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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, November 30, 2022

  • Politics

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

3:02 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Bonjour.

Q    Bonjour!

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, nice!  Okay.  Get into the spirit, folks.

Okay.  So, we are pleased to welcome President and Mrs.  Macron and the delegation from France to the United States.  Above all, this visit is a celebration of the strong French-U.S. relationship and the personal relationship between President Biden and President Macron. 

Just a few hours ago, President Macron joined Vice President Harris for a briefing at NASA headquarters.  The visit underscores our deepening collaboration on space and — on space, and came on the heels of the very first U.S.-France Comprehensive Space Dialogue, which was held in Paris last month.  And it delivers on a commitment made by Vice President Harris and President Macron during her visit to Paris last year.

Looking towards tomorrow, I know everyone is eager to hear more details about the state dinner itself.  Today, the First Lady is — actually, happening right now — is hosting a media preview with the White House Social Secretary, Carlos Elizondo, followed by presentations from White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford and White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison.  At that preview, they are sharing information about the menu and the décor for the state dinner. 

I also wanted to share some good economic news.  First, this morning, we learned that our economy grew at even stronger pace in the third quarter than we previously thought.  American consumers continue to spend and American businesses continue to invest here at home at even higher — at even stronger pace. 

Second, as of today, the average price of gas is now below $3.50 a gallon for the first time since February, before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  And the most common price for gas is $2.99.  Gas prices are down about $1.52 per gallon since June, for a savings of $160 per month for American families with two cars. 

Finally, American consumers should continued — showed continued strength with record holiday spending, including on Black Friday and also this week on Cyber Monday. 

According to the National Retail Federation, a record number of holiday shoppers returned to stores from Thanksgiving through Monday.  And Adobe Analytics reported consumers spent a record $35 billion online over just five days. 

It will take time to bring inflation back down to normal, but the American people showed — showed that they still have confidence that the President’s economic plan is indeed working. 

As the President said yesterday, he’ll work with anyone — Democrat, Republican, or independent — with ideas on how we can provide working families breathing room and build a stronger, more resilient economy for the long haul.  That’s what the American people voted for in November. 

With that, Colleen, you want to kick us off?

Q    Sure.  Thank you.  There are reports that the Islamic State leader has been killed, and I wondered if you can confirm that and also whether the U.S. was involved at all and if it was a U.S.-led attack or — I’m sorry — operation. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, earlier today, ISIS publicly announced the death of al- — al-Qurayshi, the overall leader of ISIS. 

This follows the same fate of his predecessor, Hajji Abdullah, who was killed in a U.S.-led raid in February in North- — Northwestern Syria. 

We are pleased to see the removal of ISIS’s top leaders in such quick succession.  The United States remains committed to countering the global threat from ISIS and stands ready to work with international partners who share that same goal. 

We will — we build — we will build on these counterterrorism successes, and we will keep that pressure on for sure. 

As far as any involvement with — by us, by the U.S., as it relates to the death of al-Qurayshi, there was no re- — it was not a result of any U.S. action, I can confirm. 

Q    Okay, thank you.  And then, another question on Indiana.  The Indiana Attorney General has asked the State Medical Board to sanction the doctor who spoke out about performing an abortion on a 10-year-old girl from Ohio. 

I just wondered what the — you know, the White House’s thoughts were on that effort, whether it, you know, could potentially send a chilling effect or cause a chilling effect to other doctors — whether doctors should be speaking out about this.  I just sort of wondered where the White House stood on this.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I can’t speak about the details of the Indiana AG’s request to the medical board.  But there’s a couple of things I do want to lay out and take a step back, because it’s — it’s a truly ho- — a horrifying situation.  We’re talking about a 10-year-old child here who was raped and could not receive healthcare in her home state of Ohio and was forced to travel because she was raped and had to go to another state, clearly as you have all — some of you have reported.

A doctor who provided reproductive care to a child that was raped is now being accused of violating patient privacy by an elected official.  That is what we’re seeing, and that is what is currently happening. 

And if that was not enough — if that weren’t enough, he is asking the state medical board to discipline the doctor for speaking out about patients in desperate need of care. 

And this is not about the concerns of the victim.  This is not about the victim at all.  This is an elected official going after a doctor for helping a child who was raped and seeking healthcare. 

And — and broadly speaking here — and you’ve heard us say this before — I know there was a lot of concern in here back in October on whether there was too much focus on women’s — women losing their constitutional right.  And — and, as you can see, there should — there should be more concern. 

And these types of situations are very real, and they are very much interests of the American people.  We saw that in this past election.  This is something that the American people care about.  This is something that women care about.  They want us to continue to fight for their rights, to fight for the freedom that they’ve had for almost 50 years when Roe was in place. 

