12:12 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, everybody. You have probably all seen — otherwise you wouldn’t be at the top of your game — the fact that today’s Supreme Court ruling — just coming out. A tremendous success. A tremendous victory for the American people and for our Constitution. This is a great victory for our Constitution. We have to be tough and we have to be safe, and we have to be secure. At a minimum, we have to make sure that we vet people coming into the country — we know who’s coming in, we know where they’re coming from. We just have to know who’s coming here.
The ruling shows that all of the attacks from the media and the Democrat politicians are wrong, and they turned out to be very wrong. And what we’re looking for, as Republicans, I can tell you, is strong borders, no crime. What the Democrats are looking at is open borders, which will bring tremendous crime. It’ll bring MS-13 and lots of others that we don’t want to have in our country. It’ll bring tremendous crime.
So I will always be defending the sovereignty, the safety, and the security of the American people. That’s why I was put here.
We’re discussing, today, the funding of the wall, which we very much need. We started the wall. We’re spending a lot of energy and a lot of time. And started up in San Diego and other places; it’s under construction now. We have $1.6 billion.
But we’re going to ask for an increase in wall spending so we can finish it quicker. It stops the drugs. It stops people that we don’t want to have. And it gives us security and safety.
And with that, if you — I think we might just take a quick spin around the room, talk to a couple of the folks. And maybe, Senator, I’ll ask you, Roy. Do you want to say a couple of words about why we’re here and what we’re doing?
SENATOR BLUNT: Well, I think with the leadership of Chairman Frelinghuysen and Chairman Shelby, we’re actually trying to get these appropriations bills to the floor and get them on your desk, as you’ve insisted, not in an omnibus.
I think the last time we had a conference report on the Senate floor — this would be where the House passed a bill, and we didn’t — we went to — it was 2011. So we just passed the first three bills yesterday that the House had already passed, and we’re doing our best to try to get back into business in a transparent way so that people can see what their government is doing.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Thank you.
SENATOR SHELBY: During the first quarter of the appropriations process, if we want to use a football analogy, we’re doing well right now. We’re working together. I think both sides, Democrats and Republicans, realize it’s in their best interest and the interest of American people for us to pass, on time, our regular appropriations bill, bring it back to regular order, to avoid crisis-to-crisis and the threat of shutdowns and all of this.
We’re early. We’re making progress. We’re hoping to stay the course. But you saying — and you’ve said it several times — that you’re not signing a big omnibus, I think, resonates with all of us, and it makes sense to the American people.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we got military taken care of. We had $700 billion for our military. Then, the following year, $716 billion. We had to have it. We all knew it. Nobody at this table loved what we did last time, but we did love the fact that we got more for the military than anybody thought was possible.
We also got $6 billion for the — if you look at the drug problem and all of the problems that we’re having with drugs at every level, we got $6 billion for that, the opioid epidemic, and other things. So that was a good thing.
And then we had to, unfortunately, do some things that we didn’t want to do. But this time, we don’t have to do it. And this time, we’re very early.
But we had to get our military funded. And now it’s not only funded, it’s never been funded that well. So we’re very happy about that.
Lamar, do you have anything to say?
SENATOR ALEXANDER: Sure, Mr. President. First, thank you. Thank you for having us. And on the appropriations bill, we have two parts to our budget. One part is going through the roof. That’s the entitlement part. The part we’re working on has gone up, over the last 10 years, about the rate of inflation. And according to the Congressional Budget Office, will go up about the rate of inflation.
And these are, for the most part, things you and I have — that you have advocated. As you’ve said, more than half is defense. So that’s good.
Another thing that’s good is our national laboratories. Secretary Perry went to Oak Ridge last week. We’re in a competition with China to see who has the number-one supercomputing. Thanks to the last two appropriations bills you signed, we are now number one in supercomputing in this country, which we need to be.
THE PRESIDENT: We just moved ahead. That’s right.
SENATOR ALEXANDER: We moved ahead. Now, Senator Blunt has chaired a committee today that just reported out, for the fourth consecutive year, record funding for the National Institutes of Health. You’ve got great people over there working on curing cancer and other things.
So I would suggest that a part of your America First agenda would be the items that our appropriations for science, technology, and research — you’ve signed two appropriations bills that do that. Secretary Perry, Senator Blunt — those things. I think that fits your America First agenda.
So a lot of what we’re doing is on your agenda, and it’s going up at about the rate of inflation, just a little bit more. So we’re watching the budget as we do this.
