Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, November 19, 2021 | Beaufort County Now | You've all seen the President's statement we issued this morning on the House passing his Build Back Better Agenda for the middle class, which came just three weeks after the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal also passed.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Press Release:

    James S. Brady Press Briefing Room  •  November 19, 2021  •  12:38 P.M. EST

    MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon. Okay, a couple of items for you today. Not much going on around here, obviously. You've all seen the President's statement we issued this morning on the House passing his Build Back Better Agenda for the middle class, which came just three weeks after the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal also passed.

    And since this came through today, I wanted to just highlight and note for the American people a couple of the big benefits that are in this package that we're looking forward to moving through the Senate.

    Today, families pay an average of $8,600 per year on pre-K. Under the President's plan, many of them - most of them - will pay $0.

    The average family pays 13 percent of their income on childcare. Under the President's plan, no middle-income family will pay more than 7 percent of their income. Two parents with one toddler earning $100,000 per year will save more than $5,000 per year.

    Under the President's plan, a family of four earning $80,000 per year will save nearly $3,000 per year - or $246 per month - on health insurance premiums.

    With this plan, countless Americans will save countless Americans thousands of dollars by negotiating prescription drug prices - for example, limiting cost-sharing for insulin products to make sure they're no higher than $35, starting in 2023. Insulin is essential for many people around the country. It will cap it at $35. That is a big deal.

    And one of the biggest financial burdens on families is housing costs, as we're seeing around the country. Build Back Better will take historic steps to reduces those costs by helping to build, rehabilitate, or preserve 1 million homes.

    Finally, it also reduces the deficit by $112 billion over 10 years. And several economists and analysts from leading rating agencies like Fitch Moo- - Fitch Ratings and Moody's Analytics have made clear the President's agenda will not contribute to higher prices. Their findings echo 17 Nobel prizewinners in economics who have already stated they believe the Build Back Better Act will "ease longer-term inflationary pressures."

    Also wanted to provide a brief update on COVID. Obviously, a lot going on in our efforts to take on the pandemic.

    This morning, as we all saw, the FDA authorized boosters for all American adults six months after primary vaccination.

    The CDC will make the final clinical recommendation, we expect, this afternoon. This is a very encouraging step to further protect Americans, especially as we enter the winter months.

    If you're one of the approximately 100 million people in this country already eligible for a booster, our recommendation is that you get the extra protection afforded by a booster as soon as possible. They are widely available across the country and accessible.

    Thanks to the President's operational planning since August, over 32 million Americans already have their booster, and boosters are available at over 80,000 locations.

    Second, we're making strong progress protecting kids, with already 10 percent of 5- to 11-year-olds getting their first shot.

    Kids that have gotten vaccinated this week will be fully vaccinated by Christmas. And we're continuing to make a big push to reach parents and kids through visits to one of our 30,000 sites for kids by the First Lady, innovative partnerships with DC Comics, and a White House visit from Ciara earlier this week.

    Third, we've shipped over 250 million vaccines to the world - more than all countries combined - and made an announcement of a historic opportunity for mRNA manufacturers to receive funding and resources from the U.S. government to produce an additional 1 billion doses next year.

    Last, over 80 percent of 12-and-older Americans have gotten one shot. This is a huge number. We're continuing to push for more vaccinations.

    And finally, our view - the recent polling will show you - that vax requirements work. And recent polling indicates 60 percent of companies are moving forward with a vaccine requirement, which is a big step forward.

    Just another little update of something happening here today. Today, first week in the job, our Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu and the seven Cabinet members and other agencies responsible for implementation as outlined in the executive order - Departments of Commerce, Energy, Transportation, Labor, Interior, Agriculture, EPA, and OPM - held their first meeting.

    Also attending was Brian Deese, who is co-chairing the Task Force, senior staff from across the White House - Gina McCarthy, Susan Rice, Louisa Terrell, Evan Ryan, and Jason Miller.

    I have certainly invited him to speak to all of you, and he has conveyed to me he is putting his head down and getting to work, as the President has asked him to do, but will eager - be eager to speak to you probably sometime after Thanksgiving.


    Finally, one note. We gave a lengthy update - don't worry, I will not do that again - on supply chains yesterday. Today, we have new data from Freightos, a leading freight indicator, that I just wanted to highlight that shows shipping prices have declined by almost 25 percent over the past two weeks - specifically the price for shipping - of shipping a container between China and the West Coast, which has declined for two straight weeks.

    And, of course, this reduction in prices and shipping costs helps ensure that we are cutting costs for consumers as well.

