tv White House Press Secretary Holds Briefing CSPAN October 1, 2021 2:43pm-3:19pm EDT
higher taxes on the billionaires. the top 1%. it's a fair bill for average americans like myself. and i wish that if everybody just take a look at what's going on in the bills and watches c-span, house and senate, i think you would get a better idea of the workings -- jen: two quick items at the top. i know some of the wires have to go. we'll go to you guys first. yesterday h.h.s., treasury, labor issued new consumer protections against surprise medical bills. specifically the rules to lower health care cost, spreents hospitals and doctors from taking advantage of their market power, advance health care price transparency, and expand people's ability to dispute claims denied by their health plan. this bill is a rule issued in july. these regulations will ensure
consumers are protected from most surprise bills. that consumers know how much health care will cost before getting care. and that providers health plans and issuers have a process to settle payment disputes. also wanted to just give you a previous on the week ahead. we'll have more as the weekend proceeds. throughout the weekend and next week the president will continue to make the case for his build back better agenda and bipartisan infrastructure deal. also he will be working with the senate on the debt limit after republicans voted twice this week to default. toward the middle of the week the president will travel across the country to make the case for his build back better agenda and discuss his administration's work to increase covid-19 vaccinations, defeat the pandemic, and build an economy that works for all. next friday is jobs day. you can expect he'll deliver some remarks on the economy. as always we'll provide you with more details as we have them.
reporter: why is the president going to the hill today? what has changed? what is his message? jen: he's going over there to make the case for his legislative agenda, which includes the infrastructure bill and it includes his build back better agenda. that would be in the rehabilitation package. he wants to speak directly to members. answer their questions. make the case for why we should all work together to give the american people more breathing room. reporter: walk out of there with agreement and a vote today on the infrastructure? jen: i'm not going to make a prediction whether there will or won't be a vote. i'll leave that to speaker pelosi to determine when she will call a vote. he's making the case, he believes it's the right time for him to go up there. this is his proposals, his bold ideas. this is his plan that he's outlined to not just rebuild our roads, railways, and bridges and put millions of people back to
work but also make childcare, eldercare, pre-k more cost-effective to address the climate crisis. he wants to make the case directly to members. reporter: senator manchin has been [indiscernible] -- jen: i wouldn't say that's the substance of what's being hard out. there are a lot of topics being discussed right now between a range of members. including senator manchin. i know we have talked over the last couple days, a little bit, about this proposal for some means testing. the president supports and what the president is focusing on is ensuring that these plans are targeted toward the middle class, help the middle class, and help middle class families prosper. give them breathing room. and as you look to some of his past proposals, there has been caps on income. some of his past proposals, some implemented as part of the american rescue plan. whatever you call it he's open
to discussing that. reporter: last one. is it possible he will be able to the democrat conference and open to the press, meeting with people today -- jen: he's visiting the democratic caucus. as you may know and the speakers office will confirm. they make those rules, we don't. those are closed press meetings. there will be a press pool with him. in terms of whether he'll address the public or speak to you, we'll see. we are quite open. he is -- he will make decisions hour by hour. reporter: can you tell us what progress has been made in the last 24 hours or so? jen: i can tell you a little bit about what's happened over the last 24 hours. some of you have been watching this closely. white house officials, including chief of staff, domestic policy advisor, legislative director,
and ryan have been speaking with leadership and members spanning the caucus daily. moderates and progressives. members of the c.p.c., congressional progressive caucus. blue dogs, new democrats, and problem solvers. they have been on constant contact and con -- constant phone calls. as you know many of those officials i just mentioned were up on the hill yesterday from about 3 p.m. until midnight last night. meeting with members. discussing with their teams what the path forward looks like. the legislative team has also made now 300 calls, or had 300 calls with meetings, members, chief of staffs, staff directors, since september 1 and our policy teams have had dozens of meetings directly with members and their teams. i would say oafort last 24 houre last 24 hours, there has been the pressure of a timeline which often can make progress. can crystallize for people what's at stake.
