Floor Speech on American Rescue Plan Act

February 26, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act, landmark, life-saving legislation that will provide urgently-needed resources to get vaccines in arms, put money into families’ pockets, return children safely to the classroom and put people back in jobs.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank him for his leadership as Chair of the Budget Committee, to him and all the members of his Committee and the staff who work so hard to bring this to the Floor.  Thank you, Mr. Leader, to Mr. Neal and – Neal and members of the Ways and Means Committee and their staff.  Thank you also for bringing your piece of this legislation to the Floor, and Mr. McGovern, the Chair of the Rules Committee, and his members and the staff of all the committees.  All of the chairs of the committees have worked so very hard, all their members and staff, to bring us to this very important moment for our country. 

As the distinguished gentleman from Kentucky acknowledged in his opening sentence, this week, on Monday, our nation marked the loss of over 500,000 Americans to the coronavirus, a horrific human toll of staggering proportions, an incomprehensible sadness.  Every life lost is a profound tragedy that we mourn and that breaks America's heart, and we pray for their families.  Each day, this pandemic reaches into our communities, devastating families' health, financial security and well-being. 

The numbers speak volumes: 18 million Americans are on unemployment, 24 million people are going hungry, 12 million, Mr. Speaker, 12 million children living in households with food insecurity, and that is a conservative number.  Up to 40 million people cannot pay their rent and fear eviction. 

The writer George Bernard Shaw said, ‘It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.’  And indeed, we are moved, emotionally and intellectually, because these statistics are not just numbers, they are the lives and livelihoods of our neighbors, family members, friends and loved ones.  We are moved to act swiftly to put an end to this pandemic and to stem the suffering felt by so many. 

The time for decisive action is long overdue.  President Biden's American Rescue Plan is that decisive action.  Tonight, Congress is taking action to crush the virus with a national vaccination program, robust testing, tracing and treatment, more PPE and combating health disparities affecting communities of color disproportionately. 

We are putting money in workers' pockets.  Eighteen million Americans will receive Unemployment Insurance.  Forty million Americans will receive nutrition assistance.  Twenty-seven million children will receive help through an expanded Child Tax Credit.  Fifteen million low-wage workers will receive Earned Income Tax Credit, and millions and millions of more – other people, in addition, will receive the direct payment.  We are putting children safely back in schools with a $130 billion investment in re-opening schools and making up for lost learning and to do so safely.  And we are putting people back into jobs by supporting our most vulnerable small businesses, particularly those owned by minorities and women, and protecting the jobs of our heroes, health care workers, transit, sanitation, food workers, police and fire, our first responders, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers and more.

Economists overwhelmingly support this targeted action.  Earlier this month, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reported that the real unemployment rate is ten percent, matching the depths of the worst point of the Great Recession.  As he said, ‘We are still very far from a strong labor market whose benefits are broadly shared.’

Therefore, if we do not enact this package, the results could be catastrophic: depriving workers and the economy of 4 million fewer jobs to come back, taking a year longer to return to full [employment] and four years longer until real GDP recovers to a pre-pandemic status, confronting the entire cohort of young people with lower lifetime earnings, reducing the wages and job prospects of parents forced to stay at home.

This legislation is transformative, lifting 12 million Americans out of poverty and generating $1.25 for every dollar spent.  And a great source of pride for us all, because this legislation will cut child poverty in half.

As we advance this legislation, we will continue our Fight For 15, which would give 27 million Americans a raise.  When I was Speaker in 2007, Congressional Democrats raised the minimum wage in the first 100 hours of our new Majority.  It took a little longer for the Senate to get it done in the Spring.  That was fourteen years ago. 

An increase in the minimum wage is a financial necessity for our families, a great stimulus for our economy and a moral imperative for our country.  With that view, it is therefore inevitable to all of us that the $15 minimum wage will be achieved, even if it is inconceivable to some.  It is inevitable to us and we will work diligently to shorten the distance between the inevitable and the inconceivable. 

The $7.25 minimum wage that exists now is in many instances, in many instances, an exploitation of the American worker.  And it is a cost to taxpayers because the minimum wage workers need food and housing assistance, and many are on Medicaid.  This is corporate welfare.  This is a subsidy for business to pay a low wage.  We want work to be respected, we respect the dignity of work.  We will seek a solution consistent with Senate rules and we will do so soon.

The American people are demanding the bold action contained in the American Rescue Plan.  Over 75 percent of Americans support this package and want it passed and enacted – including 60 percent of Republicans in the country.  Families, workers, business leaders, mayors and local leaders, health and faith-based organization are all calling for immediate action.

More than a year ago – more than a year into this pandemic and economic crisis, the American people need to know that their government is there for them and, as President Biden has said, ‘Help Is On The Way.’

With that, I thank, again, the chairs and managers of the committee, the staff and all of our Members for their attention to this issue of morality to our country.  And with that, I urge a strong and bipartisan vote for the American Rescue Plan, so we can continue our work to save the lives and the livelihood of the American people.  With that, I urge an aye vote and yield back the balance of my time. 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.