The Weekday White House: Jen Psaki talks COVID relief, Burma

At the White House briefing today, Press Secretary Jen Psaki's comments and answers to reporters' questions focused heavily on coronavirus vaccination and economic relief. She also spoke about the US response to the military coup in Burma as well as the winter storms pummeling the eastern seaboard. There was also ancillary comments about Donald Trump's access to intelligence information and his lasting influence on the Republican Party, but Psaki rightly disposed of those curiosities.

Hello, and welcome to a new series here on Reclaim the Fight: The Weekday White House. My goal is to provide to readers the important toplines of the daily press conference held by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, as well as to provide, when appropriate, links to further reading material and short analysis. I hope for this to become a daily feature, Monday through Friday.

Monday, February 1, 2021. Today's brief.

COVID FOCUS: VACCINATION AND ECONOMIC RELIEF

As the White House has made clear for some time, Psaki reiterated that Republicans are welcome to the table, and their ideas will be taken seriously, but the response to the COVID crisis - both health care and economic - must meet the moment.

Meeting with 10 Republican Senators who offered a counterproposal

  • 10 Republican senators who presented a counteroffer of $618 billion to President Biden's $1.9 trillion package are due to meet with the President at the White House on Monday afternoon. Psaki called it a good faith conversation.
  • Psaki stressed that the meeting is not a forum to make or accept offers.
  • Psaki also reiterated a message from the President and the Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen: the risk at this moment is not of doing too much but of not doing enough.
  • The White House wants a proposal that is closer to Biden's numbers.
Highlighting bipartisan support across the country.
  • Psaki pointed to the following things as evidence of widespread, bipartisan support for the President's proposals:
    • A letter of support from the US conference of mayors, signed by over 400 mayors, urging quick, bold action.
    • An interview on CNN by Gov. Jim Justice, Republican of Virginia, urging Congress to go big.
    • Broad-based public support for Biden's plan that cuts across party lines.

Economic Analysis of Biden's American Rescue Plan: According to analysis by economists, the American Rescue Plan would be a major boost to the US economy.

  • The plan would boost US economic growth to 8% for 2021, and 4% in 2022, something needed for rapid recovery given the contraction in 2020.
  • The above-mentioned analysis from Moody's foresees 7.5 million jobs created in 2021 alone under Biden's plan.
  • An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office notes that without additional fiscal injection, GDP still is likely to return to its pre-pandemic levels by mid-year 2021, but in a stark sign that GDP is often a poor indicator of economic well-being, the number of Americans working won't reach pre-COVID levels until 2024.
  • Psaki reiterated that real economic pain often hides behind seemingly good numbers, and stated that the conditions of Americans on the ground is the guiding stick for this White House.

THE SITUATION IN BURMA

With the ongoing military coup in Burma, the White House has called on the Burmese military to reverse course.

  • Psaki noted that sanction measures are under review by the administration.
  • The State Department is speaking with international partners about consequences.
  • Reporters noted that the President's statement on the matter used the name 'Burma', rather than the country's formal name, Myanmar. That may be a sign that the US is refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the military government.
    • Background: The country's name was changed to Myanmar by the military in 1989, after it denied power to the party then elected in a vote. The party elected opposed the name change. As a result, the United States formally uses the name 'Burma' but also uses 'Myanmar' as a courtesy. It's the absence of this courtesy that reporters were noting.

OTHER NOTABLES

  • The White House expects Alejandro Mayorkas to be confirmed as the Secretary of Homeland Security on Tuesday.
  • Also on Tuesday, President Biden is expected to unveil his task force to reunite migrant children separated from their families under Donald Trump's zero tolerance policy.
  • The intelligence community is actively discussing recommendations on whether President Biden should revoke Donald Trump's access to confidential information from the US government.
  • The White House, while not commenting on specific social media bans (like Trump's), generally supports efforts by social media companies to reduce hate speech on their platforms.
That's it for today. As Jen Psaki would say, let's do this again tomorrow.