James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:16 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Today, the Biden-Harris administration announced that manufacturers of all 10 drugs selected for negotiation have decided to participate in the Inflation Reduction Act’s Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program, another major step in President Biden’s fight to lower healthcare costs for seniors and families.
Last year alone, 9 million seniors spent $3.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs on these 10 drugs to treat conditions like heart failure, diabetes, arthritis, blood clots, Crohn’s disease, and more.
President Biden and congressional Democrats finally beat Big Pharma and allowed Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for the first time in our nation’s history, despite every single Republican in Congress voting against the Inflation Reduction Act.
Today’s announ- — announcement builds on the work of this administration to lower healthcare costs, including capping the cost of insulin to 35 bucks for seniors, making vaccines free for Medicare and Medicaid enrollees, and saving 15 million Americans 800 bucks per year on health insurance premiums.
President Biden will continue fighting to lower healthcare costs for American families, no matter how many challenges Republicans and Big Pharma put in our way.
Finally, as you all know, we’re joined here by the Admiral — Admiral John Kirby, who is here to discuss the President’s calls this morning with some of our partners and allies to coordinate on how we are going to continue to — continue to support Ukraine and also take some of your foreign policy questions.
I should say that our conversation back in the back — (laughter) — should I call you out?
MR. KIRBY: Don’t (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible).
Q Tell us more. (Laughter.)
MR. KIRBY: She probably will.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t know. We didn’t — wasn’t sure if you knew who Taylor Swift is.
MR. KIRBY: I know who Taylor Swift is. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right.
MR. KIRBY: Apparently, she’s dating a football player.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. Yes.
Q Do you have the inside scoop on that?
Q That’s, like, the biggest story of the week, John. (Laughter.) That’s, like, the biggest story of the week.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right? That’s what we —
Q Anything you can tell us on that front would be welcome.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: On that front. Oh, you know. All the gossip here.
Q Does President Biden think it’s real? (Laughter.)
MR. KIRBY: The relationship? I — you know, in the vernacular of the National Security Council, I can neither confirm nor deny those reports. (Laughter.)
Q Will you take the question?
MR. KIRBY: I will happily take the question back to our analysts. (Laughter.)
So, look, I think you all are tracking, but — but, in case you’re not, earlier this morning, the President did convene a call with allies and partners to coordinate our ongoing support for the people of Ukraine as they defend their freedom and independence against Russia’s brutal invasion.
The President reaffirmed the strong commitment of the United States to supporting Ukraine as it defends itself for as long as it takes, as did every other leader on the call.
The leaders discussed efforts to continue providing Ukraine with the ammunition and the weapons systems that it needs to defend its territory and to continue strengthening Ukrainian air defenses as they pre- — prepare for more attacks on critical infrastructure now, certainly, but also, certainly, in the winter months ahead.
In that vein, they also talked about joint efforts to repair and harden Ukraine’s energy infrastructure throughout the winter.
Finally, the leaders spent some time discussing ways that they can align and broaden donor efforts to support Ukraine’s economic recovery as well as to work together with the global community to address the energy, economic, and food security challenges that are being caused by Russia’s war well outside of the European continent.
Joining President Biden on the call was Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada, President von der Leyen of the European Commission, President Michel of the European Council, Chancellor Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Meloni of Italy, Prime Minister Kishida of Japan, NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg, President Duda of Poland, President Iohannis of Romania, and Prime Minister Sunak of the United Kingdom, as well as the foreign minister of France, Foreign Minister Colonna.
Now, this call, of course, comes on the heels of the continuing resolution passed by Congress over the weekend — a bill that did not include funding to support Ukraine.
As President Biden made clear, we cannot under any circumstances allow America’s support for Ukraine to be interrupted.
Time is not our friend. We have enough funding authorities to meet Ukraine’s battlefields — battlefield needs for a bit longer, but we need Congress to act to ensure that there is no disruption in our support.
This is particularly important as the Defense Department seeks to replenish its stocks from the drawdown authority that it’s been giving, now almost 50 drawdown packages.
As Ukrainians wage a tough counteroffensive, as their children continue to get ripped from the bosom of their families, and as winter fast approaches, it is imperative that we help them take advantage of every single day.
A lapse in support for even a short period of time could make all the difference on the battlefield.
Just as critically, such a lapse in support will make Putin believe that he can out- — he can wait us out. And that the — that he can continue the conflict until we and our allies and our partners fold.
A strong signal of support now and into next year will make it clear to Putin that he’s wrong about that too, just like his assumptions have been wrong throughout this entire conflict.
We know that the vast majority of members in Congress support additional help for Ukraine. And we know and appreciate their statements to that effect, including those of Speaker McCarthy.
And as evidenced in today’s call, we know that the world is watching. U.S. leadership has galvanized international support and has been critical to rallying the world. American leadership remains key to ensuring that support for Ukraine continues.
So, the President looks forward to working with Congress to ensure that we make good on our commitment. And he has every expectation that Speaker McCarthy will keep his public commitment to secure the passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.
I’ll close with this. Supporting Ukraine strengthens our national security. It’s the right thing to do not just for the Ukrainian people but for the American people as well.
Countering Putin’s ability to wage war on a neighboring nation may actually prevent a larger conflict in which American troops might be needed. And it sends a strong signal to other would-be aggressors who may be considering military action and invasions of their neighbors’ territory that that sort of action is unacceptable, and they will pay the consequences. They will be held accountable by the United States and by the international community.
With that, I’ll take some questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jeff.
Q John, you said that the President is confident that Speaker McCarthy will keep his commitments. Are you concerned that Speaker McCarthy’s ability or inability to keep his job may impact that?
MR. KIRBY: That’s clearly going to be up for, you know, the — his conference in the House — in the House of Representatives to decide. That’s not something that the — that the President is going to get involved in or — or necessarily be overtly concerned about right now. I mean, he has made public commitments that he’ll support Ukraine.
I would also add, regardless of what happens in the House of Representatives, that all the House leadership is supportive of continuing to help Ukraine and the vast majority of House members on the Republican side are in support of continuing to help Ukraine.
There’s a small number of very vocal — a small minority of vocal members who are pushing back on that, but they don’t represent their party. They don’t represent their leadership.
Q Did the President addressed the chaos in the House of Representatives on his call with foreign leaders today?
MR. KIRBY: The President, certainly, talked to the leaders about the vote over the weekend and expressed to them exactly what I expressed to you — that he’s confident that we’re going to continue to have bipartisan and bicameral support up on Capitol Hill and that the United States will continue to meet our commitments.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Justin.
Q Thanks. Kirby, you said that you were looking for a strong signal of support now and into next year. Obviously, the administration’s request on the table right now is through the end of the fiscal year. Does that suggest that your strategy has now shifted to want one vote on Ukraine for the entire fiscal year? And do you have an updated package for, you know, how much money you want since we’re now kind of into that — that (inaudible) –
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, the short answer to both those questions is no. We still stand by the supplemental requests that we — that we submitted to Congress, and we’re still pushing, obviously, to have that funding granted.
