National Education Association Headquarters
1:07 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I tell you what, I think I like this crowd. (Applause.) Talk about being home and the fact you got the president of the union standing out there with other unions — I’ll tell you what, man. (Applause.) I was — I was going to say, if you have a seat, take one but you don’t have any seats. (Laughter.)
Look, Dajsha, that was — that was a great — she’s pretty good for someone in the last year in college, you — you know? Dajsha, just remember me. When you’re President and they say, “Joe Biden is in the outer office,” promise you won’t say, “Joe who?” when I come in. (Laughter.)
Hey, folks, how are you all? (Applause.) I’m going to talk about more than just the NEA today because — and I want to — I’ve told your president I want to come back and just talk pure education as well. (Applause.)
But I want to talk a little — much broader. And, Becky, thanks for hosting us. I appreciate it very much. (Applause.)
Forty-six days to the midterms. We need to be crystal clear about what we’re — what’s on the ballot, because there’s a heck of a lot at stake that’s on the ballot.
Right now — right now on the ballot, there’s Social Security. It’s on the ballot. You all have paid every single — and of every paycheck you got, you paid into it.
(The President’s microphone malfunctions.) (Laughter.)
You paid into.
(The microphone functions properly.) Holy mackerel. (Laughter.)
Anyway, but there’s a lot really — truly, there’s a lot on the ballot. There’s — this is — my dad used to have an expression. He’d say, “Joey, don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative.” (Laughter.) And we have a real alternative here that — this is not a — this is not going to be a — an election that isn’t of significant consequence.
Gun safety for our kids and gun violence are on the ballot. The idea that you start school this year and kids in many parts of the country learn how to duck and cover rather than — no, I’m serious; think about it — rather than talking about reading, writing, and arithmetic is a very different circumstance. It’s not right. It’s not who we are. It’s not who we should be.
And, folks, look, the of survival our — our planet is on the ballot. And that sounds like hyperbole, but it genuinely is.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I tell you what, the thing that we found out and everybody found out: There’s not a lot of total climate deniers anymore after they’ve seen what happened this year. But guess what? We got a lot to do.
(Addressing an audience member.) You got to say hi to me. (Laughter.) We go back a long way. She was 12; I was 30. But anyway — (laughter) — this woman helped me get an awful lot done. Anyway. (Applause.)
But right now — and it’s not hyperbole to suggest right now democracy itself is on the ballot as well.
Folks, I believe America is at an inflection point. And I apologize to — I’m a labor guy. I’ve spent a lot of time with all of you — not all of you, but with labor movements — since I got elected and my whole career. But — and I apologize if I repeat some things.
But I think we’re really at an inflection point. It occurs every three, four, or five generations. It doesn’t occur every election.
And by “inflection point,” I mean that these moments — these are going to determine the shape of everything that’s going to come after, what we do now. What we do in the next several years is going to determine what this country looks like in 25 and 30 years. It’s that consequential.
Now, 46 days to choose — 46 days. And the path offered by Democrats is contrasted with the one offered by the MAGA Republicans. And by the way, not all Republicans are MAGA Republicans.
AUDIENCE: That’s right!
THE PRESIDENT: So I want to make that clear. (Applause.) And for years and years, I had a reputation — I remember I got beat up in the campaign by saying that I wanted to unify the country and unify the parties. You used to be able to do that. But things have changed a whole bunch.
The MAGA Republicans control the Republican Party right now, and that’s self-evident. That’s self-evident. So there’s a lot at stake here. And I’m going to talk a little bit about that right now.
Earlier today, after opposing and obstructing everything we tried to do to stop progress for the last two years, the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy went to Pennsylvania and unveiled what — what he calls a “Commitment to America.” That’s a — that’s a thin series of policy goals, with little or no detail, that he says Republicans are going to pursue if they regain control of the Congress.
In the course of nearly an hour, here’s a few of the things we didn’t hear. We didn’t hear him mention the right to choose. We didn’t hear him mention Medicare. We didn’t hear him mention Social Security.
So let’s take a look at what Kevin said today. He said Republicans want to, quote, “preserve our constitutional freedom.” That sounds great. I’m for doing that as well; we all are. But look at what they’ve actually done.
