    Just what is the President up to today.  Is there any sort of last-second, I don’t know, get-out-the-vote efforts?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So a couple — a couple of things.  I want to be really careful.  I’m covered by the Hatch Act, so can’t really get into any kind of — you know, lay out any strategy or planning on an election that’s happening today, as we all know. 

But, look, I talked about this a little bit yesterday.  You saw — you’ve seen what the President has done.  I think some of you traveled with us to Boston last week where the President did phone banking.  He raised some money for Senator — Senator Warnock.  He’s always said that he’s willing to do whatever it takes, whatever Senator Warnock needs for him to be helpful. 

And I’ll take it back a little bit further: If you look at the midterm elections and you look at the role that the President had — I said this yesterday a little bit in the briefing room — which is: Look, the President was able to lay out what the messaging was — right? — what the messaging was for the Democrats who are — who were — who were running at the time, which is making that contrast with Republican officials and laying out what they wanted to do, how they were going to take our economy into a downturn by wanting to cut Social Security, by wanting to put Medicare on the chopping block because they didn’t like the Inflation Reduction Act, a piece of legislation that’s historic, that was going to — that is going to lower cost for Americans. 

And let’s not forget, you know, fighting for our democracy.  We saw voters and American public speak very clearly and say how important that was to them.

Their freedom — when you think about Roe and their rights, they were very clear about how they wanted — they wanted — they wanted us to continue to fight for that as well. 

So, look, again, I’m not going to get into too specifics about today.  But — but I’ll just leave it there so not to get myself in trouble here. 

Q    Ukraine has been striking deeper into Russia with drone attacks.  Is that causing any concern in Washington?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have any — any assessment on that.  So just want to be really clear.  I know — I know the reports are out there. 

I want to — I want to just add one more piece to that: Look, I don’t want to speculate about whether Ukraine is responsible for these attacks.  But to be clear, there’s only one country — right? — and we — you’ve heard us say this at the podium, you’ve heard us — the President say this — who is — who’s responsible for this conflict, and that’s Russia. 

And they continue to launch a barrage of attacks against Ukraine, including against electric — electric grid — just yesterday, you heard me talk about that in the podi- — at the podium as well — and that are designed to increase human suffering. 

But one thing that we have seen from the Ukrainian people is that they are — they are a brave people.  We stand with them as they continue to fight for their freedom and as they continue to fight for their sovereignty.

Q    Can you talk about North Carolina, both the outages and what the federal government is doing, and what — where the investigation into whether this is domestic terrorism lies?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I have a few — a few things to say about that.  I know you guys asked me yesterday.

So we condemn this apparent attack on critical infrastructure.  Federal law enforcement continues to support the investigation, and we will continue to monitor the situation as that investigation plays out.

The Department of Energy is working with utilities in the region to ensure they have everything they need to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. 

As I’ve said, President Biden has made critical infrastructure security and resilience to all hazards, both natural and manmade, a priority since day one of his administration.  While we still have a long way to go, the Biden-Harris administration is already following through on its promise to deliver results through the initiatives like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the infla- — Inflation Reduction Act.

And to protect against and limit the impacts of incidents like this, we’ve worked closely with the private sector to strengthen resilience against the full spectrum of potential threats, including through utilizing new technologies and improving how government

communities

[communicates] and shares that information with the private sector, which owns the majority of our nation’s critical infrastructure, as you all know. 

Go ahead.

Q    I wonder who was responsible.  Is there any idea?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would refer you to the Department of Justice on that and also to Department of Energy on any specifics.

But what I can tell you is we condemn this apparent attack.

Q    Arizona certified its election results this week.  Should we expect the President to talk about the election in Arizona and specifically urge the statewide Republicans to concede the race?

And then secondly, I noticed that Senator Sinema was not on the list of attendees.  Was she invited by the White House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we always invite — as you know, you guys have been on a couple of trips with us.  When we go to a state, the President is always happy to give those congressional members in that state a ride on Air Force One to the state.  And, clearly, if you think about the CHIPS and Science Act, it was a bipartisan piece of legislation.  It got a lot of support from Democrats.

