Transcript of Speaker Pelosi’s Remarks at Austin Press Conference on Build Back Better Health Care Priorities
Austin – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Chairman Lloyd Doggett at a press conference in Austin to highlight Democrats’ priorities in the Build Back Better Act that will lower health costs for working families. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. Thank you very much, Lloyd Doggett, for your very kind words, for your great leadership and the pride you take in representing this magnificent district.
It is an honor for the Mayor to be with us today. I'm mayor's daughter. My father was mayor from when I was in first grade, went away to college, he was still mayor of Baltimore. My brother was mayor of Baltimore. So, when the mayor shows up, that's a really important occasion.
Thank you, Mr. Mayor, not only for your presence, but for your kind words about the Rescue Package and where we go from here and for your great leadership of this wonderful city of Austin. Are we keeping it weird enough? Is that the – is that the deal?
Okay, okay. Julian, it’s such a – I can't tell you what – how your words are music to my ears and to, to anyone who is in public service, to hear the mission that you have, how you fulfill it, the volunteers who participate. Thank you, to you, to community foundation – Foundation Communities and your Prosper Center here. And thank you to the volunteers who are here and many who are not, but all of them important, because the public policy that we put forth to help people For The People has to be accessible to them, whether it's linguistically, culturally, just informationally. And thank you for making those connections.
It's, again, an honor to be here. I want to take off – take up where Mr. Doggett left off. First of all, I accept any compliment on behalf of the House Democrats. They – none of this would be possible without the courage, the integrity, the values-based attitude that they have. When people compliment me for bringing them together, I say, ‘Don't. I don't bring them together. Our values bring us together.‘ And our overriding value is to help America's working families, to lower health care costs, by increasing paychecks, by having cleaner government. And we can talk about that too, with what's happening with voter suppression.
But as we do that, he also mentioned in closing his remarks, President Biden. President Biden has made all the difference in the world. He came into the to office with a vision to Build Back Better. And when we pass the – when the Senate was passing the infrastructure bill, he made it very clear: ‘I want to work in a bipartisan way to the extent that I can. And I want to have bipartisan legislation.’ And he passed that in the Senate. But he said, ‘I will not limit how I go forward, my vision, to what's in that bill. We must Build Back Better.’
And what that entails, in addition to many of the health provisions, which I will return to that Congressman Doggett has taken the lead on and mentioned here, that meant Build Back Better by building back Better with many more people participating in the economic prosperity of our country. I like to think of it as Build Back Better with women, but women, minority – people of color, many new people into it.
And many of the health care provisions are what are liberating for people to participate. If we can have family and medical leave, paid, paid family and medical leave, if we can have what was mentioned about the home health care for our seniors, for people with disabilities, even for our children, that enables people to be able to be more free to be in the workplace, child care, child care, child care, very liberating for mostly moms, but dads too, to be in the workplace, as was mentioned early – I mean, universal, pre-K, so important for the children, but also children learning parents earning. So, it's all connected to Building Back Better. And the list goes on, workforce development and the rest.
One of the pillars of the – when we did the affordable health care, we thought we were establishing a pillar: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. But we knew we could do better, and we did in the Rescue Package. And as the Mayor indicated, many of the provisions in the Rescue Package. It was remarkable President came in, that that bill went out there, was immediate and urgent vaccines in the arms, money in the pockets, children safely preparing for school, workers safely in the workplace, money in people's pockets, very important.
And so now we have to build on that, go beyond what was immediate for COVID but to extend, as Representative Doggett mentioned, extend them, whether it's Child Tax Credit, whether it's the Affordable Care Act provisions, which are and improvement, but they need to be extended.
Central and vital to it all is the Medicaid expansion. This is something that we absolutely must do. It is almost an immorality to say, ‘I will not accept money from the federal government for 100 percent paying for the Medicaid. My decision is I will cut millions of people in my state or hundreds of thousands in another state from having access to health care.’ Because health care is a health issue, it's also a financial stability issue for families. It's where it all comes together.
So, we will have more permanent provisions to make the Affordable Care Act more available to many more people at a lower cost. We will have Medicare expansion as Mr. Doggett get mentioned with vision, hearing and dental benefits that we will have in the bill. We will have Medicaid expansion, but we have to see how much and for how long. That depends on the total package. And we have to do all of these things right now in a way that gives people liberation, freedom to be in the workplace because their parents, their children, their siblings who may need care, are cared for.
And again, it's not just about that, it's about education, about education, investing in – construct – school construction, workforce development, community college and the rest. It's about housing. Housing Julian mentioned. It's about housing, several hundred billion dollars in there to have more housing stock and affordable, and other as – for low income people and, and some provisions to enable that to happen more readily. And it's about saving the planet.
So, when we say Build Back Better, we say that's a good infrastructure bill you have that you have in a bipartisan way, but we want to build in a way that preserves the planet. And so we have provisions in there that are – we will have provisions in there that are very important to in a health sense. The air our children breathe, the water drink – in my case, grandchildren. Well, my children too, okay?
