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tv   White House Press Secretary Infrastructure Coordinator Hold Briefing  CSPAN  January 18, 2022 6:03pm-6:35pm EST

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>> i'm excited to welcome mitch landrieu to the briefing room. under his leadership louisiana is recognized as one of the greatest comeback he served as leader of the conference of mayors and was voted top turn around mayor in 201. prior to serving maysor he served two terms as lieutenant governor of louisiana around in the louisiana house of representatives. for 16 years. as the infrastructure coordinator he oversees the biggest investment in infrastructure and competitiveness in almost a century. i wanted to have him come speak
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with all of you after our announcement on friday of $1.7 billion to fix bridges across the country. ahead of the president's meeting late they are week with the implementation task force which he co-chairs. with that, i'll turn it over. he's agreed to take a few questions before he has to go build more bridges. go ahead. mitch: good morning, everybody. so this is what this room looks like. i've always wondered. the president asked me to build back america, i said yes. i hope the people of america agree too because it's going to take all of us to get this done. when president biden came into office one year ago he pledged to use the pow oh they have presidency to help everyday american, bring people together and rebuild our country. for decades we just talked about infrastructure week but
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president biden reached across the aisle and in a bipartisan way got it done, promises made, promises kept. let me tell you, every week now is going to be infrastructure week except the difference is we're actually going to build stuff. with the bipartisan infrastructure law, president biden is delivering the largest investment in infrastructure in a generation, that mean in most of our lives. a little more than 60 days ago our team hit the ground running to deliver results. we have now convened the task force made up of cabinet members a total of six times. this thursday will be our seventh. and the president will be with us. we're discussing hard questions, seeking to flesh out the tough stuff first. i'm a firm believe for the running to to the fire not away from it. we're breaking down silos across agencies on permitting and hiring. that is a one-team, one-fight fission and we're going to operate in that way. we also need good partner. the fact of the matter is most
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of the building will be done by the state, by the city, by the counties, by tribal leaders. that's why our team, and me benchly, have been reaching out, extensive outreach to state and local officials. we have reached out to all 50 governors and key staff. i have spoken to hundreds of elected officials and we have gotten a fantastic response from them all. as you know by now we have asked states to appoint infrastructure coordinators which we think will help foster across-agency collaboration which we think will make it easier for them to get problems solved quickly. already they have appointed cured maters in some states are setting up interagency task forces. our team is here to be problem solvers, to deliver, to build a team, to help tell a story. we want to help people take advantage of this great opportunity to build a better america. now as a country, we haven't spent this amount of money on infrastructure in generations.
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so we're talking about thousand do with it accountability and transparency, oen time, on task, on budget, spending taxpayer dollars both wisely and well. earlier today, i convened the inspectors general of federal agencies involved in the implementation of a law, letting them know we want to do this in a partnership like the president did when he was vice president and he led the recovery act process. as the president has expected from his team since day one, including the implementation of a.r.p. as the president has made clear, results and accountability go hand in hand. to deliver results now and in the years to come the federal government was undertake this work in a manner what is deserving of the public's trust. so we're going to lean forward. stewardship of public dollars is a high priority. but i want to level set. this is not a one-time economic stimulus. it's not a race to see how many ribbons we can cut before the end of the year. doing this will require balance.