THE PRESIDENT: You know, Lamar, you mentioned entitlements. We were all set to repeal and replace Obamacare, and then we were very surprised by one gentleman who decided to vote against it after campaigning for it for about 14 years — or since its inception, I guess, 8 years. But that would have saved about a trillion dollars. That one vote would have saved a trillion dollars.
Now, despite that, we are cutting and we — you’ve seen some of the association plans that we’ve come up.
SENATOR ALEXANDER: I was with Secretary Acosta in Knoxville, on Friday. And you saw him the next day. That is a really —
THE PRESIDENT: A great plan.
SENATOR ALEXANDER: — good step forward that will help a lot of people.
THE PRESIDENT: Right. It’s a great plan. And Secretary Azar is coming out with one in two weeks, which is going to be a phenomenal plan. These are plans that won’t cost the country anything, and they are fantastic healthcare plans. And I’m glad you got to see that, Lamar. These are really good plans.
And, step by step, we got rid of the individual mandate and Obamacare. But we could have saved a trillion dollars in entitlements with one more vote, and we didn’t get that vote. So that’s too bad.
Steve, do you have something to say?
SENATOR DAINES: Mr. President —
THE PRESIDENT: Steve Daines.
SENATOR DAINES: I was at Malmstrom Air Force Base on Friday. That’s the 341st Missile Wing. A third of our nation’s ICBMs are in Montana. What we need to do as appropriators is get our budgets done in time. No more CRs. No more omnibuses. These men and women are looking to us to lead. They’re defending our country. They want certainty that we’ve got a budget locked down.
They’re grateful for the increase in defense spending. I can tell you, they’re doing a great job defending our country. My favorite commander’s coin is from that Missile Wing. It says, “Scaring the hell out of America’s enemies since 1962.” They keep us safe. There’s a deterrent to keep us safe and keep our (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a great place. And I’ll be there soon. It’s a great place.
Susan? Susan Collins. Please.
SENATOR COLLINS: Mr. President, I just want to emphasize how much progress we’re making in the Senate Appropriations Committee. By the end of this week, we will have approved every single one of the 12 appropriations bills. It’s been years since that has happened.
THE PRESIDENT: Great.
SENATOR COLLINS: And that’s under the leadership of Chairman Shelby. So that is great progress that does allow us to avoid continuing resolutions where you lock in last year’s priorities and end up spending more; omnibus bills, which you rightly have vowed to never sign again; and also the threat of a government shutdown. So I see it as tremendous progress.
In the infrastructure area, which is in the Transportation Appropriations bill, working closely with your Secretary of Transportation, we have plussed up the money for grant programs that are going to be matched by state funds and will really be a down payment on your infrastructure program.
And that went through the committee 31-0.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right. And — which is really starting. We’ve actually done a lot of infrastructure that nobody knows about. We’re doing it in little chops, as opposed to a big bill, which is actually better. It’s really — I think it’s a much better way of doing it.
Thank you very much, Susan. Thank you.
Lindsey? We were together in South Carolina last night. That was an exciting evening. Those were excited people. They must have been excited to see you.
SENATOR GRAHAM: (Inaudible) short. (Inaudible.) (Laughter.) No, thank you for coming to help Henry.
Well, the number-one job of the federal government, in my view, is to do defend the nation. You’ve taken a broken military and rebuilding it. We’re on track to have the smallest army since 1940, the smallest navy since 1915. Now we’re on track to have an army consistent with the threats we face, and a 350-ship navy.
Every bill has been passed with bipartisan support. Senator Shelby has gotten every Democrat, virtually, to vote for every bill. If you want to keep this country strong, we’re going to have to make some tradeoff as Republicans. And I’m willing to work with Democrats to get to yes, but yes has to be consistent with being strong.
THE PRESIDENT: You always (inaudible), right? You never change. Have you ever changed?
SENATOR GRAHAM: Not on this. (Laughter.) Not on this.
THE PRESIDENT: What do you think? Has he changed? (Laughter.) But he’s right.
REPRESENTATIVE FRELINGHUYSEN: Mr. President, it’s been my pleasure to work with Chairman Shelby in the past. We’ve always worked together, but now we have a very strong working relationship. We both believe in regular order. And on the floor today, later this afternoon, we do the House defense appropriations bill, which we’ve worked very closely with Mac Thornberry and he authorized it. But we’re going to do that bill and make sure we get that passed with bipartisan support. It addresses both our defense needs and our intelligence needs, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Thank you very much.
