State Dining Room
9:59 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, folks. Well, finally: Infrastructure Week. (Laughter.) I'm so happy to say that: Infrastructure Week. (Laughs.)
Folks, yesterday - I don't think it's an exaggeration to suggest that we took a monumental step forward as a nation.
We learned that our economy created 5.6 million jobs since we took office on January 20th, reached an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent - two full years earlier than the vast majority of economists projected that would happen. And we're just - we're just getting started.
We did something that's long overdue, that long has been talked about in Washington but never actually been done.
The House of Representatives passed an Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. That's a fancy way of saying a bipartisan infrastructure bill - a once-in-a-generation investment that's going to create millions of jobs modernizing our infrastructure - our roads, our bridges, our broadband, a whole range of things - to turn the climate crisis into an opportunity. And it puts us on a path to win the economic competition of the 21st century that we face with China and other large countries and the rest of the world.
It's going to create more jobs -- good-paying jobs, union jobs that can't be outsourced -- and they're going to transform our transportation system with the most significant investments in passenger rail - the most significant investment in 50 years; in roads and bridges - the most significant investment in 70 years; and more investment in public transit than we've ever, ever made. Period.
It's going to modernize our ports and our airports - and I'm going to be going to some of our ports next week - and to freight rail, increasing that as a re- - I mean, look, we have a - we have bottlenecks across the country. We're doing so much with this legislation.
It's going to make it easier for companies to get goods to market more quickly and reduce supply chains' bottlenecks and now - and now and for decades to come.
You know, and according to the economists, this is going to be - ease inflationary pressure - not increase it, ease inflationary pressures by lowering costs for working families.
It's going to create jobs replacing lead and - lead water pipes so every American, every child can drink clean water, improving their health and putting plumbers and pipefitters to work. How long have we been talking about that? It's a gigantic issue.
Jobs making high-speed Internet affordable and available everywhere in America. And you heard me say this before, and I apologize for repeating myself, but no parent should have to sit in a parking lot of a fast food restaurant so their child can do their homework because they have no Internet connection except to go off of what's going on at - with - with that Internet connect from the fast food restaurant.
It's going to make significant, historic strides to take on the climate crisis. Some of you were with me when I was recently in Scotland at the COP26. What did people keep asking me? "Are you going to fund this? Are you going to fund it? Are you really going to do what you're saying? Are you..." Well, this will go steps - get to along - a big step along the way of doing it.
We're going to build out the first-ever national network of charging stations all across the country - over 500,000 of them - so that you can make real au- â€“ and, you know, auto companies made a commitment they were going to make 50 percent of vehicles electric by 2030.
So, you'll be able to go across the whole darn country, from East Coast to West Coast, just like you'd stop at a gas station now. These charging stations will be available.
It will get America off the sidelines on manufacturing - manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, battery storage, energy and power for electric vehicles from school buses to automobiles.
And it will reward companies for paying good wages and for getting materials for their products from right from here in America and America exporting and providing the rest of the world with these technologies that are generated here in the United States as we go green around the world.
It also makes historic investments in environmental clean-up and remediation. It builds up our resil- - our resilience against superstorms and droughts and wildfires, hurricanes. You know, you've heard me say it - again, I apologize for repeating myself - but $99 billion in losses last year because of climate crises. In America - $99 billion it costs the taxpayers of America. It represents a blinking red code out there for our nation.
Vice President Harris and I look forward to having a formal signing ceremony for this bipartisan infrastructure soon. Because - but everybody is not - I'm not doing it this weekend because I want people who worked so hard to get this done - Democrats and Republicans - to be here when we sign it.
But we're looking more forward to having shovels in the ground to begin rebuilding America.
And for all of you at home who feel left behind and forgotten in an economy that's changing so rapidly, this bill is for you.
The vast majority of the thousands of jobs that will be created don't require a college degree. They'll be jobs in every part of the country -- red states, blue states, cities, small towns, rural communities, Tribal communities.
