Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the Updated Heroes Act
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 8406, an updated version of the Heroes Act, which addresses the needs that have developed since the House passed an earlier iteration and formalizes House Democrats’ proffer in negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Madam Chair, for yielding. Mr. Chair, thank you.
I'm honored to be on the Floor today to support a bill brought to the Floor by the distinguished Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Nita Lowey of New York. Her service on that Committee for decades has been a blessing to our country. I have seen firsthand her leadership for America's families, for our country, for our communities and for our children. We have worked together on women's issues, HIV/AIDS, you name it, every subject, minority health issues and the rest. And here we are today with this legislation that is so needed for our country.
And I don't – it's really hard to understand what it is that people would oppose in the legislation. The Appropriations Committee has done a masterful job. You have been a maestro, Madam Chair, as well as your staff for putting this legislation together.
And I’m in Congress because of children. I’m always here for the children. And I want to start my comments by saying what this legislation would mean to a family of four. In a family of four, this is a lifeline for workers and families who are facing this coronavirus disaster. For a family of four earning $24,000, Heroes 2 would mean direct payments, a $3,400 direct payment; unemployment benefits, $600 per week enhanced UI benefits; tax credits, up to $5,920 through the EITC and a fully refundable $4,000 [Child] Tax Credit, equaling additional $1,200 in refunds.
And I mention that, because some have said, ‘Well, why don't you do like this other bill?’ and that. None of that, that I just said, the tax credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit, fully refundable Child Tax Credit, none of that is in any of the Republican bills. None of the bills that you have seen, other than this bill, has that consideration for children. So, when people say, ‘Well, why don’t you take half a loaf?’ Because the children need more than the heel of a half of a loaf. They need the best we can do for them.
It has an increase in SNAP benefits for over a – an increase of $100 a month in most states, plus rental assistance and the ACA premium subsidy – this immediately gives immediate eligibility for parents losing their jobs the maximum health insurance premium subsidy under the ACA, the Affordable Care Act, a benefit worth $1,386 per month.
Now, we can't do everything in a bill that is corona-focused, coronavirus-focused. We have challenges in our country that we must address in a bigger way, but what we have here is coronavirus centric. And that is important to note because people are suffering in a different way. We have for this family – many of these families are food insecure. Millions of our children in our country are food insecure and this Heroes Act addresses some of that.
So, I want to, again, in addition to thanking Nita Lowey for her leadership, salute Bobby Scott for our children and for workers. We want our children to go back to school, we want them to do so in a way that is safe, and Bobby Scott has provisions in here for that. Whether it’s actually in school, whether it's virtual or whether it’s hybrid, whether it calls for the ventilation that is needed. And, again, for their fathers and mothers to go to work in a safe atmosphere by having strong OSHA language in to protect workers. That’s not in the Republican bill. That is not in the Republican bill.
And Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone – not only is – we can come to terms on money, but the language is what is important. And Frank Pallone, four and a half months ago, and even before that, proposed a strategic plan that I’m sure he will talk about and I thank him for, a strategic plan in order to crush the virus. Crush the virus. The Republicans want to crush the Affordable Care Act in the time of a pandemic, going into the Supreme Court to crush the Affordable Care Act. Why don't we just come together, crush the virus? We can open our economy and our schools in a safe way. And I thank you, Mr. Chairman Pallone for your leadership.
The Natural Resources Committee, Congressman, Chairman Raúl Grijalva, so important what he has in the legislation, especially addressing the needs of our tribal communities, which are so disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. And then – and I thank him for his leadership in that and some many other ways in the legislation, but that being such an essential peace.
The Oversight Committee, Carolyn Maloney for her leadership for the Postal Service and I think we’ve got the message across on the Postal Service, so hopefully we’ll get some cooperation there, but not yet on the Census. The Census, so important, the lifeblood of who we are, the DNA of America, the people, and we are having a problem with that. It's not even about money, it’s about policy. So, I thank her for her ongoing leadership, four years, culminating in this legislation now.
Small Business Chairwoman Velázquez. So, so knowledgeable. For decades – for a long time, decades, the Chair or Ranking Member of the Small Business Committee. She knows about women- and minority-owned businesses and how, as we – the most optimistic thing a person can do is to, I say, plant a flag for small business, with small businesses. How more optimistic can you be than to start a small business? Perhaps get married, but you kind of know what your risks are there.
But in small business, so needed, the help in here. The PPP and other help for hospitals, excuse me, for restaurants. Hospitals, Mr. Pallone's section of the bill and the language for the providers are there. But back to Nydia Velázquez. This is a big piece of the bill. So, what do we do for PPP? What do we do for restaurants? What do we do for arenas, small spaces around the country for entertainment and bringing people together, spatially distanced, of course. How do we balance all of this? That is language that we are trying to resolve in our negotiations. And I’m optimistic that we can get there, but we couldn't do the best job possible without the leadership of Nydia Velázquez.
And in the Veterans Affairs Committee, I thank Representative Takano for his work, for his work for our veterans and resources we have in the bill for our veterans.
And Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richie Neal just has been brilliant in how we put money in people's pockets, money in people's pockets, with the direct payments and some of the other tax provisions that I talked about earlier for children that have no reference even in the Republican bill, as far as the children are concerned. And, again, my top priority are the children.
