Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, April 5, 2021 | Beaufort County Now | Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, April 5, 2021

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, April 5, 2021

Press Release:

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room  •  Washington D.C.  •  April 5  •  1:37 P.M. EDT

    MS. PSAKI: Okay. All right. Just one update for all of you at the top.

    The President is always — is obviously quite focused on the American Jobs Plan that he just announced last week. As you all know, he's already had two bipartisan congressional meetings on infrastructure in the Oval Office, and he plans to continue speaking with leaders from both sides of the aisle to get their input, either on the phone this week or when they return. He looks forward to welcoming members to the Oval Office again.

    And this work is being supported, of course, by the Jobs Cabinet. Many of you may have seen members of the Jobs Cabinet out over the weekend, speaking on your airwaves directly to the American people.

    And the Jobs Cabinet members have also been active and engaging with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, and they will continue to play that role over the course of the coming weeks and months.

    So, Jobs Cabinet members to date have made 56 calls to the 28 Democrats and 28 Republicans who are the chairs and ranking members on relevant committees. They have held — we've held briefings with the entire House and Senate invited. The House briefing had 124 representatives on, including 31 Republicans.

    Senior White House officials have briefed bipartisan working groups in both chambers, including the group of 20 senators and the Problem Solvers Caucus. And as I noted, the President looks forward to welcoming members when they return next week.

    With that, Alex, go ahead.

    Q:  Great, thanks. I have a couple of questions on the infrastructure and jobs plan, and then one item for immigration.

    MS. PSAKI: Okay.

    Q:  To start, the jobs plan has been receiving opposition from both the left and the right. On the right, this weekend, Senator Roy Blunt said that it would be an easy bipartisan win if the bill were more narrowly focused. So why not reduce the bill down to just infrastructure and take out planks like the care workers and the electric vehicle aspects?

    And then, in addition to that, on the left, Senator Joe Manchin said today that he can't support a 28 percent tax increase on corporations. So is the White House open to lowering that? He said the highest he would support is 25 percent.

    MS. PSAKI: Well, first, on the infrastructure question, let me say that some Republicans — who have been vocal — think investing in water systems and replacing pipes so Americans can have clean drinking water is not infrastructure, but the President does.

    Some don't think investing in high-speed rail is infrastructure; the President does. Some believe building charging stations to support America's electric vehicle future is not infrastructure; he believes it is.

    Some don't believe that America's broadband capacity, which is one third of the American — of American — the American people, I should say, don't have access to broadband, and improving those lines and expanding that access is not infrastructure; the President does.

    Some believe that addressing the issue of America's supply chain so that we're never again at the mercy of China or any other nation is not investing in infrastructure; the President disagrees.

    Some don't believe that rebuilding schools so that they're safe and asbestos-free isn't investing in infrastructure; the President disagrees.

    And finally, some don't think that building a support system to take care of elderly parents or kids with disabilities at home so people can go back into the workforce — some of those 2 million women who have left the workforce during the pandemic — some think that that is not investing in the infrastructure — our workforce of this country that are the backbone of this country; the President disagrees.

    But, with all that being said, he is — welcomes their ideas, hopes he puts them for — hopes they put them forward. And he looks forward to having conversations with members of both parties about how to address the long-outdated effort to update our infrastructure.

    Q:  And then on Manchin: Is the White House open to reducing the corporate tax rate?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, first, the President felt it was responsible to propose a way to pay for his proposal. That's exactly what he did. He knows some members think it's too big. Some think it's too — too small. Frankly, there have been folks who have come out on both sides, which we fully expected. He knows that some will come forward with different ways to pay for this package, and some may have views that it shouldn't be paid for at all.

    So we fully expect that from Senator Manchin and other members, and we expect the question of how to pay for the package, if we should pay for the package, to be part of the discussion moving forward.

    Q:  So the White House is open to that conversation?

    MS. PSAKI: We're open to hearing ideas and proposals from members, and we encourage them to put them forward.

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    Q:  Okay. And then, on immigration: We released a poll earlier today that suggests that 25 percent of Americans — only 25 percent — approve of the way that the President is handling the situation at the border with respect to unaccompanied minors. So does this poll suggest that the President needs to reevaluate his approach to that issue?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, if I read the poll correctly, it also had 59 percent of Americans believing that unaccompanied children should be treated safely and be protected in that way. And 65 percent supported the reunification of families.

    There's no question this is a difficult challenge, and the President believes he was elected to address hard problems. And his focus, right now, is on expediting processing at the border, opening up additional facilities, addressing the root causes, and restarting programs to incentivize kids from applying from within their countries. So that's his focus right now.

    Q:  So is the issue just a messaging issue then? I mean, how do you explain the fact that Americans are not in favor of what the President is doing at the border?

    MS. PSAKI: I'm not sure that's an accurate depiction of the poll, given that there was — about one-third of the people who replied didn't have an opinion at all. So -

    Q:  Forty percent said that they did not approve though.

    MS. PSAKI: Fair. But also, a three — one third said they had no view.

    So I think that, right now, our focus is not on looking at the poll; it is on implementing solutions, which is, no question, to address what is — what we view as, no question, a difficult challenge and hoping that we can ensure we are protecting these kids; we are continuing to reassert to the region "the border is not open." The majority of people — of adults who come to the border are turned away. Continuing to implement programs in the region, whether it's working with them to address root causes or working with them to restart programs that can help kids from — apply within country.

    That — we feel those are the ways we can help address what is, no question, a challenging issue.

    Go ahead.

    Q:  Thanks. First, I want to ask about the budget. What's the holdup on releasing it?

