Remarks by President Biden at a Democratic Governors Association Reception
(September 28, 2022)
6:46 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, let me start by saying a few things about the hurricane, because there’s lots going on.
I — we have been completely responsive to the governor of Florida — everything he’s needed and asked for. And it’s a lot, but I don’t think we’re going to know the consequence of this hurricane until tomorrow afternoon, because we have to figure out — first of all, it hadn’t finished going through, number one. But number two, we’re also not in a situation where we know what — most of the damage and most of the people who get hurt are in the aftermath. And so there’s a lot going on.
We’ve sent an awful lot of people, as we pointed out. We’ve given them the governor every single thing he’s asked for in terms of emergency response. And we’re — I’m going to be meeting tomorrow, early afternoon, with — at the FEMA headquarters with all our folks and doing whatever the people of Florida need, because this is — it may turn out to be the most consequential hurricane they’ve had in a long, long time. Some are saying ever, but I don’t know; I can’t speak to that. But I know there’s a lot going on.
And — and I want to thank, you know, all of the first responders. There’s an awful lot of folks who are putting their lives on the line out there for these folks. An awful lot of them. And they’re not just in FEMA — National Guard, a whole range of folks.
So I just think it’s important we — we make sure that we do all that we can. And I assure you that we’re going to do that as a federal government.
And look, you know, the gov has heard me say before that I really do believe that we’re at an inflection point in history here. It occurs — and I mean this sincerely, from the bottom my heart. When I ran — I wasn’t going to run for the presidency of United States again, and I mean that sincerely. I was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and my son was — had just died. And I didn’t have any interest at all until I saw those folks coming out of the fields in Charlottesville, Virginia, carrying torches, singing Nazi songs, reciting the same bitter, vile stuff that they — as they carried Nazi flags, accompanied by white supremacists.
And when asked what — and, you know, that woman was killed; I spoke to her mom — asked by the — the last guy was asked, “What do you think?” He said, “There are really fine people on both sides.”
Well, folks, you know — and I mean this sincerely; you’re going to think this is a little out of whack what I’m going to talk about — but, you know, democracy is at stake. Literally, there’s a — there’s a case being made around the world, not just here, because democracy and autocracy. And there’s an awful lot of folks who believe that democracies can’t be sustained in the 21st century because there’s — problems are so — so much is changing in science and technology, the environment, a whole range of things, that it’s awful hard to reach a consensus in the short amount of time you have to reach.
And so that’s why I have these constant arguments. So I’ve had — I’ve met with Xi Jinping over 78 hours, 68 of which are in person, over the last 10 years. And he makes the case straight up that democracies can’t be sustained in the 21st century.
You just saw what’s happened in Italy in that election. You’re seeing what’s happening around the world. And the reason I bother to say that is we can’t be sanguine about what’s happening here either. I don’t want to exaggerate it, but I don’t want to understate it. And it’s the reason why I’m so concerned about and so interested in and so committed to seeing that the governors — Democratic governors are elected. Because, literally, the outcome of an election is going to be determined by how well the governors run their states, who’s in charge at the time, whether or not things are going to be — how we count the votes, whether or not it’s transparent, and a whole range of things.
And so I think you’re going to see everything in the state legislative bodies — there’s just a lot at stake. A lot at stake.
And so I want to thank you all for supporting the governors and the Democratic governors, the DGA.
And, folks, look, you know, we need to keep control the Congress, to state the obvious, because if we lose the Congress, we lose the ability — I’ll be spending more time taking out a veto pen than I will be doing much else.
But the point is: With a bare majority — with no majority in the United States Senate — 50/50 — thank God we have a great Vice President who gets the vote. Every — I point out to her — every time she votes, she wins. (Laughter and applause.) You know, she’s the only person — the only person in elective office: Every time she votes, she wins.
But — but all kidding aside, there’s so much at stake. You know, we have less than 50 days now, and the stakes are clear. The right to choose — literally, the right to choose, personal freedoms.
