James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:33 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Just doing a little housekeeping there. (Laughs.)
Okay. So, today we learned that 339,000 jobs were created last month. That’s more than 13 million jobs created since President Biden took office. Unemployment has been below 4 percent for almost a year and a half. The last time our nation had such a long stretch of low unemployment was in the 1960s. The share of working-age Americans in the workforce is also at its highest level in 16 years.
The President’s leadership to avert default means we will continue to deliver good jobs for the American people in communities throughout the country.
The bipartisan budget agreement protects our historic and hard-earned economic recovery and all the progress that American workers have made in the last two years.
Members of Congress from both parties came together to prevent a catastrophic default and demonstrated once more that America is a nation that pays its bills and meets its obligations — and will always be. It is a testament to the President’s strength that more Democrats than Republicans in both house of Congress voted for this bill.
The work is far from finished, but this bipartisan agreement is a reminder of what’s possible when we act in the best interest of our country.
Now, yesterday, as you all know, marked the first day of Pride Month. The Biden-Harris administration joins Americas across — Americans across the country to celebrate the strength, resilience, and bravery of the LGBTQI+ community and reaffirm our commitment to fight for equality and freedom for all people.
The reality is: This year has been really scary for our community. People are being treated — threatened, intimidated, and targeted for who they are and who they love.
This year alone, more than 600 anti-LGBTQI bills have been filed in statehouses across the country, and a significant portion of those bills target transgender youth.
As President Biden says, these young people are some of the bravest people he knows, but no one should have to be brave to be themselves.
It’s why the President has taken historic steps to advance equality for LGBTQI community and protect civil rights.
He was proud to sign an executive order directing federal agencies to protect LGBTQI families and youth, support youth mental health, and stop harmful conversion therapy policies.
DOJ is actively supporting challenges to state laws that target transgender kids.
In light of the Dobbs decision, he took action to protect marriage equality by signing into law the Respect for Marriage Act.
And he continues to call on Congress to pass the Equality Act to enshrine civil rights protections for LGBTQI+ Americans in federal law.
On behalf of the administration, I will say to the LGBTQ+ community that we see you, we love you, and we will continue to celebrate you not just this month, but every month.
We’re going to continue to stand alongside you and fight back against these attacks, and we’re going to remain focused on advancing equality for all people across the country.
Now, today, as you all know as well, we’re also marking National Gun Violence Awareness Day. And in recognition, the White House will be lit in orange lights this evening. And many of us are wearing orange, as you can see from what I’m wearing today — all orange — as we remember the thousands of Americans killed and injured in acts of gun violence across our nation.
As some of you may know, this observance started a decade ago after a 15-year-old girl named Ha- — Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed on a playground in Chicago, just one week after marching in President Obama’s second inaugural parade. Soon after this tragedy, Hadiya’s friends commemorated her life by wearing orange. They chose this color because it’s what hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves from others. “Wear Orange” is now observed every June.
As the President said this morning in his statement, he’s proud to have signed the most significant gun safety legislation in decades and dozens of executive actions. But as we all know, it is nearly not enough.
It will take congressional action to make the kinds of meaningful reforms we need to keep our communities safe like kids like Hadiya.
Today, Vice President Harris will also deliver remarks at John Lewis High School, where she will talk about the administration — administration’s actions to reduce gun violence and call on young people to continue leading efforts to end gun violence and save lives.
Today and every day, the President and the First Lady are praying for the victims of gun violence across America and for the survivors who will carry trauma for the rest of their lives.
And the President continues to call on Congress to act on commonsense reforms that will curb our gun violence epidemic, like establishing universal background checks, requiring safe storage of firearms, and finally banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazine.
Now, finally, this weekend — just to give you guys a week ahead of what’s going to be happening in the next couple of days — the President will remain in Washington, D.C.
On Monday afternoon, the President will welcome Prime Minister Mette Frederik-sen — Frederiksen — of Denmark to the White House to further strengthen the deep and enduring ties between the United States and Denmark.
Later, the President will welcome the Kansas City Chiefs to the White House to celebrate their championship season and victory in the Super Bowl LVII.
On Tuesday, the President will hold a Cabinet meeting. The Vice President, per usual, will participate in that Cabinet meeting as well.
On Thursday morning, the President will greet Prime Minister Sunak and Mrs. Murty of the United Kingdom of an official working visit to further deepen the relationship — the close and historic relationship and partnership between the United States and the United Kingdom.
Then, the President will hold a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister.
In the afternoon, as I mentioned before, the President will host a joint press conference with the Prime Minister as well.
In the evening, the President will host a Pride Celebration with Betty Who on the South Lawn.
Friday evening, the President and the First Lady will travel to Camp David.
On Sunday, the President and the First Lady will return to the White House from Camp Da- — Camp David.
In the evening, the President and the First Lady will host a reception for the Ford’s Theater Gala at the White House.
Finally — finally, finally — on a bittersweet note, we hope you’ll join us today in saying goodbye to our valued member of the White House press team.