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it's going to require order. we are deaf in the in itly going to go fast. but we are going to hurry and we are going to get it right. on the nults and bolts we are on the right track. as the president laid out last week we have made real progress. you've seen the announcement, rebuilding ports and airports. we're delivering high speed internet to americans and making progress on delivering clean water by replacing lead pipes. on friday the president rolled out the massive 20.7 billion dollar asset to states to fix over 15,000 bridge, the largest bridge program in american history. you see, bridges connect us. they connect people. the movement of goods. they connect communities. they connect the country. with this investment, president biden is creating a bridge to the future, a pathway to win, a pathway for all of us to win. and today we have another great announcement. the department of interior is announcing a new interagency program for cleaning up orphaned
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wells. a key initiative of the bipartisan infrastructure law. the law includes $4.7 billion to clean up orphan well site, plugging remediation and restoration activities. what does this mean for the people of america? millions of us, millions, live within a mile of hundreds of thousands of orphaned and abeen donned wells that leak and spew. these wells jeopardize public health and safety by contaminating ground water, seeping toxic chemical, elitting harmful pollutants including methane. it creates jobs and will revitalize rural economies in places where people are directly affected by a transitioning economy. like so many issues we face, cleaning it up will take an all of government approach. interior secretary haaland is leading this effort in partnership with the department of agriculture, e.p. and and department of energy and already 26 states have asked for funding to take advantage of this
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opportunity to clean up this mess. secretary haaland told me the other day a story about a school she visited where children had tissues in their nostrils due to constant nosebleeds, a result of contamination. can you imagine having our children have to learn in this kind of environment? it has gone on for quite a long time. that's why we're doing this. real results where people live and where it really matters. cleaning up communities. fighting climate change. creating new and better jobs. building a bridge to a future economy. it's a consequential effort. late they are week there'll be more announcements to come. in closing, let me just say the president has been clear in his charge to me. build a better america. without unnecessary bureaucracy and delay. while at the same time doing what is difficult for the sake of what is right. so better as we have said many times means creating good, middle class jobs. investing in american manufacturing and building
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capacity right here at home. supporting disadvantaged and underserved communities so that no one and no community is left behind. advancing climate resilience and sustainability so we can be better prepared and ready for whatever is coming our way. all of this will make us stronger and better. redeuce costs for the middle class families and help us compete. this is what building a better america looks like for all of us. thank you. jen: all right. go ahead. reporter: mr. mayor, thank you very much. i'm wondering if you can tell us what the response from some states in your neck of the woods has been. we've seen many federal programs, obama care and other thing, red state governors have been resistant. are you seeing a different response on things like infrastructure where the programs are popular but the administration isn't necessarily. and give us a time frame of when you think rib been cuttings, i
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know it's hard to say but will it be this year? mitch: a wise person once said even if they vote no, they want the doege. that's absolutely true -- the dough. that's absolutely true. i've talked to a number of republican governors. all of whom, in the reddest of red states, were welcoming, they were appreciative the president had asked to call. we clearly acknowledged with each other we may have differences of opinion on other issues but on building roads and bridges an airports and clean water and broadband, 75% or 08% of the people of america want these things to happen and the governor committed to working with us to get it done. i'm from the state of louisiana. we have gotten beaten to death by katrina, rita, gustav, the
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oil spill, and a bucket of other stuff. we always wonder when the locusts are coming. beef had interaction with republican and democratic governors. in both instances bipartisanship is at the forefront. at the end they have day there is common ground. i feel very good about the willingness to lean forward and to do the things that all of our constituents need irrespective of what party that they're in. in terms of turning dirt quickly, as i said, to level set with everybody in the room because you'll ask me about this from time to time, can you hurry up? when will the money get to the ground? when are the ribbon cuttings? >> this is different from the american recovery program. that is a long-term investment in rebuilding america better. and so there are a lot of these programs that are actually new. many are not. this happens in two ways. some of this is through formula funding that's been set. every governor has received a an indication of what states will receive for the next phi year,
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that's across from whoever is sitting in the governor's chair, they can start planning today and break ground as soon as they're ready. the other part is competitive grants. some of those will take time to set up. there are some projects you'll see people turning dirt on in the spring and fall. which one, i can't point to you right now but there's no reason that shouldn't happen especially if some projects have been in the line for some period of time. reporter: have you been able to identify which projects are getting understood way? and when will we know what projects are coming? mitch: i can't say exactly what date but you remember the investments we made in ports and in bridges and the ones we sent out, the ones michael regan sent out on clean water and clean air. the governors have this money.
