Nov 19, 2021
House Votes on Build Back Better: Democrats Press Conference Transcript
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats held a press conference on November 19, 2021 after the House voted to pass the Build Back Better infrastructure bill. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (00:00)
He has said that the infrastructure bill was very, very important and we agree. But it was not the sum total of his vision for how we do build. And building back better meant building back with many more people participating and with environmental justice, with home healthcare, the list goes on and on. And one thing I’m particularly excited about is family medical leave. And that is a fight that we have always been engaged in for a long time. Steny and I and Clyburn, we were here when primary medical leave passed unfunded, and now we have it funded. So, for these and other reasons, as Mr. Hoyer said at the beginning in his remarks, we’ll be telling our children and grandchildren that we were here this day. You were reminding me of St. Crispin’s Day Speech when you were saying that.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (00:51)
And our distinguished Mr. Clyburn talked about the three legs of the stools. The rescue package, the BIF, and now this bill of being the infrastructure of our future. And of course our distinguished chair of the Ways And Means Committee who held down the fort for such a long time for a long time, but including last night, Mr. Neil, quoting Daniel Webster and our responsibility to act. So, for us, it’s not just about legislation, it’s about values and the values that this legislation represents for the people. With that, I’m pleased to yield to the distinguished majority leader Mr. Hoyer.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer: (01:32)
Thank you very much. [inaudible 00:01:34] First of all, congratulations, Madam Speaker. This is a historic piece of legislation, you were its leader with, as you say, the vision of the president of the United States. This bill will speak for itself to millions and millions and millions and millions of Americans whose lives will be made more secure, more richer in the terms of quality of life, whose educational opportunities will be greater, and whose job opportunities will be greatly enhanced. And America’s competitiveness in the world will be heightened for the 21st century.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer: (02:19)
As the president said, this is a transformational piece of legislation. It’s a big win for the people, for the average working men and women of America, for those who struggle every day and hope that somebody is on their side, somebody is listening to their pain and their struggle and their challenge. This bill is an answer. This bill will make a difference in their lives. That’s why this bill is so historic, not for next year or the year after, but for decades to come, it will make America a better land, a land of greater opportunity, a land of the free, a land of the brave. I need now yield to my distinguished colleague from South Carolina, who can out of the votes precisely, precisely. Thank you, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
Jim Clyburn: (03:29)
Thank you very much, Mr. Leader, Madam Speaker, and this great leadership team. Let me thank all of you for great job well done. Last night, when I spoke on this bill, I called it the third leg of a three legged stool needed to balance, not just the stool, but balance people’s lives. What are we doing for the people we serve? What are we doing for their families? And what are we doing for the communities that we live in? So, when you look at the Rescue Act and you look at the infrastructure bill and this one, I think you can see that we have now proposed comprehensive approaches from the federal government to rescue these lives, save these communities, and do what needs to be done for the future. I also talked last night about the fact that COVID-19 exposed some significant faults in our system that needed to be addressed, faults in our healthcare system that need to be addressed. How do you get telehealth and telemedicine to the rural communities all over [inaudible 00:04:52]? That’s what the infrastructure bill is all about.
Jim Clyburn: (04:55)
[Inaudible 00:04:55], the healthcare system that in 12 states that did not expand Medicaid. We decided that the people living in those states are part of this great nation as well. And we address their plight with this legislation. I always talk about this being a great country, but the fact that we have not allowed this greatness to be accessible and affordable for all of our citizens, these three pieces of legislation accomplished that in the big way. And with that, I’d like to yield to our assistant speaker, Ms. Catherine Clark.
Catherine Clark: (05:43)
Thank you, Mr. Clyburn. What an incredible morning, what an incredible vote, what an incredible time for the American people to be seen and heard. As we head into Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for the leadership that is standing here with me, especially Mr. Clyburn, Steny Hoyer, and of course our historic and iconic Speaker, her vision with President Biden of focusing and building on conversations with the American people, putting children and women first to make sure that we breathe life into those ideals that we talk about, liberty and justice for all.
