Nov 2, 2021

House Democrats Press Conference Transcript November 2: Infrastructure Bill

House Democrats Press Conference Transcript November 2: Infrastructure Bill
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House Democrats Hakeem Jeffries and Pete Aguilar held a press conference on November 2 2021. They discussed negotiations on the Build Back Better infrastructure agenda. Read the transcript of the briefing here.

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Chairman Jeffries: (00:01)
We’re going to hear today from our vice chair, as well as the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. So I’m going to be very brief in my opening observations, but the Build Back Better Agenda is widely popular with the American people during a point and time in our history where we’re divided evenly on almost every other issue. The American people support the Build Back Better Agenda because they know it will invest in a meaningful way in creating millions of good paying jobs, cutting taxes for working families, middle class families, and low income families, and lower costs in healthcare and childcare, in education and in housing. And at the same time, decisively confront the climate crisis. That is why we’re going to get this done and we’re going to get it done very soon. I yield now to our vice chair, Pete Aguilar.

Vice Chair Pete Aguilar: (01:10)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As the chairman said, we’re moving closer and closer to advancing the two cornerstones of President Biden’s agenda. The Build Back Better Act, which is a direct investment in working Americans and their families, and will have an immediate and profound effect on the communities like ours. Expanding childcare access will allow more parents to get back into the workforce and empower families to successfully get through their own family structure. Universal access to preschool will ensure that every child has the same chance to gain high quality education, no matter their background, no matter where they come from. An expanded healthcare coverage to lower costs will lead to better health outcomes for families and alleviate the financial burdens that far too many Americans face.

Vice Chair Pete Aguilar: (02:01)
In addition, this transformative investment in the American people, the House is preparing to pass an infrastructure plan that was agreed to by the Senate. This legislation will create thousands of good paying jobs. The chairman and I have talked about this before, to modernize our infrastructure system, expand broadband, and help us lower emissions to fight the climate crisis. And let’s be clear that the American public supports these priorities and we intend to act on them. This has been a lengthy process, and sometimes it should be. Legislating takes time and it takes compromise. And I’m proud of the progress that we’ve made. And I’m proud of the Democratic caucus for sticking together and to get these bills done. With that, I’ll turn it over to the Democratic Policies and Communications co-chair, Debbie Dingle.

Co-Chair Debbie Dingle: (02:50)
Thank you, Pete. Thank you, Chairman Jeffries and Vice Chair Aguilar. Good morning everybody. I know you’re ready for a great week. Jobs, tax cuts, and lower costs paid for by making the super wealthy and corporations pay their fair share. That’s what Build Back Better is all about. And that’s why we’re here today, to talk about what it’s going to do. I want to talk about jobs. Together with President Biden, we have already created nearly 5 million jobs this year. Growth is up. Wages are up. And unemployment is down to below 5%. together with Build Back Better, the bipartisan infrastructure bill will create millions more jobs, good paying jobs, American jobs, union jobs, jobs that cannot be outsourced.

Co-Chair Debbie Dingle: (03:46)
We’re going to bring our supply chain back to this country. This infrastructure package makes the largest public investment, federal investment in public transit ever. The largest federal investment in passenger rail, since the creation of Amtrak. The single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system.

Co-Chair Debbie Dingle: (04:14)
One that really matters to… All these matter. The largest investment in clean drinking water and wastewater in American history. When 50% of the children whose blood has been tested in this country have lead in their blood, it is time and Republicans agree with us on that. It ensures every American has excess to reliable high speed internet, and it helps tackle the climate crisis by making the largest investment in clean energy transmission and electric vehicle infrastructure in history. Build Back Better with the infrastructure package will make even more investments in electric vehicles and other clean energy technology to combat climate change while making our economy more competitive. Rebuilding our infrastructure means rebuilding the middle class in America, and it means jobs, jobs, jobs. And with that, I want to turn it over to Co-chairman Lou.