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some of this mop is fungible. as soon as they decide where the money is going to go and do it with appropriate attention to equity, climate, using american products, and other things of that nature, those projects shouldn't take long. you don't build a bring in a day. reporter: i'm curious about the money for amtrak. what is the process looking like in terms of spending those funds, the timeline when do you think -- [indiscernible] -- and is it going to be, in terms of figuring out which project, i know they have planning that amtrak does and a lot of it is
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focused on that northeast corridor, the travel up the northeast coast, is that going to be a process that amtrak itself figures out what they're going to spend or if there's going to be input from the administration, the white house? how does that work? >> we're going to all figure it out together. you can count on that. secondly, to make you aware of the scope of this project, $1.2 trillion, 14 agencies, plus some that have some level of involvement in many of these plans and programs it takes three or four agencies to coordinate. and then there are some independent agencies and amtrak is one of those. as you noticed, they have 66 -- $66 billion to do a really big job. and of course you won't be surprised to know the president has a special interest in trains. he'll talk to you about it for a very long time. he knows more about it than many engineers in an unbelievable way. we started those conversations with amtrak. you have rightly noted that the northeastern corridor is the one that needs the immediate attention. the president has indicated he's really interested in trying to make sure that we look at where the connections are that connect moving people that's cheaper, faster, and is also climate-friendly.
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we're in the process of kind of putting that together and we'll have a plan in the not too distant future. reporter: it could be started this year or more likely something -- >> i don't want to speak specifically for amtrak. it's an independent agency. there are many things that can be started right now. as i have said to you, in some of these models that we have in some form laxer that money is actually out the door. that's going to be a matter of administrative work that we have to do. reporter: based on what you've seen so far, how many state governments have the capacity already to evaluate this huge number of projects and determine which ones are most worthy of the funding? as we saw from the american rescue plan, you might be very organized here at federal level, but if they don't have the staffing and the know-how at the state level there'll be
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bottlenecks. >> that is a fantastic question. thank you for asking. it's all going to be about balance. how do you go fast and get it right? how do you try to do the right thing but at the same time not go too slow? how do you deal with making sure people have the capacity to use it? let me say this again to all of us who are younger than 80 years old. you haven't seen this in your lifetime. when we have tried to do this in the past, because we haven't spent a lot of time building up what i call down line logistics, you'll hear me say this many times, sometimes up here in washington, they want to create a cow and when it gets down to the ground it looks like a pig. the point is to make sure we work with the people from the ground up knowing it, understanding it, analyzing and working in partnership with then. one thing that should be obvious to anybody in this country is we have a capacity problem on the ground. notwithstanding the current circumstance that we're in. even if the world were perfect, are we ready to build this much stuff this fast?
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the answer is if you triage it appropriately, if you plan appropriately, if you run to the fire and one of the fires is do we have enough people and materials and if we don't, how do we create work force training programs, how do we manufacture products here and you understand this is a five to 10-year cycle, you can move into, if you do it intentionally, and with thought. so to answer your very specific question, there are some states that have been in this business for quite a long time. and they're obviously more prepared than others. one of the great challenges and missions the president gave us and it falls under the umbrella of equity and climate, what about these small indigenous communities that don't have the capacity to apply for grant? what happens if they get a grant do they have the ability to spend the money? our team has raised up that by all agencies that says, we have to run to that fire and start building capacity on ground level and then how actually are we going to do that? what does the partnership with a community and technical colleges look like? how is labor going to build apprenticeship programs to lift up people of color and how do
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you create this virtuous cycle of success and moving in one direction? this is why back to the question early inquiry, if -- earlier, if everybody cooperates and everybody saves the fire for all of these hot button issues that we tend to disagree with and don't focus on infrastructure because it's not a republican or a democratic way to fill a pot hole, then we ought to be able to get this done more quickly and better. that, ladies and gentlemen, is what a better america looks like for president biden. thank you all very much. i appreciate it. jen: ok. invited back any time. a couple of items for all of you at the top. i have a bit of a hard out at quarter of or 10 of, we'll get to as many people as possible. i no many of you are tracking that we're about to reach our one-year mark in the administration and we wanted to note a couple of the points of progress that have been made.
