11:19 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you for that warm welcome back to Heritage Foundation, which throughout the course of my public life, and back in my days in Indiana when I formed a small think tank to focus on state issues — Kay, I have to be honest with you, Heritage Foundation will always feel like home. And I thank you for that wonderful, warm welcome. (Applause.)
To the members of Congress who join us here today — great leaders on Capitol Hill; distinguished guests; ambassadors; and to all of you who, every day, are working in these hallways and oftentimes on the airwaves of America, building a nation and freedom, opportunity, and prosperity, and civil society flourish, it is an honor to be here today with each and every one of you.
And while I’m grateful for that kind introduction, would you all just join me in thanking someone whose life and career are synonymous with the conservative movement? She’s been a champion of the American Dream, and now she leads the Heritage Foundation with great distinction. Kay Coles James, thank you. (Applause.) Please, stand up and take a bow.
It really is great to be back. You know, three years ago, I spoke to Heritage Foundation as Vice President-elect. And I remember at the time, Kay, that you warned me that the White House has a tendency to turn people prematurely gray. (Laughter.) But, honestly, I haven’t changed a bit. (Laughter.)
You know, the Heritage Foundation is a flagship of freedom. Since its founding in 1973, Heritage has been advancing conservative public policy based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, traditional values, and, from its very founding, focused on a strong national defense. And now for nearly half a century, it’s undeniable the Heritage Foundation has made a difference for America. (Applause.)
And allow me to bring greetings from a great fan of Heritage Foundation, and a great champion of all the ideals and values that are synonymous with this great institution. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
You know, as I told Heritage Foundation three years ago, when I gathered with each and every one of you, when President-elect was preparing to enter office, we believed then that our President had won a mandate for leadership and he’d make good use of it.
Our transition office went right to work the morning after the election. The truth is, I’ll never forget the night of Election Night, it was all called in, the President had gotten the phone call. We gave the speeches at the podium. It was about 4:30 in the morning. And as we were leaving the hotel, I’ll never forget the President-elect looked at me and he said, “I’ll tell you what — it’s been a long night. Let’s not get started until 8:30 tomorrow morning.” (Laughter.) And when I got to the office, he was already at his desk.
But we went right to work, taking the policies that the President-elect had campaigned on — the policies that the Heritage Foundation had advanced for decades — and worked to build a team to put them into practice.
And let me acknowledge one of our helpful volunteers on our transition team who played a vital role in assembling a team that’s been making America great again ever since. Would join me in thanking my friend, Dr. Ed Feulner, who’s with us today and has played such a vital role — (applause) — yesterday, today, and tomorrow for freedom. Thank you, Ed. (Applause.) Great job.
Now, we are gathered here today to talk about trade and economic growth. The Heritage Foundation has long understood that to provide for the common defense is the first object of the federal government. And I’m proud to report to all of you gathered here that, from the first days of this administration, under President Trump’s leadership, we’ve been working to make the strongest military in the history of the world stronger still.
Just last month, President Trump completed a budget deal that secured $738 billion for our military. And that’ll represent the largest increase in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan.
We’ve rebuilt our military. We’ve restored the arsenal of democracy. And with the strong and unwavering support of these very same members of Congress and all those they represent, we are finally again giving our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard the resources they need to accomplish their mission and keep our nation safe. (Applause.) So, thank you all.
And with that renewed American strength, our armed forces have taken the fight to our enemies on our terms, on their soil. We secured freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. We brought North Korea to the negotiating table. And our armed forces captured the last inch of territory controlled by the ISIS caliphate earlier this year. (Applause.)
But the truth is, as President Trump has observed, “Our active-duty personnel are now the best-equipped, best-trained, and most technologically advanced fighting force in the history of the world.”
And in the wake of this weekend’s unprovoked attack on several oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, I promise you: We’re ready. As the President said, we “don’t want war with anybody,” but the United States is prepared. We’re locked and loaded. And we’re ready to defend our interests and our allies in the region — make no mistake about it.
