May 13, 2021

Alexandra Beer House

The Real Estate Experts

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, April 8, 2021

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:44 P.M. EDT
 
MS. PSAKI:  Hi, everyone.  Okay.  We have another member of the President’s Jobs Cabinet joining us today: Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.
 
Secretary Granholm is just the second woman to lead the Department of Energy, where she will help America achieve President Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. She’ll do this by advancing cutting-edge clean energy technologies, creating millions of good-paying union clean energy jobs, and building an equitable clean energy future. 
 
Secretary Granholm was the first woman elected Governor of Michigan, serving two terms from 2003 to 2011.  As governor, she successfully led efforts to diversify the state’s economy, strengthen its auto industry, preserve the manufacturing sector, and add emerging sectors, such as clean energy, to Michigan’s economic portfolio.
 
Today, one third of all North American electric vehicle battery production takes place in Michigan.  The state is one of the top five states for clean energy patents, and 126,000 Michiganders were employed in the clean energy sector prior to COVID-19.
 
She also was the first woman elected Attorney General of Michigan and served as the state’s top law enforcement officer from 1998 to 2002.

As always, she can take a few questions.  I’ll be the bad cop.  And with that, I’ll turn it over to you.
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  Great.  Great.  I get to bring my binder, too.  (Laughter.)  The double binder stack here.
 
Thank you so much, Jen.  I really am privileged to be able to share the podium with you today.  And good afternoon, everybody.
 
So, you know, I think that President Biden asked me to be the Secretary of Energy because I was the governor during a time when the auto industry was on its knees and when autoworkers were finding themselves out of work through no fault of their own.  I feel like I’ve looked into the eyes of people who have been desperate and at a loss more times than I can count.
 
And I was also governor when we invested to diversify Michigan’s economy to build car 2.0, which is the electric vehicle — and the guts to that vehicle, the battery.  And now here we are, 12 years later, and General Motors is saying that their entire fleet is going to be electrified. 
 
It is a huge distance that we’ve traveled, and so much of that is thanks to the decision by the federal government to invest in saving the backbone of the manufacturing industry, which was at that point the electric — or the vehicle industry.  And the Obama-Biden efforts really made a statement and worked. 
 
And so we can do so much more than what we did in Michigan, and this is what the American Jobs Plan is all about.  I’m so — I feel so happy for America that we have a President who wants to invest in our country and in our workers and in our manufacturing.
 
And so, to me, the fact that there is out there, globally, a $23 trillion market for clean energy products, for products that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is a massive opportunity for this country.  And you better believe that other countries are seeing that opportunity as well, and our economic competitors are working to corner the market on those opportunities.  Countries like China are pressing their foot on the pedal and revving up their electric engines, and they are thrilled to see that the United States is standing still while they are working to create jobs for their people. 
 
When I — after I was finished being governor, I traveled to China to see their clean energy efforts.  It was with a group.  And we went to a city, and I was standing next to the mayor of the city in China, and during a demonstration, he leaned over to me and he said, “So when do you think the United States is going to get a clean energy plan?”  And at this point — and this was several years ago — I said, “Oh, I don’t know.  There’s so much polarization.  It’s difficult in Congress to get consensus.”  And he just looked at me and he smiled, and he said, “Take your time.”  “Take your time.”  Because they saw our passivity as their opportunity.  And it’s not just in China; it’s in other countries too. 
 
Understandably, countries want to corner this market on clean energy products because we have 195 countries who have committed to lowering their greenhouse gas emissions. 
 
So the question is: Where are those products going to be built, and who are they going to be built by?  And it’s going to take a lot of work, literally.  We need millions of people in the United States working to lower greenhouse gas emissions.  And we all know that, in the 21st century, making sure that we have the right infrastructure is critical. 
 
Infrastructure is, yes, roads and bridges, but it is ports and airports, and it is trains, and it is the pipes that pump water into our homes, and it is the broadband that brings the world and learning to our children; it’s the broadband that brings economic opportunity to our businesses.  Of course, it’s the electrical grid that keeps the lights on.  After what happened in Texas, can anybody really doubt that electricity and the electric grid is part of the foundation of who we are as a nation?  And we need to invest in it if we want to make sure power keeps coming to our homes. 
 
There was an interesting poll that was done in February by Consumer Reports, and they found that 76 percent of Americans think that broadband is as important as electricity and water.  Water.  I mean, how can we not agree that broadband
is infrastructure?  And yet, we have been disinvesting in infrastructure as a nation, for decades.  In infrastructure, in research and development, and in manufacturing — all of them we have been disinvesting in.
 
Infrastructure, as you know, is now the smallest share of our economy since World War Two.  We are at a 72-year low with respect to manufacturing.  Research and development has been dropping since the 1960s.  China and our economic competitors are investing in research and development because they want to seize the future; they want to surpass the United States.  And if we allow that to happen, we will be weaker as a nation, and we will fall.  And we cannot do that.
 
And that’s what this American Jobs Plan is all about.  So we can’t just sit around saying, “We need to do this.  It’s bipartisan.”  We know that Republicans and Democrats — it’s a joke in Washington, Infrastructure Week.  And Democrats and Republicans have been making that joke, but it’s not a joke anymore.  We need to get it done.  And there is bipartisan support for these elements — these basic elements. 
 
So starting on Inauguration Day, just to say a word about what DOE, Department of Energy, has been doing: We’ve been rolling out efforts to research and development, and deploy clean energy technologies, with an eye toward creating jobs.  And if the American Jobs Plan passes, this will be able to be put on steroids. 
 
So in the past two weeks, just as an example, we made two announcements on research.  One — or one on research, and one on deployment of offshore wind.  The research one was to cut the cost of solar by half, yet again, in the next 10 years.  And on offshore wind, it was to add 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy on the Atlantic Seaboard, again, within 10 years. 
 
Today we are announcing another two ser- — two funding opportunities for clean energy technology.  One of them is to create next-generation biofuels for airplanes and ships, which are very hard to electrify, and the second is to announce clean energy technology funding opportunity to reduce methane emissions from the coal, oil, and gas industry.  And as many of you know, methane is an extremely potent and dangerous greenhouse gas.
 
But these investments are really just a down payment on what we need to do as a nation, and the American Jobs project will take us the rest of the way. 
 
And I want to emphasize the — because I’ve been meeting with so many stakeholders on this — the true importance of ensuring that 40 percent of the benefits of the American Jobs Plan go to communities that have been left behind or unseen — people who have been in the shadows of power plants and whose children have to gasp to breathe or use an inhaler. 
 