So, the fact is that Americans do not want politicians making their healthcare decisions for them.  And we saw that, from Kentucky to Michigan, Americans rejected — they rejected backwards, dangerous proposals. 

But what we continue to see from Republican officials just across — across the country is that they want to — to take away that right, to take away that freedom. 

So, the President is — and the Vice President is going to do everything that they can to continue to fight for Americans’ freedom and their — and for their rights. 

Q    Can I have one more quick one?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sure.

Q    I’m sorry.  The Prince and Princess of Wales are going to be in Boston this Friday, I think.  Will the President meet them or see them or hang out with them at all?  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hang out?  Okay.  So, the President intends to greet the Prince and Princess of Wales when he is in Boston.  We are still finalizing and working through the details, so I don’t have any — anything more to share — any more specifics to share on that.

Go ahead, Mary.

Q    The President released a statement praising the House for passing this bill to avert a shutdown of the rails.  He says he wants it on his desk immediately.  But he didn’t mention this separate bill guaranteeing seven days of paid sick leave for rail workers.  Does the President also back and support this legislation?  Does he also want that on his desk immediately? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I just want to say a couple of things — that the President believes that a bill averting a rail strike needs to reach his desk by this weekend.  He is very clear about that, because we need to protect the American families from potential devastating effects of a real shutdown.  And we have talked about that numerous times, and the President was really clear about that when he — when he put out his statement earlier this week. 

The President, of course — of course, he supports paid sick leave for all Americans, including rail workers.  But he does not support any bill or amendment that will delay getting this bill to his desk by this Saturday.  And he is — he’s been very clear about that. 

Again, he’s a President for all Americans, and he believes that we need to avert a potential — this potential shutdown that would have a devastating effect on our economy, a devastating effect on jobs, a devastating effect in our communities across the country, and our — and our farms, as well.

Q    What is the President’s message to union workers, rail workers across the country who backed the President, who helped him get elected, believed that he was standing with them, and who feel that he has betrayed them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, the President, as you know, has been — has been called by union — unions and labor leaders as a pro-union President.  And he takes that very seriously. 

He is the most pro-union President in history.  And he’s worked tirelessly to secure victories for unions and for workers since he was first elected to Sen- — to the Senate.

So, this is — this is — when it comes to labor, when it comes to unions, this is something that he has worked towards, in making sure that he delivers for — for what he called yesterday, if you listened to him during his Michigan — his Michigan statement, he said they were the backbone; they built our middle class, right?; they were the best workers that we have in this country.

And so as a proud pro-union President, he’s reluctant to override the ratifications proce- — procedures of individual unions, right? 

We have to remember: There were 12 unions involved in this.  When the tentative agreement was done, when — when that agreement came out, it was praised.  We received praise from rail unions and — and from folks and from the companies as well.  And once that agreement came to fruition — because of the work that this President did on September 15th, there was a cooling period and it was ratified by 8 of those 4 — 8 — 8 unions of the 12.

And so, look, we have to remember: There are really good — good — good — you know, good pieces in this — in this deal.  There’s a 24 percent pay raise and a $5,000 bonus; no changes in co-pays, deductibles, or — or coinsurance cost; some time off for routine preventive and emergency medical care; and protecting the two-man crew.

This is — you know, this is a deal that has a lot of benefits.  But, again, he wants to make sure that we — you know, we avert a shutdown that would be detrimental to our economy.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Europe and France are concerned about Buy America provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, and President Macron is expected to raise that during his visit.  What will the President — President Biden — say in response to those concerns?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about what may come up in that conversation.

Q    I think they flagged that they’re going to bring it up.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, but, still, I’m —

Q    So, it’s not hypothetical.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m — well, it’s hypothetical because it hasn’t happened yet.  They may have flagged that.  I’m not going to speak for France.  Clearly, I’m just speaking for this President.  I speak for the President of the United States.  So, right now, it is a hypothetical that it will come up, right?

And — but I will say this: The Inflation Reduction Act, as we know, is historical.  It will — you know, it is an investment that will — historical investment that will deal with climate change in a real way.  It will lower costs for American families — if you think about healthcare, if you think about energy costs as well.

And just a couple of things: There’s a number of provisions that will contribute to the growth of clean energy sector globally.  And that is important to note.  It presents significant opportunities for European firms, as well as benefits to EU energy security.  And this is not a zero-sum game for us. 

And so, we see a constructive path of engagement with the EU on this.  And we continue to discuss this issue at all levels of the U.S. government.

Again, you know, I’m not — I’m just not going to get ahead of — of what will be on the agenda in their conversation.

Q    But it sounds like, from your prepared response, that you’re prepared to talk about it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re always prepared to talk about issues that may — that may come up, certainly — certainly, with — with our allies.  As you know, France is our oldest ally.  And — and the President looks forward to — to meeting with President Macron.

