Transcript for Biden could visit Texas 'as soon as this week': White House press secretary Jen Psaki
Thank you, Marcus. We're joined now by white house press secretary Jen psaki, her first Sunday show interview since taking office. Jen, let's start in Texas, when do you expect that we'll see president Biden in Texas, where will he go? Well, I traveled with the president to Michigan on Friday to tour a pfizer plant. I can tell you that he was getting updates from his acting FEMA administrator, he was closely watching the news, talking to his team, he's eager to go down to Texas but he's also very mindful that it's not a light footprint for a president to travel to a disaster area. He doesn't want to take away resources. We'll do that at an appropriate time. Let me ask you about those 6 million doses that have been delayed because of the weather, do you have any update? What's the plan for getting them out? Have you already been able to distribute some of them? We have, you know, we knew, we can't control mother nature, no one can, but we can certainly contingency plan, engage and work with the postal service and FedEx and others to get those doses out to vaccination centers, to communities as quickly as they can handle them. Of course, they need to be at a level of refrigeration, we've been able to get 2 million of those 6 million doses out. We expect rapidly catch up this week. Fill that backlog and also meet our deadlines and our time lines of doses set to go out this upcoming week. Regarding Texas, the president signed that disaster declaration, it affected 77 of the 254 counties in Texas, governor Abbott has asked for everything, has the president talked to governor Abbott? Are they on the same page now about this? We've been in very close touch with governor Abbott. I know members of our team have spoken with him just last night. The president spoke with him just a few days ago and he's getting regular updates from his team. Now what happens here, the governor requested a federal disaster declaration. The president asked his team to expedite that. FEMA determined where the counties that are the hardest hit. Now as your earlier report alluded to, or talked about, that means not just getting people through this emergency but getting people through the recovery, people who don't have water or heating, need a place to stay for a while, that's what that major disaster declaration will help address, or that's our hope. Certainly looks like this is a disaster that affected the entire state. I want to the question of schools reopening, obviously president Biden said he wanted to see a majority of schools reopen by tend of his first 100 days, that would be April, now the goal is K through 8, is this realistic? Are we going to see a majority of the schools reopen by April? That's our goal, that's our objective, that's our plan, Jon, but what we need and what the president said at the time we need is funding. That's why he proposed $380 billion in the rescue plan because schools across the country don't have the resources to be able to invest in improving facilities, on hiring more bus drivers, on hiring more temporary teachers so we can have smaller class sizes. There have been important steps in the last week including these CDC guidelines, give clear science-based guidelines for school districts on a range of steps they can take to be safe but every school in the country doesn't have that funding or the resources and we need to from the federal government help address that. Does the president support the idea of making that funding and the America rescue plan contingent on schools reopening, a requirement, you receive funding you bring students back. That's not a contingency that we're recommending to go in the bill or in legislation. Jon, I think what he believes is that school districts working with our secretary of education, who we certainly hope will be confirmed this week, need to make a determination about what works best for them based on these CDC guidelines. There are a number of mitigation measures and steps that can be taken. Vaccinating teachers is one of them. But also, hiring more bus drivers, hiring more school teachers, having smaller class sizes. We'll work with school distributes, the secretary of education, this will be his first priority. As you know some teachers unions are saying that they don't want to see schools reopen until every teacher is vaccinated, that's the message out of the teachers union in los Angeles and Sacramento, and in beaverton, Oregon, they prioritized teachers. The union there isn't comfortable with schools reopening even with teachers vaccinated. So I know, you've addressed this and say flatly you don't believe that teachers, all teachers need to be vaccinated to reopen schools, that's the CDC guidance. Fauci has said it's impractical, but why is it that the president and the vice president have seem to had such a hard time saying it. I want to play you what vice president Harris on the today show. Can you reassure teachers who are listening right now that it's safe for them to go back to school even if they are not vaccinated? Teachers should be a priority. There are teachers listening. The CDC has said they don't have to be vaccinated to go back to school -- We think they should be a priority. We think they should be a priority. I mean, why can't she just say what you said. That you don't believe that all teachers need to be vaccinated for schools to reopen. Well, Jon, look, the vice president and the president, and the federal government, we all believe that teachers should be prioritized, and about half of the states in the country also have prioritized teachers and they've put them in the priority category of frontline healthcare workers because of the role they play. But it doesn't need to be a prerequisite. The CDC is saying in order to be safe, there are a number of steps that can be taken. Vaccinating teachers is one of them, but having smaller class sizes, more ppe, more testing, facilities upgrades, those are additional steps that can be taken, and our secretary of education will work with school districts to implement that, so they should be prioritized but our science experts are saying that it's not a prerequisite. Those are the guidelines that we follow. A number of states, new Hampshire and Iowa, have mandated school districts to reopen. Other states Minnesota and Virginia have urged the strongly, is the white house okay, is the president okay with governors mandating school districts, in-person learning in the coming weeks? The president is married to a teacher, he knows how vital it is for students to be in classrooms. The role we're playing for the federal level is to support the CDC guidelines, science-based guidelines. That are giving school districts reopen. These decisions aren't made the federal government. They're made by states, local school districts and we certainly respect that. Okay, I want to turn to another controversy that raged this week, Andrew Cuomo under fire for allegedly not being transparent and misleading on the number of nursing home deaths in New York. Last spring, president Biden cited Andrew Cuomo as the gold standard for leadership during the pandemic. Take a listen. Your governor of New York has done one hell of a job, I think he's sort of the gold standard. So, now, we've seen that governor Cuomo has allegedly undercounted nursing home deaths, misled legislators in New York. And he called the New York assemblyman Ron Kim -- raising questions basically threatening to destroy him, I think was his act words, does president Biden still consider Andrew Cuomo the gold standard when it comes to leadership on the pandemic? Well, Jon, we work with governor Cuomo just like we work with governors across the country. He's also the chair of the Nga, so he plays an important role in ensuring that we're coordinating closely and getting assistance out to his state and states across the country. We'll continue to do that. Of course, there will be a process. Investigations, we'll leave that to others to determine how that path is going to move as we look forward. But we'll continue to work with a range of governors, including of course governor Cuomo, because we believe the people of New York, states across the country, need assistance not only to get through the pandemic but to get through this difficult economic time and that's where our focus remains. Jen, my question was, does president Biden still believe that Andrew Cuomo represents the gold standard on leadership during this pandemic? Just a yes or no. Jon, the president -- well, it doesn't always have to be a yes or no answer, Jon. I think the president is focused on his goals and objectives as president of the United States. He'll continue to work with governor Cuomo as well as other governors across the country. I'm not here to give new labels and names from the president. I'm here to communicate with our focuses are. All right, white house press secretary Jen psaki, thank you for joining us here on "This week." Thank you. All right, let's get a response now from the house
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