Transcript of Speaker Pelosi’s Remarks at the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference

March 9, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the 2021 Congressional City Conference, hosted by the National League of Cities.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Clarence. 

It is my honor to bring greetings to America's city leaders on behalf of the United States House of Representatives and to do so as Speaker of the House.  And I thank you, Clarence, for your kind words and for your leadership as Executive Director of the NLC, for your lifelong leadership on behalf of America's cities and communities, bringing your great experience as champion of educational and economic opportunities during your 24 years as Mayor of South Bay, Florida, and as the former President, CEO and Executive Director of the National League of Cities – representing thousands of cities, towns and villages from every corner of America. 

Before I get further into my remarks, I want to address some that you made and say that when you talk about gun violence as one of the priorities that you presented – gun violence prevention, one of the priorities to the Administration and to us – that this week we will be voting on that very legislation that calls for background checks, as well as closing the loophole – the South Carolina loophole, Mr. Clyburn's bill.  We also, last week – as you mentioned – we passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

So, many of your priorities are our priorities as well because you've made them known to us.  So many of the priorities that you have presented to the Administration and your testimony in Congress is very important because there's so many needs and the prioritization of it is essential.  And I thank you for that leadership. 

I also thank NLC President Kathy Maness of Lexington, South Carolina – talking about the South Carolina loophole – for her visionary leadership, particularly to advance youth civic engagement in our cities.

A point of personal privilege for me, let me salute my mayor, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who’s been an inspiring, effective force for good during this time of pandemic and economic crisis.  I had the privilege of having a town meeting with her – well, by phone – with thousands of San Francisco's own – San Franciscans on Friday night – Friday afternoon, actually, night here.  But it was about a Day of Action for the [American] Rescue Act.  We had over 80 of them around the country, and I was pleased to have one with the Mayor.  I know there are many Californians in on our conversation now and I bring greetings to them as well. 

You know, Clarence, tomorrow marks one year since I was honored to address city leaders at your 2020 conference.  At that time, the coronavirus was accelerating and House Democrats had passed our first response package.  But little could we imagine the horror and heartbreak to come.  Actually, our meeting then was the last meeting before the virus really took hold. 

Since then, nearly 29 million Americans have been infected.  Over half a million tragically dead.  Eighteen million still on unemployment and millions more unsure of how to put food on the table and keep roofs over their heads.  For you, America's leaders, I know that this pain is personal.  As you may know, as I've said before to you, as a sister and daughter of two Mayors of Baltimore, I’ve seen firsthand there’s no buffer between you and your communities.  Unemployment statistics and infection rates are not numbers to you, but daily, devastating realities of your neighbors.

Understanding this staggering human toll, the National League of Cities has worked day in and day out to respond, rebuild and recover.  And now, under President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris – two leaders who embrace the science and listen to our leaders on the front lines – the American people can know and be assured that Help Is On The Way. 

Indeed, Saturday was a great day of progress and promise for the American people, as the Senate passed the American Rescue Plan.  The House, we're in the process now – we’re going to Rules as we speak.  We just got the paper from the Senate.  It takes a couple of days to get processed and within days – either tonight or tomorrow – we will pass it.  And in just a matter of days, it will be on President Biden's desk so it can be enacted before unemployment benefits expire in under a week from now. 

The American Rescue Plan is a beacon of hope for America’s families and struggling small businesses.  It is a decisive action that is needed to save lives and livelihoods.  It's putting vaccines in people's arms, money in people's pockets, children safely back in school and people back to work. 

The legislation is a strong step forward for our local, state, tribal and territorial governments.  It includes over, as you know, $65 billion directly and exclusively for America's cities – no carveouts for other entities.  We're proud to ensure that cities of all sizes receive their own allocation.  The 65 – the way it is, it's 350.  Part of it goes to the state.  130 go to the localities.  Half of that, 65 billion, go directly and exclusively to America's cities.

