Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, February 9, 2021 | Beaufort County Now | Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, February 9, 2021

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, February 9, 2021

Press Release:

White House  •  Washington D.C.  •  February 9  •  12:47 P.M. EST

    MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Tuesday. A couple of things to just update you on, on the top. As we've discussed previously in this room, the President and the administration are making the case directly to the country about the need to pass the Rescue Plan so we can finish the job and get $2,000 into the pockets of working families, so we can reopen schools safely, and so we can get economic relief to struggling Americans and communities.

    As part of that work, the President, the Vice President, and Treasury Secretary Yellen will meet this afternoon with business leaders to discuss the vital role that the American Rescue Plan will play in saving our economy and getting Americans back to work. Private sector leaders understand how important it is, and we've seen calls from across the political spectrum — from leading business groups, to labor, and progressive lawmakers — for Congress to act quickly in getting additional economic relief out the door.

    These calls have been echoed by leading experts and economists who have praised the plan, including top economic advisors to the last four Presidents, both Democrat and Republican. And analysis after analysis has shown that the economic cost of inaction would be incredibly painful for the American people — something we saw last Friday with the latest month of weak job numbers.

    But they also know that we have a way to help workers and get our economy back by passing the Rescue Plan. So a couple of pieces of economic data you all may have seen: A CBO projection last week found that it would take the economy four years to bounce back and return to full employment without the Rescue Plan. Studies by the Brookings Institution and Moody's Analytics found that the economy could recover from the pandemic and return to full employment by the beginning of next year if the Rescue Plan is enacted. Moody's also found that passing the Rescue Plan would double economic growth, returning the economy to full employment a full year faster.

    A couple of other updates from our COVID team. You may have also seen this. Jeff Zients, the COVID coordinator, made a few announcements earlier this afternoon.

    Today, we announced the launch of our Federal Quality [Qualified] Health Centers — "FQHC" — vaccination program. Community health centers provide primary care services in underserved areas, reaching almost 30 million people. Under this new program, we will begin directly sending vaccine supply to community health centers, enabling them to vaccinate more of the people they serve. Alongside other efforts like mobile health units and community vaccination centers, this announcement is another tool we are providing to state and local leaders in their work to reach underserved and hardest-hit populations.

    Importantly, this program grew, in part, out of a suggestion from House committee chairs that the President had — of course, had a meeting with them on Friday, but even discussions prior to that. And he informed them during a call this morning that this program would be rolled out.

    Let's see. Last few pieces: We also announced another increase in weekly vaccine allocations to states, tribes, and territories, bringing us up to 11 million doses. So, overall, this — after weekly increases the past two weeks, and it's a net 28 percent increase to states since we entered government. These announcements convey our steady drumbeat of progress and action by the federal government in our whole-of-government pandemic response.

    The President also will meet with members of the COVID response team in the Oval Office today to discuss their work and the next steps in shutting down the virus and getting American life back to normal.

    Last thing: I've noted a number of times, and some of you have asked, about our progress and efforts on confirmations. We were pleased to see Denis McDonough confirmed last night with 87 "yes" votes as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. And he, of course, is being sworn in today.

    We also would just like to reiterate the importance of getting our nominee — the President's nominee to lead the Department of Education, Miguel Cardona, confirmed. Obviously, at a time when the American people are focused on the reopening of schools, focused on doing that safely, this is a step that Congress could take. He's obviously a pivotal and key partner in ensuring we can get that done swiftly and safely.

    With that, Alex, let's kick it off.


    Q:  Thanks, Jen. I wanted to ask you at the top about the attempted hacking and poisoning of the Oldsmar, Florida, water supply. Does the White House have any details on who committed the hacking? And is there any plan for a review of water supply stations across the nation or an effort to shore up the cybersecurity measures at those stations?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, as was announced earlier today, the FBI and Secret Service, of course, are undergoing an investigation. That's something we'd certainly defer to them on any specific details of their findings of that investigation.

    I will say, broadly speaking, that the President, the Vice President, and members of our national security team are focused on elevating cybersecurity as a threat. That has only increased over the past several years. That's why they've made it an across-government focus and why he has elevated positions in the White House and other parts of our government.

    Q:  And then, can you share any details on the President's visit to the Department of Defense? What will he be discussing with Secretary Austin?

    MS. PSAKI: Sure. Sure. The President will visit the Pentagon tomorrow, where he will thank the men and women serving our country and keeping the American people safe. As the first President in 40 years with a child who served in the military, he has a personal connection to the important role of mil- — work of the military, the men and women who serve.

    He will also discuss the vital role of the Department of Defense and our national security, talk about the significance of having the first African American Secretary of Defense in history leading the department.

    The visit has special resonance coming during Black History Month. Over 40 percent of active-duty forces are men and women of color, and you will hear President Biden pay special tribute to the rich history of black service members tomorrow.