I can’t speak to Senator Sinema’s schedule.  As you know, the Senate is in session, so I would have to refer you to her office as to her schedule for today.

But on your question — so, look, the President, as you know, he feels like it’s his duty to sound the alarm about continuing threats to our democracy, attacks on the integrity of elections, and attempts by politicians to choose their voters, and when it should always be the other way around.

So he spoke about the need to speak out against the dangerous conspiracy theories, misinformation, and violent rhetoric — the need for all of us, as “We the People,” to say in — to say in one voice that this is not a — this is not normal.  This is extreme.  It’s not who we are. 

He was right to do that.  And the American people responded, as I said earlier in this gaggle.

Look, and it’s a testament to our mainstream values as a country that the midterms affirmed the strength of our democracy.  Look, people spoke out.  We saw this in the last midterm.  They were very clear that they wanted — American people across the country wanted to make sure that our democracy was protected and that we continue to fight for our democracy.   And so we need to listen to that and make that very clear.

Go ahead.

Q    I’m sorry if I making you repeat yourself because I couldn’t hear you.  I just wondered two questions.  What’s the President’s message to Georgia voters?  Is he going to be talking about that at all today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I want to be really careful.  There’s — people are voting right now.  And I am protected by the Hatch Act, so I’m not going to really say more about that specifically.

What I can point to, as I’ve been doing, is pointing to the midterms and what the American people have been very clear about: protecting our democracy; making sure we continue to deliver for the American people — that’s something that Democrat officials, especially in Congress, has been doing.  When you think about the Bipartisan Infrastructure, you think about the Inflation Reduction Act, you think about when we walked in — the President walked into the administration, he met the moment with the American Rescue Plan, something that Republicans did not vote for, and it helped our economy get back on its feet and it helped to make sure that we got shots in arms. 

And that’s why you’re seeing the data points that we are seeing the last couple of months with GDP, and, you know, inflation moderating and seeing jobs — historic job growth.  And so all of those things are important.

And so what I can say is — what our message has been to the American people — what I can say is, what the work that the President has done to the American people and just lean into, you know, again, what we talked about during the midterms and that contrast about what Republican officials are trying to do.  They want to stop all of the gains that we have been making.

So I’m not going to get into, again, specifics into an election that’s currently happening.  I’m covered by the Hatch Act. 

But I can lay out exactly, you know, the message that the President gave just a couple of weeks ago, in the ending of the midterms — in the midterms — as we were going into the midterms election.

Q    And my other question was just on — I know the President’s not going to talk about the border.  He’s not going to visit the border.  But is the administration willing to extend Title 42 or are you going to spend millions on border security so that DREAMers can have a pathway to citizenship?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, what — did you ask me about Title 42?  I’m sorry.

Q    Yes.  It was, would you consider extending Title 42?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m not going to get into Title 42.  That’s something that the Department of Justice is working through.  I know I’ve been asked if they were going to appeal. That’s a — that’s in litigation, so I’m not going to respond to that.

Look, I’ll say this: When it comes to immigration reform, on the first day of his administration, the President — one of — the piece — first pieces of thing — one of the first things he did was put forth a comprehensive immigration reform, which included DACA, which included making sure we protect the border.  And he was very clear this was a priority for him. 

And he was able to secure record funding for the Department of Homeland Security to make sure that we had 23,000 extra agents, to make sure that we stopped those smugglers that were taking advantage of migrants who are — who were trying to, you know, looking for a better life, trying to come into the country.  And he’s been very clear that he wants to work on this. 

I just talked about the CHIPS and Science Act, how that was done in a bipartisan way.  You know, why can’t Republicans work with us in a bipartisan way to get immigration reform done? 

But the way — what we’ve been seeing from them is political stunts.  That’s what they do, you know?  They — they do political stunts, do not come up with solutions, and we have.  We have come up with solutions.  We understand that there’s more work to do, and we’re continuing to do that work.

Q    Karine, on Saudi, the President said that he wants to review the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.  Now that Congress is back, can you give us an update on these talks and whether you’re still interested in potentially halting arms sales or looking at the NOPEC legislation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have specifics to lay out on where we are on the conversation about our Saudi relationship. 

