James S. Brady Press Briefing Room Washington D.C. February 8 12:07 P.M. EST
Hi, everyone. (Phone alarm rings.)
TJ has an alarm going off. He's excited about the briefing. (Laughter.)
Hey, just a couple of things for you all at the top. The President and his entire administration are continuing to engage closely with leaders on Capitol Hill about the need to act quickly on the American Rescue Plan so we can finish the job of getting $2,000 checks out to Americans, so we can get more vaccines in the arms of Americans, so we can get economic relief to families facing eviction or food insecurity, and so we can help reopen schools safely.
We're encouraged that both Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer are in full agreement about the need to move swiftly on the President's proposal, and the committee mark-ups we'll see throughout this week are evidence of Congress acting on that expeditiously.
Our expectation is that this week's House mark-ups will track closely with what the President has proposed, but there will, of course, be adjustments to strengthen the bill and tweaks as a result of the legislative process — which he's quite familiar with, having served there for 36 years — which is exactly how the process is supposed to work.
We're also going to continue to make the case directly to the American people about the urgency of getting this package across the finish line, including though national and local TV and radio interviews, engagement with hundreds of mayors and county elected officials, and consultations with stakeholders across the political spectrum, from labor and rural leaders to the faith community.
Here is a quick overview — a number of you have asked about this — of the sense of the scope of our efforts:
Over a dozen senior administration officials have conducted over 100 national TV, radio, and podcast interviews to discuss the American Rescue Plan. We've done over 30 local TV interviews in states ranging from Nevada to Louisiana to Pennsylvania. In the last week alone, our legislative affairs team had done more than 300 calls with members and staff on the Hill, including 40 calls with Republicans or bipartisan groups.
And you can expect that the President will engage throughout the course of this week with a range of stakeholders, including business leaders, mayors, and governors.
And as we've discussed before, this message is resonating. Poll after poll show a bipartisan majority of the American people in support of the President's plan.
A couple of other quick updates for all of you:
Many folks likely noticed, if you all watched the Super Bowl, the President and the First Lady yesterday appeared in a PSA that aired during the pre-game show, thanking healthcare workers and addressing the importance of continuing to wear masks and getting vaccinations when it's your turn. This is a good example of how you can expect the White House, in the coming months, to reach out with critical public health messaging as part of an education campaign, meeting Americans where they are — on their couches, watching the Super Bowl, for yesterday — and communicating about the important mitigation steps people can take.
As many of you also know, last night during the Super Bowl, President Biden called service members to thank them for their courage, dedication, and service to our nation. He first called troops with Resolute Support Mission in Kabul, and then the USS Nimitz. He then shared via ship broadcast a message to the nearly 5,000 sailors and Marines who comprise the USS Nimitz crew.
With that, let's get your questions. Go ahead, Alex.
Thanks, Jen. I have two. The first is on your favorite topic: impeachment. Does the President have plans to watch any of the trial this week? And does the White House prefer a speedy impeachment trial, or would the President prefer a full airing of the violence of the Capitol and Trump's role in inciting it through things like live witnesses?
Well, first, the President himself would tell you that we keep him pretty busy, and he has a full schedule this week, which we will continue to keep you abreast of and — as soon as we have more details. But we've already announced his plans to go visit the NIH, to go visit the Department of Defense. As I noted, he will be engaging with business leaders, mayors, and governors — and of course continuing to make the case and have conversations with Democrats and Republicans directly about his hopes and plans for the American Rescue Plan moving forward as quickly as possible.
So he — I think it's clear from his schedule, and from his intention, he will not spend too much time watching the proceedings of — any time over the course of this week. He will remain closely in touch with Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, a range of officials on the Hill about his plan. And that's exactly what they want him to do, is to remain focused on that.
And he will leave the pace and the process and the mechanics of the impeachment proceedings up to members of Congress.
And President Biden said there's no need for Trump to receive intelligence briefings. Has Trump requested any? Has he received any? And is that the official decision? Or who was that decision left up to?
Well, the President said, when asked, that he — there was no need for him to receive them. And he referenced, of course, his erratic behavior, which I think many Americans would agree with him on. He was expressing his concern about former President Trump receiving access to sensitive intelligence.
But he also has deep trust in his intelligence — own intelligence team to make a determination about how to provide intelligence information if, at any point, the former president requests a briefing. So that's not currently applicable. But if he should request a briefing, he leaves it to them to make a determination.
Oh sorry, I've been meaning to go to Reuters next, so we'll go right to you next. Go ahead.
Thank you so much. So, you mentioned that there will be adjustments — or there could be adjustments —
— to the ARP. One component of that is — that was really important as far as campaign promise was the $15 minimum wage. The President has already signaled that that may not make it into the full package. How important is that measure still to the White House? And how will you get it done?
And then also, the other thing that came up this weekend is looking at tweaking the level of who gets the stimulus checks. And Janet Yellen mentioned $60,000. Can you explain who gets left out, right? You know, if you get the 60 — you know, who is between the $60,000 and the $75,000?
Sure. Well, on the first question, the President is — remains firmly committed to raising the minimum wage to $15. That's why he put it in his first legislative proposal, and he doesn't — he believes that any American who is working a full-time job trying to make ends meet should not be at the poverty level. And it's important to him that the minimum wage is raised.
He was referring this weekend to, as you noted in your question, the parliamentary process. Obviously, it's — the most likely path at this point is through a reconciliation process. There is a parliamentarian who will make decisions about what can end up in a final package. And that was certainly what he was referencing in his comments.
In terms of what the options are, we'll see what the parliamentarian decides, and then we'll see what additional options are. But we're getting a little ahead of where we are at this point in the process. I'm sure we can continue to have a discussion about it in here.
And then say your second question one more time.
Sure. Well, one of the pieces that the President has talked about is his openness to engaging and having a discussion about what is called, kind of, the — unofficially called, I guess — the "scale up," right? So his proposal, as you know, had proposed $1,400 checks to make the $2,000 whole. He had proposed, kind of, a threshold. There's a discussion right now about what that threshold will look like. A conclusion hasn't been finalized; that will be worked through Congress.
But either way, his bottom line is that families making $275,000, $300,000 a year may not be the most in need of checks at this point in time. But whatever the threshold is, there will be a scale up. So his view is that a nurse, a teacher, or a firefighter who's making $60,000, shouldn't be left without any support or relief either. It's just a question of, sort of, where the scale up looks like — what it looks like in a final package. But it's still being negotiated at this point in time.
Jen, if I could just ask you on the $15 — you know, doesn't it make it much harder to get it through if you don't attach it to this COVID relief bill? I mean, does that really — and then, the CBO is saying that, in fact, if you did go through with it, that, you know, it would lead to a 0.9 percent reduction in the number of jobs.
Well, I heard about the CBO score as I was walking out here, so I haven't talked with our economic team about that specifically. And at this point in time, it's still working its way through the process in Congress, and the parliamentarian still has to make a determination about what will be in the final package.
Oh, I promised I'd go to you first —
"Next," I should say. Thank you. Go ahead.
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