James S. Brady Press Briefing Room Washington D.C. March 29 12:40 P.M. EDT
Hello. Okay, a couple of items for all of you at the top. First, welcome Andrew Bates, our new deputy press secretary. Anyone who covered the Biden campaign knows Andrew quite well. And he just joined our team after being — staying on the transition for the last two months.
Okay, this Wednesday, the President will be laying out the first of two equally critically — critical packages to rebuild our economy and create better-paying jobs for American workers. He'll talk this week about investments we need to make in domestic manufacturing, R&D, the caregiving economy, and infrastructure.
In the coming weeks, the President will lay out his vision for a second package that focuses squarely on creating economic security for the middle class through investments in childcare, healthcare, education, and other areas. Throughout this process, we look forward to working with a broad coalition of members of Congress to gather their input and ideas, and determine the path forward, create good jobs, and make America more competitive.
I'll also note that he's doing this in Pittsburgh, where he launched his campaign for the presidency just two years ago.
Today, the CDC also announced a 90-day extension of the federal eviction moratorium. The news was out earlier today. The moratorium was scheduled to expire on March 31st and is now extended through June 30th. The President is committed to supporting renters and small landlords through the COVID-19 crisis.
Essential to that effort is, of course, the American Rescue Plan, which delivers an additional $21.5 billion in emergency rental assistance to help millions of families keep up on rent and remain in their homes. This, of course, is an act that included coordination from the Treasury Department, from HUD, from the USDA, the CFPB, and the FTC. They're all coordinating efforts.
Today, the White House convened leaders from across the administration and is taking coordinated steps to announce a set of bold actions that will catalyze offshore wind energy and create good-paying union jobs. The President recognizes that a thriving offshore wind industry will drive new jobs and economic opportunity up and down the Atlantic Coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, and in Pacific waters.
We just released a factsheet on this announcement — pretty detailed. The Department of Interior — Interior, Energy, and Commerce announced a shared goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind in the United States by 2030, while protecting biodiversity and protecting ocean co-use. Meeting this target will trigger more than $12 billion per year in capital investment in projects on both U.S. coasts, create tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs with more than 44,000 workers employed in offshore wind by 2030, and nearly 33,000 additional jobs in communities supported by offshore wind activity.
It will also generate enough power to meet the demand of more than 10 million American homes and avoid 78 million metric tons of carbon emissions.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Treasury's Maritime Administration today is announcing a Notice of Funding Opportunity for port authorities and other applicants to apply for $230 million for port and intermodal infrastructure-related projects through the Port Infrastructure Development Program.
Last item is, I have a — some — an update for you on the flooding that has occurred in the Tennessee Valley. The Department of Homeland Security and media sources report four fatalities and over 150 rescued in the Tennessee Valley as heavy rainfall swamped the area, flooding homes and roads, including parts of Nashville. The President and the White House continue to monitor the situation very closely and stand at the ready, should any federal — federal assistance be requested or required. At this time, no request for federal assistance have come in.
The National Weather Service reports over nine inches of rain has fallen over the past 24 hours, of course causing this massive flooding.
Jonathan, why don't you kick us off?
Thank you, Jen. The CDC director today delivered an impassioned warning against a rise in COVID cases and said it filled her with a sense of, quote, "impending doom." We're seeing cases rise in many states. My question is: Does the President plan out to reach directly to governors, including the Democratic governors in states like New York, New Jersey, in Michigan that are seeing real rises? And does he plan to ask them to slow down or pause them reopening their states?
Well, Jonathan, we are in very close touch with governors of those states and states across the country, not only through our weekly governors call that is led by our COVID coordinator, but through calls and engagements that happen through the course of the week and through the course of every day.
And the President has not held back in calling for governors, leaders, the American people to continue to abide by the public health guidelines, whether they are mask mandates on federal land and buildings or on interstate travel; whether it's, you know, encouraging people to hand wash and abide by social distancing. He will continue to do that through all of his engagements and, of course, through calls he has with local officials. But we are in very close touch with leaders across the country.
So, my follow-up to that is — but this is probably the most precarious moment the country has had, in terms of the virus, since the President took office. This was according to CDC direct- — CDC director today. Will the President not take that additional step to get — to talk to governors and ask them to slow down reopenings?
Well, Jonathan, the President uses every opportunity he can, whether it's public — publicly, through every interview, through nearly every public engagement he has. He has remarks later this afternoon, as you know, on COVID, providing an update on our effort to defeat the virus. He also does that through private engagements as well.
But there are a range of officials at very high levels who are in touch with governors and leaders across the country who will continue to emphasize the need to abide by public health guidelines.
And one other topic. Earlier, Majority Leader Schumer is making the case that budget reconciliation can be used once more in the Fiscal Year 2021. If the Senate parliamentarian agrees with his argument, this could be used a couple more times over the next year or so. Does the White House support that move? And what would it mean for the President's agenda?
