3:10 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Madam Vice President.
First of all, I want to thank the group of senators — Democrats and Republicans — for doing what they told me they would do. The death of this legislation was mildly premature, as reported. They said they were willing to work in a bipartisan manner, and I want to thank them for keeping their word. That’s just what they did.
After years and years and years of “Infrastructure Week,” we’re on the cusp of an infrastructure decade that I truly believe will transform America.
As you all know, just a short while ago the United States Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — the very legislation I ran on when I announced my candidacy for the nomination for President — a historic investment in the nation’s roads and highways, bridges and transit; in our drinking water systems; in broadband, clean energy, environmental clean-up; and making infrastructure more resilient and the climate crisis much more in our minds as to how do we deal with it.
You know, we’re poised once again — and I mean this in a literal sense — to make the same kind of historic investments that have so often made possible — made it possible for America to build the future and allow us to outcompete the rest of the world.
From building the Erie Canal in the early 1800s — a bipartisan effort; to the Transcontinental Railroad, to construction — that was constructed during the Civil War; to Dwight Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System in the 1950s — the investments that literally connected our entire nation and fundamentally changed the pattern of life in America.
To the public investments that took us to the Moon, and the discovery of lifesaving medicines and vaccines, and gave us the Internet — America has often had the greatest prosperity and made the most progress when we invest in America itself.
And that’s what this infrastructure bill does with overwhelming support from the United States Senate — 69 votes in the Senate — a vote margin bigger than when the Interstate Highway System passed in the Senate in 1956.
It makes key investments that will, one, create millions of good union jobs all across the country in cities, small towns, rural and Tribal communities.
America — America, this is how we truly Build Back Better.
This bill is going to put people to work modernizing our roads and our highways and our bridges so commuters and truckers don’t lose time in traffic, saving billions of dollars nationally.
Today, up to 10 million homes in America and more than 400,000 schools and schools — and childcare centers have pipes with lead in them, including for drinking water. This is a clear and present danger to the health of America, particularly to our children’s health.
This bill is going to put plumbers and pipefitters to work replacing all of the nation’s lead pipes so every child, every American can turn on a faucet at home or in school and know they’re drinking clean water.
During remote learning in the — during the pandemic last year, we saw too many families forced to sit — literally sit — in their vehicles in a fast food parking lot so their children could get on the Internet they couldn’t afford and didn’t have access to at home. This bill will deliver affordable, high-speed Internet to every American — a necessity for the 21st century.
We’ll also see in the last — we’ve seen in the last couple of years the damage done in Texas and other places when transmission lines carrying power were taken down by extreme and unanticipated weather, leaving millions of folks without electricity for weeks and weeks, and costing our economy billions and billions of dollars. This bill provides upgrades to our power grid so that more secure and resilient and cleaner energy can be transferred across those wires.
Down in New Orleans, I met with the incredible women and men who are in charge of the water system, some of it running on technology that is literally 100 years old. This bill is going to provide opportunities to upgrade their system.
It also allows American workers to strengthen our national — our natural infrastructure, like our levees. These are at risk of catastrophic collapse in the face of extreme weather like superstorms, wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, and heat waves.
Last week, I stood — and many of you were with me — on the South Lawn of the White House with the United Auto Workers and the leaders from the Big Three automobile companies in America, surrounded by iconic American vehicles that will all be electric and made right here in America in the not-too-distant future.
This bill is also going to put IBEW workers — electrical workers — to work installing a truly national network of electric vehicle charging stations that will transform the way we travel and move commerce.
And, by the way, around those charging stations, you’ll see — just like around — we put in gas stations in our state highways — you’ll see other industries build up. We have the benefit of significantly reducing pollution from vehicles on our roads.
Look, this bill, I believe, will make the most important investment in public transit in American history.
When I went to Philadelphia not too long ago for Amtrak’s 50th anniversary, I was proud to be able to say that this bill was in the works and that it would be the most important investment in rail since the creation of Amtrak itself. This bill will upgrade railroad tracks so people can get to work and their destinations faster, and it will build new lines to get people to more places faster — reducing, I might add, pollution, as well.