    Q:  Any new policy rollouts tomorrow? Or is it just —

    MS. PSAKI: He will certainly, as I noted, talk about the important role of the Defense Department and our national security. But we will have more to share about that as we get closer to his visit.

    Go ahead. Oh, let's go — Jeff, Reuters, I promised you. Go ahead.

    Q:  Oh, thanks, Jen. Can you tell us how the CEOs were chosen for today's meeting with President Biden? I see some diversity in that group, which isn't always common at the top echelons of corporate America. Was that one of the factors —

    MS. PSAKI: Far too uncommon, yes.

    Q:  Is that one of the factors? And how did you go about choosing them?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, first I would expect that this is the first of many engagements the President will have directly with leaders from the business community. And this was an opportunity to speak directly with some who are major employers in the country, some who are leading the Business Roundtable or other organizational, kind of, business groups, where they speak to many business leaders across the country.

    So, this is an opportunity to have a smaller meeting — it's only about half a dozen, as you know — and discussion about the American Rescue Plan — how it will impact workers and American families, and how they can work together to get people back on their feet.

    Q:  Specifically Walmart and J.P. Morgan — what is the President's ask of those types of companies for this?

    MS. PSAKI: I wouldn't look at it through that prism, Jeff; I would look at it as a conversation with leaders who have — you know, Walmart is, of course, one of the biggest employers in the country and states across the country. Obviously, Jamie Dimon is somebody who has been in the business sector for many, many years. So it's more of a discussion about the country and the economic downturn that we've gone through. The President wants to lay out all of the specifics of his plan, hear feedback from them, as he has with many different groups over the past couple of weeks.

    Q:  Just one other econ-related question. Did the White House ask OMB Director nominee, Neera Tanden, to apologize to Republicans in her testimony this morning? And how confident are you about that nomination now?


    MS. PSAKI: Well, the President wouldn't nominate anyone he wasn't confident could get confirmed and didn't deserve the consideration and confirmation of his — of Senate Democrats and Republicans. We certainly did not ask her to make any specific comments in her testimony today.

    Go ahead, Kristen.

    Q:  Thank you, Jen. A couple of questions on the impeachment and the COVID package that President Biden is proposing.

    First, on impeachment: Today there's going to be a debate over the constitutionality of the process — whether it's constitutional to try and — try to remove from office a former President. Does President Biden have any concerns that this trial could set a dangerous precedent for the institution of the presidency?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, President Biden — we put out a statement following the conclusion of the House vote just a couple of weeks ago, and he made clear in that statement that he felt the process should proceed as history — you know, and many laws predetermine. And he is going to wait for the Senate to determine the outcome of this.

    But, you know, his view is that his role is — should be currently focused on addressing the needs of the American people, putting people back to work, addressing the pandemic.

    Q:  But does he see it as constitutional?

    MS. PSAKI: I don't think that's for me or us to opine on. Obviously, he said that the process should proceed, and it's doing exactly that.

    Q:  And let me ask you: As millions of people tune in to watch this trial presumably throughout the week, they're going to see the former President's lawyers argue, based on the briefs that they have filed, that some Democrats have used incendiary rhetoric. They are going to point to Representative Maxine Waters, for example, who in 2018 called on supporters at a rally to confront, and at one point harass, Trump officials over their support of the child separation policy — the zero tolerance policy. That's something that Cedric Richmond said she had a constitutional right to express those views. So how does the White House view that as any different?

    MS. PSAKI: Look, the President is — Joe Biden is the President; he's not a pundit. He's not going to opine on the back-and-forth arguments, nor is he watching them, that are taking place in the Senate.

    Q:  Okay. Let me ask you about the COVID relief package. Yesterday, the Ways and Means Committee Democrats proposed limiting the $1,400 direct payments to those making $75,000 or less. Is that something that President Biden supports? And does he have any concerns that progressives might not be on board with that?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, the President has conveyed from the beginning of this discussion that he's open to having a discussion about the thresholds. He has been firm in his resolve that Americans should be made whole on the $2,000 checks, which of course would mean — be maintaining his firmness on the $1,400 checks. Right?

    But there's been a discussion about the thresholds and what those should look like, and he doesn't feel that families making over $250,000 a year should be the target of this relief. But there is a scale up. Right? And even in the recent negotiations from the 75 and from the 150, it's just — it will reach certain top thresholds where people would not receive relief.

    Q:  So — but has he determined whether he would support that? Does he support $75,000 as being the threshold?

    MS. PSAKI: It's not the threshold. That's, kind of, who would receive the maximum amount.

    Q:  (Inaudible.)

    MS. PSAKI: There has been a scale up beyond that. These negotiations are ongoing. We supportingly — certainly support the discussions as they're happening. And certainly his view is that these should be — he's open to the discussion about making them more targeted and ensuring that people who need relief the most, receive the relief.


    Read the full transcript HERE.

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