As the President said yesterday, it’s “certainly looking like” Iran was behind these attacks. And our intelligence community, at this very hour, is working diligently to review the evidence. And the Secretary of State is traveling to Saudi Arabia today to discuss our response.
But if the attacks were initiated from Iran, the truth is they would just be the latest in a series of increasingly dangerous escalations instigated by the Islamic Republic.
In the past few months alone, the Iranian regime has deployed their regional proxies to stage sabotage attacks against shipping in the Persian Gulf. They’ve supplied and trained their Houthi allies in Yemen to launch nearly 100 drone strikes against Saudi targets. And, in July, they openly exceeded the limits to their stockpile of low-enriched uranium that they agreed to in 2015.
Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world, and it’s the greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East. That’s why President Trump withdrew from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal and initiated a maximum pressure campaign against the regime in Tehran.
And the truth is, our maximum pressure campaign against the Iranian regime is working. But know this: If Iran conducted this latest attack to pressure President Trump to back off, they will fail. America is ready to defend our interests. And because of the President’s strong action to advance American energy independence, we’re also less vulnerable today to threats to the global oil supply than ever before.
This year, the United States will actually become a net exporter of oil for the first time in 75 years. (Applause.) And the President has authorized the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, as needed, to keep energy markets well supplied, and he’s also directed appropriate agencies to expedite approval of oil pipelines. These attacks against our allies and the global energy supply will fail.
But as I close on this point, let me say we’re evaluating all the evidence. We’re consulting with our allies. And the President will determine the best course of action in the days ahead. But I promise you, under President Donald Trump, America will maintain our energy dominance, we will maintain our momentum toward energy independence. And the United States of America will take whatever action is necessary to defend our country, our troops, and our allies in the Gulf. You can count on it. (Applause.)
So we’ve been standing strong for our military and the national defense. But on this Constitution Day, I’m proud to report that we’ve also been standing strong for the Constitution itself, for the principles of limited government, for the values enshrined in our founding documents.
You know, the Heritage Foundation has always been a bulwark of traditional values. And as I stand before you today, I couldn’t be more proud to serve as Vice President to a President who stands without apology for the unalienable right to life. (Applause.)
In one of the President’s first acts in office, he reinstituted the Mexico City Policy to make sure that American tax dollars would not be used to promote or provide abortion around the world. And we’ve expanded it in recent days.
And I don’t know if I’ve had a higher honor, as President of the Senate, the day I cast the deciding vote to allow states across America to defund Planned Parenthood. (Applause.)
But as we’ve stood for the unalienable right to life, the President also stood strong for the constitutional foundation of our courts. And I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to pay one more debt of gratitude and boundless admiration to a man who has been a champion of our Constitution, a champion of the values and ideals that have made this nation great throughout its long and storied career. Would you all join me in thanking Attorney General Ed Meese for all he has done for America? (Applause.) Thank you, General.
General Meese will be glad to know — and he’s been a great counselor on this point — that, as a candidate, our President promised to appoint strict constructionists to our federal courts at every level in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia. And that’s just what he’s done.
And I’m proud to report, in the last two and a half years, President Trump has appointed 150 federal judges to our courts, and they’re all conservatives who are committed to upholding the God-given liberties enshrined in our Constitution, including the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, and the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. (Applause.)
We’re making historic progress, strengthening the constitutional foundation of our courts through the appointments this President has made and will continue to make. But Democrats and their allies in the media are obviously getting desperate. After dominating our courts for more than a generation, leading Democrats today are now openly calling for packing the Court. And this week, they’ve even taken to smearing a sitting justice on the Supreme Court of the United States with discredited allegations. The calls by Democrat candidates for president to remove Justice Kavanaugh from the Court are a disgrace and nothing short of an attack on our independent judiciary.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh is a good and decent man, he is a principled jurist and a credit to the highest court in the land, and these attacks on Justice Kavanaugh must stop. (Applause.)
