May 30, 2024

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi En Route Grand Canyon Village, AZ

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi En Route Grand Canyon Village, AZ

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Grand Canyon Village, Arizona

7:16 P.M. EDT
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  A couple things at the top.  Good afternoon, everyone.  Next week — next week marks the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act.  And today we’re headed out West, where the President will hold events in Arizona and New Mexico to highlight how his administration’s historic investments in climate, conservation, and clean energy are delivering good-paying union jobs to the American people while propelling our economy forward.
 
Over the last few weeks and even today, we have seen how extreme weather events impact the way we live day to day.  In D.C. and throughout the East Coast, millions of Americans are on alert.  We encourage everyone to stay vigilant, listen to the instructions of first responders, and stay up to date with the latest alerts and guidance.
 
And, look, President Biden understands how critical this moment is.  That is why he has already taken more actions than any prior president to address the climate crisis we face as a country and as a world.
 
He secured the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which are the largest investments in climate, clean energy, and environmental justice in our history.
 
The President’s economic agenda has already led to over $100 billion in private-sector investments in domestic clean energy manufacturing.  And one of the President’s watch — and on the President’s watch, EV sales have tripled and domestic solar capacity is on track to increase five times by next year.  That is Bidenomics at work.
 
The President has also demonstrated his leadership by rejoining the Paris Agreement on day one and sparking a clean energy manufacturing and jobs boom at home while accelerating the global clean energy race abroad. 
 
President — President Biden continues to make combating the climate crisis a core tenet of his presidency. 
 
With that, I have Ali Zaidi, as you can see, to my right — Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor — is here to share more about the President’s climate agenda and the trip that we’re heading to. 
 
MR. ZAIDI:  Great.  As Karine said, the President has been focused on mounting an all-of-government response to the climate crisis.  We see the impacts in our communities every single day.  And the West, in particular, has been feeling the brunt of this, with heat waves blanketing communities, the skies turning orange.
 
But embedded in this crisis is also an opportunity for us to bring the country together, to advance our conservation agenda, and to spark a manufacturing renaissance here in the country.  The President’s trip will demonstrate how he’s doing that. 
 
Tomorrow, he will be announcing his fifth new national monument.  It’s nearly 1 million acres.  And folks know about the 300-million-year-old cliffs that line the Grand Canyon.  What’s less known is the 300 cultural sites that make up this area.  They tell a rich and important history.  And it’s the reason why 12 tribes stepped up to request that this monument be declared.  The President is going to take action to do just that. 
 
The literal name of the monument means “where the Indigenous people roam, our ancestral footprints.” 
 
And, you know, in addition to telling this vibrant story — and it’s an important one for us to be leaning into here as a country, and the President will do that with his pen — this is also an incredibly important ecosystem in terms of climate resilience. 
 
You think about the Colorado River Basin.  It provides 40-million-people worth of water.  It supports five and a half million acres of agricultural lands. 
 
And just think about this: The 23-year-period from 2000 to 2022 represents the driest period of time recorded in 1,300 years in the West. 
 
And so, these steps are so incredibly important.  And they are against the backdrop of the President’s bold conservation agenda — an agenda he laid out in his day-one executive order announcing a goal for 30 — protect 30 percent by 2030 — the America the Beautiful goal.  And underneath that, he has now taken action on tens of millions of acres to conserve those lands.
 
In — in New Mexico, the next day, we’ll get a chance to see how the President’s historic leadership through the Inflation Reduction Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and hundreds of actions coordinated through his entire government are sparking a manufacturing renaissance across the United States. 
 
Now, just picture in your minds that two weeks ago in Belen, New Mexico, at 11:00 a.m. on Main Street, a bunch of
folks showed up as Arcosa held a job fair for the 250 folks they’re going to hire to work at this factory that’s going to manufacture wind towers. 
 
And that’s everyone from welders to maintenance and quality technicians.  This is a tremendous opportunity for the country.  We’re seeing it all across the United States — this boom in U.S. clean energy manufacturing.  One hundred factories and counting announced just to manufacture clean energy components since the Inflation Reduction Act was signed. 
 
And this happened in the — in a context.  Right?  So, folks know the Inflation Reduction Act.  What they don’t realize is all of the other actions that the President is taking to mobilize clean energy, the clean energy transmission lines that are generating the demand for this. 
 
