Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference Ahead of House Passage of the American Rescue Plan
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Democratic leaders of the House and Senate for a press conference ahead of House passage of H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good evening, everyone.
As we end this week, we think back to how we began when our country crossed a very sad number, and that was over 500,000 people had died of the coronavirus and so many millions more have been affected.
Tonight, we are in the Rules Committee, awaiting their product, so that we can bring to the Floor legislation that saves lives and saves the livelihoods of the American people. It's a great day for us. When we take this vote, we will take a vote to reduce the spread of this virus, to put, as we keep saying, vaccinations in the arms of the American people, money into the pockets, children into the schools, workers back into their jobs, so that we can go forward.
I salute President Biden for his American Rescue Plan, which will do just that, rescue the American people. The loss of jobs, the loss of income, the loss of life, first and foremost.
I want to salute the committee chairs who did such excellent work putting together this legislation with great precision so that it would honor the 51 vote privilege. It took time. It took knowledge. It took values and it took strategic thinking to get the job done.
And then it was handed over to the Chairman of the Budget Committee. We could not be better served. The budget should be a statement of our national values. What is important to us as a nation should be reflected in the priorities we have in our budget, and indeed, that is how Chairman Yarmuth has always – that is the narrative of his leadership as Chair of the Budget Committee. It is my honor to yield to him so that he can give us a report as to where we are on this very, very important reconciliation bill, a budget which is a statement of our values to save the lives and livelihoods of the American people. Mr. Yarmuth.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Mr. Clyburn. I thank the distinguished Whip and the distinguished Majority Leader, as well as our Chair of the Budget Committee. Other members of the leadership are here as resource – intellectual resources to answer any questions you may have.
We all, though, gather with great pride in the legislation that Members will be receiving when it comes from the Rules Committee, where it is still under consideration. But it is a great – we are going to make a giant step forward tonight.
Any questions? Yes, sir.
Q: Madam Speaker, do you agree with some of the Members of the Democratic Caucus that believe the Senate should either overrule the Parliamentarian decision on minimum wage or break up the filibuster in order to keep minimum wage as part of this package?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I invite any of my colleagues who wish to answer that question to join me.
As a matter of practice, I don't get involved in the rules of the United States Senate. But as a matter of values, I can just say, we will not rest until we pass the $15 minimum wage. We have been engaged in the Fight For $15 for a long time.
This is legislation that affects the majority of women. Over 60 percent of the people making minimum wage are women, many are moms. And it is so essential for us to do this and whether it happens when we send this over there, we are sending it as a symbol of the difference it will make in the lives of the American people, but not just a symbol, but as a solid proposal. If it doesn't prevail because of Senate rules, we will persist. But we will not stop until we very soon pass the $15 minimum wage.
Any other comment that folks want to make on that subject? On the minimum wage?
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, Ma’am.
Q: Are you – do you think that this issue, specifically, raising the federal minimum wage, that it is an issue that could cost Democrats the House and the Senate in 2022? There's going to be a level of apathy – there's going to be a level of apathy that develops among people that voted to send Democrats to Congress in hopes of bold change and will argue that Democrats aren't doing enough to make this happen.
Speaker Pelosi. We are determined to make this happen, so I don't want to answer a hypothetical if we don’t have to. We have come here to get the job done. Mr. Clyburn, did you want to speak to that?
Whip Clyburn. Do I want to?
Whip Clyburn. We are going to do this. I think the Speaker is correct. That's why we are keeping it in our bill. If we were going to be political about it, I think we would all just take it out of the bill.
Now, we are doing this because we are responding to the American people. We are that body here in Congress that’s closest to the American people. We think that $15 an hour ought to be the law of the land. You'll see what the Senate does. If they don't agree, we will come back with an independent, stand-alone piece of legislation and we are going to pass it again and hope that they respond.
Now, the other thing that’s causing us the problem right now is the Parliamentarian’s rule. And they’re going to abide by the rules and I think the President is not going to advocate that the Vice President overrule the Parliamentarian. And we will see what happens with the other alternatives after we pass it again if we don’t pass it this time.
Speaker Pelosi. May I just say that we have been on this for a long time. When we won the House the first – in this century, the first time, in 2006, in the first 100 hours, not days, the first 100 hours, we passed an increase in the minimum wage. It had not been increased for eleven years and we passed an increase in the minimum wage. It was part of our ‘Six for ’06.’ That would be January, 2007.
