Press Briefing By Press Secretary Jen Psaki, April 21, 2021 | Beaufort County Now | Press Briefing By Press Secretary Jen Psaki, April 21, 2021

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Press Release:

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room  •  Washington D.C.  •  April 21  •  12:29 P.M. EDT

    MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

    Q:  Hi, good afternoon.

    MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon. Okay. Today, the President will announce that on Thursday he expects he will meet his goal of 200 million shots administered in 100 days — or under 100 days, I should say — a goal he doubled after meeting his original goal of 100 million shots by day 58 of his presidency.

    As the administration — as we work to get even more people vaccinated, President Biden will call on employers across America to do everything they can to help their employees and their communities get vaccinated.

    That includes a tax credit for small- and medium-sized businesses to fully offset the cost of paid leave for employees to get vaccinated and recover from any aftereffects of vaccination if needed, and a call for employers, large and small, to take additional steps to help get their employees and communities vaccinated.

    With that, Aamer, why don't you kick us off.

    Q:  Thanks. DOJ announced a pattern-or-practice investigation today — the Minneapolis PD on the aftermath of the George Floyd killing and verdict. Under current law, it's a high bar for convicting officers of federal civil rights crimes. Does the President think it's time to revisit this aspect of the law?

    MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, first, as the President alluded to last night in his remarks after the verdict was announced, he believes the bar for convicting officers is far too high. It needs to be changed. He's a strong supporter, as he also conveyed passionately last night, of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which does change the intent standard. Obviously, there is negotiations that need to happen on Capitol Hill, but he believes the bar is too high.

    Q:  And if I could just square that: That — that includes the federal civil rights aspect of the law as well? Or is he speaking more broadly?

    MS. PSAKI: My understanding is that's also addressed in the bill.

    Q:  Okay. And then, second — if I could just hit on briefly — he's obviously going to be meeting with world leaders today on the Climate Summit.

    What does he say to allay concerns — considering how divided Washington is, politically, on this issue — that we're actually going to — that this country is going to follow through on what he says today — what he says this week?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what he's sending — the message he's sending to the country and, frankly, to the world is that he feels that the climate crisis we're facing around the world — and certainly in this country, as the world's largest emitters — is so significant that under — within 100 days of his presidency, he is convening the world's largest economies to have a discussion about that.

    And he is going to put — put actions in place, as well. Obviously, he's put in place a number of executive actions. And he'll announce — we'll have more specifics to announce in the coming days about what targets we are setting here in the United States.

    And I understand what you're asking me is, "What happens in 2024?" Right?

    Q:  Correct.

    MS. PSAKI: Or is that what you're asking me?

    Q:  Yes.

    MS. PSAKI: Well, that's a long time away, but the President has every intention of getting reelected and certainly ensuring that he is implementing policies where climate — addressing our climate crisis, putting Americans back to work, go hand in hand, which is absolutely his desire and his commitment and will be a part of his continuing agenda.

    Go ahead.

    Q:  Thank you, Jen. You just called on Congress to pass the George Floyd bill. President Biden did; Vice President Harris did the same last night — said it's a key priority.

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    Why should people have confidence that President Biden will be able to win over Republican support for the George Floyd bill when he hasn't been able to do so on his other legislative priorities?

    MS. PSAKI: Like the American Rescue Plan that he passed into law and —

    Q:  He hasn't been able to — he didn't get Republican support for that.

    MS. PSAKI: He didn't, but he certainly has support from the American people. And about 80 percent of the — almost — it's more than 70 percent of the American people.

    I will say, Kristen, that, look, the President doesn't believe that he alone can pull the George Floyd Act — Policing Act across the finish line. That is going to be up to Congress. And, right now, there are negotiations that are happening; there are leaders on both sides that are having those discussions.

    The President obviously advocated, as you alluded to, last night in remarks he delivered after the verdict. And we are also — have been advocating — our senior leadership has been advocating for this on the Hill, including in direct conversations with members. We're in close touch with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate leadership, who are working towards this goal.

    This encompasses many offices in the White House, including — of course, the President talked about this quite a bit during his meeting with the CBC last week — but also our legislative affairs team, our public engagement team, the Department of — the Domestic Policy Council and their leaders are deeply engaged. And we're also in regular contact with the nation's civil rights leaders, who are also advocating for this.

    But I will also say that there are times — and this is true in diplomacy, but also true in legislating — that we need — the best strategy is to provide the space for those conversations to happen privately, and that's our — part of our objective.

    Q:  And I understand you're citing the fact that public polling showed there was bipartisan support for ARP. But in order to get the George Floyd bill passed, you need 60 votes.

    So, I guess, the question is: Why should people have faith that the President will be able to get 60 votes to get the George Floyd bill passed?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what I was trying to convey — but let me try again — is that the President alone cannot pass the George Floyd Policing — Justice in Policing Act into law.

    Q:  But how does he see his role in getting the George Floyd bill passed?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, his role is to work with leaders in Congress, as he did — as he has; being in touch with leaders in Congress in the Senate and House; also having a discussion with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, many of whom are playing important and prominent roles in getting this legislation across the finish line.

