Pelosi Remarks at Press Event Unveiling the Moving Forward Act
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined House Democrats for a press event unveiling H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, House Democrats’ bold legislation to rebuild America’s infrastructure. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for being here.
This is a great day for us. Of course, it began well in the Supreme Court of the United States when the Constitution was upheld, and that was a beautiful thing. And now we are here to talk about how we go into the future.
When we won in 2018, we said to the American people that, For The People, we would lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs and preserving the pre-existing condition, lower health care costs. Bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green and resilient way. And third, we would have cleaner government. Cleaner government by improving, enhancing the voice of small donors and the grass roots in our political process.
Between now and Fourth of July, we will bring the ACA enhancement legislation to the Floor on June 29th. Next week, we will bring the Justice in Policing Act, part of our democratization bill – initiatives to the Floor. And then, before we leave for the Fourth of July, we'll bring this important legislation we have, the Moving Forward Act.
And I want to salute mightily the Chairman of the [Transportation and Infrastructure] Committee, Mr. DeFazio, for being our maestro in all of this. For decades, he has served on that committee. He knows the territory. He knows the roads and bridges. So, for us to say our hopes are riding on you is an easy thing to say, and in that orchestration are many other aspects of building the infrastructure. And that's why I'm so honored that Chairman Richie Neal, the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee is with us in person. It’s a very important part of the legislation, to make real the promise of building the infrastructure in a green and resilient way.
Joining us virtually is the Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Chair of the Education Committee, Bobby Scott, Frank Pallone and Maxine Waters, and I'll get to them in a moment. But first, let me just say that when we talk about building roads and highways and bridges and transit and rail and airports and ports and harbors, that is so important for our country. It's job-creating in its essence, but it’s also commerce-promoting. So, it grows the economy of our country. And then again in this legislation, we're ensuring that all – and I thank you, Mr. DeFazio for that. I thank Mr. Pallone for ensuring that all communities have clean drinking water, invest in new wastewater infrastructure as well as expanding affordable, high speed internet, which is in this bill, which is part of Mr. Pallone's committee.
And then when we talk about rebuilding and reopening our schools, I thank Mr. Scott of Virginia, the Chairman of the Education and Labor Committee. We tell children that studying is important. It's important in their personal lives. It's important to keep America preeminent in the world, and yet, we send them to schools – let’s give them a different message, if they're not up to par, to respect the learning of the children. Thank you, Mr. Scott.
Housing, affordable housing challenges the conscience of our country right now, homelessness and access to affordable housing. We thank Maxine Waters for her leadership as Chair of the Financial Services Committee for serving the underserved – so many in our community with the housing legislation that is contained here.
And again, we have something for the Postal Service, the infrastructure piece of the Postal Service. Connective tissue of our country, our Postal Service. Over 90 percent of the medicines received by veterans are through the Postal Service. The list goes on. I thank Carolyn Maloney for her strong role in all of this.
So, for these and other reasons, this is a just a happy day for us to be able to put forth something so comprehensive, so well thought out, so job-creating, so economically – growing of the economy, preserving of our planet, respectful of our children, meeting the needs for housing in our country and, again, preserving, probably, one of the most popular entities of government, of federal government, the Postal Service. So, for these and other reasons, I thank our chairmen for their extraordinary leadership.
And now I want to yield the Floor with great respect because he's now on what, how many hours?
Chairman DeFazio. Sixteen.
Speaker Pelosi. Sixteenth hour of mark up of this important legislation. So many amendments and again, so much experience. So much idealism. So much knowledge about how to get the job done, our distinguished Chair of the Committee, Mr. DeFazio.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Wow, we're so excited about this legislation, and as the distinguished Chairman said, we started it with the coronavirus, with meeting emergency needs, then moved onto mitigation. We still have to do some of those things and now move on to recovery.
The person who's been there every step of the way with meeting emergency needs, the mitigation, mitigation, mitigation and now onward to recovery is our distinguished Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Neal.
Thank you, and as Mr. – the two distinguished Chairman know with the interest rates where they are now, there's never been a better time for us to go big, to think big as the head of the Fed has said to us. Think big.
With us a person who's been with us through the emergency and the mitigation and now the recovery, Mr. Pallone, the distinguished Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He has health pieces in here. He has issues that relate to infrastructure, rural broadband. For so many reasons, I yield to distinguished Chair with gratitude. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I thank you for all that is there. They say of the Energy and Commerce Committee, ‘If the sun shines on it, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee.’ So, that was a broad swath of issues that Chairman Pallone addressed.
I do want to mention, I mentioned Carolyn Maloney with the post office piece – Post Service piece that is in here. Also, I want to mention Chairman Grijalva of the Natural Resources committee. Substantial park piece of that is in the legislation as well.
And now, a very major part of the legislation is what we do for education for our children. I'm so pleased that virtually, we will be joined by the distinguished Chair of the Education and Labor Committee, that person fighting every single day for America 's children, Mr. Scott.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for your great leadership. And now, we'll hear from Madame Chair, Maxine Waters, Chair of the Financial Services Committee. Throughout this COVID-19, coronavirus crisis, she has been there, whether it's helping with small businesses, small banks and now with housing with renters etcetera, throughout the whole crisis. But also, the culmination of many years of leadership on the issue of housing in our country. Madam Chair, welcome. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair, for your great leadership and for your concern about meeting the housing needs for the American people. I started on the Housing Subcommittee when I came to Congress, so I know full well. I can appreciate Madame Chair's leadership on this issue. Because the Chairman – Committee cannot proceed without the Chairman, we only have time for one question for Mr. DeFazio, if anyone has a question.
Yes, sir. And then I have one for you.