You know, when we talked about the right to choose and the Dobbs decision, everybody — a lot of people thought it was just about choice. Well, it goes beyond choice. And they’re making it clear it goes to contraception, it goes to the ability to who you can marry. It goes to a whole range of things that are under attack in many of the states that are out there now in state legislative bodies.
You know, remember, the Court said that — in the decision that — but women have a right to vote and change things if they like, as if — like almost tongue in cheek that — so what are they going to do? They ain’t see nothing yet with women voting. You think I’m kidding. You all watch. Watch what — look what’s happened in Tennessee.
Well, there’s also a fact that what’s on the ballot is it’s going to affect the ability of folks in your states to do well. And Social Security, it’s under direct attack — these guys have made clear. If anybody in here had to explain to me what the Republican platform is, I’d defy you to do it.
And — but guess what? The person — and that’s — (cellphone rings) — if that’s Trump calling me again, tell him
I’m — (laughter) — I’m busy.
But — but look, all kidding aside, you know, one of the things that, you know, is at stake, they’ve made no bones about it: You have Johnson and Scott — Scott is heading — Senator Scott is heading up — and it’s going to affect governors. Scott is heading up the Republican campaign committee for the Senate. He’s made it clear that Social Security and Medicare should be on the chopping block every five years, that it has to be reauthorized every five years. If it’s not, it goes.
And then along comes Johnson from — from the state of — of Wisconsin, and he’s a senator. And he’s saying, “No, not every five years, every — every year. Every year.” But he also wants to include veterans’ benefits and a whole range of other issues.
The point is, this is a different breed of cat. This is not — this is not your father’s Republican Party. I’ve been here a long time. And, you know, there’s an awful lot of Republicans I admired and disagreed with completely but worked with all the time — guys like Bob Dole and so — so many others.
But the point is, this is a different — this is — they’re just different. These are MAGA Republicans and a different breed. And it’s all about tearing down, not building up.
We also find that, you know, we finally passed — I’m very proud of fact we got the first major gun violence bill passed and beat the NRA, but it took 30 years. And guess what? They took out assault weapons. Assault Weapons are still legal. People walk around the streets. Who the hell needs an assault weapon? And they’re ni- — they’re — they’re adequately named. They’re for killing people in wars. That’s what they’re about. The bullets travel — they’re smaller — they travel five times as fast as a high-powered weapon, penetrates vests.
I mean, what is — as I pointed out to one person who was a member of the — anyway. That he — and he was saying to me, “Well, look, I hunt.” And I said, “How many deer are wearing Kevlar vests out there that you need?” (Laughter.)
But all kidding aside, think about it. The idea that — that the — you know, assault weapons are being sold — and, by the way, it’s not just these mass shootings. And I’ve been to every single one of those places, from Uvalde to Connecticut. I’ve been to every single mass shooting. I stood — in Uvalde I spent — I spent four and a half hours — almost four and a half hours — with every single parent and their family. And they don’t understand. They don’t understand what the hell is going on.
Kids should be going to school, learning how to read and write, not duck and cover. And that’s what’s happening in many of the schools today. And you guys are keeping them open. The govs are keeping them open. But it’s really — and more people are dying in the street every day that don’t ever get mentioned in the equivalent of the — of a mass shooting.
So, you know, and — but it seems like there’s no willingness to take on the NRA in any substantive way. And then, you know, we come along, and we talked about the very survival of the planet. Gov, you and I talked about this before. I’ve been to every major catastrophe that’s happened since I’ve been United — since I’ve been President of the United States. I’ve traveled over — all over the West and those fires and the hurricanes and tornadoes, the flooding, the drought that — I mean, if you’re going to go down the Colorado River, you better go now.
But all kidding aside, things are really changing. And I’ve noticed we don’t have people talking any longer about there being — that there’s no climate change problems. They are few desi- — deniers now.
You know more — more homes and properties have been burned to the ground and forests have been burned to the ground than the entire state of New Jersey — than the entire state of New Jersey, geographically. That’s how big it spans, from Oregon to Idaho to California to Arizona.
And we’re finally — you know, and they still deny it exists; that’s the problem. Deny it exists — the problem — our MAGA Republican friends.