Well, the White House and the President will leave the mechanics of bill passing to Leader Schumer and other leaders in Congress. Our focus is on proposing an agenda — an ambitious agenda to invest in infrastructure, to help caregivers across the country, to ensure that we are doing more to help Americans get through this challenging period of time.
Thank, Jen. On infrastructure, since the President is set to unveil his proposal in a couple of days now, what is his current thinking or his economic advisors' current thinking on how much of this package needs to be paid for with tax revenue?
Well, the President has a plan to fix the infrastructure of our country. We're currently 13th in the world; no one believes we should be there. And he has a plan to pay for it, which he will propose. But, right now, once he proposes that, our focus is also on having that engagement and discussion with members of Congress.
If they share a goal of building our infrastructure for the future but don't like the way he's going to propose to pay for it, we're happy to look at their proposals. If they don't want to pay for it, I guess they can propose that too. Maybe they don't support infrastructure spending.
So the President has an ambitious goal. The most important thing is to figure out how to invest in — put forward the investments in our much-needed — that are much needed in our infrastructure. What's irresponsible is not to address the urgent needs of that investment. But the means and mechanisms of paying for it — we look forward to presenting his plans but also hearing proposals for others who may have a difference of view.
Is there a concern that if you don't pay for enough of it, that it'll have a drag on the economy, specifically by increasing the debt and deficit?
Well, again, he's going to have a plan to pay for it. I'm sure that if there are proposals out there that are differing from his, in terms of what they will cover, we'll have that discussion. But he, of course, believes that investing in our infrastructure, continuing to create good-paying union jobs is front and center, but he also believes that we have an opportunity to rebalance, to take — to address our tax code that is out of date, and — and some could pay more in our country that are not currently.
And on that front, just a clarification: Last week, you said the tax increase threshold for the President is $400,000 a year, both for individuals and households. Is that correct?
And what does the White House say to moderates who might be concerned that hiking the corporate tax rate to, say, 28 percent will be a drag on growth?
We haven't seen evidence in that from economists, but if they have alternative proposals to how to — for how to pay for investing in our nation's infrastructure, rebuilding our roads and our railways, and putting Americans back to work, we're happy to hear it.
And then finally, on the vaccine, Andy Slavitt talked about the idea of a "vaccine passport" in the COVID briefing this morning. He said it's primarily going to be spearheaded by the private sector. But what's the President's position on whether, once the vaccine is more readily available, businesses should be able to tell employees who don't want to get the vaccine for whatever reason that they can't come back into the workplace, or that airlines could reject people from getting on the plane if they have decided not to get a vaccine?
Well, we're going to provide guidance, just as we have, through the CDC. There's currently an interagency process that is looking at many of the questions around vaccine verification. And that issue will touch many agencies as verification is an issue that will potentially touch many sectors of society, as you have certainly alluded to. That's guidance we'll provide.
We expect — as Andy Slavitt, I think, alluded to — that a determination or development of a vaccine passport, or whatever you want to call it, will be driven by the private sector. Ours will more be focused on guidelines that can be used as a basis. And there are a couple key principles that we are working from. One is that there will be no centralized, universal federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.
Second, we want to encourage an open marketplace with a variety of private sector companies and nonprofit coalitions developing solutions.
And third, we want to drive the market toward meeting public interest goals. So we'll leverage our resources to ensure that all vaccination credential systems meet key standards, whether that's universal accessibility, affordability, availability — both digitally and on paper.
But those are our standards. It's currently going through an interagency process. We'll make some recommendations, and then we believe it will be driven by the private sector.
And when do you anticipate those guidelines will come out?
I don't have a timeline to provide you at this point, but it's obviously something we're working through. And we want to provide that clarity to the public.
I want to talk about George Floyd. Will the President be watching or receiving updates on Derek Chauvin's trial today? And has he been in touch with George Floyd's family in the lead-up to trial?
Well, he certainly will be watching closely, as Americans across the country will be watching.
You know, at the time of George Floyd's death, he talked about this as being an event that really opened up a wound in the American public, and it really brought to light for a lot of people in this country just the kind of racial injustice and inequality that many communities are experiencing every single day.
And he'll be watching it closely. He'll certainly be provided updates. Obviously, this is a trial that's working its way through a law enforcement — or a legal process, so we wouldn't weigh in further than that.
But these were events that, at the time, he spoke about as being just a reminder of also the need to — and it certainly impacted how he's thought about, in his own government, making equity central to what we do, instituting and putting in place — racial injustice and addressing racial injustice as a priority — one of the key crises that he believes he is facing and we are all facing as a country.
So it will continue to be central to what we do, and he will of course be watching the trial closely.
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