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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, October 4, 2021

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James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:38 P.M. EDT

MS. PSAKI:  Hi, everyone.  Okay.  Happy Monday.  Two items for all of you at the top.

We’re seeing strong movement and early action toward vaccine requirements across industries and, importantly, in the airlines industry.

United Airlines was notably first to institute a requirement and, within 53 days, were able to get to over 99 percent of its staff vaccinated.

Over the weekend, we saw JetBlue, Alaska, and American Airlines step up and move forward with their own requirements.

These actions are notable, as they represent a significant share of our country’s air travel.  We know these requirements work.  And by acting now, these airlines will ensure smooth implementation and grea- — create workplaces that are safer from COVID-19. 

Also, I wanted to note a USDA — Department of Agriculture — announcement today.  Secretary Vilsack spoke about our efforts to address competition just a few weeks ago in the briefing room, and talked about how the pandemic revealed vulnerabilities in our food system, including consolidation in processing capacity that created supply bottlenecks and led to a drop in effective plant and slaughter capacity, leading to — the shorthand of that — an increase in prices as people go to the grocery store and try to buy meat and other products to feed their families.

We also know farmers and ranchers are losing money when they sell their livestock to the processing plant and consumers are paying more.  It’s the meat processors in the middle that are making up the difference.

We need more competition — something he noted then — and we can do that by helping small- and mid-sized farmers and small- and mid-sized processors, because the more processing capacity we have, the more competition there is for farmers, the better price we’ll get — the better price they will get, and consumers will get fairer prices too.

That’s why, today, the Department of Agriculture is announcing the new Food Supply Chain Loan Guarantee Program, using $100 million in American Rescue Plan funds to leverage hundreds of millions more in loan guarantees to expand capacity for meat and poultry processing and address bottlenecks in the food supply chain more broadly.

This is a meaningful step forward, and today’s announcement adds a new commitment to the $500 million previously announced to support meat and poultry processing capacity under the Build Back Better initiative.

Aamer, welcome back, I guess.  I haven’t seen you in a while.  I don’t know; you have a rotation.  Go ahead.  (Laughter.)

Q    Thank you for the welcome.  Senator Manchin has said that he wants to see a Hyde Amendment included in the reconciliation bill.  Congresswoman Jayapal and others are opposed to that.  Where does the President stand on inclusion of the Hyde Amendment in the reconciliation bill?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I’m not going to negotiate the package from here, but, as you know, the President opposes the Hyde Amendment.  That has not changed.

Q    Okay.  On the Pandora Papers, I was wondering if — it’s a lot to absorb, but the main, underlining issue seems to be that sheltering of assets of the world’s rich, powerful, and sometimes notorious actors that are getting promising levels of protection and secrecy that now rival or surpass what was seen overseas, now in the United States.

What, if anything, does this administration want to do about addressing this matter?  Should states be allowed to continue to set, sort of, these financial regulations that make some states — including Delaware and some other states — particularly attractive for these trusts?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, broadly speaking, the President is committed to bringing additional transparency to the United States — the U.S. and international financial systems.  And you can see that in policies he’s proposed and supported over the course of his presidency and even prior to that. 

In June, he issued a memorandum establishing fighting corruption as a core national security — a core national security interest.  And through work responsive to this memorandum, the government — we have elevated efforts to curb illicit and opaque financial transactions at home and abroad, including by reducing offshore financial secrecy, robustly implementing federal law requiring U.S. companies to report their beneficial owner to the Department of Treasury, and, as necessary, identifying the need for new reforms.

He’s also pledged to work with partners and allies to address issues such as the abuse of shell companies and money laundering through real estate transactions — something that we’ve certainly seen and was a part of this reporting.

And I’d also note that, last year, Congress came together in a bipartisan fashion to direct the Treasury Department to develop a beneficial ownership database that will meaningfully increase transparency and accountability. 

I would also — last thing I would say, and then you may have follow-ups, is: You know, if you look at the President’s proposals in the Build Back Better agenda, he has been clear he wants to make the tax system more fair, wants to crack down on people who are not paying their fair share — whether they are businesses or whether they are individuals.  That has been central to his policies, his proposals, and central to what he’s fighting for in Congress right now. 

Q    If I could (inaudible) just one other thing outside of Pandora: OPEC said today that it’ll add only 400,000 barrels per day to production in November.  Is current price level an obstacle for recovery?  And should OPEC be pumping more?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, the United States is not a member of OPEC, as you know.  While we — we do communicate with our international partners who are members of OPEC and convey, as we did a few months ago, our urging to find a compromise solution to allow post-production increases to move forward, as they did several months ago. 

I would note, as it relates to gas prices here: Gas — one, what we’re seeing in some parts of the country is that gasoline price is naturally ticking up, in part in the wake of Hurricane Ida because the hurricane hit a region that is a key center of the nation’s oil production and in refining infrastructure.  And we’ve been working around the clock with the state and local governments for the last month to, of course, restore electricity and also help facilities get back online for production to ensure that did not have an impact on oil prices and gasoline here.

And the Department of Energy also authorized several million barrels of Strategic Petroleum Reserve exchanges through that period of time.

We also announced a couple of recent steps.

So the point is here: While we’re not a member of OPEC, we’re also taking a number of steps…

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