what we are all trying to do here which is to make life better for the american people. there have been discussions about what the path forward looks like. productive, constructive discussions. as i said, as we said last night in the same statement i put out. we feel we made progress. those discussions have continued today and continue as we speak. reporter: is there anything more that you can delineate about what that progress is exactly? jen: i think we all know what we are trying to work toward here. it's not a state secret. there are a couple of members of the senate who want to be comfortable with what the build back better package looks like. there are a couple of members of the progressive caucus, several members of the progressive caucus who want to know there is a path forward on the build back better agenda. what we are working toward is unifying a path to get both these packages done. as a part of that, we all knew this from the beginning,
compromise is necessary. it's inevitable. some have come down. some have come up. and the numbers and what we are looking at here. that's what the basis of the discussion and progress has been. reporter: one quick question. the offer to open up a direct line -- jen: first let me say that in our outreach as i think i'll start here, we have made specific proposals for discussion with the north koreans. but have not received a response to date. our outreach from the united states. we remain prepared to discuss the full range of issues. i believe in terms of the recent incidents, missile launches, we are aware of these reports. we are assessing the specific nature of these launches. i think we have put out statements from the department of defense and others in
response to them. in terms of potential discussions between the north koreans and south koreans, we have made our own outreach of potential engagement. i have to talk to our team for more specific reaction. reporter: reconciliation before they vote for the infrastructure package. what sort of sort of assurances can you offer progressives? jen: i'm not sure i am following. reporter: the progressives want assurances the reconciliation package will pass if they take a vote on the infrastructure package. what assurances -- jen: that's what we are working through. we don't know what the vote schedule is or isn't today. we leave that to speaker pelosi. as i said yesterday, i'll just reiterate now, it's 2:50 in the afternoon. there are plenty of hours and time left. it is not a secret. we know what we are trying to accomplish. exactly as you stated, as i stated many times from this
podium. there is a desire and interest from some members of the democratic caucus to understand what the path forward looks like on the build back better agenda. a proposal and agenda the president has proposed. that's what they are looking for. an assurance there is a path forward on that. they feel the keys to that is ensuring there are enough votes to pass that in the senate. with the support of senator manchin and senator sinema. that's why the president has been so focused on working with them and having discussion was them about finding a path forward. there was a deal, you would know there was a deal. that's exactly what we have been working toward and working through over the past several days. reporter: the president will try to get progressives to truck something leak a framework short of a full vote would be acceptable? jen: the president is not going there to litigate the legislative path forward. he's going there to make the case for how these two packages can help the american people.
he'll answer questions and i am -- that will be a part of the important engagement he has while on the hill. reporter: some republicans who were working with the president earlier in the process on the $1 trillion package, mitt romney among them, this is profoundly disappointing. he believes house democrats have put their party ahead of the needs of the country. how does the president respond? jen: i think maybe the time and energy of some of the republicans in the senate who voted in a bipartisan fashion to move the infrastructure bill forward should talk to kevin mccarthy and some of the republicans in the house who are opposing a bill, opposing a proposal that many of them had expressed support for in the past. they are either being pressured or special interest. or by their own leadership. whatever it may be. we suggest he spend time talking to them. reporter: final agreement could come in around 2 trillion is
that something the white house is comfortable with? jen: i think i'm not going to negotiate from here. we know and we said from the beginning that some will have to come up. some will have to come down. and if there was an agreement on what the final looked like, you would know that. reporter: last night one of the common goals was clean energy. does that mean any kind of agreement has to define clean energy? progressives do it one way. senator manchin has said he wants to include natural gas. jen: when we say clean energy, what i said in the statement, what we are referring to is really steps to address the climate crisis. there are numbers included in the infrastructure bill. there are a number that are included in the build back better agenda, including -- go ahead. so what i was referring to there
is in the infrastructure bill it includes a number of key components in our view that will help address the climate crisis. investing in electric vehicles. getting rid of lead pipes. making sure there are charging stations. there are also key components in the build back better agenda. all of those in our slew are efforts to move towards a clean energy economy. reporter: secretary yellen said she would support eliminating the debt ceiling entirely. does president biden also support that? jen: our focus right now over the next 17 days or so, plus or minus, is getting a debt limit raised in the senate. that's what we are working toward. there is plenty of time after that to discuss what the path forward looks like. reporter: did the president wait too long to get seriously involved in these discussions? it's happening that speaker pelosi -- pelosi y to pretend it's still thurt on the hill.