You all know Hi’ilei Haru as the always-kind, always-smiling press wrangler who keeps events running smoothly. What you may not know is that Hi’ilei is a lawyer and a business school graduate who spent the last 10 months of her Presidential Management fellow and — here with us, as you all know. And she has been an indispensable member of our team.
We will miss you, Hi’ilei. We will miss your kindness.
And also, apparently — I don’t — didn’t know anything about this, but you have brought in Hawaiian snacks before, which I never tried — so I don’t know how I got left out of this — but she brings them to the office. And her willingness to take on any challenge to help the White House press team and the reporters we work with.
I know many of you will join me tonight and — for the goodbye festivities this evening. And if you cannot join us this evening, please come to the Lower Press and please say goodbye to our press team member and also our favorite lawyer as well.
I think you have something to share with our friends here in the room. You can try some of these Hawaiian treats that I’ve never had to try. (Laughter.) Or —
I think one thing we could be known for as this press team is giving a lot of treats. (Laughter.) We love to share.
Q Well, thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You’re very welcome. (Laughs.)
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There you go. Mahalo. That’s right, Nancy. Nancy knows.
Okay, with that, let’s get going. Chris.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What you got for us?
Q So, the President had the fall yesterday. The White House has said that he’s fine. Was he checked out by a doctor? What was that examination like? What was the result of that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just want to just remind everybody what the President was in Colorado Springs for yesterday. He was there to — to offer his thanks to the dedicated brave women and — men and women who were graduating and about to serve in the Air Force. And he was proud — very proud to shake the hands of more than 900 of them beforehand.
So, I just want to make sure that we are aware: As Commander-in-Chief, that is why he was there. And he was incredibly proud to do so.
And just to — just, you know, make sure we clear the record here: He tripped over a bag — a sandbag on the stage and — briefly; he tripped and got up. And he — he got — got right back up and continued — continued what he was there to do.
He did not — he — there was no need for the doctor to see him, as it was related to the fall. And he’s doing fine.
You saw — most of — some of you saw him last night when he returned, getting off Marine One on the South Lawn. He spoke to this. So, I would refer you back to his comments. And so, I’ll just leave it there.
Q Another question on his speech yesterday at the Air Force Academy. He expressed a lot of confidence that Sweden would be accepted into NATO. What is the source of his confidence? And Biden spoke with Erdoğan earlier this week. Was there an assurance given there that made him more confident about this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m not going to go into private discussions or conversation that he had with — with Erdoğan. I mentioned a couple days ago that the President did bring up Sweden and NATO. And so, the President continues to be confident. And — and he’s hopefully — we hope that this will definitely occur, that we’ll see Sweden be part of the NATO Alliance.
Q Thanks, Karine. What can you tell us about the President’s remarks tonight in the Oval Office? What’s behind the decision to do it tonight and in that setting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just a little bit — well, one of the things I can say why — why the Oval Office, why tonight: As you all know, we’ve been talking about averting a catastrophic default for the past couple of weeks, the past couple of month, and how it was important months, and how important it was for the President to do that.
There is a gravity, as you all can imagine, of this moment. And so, the President wanted to make sure that he addressed the American people directly. And he’s going to be speaking, clearly, from the Oval Office, behind the Resolute Desk, to the American people for the first time, and so — during a primetime — clearly, at seven o’clock — during primetime hour.
And so, he just wanted to make sure that the American people understood how important it was to get this done, how important it was to do this in a bipartisan way. This would have been a first-ever default. We’ve listed out what could have happened. We — created a recession, potentially — triggered a recession; lose millions of jobs, up to 8 million jobs; increased costs for all Americans.
When we’re talking about retirement account- — accounts and devastating paychecks, that’s what could have happened by Monday if we didn’t get this done; caused chaos and cata- — and catastrophe in the world economy; and undermined the full faith and credit of — of the United States.
That’s what was able to averted in a bipartisan way. And so the President wants to lay that out for the American people, and that’s what you’re going to hear him do today.
Q Fitch is now warning that the U.S. credit rating is still, though, at risk even once this deal is done. How confident are you that a d- — how confident are you that a downgrade will be avoided?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as I — as we all saw, we saw a bipartisan agenda come together in a way that the — in a way that Congress should work, right? And it was — it was majority — we saw a majority of bipartisanship from both chambers of Congress pass a strong — a strong fiscal responsibility proposal that will reduce the deficit by more than a trillion dollars. That is important to note. And it ensures that the government will continue to meet our commit- — commitments, which is important to do as well.
So, look, the Treasury market remains the safest, the deepest, and the most liquid market in the world. And so, I’ll just leave it there as what we — by basically laying out what we’ve been able to do. And I think that’s important for the world to see.
Q And just any updates on when he’ll actually sign the bill at this point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, it won’t be today. The — the House and the Senate have to do their business. And so, we’re going to work very quickly with them to get this done, to make sure we can sign it, hopefully, as soon as — as soon as tomorrow. But we have to let the House and the Senate do what they need to do so it can get to us, so the President can sign it.