So we’ve been standing strong for our national defense, for the rule of law, and for our values. But under this President, we’ve also been taking action to get this economy moving again, which brings us here today — one more opportunity to add even more momentum to an American economy that is booming.
The truth is, from day one, we’ve been putting into practice the very principles that Heritage Foundation has stood for since its founding in 1973: lower taxes, less regulation, more American energy, and greater individual liberty.
From the early days of this administration, President Trump has rolled back red tape at a historic level. In fact, this President has signed more laws cutting federal red tape already than any President in American history, saving more than $33 billion in regulatory costs.
We’ve also unleashed American energy. This President withdrew America from the disastrous Paris Climate Accord. And today, the United States, as I mentioned, is the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the world.
And, of course, it wasn’t just rolling back regulations and unleashing American energy. This President kept his promise in the early days of this administration when he signed into law the largest tax cuts and tax reform in American history. (Applause.) In fact, businesses saw a corporate tax rate reduction from one of the highest in the industrialized world to 21 percent. It was the largest percentage point reduction in the top marginal corporate rate in the history of this country.
We also cut taxes for working families. We doubled the child tax credit. We doubled the standard deduction. And now the typical family of four is saving about $2,000 a year.
The result of all of that — less regulation, less taxes, more American energy — has truly been remarkable. As I stand here today at the Heritage Foundation, I’m proud to report, since Election Day, businesses large and small across this country have created more than 6 million new jobs, and the unemployment rate has hit a 50-year low. (Applause.)
In two and a half short years, more than 7 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps. And wages are rising at their fastest pace in more than 10 years. In fact, the average worker has seen their wages go up by more than $1,000 in the last year alone.
The economy is soaring. And you really — you don’t need to hear it by studying statistics. These congressmen will attest we hear it on the street every single day. I had that happen myself when Karen and I slipped away down to the Fort Myers area for a couple of days on the beach earlier this year.
We were sitting there in our ball caps and our sunglasses taking in a few enjoyable hours of rest there on the beach, and these two fellas came walking by wearing big Budweiser t-shirts. And one of them stopped and turned to me and he said, “Hey, you’re Vice President Mike Pence.” (Laughter.) And I said, “Yes, I am.” (Laughter.) And he looked at me and he said, “Well, listen, you got to tell the President that he’s got to keep doing what he’s doing because I made twice as much money last year as I did the year before.” And I told him I’d tell the President word for word. And I did it. (Applause.) It’s true.
And then he took three steps away, and he turned back, and looked at me and he said, “Now, I don’t know what you do, but keep doing what you’re doing too.” (Laughter.) I told him I would. (Laughter.)
I mean, the truth is, we’re here today — we’re here today because of the tremendous progress that we’ve made. But I’m also here today to talk about a great opportunity — an opportunity before us to build on the momentum that we’ve seen in this economy. I’m here today to call on the Congress of the United States to pass the largest trade deal in American history. It’s time for Congress to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. (Applause.)
You know, this President was no fan of NAFTA. He often reflected on the campaign trail what I saw back in the state of Indiana, about the impact — unintentional or otherwise — that NAFTA had on many communities, many factories across the country that had closed in the last quarter century. But he promised that we could do better. He promised that we’d sit down with Mexico and Canada and negotiate a new deal that would put — that put jobs and prosperity first. And he did just that.
Now, I got to tell you, I was in on a lot of those discussions with President Obrador’s predecessor and with Prime Minister Trudeau in Canada. I saw this President drive a hard bargain, but I also saw our neighbors to the north and the south negotiate in good faith.
So let me take this opportunity to not only thank Mexico and Canada, but let me also give you a chance to join me in thanking their representatives who are with us today: The Ambassador of Canada to the United States of America, Kirsten Hillman, and Mexico’s Ambassador to the United States, Martha Bárcena. Would you stand up and let us show you how much we appreciate your efforts? (Applause.) Thank you.