Q And off that topic just a little bit, we reported that there were Taiwanese firms that are helping China develop chip factories in China. Is the U.S. investigating export — possible export control violations there?
And more broadly, if you can’t answer that, can you gauge concern that — that our domestic chips program is potentially pushing our partner Taiwan towards Beijing?
MR. KIRBY: So, while I’ve seen the press reports, I can’t confirm the accuracy of those reports one way or another. Obviously, no surprise to us that Huawei will be looking to find ways to continue illicit production of semiconductors, and particularly working throughout the PRC to do that. I can’t confirm the specific reports about Taiwan.
And then, on export controls. Again, no announcements or anything to make today. But we’re confident in the export controls that we have in place that — that they will be helpful in terms of protecting the supply chain for semiconductors here in the United States and that — look, we’re not — it’s not static. We’re going to constantly look at the regime. And if it needs to be changed or adjusted, we’ll absolutely do that in the future.
The President has been firm. You know, you’ve seen it in the CHIPS Act that he wants the supply chain to start here, not end here. And it’s got to be more resilient.
And we’re going to stay committed to being flexible in the tools we have to do that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Asma.
Q Thanks. I wanted to ask about — you know, you all have been saying that there is bipartisan support in Congress, which there certainly is for the Ukraine funding. But if you look at broader public opinion support, it has diminished from the point of when this war started — some polls showing that a majority of Americans do not contin- — support continued funding for Ukraine.
And so, I am wondering what your message is to — to that growing segment of the public and if you have concerns about that diminishing support over time amongst the American public.
MR. KIRBY: Look, I — I can’t speak to individual polls. And certainly the American people should speak for themselves.
We believe that Americans understand what’s at stake here. We believe that Americans understand that it’s not — although it is, first and foremost, about Ukraine and the Ukrainian people and their sovereignty, it is bigger than that. And the American people understand that — that there’s more at stake here than just the borders of Ukraine. It’s the vast security environment on the European continent.
And it’s the very idea of independence, which is a founding ideal in this country. If there’s one thing that all Americans, no matter who you vote for, can get behind it’s the idea of independence. That’s what Ukraine is fighting for: their right to be an independent state. It’s what we fought for in 1776.
And most Americans will also know and remember that we didn’t win and secure our independence without foreign help from abroad. Same — that’s all Ukraine is asking for. They’re just asking for foreign help and assistance to — to do this fighting. And they are the ones doing this fighting.
So, we’re going to continue to — to make the case. We’re going to continue to — to make it clear to Congress and to the American people what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
But there is so much more at stake here than just Ukraine. And, again, we think that the Amer- — the American people understand that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you very much, Karine. Mr. Kirby, I’m getting a chance after four months, so I hope I can ask just two questions.
MR. KIRBY: That’s up to Karine. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right? I mean, after that statement, maybe you just get one question.
Q So, should I combine them? What should I do?
MR. KIRBY: Just —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think you’re wasting our time, sir. Can you please ask a question?
Q So, Mr. Kirby, I had asked you about Pakistan providing weapons to Ukraine, and you said to ask a Pakistani official.
MR. KIRBY: And what did they tell you?
Q And a U.S. news media outlet published a story that Pakistan was applying — supplying critical weapons in Ukraine war and was getting huge funds from the U.S. I’m just wondering — there is so much emphasis on Ukraine war, but you’re not highlighting one of your allies just right next door who’s helping in the war.
And just combined with that, there was a huge protest — one of the biggest one — against President Biden just right outside here by the Pakistani community. The State Department was denying that Imran Khan was not removed under the U.S. But, again, the U.S. media presented documents that he was removed after President Biden’s disliking for him or something. So why is this whole confusion going on since last one year?
MR. KIRBY: Well, first of all, there’s more than 50 nations providing support to Ukraine. And typically, we allow those nations to speak to what they’re doing. Some — some countries give lethal capabilities; some don’t. Some give financial assistance; some don’t. Some don’t want a lot of public attention on the support they’re given to Ukraine. So, we respect that.
So, I’ll let Pakistan speak for what it’s doing for Ukraine.
On your question about Imran Khan, I — you’re — you’re suggesting that there is some sort of linkage here to his removal and these protests and — and some sort of American action. This was the — this is a domestic issue for the Pakistani people and the Pakistani government to speak to and to deal with.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Catherine.
Q Just —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re going to move on. Go ahead, Catherine.
Q Thanks. John, do you think the Pentagon will have to begin conserving what it sent to Ukraine, given the budgetary uncertainty?
MR. KIRBY: I think in coming weeks, you’ll see a relatively consistent and con- — continuity of support to Ukraine through drawdown authority. The Pentagon still has several billion dollars available to it in unexpired, but yet appropriated presidential drawdown authority.
So, look, we’ve been providing security assistance to Ukraine about every two weeks, and I think you’re going to continue to see that be the case for coming weeks.
But absent additional funding by Congress — appropriated funding, such as the supplemental we asked for — eventually, you know, yeah, you’re — you — you run into a hard stop there. And we want to make sure that, as I said in my opening statement — that there’s no lapse, that we’re able to continue this consistent process of providing them support, particularly as we get into the fall and this counteroffensive continues.
They — you know, there is about six to eight more weeks of decent weather here — of good fighting weather, and we want to make sure that the Ukrainians can succeed.
Q And do you have any comment on reports that India has told Canada to remove a number of diplomats from the country?
MR. KIRBY: I’ll let these two countries speak to their bilateral relations.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Al Jazeera in the back.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Al Jazeera in the back.
Q Thank you so much, Karine. Thank you, John. A couple of days ago, you said that you’re seeing build-up of U.S. troops that — sorry — Serbian troops on the border with Kosovo. Is it still the same? And why is UK sending troops to Kosovo?
MR. KIRBY: Why is the UK —
Q UK — is the U.S. going to be part of that NATO troops in Kosovo?
MR. KIRBY: So, on your first question, since we stated publicly that we had seen Serbian forces on the border, we have also seen them start to move those forces away, and that’s a good thing. That will help de-escalate the tensions. It won’t eliminate them, but it’ll help de-escalate them.
There are, as you know, a small number of U.S. forces that are part of the KFOR — the Kosovo Force — peacekeeping mission that NATO keeps there. They’re a small number. I — I don’t expect that number is going to change or — or there’ll be any additional U.S. troops provided as a result of that.
It’s — as I understand it, the UK is now in a cycle of leadership over KFOR, so really have to speak to them for a force allocation. But I don’t anticipate any change in — in U.S. force posture.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Peter.