The MAGA Republicans just cheered and embraced the first Supreme Court decision in our entire history — the first one in our entire history that just didn’t fail to preserve a constitutional freedom, it actually took away a fundamental right that had been granted by the same court to so many Americans: the constitutional right to choose. And now nearly half the states in the United States of America have either passed a ban on abortion or will shortly. And in many states, abortion is already banned even in cases of rape and incest — a fundamental change.
Already, 166 House Republicans have signed on to a bill that would ban abortion nationwide. And the senior senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, has proposed a national ban on abortion with criminal penalties put on doctors and put them in jail if they, in fact, violate the ban.
So, in 46 days, America is going to choose: If Republicans win control of the Congress, abortion will be banned. And, by the way, it will be initially banned, but if they win Congress, I will veto it. (Applause.)
But think what’s happening. They’re banning in the case of — in the case of rape and incest in many states. No exceptions. And they’re going to be — they’re trying to criminalize it nationwide.
But if you give me two more Democratic senators in the United States Senate, I promise you — (applause) — I promise you we’re going to codify Roe. (Applause.) We’ll once again make Roe the law of the land. And we’ll once again protect a woman’s right to choose.
And the power to get this done is in the hands of the American people, especially the women of America. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you!
THE PRESIDENT: And — no, no, it really is. Justice — Justice Alito said that women can decide the outcome of this election — paraphrasing some quote in the actual decision. Well, he ain’t seen nothing yet. (Applause.)
I don’t believe that MAGA Republicans have a clue about the power of American women. (Applause.) Let me tell you something: They’re about to find out. (Applause.)
And, folks, Kevin McCarthy also talked about, quote, “longer, healthier lives for Americans.” Again, it sounds great. Who’s not for that? Well, just look at what the Republicans are doing. Already, 158 House Republicans have signed on to a Republican budget that will cut Medicare and Social Security — already.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: The man in charge of electing Republicans in the U.S. Senate, Senator Scott of Florida, has proposed a plan to put Social Security on the chopping block every five years. De novo.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: No, I’m not — I know this sounds like — but I really mean it. Look, go on the Internet and check it out. They’ve laid out the platform.
It means every five years, according to — if they succeed in the Senate — the Congress will vote to either cut, reduce, or completely eliminate Social Security, or bring it back exactly as it is. What do you think the prospects of it coming back exactly as it is?
You’ve been paying into Social Security ever since you got your first paycheck. Well, then there’s Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin —
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: As my mother would say, “God bless his soul.” (Laughter.)
Look, he thinks waiting five years is too long. He wants to put — no, he wants to put Social Security on the chopping block every single year. If Congress doesn’t vote to keep it, it goes away. An affirmative requirement to vote to keep it. Now, think of that. It’s not just Social Security he wants to put up; he wants Medicare, Medicaid benefits, every federal budget, every federal benefit gets up and has to be voted on every year. De novo. Just from scratch.
So, in 46 days, America is going to face a choice. If Republicans control the Congress, Social Security will be on the chopping block. But if you support the Democrats — and I promise you this — Social Security will be protected. Period. (Applause.) And I won’t let any MAGA Republican take it away.
Leader McCarthy talked about waiting — wanting a nation — a nation that’s safe. Well, let’s look at what Republicans have done to make it safe. They voted against virtually everything we’ve done to reduce crime and keep communities safe.
The American Rescue Plan, it was the — when we first got into office, we passed it. You know what I was dying to do? An awful lot of mayors and governors and county executives, they don’t have — they didn’t have the tax base, because I was left with an economy that was in distress.
So we said, “Here you go. We’re going to give you this money so you can make sure you can keep your schools open, you can make sure you keep police departments open, make sure you keep your hospitals open, make sure you keep the fire departments open.” And guess what? Every single Republican in the Congress voted against that. Every single Republican voted against it.
Now, look, we’re in a situation where now the MAGA Republicans are calling for defunding. They’re — they’re defunding — defunding the FBI. Now, let me tell you something: I don’t think — and I know some of you weren’t happy with me — I didn’t think we should defund the police; I never believed that and said so at the time. But I sure in hell don’t think we should be defunding the FBI either.