Co-Chair Ted Lou: (05:28)
Thank you, Co-Chair Dingle. President Biden’s agenda and that of congressional Democrats have three parts. The American Rescue Plan, the infrastructure bill, and the Build Back Better Act. And three of the goals were to cover from the pandemic, create jobs, and lower taxes. As Co-Chair Dingle said, we’ve created nearly 5 million jobs since January 20th. We’ve also cut taxes. We have increased dramatically the tax cut for American families with children. And then we sent those payments on a recurring monthly basis in the middle of each month. The joint economic committee led by Chairman Byer has shown that about 19 billion in additional economic growth happens in local jurisdictions every month.

Co-Chair Ted Lou: (06:16)
No Republicans voted for that. Every Democrat did. And now we’re trying to extend this tax cut for families or children in the Build Back Better Act. We also know when you look at this tax cut, that it helps people get back into the workforce. They can use this money for childcare to pay for gas, and that’s freeing up parents to do what they need to do, to take care of their family and reenter their workforce. We hope Republicans will join us in supporting this tax cut. We also know that the contrast is clear. When Republicans were in control, they raised taxes on middle class families with their salt provision and they decreased taxes for billionaires and wealthy corporations. When Democrats gained control, one of the first things we did in the America Rescue Plan was cut taxes for working families with children. And with that, I’d like to introduce our co-chair, Matt Cartwright.

Co-Chair Matt Cartright: (07:13)
Thanks, Ted. And thank you to our [inaudible 00:07:18] Chairman Hakeem Jeffries for hosting this press conference. It’s not just about creating jobs and cutting taxes. It’s also about cutting costs. The kinds of costs that keep ordinary Americans up at night worrying if they can cover them. We’re lowering costs with these bills for caring for seniors at home, for covering healthcare in its entirety. And for taking care of little kids.

Co-Chair Matt Cartright: (07:55)
Taking care of seniors, people are tied up at home, either watching their parents or paying somebody to do it for them. It-

Co-Chair Matt Cartright: (08:03)
… their parents or paying somebody to do it for them, an incredibly expensive endeavor. The Build Back Better Act helps pay for that. When we talk about healthcare, we are nearing universal healthcare coverage with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by buttressing the price supports for these plans and reversing the sabotage that has occurred to the Affordable Care Act over the last half dozen years.

Co-Chair Matt Cartright: (08:37)
But taking care of little kids at home with money for childcare and for universal pre-K, that’s a really big deal. When I talk to employers back in my district in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the biggest lament is that they can’t fill entry-level jobs, retail and restaurant jobs. They can’t fill them. And our local chamber of commerce did a survey and they found that 54% of the people who have not returned to those kinds of jobs since the pandemic have not done so because of the scarcity of options for childcare. They have to stay home and watch little kids at home.

Co-Chair Matt Cartright: (09:22)
Taking care of this problem fills those gaps, energizes our economy, and the Nobel prize winning list of economists all agree that this will reduce inflationary pressures. So we’re proud of the Build Back Better Act and all of the things that we’re doing this week. So with that, I want to turn it over to our dynamic Coloradan on our co-chairs committee, Joe Neguse. Joe.

Joe Neguse: (09:54)
Well, thank you, Matt. And I’d like to close us out really by underscoring the message that you’ve heard from my fellow co-chairs, from Matt Cartwright, Debbie Dingell, Ted Lieu. And of course we’re grateful to the chairman of our caucus and the vice chairman for their leadership. But it is clear that the House Democratic Caucus is united around the Build Back Better agenda, which really has three core pillars. One, as you heard so astutely from my colleague from Michigan, creating American jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure, and building clean energy technology to combat climate change. Two, as you heard from my colleague from California, Mr. Lieu, rewarding work by cutting taxes for working families. The vast majority of Americans watching this press conference received a tax cut this year as a result of President Biden’s leadership and the leadership of House Democrats and Senate Democrats, and as chairman Jeffries and representative Lieu both articulated, not a single Republican voted for them.

Joe Neguse: (10:54)
We are lowering costs. The third core pillar of the Build Back Better agenda, as representative Cartwright explained, ultimately making sure that the costs that keep American families up at night like healthcare and childcare and home care for aging relatives are decreased. And we are doing all of this by paying for the investment to make sure that ultra wealthy in corporations pay their fair share. Now, this is important. No one making less than $400,000 a year will pay a penny more in taxes. In fact, again, as Ted outlined, working families are going to see their taxes cut because Build Back Better rewards work and not wealth. And that contrast is worth repeating. I wasn’t here in 2017 when the Republicans controlled Congress and cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires and corporations. But I’m proud to be here now with Democrats in control of Congress, as we cut taxes for working families across our country.

