James S. Brady Press Briefing Room Washington D.C. June 28 12:41 P.M. EDT
Hi, everyone. Happy Monday. Okay, just a couple of items for you at the top. As you all know, last week, the President and a bipartisan group of senators announced a historic infrastructure deal that would put Americans back to work with the biggest investments in our roads and bridges since the creation of the Interstate Highway System; connect every American to broadband; make unprecedented strides in climate and clean energy leadership; eliminate all lead drinking water pipes for the biggest investment in clean drinking water in our history; and make the biggest investment in rail since the creation of Amtrak.
And, no surprise, there is a lot of interest and excitement out there. The National Governors Association, as well as individual governors on both sides of the aisle, like Gretchen Whitmer and Charlie Baker, have come out in support. The U.S. Conference of Mayors, the AFL-CIO, the United Steelworkers and IBEW, the American Society of Civil Engineers, numerous Tribal communities, the Business Roundtable, the Rural Broadband Association, the National Association of Counties, and many others.
The President will travel to Wisconsin tomorrow to keep actively making the case for this agreement and getting it over the finish line.
And he's also going to continue to make the case for his American Families Plan, which we're also fighting to pass through the two-path approach that we've been discussing with all of you.
Also, I wanted to note for all of you that, today, thanks to the President's commitment to playing a leading role in ending the pandemic everywhere, 2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will begin to ship to Peru from the United States, and 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine will ship to Pakistan.
Over the weekend, we announced we are sending 1.5 million doses of Moderna to Honduras. And over this week, we'll be able to announce more places that the United States will be sending our doses.
Finally, I wanted to make sure that you all saw that, today, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced the release of nearly $4 billion in funding to the Puerto Rico Department of Education, including $2 billion from the American Rescue Plan, to help the island's continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Secretary Cardona is in Puerto Rico today meeting with students, government officials, and education leaders.
Josh, why don't you kick us off.
Great. Thanks, Jen. Senator McConnell today said that President Biden should tell Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer to de-link the partisan — bipartisan infrastructure bill from any reconciliation measures. Does President Biden intend to tell congressional leaders what to do on this matter?
Well, first, let me just reiterate: The President looks forward to signing each bill. He's long supported the two-track approach. And his view is that the American people are most interested in what we're going to do to deliver for them: how we're going to rebuild their roads and their railways and their bridges; how we're going to make sure they have access to broadband; that we're eliminating lead from drinking water.
That's where his focus will continue to be — the case he'll make when he's in Wisconsin tomorrow. He will, of course, work very closely with the leaders in Congress — Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi. I know Leader Schumer has noted that he plans to bring up both the infrastructure bill and reconciliation in July. But he'll continue to work closely with them and other members.
And then, secondly, Senator Murphy of Connecticut says he's worried about how the administration used the Constitution's Article 2 authority for the warplane strikes in Iraq and Syria. Can you explain the administration's view on Article 2 and, kind of, how it's thinking about that matter?
Sure. Well, first, let me say: As a matter of domestic law, the President took this action — the airstrikes that were announced yesterday by the Department of Defense — pursuant to Article 2 authority to defend U.S. personnel.
The targeted strikes were directed at facilities used by Iran-backed militias involved in these ongoing attacks for purposes including weapons storage, command logistics, and unmanned aerial vehicle operations.
So, Article 2 — the self-defense, the defense of the United States and our interests — is our domestic justification for the strikes announced yesterday.
Just to follow up on that: So, has President Biden been in touch with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Leader Schumer following his clarification that he issued over the weekend?
You're not talking about the airstrikes. You're talking about infrastructure.
I was, like, "Huh."
We have been in touch with a range of Democrats and Republicans, including leaders of both — of the Democratic Party in both houses, I should say, about the path forward, certainly.
Pelosi kind of drew a really hard line on this. I mean, she just said, flat out, "We will not take up the bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill."
So, does the White House feel like they need to get Pelosi on board with this approach that President Biden is taking?