And I want to thank Peter DeFazio, the Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, for his leadership in having the language in here, not just for the airlines, which is very, very important. And that is important because it’s an essential, it’s important. But people should know, when they say, ‘Well, why should we help airline employees?’ Well, we do because they have to have special certifications and special security clearances and the rest. So, if they lose a job, it's months before they can come back, not like any other industry. But Mr. DeFazio has an important chunk of money, a lot, in the bill for transportation writ large, and some other ways that is urgent and correct – coronavirus connected and that is very important as well. And I thank him for his leadership in that regard.
But read the bill. So much of it – and that's why I salute the chairs. This is about having scientific, institutional, academic basis for the amount of money that we are asking for. We had a bigger bill, $3.4 [trillion]. The other side said, ‘Well, we’re not going there.’ So, we came down a trillion dollars. ‘Nope, not yet.’ We came down another $200 billion, not violating any of our priorities, but by shortening the time, just shortening the time frame and moving the issues to the other arena that Madam Chair works in, and that is in our regular appropriations bills as we go forward.
So, this is really important. One bill is not as good as another. ‘Why not take something instead of nothing?’ Why should that be the standard for America's children? We have to fight for the best we can get to them and I feel certain we will have a level of success. But people have to know, people have to know.
One of the problems that I have, the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans on this issue, is in the Republican bill, they have $150 billion benefit for some of the wealthiest people in our country, $150 billion. In our bill, we strove to have $149 billion for our children, for the Earned Income Tax Credit, full refundability and the rest. ‘No.’ So we took it down to $54 billion and we’re still waiting to see if we get acceptance of that. $150 billion for the wealthiest people in America. Tax – net operating loss. $149 [billion] for America's working families, no. We took off $100 billion to gain agreement. This is not just a money debate and a language, it's a values debate. It is important for people to know what this fight is about.
So, it’s called the Heroes Act and it is called the Heroes Act because we are honoring our heroes. Everybody wants to wave and have cutouts at the game and all that. Honor our heroes by making sure they have their jobs. These are health care workers, our police and fire, first responders, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers, our transportation, our sanitation, our food workers and the rest who make our lives function. We couldn't do what we do without them doing what they’re doing.
Many of them are risking their lives, risking their lives to save lives and now they may lose their jobs. Because why? ‘Let the states go bankrupt.’ That's what Mitch McConnell said: ‘Let the states go bankrupt.’ And what the President said: ‘Well, those Blue states, why should we send them any money?’ Because the people have needs and we have to meet them. And the sooner – if – we lose all authority to thank them, if we say, ‘That's nice, but we don’t care if you lose your job. You can go on Unemployment Insurance.’ What have we accomplished? We have diminished the services to people, probably raised taxes in some of these places and people lose their jobs. Over a million to a million and a half of state and locals have lost their jobs already and it’s predicted that 3.5 million more if we don't act on this. So, this is an important pillar of this: supporting state and local governments. That’s one of the areas that we are, shall we say, negotiating
Next, crush the virus. Mr. Pallone has a plan: crush the virus so that we can again open our schools, our businesses, our economy. We’re long overdue. Well, this bill is four and a half months old because at the time we passed it, the Leader in the Senate, Mr. McConnell, pushed the ‘pause’ button. He pushed the ‘pause’ button: ‘We going to wait and see.’ And since that time, over 100,000 people have died, hundreds of thousands have become infected because he pushed the pause button and said, ‘Let the states go bankrupt.’
So, this is what we come here to do. To debate policy on how we think we can best meet the needs of the American people. And we think we can best meet the needs of the American people with the provisions in this bill. And I thought it was really important to formally put forth the work of our chairs, which is excellent, which meets the needs. Maxine, you heard from earlier, families on the verge of eviction, families on the verge of eviction get support, more people who can't pay their mortgages are helped in this legislation. And I thank Maxine for that, Chairwoman Waters for that, as well as her work on the restaurant legislation to help many more small businesses get help from on this legislation.
So, this is a tall order. People said, ‘We should have a skinny package.’ No, we don’t have a skinny problem. We have a massive problem. Now, you don't believe so much more in the role of government than we do. Let's come together, find our common ground. But let's not just say ‘Let the children pay the price because we want to have a bipartisan bill.’ No, we don't want the children to pay the price so we can have a bipartisan bill. We want to have a bipartisan bill that supports the children. I feel confident that we can do that. But we can't do that if we take the path of least resistance and say, ‘Let's do whatever they put forth.’ That's doing their bill. That's not doing the people's work.
So, again, over 200,000 people – we know 207,000 people have already died, more than seven million infected. More than a million people in the world have died. We, in this legislation – because of Ms. Lowey’s, Chairwoman Lowey's expertise – respect in the world, we have provisions in the bill that affects our relationship in terms of how we fight the COVID virus globally because none of us are safe, unless we make sure that all of us are safe.
So, I urge a yes vote on this legislation. It goes a long way to doing what we need to do. It sets an example. But as I say, we cut a lot out by just cutting the time on it. Pretty soon we will have to have legislation again. That will be probably next year and this legislation goes to early next year, rather than later next year. But the timing is really important to do it now. It's long overdue. It is what is – what this country needs.
And, again, I want to say thank you, thank you to our heroes. We thank you by making sure you have the job and the benefits and the rest that you have earned and not just giving you empty gratitude, but the gratitude of supporting you in the important roles that you play in our lives, with the assurance that you will have your job as you risk your life to save lives. And that your children will be able to go to school safely whether it is virtual, actual or hybrid and when they do that, they will do so in a way that you have enabled because education has some funds in here, but without state and local, the education function cannot be borne out to its fullest extent.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time. Again, I thank the distinguished Chairwoman and I have great excitement of our chairs that the quality of this legislation and the necessity that we come as close to it in the negotiation for the children.