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James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

4:03 P.M. EST

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hey, folks. So just to set the ground rules — this is a background briefing with senior administration officials. It’s on background because a lot of folks here and elsewhere have been writing about this topic, which is year-end stories and the President’s first year, and so we wanted to share our perspective. If you guys want things on the record or want to discuss other components of this and want to work together on stories, the press office is available.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. Hi, everyone. Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Thanks for your attention today. As was mentioned, this is off the record, attributable to senior administration officials. If you want anything beyond that, you’re always welcome to reach out to us.

This has been a very strong year of accomplishments for the President. I know it’s often said that yesterday was his first major legislative win, but, actually, there have been 81 pieces of legislation by our count that are now the law. That’s in addition to 15 congressional review acts whereby the President took a look at laws that were passed without the benefit of congressional review, and decided to reverse or undo them.

In addition, the President, as of yesterday, along with Congress’s help, has passed the most sweeping tax cuts and reform in at least a generation, if not two. And that is the centerpiece of his overall economic agenda. That overall economic agenda also is reflected in energy independence. It’s also reflected in him surpassing the “two out for every new one in” regulation promise from the campaign. He mandated that, but instead he’s eliminated roughly 22 regulations for every new one that’s been introduced. That’s saving about $8.1 billion. Of course, you know we had the deregulation event recently, and Neomi Rao at OIRA is supplying us some very positive statistics with respect to that.

The tax cut yesterday is meant to provide about $5.5 trillion in tax cuts where nearly 60 percent is going directly to hardworking American families. I think the charge that it benefits the wealthy was upended almost immediately when a number of major employers across this country, many who were headquartered in states where the senators did not vote for the tax cuts package, went ahead and said that they would invest in their workforce — $1,000 bonuses for 200,000 employees at AT&T, for example.

You have Wells Fargo making a commitment to invest — do some capital investments. You have some of our major employers going forth and telling their employees, we’re going to reinvest the tax cut savings directly and immediately in you. That happened, in some cases, before the Congress and the President even took to the South Portico for their event.

Before that, the anticipation and the expectation of the tax cut helped to spur economic growth — two consecutive quarters of 3 percent of better GDP. Some nonpartisan economists estimate we can get close to 4 percent imminently. You’ve seen the stock market respond with about $6 trillion-plus of wealth created. Since the President was elected, the stock market going from 18,000 to over 24,000. Consumer confidence at a 17-year high. Small business formation confidence. Manufacturing confidence at a record high.

We’ve worked very closely with the National Association of Manufacturers on Manufacturing Day, and on identifying those men and women who work in manufacturing — recognizing that those are often legacy businesses. We talk an awful lot about family farms, but it actually is true that many manufacturing businesses are also family-based, and many of them are very excited to see the 2.9 percent or so unemployment rate among manufacturers and this new tax cut package.

The New York Federal Reserve estimates the U.S. economy will grow at an annual rate of nearly 4 percent in the fourth quarter. Of course, we know that this country had 3 percent or better growth for decades until 2007, and that we were told since then that 2 percent of less was something we should settle for; that was the best we could do. This President has proved that we can do much better and that we are doing much better.

I would point out, in the two consecutive quarters of 3 percent or better GDP, that in one of those quarters — and rightfully so — we had billions of dollars in hurricane relief and recovery spending, and yet still hit the 3 percent GDP mark.

Yesterday was a three-for-one. Yesterday was the tax cuts, which of course will benefit hardworking Americans; will benefit the job creators, going from 35 percent to 21 percent, going from the highest rate in the OECD and the developed world. In terms of a corporate rate, to 21 percent, which puts us below the average of 23 percent.

But it also repealed the individual mandate under the ACA and Obamacare. Nearly 80 percent of households hit with the Obamacare mandate make less than $50,000 a year. So this is direct relief for them. And we all know the statistics — the most recently available statistics — that about 6.5 million Americans opted to pay nearly $3 billion in penalties for Obamacare. Rather than get on Obamacare, they opted to pay money to the IRS, money they could have used, I would argue, for many things, including buying healthcare. But they opted to pay a penalty to the IRS rather than get Obamacare.