Joe Neguse: (11:56)
The President often says this. He said it when he spoke to the caucus last week, that for far too long, this economy has worked great for those at the top, while ultimately hardworking Americans who built this country get cut out of the deal. We are dealing working people back in by building an economy that gives them a fair shot and we’re going to make sure that it’s paid for by asking the ultra wealthy to pay their fair share. So with that, as we turn to questions, I want to turn it back over to someone whom has shown extraordinary leadership, in my view and I think in the view of my fellow co-chairs, in uniting the various ideological views of the Democratic Caucus as a family. And that’s our chairman, Chairman Jeffries.

Chairman Jeffries: (12:43)
Thank you, Joe, and thank you to the members of the DPCC for that very thorough and compelling presentation. We’ll go here and then we’ll alternate both sides.

Speaker 1: (12:52)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. At this point, can you tell us if you are still expecting a vote this week on the infrastructure and Build Back Better Act, and can you also elaborate on some of the outstanding issues that need to be resolved?

Chairman Jeffries: (13:05)
Well, it’s my hope that we’ll be in a position to be able to vote at some point this week, but the administration has been very clear in terms of deadlines and timelines. Let’s work through all of the outstanding issues to get to a place where we can put these bills to evoke, get them over the finish line and then get these things done for the American people. Our focus at the end of the day is on making sure we create, as the DPCC has outlined, millions of good-paying jobs, that we cut taxes for families with children, and that we lower costs for everyday Americans. I think there’s widespread agreement that those are the right things to be doing on behalf of the American people. There’s some technical issues that folks are working through with respect to some of the climate provisions and some of the healthcare provisions. But I believe at the end of the day, we’re going to find common ground as we always do.

Speaker 2: (14:02)
Just to follow up on that. If it does come to the floor this week, the Build Back Better, do you believe that the progressive caucus will vote for the bill even without an ironclad commitment for support from senator [inaudible 00:14:19]?

Chairman Jeffries: (14:19)
Well, I’ll yield to any of my colleagues on this, but I believe that we need an ironclad commitment as it relates to a framework around the Build Back Better Act that all 50 senators will support. I think that’s been an understanding as we’ve proceeded from the very beginning. President Biden has laid that out. Speaker Pelosi has laid that out. I support the notion that we need an ironclad agreement as it relates to all of the provisions of the Build Back Better Act that will be supported by 50 senators. Anyone else? Okay. Go to the back. You. This side of the room, and then we’ll go back to you. Yeah.

Speaker 3: (15:04)
Is there any further clarity on what will happen with the state and local tax deduction in the package? Will a repeal make it in there and if so, will it be this option under discussion for repealing the cap for two years and then reimposing it out through 2027?

Chairman Jeffries: (15:19)
Well, I’m not going to comment on any of the particular proposals that have been discussed other than to reiterate my position that we do need to address the state and local tax deduction issue as was pointed out by the DPCC, by Ted. One of the things that the Republicans did when they had complete control of government was to cut taxes for the wealthy, the well off, and the well connected and raise taxes on the middle class, by obliterating the salt deduction. And we need to address that.

Speaker 4: (15:54)
There are some moderates in the House who want a CBO before they vote on the bill, but it sounds like from what Chairman [inaudible 00:16:02] is saying, is that what-

Speaker 5: (16:03)
… bill, but it sounds like from what Chairman [inaudible 00:16:02] is saying is that once there’s bill text, it’ll take about two weeks for a CBO score. So how quickly do you think the House can realistically vote on the reconciliation bill? And would that screw up the timing of the vote on the infrastructure bill?

Chairman Jeffries: (16:18)
Well, the CBO score issue did not come up at today’s discussion before the caucus. I don’t know if anyone has any… Pete? I don’t know. Yeah. Pete takes all the tough questions by the way.

Speaker 6: (16:33)
Would you like to see a score first?

