June 29 11:27 A.M. EDT
Hi, everyone. Okay. Good morning. Welcome to our trip to La Crosse, Wisconsin.
President Biden is traveling today to make the case directly to the American people that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework is a major step forward for our country and the largest infrastructure investment in nearly a century. It will grow our economy, create good-paying jobs, and position America to compete with the world and win the 21st century.
A couple of Wisconsin specifics: Nearly half of — nearly half of Milwaukee's 160,000 water service lines are made of lead, and the plan's investments in water infrastructure will replace them all.
The infrastructure deal will also, as you know, help make broadband access a reality for people across the country.
There's 82,000 Wisconsin children who didn't have access to reliable Internet in the midst of a year of remote schooling. This will help change that.
It will also help address the bridges and roads, of course, across Wisconsin that need rebuilding as a core part of the Infrastructure Framework.
The place we're going today — the place where the President will deliver his remarks — is the La Crosse Municipal Transit Utility, which was rewarded — awarded a federal grant in 2018 to purchase two electric buses, charging stations, and related infrastructure. This is part of a broader strategy of the City of La Crosse to achieve a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
Oh, and just a little full-circle note for all of you: The buses are being manufactured by Proterra, whose Greenville, South Carolina, facility the President visited back in April.
I also wanted to note that, yesterday, the House took an important step in advancing the vision the President laid out with the American Jobs Plan for growing the economy for all workers by advancing two bipartisan bills: the National Science Foundation for the Future Act and the Department of Energy Science for the Future Act.
He was pleased to see the Senate pass crucially important investments in our domestic strength through the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act with massive bipartisan support, and he's heartened to see the House pass bipartisan investments in science and R&D.
Another update on our doses going overseas: We are proud to announce that 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine will begin to ship to Bangladesh today. And we expect we may have more announcements today, as well, for additional shipments.
You may have also seen our announcement — short announcement — that the President and the First Lady will be traveling to Surfside, Florida. Let me give you a little bit more detail about what they're planning to do there. They want to thank the heroic first responders, search-and-rescue teams, and everyone who has been working tirelessly around the clock, and meet with the families who have been forced to endure this terrible tragedy — waiting in anguish and heartbreak for word of their loved ones — to offer them comfort as search-and- rescue efforts continue.
And they want to make sure that state and local officials have the resources and support they need under the emergency declaration approved by the President for Miami-Dade, Florida.
The visit is being, of course, closely coordinated with officials on the ground to ensure it does not draw any critical local resources from the ongoing search-and-rescue operations or have any negative operational impact.
And, obviously, I know you're going to ask about meetings with local officials; we don't have any updates — any details on that quite yet. If any develop while we're on our trip today, we'll make sure those are available to all of you.
Great. Thanks, Jen. Two-question subject areas. First, Afghanistan.
The top general in Afghanistan said the escalating violence could lead to a deadly civil war. Does the administration have any concerns about that possibility, given the withdrawals? And what will it do to minimize that possibility?
Well, first, I would note that the President met with the leaders of Afghanistan just last Friday, and he reiterated our commitment to working with them on not just humanitarian assistance, but security assistance and our commitment to continue to have a presence on the ground, which we vowed to do in the beginning, and we will — we remain committed to do.
I'll also note that the decision that the President made to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, it is consistent with his view over the last 20 years about the war. But he also made that decision because it was made clear, given the timeline set by the prior administration, that if we did not withdraw our troops, U.S. men and women would be facing fire on the ground. And that was not something, as the Commander-in-Chief, that he felt was acceptable, and hence we are on this timeline we're on by September.
There has been assessments out there, as you know, by the intelligence community and others. I would refer to them on those assessments of the situation on the ground.
And then, secondly, Tucker Carlson said that the NSA is spying on him. Is the administration aware of any espionage or listening efforts on U.S. citizens by the NSA, and is Tucker Carlson one of them?
Well, the NSA, as I think you're well aware — I'm not sure everyone is aware — everyone on this plane is aware, I should say — is an entity that focuses on foreign threats and individuals who are trying — attempting to do us harm on foreign soil. So, that is the — their purview. But beyond that, I would point you to the intelligence community.
Jen, on infrastructure: So, Leader McConnell said he was satisfied that the President has de-linked the reconciliation package and the bipartisan agreement, but Speaker Pelosi said this morning that the House isn't going to vote on the bipartisan bill until the Senate passes that reconciliation package. So the question is: Is the White House urging her to publicly de-link those two issues like the President did over the weekend?
