Jen Psaki said Republicans are against the Build Back Better plan for one big reason: They don’t want to raise taxes for the wealthy

 Q    — to address this, but, I mean, how urgent is it?  And how — you know, is there any sort of specific concern that this is going to affect not just political outcomes, but just the overall economy? 

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, Andrea, first, let me say that, you know, a lot of talk about inflation — I’m not saying from you, but in general out there — has been — it’s become a political cudgel and it shouldn’t be.  It’s impacting, as you said, millions of Americans no matter their political party.  And that’s certainly of concern to the President. 

I would note that everyone from the Federal Reserve to Wall Street agree with our assessment that inflation is already expected to be subs- — to substantially decelerate next year.  I know you’re not talking about that, but that’s an important component here.

And economists across the board also agree that the President’s economic agenda — the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that he will sign on Monday and the Build Back Better Bill that we’re working to move forward — will not add to inflationary ples- — pressure, and will ease inflationary pressure over the long term. 

But when we move past the economic jargon, which I realize is what you’re asking me, and talk about the real impacts on people’s lives, we’re really talking about costs to people.  Right?  And you talked about this on Wednesday.  So it’s cost of childcare, cost of housing, cost of gas, cost of household goods.  That’s how people are experiencing this on a day-to-day basis.  And that is, of course, of concern to the President. 

Our view is that the real risk here is inaction.  And the reason we — I wanted to do this slide today — one, I love slides and graphics, so on my first day back we had to have one — but is because if we don’t act on Build Back Better, what we’re doing is we are — won’t be able to cut childcare costs in 2020.  We know that is a huge impact on people’s daily lives and American families. 

We won’t be able to make preschool free for many families starting in 2022, saving many families $8,600.  We won’t be able to get ahead of skyrocketing housing costs. 

I mean, that’s a part of this bill too.  It has a major investment in building new housing — affordable housing units so that people can move into them and live in them and address the pending housing crisis. 

And we won’t be able to save American — Americans thousands of dollars by negotiating prescription drug prices. 

So our view is this — this makes a strong case — this is a strong case for moving forward with this agenda because what we’re really talking about is cost to American families, how it’s impacting them.  And that’s something that if we don’t act now, we won’t be able to address these things in the short term either.

Go ahead. 

Q    Thanks so much, Jen.  And welcome back.  The President has picked Dr. Rob Califf as his pick for FDA commissioner.  We’ve already seen Senator Joe Manchin come out in opposition against him, citing his “significant ties to the pharmaceutical industry,” as Senator Manchin put it.  Is the White House confident that Dr. Califf can get confirmed as FDA commissioner?

MS. PSAKI:  We are.  And I will say that the President chose Dr. Califf — and this was in his statement, but let me reiterate some of this — because he’s one of the most experienced clinical trialists in the country, has the experience and expertise to lead the Food and Drug Administration during a critical time in our nation’s fight to put an end to the coronavirus pandemic. 

I’d also note that how we see this or how this President sees this nomination is a continuation of what he views as excellent work under the leadership of Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock, who’s led the agency through a challenging time because of what’s happening in the world and, of course, fighting the pandemic.

I would note that four years ago — five years ago, sorry — my math was a little off there — he was confirmed by a vote of 89 to 4.  One of those four is the individual you mentioned.  And every senator can vote for or against members — or people who are nominated.  That’s their role.  But we feel he’s a qualified person who has the exact experience for this moment. 

Q    Thank you.  And how many Republicans should we expect to see at the signing ceremony here on Monday?

MS. PSAKI:  We will see.  We’ve invited a broad group of Republicans: some in Congress, governors, mayors, individuals who played a role in helping move the Infrastructure Bill forward.  And as we get close to Monday or on Monday, we’ll provide you, of course, a list of attendees. 

Q    Have any Republicans, like Senator Mitch McConnell, said that they will not be at that signing ceremony?