Catherine Clark: (06:29)
And with this bill, we are saying to the American family, we see you. We understand those issues around your kitchen table and we are going to send help to you whether it’s through expanded childcare, universal pre-K that we haven’t been able to pass since the Nixon administration, saying that we are going to build a million new affordable housing units, we are going to be the custodians of this planet, and while we clean the water and air, we are also going to create millions of good jobs. This is the promise of the Build Back Better agenda. And with this momentous step, we say to the American people, we are meeting your historic challenge with historic progress. I am so grateful to this caucus and to President Biden for making this possible.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (07:30)
Thank you very much. And let me just say that you’ve heard me say it again and again, all of this would not be possible without the great work of our committees, members of the committee, and staffs of the committee, and our distinguished chairs. Three of them are with us in terms of the substance of the legislation, Mr. Neil, Ways And Means, Mr. Pallone of Energy And Commerce, and Mr. Scott of, I should say, Chairman Of Education And Labor, but the person who facilitated this for us again and again, was the chairman of the Rules Committee, Mr. McGovern. Thank you Mr. McGovern for bringing us to the floor again and again, and yesterday in record time. However, good thing that that happened. And then, I’m honored to be here also with our leadership. This is legislation that creates millions of good paying jobs, gives tax cuts to the middle class, lowers costs especially healthcare cost and child care costs for the middle class, and is paid for 100%.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (08:36)
And again, we’re very excited about what it does for the children, for the families. And it’s, again, if you’re a mom, a dad, a family caregiver, or the rest, this bill is for you. If you care about the planet and how we pass it on to our children, this bill’s for you. Whether it’s about right now, their health and wellbeing, whether it’s good paying jobs for their family and green technology, good union jobs, if it’s the security of our country by preventing and hoping to mitigate for conflicts that come from conflict over resources and habitat, it’s a national security issue, and of course, a moral issue to pass the planet on, in good shape to future generations.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (09:28)
So, with that, I’m honored to be here with them and with members of our leadership. Mr. Aguilar, I know that distinguished chairman, Mr. Jeffries had a plane. Thank you, Mr. Aguilar. How many hours were you in the chair last night? Too many, but very well. Excuse me. And then, distinguished chair, the DCCC, Mr. Maloney, and here we are. So, I know our distinguished chairs will want to take all of your difficult policy questions, but why don’t we begin? Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 5: (09:58)
Madam Speaker, I want to ask you after this week, obviously this is a momentous moment for the Democratic Party, but you also had to deal with the censure vote week. You had to deal last night with minority leader, Kevin McCarthy’s eight and a half hour speech, what do you feel like the tone and tenor of the House Of Representatives is at this moment and what can be done to try to bridge some of those gaps in trust?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (10:24)
Well, let me just say that I don’t specifically agree with your first sentence saying a great day for the Democratic Party. Maybe it is, but it’s a great day for our country. And that’s why we are so thrilled about it. It’s for the people. It should be bipartisan. It should be bipartisan. The fact that they would rather give tax cuts to the richest people and 83% of the benefits going to the top 1% without any pay for is a stark difference between what we do in this legislation. And I didn’t even pay attention to the speech. I don’t even listen to most of the speeches on the other side because they’re not fraught with meaning or fact. So, I don’t have my computer get bothered with that. But, the fact is is that the censure, they could improve their behavior. They don’t have to threaten to kill members of Congress or threaten the life of the president of the United States. So, you’ll say what can we do to bring people together? Well, we can encourage everyone to honor the rule 23 of the House, which is that you must bring credit to the House Of Representatives. But with that, I’m going to yield to my colleagues for any answers they may have on the subject of your question, Mr. Neil.
Mr. Neil: (11:43)
I never thought quoting Daniel Webster would’ve received such a reaction from the Republican leader last night. That seemed to be the theme that he repeatedly came back to. But if I could just emphasize just quickly paid family leave, middle class tax cuts, the child credit, ACA premium credits. We lowered healthcare costs, negotiated drug prices, and we expand ACA. And with that signing the president’s signature on the infrastructure bill. This is quite a week for the American family.
Speaker 16: (12:18)
Speaker 7: (12:19)
How do you respond to Republicans today that say Democrats lied to the American public when they said this plan costs $0 when the CBO says it at least adds $160 billion to of the debt?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (12:36)
Let’s just not present what the Republicans say as any fact that you’re predicating a question on, I mean, understand what’s happening around here. Okay, Mr. because you know these figures, so…
Mr. Neil: (12:49)
So, they hung their hats on the issue of the IRS. We believe according to the IRS commissioner, a Republican appointed by the former president, who said, by the way that there could be up to a trillion dollars that’s hanging out there. He said that we didn’t say it. We subscribe to the 400 billion mark, which not only that commissioner, but the former commissioners have all subscribed to as well, an investment in software for better modeling at the IRS, an investment in allowing auditors to upgrade their own skills. Your chances of being audited over the EITC are now greater than your chances of being audited if you’re paid in dividends and capital gains. And the last point, but this is really important. If you are a working American, because of withholding taxes, we have north of 95% compliance in America. We should be proud of that. That means that people who get paid week to week with wages, they pay their share. The problem is in the upper echelon of the American economy now. Republican IRS commissioners and Democratic IRS commissioners they all agree on that principle.
Speaker 7: (14:00)
I understand that. And just a quick-
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (14:02)
And in the legislation, they charge for the investment in training the IRS and hiring more people. But they don’t weigh in the upside of what you get from that in terms of increased collection of taxes. And also it’s a deterrent because people will know that now there’re more people looking at the tax returns at that high end with their high price lawyers, as the chairman said, very clearly, you’re more likely to be investigated if you’re about an EITC, but Earned Income Tax Credit, these are low income people in our country, don’t have high price lawyers or phalanxes of them, and they get more audit than the wealthiest. Next question.