That individual mandate is gone and, of course, was set up to try to attract the young and the healthy to the exchanges. And that did not happen. But what did happen is many of the insurers fled the exchanges. You’ve seen the statistics we have. And if you need them, we have many counties in this country now that have one or zero insurers in that county.

The most recent government statistics show close to, if not 30 million Americans now don’t have healthcare. That’s post-Obamacare. That’s post the lie that you can keep the plan, you can keep your doctor. So this President is very committed in making sure that those Americans who don’t have healthcare can find the accessible, affordable way to achieve that over time.

The courts are really another highlight for this President in his first year in office. Of course, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch will have his mark on American jurisprudence that is expected for decades to come. The President promised during the campaign, and actually named names — and Judge Gorsuch, Justice Gorsuch was one of them. He put his list forward and said, this is the type of justice and judge that I’d be looking for for our Federal Circuit and Supreme Court, but, in fact, he also named names so people could examine the records, can see their judicial thinking long before the election, and certainly long before these appointments.

In addition, as Leader McConnell mentioned yesterday in the South Portico, that we have 12 circuit judges confirmed. That’s the highest number since we’ve been reporting the numbers. I believe President Obama had three at this point in his first year. So 12 in the circuit court and about 135 to go.

So this will continue to be a place where the President’s mark will be seen.

Defeating ISIS — a physical caliphate will soon be extinguished, according to our national security team and defense team. The President has — our forces have helped to liberate Mosul and Raqqa, and we have an aggressive new strategy that empowers commanders with broader authority. This President is rebuilding our military and leading the way toward respecting our military as well. That is something that doesn’t get a ton of coverage, but, as you can imagine, if there was a bright-line distinction between the two candidates for President and for Commander-in-Chief, it was certainly over the way to characterize terrorism and what to do about it once one of them was elected.

Restoring American energy independence on the way to — to quote Senator Murkowski — American energy dominance is also a highlight. That was the three-for-one yesterday. That’s the third piece. Tax cuts for jobs creators, for job seekers and for jobholders; certainly the repeal of the Obama[care] individual mandate, and ANWR. For 40 years in the making, other Presidents, other Congresses tried to do it. It got done by way of this tax cut plan.

But that really builds on other energy independence and dominance measures that this President put forward early in his administration by opening up the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines; plans to auction off leases for nearly 77 million acres on the Gulf of Mexico for exploration. Ending the war on coal, having the coalminers here, frankly, early in the administration — they were very happy. But U.S. coal exports are up 70 percent year to date for September.

And then, of course, exiting the Paris Climate Agreement, saying he wants to take a look at — like he does with the trade deals — how fair it is to American interests, American workers, and American taxpayers.

Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel and initiating plans to relocate our U.S. embassy there — again, a promise that Presidents right, left and center all made, and that this President kept — all in his first year in office.

Declaring a nationwide public health emergency to address the opioid crisis: We are in the process of releasing the White House’s response to the Commission’s report. I am told that is one of — it was a report that got among the most comments internally that we’ve ever seen in anything we’ve done here this year. And I think that shows the administration-wide effort — that, plus our commissioning of an opioids cabinet where we have a great deal of accomplishments, really, administration wide. The DOJ recently announced the first two prosecutions that — Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein announced the first two prosecutions — excuse me, indictments in this country of Chinese nationals under the fentanyl ring prosecution (inaudible). And those two happened in North Dakota and Mississippi.

In addition, the DOJ has recently called upon — Attorney General Sessions recently called upon every U.S. attorney in this country to have an opioid designee, at least one, in their offices; an additional $12 million in grants to “Back the Blue” for our law enforcement interdiction practices. They shut down the AlphaBay dark web — a lot of it peddling of the illicit and synthetic opioids. You see in the CDC numbers that are out today, they’re very harrowing. Opioids now kills more people than breast cancer. And we see a spike-up — if you look at page four of that particular report — you see a spike-up in fentanyl deaths. And we have a fentanyl issue in this country.

