1:08 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, this is my 17th meeting with my Cabinet; the first one in a second term. And, obviously, we’ve got some familiar faces, we have some new faces, we have some familiar faces in new positions. I want to make sure that I say thank you to all of you for the work that you’ve already done and the work that you’re going to be doing.
I want to welcome Jack Lew, former Chief of Staff and OMB Director, and now Secretary of the Treasury. We’re thrilled to have him in that position. I want to welcome Mr. Chuck Hagel, who’s in the position of Secretary of Defense. And to all of you, I appreciate everything that you’ve done.
Obviously, we’re going to be spending some time talking about the potential impact of the sequester on all the agencies and missions across the board. It is an area of deep concern and I think everybody knows where I stand on this issue. We are going to manage it as best we can, try to minimize the impacts on American families, but it’s not the right way for us to go about deficit reduction.
It makes sense for us to take a balanced approach that takes a long view and doesn’t reduce our commitment to things like education and basic research that will help us grow over the long term. And so I will continue to seek out partners on the other side of the aisle so that we can create the kind of balanced approach of spending cuts, revenues, entitlement reform that everybody knows is the right way to do things.
In the meantime, we’re going to do our best to make sure that our agencies have the support they need to try to make some very difficult decisions, understanding that there are going to be families and communities that are hurt, and that this will slow our growth. It will mean lower employment in the United States than otherwise would have been.
But we can manage through it, and we’re going to rely on the outstanding leadership of all these agencies to make sure that we do whatever it is that we need to get done to help America’s families.
Now, my agenda obviously is broader than just the sequester, because I laid out both in the inauguration and during the State of the Union a very robust agenda to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to grow this economy and to help families thrive and expand their opportunities. We want to make sure we’ve got a growing middle class and more ladders of opportunity into the middle class.
So in addition to talking about budget issues, we’re also going to spend some time talking about making sure that we have comprehensive immigration reform done. And I want to again thank members of Congress who on a bipartisan basis are moving forward on that agenda. We’re going to have the opportunity to talk about initiatives like early childhood education that can have an enormous impact on our kids and, ultimately, our growth and productivity. We’ll have a chance to hear from Joe and other members of the Cabinet about progress in reducing gun violence in this country.
So one of the things that I’ve instructed not just my White House but every agency is to make sure that, regardless of some of the challenges that they may face because of sequestration, we’re not going to stop working on behalf of the American people to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to continue to grow this economy and improve people’s prospects.
Thank you very much, everybody.
1:12 P.M. EST