This is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America. And it's long overdue.
I'm also proud that the House took a big step toward - forward to pass my Build Better - my Build Back Better Act, which for the week of November 15th, they're going to be taking up. They went through the procedural mechanisms to assure that occurs.
Let me be clear: We will pass this in the House, and we'll pass it in the Senate.
The Build Back Better Act will be a once-in-a-generation investment in our people - getting America back to work by reducing the costs of childcare and eldercare and getting millions of women back on the job who have to stay home because they cannot afford the childcare or the healthcare for their parents; providing universal pre-K for every three- and four-year-old child in America and increasing their academic achievement potential significantly - significantly; making healthcare more affordable; lowering prescription drugs costs; and tax cuts for working people and the middle class so that folks have just a little - as my - I know you're tired of hearing me saying - my dad used to always say, as a middle-class guy, "We just need a little breathing room - a little breathing room."
It's going to reduce child poverty in this country, by the way, by 50 percent. We're already on track to do that with the Child Tax Credit we passed in our last piece of legislation.
And this bill is fiscally responsible. That's a fancy way of saying it's fully paid for.
It doesn't raise the deficit by a single penny. And it actually reduces the deficit, according to leading economists in this country, over the long-term. And it's paid for by making sure that the wealthiest Americans, the biggest corporations begin to pay their fair share.
Again, you've heard me say it a hundred times: Why should 40 - 55 corporations who made over $40 billion in the last couple years - why should they pay zero in taxes? I said I'm a capitalist, I'm not a socialist. But the bottom line is everybody should pay their fair share. Zero in taxes? Come on.
And so - and keep my campaign commitment: It does not raise a single penny in tax for anyone making less than $400,000 a year. Say it again: Folks, no matter what they tell you, you're going to find out this will not affect your taxes one little bit in having to pay a penny more if you make less than $400,000 a year.
Independent experts have concluded that these bills are the highest value investments that we can make to grow the economy.
It's going to create millions of jobs, increase productivity and wages, and reduce cost, and generate significant and historic economic growth.
Again, the press is here - the poor people who have to follow me all the time, they've heard me say this a lot: We got, out of the blue, a couple week ago, a letter from 17 Nobel Prize winners in economics. And they determined that it will ease inflationary pressures - not create them, ease them - ease those pressures.
And for the economy, it recognizes that we - we face an inflection point. For most of the 20th century, we led the world by a significant margin because we invested in our people. We invested in ourselves.
You've heard me say it a thousand times: Jill would say - my wife says, "Any - any country that out-educates us is going to outcompete us." We invested in education. We invested in health. We invested in things that affect people's opportunities to succeed.
We built an Interstate Highway System, which led to the best roads, bridges, airports, and transit systems in the world.
These are the arteries of commerce that have moved goods from coast to coast quickly; that's why people decide to build facilities here in the United States. We empowered our companies to outcompete the world. And we created jobs and untold opportunities for our people to travel, to live, and to work.
But somewhere along the way, we stopped investing in ourselves. We stopped investing in our people. And we've risked losing our edge as a nation. I don't even think it was conscious, but that's just what's happened. And China and the rest of the world are moving to catch up and, in some cases, in certain areas, move ahead.
Our infrastructure used to be rated the best in the world.
Today - today, according to the World Economic Forum, we rank 13th in the world. The United States of America ranks 13th in the world in infrastructure. Come on.
We used to lead the world in educational achievement.
Now the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development - the OECD - ranks America 35th out of 37 major companies when it comes to investing in early education for childhood education and care. Think about that.
Those you who are parents know: You start kids early. You give them the basics. You give them the material to be able to go on.
It's simply unacceptable that we rank 35.
We're now turning it around in a big way. Any single element of this plan would be a fundamental change in America, but taken together they're truly consequential.
