Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Chris Meagher En Route Detroit, Michigan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Detroit, Michigan
1:55 P.M. EST
MR. MEAGHER: All right. So, we have a couple things at the top here.
First, on COVID, an important update on our progress in vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds: By the end of today, 2.6 million children are on their way to being protected from COVID-19. That’s approximately 10 percent of all kids in this age group.
Twelve states are already at or above 10 percent of this group vaccinated.
With our kids program just hitting full strength only 10 days ago, we’re already seeing that an effective rollout is helping parents and families across the country breathe great sighs of relief.
This isn’t by accident; it’s thanks to the President’s war-time footing against the virus to ensure that the country was prepared to administer these vaccines.
We’re at nearly double the pace of vaccinations this week compared to last week. Vaccinations are available at more than 30,000 locations around the country. That’s up from 20,000 last week.
Importantly, as we gear up for the holidays, we want to remind people today that if you get your kid vaccinated this week, they’ll be fully vaccinated by Christmas.
The second thing, as you know, we are headed to Detroit, Michigan, to visit General Motors’ Factory ZERO for its grand opening as the company’s first all-electric vehicle assembly plant.
At Factory ZERO, the President will meet with GM CEO Mary Barra, UAW President Ray Curry, and the auto workers building an electrical vehicle future.
They’ll tour the plant, learn about how it’s changed since it opened first in 1985, and see the work being done in Detroit to manufacture the new Hummer EV and other electric vehicles.
The President will then deliver remarks where he recognizes the important role of Detroit and union auto workers in ensuring America wins the competition for the 21st century.
Everyone knows that the future of the auto industry is electric. The President will reiterate a question he has posed before: Will America lead or fall behind in the race to win the future?
President Biden answered this question on Monday. With the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, his Build Back Better Agenda — we’re going to win the competition for the 21st century.
While China has been leading the race by manufacturing more than twice as many electric vehicles as the United States over the last decade, the President’s agenda will kickstart new batteries and parts production.
These historical investments will create good-paying union jobs to grow and sustain the middle class. Not only that, but the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will advance our national security by strengthening our domestic supply chains.
You might have seen Brian Deese and Jake Sullivan wrote in an op-ed in my hometown paper, the Detroit Free Press, today, “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is,” quote, “part of the President’s vision for 21st century American industrial strategy — a framework to strengthen the nation’s supply chains and rebuild our industrial base across sectors, technology, and regions.”
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will bolster America’s global competitiveness and once again place cities like Detroit at the heart of the American industrial strategy.
And just, finally, a point of personal privilege: I am a Michigander. I’m from Metro Detroit. My dad is a General Motors lifer; he worked there for 40 years. I went to Michigan State. I worked for Governor Whitmer. And I am truly excited to be going to General Motors today. So, thanks for indulging me in that.
Q Congratulations —
MR. MEAGHER: Aamer.
Q — on your illustrious return home.
MR. MEAGHER: Thank you.
Q You should make it a regular pattern flying home this way.
So, does the President have any thoughts on the move by the House Democrats today on Paul Gosar and the censure?
And, specifically, is there any concerns about removing him from committees? You’re not going to always be in power. Are you setting a bad precedent going forward?
MR. MEAGHER: So, what I would say about that is, you know, obviously, the President believes that there’s no place in our political system and our institutions for violence.
And I think, you know, when you’re looking at what the House is doing today, when you’re looking at the discussions taking place on the Hill, you know, it’s ironic that people on the other side of the aisle are willing to step up and give their colleagues a hard time for voting for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and unwilling to say anything when he promotes violence on social media.
You know, we need more bipartisanship in the House, on the Hill, and in our politics. That’s what the President sought to do in this Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. That’s what he’s going to continue to push in our political system.
Q On EVs, in the Build Back Better Plan, there’s tax incentives for American-made electric vehicles as well as union-made. This isn’t sitting well with Canada. Prime Minister Trudeau is coming tomorrow. What is the President going to tell the Prime Minister about this? And how does this go along with sort of the broader idea that the auto industry is supposed to be integrated in North America?
MR. MEAGHER: Well, you know, the President, when he took office, promised to rebuild the backbone of this country, and that’s the middle class. He’s long said that the middle class built America and that unions built the middle class. He’s supporting providing workers the opportunity to organize for good jobs, good wages, and good benefits.