We — you know, we read the news — the news reports and your reportings as well.  We — we have heard — we’ve heard President Macron’s comments. 

So, you know, of course, we’re ready to have that conversation, but just don’t want to get into a potential hypothetical.  Maybe it comes up and maybe it doesn’t.

But the President is very proud of this Inflation Reduction Act.  It will have true benefits for American families, and it’s historical.

Q    Do you have a response to Fed Chair Powell’s remarks about inflation today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me — I have a little bit of what we wanted to say about that.  Give me one second here.

So, when it comes to his comments, as you know, we are very clear about the Fed having their independence and respecting that independence.  As we know, prior Presidents have — have not made that — made that clear.  And it was — it was not something that they — they did — many of them did not do.

So, we want to give the Fed the space to do the work that they — they need.  They have the best monetary tools to deal with inflation.

Our economic team continues to believe that thanks to the President’s economic team and his economic plan, we can bring inflation down without giving up the historic gains that we have made.  Our economy has added 10 million jobs, and unemployment is near a 50-year low. 

And so, as I just stated, we saw that economic growth last quarter — that was even stronger than previously estimated.  At pre- — it was previously estimated at 2.6 percent, and now we’re seeing at 2.9 percent.

So, again, you know, as the Chair said today, bottlenecks in goods production are easing and goods price inflation appears to be easing.  And so that — that is important.

But I want to be very clear: We’re going to give them their — kind of, their ability to — to work in an independent way, and not going to interfere.

Bless you, Emilie. (Laughter.)

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just to follow up a little bit on Mary’s question.  Given the close ties the administration has to the labor movement, have there been conversations, maybe behind the scenes, kind of explaining the “why” here or kind of detailing the decision-making process with the labor movement?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I mean, look — and we’ve said this; I said this the other day — Secretary Walsh has been in touch with the rail union.  Secretary Buttigieg has been in touch with the companies.  The President has been, clearly, in touch with congressional leaders and his administration.  And — and Secretary Vilsack has been in close touch with the agriculture sector.

But just to — just to just give a little bit of a timeline here — you know, the President and his team have been directly engaged in supporting negotiations and averting a shutdown for months now. 

In July, if — as you recall, like we’ve talked about it right here in the briefing room, the unions asked him to constitute a Presidential Emergency Board, a request they made because they know he — he is indeed a pro-union President.  And he did just that.

After the PEB, he brought the full weight of his administration to bear to keep the parties at the table and to get employers to make concessions, and they did.  So, he made it possible for the unions to secure a tentative agree- — agreements in September that secured a higher pay — I just mentioned 24 percent, and you’ve seen that also in the President’s statement — and a $5,000 bonus for — for workers.

Those tentative agreements kept our rail system working and prevented a disruption to our economy.  And just want to add: You know, there was a cooling-off period once that September 15th tentative agreement was made.  In that cooling-off period, those 12 unions were given the opportunity to — for them to — to ratify or vote for that tentative agreement.  Again, eight of them ratified it.  That’s a majority of the 12.  And — and — and so, we wanted to give the last two unions who voted in lat- — in late November their opportunity to make their voices heard.

And so, that’s kind of how you saw the process the last couple of months.  We’ve been engaged.  We’ve been, certainly, working with them on — on coming to this tentative agreement. 

And — and now we’re at a place where the President has been very clear that we have to avert a rail shutdown.  And he’s asking Congress to act.  He’s very pleased by what the Speaker and the leadership was able to do today in the House to move that forward.

Q    Just one more quick one.  This happened just an hour or two ago, so it may be a little bit too new.  But there were roughly a dozen Republican senators threatening to block the annual defense policy bill, which you guys need to finish before the end of the year, unless they get a vote on an amendment that would end the military’s COVID vaccine mandate.

One, do you have a response to that push?  And two, more broadly, are there any — is there any thought to making changes on that anytime in the future?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I — this is the first I’m hearing of this.  As you said, it’s very new.  And so, I will, certainly, let the Department of Defense speak to their own COVID vaccine requirement.  And so, I’m just not going to get more into that.  I’ll talk to the team further on — as to exactly what the specifics are of the — these members and what they’re saying.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

Q    I just want to go back and clarify.  On the proposed seven-day paid leave amendment or stand-alone that was passed by the House, however it’s taken on in the Senate, does the President support that proposal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So the President, again, believes that it is important to avert a rail strike, and that is what he’s focusing on.  And he wants to bring — make sure that there’s an agreement that’s brought to his desk by the weekend to — again, to protect American families, to protect jobs, to protect farms, and to protect communities across the — across the country.

The President, of course, supports — he supports paid sick leave for all Americans and for — including rail workers.  This is something, as you have seen him over the past almost two years, talk about that and try to move forward in making sure — in — in — in getting paid sick leave.