    Our — he's also asked members of his senior team — whether it's the legislative team, the Domestic Policy Council, his Office of Public Engagement — to work with outside organizations, civil rights leaders, and others to inqui- — to work together to put pressure on Congress to move forward.

    He used the opportunity last night to deliver remarks. And I will say: As he's preparing to — as he's thinking about what his Joint Session speech looks like next week, he has every intention of lusin- — using that as an opportunity to elevate this issue and talk about the importance of putting police reform measures in place.

    Q:  As you know, one of the key sticking points is that qualified immunity provision. Is the President willing to compromise on qualified immunity? Would he back a bill that didn't include qualified immunity?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think the stage we're in now is that leaders on the Hill need to have discussions among themselves about where they can find agreement.

    And often, those discussions, just like they do — it is the case in diplomacy — the best strategy, the most effective strategy is to allow for space for those conversations to have — be happen privately. Once they — once they come to agreement — and we're certainly hopeful they'll do that — we'll have to take a look at what that looks like.

    Q:  Thanks, Jen.

    MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead. Go ahead, Kristin.

    Q:  Thank you, Jen. Just to follow up from the other Kristen's line of questioning.

    MS. PSAKI: Sure. The "Kristins" in the front row.

    Q:  (Laughs.) I know. We were laughing about that.

    When President Biden spoke with George Floyd's family yesterday, he promised that he would do everything he could to get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed. So would that potentially include supporting getting rid of the filibuster if he can't get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate?

    MS. PSAKI: The President's view remains the same, which is that he believes there should be support from Democrats and Republicans to put in place commonsense, long-overdue measures to reform our police and justice system. And he believes rebuilding trust among communities is something that Democrats and Republicans should support.

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    There are conversations that are happening now that involve Democrats and Republicans, and he wants to leave the space for that. So he doesn't believe that having a discussion about the filibuster is constructive to that at this point.

    Q:  Okay. And two questions on immigration. Is President Biden potentially open to doing immigration reform through reconciliation?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, this is another area where the President looks both at history and al- — and al- — past history and also recent history, and sees that there has been bipartisan support. There is bipartisan support, for example, on the DREAMers and moving forward there. And he believes that modernizing our immigration system and putting in measures in place to address that is something that should warrant bipartisan support.

    So his view is that, right now, this should not be — that the conversation should not be about a reconciliation process; it should be about moving forward in a bipartisan manner.

    Q:  And so, I mean, these members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that President Biden met with yesterday, they said that, "We need to find any other form and avenue to achieve as much as we can, and that can include reconciliation." So, I guess, can you at least confirm that that did indeed come up during their meeting yesterday?

    MS. PSAKI: That members of Congress raised this issue?

    Q:  No, they were saying that President Biden raised this issue and that he at least expressed some degree of support for it?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, I guess I can articulate what the President's point of view is and certainly what his intention of conveying in any private meeting was, which is that he believes there should be bipartisan support.

    Of course, members are going to propose a range of mechanics for moving things forward. But his view is that the conversation right now should be — should not be focused on reconciliation; it should be focused on finding a bipartisan path forward.

    Go ahead.

    Q:  Thanks, Jen. You mentioned Republicans and Democrats negotiating this on Capitol Hill.

    MS. PSAKI: Immigration or —

    Q:  I'm so sorry. Immigration was on my head — my mind, and I meant George Floyd —

    MS. PSAKI: No, no. It's okay. I just wanted to make sure I was answering the right question.

    Q:  No, no. On the George Floyd Act, over this issue of police reform: Is there — does this White House see this as the George Floyd Act, all or nothing? Is there room for Republican proposals like the one from Senator Tim Scott?

    MS. PSAKI: Of course. This is — this is going to be a discussion. And a lot of the conversations right now, as you know from covering this, are happening between Democrats like Senator Cory Booker and like Senator Tim Scott. And they're going to have to decide where they can find agreement moving forward.

    Ultimately, the President believes, as he conveyed quite passionately last night, that we need to put in place police reform measures. They're long overdue. And, certainly, the events of the last few weeks elevate this as an issue we should be adj- — adapting — or not "adapting to" — should be addressing as a society.

    So we know that democracy in action means there are negotiations, there's compromise. We'll see what that looks like. But our objective here is to stay in close touch through senior members of our White House team, through the President himself; to be helpful and constructive and get feedback as needed, but also to leave space for those conversations to happen.

    Q:  Because you mentioned the negotiations on the Hill as a separate entity from this White House. Will — could you just elaborate on what you just said — the President's involvement and senior staff's involvement?

    We've seen the President get involved in negotiations on infrastructure, on COVID relief. Will he get involved in something like police reform? On what level?

    MS. PSAKI: He had a high-level conversation with members of the Congressional Black Caucus just last week. And this was a prominent part, an important part, of that conversation. And I wasn't intending to send — so I appreciate you asking — I wasn't intending to convey that it was separate; it's not separate.

    But there are conversations that are happening between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. We are staying abreast of those. We are certainly engaged with a number of those members at a range of levels in this White House — including at the President's level, but also from leaders in the legislative team, from leaders of his Office of Public Engagement, and from leaders from — of the Domestic Policy Council.

    [ ... ]

    Read the full transcript HERE.



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