jen: anyone who has ever been through a legislative fight before or covered it on the hill knows the negotiations and the deal making always happens at the end. it doesn't matter how the process works or how many weeks there are. it always happens at the end. we are clearly at the late stages of the process here. this is exactly the moment where people put their bottom lines down. they put their best ideas forward. there is heavy negotiating. that's what's happening. that's why timelines can help make progress. reporter: there are 3700 employees furloughed because progressives have so far declined to support the bill to renew their baseline funding, setting aside there is discussion going on for a short-term fix. are progressives to blame for the furlough happening? jen: to be clear, every member of congress is a free citizen who can vote to support the infrastructure bill, including republicans. they could come forward and
support it as 19 republicans in the senate did not. said they have chosen to be influenced by whether it's pharmaceutical dps or other special interests or strong-armed by their leadership not to support legislation that many including the problems solvers caucus suggest they may. it's a majority to support legislation in congress. we haven't seen any are real courage from the republican side. reporter: in the mechanicalling to progressives about the value of this package, is there any discussion conveying from the white house that if this package is around $2 trillion, the value of it, investment of it is actually higher because of some of the math that can be done, is that an argument the white house is making to sell the progressives? jen: the case that the white house is making is that compromise requires everybody giving a little. that's the stage we are in. but no matter where we end, if we can get something done here, we are going to have a historic
piece of legislation pass congress that will have a huge impact on the american people. that's one of the reasons the president wanted to go down there today and lay down and remind people. we get mired, everybody does, in the mek nics of legislating -- mechanics of legislating. remind people what this is all about. this is about lowering costs for people. addressing the climate crisis. helping women and families get back in the work force. that's the case he'll make when he goes to the caucus. reporter: if the president can't get this across today after his visit to the hill, what message does that say about the democrats' ability to deliver? what kind of impact might that have in the midterm? jen: i think what's happening right now is there is healthy debate, discussion, and disagreement about the specifics of the path forward. that's not a sign of dysfunction. that's a sign of democrats primarily at this point, we welcome republican support in the house, trying to work together to get things done for the american people.
that's how legislating happens. he's going up there because this is his agenda. this is what he is proposed. he feels passionately about getting both these pieces of legislation done. he wants to speak directly to the caucus about that. he feels that's exactly the right time to do that. he also feels that this agreement, debate, litigating, components of numbers or how much is going to get more than the other, that's democracy. and that's a healthy part of the process, too. reporter: you said at the top the president next week will make his case for the build back better agenda and the bipartisan infrastructure bill. is that a concession it is not going to get done this weekend? jen: no. it's conveying that the president's going to have to continue to go out there and make the case to the public about what is in these packages. no matter what it passes. reporter: soon, possibly as soon as this weekend, the united states will hit $700,000 deaths from covid. when the u.s. hit 500,000 the
president caused and held a memorial. how does he intend to mark this next terrible milestone? and also what responsibility does he feel for the last 200,000 debts? jen: as the president said many times he feels incredible responsibility for everything that's happening in the country, including our ongoing fight and battle with covid-19. that's why he is focused on this. that's his number one priority since the first day he came into office. we've saved tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of lives because of action his administration took. i think we're about 77%, 78% of the public having received at least one vaccine. obviously, we'll all take a moment to pause when we hit that 700,000. that's a striking, horrifying number to people lost to a pandemic. people lost children