We need to remedy a moral wrong and make those investments, and the American Jobs Plan will allow us to do that.  It’s a once-in-a-century investment to seize a once-in-a-century opportunity.  That’s what the people elected Joe Biden to do, and we’ve waited far too long to do it.  So we’re going to get it done, and we’re going to put America to work.
 
And I’m happy to take any questions.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Let’s start.  Zeke.
 
Q    Thank you, Secretary.  If I can shift gears a little bit, one of the things in the President’s infrastructure package was investments in nuclear — advanced nuclear development.  One of the things I know you mentioned — or you reiterated during your confirmation hearing is the President’s opposition to funding for a nuclear fuel repository in Yucca Mountain.  Where does the Biden administration plan to store the nation’s spent radioactive nuclear fuel?  And what’s the ongoing process of that review? 
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  Yeah, you’ll — some of you may recall there was a bipartisan commission on what to do about spent nuclear fuel.  There has to be a consent-based process to be able to do that.  We are beginning that work inside of the Department of Energy.  We have to find a solution, but it has to be based on, you know, community agreement.
 
Q    Is there a timetable for that review when you — 
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  We’ll make an announcement — we’ll be making an announcement on that; I’m not ready to say yet.
 
Q    And then just — sorry, just changing gears again — the last administration invested heavily in the nation’s nuclear triad — the development of new and improved nuclear weaponry.  Is the policy of this administration that a lot of this development falls under your department to continue that R&D — that expensive R&D to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal?
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  We have to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal.  We have to keep and maintain the stockpile to make sure that it is safe and effective.  And we will continue to do that to ensure that we can deter nuclear aggression from other countries.  So our nuclear deterrent is important and it is embedded in the values of that stockpile, and we’ll make sure that our people are safe.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Kaitlan. 
 
Q    Thank you so much.  I’ve heard you talk about the corporate tax rate and what they want to do with this infrastructure bill.  Can this infrastructure bill be successful with a 25 percent corporate tax rate?
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  You know, as the President has said, this is a negotiation.  And he really does want to hear from Democrats and Republicans about what would be acceptable to get this across the line.  So there is room for negotiation, but his point is that it has to be paid for.  And so, if it’s not a 28 percent, what — what else is it? 
 
And we’re very encouraged by those who have been bringing ideas forth, and we are hopeful that — especially when Congress gets back next week — that those discussions can begin in earnest.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Mary.
 
Q    Thank you.  You’re one of the five Cabinet secretaries that the President has tasked with engaging with Congress on this.  You mentioned the President is willing to negotiate.  He says he’s open to alternative ways to pay for this if Republicans put forth any.  In your conversations at all, have you heard any such alternatives from Republican members?
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  I have.  (Laughs.) 
 
Q    Any you’d love to share? 
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  Yeah, I’m not going to make announcements for them.  They obviously want to bring forth their own ideas, but I have heard alternatives, yes. 
 
Q    And the President also asked you to help engage the public in selling this plan.  You haven’t hit the road yet though.  Is that something that you plan to do in the coming weeks?
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  Well, we’re going to be taking our guidance, you know, from the White House, in terms of what’s safe, et cetera. 
 
We’ve certainly been hitting the Zoom and making our case through that and the phones.  So we’ll see, you know, how it goes.  There is a period of time that we have to be able to do this, but we want to make sure that it’s safe.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Tamara.
 
Q    Yeah, in terms of the negotiations — the discussions with Congress — is there a deadline, is there a timeframe that — where this turns into a pumpkin?  Or do you just go it alone?
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if you want to answer that, Jen.
 
MS. PSAKI:  We’ll have a whole briefing after this.  (Laughs.)
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  Yeah, I mean, I know that they said that they would like to see progress by Memorial Day, and hopefully we can start to see that.  But, obviously, those meetings have to begin in earnest next week.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Francesca.
 
Q    Thank you.  What do you say to Americans working in the oil and gas industry in California and elsewhere who say that these have been good-paying jobs that have given them access to the middle class? 
 
And what, if anything, can the federal government do to ensure that these clean energy jobs, like the ones that you described, are as good as the ones that they’ll be replacing?
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  Yeah, this is a great question.  And we — this is why the American Jobs Plan is very specifically targeting communities in coal and power plant areas, in gas and in natural gas.  There are billions of dollars in this bill for the technologies that will reduce CO2 emissions in those — in those industries.  For example, carbon capture, use, and sequestration — I don’t mean to get too technical — but hydrogen deployment and demonstration projects. 
 
I’ve been talking with my counterparts around the world; there is a huge appetite for a partnership with America on these next-generation technologies that will reduce CO2 emissions from that kind of baseline power.  Those jobs, in those kinds of technologies, are good-paying jobs.  Those are jobs that are going to be for welders and sheet metal workers and all of the trades.  And we’re going to, as we put out funding opportunities, ensure that there are project labor agreements that the people who are working in them are paid — under Davis-Bacon — are paid prevailing wage. 
 
So we want to create good-paying jobs all across the country, and there will be millions of them if this is passed.  The opportunities — this is why we’ve been having a huge number of discussions with our brothers and sisters in the labor movement, in the building trades, to make sure that we do this in a way that gives their workers opportunity, and it will.  And that’s why they’re supportive of it.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Steve.
 
Q    You mentioned the next-generation biofuels for airplanes and ships.  When should we expect something like that to come online, when we’ll see planes flying with biofuel?
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  Yeah, well, it’s going to take — I mean, obviously, we got to get started on it.  And this is a research opportunity; it is not a deployment opportunity.
 
But they’re — because funding opportunities really accelerate so much appetite for the technology, and because there have been a lot of breakthroughs — in fact, the airline industry itself has been investing in next-generation biofuels to be able to demonstrate that it can be used.  So, you know, without saying specifically, I think in — certainly within 5 to 10 years, we will be able to see this deployed and available for both shipping and for air. 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Last question to Nancy.
 
Q    Thank you.  I’m wondering how — you’re talking about how the American Jobs Plan, if it passed, would create good jobs.  I’m wondering what levers that the federal government has to ensure that those jobs will be, you know, at a certain wage scale, have benefits.  Like, what can you do to enforce that?
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  Yeah, I mean, as we know, the federal government has many mechanisms for pushing out funding, and that includes bidding on projects, and that includes passing — passing it through for — in competitions, et cetera.  In those opportunities, you can put — you know, attach strings to make sure that these are good-paying jobs, that they have project labor agreements, et cetera. 
 
And so, I know it is — and it’s true with respect to the federal government’s buying power, as well as procurement power.  We want to make sure that we create good-paying jobs for all kinds of people in every pocket of America, and that means good-paying union jobs.  So we’re going to use every — every lever possible to be able to do that, including, if you want to bid on this, you’ve got to make sure that you have a project labor agreement. 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Thank you, Secretary Granholm —
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  All right.
 