There’s a history — a long history of using tax credits to incentivize choices, and that’s true here. They’ll lower the cost of EVs by $12,500 for a middle-class family. They’ll bolster domestic manufacturing supplies across the country. And they’ll position America to outcompete the world when it comes to EVs.
When it comes to Mexico and Canada — excuse me — in the roadmap for a renewed U.S.-Canada partnership, President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau announced a vision for sustainable and inclusive economic recovery that strengthens our respective middle classes, ensures people have good jobs and careers on both sides of the aisle.
There’s going to be ample opportunities — there are ample opportunities that already exist to work with Canada and Mexico on collective approaches to supply chain resilience, a shared vibrant North American economy, and we’ll work together to address those issues related to public procurement.
Q Why should a GM worker — you know, Tesla workers also work in America, and they have families to feed. Why are you giving an incentive to a General Motors electric vehicle versus a Tesla vehicle?
MR. MEAGHER: Well, part of — a big part of the President’s climate strategy is about jobs. And he believes that you can do both: You can move forward in pushing an economy that will think about the impact on climate while also producing jobs and — and creating good-paying union jobs to make those goals, to make those EV plugins around the country.
And so, that’s, you know, what he’s going to talk about, in part, today.
Q And, Chris, on a separate topic, the President sent a letter to the FTC today. How is his letter today any different from what the White House letter was a few months ago? It — what — how is this moving the ball forward on that? And does it reflect the fact that he just doesn’t have many options on gas prices at all?
MR. MEAGHER: Yeah, so, as you mentioned, earlier this morning, he wrote a letter to the FTC Chair, calling her attention to the mounting evidence of anti-consumer behavior. I think — you know, if you read the letter — he noted that as stock dividends are up, as supply has gone down, prices haven’t gone down.
And so, you know, the FTC has authority to consider whether illegal conduct is costing families at the pump, and he believes that they should do so immediately. Even as refined fuel costs go down, prices at the pump have continued to rise.
You know, if the gap between refined fuel costs and pump prices were at typical pre-pandemic levels, we’d be looking at prices at the pump that are 25 cents less per gallon.
So, you know, the President is going to do everything in his control — within his control. I’d say all options are on the table, and we’re going to continue to examine those options.
Q How is this — how is this any different from the letter that he sent — or I guess it was one of his advisors who sent it — a couple of months ago? I just — what difference does it make to do it now, other than there’s a lot of political pressure on him over gas prices?
MR. MEAGHER: Yeah. Well, I — again, I would reiterate the — as the letter noted, you know, we’re seeing a trend where stock dividends for these companies are going up, supply is going up, and there have not been any changes in the prices.
This is a letter from the President of the United States. We’re closely and directly continuing to monitor the situation. And we’ll continue to communicate with the FTC to crack down on illegal pricing and continue to engage with countries and entities abroad, like OPEC, on increasing supply.
Q Chris, to follow up on that, are you suggesting that —
Q Just one more on that — sorry, Jacqui — just one more on that same idea — can you update us on the President’s thinking with regard to strategic oil reserves?
And can you confirm whether or not President Xi asked him to make that release during their call the other day?
MR. MEAGHER: So, I have nothing to announce or forecast when it comes to the SPR. We’re looking at all the tools in our arsenal, as I said. We’re concerned about the high — the impact of high energy prices on consumers, especially as we enter the cooler months.
I’m not going to get any further into, you know, the readout with China on Monday, but we’re going to look at all the tools in our tool chest.
Q Chris, on China: The President yesterday had sort of a strange response to a question about the Olympics. He might not have heard the question or — it’s unclear what he meant. So, I was wondering if you could clarify what he intended to say in the gaggle.
MR. MEAGHER: So, I don’t have any update for you on the U.S. position. Just as we said that yesterday, just as I’m saying it now: The President was not providing an update in his answer last night, and that’s all I got for you on that one.
Q The President is going to be hosting a couple world leaders tomorrow at the White House. Jen said last week that there would be a press conference, and there’s been a press conference at every one of the eight Three Amigos Summits that has happened since the history of the summit began. Can we expect a press conference with the President tomorrow?