MS. PSAKI:  I think he’s spoken to this publicly, so I’ll point you to that.  But, certainly, we have the invite out to a range of members.  We’re — we would — the President looks forward to thanking them for their work, for working together to get this done for the American people.

Q    And the —

Q    Have any confirmed at all?

Q    — last question on the President Xi meeting on Monday: Will the President hold a press conference afterward like he did following this meeting with President Putin?  And does he plan to bring up the COVID-19 origins with President Xi, given he has said that China has been blocking investigators from getting access to information that’s critical to them? 

MS. PSAKI:  That is a remaining concern.  And there will be a broad range of topics that will be discussed, and the President is certainly not going to hold back on areas where he has concern. 

Again, I would point you to the fact that we’ll do this preview call on Sunday, where they’ll talk in more detail.  It’s Monday evening, so I would not expect a press conference that — later after the call, given the time difference.

Q    But anytime next week to hear the President talk about this meeting?

MS. PSAKI:  I think there is one planned for after the — by — the meetings with the Mexican and Canadian leaders next week.

Go ahead.  I’ll come back you.  I just want to jump around.

Q    Sorry.  You just said the real risk on inflation is inaction.  But, so far this week, we haven’t seen any action from the administration on gas prices.  The President, in Europe, said, you know, we would see action sooner rather than later; on Wednesday, that it was his “top priority.” 

So is he going to tap the SPR, ease biofuel blending requirements, ban crude exports?  And if the answer is you still haven’t kind of decided on any of this, is the message to Americans headed into Thanksgiving — where everybody will be driving to see their family and friends — that you think that the current prices are acceptable?

MS. PSAKI:  We certainly don’t think that.  The message to Americans is that we’re not just closely and directly monitoring the situation — which, of course, we’ve been doing — but we’re looking at every tool in our arsenal.  You mentioned some of them. 

While I don’t have anything to preview today, the President is quite focused on this, as is the economic team.  And I would note, again, that we have taken a range of actions.  We’ve communicated with the FTC to crack down on illegal pricing; are engaging with countries and entities abroad, like OPEC, on increasing supply; and we’re looking at a range of options we have at our disposal.  But I don’t have anything here to preview for you.

Q    Axios reported that the President is considering appointing an infrastructure czar to oversee that program.  Would that be somebody that comes in from outside the White House or the administration, or would we expect to have the Transportation Secretary or somebody like that to sort of hold this position?

MS. PSAKI:  He does have an intent — he does intend to name a infrastructure coordinator and someone who could oversee the implementation of the bill.  I don’t have anything to preview yet on that personnel announcement.  I expect we’ll have something soon, and you can expect it will be someone from outside of the administration.

Q    And then, last one.  Senator Manchin was critical of, sort of, inflation this week.  Obviously, there’s a question of if it’ll impact his vote on the Build Back Better issue, and I’m wondering if you’ve received any assurances from him that it will not. 

But also, it plays into sort of a larger critique that he’s had about the Fed having, at some point, ramped down — he wishes that they’d ramped down bond buying and (inaudible).  So I’m wondering if that is a criticism that the White House agrees with, especially as the President is sort of evaluating this position going forward.

MS. PSAKI:  I’m just not going to get into critiquing the Federal Reserve from here or their decisions, given they make independent decisions.  I would note that — and I’ll let Senator Manchin, of course, speak for himself and his support or concerns he may have. 

You know, what we’re focused on is getting this bill passed through the House next week.  And we have every intention of working with leadership to get exactly — to get that done.  And we will remain, at a senior-staff level, at this point, engaged closely with Senator Manchin and answer any questions he has. 

I will note that most — the vast majority of outside economists agree that this is not a bill that will add to inflationary pressure, and in fact, over the longer term, it will ease inflationary pressure. 

And I would note just a couple of people who, at times, haven’t always been positive about our proposals.  Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said about Build Back Better, “I don’t think that’s an inflation problem.”  He said if he was in Congress, he would vote for it. 