So, the SunZia line, which is going to run from New Mexico into Arizona, has four hun- — four and a half gigawatts of capacity.  We’re going to pull wi- — wind off of those plains and deliver it to load centers. 
 
Just a couple of months ago, I was with the Vice President as we did a groundbreaking in Arizona for the Ten West line.  That was three gigawatts of capacity. 
 
Now, folks know the 1.21 gigawatts it takes to move the DeLorean.  But in real life, a gigawatt is about 750,000 to a million homes’ worth of electricity. 
 
So, just think about these two power lines that this administration has accelerated are going to deliver millions of homes’ worth of electrons, and that’s creating demand for factories like this. 
 
So, this is massive, massive progress.  And as Karine said, it builds on incredible momentum, whether it’s in electric vehicles or in solar or offshore wind.
 
The President — we went recently to Philadelphia, where an offshore wind that was unimaginable just a few years ago, where a previous administration had done everything it could to slow momentum down, where we’ve got folks — as congressional Republicans trying to pull away the incentives, put roadblocks in its way — well, under this administration, we’ve got four projects now that are greenlit for construction — remember that gigawatt? — gigawatts’ worth of capacity, millions of homes along the East Coast that will be powered. 
 
And, by the way, it’s not just opportunity for the coastlines.  It’s opportunity in — 46 states have supply chain for offshore wind. 
 
So, we’re just seeing, I think, a president unlike any that we’ve seen before, who sees the tremendous challenge on the horizon in the form of climate change; the need for urgent and bold action — and he is delivering; and the opportunity embedded in it to lift up our communities, our economy, our workers, and bring us together around our shared history that’s, by the way, hundreds of millions of years old.  And we’ll see that at the Grand Canyon tomorrow. 
 
Q    I have two questions on climate stuff.  On the monument: Will any uranium mining be allowed inside the new monument area?  Would it be grandfathered in?
 
MR. ZAIDI:  The mining is off-limits for future development in that area.  What the monument does recognize is existing rights that had been established previously, and it’s focused on preserving the historical resources in this 970- — 917,000 acres, making sure that we’re doing everything that we can on a coordinated basis, in a co-management approach, to lift up those historical resources, the ecosystem resources. 
 
But, you know, this is going to be a — I think, a limit on future development in the space while being respectful of existing rights. 
 
Q    The second issue is you mentioned some of these transmission lines, very big projects.  One big issue is permitting.  What is the administration’s next step on permitting given, you know, some steps were taken as part of the budget deal, but, you know, much more (inaudible) the administration wants?  What’s the next move on that?
 
MR. ZAIDI:  That’s a great question.  So, you know, I talked about the SunZia line, four and a half gigawatts; the Ten West line, three gigawatts.  Across the West, we’ve seen TransWest get done, Gateway South, Gateway West — all gigawatt-scale lines.  In the Northeast, the Champlain Hudson line get done under this administration. 
 
And we’ve learned a lot about how to do this the right way.  That’s why, this week, we are proposing a rule through the Department of Energy that will accelerate the permitting of lines on public lands down to two years.  That’s a massive deal. 
 
You look at the SunZia project, which has taken over a decade to get done.  We’ve learned a lot in the process.  We know how to do this in an environmentally responsible way, in a way that brings in community voices and gets the job done.  And that’s what this administration is focused on doing. 
 
Q    Ali, a quick question on the Washington Post poll today, which you probably saw, which said that most disapprove of President Biden’s handling of climate.  I mean, the gist of the story is that most people don’t really know what’s in the IRA.  And I’m hoping you can speak to what the White House is doing to sort of tackle that perception and, of course, further the — you know, the fight against climate change.
 
MR. ZAIDI:  Well, look, the United States has become the essential place to drive climate action forward.  Take, for example — and you’re talking about, you know, what’s the perception of the United States, so let’s talk about that.
 
The perception of the United States is folks have invested over $210 billion in the U.S. electric vehicle industry.  The U.S. is now the single number-one nation destination for private investment in EVs.
 
One out of every 12 vehicles that was sold was electric.  That’s 3X what it was when the President took office.  There’s twice as many charging stations as people drive down the road.  And, under this President, we’re going to get to 500,000, which means that they will become increasingly ubiquitous. 
 
And, you know, the jobs we’re talking about — again, give you the example of someone on Main Street, just two weeks ago, showing up.  This is transforming people’s lives in a fundamental way. 
 