MS. PSAKI:  — for joining us.
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  Thank you.  Appreciate it.  Good luck.
 
Q    Thank you. 
 
SECRETARY GRANHOLM:  Wait, I got to grab my — my mask.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Oh, go — go ahead.  Sorry. 
 
Okay.  A couple items at the top.  As President Biden noted in a proclamation issued on Sunday, we are marking Holocaust Remembrance Day this week.  Today, we rededicate ourselves to standing in solidarity with the Jewish people in America, Israel, and around the world, and to remembering the horrors of the Holocaust.  An estimated 6 million Jews perished alongside millions of other innocent victims around the world. 
 
We honor the memories of precious lives lost, reflect on the incomprehensible wounds to our humanity and the lessons learned, and mourn for the communities broken and scattered.  And we embrace Holocaust survivors, some of whom are still with us.  They deserve our continued support to live in dignity.
 
With that, a short — short topper.  I only had one today.  Go ahead.
 
Q    Thanks, Jen.
 
MS. PSAKI:  And a Secretary. 
 
Q    So, on the President’s gun announcement, he announced he’s going to ask Congress to take action to repeal gun manufacturers’ liability protections.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Yes
 
Q    That had been a day-one promise of his.  When should we expect to see that text sent to the Hill?  And, you know, if it was a priority — if it is as big a priority as he said it was for him just a few minutes ago, you know, why — how much effort is the President willing to put into gun control right now, when so much of the administration’s focus right now is on the infrastructure plan?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, let me say that there has been legislation introduced in past congresses, and we certainly hope — and he’s calling for members to reintroduce legislation on gun liabilities for manufacturers.  It is an issue that he talked about on the campaign trail.  And he continues to believe that addressing that, holding manufacturers to the same account as other industries is pivotal in keeping our communities safe, keeping our family safe, and addressing the threat of gun violence across the country. 
 
So what he is calling for is for the introduction of legislation, of which there has been past versions. 
 
I will say that this has been an issue that the President has been working on for decades throughout his career.  He helped pass the Brady Bill.  He helped get a — get a — ban assault weapons back in the ‘90s.  He believes that taking additional steps on background checks, that putting in place an assault weapons ban again are pivotal to keeping our country safe.  He strongly supports the background check bills — the two that have passed the House. 
 
It is imperative for any President to walk and chew gum at the same time; to continue to push for, to advocate for, to use the bully pulpit of the Rose Garden to push forward a range of agenda items.  And he certainly will continue to do that on putting in place commonsense gun safety measures. 
 
Q    A couple of weeks ago, in his press conference, the President sort of said, you know, sequencing is important here, and then essentially acknowledging that maybe — you know, the President can walk and chew gum, maybe Congress can’t.  And the President decided to put infrastructure before gun control, before climate change, before some of these other issues.  Why is — why are guns not going before infrastructure? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, Congress plays the role — the Senate and the House — in moving legislation forward.  And at any given time, there are multiple pieces of legislation moving their way through committees, moving their way through the House, moving their way to the Senate.
 
There are two background check bills that have passed the House that can move to the Senate.  He certainly is an advocate for those while, at the same time, being an advocate for moving forward on the American Jobs Plan. 
 
Q    And then, finally — a different topic: On Afghanistan, should we expect to hear from the President before May 1 about what he will do with American troops still there?  I mean, it seems they’re either going to stay there beyond the — sort of — time is running out to vote for an order of withdrawal for troops still there right now.  Is that an accurate assessment: that there will be troops there on May 2nd? 
 
And then in terms of — what is the President’s message to the American people?  Why is it in their interest for their troops to be serving in harm’s way overseas beyond this month?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s decision and announcement.  I expect you will hear from him before May 1st.  He has been consistent and clear that it is operationally challenging to get troops out by May 1, which is not a deadline he put in place; it is a timeline put in place by the prior administration. 
 
And there are certainly conditions on the ground, including efforts — diplomacy efforts to negotiate with the Taliban, that have been underway for the last several weeks.  But he will — you will certainly hear from him.  And once you do, we can absolutely have a conversation about where we go from here. 
 
Go ahead. 
 
Q    Thanks, Jen.  Given the narrow majorities in the House and the Senate right now, does the President think enacting universal background checks this year is doomed? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  I think the President is going to leave the analysis of what’s viable and doable to all of you and people on the outside.  And certainly, he’s not vote counting himself.  But he has — he is also clear-eyed about the challenges in moving forward with legislation with the current makeup of the Senate. 
 
He is going to continue to advocate for that, as he did just today, just this morning in the Rose Garden, surrounded by some of the bravest and most courageous advocates for gun control, gun safety legislation in the country.  But he also is not going to wait. 
 
And he — that’s why he took action on — announced several steps that can be taken in the form of executive actions, in the form of guidance, and in the form of nominating someone to lead the ATF, because he feels you can’t wait and he’s going to use the power of his presidency to take steps forward.
 
Q    Because this gets a little bit of what Zeke was getting at.  I mean, we have a Jobs Cabinet now.  We have face-to-face and Zoom meetings ongoing with Republicans and Democrats on infrastructure.  Should we anticipate a Gun Control Cabinet or meetings with Republicans about this issue? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  I certainly would anticipate the President will raise this issue in a range of conversations he has with members of Congress.  There — this obviously is slightly different, given the role of the Attorney General in measures on gun safety and — as is evidenced by the fact that he was present there today.  So it’s a bit different from a Jobs Cabinet.
 
But I can assure you for members where this is appropriate, where it’s an appropriate role for them to play; for members of the administration, in the White House and otherwise, to communicate with members of Congress, that will certainly continue to be at the top of our list.
 
Q    Two other unrelated things, real quick.  The U.S. and Iran are engaged in indirect nuclear talks this week.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.
 
Q    Will Americans detained in Iran be part of those discussions? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Certainly, Americans detained in Iran is an issue that we have raised with partners around the world and those who are having direct discussions with the Iranians.  In terms of the focus and content of these discussions, I know they’ll do a readout when they conclude the meetings, likely tomorrow.
 
Q    And beyond what Secretary Blinken — I know he held a meeting with families or representatives of them early on.  Can you give us a sense of what else may be ongoing in this regard?
 
MS. PSAKI:  In the effort to get —
 
Q    Americans back from Iran.
 
MS. PSAKI:  — Americans who are detained?  You know, the efforts would certainly be led by our diplomats and our negotiators out of the State Department, hence your reference to Secretary of State Tony Blinken. 
 