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you'll hear the president talk more about and members of our administration also talk more about over the coming days. you know how we love charts around here so we have some charts that lay out a pretty stark contrast between where we started and where we are now. so just to highlight a couple of pieces. during the president's first year, we saw the most dramatic change in our economy of anywhere in the world. it was the biggest year of job growth in american history and it was the direct result of action taken by president biden and democrats in congress, including the american rescue plan. the vaccination effort, it helped fund and now the bipartisan infrastructure. you can see the economic data there quite starkly. look at the initial unemployment claims. they are on average -- they were at 812,000 a year ago. they're now at 210,000. the unemployment rate and job creation the year before the president took office and the last year. as it relates to covid if we
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look to a year ago, only 1% of adults were fully vaccinated. 74% of adults are fully vaccinated now. in terms of at-home tests on the market, zero on the market a year ago. now we have 375 million people per -- tests i should say, kis distributed per month. 46% of schools were open a year ago, now over 95 mct. this is progress that's been made. there's more that is going to be done, that needs to be done, the job is not done yet, but we have a plan to address the challenges we're facing and we're going to stay at it. with that, coleen, why don't you kick us off. reporter: i want to ask what you guys are discussing this week and then what's plan b if things go south, you know, to ensure voting access if the bills don't pass? jen: as you all know, the negotiation, or debate is starting in the senate.
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the president's view is that the american people deserve to see where their leaders stand on protecting their fundamental rights. that's a reason to move forward with this debate and this vote this week. he also said opposing rule changes to make voting rights a reality is supporting an obstacle to protecting voting rights. it's an important part of the process. we will continue to, and you've heard the president say and i'm sure he'll reiterate to you, that until his last breath he'll be fighting for the protection of voting rights. that means conversations and fighting to get legislation at the federal level through is going to continue. those conversations will continue. i will note that in addition, we have also been working with organizations all across this country who are building diverse coalitions to pass voter laws and push back against those that make it harder to vote and threaten free and fair administration of elections. in addition to doing the
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critical work to educate and register voters. these organizations have built grass roots leadership at the state level, they are directing organizing to register voters in states rolling back voter protections. the vice president knows americans at every level are focused on this fight and she will continue to lead this effort with activist policy leaders around the country. right now we focus on the debate that's going to be happening and the fact that it will highlight clearly for the american people who stands with them in protecting voting rights and who stands against them. reporter: what do you hope to achieve with the secretary of state heading to ukraine and to geneva to meet with labruv and what's going on right now? jen: let me give you and update on where things stand. this morning, secretary blinken
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spoke with russian foreign minister labruv and they agreed to meet in geneva. secretary blinken will urge russia to take immediate steps to de-escalate. he will also fly to kiev to meet with ukrainian leaders and to germany. there's also a congressional delegation on their way there. i would note that that just indicates that support for ukraine has always been a bipartisan issue and we welcome that. where things stand right now, president putin has created this crisis by amassing 100,000 troops along the russian borders, including moving troop into belarus for exercises and conducting exercises on ukraine's eastern border. our view is this is an extremely dangerous situation, we are now at a stage where russia could at any point lawmple an attack on ukraine. what secretary blinken is going to do is highlight clearly there's a diplomatic path forward and it's up to president putin and the russian whether
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they're going to suffer severe economic consequences or not. reporter: when you're talk about kind of this meeting that the secretary of state is going to have with labruv, what is -- is there an expectation he's going to provide some sort of response to issues raised in the january 10 meeting? jen: i don't have anything for you to specifically preview on the behind the scenes negotiations and discussions but our position has been chris caller -- crystal clear from the beginning. the position of the president and the secretary of state. there are two paths. there's a diplomatic path forward. we hope they take that path. there's the other path. it is up to the russians to determine which path they're going to take and the consequences will be severe if
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they don't take the diplomatic path. reporter: there's been reporting out of europe that essentially this idea that's been floated about taking russia out of the swift financial payment system is basically off the table at this point. is that accurate? jen: no option is off the table. we continue to discuss with our counterparts further action if russia invades ukraine. reporter: and what about ending the nord stream ii pipeline? jen: it is not functioning. you've seen the steps they have taken recently. germany's federal network agency suspended the certification process of nord stream ii and our view continues to be that stopping the pipeline is a credible piece we hold over russia at this point in time. especially since it's not functioning. if sanctions are imposed right now which some are proposing and russia views the sanctions as a sunk cost. this would be one less consideration in its calculus. we're consulting closely with all our partners and allies in this.
