Remarks by the President Before Meeting with Congressional Leadership
11:13 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I want to welcome the congressional leadership here to the White House. Harry Reid is absent because he is still convalescing a little bit from the mishap in the gym, but I know he’ll be back strong next week and I’ve had a chance to talk to him. I want to thank the Speaker and Leader McConnell as well as Dick Durbin filling in for Mr. Reid and Nancy Pelosi and all the leadership that is here today.
First of all, some of these folks I haven’t seen so I haven’t had an opportunity to wish them Happy New Year. To the Speaker, I just want to point out -- I said there are going to be some things that we agree on -- having a college football playoff is clearly something that we can agree on. I called for it when I came into office, I think it turned out pretty well, particularly for Ohio -- (laughter) -- so I want to congratulate the Ohio State Buckeyes for their outstanding victory, and commend Oregon as well for fielding a great team because their quarterback is from my original home state of Hawaii.
And I also want to just talk to all this leadership about how we can keep the progress going that we’re seeing, particularly in our economy. The latest job report indicates that the recovery continues to move in a robust fashion. We’ve now created 58 straight months of private-sector job growth, about 11 million jobs created in the private sector. Unemployment rate has come down faster than any time in several decades. We now are seeing the strongest job growth overall, as well as in manufacturing, since the 1990s. We are producing more energy than ever before. The deficit has been cut by two-thirds. And we’re finally starting to see some movement last year in wages going up at a time when families are also enjoying some lower gas prices.
So we’re in a position to make sure that 2015 is an even stronger year, and relative to our competitors, we are holding much better cards. The key now is for us to work as a team to make sure that we build on this progress. Obviously there are disagreements around the table on a whole range of issues, but there are also areas where we can agree, and that’s where we’re going to be focused.
Just to cite a few examples, I’ve got a State of the Union next week. One of the things we’re going to be talking about is cybersecurity. With the Sony attacks that took place, with the Twitter account that was hacked by Islamist jihadist sympathizers yesterday, it just goes to show how much more work we need to do, both public and private sector, to strengthen our cybersecurity to make sure that families’ bank accounts are safe, to make sure that our public infrastructure is safe. I’ve talked to both the Speaker as well as Mitch McConnell about this and I think we agree that this is an area where we can work hard together and get some legislation done, and make sure that we are much more effective in protecting the American people from these kinds of cyber attacks.
I think that there’s going to be opportunities for us to work together on trade. There’s going to be opportunities for us to work together on simplifying the tax system and making sure everybody is paying their fair share. There are going to be opportunities for us to streamline government so it’s more responsible. And on each of these issues, I’m going to be listening to everybody around this table and I’m hopeful that in the spirit of cooperation and putting America first, we can be in position where, at the end of this year, we’ll be able to look back and say we’re that much better off than we were when we started the year.
So I just want to thank everybody for being here, and I’m very much looking forward to not just this discussion but some real collaboration over the course of the next several months.
Thank you very much, everybody.
11:18 A.M. EST