The truth is, as you all know here at the Heritage Foundation, since the early post-war era, America’s prosperity has rested on the ingenuity, the determination, the hard work of the American people. But it’s also — also rested on robust trade with freedom-loving nations around the world.
It was a landmark free trade agreement, after all, that helped revive the global economy after the Second World War. In 1947, the United States and 22 other nations came together to forge an agreement that leveled the playing field for American businesses. It actually laid a foundation for decades of economic growth. It’s called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
And early on, it worked. It worked to create prosperity in this country and really helped the world recover from the devastations of war. Tariffs in industrialized countries fell an average of 40 percent to around 5 percent today.
But, frankly, today, as we’ve negotiated trade agreements among so many different countries with so many different interests, too many countries around the world, in the decades that have followed, have taken advantage of the United States in the process, often to the detriment of hardworking Americans. And President Trump, as a candidate and as your President, has called them out and demanded that we put American jobs and American workers first.
The truth is, though, one administration after another stood by and watched unfair trade practices hollow out American manufacturing in particular. This President promised to fight for American jobs and American workers. Three years ago, the businessman-turned-candidate said that, “No longer will we enter into these massive trade deals with many countries that are thousands of pages long, that no one from any country reads or understands.” And he’s demanded that we move forward.
We withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We signed up the toughest and smartest trade negotiators we’ve ever had to crack down on China’s unfair trade practices and negotiate new trade deals with our partners around the world. We’ve ended the era of economic surrender. And we’re using the power of the strongest economy in the history of the world to put our jobs and our workers first. And now, American jobs and American workers are winning again.
You know, I remember when the last administration lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs. And, literally, the last President said that those jobs were gone for good, remember? He said, what are you going to — “You got a magic wand to bring them back?” Well, we didn’t need a magic wand; we just needed President Donald Trump in the White House. We’ve seen 500,000 manufacturing jobs created since Election Day alone. (Applause.)
The truth is, we’ve been working hard to open up markets around the world to goods and services: Argentina to American pork, Vietnam to American grain, the European Union to American beef.
And time after time, as our friends from Canada and Mexico can attest, the President has been calling for free and fair and reciprocal trade, driving a hard bargain to open up markets to countries that have access to the American consumer. And since we took office, the President pursued an ambitious trade agenda that’s been built on those principles of free and fair and reciprocal trade.
We dramatically improved our trade agreement with South Korea. Three years ago, we reached an agreement in principle on a first stage. Just a few months ago, the first stage of a free trade agreement with Japan.
Two weeks ago, I told Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the United States is ready to immediately begin negotiations on a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom as soon as Brexit is complete. And we’re ready. (Applause.)
Beyond all that, this President put China on notice that the decades of massive trade deficits, intellectual property theft, and forced technology transfer — the decades of China ignoring the rules of international commerce — are over.
But I came here today to talk about why it’s absolutely vital for Congress pass the USMCA. According to the International Trade Commission, the USMCA will add nearly $70 billion in investments in this country and create nearly 180,000 American jobs just in the early going.
In total, American exports to Canada, we believe that we’ll see increases by $19 billion, and exports to Mexico will increase by $14 billion.
And while NAFTA passed before even dial-up Internet, the brand new Digital Trade Chapter of the USMCA contains the strongest language on digital trade of any international agreement in history.
And the USMCA will be a big win for American energy as well. Canada and Mexico are the top two destinations for American oil, already receiving nearly 30 percent of our exports. And that number will only increase under the USMCA. It will keep Mexico’s energy resources open to development by American companies, and it will guarantee no tariffs on American oil.
The USMCA also levels the playing field for American workers and American jobs. Under the USMCA, 75 percent of auto parts in duty-free cars must be made right here in North America, and a significant portion of these parts must be made by workers making a base wage of at least $16 per hour. We believe that this will eliminate the historic incentive to move manufacturing jobs out of the United States of America.