HHS recently gave clarification on HIPAA guidelines so that we’re working on those Americans who tell us that their child had been resuscitated five or six times in the same hospital but they never knew that because the child is an adult, and how to, maybe, designate a family member or another responsible adult if, in fact, you are in that situation.

And I think that accomplishments in the veterans space is pretty significant. Secretary Shulkin and President Trump have the VA Accountability Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act. They have a 24/7 hotline here at the White House for the first time. The Secretary and the President have made a priority the VA Choice Act, where if our veterans cannot access timely, quality care through the VA — which mostly they can — they instead are able to access it through the private sector, as many do.

In addition, the President and the Department of Justice has been working with Central American partners to address directly the MS-13 gangs that are threatening our communities. The facts for DHS is 796 MS-13 gang member arrests and associates this calendar year. That’s an 83 percent increase. Over the last year, you’ll recall the President himself in July or August going up to Long Island to speak about this directly.

We have specifics and statistics on each of these areas. I wanted to give an overview with a little bit of meat, but we have much more. I don’t want to take up all of your time, and we certainly want to open it up to questions.

But I would end by saying that the fair and reciprocal trade for America’s workers has been a big centerpiece and a big difference for this President, the idea that we’re bringing tens of billions of dollars in foreign investments back to the United States. The President has met with over 100 leaders, and he’s visited 13 countries. And the fruits of that are really seen in these tens of billions of dollars in foreign investment back here, withdrawing the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership, and renegotiating trade agreements like NAFTA, which will continue into 2018.

I think looking toward 2018, many of the fruits of labor that’s being done this year will be realized in 2018 and beyond. And I consider it an accomplishment that so much of this has started. On so many issues, we’ve inherited a sinking battleship, have tried to stick the anchor in the ocean and turn it around going to a different direction. And we will see many of the fruits of that labor is following here.
If you look at the President’s 70-point immigration plan, it includes ending chain migration, going to a merit-based system, ending the visa lottery system. It talks about equipping our border agents with the resources they need to do their job, and adding more ICE agents at the border. It addresses DACA; it addresses the wall, and made a 70-point plan.

Looking forward to 2018 — infrastructure, welfare reform, obviously the budget, finishing on some of these issues that we’ve previewed. And, indeed, in continuing to crush ISIS and encourage our NATO allies to continue to contribute to the common defense.

So all of that are not just promises kept by the President, but they’re what he sees as moral imperatives in terms of this country being more safe, more prosperous, and this government being more transparent and more accountable to its citizenry. Thank you very much.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think my colleague covered that so well and I know that we’re pressed for time so why don’t we just jump into questions?

Q You mentioned that the President wants to see accessible healthcare for people who are uninsured. What’s the plan, both substantively and legislatively, for getting people healthcare, especially now that a lot of people are going to come off healthcare one way or another due to the tax bill?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure, I’d be happy to address, again, on the individual mandate. I think we’ve made this case to you that the Obama administration went to the Supreme Court and argued that the individual mandate was a tax. We accepted it as a tax and thought it was important to include it in the tax relief effort, because 80 percent of the people who pay the tax on the individual mandate earn $50,000 or less.

So we believe that freedom is an important thing. And if you don’t like your options, the government shouldn’t force you to buy something that you don’t want. So that’s the first principle for us. And I think that as we continue to free the markets, I think you will see premiums come down and people will be given more choices.

We don’t accept the CBO estimate that 13 million people lose their insurance. I think, in fact, what you’re going to see is CBO re-estimate those numbers early next year because they themselves have confessed that their initial models overestimated the number of people that the individual mandate impacted.

Q Why would it cause premiums to go down if fewer healthy people are in the insurance market?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Has the individual mandate helped premiums go down so far? All that’s happened so far under Obamacare is premiums continue to rise.

