THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, today — today’s Cabinet meeting, I want to give a brief progress report as to where I think we are and the job you’re doing in the first six months.
First, the pandemic. I know folks are watching the number of cases rising again and wondering, quite frankly, what it means to them. But overall — overall, COVID-19 deaths are down dramatically — dramatically. And these last six months, about 90 percent down due to our vaccination program. And I want to thank you all for the great job you did in getting that done.
But we have to stay vigilant, especially with the Delta variant that’s out there. While COVID-19 cases are rising, virtually all of the COVID death — virtually all of the COVID deaths and hospitalizations are from unvaccinated people. Let me say it again: Virtually all are from unvaccinated people.
And that means the safest thing to do is to get vaccinated — get vaccinated. And that’s why we’re focusing, on our next phase, on getting the unvaccinated vaccinated. I know it seems like a constant uphill climb, but it’s gradually — we’re making progress, but we’ve got a way to go yet.
Secondly, the economy. Yesterday — that I spoke of the historic economic progress we’ve made, which starts with the American Rescue Plan: shots in arms that saved a lot of lives; checks and tax cuts to give them just a little extra breathing room — ordinary Americans; and — and lower healthcare costs, just when so many Americans needed that help. And it’s helped create 3 million — 3 million jobs — more than any administration has done in the first six months of being in office — again, thanks to all of you.
And with our Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and our Build Back Better plan, I think we can turn this — this great movement into a economic boom for some time to come. And I really mean that. I think we’re in a cusp — not only getting us out of the hole, but setting us on a — on a path that’s going to generate significant continued economic growth.
And the American people are overwhelmingly supportive of our plans — that’s support that a lot of our friends and the other team kind of miss. The polling data shows that they strongly support — strongly support our effort for infrastructure.
I think they’re a little tired of Infrastructure Week for four years in a row. I think we’re on the verge of me being able to get something really done — rebuilding roads and bridges; replacing lead water pipes; delivering high-speed Internet to every American — rural and inner-city; and taking on the climate crisis with — with American jobs.
And they want us to build back — to build back better. They don’t know the name necessarily, but they know that they support universal pre-K and two years of community college; paid leave and childcare, which is essentially a significant tax cut for working-class families; and allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug costs, which will significantly reduce drug prices across the board for people.
And they support asking the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans and corporate America not to pay more than they should; just begin to pay their fair share, just step up a little bit.
The idea that 50 of the largest corporations in America pay no tax, it’s — I — I think people should be able to be millionaires and billionaires if they have the ideas, but, Lord’s sake, the idea — let’s start paying your fair share.
And third thing is, there are — and, by the way, there’s overwhelming evidence, in the polling data, they support what we’re doing — is how to pay for these programs.
Thirdly, restoring American leadership in the world. I know you all have — those of you who’ve travelled around the world — I know our Ambassador to the United Nations knows it full well — that America has — is really behind the eight-ball the last four years. We’ve lost a lot of our standing. I don’t have to tell that to my buddy sitting to my right here — the Secretary of State. He understands it well.
And as I’ve said before, we are — we are defining — in a defining competition right now for the 21st century — for the second quarter of the 21st century — with China and many other nations. And many of these nations believe that autocracy is the future; that democracies cannot compete with autocracies because it’s so hard — things are moving so rapidly, technologically and otherwise, that democracies can’t get the act together enough to get a consensus on how to move.
Well, I reject that most — notion completely, and I think the vast majority of American people do as well.
You know, in my conversations and meetings with world leaders — just coming back from, I guess, about eight, nine days over there, ending with a — a meeting with Putin — you know, I’m making it absolutely clear that democracy is more capable — more capable, and America is back, whether it’s helping vaccinate the world.
And we’re not just vaccinating ourselves. We’re going to do — we’re going to vac- — help vaccinate the world. We’re building back better to create jobs and grow the middle class not just at home, everywhere. It’s in our interests the economic — the economies of these other nations grow.
And we’re going to lead the fight against the climate crisis and tackling — tackling the challenges of cybersecurity. We’ve been very clear to our — our — other nations as to what we expect in terms of their conduct.
And finally, there’s much more to be done and so much more to do — tackling voting rights, which is an existential threat to democracy right now. The things that are being asked are just beyond the pale. And the Vice President has been working hard on this issue and is going to continue to — we all are — but there’s much more to do. We have to tackle the immigration problem, which we’re working really hard to get done in a humane and serious way. Police reform and crime.
And the bottom line is: We’re delivering on our promises. We have to deliver on all of the promises we made. Because I think we’re in a situation where the vast majority of the public agrees with the essence of what we’re trying to do.
And so, I just think that we’re showing there’s nothing that America is unable to do when we do it together.
