Remarks by Vice President Pence to the Congressional Retreat
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
7:38 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan, members of the House and Senate, and your families, it is a joy for Karen and I to be back to the House and Senate retreat — this congressional institute gathering with the men and women who help make 2017 the most accomplished year for the conservative agenda in 30 years. (Applause.)
And it really is a joy to be with all of you tonight. And thanks for making us so welcome. And let me take a moment to reflect on the events of today. I know in speaking with many of you and speaking with Paul Ryan, train side, by the — over the phone — I know it’s been a harrowing day for all of you that were involved in today’s train accident.
I was in the Oval Office with the President when we were informed of what had occurred. And, frankly, for me, and I know for the President, we were both deeply troubled at the initial reports but quickly relieved that the scope of the accident was not larger.
For our part, Karen and I have many fond memories of House and Senate retreats, and we remember the train. We remember the time, a fellowship, sitting in a booth, leaning over a chair, catching up with a colleague that you didn’t get to spend as much time with as you’d like to. And we remember bringing our kids and watching our kids, who are all now in their mid-twenties and gone on in life, running up and down the rows of the train.
So just know that our hearts were with you this afternoon, as I know were the hearts of millions of Americans. And just know that our prayers go out to the families of the lost and the injured for comfort and for healing.
Let me be clear with all of you: We thank God. We thank God today because we know it could have been much worse. We’re grateful for the first responders, including the Capitol Police and the House physician, who I heard sped — along with the House chaplain — who sped to comfort and assist those that were injured. But days like today, especially, I just want you to know, to you and your families, thank you for your service to America. And God bless you all. (Applause.)
So we gather tonight, less than 24 hours from a great night for America. (Applause.) How about that speech last night? Was that — (Applause.) President Trump gave his first State of the Union Address, and we thank you for the warm reception and the affirmation tonight and last night displayed before the American people.
You know, the President said in his speech before the Congress and the nation that we were in a new American moment. And we believe it with all of our hearts. And the President said, in his words, that the state of our Union is strong because our people are strong. And they have a President who knows it. (Applause.)
The President laid out a vision for America where everyone knows, in his words, the dignity of a hard day’s work; where every child feels safe in their home at night, and every citizen is proud of the land that we love. It was a great honor for me — a great honor for me to sit behind the President and to see the strong response of each one of you and to see, writ large, the partnership that we have forged together. It is a partnership between a President and Republican majorities in the House and Senate that have delivered real results for the American people. (Applause.)
I mean, just think about it. Just think about the progress that we’ve made in just one short year. When I made that reference to 30 years, I was actually quoting Leader McConnell, who said when we were all gathered up at Camp David, that he said he’d been around Washington, D.C. for three decades and this was the most significant year for the conservative agenda in all the years he’d been there. I mean, we’ve got an incredible story to tell.
And in the few minutes that I have with you tonight, I want to encourage you in the days ahead to tell that story, and promise you President Trump and I are going to be with you every step of the way in 2018 to tell that story to the American people. (Applause.)
I mean, it’s been truly remarkable. Rolling back more federal red tape than any President in American history. And our friends in the Senate managed to confirm not only a great new justice to the Supreme Court of the United States, but more court of appeals judges in one year than ever done in American history. (Applause.) The story of accountability at the VA and passing a National Defense Authorization Act that had the largest increase in military spending since the days of Ronald Reagan. We’ve made incredible progress.
And there’s a lot of people to thank, but I want to ask these leaders to stand because they’re usually generous in your part. And I want you to give me a chance; I’m going to start — I’m going to start from the lower end, up here:
Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso, Conference Vice Chairman Roy Blunt, Conference Chairman John Thune, Majority Whip John Cornyn, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This is a team of leaders in the United States Senate, and this administration and America are in your debt. (Applause.)
And in the House of Representatives, I can tell you, having spent more time there than in my current duties as president of the Senate, this is the strongest group of leaders that I’ve ever witnessed in my life.
From Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, to our great Majority Whip Steve Scalise — stand up please — (applause) — to the Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and to Speaker Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House. (Applause.) Would you all mind getting on your feet and thanking these leaders of the House and Senate, and showing them just how much you appreciate the principled, courageous leadership they provide? (Applause.)
And I know the leaders will permit me, but I got to tell you, finishing up the year with passing the largest tax cut and tax reform in American history, there are two more people I want to thank. And if they’re here, I’d like them to stand. Chairman Orrin Hatch and Chairman Kevin Brady, thank you for your extraordinary leadership for America. (Applause.)