Moody’s Analytics chief economist, Mark Zandi: “I don’t think the Build Back Better agenda will be inflationary.  I think it’s designed to lift long-term economic growth by improving productivity.  That’s public infrastructure, roads, bridges, broadband.  That will make us more productive.  That should ease inflation.”  As we know, increased economic productivity and growth eases inflationary pressure.

And, of course, our favorite, the 17 winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics, who wrote that “because this agenda invests in long-term economic capacity and will enhance the ability of more Americans to participate, it will ease longer-term inflationary pressure.” 

I would also note, and then I will keep cooking around here, but that one of the reasons they don’t have concerns, as they’ve said in many of these interviews that I was just pulling out components of, is because it’s fully paid for.  And the reason it’s fully paid for is because we’re asking corporations, the wealthiest Americans to pay more in taxes. 

That is something — I don’t — you don’t need to be kind of a sleuth here to understand why some Republicans are speaking out against this package.  Is it because they’re opposed to lowering childcare costs?  Is it because they’re opposed to making sure that preschool is available for families?  Is it because they’re opposed to lowering healthcare costs?  No, it’s because they don’t want to raise taxes on corporations.  We all know that.  Hope people will ask them those questions.

Go ahead.

Q    Jen, can I ask you about COVID very quickly?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    And welcome back, by the way.

MS. PSAKI:  Thank you. 

Q    The Colorado governor just signed an executive order making everyone 18 and older eligible for a booster shot, which defies guidance from the FDA and from the CDC, which says that the booster shot should only go to those who are at higher risk or seniors.  What does the White House make of that decision and move?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we, here in the federal government, are guided by science and our country’s public health officials who are constantly reviewing the data to make their own independent, evidence-based decisions. 

As you noted, this isn’t currently the guidance that’s being projected by our health and medical experts because they are looking at and understanding the data.  So, we would certainly continue to advise leaders across the country to abide by public health guidelines coming from the federal government.

Q    If I can, quickly, just to detail your own experience: Do you have any lingering symptoms?  Have you had anything that stuck with you?

MS. PSAKI:  I do not, fortunately.  And as I noted earlier, I was — experienced a little bit of light fatigue in the first couple of days but none that prevented me from participating in meetings here, engaging with the President and the team on the road, and certainly probably calling members of my team so many times they were tired of hearing from me.

Q    As it relates to the White House, has the White House determined whether it is safe to hold holiday parties, and will the White House do so this year?

MS. PSAKI:  You know, it’s going to look a little bit different, Peter, and I don’t have anything to outline for you at this point in time.  But certainly we expect to celebrate the holiday season.  And we’ll have more details, I expect, in the coming weeks on that for you.

Q    So, for clarity, when you say it’s going to look different, that means there will be holiday parties and they will look different but you’re not going to detail how they’ll look different yet?

MS. PSAKI:  We’ll have more to convey to all of you about what it will look like, and I just don’t have those details at this point in time.

Q    Let me ask one last question if I can, quickly.  Across this country, we’ve seen this new phenomenon lately chanted at sporting events and on signs.  The phrase is, “Let’s go, Brandon.”  A sort of code for a profane slogan attacking President Biden.  What does the President make of that?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t think he spends much time focused on it or thinking about it.

Q    The President said when he came into office on Inauguration Day — he said he was going to help get rid of the “uncivil war” in this country.  So I guess, through that lens right now, does the President think there are things that he can do differently?  Or how does he react to the stuff he sees out there when it is one of his primary promises or desires to help bring Americans together?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, it takes two to move towards a more civil engagement and discourse in this country.  And the President is going to continue to operate, as you said, from the promise he made early on, which is that he wants to govern for all Americans. 

He’s going to deliver for all Americans, as is evidenced by the infrastructure bill that he’s going to sign on Monday, that’s going to help expand broadband to everyone, no matter your political party, no matter whether you voted for him or not.  That’s going to replace lead pipes, make sure kids have clean drinking water, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican or not political at all. 

That’s how he’s going to govern.  And certainly we’re hopeful we’ll have partners to move toward more civil discourse with in the future. 