Senator, how is ANWR doing? Okay?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: We are moving on ANWR —
THE PRESIDENT: That’s good, I hear.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: — thanks to the good folks at Department of Interior working very, very hard in scoping process and the like.
THE PRESIDENT: And how’s our beautiful little road doing in Alaska? (Laughter.)
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, we are moving along incrementally. Not as fast as either you or I would like. But we recognize —
THE PRESIDENT: But it’s almost ready.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: We recognize that process is going to be important here, and we are standing by the process. Thank you for asking.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. This was a road that was — I guess it’s been — they’ve been trying to build it for 30 years. We’re going to get it done very quickly. It’s almost completed. So they’re almost through.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Ten-mile, one-lane, gravel, non-commercial use road. That’s what we’ve been fighting about for 30 years.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, many years. But we’re going to get it done. I’d say within the next couple of months it will be complete, and they can go ahead and build. And you’ll have a good, safe road, which they’ve wanted for a long time.
Any statements on this —
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Just, I want to follow on with the acknowledgement of process. Process is not a very interesting or sexy thing to talk about, but it is so necessary within this legislative process to have some semblance of what we call “regular order” around here. And that doesn’t mean a lot for people on the outside, other than that through a regular order process there is a level of transparency that comes so that you can see what you are signing so that others can see what we have been working towards, in terms of priorities.
But that process is only successful if we are able to work with our colleagues on the other side. And I wanted to highlight what Lindsey has just noted. It is exceptional that we have been able to move these bills through. It’s absolutely exceptional. And it doesn’t come without hard work, and it doesn’t come without us standing down on some significant priorities. And believe me, some Alaskans are saying, “Well, Lisa, I thought you supported this.” I do, but I can’t in an appropriations process.
In order for us to do the business of appropriating, we have got to work with our colleagues on the other side. It means that those who are in the authorizing area need to be working to advance these priorities, whether it’s defense or taking care of our public lands. But we have got to be able to work with our colleagues on the other side, sometimes as hard as that is.
So thank you for encouraging us to do that because I think that that makes a difference.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s been a very terrific group of people to work with. I have to say that. It’s not — we’re not finished. But it’s been a great group of people.
REPRESENTATIVE DIAZ-BALART: Mr. President, just very briefly adding to what Senator Collins talked about. I think the American people and, frankly, even our colleagues in Congress, don’t understand what the appropriations process is all about. And one of your priorities has been infrastructure. Well, if you look at what we have done through this process — the appropriations process — on infrastructure, it is a huge down payment of a priority of the American people, a priority of yours, and a priority of Congress’s.
So again, it’s important to have regular order. I feel optimistic. We are led by our chairman, who has been, frankly, very aggressive about getting the bills done, getting them done on time. But again, it’s important to, I think, all of us to kind of let our colleagues know that the appropriations process is the way to get a lot of our priorities done and done quickly. Every single year, we’re getting our job done, and we thank you for your help.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mario.
REPRESENTATIVE TAYLOR: Appreciate it.
THE PRESIDENT: Got the cameras going this way. (Inaudible) move a little. (Laughter.)
REPRESENTATIVE TAYLOR: Thanks for your time and thanks for having us here. We appreciate it.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Scott. Appreciate it very much.
REPRESENTATIVE TAYLOR: I just want to speak to what the Senator was speaking about. I think we’re moving along, and I appreciate the Senate and, of course, my chairman and the rest of my peers on appropriations and how we’re moving along.
I just want to caution us — I want to make sure that — I can’t leave the room without stating that we can’t have continuing resolutions and government shutdowns when it comes to defense. You’ve done great work, Mr. President, negotiating — as our folks in this room as well — to make sure that we have the funds needed to have the maintenance and readiness and the training for our men and women that are out there every day.
But the continuing resolutions are absolutely devastating. So we just have to make sure that we’re shepherding this process and with our eye always on there to make sure that we don’t do that to them again.
THE PRESIDENT: And we agree. We all agree.
REPRESENTATIVE ADERHOLT: Well, let me just say you’re statement a few months ago that the omnibus bill has got to stop, that went a long way.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s true.
REPRESENTATIVE ADERHOLT: And I think that sent a message to our Democrat colleagues that we have to got to move forward with this, get the bills and not waste taxpayers’ money. So your statement in saying that no more, I think that’s gone a long way.