grandparents, children, in some cases. go ahead. reporter: back to the president's trip to the hill. he will make his case to the agenda. is it saying enough is enough, it's time to come together now? jen: well, certainly he will make the case for why it's important that everybody come together and move forward on both pieces of base legislation so we can deliver for the american people. i don't think the president is going to say enough is enough. that's not really his vernacular. but he feels it's important now to go directly, go to the hill, go to the democratic caucus and make his case directly, answer questions, and certainly talk about how we can work together to make the lives of the american people better. reporter: following up on kelly's question. there seems to be a lack of trust, like you said, looking for assurances there is a path forward that negotiations will continue on the reconciliation bill. how do you govern if there's a lack of trust among democrats? jen: i don't know that i
wouldn't put in those terminology as a lack of trust. i will leave that to members of congress to describe how they feel about each other. there's a diversity of views and opinions within the democratic caucus. we know that. we welcome that. that's a healthy part of having a party, a healthy part of having a democracy. what we know is that the president has worked with members of this caucus to get the american rescue plan done, to move his agenda forward to this point, and that when we're talking about this stage in the process, a pivotal stage in the process, where we're litigating details, where we're having debates about key components of two historic bills that will change the lives of millions of people, it's healthy to have discussion. it's healthy to push. it's healthy to be out there advocating for your point of view. i think there's a misunderstanding how democracy and policymaking works when you suggest otherwise. not you but anyone. reporter: following up, again, on the climate change stuff.
is the president's goal still to end fossil fuel subsidies? jen: that's his goal, yes. go ahead. reporter: jen, the president spent most of his week negotiating behind the scenes here at the white house in meetings on the phone. today, he's making a very public trip to the halls of congress. why the change intactics? is this -- why the change in tactics? is it a make or break moment? jen: he feels he needs to go to the caucus and make the case to work together to get this agenda done. he wants to go back to the substance and talk about how the components of each of these packages will make a difference in people's lives. and he wants to have an engagement and back and forth in person, which, as you can all note, he's had a lot of people here come to the white house. he loves that in-person engagement, and it's an opportunity to do exactly that. when there will be a vote, when there will be a deal, there's a lot of work going on behind the scenes about that. this is just his own effort to make his case directly to the
caucus. reporter: is he trying to send a message by literally meeting members physically where they are? jen: what message would that be? reporter: that's my question. [laughter] jen: ok. i think i wasn't sure what you were asking. i think he's -- look, he was in the senate for 36 years. you know, he's making it clear that if they partner together, if we work together, we can get this done for the american people. and going to their caucus meeting -- something, by the way, he did in the senate. it's not something unheard of. it's something presidents have done in the past. these are his proposals. this is something he passionately believe in, both pieces of legislation. it's absolutely right for him to go where they are and make the case for both. reporter: one last one. during most of the day yesterday, it was quite clear the votes were not there for the infrastructure bill to pass. yet, we saw white house officials and the president working throughout the day to try to cobble together the votes to pass that legislation last
night only to see the inevitable happen with the speaker delaying that vote. what in the president's view that work yesterday accomplish and was it worth it to try to push for that bill to be passed on that arbitrary timeline? jen: well, if the speaker were standing here -- i wish she was. she would tell you it wasn't inevitable. when you legislate and when you are working with a small margin, which she is, in congress to get something done, that timelines, self-imposed deadlines sometimes can help crystallize for people and help you make progress. we think it did exactly that. as we said in the statement last night, we are not quite there yet. we are still working toward it. that remains the case today. reporter: yeah, jen, thanks. what can you tell us about these trips next week that the president is making? can you tell us what state or locations they are? if it's a multi-day trip or one day? i think you said middle of the week. jen: yeah. reporter: the fact the president
is going on the road, so to speak, is this a sign he's struggled to sell this plan so far to the public for you to do this at this point? jen: well, i don't have the details yet. i understand why you are asking. i am not trying to be secretive about them. we may have more at the end of the day today or first thing tomorrow. it will be one day, maybe two days of travel next week if we can finalize all of the details. look, we know that the components of these packages are quite popular. i went through this the other day. with the american people. if you look at the child tax credit, if you look at universal pre-k, if you look at elder care and ensuring elder care is something that can be cost-effective and achievable, being able to cover it for people, and also, making sure our roads and our rails and our bridges are we built. also very popular. as is addressing the climate crisis. but he also recognizes that he needs to be out there conveying to the american public why this
