12:45 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. And buenas tardes a todos. It's wonderful to be with you all. You know, the last time I addressed the Latino Coalition I promised myself I wouldn't come back until I learned some Spanish. (Laughter.) That was six years ago, and as you can tell, I'm a slow learner.
All kidding aside, would you join me in just thanking your great chairman, Hector Barreto, for that wonderful speech and the overly gracious introduction? (Applause.) Hector, thank you for your continued leadership of the Latino Coalition, as well as your years in public service.
His record as head of the Small Business Administration was one of distinction. And I know our current Administrator of the Small Business Administration would strongly agree. I know Linda McMahon is with us today. Would you give her another big round of applause? (Applause.) Linda, could you stand and take a bow? We couldn't be more excited, the President and I, about our new leader of the SBA. (Applause.) You can give her a standing ovation if you want. I don't want to hold back on that. You can get on your feet. (Applause.) Linda McMahon, everybody. (Applause.) You know, our nation is really fortunate.
I just love that Reagan line — didn’t you like that? I love it when I come across a new Reagan line. The difference between a small business and a big business is big government. Get government out of the way. And it's just wonderful to have someone of Linda’s caliber and experience, someone who built an incredible career — incredible career and an incredible business as a small family business into an international business, being able to lead the SBA. So thank you, thank you so much, Linda, for stepping up to serve the country.
It is a great privilege, great privilege to be back to the Latino Coalition once again. The last time I was here I was a congressman from the great state of Indiana. And today, I am deeply humbled to stand before you today as Vice President of the United States of America. (Applause.) The reason I'm in this position is because of the confidence of my friend, the 45th President of the United States of America, and because of the support of people like you all across this country.
And I want to tell you that I bring greetings from the President. Just before I left the Oval Office I told him I was headed your way, and he was pleased to hear about it. And I told him I was headed to a conference entitled: “Make Small Business Great Again Policy Summit,” and he was very pleased. (Applause.)
I think the President wants you to know that our administration, simply put — and Linda will back me up on this
— the Trump administration will be the best friend American small businesses will ever have. (Applause.) The President and I know what our whole team knows, is that small businesses are the engines of the American economy. As President Trump said in his joint address to Congress last week — did everybody see that speech? He said we're going to restart the engine to create jobs and prosperity and growth in America like never before. And it's already begun.
You know, I grew up in a small business family in a small town in southern Indiana. I went to work at one of my dad’s gas stations when I was only 14 years of age. Had a dark blue shirt with a stripe on it, had my name on it. I was really proud of myself. Now, for those of you under the age of 30, if you're wondering what a gas station attendant was — (laughter) — just imagine if when you pulled into a gas station, some young person ran out with a name on their shirt, pumped your gas, cleaned your windshield, checked your tires, and didn’t charge you any more money for it. It was a great job, a great experience.
But I grew up in a family business so I know the sacrifices all of you make. And as the world knows, President Trump also grew up in a family business as well. It was a little bit bigger than my dad’s. By the end of the day, it's the same principle.
I was just in a meeting yesterday with the President in the Cabinet Room, and we were talking about infrastructure with leaders. And an old friend of his said that he and the President had grown up the same way. He said, come Saturday mornings, even when we were very young, the time that we spent with our dad was we were out on a job site. And that's what it is to be in a small business family.
I told him afterwards, I said, you know, for me, it was headed to the plant or headed to the gas station with my dad. And I know the small businesses that are gathered here know where of I speak. And I just want to assure you that President Trump and I both know the sacrifices that are required to make a small business work. And most importantly, we know this: When small business is strong the American economy is strong. And we're going to fight every day to make that a reality. (Applause.)
Now, the Latino Coalition knows this truth — this statement better than most. Businesses represented in this room have made an incredible impact not just in the lives of your employees, but in your communities, and frankly, in the nation as a whole. The fact is that Hispanics are driving entrepreneurship and economic growth like never before — just like Hector said. The number of Latino-owned businesses grew by more than 50 percent over the past decade — leaps and bounds over every other American demographic. (Applause.)
And Hispanic firms have also been hiring at a record pace. This was clear just yesterday — I don't know if you all saw that news. It's just amazing. We had the most jobs created in a single month in over three years — the February reports 298,000 jobs. (Applause.) And Hispanic businesses were a part of that success.