THE PRESIDENT: And we’re sticking around in August, right?
REPRESENTATIVE ADERHOLT: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: We’re sticking around in August. So a lot of work is going to be done in August, hopefully. But we’ve made a lot of progress. Where’s Roy? (Laughter.)
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Unless we can get things done earlier. That’s the goal. If we get things done earlier.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that could be possible. But we have to get some appointments done. We have to.
REPRESENTATIVE COLE: Mr. President, first, thank you for having us. Thank you for your leadership. I think probably all of us around this table would say defense is the number-one priority, the number-one bill. It’s probably the only reason why you signed the omnibus. But I think I’m actually sitting next to the other — the key to getting defense. We know for us as Republicans, defense is number one. Quite honestly, for Democrats, labor, health and human services, and education tend to be number one.
And I think they’ll hold you hostage in the Senate until we move this. And if we could move them somehow together, I think — and that, by the way, two-thirds of the discretionary spending of the United States is in those two bills.
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll see if we can do that.
REPRESENTATIVE COLE: But I think that’s what we should do.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it would be nice if we could work better with the Democrats, if they could work better with us. And we’ll see what we can do. Because really — you know, their whole campaign is based around “resist” — the word “resist.” And ours is based around getting things done — the proper things.
And you know, the reason I am so happy with, if you look at omnibus, we all hated it in one way. But really, in another way, it was a miracle that for years we’ve been hearing about our military. And when do we need a stronger military than now? We have to have it. Hopefully we’ll never use it. But if you don’t have it, that’s when you’re going to have to use it.
REPRESENTATIVE COLE: Mr. President, that bill, to your credit, 61 percent of the spending in that omnibus was defense. And if you throw in veterans, you’re at better than two-thirds. And then you throw in Homeland, you’re at better than 70 percent. So most of that bill really was priorities that you fought for, and we were out of the old one-for-one. We had to give them a dollar of domestic spending for every dollar we did for defense. It was a huge victory.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I just have to say, you know, getting VA Accountability approved last year, getting VA Choice — nobody thought that would ever happen. That’s been looked at for what, 30 years? Thirty-five years? VA Choice where you can’t — you’re in a line and it’s a long line, and you go see a doctor. And we pay for the doctor for our veterans — our great veterans. And it’s less expensive. You have people standing in line so long that, literally, they have a minor problem and ends up being terminal because they can’t even get to see a doctor. Those days are over.
So nobody thought we were going to get VA Accountability. Nobody thought we were going to get VA Choice. That’s been talked about for many years — 35 years — and it never happened. And now we have it. So it’s all good stuff.
Fellas, go ahead.
SENATOR BOOZMAN: Yes. I’d just echo what everybody else said. I think that Senator Shelby said we’re in the first quarter, we’re driving, we’re making good headway. The idea that you get into March and the fiscal year started in October, and you still don’t know what your budget is, makes no sense at all. And it doesn’t matter if you’re talking to Defense, it doesn’t matter if you’re talking to any of the Cabinet agencies. Again, they all say the same thing: that continuing resolutions make no sense, they cost money. And so I think the good news is we’re all working very, very hard to get this thing done.
THE PRESIDENT: There’s been a lot of teamwork. There really has. There’s been great teamwork. Not perfect agreement, but pretty, pretty good. I’d say pretty good. We’re going to ask for some additional money for the wall and border security, and I think it’s probably deserved. But we need border security. We have to have it. And we’re going to run on border security. They’re going to run on open borders, and nobody wants open borders.
REPRESENTATIVE ROGERS: Mr. President, I want to especially thank you for your push on opioid abuse. We’re losing 64,000 people a year to opioid overdoses. We’ve made some progress on reducing the pill part of the problem, but unfortunately, in the meantime, the heroin pickup has more than taken the place of the reduction in pills. And all of that’s coming from Mexico, along with fentanyl. And with heroin laced with fentanyl, the user has no idea of the dosage. And consequently, we have so many deaths — overdose deaths.
So thank you for your work on opioid — on the problem. Especially on closing that border. And we hope that that takes place and we want to be of help in that regard.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. And even the fentanyl now is coming — it used to come directly here and now the fentanyl is coming through Mexico too.
So we’re going to close up that border. We’re going to do what we have to do. Everybody understands it.