Q Admiral Kirby, thank you. Is the White House on board with tying additional aid to Ukraine with border security, as some Republican lawmakers have suggested, as a way to resolve this?
MR. KIRBY: We believe both are important, Peter. That’s why in the supplemental request —
Q But if it’s tied in one, you would be satisfied if that’s the vehicle that it happens?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We don’t — we don’t believe they need — they should be tied or one dependent on the other. But both are important. Both can be and both are important. And that’s why in our supplemental request, in addition to some $12- to $13 billion for defense-related support, there’s also $4 billion in there for border security enhancements.
Q Can I ask a quick follow-up on that? You say that you’re confident that this is going to happen, that the Congress will provide the sufficient funds so that there is no lapse. My first thought is: How long can we afford for there to be a lapse if there is one? Is a day? I get —
MR. KIRBY: Zero days.
Q So, does that mean Ukraine falls if they’re — if one day goes by without U.S. funds? Does Ukraine —
MR. KIRBY: I wouldn’t go so far as to say Ukraine falls but —
Q Fine. So, you obviously don’t want there —
MR. KIRBY: But we don’t want to see any lapse. Any lapse. There shouldn’t be any lapse in support.
Q Now, one of the — the leaders with whom the President spoke to today on that conference call — obviously, you said there’s confidence that the Congress will — will pass this. He’s responding to the concerns that other leaders have about whether the U.S. will pass these funds. What is the basis for that confidence? And what did the foreign leaders say about their sense of confidence that the U.S. is going to do the right thing?
MR. KIRBY: Well, again, I won’t speak for all these foreign leaders. But I can tell you that the —
Q They’re the ones pressing the President. Yeah.
MR. KIRBY: Well —
MR. KIRBY: The President asked for the call. It wasn’t that he was getting pressured by these foreign leaders for a conversation. He wanted to have the conversation.
But let me go back.
MR. KIRBY: I won’t speak for them, but I can tell you that — that, on the call, none of the foreign leaders expressed concerns about continued U.S. support. They understand what’s going on up on Capitol Hill. They understand that this is a small minority of extreme Republicans that are holding this up, and that they — and they understand that the bulk of Republican leadership, House and the Senate, all support Ukraine.
So, I think there’s a general sense that this will obviously move forward and it will happen.
But it was a topic of conversation, but the impression that they all gave the President was that they understood what’s going on and they fully expect that support will continue.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Michael.
Q Admiral, can I get just two timeline clarifications? What is — first, what is the John Kirby definition of “a bit,” in terms of how long the U.S. can continue to provide support to Ukraine under the current funding levels? Is it three weeks, four weeks? Is it a few months? Like, how long is “a bit”?
MR. KIRBY: I think, given what we have left and given the pace at which we’ve been providing support — you’re talking perhaps a couple of months or so, roughly.
MR. KIRBY: Now, it depends — Michael, I — and the reason I — I’m being squishy on this is because it depends on what’s going on on the battlefield and how big the packages are and what capabilities Ukraine needs. And the — as the war has evolved, so have the packages. And so, I need a little bit of breathing room on what “a bit” means. But — but you know, in coming weeks and —
Q But that’s —
MR. KIRBY: — a couple of months or so is roughly about right.
Q Okay. And then — and then —
MR. KIRBY: The other thing that’s important to admit — I don’t mean to talk too much here, but it’s not just the authority that — presidential drawdown authority is not a check. It’s not a checking account. It — it’s how much authority they have to go to the inventory, to the shelves and pull stuff off.
And depending — each package costs different because the capabilities and the tools you’re pulling off the shelf cost the Pentagon a different amount of money.
But what also has to be factored into your question about what is “a bit” is the replenishment authority for the Pentagon to restock those shelves. And right now, the authority they have to replenish is less, by a significant number, of what they have authority to provide. And so, in addition to the needs of the battlefield and the pace at which drawdown is going, you also have to factor in — when we talk about how long is “a bit” — in how much authority the Pentagon has left to replenish its shelves.
Q And just — and just the other timeline question. You know, the President — you — and you all have repeatedly said — and I — it sounds like he said again at the meeting today — that the U.S. is in this for as long as it takes, right?
So, as the President goes back to voters to face reelection, as a president who has in the past criticized the length of some of the wars that we’ve been engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, does — is there any responsibility for the President to be specific about — with the voters about how long he is — he thinks the United States should be willing to be involved in this? Should he be willing to say 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years? Like, how long, you know, is — does — does he commit the United States to being in this system — in this situation of what is costing tens and tens of billions of dollars on a regular basis?
MR. KIRBY: “For as long as it takes” means for as long as it takes, and the President has been very, very honest about that. Every other leader on the call also, in their own way, emphasized the — their commitment, again, for as long as it takes.
Now, look, I mean, everybody — we’d all like this war to end tomorrow. It could if Mr. Putin would do the right thing. Certainly, the Ukrainians want it to end. Nobody wants to see this go on any longer. But it is their war.
I — I understand that we are the leading contributor of support, but the Ukrainians are the ones fighting this war. We don’t have American troops on the ground. So, it’s a — not a fair comparison to make with Iraq or Afghanistan, where you had American boots on the ground. This is Ukraine’s war; they’re fighting it. We are helping them fight it. We’re giving them the foreign assistance that we ourselves have benefited from in our own history.
And, again, we’re going to work as hard as we can with might and main to make it possible for Ukraine to end this war as soon as they can. But it has to be done on — in terms that President Zelenskyy is comfortable with, the Ukrainian people can accept, and that ends up with a whole, free, prosperous Ukraine with international recognized borders.
Q Is “forever war” a fair term to apply to this?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t think so.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nancy.
Q Thanks, John. You said that the President expressed confidence to these world leaders that the funding will be there. How can the President be confident in that when we might not have a Speaker of the House by the end of the day today? The House could be plunged into chaos. How could he have any confidence —
MR. KIRBY: Well, it goes back to my answer —
Q — that this funding is going to get passed?
MR. KIRBY: It goes back to my answer to Jeff: Regardless of what happens to the Speaker himself, every leader of every relevant national security commitment — committee in the House has committed to cont- — to continue to supporting Ukraine. Of course, there’s strong support on the Senate side on both sides of the aisle, but the same is true in the House. The leadership and the vast majority of Republicans in Congress, in the House of Representatives support continuing to help Ukraine.
Q But we have no idea who the next Speaker will be or even when there will be another Speaker. What if the Speaker is one of these 117 Republicans who voted just last week not to
MR. KIRBY: I — I can’t possib- —
Q — our funding for Ukraine?
MR. KIRBY: I can’t possibly speculate or get into hypotheticals about what’s going to happen to the speakership in the House. I want to be clear about that.
But, again, there’s enough support from Republicans in the House — not just members, although that is included, but leaders — that the President remains confident that we’ll continue to get the support we need.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Lalit.