Chairman Jeffries: (16:35)
I’m not going to comment on that one way or the other. No member has raised this issue with me. Until someone does, I’ll refrain from commenting.

Speaker 7: (16:43)
It sounds like Senator Manchin though yesterday was raising that as his issue, that he wants to see that. When you heard that from him, and I know that parts of it have already been scored, you guys have a sense of what’s in it. Do you feel like he’s still doing this in good faith, or that he’s just trying to slow up the process at this point? Because, it felt like yesterday y’all were ready to go.

Chairman Jeffries: (17:02)
The Senate is the Senate, and it’s the price that we pay for the democracy that we have in America. And I take every single Senator at good faith in terms of the comments that they’ve put into the public domain. I also believe that all 50 of them do want to get the build back better over the finish line, and I remain convinced of that fact.

Speaker 7: (17:27)
Because that didn’t sound ironclad yesterday. Far from it, right?

Chairman Jeffries: (17:28)
Until we have an ironclad agreement, it’s not my expectation that we’ll vote. When there’s an ironclad agreement, we’ll go to the floor.

Speaker 8: (17:36)
[inaudible 00:17:36]CBO score.

Chairman Jeffries: (17:37)
Yeah, okay.

Speaker 8: (17:40)
Just a real quick point. When you look at the framework, the revenues that we’re getting in will exceed the current amount that’s being projected to spend. So I don’t think the CBO score is going to be much of a problem at the end of the day.

Chairman Jeffries: (17:52)
And thank you for raising that point, which is also critically important in the context of the Build Back Better Act and the bipartisan infrastructure agreement. Completely paid for, unlike the GOP tax scam, which provided 83% of the benefits to the wealthiest 1% in America, and plunged us approximately $2 trillion more into debt unnecessarily. There’s a big difference between the Republican reckless approach, and the Democrats who deliver approach to public policy. Someone, second row.

Speaker 9: (18:39)
I wanted to ask about immigration. So do you believe that Democrats will have provisions that can pass the parliamentarian? And if they don’t have parliamentarian, will Democrats be including them in this package anyways?

Chairman Jeffries: (18:48)
Well that’s under discussion. I know Pete has been involved in a lot of these discussions. We do have a broken immigration system, we need to fix it. We’re working through that issue, Pete.

Speaker 10: (18:58)
The President was clear after our meeting with a number of us on July 29th that he wanted immigration measures included in reconciliation. What we have talked about today is implementing the president’s agenda. A part of that agenda is making sure that we fix our broken immigration system. We’ve been very clear on that. For far too long, our immigration system has left behind individuals who are working and going to school here, living here, going to church in our communities, and we’ve left them behind. And so we want to right that, we want to help fix that. Working through language to do that, and building support to do that is what we seek to do. That’s what the President has asked us to do, the House and Senate are engaged in these efforts, and we’re going to continue down this road as long as there are options.

Chairman Jeffries: (19:53)
You didn’t speak yet, right?

Speaker 11: (19:54)

Chairman Jeffries: (19:54)
Oh, okay. Thanks.

Speaker 11: (19:55)
I was just wondering what you thought the results in Virginia would show to Democrats heading into the 2022 midterm.

Chairman Jeffries: (20:03)
Well, since we’re under the capital dome, I don’t want to comment extensively other than that it’s very close race, it’s expected to be close. That has been a trend that we’ve seen over the last 40 years immediately following the election of a president of the opposite political party. I just hope everybody goes out to vote. I think Terry McCall’s track record speaks for itself, and we don’t need Trump lite in Virginia. Debbie?

Speaker 12: (20:35)
I’m just going to tell you all I’m sick of polls that don’t reflect… The only poll that matters… Oops. The only poll that matters is the poll at the ballot box. Remember I told you all Donald Trump could win Michigan? You all told me I was crazy, the polls did show it, he won. And this morning, I went back and looked at 2002, John Dingle versus Lynn Rivers, the David Broder, John Dingle’s gone, and he won 59 to 41. So let’s see what happens. I predict Terry McCullough will win tonight.