MR. MEAGHER: So, I would expect something similar to what you saw in the Quad. As you know, he’s going to be holding bilats with both of the leaders tomorrow. There will be pool sprays at the top of each of those and then the North American Leaders’ Summit, where we’ll have a pool spray at top of that.
Just a little bit more on the summit: It’s the culmination of 10 months of work to revitalize North America as a platform that is both critical to our domestic economic success, as well as a partnership that can play a critical role in resolving regional and global challenges.
Since day one, the United States has reaffirmed the importance of these regional relationships. And we’re looking forward to meeting with them tomorrow.
Q I mean, I would — I guess I would just press for having a press conference. And I guess I would wonder, if Jen said that this was going to happen, if there’s longstanding precedent of this happening, and the most recent data point is yesterday where you guys had to clean up not only this Olympic comment but his comment on the timing for the Fed and his Taiwan comment, is the worry that you don’t want the President taking questions? And if not, I think the best way to satisfy that would be to have the President out there tomorrow.
MR. MEAGHER: I appreciate that. Like I said, there will be pool sprays at the top of each of the meetings tomorrow. You know, as you know, the President often takes questions throughout the course of the day, throughout the course of trips, throughout the course of his day at the White House.
I’ll bring your request back. And we’re looking forward to meeting with AMLO and Trudeau tomorrow.
Q Chris, I wanted to follow up on Jeff’s question real quick. It sounded like you were suggesting that the FTC has enough to act on. Are they poised to take some sort of action here?
MR. MEAGHER: So, that’s a good question. You know, I think they do have some authority under Section 6(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act to begin an open study investigation to obtain data on how companies set gas prices, as well as data on actual pricing.
You know, I’m not going to speak for the FTC. I would direct those questions to them. But there are some — that’s an example of something that they could do.
Q Have they indicated to you when that action might happen — when we might hear an announcement of that opening up?
MR. MEAGHER: I don’t have — I don’t have any response to read out on that, but I’m happy to go back and ask.
Q Thank you. And I also wanted to follow up — there were some reports as we were taking off about OSHA suspending implementation of the vaccine mandate. I haven’t had a chance to read too much into it. Is that true? What’s the White House reaction to that? Do you plan to fight that in court?
MR. MEAGHER: I didn’t catch that either, so I’ll have to go back and look into that a little more. I can say, as we’ve said, DOJ is rigorously defending the OSHA rule in court. We’re confident in the congressionally provided authority to protect workers who are considered to be in grave danger.
To that end, I’d say the notion that 760,000 Americans have died, that around 1,100 continue to be killed by COVID every single day would represent a grave danger to workers.
And our message remains the same: that nothing is stopping businesses from taking action to protect their employees. And so, we encourage businesses to step up and continue to take that action.
Q On yesterday’s CBO score, real quick — just wanted to get the White House response to this criticism that the White House is dinging the CBO score before it’s even official. There was some back-and-forth with Bates yesterday on that and discussion over whether in fact he was slighting CBO, the gold standard for scoring.
What’s the view of the White House in terms of letting that breathe on its own? Or do you expect that the estimates will line up when all of the sections, all the titles are finished?
MR. MEAGHER: Yeah, I mean, I think Andrew explained it pretty well yesterday. And even after his comments, you know, moderate members of Congress sort of backed that up with their statements that, you know, what we have been saying is backed up by economists, what we have been saying is backed up so far by what’s been released by the CBO, and everybody seems to mostly be on the same page.
Q Chris, you know, the White House made a point that this summit tomorrow is the first since 2016, turning the page from Trump’s tenure and the importance of the relationship. But, you know, just speaking to Aamer’s point, I mean, a lot of the concerns that Canada has is protectionism, particularly (inaudible).
I mean, how does the administration kind of, you know, speak to that when there are serious concerns from the Canadians about the use of American — the auto industry helping America and hurting a very key partner of the United States?
MR. MEAGHER: Well, I think, as we’ve said, the summit illustrates our efforts to revitalize North America as a platform for economic success. There are ample opportunities that exist to work with Canada and Mexico on collective approaches to supply chain resilience in a shared vibrant North America economy.