When it went to the Senate, it had the wholehearted support of Senator Byrd of West Virginia, who put out a statement urging the Senate to take up and pass the legislation because it was so necessary. This is not a provision in the bill that is accepted or not by the Senate. This is, again, a value. This is a priority. We will get it done, and again, we will study what the opportunities are to do that. But let's not be distracted from what is happening in this legislation.
We have a family of four getting, what $1,400 times four, $5,600, a family of four. Individuals getting the $1,400 to bring it to $2,000 for this series of direct payments. Half of the children, the poor children in America will be taken off of poverty with the Child Tax Credit and especially addressing younger children in poverty, under 6-year-old children in poverty. The Earned Income Tax Credit will be a boon to those who are working and get the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The Unemployment Insurance, which expires [in] the middle of March will be extended as well as the expanded benefits for that. Not to mention, well to mention, the funding for schools so that our children can go back to school safely, the funding for the vaccine, its – production, distribution and administering it into the arms, that funding, tens of millions of dollars. So, if you are talking about crushing the virus, this legislation goes way down the road to doing that.
If you're talking about putting money in the pockets of the American people, this is going to be a boon for families in our country, working families.
If you're talking about getting our children back into school safely, billions of dollars to do just that in a way that is safe and addresses those schools which are in drastic need for better ventilation and separation and the rest.
If you are talking about helping the food insecure, millions of food insecure children in America, their needs are addressed with the food security money that is in the benefit.
And those who are insecure with housing and on the verge of eviction, the funding is there – a better way to attract – to tend to small businesses and the rest. This is a spectacular piece of legislation.
While the Senate has prevented us temporarily from passing one aspect of it, let us not be distracted from what is in here because it is a great bill.
Any other comments on the bill?
Chairman Yarmuth. Can I just add one comment on the electoral implications of this, Eva? I think the more important question is what kind of price are Republicans, both in Congress and outside who have opposed this help to the American people, opposed raising the minimum wage, what kind of price are they going to pay?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, sir.
Q: Is that your sales pitch to progressives in your Caucus who two weeks from now may have to vote without having the minimum wage? Is that what your message –
Speaker Pelosi. It’s not a sales pitch. We have a consensus in our Caucus that we are here to get the job done for the American people. This is not about any sales pitch. This is about who we are. And so many of the aspects of the bill have been constructed by our Members. We think it's a great opportunity for our country.
Q: And you’ll still be able to pass it with or without minimum wage?
Speaker Pelosi. Absolutely.
Q: When the bill comes back –
Speaker Pelosi. Who called on you? Did somebody call on him?
Okay, go ahead.
Q: When the bill comes back, obviously there will be changes. Do you fear that some in your Caucus will look at this and say ‘We want the perfect bill?’ And the perfect could become the enemy of the good. Is that a concern when it comes back and represents the divide in your Caucus?
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Q: Explain why.
Speaker Pelosi. No. You asked a question. I viewed it as a yes or no.
Speaker Pelosi. Does anybody think that there's any chance that we do not pass this?
Chairman Jeffries. There is uniform support for this transformational legislation in the House Democratic Caucus.
There is no fair to partly cloudy view of the American Rescue Plan. It's a sunny, aspirational, bold view because the $1.9 trillion plan, as the Speaker indicated, will crush the virus, provide direct relief to the American people, increase the direct payment survival checks to a total of $2,000, provide $25 billion in assistance to renters and homeowners who are struggling, increase the food security EBT program by 15 percent, provide $350 billion in state and local assistance, so we can protect public programming, public safety, public health, public education, public housing, public transportation and the provision of the public good.
And those are just the highlights. That is not the fine print because it's a once-in-a-century pandemic, and the Caucus, under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, has recognized with the full support of everyone, that it requires a once-in-a-century continuing, comprehensive and compassionate Congressional response, and that's exactly what the American Rescue Plan represents.
Assistant Speaker Clark. I think that our unity around this bill comes from the stories that we have heard in our districts, and I just want to use one woman whose story has come to my attention in my district and how transformative this bill will be for her. She lost her job shortly after the pandemic, lost her apartment, lost her child care and didn't have a way to be able to feed her young child or afford diapers.
With this bill, and I’m so grateful to the leadership of my colleagues and the Speaker, will say to her one of the one in four American women who have been forced out of the workforce, one of the people of the 140,000 jobs that were lost in December, every single one of them was held by a woman and predominately women of color. This bill will say to her, there's a Child Tax Credit that can help lift your child out of poverty. There will be a survival check to help you put a down payment on a new apartment. There will be food available for you. There will be vaccines and testing so that you can get back to your job. This is what this bill means to Americans, that we see them and that is why we are so united behind this. And it's just not the Democratic Caucus. It's the American people because we are seeing them and we are meeting their tremendous suffering and loss with tremendous solutions and help.