Look, as you know, it’s been an 80-year relationship that we have had with Saudi Arabia.  This is — you know, it’s been done in a bipartisan way.  And so, look, I don’t have anything to share on conversations that’s been had or what’s the path forward.  As soon as we have that, we’ll be sure to share.

Q    Can I follow up on that?  President Xi says that he’s going to Saudi Arabia tomorrow.  As the — as President Biden reassesses the relationship, how much is he factoring in China’s relationship with Saudi Arabia?  And how concerned to see that by potentially reducing the American involvement in Saudi Arabia that China could see an opening and take advantage?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, just a couple things on that.  So, we don’t tell our partner — our partners to choose sides.  That’s not something that we do.  You’ve heard us say that before.  Each country has its own bilateral relationships.  And so, we are focused on strengthening our own partnerships in the Middle East and advancing our economic and national security.  And so, that is what we — we are — you’re going to see us continue to do.

I’m just not going to speak specifically about that particular bilateral meeting.  Again, it is — we do not comment on that.  And it’s not up to us on what they — what they see their relationships needs to be.

Q    And one more follow-up on China.  Do you think, as they’re struggling, obviously, with their COVID-zero and winding that down, is it time for them to ask for Western vaccines to finally beat that virus?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, you know — you know, we’re not going to speak to a country’s policy.  We have been, as you know, the largest provider of COVID — of COVID vaccines in the country.  And so, we are always willing to assist and help. 

Look, the President is very focused on — you know, on his plan that he’s had for the past two years and making sure that people get vaccinated.

One of the — that’s one of the reasons, again, that we’ve seen the economy get back on its feet, is because when the President walked in, he had a comprehensive vaccination plan, and it made a difference.  And he had to kind of clean up what the last administration did. 

They didn’t have a plan.  They didn’t have a strategic, comprehensive plan at all, and the President did.  And so now we’re seeing more than two- — we’ve seen more than 200 million people who have gotten — who have gotten fully vaccinated.

And the President’s message right now to the American people is to go get your new vaccine.  It is important.  It is imperative.  As folks think about the holidays and visiting families and visiting their grandparents, it’s important to get that new vaccine so that we can — we can continue to be in a place where we’re moving forward and — as we deal with COVID.

Q    And it’s still accurate that the Chinese haven’t asked you guys for any vaccines?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, again, I — you know, I don’t have anything to share about any — any conversations that we’ve had on this.  But as I said, we are the largest provider of COVID — COVID vaccines of — than any other country.  And so we have been committed to doing that.

All right.

Q    Can I ask one more?  Governor Sununu has said that Biden’s recommendation that South Carolina get the first primary, that it’s government payback politics.  I wonder if the White House any — has any comments on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Governor payback politics?  Can you say —

Q    “Government payback politics,” I think was the quote.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What does that mean?  I don’t know what that means.  (Laughs.)

Q    (Inaudible) said earlier today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Look —

Q    And there’s another criticism, as well.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.  What’s the other criticism?

Q    Basically, along the same thing, maybe not as scathing a quote.  But, yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, I don’t know what he means by governor — “government payback.”

Q    So, like, rewarding South Carolina for his first victory there —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.

Q    — that term — yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  So, I could say: No, that is not what that is.  There were — there was — it had nothing to do with the primary results.  And I can definitively say that. 

Look, I think when it comes to — I know there’s been — when it comes to it more broadly, as — as we’re hearing from Republican governors and others, their complaints, you know, it is — it is — it is surprising to us that — that any governor would want to deny their constituents an opportunity to — an opportunity to have a greater voice in the process.  And that’s what — that’s what should be looked at. 

This is an opportunity to have a greater — a greater place in the process.  And I’ll just leave it there. 

I’ll add one more thing.  You know, the President has always been clear — and this is a political — I’m going to be very careful — it’s a political process — right? — as we talk about the 2024 calendar.

But more broadly, the President has been very clear on making sure that — you know, that we meet what the country looks like — right? — making sure that, even in his administration, it looks like the country — the diversity of the country.  And so, that’s the President’s commitment, and that’s what you’ll conse- — continue to see him do.

