Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, June 3, 2021 | Beaufort County Now | Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, June 3, 2021

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Press Release:

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room  •  Washington D.C.  •  June 3  •  12:56 P.M. EDT

    MS. PSAKI: All right. I have a couple of items for all of you at the top, and some charts. We love charts in here.

    In today's encouraging report, initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to their lowest level and below 400,000 for the first time since the pandemic hit. This is just the latest evidence that President Biden's economic strategy and vaccination plans are working. While weekly data can be volatile, since taking office, average claims have fallen by about 50 percent, which you can see in this chart, over the course of time, and by more than 100,000 in last — in the last month alone.

    And earlier this week, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development — the OECD, as it's commonly known — one of the leading bodies in analyzing economic growth around the world, increased their projection for U.S. economic growth this year to 6.9 percent due to the strength of the American Rescue Plan and our pandemic response to get Americans vaccinated and lift our economy out of the crises that we inherited.

    In fact, the United States is the only major industrialized nation to have its growth projection through 2025 revised upward.

    We also learned earlier this week that manufacturing activity in May was near its highest level in more than 15 years.

    Okay. I also wanted to note, which many of you saw this morning, that our Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber, Anne Neuberger, who's been here a couple of times, released an open memo to corporate executives and business leaders urging them to take immediate steps to address the threat of ransomware. Obviously, this is in light of the attack this week — the ransomware attack this week, and the one from just a few weeks ago.

    The federal government, under the leadership of President Biden, has been stepping up to strengthen the nation's defenses against cyberattacks, but we can't do it alone. Business leaders have a responsibility to strengthen their cyber defenses to protect the American public and our economy.

    The most important takeaway from the recent spate of ransomware attacks on the United States, Ireland, and Germany, and organizations — other organizations around the world, is that companies that view ransomware as a threat to their core business operations, rather than a simple risk of data theft, will react and recover more effectively.

    So, our Deputy National Security Advisor laid out a small number of highly impactful steps that private-sector companies can take to harden their cybersecurity. We've outlined them here. And again, it was in the memo that she put out just this morning, and that's something we will encourage — continue to encourage companies to do.

    Finally — lots of news out there this morning — as you all know — and many of you were probably on this call — Jeff Zients and Jake Sullivan announced the President's strategy for global vaccine sharing and their allocation plan for the first 25 million doses to be shared globally.

    So, just a couple of highlights from that:

    First, having successfully secured enough vaccine supply for Americans, we're donating excess — donating surplus U.S. vaccine supply and encouraging other countries with surplus supplies to do the same.

    He's announced — the President has announced a U.S. commitment to sharing a total of 80 million doses by the end of June. So that's 25 million doses that will go out as soon as possible, very quickly. A number of those are going to even go out as soon as today. And that is five times the number of doses any other country has committed to sharing and 13 percent of the total vaccines produced by the United States by the end of this month.

    Second, we're working with vaccine manufacturers to vastly increase vaccine supply for the rest of the world in a way that can also create jobs here at home. So that — so we have all these manufacturers who have facilities that will enable us to continue to produce additional supply, even beyond, so that we can provide that to the rest of the world.

    We will also work with our partner nations and pharmaceutical companies and other manufacturers to create the kind of global vaccine production and manufacturing capacity and capabilities that can not only help the world beat this pandemic, but also helps prepare the world to respond to future threats.

    A couple of additional highlights: One, our approach today was rooted in a couple of considerations. One, ensuring vaccines are delivered in a way that is efficient and equitable and follows the latest science and public health data. Two, providing vaccines for populations across different regions and those most at risk, as well as the nations experiencing surges, high burdens of disease, or low vaccination rates.

    And finally, the President — as the President said, we will not use our vaccine supply and the doses we're sharing with the world to secure favors from other countries, and that's a value from the United States.

    So, today, we announced that we're sharing at least 75 percent of these vaccines, which is approximately 19 million, through COVAX, which will — of the 25 million, I should say, that are going out — through COVAX, which will facilitate equitable distribution to reach those most at risk. So, approximately 6 million for Latin America and the Caribbean; 7 million for South and Southeast Asia; 5 million with the African Union and Africa CDC. And we're sharing 25 percent of these vaccines with countries with immediate needs and to help surges around the world.

    As final determinations are made about additional supply and where it's going, we will provide that to all of you, but wanted to convey how we'd be approaching this and where the initial set of supply is going.

    Okay. I hope everyone had a snack.

    Alex, go ahead.

    Q:  Thanks, Jen. With the news that the Trump Justice Department sought the records of more journalists, this time from the New York Times, can you talk a bit about Biden's pledge that the practice won't continue under his Justice Department? Can you speak to, in particular, how can the President keep that promise while also making good on his pledge to uphold the independence of the Justice Department?

    MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, let me — for those of you who didn't follow as closely what Alex referenced, although I bet many of you did, this is the third announcement by the Department of Justice of attaining records of journalists during the last year of the Trump administration — so, something they're projecting publicly that happened during the last year of the Trump administration. They've also indicated that this is the last.

    As you noted, Alex, the President has made clear that, on his watch, freedom of press will be protected. He laid out core principles several weeks ago, because this is something that he is personally passionate about, and he has a long record with respect to protecting the rights of journalists.