But he understands there are not 60 votes, right?  There are not 60 votes in the Senate to make that happen.  His number one priority is that — is making sure that we get this done.  So, he is — does not support any bill or amendment that will delay a bill that’s getting to his desk by Saturday.

Q    All right.  Two other quick ones.  Does he have a plan to meet with the new House Democratic leadership?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to — to preview for you at this time on a meeting.

Q    He hasn’t spoken with them yet today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any calls to preview at this time.

Q    And this was brought up on a background call yesterday previewing today’s Tribal Nations Conference, and those on that call said they didn’t have anything on it.  I’m just curious, maybe, if you do. 

Does the President support the Cherokee Nation’s push to get a non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives, which would make good on an 1835 treaty that was supposed to seat one?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   I’m just going to repeat what you heard on the background call.  We just don’t have anything to share on that at this time.

Go ahead, Peter.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Kevin McCarthy says that he invited President Biden down to the border.  Has the President RSVPed?  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  To — (Laughs.)

Q    Well, we know — we know the President has never been down to the border.  The possible next Speaker says that he wants him to go with him.  So, is he going to?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, he’s been there.  He’s been to the border.  And since he took office —

Q    When — when did he go to the border?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Since he took office, the — President Biden has been taking action to fix our immigration system and secure our border.  And that’s why, on day one, he put forward an immigration — immigration reform — a piece of legislation to deal with what is currently happening at the border.

But, you know, that — we’re not seeing that from Republicans.  We’re not seeing a willingness to work with us on — on, you know, fixing a situation that’s been around for decades now.

Instead, they’re — they’re doing political stunts.  That’s what they want to do.  That’s how they want to take care of this situation.

But, in the meantime, you know, the President has secured record levels of funding for the Department of Homeland Security.  We have over 23,000 agents working to secure the border.  We’ve taken thousands of smugglers off the streets, and we’re cutting down on asylum processing times.  And the number of individuals arriving unlawfully from northern Central America and Venezuela is coming down significantly because of the actions that the President has taken. 

Q    Okay.  On another subject, when are you guys going to delete the White House Twitter account?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Why would we do that?

Q    Well, you’re saying that you’re keeping an eye on Twitter because it might not be a suitable platform.  So why use it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I want to be very clear here: The President has always said and he has been very — very clear in his belief that it is important of social media platforms to continue to take steps to reduce hate speech and misinformation.  And he’ll — we’ll continue to say that, but media platforms make independent choices about their information that they present. 

And so, look, I don’t have anything to share on any policy or any changes that we will be making.  We have multiple platforms, as you know, that we utilize to communicate with the American people. 

Q    When you say that you’re going to be monitoring some of the speech on there, if you see something that you don’t like, would you try to shut Twitter down?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, you know, when you — when you talk about monitoring, you know, it is — I hate to break it to you, Peter: Just like everybody else, we very much monitor the news.  We pay close attention to everything that you all are reporting, and — and Twitter is in the news a lot.  And so that’s what we’re paying attention to.  We’re paying attention to what is in the news and what is being reported on — on the misinformation that’s out there. 

Let’s not forget there’s groups like NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, and the public health leaders have been very vocal about their concerns as well. 

So, yes, we are reading what you all are writing and looking at what you all are reporting about the misinformation that is out there.  But, you know, I would hope that all Americans, including social media companies, civil rights organizations, as I just laid out, including Fox as well, will agree that we need to — you know, we need to — to, you know, call out hate speech and misinformation.

Q    Hi, Karine.  Thank you.  Was there any consensus among the leaders yesterday about how to deal with the debt ceiling in the meeting the President hosted?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have anything beyond what we — what we laid out for you all in the — in our readout.  And as you know — 

Q    Was it a topic of conversation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I don’t have anything else to lay out.  I’m not going to go beyond what we talked about.  We talked about the — as — as you know, the President talked to them about — the four leaders — about the rail situation, the rail strike, and averting that, making sure that we don’t put the American people through an economic — potential economic downturn, and also the government funding.  Those are the things that they — that I can tell you that they did definitely speak about.

Q    Just ticking off a couple fast ones here.  Earlier, we heard from John Kirby on this issue, but as hours matter here, I’m just going to ask for any update.  Has the U.S. had any new contact with Paul Whelan in the course of today to get a better sense of his wellbeing, his whereabouts?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have anything else to share from — beyond what you heard from my colleagues.  Our embassy in Moscow has been working to understand exactly Paul’s condition and why his family hasn’t heard from him.  It is a concern.  We’re all worried — very much worried about Paul and about Brittney Griner as well.

As we have said repeatedly, they shouldn’t be detained in the first place.  They should be home with their families today.  But we will keep — we’ll keep — keep working on bringing them home. 