Look, I think the most effective role — most impactful role, I should say — that the President thinks he can play — and I think it's safe to say that leaders in Congress — Speaker Pelosi, senator — Leader Schumer, and including Republicans who support its infrastructure bill want the President to play — is to make the case to the American people, to the public about how officials are working together to deliver for them.
And that's exactly what he's going to do tomorrow. That's exactly where his focus will be. And certainly, we're working in close coordination with leaders in Congress, but it's up to them to determine the sequencing of the legislation.
Just a quick follow-up on Florida. Does the President plan to go to Florida? Has he spoken to any of the victims' families so far?
Well, let me first give you just a little bit of an update on what we have been doing over the last several days.
As you know, because we issued a readout yesterday, the President sent his FEMA Administrator down to Florida who had a meeting with Governor DeSantis and others while he was in Florida. The President spoke to him and received a briefing afterwards.
In addition, we have more than 50 personnel on the ground coordinating closely with state and local officials, and providing assistance. FEMA has deployed an Incident Management Assistance Team, as well as building science experts, structural engineers, and geotechnical experts to support search-and-rescue operations, and a mobile command center.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also being mission assigned to provide technical assistance for debris removal. And two FEMA-supported search-and-rescue teams are involved in the response to the devastating incident. And additional FEMA National Urban Search and Rescue System teams are on alert to support personnel already on the ground.
In addition — last item — FEMA is coordinating with the state to support the opening of a Family Assistance Center, and is providing communication support to ensure information is available.
In terms of a visit by the President, we always assess — we always want to ensure that we're not pulling from local resources. We don't want to draw resources that are needed in the ongoing search-and-rescue operations and efforts. We will remain in close contact with officials on the ground.
And certainly, if there's a trip to preview or announce to all of you, I will — I will be ready to do that.
Go ahead, Major.
The statement this — the President released Saturday — what was the need for that? And did the President, earlier, miscommunicate? Or did Senate Republicans simply misunderstand on the infrastructure deal?
Well, I will say, Major, that I think that the statement was quite lengthy and quite detailed in the President's name — in the President's name and the President's voice.
And a couple of the points he made in there quite clearly were that when he — when — last week, when he had the press conference, as you all know, he understand — and he indicated he refused to sign the infrastructure bill if it was sent to him without his American Families Plan and other priorities, including clean energy.
That statement upset some Republicans who did not see the two plans as linked, as you all know — who are also hoping, as you all know, to defeat the Families Plan and do not want to see their support for the infrastructure plan as aiding passage of the Families Plan.
As was noted in his statement, he left the impression that he was issuing a veto threat on the very plan that he had just agreed to, which was not his intent. And he wanted to make clear that was not his intent.
And in the statement, he also reiterated his intention to move forward with advocating for using the bully pulpit, making phone calls, working his heart out to get the American Families Plan through.
And his view is that you can do both and should be able to do both, and there can be disagreement even as he's pursuing the American Families Plan.
So he miscommunicated?
I think he made pretty clear, Major, in his — in his statement this weekend that — that we issued this weekend that he did not send a — that was not the message he intended to send.
And you have said a couple of times the President is going to tell the country what's in it, but even those who have supported it say, "We'd like to know more about it." I mean, when are the details going to be really available for those, for example, who live in Flint, Michigan, or any other city in America that does have a lead pipe situation to know exactly what's going to be spent, when it's going to be spent, and the core legislative language that, when I used to cover Senator Biden, he would be very much focused on?
Well, what would you like to know? Settle in. I will — I will share every detail that anyone would like to know about the package.
But you're right, Major. As you know, it needs to now be written. It needs to — that is a key component. As the President said also and as we have conveyed from here, there is work ahead. And that is the important work ahead — is writing this legislation, moving across the finish line.
I will say — just because you asked me about the specific component of the package, just to give a little bit more detail there — it will put work — it will put Americans to work replacing 100 percent of our nation's lead water pipes so that every single American child at home or in school can turn on the faucet and drink clean water.
And right now, as you may or may not know, up to 10 million homes and 400,000 schools and childcare centers get their water from lead pipes and service lines. So, that is what it will aim to address in that specific category.
[ ... ]
Read the full transcript HERE.
You can visit a collection of all White House posts by clicking HERE.