Chairman DeFazio. I can probably take two quick questions, if they’re quick. I have to be back to reconvene.
Q: It might actually be more for Mr. Neal, but –
Chairman DeFazio. Well, then if we could do one for me because I have a time – certain to reconvene my committee. Anybody have one for me?
Q: Thank you, Chairman. Now that we’ve talked about plans, I would like to ask about red tape. What are – I mean, businesses, U.S. businesses, are concerned about permit – lengthy permit process. Do you plan to address the process in infrastructure construction projects? Thank you.
Chairman DeFazio. Oh, permitting, yes, yes thank you. Thank you. Actually, we adopted substantial permitting reforms in both Map 21 about a decade ago and in the FAST Act five years ago. The Department of Transportation has yet to fully implement and or utilize that streamlining. We have reached a point where 93 percent of federally funded highway projects and transit projects go forward with, you know, with the environment exemption. Four percent go through an environmental analysis, a relatively simple process. And despite, you know, what some say that all the delays are due to environmental law, three percent are so large and have such an impact, many of them very controversial, that they go through a full NEPA process, National Environmental Policy Act.
The Trump Administration would like to eliminate the national NEPA. They can't, and it's not necessary in order to facilitate infrastructure. An amendment was offered by one of the Republicans saying, ‘Well 60 percent of those projects,’ which would be 1.8 percent of all federally funded projects. ‘I have to go through a full NEPA process?’ Yes, they do, and some of them are incredibly controversial.
There's been one pending they use – for twenty years in California. It's never going to get built. They want to build a new freeway to the coast going through Orange County. Not going to happen, but they'll quote, ‘Oh twenty years in the making.’ No, it's not going to happen.
In my own state, in Portland in the Rose Quarter, you know, our state transportation commission tried to short circuit the process and move through massive opposition from all those impacted from individuals to businesses and others, and then they agreed yeah, okay, we better go through the full process, which actually involves public involvement and input and ultimately involves litigation, which will delay things.
So, at this point, there are no new changes. We want DOT to go ahead and implement all the ones we've already made. Any other quick question on surface or anything in my committee?
Alright, thank you.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Peter. One thing about Mr. DeFazio, because you talked about time, he does save time. He gets right to the point.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good luck with the rest of the markup.
Q: It’s very easy to talk about what you want to spend money on but how much are the pay-fors figured out at this point? What percentage of money will be totally off-set by new revenues and what will be –
Chairman Neal. So, we propose Build America bonds. We propose private activity bonds. We propose, obviously, some borrowing based upon what Jay Powell indicated in the last couple of weeks, that interest rates are going to stay where they are, not – almost at zero for years to come.
And the President, as you know, has said $2 trillion of borrowed money. He staked out that position. So we think that on the revenue side, we're open to discussions and negotiations. But with build America bonds, private activity bonds and some borrowing, we think that by putting out our plan here, time to have the conversation, time to negotiate it.
Speaker Pelosi. There you go. Thank you.
Chairman Neal. Thanks, Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. The distinguished Chairman has to get back to the order of the day, as well. Thank you very much –
Chairman Neal. I’m not going to gate 35-X.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Mr. Neal, for just making this such a green piece of legislation. Thank you all very much.
Did you have a question?
Q: How do you anticipate working with the Senate on this? President Trump has also promised some money to Chairman Neal. I know his conversations with Secretary Mnuchin are ongoing. How do you see this passing from the House to the Senate?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we, as was indicated by Mr. Neal earlier, infrastructure legislation has really never been partisan. We've also worked together to create jobs, to promote commerce, to preserve our planet and the rest in a – have clean air, clean water for our children – worked in a very bipartisan way, and we hoped we would do that now.
As you know, the Grim Reaper has said nothing is ever going any place in the Senate, but there is tremendous interest in the country in rebuilding the infrastructure. There's tremendous interest among individual Members about how we move forward and how it affects their areas. And, when they see the legislation and people see how it does affect their areas, because this is not just a matter of transportation. It's a matter of clean air, clean water. Some of these water systems are over 100 years old. They're made of wood and brick. Water. Want a drink of water? And won’t water be so important, sanitation so important and the rest. As we see from COVID, the urgency is even more intense now.
So, we think that this will be non-partisan, very bipartisan. And we look forward to working together: House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, and with the White House. The President really wants, we understand, he really wants an infrastructure bill. He talks about it quite a bit. And so, now, let's get down to what that means for the twenty – for the 21st century.
In conclusion, let me just say that with the coronavirus, so many of the needs have been magnified in terms of water needs and, as Mr. Pallone talked about, infrastructure; in terms of telemedicine and distance learning, as Mr. Scott talked about; and what Maxine talked about in terms of the housing issues and how the coronavirus has intensified the need for more affordable housing.
The list goes on and on. And what Mr. Grijalva has in the bill in terms of parks and the rest of this, so many things that are job-creating, commerce-promoting. Just as personal as the air our children breathe and the water they drink. And recognizing so many issues as justice issues: environmental justice issues, transit justice issues. As Mr. DeFazio said, transportation, getting people to and from work, our essential workers and all the rest, depend on that mass transit.
So, for these and other reasons, we think the American people understand the need. We know in our situation in California, we had a big initiative on the ballot and, when people understood what it meant to them and their communities, overwhelmingly, we were successful with our infrastructure there.
So, again, our hopes are riding on Mr. DeFazio. He is quite remarkable. He is a real maestro when it comes to so many subjects, including this. And to have this many committees, shall we say, interact with his committee, this is quite a feat. In fact, it is historic. And we will be moving forward because it is so very important for the recovery of our country.
With that, let's all move in with the Moving Forward Act. Thank you all very much.