Oval Office

11:35 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s a very special day for me, because we’ve been looking for this day for a long time.  I’m thrilled to be here to administer the Oath of Office to America’s new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mr. Alex Azar.

Come here, Alex.  He’s going to get those prescription drug prices way down as a little bit of an extra, right?  It’s going to come rocketing down.

Alex is joined today by his father, Alex.  Thank you, congratulations.  Of course, I’ll only say congratulations if he does a great job, right?  (Laughter.)  Which I know he will.  Which I know he will.

MR. AZAR, SR.:  No doubt.

THE PRESIDENT:  We have no doubt, you’re right.  I don’t either.

His wife Jennifer, his daughter Claire, his son Alex, his sister Stacy and her family, and his sister-in-law Beth and her husband, and numerous friends — thank you all for being here.  We appreciate it and Alex appreciates it.

Upon taking his Oath of Office, Alex will take the helm of a department he has already served with tremendous distinction, first as General Counsel and later as Deputy Secretary.  In both those roles, Alex was outstanding and an incredible public servant.  People talk about him to this day.  He was instrumental in improving the department’s operations and advancing its emergency response capabilities.

Alex knows inside and out the impact of government policy on patients, healthcare, and prices.  As the former president of Lilly USA — big company, great company, and he did an incredible job — Alex brings invaluable private sector experience to complement his years of public service.

The Department of Health and Human Services has already achieved a great deal rolling back regulations that drive up healthcare costs, but we have a long way to go.  A lot of people are very happy with the amount we’ve done already, but Alex is going to bring that to a big, brand-new level.

As our new Secretary, Alex will continue to implement the administrative and regulatory changes needed to ensure that our citizens get the affordable, high-quality care they deserve.  He will help lead our efforts to confront the national emergency of addiction and death due to opioids.  And I think we’re going to be very tough on the drug companies in that regard and very tough on doctors in that regard, because what’s going on is pretty incredible.  And finally, put an end to this plague on the lives on families and communities.  People go in for a minor operation into a hospital; they come out, they’re addicted to opioids.  They’re addicted to drugs after a short period of time.

We have to get the prices of prescription drugs way down and unravel the tangled web of special interests that are driving prices up for medicine and for really hurting patients.  And we’re going to get that done.  That’s going to be so important.

You look at other countries — they pay a fraction for the exact same drug.  The exact same pill, in an identical box from the same factory, costs us much more — many times more than it does in other countries.  And nobody knows that process better than Alex.  And we’re going to get that done because it’s very unfair to our country.  Neighboring countries pay a tiny fraction of what we pay for the same exact pill made in the same location.

And, Alex, I know there is no one more capable, qualified, and committed than you to overcoming these incredible challenges.  So important.  And I will say this: Prescription drug prices is going to be one of the big things.  And whenever I speak to Alex, I speak to him about that, I think, prior to anything else.

MR. AZAR:  Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  And I know you can do it.  You know the system and you can do it, because it’s wrong.

So now I’ll ask Vice President Pence to formally administer the oath.  And again, I just want to congratulate Alex and his family, and God bless you all.  He’s got a very important job to do, so thank you.  Thank you for giving him to us.  And we’ll give him the chance, but you gave him to us, and we appreciate it very much.  Thank you.  Thank you.

MR. AZAR:  Thank you, Mr. President.  (Applause.)

(The oath is administered.)

SECRETARY AZAR:  What an honor it is today to become the 24th Secretary of Health and Human Services, here in the United States.  Only in America, the grandchild and great-grandchild of immigrants from Lebanon, from the Ukraine, from England, Switzerland, gets to have that opportunity.

Mr. President, thank you so much for the confidence that you have bestowed upon me and the incredible department you have entrusted me with.

Mr. Vice President, thank you for your many years of friendship and for administrating the oath today.

And to my family, to Jennifer, and the rest of my family, thank you for all of the many years of support and for the years of support coming.  It’s going to be tough but we’ll do well with it.

I’d also lke to thank the 79,000 men and women of HHS, who it is now my great honor to lead.  I know these people, I know this team, and the deep commitment that they have to the mission of HHS to enhance and protect the wellbeing and health of all Americans.

That is a solemn charge.  It is a charge that I am committed to.  And as you heard from the President today, it is a charge that includes his personal direction to me that we have to tackle the scourge of the opiate crisis, and we will bring down prescription drug prices.

I look forward to that mission, to the work ahead, and now it’s time to get to work.  Thank you all very much.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.

Q    Mr. President, how’s the speech going?  How’s the State of the Union coming

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I hope it’s going to be good.  We worked on it hard; covered a lot of territory, including our great success with the markets and with the tax cut.  It’s a big speech — an important speech.

We cover immigration.  For many years — for many, many years they’ve been talking immigration and never got anything done.  We’re going to get something done, we hope.  It’s got to be bipartisan, because the Republicans really don’t have the votes to get it done in any other way.  So it has to be bipartisan.  But hopefully the Democrats will join us, or enough of them will join us, so we can really do something great for DACA and for immigration, generally.

But it’s going to be, I think, a very important speech on trade.  The world has taken advantage of us on trade for many years.  And as you probably noticed, we’re stopping that.  We’re stopping it cold.  And we have to have reciprocal trade.  It’s not a one-way deal anymore.

So we have a lot of things to discuss, and we’ll be discussing them.  And I hope you enjoy it.

And thank you all very much.  See you tomorrow night.

Q    Are you going to bring Senator Schumer down here again?



11:43 A.M. EST

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