And, you know, we’ve been talking about, you know, democracy itself is on the ballot.
So, you know, as I said, I think we’re at a real inflection point. And — and we were able to get lucky at the front end. With the help of a lot of you, we were able to get the American Rescue Plan passed. And that created 10 million jobs — 10 million new jobs. (Applause.) No, for real. It kept — it kept thousands of firefighters — the governor can tell you — thousands of firefighters, police officers, first responders on the job. Because the — because of what we inherited, there were not enough — states didn’t have enough money to do all this.
But it did a lot, and it made a big difference. Among other thi- — I won’t go through the whole thing. But the point is that it’s — it’s worked.
And then we passed the Infrastructure Law. We got some bipartisan support for that. A handful of Republi- — a couple handfuls of Republicans who supported it. But it’s the largest infrastructure proposal in — you know, in history. And it’s never been this large in his- — bigger — it’s bigger than the Interstate Highway System. (Applause.)
And what’s happened is that, you know, you find that a lot of — an awful lot of governors, like the governor of New Jersey, has taken incredible advantage of it and planning well as to what needs to be done with it. No, I’m serious. It’s a gamechanger. It’s not only providing access to, you know, highways and bridges and ports, but it’s Internet, it’s a whole — I mean, it’s — lead pipes. All the things that, in fact, are a real problem. The money is there to do it, and making people healthier, safer.
And there’s — anyway, I won’t go into it all. But the point is that, you know, you have an awful lot of — an awful lot going on.
And then, you know, I spent a lot of time necessarily overseas, trying to — I was asked by — what my — what my objective was when I was with Xi Jinping. And I said to reestablish America’s relationships on democracies. And he was very upset about that, and he thought it was all about China. It’s not about China. It’s about world peace. It’s about security. So I spent an awful lot of time, and I’ll be doing it tomorrow with the ASEAN countries, the Pacific Islanders, making sure that we’re dealing in the Middle East, as well as in Africa and South America, et cetera. All these.
But here’s the deal: What we came away with was the idea that how — why are people investing — a lot of you are very successful businesswomen and businessmen. Why are so many people around the world investing in the United States? The CHIPS Act — we’re offering tens of billions of dollars being invested.
I asked (inaudible), the outfit from South Korea, why they’re investing so much money in the United States for the — for computer chips. He said, “You’re the safest — you’re the most secure nation in the world. You have the best employees. And I can count on it being secure.” And why — so much — there’s going to be hundreds of billions of dollars invested in this CHIPS legislation — not only what’s happened in the breaking ground in Ohio, but all across the country, including in New York City. There’s a lot going on.
But the point is, we have an opportunity. We have an opportunity, because if we — particularly if we have governors — Democratic governors and legislators to take all this initiative and turn it into something really positive.
We’re the only nation in the world, in my view, that has come out of crises better off than we went in. If you notice, we don’t want to build back, we’re going to build back better than we had it before. And I’m really optimistic we can do that.
But it really gets down to what’s going to happen in the states — in state legislative bodies as well. It really, really, really matters.
And so, you know, when we talk about — as I said, much of what we — what’s out there right now, there’s a hell of a lot at stake, and a lot at stake in terms of whether or not we are able to take what we’ve done and make the best of it and cra- — and — let me put it another way. I’m keeping you standing too long in this brick. (Laughter.)
Look, think about — think about the average person turning on the television every morning. We talk about inflation, and it’s real. But think about the average person turning on the television every morning. And what do they see? What do they see out there that really uplifts them, where they go, “God, I feel good about being American. I feel really proud”?
What they see is crisis after crisis. They see people getting shot. They see people, in fact, being in positions where they’re having to deal with real prejudice. They’re seeing people — I mean, it’s just —
And part of what I think is happening here is I think that we’ve gotten to the point where Americans, for the first time in a long time, have wondered whether we can still do big things — whether we can still do big things.