Q Fitch, in their statement today, said that the “repeated political standoffs” is what was lowering their confidence. In the President’s speech tonight, will he lay out any kind of plan to avoid this standoff going forward? And could he potentially address the use of the 14th Amendment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m not going to, certainly, get ahead of what the President will say today. As the fo- — as it relates to the 14th Amendment, the President has spoken to that numerous of times. What was important for him is to get this — was to get this deal done and to take default off the table, which is what we saw happen these past couple of days.
Look, the President wants to make sure that the American people understand and understood what occurred. Congress came together — the leaders came together to agree on a bipartisan — bipartisan budget agreement that protects our — the economic progress that we made and that will protect — protect not the — not just the economy, but also the American people.
And so, look, when we think about the Investing in America, what the President proposed — those historic pieces of legislation — those were protected: the CHIPS and Science Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure law. Think about the veterans that — the PACT Act. Think about all those important pieces of legislation that’s going to make sure that we continue to grow an economy from the bottom up and middle out. Those are the things that the President was able to protect — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.
And so all of these things are incredibly important, and he’s going to lay that out. And I’m just not going to get ahead of him too much.
Q Okay. And then, last night, you guys put out a readout of a call with President Obama where you said they discussed this debt deal but also other topics. What were some of the other topics they discussed? And why did you decide to read out this call? I mean, my understanding was that they spoke, you know, somewhat regularly. Do they —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, they speak regularly. As we know, there was the debt limit situation that was occurring, and so I think it was important for us to — for us to read it out to let them know that the President — President Obama and President Biden spoke.
No particular — no specific, particular reasoning. But just in the moment, we wanted to readout this conversation that they had. And I know sometimes people ask when they speak. And we thought, because of the debt limit, because of the bipartisanship that we saw happening in the last couple of days, it was important to also lay out that the President — President Obama and President Biden spoke.
Q And in terms of the other topics that they —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Not going to get into it from here. I’m sure we will be — we will hear more on what those other topics are. You know, the President — President Obama has been here a couple times. But I just don’t have anything else to lay out specifically.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Joey.
Q Yeah, thanks, Karine. Is the President concerned with the precedent that this debt ceiling standoff that we’re coming out of sets, perhaps, in terms of how a party — Republicans in this case — not in the White House might try to pass policies, pass their objectives, priorities in the future?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Meaning we’ll — say that one more time.
Q Yeah, I mean, does this — is he concerned that this sets a precedent, in terms of how Republicans might try to enact, pass policies down the road during the next time we get to a debt ceiling maxed out?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I think that the fact that this is a President that was able to bring both sides together and get this done on behalf of the American people, I think that’s important. I think that’s what we’re going to point to.
I can’t speak to what Republicans in Congress are going to do or might not do or get into hypotheticals. I think what’s important here is that we avoided, averted something that could have been incredibly catastrophic to our economy and hurt American families. And so that’s going to be our focus.
You know, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals from here, but I think that what you have seen, what you’ve all been reporting and seeing the past two weeks people didn’t think would happen, right? People didn’t have the confidence that the President would bring both sides together to make this happen. And it did.
And so that’s import- — on behalf of the American people — the American people won here, and I think that’s important to speak to.
Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Karine, you mentioned the Danish Prime Minister coming on Monday. What does the President think of her? And would he consider — (laughter) — ask — well, there’s a reason I ask that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q — which is: Is he thinking of asking her to stand for NATO General Se- — Secretary General?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I could say that the two leaders have a broad agenda that they will discuss on Monday. They will review our efforts as NATO Allies and close partners to strengthen transatlantic security and bolster economic prosperity. They will discuss our unwavering support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s brutal war of aggression. And I expect our joint efforts to train Ukraine — Ukrainian pilots on the fourth-generation aircraft, including F-16s, will be part of that conversations.
And so they’re going to coordinate on a range of issues, whether it’s climate change, energy security, global issues.
And so he’s looking forward — the President, I can say, is looking forward to his conversation with her. They had a good conversation when they met in NATO Summit in Madrid — I’m sorry, last year in NATO Summit in Madrid. And so he’s looking forward to continuing those type — that conversation.
I’m just not going to get ahead of anything specific. Clearly, we’ll have a — you all — there will be a bilat. You’ll have an opportunity to — to see their relationship up close. And — and we’ll probably have a readout once they have — once they’re done with their — their extended bilateral on Monday.
Q And anything on speculation that she might be in line for the next — to be NATO Secretary General?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to get into any speculation as far as that.
Q Let me ask you as well about this weekend’s OPEC meeting. Does the White House have any expectation or any signal or desire for what may come out of that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, we’re not — we’re not members of OPEC — OPEC+. I’m not going to get into what conversation or what may come out of that.
And so I’m just going to leave it there and see — and we’ll — we’ll all see what comes out of those discussions.
Q And one quick follow-up on the earlier question about his remarks tonight. Can you — can you explain more as to why he chose the Oval?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, he chose the Oval because this was a — really the gravity of the situation of what could have happened, you know, if we indeed averted — didn’t avert, I should say, you know, defaulting. It could have been catastrophic. Could have been catastrophic.