Again, I have - I'll have more to say this - about this soon. But when we have the bill singing, I'll be able to thank everyone in the Senate and the House for their leadership. I hesitate to start now; I'll leave somebody out and I want to make sure everyone who was a part of this gets credit for it.
But, for now, I want to quickly thank members of the House who worked so hard to get some of this done: Speaker Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Jim Clyburn, progressive leaders, moderate leaders, Democrats, Republicans - they, in fact, worked together.
It was like - as I saw - someone told me on my staff this morning that on one of the programs this morning they said, "Well, we finally - the sausage is made." You know - well, you know, it is a process. You all know it. You're all pros. You cover it.
The American people have made clear one overwhelming thing, I think - and I really mean it - all the talk about the elections and what do they mean and everything: They want us to deliver. They want us to deliver. Democrats, they want us to deliver.
Last night, we proved we can. On one big item, we delivered.
I want to close with this: For much too long, working people in the middle class of this country have been dealt out of the promise of America. That sounds like hyperbole, but I really mean it.
Some of you may remember, when I ran, I was legitimately - I mean, it's appropriate to be criticized. I don't mean - I'm not complaining about being criticized. But when I said I was running for three reasons: one, to restore the soul of America, bring back some decency and honor in the way in which we dealt with one another.
The second reason was to rebuild the backbone of the country: the middle class. The - the wealthy are value added to the country, but they didn't build the country. Hardworking middle-class folks are the ones that built this country. They're the ones that built - the middle class - they're the ones that built the backbone of the country.
And what I decided to do was I said we have to begin to build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out. Well, folks, that hadn't been the case. I'm so tired about trickle-down economic theory that I'm trickled out.
The idea that - and I asked the rhetorical question: When the middle class has done well, when have the wealthy have - never have - when during any time have the wealthy not done extremely well as well?
I mean, come on. We got to give working folks a real chance - a chance.
And so, folks, there's an awful lot more to say about this. But today, I think, is a - it's just been a good day. You know, it's time to deal folks back in.
You know, as you've heard me say it again - I make no apologies for it: These bills - these bills, in fact, are - the two bills we're talking about - Build Back and - the Build Back Better bill, which we're going to be working on now, and this bill are all designed to give ordinary people a fighting chance to begin to sort of level the playing field just a little bit, not punish anybody.
I've long said it's never ever been a good bet to bet against the American people. Never.
And that - what it really means is: Bet on the American people. Give them a shot. Give them a shot. That's what these plans do. They bet on average Americans. They believe in America. They believe in the limitless capacity of the American people.
If you look at the history of the journey of this nation, what becomes crystal clear - not a joke: Given half a chance, the American people have never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever let their country down.
We're about giving them a full chance this time. And when we do, there's going to be no stopping us.
I truly believe that 50 years from now, folks are going to look back and say, "This was the moment, this was the period, this year and the next couple years, when America decided to win the competition of the 21st century, to get in the game full bore."
So, my message to all the American folks is: Let's get to work. Let's get this done.
God bless you all. And may God protect our troops.
And I'll take a few questions.
Q Mr. President, to what extent did the election results help propel this bill to the finish line? And how did - how were you able to bridge the gap last night between moderates and progressives?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, I'm not being facetious with the answer I'm about to give you, but I don't - I'm not going to be a prognosticator and make a judgment on what - how the election could or would have been different. Each state is different. And I don't know.
But I think the one message that came across was: Get something done. It's time to get something done. Stop - you all stop talking. Get something done.
And so, I think, again, that's what the American people are looking for. And I think it's a legitimate - and when you ask how we were able to bring things together - (laughs) - well, you know. (Laughs.) (Makes the sign of the cross.)
Look, all kidding aside, I have - I believe everybody in the process is entitled to be treated with respect. And I've been doing this kind of thing my - doesn't mean - it's not all me, but I've been doing this thing my whole life. I've been able, in the Senate, to put things together when people said they couldn't be put together just by making the overwhelming point that - that you can't have all you want. It's a process. There's no one piece of legislation that's going to solve everybody's problems.