And here’s another critical part of the bill: 90 percent of the jobs created don’t require a college degree. You’re tired of hearing me saying it, I know, but this is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.
We’re going to do all of this by keeping my commitment. We will not raise taxes by one cent on people making less than $400,000 a year.
Everyone from union to business leaders to economists –left, right, and center — believe the public investments contained in this bill will generate more jobs, higher productivity, higher growth for our economy over the long term.
Forecasters on Wall Street project that over the next 10 years our economy will expand by trillions of dollars, and it will create an additional 2 million jobs a year beyond what was already projected — good-paying jobs all around the country.
Experts believe that the majority of the bill’s benefits will flow to working families: faster commutes, cleaner water, less expense, available and affordable Internet — these are the things that working families needs — that they need.
As last week’s jobs report shows, our economy is recovering at a record rate — 934,000 new jobs created in July. It’s going to go up and down, but 4 million jobs created since I took office.
This bill is going to help make a historic recovery a long-term boom.
Folks, above all, this historic investment in infrastructure is what I believe you, the American people, want — what you’ve been asking for for a long, long time. This bill shows that we can work together.
I know a lot of people — some sitting in the audience here — didn’t think this could happen. This bill was declared dead more often than — anyway. That bipartisanship was a thing of the past. From the time I announced my candidacy (inaudible) bringing the country together and doing things in a bipartisan way, it was characterized as a relic of an — an earlier age.
As you may well remember, I never believed that. I still don’t.
So, I want to thank those senators who worked so hard to bring this agreement together. I know it wasn’t easy.
For the Republicans who supported this bill, you showed a lot of courage. And I want to personally thank you for that, and I’ve called most of you on the phone to do just that.
You have — and no doubt, you will –- disagree with me on many issues. But where we can agree, we should. And here, on this bill, we proved that we can still come together to do big things, important things for the American people.
For the Democrats who supported this bill, we can be proud of these unprecedented investments that are going to transform this nation and change millions of lives for the better.
Think about what’s going to happen, in a practical sense. Clogged arteries at the heart of our economy — they’re going to be opened up. That will reduce transportation costs, reduce commuting costs, and, as a result, reduce costs overall for families and businesses.
And there’s safety provisions being — as I said not long ago, everyone can tell you what the most dangerous intersections in their communities are. There’s money in there to deal with those pac- — those specific needs. Thousands of bridges will be safer and more accessible.
And, by the way, as you’ve heard me say before, some bridges are so weak that they couldn’t have a firetruck go across it — requiring the fire department to go 10, 12 miles out of the way to get just, literally, a mile away to put out a fire.
Millions of lead pipes carrying drinking water to our homes and schools and daycare centers — they’re finally going to rep- — be replaced. Never again can we allow what happened in Flint, Michigan; and Jackson, Mississippi. Can never let it happen again.
High-speed Internet — going to be available and affordable everywhere, to everyone, so farmers nationwide can get the brest [sic] prices for their products at home and abroad by knowing when to sell, and children in Chicago or Philadelphia never have to again sit in a McDonald’s parking lot to do their homework.
This is transformational. I know compromise is hard for both sides, but it’s important — it’s important, it’s necessary — for a democracy to be able to function.
So, I want to thank everyone on both sides of the aisle for supporting this bill. Today, we proved that democracy can still work. A lot more work to do.
But I want to thank the Republican — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for supporting this bill.
And I want to give special thanks to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Your leadership, Chuck, in the Senate was masterful.
But, look, let’s be clear: The work is far from done. The bill now has to go the House of Representatives, where I look forward to winning its approval.
And we have to get to work on the next critical piece of my agenda — my Build Back Better plan — making housing more affordable — it’s so unaffordable to so many Americans; providing clean energy tax cuts, including homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements in their homes; bringing down the cost of prescription drugs; making eldercare more affordable; and continuing to give middle-class families with children a tax break — a tax cut — the one they’re receiving now — well-deserved childcare and healthcare that gives them just a little bit of breathing room.