Just don’t have anything further to share. 

Q    Let me ask you — you said the President is going to have a chance to greet, in some form, the royals when they’re in Boston later this week.  He’s supposed to be in Boston this week for a greeting with them and, it turns out, for a Democratic fundraiser that’s taking place there to help support Democratic candidates.  Why is the President attending a Democratic fundraiser in Massachusetts and has no plans, as best we understand at this point, to go to Georgia where there is a Democratic candidate who’s facing a tight challenge?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, first, let me just say, the Hatch Act, I want to be really careful; this is an ongoing race that’s — that’s current — that’s current, and so want to be careful on how I —

Q    But about his schedule, I guess, I can (inaudible).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, no, I just want to state that out there, the Hatch Act.  I am covered under the Hatch Act. 

One of the things I would argue, Peter, that we saw over the last several months is that it didn’t matter where the President went; his message very much resonated — his message on his economic policy, how he was delivering for the American people.  We talked about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation.  We talked about the American Rescue Plan and how that was able to bring our economy back on track.  We talked about the Inflation Reduction Act.  And we made that contrast very clearly with — with Congress and what Republicans in Congress were trying to do.  And that — and that worked.  Right?  That worked.  It was —

Q    Let me ask you a quick one, and then maybe to follow, which is perhaps yes/no.  Does the President believe it would help or hurt Raphael Warnock for him to campaign with him in Georgia?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m not going to get into any political strategy here.  That is not my place to do that at the podium.  I have said many times before at the podium the President is willing to help Senator Warn- — Warnock any way he can in however the senator wants him to get involved. 

Q    Thanks, Karine. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Is the administration getting involved in helping an American citizen who was arrested on a visit to the UAE?  He’s facing possible extradition to Egypt.  He’s criticized the Egyptian president in videos he made in the U.S.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t know much about this particular individual that you’re asking me about. 

When it comes to wrongfully detained U.S. citizens, the President has been very clear that his administration is going to do everything that they can to bring them home. 

This particular individual, I don’t have any information for you at this time.  We’d have to check with the team.

Q    Karine, let me ask you this: The President last night had a statement praising the Senate for passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.  But as you know, there are members of the LGBT community who argue that the bill is weak sauce; it doesn’t go far enough to protect the rights of same-sex married couples in the event that Obergefell does get struck down.  What’s the White House’s message to those who are concerned that the bill doesn’t go far enough?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, you saw the President’s statement last night.  This is a huge step forward.  And it is historic that we saw this movement from Congress in a bipartisan way to protect same-sex marriage.  And I think, you know, in the time that we’re in, when we’re talking about the differences between Republicans and Democrats and how we’re not able to get things done, we’re seeing that right now in an issue — a key issue that matters to this community. 

Again, it’s a step forward.  There’s still work to be done to get it across the finish line.  But I do think and we do think it’s something to celebrate. 

Is there — there’s always going to be — need to be more work to do in any legislation that is passed, right?  We’re always going to want it to be perfect.  But I think it is important to note that we are taking, again, a historic step forward. 

The President is very proud of the work that Congress is doing — doing this in a bipartisan way — to deal with an issue that he has fought on for many years.  And you’ve heard him say people should be allowed to choose who they love, and love is love.

Q    Can I follow up on that, Karine? 

Q    Thank you.  I want to follow up on the rail issue.  Senator Sanders and about a dozen other Democratic senators released a statement earlier today essentially saying that President Biden did well in the initial negotiations but Congress should do better.  They called out the rail industry specifically for making record profits of more than $20 billion over the past three quarters, and essentially said that they should use some of those profits to put it back towards their workers and make sure their workers have paid sick leave.  I wonder what the President makes of those comments. 

We’ve heard the President before call out industries.  He’s called out the gas — the oil and gas industry for making record profits and not putting that back towards consumers.  Does he feel the same way about the rail industry?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I want to be very clear here: The temporary agreement that the President was able to secure

in September — on September 15th — as you know, that’s when we announced it — had some real wins for workers.  It really did.  Again, the concessions he secured for workers included a 24 percent pay raise and a $5,000 bonus; no changes in copay, deductibles, or co-insurance costs; for the operating crafts, some time off for routine, preventative, and emergency medical care; and protecting the two-man crew. 

The victories he helped secure for workers is why the deal was ratified — it was ratified by 8 of the 12 unions.  And we have to remember — right? — if — if we were to be in a rail shutdown, it will hurt the very families that we’re talking about, that you’re asking me about.  Right?  It would hurt the union families as well, and union workers. 

And so, you know, he was asked to get involved in July.  He did.  He put together the Presidential Emergency Board.  And he put the full — you know, the full — the fullness of — the full weight of the administration to get to this temporary agreement. 

And, again, I just listed out the — listed out some real concrete gains that we saw because of the President’s involvement.