For the children, the air they breathe, the water they drink. For our jobs, to be in the lead in the country, in the world on green technologies and the rest. It’s a security issue. Our security experts tell us migration, drought, rainfall, all different aspects of climate have an impact on access to habitat and resources and the rest, and our cause for conflict. Health, jobs, security, morality. If you believe, as I do, that this is God's creation, we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards. Or even if you don't, and you just understand that we have a responsibility to future generations to pass this planet on, then we need to have those provisions in the reconciliation package to complement some of what was done in the infrastructure bill. The list goes on and on.
And just to give you a taste of the array, because it all comes down to the education of our – I always say the three most important issues facing the Congress are the same: our children, our children, their children. Their health, their education, the economic security of their families, a clean, safe environment in which they can thrive, a world at peace in which they can reach their fulfillment.
In the Congress of the United States, Lloyd Doggett has been a champion on each and every one of those issues. There's almost nothing you can talk about that you can't say: Lloyd did this, was in the lead, gave this, took – initiated the idea and the rest. So thank you, Lloyd Doggett, for your great leadership. Relentless, persistent, dissatisfied, effective, making it happen in terms of – he knows of what I speak.
But he's – he's just been spectacular. I can't talk about Lloyd without talking about Libby. If there ever were a team of two people coming to Congress and representing their district with great pride and great values and the rest. It's Lloyd and Libby Doggett. So, thank you to Lloyd, as well. So thank you for sending both of them to Congress.
Before I go, I want to acknowledge Mike Forbes, a former colleague of ours – Deacon Mike Forbes, a former colleague of ours from the Congress, who's now here. Thank you, Mike Forbes, for being with us.
But in any event, we're very grateful to our President, Joe Biden, for insisting on his vision to Build Back Better in a way that takes us in a transformative way into the future as we meet the needs of the people.
I just want to say that when we talk about health care, we have to talk also about women's reproductive rights. What happened in the last several – what, 36 hours or so, has been stunning. The Supreme Court making the decision that it did not only disrespected women, it disrespected the Supreme Court and its former decision, its precedent that it established as Roe v. Wade.
When we go back to Washington, we will be putting Roe v. Wade codification on the Floor of the House to make sure that women everywhere have access to the reproductive health that they need. I say that as a mother of five children, and I respect everyone's decisions, their personal decisions, but that's why we have to give them the ability to make those decisions.
It is – it's really kind of sad. But, nonetheless, people know now what the challenge is, and many of the women who will be disadvantaged in this are women of color and poorer women and the rest. It’s an injustice. Not only a disrespect of all women, but an injustice. So, we want women everywhere – in Texas and everywhere – to have the respect they deserve for their decisions about their own reproductive health.
Again, much of what we can do can do better if we can pass H.R. 1, which is the bill to end voter suppression. And we've had your Texans in Washington, welcomed them time and again, with great pride. They're really leaders for the country and kept the momentum going on that and we hope to pass that legislation, as well.
With that, again, it's an honor to be at [Foundation Communities] Prosper Center, to be with Julian and to be with the Mayor of the great city of Austin, Mayor Adler, and with the great Member of Congress, a leader for our country, Lloyd Doggett.
Thank you all very much.
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Q: Speaker Pelosi, President Biden said this morning he wanted a whole-of-government response to the new abortion law here in Texas. He specifically said HHS, DOJ. Besides, as you mentioned, codifying Roe v. Wade into law, what other steps can and should the federal government take to intervene?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, first and foremost, we have our responsibility in House, which is legislation. And we have, as Lloyd and many of you know, we operate in three ways: one is with funding, one is with the tax code and one is with policy – making policy. And we have been able to show our respect for a woman's right to choose, not only in our own country, but with – globally, to make sure that women have access to family planning and the rest. But to codify Roe v. Wade, it will make a tremendous, tremendous difference and that is where our focus will be.
Yes, in terms of a whole-of-government response, I fully appreciate that. And that, really, will just mean increasing some of what we had done in the past that was curtailed, shall we say in recent years, but we look forward to working with the President to prioritize that.
We have our Reproductive Freedom Task Force in the House, and they've been working on this. When we do codifying of Roe v. Wade – I just want to make one point – we will have an amendment to it, to make sure it captures the, shall we say, action taken in Texas that made it difficult – it makes it difficult to, to explain. But, nonetheless, we will mitigate for that damage that they are causing here as well.
Did you want to say anything about that?
Congressman Doggett. No. Well, just agree with you heartily. This is a real setback. I think Justice Sotomayor’s dissent was so powerful, regarding the disgrace of this Court and the injustice to women all over the country.
Speaker Pelosi. On Build Back Better? Any of that?
Congressman Doggett. Yes, sir. Yes.
Q: Do you fear any other states taking similar measures? And how might that shape your response?
Speaker Pelosi. I’m sorry. I didn’t understand.