Q Thanks, Karine. Jo- —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, Lalit.
Q Oh, sorry.
Q Thank you. Last week, Jake had two meetings with two South Asian leaders — one with India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar; the other with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina — on India. Did the issue of Canada was discussed in the meeting? Are —
MR. KIRBY: What was discussed?
Q Was the issue of Canada discussed in the meeting? Are you comfortable with India’s explanation of things in their relationship with Canada? And do you think the U.S. has a role to play in India-Canada relationship — how to calm the situation down?
MR. KIRBY: The issue was discussed. We’ll certainly leave it to those two countries to talk about their bilateral relationship.
We’ve been clear: These allegations are serious. They need to be fully investigated. And, of course, as we’ve said before, we urge India to participate actively in that investigation.
Q And on Bangladesh. How do you see the relationship between the U.S. and Bangladesh now? Last month, I think President Biden also had a pull-aside meeting with Sheikh Hasina in New Delhi. While the issue of elections and Rohingya refuses discussion —
MR. KIRBY: They did talk about the importance of free and fair elections. They also talked about the importance of improving our bilateral relationship across a range of issues, including climate change.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you. So, we’ve heard testimony from wounded Ukrainian soldiers who say that — who suggest that Ukrainian forces are outgunned, they’re taking heavy losses, and they have no way of cracking heavy Russian defenses even at this current level of U.S. aid.
So, if U.S. support is significantly reduced, can Ukraine still defend itself? And is there a real risk here that Russia can retake its initiative and the war?
MR. KIRBY: Well, I mean, to be blunt: The answer to your first question is no, and the answer to your second question is yes.
I mean, it is very important that Ukraine continue to get the support it needs on the battlefield.
I can’t speak for battlefield conditions in any one area and how much ammunition they have. But — but we know that the counteroffensive has not gone as far or as fast as even the Ukrainians want it to. It’s still a violent fight on two major lines of axes — one in the Donbas area and one down south — the south of Zaporizhzhia.
And they’re still fighting it out every single day. And it’s why I said in my opening statement, “Time is not our friend.” We’ve got six to eight more weeks of good weather here before things really make it hard for both sides, quite frankly, to fight. We want to make sure that we take advantage of that.
And as I said earlier to Jeff and I think to Peter’s question, any lapse in the funding is going to be unhelpful to Ukraine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jon.
Q Thanks a lot, Karine. John, you said earlier in response to a question that there are 50 countries that are assisting Ukraine in their fight against Russia. Why can’t Ukraine make due with just that support? Why is it necessary for the U.S. to also be a part of this military, economic, and humanitarian aid?
MR. KIRBY: Well, there is a lot — there is a lot there. First of all, there’s an incredible convening power by the United States. And it’s hard to see that there would be that level of international support so widespread — and it’s well beyond Europe, man; we’re talking about countries in the Indo-Pacific region that are providing lethal capabilities to Ukraine — without U.S. leadership, without us convening — holding these contact group meetings, as Secretary Austin has — has hosted. The U.S. convening power, U.S. leadership on the world stage matters. People follow our example. That’s number one.
Number two, we have — continue to have the most powerful military in the world and the largest, most capable defense industrial base in the world. There’s no other nation that can produce the kinds of arms and equipment and systems that the United States can.
So, without United States support, it would be very, very difficult for — because, I mean, some — many — many of these other nations are using — are — are don- — are donating and contributing U.S.-purchased or U.S.-contributed equipment. So, without our support, it’s not inconceivable that some of that other support would be harder for Ukraine to achieve.
There’s just — I’m sorry —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no. It’s okay.
MR. KIRBY: The — the — the scope and the scale, the ferociousness of the fighting right now on the counteroffensive and the expenditure rate of munitions means that there has to be a sufficient production capability to back it up. And no other nation has that like the United States.
Now, we know we have to continue to accelerate our own production capability, but no other nation can do that but — but the United States.
So, it’s really important that — that we stay in this fight with Ukraine and that we continue to lead the world, as we have under President Biden’s leadership, in providing their support.
Q And just to follow up. If there is not passage of a new aid package by Congress, does Ukraine risk essentially depleting its munitions, depleting its military equipment?
MR. KIRBY: It would depend on whether there was a lapse and for how long it is, and it would also depend on what’s going on on the battlefield. I mean, some days they expend more than others. I mean, to — you know, it’s — it’s war. It’s combat. Every day is different in every location. So, it’s hard to answer that question accurately.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q On the upcoming drawdowns. This summer, Jake Sullivan was describing cluster munitions as a bridge in supplies. Is the U.S. expecting to send more cluster munitions in these upcoming drawdown packages?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to get ahead of future packages. We don’t typically foretell what’s going to be in there.
These cluster munitions have been a significant enabler of Ukrainian efforts to blow through Russian defenses.
And, again, we’ll just — we’ll take a look at it with each and every package. But I — I can’t forecast it.
Q And since they’ve been — these cluster munitions have been being used for the past couple of months, is the U.S. aware of any harm from the U.S.-provided cluster munitions to civilians or noncombatants?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t know that they’ve not been used in the last couple of months. And I’m not aware of any indications that — that we’ve seen that there’s been civilian harm as a result of them.
In fact — and I don’t want to speak for DOD too much, but the — but the reports that we’ve been getting from our Pentagon colleagues is that the Ukrainians are using the cluster munitions in exactly the appropriate way: going behind Russian lines to hit at command and control and other logistics and sustainment or large formations of Russian troops, which is exactly what those munitions were designed for. We’ve seen no indications that they’ve been used inappropriately.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Anita.
Q Thank you. I have a question about the Arctic and another about Afghanistan.
Starting with the Arctic: Is the U.S. concerned about a surge of Russian crude oil shipments to Chinese ports through the Northern Sea Route, which is something we’ve seen in recent weeks?
And are you concerned about overall increased cooperation between Beijing and Moscow in the Arctic sphere?
MR. KIRBY: Largely, the — the cooperation we’ve seen between those two countries in the Arctic has been economic and scientific. That’s been the — mainly the scope of their cooperation. There’s been some military exercises in the High North, but — but really, they’ve been mostly focused on economic and science.
And at — well, look, we — nothing has changed about the fact that we want to see a free and open and prosperous Arctic region that all nations that border the Arctic can benefit from. Nobody is looking for conflict up there. We’ll watch this as closely as we can.
But, again, noth- — nothing that’s going to change our posture or our policy with respect to seeking opportunities for everyone to benefit from — from the Arctic.
And then, look, on the oil, all I’ll just say is there is a reason that price cap is in place. It has been effective in managing global supply and demand and limiting Putin’s ability to profiteer off oil. I’m not saying he hasn’t gotten any profits. Of course he has. But it — it has limited his ability to — to make exorbitant proit- — profit so that he can fund his war in Ukraine.