matters to them, even if they like different components of the package. so this is something he's committed to doing. you'll see him doing over the coming weeks and months. we made an assessment because there's almost nothing more valuable than the time of the president of the united states, in this week when we were in key period of negotiating and having discussions with legislators, specifically a couple of members of the senate, that his time would be best spent here in washington being available, meeting with people, and having phone calls. but we'll see. he'll do that next week, too. he'll also be on the road. reporter: will these trip be in what we call swing states or maybe the states of some of the senators who haven't gotten onboard yesterday, maybe arizona? [laughter] jen: he's going to be -- i understand your line of questioning. we'll get your -- right. what does it rhyme with? i understand your question. look, he's not going out to the country to do anything more than communicate with the public about how democrats are working together to make their lives better. i expect we'll have more details
in the next 24 hours about where. go ahead, karen. reporter: you said a couple times timelines help make progress and self-imposed deadlines also make progress. in all the meetings this week between white house staff and the president with lawmakers, was the white house explicitly telling progressives to hold their ground on not having the vote or not voting for this until the second part and was the white house also saying to the moderates, keep pushing for a timeline in order to get to that point we got to yesterday? jen: we're negotiating against ourselves? [laughter] reporter: what were you actually telling -- you know, continuing on the path? jen: no, karen, it's a good question. i know there's some reporting out there. i can assure you there's no moment in time where any senior of this white house was arguing for anyone to vote against a piece of the president's agenda. what's also true is we have been in communicating with such a broad range of members in across the caucus that often we know
where different parts of the caucus stand. so we have been in many ways liaisons as long with leadership to say this is where this group stands and conveying so we can help reach a unifying point and get across the finish line. the vast majority of that, without all the specifics, is very much known publicly, right? there's a group who've been out on television and out very publicly and your colleagues on the hill ask some good questions who've conveyed, we absolutely need to have a clear path forward on the build back better agenda in order to support the infrastructure bill. there's also a group that conveyed they want the infrastructure vote. otherwise, they will won't support the reconciliation package. what we're trying to do is gather all the views, gather all the voices, figure out what everyone is for and get these bills passed. reporter: you're getting that together, figuring out where everybody stands and they're making it public. is there a point where the president says we know where
everybody stands but put behind the red line and get behind his agenda to get something done? jen: i think i understand your question. look, he will make the case for the importance of getting his agenda done today. these proposals when he goes to the caucus. but ultimately, it's a separate branch of government, right? individual members have a vote. that's how the united states of america was set up. and i think you've met a lot of these people. they're not looking to be told what to do or have their arms twisted. they want to be part of the discussion, part of the engagement. the good news is if you have heard many members saying we're making progress, we're getting there, we agree with that, and so we'll continue to follow this path. go ahead. reporter: following up on a question about the white house emails being received.
[indiscernible] retweeted a message that was supportive of house progressives delayed last night on the vote saying they were putting the biden agenda on chop. i want to know about that path of ideas versus what [indiscernible] jen: ron retweeted a secret message to the country we were litigating against ourselves and arguing against our agenda? [laughter] jen: all kidding aside, amy. i know there are questions which i was sort of touching on before. look, we believe in the build back better agenda. something that i think everybody would argue the many members of the progressive caucus are most excited about, right? about any component of the agenda. i think that the chief of staff, most people know who he is, was echoing the fact there are a lot of good components of that agenda and we should get it done. sometimes a retweet is nothing more than that.
