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Cabinet Room

11:42 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, thank you very much. And today, we’re here to discuss at the Cabinet meeting critical domestic policy issues. I’d like to basically provide you with an update as to how we’re doing for the American people, and we’re doing a lot of great things.

The unemployment rate is at a almost 17-year low. The stock market is soaring to record levels. We just hit a new high on Friday, and I think we’re hitting another new high today because there’s tremendous optimism having do with business in our country.

The GDP growth has reached more 3 percent last quarter, and other than the hurricanes, it would have done phenomenally on this. And I think we’ll still do very well, but something will have to be taken off because of the tremendous problems of the massive hurricanes that we’ve had to endure. And now, I guess, you can probably add the wildfires in California.

But the economy cannot take off like it really has the potential to do unless we reduce the tax burden on the families, businesses, and workers of our country. And we’ll be able to do that. I think we’re getting tremendous receptivity from the people. I hope we get the same receptivity from Congress. But we are getting tremendous accolades for what we’re doing having to do with both reform and with the massive tax cuts; it will be the largest tax cuts in the history of our country.

We’re one of the highest-taxed nations in the world right now, costing us millions of jobs and trillions and trillions of dollars. It’s time to restore America’s competitive edge and pass historic tax cuts for the American people. One point in GDP would be $2.5 trillion. Think of that — revenues. One point — if we go up from three to four. And when I began, we were in the ones, and now the last quarter we were at 3.2 percent. And we’re going up higher.

But if we went, as an example, from two to three or from three to four — talking about $2.5 trillion. And we’re also talking about many millions of jobs.

So we want to also reduce excessive government spending, and that’s what we’re working on at our Cabinet meeting today. As we head into next year’s budget season, I’ve asked Director Mulvaney to come up and find various savings in all of the departments that are gathered around the table, which is everybody. I need my Cabinet to work with Director Mulvaney to fight these spending cuts — fight for them — and make sure that they happen. And we want to make the departments as lean and efficient as possible, but at the same time, we’re going to need departments with lots of heart, lots of heart.

One thing we’re going to be looking at very strongly is welfare reform. That’s becoming a very, very big subject, and people are taking advantage of the system. And then other people aren’t receiving what they really need to live, and we think it’s very unfair to them. But some people are really taking advantage of our system from that standpoint, and we are going to be looking very, very strongly there for welfare reform. It’s going to be a very big topic under this administration, and it started already. And we have a lot of recommendations that we’re going to be making, and you’ll be hearing about them very shortly.

The other thing we’re doing that relates to people’s lives is the prescription drug prices are out of control. The drug prices have gone through the roof. And if you look at the same exact drug by the same exact company, made in the same exact box and sold someplace else, sometimes it’s a fraction of what we pay in this country — meaning, as usual, the world is taking advantage of the United States. They’re setting prices in other countries and we’re not.

The drug companies, frankly, are getting away with murder, and we want to bring our prices down to what other countries are paying, or at least close and let the other countries pay more. Because they’re setting such low prices that we’re actually subsidizing other countries, and that’s just not going to happen anymore.

This has been going on for years where our people are paying so much more for it. And I don’t mean they’re paying 2 percent more; I mean they’re paying double, triple, quadruple. They’re paying so much more that it’s very unfair to the United States, as usual.

Last week, I also sent a letter to Congress outlining my administration’s top priorities for immigration reform. This was a bottom-up effort driven by dedicated law enforcement professionals, and they took a big oath to protect our nation.

The Justice Department is doing a fantastic job on the border and with regard to immigration — more than anyone has ever seen before from a Justice Department. Thank you very much, Jeff. It’s really had an impact and a very positive impact, and now we’re going to take it to five steps further.

Our proposal closes dangerous loopholes and vulnerabilities that enable illegal immigration, asylum fraud, and visa overstays. The visa overstays are just — you’re talking about numbers that nobody even knows what they are, they’re so out of control. And we’re going to take care of that.

When you look at what’s going on in Mexico — Mexico is having a tough time right now in terms of crime. More than ever, we need the wall. We have drugs pouring through on the southern border; they’re literally pouring through. And we have to have the wall, and we’re going to have the wall. But if you look at just what’s happening on the other side of the border with the tremendous crime and the tremendous problems going on — we have a very good relationship with Mexico but there are a lot of problems, and we don’t want the drugs and we don’t want the crime, but we need the wall.

