6:12 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. And it’s really a tremendous honor to be with you today, along with Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence. We’re deeply honored, again, to host members of Congress and your families right here at the annual White House Congressional Picnic — something that’s been taking place for a long time. And we’ve never had a better-looking crowd, I must say. (Laughter and applause.) There’s been a lot of power over the years, standing on that lawn, but there’s nobody that looks like you. (Laughter.) But I’m a little prejudiced. That’s okay. We love you all.
For more than two years, I’ve had the privilege to develop very close friendships with many of you, and valued partnerships that so many of you have — I think most of you have liked. We’ve had a tremendous relationship. We’ve done tremendous work together — passed so many things and helped so many people. It’s a great feeling, and I think you have a great feeling, too. We’ve done a lot of work together. And thank you very much. Really appreciate it. (Applause.)
The fact is, there are too many friends here to recognize all of you, but I want to thank each and every one for your service in the great halls of our democracy and for joining us in celebration this afternoon and this evening. Stay as long as you like. Have a good time. The White House is a beautiful place at night. It’s something. You just enjoy yourselves with your families.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank all of the congressional spouses — you know what I mean — for their service. You have done some job. (Applause.) I must say this: Without you, it doesn’t happen, and they would never happen. So congratulations. Thank you all very much.
And this evening, we’re blessed to be gathered at a truly exciting time in America and American history. So many things are happening and so many great things are happening for our country. Working together over the past two years, we’ve made extraordinary progress expanding the blessings of America to all of our citizens.
Since the election, we have created nearly 6 million jobs. Nobody would have said that’s possible. If we went back two and a half and three years, during campaigning, if I ever used the expression “6 million jobs,” they would have said, “Can’t happen.” But it did. And it’s soon going to be far more than that, by the way — (applause) — based on all of the companies that are pouring into our country. They all want to be where the action is.
Unemployment has reached the lowest level in over 50 years. African American, Asian American, and Hispanic American unemployment have all reached the lowest rates in the history of our country. Who would have thought that? (Applause.) And you made it possible.
We passed tax cuts and the Jobs Act, the largest package of tax cuts and reforms in American history. We doubled the child — and you know this; I think everybody out there knows this, and you benefited — we doubled the child tax credit and the standard deduction. Does anybody care about that? I think so. I think so. (Applause.) The average family of four, earning $75,000, has received a tax cut of more than $2,000 each year.
And to ensure that no American community is left behind, we passed Opportunity Zones. We worked with Senator Tim Scott. He was terrific. And we did a real job. We did a real job. (Applause.)
We brought reform to our criminal justice system with the FIRST STEP Act. And people said that wasn’t going to happen. They’ve been trying to pass it for a long time. You know, the problems that we’ve had with criminal justice and criminal justice reform. We got it passed. And we’re now helping former prisoners to rejoin their families and restart their lives.
There’s never been a time like this. People in prison have had a hard time coming out, and oftentimes would have to go back in. They couldn’t get jobs. They couldn’t get employment. And now, because our economy is perhaps the greatest economy we’ve ever had in the history of our country, they come out, they’re getting jobs. And I want to tell you, we get the reports; employers are thrilled. They said we should have done this a long time ago. So that’s been a great, great thing. Thank you very much for helping on that. (Applause.)
And, very importantly, working with the First Lady and our great Vice President, we passed historic legislation to combat the opioid and drug addiction crisis. We’re working very, very hard on that. Opioid — we’re down 17 percent from last year. Who would have thought that? Seventeen percent — a big number. (Applause.)
And to give critically ill patients access to breakthrough cures, we passed Right to Try. You don’t want to — (applause) — have to use it, but if you do — you know, people were going all over the world, looking for help. They were ill. They were terminally ill. They were very, very sick. And we have the greatest doctors in the world, the greatest labs in the world. And they were forced, because we couldn’t give them potential cures — cures that were looking good but weren’t finished with the approval process.