Q I’m just asking what the mechanism is to push them down now.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So there will be continued relief from the administrative prospect of the markets. Things that you saw recently when the President signed the order to allow associated health plans, those sorts of measures we’ll continue to take to try to lower premiums.

Q So fewer requirements of the insurance plans? So there will be cheaper plans?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You’ve seen the administration continue to roll back what we view is a burdensome regulatory state, and we will continue in the healthcare arena as well.

Q So noting the Congressional Review Act, the tax bill, and the judges — all of those things are achievements gained essentially through mechanisms that allow a 51-vote majority in the Senate. Many of the future agenda items — even CR that you’re negotiating right now — require Senate buy-in from Democrats. DACA will require that. If you do anything on a big lift on infrastructure, Democrats will be required. Welfare reform. All these other future agenda items, how do you alter your legislative strategy away from this method that’s achieved things, no doubt, but achieved things with 51 votes, and those options are not going to be available to you going forward?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the premise of your question is right. I think that, in 2018, in order to achieve, more legislative victories will need to be done on partisan manner.

I don’t accept the notion that we have not been trying that, Major. I think if you look at the number of meetings that we had, there were 300 members of Congress during this tax reform debate, over 70 individual meetings with Democrat members. I shouldn’t say that; there were over 70 meetings with Democrat legislators. We had many of them over here at the White House on many occasions. The President flew with the senator from North Dakota to talk about it. I know there’s been a lot of conversation on how they were shut out. They were on Air Force One for hours talking through tax reform.

So we have made that outreach, Major. I think we will continue to do that. I spent many —

Q Well, the means by which you achieved these victories were through those 51-vote mechanisms and the rules that are built up around them.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And I think — I believe that, honestly, in many cases, it was not policy that prevented us from having bipartisan victories. I think it was the politics. And I hope that, having now shown that we can legislate on our party basis, the Democrats would be more willing to partner with us in 2018.

Q That’s a pretty big hope.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I just want to add to that that the President said from the beginning that he would love to have Democratic votes. And I think the question as to whether measures will pass in a bipartisan fashion is a question for the Democrats, not the Republicans. He would like to have Democrats step up the way they did when other Republican Presidents passed tax cuts and had any of them out there yesterday to say to their constituents, you’re going to get — the idea that nobody in their states was going to get relief is just not true.

And when we look ahead, many of us in this White House are very interested in having Democratic support in any number of measures. And there are a few senators — when I assume when the calendar turns to 2018 — will look at that, will look at what their constituents are prioritizing in their states, and perhaps see it somewhat differently. But I certainly hope that all the outreach this President and our team is making to Democrats will bear fruit in 2018.

Q It will have to, to get these things done, correct?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Major, I agree with you on that. I agree with you on that. But I also, to my colleague’s point, talk about nominations for a second. I know I’ve had the chance to brief you guys before on this — but over 50 cloture votes required for our personnel. The amount of obstruction on personnel is historic. The most cloture votes before, I think, was five for a previous administration. We’re 10 times that in the first year of our administration.

So I hope that’re asking the same questions of them. Because at what point will they actually reach out and try to partner with us on objectives too?


Q You mentioned the three-for-one day, talking about obviously repealing the individual mandate. We heard the President yesterday say it was, essentially, repealing Obamacare. Mitch McConnell says, nay. He doesn’t think — he thinks they will probably move on to other issues. So is this administration’s position that, given what happened with the tax bill, there won’t be a big push anymore to repeal and replace? That that is sort of done, over with?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The heart of Obamacare, of course, was the individual mandate. And as my colleague pointed out, anybody who doesn’t think it was a tax should go back look at how it pushed through the United States Supreme Court. It was justified as the Congress’ right under its taxation power.

Having said that, what this President is really conveying, Hallie, is that he remains committed to making sure that the Americans who lost their healthcare; who never got it when they thought they would; who thought they could keep their plan; keep their doctor; who thought they could buy across state lines; who were told your premiums will go down and your choices will go up; the access will be better; the affordability will be greater; none of that came true. That is what the facts show.