Co-Chair Matt Cartright: (21:04)
Thanks for the question. And of course, what you really want to know is, are we worried about the midterms depending on what happens in the Virginia gubernatorial election? And I can tell you as a frontline Democrat, the answer is no. Number one, people in my district don’t care what have happens in Virginia governor’s race. Number two, a year from now what happened in the Virginia governor’s race will be a distant, dim memory.

Chairman Jeffries: (21:35)
[Kelly 00:21:35], you want it?

Joe: (21:37)

Joe: (21:39)
All right, second row.

Speaker 13: (21:41)
So due to those popular provisions of the original [inaudible 00:21:44], pay leave and drug pricing seem like they may fall out of this final bill. So I was wondering what the status is of negotiations as to those provisions, and whether you have any confidence that they will end up in the final bill.

Chairman Jeffries: (21:59)
Well, nothing has agreed upon until everything is agreed upon. And certainly as it relates to drug pricing, there are ongoing discussions. I believe there has been meaningful progress made in that area with respect to paid family leave. Let’s see where some of the senators who have expressed some reticence land.

Speaker 14: (22:19)
Speaker Pelosi told us 30 minutes ago that the outstanding issues between House Democrats will be resolved by the end of the day. Are you also on that same page?

Chairman Jeffries: (22:30)
If that is something that speaker Pelosi has indicated, that is something that I agree with. Okay.

Speaker 15: (22:39)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. There may still be a handful of Republicans that end up voting for a bipartisan infrastructure. I’m just wondering whether or not it’s consequential to the final vote count. How significant is that for you?

Chairman Jeffries: (22:52)
Joe, you want to speak to this?

Joe: (22:58)
I guess I would say that it’s no surprise that the bipartisan infrastructure deal has bipartisan support, right? It’s a popular bill that ultimately would rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, and fund important projects across the United States, including in my state of Colorado. Forestry projects, climate related provisions, water infrastructure projects. The bill has a whole lot that I think will [inaudible 00:23:20] to the benefit of the American people, which is why it attracted over 60 votes in the United States Senate, and had Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer both voting for it. So we’ll see ultimately how many Republicans vote for it here in the House. One would assume that given all of their statements in the past about the need for us to fund infrastructure, and the failed efforts by the former President. As you all remember, infrastructure week being a regular occurrence for almost 40 years, but very little in terms of substance actually being done to… On this occasion, they would step up to the plate and vote in support of what is clearly a bipartisan bill that’s going to do a whole lot for the people of their communities.

Co-Chair Matt Cartright: (23:58)
I’d like jump in there too. If we get 10 or 12 Republicans voting-

Co-Chair Matt Cartright: (24:03)
If we get 10 or 12 Republicans voting yes on the bipartisan infrastructure deal, that won’t be the wonder. The wonder will be, what happened to the rest of the Republicans. Don’t they care about investing in American infrastructure? Don’t we need to make America competitive with Europe and Russia and China? Don’t we need to grease the skids for American businesses by beefing up our ports and our railroads and our highways and our bridges? We were handed down a portfolio of infrastructure assets by the greatest generation, who are we to say, we should not invest in these things and beef them up and expand them and make them stronger, to make our nation stronger. That will be the wonder, why are Republicans voting no on this?

Co-Chair Debbie Dingle: (24:59)
You’re going to get some Republicans, this Debbie Dingell, you all know, some love. Congress means coming together, we need to come together more. We’re Americans, and I think everybody behind us, and I think it’s sad that Republicans are having their arms broken about not voting for it. I know many, we all … there’s so many things we agree on. We need to remember what the Congress is. Compromise isn’t a dirty word, and Congress means coming together.

Chairman Jeffries: (25:33)
The last question.

Speaker 16: (25:35)
There’s some recent polls that are-

Chairman Jeffries: (25:36)
I’m sorry, we’ll take these two last questions here.

Speaker 16: (25:39)
Recent polls show that a lot of people do not understand the benefits that they’re getting, including the job tax credit, came from the American Rescue Plan. They don’t understand the Republicans voting unanimously against it. Assuming that you do get these two bills passed, how are you going to learn from those failures of communication, so the people know what you have done, do you have to recalibrate the messaging strategy here?