We’re working together to address issues related to public procurement. You know, they’ve announced a vision for sustainable and inclusive economic recovery that strengthens our respective middle classes and ensures people have good jobs and careers on both sides of the border.
Q Can I ask about the Vacancy Act? Any more that you can provide on that? You know, with the 200 — roughly 200 positions, you know, what kind of disruption is that going to cause? What’s being done?
MR. MEAGHER: Yeah, thanks for asking. So, we started this administration with more appointees in acting positions than any administration in history.
This was intentional, because we knew confirmations would take a while. And while we needed to have — and we needed to have values aligned and highly competent leadership in place.
That said, we have announced more candidates than any administration in history at this point in time, but unfortunately, we have had the slowest confirmation process in history. Right now, we’re tracking to be lower than even Donald Trump was at this point in his administration.
But each agency has gone position by position to ensure that wherever we don’t have Senate-confirmed leadership, we have appointed designated senior leaders who are prepared to perform the functions until we nominate and confirm senior officials.
I would note, you know, especially in the foreign policy space — whether it’s folks at the State Department or ambassadorships — you know, many of these nominees are being slowed down intentionally by GOP senators and for no reason other than pure politics. And so, we’d encourage them to get out of the way so that these people can be confirmed and start the important job of representing America’s interests abroad.
Q And, Chris, speaking of appointments — based on the President’s comments yesterday, can we expect a Fed nomination chairmanship this weekend?
MR. MEAGHER: I appreciate that question. I think what I can say is that the President will likely make a decision before Thanksgiving. And he continues to engage with his senior economic team. But I don’t have much more than that.
Q Can you tell us who he is consulting exactly for — in these deliberations, and what is important to him in this? What is his critique of the Fed right now? And what is he looking for in the next leader?
MR. MEAGHER: I appreciate the question, Jim. I’m just not going to get more into the process leading up to the announcement
Q I got one on a totally separate issue. We saw, this morning, that from April of 2020 through April of 2021, the country suffered more than 100,000 overdose deaths. More than 60 percent of that is believed to be due to fentanyl. A, did President Biden talk about, you know, Chinese manufacturers, criminal syndicates potentially, you know, exporting fentanyl to the United States, and the efforts of the Chinese government to tamp down on that? And then, B, what type of actions can we expect from the President to address this epidemic?
MR. MEAGHER: Yeah, well, as you mentioned, he put out a statement this morning. I’d say, first and foremost on this, it’s important to remember that these numbers represent real lives lost. And this administration grieves with the family members, with friends and neighbors across the country who have lost loved ones to the overdose pandemic — epidemic.
The President has made it clear that addressing addiction and the overdose epidemic is an urgent priority of his administration. That’s why we have taken significant steps to address it, including removing barriers to prescription medication for opioid use disorder, providing funding for harm reduction services, announcing a new overdose prevention strategy last month that will work on — build on this progress.
He also called for a historic $41 billion investment for national drug program agencies, a 670 million increase — dollar increase over the fiscal year 2021 — enacted level — to increase funding for prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery services. And I think his budget is a good example of how this is a priority for the administration.
Q Will he talk about this with President Obrador López tomorrow? Obviously, China is a major fentanyl exporter but as are Mexican cartels.
MR. MEAGHER: That’s a good question. I don’t have anything to preview for you on that conversation specifically.
Q I’ve got one more. Just curious to see the White House’s reaction to this report in Politico from last night, which basically insinuates that a lot of the problems in Afghanistan were not due to intelligence failings, but failings by State Department leadership.
MR. MEAGHER: To be quite honest, I haven’t seen that report. I’d probably direct you to the State Department. I know DOD is about to have a press briefing too. So that might come up there.
Q Chris, D.C. is going ahead and lifting its mask mandate. I know you guys put a statement out yesterday that it’s not going to apply on the White House campus. But are you disappointed that cities are taking the step to sort of roll back requirements before they hit the guideposts that the CDC put out?
MR. MEAGHER: You know, I think that city leadership, state leadership are doing what they feel is right to protect their citizens, to keep their citizens safe. As you mentioned, the White House is following the CDC guidance, especially when it comes to workspaces, and we’ll keep our masks on at the White House.
Q Thanks, Chris.
MR. MEAGHER: All right. Yeah. Thank you, guys.
2:17 P.M. EST