He is committed to making sure that more Americans have more access. You saw he signed the executive order a few months ago — I would say maybe two months ago, or so — which did dive into some of these issues that I just mentioned that he has (inaudible).

So there are other ways to do it. It remains a priority to many Americans. I’ve seen in a lot of the media polling lately, this is a number-one issue. It was above terrorism and jobs and the economy in at least two of the media polls I saw this very week. So we are responding to what the public says is important to them.

Q Let me ask in a different way. With the passage of the tax bill, does the President feel he made good on his promise during the campaign to repeal and replace?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it’s a good start. In other words, it’s replace with what? In other words, that came very close when it was voted on. There, too, we’ve had Democrats on the record — Democratic senators on the record who have said we have to take another look at that. President Obama himself said he had to take another look at that. And when it was time to take another look at that, they looked the other way.

So the legislative mechanism, there are a couple things that he’s talked about. You’re familiar with the legislation — Graham-Cassidy, Alexander-Murray — these are pieces of legislation the President has discussed with his principals. My colleague is our expert here on that, certainly. But it is a big step forward to making good on the promise to Americans not just to repeal and replace Obamacare, but to make sure there is accessible, affordable, quality healthcare for the 30 million Americans who simply don’t have it.

Q Thanks. Staying on healthcare, can you tell us a little bit about what the White House is going to do to try to get the CSRs through the House? Or is it, well, we got Senator Collins’s vote on tax reform, now we can sort of let that go?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Just to step back for a second on how we got to this point — because I think it’s important for context — the administration had stated a position against CSR payments, as you know, from a policy perspective.

We also had opinions that said that continuing those CSR payments without appropriation from Congress was not constitutional. In fact, that was a ruling before we even came into office. And so we accepted that ruling, and therefore the President stopped making those payments.

In our conversations with Senator Collins, talking about her, I think, concerns about including the individual mandate repeal in the tax effort, she asked if we would take another look at Alexander-Murray as a way to ameliorate concerns she had on the individual mandate repeal. We said that we would, and we did offer that we felt repealing the mandate — the $300-plus billion in savings, the freedom it allows to customers, plus her support for the tax plan effort was certainly worth a transaction of saying we will make a support of CSR payments for two years, which is what Alexander-Murray does.

So we did make a commitment to her that when that bill gets to the President’s desk, the President would sign it. As far as additional efforts, we have had continued outreach to organizations that, perhaps, have been opposed to it to try to alleviate some of their concerns as to what we can do administratively. We’ve also had outreach to House Republicans and Senate Republicans.

At the end of the day, getting that bill to our desk will rely upon House and Senate leadership. But the President made a commitment to her. We are honoring that commitment. And when it reaches his desk, he will sign it.

Q And will he pressure Paul Ryan, some of these House Republicans who have voiced concerns about CSRs, to get this done?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are confident that it will get done in 2018.

Q Thanks. Can you just talk a little bit about the President as a manager in 2017? Your staff has had quite a bit of turnover during the course of the year. A lot of senior White House staff have departed, either fired or resigned. What mistakes did the President make in hiring initially? And will he change his approach to hiring as he goes into 2018?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think my colleague is anxious to take that question. (Laughter.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, not everybody you predicted would leave or should leave has or will — (laughter) — hypothetically speaking.

So I think the President is very accustomed to hiring and managing a number of individuals. And it really does set him apart — his private sector experience — in knowing how to build teams that work on particular projects or particular duty functions within the organization.

The President, in assembling his senior staff here and his Cabinet, at this point I think you could say he has, in terms of the Cabinet, assembled — and he likes to say handpicked — a Cabinet of really extraordinary men and women. And you see them when they’re in the Cabinet meetings. I think if you had any of them up here, any of their spokespeople up here talking about their year of accomplishments, it’s pretty impressive what we’ve done — what they’ve done Cabinet by Cabinet, agency by agency, department by department. And know we’ve got that going on too that we’ll be releasing, I think.