You know, one of the reasons why I believe that we were referred by some as the “ugly Americans,” they had — again, to quote Xi Jinping’s conversation with me, he asked me, when at the Tibetan Plateau — he said, “Can you define America for me?” And I said, “Yeah, I can, in one word. And I mean it sincerely: possibilities.” We think anything is possible. But I’m not sure the American people are there now thinking anything is still possible.
If I could do one thing to demonstrate there’s nothing beyond our capacity, I’d wave a wand and cure cancer, not because it’s the most consequential — more people die of heart disease. But think about it for a minute. If we can demonstrate again that there’s nothing beyond our capacity — we’ve always been there, we’ve always thought that, we’ve always believed it — but the impact of the incompetence of the previous four years; the impact of COVID and a million more — more than a million deaths; the psychological impact that we had in terms of how we respond to the qui- — the crises we face has gotten people just sort of down. But they’re starting to come back. They’re starting to feel some sense of optimism, some sense of ability.
And when I — when I pushed and we passed the — the legislation that — dealing with the Inflation Act that we called it, I — the purpose of it was to let people know there’s really nothing we can’t do.
For example, we were able to, as a consequence of passing that legislation, we are — you know, there’s more than one — I’ll conclude with this: My dad used to have an expression. He said, “Joey, everybody needs just to be treated with respect and just a little bit of breathing room.”
You talk about inflation. Think about the inflation for the average family making somewhere between — a family making somewhere between 70 and 150 thousand bucks a year. What inflation means to them is, at the end of the month, at that kitchen table, when they’ve paid all their bills, do they have anything left? Is there anything left? There’s more than one way to save for them.
And one of the best ways we’ve done — the reason I call it the Inflation Reduction Act — is that — think about it: If you want to affect the average person’s bottom line, the average guy out there, lower drug prices for them, prescription drugs. We pay the highest prescription drug rate of any country in the world. So what did we do? We changed the law. We changed the law to say that: Guess what? It’s going to phase in, but nobody — nobody who needs job prescription drugs by the next several years is going to have to pay more than $2,000 a year on Medicare no matter how much their drug pri- — their drug costs are. (Applause.)
And as you know, if you’re dealing with certain cancer drugs, you’re paying 45, 50 thousand dollars a year. I go on the list. It’s real. And it changes people’s lives.
We also — you know, any of you have any — have Type 2 diabetes or have a child that has it, or you know how to deal with that, well, you’re paying somewhere — somewhere between, in terms of what they’re paying on a monthly basis — the average is between $460 and five- — excuse me, $680, depending where you are. That’s a lot of money.
I was in Virginia, at — in Northern Virginia doing a function for a community. And a woman stood up and said, “I have a son who has Type 2 diabetes, and I pay…” — and I think she said 600 bucks a month. She said, “And I have no insurance.” She started crying. Imagine being the parent looking at your child, needing something that cost the drug company 15 bucks to make and package, and not having enough money to make sure your child was going to be okay. Imagine. Imagine.
Well, guess what? We got that passed for anybody on Medicare, but our Republican friends said, “No, we’re not going to do it for other people.” Nothing has changed.
I guess what I’m trying to say to you is: There’s so many things — so many things we can do. So many things that were in our capacity.
You know — and I talked about climate. I just got off the phone — anyway, dealing with some of our foreign colleagues, and I got a meeting tomorrow with the Pacific Islanders. You know what they’re worried about? They’re worried about their island sinking. Not a joke. Not a joke. Well, guess what? We finally figured and convinced people that — almost everybody — that there is global warming. So we passed the legislation with 600 and — no, excuse me, $369 billion for global warming. It’s going to make a gigantic difference in people’s lives. (Applause.)
And, you know — and, by the way, I come from the corporate state of the world, Delaware. More of you are incorporated in my state — (laughter) — oh, I’m not joking — than every other state in the nation combined. Combined. And I have great respect for corporate America, but you got to pay a little bit, you know. You got to pay your fair share.
And so we found out — you know, you had — you had 55 of the Fortune 500 companies not paying a single penny in tax, making $40 billion. Well, we got it changed. We got it changed in this act. And guess what? You pay an astounding 15 percent, God love you. What a — what a killer. Fifteen percent.