Congressman Doggett. He’s asking you if other states may follow up. What they may do and –
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, yes. So, maybe copycat legislation. Right now, the case that will probably come before the Court is from Mississippi, which is fifteen weeks. That is – we'll see how they judge there. But there will be other states that may copy the Texas model, which is not a state action, but a right of private action, which is clever. Very, very dangerous.
And so, yeah, we expect to see copycats. That's why it's necessary for have the national law passed of Roe v. – of Roe v. Wade protecting women's rights, wherever they live across the country, whatever their economic status is.
Q: Do you expect any Republican support in Congress?
Speaker Pelosi. I really don't speak for the Republicans. They like it that way.
So do I.
I don't know. You know, I'll just close by saying this. Lloyd has heard me say this so many times. President Lincoln said, ‘Public sentiment is everything. With it, you can accomplish almost anything. Without it, practically nothing.’ But for public sentiment to prevail, people have to know. Right now, people do know the danger that reproductive health is in. And we're talking about termination of a pregnancy here. But understand this: in the Congress, Republicans have been opposed to contraception, family planning, anything that would minimize the need for somebody to make such a decision.
So, it's not just about – they like to talk about extreme cases. But what they're deflecting attention from: family planning, family planning, birth control. They don't support any of that. They do not support any of that. And that's most unfortunate. And I can say that, as I say I have five children – five in six years, almost to the day, within the week. And that was a blessing that God gave us. That's our family's decision. Other people should have the choice to be able to do what meets their families’ prospects and the rest.
So, I think we have to be – let me say this – very prayerful about this. This is so personal for people. This is about who they are. This bill in Texas, it's said they couldn’t even talk to their husband about what their decision might be. It doesn't have an exception for rape and incense. Incest. How disrespectful can you be of women and their reproductive rights to say such a thing? What could they be thinking?
But in any event, what it does do is – because most people didn't think this could happen. Nobody would ever do that. Yeah. Now, they know that somebody would do that.
So, nothing is more eloquent to a Member of Congress than the voice of his or her own constituents. So, when they hear from their own constituents, then we'll see how they would vote. But again, this is personal. People have their, their religious views and the rest. We want to be respectful of that. And we want them to be respectful of the reproductive rights of America's women.
Q: I have a question related to Build Back Better. One of the reasons that Republicans in Texas have avoided the Medicaid expansion is they say it's not sustainable for covering that gap of uninsured Texans. I might have missed this, but is there a provision in Build Back Better that addresses the sustainability of insuring those Texans?
Congressman Doggett. Well, first, I just want to emphasize the pain that I have seen in the eyes of a family, talking just like we are, who have come up, and I've had to tell them, ‘You're too poor to get any federal assistance.’ And that's what's happened here in Texas. Two million of our neighbors, who have not been able to get access to a family physician with any federal or state support because of ideological objections.
The plan that Texas was originally offered would pay 100 cents on the dollar for about three years. And it would be scaled down gradually to over 70 to 90 percent. I've actually introduced a separate bill that, if all else fails, we would permit direct contracting with local governments like the city of Austin, Harris County. We could cover half of the people who are eligible in Texas just in three counties, letting them contract. Many of them are ready and eager to do it, because getting 100 cents on the dollar for three years and then eventually over seventy being – having been asked to cover just ten cents on every dollar that is spent is really an important deal. And some areas have even said they would cut local taxes if they could get this Medicaid expansion. So, I think this sustainability argument had nothing to do with economics or health care and everything to do with political ideology, as we've had one governor after another trying to compete to be the Trumpiest.
Are there other – I think we're about there then. I would just close by saying, while it's understandable that after such a horrendous decision, questions of all of us would center on the need for action would be very apparent. But one week from today, those two million Texans who don't have access to a family physician will get an answer, I believe, from our committee. And the millions of seniors who cannot see well, cannot hear well or cannot eat well will get some relief through better Medicare. And thanks to what the Speaker has already done, there will be more people coming to the next room here, who are hardworking folks who will be able to get a no- or low-premium Affordable Care marketplace health insurance policy, because we have made for many more years those tax credits available. That's what Build Back Better is about in the health care area. And there's so much more beyond that. Thank you very much. And thank you, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Because you mentioned – well, food insecurity or as my kids say, ‘Don't call it that, Mom. People are hungry.’ Food insecurity in our country is rampant. And the President has been such a leader on this in his Executive Actions and the rest. Nutrition is a health issue. It’s a health issue. So, in our – in the totality of these packages, we're trying to address all of the needs of the American people. For The People. And I just would say, getting back to the decision, this is – again, I come from a pro life family and the rest of that. And that's nice for them. And my position is nice for me. And I respect everybody's position for themselves. In other countries like Ireland, they had a referendum on the ballot. They had two actually, two different referendums. One was marriage equality, which passed in the Catholic country of Ireland. And they had one about abortion, and it passed because people did not politicize these kinds of issues. They shouldn't be politicized. It's very personal. And we want to make sure if we can take it back to a place respectful of those who have their choices to make sure that all women have theirs as well.
Let us salute Lloyd Doggett again. Mayor Adler.
Julian [Huerta]. Julian.