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Roosevelt Room

10:48 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I’m honored to welcome Republican and Democrat members of the House Ways and Means Committee to the White House. We’ve been meeting long and hard. We’ve been meeting for quite some time. And it’s been very interesting, and we’re going to have a big announcement tomorrow.

I’d like to thank Committee Chairman Kevin Brady — thank you, Kevin — and Ranking Member Richard Neal for being here today. Really appreciate it.

I’ve asked lawmakers of both parties to join us to discuss our framework for tax cuts and tax reform before it will be released tomorrow. We’ll be releasing a very comprehensive report tomorrow, and it will be a very, very powerful document.

Our plan is based on four very crucial principles. First, we must make our tax code simple and fair. It’s too complicated. People can’t do it. American taxpayers waste 6 billion hours each year complying with the tax code.

Under our plan, the vast majority of Americans will be able to file their tax return on a single page without extra recordkeeping and all of that paperwork. So we’re going to make it very, very simple. It’s called simplification.

Second, we will cut taxes tremendously for the middle class — not just a little bit, but tremendously. That includes nearly doubling the standard deduction that most families take on their taxes, and increasing the child tax credit families really want, and we’ve talked about it for a long time.

Third, we will lower tax rates for businesses to create more jobs and higher wages for Americans. America has the highest business tax rate in anywhere in the developed world. We’re the highest-taxed nation in the developed world, and I think in the undeveloped world too. But you know, I have to be very accurate with these people because they’ll start claiming all sorts of things. So we’ll just keep it in the developed world, Mike. Okay? (Laughter.)

But we’re the highest-taxed nation in the developed world, and we want to become one of the lowest, and that’s what we’ll be doing. And we’ll be announcing those numbers tomorrow. We want to go over them with the committee, but they are set.

And the jobs will start pouring in from all over the world coming back to our country. They’ve left our country, so many of the jobs, and they’ll be coming back in because we have a non-competitive tax structure right now, and we’re going to go super-competitive.

Finally, we want to bring back trillions of dollars in wealth parked overseas. We want this money invested right here in America. You have close to $3 trillion, and it could be much more than that. Nobody really knows what the number is, but we know it’s substantially more than $2.5 trillion. And that money is overseas, and that money will come pouring back based on what we’re doing and the incentives that we’re giving.

I look forward to working with the members of Congress gathered here today to pass the reform and the massive tax cuts that our country desperately needs to thrive, to grow, to prosper. If we do this, we will create millions of new jobs for our people, and bring many, many businesses back to our shores. We will become a competitive nation again. We won’t see companies leaving our country, firing their people, and going and then selling their product, by the way, back into our country with no tax and no retribution. That will all stop.

It’s time for both parties to come together and do what is right for the American people and the nation that we all love.

So I want to thank everybody very much for being here, and I look forward to getting to work. And again, we’ve been working on this for a long time, but this is the finishing touches.

And, Kevin, again, thank you. And, Richard, thank you and all of your folks. Thank you very much.

Q Do you want an up or down vote on the Graham-Cassidy bill, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: We’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens.

We were very disappointed by a couple of senators — Republican senators, I must say. We were very disappointed that they would take the attitude that they did. We don’t know why they did it. You can sort of figure that. But we’ll see what happens. I mean, you know, it’s going along. And at some point there will be a repeal on my desk, but we’ll see whether or not that point is now or will it be shortly thereafter. But we are disappointed in certain so-called Republicans.

Q Mr. President, how much money do you think Puerto Rico needs?

THE PRESIDENT: Puerto Rico needs a lot of money. I’m going to Puerto Rico on Tuesday — scheduled trip. It’s the earliest I can go because of the first responders, and we don’t want to disrupt the relief efforts. You know, they’re going through a lot. The mayor of San Juan was very generous and very nice this morning. He was thanking us for the great job we’ve done with FEMA, that — we really have. We have worked very, very hard in Puerto Rico.

It’s very tough because it’s an island. In Texas, we can ship the trucks right out there. And you know, we’ve gotten A-pluses on Texas and on Florida, and we will also on Puerto Rico. But the difference is, this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. And it’s a big ocean; it’s a very big ocean. And we’re doing a really good job.

I want to go there. Tuesday seems to be the first time we can do, without really disrupting first responders and the efforts that are being made to help people. We have shipped massive amounts of food and water and supplies to Puerto Rico, and we are continuing to do it on an hourly basis.

But that island was hit as hard as you could hit. When you see 200-mile-an-hour winds — even Texas didn’t have 200-mile-an-hour winds, right? But when you see 200 miles and even more than that — 200-mile-an-hour winds hitting a place and literally houses are just demolished. It was like tornados. It was like having hundreds of tornados — the winds.

So we’ve never seen it. It actually touched down as a Category 5. People have never seen anything like that. And it was dead center. I mean, you couldn’t be any more. And don’t forget, a week before, it got hit by another hurricane. Now, that one brushed it, but that did tremendous damage too.

So Puerto Rico has tremendous problems with floods and with damage and collapse. I mean, we’re still looking for people. We’re still looking for people. But I’m going to be going there on Tuesday, and I may also stop at the Virgin Islands. The governor there has done a terrific job of — I mean, he’s been devastated, but he’s done a terrific job. He’s been very generous with what he said about the relief effort.

The FEMA folks have worked so hard. You know, we thought after Texas they could take a little bit of a rest — FEMA. What they have done is incredible. So to go from Texas to Florida, they happened to stop at Louisiana in between, and now Puerto Rico gets hit. But they’ve been there and they’ve been doing a really good job.

So I’ll be there on Tuesday, and perhaps some of you will be with me.

Q Is Puerto Rico getting all the help it needs from you, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Puerto Rico is very important to me, and Puerto Rico — the people are fantastic people. I grew up in New York, so I know many people from Puerto Rico. I know many Puerto Ricans. And these are great people, and we have to help them. The island is devastated.

And some people say — I read this morning — it’s literally destroyed. The infrastructure was in bad shape, as you know, in Puerto Rico, before the storm. And now, in many cases, it has no infrastructure. So you’re really starting from almost scratch.

But these are great people — wonderful people. They’re hardy people. They’ll be back. But we’re helping them. I mean, I think we’re really getting really good marks for the work we’re doing. We are literally landing water, food, supplies on an hourly basis. And this is to an airport that has been devastated. We’re not talking about runways that are open and, you know — please land your plane right here. These are — these runways are devastated and broken. The airports are broken.

So those people are very important to all of us. I think I can speak for everybody sitting around this table. So we’re working very, very hard on Puerto Rico and we’re also getting tremendous efforts and we’re sending tremendous amounts of supplies to the Virgin Islands.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END 10:57 A.M. EDT