We urge every country, and that includes the PRC, to abide by the price cap.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Phil.
Q On Afghanistan really quickly. Representative McCaul is criticizing the White House for what he says is nor- –attempting to normalize relations with the Taliban. And — and in doing so, they’re — you know, he says that that’s hurtful and injurious. What is your reaction to this?
MR. KIRBY: I haven’t seen his comments. So, it — it’s hard for me to be specific. And —
MR. KIRBY: I haven’t seen them, but let me — it’s — it’s hard to — it’s just hard to look at what we’re doing and say that we’re normalizing anything with the Taliban.
We’ve not recognized them as a governing power in Afghanistan. They want that. They want the legitimacy. Then they need to meet their commitments.
I mean, how can you effectively govern — how can you effectively have a useful economy when basically half your workforce — all women — are not — are prohibited from being a part of that process? So, we’re going to keep holding them accountable for their commitments.
Now, look, does that mean we don’t have any conversations — that we’re not allowed to have any conversations with the Taliban? Of course not. We’re still working to try to get our allies and partners in Afghanistan out. That takes conversation. It takes dialogue.
But it’s important to the United States to keep meeting our word to the — the people that helped us for 20 years. And does it mean that — that we — we don’t still have shared counterterrorism threats. Absolutely, we do. And the Taliban has been fighting against ISIS-K, particularly inside their country.
Hard to see — again, not seeing the — the chairman’s comments, but hard to see how it would be irresponsible for us not to continue to work on counterterrorism efforts.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Phil.
Q Thank you, Karine.
MR. KIRBY: I think — and as a matter of fact, I’d say: We’d owe the American people a significant apology if we somehow — because we have issues with the way the Taliban is governing — we just turned a blind eye to counterterrorism threats that might still persist in Afghanistan.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Phil.
Q First, when you and I spoke earlier this year, you noted that the administration had not seen any military or financial assistance falling prey to any kind of corruption in Ukraine. Is that still the case?
And then second, Semafor is reporting that the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, Christopher Maier — his chief was allegedly part of an Iranian influence campaign and had access to top secret compartmental information. Does the NSC have an assessment of that? Was national security compromised? Has the President been briefed?
MR. KIRBY: No, I think we’ve seen the press reporting, but I’d refer you to DOD on that one completely.
And then on your first question, still no indication that there’s been any kind of widespread corruption or — or inappropriate use of U.S. capabilities.
As a matter of fact, I don’t know who that — asked me before about expenditure rates. But, I mean, oftentimes the stuff that’s getting to Ukraine, it’s going hand to mouth. I mean, you know, a matter of days before some stuff gets there, and then a matter of days more before it’s being used on the battlefield — not — not every system, of course. But the Ukrainians are in a very active fight. They’re using the stuff that’s being provided to them.
Q Senator Angus King told me earlier this year that he communicated to the Zelenskyy administration that any type of corruption or graft could really screw this up. Has the administration communicated to the Ukrainians just how important —
MR. KIRBY: Yes.
Q — this good government is to keep the —
MR. KIRBY: One hundred percent —
MR. KIRBY: — at various levels —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nadia.
MR. KIRBY: — including the leader level.
Q Thank you, sir.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.
Q Also on Ukraine, do you think that the change of governments in Europe will affect the support ultimately to Ukraine? And I have Slovakia in mind.
MR. KIRBY: It — it’s hard to say. I mean, every nation has to speak for their own domestic political situation, just like President Biden had to speak this weekend about — about this one here.
All I can tell you is that on the call today, it was very clear to the President that these leaders all unanimously continue to want to support Ukraine with security assistance and economic assistance and are grateful for American leadership.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Kayla. I know you had a question.
Q Thank you, I appreciate it. You said that regardless of what happens in the House of Representatives, that you’re confident that there remains support among a vast majority of Republicans to continue supporting Ukraine. But I’m wondering what conversations the administration is having to arrive at that confidence.
MR. KIRBY: That confidence and that statement comes from the conversations that we have had at various levels inside the administration with — with the — with House Republicans.
Q But it’s up to the Speaker of the House of Representatives to decide what to put on the floor for a vote, and you’re confident that regardless of who is Speaker, the —
MR. KIRBY: I can’t —
Q — the support of the national security committees would be enough?
MR. KIRBY: Well, you’re talking about the Speaker in the past tense already. I — we’re not going to do that. And I’m not going to hypothesize about what the speakership looks like this afternoon or tomorrow.
All I can tell you isthat we continue to have conversations with House Republicans at various levels, including the leadership level, and there’s widespread support — a majority of support for helping Ukraine. That’s what we’re basing our confidence on.
Q But how much more difficult do you expect each successive discussion over each new package of aid for Ukraine to become? And have you communicated to allies that there will at some point be — reach a point where there’s just simply not support to pass another package?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, this gets that whole blank check argument. You know, there’s been no blank check. Every single assistance package that’s been going — that’s gone to Ukraine, whether it’s drawdown or contracting funds, the USAI funds — every single one, there’s consultations with members of Congress and all the relevant leadership on what we’re putting in the package, why it’s there, when it’s going to get there. And there’s transparency throughout the whole process.
So, do I anticipate any changes that have to be had with consultations with Congress? No, because we’ve been doing it since day one.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Just a couple more.
Q And on the Haiti multilateral mission, has the $200 million that the U.S. pledged already been paid for? And if so, how?
And then, do you have any specifics on —
MR. KIRBY: Been paid for?
Q Yes, like —
MR. KIRBY: You mean been —
Q — what’s the mechanism to pay for —
MR. KIRBY: — been provided?
Q Yes, has it been — well, is there a mechanism already in place to pay for it or are you going to have to ask Congress for that funding?
MR. KIRBY: You know, I’d refer you to State and DOD. State volunteered $100 million and so did the DOD and some enabling support. But you really should go to those agencies for how they’re going to account for that.
Q And do you have any logistics that are being provided — about any specifics on the logistics — the logistics being provided by the Pentagon? And, you know, will the U.S. send any personnel on the ground to Haiti?
MR. KIRBY: So, the mili- — the U.S. military will provide some enabling support. I suspect that — again, I refer you to my colleagues over there — but I suspect it will be mostly in the realm of logistics and sustainment, maybe even transportation and that kind of thing.
And there are no plans right now to put American troops in- — inside the support mission.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Aurelia.
Q Thank you so much. We understand that the French minister raised the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh during the call this morning, and she advocated for strong international support for Armenia. So, what’s the administration’s take on this?
MR. KIRBY: Well, we — we continue to watch this situation very, very closely. Obviously, it’s still very, very tense. We’re mindful that the vast majority — I think almost all ethnic Armenians now have left. And there’s a significant humanitarian assistance issue, which is why the USAID Administrator, Samantha Power, was just there — actually, just a few days ago.