So, I spent a lot of time, as you probably heard, with a lot of people - both political parties and within my party - saying, "Look, let's - if we move on what's here in this bill - that is the infrastructure bill - it is a game changer in a half a dozen ways. The fact that it has too much of what you don't want or more than you - and not enough where you don't want - just, let's - let's be reasonable. Let's take a look at this. Let's do what we all agree, at a minimum, is in the interests of the American people. And if you want to add more, we can fight about it later, or you want to subtract some of it."
I have never voted for a major piece of legislation - an omnibus bill - that I was for every piece of it. People say, "Well, how do I explain this?" I said, "Well, you explain to the American - your constituency - and I'm not telling you how to do it. But you go home and say, â€˜This is what it did. It had one piece in here. There's not enough money for this, or there's too much money for that. But, overall, this has been a gigantic benefit to my con- - to my congressional district.'"
And so, I spent a lot of time taking questions from both.
And, by the way, everybody, at the end of the day - I have to admit - dealt with me fairly. I mean, they were - they were - we - and part of the process - and this is probably more than you need to know - but part of the process is getting to know all of the people personally again. I've been out of government for four years. I used to do this every day. I used to know about everybody's district I was working with when I was Vice President. I know - I know them and call up and say, "Hey, Charlie or Harry or Mary." Right?
And so, it's getting to know a lot of these people, to build trust. Because everything I say I'm going to try to do, I will try to do. And I think that's also part of the process. And so, hopefully it can continue.
Q Mr. President - you just alluded to it there, Mr. President. Two questions. You are arguably the most legislatively experienced President we have ever seen. But to get this first agenda item over the finish line, you needed Republican votes.
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
Q You are not going to have Republican votes, though, for your Build Back Better Agenda. Isn't it doomed?
And then my second question, Mr. President. OPEC Plus has snubbed your call to pump more oil. When will you respond with an SPR release?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I'm not anticipating that OPEC would respond, that Russia and/or Saudi Arabia would respond. They're going to pump some more oil, whether they pump enough oil is a different thing.
There are other - are - there other tools in the arsenal that we have to deal - and I'm dealing with other countries; at an appropriate time, I will talk about it - that we can get more energy in the - in the pipeline, figuratively and literally speaking.
And I don't start off with any assumption that I can't get anybody to vote for anything. And so, I don't - I mean that sincerely.
I think what's going to happen is, we're going to see what happens in the Senate, and whether or not I need only Democratic votes, which is likely - which is the likely outcome. And the question is: Can I get all of those votes? This is a process.
And all along, you told me I can't do any of it anyway. From the very beginning. No, no, come on, be honest. Okay? You didn't believe we could do any of it. And I don't blame you. Because you look at the facts, you wonder, "How is this going to get done?"
But I think - I think there's a - I think there's a dawning on the part of a lot of people - a whole elective office that if you get some of this done, things are better for them as well as everybody else.
And I'm sure there's some calculations saying, "Well, if Biden gets this other bill, then he's going to be moving too fast and it's going to hurt - you know, the Democrats are going to be doing too well." That's why I think we have to try to figure out how to make the case across the board, as to - there's a lot of things we have to tackle yet. So.
Q Have you gotten assurances from moderate Democrats in the House and Senate that they are going to vote for your Build Back Better plan now that what they really wanted - the infrastructure bill - has passed?
THE PRESIDENT: You know I'm not going to answer that question for you, because I'm not going to get into who - what made what commitments to me. I don't negotiate in public.
But I feel confident - I feel confident that we will have enough votes to pass the Build Back Better plan.
Q What gives you that confidence?
THE PRESIDENT: Me. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, you were forced to scrub paid family leave from your framework a couple of weeks ago -
THE PRESIDENT: I'm sorry?