Q    So, this message from Democrats that there’s corporate greed involved and that’s one of the reasons why, you know, they can’t have an agreement here, the President doesn’t agree that the rail — the rail industry —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I’m saying is that the President was — was able to put together a ten- — a temporary agreement that prevented a downturn, a disruption in our economy that would have hurt all families.  And there are some consis- — some really true wins that came out of this agreement because of the work that this President did.

But, look, I’ve said this many times and he has said this many times: He’s the President for all Americans.  Right?  And it is important that we avert a rail shutdown.  It is unacceptable.  It would hurt farms, it would hurt jobs, it would hurt communities across — across the country. 

And so, that is what the President is focused on: How is he going to help all Americans here?

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Again, on the IRA issue and Macron’s visit, it seems like both sides have been — in public, have been toying around this issue a bit because no one wants to spoil the public face of this state visit. 

But during his lunch today, Macron said some pretty — some pretty harsh words about the IRA.  He said, for example, it is super aggressive against French com- — competition — competitors, and it’ll “kill” — quote, “kill” jobs in the EU. 

So, I know you’ve said that you’ve taken it into account and you’re considering and so on.  But does the President — he’ll be meeting with Macron for hours, I guess, tomorrow.  Does he — does he have some kind of sympathy for the straits that Macron seems to say that he’s in on this? 

And, you know, in other words, is he really taking this on board as a — as a very acute problem, the President?  Because that seems to be the way Macron is putting it out there.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m not going to get ahead of what’s going to be on the agenda for their visit tomorrow.  I’m not going to get ahead on what they’re going to talk about — the topics that they will be discussing. 

I’ve been very clear: France is the United States’ oldest ally.  This visit is about reaffirming their relationship.  And you’ve seen yourselves the relationship, in person, when they — when they’ve met a few times during — during this President’s almost two years’ tenure here.

They have a very warm friendship.  It is an important relationship and — that the President takes very seriously and I know that President Macron does as well.

But, look, there’s a number of provisions that we think will contribute to the growth of the clean energy sector globally, as I mentioned already, in the Inflation Reduction Act.  And it presents significant opportunities for European firms as well as benefits to EU energy security.  This is not a zero-sum game. 

But we have to remember the Inflation Reduction Act is a historic piece of legislation that’s going to lower costs for the American people.  And it’s also going to invest — a historic investment into dealing with climate change in a real way.

So, not going to get into hypotheticals about what’s going to be said or how the President is going to deal with X, Y, Z.

What I can tell you is we are — we welcome the President — President of France and his wife.  And the President is looking forward to having conversations with him.

Q    Just — just a quickie scheduling kind of thing.  The French press people have put out that he’s having dinner — the two are having dinner tonight with their spouses, I guess, at a restaurant.  A “private dinner” they’re calling it.  Can you confirm that?  (Inaudible)?

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

Go ahead, April.

Q    Karine, I want to go back to the rail strike — or potential thereof.  And I want to drill down on what you continue to say: hurt.  The hurt.

You know, this White House, this administration — on the Hill, you guys are rallying the economy as some are concerned about what the first quarter — the end of the first quarter could look like in 2023. 

Could you qualify and quantify what that hurt looks like?  Because you keep talking about the union people and their families, but it’s broader than that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, absolutely.  Let me break it down exactly what this could look like.  And it would have — a rail shutdown would have a grinding effect on our economy to halt and touch the lives of nearly every family across the country.  Even in the days before a rail stoppage, serious disruptions will begin to occur. 

A couple of examples here: By Friday, Class 1 railroads will likely begin to notify their customers of the wind-down process.  Just the announcement would disrupt supply chains as companies begin to reschedule shipments from rail to truck.

As soon as this weekend, Class 1 railway — railroads may begin to refuse to transport hazardous materials, like chemicals necessary to treat drinking water and wastewater.

Oil and gas refineries, unable to ship out hazardous byproducts, will stop producing diesel and gasoline, creating supply constraints.

The auto sector could also be disrupted as soon as this weekend as well.

Last time around, the railroads began refusing to transport automobiles about a week ahead of the shut — shutdown deadline.

So, again, Congress must get a bill to the President’s desk this weekend to protect families and — from these potential devastating impacts.  So, this is what we’re talking about.  These are real-life, you know, changes and impacts that we can see here. 

Q    So, with that said — and thank you for all that.  I didn’t expect you to have it.  Thank you. 

But at the end of the day, you are fighting inflation, this White House is fighting inflation, and it sounds like the numbers will go up again.  What is in place, what are you guys working on in case there is a strike?  Understanding those numbers and all the things that you qualify and quantify, what is in place to cushion the American taxpayer’s pocketbook or the American consumer’s pocketbook with this knowledge that you have?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me just — on inflation for a second — and it’s — I do want to point out that we’ve seen a recent months — in recent months, which is inflation slowing in the third quarter compared to first and second quarters.  So, that’s good news.

