Remarks Prior to a Cabinet Meeting
Before I begin the Cabinet meeting today, I wanted to give you an update on Ukraine. We continue to impose very severe——
[At this point, a chandelier rattled overhead.]
[Laughter] Well, at least it's in the middle. It will drop in the middle. [Laughter] I shouldn't be—the severe economic sanctions on Putin and all those folks around him, choking off access to technology as well as cutting off access to the global financial system. It's had a profound impact already.
And the goal was to maximize the impact on Putin and Russia and to minimize the harm on us and our allies and friends around the world. Our interest is in maintaining the strongest unified economic impact campaign that—on Putin in all of history, and I think we're well on the way to doing that.
In the State of the Union Address, I announced that the Department of Justice is going after the crimes of Russian oligarchs—the Attorney General spoke to that earlier—and who line their pockets with Russian people's money and—while Ukraine and the people are hiding in subways from missiles that are being fired indiscriminately in Russian cities.
Today I'm announcing that we're adding dozens of names to the list, including one of Russia's wealthiest billionaires. And I'm banning travel to America by more than 50 Russian oligarchs, their families, and their close associates.
And we're going to continue to support the Ukrainian people with direct assistance. I had a meeting this morning with the quartet down in Southeast Asia, including India and Japan. And we're going to continue to support the people with direct assistance.
And on Tuesday night at the Capitol, we saw America united in support of Ukraine and in our work to hold Putin accountable.
And now, to today's meeting, we're going to discuss how we're going to keep the economy growing by bringing costs down for the American people as well as—we know that people are feeling the pinch, and we're going to do everything we can to make everyday things more accessible and more affordable for the American people.
And we're also going to discuss the unity agenda I announced, and there was broad bipartisan agreement: trying to end the opioid epidemic, ending cancer as we know it, providing support for veterans, and mental health, especially for children. The response—as you all know, because I read your polls—have been overwhelming on all four of those issues and—because they're of great concern to the American people.
And today I have progress to announce on two of them. Just this morning the House passed a bill to provide health care to veterans suffering from toxic exposure, like burn pits. And 34 Republicans joined with Democrats to make bipartisan project—bipartisan progress on this project and keeping our sacred obligation to—we have to veterans who, when we send to war and they come home, we care for them.
And when it comes to the mental health of our children, today I'm instructing the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services to develop initial guidance to schools that will help them provide mental health support for students in our schools. And this is going to include enabling schools to use Medicaid funds to deliver those important services.
And because, to me, the State of the Union was more than a speech to me, it was a action plan, an action plan to lower costs, to address our critical needs. And it's for the American people, because they're confused out there, understandably. The world is changing so rapidly.
And we have a lot to cover in this meeting today, but—I am going to invite my friends in the press to depart in a minute. But the bottom line is: I meant what I said when I said I'm optimistic. I'm optimistic if we are—if we use the kind of ability to unite the country, I think, that exists and I think we saw at the State of the Union, I don't think there's anything we can't do. I really don't.
And we are at one of those inflection points in world history where we have an opportunity. If we act swiftly and we act with courage, we can change the dynamic the world is moving toward. If we don't, we're going to be in real trouble.
And I am—but I think it presents an opportunity, as well as a problem. Like I said, my mother used to always say, "Out of everything bad, something good if you look hard enough for it." And we're looking hard, and I think we found some answers.
So, any rate, thank you all for being here, and we're going to get on with the meeting.
NOTE: The President spoke at 2:10 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia; and Alisher Burhanovich Usmanov, founder, USM Holdings, one of numerous Russian citizens and entities targeted by economic sanctions announced by the Department of the Treasury and Department of State on March 3; and fellow Quadrilateral Security Dialogue leaders, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan. He also referred to H.R. 3967.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks Prior to a Cabinet Meeting Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/354710