We have put a DART team on the ground. We have contributed — I think it’s $11 million in humanitarian assistance just right now. So, we’re very focused on the humanitarian situation and doing what we can to alleviate the suffering, but also, again, encouraging — certainly encouraging Azerbaijan to meet its commitments — its publicly stated commitments here, and rein- — reinforce our support for the ethnic Armenians who are still there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, two more.
Q Good — good afternoon, Admiral. The — I want to ask you about Tuberville. Tuber- — the continued Tuberville hold on military promotions at the Pentagon.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q He says, quote, “As long as the Pentagon keeps the unlawful elective abortion policy in place, my holds will remain.” End quote. That said, will the Pentagon rescind that policy to move those nominations through?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t speak for the Pentagon anymore. I’m a — I’m here now. So, I’d refer you, certainly, to my — my Pentagon colleagues.
That said, they have spoken to this many times. First of all, the senator is just wrong. It’s not an unlawful policy. It’s perfectly legal, perfectly in keeping with the law.
Q He says it violates the Hyde Amendment.
MR. KIRBY: It doesn’t. They — they’ve done a legal scrub at this at the DOD. It’s just wrong.
I’m not — while I won’t speak for the Pentagon, I’m certainly just not going to let a lie and falsehood live on. It’s not a violation of the law. It is a legal policy.
All that they’re doing is providing some travel ability for female members of the military or their families. They’re stationed in a place where the laws are restricted. They can go get the reproductive care that they deserve, that they have every right to expect from the United States military.
So, I’m sorry, Senator Tuberville is just wrong. The policy is not unlawful.
Now, if he wants to take that up in Congress and pass new legislation, well, certainly, that’s the writ of Congress, but nothing that the Department of Defense or Secretary Austin is doing is unlawful. Nothing.
Q If the national security is truly at risk, as the administration says, then isn’t keeping that abortion policy in place, in effect, superseding national security?
MR. KIRBY: How — I’m not sure, I understand —
Q Because if you’re not — if you —
MR. KIRBY: — what your question is —
Q You want to get the nominations through, right? You take back the policy —
MR. KIRBY: Oh, so you’d —
Q — and figure that out later.
MR. KIRBY: So, the suggestion is that we just —
Q I’m not suggesting —
MR. KIRBY: — turn our backs.
No, I get it. I didn’t say it was yours.
But the suggestion is, we should just turn our backs on one in five of every — every person in United States military, let alone their family members, just so we can get these — these officers confirmed. That’s the suggestion that I think you’re elucidating.
And that just would be an egregious violation of the covenant that we make — the military makes with the people that sign up and volunteer.
Remember this: They’re volunteers. There’s not conscription. There’s no draft. People volunteer for this. And when they volunteer for that duty, they have every right to expect that they’re going to get the healthcare they need.
And let me tell you something else, a healthy force is a ready force. So, don’t talk to me about national security being impaired.
The one impairing national security is Senator Tuberville — not only because he’s depriving the military of necessary leadership in the field and at sea, but he’s also willing to deprive female members of the military — 20 percent of the force — from necessary healthcare. That — both — is a violation of national security.
Q So how does this all end then finally? My last one: How does it all end? How does it all wrap up?
MR. KIRBY: I can’t possibly predict that.
But, you know, I could you tell you how I’d like it to end. I’d like it — to see, and I think I speak certainly for everybody in the administration, for Mr. Tuberville to lift his ridiculous hold.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: James, you have the last question.
Q Thank you very much, Karine. And thank you, Admiral. By the way, the use of “elucidating,” I think, justifies my earlier description of your loquacity. (Laughter.)
Two questions on the subject at hand. Obviously, President Putin has a vested interest in the United States Congress voting to deprive Ukraine of additional support and assistance. Do you discern any efforts by the Kremlin to exploit, aggravate, or otherwise shape the discord that we’re seeing in our political system right now?
MR. KIRBY: Well, I am actually really glad that you asked that, James. Bear with me. The short answer to your question is: Can I — can I — do we see tangible, demonstrable efforts by Putin to capitalize on this? I can’t say that we do. I’ve seen no indication that — that he’s done something or is working inside the propaganda machine of his to exploit this. It wouldn’t be unlike him to do that, but the truth is — the answer to your question is: I haven’t seen any proof of that.
That said — and this is the important point that I think your question raises, is that by denying support for Ukraine, by being willing to just walk away from helping them defend themselves, you’re handing Mr. Putin up a win, a victory.
Not only a propaganda win, because his whole narrative has been: “This is the West versus Russia. It’s NATO versus Russia. We didn’t start this war; they prop — they forced us into it.” All of it a lie.
And if we just walk away from Ukraine, we basically confirm his lie. We basically say to him, “Yeah, you know what? You’re right, Putin. You were the wronged — you — you were the victim here.” And we hand him that kind of an advantage. It is — it’s — it’s egregious, and it — it absolutely plays right into his false narrative of how this war started.
Q The other question is this: You, Jake Sullivan, President Biden, Ms. Jean-Pierre, all those who speak for this administration on this subject matter have over the last several weeks continued, without deviation, to project confidence that this renewed funding is going to come from this Congress. And you have issued those projections of confidence, as the discernible support for Ukraine funding has eroded almost day by day. And we’re now in a position where not even a stopgap measure would include that funding.
So, on that call with the allies today and in government-to-government interactions with the allies, don’t you risk sullying the reputation of the United States and of these individual leaders, including the President, for providing frank and candid advice and counsel when you’re — you’re projecting confidence as this sort of funding ship is sinking steadily.
MR. KIRBY: So, I’d push back on your — on your notion that there’s a discernible erosion. There hasn’t been. I’ve been answering questions up here now for almost an hour telling you that we’re — we’re confident in the conversations we’re having with leadership in the House that support will — from — for Ukraine will continue, that the vast majority of Republicans in the House support this — not — not to mention Republicans in the Senate and, of course, all Democrats.
So, there’s no discernible erosion. We have a small number of very vocal extreme Republicans in the House that are pushing back on this, but they don’t represent their caucus and they don’t represent their leadership.
And what would erode confidence in the United States would be for us to do Putin’s bidding and to just roll over and stop supporting Ukraine.
So, for all of those who claim they’re hawks on national security and they believe in a strong military and they want to make sure that America can meet its national security interests — well, if you believe that, you ought to be signing up for support for Ukraine because you can tie a direct line to our national security interests and the ability of Ukraine to defeat Putin as an aggressor.
Q Did the President discuss a plan B with the leaders today in case this funding doesn’t materialize?
MR. KIRBY: I won’t go into more detail than what I expressed in my opening statement. There was a — there was a good chunk of the conversation on what happened on Capitol Hill and the need for continued support for Ukraine, the President’s confidence in support. It was echoed by resounding unanimity among those members on the call that, A, they appreciate what America has done and continues to do and how important it is for the United States to lead and support Ukraine, and their confidence in their countries that they’ll be able to do the same thing.