And in the last CPI, we’ve seen prices fall for used cars, apparel, inflation moderation for housing, food, and services — all welcome news as we head into the holidays.  So, we have seen that in the data points in the past several months.  So, that’s important to note.

And as I’ve said many times, when it comes to the President’s economic — economic plan, inflation is lowering — lowering costs and dealing with inflation, fighting inflation is the President’s number-one priority.

At the beginning of the briefing, I laid out gas prices — how much it’s fallen.  The average — the gas price that you see — that you’ll see is about $2.99.  It’s gone down by more than $1.50 per gallon.  And that’s because of the work that this President has done with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, making historic — taking historic action.

So, that matters as well.  We are certainly working towards that.

But, look, the President is confident that Congress is going to act on this, that we are going to, you know, work to avert a rail — a railway shutdown.

That’s why you saw the House today — he complimented the House, the Speaker, and the leadership to getting the — moving the bill forward.  And it included Democrats and Republicans.  Right? 

So, we saw a — a interest of getting this done across the — across the spectrum.  So, we’re going to continue to work towards that.  It’s going to go to the Senate next.  And the per- — the President and his team is going to continue to encourage members to get it done.

Q    Related to that, is the administration still engaged with rail companies, the unions, in the event — to sort of keep talks going in the event that the Senate is either unable to get this passed or maybe is delayed in getting this passed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we are — again, we are confident, and — and we are going to continue to push to get this done.  The President is going to conti- — and his team is going to continue to work Congress to make sure that we avert a rail — a rail shutdown.  As we know, it will have catastrophic — you know, catastrophic effects and impacts to our economy.  So, we’re going to — we’re going to stay on track there. 

Yes — is our administration continuing to having those conversations I laid out?  Walsh has talk — Walsh has — has been talking to unions for the past several months.  That continues.  I’ve talked about Secretary Buttigieg, Department of Transportation, talking to the companies.  That will continue.  And also, Secretary Vilsack is doing his part with the agriculture sectors. 

So, those conversations are always going to continue, but right now our priority is working with Congress.  The President talked to the four leaders, as you know, yesterday about this particular issue.  He’s going to continue to talk to congressional members.  Our team is going to continue to work on that to make sure that we avert this — make sure we put legislation forward that averts this — this rail shutdown.

Q    But just to clarify, there are sort of ongoing negotiations between the unions and the rail companies?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I can’t speak for the unions and the rail companies.  That is — they’re going to have their conversations.  I’m not speaking for them.  I’m speaking for the President and what he’s trying to do for the American people, and it’s to avert a rail shutdown. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Going back to tomorrow’s state dinner, can you tell me what kind of COVID precautions will be in place?  And do people — are people attending this dinner required to get a COVID test?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I can say this: As always, we will follow the CDC guidelines.  So, I’d point you to the CDC guidelines when it — as it relates to COVID protocols.  And I’m just going to point you to their website. 

Q    But as far as testing, do people —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I’m just going to point you to the CDC guid- — guidance on this. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  Following up on the Powell comments, I know you can’t comment on Fed policy, but can you just tell us how confident is the White House right now that the U.S. will be able to avoid a recession?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I just laid out the data points in the beginning of this — beginning — beginning of — of my — of my briefing when I talked about how the third quarter — there was a revision in the third quarter and how much it’s growing.  Right?  It was we — it was first said it was going to be estimated at 2.6 percent.  And we’re seeing it at 2.9 percent. 

Look, we believe that this is an economy that’s resilient.  We believe that — and it’s resilient because of the President’s work and because of the President’s economic plan, because of what he did walking into this administration and putting forth the American Rescue Plan.  That got schools open.  That got arm — shots in arms, as it relates to the vaccine.  Put forward a real comprehensive plan so those schools could be open, so that small businesses could open up again. 

And — and it’s continued through the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, creating jobs with the inflat- — Inflation Reduction Act.  This has been all part of the President’s plan to make sure that we build from the bottom up and the middle out. 

And that work has created — has been able to create 10 million jobs in this administration.  And we just saw the President in Bay City, Michigan, where he talked about the manufacturing jobs, bringing — bringing jobs back to the count- — to the country because of the CHIPS and Science Act, right?  Seven hundred — more than 700,000 manufacturing jobs that have been created in this President’s administration because of the work that he’s done. 

And so now what we’re seeing — and you’ve heard us talk about this — is we’re seeing an economy that’s going into a transition to more stable and steady growth. 

So, we do not foresee a recession.  The data that I just laid out — that we’ve seen the last couple months — does not show a recession.

