Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference Following House Passage of the Build Back Better Act
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Members of House Democratic Leadership for a press conference following House Democrats’ historic passage of H.R. 5376, the Build Back Better Act. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning, everyone. And a good morning it is. Today, we have the honor of participating in passing legislation For The People to Build Back Better – as I always say – With Women, For The Children.
This occasion would not have been possible without the vision of our great president, President Biden. He has said that the infrastructure bill was very, very important, and we agree. But, it was not the sum total of his vision for how we do Build – and Building Back Better meant building back with many more people participating, with environmental justice, with home health care, the list goes on and on.
One thing I'm particularly excited about is family medical leave, and that is a fight that we are – have always been engaged in for a long time. Steny and I and Clyburn, we were here when family and medical leave passed unfunded, and now we have it funded.
So, for these and other reasons – as Mr. Hoyer said at the beginning of his remarks, we'll be telling our children and grandchildren that we were here this day. You were reminding me of St. Crispin's Day Speech when you were saying that. And Mr. Clyburn – our distinguished Whip, Mr. Clyburn, talked about the three legs of the stool: the Rescue package, the BIF, and now this bill being the infrastructure of our future. And, of course, our Distinguished Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, who held down the fort for such a long time. For a long time, but including last night, Mr. Neal, quoting Daniel Webster and our responsibility to act.
So, for us, it's about – not just about legislation. It's about values, and the values that this legislation represents, For The People. With that, I’m pleased to yield to the distinguished Majority Leader, Mr. Hoyer.
Thank you very much. Let me just say that – you've heard me say it again and again – all this would not be possible without the great work of our Committees, Members of the Committees and staffs of the Committees and our distinguished Chairs. Three of them are with us, in terms of the substance of the legislation: Mr. Neal of Ways and Means, Mr. Pallone of Energy and Commerce and Mr. Scott – I should say Chairman, Chairman, Chairman – of Education and Labor.
But, the person who facilitated this for us, again and again, was the Chairman of the Rules Committee, Mr. McGovern. Thank you, Mr. McGovern for bringing us to the Floor again and again. And yesterday, in record time – however, good thing that that happened. And then, I'm honored to be here also with our Leadership.
This is legislation that creates millions of good-paying jobs, gives tax cuts to the middle class, lowers costs, especially health care cost and child care costs for the middle class and is paid for 100 percent.
And, again, we're very excited about what it does For The Children, for the families. And it's – again, if you're a mom, a dad, a family, a family caregiver or the rest, this bill is for you. If you care about the planet and how we pass it on to our children, this bill’s for you. Whether it's about right now, their health and their health and well-being. Whether it's good paying jobs for their family and green technology, good union jobs. If it's the security of our country by preventing and hoping to mitigate for conflicts that come from conflict over resources and habitat – it's a national security issue. And, of course, a moral issue to pass the planet on, in good shape, to future generations.
So, with that, I'm honored to be here with them and with Members of our Leadership. Mr. Aguilar – I know the distinguished Chairman, Mr. Jeffries, had a plane – thank you, Mr. Aguilar. How many hours were you in the chair last night?
Speaker Pelosi. Too many, but very well. Excuse me. And then distinguished Chair of the DCCC, Mr. Maloney. And here we are.
So, I know our distinguished Chairs will want to take all of your difficult policy questions. But why don't we begin?
Q: Madam Speaker, I want to ask you, after this week, obviously, this is a momentous moment for the Democratic Party. But you also had to deal with the censure vote this week. You had to deal last night with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, his eight and a half hour speech. What do you feel like the tone and tenor of the House of Representatives is at this moment? And what can be done to try to bridge some of those gaps in trust?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say that I don't specifically agree with your first sentence saying, ‘a great day for the Democratic Party.’ Maybe it is, but it's a great day for our country. And that's why we are so thrilled about it. It's For The People. It should be bipartisan. It should be bipartisan. The fact that they would rather give tax cuts of the richest people, that 83 percent of the benefits going to the top one percent without any pay-for is a stark difference between what we do in this legislation. And I didn't even pay attention to his speech. I don't even listen to most of the speeches on the other side, because they're not fraught with meaning or fact. So, I don't have my computer get bothered with that.
But the fact is, is that the censure – they could improve their behavior. They don't have to threaten to kill Members of Congress or threaten the life of the President of the United States. So, you say, what can we do to bring people together? Well, we can encourage everyone to honor the Rule XXIII of the House, which is that you must bring credit to the House of Representatives.