President Donald Trump is putting American jobs and American workers first. (Applause.)
And I know we’re all watching as the news between the UAW and General Motors — the strike that began yesterday. But I have a respectful message for all the United Auto Workers who are currently on strike. As the President said, we hope and trust you’ll work out your differences with GM. But while you’re at it, if you really want to support our nation’s auto workers, the UAW and GM ought to tell Congress to pass the USMCA and make sure there’s more autoworkers jobs for decades to come. (Applause.)
So the record is clear: The USMCA is a win. It’s a win for American energy. It’s a win for American agriculture. It’s a win for American manufacturing.
As I stand before you today, I’m proud to report the President has done his job. Canada and Mexico are doing their job. Now we need Congress to do its job and pass the USMCA.
And it’s more than just a good deal between our three countries. Experts often reflect that the USMCA is so advanced, it’s so comprehensive that, it may well serve as a template — a model trade agreement — for future trade agreements in the decades ahead, whether with the United Kingdom, Japan, the European Union, or even China.
And by passing the USMCA, it will also strengthen the President’s hand in the negotiations with that last country. By bringing North America together, by demonstrating our ability to unify our economy with our neighbors to the north and the south, it will only strengthen the President’s hand as we demand that China end the trade abuses that have characterized the decades of the past.
The USMCA will further strengthen our economy and create jobs at a time when other economies around the world are slowing. And it’s an idea whose time has come.
So I promise you: We’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to keep fighting for American jobs, for American opportunities, and we’re going to keep fighting to get the USMCA across the line.
But I came here today to the Heritage Foundation because all of you know that the greatest force this country has ever known, that has the greatest impact on the future of this nation, is always the voice of the American people. And so I want to encourage all the leaders in this room to let your voice be heard. Leave here today and do like I’m going to do: Head straight to Capitol Hill and tell the Congress to pass the USMCA for America. (Applause.)
If all of us do all we can to let our voice be heard, I promise you we’ll get the USMCA done, and I believe we can get it done this year.
So it’s great to be with all of you today at the Heritage Foundation. I thank you for coming out. I look around this room and feel like I’m watching cable television. (Laughter.) There’s so many well-known faces and voices here, I’m actually very honored that you would take time to hear us out. And to come here to be part of the Heritage Foundation’s long tradition of being a platform talking about how we advance the agenda and the principles that have made this country great in the past and are making America great again as we speak.
I mean, the truth is, Heritage Foundation has been a bulwark. It’s been a bulwark of freedom and a leading defender of the Constitution now for almost a half a century. And as I end here today, I can’t help but think about the fact that it’s Constitution Day; that more than two centuries ago, on this day, the Constitution was signed.
And later on today, I will have the great privilege of participating in a Naturalization Ceremony with a room full of new Americans who will come to the White House to swear their allegiance to this country and swear their oath to that Constitution of the United States.
But I think of the preamble of that Constitution on a day like today, and of all the years that have passed since, the words the Constitution began with that, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare…secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution [of] the United States of America.”
When they walked out of that hall in Philadelphia, history records that a little old lady walked up to Benjamin Franklin, asked him what kind of government they had created. And he said, it’s “a republic, if you can keep it.”
And as I stand before you today, I have a grateful heart not just as your Vice President, but as an American, that we’ve kept it. We’ve kept it. We looked at that charge and that preamble. And all of the things that I addressed today give evidence to the fact that the American people, whatever our differences are, we have kept faith with the ideals enshrined in that Constitution. And I believe it’s a day of cause for celebration and one that we ought to reflect on and be thankful for, but redouble our commitment today to stand by that Constitution, to stand by those ideals, because it’s always been the wellspring of our nation’s greatness.
And as we keep faith with that Constitution and with the American people, I know — as people at Heritage Foundation have known for nearly 50 years — that the best days for the greatest nation on Earth are yet to come.
So thank you. God bless you. God bless the Heritage Foundation. (Applause.) And God bless America. (Applause.)