And, you know, I think — another question I think a lot of folks had was: “Well, can we not only do this, but can we make it here in America?”  Karine talked about the massive solar deployment that’s taken place.  But think about this: We’ve expanded solar manufacturing capacity by a factor of eight, which means 8 million homes’ worth of solar panels will be produced here by the end of the President’s first term. 
 
Credit Suisse — again, what is the perception? — now says that by 2030, we will be able to supply 90 percent of U.S. demand for solar. 
 
So, you know, I think whether it’s offshore wind, where you’ve got supply chain in 46 states; whether it’s the hundred factories that are being built; whether it’s folks who can now access a $7,500 tax credit for new vehicles, 4,000 for used vehicles; whether it’s people who — you know, you spent half your money in heating and cooling costs w- — for a home energy bill, that’s now the subject of a rebate.  You can get support swapping out your HVAC system.
 
So, I think we’re making a massive difference in terms of the cost that people absorb on utility bills, cutting those costs.  We’re making a massive difference in lifting people up into clean energy jobs.  And the President’s translated the greatest risk we face into our greatest economic opportunity.
 
Q    Where is the disconnect?  You know, you’re clearly doing a lot of different things to further the President’s climate agenda and his goals.  Where do you think is the disconnect?  Why are people still saying they don’t really know what he’s doing?
 
MR. ZAIDI:  I think the signal we’re getting is that the American people — and, frankly, people all around the world — want everybody to go as fast as they can, faster and faster, picking up the pace of climate action.  That’s what the President has been focused on, right?  And it’s looking for opportunity in places we haven’t seen it before.
 
So, I’ll give you another example: In the agriculture sector, we’ve signed up 60,000 farms, 25 million acres, to take on climate-smart agriculture practices.
 
So, I think what we’re hearing loud and clear from every sector of the economy and from folks all across the country is “Let’s go faster.”  And that’s what the President is focused on: Every day, taking action, like the ones he’s going to take this week.  And, you know, we’ve got a hold firm against folks who want to take us the wrong direction.
 
And, you know, I think, whether its ways and means markup or budget discussions, we’re hearing proposals to pull away tax credits that are helping stamp “Made in America” on panels and turbines made here in the U.S.  We’ve got to fight against proposals that take us back.  And we’ve got to find a way to keep pushing on the accelerator, which is what the President is doing. 
 
Just take this week as an example — right? — moving forward on transmission, moving forward on conservation, helping open up more factories across the country.
 
Q    How much of this trip is about advertising that?
 
MR. ZAIDI:  You know —
 
Q    You know, is the — I mean, polls, you know, show that people don’t know, and the same with the economy, like —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Can I just jump in for a second?
 
Q    Yes.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we know that polls don’t tell the entire story.  That’s just a fact, right?  It doesn’t.  It’s a snapshot of time.  We know that.  You all have written about that. 
 
And I think if you look back to the midterms — right? — the midterm elections, we are in a stronger place.  This President is in a stronger place than he was during the midterms.  It’s just — it’s just true, right?
 
So, it will continue.  It will continue to build.  And as we’re implementing — right? — you think about the CHIPS and Science Act.  As we’re implementing Infla- — Inflation Reduction Act, like what — what we were just talking about — what the President’s going to do — we’ll see, I think, Americans start to feel and see what it is that we have been able to do in Washington, D.C. — some in bipartisan way — clearly, with the President’s leadership — to get those things done.
 
And that’s why we’re out — that’s why the President is going out west.  When you see these extreme weather — right? — people are truly, truly feeling it.  And if they see the President going out there, making these announcements, showing and talking to directly — he’s our best messenger — to talk about what he’s doing on climate change, it’s going to — I think it’s going to matter.
 
But, again, a snapshot in time.  The polls don’t tell the ent- — entire story.  And so, we’re going to continue to talk about it.
 
MR. ZAIDI:  And the — you know, I’d add to that: More and more as — and I remember being on the campaign.  Folks were saying, “Hey, you know, this is really great in concept, but what will it look like in reality?” 
 
Well, in reality, now we’ve got 400 school districts that have electric buses, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  We’ve got the Postal Service, which shows up in every neighborhood in America, going fully electric. 
 
