I’ve just been working my way through the daily media briefing with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. There were a few moments worth mentioning.
First, Ms Psaki confirmed that Joe Biden would be signing executive orders on immigration policy later today. One of them will create a task force tasked with reuniting immigrant families broken up under the previous administration.
Ms Psaki also addressed Joe Biden’s meeting with a group of Republican senators yesterday, where he discussed their position on a coronavirus relief package (they want something less expensive than his $US1.9 trillion proposal).
Ms Psaki said the meeting, which does not appear to have resulted in much progress, was “civil” and “constructive”.
“Last night the President had a meeting with 10 Republican senators. He’s meeting right now with the Senate Democratic caucus over video,” she said.
“Last night, during the meeting, he welcomed the opportunity to have a constructive exchange of ideas over how we can improve the American rescue plan.
“He pledged that we would bring people together when he ran for president, and last night was an example of doing exactly that.”
She then pointed to a poll published by YouGov yesterday, which showed about two-thirds of Americans support Mr Biden’s proposals for the relief package. Ms Psaki called this “bipartisan support among the American people”, which is of course distinct from bipartisan support among lawmakers.
Under questioning from reporters, she confirmed that Mr Biden had told their Republicans their proposed package, at about $600 billion, was too small.
“Our risk is not having a package that’s too big. It’s having a package that’s too small,” Ms Psaki said.
Moving on to another subject, a reporter asked whether Mr Biden had any call scheduled with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“I was wondering if there was something scheduled, or when that might be. It’s been a couple of weeks,” the reporter pointed out.
“Less than two weeks, actually. It may seem longer to you,” Ms Psaki told her. She appeared to flip through her notes, landing on a page to aid in her answer.
“You know, our approach to China and our approach to our relationship with China, is strategic, obviously. And we are working to ensure that we are approaching that relationship from a position of strength,” she continued.
“That includes engagement with our allies and partners. A lot of those calls have happened over the last 10 weeks – 10 weeks? Ten days. That was a little Freudian there, 10 weeks. Ten days.
“They will continue. And also engagements with Democrats and Republicans in Congress about the path forward. I don’t have any call to predict for you at this point in time.”
She promised to let the media know whenever a call does finally take place.
The reporter followed up on her answer.
“It sounds a lot like your strategy is not to talk to him at this time. Because you’re talking about speaking to allies and making other calls first. Have they requested a call?” she asked.
“I don’t have anything more for you. I think – I don’t appreciate the, like, putting words in my mouth. That wasn’t what my effort was,” Ms Psaki responded.
“What I was conveying is what our strategy is here from the United States, which is to work with our partners and allies and determine what the right time is.
“Of course the relationship with China is going to be multi-layered. We’ll deal with climate, we’ll deal with the economy, we’ll deal with security. And that is of course a priority to President Biden, he’s spoken about it during the transition, he’s spoken about it – obviously he’s had engagements with his national security team about a range of issues, including China.
“We’ve been here less than two weeks, and when we have a call to read out, I’ll make sure you know.”