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Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Labor Leaders To Discuss Economic Stimulus and Pandemic Relief Legislation and an Exchange With Reporters

February 17, 2021

The President. Everybody, come on in. Don't get hurt.

Every once in a while, as President, you get to invite close friends into the Oval. [Laughter] I was kidding these guys before.

This is American labor. And I said from the beginning of my campaign, throughout my whole career: The middle class built this country, and labor built the middle class. And I think we have an incredible opportunity to make some enormous progress in creating jobs—good-paying jobs, Davis-Bacon, prevailing wage jobs—to rebuild the infrastructure of this country in a way that everybody knows has to be done.

I promised these—and a lot of these folks have been my friends for a long, long, long time. As they say in parts of my State, "These are the folks that brung me to the dance." And I appreciate their friendship.

And as I said—when some of you were in here when I was with the business community, I said I want to make it clear I'm a labor guy, and there's no reason why it's inconsistent with business growing either.

So what we're doing here today, we're—I asked them to come in—we want to talk about the recovery act we have here that we're trying to pass—and I think it's going to get done—and building infrastructure in this country.

We are so far behind the curve. We rank something like 38th in the world in terms of our infrastructure—everything from canals to highways to airports to—everything we can do, and we need to do, to make ourselves competitive in the 21st century.

And so the Vice President and I are looking forward to this meeting, and we're going to have a good conversation. And I think, you know, American workers and the whole economy is going to grow in a way that we haven't seen it grow in a long time. This is the time for us to move.

So, at any rate, I'll let you know. We're going to have a long conversation here. I don't know how long, but we're going to have a conversation as long as they're willing to put up with me, and talk about how we're going to get this done.

So thank you all for coming in.

Economic Stimulus and Pandemic Relief Legislation

Q. Mr. President, what did you learn from Americans last night about what they want in this plan?

The President. I learned, based on the polling data, they want everything that's in the plan. Not a joke. Everything that's in the plan. I—the fact is that I'd like to—I asked a rhetorical question: Those who oppose the plan, what don't they like? What particular program don't they like? Don't they want to help people with nutrition? Don't they want to help people be able to pay their mortgages? Don't they want to help people get their unemployment insurance? Don't they want to make sure that people are able to stay in their homes without being thrown out of their homes in the middle of this god-awful pandemic? What don't they like? And—but the truth of the matter is, the polling data from last night, and all the polls you've all done—they come from you guys; not you personally, but your networks and your organizations—show that somewhere between 64 and 69 percent of the American people think we have to do this. And it's not about the money; it's about in order to do everything from open schools, as we should, to make sure that we're generating income for people who are in real trouble. It's about how much it costs. The Federal Government has to chip in, make sure we get this done.

And as I said, almost every major economist in the country, and International Monetary Fund as well, says it's going to grow the economy. And that's what we're talking about here. We're going to talk about how we grow the economy.

So thank you all for coming. Appreciate it. Appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel

Q. Anything about Netanyahu?

The President. A good conversation.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:06 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Labor Leaders To Discuss Economic Stimulus and Pandemic Relief Legislation and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/348041

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