We’ve got power plants in Indiana that were shuttered that are now turning into battery storage, power plants in Wyoming shuttered that are now turning into nuclear, power plants in New Mexico shuttered turning into clean hydrogen power plants, power plants on the East Coast now turning back on to be the place where we plug in offshore wind. 
 
You’ve got Dalton, Georgia, where they used to make sofas.  That went away.  Now they make solar.
 
Weirton, West Virginia, where they used to make steel.  That went away.  Now they’re making these batteries. 
 
So, that visible difference, I think, is showing up.  It’s transforming. 
 
And I do think part of the value of lifting up the progress the United States is making is there’s a virtuous cycle.  We’re now the number one destination for electric vehicle investment.  The President has made the U.S. the magnet for private capital investment.  Lifting up that story helps attract more investment into our communities and into our workers. 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just got to say — I just got to say this one thing because we’re talking about the economy, we’re talking about what the President is doing.  You think about the Inflation Reduction Act.  You think about the American Rescue Plan.  You think about some — CHIPS and Science Act.  And you have Republicans in their own district and states who have — did not vote for any of this and are taking credit for it.  Right?
 
So, clearly, what we — what the President has done is good — right? — even when you have Republicans saying — taking credit for something they had nothing to do with. 
 
And so, look, we’re going to continue to do our jobs and continue to talk about it, continue to talk to all of you about it.  And the hope is that we’ll get our message out. 
 
Go ahead.  Sorry, I talked (inaudible) —
 
Q    On electric vehicles, you know, look at the sales numbers.  They’re increasing but not that much.  Why does this administration think rhetoric and action is going to overcome consumer choice?  Because consumers aren’t choosing to buy them right now. 
 
MR. ZAIDI:  This is all about consumer choice.  The number of electric models that are available today are double the number of electric models that were available when the President took office.  And by the end of the next year, that number will have doubled again. 
 
So, one, this is about making sure folks have access.  Number two —
 
Q    But if consumers are not buying, does it matter how many models there are?
 
MR. ZAIDI:  The sales of electric vehicles — and you can look at the data —
 
Q    They’re up a little bit.  Not — not spectacularly.
 
MR. ZAIDI:  A factor of three in two and a half years is actually pretty dramatic.  One out of every twelve vehicles sold being electric. 
 
And, here, think about this.  You’ve got the largest automakers in the world who’ve made a bet in the United States.  Fifteen giga- — giga factories’ worth of battery plants that have been built in the United States, enough batteries to power 10 to 13 million electric vehicles by 2030. 
 
Look, you don’t have to take my word on consumer appetite.  Take the word of the auto sector, and follow the money.  They’re investing where consumers are going.  You look at the JD Power — we’ll send you the JD Power data.  Folks are googling electric vehicles.  They’re going to their dealerships asking about them.  The interest is at record highs. 
 
Automakers have, frankly, struggled to meet the demand.  They’re ramping that up on an aggressive clip.  And we’re seeing automakers from all around the world flock to a red-hot market, just like solar and wind and everything else, where they want to manufacture here and they want to meet consumer demand. 
 
And I think you see it in the numbers.  JD Power is a great example of the latest sales data. 
 
Q    I had a question on — despite everything the administration has done, the U.S. is not on — yet on target — on track with the Paris target.  What is the missing piece?  What else does the administration have that can give it that — to push that all the way?
 
MR. ZAIDI:  That’s a great question.  Look, when the President set his nationally determined contribution — the goal of 50 to 52 percent — his first Earth Day in office, I think a lot of folks were very, very skeptical.  I remember because I took your questions. 
 
And in the time since, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and through the Inflation Reduction Act, he’s driven a lot of the trajectory through an investment-based approach. 
 
And when you look at that, the — and there are a number of blue-chip modelers in the space, they’ll give you estimates — high 30 percent, low 40 percent, relative to that 2030 goal. 
 
And let’s remind ourselves: When we came into office, that 2030 target was looking like — something like in the mid-20s at best is where the U.S. was going to be.  So, the Inflation Reduction Act, infrastructure law gets us from those, sort of, low- to mid-20s, to high-30s, low-40s. 
 
Then you pile on top of that all of the impressive accomplishments of this President.  Hydrofluorocarbons — super-polluting greenhouse gas?  He made sure we implemented the AIM Act from day one of this administration. 
 