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i would note the pipeline is not operational, germany's federal network agency suspended the certification process. reporter: on ukraine and russia, what does the white house make of the evacuation of russian diplomatic staff from their embassy? and do you think the threat of invasion is higher or lower? jen: i think as i noted a few moments ago we believe we're now at a state where russia could at any point launch an attack on ukraine. i would say that's more stark than we have ever. -- than we have been. in terms of the decision to move their embassy or move personnel out of their embassy, we have information that indicates the russian government was preparing to evacuate family members from the russian embassy in ukraine in late december and early january. we certainly refer you to them for more specifics about what their decision. is but we don't have an assessment on why. reporter: another one on reports that the white house is in talks with the f.a.a. and wireless providers on the 5g rollout and the potential disruption to
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airline travel. is there anything else you can tell us about the agreement and are you trying to prevent flight cancellations? jen: we are -- those conversations are ongoing. i don't have an update at this miami but they're ongoing right now. i would say. so we have the safest air space in the world. we're committed to reaching a solution around 5g deployment that maintains the highest level of safety while maintaining -- minimizing disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations and our economic recovery. we understand what's at stake for both industries. we are actively engaged, as you said with the f.a.a., f.t.c., wireless carriers, airlines and equipment manufacturers to reach a solution. we believe with continued cooperation we can chart a path forward. certainly minimizing flight disruptions, ensuring safety in travel is a top priority. reporter: and one more. microsoft buying activision blizzard will create this third
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biggest video game company. does the white house have competition concerns with this acquisition? jen: i would just note that today there's an announcement by the f.t.c. and justice department that's probably happening now. broadly speaking this is not about the specific case. which is in our view a critical step toward delivering on one of the key priorities of the executive order the president signed, strengthening enforcement against illegal mergers and it kicks off the technical process to review merger guidelines. as it relates to this specific case you mentioned, i don't have a comment on the specific merger but i wanted to point you to your announcement, their press conference that may be going on right now. reporter: bipartisan supply chain legislation in the house, the u.s. innovation and competition act. is the white house engaged in
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getting lawmakers on board with this? jen: very closely engaged. we are advocates for manufacturing here in the united states including investment in chips manufacturing capacity but we're closely engaged in these discussions. reporter: can you say more about what kind of discussions you're having? jen: we have been engaged from the beginning. the president has long been an advocate for increasing investment in our manufacturing capacity at home and we are looking forward to it moving forward. reporter: does the president think members of congress should be prohibited from trading stocks. the president is prohibited from doing this. so where does he stand on that and should their spouses be too? jen: the president didn't trade individual stocks when he was a senator. that's how he approached things he believes everyone should be held to the highest standard but he'll let leadership and members of congress determine what the rules should be. reporter: a couple of questions, how is that an individual known to mi-5 in britain who was on
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the watch list ended up in a synagogue this texas? how did that happen? jen: our understanding and obviously we're still looking into this, is that he was checked against u.s. government databases, multiple times, prior to entering the country and the u.s. government did not have any derogatory information about the individual in our systems at the time of entry. we are certainly looking back as i referenced at what occurred to learn every possible lesson we can to prevent attacks like this in the future. beyond that i refer you to the department of homeland security. reporter: obviously the president referred to it as an act of terror. what is the significance of referring to the individual as a terrorist or the act as an act of terror? jen: i talked to the president about this that day as well. there's no question that when somebody go into a house of worship and threatens and holds hostage individuals who are there, that that is an act of terror. that's terrorism. that's why he called it that.
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we don't need to be -- it's very clear that's what it is. go ahead. reporter: back to voting rights for a minute. you mentioned that the white house is going to push bac against state legislatures. can we expect to see more litigation from the department of justice around this? if you look at cases that have already been filed under section 2 we know historically that takes a long time, years, to resolve. are you confident there's any action you could take that would result in any outcome before the mid terms? >> i refer you to the department of justice. as you know they have doubled their funding for voting rights protests but in terms of individual cases or legal intentions or actions i would point you to them. >> and health care and the affordable care act that was something president biden ran on, expanding the a.c.a. he was able to do that throug the rescue plan but some of those -- >> we're


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