12:44 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have a man who is going to be a great senator, and I’m very happy with that. I spoke to him last night. I never met him. I never spoke to him. I’m very happy with him. And I have to say, Luther came a long way from the time I endorsed him, and he ran a good race. But Roy ran a really great race. And I know what they did was — they used it very much in the campaign, but he works hard. And I’m sure things will work out.
I just wanted to say, though, on healthcare, we have the votes for healthcare. We have one senator that’s in the hospital. He can’t vote because he’s in the hospital. He can’t vote because he’s in the hospital. We have two other votes that are coming, and we will have them. But the problem is we can’t have them by Friday — because the reconciliation ends on Friday.
So we’ll have to do it in January or February. But I feel we have the votes. I’m almost certain we have the votes. But with one man in the hospital, we cannot display that we have them. Plus, some people want to go through a process just to make themselves feel better, that’s okay.
Q Do you have concerns about how your aides are spending taxpayer money on this phone booth at the EPA?
THE PRESIDENT: We’re talking about healthcare. We’re talking about —
Q What about — Tom Price spent a lot of money on that charter plane. Is that cool?
THE PRESIDENT: I was looking into it, and I will look into it. And I will tell you, personally, I’m not happy about it. I am not happy.
Q What are you going to do about it, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m going to look at it. I am not happy about it, and I let him know it.
Q What about Mitch McConnell — is he in trouble?
THE PRESIDENT: You’ll have to ask senators about that. So you’re going to have to ask senators.
So here’s what I’m just saying. We’re going right now to Indiana. We’re going to introduce a tax plan that’s the largest tax cut, essentially, in the history of our country. It’s going to be something special. You already know some of the numbers. We’re going to give you some of the additional numbers.
But on healthcare, we have the votes. We can’t do it now because we have somebody in a hospital — and we have great respect for that gentleman, by the way. He’s a fantastic man.
Q But he was a “yes.”
THE PRESIDENT: He was a “yes,” that’s right.
Q So why does it matter?
THE PRESIDENT: Because he has to come here and vote. He can’t come here and vote.
Q (Inaudible) have any votes?
THE PRESIDENT: In other words, he can’t come here and vote because he’s in the hospital.
Q Who is in the hospital?
Q Just to be clear, you’re talking about Cochran, right?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me just say — yes. He’s in the hospital.
So we’re going to do it in January or February because, as you know, we have the votes but we can’t go longer than Friday. What we’re going to do is we will do the block grants; we will do the healthcare. We will get a longer process going for the couple of people that did want to see more process, even though they’re a “yes” vote.
But very importantly, I am also — during this period of a couple of months, I’m also going to meet with Democrats, and I will see if I can get a healthcare plan that’s even better. So I will negotiate with Democrats, but from the Republican standpoint, we have the votes. We’ll vote in January, February, or March.
Q Are you considering an executive order?
THE PRESIDENT: I am considering an executive order on associations, and that will take care of a tremendous number of people with regard to healthcare. And I’ll probably be signing a very major executive order where people can go out, cross state lines, do lots of things, and buy their own healthcare. And that will be probably signed next week. It’s being finished now. It’s going to cover a lot of territory and a lot of people — millions of people.
John, go ahead.
Q Are you confident, sir, that Mitch McConnell can get healthcare across the finish line?
THE PRESIDENT: I think we’re there now, John. I’ll be honest. You look at the statement put out by Alaska — right, you saw that — by Lisa. You look at the other couple of statements. You know, we’re only one off, maybe two. But we can’t vote now, John — you probably didn’t hear me — because, as you know, one of our “yes” votes is in the hospital. I can’t take him out of the hospital.
Q I’m just wondering if you just have confidence in Senator McConnell?
THE PRESIDENT: I do have confidence in him, yes. I do have confidence in him. But it’s not up to me, it’s up to the Senate. But I do have confidence, and I will say we used him in the race — and I was very honored by the way I was treated in the race. But they used him in the race. John, they used him in the race.
Q Mr. President, on tax reform, does your plan help the wealthy too much? There’s criticism that it gives you tax breaks.
THE PRESIDENT: My plan is for the working people, and my plan is for jobs.