And so, you know, I think it’s time for us to — to stop now so we can get started with our meeting. So, are you ready, folks, to go to work?
Q Mr. President, quickly: Do you think vac- — do you think vaccinated people should start wearing masks?
THE PRESIDENT: Guys, we’re — we’re going to work now. We’re — we’ll have plenty of time to (inaudible).
Florida and Louisiana Lawmakers Seek to Make Disabled Veterans Education Law a National Model
ORLANDO, Fla. – Today, Representative Daisy Morales (D-Orlando) met virtually with Louisiana State Representative Beau Beaullieu (R-48) and staffers to discuss making HB 45 – Educational Opportunities for Disabled Veterans, a bill State Rep. Morales passed during the 2022 Legislative Session which Governor DeSantis signed into law, legislation in Louisiana and talked of a national model for disabled veterans on the state level.
The bill provides an education benefit to certain disabled veterans who qualify as residents to attend a state university, Florida College System institution, career center operated by a school district, or charter technical career center, but who do not qualify for the 100% eligibility tier federally, waiving the remaining tuition and fees from the institution attended.
Representative Daisy Morales had this to say, “It’s great to work as partners to help disabled veterans who have scarified so much for our country with educational opportunities to eliminate challenges they face when they have given so much for our country and allow them to support their families. My office will work closely with other State Legislators looking to pass legislation for educational tuition assistance. We love our veterans in the State of Florida!”
“Florida’s HB 45 of the 2022 legislative session could serve as a national model to provide educational opportunities to our disabled veterans and provide an avenue for their future success,” said Louisiana State Representative Beau Beaullieu.
“I’m excited that other states have already taken notice of this law,” Rep. Morales told FNN News. “It may very well become the model used throughout the nation to help our disabled veterans.”
State Representative Christopher Benjamin (D-Miami-Dade) worked alongside Rep. Morales to move HB 45 through committee to the House floor where it passed. The law went into effect July 1, 2022.
Biden to Announce Climate Actions at Ex-Coal Plant in Massachusetts
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will announce new actions on climate change that he can take on his own just days after an influential Democratic senator quashed hopes for a sweeping legislative package of new environmental programs this year.
Biden is to unveil the latest efforts during a visit on Wednesday to a former coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, that is shifting to offshore wind manufacturing. It’s the embodiment of the transition to clean energy that Biden is seeking but has struggled to realize in the first 18 months of his presidency.
Wednesday’s executive actions include new initiatives to bolster the domestic offshore wind industry as well as efforts to help communities cope with soaring temperatures through programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services, according to a White House official.
The trip comes as historic temperatures bake Europe and the United States. Temperatures reached 115 degrees in Portugal as wildfires raged in Spain and France, and Britain on Tuesday shattered its record for highest temperature ever registered. At least 60 million Americans could experience triple-digit temperatures over the next several days as cities around the U.S. sweat through more intense and longer-lasting heat waves that scientists blame on global warming.
The actions that Biden announces on Wednesday will not include a national emergency declaration to address the climate crisis — something that has been sought by activists and Democratic lawmakers after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., last week scuttled talks on a long-delayed legislative package.
White House officials have said the option remains under consideration. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday declined to outline a timetable for a decision aside from saying no such order would be issued this week.
Gina McCarthy, Biden’s climate adviser, said the president is not “shying away” from treating climate as an emergency. She told CNN on Wednesday that he will be announcing a series of actions “over the next few weeks” to address the threat.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said he was “confident that the president is ultimately ready to do whatever it takes in order to deal with this crisis.”
“I think that he’s made that clear in his statement last Friday, and I think coming to Massachusetts is a further articulation of that goal,” Markey told reporters on Tuesday.
Biden has come under considerable pressure to issue an emergency declaration on climate, which would allow him to redirect federal resources to bolster renewable energy programs that would help accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. The declaration also could be used as a legal basis to block oil and gas drilling or other projects, although such actions would likely be challenged in court by energy companies or Republican-led states.
Jean-Pierre declined to detail internal deliberations on such a declaration, which would be similar to the one issued by Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, who declared a national emergency to build a wall on the southern border when lawmakers refused to allocate money for that effort.
Biden pledged last week to take significant executive actions on climate after monthslong discussions between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., came to a standstill. The West Virginia senator cited stubbornly high inflation as the reason for his hesitation, although he has long protected energy interests in his coal- and gas-producing state.
For now, Manchin has said he will only agree to a legislative package that shores up subsidies to help people buy insurance under the 2010 health care law as well as allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices that will ultimately lower the cost of pharmaceuticals for consumers.
The White House has indicated it wants Congress to take that deal, and Biden will address the climate issue on his own.