Our focus is on doing — the President's focus is on doing exactly what he's doing today and what leaders in Congress asked him to do, which is to go out to the public and make clear the benefits of this package to the American people, whether it's on roads and railways and bridges, or components of the package that there's less known about, including making broadband available; making sure we're doing environmental remediation, something that would help lower-income communities quite a bit; making public transit available.
That's exactly what they expect him to do, what they want him to do, and what the President is going to spend his time doing. He looks forward to and is eager to sign both bills into law, and he will leave it to leaders in Congress to determine the order and the sequencing.
So there's no message coming from the White House to Speaker Pelosi to publicly "de-link," quote unquote, those two issues?
I think the President made clear that he is going to work his heart out getting both bills across the finish line, and that's what he's going to do, and work closely with leaders in Congress to get that done.
Jen, can you describe the ongoing outreach to progressives today?
You know, to what extent is the White House worried about the idea that all the Democrats in the House won't be a "yes" on the reconciliation bill and the compromise (inaudible)?
Sure. Let me give you a rundown of some outreach. It will include progressives but other outreach as well.
We have been — the White House was in touch with all Democratic chiefs of staff in both chambers yesterday. The White House also had calls with over 60 Democratic and Republican members, chiefs of staff and staff directors in both chambers. This included calls with a diverse — diverse range of ideologies ranging from members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to members of the Problem Solvers Caucus.
We hosted a call today with all the Democratic — we are hosting a call today, I should say — with all of the Democratic Senate communications directors on the package. And today, Steve Ricchetti, Louisa Terrell, and Shuwanza Goff will meet with a range of progressives to moderates within the Democratic House Caucus, as well as Republicans.
In terms of progressive groups — which is a little beyond this but I think of interest to all of you — senior White House staffers addressed over 100 progressives groups through a call organized by Build Back Together, focused on the historic progressive wins in the bipartisan framework, including with respect to job creation; climate and clean energy; removing all lead water pipes — something there isn't a lot of information out there on, which we're trying to make sure people understand the details of; and connecting all communities to broadband.
We also, separately, addressed 60 additional groups yesterday on a call convened by a different outside organization.
Point being, we have every senior member of the White House working to communicate directly with the public, with groups, with members of Congress about the components of this package and our continued commitment to also get the reconciliation package across the finish line.
What does that say about the fact that this Democratic White House has to do that kind of outreach to members of its own party? I mean, is the President in any way disappointed by the fact that he has to engage this way with fellow Democrats?
The President sees that as his job and, by association, all of our jobs. And part of what his objective is, at this point, is to move beyond — and all of our objectives — move beyond the process. That's an important component of it, but make sure we are clearly articulating what the benefits are of these packages, why they can help people, how they can help people in the country, and that's something we're going to do in partnership with members around the country.
Jen, Bernie Sanders was on NPR this morning talking about the fact that this infrastructure bill doesn't include, you know, enough for climate. I know you've said that there are climate provisions in there, but, you know, what do you say to Bernie Sanders when he gets on, you know, national radio and says that?
Well, first, we say to Senator Sanders: You're an important partner, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to get this and the reconciliation package across the finish line.
What we also have been conveying is this — the President sees this bipartisan package on climate as a down payment. It has a number of key important priorities for anybody who is focused on addressing the climate crisis, including the President, included in it. And that includes environmental remediation. It includes an enormous investment in electric vehicles, electric buses — something that will not only help communities across the country, you know, better move around, but it will also help our climate. And he is also committed to continuing to work to get more in the bi- — in the reconciliation package, something that Senator Sanders is certainly running point and leading on.
I guess my other question has to do with the reconciliation package. To what degree, given the amount of effort you're having to put into getting the compromise through — the infrastructure package through — has there any — has any real work been done on looking at what you can put into a reconciliation package and win support for?
I mean, how far is this — you know, is this effort underway? And who's leading that initiative?
Well, Senator Sanders is leading that initiative, of course, in the Senate.
I would say White House leaders — the same White House leaders: Steve Ricchetti, Louisa Terrell, others who are — Shalanda Young, obviously, as our — as our Acting OMB Director. They have already had meetings. They had a meeting — I think, last week, we announced — on the Hill to discuss the next steps and the paths forward. They will have continued meetings over the coming weeks.
We have a Jobs Cabinet. We also have a Families Cabinet of members of our — of our administration who we expect to also be out there communicating about the huge benefits of the Families Plan — something that will be central to the President's push in the reconciliation package as well as his budget that he's also put forward.
We also fully recognize that we're at the early stages of this process, and I think anybody on the Hill will tell you that. And there are important discussions that need to happen between a range of Democrats about priorities, what can be in the package, and what they would support.
We'll, of course, be engaged in that, but those need to also happen among senators.
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