And so he wanted to talk directly to the American people about what we have been able to do in a bipartisan way with his leadership: coming up with a budget agreement that’s going to cut the deficit, as I just explained moments ago, by a trillion dollars, but also saved some important programs that Americans need, just — just some basic, basic things that American needs every day.
And so, when you think about healthcare, when you think about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — all of these things were certainly potential for — for being cut. Twenty-one million — 21 million peo- — million people losing healthcare. That matters.
And so the President wanted to — wants to lay that out, wants to talk directly to the American people and talk about how we were able to come together and deliver for — for American families.
That’s important. We think that’s important. So he’s going to use, you know, his first Oval — Oval address to talk directly to them.
Q Hey. Thanks, Karine. I wanted to drill a little bit further on the display of bipartisanship you talked about. Two relating questions. Has the President talked to Speaker McCarthy since legislation passed or extended an offer for him to come to the White House or the Oval? Or —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, don’t have a conversation beyond what we laid out a couple days ago after the House — the House passed the — their version of the bill. The President certainly spoke to Speaker McCarthy after that — after that passage. They’ve spoken — they’ve met about three times in the past — in the — in the last month. They’ve spoken several times.
And as you saw on Monday, the President thanked Speaker McCarthy for coming together and having this — for coming together and having this bipartisan agreement.
I don’t have more to share as to the Speaker. Clearly, they will be talking and meeting a lot more on different — on different legislative agendas and issues, but I just don’t have anything else to share beyond that.
Q Well, and on that, I wonder if people can glean from this that there’s a — that you guys have more of a template for how to deal with the Speaker in an era of divided government with these negotiations ultimately coming up successful.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I think what you saw in display — in full display the last couple of weeks — and, look, maybe there’s a template; maybe there isn’t. But what I can say for sure — right? — is that you had leadership in Congress, the President come together and lay out in a divided government, as you just laid out — go through a negotiation process.
As we have said before, negotiations are hard. Not everybody gets what they — what they want — all that they want. And they came together to deliver for the American people.
So, I can’t speak to a template for future conversations, but what I can say is this is a President — as Senator, as — as Vice President, and now as President: believes in bipartisanship. Peop- — many people said he couldn’t do it when he talked about it during his Inaugural Address — right? — before stepping into the role. And he was able to do that. He was able to continue the bipartisanship that we have seen on historic legislation and now on averting a — a — something that would have been catastrophic to our economy.
Q Thank you. Going back to Fitch and their continued “negative watch,” has the White House or Treasury or anyone else been in touch with Fitch and the other ratings agencies, even after a deal came together? And are you concerned that a downgrade could still happen? The S&P downgrade happened in 2011 after there was deal.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don’t have any conversations to lay out or to speak to with any of the, you know, specific agencies.
What I can lay out and talk — speak to is this bipartisanship that we saw from both — both chambers, which is important, right? We saw both chambers come together and deliver here because of the President’s leadership. And the deficit — it’s going to lower the deficit by $1 trillion. That’s what I can speak to.
Again, the Treasury market remains the safest, deepest, and most liquid market in the world. And I think that’s important.
I cannot speak to what agencies are going to be doing. What I can speak to is what we’ve been able to do from here, and I think that’s what’s important here.
Q And during the most frenzied part of the negotiations, some Hill Democrats were frustrated that Kevin McCarthy was going out into the hallways and talking to reporters constantly, non-stop, and that he was sort of controlling the narrative, while the White House, and the President especially, were pretty quiet publicly.
Is this Oval Office address the President getting the last word?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the President is the president, and the American people look to him for deliver on their — on their behalf.
And when you think about what could have happened — what could have happened here if we did not pay our bills — right? — if we did not get this done, if we did not avert a default, that would have been catastrophic.
When you think about millions of jobs being lost; when you think about people’s retirement accounts; you know, you think about what could have happened here to our seniors, to our veterans, to American families across the country, on programs that they truly, truly need — you know, that is something that the President believes he should speak to. That is something that the President believes that he has an opportunity to talk directly to the American people.
This was — this was — this could have been, as we’ve said over and over again, as you all reported — it could have been devastating. Devastating to our economy, devastating to American families.
This is — we believe, he believes this is a good moment to lay that out and to talk to the American people in how we were able to come together to avert this crisis — potential crisis.
Q Can you speak to whether you’re confident that it will be signed in time for Treasury to do what it needs to do to avoid running out of cash?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re —
Q They said as soon as Monday; you’re saying a signing as soon as tomorrow, which raises the prospect of signing Sunday. Is it good? Are you good on this? Or —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We — we’re — we feel confident.
Q Are you nervous?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We feel confident. We are not nervous. We feel confident that it could be signed as soon as tomorrow. The House and the Senate clearly have to do their business in getting — in getting the bill to us.
As far as any specifics as what Treasury needs to do, I would certainly refer you to them. But we’re going to get this done certainly before June 5th.