    And as he's always been emphatic about — he was always alarmed by the way the former administration, the Trump administration, abused their power in some cases. And the career, nonpartisan, civil servants often were doing their work with great professionalism and honor and were put in a difficult position.

    So, I will say that he's always felt that it's important, as is evident by his words he shared just a few weeks ago, that we should always be refining and improving our approaches to how we approach this issue and any other issue. I don't have anything to preview for you in terms of a specific policy moving forward, but it's something that he is — that's, kind of, his principles he will approach this from, moving forward.

    Q:  Well, you said the White House had not spoken to the DOJ about this particular issue. Was it just a suggestion to the DOJ? I mean, how is this going to become codified?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, the President spoke to it himself publicly, and we're in touch at the appropriate layers of the White House and the Department of Justice. And — but certainly this is the position of the President of the United States — what principles he wants to abide by as President, and he conveyed that publicly, so it wasn't exactly in secret.

    Q:  Sure. And then, on infrastructure: President Biden tried to give Republicans an alternative to funding infrastructure. He suggested a 15 percent minimum tax, rather than a hike in the corporate tax rates. So, can you talk a little bit about how this informs his broader vision? Is this a change to his broader vision on infrastructure? And is he basically proposing that no profitable corporations should be able to avoid taxes? Is that the, sort of, founding principle of that proposal?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, on the last one, that's absolutely a principle. I will note — and I know this was a lengthy factsheet at the time — but the "book minimum tax," which is the 15 percent minimum tax, was actually in the American Jobs Plan as one of the payfor components.

    So what happened over the last couple of days and also in the meeting yesterday is that the President did a thorough review of all of the tax reforms he's proposed — many of them on the campaign. So he talked about this on the campaign. It was in the American Jobs Plan as a payfor and also is reflected in our budget that we just put out last Friday. And he looked to see what could be a path forward with his Republican colleagues on this specific negotiation.

    Now, I think it's important to step back and remember that what — the proposals about the American Jobs Plan is a historic investment in infrastructure, modernizing our nation's infrastructure, becoming more competitive around the world. He's proposed ways to pay for it. Right? Others have not exactly done the same in many capacities.

    So, this is a way for him to identify pieces that he's long been a proponent of as ways where he feels it would not violate. This would not — this would — this should be completely acceptable to a number of Republicans who have said that they — they want to leave their bottom lines, they want to leave the 2017 tax law untouched.

    So I wouldn't say it's a new approach by the President. This is in our budget. It was on the campaign. It was in the American Jobs Plan proposal. He also talked, of course, about the benefit of tax enforcement and how that could be a revenue raiser.

    But what really should stand out at this point to people is that opposing this proposal would not — would mean not only opposing raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans who've done extraordinarily well during the pandemic; it would mean opposing the very enforcement of the 2017 tax law. It would mean maybe having the view that nobody should pay — that these 50 corporations who didn't pay taxes shouldn't pay any taxes at all. And that certainly is not the view the President has.

    Q:  And one more quick one. Can you clarify the President's position on the filibuster?

    MS. PSAKI: In what way?

    Q:  Where does he stand?

    MS. PSAKI: I've said — I talked about it quite extensively yesterday. I'm happy to repeat it — and often.

    But the President's view is that he believes that there should be a path forward for Democrats and Republicans to work together to get the job done on behalf of the American public, whether that is voting rights and ensuring that more people have access to voting rights, or whether that is moving forward on other priority items for him.

    He has talked, in the past, about a move back to the talking filibuster. It shouldn't be so easy to invoke the filibuster; that is his view. But it hasn't changed beyond that.

    Go ahead.

    Q:  Jen, following up on infrastructure, quickly: The President and Senator Capito had said they aim to reconnect tomorrow. Is that going to be another face-to-face meeting here at the White House, or is that going to be happening virtually?

    MS. PSAKI: It's a great question, Monica. I think it could — I don't have a definite format for you, but it certainly could happen. They're just going to reconnect and engage. It certainly could happen on the phone.

    Q:  And is the expectation from the White House that tomorrow Republicans will offer yet another counterproposal and that that may be the final step in the set of negotiations? Or do you anticipate this will go through the weekend until Monday, June 7th, as you had noted?

    MS. PSAKI: I know everybody is excited to work through the weekend. Look, I'm not going to prejudge what Senator Capito will come to the table with tomorrow. I will leave that to her to speak to and other Republicans who have been a part of these good-faith discussions and negotiations.

    I will note that this has been a good discussion and — good, ongoing discussion where we've — we're working to find areas of agreement. We also feel there are a number of paths forward.

    Next week, the House is going to be marking up the American Jobs Plan; Congressman DeFazio will be leading that effort. There are a number of Democrats and Republicans who have talked about working together — many of you have reported on — to come up with a proposal where they can all mutually agree on.

    So, the President is looking forward to engaging with Senator Capito tomorrow; feels they've had good discussions — good-faith discussions. But we're also going to keep options open and keep a range of paths open for how we move his ideas forward.

    [ ... ]

    Read the full transcript HERE.

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