But I know I speak for everyone in the room, who raises their right hand and takes an oath of office, when I say that the people that have made the most difference and the people have made it possible for these leaders to lead. Karen and I know the sacrifices that families in public service make. And what’s special about a weekend like this is you get to have an opportunity to get families together.
So would the members mind getting on your feet and showing how much you appreciate the spouses who stand by you and make your service to America possible? (Applause.) To all the spouses and loved ones in the room, thank you. Thank you for the sacrifices that you make.
You know, it really is remarkable to think about everything we’ve accomplished in the last year. And I won’t recite the legislation to you, but I will tell you the results speak for themselves. It really is amazing. Because of what we’ve done — in rolling back red tape, and unleashing American energy, and cutting taxes for working families and businesses small and large — since Election Day, 2.4 million new jobs created across America. Unemployment at a 17-year-low. (Applause.) And more than $8 trillion in new wealth created on the stock market, enhancing the wealth of Americans and their pensions, their 401(k)s, and their retirement. The results speak for themselves. (Applause.)
We got a story to tell, men and women. And I hope as you gather at this retreat, you put into practice that old proverb that says that iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. And I hope you have the opportunity to reflect on your success but also think about the difference that it’s making in the lives of working Americans.
I was in — I made a stop in the area before I came over today. It was a little company called Worldwide Equipment. It’s a great trucking company, run by some great people. They got about 1,100 employees all over the country. And this was an employer during all of the years — they haul a lot of coal in this trucking — and during all the last eight years, during the midst of the war on coal, the leaders of that company just said we’re not going to lay anybody off. And they kept that promise during very difficult times. (Applause.)
But thanks to the policies you’ve been advancing, they gave me the opportunity to celebrate today. Worldwide Equipment just announced they’re investing $8 million back into their business. And thanks to the tax cut, they’ve already given a bonus to every single one of their 1,100 employees. (Applause.) Amazing.
I mean, businesses large and small have already committed to invest an extra $425 billion to expand, and innovate, and create new jobs all over America. And you all are watching the numbers. Three million Americans have already received a bonus in their paycheck thanks to the work that you all did in putting that tax cut on the President’s desk before Christmas. That’s incredible.
Now, I know the other side has got a different view of that sort of thing. I heard Nancy Pelosi — before the tax cut was voted on, Nancy Pelosi predicted economic “Armageddon.” Remember that one? Well, that wasn’t the worst of it.
It’s just amazing to me that after this tax cut passes, 3 million Americans get another thousand dollars in their pockets, in many cases. She actually described that as “crumbs.”
Now, let me just remind you all, I come from the Joseph A. Bank wing of the West Wing. (Laughter.) Okay, you with me on that? Okay. (Laughter.) Seriously, people stopped me and said, “Is that a new suit?” And I said, “Two for one.” (Applause.)
Okay, so if you’re going to say $1,000 is crumbs, you live in a different world than I live in.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Four suits!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I mean, I promise you. (Laughter.) I hadn’t done that math. No, I tell you, another thousand dollars — back when our kids were little, another thousand dollars in my pocket at the end of the year, I had a term for that: Christmas. (Applause.) Am I right? Or maybe a little something extra for Mrs. Pence under the tree. (Applause.) Or maybe a new refrigerator, a down payment on a car, or — this is big stuff.
I mean, the truth is, any leader in America that would say $1,000 in the pockets of working families is crumbs is out of touch with the American people. (Applause.)
We’ve got a story to tell. I mean, it’s not just about bonuses. It’s going to be, in just a few short days, about bigger paychecks all across this country — as President Trump directed the Internal Revenue Service to go ahead and produce those new schedules. And your constituents are going to get a paycheck, and it’s going to be bigger. It’s going to be bigger.
But we got to go out and we got to tell the story. Because I know that — look, I know that conventional wisdom holds that the upcoming midterms are going to be a challenge, right? But I think you all know what President Trump thinks about conventional wisdom. (Laughter.) Am I right?
I mean, the conventional wisdom said, in 2016, that Hillary Clinton was going to be elected President of the United States of America, right? I mean, the truth of the matter is, we made history in 2016, and we’re going to make history again in 2018 when we reelect Republican majorities in the House and Senate. (Applause.)