This is a plan that invests in the American people — in their future and their success. And it will be paid for by having the largest corporations — including 55 of them who didn’t pay a single penny in federal income tax — and the super-wealthy to begin to pay their fair share.
I want you to be able to be millionaires and corporations to do incredibly well, but this isn’t going to change anything for you. You’ll still have your three homes. You’ll still have whatever you need. And corporations will continue to do well.
I’ll have more to say about this later as the Senate continues its work. But today, I’m happy to mark this significant milestone on the road toward making what we all know are long-overdue, much-needed investments in basic, hard infrastructure of this nation.
I truly believe that this bill proves the voice of the people will be heard and that we can all come together to make a difference in people’s lives. As you heard me say it before and I apologize for repeating it, but there are no Republican bridges or Democratic roads.
This is a moment that lives beyond the headlines, beyond partisan soundbites, beyond the culture of instant outrage,
disinformation, and conflict-as-entertainment.
This is about us doing the real, hard work of governing. This is about democracy delivering for the people. This is about winning the future. It’s about doing our job. This is about building an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, giving everyone a decent chance at a decent life.
And by the way, when the bottom and middle do well, the wealthy do very, very well. Nobody, nobody, nobody gets hurt.
This is what I call governing and government doing its job — ensuring everybody is better off.
As I’ve said many times and I’ll say it again today: We are the United States of America. And there is nothing — nothing –- we can’t do if we do it together.
So, thank you. God bless you all. And may God protect our troops.
Darlene at AP. Darlene, AP.
Q Yes, thank you. What is your reaction to Governor Cuomo’s — his announcement that he is stepping down? You called on him to resign. Did you think he would?
THE PRESIDENT: I respect the governor’s decision and — I respect the decision he made.
Q Mr. President, how concerned are you right now about children in schools, given that 94 percent of children, many of them unable to get vaccinated because they’re too young, have now tested positive? What are your concerns, and how concerned are you that schools will not be able to stay open as you’ve asked for?
THE PRESIDENT: My concerns are deep and I’m very concerned, and we all know why.
Look, I understand that there are millions of people who decided — adults — who decided not to get vaccinated. And I understand that to badger those folks is not likely to get them to move and get vaccinated. But I also understand that the reason children are becoming infected is because, in most cases, they live in low-vaccination-rate states and communities, and they’re getting it from unvaccinated adults. That is what is happening.
And so, my plea is that for those who are not vaccinated: Think about it. God willing, the FDA is going to be coming out in a reasonable timeframe to say this vaccine is totally safe. We’ve seen millions of doses around the world — a billion doses already — and we know how it’s transmitted.
And one of the things that I find a little disingenuous: When I suggest that people in zones where there is a high risk wear the masks like you all are doing, I’m told that government should get out of the way and not do that; they don’t have the authority to do that.
And I find it interesting that some of the very people who are saying that, who hold government positions, are people who are threatening that if a schoolteacher asks a student if they’ve been vaccinated, or if a principal says that, “Everyone in my school should wear a mask,” or the schoolboard votes for it, that governor will nullify that. That governor has the authority to say, “You can’t do that.” I find that totally counterintuitive and, quite frankly, disingenuous.
Q Do you have presidential powers to intervene in states like Texas and Florida where they are banning mask mandates?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t believe that I do thus far. We’re checking that. We — but there are on — federal workforce, I can.
And I think that people should understand, seeing little kids — I mean, four, five, six years old — in hospitals, on ventilators, and some of them passing — not many, but some of them passing — it’s almost, I mean, it’s just — well, I should not characterize beyond that.
Q On Andrew Cuomo, his resignation: What impact — as the head of the Party, what impact does his resignation have on the Democratic Party?
THE PRESIDENT: I think the impact is all on Andrew Cuomo and his decision to make that judgement, and I respect his decision.
Q Sir, on Afghanistan: In just the last few days, multiple cities in Afghanistan have fallen to the Taliban. There’s irrefutable evidence that a vast majority of those Afghan forces cannot hold ground there. Has your current plan to withdraw U.S. troops changed at all?
THE PRESIDENT: No. Look, we spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years. We trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces. And Afghan leaders have to come together. We lost thousands — lost to death and injury — thousands of American personnel. They’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation.