So, I am so grateful to this Caucus and to the work that has been done, and we look forward to delivering this for all of those who have struggled through this last year and to restore that hope to our community. That is why this bill is so supported by our Caucus.
Vice Chair Aguilar. This is an important bill for our Caucus and for our country. I want to thank Chairman Yarmuth and the Budget Committee members who have done the work to get us this far and the committee chairs, in addition to the members of the leadership behind me.
This bill has the support of our Caucus because it meets the needs of our community. That’s our guiding principle. And we know that – we know that it has the public support. As Chairman Yarmuth mentioned, the question is: will the other side acknowledge that?
Will they acknowledge that this bill provides benefits because when I – I’m not the only colleague on this this stage who has had conversations with local leaders, who enthusiastically support this bill, as Chairman Jeffries said, because it protects the public good, public transportation, public education, local money for our local communities.
That's why this bill is good in addition to the money for vaccine distribution that meets the needs of our communities. It's important, and our colleagues recognize that and that's why I share the confidence and ‘the sunny view,’ as the Chairman mentioned, that we will pass this bill. And we will pass it – again – because it is good for the American people.
Chair Maloney. If I could build on the Vice Chairman's point, add my thanks to Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer, Whip Clyburn, Chairman Yarmuth, who’s done extraordinary work, and all the Chairmen.
But I did a press event today – three of the four county executives in my district, which is a very conservative district, are Republicans – all three support this legislation. Two appeared with me today. So, I think it's important not to miss the broad bipartisan support for this package as soon as you step out of the Republican Caucus Room.
The fact of the matter is that county executives, town supervisors and people on the frontline, who are responsible in many cases for administering the vaccine, for being the public health provider in America – they get it. They understand that this is a long, dark night, but there is joy in the morning if we can come together around this rescue plan for the American people. It's not just the Republican Caucus that matters. It is the millions of Republican voters who have said they support this legislation. 75 percent of the American public, 75 percent.
That includes large numbers of Republican elected officials who are on the record saying we need it and we need it now. And so, I would point not just to the unity of the Democratic Caucus, but the broad, bipartisan support of this package. It’s a very strong piece of legislation.
Thank you, Madam Speaker
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. I thank the members of the Leadership for just that, their leadership, in all of this and all that entails. I also want to acknowledge, as I have, the Chairman of the Budget Committee and many other chairs who are part of constructing this proposal, this legislation. And I want to thank their staffs because we have wanted to stay on schedule, and that has meant 24/7 on the part of the Members, but especially on the part of the staff. So, please convey the gratitude of the Leadership to the staffs.
Chair Yarmuth. Along with a lot of Kentucky Bourbon.
Speaker Pelosi. It’s not about Kentucky Bourbon.
You aren’t giving out big daddy or Big Pappy or whatever his name is. What is it?
Chair Yarmuth. I don’t know if I can give Pappy until after we vote.
Speaker Pelosi. In any case, I also want to acknowledge the staff of the country. One of the big provisions of this bill is the support for our heroes, honoring our heroes. You've heard me say that many times – honoring our heroes, putting money in the pockets of the American people, crushing the virus again and putting our children safely in schools.
But the schools can't function, and all the other things can’t happen unless we support our heroes, those who work at the state and local level: our health care workers, our transportation, sanitation, food workers, our first responders – police and fire – our teachers, our teachers, our teachers.
And when we talk about the funding in the bill for education in light of COVID, well that is one piece of it, but over 90 percent of the funding for education comes from state and local government. And that's why we have to have that support in the legislation as well. Because of revenue lost, because of shutdowns and because of costs from COVID that were unanticipated.
And the health care workers. People talk about our heroes, and how do we thank them? We thank them by letting them keep their jobs. More than one million of local employees have been – have lost their jobs because of the loss of revenue from the shutdowns.
So, in any case, every way that we come at this challenge that we have, this bill addresses it. And pretty soon it will be passed in the Congress – in the House, sent over to the Senate to be further engrossed to pass and go to the White House so that it is in time for the March 14th deadline. I would like it well before that. The sooner we pass the bill and it is signed, the sooner we can make the progress that this legislation is all about: saving the lives and the livelihoods of the American people.
Thank you very much. Good evening.