It's incredible to think that today Hispanics own an amazing 4 million American companies, and their combined annual revenue is over $650 billion. It might be a small business, but that's big business where I come from. And Latino-owned small businesses continue to be the fastest growing sector of the entire economy.
Now, let me pause for just a second here, if I can — it is Women’s History Month. Could we give a round of applause to all the Latina small business owners who are with us today who are charting a great, great force of success in the American economy? (Applause.) Incredible leadership demonstrated, and it's great to see your peers all honor you. I know the President honors you as well in this important month of celebration.
Before I move on, let me just ask — could I ask all of those who’ve worn the uniform in the United States of America to rise — the men and women who have served their country in uniform. (Applause.) The President and I just never want to fail to acknowledge the contributions of every American through our armed forces. It's amazing that the contribution of the Hispanic community in America continues to this day — over 250,000 Hispanics are serving in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, the Coast Guard, and the Reserves at this very moment.
I know we asked them to stand, but will the rest of you mind standing to demonstrate just how proud we are of those who serve in the armed forces in the United States and those who have served in the defense of this nation? (Applause.) Thank you for your service. And thank you for honoring all of them.
You know, you can't look at these numbers that we're all talking about and not be impressed. You get right down to it, the Hispanic community is one of the most dynamic communities in the entire country. Your success is America’s success, and President Trump and I both know it. The President has held at least a dozen key meetings with the Latino community, especially small business owners, in the build-up of the November 8th election. He did this because he recognizes just how crucial you are to the American economy. And as a businessman himself, he knows what it takes to be successful in a tough and a competitive environment.
He promised in those meetings, and I reiterate today, to give you the help you need to become even more successful in the years ahead. All my friends — I like to say, if you haven't noticed, that the White House these days, we're in the promise-keeping business again in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
It's been incredibly exciting since literally — I'd like to say day one, but it was actually night one. We came in from that parade, and the President sat down at his desk and went right to work and hadn't slowed down for a minute since. Literally, from that very first day, President Trump went right to work, undoing job-destroying policies and executive orders over the last eight years. After years of delay, for instance, the President signed his executive order to authorize the construction of the Keystone and Dakota pipelines that will create tens of thousands of jobs and support our energy infrastructure. (Applause.)
He’s already signed several bills that Congress has provided, rolling back reams of red tape in Washington, D.C. And he signed an executive order instructing every agency in our nation’s capital to find two regulations to get rid of before they issue any new regulations on Americans and American businesses. (Applause.)
So it is an especially big deal for small business. And, folks, we're just getting started, I can promise you that. By now, all of you know that President Trump and our administration has the boldest and best agenda America has seen for a very long time. And what I can tell you now is that on the very top of that list, I can promise you, the Obamacare nightmare is about to come to an end. (Applause.)
Now, I don't have to tell small business owners gathered here today about why this failed law has got to go. In the last few years it's been hard enough for hardworking Americans in small businesses to get ahead, and frankly, Obamacare has only made it more difficult to grow a business and make ends meet. Millions of Americans have felt Obamacare’s disappointments firsthand. Today the average American is paying $3,000 more a year for health insurance. And the premiums just last year alone, the average premiums across the country spiked by more than 25 percent.
I mean, I remember — I was in the Congress at the time when we fought against this government takeover of health care that came to be known as Obamacare. And I remember they told us that it was all about lowering the cost of health insurance. But think about that. The premiums have gone up — like I got to tell you all anything — the premiums have gone up 100 percent in some jurisdictions since this bill was signed into law. And last year alone, that average of 25 percent increase has really worked hardships on Americans.
In one-third of our nations’ counties, consumers have only one insurance company to choose from, which essentially means they have no choice at all. And American businesses have been struggling, too. I'm sure everyone in this room can attest to the fact that Obamacare has hit you with more regulations, more mandates, higher costs, higher taxes.
The fact is Obamacare has placed a crushing burden on job creators, just like all of you in this room today. It's resulted in lost jobs, slower growth in an economy that until very recently seemed to be stuck in up to the axle.