Q And going back to the downgrade question: If I’m hearing what you’re saying, you don’t know whether you’ll be downgraded again or not, but you don’t believe that should happen?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, it’s not — it’s not something that, clearly — that I can speak to, right? That is up to — clearly, that is a response that’s going to come from the agencies.
What I can say is what we’ve been able to do in a bipartisan way dealing with the deficit — right? — making sure that the deficit is — will be addressed, reduced by more than a trillion dollars. I think that’s really important. We believe that it is a fiscally responsible piece of legislation that –the bipartisan legislation that was agreed upon. And that really is important. We will continue to meet our commitments. That’s important.
So I can speak to what we were able to do. I cannot speak to the agencies. And — and I’ll just leave it there.
Q And going forward, does the President want to explore ways to eliminate the debt ceiling? He sort of mused about whether the 14th could be used or not before.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Will the debt ceiling still be there in 2025, when we come back (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President has — has commented on this. He believe that is something for Congress to kind of deal with. He’s — I’m just not going to go beyond what the President has laid out and said about — particularly about the (inaudible).
Go ahead. And then I’ll come around.
Q I want to ask you, if I can, very quickly about one of the items included in the debt limit deal, soon to become law, where Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia said that he wasn’t alerted about the Mountain Valley Pipeline. As you know, that cuts — it goes from West Virginia; it cuts through parts of his state.
Here, Tim Kaine said the White House doesn’t “even bother to pick up the phone and call me.” Has the President now spoken to Tim Kaine? And if not, why not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any — any conversations to read out.
What I can say — that we’ve been very clear and consistent for months that the President supported — right? — Senator Manchin’s permitting bill, which included this project. That is not new; that has been something that we’ve been pretty consistent about saying. You’ve heard me say multiple times at the podium that there’s nothing new here as it relates to this particular project. Again, we’ve been consistent; there’s nothing new. We’ve known for some time.
Look, and we’ve also said we may not love everything in the bill, but we support it. And we have repeatedly called on Congress to pass it ever since we secured the Inflation Reduction Act.
So, look, we believe that the bipartisan budget deal here that was reached is something that — that we all should be proud of, that congressional Democrats should be proud of. And it really protected — it protected some — some of — all of the President’s historical — historical legislation, but particularly on climate legislation as well. And I think that’s important, moving — it’s going to move forward the environmental justice projects, and that’s important as well; accelerate our climate agenda, which is one of the four crises that the President talked about when he walked into this administration.
And so, look, that’s — that’s what I can lay out for you. I just don’t have any conversations to read out as far as it relates to Senator Kaine, who we respect and have had a very good relationship with over the past few years.
Q Obviously, all Democrats aren’t celebrating. There’s still five Democrats and — at least in the Senate who voted against it. Progressives. So, what does the White House say to those progressives? And what does the White House say to combat the criticism from some Democrats that Republicans play hardball when it comes to these negotiations and the Democrats do not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I’m not going to speak to how any of our Democratic friends voted on this. That is a decision that they make on their own.
What I can speak to is how we believe this bipartisan agreement, that’s soon to be law, really is going to make sure that we protect some of the most important programs for American families, and that matters. Right?
Q What do you say to progressive Americans, though? Obviously, the President represents all Americans —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely.
Q — but certainly progressive Democrats are a part of the base of support he needs to be reelected. What do you say to those Americans who are disillusioned by this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, this is a President — if you look at his — his record the last two years, it has been historic. It has been one of the most historic — historic legislative — legislative accomplishments that we have seen from a President. And that matters.
When you talk about a President who wants to build an economy from the bottom up, middle out, that’s what we’ve seen. When you talk about Inflation Reduction Act, it’s going to lower healthcare costs, it’s going to lower energy costs. You talk about bi- — bipartisan infrastructure legislation, it’s going to actually invest in those very communities to make sure that we have — we have an infrastructure — whether it’s broadband, whether it’s tunnels and bridges — to make sure that we don’t leave anybody behind.
Creating — creating jobs. I just laid out what the jobs numbers was this — for this — this month and how we — the President, under his watch: 13-point — 13 — more than 13 million jobs have been created under this President. That matters.
That is a President that cares about all Americans, that makes sure that no one is left behind, and that there’s equity at the center of everything that we’ve done.
And so, look, Americans reacted to this in the midterms in 2022, saying they approved of what we were able to do. And so that matters as well.
And so, look — and every piece of legislation that he’s moved forward, that have been historic, have been incredibly popular. So, this — clearly, this is a President that cares about all Americans and is always zero-focused on.
And the American people are going to hear directly from him this evening.
Go ahead, Steven.
Q Thanks, Karine. The present crisis, disaster averted — the country at a certain point is going to have to grapple with the substantially more significant question of how the government is going to meet the obligations that it’s made to Social Security recipients, Medicare recipients over the next decade and more. Should we expect the President to reflect on that challenge tonight? And how does he view Congress’s ability to grapple with those questions in the wake of this bipartisan deal?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s a good question, Steve. And, clearly, there’s more work to be done. We’ve never said, “After this agreement, the work is done.” We’ve never said that. Clearly, there’s more work to be done.