Chairman Jeffries: (26:04)
I have a lot to say on this issue, but this is why we have the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee here. So, I’ll yield to them.

Speaker 17: (26:13)
Okay, sure. So it’d be great if you could write that, that would be helpful. We do have this tax set for families, children happening on a recurring basis every month. So middle of this month, overall majority of American families is going to get another direct deposit into their bank account of cash. And every time this happens, another opportunity for us to message around it. And we have been doing that, we’re going to continue to do that. We’re also in a really different information ecosystem than we were in even a decade ago. You have some folks, QAnon folks who believe that JFK is going to magically reappear pretty soon. So, that is sort of what we’re dealing with. And we do in part, rely on all of you to convey the truth and actual facts. And if you all want to write about this amazing tax cut for families with children, that’s been really transformative, that’d be really helpful.

Joe Neguse: (27:08)
I would just add, there’s no question about … I think that the premise of your question is correct, right? The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was transformative for American people and for families across our country. We transitioned fairly quickly from delivering on the American Rescue Plan, to working on delivering on infrastructure because the President and the house democratic caucus and the Senate democratic caucus are very serious about delivering for the American people. And of course, have then transitioned into the work on build back better. Most of the coverage right now, and for the better part of the last few months has been on process, which of course, makes sense because we are engaged in a complex legislative process to get these bills across the finish line. But that in some respects, obfuscates away from the substance of these incredibly important consequential pieces of legislation that will have lasting impact on the American people and American families.

Joe Neguse: (28:05)
And I suspect, that once the process has concluded, you will see our communicators, our best communicators, house democratic caucus has some of the best communicators in the country, on public policy, out there in lockstep talking about the very various ways in which these bills, as I said, inure to the benefit of the American people. And ultimately, I believe that the American people will listen.

Chairman Jeffries: (28:32)
The pattern over the last 30 years, has been that democratic presidents inherit an economic disaster, and then we have to meet the urgency of the moment to turn things around for the American people. That is what took place when Bill Clinton replaced George HW Bush inheriting a recession, that he turned around and created more than 20 million good paying jobs and even a budget surplus. That is certainly what took place when President Obama inherited the great recession from the previous Republican administration, and then turned things around, creating over 14 million good paying jobs, making sure that more than 20 million Americans who previously had no coverage, had high quality affordable healthcare. And of course, cutting the deficit from 1.5 trillion to 500 billion, cutting it by a trillion dollars. And that is what is happening right now. We inherited a disaster from the previous president, a disaster on COVID and a disaster on the economy.

Chairman Jeffries: (29:48)
And so, as my colleagues have indicated, we have had to collectively act with urgency, because we care about everyday Americans. So we acted with urgency to crush the virus, acting with urgency, to provide support to everyday Americans who are struggling. And now, we’re acting with urgency to supercharge the economy and create opportunity and prosperity in every single zip code. Not simply for the wealthy, the well-off and the well-connected, but we are going to learn from history and led by the speaker, the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. We are going to message with simplicity and repetition about all the good, big, transformative, bold things that we have done for the American people.

Chairman Jeffries: (30:42)
Last question.

Speaker 18: (30:43)
Thank you so much. Chairwoman Pramila has gotten a lot of attention for the role that she’s played in these negotiations over build back better. And I think for a lot of people outside of Washington, they wouldn’t have known her name a couple of months ago, but she’s impressed a lot of people. Others have said maybe she overplayed her hand a little bit, especially after Senator Pelosi had to delay a vote again last week. Could you just comment on the role that she’s played and what she’s brought to these negotiations?

Chairman Jeffries: (31:09)
Well, she’s an effective leader of the progressive caucus. The progressive caucus is an important part of the House democratic caucus. We’re a big family, we’re a diverse family, we’ve got progressives, we’ve got new Dems, we’ve got blue dogs. And that is what makes the House democratic caucus, the most authentic representatives of the American people, all united by the fact that we are going to get things done. We’re going to cut taxes for families with children, we’re going to create millions of good paying jobs. We’re going to lower costs for everyday Americans, we’re going to build back better for the people. And it takes every single one of us, including Pramila to get that done. Thank you everyone.

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