The United States — I’ll insist we continue to keep the commitments we made of providing close air support, making sure that their air force functions and is operable, re- — resupplying their forces with food and equipment, and paying all their salaries. But they’ve got to want to fight. They have outnumbered the Taliban.
And I’m getting daily briefings. I think there’s still a possibility — you have a significant new Secretary of Defense — our equivalent of a Secretary of Defense in Afghanistan, Bismillah Khan, who is a serious fighter.
I think they’re beginning to realize they’ve got to come together politically at the top and — but we’re going to continue to keep our commitment. But I do not regret my decision.
Q Mr. President —
THE PRESIDENT: To this side. Yes, ma’am.
Q Mr. President, on the issue of the infrastructure bill and the work that you have ahead of you now, are you concerned that you — are you confident that you have the support of all the Democrats on board to get this $3.5 trillion package through? I keep asking you that.
THE PRESIDENT: I know you do. As my mother would say, “God love you, dear.”
Look, I have, as I said — and I’m not referring to you, in particular, just overall. I was going over some of the quotes from the moment that I got elected how my plan was “dead.” This is the exact same plan I ran on.
We’ll see. I continue to be an optimist. As I told you, I was once referred to by a doctor as a “congenital optimist.”
I think that we can get a significant portion of the — if not all — of the reconciliation bill, the budget — they’re doing — they’re having the vote-a-thon now.
I think, over the next month, which is the way it’s going to work, they vote on all of these amendments, and then they get to the business of seeing how they can make it work, and then come back — I know you understand this well, but the public wonders what we’re talking about sometimes — and decide exactly what’s in that reconciliation bill and how much is going to be spent.
I think we will get enough Democrats to vote for it, and I think that the House will eventually put two bills on my desk: one on infrastructure, and one on reconciliation.
Q Mr. President — thank you so much, Mr. President. Just sort of turning to the Delta —
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, sorry. Go ahead.
Q Just turning to the Delta variant for a moment, I wanted to see if, in retrospect, you think your administration put enough mitigation measures in place early enough, and whether or not you should’ve, perhaps, heeded some of the lessons from other countries that had data as early as May and June about how the variant spread?
THE PRESIDENT: No, we knew how the variant spread, and we know the vaccines prevent the spread. So — (laughs) — it’s like — you know, a lot of countries didn’t have the vaccines we were able to put together to make sure every single American — we have over 300 million dos- — 600 million doses of vaccine for Americans. And we’ve exported over a half a billion — we will over a half a billion.
So, we knew — what is disappointing is that more people were not willing to take the vaccine. We’ve done everything in our power — well, I shouldn’t say — there’s probably more — we will do more. But we continue to try to make the case to the American people who haven’t taken the vaccine that it’s in your interest, can save your life, and can fundamentally impact on the lives of your children or people you love.
Now, one of the things that’s happening, as bad as things have gotten, the death rate is one fiftieth — or, I don’t — don’t hold me to the number, but significantly, significantly lower than when the — when I inherited this job — inherited the job — (laughs) — when I inherited the — the coronavirus pandemic when I first got elected.
So, the thing that I — I continue to hope that people will overcome their fears because their fears are based on — some are just as a political statement, but very few. I think most people are worried. And that’s why I’m hoping that the FDA will say that we permanently approve of these vaccines, because we have enough for everyone.
And I’m hoping that, as people realize — and it is picking up. Vaccines are picking up, but not at the rate they were before.
Remember, I was setting up, you know, stadiums — sports stadiums, and we were doing thousands of vaccines a day. And I wish I could have thought of something beyond what we’ve thought of that would make everybody want to get the vaccine, but that hadn’t been the case.
Now, at a federal level, what I’m going to be doing is more — is making sure that they understand that I do have authority to say, “If you’re going to come into this building — into a federal building that you have to have been vaccinated or show that, or be wearing a mask.”
And I think that I’m going to use — and I anticipate that it’s probable that the Defense Department will — as they put in place all the mechanisms needed to be able to, in fact, impose or initiate a mandate for all the regular forces and reserves to get vaccinated.