I’m not going to get ahead of what the President is going to say specifically this evening, but I would say tune in and you’ll hear directly from him.
Q Karine, the Republicans were able to pass a bill in the Senate that overturns the President’s student loan plan. What does it say that Democrats, such as John Tester and Joe Manchin, supported overturning that bill? And do you have a timetable on a veto?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, it has to come to us. The President, clearly, is going to veto this bill.
What I can say is — I think what’s important here is — I’m not going to speak directly to how members — senators voted on this. But I will say, and I said this a few times, this is a — this is — this is — when you think about the students — the student relief program, this is going to give Americans a little bit of breathing room, especially after coming — going through the pandemic.
You — we’ve said this over and over again: Ninety percent of the relief is going to go to Americans who make $75,000 or less. That matters.
This is part of the President’s economic policy, his economic plan, to make sure we do not leave anybody behind.
And so, you know, he’s going to continue to fight for American families. And — and, you know, if this bill gets to his desk, as I just mentioned, he’s going to veto it.
And so, look, again, it’s going to help American families. This is why the President put this forth — put this forth, especially after coming — coming — getting through the pandemic, and wanted to make sure that people didn’t default when their loan payments resume, which is going to happen next month, in August. I should be more clear: in August.
Q And just a couple of Republicans felt that the defense funding levels were too low. And they sought assurances from both the Senate — both the Democrat and Republican leaders in the Senate that it’s possible that more security funding could be provided. Is the President open to additional defense funding, or does he feel like, under this deal, that defense spending is sufficient?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we kept — we kept the levels that the President asked for, as you know, if you look at his fiscal year 2024 budget. And so that’s important.
The President felt like he was able to protect — protect that. I’m not going go into what’s — you know, there’s going to be an appropriations process, as you all know. Director Young talked about that when she was here. So, certainly not going to get into that process.
But, look, this is — this is a deal — a bipartisan agreement — a commonsense, reasonable bipartisan agreement. And when you negotiate on these types of agreement, not everybody — no one gets everything that they want. And we’ve been very clear about that.
And so, look, the President is going to talk later this evening — talk di- — speak directly to the American people, and they’ll hear from him.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Yep. Go ahead.
Q I wanted to ask —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well —
Q — one question about —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q — whether or not the President plans to invite the Speaker to whenever the signing happens. Is that in the works?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share on what the signing is going to look like. We — the President, clearly, wants to sign the bill as soon as possible. It’s important. As someone just laid out, June 5th is on Monday. So, he wants to get to it as soon as possible.
Q And on that question about, sort of, the template now for working in a divided government, has the President’s relationship with the Speaker improved, the same, unchanged after the last several weeks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, the President thanked the Speaker on Monday. I think that was important. They came to an agreement — a bipartisan, reasonable agreement. I think that’s important. They’ve met — met about three times in the past month. They’ve talked several times. Certainly not going to get into the President’s relationship with McCarthy.
But clearly, they were able to deliver on behalf of the American people. We got a strong bipartisan votes in both the House and the Senate to get this done very quickly.
It is Friday, and it is done, right? They got it done just last night. And the President is going to speak to the American people directly to talk about what — what occurred the last couple of weeks, the last couple of month. And I think that’s — is what is important here.
Q Thank you, Karine. So, when the President of Japan — ears pricked up when he spoke of a thaw or maybe a possible coming thaw with China. A thaw.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, say that one more time.
Q A thaw. Yeah, my accent — T-H-A-W. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh. (Laughter.)
Q Yeah, I — I forgive you.
Q I forgive you. I’m not talking of Thor, the God of whatever, you know. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Which is what we heard a lot yesterday.
Q That would have been a hell of a (inaudible). Anyway.
Q The God of Thunder —
Q Yes, yes.
Q — just for the record.
Q So, thaw. Thaw. That sounded like —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: “God of Thunder,” as we’re hearing from the back.
Q Yeah, God of Thunder. Yeah, he had lightning bolts and stuff like that. (Laughter.)
Q Thaw. I feel like I’m in a “Monty Python” sketch here. (Laughter.) I sort of —
He — he spoke of a thaw, which everyone — everyone’s ears pricked up when he said that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, a thaw. A thaw.
Q Yes, a thaaww.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. (Laughter.)
Q Can I say it like that? A thaaww.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: A thaaww.
Q A thaaaww.
Okay. (Laughter.) So, there we are.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There’s a lot happening here, folks. It’s Friday.
Q Okay. It’s Friday.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s Friday.
Q I have a follow-up, by the way. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: On the thaaww?
Q Okay, so there we are: the President and his thaw. (Laughter.)
We’ve since learned — today we learned that the CIA director was in China some time before this brief mention of “the word I won’t repeat” in Japan. Is that — are those two things connected? Did the director come back with some news that might make the President think about a thaw?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as — as it rela- — (laughs) — as it relates to the CIA director’s travel, I would have to refer you to — to the CIA directly to speak to that. I just do- — I’m not going to get into it from here, from the podium, so I would have to refer you to the CIA.