Q You were forced to pull paid family leave from the framework you released a couple of weeks ago. The House is putting it back in. Can you keep it in this bill when it makes its way to the Senate?
THE PRESIDENT: Time will tell.
Q I'd like to ask you, real quick, sir: Where do you stand? You said last week that this report about migrant families at the border getting payments was "garbage."
THE PRESIDENT: No, I didn't say that.
Q You said -
THE PRESIDENT: Let's get it straight. You said everybody coming across the border gets $500- - $450,000.
Q So, the number was what you had a problem with.
THE PRESIDENT: The number is what I was referring to.
THE PRESIDENT: Now, here's the thing -
THE PRESIDENT: If in fact, because of the outrageous behavior of the last administration, you were coming across the border, whether it was legal or illegal, and you lost your child - you lost your child - it's gone - you deserve some kind of compensation, no matter what the circumstance.
What that will be, I have no idea. I have no idea.
Q You're okay with DOJ negotiating a settlement?
Q Mr. President, two questions. You referred to China twice in your comments, and yet we haven't heard anything about the China bill, which is really the third element of what you're hoping to do here.
It's been through the Senate but has not yet come up to the House. And it would seem that that is the one that is more key to our competitiveness. So I was wondering if you would talk a little bit about that.
And then also tell us how you're feeling right now about the Iran deal, since it looks like you're going to go back to discussion at the end of the month.
But the Iranians have made it pretty clear at this point: They don't - they plan to rip up most of what was done so far. So, are you into your plan B at this point?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not going to comment on Iran now.
And - and the China bill you're referring to - everything in good time. We got to get this through. We got to get this through. The next thing is Build Back Better.
Q So, when do you plan to do that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, in order.
I'm going to take one more question, and then -
Q Mr. President - can I follow up on paid leave, Mr. President? Sir, may I follow up on paid leave?
THE PRESIDEN: (Laughs.) (The President covers his eyes and points towards the press.) (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, Democratic Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger said of your presidency this week: "Nobody elected him to be FDR. They elected him to be normal and stop the chaos." How do you view your mandate after Tuesday's election losses for Democrats? And is she wrong?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Abigail is a friend. We had a long talk. She joked and said that I have a picture - she said I have a picture of Roosevelt hanging in my office - her office, okay?
I don't intend to anybody but Joe Biden. That's who I am. And what I'm trying to do is do the things that I ran on to do. And, look, people out there are - ordinary, hardworking Americans are really, really - been put through the wringer the last couple years, starting with COVID.
COVID has disrupted almost every family one way or another, whether it's wearing a mask or losing a family member. You know, 750,000-plus Americans dead - 750,000.
And so, people are worried. People are also worried about, you know, coming up - they don't - understandably. "Why is the price of - of agricultural products - and when I go to the store, why is it higher?"
What - like, for example, if I had - if we were all going out and having lunch together and I said, "Let's ask whoever the - whoever is at the next table, no matter how - what restaurant we're in - have them explain the supply chain to us." You think they'd understand what we're talking about?
They're smart people. But supply chain - "Well, why is everything backed up?" Well, it's backed up because the people who supply the materials that end up being on our kitchen table or in our - in our fam- - our life - guess what? They're closing those plants because they have COVID. They're not -
And so, it's a complicated world that people are facing. We've never faced anything like this before. I mean, I'm not saying it's the worst of every time in American history, but we never faced anything this - this, sort of, defiant of understanding of what's going on.
And you can understand why people are upset. And I - whether you have a PhD or you're - or you're working, you know, in a restaurant, it's confusing. And so, people are understandably worried. They're worried.
And so, all I can say is: What I'm going to try to do is explain to the American people, as best I can -
And, by the way, you all write for a living. I haven't seen any one of you explain the supply chain very well. No, no, I'm not being critical. I'm being deadly earnest. When your editor says, "Explain the supply chain." Okay? "Lots of luck in your senior year," as my coach used to say. (Laughter.)
