THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m delighted you’re all here. I’m meeting with a group of labor and business leaders who — and this is one of those meetings I’ve been looking forward to.
And I know that we’re looking for this bipartisan effort to get this infrastructure bill passed. As you all know, and they share my belief that it’s both in the interest of business and labor to get this done.
I’ve been traveling the world lately and — back out where I used to spend a lot of time, in the G7 and meeting with the summits with the Russians, as well as NATO. And I tell you, the rest of the world is looking to see whether we can get something done. I’m not joking about that.
And — and it’s about — not about energy versus environment, it’s not about business versus labor; it’s all about, basically, a race to the future.
4:43 P.M. EDT
They’re not here to negotiate with one another. The good news is they’ve been here negotiating — not negotiating — supporting what we’re trying to get done on the infrastructure bill.
The single-biggest issue — I know you’ve travelled the world, all of you — and the fact is that they’re trying to figure out whether we’re so divided that we can’t get something done. And — but I’m convinced that they’re convinced now that we have an opportunity to make some real fundamental changes that generate growth in the future.
You know, the days used to be that we were in a position where the United States invested more money in research and development three, four decades ago than any nation in the world. Now we’re number eight. And it used to be that China was — was number nine, and now they’re number two.
This is about a race for the 21st century. And you know — and what we’re doing here is, in this race for the future, it’s about connecting Americans — all Americans, rural and urban — to high-speed Internet, repairing our roads and our bridges so that we can, in fact, no longer be ranked number 9 or 10 in terms of infrastructure in America. Back to what we used to be — we used to lead the world. You know, electrify our school buses and our transit systems. And we’re going to build national charging networks for electric vehicles; eliminate the nation’s lead service pipes. We got 400,000 home- —
I mean, there’s just a whole lot we can do that’s going to put a lot of people to work. And it’s going to improve the life of a lot of people. We’re going to update our power grid — which, as you saw what happened to Texas last year, there’s a lot we can do. It’s going to generate — and, Lonnie, your (inaudible) is going be awful busy, and —
MR. STEPHENSON: We’re ready. THE PRESIDENT: And we’re going — we have to win the comp- — we really do. This is not hyperbole. We have to win the competition for the 21st century. That’s really what’s at stake, and I think you all know that. And that’s what the Bipartisan Infrastructure does, in my view.
Q Mr. President, what conversations have you had with public health officials about possibly changing the mask mandate for vaccinated Americans? THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’ll respond to the COVID question quickly.
So, thank you all, folks, for being here. We’re going to now get down to business. I want to thank everyone here for supporting it. We’re going to get into the details, among all of us, about what we think about what needs to be improved, what can be made better or worse. You know, so, we want everybody to be engaged.