REPRESENTATIVE ROBY: Well, thank you, Mr. President, for having us. And Alabama seems to be well represented in this room today, so. (Laughter) I just want to say, just to add to everything that’s already been said, you know, most of the people — most of the members in the House have never seen regular order when it comes to an appropriations process. And so we spend a lot of time back in our districts talking to our constituents about the importance of having this open, transparent process so it doesn’t end up with four people in a room negotiating how to fund our government; that the voices of the people that we represent are heard in the bills that we pass by having a process going through committee and then to the full floor.
So I’m just grateful that you had us here today to discuss this. And I, too, am very encouraged by how much action has taken place, both in the House and the Senate, and look forward to getting these bills across the finish line.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, Martha. I’d like to hear what you have to say.
REPRESENATIVE YODER: Mr. President, thanks for having us here today —
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE YODER: — and I want to tell you, your level of engagement on the appropriations process is distinct from what we’ve seen from other administrations. And what that results in is a better-worked product.
You know, we have a responsibility — all of us who represent our constituencies across the country — to be tough on spending, to have strong oversight to make sure that we’re not spending more than as required because these are ultimately tax payers who are getting up each day and they’re working to fund this government. And what they’re counting on us is to do our job to make sure we’re not wasting money.
And so the oversight of the administration, along with the appropriators is really making a difference. And you’re seeing the investments that you heard today about defense, about veterans, about medical research. I mean, some of this is historic. The work that the appropriators did on medical research, you got to take a lot of credit for. You’re seeing almost a 25 percent increase in research in cancer and Alzheimer’s in the last two and a half years under just this administration. That’s staggering, and I don’t think the American people really know what work we’re doing in that regard, and I think you ought to take credit for being a unique leader in that regard.
And then when you get to homeland security and, you know, securing our borders, that’s something that people in both parties in this country want. And when you see $64 billion worth of drugs coming across our borders, both across our ports of entry, both across illegally and just coming through legally — you know, coming through across our ports of entry without being checked. We need to do a better job of that and your budget speaks to that. We’re going to put billions of dollars in on border security, stopping Mexican cartels from trafficking drugs and humans into this country and abusing them and really leading to abuse of the American people.
And so we’re committed to that, but that requires all of us around the table to get our jobs done and thanks for getting us here today to get that.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Kevin, very much. And one of the things that’s very important is Right to Try. We have these incredible drugs that won’t be approved for two or three or four years and people would have to leave the country — if they had the money, most of them didn’t have the money so they had no hope. They had no hope at all.
And now you have the right to try where we can take some of these experimental drugs — people that are terminally ill — and we’re able to use them. It’s an incredible program. It took 30 years — 35 years. It’s an incredible — I would have said that that would have been an easy one to get done. A person that’s terminally ill and they didn’t want to give them a drug or some kind of a cure — a potential cure — because maybe it will hurt the person. But the person is terminally ill. And this went on. And the complication was insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies and they don’t want it on the records and the whole thing.
Anyway, we got it approved. Congress and the Senate, they did incredible jobs. Everybody worked very hard on that. That was very important.
And Shelley, just one thing, in West Virginia, we’ve made a lot of progress with opioid.
SENATOR CAPITO: Right.
THE PRESIDENT: That was a — that’s been a big problem for West Virginia.
SENATOR CAPITO: Right, yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Special people. And I hear we’ve really made a big — a big dent.
SENATOR CAPITO: I did want to add to what Hal had said about the opioid crisis. You’ve been great and Melania has been very active on this issue.
THE PRESIDENT: She has.
SENATOR CAPITO: Very much appreciative. But through all of our bills — most of our bills — there is some portion of each one of these bills, almost, that has some sort of opioid response to it, whether it’s health, whether it’s homeland security, whether it’s defense — we’re trying to fight it on all fronts, and that’s extremely important.
Now the three of us met in your office with Senator Shelby last week. And as I chair — as Kevin does on the House side, I chair Homeland Security. I want you to know that your message is loud and clear on funding our homeland security.
But that message that you carry is a message, really, that we all share. And we had — our bill went out. It didn’t go out unanimously, like Susan’s did, but it did go out with a very robust Democrat support out of our committee. And so we understand, in order to reflect that priority and to reflect the frustration that we see in and around our different states, a strong Homeland Security, strong TSA, strong Coast Guard, strong Secret Service — this is all really important to the American people.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s important to the Republicans. I’m not sure that it’s very important to the Democrats. And hopefully it will become more important.
SENATOR CAPITO: Right.