saying the agenda is good. we also know that, as i said earlier, that there are -- there's a need to work with members in the senate to get them to a place where they have a commitment to a clear path forward on this agenda. so, no, at no point have we been arguing against or whipping against our own agenda. that would be terrible legislative and strategic strategy. i think everyone can agree. but we do feel strongly, and the president feels very strongly about getting both pieces of these legislation done. and so he's working for all the people who are excited more about one than the other to get them all excited about both pieces and supporting both pieces. go ahead. reporter: thank you, jen. senator manchin and sinema have been wearing out a path between here and capitol hill over the past few days. yesterday, at least senator manchin was forth right with reporters in saying his top line
is $1.5 trillion. which may have some impact on the length of the reconciliation bill. does the president have any idea what senator sinema wants out of this? jen: we'll let senator sinema speak for herself. reporter: does he have an idea? jen: we'll let the senator speak for what she wants. go ahead. reporter: you just say no matter where we end, if we get something done we'll have a historic piece of legislation. reslightly moving the goal post and maybe cushioning for something that previously would have been a disappointment but now historic anyway? jen: well, first of all, i think we know, as i said many times, compromise means some people will come down, some people will come up. that's part of what happens here. but what we're talking about is a large package that will have a historic impact on the american people. there's never been a proposal
like this that's come even close to passing that will help lower the cost of childcare, of elder care, of universal pre-k. that is done with this package is proposing to do with the climate crisis. yes, there are parameters what we could or would be for. ultimately what they're negotiating around and what members are negotiating around in good faith would have an historic impact on our economy, historic impact on people across the country. i can do a couple more and then i got to go. reporter: the lifting of the travel ban would be early november. that's coming up is there a date? jen: it's still on track to meet early november. reporter: just early november? jen: that's right. it will be done then. reporter: you mentioned everyone will probably have to give a little on this. jen: hence a compromise. reporter: does the president have any policy redline on the reconciliation bill that you have laid out? i know you've done it before on
previous legislation. jen: he understands he may not get absolutely everything he wants in this package and others may may not get -- may not get everything they want in the package. i know we have done this in the past. during this discussion i will not say. reporter: he's not let anyone touch this -- jen: it's all important for him. i won't lay out further details at this point in the discussion. reporter: "the new york times" said they're breaking with mitch mcconnell to sign on the infrastructure bill. [indiscernible] is that one way that is -- counting on their votes to offset the -- jen: so 19 senators did vote for the infrastructure bill and did support a bipartisan infrastructure path forward. there have been republicans in the house who have expressed
support for, interest in some components of this infrastructure, too. but kevin mccarthy has been whipping against it. it's a good question to him as to why and why these members oppose it. i don't think speaker pelosi is betting on kevin mccarthy's caucus at this point in time. reporter: organizations that are helping migrants from haiti and a couple concerns they have, getting complaints of human rights violations at the border, including people being refused medical attention. another issue that was coming in was that there were many people deported, that didn't have proper documentation that were non-haitians that were sent to haiti and so they're dealing with that on the ground. have you heard -- have you all heard any of those complaints or information? jen: on the latter, i have not heard a single incident of that. i am happy to check on that case. i will just reiterate, as we've been implementing title 42 as it relates to any migrants who have
been coming across the border, no matter what country they're coming from, coming through in a regular process, but in order to go back to a country, you typically need to have come from that country. and there are -- there are countries where some haitians were living for a short period of time that they may not have the proper documentation to go back to that country. i am not sure if that's what the issue is. and certainly that did happen in some cases. as it relates to medical care, that is something that we surged. i think you're talking about from a couple weeks ago in del rio where there's no longer people under the bridge in del rio but we surged a range of resources including food, medical care, and assistance to make sure people were getting exactly what they needed. i'd also note an immediate medical issue is an exemption for title 42 and something we'd work to take care of immediately. all right, guys, thank you so much.
we'll be here. thank you, everyone. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] corporation corporation >> and it's been quiet in the house chamber today. the house remains in recess as democrats continue their informal deliberations on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and president biden's economic agenda. the president, by the way, is heading to capitol hill this afternoon. he'll be gathering with democrats at about 3:30 eastern to stimulate movement on the bill. and when the house gavels in, we will have our live coverage here on c-span. >> house democratic chair congressman hakeem jeffries updated reporters on the infrastructure and spending proposals.