Q Okay. And how about a — how about any — I know you’re going to tell me you got nothing to share, but how m- — how about a phone call with President Xi?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, the President is looking forward to Pres- — to speaking to President Xi. As you know, they’ve spoken many times in the last two years. Just don’t have anything to read out. When the — the time per- — is appropriate, certainly that conversation will occur.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Thanks, Karine. The debt negotiations have been such a big focus on the agenda for the last couple of weeks. What’s the next top legislative priority that the President wants Congress to move forward on?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, it’s a good question. I talked about the Equality Act — right? — for — at the beginning here as something that the President really wants to see move forward and is an important agenda that he believes that needs to happen. He’s talked about that many times, so nothing new there.
And so, look, the President has had a remarkable record as it relates to getting things done in a bipartisan way. I’ve talked about the historic pieces of legislation that he’s been able to make happen. And a — and it’s — it’s a record because we have not seen anything like that from — from any administration.
You think about the CHIPS and Science Act. You think about the veterans program — the act there for veterans program. You think about the infra- — infrastructure legislation as well, which is, clearly, law now.
So, look, we also worked with Congress to prevent this — this de- — this default.
And so, there’s the Equality Act. There’s permitting reform. There’s Roe v. Wade. There’s comprehensive immigration reform. There’s the PRO Act, or reducing the deficit by making the rich pay — pay their share — fair share.
So, the President has a serious agenda that he wants to get done for the American people, and he’s going to continue to work on that agenda. And not only that — his agenda is actually popular with majority of Americans.
So this is all of — this is — this is important to him. He’ll — he’ll stay focused on getting these things done.
Q But now — you know, all those things that you just mentioned are things the President would like to do. There’s been a lot of talk about, you know, with a divided government, not everybody can get everything they want with this latest negotiation.
Given the lessons learned from all of this, what are the policies that the administration thinks could get bipartisan support given what you guys just went through with this negotiation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, it’s a good question.
I think what I — we can say is, as I just laid out, all of these different issues and pieces of legislation that’s important, those are popular. The majority of Americans want to see these things done, and so I think that matters.
That’s how the President is going to move forward. Those are the conversations that we’re going to continue to have with — with members of Congress. How do we get these things done?
You hear us talk about gun safety, and I know that’s a tough issue, but we can’t continue to see our kids and — and communities being killed.
You know, we talk about Roe v. Wade and really making that the law of the land. We have to make sure that we protect the freedoms — the freedoms of American — of women in particular, as it relates to women’s reproductive rights. Equality Act. All of those things are popular. All of those things are things that the American people want to see.
And so, look, it’s not going to be easy. It’s never easy. The President has always understood that. And people have always — have also said — many folks have said he couldn’t get it done, and every challenge he’s been able to get it done. It might take a little bit more time, a little longer, but we believe that these are — things are important, are critical, that American families want to see happen.
And so it’s not going to stop us because there’s a divided government. Again, we were just able to get this done in a bipartisan way.
Q Thank you. As the President is celebrating this bipartisan win on the debt deal, he is squashing the bipartisan bill on student loans. Why does he accept the will of the people in one area but ignore the will of the people when it seeks to block the transfer of this debt to the taxpayers?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t think protecting American families or making sure that we give them a little bit of a breathing room is going against the will of the American people, when you think about 90 percent — right? — when you think about his plan and how it’s going to help 90 percent of Americans who make $75,000 or less.
That’s what we talk about. That’s the most important thing to remember about the student loan. It’s going to help people who truly, truly, really need it in a time where the loan — as you know, the pause is going to lift.
We don’t — we want to make sure that the people — people have a little bit of extra — extra breathing room to be able to pay for those loans once the pause is lifted in August.
And so that matters. I don’t think — I don’t think — and also, his plan is actually very popular with Americans.
Q Just process-wise, I mean, his forgiveness plan was done by executive order. Even the payment pause was done through an emergency statute. But the debt bill that mandates restarting payments got votes from Congress to pass.
This bill, you know, rejecting the forgiveness program, cleared both chambers and is heading to the President’s desk. I mean, how — how do you argue with that, that it — this is clearly what people want to see happen?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, you’re talking about debt relief that would have been — that would have made 40 million people eligible who are borrowers. Forty million people — again, most of whom are making less than $75,000 a year.
That’s who the President is focused on. That’s who the President wants to make sure he protects. And that’s what he did.
And, look, we also preserved our ability to pause student loan payments should be necessary in an event of future emergencies. That’s also important. Right?
We have to look to see what hap- — we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. So we have to make sure we’re ready for that.
And so, when you think about 40 million Americans who are borrowers, protecting them, protecting folks, 90 percent who makes $75,000 or less, I think that’s important for the President to be — to protect — to protect the student loan relief plan — right? — as he did during these budget negotiations.
And he’s going to veto this resolution that — as you just stated, that has passed, because it is not the right thing to do. The President is always going to focus on American families. He’s always going to focus on the Americans who need it the most at this time.
