White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOn The Money — Biden’s plea: Don’t count out Build Back Better Five things to know about Biden’s omicron plan Biden mulling student loan freeze extension MORE briefed a smaller-than-usual group of reporters Wednesday afternoon as she touched on topics such as coronavirus vaccines and President BidenJoe BidenCollins open to negotiating overhaul of child tax credit set to expire Sounding the alarm on the administration’s recent action on abortion pills Overnight Health Care — Biden lays out omicron playbook MORE’s plan to extend the pause on student loan repayments. Attendance at the briefing was sparse ahead of the Christmas holiday amid concerns about the omicron coronavirus variant.
Here’s the White House briefing — in brief.
White House gives a nod to Trump
In a rare move, President Biden twice credited former President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Biden’s misinformation warning On The Money — Biden’s plea: Don’t count out Build Back Better Biden mulling student loan freeze extension MORE during a speech Tuesday where he outlined his latest plan to deal with a new surge in COVID-19 cases. Biden acknowledged Trump by name for publicly revealing that he had gotten a booster shot, which had elicited boos from a crowd in Dallas where Trump was on a speaking tour.
Asked about the White House’s thinking on this, Psaki said Biden was acknowledging that Trump sent an “important signal to many Americans about the importance of getting boosted.”
“We can’t assess what that will mean, or how people will digest that, or if it will change their behavior if they were opposed to getting boosted or opposed to getting vaccinated. We certainly hope so,” Psaki said. “I think it’s a reflection of the president’s belief that the enemy of the American people is the virus and this shouldn’t be a political battle.”
She added, though, that White House officials would not shy from calling out misinformation or other actions by political leaders that are “detrimental for the health and well-being of communities around the country.”
Talks on salvaging Build Back Better continue
Psaki said that White House officials are engaging with Senate staff, including that of Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden administration advances two large-scale solar projects in California Nuclear power has no business case and could make climate change worse On The Money — Biden’s plea: Don’t count out Build Back Better MORE, on finding a path forward to pass Biden’s signature domestic policy bill after the West Virginia Democrat publicly revealed his opposition to the latest iteration of the framework last weekend.
“There is agreement by the vast majority of members that we absolutely need to move forward and the cost of inaction makes it so that … there’s no other option,” Psaki said. “At this point, we expect there to be ongoing and continued conversations at a staff level. Certainly, the president will be engaged with members and could be over the coming days and we are looking forward to moving forward in January.”
Asked whether Biden has had contact with Manchin since speaking to him by phone on Sunday, Psaki said the White House has been “in touch with his team and his office” and predicted there would be direct talks with Manchin but declined to preview any plans.
Biden to spend Christmas in Washington
Psaki said that Biden plans to spend Christmas with his family in Washington and will spend some time in Delaware between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but she indicated more information would be made available about his schedule.
Psaki also indicated Biden would make some kind of public appearance on Thursday, before the holiday.
Biden believes schools should remain open
Psaki was asked about some schools in the Washington, D.C., area deciding to revert to virtual learning amid the omicron wave. She said that Biden’s view is that settings, including schools, should have the ability to stay open, but noted that it’s ultimately up to schools to make the right decision for their students.
“The president laid out very clearly yesterday in his speech his view and the view of our health and medical experts that we do not need to head toward a lockdown. We are in a different place than we were a year ago,” Psaki said.
“School districts will make decisions about what they need to do keep their kids safe,” Psaki said, before adding, “he wants schools to stay open and he wants to make sure kids are learning and he wants to do that in a safe way. He thinks we have the tools to do that.”
She also reiterated that the Biden administration endorses “test-to-stay” programs that allow children who may be exposed to COVID-19 to remain in school.