And then he got, through the United States Senate on a bipartisan basis, ratification of the Kigali Amendment.  Right?  That’s, on its own, like 75-, 100 million metric tons — for folks, you know, who care about the numbers — 75 million metric tons is about a percent point.  Right?  So, HFCs — another percentage point.
 
Then, you look at the methane rules.  We had a White House Methane Summit just a couple of weeks ago.  We’ve proposed now regulatory activity from Department of Transportation on those pipelines that go into cities; from the Department of Interior for oil and gas developed on public lands; and through the EPA for broader coverage of operations, including into the midstream. 
 
That rule alone is expected to deliver over 100 million metric tons of — or set of rules is expected to deliver over 100 million met- — so that’s another percentage point, maybe a percentage point and a half. 
 
We proposed rules in the auto sector, in the transport — in — in the power sector. 
 
And the ad- — and the administration is also driving, I think, tremendous action through the purchasing power of the federal government. 
 
So, the industrial sector, which has been traditionally looked at as, “Gee, that’s impossible to decarbonize steel, cement, aluminum.  We’ll never get those tons.”  Well, in this administration, we’re chasing after clean steel, clean aluminum, clean cement. 
 
The General Services Administration, which maybe folks haven’t heard of — GSA; they buy stuff for us — they’ve set standards for asphalt, for flat glass, for steel, for aluminum. 
 
So, as we’re going through the “Infrastructure Decade” — which, by the way, this is like the biggest moment for infrastructure ever — we’re buying stuff that’s clean. 
 
And we’re not the only ones that are doing it.  Thanks to the President’s leadership, we’ve catalyzed action at the state level.  Twelve states have stepped up with Buy Clean programs of their own.  New Jersey has created a production tax credit for clean cement. 
 
So, that’s how you start to stack up.  And we have — we keep the math.  We do the accounting.  We stay in touch with private sector, public sector.  And we have a line of sight to the 50 to 52 percent.  We’re on a trajectory to meet those goals because of his leadership.
 
I mean, you know —
 
Q    To meet the 2030 goal?
 
MR. ZAIDI:  Absolutely.
 
And it’s because — and, you know, the President often says, “Never a good bet to bet against America.”  I don’t think it’s a pretty good bet to bet against Joe Biden either, right?
 
He made a goal.  He set that goal.  It was super ambitious.  He has delivered legislative wins in the form of investment.  He has delivered legislative wins in the form of bipartisan action through — on the Kigali Amendment.  He has delivered legislative wins in the form of policy empowerment within our agencies.  And he has taken bold executive action in every single agency of the federal government.  And that’s driving a cascading effect of leaders at the state and local level also stepping up.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Okay.
 
MR. ZAIDI:  Thank you.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Ali, thank you so much.
 
MR. ZAIDI:  Thank you.
 
Q    Thank you.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  I just have a couple things that I do want to share.  This might be the longest gaggle, but it’s okay.  Actually, Jake — when Jake does it, it’s pretty long.
 
All right.  So, in addition to the climate and energy focus of our travel to Arizona and New Mexico, on Thursday, as you all know, we’re going to be headed to Utah, where President Biden is going to mark the one-year anniversary of the PACT Act in Salt Lake City.  He will meet with veterans and deliver remarks about the historic progress we’ve made in expanding veterans’ benefits for those who have bravely served our country.
 
And I also wanted to say a couple of words about the tragic helicopter crash that I’m sure you all saw out west.  So, the President has been briefed on this tragic incident.  He and the First Lady are praying for the families of the firefighters who lost their lives while bravely battling this fire.
 
And lastly, as many of you know, yesterday was the 58th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.  As President Biden said in Selma this past March, and I quote, “The right to vote and to have your vote counted is the threshold of democracy and liberty.  With it, anything is possible.  Without it, nothing is possible.”  End quote. 
 
This fundamental right remains under assault in the state legislatures across the country.  And even the Voting Rights Act itself has been gutted by a conservative Supreme Court. 
 
The President remains committed to getting the votes in Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act and continuing to fight to protect this fundamental right.
 
With that — anybody?
 
Q    It’s been a while, and you just brought up voting rights.  What does the White House make of the indictment against former President Trump, given the questions of how his conduct allegedly infringed on people’s voting rights?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, as — as we’ve been very clear and we continue to be consistent here: We’re just not going to comment on the indictment.  It is, as you know, being run and led by Department of Justice, which is an independent — independent department as it comes to dealing with these types of — these types of cases.  We respect the rule of law. 
 