Q    Separately, House Democrats made history today when they elected Hakeem Jeffries as the first Black Leader.  You know, what’s the President’s reaction to the new leadership party in the House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, as you know, the President’s — well, the President, I should say, sends his heartfelt congratulations to his friend, Congressman Jeffries, as he marks profoundly important history becoming the first Black leader of either party in either chamber of Congress.  This is wonderful news for our country and highlights the promise of the American Dream for all our people. 

He has worked with Congressman Jeffries for many years delivering for the American middle class, as I just laid out, when we talk about the President’s Amer- — economic policy; standing up for fundamental constitutional rights, like the right to choose; and standing up with law enforcement to keep our communities safe in the fight against gun crime. 

So he also congratulates Katherine Clark and Peter Aguilar on their elections as well.  He looks forward to working with all of them in building on the progress that we — that we have made in the last almost — in the last almost two years.

Go ahead.

Q    Hey, Karine, back on the border for a second.  Congressman McCarthy also said that it was the President who brought up the border in the meeting.  Is that accurate?  And — 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to go beyond the readout.

Q    And did you take it as a good-faith invitation to go to the border or something —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just — I’m telling you right now, I’m not going to go beyond the readout that we gave — that we provided yesterday. 

Q    Okay.  And not related, you might have seen the foreign minister of Belarus died suddenly this week at 64.  He’s somebody who could maybe be a conduit to the West.  But it’s also — as you know, that regime is kind of tight with Putin.  What does the White House make of this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any comment at this time on that.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  India tomorrow formally takes over the presidency of G20.  It has announced its theme of “One Family, One Earth, and One Future” and also its agenda.  But from the U.S. perspective, what should be the G20’s top priority for next year?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the President — we — we, you know, look forward to supporting India’s G20 presidency next year and on a — on a range of issues, including addressing current food and energy security challenges, while continuing our efforts to build a resilient global economy. 

I know that Jake was — Jake Sullivan was asked this question when he was here, probably most recently, about if the President is going to be attending.  As you’ve seen, the President has — has attended — has been participating in the G20 in his tenure here.  Don’t have anything specific to announce or any — any specifics or announce on travel. 

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I just said I don’t have anything specific to announce on his travel.  But as you have seen the past almost two years, he has been, certainly, participating in the G20.

Q    And in neighboring Pakistan, there is a change.  A new army chief has taken over: General Munir.  Do you have anything on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the United States values our longstanding cooperation with Pakistan and has always viewed a prosperous and democratic Pakistan as critical to U.S. interests. 

We look forward to continue to work with Pakistan to promote stability, prosperity for the people of Pakistan and the region.

I will take one last question from the back.  Someone —

Q    In the back.  Follow-up to —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

(Cross-talk by reporters.)

Yeah, I just —

(Cross-talk by reporters.)

Go ahead. 

Q    I’m interested — why hasn’t the President been more involved in helping the DNC decide its early presidential primary states?  Obviously, there’s four or five potential states.  And there’s been a sense that the White House hasn’t, you know,  been public about what states it wants to go first.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I was asked this question recently. It is a political question.  It is about the 2024 elections.  I cannot speak to this, so I would refer you to the — to — to the DNC.  It’s not something that I can speak to from here. 

One last question.  Go ahead.  Go ahead.  The young lady in the back, go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  On the potential rail strikes, some representatives today putting blame on the Biden administration, saying that it should have never come to this.  What went wrong, from the administration’s point of view, in September?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We don’t think anything went wrong.  We believe that — that if you think about the timeline that I laid out, that — what the President and his team has been doing — for the past several months, we’ve been directly involved, engaged in supporting negotiations and averting a shutdown.  And we’ve been doing this for months. 

And it was because of the President’s action back in July — the unions asked him to constitute a presidential emergency board — a request they made because they knew, as a pro-union President, he would be able to get to a — an agreement, and he did. 

On September 15th, he came — came through with a temporary agreement that had — that had, you know, an increase in pay by 24 percent.  It had a $5,000 bonus — it has a $5,000 bonus for workers. 

And if — let’s not forget: When that agreement came out on September 15th, it was lauded and praised by the unions and union leadership. 

So, again, this is a President that has delivered for — for the union, and he sees himself as a pro-union President.  He’s — that — that term has been given to him by labor.

And again, what is so important right now is that we need to make sure that we avert a rail shutdown, and that’s what the President is calling on Congress to do. 

You know, this is something that would have a direct effect on those union families.  It would have direct effect on communities across the — across the country.  It would have an impact on — you know, on farms, on jobs, on agriculture, as I just mentioned. 

So, this is incredibly important that we avert this, and that’s why the President is calling on Congress to act. 

Thanks, everybody.

Q    Thank you.  Au revoir.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Au revoir.  Bonne nuit.

3:51 P.M. EST

Source: White House