Q Thank you, John.
MR. KIRBY: See you, all.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Newfound Swiftie.
Okay. Will, go for it.
Q So, I know you’ve been asked this before, but, you know, should Democrats help McCarthy retain the speakership? And I’m curious: Is this sustainable? Is the chaos that we’re seeing, if there is a change, sustainable in the long term?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President spoke to this on Sunday. He got the question about the speakership. He said, “I don’t have a vote in this.” I’m just paraphrasing what the President said.
And he also said that it is up to the leadership. It is up to House Democrats. It is up to leadership to decide how they’re going to move forward on — on this process.
I’m just — we’re just not going to get involved. We’re not going to put our — you know, put our — you know, tip the scale here — our fun- — thumb on the scale.
Look, and it’s not — it’s not new, right? When there’s been other leadership changes in the last two years, we have not commented. We have allowed Congress to do their — their role in this, to move forward with their process. So, this isn’t — this isn’t anything new.
Now, as it relates to the chaos that we see in the House Republicans — yeah, it’s chaotic, right? There is chaos there. A small majority of their conference is indeed causing chaos. We just have to go back to Saturday and what we saw, what they almost marched us to, which is shutting down the government.
And, you know, it is not beneficial to the American people. It is not helpful to the American people to have to see that going on.
But we’re not going to — we’re not going to weigh in on the leadership. That’s not something that we have done in the last two years that we’ve been here.
Q Can you talk about the — long-term h- — the long-term effect — the long-term potential effect of the continued chaos?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, as I said, we saw it very clear — clearly on Saturday what that chaos could have led us to: a shutdown of the government because of what House — these extreme House Republicans wanted to do, which is push forward policies that were harmful to Americans across the country, right? That’s what we saw.
And, you know, we kept on saying, for weeks on end: It is the job of Congress to keep the government open. It is their basic responsibility. And they were able to do that on Saturday.
But we should have never have gotten there. And we got there because of the chaos that we continue to see in the House Republicans — that extreme group of House Republicans.
Go ahead, Selina.
Q Thank you. This is a president who served in Congress for a long time, who deeply believes in working across the aisle. But if Speaker McCarthy is ousted because he was working with Democrats, is there any chance of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill moving forward? And if so, why does the President believe that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There’s always a chance for bipartisanship. This is a president that has shown that. He passed the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, right? He helped — he led that; he helped push that forward. He signed that. There’s the CHIPS and Science Act. There’s the Pact Act. There’s more than 400 pieces of bipartisan legislation that he signed into law. So, certainly, this is a president that believes in that.
There’s his Unity Agenda that he believes there’s a way to work together with Congress on pushing really important, key — key policies that’s important to the American people.
So, this is a president — of course, he believes in bipartisanship. Of course, he does.
But, you know, Congress has to fix their own problem, their own leadership issue — right? — specifically, the Speaker and his caucus and his conference. That — that is for them to fix. That is for them to deal with.
And so, you know, again, it is — it is their chaos. It is something that is not what the American people want to see. They were very clear about this. They want to continue to see us work in a bipartisan way. And, of course, the President wants to continue to do that.
Q But given the chaos that you just talked about, looking forward, does the President realistically think that he can accomplish anything with Congress —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As —
Q — in the coming year?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you know, this is a president that is optimistic. He says this all the time. He is an optimistic president. So, of course, he’s always going to find ways to do that, to work together.
I mean, it wasn’t too long ago — just a couple of months ago that he came together with Congress and put — put forward a bipartisan piece of legislation to deal with the budget — right? — a budget agreement that was done in a bipartisan way. So, that was not too long ago.
So, does he believe we can continue to do that? Yes. Is — is there chaos in the House Republicans? Absolutely. That is something that they have to deal with. That is something that they need to figure out — how they are going to fix that. And that is something I believe that the American people want to continue — want to continue to see that bipartisanship.
So, the President is o- — is optimistic as we move forward.
Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Does the Speaker’s support for an impeachment proceeding against President Biden affect the President’s and Democrats’ instinct to — not to help him with a lifeline now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I can’t speak for Democrats — right? — that is something — Democrats in the House. That’s something that they have to figure out — how they’re going to move forward with that — with the — the leadership there. I’m not going to speak for them, not going to speak on how they feel about the Speaker. Certainly, they can speak for themselves.
As it relates to the impeachment, we’ve been very clear: We’re going to focus on the business of the American people.
Look, if Republicans — that’s what they want to do, that’s what they want to waste their time doing — is going after a president who they, themselves — their own witnesses have said — and we saw this hearing just last week — that there is no evidence — no evidence. But still, they want to move forward with an impeachment.
Look, the President is going to continue to do, for example, what we announced today: these 10 drugs that are now going to be part of negotiating with Medicare so that we can lower costs for Americans so that — so that we can actually beat Big Pharma, which is what the President has been able to do because of the Inflation Reduction Act.
That’s what the President is going to do. He’s going to continue to figure out how we’re going to lower costs for the American people. That’s Bidenomics. That’s what’s important: building — building up, growing the middle class. And that’s — that’s what the President is going to focus on.
Q Separate issue: The President’s son, Hunter, pleaded not guilty to a gun charge in court today. Does the White House have a comment on that? Has the President been in touch with son about it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here’s what I’ll say about that — and I’ve said this many times; you’ve heard it from the President — the President loves h- — his son. He’s going to continue to support him as he rebuilds his — his life. I’m not going to speak to any private conversations that this president has with any member of his family. That is private.
And just to remind you all, as you all know — you guys reported on this — this is an independent Department of Justice investigation — it has been and — which has been led by one of the prosecutors from the last administration.
And so, we’re just not going to comment on the investigation specifically.
Go ahead, Justin.
Q First, just to follow on Jeff, can you maybe explain — I think a lot of people have a question of why the White House wouldn’t sort of exploit this opportunity to take a leadership role in this situation, especially when there’s policy goals — and Ukraine being the most obvious — that you want to accomplish in the House. Why not offer a lifeline to Speaker McCarthy of — of certain things? Is it because the relationship has been spoiled by impeachment or by other things? Is it because you don’t fundamentally trust him to be able to deliver stuff?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: None of those things. None of those things, Justin. It’s just the basic, basic fact that we have, as we moved here through the last two years — that we just don’t get involved when it comes to leadership, right? That is something — and that has — we have been consistent about that, right? We have been consistent about that in the last two years.
So, we’re going — be consistent about this, too. We’re not going to get involved when it comes to who — who either the Senate or the House is going to choose to lead them. That has been our consistent play for the last two years.