But the end result of all of this is that for all we’re talking about having done and all the resources and help that we’re able to give governors and state legislative bodies, you know what? Their federal deficit is down. Since I became President — the last guy, they voted a $2 trillion tax cut, not a penny of which was paid for. All debt. Well, guess what? In my first year, we reduced the federal debt by $356 billion. (Applause.) And this year, by over a trillion dollars, even with the student loan forgiveness. A trillion dollars in deficit savings.
So I don’t want to hear it from our Republican friends. And that’s why we’re able to continue to do things we’re doing.
And, look, as I said, you know, there is — the idea — if you had to — I’m not joking. If you had to say what is the Republican platform, what will they do if, in fact, they win — first thing they said they’re going to do, the Minority Leader in the House, is repeal — repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, increase drug prices, increase — and just go down the list.
So we got stark choices. And the choices are most — that are going to be implemented are not by governors; they’re state legislative bodies. And the last thing we need is to be in a position we’re arguing about who won the vote.
You know, I got criticized in the past — if you noticed, they’re not doing it anymore, even on Fox — for saying that democracy was literally at stake. Well, guess what? It is. All of a sudden, they’ve had an epiphany. All of a sudden, (inaudible) it literally is.
How can you say you support democracy when you have hundreds of people — hundreds of people storming the Capitol, breaking down the doors, breaking the windows, going in, ultimately several police officers dying as a consequence of what’s happened, and say, quote, “They are patriots — patriots”?
How can you say you’re — support democracy when you will not acknowledge that you lost the vote? I got 80-some — 80-some million votes. We won. Not a single Republican judge out there has said we hadn’t won all the appeals.
How do you say you’re a democracy when you don’t accept the outcome — the outcome of an election? And you know all that talk about my saying that the way some of them talk, there’s a tint of fascism in what they’re doing? Well, guess what? You hear everybody talk about that now — all the scholars.
We’ve got to win. We have got to win. (Applause.) There’s a lot of incredibly good Republicans. But this MAGA crowd — think about it.
I’ll end with this. Think about it: You have Republican candidates for governor, for state rep- — statehouses that said — continue to repeat the Big Lie, continue to buy on to the MAGA philosophy. Now that they got their nomination, they’re walking away from it. They say, “No, I don’t support that. I don’t support that.”
This is not your father’s Republican Party. And if anybody can control the way in which these nominees are determined — I’ve had six serious Republicans — and I’m not going to — senators I worked with in the past — say to me — and I promised I’d never mention their names either — to either — to even to one another — that say to me, “Joe, I know you’re right. But I can’t vote with you because I’ll be primaried and I’ll be out of office.” Not a very courageous position. But nonetheless — nonetheless, it reflects where we are.
So, folks, if I were running his time and you were choosing between whether you reelect Governor Carney or me, I’d have to tell you, it’s more important you elect Carney. (Laughter.) No, no, I mean it. More important for the — that the state — that the state is able to guarantee they have an election process that functions, that it cannot be manipulated. They’re going to stick with it. Because there’s so much — so much we can do. So much we can do.
And I — I just want to thank you all for being willing to support the DGA. And, you know, I ran for the Senate because I didn’t want to be governor. (Laughter.) Oh, you all think I’m kidding. (Laughter.) When I ran in 1972, as a 29-year-old kid, they showed I had no chance of winning the Senate seat, and I could win the governor’s seat. I still ran for the Senate, because being governor is too hard.
But really and truly, thank you for helping. It really makes a difference. And if there’s ever a time your help mattered, I can’t think of an election more important this one. No, I really can’t. I really can’t.
And so thanks for helping the Democratic governors and the candidates. And with — as my grandfather would say, with the grace of God, the goodwill of the neighbors, and the crick not rising, we’re going to — we’re going to win.
And, by the way, every time I’d walk out of my Grandpa Finnegan’s house up in Scranton, he’d yell, “Joey, keep the faith.” And my grandmother would go, “No, Joey, spread it.” Go spread the faith. Thank you for the help. (Applause.)
7:14 P.M. EDT