I think that the place is a well-managed place now under Chief Kelly. (Off-the-record portion.) So when I say Chief Kelly is doing a good job — an excellent job — it doesn’t mean other people didn’t or haven’t or won’t. I’m just speaking about what we have here.

But I think what this President has now is space and time to think and to deliberate and to hear from the experts on that particular issue or that particular matter, and to take in different inputs and ideas and resources from his team, but then from the people in the outside too — experts on the outside — the Cabinet themselves, folks who have been working on these issues for decades, where the President of the United States can benefit from their counsel.

Q But did the President make mistakes at the beginning of the year in hiring all those people who then had to be fired or who resigned?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, the President didn’t make a mistake. Why would you think that? You have to give me a little bit of specificity into why you think that for me to answer the question.

Q I’m asking you the question. Was it a mistake to hire all these people who had to be fired, had to resign?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: But the question implies that it was, so I’m asking why you think it was a mistake.

Q Is it not a mistake to have to fire and have that many people resign?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Is it a mistake to have to fire people? You’re asking, did he make a mistake in hiring them in the first place? You have to be more specific about people. I know we love to learn the more generic points of palace intrigue than the finer points of policy sometimes, but we have a really good team here. And we have a team that is very well managed by the Chief of Staff. And it would have to be individual by individual, and I don’t really play that game.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I know there hasn’t been a lot of turnover in media recently, but I guess the way I would answer that is to say, why don’t you look at the accomplishments in the administration. And I think that — I don’t think there’s anybody who is more responsible in helping us get here than my colleague and the efforts she did as a campaign manager.

I think the American people were looking for somebody who is a businessman, who was successful, and they wanted results. They were tired of dysfunction in Washington that they had experienced for so long. And so I think if you walk through what’s happened to our economy, what’s happened with the way we’re turning around this country, I think that’s what people are looking for.

Q Okay, I have a question for both of you — separate questions. First of all, you’ve kind of laid out a long list of things that you want to accomplish next year. Is there anything among those that are foremost, specifically like immigration reform? There’s been some rumors that there could be a deal as soon as January on DACA and an immigration overhaul.

And then my second question, because since we didn’t have a briefing today and you’re the one that’s standing here, do you guys have a comment — and you’re a senior official — do you guys have a comment on that U.N. vote? And will the President actually cut off funding to those countries that voted against the United States today?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can take the first past. (Laughter.)

Q Nope, the second part was also directed to you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think this dovetails with Major’s question initially. In the last couple months, I think I’ve had very productive conversations with Schumer’s team and Pelosi’s team in trying to work toward a budget cap that’s yet to come to fruition. But part of that conversation also includes conversations around DACA, and there’s not doubt that that is a presidential priority.

Just the other day, some of you reported about meetings that General Kelly had with the CBP Commissioner to talk about elements of that. It was to a group of bipartisan senators. So we think that there is actually a sincere effort to find a resolution to that. And we have continued to make that same availability of administration officials to Democrats on the House side to talk through what a solution could look like.

Even on the budget caps conversation, we’ve been negotiating, I think, in very good faith. And I think we’re actually making significant progress on finding that deal. We ran out of time, and so obviously we’re having the CR pushed to January. But we believe that that’s going to happen in January as well.

So on the larger legislative priorities, January is going to be a busy month, undoubtedly. I think that there’s a lot of things that Democrats want in a budget deal, and DACA is one of those. I don’t think it will necessarily be part of that budget deal, but I think the timeline will be similar. And I think as you look toward us unveiling a budget in February that will then kick off, kind of, the legislative calendar, there’s going to be a lot that we’re trying to do, and I think you’ll see us unveil in particular an infrastructure package that we hope will be bipartisan.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just say real quickly, on the U.N. thing, I’ll follow up with you. We only have five minutes, so —

Q Feel free to follow up with a bunch of us. (Laughter.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The State Department couldn’t comment.

Q Thank you. Two questions. Are you confident the President is going to sign the tax bill tomorrow?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think there’s a very good chance the President signs it tomorrow.