And obviously, these discussions are often raised through different channels we have with the Iranians, given the fact that we’re not currently having direct talks on — on even issues like the nuclear negotiations.  But I’m not going to have an update beyond that from here. 
 
Q    And then tomorrow, the Army Corps of Engineers will be in a federal court hearing regarding the fate of the Dakota Access Pipeline. 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.
 
Q    Is it the administration’s belief that construction of the pipeline should continue? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Our view is that we would look at each pipeline through — each individual pipeline separately and do an analysis of the costs and benefits on the environment and jobs, which is my assumption would be happening here.  So I don’t have an assessment of that, but we look at each of them individually.
 
Q    Conceivably, we’d get that tomorrow at the court hearing though. 
 
MS. PSAKI:  I — I’m —
 
Q    Because there was a delay, I guess, in considering this, given that the administration asked for more time.  So I’m sort of trying to figure out if we may get that tomorrow.
 
MS. PSAKI:  It wouldn’t come from the White House, presumably, but I can certainly check if there’s an expected timeline that we can share from here. 
 
Go ahead. 
 
Q    Thanks.  Following up on Zeke’s question on the manufacturer liability bill: The President just said that if God granted him one item on his to-do list, it would be to get this done — to make it so that gun manufacturers can be held liable.  It is something he promised on day one.  It is day 78.  What’s the holdup here? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  There’s no holdup.  It just — legislation needs to be reintroduced.  There are a number of members in Congress who are strong advocates for exactly what the President supports, share his view about the impact.  And we’re certainly hopeful, and encourage them to move forward on that legislation — reintroduce it.
 
Q    But the President plan — promised to send his own plan.  You know, it’s clear that you’re waiting to see how this works its way through Congress, but why not put out your own bill, lead the charge on this?
 
MS. PSAKI:  He is leading the charge by advocating for this moving forward, by using the bully pulpit of his presidency and of the Rose Garden to advocate for this legislation moving forward. 
 
It is the role of Congress, of course, to push legislation forward, to vote on it, to move it through committees.  And he certainly is hopeful they’ll do exactly that on this issue. 
 
Q    The President did suggest recently that, you know, tackling this is a long-term issue, as he put it.  Given the recent shootings, does he still see it that way?  Does he still see this as a long-term issue? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  I think he certainly sees it as an issue that we won’t solve overnight, so yes.  He sees and is encouraged by the actions that we’ve seen across states. 
 
Take red flag laws, as an example.  There are 19 states, many of — have implemented those laws in just the last few years.  We know that they’re impactful.  In many places, there’s bipartisan support for that.  What — one of the announcements he made today was that we will be putting forward guidance to make it easier for states to put forward those laws. 
 
He knows that sometimes the first action doesn’t happen at the federal level; it can happen at the state level.  We’ve certainly seen that on a range of issues, and we’ve seen that on gun safety legislation as well.  So he’s — he’s encouraged by that, but knows that it can be a long journey. 
 
Q    And has he been in touch with — with Leader Schumer about the next steps forward, especially on these bills that have passed the House? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  He — as you know, he’s regularly in touch with Leader Schumer, who shares his commitment and concerns about the impact of gun violence on our communities, on — on this country.  And they certainly discussed this among a range of other issues. 
 
Q    The President does — I actually have it here: the list of all the promises that he made during the campaign of gun actions that he wanted to take.  Obviously, you’re doing what — what you think you can unilaterally, waiting for these measures to work its way through Congress.  Does the President feel that he’s doing everything he can to meet the scope of these commitments right now? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, today, the administration announced initial actions to address gun violence.  There will be more.  That is absolutely his commitment.  And he also will use the power of his presidency, his voice, his political will to advocate for actions in Congress.
 
He also recognizes that there are incredible roles to be played by many of the gun safety groups and leaders that were here today, who have helped pass laws in states across the country on everything from background checks to red flag laws — efforts that have had a measurable impact in states to reduce incidents of gun violence, of homicide, of suicide as a result of guns.  So he will remain engaged with those groups and those leaders as well, and he will work on this on — through many levers. 
 
Go ahead, Kaitlan.
 
Q    With these ghost guns, they can basically be bought, printed, and assembled at home.  So how is the President confident that this rule can be enforced? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, it’s a rule that is being put in place by the Department of Justice.  It is certainly a step to make that more difficult, to regulate an area of gun production that has not been regulated previously.  So it’s something that will have to be worked through — through law enforcement officials around the country, through the Department of Justice.
 
Q    Right, but if you’re, like, doing it at your house, how are they going to know to be able to enforce that?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, there’s the purchase of kits, of course.  That’s part of it.  But certainly putting in place steps to make it more difficult, to make it harder, to regulate the ability to gain access to ghost guns, ghost gun kits is certainly a step forward, in our view. 
 
Q    Okay.  My other question is on the ATF nominee.  When is he expecting to formally nominate David Chipman to this role?
MS. PSAKI:  You mean put forward his nomination to Congress?  I would — I would expect quite soon.  I don’t think there’s any reason for a delay of that.
 
I will say that David Chipman, who — for others who are not as familiar with his background, because I know there’s been a Twitter about him out there — but he has 25 years of experience at the ATF.  He has helped with the 1993 World Trade Center bomb.  He helped invest- — he helped — while he was there, there was investigations into the World Trade Center bombing and Oklahoma City bombing.  He’s overseen complex firearms trafficking cases.  And he is a gun owner himself.
 
So the President’s view is there’s no one better to lead the ATF.  He’s certainly looking forward to putting his nomination forward, and I expect there would be no delay in that.
 
Q    Given his history as a gun control advocate, is the White House worried that this is going to be an uphill battle to get him confirmed?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, it’s up to Congress.  He’s also somebody who — he has certainly been an advocate for gun safety measures, but he also has 25 years of experience at the ATF.  He’s been involved in play- — he’s played a pivotal role in investigations.  He is a gun owner himself.
 
So he has a broad swath of qualifications, and certainly we believe he’s somebody who should be seriously considered by Congress.
 
Q    So you’re confident he can get confirmed?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, that’s up to the Senate.  We — the President gets to pick who he wants to nominate.  He’s nominated somebody who is qualified, who has decades of experience, who is a gun owner himself.  And it is up to the Senate to decide if they move forward with his nomination.
 
Q    My last question, sorry, is on the refugee cap that the President has proposed raising to 62,500, but he’s not actually formally signed the paperwork yet.  Is the White House still committed to raising that cap to 62,500 by this fiscal year? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Yes. 
 