Again, 90 percent — from his plan, 90 percent of folks who are borrowers are making $75,000 less in this plan — who make $75,000 or less on — in this plan is going to be protected.
That matters. And it’s a popular plan as well.
Go ahead, April.
Q On guns. One more real quick. On guns.
Should someone who’s a drug user be able to possess a firearm?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into tit for tat on this.
Q It’s just (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I’m just not going to.
Q Karine, as you talk about next steps — following up on Karen’s question-and-answer with you — the Supreme Court. There are two issues that deal with equality, equity, inclusion: voting rights. Democrats are still pushing for that, screaming that gerrymandering right now in this nation is very unfair — of their constituents — and also the issue of the admissions — affirmative action admissions in colleges. What are you bracing for or what are you planning for in the weeks and weeks to come?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, that’s something that the Department of Justice certainly is keeping an eye on. They will — they have been focused on that issue. Certainly, I’m not going to speak to what they’re bracing for or potentially thinking might may happen, but they are dealing with this. So, I would refer you to the Department of Justice.
Look, when it comes to equity — when it comes to racial equity: When the President walked into this administration, he talked about — I mentioned this mo- — moments ago about the four crises that we needed to deal with. Racial equity was one of them. And that’s why this President has taken steps since almost day one to make sure the federal government, every agency in particular — he signed an executive order making sure that there was racial equity coming out of the agencies.
And as it ra- — relates to voting rights, he’s been very clear about where he stands on that and making sure that we deal with that in a real way, making sure that there is legislation that — that — calling on Congress to put forth the legislation that deals with voting rights.
And so, look, the President has been very clear, the Vice President has been very clear: There are real issues that we need to take — to take — address and to look at, and he’s been able to deal with that — deal with those issues — deals with rac- — racial equadity [sic] — equality from the federal government, but clearly there’s more work to be done.
Q So, on voting rights, Democrats are very intent on trying to push forth voting rights. It’s not going to happen in the House, but it could definitely happen in the Senate. Are you expecting the President to possibly lean in this time on this next wave of a push for new voting rights laws?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the President has always been clear of where he stands on the voting rights law and that it needs to happen. And he’s always supported that, and he’s going to continue to do — to do so.
He, you know, commends the Congress to — to continue to find a path forward, as they should. We have to deal with this; this is a real issue that we have to deal with.
Go ahead. Go ahead, Nancy.
Q Thanks, Karine. You mentioned the historically low unemployment, below 4 percent for such a long time. But unemployment did jump last month by a fairly surprising —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — margin: from 3.4 percent to 3.7 percent. Does the White House have a view on why that might be and why unemployment among Black workers jumped by almost a full percentage point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, it’s a bit complicated. I’ve asked the economist about this here. And — but those numbers come from different surveys, so that’s important to note.
The number of jobs created is from a business survey that — that came out. But the unemployment rate is from a survey of households. Our economic experts think they moved in a different direction this month mainly because of the way they were categorized — that jobs were categorized, specifically self-em- — self-employment.
But we s- — we believe, as I said at the top, regardless of the number, when you think about 3.7 — that’s the jump from 3.4 to 3.7 — unemployment and more than 300,000 jobs created just this last month is a sign of a very strong labor market and a resilient economy. So, it’s important to actually put those two together and see how we see the trajectory as we — as we look at the economy continuing to — continuing to grow.
Q And do you fa- — do you — does the White House believe that the fact that jobs continue to grow every month at a faster rate than economists are predicting is a sign that the economy is still overheated and that the Fed may have to raise interest rates again?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’re — I’m not going to speak to — we’ve been very, very consistent here about not speaking to the Fe- — the Fed and its policies, so we’re continuing to do so. And look, you know, we continue to believe that we are in a transition to more stable and steady growth. That’s what we’ve been seeing.
And beating — certainly, beating inflation remains the President’s top economic goal. It’s a priority. And — but we have seen some progress over the last 10 months now: Annual inflation has fallen, and it’s down by 40 percent just last mon- — last summer. So, all of these things are clearly important.
I’m not going to speak to the Fed policies. We’ll let them do their business independently, and that’s something that we believe that this President is incredibly important for that to happen and occur.
Q Okay. Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, I’ll take one last question.
Q Thank you. So, NATO members are still very divided about — on Ukrainian membership. Are the United States supporting for NATO membership for Ukraine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’ve said this over and over again: When it comes to NATO, we believe in its — we are committed to the open-door policy. Any Alliance decision is between the 31 Allies and the as- — and the aspirant country. We’ve said that many times before. That has not changed. That has been our view.
And so — but right now, as we’ve said many times, my NSC colleagues have said many times, the President has said many times, we’re focused on what we can do to support Ukraine’s effort to fight for their democracy, clearly to fight for their freedom against the Russia — Russia’s aggression, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.
We just announced $300 million of additional assistance just a couple of days ago. And so, you’ve seen that commitment over the past 15 months, and we’ll continue that.
Thank you, everybody. Have a great weekend.
Q Thank you, Karine.
3:22 P.M. EDT