Q Okay. And then, secondly, I just want to follow up on the healthcare questions. As I understand it, the short-term spending deal that is coming together doesn’t address the Obamacare insurance markets, which there’s some real concern about the stability of those right now — as the President said yesterday, effectively, repealed Obamacare. Are you concerned at all about leaving town without replacing, without addressing the markets, and then also addressing the fact you’re repealing Obamacare, effectively?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Kristen, I think the reason that people were paying the Obamacare tax is because they felt that what was available on the exchange was so bad. So many insurers have chosen to leave them because they’re unsustainable. So I think that that is — as the President said many times, Obamacare is collapsing under its own weight. I think that giving people the freedom to not pay a tax for a product they don’t want is a step forward.

Q Do you think that it’s something that should ultimately be addressed, or no, when they resolve these issues in the new year?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As you know, we tried. That was our first major legislative effort. It did not end as successfully as tax reform. So, yes, we have tried that. I think you will see continued efforts on that next year.

Q Does CHIP fall into your January calendar?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that CHIP will be in January, definitely. I think it will probably be part of the —

Q Budget caps conversation.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It will be part of the budget caps, but I think it will also be part of the omnibus spending bill.

Q Two things. Just in terms of the order of how you want to do things coming up in the New Year — obviously, January and February are very busy — I just want to know where welfare reform fits into that and kind of how the strategy links in to what you’ll do potentially working with Democrats on infrastructure?

And the other question I have — so I’m still a little bit confused — you know, you spent a good 15 minutes there going through all the President’s accomplishments this year. That’s stuff you guys presumably want to get out there. I’m just curious if there’s anything you said there that you don’t want to attach your name to and why that is on background.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’ll let my colleague address that issue. Do you want to answer welfare reform?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure, I think that’s pretty easy. The bottom line on that — on welfare reform, I think a large part of a number of your questions is that we will be having a meeting in the first week in January with Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan and make sure we’re all on the same page with where our parties are and what the calendar will look like for 2018. So I would just ask you to stay tuned on that.

I think it is something that Speaker Ryan spoke with the President about. The President has been more and more excited about trying to address welfare reform. Exactly where that falls on the legislative calendar, I think we’ll have a better idea after that first week in January.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All right, yeah, that was the last question. I’ll just answer. You know, we’re working with a number of you folks on stories, on the phone and in the room. We’ll continue to. This is just outlining our perspective on the year’s accomplishments.

I’m happy to, from the press office, work together to put things on the record or deal with specific items you guys want to talk about. All right?

Q Can I make a suggestion? Could you please let everything before questions on the record? So that that was your colleague’s remarks.


Q Was that a yes?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. We’re going to keep it on background. Thanks, guys.

Q Are you on the record right now?


Q I don’t know. You’re not —


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And I just wanted to amend. May I just give an addendum? I hope you like your tax cut at NBC, or your bonus, Eamon. But I also just want to say that Donald Trump is a very trusting leader and manager who thinks that people would want to serve the public and serve this great country for the right reasons. And I don’t think that makes him any different than every President that served that loves their country. They all love their country. They all want to do right. And they think that they’re surrounding themselves with people who agree. They don’t think that people are necessarily here for other reasons.

But we’re in a good place at the moment, and he’s had an amazing first year. And I think the country continues to see — many people in the country continue to see the sacrifices he’s made to be here. And the political motivators of power and prestige and money and status and position and future earnings — those don’t apply to him. He had all of that.

And it’s been a year of — I think it’s been a year of accomplishments for the people he set out to make an impact on. And I don’t like to forget them because I’m the daughter of one of them. You know, when I think about — when Tim Scott was talking about single moms yesterday, I was raised by one. And that tax cut, I know firsthand, would have taken the clothes out of layaway and into our cart.

That’s a very common experience. That is not a special story. That’s a very common one in this country. But when I think about why he’s here and what the big highlights were, it was how he’s impacted those people’s lives. Are they more safe? Are they more prosperous? Do they have a government that’s more accountable to them?



4:40 P.M. EST