Now, I hear the same thing everywhere I go: Small businesses tell me that Obamacare places a weight on them that grows each and every year. They’re facing hard choices — choices businesses shouldn’t have to make. They felt for the longest time that there’s nothing they can do about it. And then along came President Donald Trump. And now the American people know there is something we can do, and President Trump is determined to work with this Congress and we will repeal and replace Obamacare at last with something that actually works. (Applause.)
See, literally, the day after the election — and it's kind of funny — people say, did you go right to work after Election Night? And I don't remember a night. I remember the President was able to give that victory speech about 4:00 in the morning, we got about two hours’ sleep, he said, I'll see you in the office at 8:30 a.m. And we were there. One of the first decisions the President made was that the number-one priority in the Congress when they would convene is to repeal and replace Obamacare and do it at the same time.
And we worked with leaders in the Congress in the intervening months to go to work on that. We've made incredible progress. Now, this week, the House released its repeal and replace bill to begin that process, and as the legislative process begins, the President and I are proud to lead the charge. Our plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, in a word, is going to keep the promises that we all made with the American people from the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate and all of this administration and this campaign. We're going to repeal Obamacare’s individual mandates and employer mandates. We're actually going to get rid of over $500 billion in tax increases when Obamacare goes away. (Applause.)
We're going to roll back reams of regulations that are strangling businesses and our economy. And we're going to expand the use of health savings account and create a new, refundable tax credit that will help low- and middle-income consumers the most. We're going to make sure that Americans with preexisting conditions still have access to the coverage and the care that they need. And we're even going to let you parents out there keep your kids on your plan until they’re 26 years of age.
And last but not least, we're going to give states the freedom and flexibility that they have longed for, for so long, to design their Medicaid program in you state to best meet the needs of our most vulnerable population. State resources, state flexibility will bring about the kind of health care to the underprivileged that we have long sought and deserve. (Applause.)
Our plan to repeal and replace Obamacare will do what Obamacare can't, and that is actually give the American people access to affordable, high-quality health insurance. And that's what President Trump promised, and that's what our plan will deliver.
Now, let me say, despite some of the fear-mongering that you’ve seen among some activists on the left, we're going to have an orderly transition to a better health care system. And we're working with the Congress right now to ensure that as we move into a system that's based on free market principles and state-based flexibility, that that system will work and be unfolding in an orderly way for your enterprises in a predictable way.
But passing the legislation that's moving through the Congress now is just the first component of a larger strategy to repeal and replace Obamacare. Rest assured this bill in the Congress is a beginning. Our administration is also working right now with the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, and taking every available action to give Americans increased choices and the lower cost that they deserve in purchasing health insurance. The name of the game is deregulation.
And last but not least, we're going to work with the Congress and work with HHS to make the best health care system in the world even better — with legal reforms, small business reforms, and ultimately, at the centerpiece of the President’s vision, we're going to enact policies administratively and through legislation that will give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across state lines — just the way you buy life insurance, just the way you buy car insurance. (Applause.)
The creation of a national marketplace is the center of the President’s vision. And we're working now through administrative policy and through the legislative process that will go forward to this spring to accomplish that.
In fine print, I like to say what we need to do is get that little lizard on television, or get Flo out there selling health insurance. (Laughter.) Am I right about that? (Applause.) It's just the whole idea that you all know in a competitive marketplace — you all are successful in business — the way you lower costs is not by growing government; it's by increasing competition, allowing Americans to participate in association health plans, allowing Americans to purchase health insurance nationwide.
The President’s vision for health care I truly do believe is — it represents the best of this country. It's unleashing the full power of the marketplace. And with your help and with your support, we're well on our way to a better health care future for every American. (Applause.) It will benefit everybody in this room. It will benefit the country as a whole.
But so will the rest of our agenda, for that matter. So let me talk on that before I take my leave and head back to Capitol Hill to talk to a few members of Congress. We're going to get this economy moving again after we repeal and replace Obamacare. We're going to cut taxes across the board for working families, small businesses and family farms. (Applause.) I promise you we're going to keep rolling back red tape, slashing all the job-killing regulations. We're going to rein in unelected bureaucrats so they can't cripple the economy from the comfort of their taxpayer-funded metal desk. (Applause.)