Recently, we’ve asked Congress to ensure that any proposed immigration reform ends chain migration; one person comes in and then brings everybody in his family in with him or her. And we have to end chain migration, which — it’s critical for creating a system that puts American workers and the American taxpayer first.

Last Thursday, I proudly nominated Kirstjen Nielsen to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. I urge the Senate to quickly confirm this really tremendously qualified nominee, and I also ask for my other nominees.

We have approximately half the number of nominees confirmed by the Senate because, frankly, the Democrats have terrible policy — terrible — and they’re very good at, really, obstruction, the one thing they do well. Their policy is no good, and I’m not even sure they’re very good politicians because they don’t seem to be doing too well. That could be because of their bad policy. But they’re great at obstruction, and we have half the nominees that President Obama had at this time.

It’s very unfair. They’re taking everybody right after the final moment, in many cases confirming them with tremendous majorities. But they’re bringing them out purposefully. They’re bringing them right down to the final. We have people that are totally qualified, they’re going to pass, but they’re going to have to wait a long time because it’s total obstruction.

I can say the same thing with our judicial nominees, our judges. We have some of the most qualified people. The Wall Street Journal wrote a story about it the other day, that this is some of the most qualified people ever, and they’re waiting forever on line. And it shouldn’t happen that way. It’s not right, and it’s not fair.

I want to thank Acting Secretary Elaine Duke for her leadership in responding to the catastrophic storms that have struck our nation and our territories.

We’ve also issued a disaster declaration in California in response to the devastating wildfires like we’ve never seen. And we mourn the terrible loss of life. We have FEMA and first responders there. We have our military helping. It’s very sad to watch how fast — how rapidly they move and how people are caught in their houses. It’s an incredible thing — caught in their houses.

So we have a lot of people helping — the government in California — and we’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple of days. But we’re a little subject to winds and what happens with nature, but it’s been a — it’s a very sad thing to watch.

We also continue to pray for the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. We cannot erase the pain of those who lost their loved ones but we pledge to never leave their side. We’re working with them very much so, with the FBI and law enforcement, Department of Justice. And it’s — I guess a lot of people think they understand what happened, but he was a demented, sick individual. The wires were crossed pretty badly in his brain — extremely badly in his brain — and it’s a very sad event.

In each of these tragedies, we’ve witnessed, however, a tremendous strength and heroism of our people. Each one of these tragedies that we’ve had, we have witnessed such strength and such heroism. When Americans are unified, no destructive force on Earth can even come close to breaking us apart. We have a lot of work to do on behalf of our magnificent country and our extraordinary citizens.

A great trust has been placed upon each member of our Cabinet. We have a Cabinet that — there are those that are saying it’s one of the finest group of people ever assembled as a candidate — as a Cabinet. And I happen to agree with that. Of course, I should agree with that. But I think we have an extraordinary group of people around this table.

This is a tremendous amount of talent, and I wouldn’t say I was necessarily looking to be politically correct, although I ended up being politically correct because that was the right thing to do, in every sense of the word. However, we have just gotten really, really great people. I’m very proud of them.

So we’re going to work with all of those things I just outlined and many more. You know we have the Iran Deal that right now is being studied, and I think a lot of people agreed with what I did. I feel strongly about what I did. I’m tired of being taken advantage of as a nation. This nation has been taken advantage of for many, many years — for many decades, frankly — and I’m tired of watching it.

But the Iran Deal was something that I felt had to be done, and we’ll see what phase two is. Phase two might be positive, and it might be very negative. It might be a total termination. That’s a very real possibility; some would say that’s a greater possibility. But it could also could turn out to be very positive. We’ll see what happens.

I thought the tone of the Iranian leaders was very modified, and I was happy to see that, but I don’t know if that means anything. They’re great negotiators. They negotiated a phenomenal deal for themselves but a horrible deal for the United States, and we’re going to see what happens.

The healthcare, as you know, is moving along. I knocked out the CSRs; that was a subsidy to the insurance companies. That was a gift that was, frankly, what they gave the insurance companies. Just take a look at their stocks. Take a look at where their stock was when Obamacare was originally approved and what it is today. You’ll see numbers that anybody — if you invested in those stocks, you’d be extremely happy.