Q    And so we should expect that before October?  And it’s not going to change from 62,500? — is my other question.
 
MS. PSAKI:  I don’t anticipate that.  It is — that it would change, I should say.  It is — remains — the President remains committed to raising the cap. 
 
Go ahead. 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Yeah, I — following on Kaitlan, have you — have you counted the votes?  Do think that Chipman can be confirmed by Democrats alone?  It seems as though there may be at least one Democrat who I can think of who has a decent grade with the NRA and may not support an ATF director. 
 
Are there any Republicans that you could win over?  Or is this going to be a nomination that languishes, like so many other ATF directors have in the past?
 
MS. PSAKI:  We’re certainly familiar with the history.  The President would not have nominated him if he didn’t think he was qualified and didn’t think he was someone that the Senate, members of both parties, should give fair hearing to seriously consider confirming.
 
But we just announced his nomination today, so I don’t have an assessment of the legislative outlook quite yet. 
 
Q    Okay.  Quickly, when is the address to a joint session of Congress?  Have you figured out that or the logistics on that — what it’ll look like?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I can’t wait until we can announce this.  I —
 
Q    (Inaudible.)
 
MS. PSAKI:  I’m with you.  We can all share our joy on that.  We are still working through and finalizing the date, the logistics.  The President remains committed to delivering a joint session.  We’re working with leaders in Congress to finalize that.  We certainly hope we’ll have more to say soon. 
 
Q    On another matter, General Motors has halted production in North America at several factories and extended shutdowns because of this semiconductor chip shortage. 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.
 
Q    It’s disrupting the auto industry.  And I’m wondering: Are there any short-term measures that the federal government can take to help with the shortage?  Is there anything that can be done?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, let me first say that we fully recognize that this is an issue that is impacting industries across the country, including the auto industry. 
 
Earlier this year, the President held a meeting in his office with a bipartisan, bicameral group.  He continues to work — he feels there’s opportunity to work with members of both parties on addressing what is a very challenging issue for many industries.
 
There’s — there’s a 100-day review that is ongoing, which we plan to share the outcome of with the American people soon, and we’re certainly looking through that review at undertaking — the review is focused, I should say, on undertaking the first-ever, whole-of-government approach to building a resilient, diverse, and secure supply chain to help address this issue for the long term so that we are not just dealing with a short-term emergency. 
 
The President has also proposed — included, I should say — $50 billion to create an office at the Commerce Department dedicated to monitoring domestic industrial capacity because he recognizes that this is an issue that we will need to continue to address. 
 
And, finally, next week, there’s going to be a meeting led by our NEC Director and our National Security Advisor, with a number of companies — we should have more details on hopefully by tomorrow for all of you — to help discuss — get some private-sector input on how to address this issue.
 
So this is something that there is a great deal of focus on at the highest level across government. 
 
Go ahead. 
 
Q    Just following on what Tam said: In the President’s meeting — the President is supposed to meet with the Japanese Prime Minister next Friday.  And I’m wondering if he’ll ask Japan to place restrictions on exports of semiconductor chips to China. 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, he is meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister, as we’ve confirmed, next Friday.  I certainly expect semiconductors and the shortage to be a part of that discussion, but we’re just not going to get ahead of the agenda of that.  I expect they’ll — they’ll have remarks and take questions following the meeting. 
 
Q    And just one more thing, Jen.  The President has said that next week he intends to host lawmakers in the Oval Office once they’re back from recess.  I wonder if you could give us any preview of whether that — whether or not that will include Democrats, Republicans; what type of outreach that will look like. 
 
MS. PSAKI:  I expect he’ll have both Democrats and Republicans attend or join.  And once we have confirmation of attendees, we’ll share that information with all of you.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    The meeting next week on semiconductors — do you expect that to lead to some recommendations on what to do about this problem?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I would say, Steve, that it’s part of our effort.  And, again, it’s led by the National Security Advisor and our Director of the National Economic Council, so it shows you what a priority this is to the President to have a discussion about best practices, what they’re — how it’s — the shortage is impacting their industries; take that information back as part of our 100-day review.
 
I wouldn’t say I’m predicting an outcome or an announcement immediately coming out of it, as much as it’s part of our consulting process as we’re working to address an issue that’s impacting a range of industries.
 
Q    Is there some complication to raising the refugee cap?  We’ve been hearing about this for a couple of months now. 
 
MS. PSAKI:  No.  We remain committed to it.  And I know there’s a question about stigning [sic] — signing the paperwork, but it remains a commitment.  And when it’s signed, we will update all of you on that as well. 
 
Q    Lastly, there’s been an escalation of violence in Northern Ireland.  Are you aware of this?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Yes.
 
Q    Do you have a response to this? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  We do.
 
Q    Are you in touch with the parties? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  We do.  We are concerned by the violence in Northern Ireland, and we join the British, Irish, and Northern Irish leaders in their calls for calm.  We remain steadfast supporters of a secure and prosperous Northern Ireland in which all communities have a voice and enjoy the gains of the hard-won peace. 
 
We welcome the provisions in both the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol, which help protect the gains of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. 
 
At this point, I would expect that engagements and discussions are at the level of the State Department.  And I expect my colleague over there — we’ll see if he has an update on those engagements today in his briefing. 
 
Go ahead, Francesca.
 
Q    Thanks, Jen.  Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a lawsuit today against the CDC and the federal government, demanding that cruise liners be able to operate again.  And Florida’s Attorney General said the suit was filed this morning against those entities and HHS, pushing to have the government’s conditional sale order declared unlawful.  Does the White House have a response to Florida’s lawsuit?

MS. PSAKI:  We don’t have a direct response to a lawsuit nor a comment on a specific legal action, but I will just reiterate that the CDC guidance is based on data and health and medical guidelines, hence that’s why they put it out and why they regularly update it.
 
Q    Well, the President has set forth July 4th as the date he’d like to see Americans who are vaccinated be able to gather in small groups.  At the same time, the CDC said last week that there is a low risk for vaccinated Americans who travel.  So does the President think it’s an appropriate timeline of July 4th?  That’s what the cruise industry — specifically Norwegian travel — is asking for, is a July 4th date here.
 
MS. PSAKI:  We would defer to the CDC on any updated guidelines, but I don’t anticipate that.  But I would defer to them on any — on any expectation they have of changing those guidelines.  Again, they base them on health and medical experts who work at the CDC, on — base — they base them on data.
 
The President’s announcement on July 4th has nothing to do with cruise lines, as you know.  It has to do with incentivizing, encouraging Americans to get access to the vaccine when they can get vaccinated.  As we know, by the end of May, we will have enough vaccine supply to ensure every adult American can be vaccinated. 
 