Q    Thank you. 

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Welcome back. 

MS. PSAKI:  Thank you.

Q    Democrats are calling for the President to release barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to bring down costs.  And that would be somewhat of an immediate action to mitigate these high gas prices as opposed to waiting for the BIF money to be implemented to address the long-term supply chain issues or the Build Back Better to be passed.  Why has the President not yet done that?  Does he plan to do that soon?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have anything to preview for you.  I can just reiterate what I conveyed a little bit earlier: is that certainly the cost of gas is on the minds of the — on the mind of the President, as it is on the mind of many Americans across the country. 

And there are several steps we’ve taken, including pushing the FTC, or asking the FTC to look into price gouging — something we’ve seen and we have concerns has been an issue over the past few months as the availability and supply of oil has gone up and prices have not come down; pushing OPEC to release more supply to meet the demand.  And certainly there are a range of other domestic options, but I just don’t have anything to preview at this point in time.

Q    And then, can I get your response to this report from the Tax Policy Center that under the Build Back Better plan, most millionaires would get a tax cut; two thirds of people making over a million dollars would get a cut on average of $16,800, mostly because of SALT? 

Separately, it finds that 20 to 30 percent of middle-class households would pay more in taxes — granted, it’s a small amount — between $100 and $230 depending on income levels.  But how does the White House frame this reconciliation plan as a tax cut for the middle class, paid for by the rich, when this analysis is showing the opposite?

MS. PSAKI:  It actually doesn’t.  Just to give a little bit more context of what the report showed, it also showed that the average family with children making $75,000 to $100,000 per year will get an income tax cut of about $2,230.  It also showed the average —

Q    Isn’t that not until last year though?

MS. PSAKI:  It showed the average taxpayer with income above $1 million per year will see their income taxes go up by $65,000.  Seventy-five percent of the tax cuts go to families making less than $200,000 per year, with 54 million families making less than $200,000 a year getting a tax cut. 

What we also don’t buy into, which is part of your second part of this, is that any tax that dares touch big corporations — many of whom are making record profits and not paying any taxes at all — is somehow a tax on the middle class. 

Most economists agree with us: Build Back Better will clearly lower taxes, lower costs, raise wages, and economic growth — increase economic growth for the middle class.

The strategy — and just look at the 2017 tax cuts — that was argued at the time, that giving tax cuts to big corporations would trickle down to lower income people — it didn’t.  None of that happened.  So we’re just not buying into that notion

Q    But doesn’t that not take effect — that cut that you’re referencing — until 2023? 

So, I guess what I’m getting at is: Next year, 2022, the expectation is that middle-class families will be paying, granted, a little bit more, but still a little bit more if this passes.  And then, also, you’re still dealing with issues like gas prices being high.  You guys have talked about the actions you’re going to take or are looking at, but these are long-term solutions, mostly, that you’re talking about.  So what will be done in the immediate future to address the next year?

MS. PSAKI:  Actually, many of them are short term.  But what is true and is not often out there is that a lot of these pandemic relief programs are ending — right? — are ending. 

So if you look at the spending — (gestures upward trajectory) — I don’t really have a graph right now; I’m kind of making a fake one — but if you look at the spending from pandemic relief, that is going to go down because a lot of those programs are ending. 

So when people are out there — this isn’t your question, but just made me think of it — when people are out there criticizing the influx of money into the economy, that’s actually misleading and inaccurate. 

What we’re really talking about here is we’re ending those programs.  The President supports that.  There are programs, to your point, like the Child Tax Credit, that if we don’t extend the Child Tax Credit, 40 million Americans will no longer get the benefit of the Child Tax Credit.  That’s an immediate benefit that would be happening next year. 

I mentioned, before, investing in housing and building lower inc- — or available housing that allows for options for lower-income and middle-income families.  That is something that will have an impact.  Cutting childcare costs in half — that’s something that will happen next year.