THE PRESIDENT: And we’ll be able to do something. Tom?
REPRESENTATIVE GRAVES: Mr. President, omnibuses are just unacceptable. It’s something that Mick and I, in his previous life, we together fought against. So thank you for recognizing that it lacks transparency. Negotiations are not included — they’re not including members of the American people or the administration. So we’ll work through that. Thank you for that.
But there’s a different frustration that we recognize, and that’s the fiscal condition of our country. The American people are really upset with $21 trillion in debt and the trillion-dollar deficit.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree.
REPRESENTATIVE GRAVES: So you should know that the subcommittee I chair, we took a different direction and we decided that just because you can spend money, doesn’t mean you should spend money.
So we have saved $585 million and put it in a fund called the “Fund for America’s Kids and Grandkids” —
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
REPRESENTATIVE GRAVES: — that cannot be spent unless we are deficit-neutral to show that we’re serious about this. And I want to thank Mick for his assistance at OMB, and your team has just been great to work with.
But know there’s a group in the House that’s ready to cut spending.
THE PRESIDENT: And, you know, I’d like you to take a look at the penny plan, because, as small as it sounds, it’s a very effective plan over a five-year period. If you can cut one penny out of a dollar and then the next year another penny out of a dollar. And I can’t imagine these great Secretaries that we have can’t cut a little bit. But I would like you to look at that —
REPRESENTATIVE GRAVES: I’ll do that.
THE PRESIDENT: — if that’s possible. Maybe, Mick, you can take a look at it.
DIRECTOR MULVANEY: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Anything to say?
DIRECTOR MULVANEY: I’ll be really short. We need the border security money.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s all we need. Border security. We need to get going. A lot of bad things are happening and I think we’re doing it incredibly well. We have no tools. We have bad laws. We have the worst immigration laws in the history of the world, okay? It’s a joke. People can’t believe it. Other countries look at us and they say, “How is that possible?” Somebody touches our land, we now take them to a court, to a judge. They want us to choose 5,000 judges. How do you choose 5,000 judges? Can you imagine the corruption just from a normal standpoint? Just common sense. Can you imagine the corruption?
Go to the barbershop. Grab somebody. Make them a judge. Everybody is being made a judge. They want 5,000 judges more. It’s crazy. Other countries it’s called, “I’m sorry. You can’t come in. You have to leave.” This one, we have judges. If they step on our land, we have judges. It’s insane. So we’re going to have to change our whole immigration policy.
And I was saying last night, in South Carolina, when I came in, I inherited some things. We inherited North Korea, that’s going really well. We inherited horrible trade deals, that’s going really well. Nobody knows what’s happening behind the scenes. But these companies — countries that have been really — they can’t even — I don’t blame them, I blame our people. But they have just been ripping us for years. And they want to negotiate so badly, you have no idea.
We inherited a lot of different things, but of all of them, immigration makes the least sense. It is a hodgepodge of laws that have been put together over years. And we have to change it. It’s so simple. It’s called, “I’m sorry, you can’t come in. You have to go in through a legal process.” You don’t have to see a judge where the judge is going to take three years before you can come back. In the meantime, you never come back because you’re already in the country. You’re someplace in the country. And that would be bad, but it’s really bad when it’s a criminal.
But it’s really bad when it’s a criminal. And we have plenty of them coming into the country this way. And they use the children. They use these young children for their own benefit. So we have to change the whole immigration picture. And we’ll be able to do it. We need the border wall. We need the border. We need border security and we need modern equipment. And we’ll get it done, I have no doubt.
Anybody else would like to say something? Anybody? Are we okay? We’ll let these guys go out and have lunch?
Q Mr. President, before we go, on trade, there are some people who are saying that your tariffs threats threaten to plunge the economy into a recession. Harley-Davidson announced that it’s moving a plant to Thailand. You’ve been very critical about that.
THE PRESIDENT: Harley-Davidson, John, was going to do that. They announced it earlier this year. So Harley-Davidson is using that as an excuse, and I don’t like that because I’ve been very good to Harley-Davidson. And they used it as an excuse. And I think the people that ride Harleys are not happy with Harley-Davidson, and I wouldn’t be either.
But mostly, companies are coming back to our country. I was the one that explained to Harley about 100 percent tax in India, where they had a tariff of 100 percent, and I got it down to a much lower number. I think it’s 50 percent, which is far too much. But they were paying 100 percent tariff. Now Prime Minister Modi brought it way down, but it’s still way too high.