So that’s more about gatherings — small gatherings — in your backyards.  It is quite different from cruises, of course.
 
Q    Well, the reason I brought up July 4th is because that’s the date that Norwegian Cruise Line is asking for them to be able to allow to — vaccinated individuals to be able to cruise.  So that’s where the July 4th date comes from.
 
But also, more broadly speaking, they’re asking in this industry for them to be able to be treated the same way that planes and airlines are able to be treated.  So is there any specific concern that the White House has about allowing people who have been vaccinated to be able to resume cruising?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Again, we rely on the guidance of the CDC, health and medical experts.  There’s a return to science in this administration.  They have guidelines they’ve put out on cruises — cruise lines.  If they decide to update them, that is their prerogative to do, but that’s not a decision made by the White House.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Since the last time you were asked about state and local tax deduction —
 
MS. PSAKI:  Jonathan Salant, by the way.  I recognized you by your voice.  I can’t see your mustache.  (Laughter.)  He has a good mustache, for anyone who doesn’t know. 
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Last time, you were asked about the state and local tax deductions.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.
 
Q    Since then, Speaker Pelosi has now come out in favor of removing the cap.  You know, we know where Schumer stands on the cap.  And we also know that the House Democrat — enough House Democrats, mainly from New York and New Jersey, said they won’t support bills without removing the cap.  Given the — and they could sink the bill if they stand to (inaudible).  Given that, are you working with members of Congress now to try to find a way to address their concerns in the deduction cap?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, we certainly know this is a proposal that a number of members have.  And they’ve advocated for eliminating the SALT deduction — or returning the SALT deduction, I guess I should say. 
 
It is not a revenue raiser, as you well know.  And — but we are open to hearing their ideas, whether it’s this, or whether it is different proposals or different numbers for the corporate tax rate — what it could be raised to; or whether it is different ways we can approach expanding broadband access, or rebuilding our roads, railways, bridges, and helping our caregivers.
 
MS. PSAKI:  So we expect this to be a part of the discussion.  We expect members to continue to bring forward ideas, including around issues like SALT, and that will be a part of the negotiations moving forward.
 
Q    The other question is: Before President Biden took office, he got a letter from advocates — safety advocates who lost loved ones in truck crashes.  Truck crashes are up about 35 percent over the last 10 years.  They asked him to support certain provisions — technology — to reduce crashes.  Those technologies, including automatic braking systems, speed limiters, were recommended on Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.  Is that something the President supports and is going to have people in the agencies look at trying to impose some of those new safety restrictions?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I certainly have to talk to him about it, but the good news is our Secretary of Transportation is coming tomorrow to the briefing room, so it sounds like a good question somebody can ask him as well.  But we’ll see if we can get something more for you before then as well.
 
Q    And one other thing.  I know, under the Obama-Biden administration, they began a rulemaking to address sleep apnea, which was implicated in several fatal crashes.  It was dropped in 2017.  Is that something any of you guys are looking at resurrecting that rule? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  I remember that rule well.  I would have to check with our team who works on rulemaking as it relates to transportation.  And again, these all sound like good questions for our Secretary of Transportation, but we’ll work in between now and then to get you some answers as well.
 
Go ahead, Anne.
 
Q    Yeah, just back on the liability — gunmaker liability issue again.  At the risk of flogging a dead horse, I’m just —
 
MS. PSAKI:  It’s okay.
 
Q    — wondering if you can explain what changed between when, as a candidate, Biden said that he would send legislation himself on day one, to now, day 70 — whatever it is — when your position is that Congress should do this on its own.  Is that right?  What — what happened?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I don’t think we’re saying “on its own” — or “on their own.”  Just like there’s legislation on banning assault weapons that the President supports, there’s legislation on increasing, expanding universal background checks, which he supports.  There’s also been legislation — many cycles of Congress — on gun liabil- — holding gun manufacturers to the same liability standards as other industries. 
 
So all I’m conveying is he would certainly advocate that — for that, as he did today.  There is an opportunity to reintroduce legislation.  We’re certainly hopeful that members do that.  And he would advocate for it and certainly use the power of the presidency to move it forward. 
 
Q    But has he ruled out sending — drafting something himself, or you guys yourselves?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think it’s not necessary- — it’s not perhaps necessary, given there have been a range of bills proposed that would address exactly this issue and a range of leaders in Congress who have been advocates for putting in place commonsense gun safety measures. 
 
I wouldn’t rule anything out.  All I’m conveying is that there has been a range of bills put forward in the past that he would support that would address exactly this issue.
 
Go —
 
Q    I’ve got (inaudible) —
 
MS. PSAKI:  Oh, go ahead, Anne.  Go ahead.
 
Q    — actually something else.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Okay, go ahead. 
 
Q    So there’s a spike in coronavirus cases in Japan, and vaccines are in very short supply.  With the Prime Minister coming next week and the Tokyo Olympics as a huge priority for the Japanese, is it still the U.S. position that American athletes should attend those games?  And are you persuaded — is the President persuaded that they will be safe?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Our position hasn’t changed.  Obviously, we work in close coordination with the U.S. Olympic Committee on assessing — and with our health and medical advisors in the U.S. government — on assessing.  But our position has not changed on their attendance at the games.
 
Q    One more, very quickly.  Is there any update on announcements for ambassadors?  We’re now past March, which you had said was, sort of, when many other administrations had done so, and you haven’t put any forward — any big ones forward yet.
 
MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have an exact update other than to convey that I would expect that nominees for career — career nominees will probably be in the first slate of nominees for ambassadors, as you’re planning. 
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thank you, ma’am.  A couple of questions on the President’s gun safety executive orders.  I’m wondering: Does the administration have data on how many crimes have been committed with these ghost guns that your team could share?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I’m sure we can get you some data, sure.  And I bet you a range of the experts who are joining us here today have a bunch of data and — that they could share with you as well — even maybe on their websites.
 
Q    Very good.  All right, then following up: The President said, a moment ago, quote, “You go to a gun show.  You can buy whatever you want…no background check.”  Is there a special exemption in federal law that he was referring to?  Or does — do FLA dealers not have to do background checks when they’re at a gun show?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Are you asking me if he was referring —
 
Q    (Inaudible.)
 
MS. PSAKI:  No, it’s okay.  Were you asking me if he was referring to, like, a specific circumstance?  Or — I’m sorry, just tell me a little bit more about your question.
 
Q    Yeah, I mean, is it the President’s belief that you do not have to undergo a background check when you are at a gun show?
 
MS. PSAKI:  No, it’s not his belief.  He believes that gun — that background checks should be universal.
 