I just laid out what the President believes and wants to see — how he sees voting rights moving forward and protecting Americans’ rights to vote, as we’ve seen across the state legislature. 
 
As it relates directly to this case, we’re just not going to — I’m just not going to comment on it.
 
Q    And one more thing.  Ukraine says it’s foiled an assassination on President Zelenskyy.  What is the White House’s understanding of the situation and the severity of the plot?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I haven’t — I saw the report.  I haven’t had a chance to talk to our National Security Council on this.  But, clearly, seen the reports, just not going to comment from here.  I’ll let the Ukrainian government speak to it directly.
 
Q    Quick question on the Fitch downgrade.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  On the which — what?
 
Q    On the Fitch downgrade. 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.
 
Q    We saw your statement after their decision.  And they were obviously pointing to political instability.  And we want to know if — you know, do you disagree with that assessment?  And do you think that decision was perhaps politically motivated?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I — certainly not going to talk to any political motivations.  We strongly disagree — right? — with Fitch Ratings’ decision.  That’s what I put in my statement.  That’s what you saw from the statements.
 
Look, over the past few years, we have — the United States has undergone a historically fast economic recovery from a deep recession, as we talk about Bidenomics and how it’s working.  And that’s what we believe, right? 
 
And we believe also the — the Fitch Ratings is based on outdated data and it is inconsistent with the progress that we see. 
 
I think what you were asking me about is how they talked about January 6th being a factor in how they — how they moved forward with their decision.  So, you know, Fitch — as an — as an area of concern with the January 6th, when discussing governance as part of the downgrade —
 
So, look, the administration has pushed forward and it has executed on the passage of bipartisan legislation to address the debt limit, invest in infrastructure, and make other investments in America’s competitive — competitiveness.
 
And so, I’m just going to leave that there.  But I’m not — certainly not going to talk to the politics of it.  We strongly, strongly disagree.  You’ve heard from our economic folks all of — all of last week, speaking and laying out why we disagree.  I just laid out why we disagree with it. 
 
And I think we believe the work that the President has done the last two years on getting the economy back on its feet — and, as you know, we’ve called it Bidenomics, because we have seen unemployment rate low, under 4 percent, which is — which has been consistent for more than a year, right? 
 
We’ve seen job growth, when we think about what — you know, more than 13 million jobs; when you think about wages being strong; when you think about, you know, vote — consumer confidence.  All of that leads to Bidenomics, and we’re going to continue to do that work.
 
Q    What have been, like, specifically, sort of, the conversations that you’ve had with Fitch since, you know, they downgraded it?  And, you know, do you have any indications that other ratings agencies are perhaps likely to follow? 
 
You know, I mean, in this case, the Secretary — the Treasury Secretary was already in conversations with them.  Can you —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as — I mean, as you just stated, Treasury regularly meets with all major — major credit ratings agencies each year as part of their process to answer questions and exchange perspective, all based on public information. 
 
So, we — we have — we engaged with Fitch and shared our strong disagreement with their methodology and how they came — came about their conclusions.  Look, but the flawed decision was ultimately Fitch’s alone to make. 
 
And so, Treasury, as I said, has had that conversation with them.  I just don’t have anything el- —
 
Q    (Inaudible) following —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals of what other — what other major credit agency — rating agency — agencies are going to do.  But as I mentioned, the Treasury Department is in regular communication with them.  I just don’t have anything more to add.
 
Q    Karine, I —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.
 
Q    I have one on Ohio, but I did want to follow on that.  You said Fitch uses — used outdated data.  And what folks have pointed to is that they’ve cited January 6th, and we’ve gone farther from January 6th then the Trump presidency.  But an alternate explanation could be twofold: one, that they foresee Donald Trump as having a higher chance of reclaiming the presidency in a couple of years or, two, that, regardless of that, they still see government spending as having increased under — and government debt having increased significantly under President Biden’s tenure.
 
I was wondering if you can talk about whether the White House or the administration needs to do — change anything in their conversations with Wall Street and if those are concerns — those specific concerns have been relayed to the administration?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things.  When I say “outdated data,” what I mean by that is, as I just laid out, what — what we see Bidenomics has done: unemployment rate, jobs growth, wage being stronger, consumer confidence.  Those are real data — right? — when you think about inflation — core inflation kind of easing, right?  And we’ve seen that consistently for several months. 
 