No, I will say this, John: Other countries are negotiating. And without tariffs, you could never do that. And if they don’t want to negotiate, then we’ll do the tariffs. And just remember, we’re the bank. We’re the bank that everybody wants to steal from and plunder. And it can’t be that way anymore. We lost $500 billion last year with China. We lost $151 billion with the European Union, which puts up trade barriers so that our farmers can’t trade. We can’t send farm products in, for the most part. It’s very hard to send cars in.
We have countries where — as an example, India, they charge up as much as 100 percent tariff. We want the tariffs removed. What I would like to do, and what I offered at the G7, you remember — I said, “Let’s drop all tariffs and all barriers. Is everyone okay with that?” And nobody said yes. I said, “Wait a minute, folks, you’re complaining.” No tariffs and no barriers; you’re on your own. Let’s do it. And it was like they couldn’t leave the room fast enough.
Q What do you say to people who say it’s a risky business here, you could tip the economy into recession? And then what do you plan to do —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, we’re so high up — we’re so high up, we picked up forty — if you look at the kind of numbers we picked up, it’s up almost 40 percent, the market. And that’s not — the real market is the overall. And the overall is up much more than that. But we’ve picked up about $8 trillion in value doing what we’re doing.
Now, we’ve got a little bit of uncertainty because of trade. To me, there’s no uncertainty. And to other people that happen to be smart, there’s no uncertainty. But we can’t allow the European Union to take out $151 billion out of the United States. We can’t allow Mexico to have a NAFTA deal that gives them over $100 billion. And I call it profit. You know, you can divide that up any way you want to do it. I call it profit.
We can’t allow Mexico to take $100 billion. We can’t give China anywhere from $375 [billion] to $100 [billion] to $500 [billion]. It’s $375 [billion] — some people, depending on your formula — $375 billion. It could be $504 billion. It’s a tremendous amount of money being taken out of our economy. But we have to straighten it out.
Now, what’s happening, we put steel tariffs on. Our steel industry is going through the roof. U.S. Steel just announced they’re expanding or building six new facilities. Last night, in South Carolina — right? Go ahead. Georgetown Steel. The factory has been closed, the plant has been closed — how long, Lindsey?
SENATOR GRAHAM: About three years. But what’s interesting is, a British company, a steel manufacturer in Britain, bought Georgetown Steel to make steel here.
THE PRESIDENT: Right. Solar panels — we put tariffs on solar panels — 30 percent. They were all being made in China. We had 32 different factories. Now they’re starting to open again, plants — new plants — because solar is pretty new technology. We had 32. We had two that were open. Everyone else was closed because of what happened and what came in from other places, in particular China. And now we have seven that are opening and many more are considered to be. And the two that were dying, they were going to close — they’re thriving right now.
Washing machines — they were being dumped all over the country. Not good ones, by the way; ones that didn’t work really well. And now they’re opening up washing machines. We put a 30 percent tariff on.
So tariffs can be a very positive thing. You know, in the old days, when we had tariffs, we didn’t have income tax. When people wanted to come in — if you look at the days of McKinley and some others, when people wanted to come in, they had to pay a price. When they want to come in and raid our Treasury, they had to pay a price. We didn’t have income tax. You didn’t need income tax. We didn’t have debt.
So we’re doing this. I will say, in every instance, every country — any country that you can mention — has been extremely nice, even — less to the media, probably — but extremely nice; they want to negotiate a deal. So — and we’re open to that. We’re open to that. But it’s going to be very strong.
We are putting on tariffs on certain industries. We can’t lose our steel industry. Our steel industry was ready to go out of business. It was at the bottom. Our aluminum industry was ready to go out of business. Now, the steel industry is thriving. Think of it: United States Steel, first time in 35 years, they’re actually expanding; it’s going up. They’re building new places. Georgetown Steel — closed for three or four years — they announced yesterday they’re opening up their plant. It’s been closed for four years, I think they said, in South Carolina.
No, we’re doing the right thing, 100 percent. And, you know, you have them on both sides. Some people agree, some people don’t agree. The bottom line is, countries are coming back now to negotiate, including European Union wants to negotiate. Because if they don’t, we’re going to tax their cars. They send Mercedes in. They send BMWs in. They pay almost no tax. When we send cars to the European Union, they charge us a tremendous tax, five times greater than what we charge them.