And they have given them, you could almost call it, a payoff. And it’s a disgrace. And that money goes to the insurance companies. We want to take care of poor people, we want to take care of people that need help with healthcare. And that’s what I’m here to do. And I’m never going to get campaign contributions, I guarantee you that, from the insurance companies. But a lot of other people got them. If you look at the Democrats, take a look at that. Take a look at how much money has been spent by the Democrats and by the health companies on politicians generally. But take a look at the coffers of the Democrats.

So the CSR payments has actually brought Republicans and Democrats together, because we got calls — emergency calls from the Democrats, and I think probably the Republicans were also calling them, saying, let’s come up with at least a short-term fix of healthcare in this country. And the gravy train ended the day I knocked out the insurance companies’ money, which was last week. Hundreds of millions of dollars a month handed to the insurance companies for very little reason, believe me. I want the money to go to the people. I want the money to go to poor people that need it. I want the money to go to people that need proper healthcare, not to insurance companies, which is where it’s going as of last week. I ended that.

So we have a lot of interesting things to do. I’m meeting with Mitch McConnell in a little while for lunch. I think we’re going to say a few words on the steps after that. I know you won’t have any questions. And pretty much that’s it. Enjoy yourselves, folks, and I’ll see you out there with Mitch McConnell.

Thank you very much.

Q Mr. President, do you approve of Steve Bannon’s war on Mitch McConnell and the Republican establishment?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Steve is very committed. He’s a friend of mine, and he’s very committed to getting things passed.

I mean, look, I have — despite what the press writes, I have great relationships with actually many senators, but in particular with most Republican senators. But we’re not getting the job done.

And I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest. They are not getting the job done. We’ve had healthcare approved, and then you had the surprise vote by John McCain. We’ve had other things happen, and they’re not getting the job done. And I can understand where Steve Bannon is coming from. And I can understand — to be honest with you, Jon, I can understand where a lot of people are coming from because I’m not happy about it and a lot of people aren’t happy about it.

We need tax cuts. We need healthcare. Now, we’re going to get the healthcare done. In my opinion, what’s happening is, as we meet — Republicans are meeting with Democrats because of what I did with the CSR, because I cut off the gravy train. If I didn’t cut the CSRs, they wouldn’t be meeting. They’d be having lunch and enjoying themselves, all right?

They’re right now having emergency meetings to get a short-term fix of healthcare where premiums don’t have to double and triple every year like they’ve been doing under Obamacare. Because Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone. It’s no longer — you shouldn’t even mention. It’s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore. It is — and I said this years ago: It’s a concept that couldn’t have worked. In its best days it couldn’t have worked.

But we’re working on some kind of a short-term fix prior to the Republicans getting together, maybe with some Democrats — again, it’s obstruction — but maybe with some Democrats, to fix healthcare permanently.

So I think we’ll have a short-term fix with Republicans and Democrats getting together. And after that, we’re going to have a successful vote because, as you know, we were one vote short, and I think we have the votes right now. Whether it’s through block grants or something else — block-granting the money back to the states, which does seem to make sense where the states run it because it’s a smaller form of government that can be more individually sensitive. So that will happen fairly shortly. As soon as we have the next reconciliation, I think we’ll get the vote for healthcare. I feel very confident about that. I think we already have the vote for healthcare.

Sadly, the Democrats can’t join us on that, which will be the long-term fix. But I do believe we’ll have a short-term fix because I think the Democrats will be blamed for the mess. This is an Obamacare mess.

When the premiums go up, that has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that we had poor healthcare — delivered poorly, written poorly, approved by the Democrats. It was called Obamacare.

But I think we’ll have a short-term fix and then we’ll have a long-term fix, and that will take place probably in March or April. We will have a very solid vote. It will be probably 100 percent Republican — no Democrats. But most people know that that’s going to be a very form of health insurance.

So that will be it. Okay? Any other questions? No? Thank you I’ll see you in a little while.

Q (Inaudible) Bannon campaigning against Republicans running for reelection?

THE PRESIDENT: I know how he feels. Depends on who you’re talking about. There are some Republicans, frankly, that should be ashamed of themselves. But most of them — I tell you what, I know the Republican senators; most of them are really, really great people that want to work hard, and they want to do a great thing for the American public.

But you had a few people that really disappointed us. They really, really disappointed us. So I can understand fully how Steve Bannon feels. Okay? Thank you very much.

Q Thank you.



12:00 P.M. EDT