And then there’s the — then there’s the day we’ll never forget, on January 6th. What happened on the 6th? Law enforcement was attacked, assaulted, brutalized, and stomped on, and later, several died. Some lost their lives because of that day. The MAGA Republicans didn’t side with law enforcement; they sided with the insurrectionists. And they still do. Don’t tell me you support law enforcement if you can’t condemn what happened on January the 6th. (Applause.) Don’t tell me that.
You can’t — you can’t be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurrection. You can’t claim to be a party of law and order and call the people who attacked the police on January 6th “patriots.” (Applause.) That’s what they’re called.
And you can’t claim to be for a safe America if you take orders from the NRA.
Look, we just passed the most meaningful gun safety law in 30 years in this country, but most Republicans voted against it. Some, thank God, joined us and we passed it, and sided — but most sided with the NRA.
After Buffalo, Uvalde, Newtown, El Paso, Parkland, Charleston, Las Vegas, Orlando — I went to every one of those places. I spent hours and hours and hours with those families — not a joke. Not a joke. Hours with them. I know what it’s like, under different circumstances, to lose children. But lose children like they lost their children? Enough. We’ve had enough. It’s time to pass the assault weapons ban. (Applause.)
Look, I support the Second Amendment. I have two shotguns, and I’m not — I — the only thing I really do is really target practice. I haven’t done that in a long time. (Laughter.)
But here’s the thing: There’s no justification for a weapon of war. None. The speed of that bullet is five times that that comes out of the muzzle of most weapons. It can penetrate your vests.
And, by the way, as I pointed out when I was — got a pass the first time as a senator — in Delaware, we’re a big gun-owning state. A lot of duck hunters, a lot of hunters. And I’d be going — and I literally went up and down the streams campaigning and going to the people who were part — who belonged to the NRA and others. And I’d say, “How many — how many deer out here are wearing a Kevlar vests?” (Laughter.) You know?
No, but I’m — but I’m — seriously, think about it. What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for? It’s an assault weapon designed to kill people, to defend America, to defend people.
But, folks, look, it’s just — we’re just — we’re just — it’s way out of hand.
I’ve taken on the RNA [NRA] and I beat them before, and I plan on doing it again. (Applause.)
And, folks, we can do it again. Our children — our children should be in a situation of learning how, as I said, to read and write, not duck and cover. (Applause.)
So, in 46 days, if you want a safer America, America faces a choice. Republicans will once again side with the NRA and put American families and children at risk. And, I mean, some Democrats as well, and there are some Republicans who support us. It’s not down the line, but it’s part of their platform. Democrats will ban assault weapons once and for all, God willing. (Applause.)
Kevin — Kevin McCarthy also talks about their being — being for a strong economy.
But look what the Republicans have done. When I came to office, the economy was flat on its back. Millions out of work. Food lines that stretched — remember seeing all those food lines? People in nice-looking automobiles waiting for an hour, hour and a half just to have a bucket of — a box of food put in their trunk. In the United States of America — in the United States of America, that was happening — all across America.
The most anemic job performance since Herbert Hoover was in place. And that’s not hyperbole; that’s a fact.
So we acted quickly. We passed the American Rescue Plan, which lifted this nation from economic crisis to economic recovery. (Applause.) And every single Republican voted for it.
Nearly 10 million more jobs have been created since I’ve been President — the highest number of jobs in that period of time of any President of the United States of America. (Applause.)
We have a 3.7 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in 50 — more than 50 years; a record number of new — record number of new small businesses created; and over 668,000 new manufacturing jobs in America. (Applause.)
The American Rescue Plan helped keep teachers, police officers, firefighters, first responders on the job. It provided the money needed to get schools open. And it was a big reason we have been able to vaccinate over 220 million Americans. (Applause.)
More to do.
With the Infrastructure Law we passed, we did get some Republican help for that. (Applause.) Well, that Infrastructure Law is the most significant investment in America since President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System.
Now, Repub- — some Republicans voted for it, and some were critical. But the truth is there’s a lot more Republicans out there taking credit for the new bridges and those (inaudible) that are collapsing than actually voted for it. I love going by and they’re, you know — “And this is great thing. I voted against it, but this is a great thing.” (Laughter.)