We're going to keep rolling back — we're going to roll back Dodd-Frank so small businesses like yours have access to capital, access to the best financial system in the world. You got to be able to borrow to grow in small business America. (Applause.)
And we're going to pass an infrastructure package so that Americans have the best roads, the best bridges, the best highways and airports, and the best future that we could ever imagine.
And we're going to stand up for real education reform. The President is absolutely committed to ensuring that every American parent have the freedom to send their children to the school of their choice — public, private, parochial, charter, or home — regardless of income or area code. (Applause.)
I know how much that last issue particularly means to the Hispanic community. And rest assured, with the leadership of our new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, we're going to work with members of Congress to make historic strides so that every child in America has access to a world-class education.
We're going to do all this and more, so that everyone can climb the ladder of opportunity in the days ahead. And when the President said we're going to make America great again, he meant it. And President Trump is a man of his word.
But America’s greatness isn't simply about policy. Ultimately the strength of this country comes from our people. And as I close, let me say I count one of the greatest blessings of my life is just simply to be an American. (Applause.) All of us, with very few exceptions, are descended from those who came here to this country, came here looking for a brighter future. Some were brought here involuntarily. Our Native American brothers and sisters were here when we arrived. But America, from our nation’s founding, emerged as a land of opportunity in a merit-based society. And the truth of the matter is that it's precisely that vision of America, that merit-based society, that all of you personify. And it's been a truth, literally, a truth since our nation’s birth. And as we've strived every day to a more perfect union, we continue to live out that aspiration and that vision.
In his joint address to the Congress just last week, the President made a couple more promises. He promised to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States; to strengthen our nation’s security and, in his words, to respect — to restore and respect, rather, the laws of this country. Now, that includes the important work that's before us today — securing our borders, upholding our laws. And make no mistake about it, as we do that, the President has placed a priority — as we move through these issues, the top priority, in his words, is removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threated our communities and prey on our citizens. And that will be this administration’s focus for every community. (Applause.)
The President and I believe that a system based on the rule of law will benefit every American, including our Hispanic Americans. Every community from coast to coast will benefit from upholding our laws and expanding our economy. As President Trump said to Congress, and I quote — “Real and positive immigration reform is possible.” And I can assure everyone here that as that debate goes forward, we will, as the President promised, show great heart every step of the way. (Applause.)
Now, for my part, I take all this very personally. You see, as I said last time I was here at this Coalition meeting, I'm actually the grandson of an immigrant. So is the President. The story in my family was that nearly a century ago, my great-grandmother walked my grandfather out of that two-room house they lived in, in northwestern Ireland, walked up the hill across from their home where I've stood, and looked out at the Ox Mountains, and looked to the west. And she told him she was going to get him a one-way ticket to America because, she said, there’s a future there for you.
Richard Michael Cawley actually stepped ashore on Ellis Island as a young man on April 11, 1923. And that's how Michael Richard Pence grew up to be Vice President of the United States of America. (Applause.) That young man made his way to Chicago. He drove a bus for 40 years, and he was the proudest man I ever knew, and the best man I ever knew.
On Inauguration Day, I'll be honest with you, I had him on my heart and on my mind. And as I sat on that stage, as I raised my right hand, I actually couldn't imagine what that Irishman was thinking, looking down from glory. Except two thoughts. I'm sure he was very surprised. (Laughter.) Because he knew me well. The other thing I have to think he had to conclude is that he was right, his mother was right — was right about America. It is the land of opportunity. It's the place where dreams come true.
It's what each of you proves each and every single day. If you work hard, play by the rules, look after your family, you look after your neighbors, and you keep working hard, anybody can be anybody in America. And I just promise you, this grandson of that immigrant, and the grandson of an immigrant that I work for, I'm going to work with each and every one of you to keep the American Dream alive and to renew it and make it greater than it's ever been before. (Applause.)
And really what I've laid out today is President Trump’s vision and his plan to make America great again and really renew the American Dream. We have our work cut out for us, and I'm confident that with your help and with God’s help, and with President Donald Trump in the White House, America’s best days are yet to come. Let’s get to work.
Thanks, everybody. (Applause.) God bless you, and God bless the United States. (Applause.)