But - but I sincerely mean it. This is a confusing time - a confusing time. Think of all those children - all those children who may have lost more than a year of education by only being out one semester.
Think of all that's going on, in terms of access to everything from - when you go back to college, if you're in college - you go back to college - wear - you have to wear your mask or who's your roommate. What - I mean, this is a confusing moment.
And it seems to me that my job as the President of the United States is to try to figure out - myself, as well - what is most needed to put people at ease and let them know there's a way through this. There's a way through this.
The world has never been here before. That sounds like hyperbole, but think about it. Think about it. This truly is one of those inflection points in history. All the pieces on the board are moving, both in terms of the - the relationships among and between nations, as well as the pieces about what employment future people have. How do we do this?
And so, this is a confusing time. But I promise - I promise the American people: I have one focus, "How do we give you some breathing room? How do we get you to the point where we take pressure off you so you can begin to get back to a degree of normality and we move to a different place?"
And this time when we move - and, by the way, everybody internationally uses "Build Back Better" now. When I used the phrase initially, people looked at me like, "Build Back Better?"
Well, what it means - we're the only country in the world, gone through a crisis, to go through a crisis, and come out better than we were be- - before the crisis occurred. That's building back better than it was before.
And so, this is a process. And I just - you know, we're going to see. Take it every day, every moment at a - you know, one moment at a time.
I could take - I'm going to get in real trouble. This is the last question I'm taking. You can decide who I'm pointing to. (The President closes his eyes and points towards the press.) (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, when can Americans expect to see the impact of the infrastructure bill? And when do you think the Build Back Better bill will be passed - by Thanksgiving, Christmas?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't want to make your job easier. (Laughter.) I don't want to give you - I know the answer exactly when it's going to be passed. (Laughter.) And I know exactly how it's going to - (laughs).
Q But when can Americans see the impact from this bill?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they'll see the effects of the bill - this bill - probably starting within the next two to three months. As we get things - shovels in grounds and - in the ground - and people being told they're going to be working doing the following things. And things are going to move.
It is a bill that's paid out over a number of years. And so - but the - the biggest thing it does is give people go - you're going to have people going, "Oh, okay. I guess I'm going to be able to keep my job," or "I'm going to be able to get - get a job doing that," or "I'm moving."
So, I can't tell you that - any of that with precision. If anybody can, then they ought to go into fortunetelling. But it's going to be - it's going to be a provision - a bill that is going to have a profound impact over time.
It's a little like - and I'll end with this - a little like when I - we first came to office. And a lot of this has to do with this lady right here, the Vice President. It's not - I didn't - it's not all me. I feel - I used to stand there and have to listen to the President. She's got to stand and listen to the President, but she deserves an enormous amount of the credit.
But here's the deal. When we came to office, we were told virtually by everybody, "You can't get this economy moving." Remember?
Remember when they told me there was no way I could get, you know, 2 million shots a day into people's arms in the beginning? "There's no mil- - no way to get 200 million." They said there's no way I could get the vaccine. "There's no way, no way, no way."
It's understandable. It's not - it's - I'm not criticizing people who said that, because these things have never been done before. It's never happened before. And so, we got to work.
I agree I am a congenital optimist, but it's because - I really mean this - I have enormous faith in the ingenuity and the integrity of the American people. I'm not joking. I have enormous faith in them. Because I'm convinced we're the most unique country in the world not because we're all so smart and the rest, but because we're the only country that's organized based on an idea.
We really mean it. We haven't lived up to it, but, "We hold these truths to be self-evident. All men and women are created equal." Basically, give everybody a shot.
And I really have faith in the American people. I know we're divided, I know how mean it can get, and I know there are extremes on both ends that make it more difficult than it's been in a long, long time.
But I'm convinced: If we let the American people know that we're committed to enhancing their ability to make their way, we'll all do better.
Thank you all so very much.
10:30 A.M. EDT