Q    Right.  But he says, “no background check.”
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, we know what his position is — right? –so let me reiterate that — which is that background checks are something that should be universal.  They’re supported by more than 80 percent of the public.  He supported legislation, advocated for that, and advocated against loopholes as well.  So that’s his position, and I appreciate you asking for the clarification. 
 
Q    And one —
  
MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.
 
Q    One quick one here.  I know the DOJ is working on this regulation —
 
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.
 
Q    — and then we’re going to have to wait.  But with regards to the stabilizing braces, what’s the message to people who, you know, earlier on, before this was an issue — law-abiding folks, who bought these and who weren’t criminals?  According to the Congressional Research Service, there’s something like 40 million currently in circulation.  What should the law-abiding American do as they await that regulation?  I mean, should they expect buybacks, or should they be prepared to turn those in?  Or is this a confiscation situation?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I don’t think that’s what we’re suggesting.  There’s obviously going to be some time to put in place this regulation, as you referred to, and take a close look at the most effective way to do that. 
 
And what the effort here is that’s underway is to put in place measures that make the country safer and make communities safer.  And, obviously, there are impacts.  We — every step that he announced today, we believe, would do exactly that.
 
Q    And then a quick circle-back from last week in terms of the scheduling of fentanyl as Schedule I.  I know it’s a difficult issue with a lot of moving parts, but given that that scheduling is set to expire in May, is the administration taking a closer look at the scheduling of fentanyl analogues?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I know you asked about this, and I’m sorry we failed to get you a good answer on it.  We will venture to do that before — May 1st is the deadline?  Is the — not your deadline, but the timeline —
 
Q    Yes.
 
MS. PSAKI:  — the timeline of the expiration.  Is that correct?
 
Q    I believe it’s the first week of May.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Okay.  We will check that, and we will venture to do a better job of getting back with you on that.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Jen, as today’s print pooler, I’m going to ask an inquiry for myself, one of my colleagues who can’t be here because of COVID restrictions, and then I have a wildcard question.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Okay.  I like the setup.  (Laughter.)
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Let’s start with me. 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Okay.
 
Q    Despite warnings, anti-transgender bills are an illegal form of sex discrimination.  A number of states have enacted into law measures against transgender youth, including a measure the Arkansas legislature enacted into law this week by overriding a veto of the governor.  Will the President reach out to the Attorney General for legal action against these measures?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I don’t know that I can stand here — I can’t stand here and predict legal action.  Obviously, that would be a decision made by the Justice Department and the Attorney General. 
 
What I can say is that the President’s view is that all persons should receive equal treatment under law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.  That’s fundamental to how he will make laws — advocate for laws, I should say; how he will communicate about his views on the rights of transgender individuals in the country; and certainly, you know, what his view is as it relates to any actions by the government.
 
But in terms of legal action, I would point you to the Attorney General and the Justice Department.
 
Q    Well, I understand that, but why not — why ca- — why shouldn’t the President be able to communicate with the Attorney General on legal action?
 
MS. PSAKI:  He certainly can.  I don’t have anything to predict for you on that at this point in time.
 
Q    And the question from my colleague is next.  How involved is former President Obama and First Lady Obama in the Biden-Harris administration?  Is President Biden seeking to bring back the often-bipartisan portrait unveiling events at the White House?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I’m certain we will have bipartisan portrait unveiling events at the appropriate time when COVID allows.  I don’t know when that will be, but that certainly would be something I know the President would support.
 
In terms of his engagement with President Obama, they are — they’re not just former colleagues, I guess you’d call them, as President and Vice President, but they’re — also remain close friends, and they talk regularly about a range of issues, from policy issues, to bouncing ideas off of each other, to — to their families.  So they are in close touch, but we just don’t read out those specific calls; we keep them private. 
 
Q    And now my wildcard question.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Okay. 
 
Q    There’s a lot of construction going on at the South Lawn.  What’s up with that? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Oh, I like that.  It’s — I’m happy to get you kind of a more official response on this, but it is kind of regular maintenance.  I expect it to be go- — I think we expect it to be going on for 8 to 10 weeks.  But we can get you a more official —
 
Q    (Inaudible) new construction going on.  There’s something that’s really — as opposed to, like, regular happenings.  I mean, is this something that is consistently going on?  Or is this like a new construction for a new event or a new thing on the — on the South Lawn? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  No, it’s not, but — but I can get you a more official statement from our team that is overseeing the updates and the maintenance. 
 
Go ahead, in the back. 
 
Q    Thank you, Jen.  Three questions on gun violence.  Does President Biden have a deadline for Congress to act?  And if they don’t meet that deadline, is he prepared with more executive action? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  First, the President is not going to wait for Congress to act to take additional executive actions.  This is the beginning.  He will continue to have his team review, both from a policy and a legal standpoint, additional executive actions that are possible to take. 
 
I would just remind everyone that he also led the effort to put in place nearly two dozen executive actions under the Obama-Biden Administration, and he fully recognizes that the only way to put in place permanent, long-term measures to keep our children, our communities, and our — and families across the country safe is by passing legislation. 
 
So he will also — is also committed to that.  But he’s not going to wait.  He can move on both levers at the same time.
 
Q    And how soon does the President expect or hope to see change due to the executive action — action today?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Change in what way?
 
Q    I guess, how soon does he expect to see some of his policies in place? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, there are certain periods of time of reviews for different components of this.  Obviously, things like the guidance on red flag laws is something that states could use, as soon as that’s prepared and distributed, to move forward on putting in place red flag laws. 
 
There are certain components of this that require 30 days, 60 days, et cetera.  So I would say it just depends on the component of his — of what he proposed this morning. 
 
Q    And my final question for you: President Biden mentioned Fred Guttenberg by name in the Rose Garden today.  What role did Fred and other gun safety advocates play in crafting this executive action? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, I would say that people like Fred Guttenberg and Shannon Watts and Gabby Giffords — I mean, these are people who are absolute heroes on getting gun safety measures in place.  They have led the effort when there was no appetite in Washington, and none at the federal level, to move forward on putting in place laws around the country. 
 
And the President recognizes that, and he has a huge respect and value for the role that they have played.  That’s why they were here today. 
 
He’s had conversations, our team has had conversations at a range of levels with a number of these gun safety leaders through the course of the President’s presidency.  And they have ideas; they have proposals.  And certainly, that’s taken into account as we were considered — considering policy options to put forward today. 
 
Go ahead.  La- — oh, go ahead. 
 