And so, those matter, right?  Those are incredibly important.  Tho- — that data is important.  And so, that’s part of what we see, we believe as being outdated data. 
 
Look, as it comes to — as it — as it relates to the debt limit, that’s why you see the bipartisan infrastructure legislation dealing — dealing to helping put the debt — the debt down. 
 
When you think about the Inflation Reduction Act, every piece of legislation of this President — the — the historical pieces of legislation that the President has passed — helps bring down the deficit.  Right?  And when we talk about the President being able to lower the deficit —
 
Q    Not — not the first one.  The first one added to the deficit pretty significantly.  But —  
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  All right.  (Inaudible.)  Okay. 
 
But the one — the — you hear talk about the $1 tril- — more than $1 trillion over the first two years, more than any other president in their first four years.  Right?  I mean, that’s — that’s something that the President takes very, very seriously.  And when he puts out those policies, he — he does it in a fiscally responsible way.  And so, that’s how he’s going to move forward in doing that. 
 
Look, I mean, you mentioned January 6.  They — that’s something for, clearly, the agencies to — to speak about that more — more broadly, more specifically.  But what we’re talking about is the real data that you all look at — CPI, you know.  When you look at the GDP — we saw the GDP that just recently came out that was better than we had all anticipated. 
 
And so, that — all of those — all of those pieces of information is critical and important as well. 
 
Q    On Ohio, there is a — voters are headed to the polls tomorrow.  There is sort of a proxy vote for possible changes to the constitution on abortion rights coming down the road.  I was wondering if the White House has been engaged at all there, if you have a message to voters saying —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, first, just kind of a — put it into a little bit of a historical context.  When it comes to Republican-elected officials in Ohio, they’ve been chipping away at some time at women’s rights and access to reproductive health care.  That is something that we have seen over the years. 
 
And since — as we all know, since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, their efforts to undermine reproductive rights have only escalated.  We’ve seen stories after stories about women telling their — telling their stories about what they’ve been through over this past more than a year now after — after what we saw the Supreme Court do.
 
So, ahead of a potential vote on reproductive freedom in November, which would give Ohioans a say over abortion access in their state, Ohio Republican-elected officials have called a special election to change the state’s constitutional amendment process and weaken voters’ voices.  That’s where we are today in Ohio, but also, very similarly, across — across the country. 
 
So, we, the administration — the Biden-Harris administration — strongly oppose — oppose attempts to take away a woman’s ability to — ability to access reproductive health care.  And we will continue to be loud and very clear about that. 
 
Q    The administration has revoked 500 press hard passes under the new rules.  How can this administration say it supports freedom of press when you’ve revoked a third of the press hard pa- — a fifth of the — I’m sorry, a third of the press hard passes out there?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Because what you just laid out we don’t believe to be true in what our purpose and what we’ve tried to do here.  We are trying to — what we have tried to do is return to hard pass criteria in place during prior administrations. 
 
And just to — so that, you know, folks who are — who may not know what hard passes are, they are intended to provide reporters with a regular need to access campus the means to do so efficiently to do their jobs.  And we appreciate that.  And that’s what we want to see. 
 
So, unfortunately, the absence of guidelines — hard passes had been issued to people who were not using them.  And so, creating an un- — unwieldy system and unnecessary risk. 
 
So, in fact — in fact, you’re — here is what we have been able to see is at the time we initiated this process, roughly 40 percent of hard passes’ holders had not accessed the White House complex in 90 days.  Over the last three months, what we have been able to do is we have processed more than 975.  That’s nearly a thousand hard passes renewals and applications, which is more than two thirds the number of hard passes that previously existed.  So, it’s al- — it’s also important to remember that.
 
As always, media without hard passes is going to continue to have access to the White House.  They can re- — request day passes to access the White House for briefings and events going forward. 
 
So, we think this demonstrates that we’ve led a thoughtful and thorough process that preserves robust media access to campus for everyone who needs it, whether it would be a hard pass or a day pass. 
 
And this is something that has taken us more than a year to think through.  We gave folks three months.  And, I mean, processing 970 hard passes, almost a thousand, that our, you know, poor wranglers have had to — had to — had to manage and deal with, that’s not — that’s not a small number. 
 
