Remarks by the President Before Cabinet Meeting
11:04 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I thought I’d get the Cabinet together this morning because we all know that America will be busy this afternoon. (Laughter.) Go, Team USA.
About the halfway point through this year, we can look back and see some enormous progress that we’ve been able to make on the economy. We continue to create jobs with over 9.4 million created over the last several years. We’re continuing to see improvement in the housing market. We’re continuing to see real progress in terms of the energy sectors. But what we also know is, is that there’s so much more that’s possible.
And part of the reason that I wanted to bring the Cabinet together today is to underscore for them my belief I think shared by most Americans that we can’t wait for Congress to actually get going on issues that are vital to the middle class.
We’ve already seen the power of some of our executive actions in making a real difference for ordinary families -- whether it’s on minimum wage for federal workers -- or for workers who are with federal contractors; equal pay; and the terrific work that’s being done around climate change so we’re transitioning to a clean-energy economy.
But what I’m going to be urging all of you to do, and what I’m going to be continually pushing throughout this year and for the next couple of years is that if Congress can’t act on core issues that would actually make a difference in helping middle-class families get ahead, then we’re going to have to be creative about how we can make real progress.
Keep in mind that my preference is always going to be to work with Congress and to actually get legislation done. That’s how we get some more of the permanent fixes. And as I mentioned yesterday with respect to immigration, whatever we do administratively is not going to be sufficient to solve a broken immigration system.
The same is true when it comes to infrastructure. We’ll be talking a little bit about how we need to renew the Highway Trust Fund. But, more importantly, we could potentially put people to work all across the country, rebuilding roads and bridges, putting construction workers back to work. That could boost our economy enormously. And now is the time to do it, but that requires congressional action.
And so we’re always going to prefer working on a bipartisan basis to get things done. That’s what folks expect out of Washington. They’re not looking for excuses and they’re not looking for a lot of partisan sniping. But if Congress is unable to do it, then all of our Cabinet members here -- and the head of big agencies that touch people’s live in all sorts of ways -- and I’m going to be continuing looking for ways in which we can show some real progress.
And the second topic that we’re going to be spending a lot of time talking about is how to do we continue to improve the functioning of government to make it more customer-friendly. This is something that we’ve been working on since Sylvia was head of OMB. This is something that Shaun will be prioritizing. I expect every agency to look and see how can we get more bang for the buck in the agencies that we operate. And I know that many of you can report some significant progress in reducing paperwork and bureaucracy and red tape for projects and initiatives around the country in education, in energy, in housing and in transportation. But I think we can do even better.
So I’m looking forward to getting a report from you on the progress that has been made. And hopefully we can share some ideas to see if we can make even more progress.
The bottom line is this: I went to Minnesota -- many of the press here accompanied me -- and had a wonderful conversation with folks around the country who are doing their jobs every single day -- raising families, working hard, contributing to their communities. And their hopes and aspirations are my primary focus and should be the primary focus of this town. They are extraordinarily cynical about Washington right now, and rightfully so. They just don’t see any capacity by Congress to do anything. We’ve seen a Congress that said no to increasing the minimum wage; said no to immigration reform; has said no to equal pay legislation. The only thing they seem to say yes to, the Republican in the House at least, is more tax breaks for folks at the top. And as a consequence, the people who sent us here, they just don’t feel as if anybody is fighting for them and working for them.
We’re not always going to be able to get things through Congress, at least this Congress, the way we want to. But we sure as heck can make sure that the folks back home know that we’re pushing their agenda and that we’re working hard on their behalf and we’re doing every single thing we can do to make a difference in their lives. So I want to make sure that we emphasize not what we can’t do, but what we can do in the coming months.
Thank you very much, everybody.
11:10 A.M. EDT