    MS. PSAKI: We expect it to be soon. It's not the full budget, as you know. But just for clarity purposes, it's a kind of discretionary guidance. But we hope it to be soon — that it will be soon. We expect it to be very soon. I don't have a timeline on that quite yet.

    Q:  Well, every previous White House has released at least a budget blueprint or an outline, abbreviated budget by the end of February. So what's the holdup here? Why is the delay now stretching into April?

    MS. PSAKI: Well there's no question, as we talked about during the transition, that we dealt with some impactful intransigence from the outgoing political appointees. We had some cooperation from the career staff, but we didn't have all of the information that we needed.

    As you all know, we also don't have a budget director. We have not had a budget director confirmed. We have now an acting budget director, which is an important step forward. But, again, we expect it to be soon. And as soon as we have a timeline, we will make sure you all know.

    Q:  I also wanted to ask you a question about Major League Baseball. The League decided to move its All-Star Game out of Atlanta. That's something that the President said he supported before. Does he then agree with their decision to move that game out of Atlanta because of the voting law?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, I wish I had had this with me on Friday because I got asked a question, and there's some help — what I thought would be helpful context. And I know you probably don't have the transcript in front of you.

    So when the President was asked during an ESPN interview last week, he was asked the question: "Last week, Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director said that he would look forward to discussing moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta in the wake of Georgia's governor signing into law a bill passed by the Republican-led state legislature to overhaul how its state elections are run. How do you view this possibility of moving the All-Star Game out of Georgia?"

    And he said, quote, "I think today's professional athletes are acting incredibly responsible. I would strongly support them doing that."

    So he was not dictating for — what Major League Baseball should do, that they should — dictating they should move the All-Star game. That is — was their decision. They made that decision. And as he stated earlier, he certainly supports that.

    Q:  So he does support the decision to move the game then?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, he supports them being able to make the decision and respond to what their players ac- — you know, asks are, given many of them are impacted, of course, by these laws.

    Q:  Okay. And then just -

    MS. PSAKI: This law.

    Q:  — one more on vaccines. So there's a report over the weekend that Governor DeSantis, in Florida, had been dealing with some sort — some sort of improper dealings with the supermarket chain, Publix, as far as distributing the vaccine. So did those reports give the White House any pause in working with Governor DeSantis in the vaccine program?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me say that — for those who weren't following this in Florida — one of the concerns we've had as we've watched the data is that 17 percent of Florida's population is African American, but less than 7 percent of vaccinations have gone to African Americans in the state.

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    That's one of the reasons that we opened four FEMA sites in Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Orlando. And these sites disproportionately serve communities of color. So we've been closely watching this data and these statistics, as we would in any state across the country. And we took these specific actions for that purpose.

    We are not going to hurt the people of Florida just because of the steps or actions of leadership. And we will continue to take actions to ensure that the vaccine is equitably distributed.

    Go ahead.

    Q:  Just to follow up on the baseball All-Star Game, I know that you made the point that he did not dictate the League move the All-Star game out of Georgia, but he likes to say the words of a president matter; he said he would strongly support if players in the League wanted to do that. And they did it. So does he think that the PGA should move the Masters Tournament, that begins this week, out of Georgia?

    MS. PSAKI: I'm not here to call for anyone, on behalf of the President or the Vice President or anyone, to take steps in reaction to the law in Georgia. The President was asked a direct question, and the context of the question was also around the League meeting to discuss this exact issue, and he answered the question.

    Q:  So, then, should we believe that if PGA Tour players, who are arriving in Augusta this week or today to register for the tournament, if they got together and decided — or talked about not participating, that is something he would strongly support? Or is there a difference between the way he sees -

    MS. PSAKI: I'm sure you will ask me that question — or him this question. But our focus is on doing what we can to advocate for making voter — voting easier and more accessible around the country. And that's where our efforts are going to be from the White House.

    Q:  Before the President said that he would strongly support moving the All-Star game out of Georgia, did he consider the economic impact? Because the Cobb County Tourism CEO is saying they're going to lose $100 million in lost business activity, 8,000 hotel rooms. Did he think about that before he said he would strongly support the move?

    MS. PSAKI: Again, he was doing an interview. He was given the context, as I just read out to you in full detail, of how the question was asked, and he answered the question.

    Q:  Okay. On immigration, 171,000 migrants were caught at the border in March. That's up from 100,000 in February. If the trend continues, do you have a sense of how many migrants the United States can handle this month?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, first let me say that there have been numbers that have been reported out there. CBP has not released their final numbers; we expect that to happen later this week. And for full context, there are numbers that, when they release them, will be out, like you cited — some version of what you cited. But those are reflecting of people coming, and they — we should also be reflecting — and I hope I'm encouraging people to do this — people who are turned away. Because again, single adults, based on your own reporting and everyone's reporting, continue to be — the vast majority continue to be turned away at the border.

    I don't have any predictions about numbers that will come. We're obviously taking steps, as I addressed in response to Alex's question, to address the root causes, put in place programs that people can utilize to apply from in-country, send a clear message the border is not open and that we're turning away the majority of adults when they come to the border.

    Q:  There is a separate report that — speaking about the adults, there are 1,000 "got-aways," mostly in Arizona — people who are seen, detected, but they're not chased because authorities are so busy processing the families. The Washington Post is reporting that some of these people are carrying drugs. Has the administration maybe reached out to Mexico to try to stop the flow of drugs or help stop the flow of drugs into American communities?

    MS. PSAKI: That's always a part of our diplomatic conversations, certainly through the State Department and other entities within the government. I'm happy to check on that specific reporting. I had not seen that report before I came out here.

    Q:  Okay. Thank you.

    [ ... ]

    Read the full transcript HERE.



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