    I guess last thing here is the Week Ahead. We did announce earlier this week that the President and First Lady will travel to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to celebrate Thanksgiving - or "Friendsgiving," as some people call it - with service members and military families - thank them for their service - as part of the Joining Forces initiative. That is on Monday.

    On Tuesday, the friend - the President, the First Lady, the Vice President, and the Second Gentleman will participate in a service project in Washington, D.C.

    And later that day, the President and the First Lady will travel to Nantucket, Massachusetts, where they will remain for the Thanksgiving holiday.


    Aamer, why don't you kick us off?

    Q Thanks. Now that the bill has passed the House, can you talk a little bit about the game plan in the days and weeks ahead to get it through the Senate?

    And, I guess, in the media, does the President have plans of talking today or over the weekend to Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema?

    And just, if you could basically let us know what's the plan going forward to get this through to the endzone.

    MS. PSAKI: Well, the President is absolutely committed, of course, to getting this through the Senate, signing it into law, and ensuring these impacts, these cost-cutting measures are put in place into law as soon as possible.

    A number of these steps, including cutting childcare costs, could have an impact early next year if - once we get this through the Senate.

    We have been - we have remained in touch, even as we've been working to get it through the House, at a high senior staff level - senior White House officials - with Senator Sinema, Senator Manchin, other members of the Senate, as we know that is the next important step here. And that will continue. And I'm sure the President will engage when that is - when it is the right moment to do that with them as well. But I don't have anything to predict for you over the next couple of days.

    Q The President announced today his intention to nominate two new members to the Postal Service Board of Governors. Is he looking to remove Postmaster Dejoy?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say we are, of course, deeply troubled - continue to be deeply troubled, as many Americans are, by the early reporting on Postmaster General DeJoy's potential financial conflicts of interest and take serious issues with the job he's doing running the Postal Service.

    As you know, the President does not have the authority to fire the Postmaster General; it's ultimately up to the Board of Governors by majority.

    So what was announced today is the President's intention to nominate two leaders to the bipartisan United States Postal Service Board of Governors to replace outgoing Governors Ron Bloom and John Barger. Both Derek Kan and Dan Tangherlini are experienced public servants.

    And certainly, again - just to reiterate - it's up to the board to make a determination about leadership, but we have continued concerns about - about the Postmaster General's leadership.

    Go ahead.

    Q Yes, I wanted to ask a few questions about oil. Has the U.S. heard back from China, Japan, South Korea, and India on a coordinated release of emergency stockpiles?

    MS. PSAKI: I don't have any update to provide to you today. I would reiterate for those who weren't following this as closely: We have been in touch with a range of officials and leaders from countries - including China, including other countries around the world - that are oil producers about ensuring there is adequate supply out there, but I don't have any update for today.

    Q Okay. Is Biden considering using authority under a 2015 budget bill to declare an emergency and to limit or stop exports of oil for up to a year?

    MS. PSAKI: We have a range of options at our disposal, but I don't have any new ones to introduce to all of you today.

    Q And finally - I'm sorry - any message for OPEC ahead of its December 2nd meeting?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, our message continues to be - privately as well as publicly, of course; it's always good when it's consistent and important - that we want to ensure that the OPEC member countries and OPEC as an organization meets the demand needs that are out there with the adequate supply. That is something we've pressed them on in the past.

    And I don't have any new conversations privately to convey, but I'll see if there's more we can report to all of you about the meeting.

    Go ahead.

    Q We know that the President was at Walter Reed earlier today. Can you provide an update on how the physical went and the colonoscopy as well? And what information will you be releasing?

    MS. PSAKI: We will have a comprehensive written summary that will be released to all of you later today as soon as it's finalized. I'm not going to get ahead of that. It's, of course, done by medical experts, which - as is appropriate. But we will release that out to all of you later this afternoon.

    As I noted in a tweet - I hate to reference that, but here we are: Earlier this morning, the President had a conversation with Vice President Harris as well as Chief of Staff Ron Klain at around 11:35 this morning. He was in good spirits. He resumed his duties as President at that point in time.


    There was also two sets of letters that we released publicly around - one was at 10:10 a.m., the other was at 11:35 a.m. - about the transfer of power under the 25th Amendment and the resumption of power. So - but that's a reflection of how he is and how he is feeling.

    Q Okay. And then if I could, the vaccine mandate for the civilian federal workforce is set to take effect on Monday. Can you provide us an update on what the implementation is going to be like? And are there any concerns about possibly having staffing shortages because of that?

    MS. PSAKI: There are not. Let me give you just an update on this overall - again, for people who haven't been paying as close attention. So, November 22nd is the deadline - not 12:01 a.m. that morning, but by the end of the day. But we don't see it as a cliff. We'll be providing more guidance in days to come.
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