But, folks, in addition to inheriting a failed MAGA Republican economy, we also confronted a global pandemic and Putin’s war in Ukraine, and that’s driven the global inflation we see today. That’s why it’s so important that we pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which I proposed from the beginning but didn’t get passed until this summer.
This law will cut costs for families, help reduce inflation at the kitchen table. The way we always measured inflation — and my dad was a graceful, hardworking guy. He worked — he worked a lot, his whole life. And my dad used to say — he used to talk about whether inflation or — the situation of a family to have breathing room is: At the end of the month, when you’ve paid all your bills, did you have a little bit left — just a little bit left?
So there’s more than one way — more than one way to deal with the inflation to a family: to lower the price of the things they have to deal with, because that’s what folks at home think about. How much of their monthly bills — how much do they have to pay for their necessities?
This law is going to give them just a little more breathing room, as my dad would say. We pay more for our prescription drugs than any nation in the world. Well, for years, so many of us for a long time, and many of the — the unions in here — every one of the unions here — have been trying to fix this problem.
For years, Big Pharma has blocked us in Medicare from negotiating drug prices. But not this year. (Applause.) We beat Big Pharma. We finally beat them. First time Big Pharma lost. And, folks, now Medicare will have the power to do what so many Democrats and many Republicans in the past talked about doing: lowering prescription drug prices. (Applause.) They pay billions of dollars. They can negotiate lower prices like other countries do.
And the seniors — we passed a law saying: Beginning in January, no senior, no matter what the cost of prescription drugs — cancer drugs, whatever drugs they have; and some of them can be $60-, $70-, $80,000 a year — no senior will have to pay, no matter what the cost of their drugs, more than $2,000 a year — (applause) — beginning — beginning in January.
And — and if you’re — if you’re a Med- — if you’re on Medicare and you have diabetes, the cost of your insulin — instead of being 30 to 40 to 50 times more than the cost to make the insulin, it costs 10 bucks to make that insulin — ten — and package it. But now you cannot charge any senior — and we should make it for everybody. They voted down the other piece. But every senior will not have to pay more than $35 a month for the cost of their insulin. (Applause.)
We wanted to cut the cost of insulin for everyone — for everyone, including the hundreds of thousands of children who have Type 1 diabetes.
But look, folks, imagine being the parent of a child who had Type 1 diabetes; you had no insurance and you had no coverage. You have to look at that child and know — and know that if he or she does not have access to that insulin, it will fundamentally affect their lives in ways that are going to be damaging for the rest of their lives. Imagine the feeling.
My dad used to say, “Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect.” And he’d always end by saying, “It’s about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, ‘Honey, it’s going to be okay.’”
Well, guess what? The Republicans blocked limiting that cost to 35 bucks for kids. As I said, it only costs 10 bucks for that prescription that he made and packaged. Drug companies are charging families more than 30 times as much for that drug on a monthly basis. And a lot of people just can’t do it.
Imagine, as I said, being that mom and dad needing that insulin. It has to be — I was down in Virginia at a function. I met a mom who said they have to ration the insulin, be able — I mean, it’s wrong. It’s not who we are. We’re going to fix that as well, I promise you. (Applause.)
Folks, the bottom line: This law is going to lower energy costs as well. Gas prices — I know I got criticized for going into the stockpile. But guess what? Gas prices are down $1.30 a gallon. (Applause.) And in 41 states plus the District of Columbia, the average gasoline price is less than $2.99.
Look, the law makes the biggest investment ever. We invested in climate crisis $369 billion to deal with the climate crisis. (Applause.)
And it makes the tax code fairer. In 2020, 55 of the biggest corporations in the country paid zero dollars in federal income taxes.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: And they made $40 billion. It’s not right. So we put a stop to it by enacting a corporate minimum tax of only fift- — but 15 percent. Today, the days of big, profitable corporations paying nothing in federal income tax is over. (Applause.)
And guess what? Every single Republican voted against the Inflation Reduction Act. When it actually comes to actually doing something about inflation, Republicans said no. And they said, time and again, that the first chance they get, they’re going to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act.
And here’s what else Republicans are, in terms of their fiscal recklessness. Donald Trump and the Republicans had no problem —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Booo —
— had no problem enacting, in his four years, a $2 trillion tax cut that overwhelmingly benefitted the top 1 percent. And they didn’t pay for a penny of it. And it massively increased the federal deficit.