We got our work cut out for us, but we’ve got a story to tell. And last night, I want to tell you, I really believe President Trump laid out a blueprint for American success. And I encourage you to avail yourself of it.
Take a look at that State of the Union Address. The President talking about the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history; repealing the Obamacare individual mandate; defending our Second Amendment and religious liberty rights; standing with our veterans; restoring the credibility of American power in the world; rebuilding our military; securing our borders; confronting and defeating ISIS at its source so it can no longer threaten our people, our allies, or our way of life. (Applause.)
And the President laid out an agenda for the future as well. He laid out an agenda to rebuild America. You know, if you haven’t noticed yet, the American people elected a builder to be President of the United States of America. And he’s got big plans to work with each and every one of you to pass the kind of infrastructure legislation that is going to rebuild this country and make it possible for America to continue to grow and continue to prosper.
So there’s a blueprint there. And I know it works because, last night, I went home after the speech, and I turned on C-SPAN. Apparently, nobody else did. (Laughter.) But I like that part in C-SPAN where they do — they take telephone calls, right? You know what I’m talking about?
And they were taking the calls. And as soon as I turned on the television — this is absolutely true, Leader — as soon as I turned on the television, they said, “Let’s go to the Democrat line.” And a man on the other end said, “I’m from West Virginia.” (Applause.) I already told Shelley this story. (Laughter.) The man said, “I’m from West Virginia. I’m a lifelong Democrat.” He said, “I’m a disabled veteran.” And he said, “I just called here, on the Democrat line, to say that I agree with 100 percent of what President Trump just said in that speech.” (Applause.)
Men and women, the President laid out a blueprint for American success last night. And it’s about how we need to tell our story this year. And it’s about the progress we need to continue to make, not for our party, but for the American people, to continue to deliver for this country. So I encourage you to do it.
I mean, elections are about choices. And the truth of the matter is, I was in the Congress the last time the other side was in control. I mean, I remember how they tried to pass cap-and-trade, how they put — they gave us Dodd-Frank and the disastrous policies of Obamacare. I remember their decision to hollow out our military, and their belief that we could borrow and spend and bail our way back to a growing economy. Remember all that? And higher taxes all along the way.
The truth is, each one of you are working every single day, along with this President and this administration, to undo the damage they did in the time that they were in control. And we’ve made incredible progress, but we need to finish the job.
So I want to encourage each and every one of you, in the days ahead, to go tell the story to your constituents in your district and in your state. Go tell the story of what we’ve been able to accomplish, not for our party, but for the American people, and how determined each one of us are to continue to deliver the results that are going to result in an America more secure, an America more prosperous.
And as I said before and I’ll say as I close: President Trump and I are going to be with you every step of the way. He’ll be here tomorrow night, and I expect you’ll hear the same from him. We believe in these Republican majorities. We’ve worked shoulder-to-shoulder with these great leaders, and each and every one of you, to advance policies that are really turning this country around.
I mean, in a very real sense, America is back. And I’m not just talking about the progress here at home and the progress in jobs and the economy. But I can tell you, having traveled a bit around the world, even in recent weeks, I hear it around the world, from leaders around the world — they see it, once again, under President Donald Trump, America is once again leading on the world stage. And you’re supporting that and making that possible. (Applause.) So let’s go tell the story.
You know, as I close tonight, I just — I can only imagine what a challenging day today was for so many of you. I remember the experience — Karen and I were involved in an incident during the campaign, where our aircraft slid off the runway. Thankfully, there was no loss of life and no one injured. But I remember exiting the plane that night at the airport, and seeing the lights and the sirens, and I just — in speaking with so many of you today, I know what a troubling day it was.
But I want to encourage you tonight, as we gather together in this place — I want to encourage you to, as Speaker Ryan said a few minutes ago, to just have faith, to remember in these moments how precious life is, how precious is the privilege that each one of us has been given to serve this great nation.
And I encourage you to have faith. Have faith in the great men and women of this Republican majority in the House and Senate. Have faith in the boundless capacity of the American people. Have faith in that strong President they’ve elected for such a time as this in the life of this nation.
And I also tell you, from my heart, have faith in Him who I truly believe had His hand of protection around you and your families today, that He will yet bless America if we do all that we can to ensure, in our time, that this nation remains one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. (Applause.)
So, thank you. God bless you. And God bless your service to the people of the United States. And God bless America. (Applause.)
8:00 P.M. EST