And now they have Right to Try. They are able to use our medicines early — in many cases, far earlier than the approval process would allow. And we have had unbelievable success. And we’re very proud of Right to Try. (Applause.) Thank you. You got it passed. You got it passed.
And we worked hard to spread hope throughout the Heartland, helping our strong farmers and ranchers through the Farm Bill that we passed. (Applause.) And as a few people know — as you know, we passed 16 billion dollars’ worth of help for our farmers who have been hurt by the situation in China. People don’t realize what we did, but we do and the farmers do. Sixteen billion dollars — because that was the amount that they got hurt by — from the fight we’re having — or “skirmish,” let’s call it — and winning with China. And we took care of our farmers. (Applause.) And I know our farmers are very appreciative. That hasn’t happened before.
But we’re doing very well in our trade deals. But we have — and I tell you, I call them “Patriot Farmers.” We had a meeting in the White House. We had 25 or 26 farmers. Great-looking people, by the way. And they were in the White House, and I said, “Well, we’re going to help you and we’re going to subsidize.” They said, “Sir, we don’t want subsidy. We just want a level playing field. Nobody can do what we can do.” And that’s what we’re giving them. We’re giving them a level playing field — and maybe more than that. That’s okay, too. (Applause.) But they just want a level playing field.
We passed record funding to rebuild our great military, with $700 billion last year and $716 billion this year, to support our warriors and to defend freedom and our great American flag. Thank you very much for that because that is what it’s all about. (Applause.)
And for 44 years, they tried to pass VA Choice. They couldn’t get it done. Our great veterans were not treated properly for a long period of time. And do you notice how calm it’s been? I shouldn’t say this because the opposing party or people in opposition may not like it. But do you notice how calm it’s been — how happy our veterans seem to be? I’ve never seen a period of peace or happiness by our veterans like I’ve seen over the last year. And to a certain extent, it’s starting. We signed it about seven months ago.
VA Choice. Rather than waiting on line for days and weeks and, in some cases, months, if there is a line, our great veterans can now leave the VA, go outside, get a great doctor, have whatever is necessary done, we pay the bill, and they go back and they’re happy. We’re taking care of our veterans — the first time. First time. (Applause.) They’ve been trying to get that passed for many, many years.
And also VA Accountability. If we had somebody working at the VA who was bad to our veterans — didn’t treat our veterans right — maybe, in some cases, even sadistic. We had all sorts of things happening. There was absolutely nothing you could do to get them out of the system. And now, we look at them and we say, “You’re fired. Get out.” We take care of our veterans. (Applause.)
So these are more than political victories. These are really national victories. These are victories for our country. We had a lot of them. We could go on for a long time. We could go point after point after point. No administration, in the first two and a half years, has done what this administration has done. And I thank you because you’re the ones that got it done for us, and we appreciate it. We really appreciate it. (Applause.)
So, in particular, I want to thank you for your service to our country and its citizens. That’s why you were sent to Washington. You were sent to Washington to help. You were sent to Washington because you’re special people, because you know how to get things done. And working together, we’ve gotten more done — just about, I think, more done in two and a half years than anybody else, any other administration. You look at our first two years, through Congress. What’s been passed has been — in some cases, they call it a miracle.
So I want to thank you all very much. And for this afternoon and this evening, let us put politics aside, enjoy the company of our friends and, to a certain extent, our competitors — and that’s okay — here on these magnificent grounds. And let us thank God for the incredible blessing of being able to call America the greatest nation — greatest nation in the world. And, by the way, we’re making it even greater. I like that. We’re making it even greater. (Applause.)
But I just want to wish you a very special thanks. You have been fantastic. The job you did is really — during the last period of time — is really incredible. And I have to say this: The people out there — we have a lot of them; we’re getting close to the 350 million mark — they really respect you and they really appreciate the job that you’re doing.
Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) And Mr. Vice President and Karen, thank you very much. Thank you everybody. Thank you. (Applause.)
6:24 P.M. EDT