Meanwhile — you know, we always say the Democrats are the big spenders? We brought down the deficit — (applause) — $350 billion the first year and nearly $1.5 trillion this year. (Applause.)
And the Inflation Reduction Act is going to reduce it another $300 billion because — over the next 10 years, because Medicare can reduce — can pay less for the drugs they have to buy for the seniors.
So I don’t want to hear it from Republicans. They’re the ones who blew up the deficit. They’re the ones — and we’re the ones bringing it down. (Applause.)
And now, thanks to the historic deficit reduction, we can afford to cancel $10,000 in student debt — (applause) — and $20,000 if you’re on a Pell Grant for tens of millions of Americans making under $125,000. It’s a gamechanger. (Applause.)
And Republicans are already looking for their hand-picked judges to deny relief to those hardworking Americans. They will not succeed, in my view, but that’s who they’re looking for.
And finally, with a straight face, Kevin McCarthy says that MAGA Republicans will restore faith in our elections. (Laughter.)
As we say in my faith, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” (Laughter.)
Restore — restore faith in our elections? MAGA Republicans refu- — refuse to accept the results of the 2020 election and the will of the people.
Eighty-one million people voted Democrat for President last time. (Applause.)
Even though they lost — they lost court case after court case after court case after court case after court case, even in front of Trump-appointed judges. And recount after recount proved the results were accurate.
It’s become a litmus test in their party to pledge loyalty to Donald Trump by buying into the Big Lie. Now, I’m serious. You all see it on — all on television.
Look, the fact is that a lot of them — I’ve had six Republican Senators who I’ve known for some time come to me — and I gave them my word I’d never mention names, and I never will — separately, telling me that they agree with this, that, or the other thing that I was proposing, but if I voted for it, it would cost them their election because they’d lose a primary.
Well, you see what’s happening. You see the MAGA Republican program being adapted by all these folks in the primary. And then once they get out of the primary, they’re trying like hell to figure out how to get out from under that. (Laughter.) No, no, I’m serious.
We can’t let the integrity of our elections be undermined. Democracy can’t survive. It cannot survive. Not a joke. It can’t survive when one side believes there’s only two outcomes to an election: either they win or they were cheated.
That’s not democracy. And that’s where the vast majority of MAGA Republicans are today. They don’t understand what every patriotic American knows: You can’t love your country only when you win. (Applause.) Only when you win.
Well, folks, in just 46 days, democracy will be on the ballot. Americans will have to choose between the MAGA Republican platform who have embraced extremism and the Big Lie; Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans who believe in the rule of law. Rejecting [respecting] the will of the people and accepting the results of a fair and free election is what we’re about, not what they’re about.
Let me close with this. As I said earlier, my dad used to say, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative.”
This November, you have to choose to be a nation of hope, unity, and optimism, or a nation of fear, division, and darkness.
I believe America will move forward to the future — a future of possibilities; a future in which we can build, dream, and hope.
I know we can, because I know this nation like you do. I know the American people. I know their courage. I know their hearts. I know our history.
That’s why — and I mean this from the bottom of my heart. And those of you who know me, no one ever doubts I mean what I say; the problem is I sometimes say all that I mean. (Laughter.) But all kidding aside, I’ve never been more optimistic. We’re the only country in the world that’s come out of every crisis stronger than we went into it.
It’s not just about building back to what it was before. We have a chance to build back in a way to make it better for everybody. Everybody. (Applause.)
And I want to get back to the time when I’m debating Republicans or conservatives, heck, but believe in the institutions — believe in the institutions; have a fair and square fight about what we’re doing; think the Court and the — and the Congress and the presidency are independent branches of government and should be treated with respect. That’s what I’m looking forward to.
We just got to remember who in God’s name we are. We are the United States of America. (Applause.) And there’s nothing — there’s nothing beyond our capacity, not a single thing we can’t do when we do it together. And the way to do that is start with the unions, to do it together, together, together. (Applause.)
May God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.
And I should have started off by saying, “Excuse my back when I’m speaking.” (Laughter.) I apologize.
Thank you all very much. God bless you all. Let’s keep this going. Thank you.
1:36 P.M. EDT