Q    Some of the people who had their press passes revoked are considering filing a lawsuit against the administration arguing that be re- — by requiring a Senate pass, the le- — the executive branch is ceding its authority to the legislative branch in violation of the Constitution.  Do you have a response to that?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to speak to any potential or hypothetical lawsuits.  I’m just not going to speak on that. 
 
Q    One last question.  Has the President heard anything from Special Counsel Robert Hur?  Has he been in contact with the President that you know of?  Has —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to — I’m just not going to comment on that.  The President has been very, very clear: When it comes to any investigations that the DOJ is leading, it is independent.  It is led — he believes in the rule of law. 
 
He — this is something he has said during the campaign.  He wants to give the — the Department of Justice independence, and that’s what we have done.  And that’s why we have been very consistent — whether on Air Force One, whether at the podium — to not comment and to let the Department of Justice to their job. 
 
Q    Communications between the Pentagon and their Russian and Chinese counterparts haven’t been the best recently.  Is the White House concerned at all with the drills going off the coast of Alaska?  Any sort of safety or — or other concerns?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things here.  So, the U.S. military forces actively monitor the Russian and Chinese naval patrol in the Northern Pacific.  These exercise remain in international waters and were not considered a threat.  That has been the assessment from the Department of Defense. 
 
Q    Can I just quiz you on the hard pass numbers?  One —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.
 
Q    — one more question about that.  And I’m sorry to do that.  But —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Quizzing.  Is that what it’s called now: quizzing?
 
Q    Do you have a sense: Of the 400 or so that were not renewed, how many of those are people who haven’t accessed campus and how many of those are people who are actively pursuing journalism, in whatever form, on campus?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Inaudible.)  I don’t — clearly don’t have that data in front of me.  So, we can certainly — I can check with the team and see where the — where those numbers are for those specific questions that you just asked. 
 
But I do want to just reiterate that we did this in a thoughtful way.  We gave people three months to kind of, you know, figure it out, once we put out what the — how we were going to move forward.  We’re going back to ways it was done in previous administration. 
 
And so, you know, we want to make sure that the people who need it and — and come to the White House every day have access and it doesn’t become an unwieldy process.  And so, we’ll leave that there.
 
Q    Karine, is President Biden planning to go to the ASEAN Summit in Indonesia? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we don’t have anything to preview at this time or to confirm.
 
Q    Okay.
 
Q    We’re tracking, with the fall coming up, a rough COVID season.  Is there anything you can share about what the administration is planning for — what — what we’re — what we — what’s predicted for the fall?
 
Q    Or the surge that’s happening right now. 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say what?
 
Q    Or the surge that’s —
 
Q    As we, like, stand on top of each other.  (Laughter.)
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So — okay, a couple of things there.  So, as you all know, this administration made progress — historic progress on our nation’s ability to manage COVID-19 so that it no longer — no longer meaningfully disrupts the way we live our lives.  Right?  That is something that the President made priority number one when he stepped into the administration. 
 
So, under this president’s leadership, the administration has taken significant steps to ensure continued access to lifesaving protections, such as vaccines, treatments, and tests.  And — and at the same time, we are working to ensure our nation is well prepared to manage any new risk — kind of to your question — on — posed by COVID-19 and other viruses in future — in the future through HHS and launched the Office — as you all know, the Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy at the White House. 
 
The office will coordinate across the federal government and implement actions related to preparedness for and respond to known and unknown biological threats or pathogens that could lead to a pandemic or to significant public-health-related disruptions in the U.S. 
 
This works includes monitoring COVID-19 trends and impacts and providing information to protect the nation’s public health.  So, we are going to continue to be vigilant here in doing the work — the historic — and continuing the historic progress that the President has done since he’s been — since he’s walked into office.
 
All right.
 
Q    Will the President be doing any sort of, you know, public service campaign to get people to get vaccinated or is he past that?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we have the Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy, as I just me- — mentioned, at the White House.  Clearly, that’s going to be an important place where it’s going to kind of deal with any- — anything that’s related in COVID or potential any — you know, be prepared, essentially, for any- — anything that might come our way. 
 
I don’t have anything to read out or lay out on the President specifically speaking on COVID.
 
All right, guys.  My voice is — is — is going.  But I’ll see you guys on the ground.  Thanks, everybody.
 
7:57 P.M. EDT 
 

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2023/08/07/press-gaggle-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-and-national-climate-advisor-ali-zaidi-en-route-grand-canyon-village-az/