Q And then, I just wanted to loop back on yesterday. I think there was some confusion over the President’s remarks the day before when he referenced a deal. Do you have any more clarity about What the President was referring to in that situation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, what we were — what we were really referring to is that the Speaker’s — the — Speaker McCarthy’s public comments. Really.
Q So, there’s no — just be clear, there’s no behind-the-scenes deal? You were just saying — the President was just saying, you know: We’ve seen the Speaker say that he supports Ukraine aid, we’ve seen Republicans say they support Ukraine aid, so we think there’s an agreement, even though we haven’t had a private discussion.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m not going to go into depth. What I’m — I’m going to let the — the President’s word stand and I’m not going to elaborate on it.
What I will say is that what we are always going to show and point to, as the Admiral did just moments ago as he was standing by this lectern — is that the Speaker — Speaker McCarthy has been very clear about this: that he had — that he wants to make sure that Ukraine continues to get the weapons support — and I’m paraphrasing here — that — that they need — right? — that they need on the battlefield.
He has said this multiple times. He said this on Sunday. He continues to say this.
And there is overwhelming majority of support in cr- — in Congress to continue that — that funding for Ukraine.
That is where — that is where we are. That is what the President wants to see. And I speak for the President on this — right? — making sure that we want to see that bipartisan support.
And that’s the agreement. That is the agreement that the Speaker has made publicly — publicly — not just to — not just to — I mean, really, to the Ukrainian people — right? — that commitment that he has made to the Ukrainian people. That’s what we want to see. And that’s what the President is going to continue to really be clear about, and he said this on Sunday as well.
Q Thanks, Karine. When is the last time that the President and the House Speaker spoke? And how would you describe their relationship?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I just don’t have any private conversations to read out. I really — I don’t.
What I can say is — and he has said this to me, the President — that he is — he is in — you know, he has regular conversations with members of Congress, whether it’s the House or the Senate.
I just don’t have any public — private, pardon me — private conversation to speak to.
Q Could you describe their relationship? How
would you describe —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I mean, I — I mean, look, the President has been president for now two and a half years. He was a vice president for eight years, as you all know. He was a senator for 34 years. He has relationships with Republicans and Democrats throughout his career, right?
It is not unusual. It is something that the President certainly appreciates and certainly leans into the relationships that he has had.
I’m just not going to — I’m not going to characterize that relationship. You guys have seen him with the Speaker multiple times meet, especially during the budget negotiations a couple months ago.
I’m just not going to characterize it from here.
Q Can I ask you one unrelated question?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q And that is that it appears that culinary workers in Nevada are preparing to potentially go on strike. I want to get a sense of what the President — what the White House’s position on — is on that. Would the President stand with those striking workers? Would he potentially go there? I just want to get
a sense of what you all —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything on his schedule. But I can say what the President has said and what I have said on behalf of the President: When it comes to workers and union members having — being allowed to strike, he supports that, right? He believes that they have the right to — to — you know, to — to get that fair pay, to get the fair benefits, and to fight for that, right?
And so, that is — that is what he believes. He believes that they should have that so that they can indeed su- — be able to support their families, be able to support — to be able to support themselves.
And Las Vegas, as you know, has a long history — a long union history of workers and that of — of union workers that have helped build the city.
And so, look, the President is always going to support union workers. He’s always going to support working people. That is not new. He has done that over the course of the last two years.
And — and, certainly, he also believes in collective bargaining. He believes that both sides should be able to come to the table in good faith and work through — and work through those — those issues and really be able to negotiate fair pay and fair benefits for workers.
MS. DALTON: We have time for a couple more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. I’m going to go around. Go ahead, Jon.
Q Thanks a lot, Karine. You spoke about how President Biden has had this long career in public service, has many relationships with members on both sides of the aisle. What are his interactions that he’s had with Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don’t have anything to read out — any private conversations to read out. But, obviously, again, the President, as you just stated in your question, has had long — a long history of having relationships with the other side of the aisle — right? — which he believes is incredibly important to move forward important policies and legislations for the American people, as you’ve seen him do in the last few years.
I just don’t have any — I don’t have any specific conversations to lay out.
Go ahead, Catherine.
Q Yeah, has the — does the White House have any comment on the carjacking of — for Representative Cuellar? Has the President reached out to him?
And more broadly, does it say anything about safety and crime in the District?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, what we saw happen, the — the reporting that we saw happen to the congressman, obviously, was unacceptable. The President did have an opportunity to speak with the congressman today. And we will con- — always continue to speak out against any sort of violence, and we’ve been consistent here in this administration.
We are certainly grateful and relieved that the congressman was unharmed. And we are thankful to the law enforcement to have reacted so quickly. And — and so, look, this is the President — unlike Republicans — has actually put forth billions of dollars — or has taken action to make sure that there are billions of dollars in his budget every year — and he — and through the American Rescue Plan — let’s not forget, there were billions of dollars in his American Rescue Plan so that local communities and — and the state and federal police as well — law enforcement — were able to make sure that they had the funding so that they can hire more law enforcement — and that was incredibly important to the President — so that they can make sure that their communities were safe.
This is something that the President has done and Republicans have not helped.
And I know you have — I know — and you’re going to follow up on that. What’s — what’s your question?
Q Well, the first follow-up would be: How are you going to blame Republicans for this? Isn’t D.C. run by a bunch of Democrats?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to speak to what the President has done, right? The President has been very, very straightforward about what he has done to make sure that communities are safe.
The American Rescue Plan — not one Republican in Congress voted for it. Not one. There were billions of dollars in that plan, in that — in that act to make sure communities across the country got funding so that they can indeed hire more police officers so that they can keep their community safe.
Republicans had nothing to do with that. They were not involved in that. They decided not to vote on the American Rescue Plan. That’s just a fact.
Q So, if President Biden’s policies are helping bring crime down, would he be comfortable with somebody borrowing his Corvette and parking it on the street overnight in Southeast D.C.?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into hypotheticals. I’m just going to get into the facts about what this President has done in this presidency.
One thing that were — somebody was asking me about bipartisanship. He was able — as it relates to guns, he was able to come together — right? — we saw Democrats and Republicans come together and have the first piece of gun — anti-gun violence prevention legislation in 30 years. And that’s something that this President was able to do.
Q If a member of Congress is not safe on the streets of the nation’s capital, who is?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we’re grateful and relieved that the congressman — congressman is unharmed. We understand what communities are going through across the country, not just in D.C. That’s why the President took action very early on in his administration to get the American Rescue Plan done without the help of Republicans.
That’s why every time he puts forward his budget, he makes sure there are billions of dollars to deal with crime. That’s just a fact. All you got to look is what the President has been able to do this past two years. There’s always going to be work — more work to be done. But the fact is, the President has taken action.
All right, guys, I’ll see you tomorrow.
Q Thanks, Karine.
2:19 P.M. EDT
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