But I continue to be hopeful. You see, I had a long talk — not a long — I had a talk with Governor Asa Hutchin- — Asa Hutchinson, who said he made a mistake. And he is working really hard, going around. And he told me that he’s doing a lot of town meetings — not all of which are being embraced, but he’s making the case. We’re going to continue to make the case.
Q If I may, ironically, one of the —
Q Mr. President, I do have a question.
Q — one of the Democrats, through the years, that you spoke with about infrastructure the most was Andrew Cuomo, who is resigning — who announced he’s resigning today. You had traveled New York with him when you were Vice President to the launch of the reconstruction on LaGuardia. He was someone who supported your campaign early on.
I know you called on him to resign. I know you condemned the alleged behavior. But you’re someone who spends a lot of time with mayors and governors. How would you assess his 10 and a half years as governor of the state?
THE PRESIDENT: In terms of his personal behavior, or what he’s done as a governor?
Q What he’s done as a governor.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, he’s done a hell of job. I thought he’s done a hell of a job. And, I mean, both on — everything from access to voting, to infrastructure, to a whole range of things. That’s why it’s so sad.
Okay. Last question. Right here.
Q Sure. Mr. President, I have a question about the significance of the bipartisan nature of the infrastructure agreement. Are there lessons learned from that agreement that can be applied to voting reform, police reform, or LGBTQ civil rights?
THE PRESIDENT: By you guys or by me? (Laughs.)
Q By anyone. By — and —
THE PRESIDENT: I’m sorry, I shouldn’t kid, because I was just reading about 50 statements from very serious press people about how I — my whole plan was “dead” from the beginning.
Look, the lesson learned is being willing to talk and listen. Listen. Call people in.
Q Mr. President —
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, let me finish it. And I think the lesson learned is exposing people to other views. And so, that’s why, from the beginning, on all the subjects you raised, I’ve sat with people and listened to their positions, some in agreement with where I am and some disagreement. And so, I think it’s a matter of listening. It’s part of democracy.
Thank you all so very much. Thank you. Thank you.
Q Why have you not named an FDA commissioner, sir, to this point?
Q Mr. President, should Andrew Cuomo resign immediately? He’s leaving in 14 days.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to comment anymore on Andrew Cuomo.
Q On the FDA, you haven’t — you haven’t named an FDA commissioner. Why have you not yet named an FDA commissioner, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Say again.
Q You haven’t named an FDA commissioner yet. I was wondering why you haven’t found or named a permanent FDA commissioner yet.
THE PRESIDENT: We’re working on that very hard to make sure we can get it passed.
Q I have a question for you on infrastructure, but —
Q Would you like to see —
Q — can I quickly follow up on your — your comment on Governor Cuomo? Can you really say that he has done a, quote, “hell of a job” if he’s accused of sexually harassing women —
THE PRESIDENT: Now, look, you asked two different questions.
Q — on the job?
THE PRESIDENT: I asked the substantive “Should he remain as governor” as one question.
And women should be believed when they make accusations that are able to — on the face of them, makes sense — and investigated — they’re investigated and the judgement was made and what they said was correct. That’s one thing.
The question is, “Did he do a good job on infrastructure?” That was the question. He did.
Q Well, the question was, “How did he do as a governor?” He was accused of —
THE PRESIDENT: No, the question was —
Q — sexually harassing women.
THE PRESIDENT: Correct me if I’m wrong.
Q About — about how was he as a governor, generally —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, as a governor, generally, obviously —
Q — outside of his personal behavior.
THE PRESIDENT: Outside of his personal behavior. Okay. Well —
Q But can you separate the two since he was (inaudible) —
THE PRESIDENT: No, I’m not. I was asked a specific question.
Q Okay, how —
THE PRESIDENT: I’m trying to answer it specifically. What do you want to ask me, specifically?
Q Well, I’d like to ask you about infrastructure as well. Given that you have said this is such an urgent bill that needs to be passed, why not have the House take it up immediately for a vote?
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) We’ll get it done. I’ll get both.
3:40 P.M. EDT