Q So you wouldn’t benefit under your tax plan?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don’t benefit. I don’t benefit.
Q You don’t think rich people benefit?
THE PRESIDENT: In fact, very, very strongly, as you see, there’s no — I think there’s very little benefit for people of wealth.
Q The estate tax repeal is a benefit to people of wealth.
THE PRESIDENT: The estate taxes is one of things and that’s, if you look at, for farmers and people with small businesses.
Q Mr. President, what do you say to the things that Roy Moore has said in the past. He thinks it’s wrong to be gay, he thinks that there’s a Muslim member of Congress who doesn’t deserve to have that seat; he used the phrases “reds” and “yellows” to talk about people of that history.
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t see it, but we’ll talk to you about that at a different time. So here’s the point —
Q Do you worry that he’s so incendiary? That he’s such a firebrand that says these controversial things — do you worry about that?
THE PRESIDENT: The point is this: Healthcare — we have it; we have the votes. Because of reconciliation we have to wait until January, February, or March, which we’ll do. But in the meantime, I will negotiate with Democrats to see if we can make a bipartisan bill.
Q One more on tax cuts, sir. Is the 20 percent corporate rate a red line to you? I know you say —
THE PRESIDENT: Very much a red line. In fact, I wanted to start at 15 so that we got 20. It just — the numbers were — 15 was so low we didn’t take in the revenue. But I wanted 15, so we got 20 — 20 is my number. So I’m not negotiating that number. I really — I am not going to negotiate.
That’s the number I wanted to get to. I wanted to start at 15 to get there. We really had to start there because of the complexity of the numbers, but 20 is a perfect number.
Q On Puerto Rico, Mr. President. Why not lift the Jones Act like you did in Texas and Florida?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re thinking about that, but we have a lot of shippers and a lot of people and a lot of people who work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted. And we have a lot of ships out there right now.
And I will tell you, the governor was very generous yesterday with his statement, and so was the major of San Juan –very, very generous with their statements. So we have a lot people, and I’m going there on Tuesday, as you probably have heard.
And Puerto Rico is a very difficult situation. I mean, that place was just destroyed. That’s not a question of, gee, let’s dry up the water, let’s do this or that. I mean, that place was flattened. That is a really tough situation. I feel so bad for those people.
Q May I ask you a question about (inaudible) travel ban?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q First of all, can you explain to us why Sudan was removed? And second of all, how does the travel ban work in North Korea that doesn’t allow their people out of the country?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the people — yeah, the people allowed — certain countries — but we can add countries very easily and we can take countries away.
Q What did Sudan do right?
THE PRESIDENT: And as far as the travel ban is concerned, whatever it is, I want the toughest travel ban you can have.
So I’ll see you in Indiana. We’re going to go over some more points that have not been talked about. Are you all going? Is everyone going?
Q No, sir —
Q Mr. President, can I ask one more on the NFL story because I know this is something you’ve been talking about a lot. You said, back during Charlottesville, that those folks had the right to protest. Why doesn’t Colin Kaepernick have his First Amendment rights?
THE PRESIDENT: I think the NFL is in a box. I think they’re in a really bad box. You look at what’s happening with their ratings. You look at what’s going — I mean, frankly, the only thing that’s doing well in the NFL is the pregame because everybody wants to see what’s going on.
The NFL is in a very bad box. You cannot have people disrespecting our national anthem, our flag, our country, and that’s what they’re doing. And in my opinion, the NFL has to change or you know what’s going to happen? Their business is going to go to hell.
Q Mr. President, do you think that undermines the First Amendment at all?
THE PRESIDENT: No, not at all. No, no. We have to respect our national anthem. We have to respect our country, and they’re respecting our country. And most importantly, the fans agree with me — I mean, largely, the fans agree.
But we have to show total respect for our national anthem, for our flag, for our country, we have to do it. And you can — there are plenty of places, and there are — personally, when they’re protesting during a football game, I think they can find better places. But they cannot do it during the national anthem.
Q Mr. President, do you still have confidence in Secretary Price?
THE PRESIDENT: I am going to see. I’m looking at that very closely. I am not happy with it. I will tell you I am not happy with it.
Q (Inaudible) would you fire him, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll see.
END 12:53 P.M. EDT