That — those are all ways that we’re working — we’re trying to and focused on lowering costs for Americans.  That would be a part of this bill.

Q    And then, I want to ask you about real — real quick about Ukraine.  I know you discussed earlier the Russian troops amassing on the Ukrainian border.  Field hospitals, as we all know, started being set up in April, indicating that there might be some action there.  Blinken’s comments about concern about Russia rehashing the 2014 invasion and then Jake Sullivan underscoring the commitment to Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.  But has — it doesn’t seem there’s been any indication of more support on the way from the U.S. right now.

MS. PSAKI:  To the Ukrainians?

Q    To the Ukrainians.  And then — so why is that? 

And then, also, why did we send the CIA Director to Russia instead of the Secretary of Defense or our ambassador or Blinken to handle this kind of a diplomacy issue?  Like, who is he speaking for in that trip?

MS. PSAKI:  He’s speaking for the U.S. government.  I’d also note that the CIA Director is also the former ambassador to Russia and the former Deputy Secretary of State.  So he does come to it with quite a bit of experience.  But the President looks at his national security team as a group of smart, engaged individuals who are representing his national interests overseas, and that’s what he’s doing. 

I will note, on the Ukraine question, part of the reason I mentioned the engagement with European allies and partners is because, as you know, we operate in lockstep with our allies and partners.  That’s how we’ve approached things.  We are — we have a shared concern about reports of military buildup on the border.  I don’t have anything to preview at this point in time, but that is something that we are very actively engaged with not just the Russians on and the Ukrainians, but also our European partners as well. 

I just want to skip around because I know we’re not getting to enough people in the back, so I hear.  Okay, let’s go all the way.  Time.

Q    Thank you.  Thank you very much, Jen.  I had a question about the meeting between Xi Jinping and President Biden on Monday.  The U.S. Holocaust Museum this week came out with a report that China’s actions towards the minority population of Uyghurs in the country may amount to genocide.  Its use of forced slave labor and forced sterilizations and other actions, is that something that the President is going to bring up with Xi Jinping?  And is that something the President will hold up as something that Xi Jinping needs to take action on, to reverse, before the U.S gets closer in its relationship with China? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would say that one of the purposes of this leader-to-leader engagement is to also discuss areas where you have strong concern and disagreement.  And, you know, it’s not just the President’s words, though; we’ve also acted.  We are engaged, first of all, with members of Congress on technical advis- — providing technical assistance on legislation that’s currently working its way through Congress. 

But in addition to that, we’ve also taken concrete measures on our own, including visa restrictions, Global Magnitsky and financial sanctions, export controls, import restrictions, the release of a business advisory, and rallying the G7 to commit to take action to ensure all global supply chains are free from the use of forced labor.

So this is an area where we have been — the President has been vocal, he has taken action. 

Again, in terms of topics that will be discussed, there will be areas where we work together, and he will not hold back, as he never has, on areas where we have concern.  But I will leave it to the preview call on Sunday to give you more detail on that.

Q    Does the President believe that his personal relationship with Xi Jinping — going back to having a meal together in a noodle shop in Beijing in 2011 and their — the time that they spent together — will that have an impact on his ability to engage with Xi Jinping and get China to take actions that it’s been reluctant to take so far?

MS. PSAKI:  I would say that he — you’ve heard him talk about this before, Brian, and he feels that the history of their relationship — having spent time with him — allows him to be quite candid as he has been in the past and he will continue to be as we look ahead to next week.

Q    Just a follow-up on China.

MS. PSAKI:  Let’s go all the way in the back.  There you go.

Q    On the Monday virtual meet, will concerns on the border tensions with India also be raised between the two leaders?

MS. PSAKI:  Again, I know there’s a lot of interest in this meeting.  I certainly understand it.  We’re going to be previewing it later this weekend.  There’ll be a range of topics discussed — you know, some where we have concern; some where we have areas where we can work together; some certainly security related; economic.  There’ll be a range of topics, but I’ll leave it to the Sunday preview call.

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