But with that, I'm going to yield to my colleagues for any questions – answers they may have on the subject of your question. Mr. Neal?
Chairman Neal. I never thought quoting Daniel Webster would have received such a reaction from the Republican Leader last night. That seemed to be the theme that he repeatedly came back to. But if I could just emphasize just quickly: paid family leave, middle class tax cuts, the Child [Tax] Credit, ACA premium credits with lower health care costs, negotiated drug prices and we expand ACA. And with that, signing the President – the President’s signature on the infrastructure bill. This is quite a week for the American family.
Speaker Pelosi. Question?
Q: How do you respond to Republicans today that say Democrats lied to the American public when they said this plan costs $0, when the CBO says it at least adds $160 billion to the debt?
Speaker Pelosi. Let's just not present what the Republicans say as any fact that you're predicating a question on. I mean, understand what's happening around here, okay?
Mr. Neal? Because you know these figures.
Chairman Neal. So, they hang their hats on the issue of the IRS. We believe, according to the IRS Commissioner – a Republican appointed by the former President – who said, by the way, that there could be up to a trillion dollars that's hanging out there. He said that. We didn't say it. We'd subscribe to the $400 billion mark, which not only that Commissioner but the former commissioners have all subscribed to as well, in investment in software, for better modeling at the IRS and investment in allowing auditors to upgrade their own skills. Your chances of being audited over the EITC are now greater than your chances of being audited if you're paid in dividends and capital gains.
And, the last point, this is really important. If you are a working American – because of withholding taxes – we have north of 95 percent compliance in America. We should be proud of that. That means that people who get paid week to week with wages, they pay their share. The problem is in the upper echelons of the American economy. Now, Republican IRS commissioners and Democratic IRS commissioners, they all agree on that principle.
Speaker Pelosi. And, in the – in the legislation, they charge for the investment in training the IRS and hiring more people, but they don't weigh in the upside of what you get from that, in terms of increased collection of taxes. And also, it's a deterrent because people will know that now there are more people looking at the tax returns at that high end with their high price lawyers. As the Chairman said very clearly, you're more likely to be investigated if you're, about an EITC, said but – Earned Income Tax Credit. These are low-income people in our country – don't have high price lawyers or phalanxes of them. And they get more audit than the wealthiest. Next question.
Q: Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker. This was a huge vote today, but it won’t be the last vote.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: Are you confident you can keep the momentum going to actually get the final version of this bill to the President's desk?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, but I'm gonna yield to some of my colleagues on that. And I'll close with that as well, because this is huge. It is – 90-some percent of the bill was written together. House, Senate, White House. There was some differences at the end, and we'll deal with those as we go forward. What will happen, is the – we have different committee system in the House than they do in the Senate. So this bill will now be reshaped to their committees. And at that point, we'll see what – where we need to, shall we say, reconcile our differences. But at the end of the day, we will have a great bill.
Mr. Pallone, would you like to speak to that?
Chairman Pallone. Yeah, I mean, look: the fact of the matter is that over the last few months, and particularly in the last few weeks, we have been working with the Senators. Not only Manchin and Sinema, but also with the Chairs of the Committees in the Senate. So, you know, I'll use two examples. One is on the drug pricing, right? You know, we've, we've been basically drilling down and, and, and getting Sinema’s input, getting the – Schumer's input. And so, I do believe that the drug pricing provision that you see, is it. I mean, I don't know, I guess there could be some changes, but I don't think they're significant. And, the fact that we have negotiated pricings and we have savings as the CBO showed, it means that this is, this is a provision that saves money, and at the same time does a lot in terms of affordability for seniors and others.
The same would be true for methane, right? Nancy and I and the group went to Glasgow for the climate conference – and they were touting international action on methane. So, we have this very important provision with regard to methane emissions that was worked on with the Senators and was also worked on with House Members over the last few weeks. So, I believe, you know, just using those two as an example, that this is pretty much it. I mean, there may be some additional changes, but you know, in terms of, of, of paying for it, you know, and in terms of the actual substantive authorizing language, I think we're, you know, pretty solid at this point. And there's no reason why this bill couldn't, you know, pretty much come back from the Senate with some minor changes. Nothing major, in my opinion.