Q    German Chancellor Merkel spoke with Vladimir Putin today and demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.  What is the U.S. position?  And has there been any contact between the U.S. and Russia in the recent days about this issue? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any additional contact to read out, aside from, I think, the last high-level contact was at the defense-minister level.  That took place at the end of last week. 
 
But since you gave me the opportunity, let me just convey that the United States is increasingly concerned by recent escalating Russian aggressions in eastern Ukraine, including Russian troop movements on Ukraine’s border. 
 
Russia now has more troops on the border with Ukraine than at any time since 2014.  Five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed this week alone.   These are all deeply concerning signs.  
 
We are, of course — the President spoke with President Zelenskyy, as you know, last week.  In addition to reassurances to Ukrainian officials, the United States — we are also discussing our concerns about the increase in tensions in ceasefire violations and regional tensions with NATO allies.  So that’s another part of the conversations that is ongoing, but I don’t have any engagements with the Russians to read out. 
 
Q    After issuing a multitude of sanctions in the last years and even after calling Vladimir Putin a killer, which the President did — in general, what do you think — how is the influence?  Does the U.S. and does the general — and the West, in general, have any influence on Vladimir Putin?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Do we have any influence on Vladimir Putin?  Look, I think that is perhaps, in some ways, suggesting that just because someone does bad behavior, we shouldn’t hold them accountable unless we know it’s going to immediately change their behavior.  And that’s just not how we see foreign policy or how we see our engagement in the world. 
 
And, look, I think our focus is on — there’s still an ongoing review — weeks not months, weeks not months — that we are assessing, as it relates to the troubling actions of Russia and this Russian government, where there will be consequences, as the President has conveyed, seen and unseen.  And we hope to have more on that soon.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Just to follow up on your answer there regarding former President Obama, because you said they are in touch fairly regularly.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.
 
Q    Can you more clearly define “fairly regularly”?
 
MS. PSAKI:  No, that would be violating their friendship.
 
Q    Okay.  Is it fair to say he is —
 
MS. PSAKI:  The privacy of their friendship, I should say.
 
Q    Sure.  Is he fairly regularly in touch with any other former President?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I would say he is the President he is most frequent — former President he’s most frequently in touch with.
 
Q    Are we talking a few times a week?  Are we talking a month?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I’m not going to give it — more define- — I’m not going to define it more, other than to say that they engage not just about fre- — important moments in our country, but also about their own families.  They have a connection on a personal level, so they discuss a range of issues when they connect.
 
Go ahead, Kaitlan.
 
Q    Does the President agree with Senator Manchin that budget reconciliation should not replace regular order in the Senate?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, for those of you who read the op-ed today — or didn’t read the op-ed — either way —
 
Q    I think we all read it.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Did you all read it?  Oh, I’m surprised to hear.  Surprised to hear. 
 
You know, I will say, there’s a couple of principles the President has, as it relates to engagement with Congress and how Democrats and Republicans should work together.  The time has come to end these political games and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we can find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation. 
 
He also believes the issues facing our democracy today are not insurmountable if we choose to tackle them together.  And he definitely believes that Republicans have a responsibility to stop saying “no” and participate in finding real compromise with Democrats.
 
Q    But does he agree with this line?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, let me just say, those are all lines in — in Senator Manchin’s op- — opinion piece.  Look, the President believes that there’s a path forward to get infra- — this American Jobs Plan passed with bipartisan support.  That’s why he’s going to invite Democrats and Republicans here.  That’s why he’s going to hear from them on their ideas that they’ve already put forward. 
 
We’re going to leave it to leaders in Congress to determine the mechanisms for moving things forward, but we think there should be every opportunity to do this on a bipartisan basis.
 
Q    Hey, Jen.  Just one quick one, if I can?
 
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
 
Q    Can you rule out those Russian sanctions coming this week?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Coming this week?  Yes.
 
Q    How about next week?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I’m not going to rule out further.  (Laughter.) I’m just trying to give you some sleep tomorrow.  We already have the — the guid- — the budget guidance coming tomorrow.  We can’t overload you on a Friday.
 
Q    I have one more thing about infrastructure.  I know that you mentioned Secretary Buttigieg would be here tomorrow. Unfortunately, due to social distancing, I will not be.  So when it comes to —
 
MS. PSAKI:  We will take your questions with one of your colleagues.
 
Q    Yeah.  Maybe I’ll email the print pooler.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Okay.
 
Q    But in regards to the 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main streets that are in the President’s infrastructure plan, it also says it will fix the 10 most economically significant bridges in the country, and it specifically says it will repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges. 
 
So, the White House, to this point, has not released any sort of a list of these.  So why isn’t there a list that you can share with us?  And presumably, there is some sort of a list because otherwise where did you get the 20,000 and 10,000 numbers from.
 
MS. PSAKI:  In terms of roads and railways that needs to be repaired?
 
Q    Yes.  Where did those numbers come from?
 
MS. PSAKI:  We can certainly get you a citation.  What I did the other day, but I’m happy to reiterate, is explain that we expect that the package and the funding will come through a combination of grants — formula grants and competitive grants. Right? 
 
And formula grants are allocated to states based on certain criteria, like the number of miles of an interstate highway or a population in a given urban area.  Most of our existing transportation funding flows through formula grants — so with past infrastructure funding bills that have gone through Congress in the — in the last several decades. 
 
This gives states a lot of flexibility in covering how they repair roads, how they repair rail — you know, things that need to be repaired in their state.
 
The other part — type of funding is competitive grants, which — those 10 bridges you talked about, they would be through competitive grants — so, these direct funding to certain policy goals, like the TIGER grant program that was a part of the Recovery Act. 
 
So there’s just different — we expect that to be how it’s structured.  That will all be discussed and finalized through our conversations with members of Congress, with leaders in Congress about what the combination of those funding components should be.
 
Q    Thanks, Jen.  Can I just get you on one final gun question?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.
 
Q    The Vice President talked a little bit about — so the President talked about his role, as Vice President, leading the Obama administration’s actions on guns.  We’ve seen a lot of conversations about gun control legislation in that Rose Garden before.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.
 
Q    Why does the President think that this time will be different than any other time?  And clearly when he was in the Vice President’s seat for this legislation, and how much — and, you know, is he committing that it will be different, I should say?
 
MS. PSAKI:  He is committing that it will be different.  And if the President was just defeated every time he was defeated on an objective or a goal, he wouldn’t be President. 
 
So, here he is.  He remains an advocate throughout his life to putting in place gun safety measures, and it’s something that he has been committed through not just through words, but through action.  And he believes it’s something that, as President, he can help move forward and put in place more action.
 
Q    Thanks, Jen.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Thanks, everyone.
 
1:46 P.M. EDT