“I’m going to use every power I have as president to continue to fulfill my pledge to move toward dealing with global warming,” Biden told reporters over the weekend in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after the talks between Schumer and Manchin were derailed.
Biden on Wednesday will be visiting the former Brayton Point power plant, which closed in 2017 after burning coal for more than five decades. The plant will now become an offshore wind manufacturing site.
A new report says the U.S. and other major carbon-polluting nations are falling short on pledges to fight climate change. Among the 10 biggest carbon emitters, only the European Union has enacted polices close to or consistent with international goals of limiting warming to just a few more tenths of a degree, according to scientists and experts who track climate action in countries.
Biden to award Medal of Freedom to Biles, McCain, Giffords
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will present the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to 17 people, including actor Denzel Washington, gymnast Simone Biles and the late John McCain, the Arizona Republican with whom Biden served in the U.S. Senate.
Biden will also recognize Sandra Lindsay, the New York City nurse who rolled up her sleeve on live television in December 2020 to receive the first COVID-19 vaccine dose that was pumped into an arm in the United States, the White House announced Friday.
Biden’s honors list, which the White House shared first with The Associated Press, includes both living and deceased honorees from the worlds of Hollywood, sports, politics, the military, academia, and civil rights and social justice advocacy.
The Democratic president will present the medals at the White House next week.
Biden himself is a medal recipient. President Barack Obama honored Biden’s public service as a longtime U.S. senator and vice president by awarding him a Presidential Medal of Freedom in January 2017, a week before they left office.
The honorees who’ll receive medals from Biden “have overcome significant obstacles to achieve impressive accomplishments in the arts and sciences, dedicated their lives to advocating for the most vulnerable among us, and acted with bravery to drive change in their communities, and across the world, while blazing trails for generations to come,” the White House said.
The honor is reserved for people who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values or security of the United States, world peace or other significant societal public or private endeavors, the White House said.
Biles is the most decorated U.S. gymnast in history, winning 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. She is an outspoken advocate on issues that are very personal to her, including athletes’ mental health, children in foster care and sexual assault victims.
Lindsay became an advocate for COVID-19 vaccinations after receiving the first dose in the U.S.
McCain, who died of brain cancer in 2018, spent more than five years in captivity in Vietnam while serving in the U.S. Navy. He later represented Arizona in both houses of Congress and was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. Biden said McCain was a “dear friend” and “a hero.”
Washington is a double Oscar-winning actor, director and producer. He also has a Tony award, two Golden Globes and the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a longtime spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
The other 13 medal recipients are:
— Sister Simone Campbell. Campbell is a member of the Sister of Social Service and a former executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization. She is an advocate for economic justice, overhauling the U.S. immigration system and health care policy.
— Julieta Garcia. A former president of the University of Texas at Brownsville, Garcia was the first Latina to become a college president, the White House said. She was named one of the nation’s best college presidents by Time magazine.
— Gabrielle Giffords. A former U.S. House member from Arizona, the Democrat founded Giffords, an organization dedicated to ending gun violence. She was shot in the head in January 2011 during a constituent event in Tucson and was gravely wounded.
— Fred Gray. Gray was one of the first Black members of the Alabama Legislature after Reconstruction. He was a prominent civil rights attorney who represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr.
— Steve Jobs. Jobs was the co-founder, chief executive and chair of Apple Inc. He died in 2011.
— Father Alexander Karloutsos. Karloutsos is the assistant to Archbishop Demetrios of America. The White House said Karloutsos has counseled several U.S. presidents.
— Khizr Khan. An immigrant from Pakistan, Khan’s Army officer son was killed in Iraq. Khan gained national prominence, and became a target of Donald Trump’s wrath, after speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
— Diane Nash. A founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Nash organized some of the most important 20th century civil rights campaigns and worked with King.
— Megan Rapinoe. The Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup soccer champion captains the OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice and LGBTQI+ rights who has appeared at Biden’s White House.
Rapinoe, who was at training camp in Denver when the White House called to inform her of the honor, thought she was getting a prank or robocall when she saw her phone say “White House,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement. She showed her phone to a teammate, who encouraged her to answer the call.
— Alan Simpson. The retired U.S. senator from Wyoming served with Biden and has been a prominent advocate for campaign finance reform, responsible governance and marriage equality.
— Richard Trumka. Trumka had been president of the 12.5 million-member AFL-CIO for more than a decade at the time of his August 2021 death. He was a past president of the United Mine Workers.
— Wilma Vaught. A brigadier general, Vaught is one of the most decorated women in U.S. military history, breaking gender barriers as she has risen through the ranks. When Vaught retired in 1985, she was one of only seven female generals in the Armed Forces.
— Raúl Yzaguirre. A civil rights advocate, Yzaguirre was president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza for 30 years. He served as U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic under Obama.