All right.

Q    Should we expect him to stop by the Second Gentleman’s event tomorrow on antisemitism?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I was asked about that yesterday.  I don’t have anything to preview or to share.  Certainly, I’ll look into that.  But that’s a very good question.  I just haven’t looked into it at this time.

Q    Hey, one other thing.  Ron Klain was telling a Wall Street Journal forum that the President is going to make up his mind after the holidays about running for reelection and have a decision, I guess, to announce early in the year.  Is that — is that how you understand it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, Ron echoed what — what you heard — what you heard the President say, including shortly after he had the most successful first — first midterm of any Democratic president in 40 years: that he intends to run — you’ve heard me say that — that the President intends to run and is going to be talking with his family about that and will likely decide early — early next year.

I don’t have anything else to preview at this time.  But what Ron said was certainly in line with what the President has said most recently about 2024.

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    (Inaudible) speak to — there’s been some reports that Russia is running out of attack drones once again.  Is that the U.S. assessment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have anything to share on that specifically.  I would just refer you to Department of Defense.  Don’t have anything on that.

Q    Just one more.  The President was asked, as he was leaving the White House, if he was going to go to the border.  He said he had — “there are more important things going on.”  What — can you — can you clarify those remarks?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I’m happy to —

Q    Were — was he being dismissive (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, happy to.  Oh, absolutely not.  I mean, I just laid out a couple moments ago, like, when the President first walked into the administration, the first thing he did was put forth a comprehensive immigration reform legislation.  So that showed his commitment to dealing with that issue.

Look, the President was clear that his top priority is investing in the American economy and in American communities. And he’s focused on outcompeting China and bringing back American jobs from overseas.  That’s what you’re going to see today. 

And so if anyone believes that the President shouldn’t do — shouldn’t make that his top priority, they should say that out loud, right? 

I mean, you’re going to see for yourselves.  When we land in Phoenix, Arizona, we’re going to — the President is going to lay out why this trip to Arizona is so important, why CHIPS and Science Act is so important and what it’s going to do for the American people and the people in Arizona — creating good-paying jobs. 

Since the Amer- — since the President has been in office, more than 700,000 manufacturing jobs have been created here alone. 

So just to step back, just to talk a little bit about the — what the President has done at the border: The President is — has taken action to secure our border and build a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system.  He’s secured more funding than all of his predecessors to support the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security.  He’s put forth a comprehensive, as I just mentioned, immigration reform proposal. 

He’s brought 20 world leaders — as some of you traveled with us to L.A. — together to jointly manage the migration challenge impacting the entire Western Hemisphere.  That — that came out of that trip that — the summit that he had in L.A. not too long ago.  He focused on real solutions, not — again, not political stunts. 

And if border security is such a top priority for Republicans officials, voting against record funding for the Department of Homeland Security is at odd — is an odd way to show that.  And that’s what we have been trying to lay out, right? 

I mean, you have Republican officials who continuingly [sic] — continuously do political stunt but do not put forward a solution. 

And so we’re solution-oriented.  We want to come to a place where we fine — find answers, and they’re not doing that.

All right, thanks, everybody.

Q    Thank you, Karine. 

Q    Karine, can I — Karine, can I ask you one more thing?  Can I ask you one more — this was the last day on the week ahead this week.  What’s the President up to the rest of the week?  We didn’t have — we didn’t have any more events.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I won’t have — we will have a layout of what the President is going to be doing the next couple of days, and we’ll certainly — we’ll share that with all of you.  Don’t have anything to share at this time.  But, of course, we will share a — share out what his events and what he’s going to be doing the next three days.  What’s today?  Tuesday.  The next three days.

All right.

Q    Thank you.

Q    Can I make one more request, Karine?  Is it possible, if the results are known tonight, that the President might be willing to come talk to us about his reactions?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Don’t have anything right now.  We’re — as you know, he’s paying attention and watching like all of you.  And if anything changes about speaking with you all on the record, we’ll certainly share that as well. 

Q    You’d invite him to talk to us tonight?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I hear you, Aamer.  I hear you. 

Q    Thank you.

1:17 P.M. EST

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