We're proud to ensure that cities of all sizes receive their own allocation, from the largest metropolitan areas to the smallest towns.  And we have ensured greater eligibility and – magic word – flexibility so that you can use the funds the way that you know is best – including addressing revenue loss because of the shut-in and the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. 

Overall, this coronavirus-centric legislation puts nearly $1 trillion – separate from the money I talked about going to the cities and states – nearly puts $1 trillion in the pockets of the American people.  All money that will go directly into your communities, including through direct payments, a check, expanded Unemployment Insurance, child tax credits and renter and homeowner assistance. 

On behalf of the House, I thank you for using your voice to lift up the legislation, including through 300 virtual meetings you're holding on the Hill this week.  Your advocacy has helped ensure that the American people know exactly how the American Rescue Plan benefits them, which is why over 75 percent of the public supports this bill, Republicans, Democrats, Independents.  We're so pleased with that.  Across the country, it is bipartisan, even though we didn't get any Republican votes in the Senate.  I’m hoping to get some today.  Maybe it's tomorrow when the bill comes to the Floor, depending on the – how long it takes in the Rules Committee. 

The livelihoods of our cities, towns and villages depend on this legislation, which is not just a rescue package, but a recovery, a national investment to build back a better economy.  It cuts child poverty in half, lifts 12 million Americans out of poverty, in addition to – including children and creates 7 million new jobs.  Build Back Better, that's what President Biden calls it, and we call it Build Back Better For The People.  For The People is our overarching theme.  Build Back Better For the People.

We must take additional bold action to build an economy that works for all Americans, to do so in a way that acknowledges the twin realities of income disparity and the climate crisis.  And that's why the Democratic House is committed to working with you to move America forward, including with a landmark infrastructure bill to create millions of good-paying jobs, re-imagine and revitalize our transportation infrastructure, expand broadband to every corner of the country, take our energy – our nation into clean energy economy for the future and you all have been the lead on that, strengthening our resilience against the climate crisis and honor the Federal government's responsibility to local government. 

At the same time, together, as we Build Back Better, we also must advance justice, opportunity and progress in every zip code.  You mentioned earlier about the human resources that we need to Build Back Better, which is why the House – making our communities safer, which is why the House is proud to have passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act last week as I mentioned, and this week, we will pass commonsense gun violence prevention legislation

Making our communities fairer, soon we’ll pass legislation securing workers’ rights, the PRO Act, and equal pay for equal work.  Making our communities more just, this is why we passed the Equality Act to end LGBTQ discrimination and will soon pass – this will be next week, the Dream and Promise Act to ensure that our immigrant communities can continue to strengthen and enrich our country. 

Nearly 60 years ago, in a State of the Union address, President John F. Kennedy rightly observed, ‘A strong America depends on its cities.’  Now, every single day, we see that statement could not be more true.  In the face of a pandemic and economic crisis, you are on the frontlines leading the fight to save lives and livelihoods, following the science. 

So, in addition to everything else that I talked about, about the money that goes directly to you, to address your responsibilities, in addition to that, in this bill, there's a huge amount of about $160 billion for education, which will come into your community, for transportation, for issues, as I mentioned earlier, that relate to rent and homeownership and also about feeding the hungry.  Millions of people in America, I say, are food insecure.  My kids say, ‘Mom, don't say food insecure.  They're hungry.  They're hungry.’ 

The list goes on and on whether it's FEMA and other allocations of resources.   I'm sure you'll see the full array, but it is all about meeting the needs of the American people.  And you are on the frontline of doing that.  So, in the weeks and months ahead, we'll continue to rely on you as our vanguard, marching forward and making progress for all people as the engines of dynamism and drivers of prosperity in America. 

In our mission to Build Back Better, Congress and the country need your continued, committed leadership.  We need you as an intellectual resource as well as delivery of services to people and organizationing for a better future. 

Thank you, all, for your courage to move America forward, and thank you for giving me the honor, once again, to address you at the League.  

Thank you so much.  Thank you.