But more importantly, they don’t want our cars. They have a barrier. We don’t want your cars. But if you do get it in, you’re going to pay a tax. With China — with China, if we send a car to China, they charge us a 25 percent tax. So we make a car, we send it to China, we want to compete. That’s not free trade. That’s stupid trade. So we send 25 percent tax. When they make a car in China, and they send it here, we charge them 2.5 percent. Okay. So we get 2.5 percent; China gets 25 percent. That’s not fair. That’s not free. That’s just stupid.
Q What are you looking at in terms of Chinese investment restrictions? I think you’ve got an announcement coming up on the status.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s not just Chinese. It’s we don’t want people coming in — hey, look, we are a very smart country. We have the most incredible people in Silicon Valley. We don’t want China and other countries — it’s not necessarily particularly — because they covered it incorrectly. They had either a leaker that doesn’t exist or a leaker that didn’t know his business very well. But they gave it to Bloomberg and they gave it to, I believe, the Wall Street Journal.
And it was either a bad leak by somebody that didn’t know, but probably they just made up the story; there was no leaker. Long term — I’m not sure if my political friends would agree, but I think a lot of leaks aren’t leaks; they’re made up by the writers. They don’t exist, the leak. But this was a leak that was just off.
We want to have our jewels. Those are our great jewels. That’s like United States Steel from 70 years ago, these companies. We have to protect these companies. We can’t let people steal that technology. We have the greatest technology in the world. People copy it and they steal it. But we have the great scientists, we have the great brains. And we have to protect that, and we’re going to protect it. And that’s what we were doing. And that can be done through CFIUS. We have a lot of things we can do it through. And we’re working that out.
But the bottom line is, we have charged a very substantial tax to some people. They are coming back to negotiate. And, frankly, if they don’t negotiate, I’m okay with that because I’d rather get the tax. Okay, any other questions?
Q Does the Supreme Court ruling mean you’re going to go ahead with the ban?
THE PRESIDENT: So the Supreme Court ruling was a tremendous victory for this country and for the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruling was a tremendous victory for our Constitution.
Q Will you go ahead with it, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Of course. What do you think? I wouldn’t go ahead with it?
Q Does it embolden you about the — also to the idea of deporting people without due process, as well? Do you think — would you like that power?
THE PRESIDENT: We have to find a system where you don’t need thousands of judges sitting at a border. Other countries look at us and they think we’re crazy. They say, what kind of a thing is that? They have countries where they have no problem with people pouring in. And you have countries where people do want to go in. And if you look at the European Union, they’re meeting right now to toughen up their immigration policies because they’ve been overrun. They have been overrun. And, frankly, a lot of those countries are not the same places anymore. And I’m sad to say it, and I said that at the G7: They are not the same places.
But we had a tremendous victory today and we greatly appreciate it. We needed it as a country. That was a big victory for — and I can tell you, everyone at this table is very happy about it — but that was a big victory for our country. Okay?
Q Do you consider that the final word, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s pretty much the final word. It’s the Supreme Court. You know, we went up, and we’d win it, we’d lose it. We’re — we just waited for the Supreme Court. Yeah, that’s the final word. That Supreme Court.
Now, do I want to go in with a different one and maybe a different variety? I don’t think there’s any reason. It’s a very strong victory. Very strong.
Q How much are you looking at in terms of wall funding — you said you wanted an increase. Do you have a figure in mind?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re spending $1.6 billion now. There’s a plan for another $1.6 billion, but I’d like to ask this room if we could increase it. I think in light of what’s happened with the drugs, with the human smuggling, with all of the problems, we have to have the wall. We have to have to have the wall.
You know, you — in the walls you have ports of entry. You have ports of entry. That’s where people come through. And they can come through legally.
And by the way, I want people to come into our country because our country is doing so well. And we have companies moving into our country, like, at numbers that nobody has seen in a long time. We need workers. So I want people to come in. They have to come in through the merit system though. They have to come in so that they can help our country and these companies.
In Wisconsin, you have Foxconn — one of the great companies of the world. They make the laptop for Apple, and iPhones, and — a lot of it. And they’re building a tremendous plant right now in Wisconsin. They need workers. I have to let people come in. But they have to come in through a merit. They have to be people that can love our country and help our country. Okay?
Thank you all very much.
Q Is building a wall worth a shutdown, sir? Is building a wall worth a shutdown at the end of September?
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, we’ll see. We’ll see.
Thank you all very much. Thank you.
12:53 P.M. EDT