Chairman Scott. Thank you. On the education, labor parts, we have pretty much agreed with our counterparts in the Senate. Child care, which will allow parents to go to work – if you're in a low to moderate income situation, you really can't afford child care so you can't afford to go to work. Pre-K, which is so valuable for future education – universal. The job training: the fact is that we don't have enough skilled workforce out there to do the work that's already there. The President signed a major infrastructure bill – and so, if we expect that work to get done, we're gonna have to have an upgraded workforce, major investments in workforce development and higher education. And, we worked with the Agriculture Committee. As the Speaker’s indicated, they don't necessarily line up. School lunches, school meals are part of the Agriculture Committee in the Senate, in Labor in the House. And we've agreed to significantly increase access to school meals.
So, there's a lot in the bill, and it's pretty much agreed to on the Ed and Labor side.
Q: I wanted to ask, first of all, you used to hold the record for the longest Floor speech. How do you feel about that being broken? And do you plan to try to take that back?
Speaker Pelosi. No, I barely noticed that. But, that's not what we're here to talk about. This is about serious business here.
Q: And if I may ask a serious question, ma’am.
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, you have another question.
Q: I do have a serious one. There will be changes, whether they're small or large. You've got a narrow majority.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: Are you confident that the biggest hurdles on this bill are in your rearview mirror?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes. Let me just say – and I want to hear from some of our other colleagues – this bill is monumental. It's historic. It's transformative. It's bigger than anything we've ever done. We have so much agreement within the bill. Should there be some disagreement, and by and large, we had to build scrubs so that we are technically, shall we say, eligible for the 51-vote [privilege] in the Senate. That's what that was about. And then whatever comes out of the Senate, we’ll be working together with them so that we have agreement when it comes back to the House. I have absolutely no doubt.
The biggest hurdle was to get the bill there. The biggest challenge was to meet the vision of President, President Biden.
Does anybody have anything they want to say on any of these? Do you – I don't know if you want to talk about being in the chair all night.
One more question, yes ma’am.
Q: Madam Speaker, this bill – many of your colleagues and Democratic Party are counting on it to run on it, given its contents. As far as you are concerned, upon passage, will you talk about whether or not you're going for reelection –
Speaker Pelosi. I told you, this is an important meeting about serious subjects. If anybody has a serious question, I'll be happy to take one more. I'm not here to talk about me. I'm here to talk about Building Back Better for women, For The People, For The Children.
Q: Madam Speaker, but some of the provisions such as immigration reform, such as paid leave, are possibly going to drop out in the Senate Bill. Do you have plans to address –
Speaker Pelosi. Wait, let us, let it, we, we have made our statement today. We have stood the test of the Parliamentarian’s privilege scrub. We are celebrating that. We are sending it over to the Senate, and we are ready to debate for our bill and have a big success.
My colleagues: does anyone want to say about any of these things, again? We’re here to talk about –
Congressman Clyburn. I’ll just say this. No, I am – there's nothing unusual about the House working its will, and the Senate working its. That's why we have Conferences. And, I think that just because we have done something – let's just take for instance, the SALT tax. There are several senators that said they've got a version that they feel good about. I have not seen that version. But, we think we got a good bill. They think they can make it better, and let them go at it. And, they may make it better. And, we will accept better.
So, I don't think that's anything for us to be all that concerned about. We've done what we think we can do. The Senate will do what it can do. And we'll come together on behalf of the American people and try to have a coordinated approach as we go off into the future. I don’t see it.
Speaker Pelosi. It's called, it's called the legislative process. And, the House does not just write any bill that they think the Senate will pass. We find our common ground about – we have our own, shall we say, personality about things. And then, we will reconcile whatever changes are needed as we ever strive to Build Back Better.
But it's really cause for celebration for us now. And we're not getting bogged down in long speeches or people's careers over what happens if this doesn't happen. What we're talking about is what has happened. And, it's a glorious, glorious, historic, transformative piece of legislation For The People, for women, For The Children.
Thank you all very much. And by the way, happy Thanksgiving to all of you. As our distinguished Assistant Speaker has said, ‘We have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.’
And I want to express my gratitude for President Joe Biden. Thank you all very much.
Q: Have you heard from the President? Has he called since it’s passed? Have you heard from him?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, I've heard from him.
Q: What did he have to say?
Speaker Pelosi. Congratulations to the Members. Congratulations to the Members. Thank you, and happy Thanksgiving.