Speaker 8: (14:46)
Madam speaker. Madam Speaker. This was a huge vote today, but it won’t be the last vote. Are you confident you can keep the momentum going to actually get the final version of this bill to the president’s desk?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (14:56)
Yes, but I’m going to yield to some of my colleagues and on that and I’ll close with that as well, because this is huge. It is 90 some percent of the bill was written together, House, Senate, White House. There was some differences at the end and we’ll deal with those as we go forward, what will happen is we have a different committee system in the House than they do in the Senate. So, this bill will now be reshaped to their committees. And at that point, we’ll see where we need to, shall we say, reconcile our differences, but at the end of the day, we will have a great deal. Mr. Pallone, would you like to speak to that?
Frank Pallone: (15:37)
Yeah, I mean, look, the fact of the matter is that over the last few months, and particularly in the last few weeks, we have been working with the senators, not only Manchin and Sinema, but also with the chairs of the committees in the Senate. So, I’ll use two examples. One is on the drug pricing, right? We’ve been basically drilling down and getting Sinema’s input, getting the Schumer’s input, and so, I do believe that the drug pricing provision that you see, is it. I mean, I don’t know, I guess there could be some changes, but I don’t think they’re significant. And the fact that we have negotiated pricings and we have savings as the CBO showed, it means that this is a provision that saves money and at the same time does a lot in terms of affordability for seniors and others, the same would be true for methane, right?
Frank Pallone: (16:33)
Nancy and I, and the group went to Glasgow for the climate conference and they were touting international action on methane. So, we have this very important provision with regard to methane emissions that was worked on with the senators and was also worked on with House members over the last few weeks. So, I believe just using those two as an example that this is pretty much it. I mean, there may be some additional changes, but in terms of paying for it and in terms of the actual substantive authorizing language, I think we’re pretty solid at this point. And there’s no reason why this bill couldn’t pretty much come back from the Senate with some minor changes, nothing major, in my opinion.
Speaker 10: (17:24)
Thank you. On the educational and labor parts, we have pretty much agreed with our counterparts in the Senate. Childcare, which will allow parents to go to work. If you’re in a low to moderate income situation, you really can’t afford childcare. So, you can’t afford to go to work. Pre-K, which is so valuable for future education, universal, the job training. The fact is that we don’t have enough skilled workforce out there to do the work that’s already there. The president signed a major infrastructure bill. And so, if we expect that work to get done, we’re going to have to have an upgraded workforce, major investments in workforce and higher education. And we worked with the agriculture committee, as the speakers indicated they don’t necessarily line up school lunches, school meals are part of the Agriculture Committee in the Senate and Labor in the House. And we’ve agreed to significant increase access to school meals. So, there’s a lot in the bill that it’s pretty much agreed to on ed and labor side.
Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker.
Speaker 10: (18:41)
I wanted to ask, first of all, you used to hold the record for the longest floor speech. How do you feel about that being broken? And do you plan to try to take back?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (18:51)
No, I barely noticed that, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. This is about serious business here.
Speaker 11: (18:58)
Let me ask a serious question, ma’am.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (18:59)
Oh, you have another.
Speaker 11: (19:00)
I do have a serious one. There will be changes whether they’re small or large, you’ve got a narrow majority.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (19:07)
Yeah, I’ve heard that.
Speaker 11: (19:07)
Are you confident that at the biggest hurdles on this bill are in your rear view mirror?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (19:13)
Yes. Let me just say, and I want to hear from some of our other colleagues, this bill is monument… This bill is monumental. It’s historic, it’s transformative, it’s bigger than anything we’ve ever done. We have so much agreement within the bill. Should there be some disagreement? And by and large, we had the bill scrubbed so that we are technically, shall we say, eligible for the 51 vote in the Senate. That’s what that was about. And then, whatever comes out of the Senate, we’ll be working together with them so that we have agreement when it comes back to House. I have absolutely no doubt. The biggest hurdle was to get the bill there. The biggest challenge was to meet the vision of President Biden. Does anybody have anything they want to say on any of these? Do you? I don’t know if you want to talk about being in the chair all night or what. One more question. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 12: (20:18)
This bill, many of your colleagues in Democratic Party are counting on it to run on it given its contents. As far as you are concerned, upon passage, will you talk about whether or not you are going to run for reelection upon [crosstalk 00:20:34]?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (20:34)
I’ll tell you, this is an important meeting about serious subjects. If anybody has a serious question, I’ll be happy to take one more. I’m not here to talk about me. I’m here to talk about Building Back Better for women, for the people, for the children. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 13: (20:51)
Madam Speaker, but some of the provisions such as immigration reforms, such as paid leave are possibly going to drop out in the Senate bill. Do you have plans to address some [crosstalk 00:21:03]?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (21:04)
We have made our statement today. We have stood the test of the parliamentarian’s privilege scrub. We are celebrating that, we are sending it over to the Senate, and we are ready to debate for our bill and have a big success. My colleagues does anyone who want to say about any of these things, again. We’re not here to talk about [crosstalk 00:21:31].
Jim Clyburn: (21:34)
Well, I’ll just say this, there’s nothing unusual about the House working its will and the Senate working its and that’s why we have conferences. And I think that just because we have done something, let’s just take, for instance, the SALT tax. There are several senators that said they’ve got a version that they feel good about. I have not seen that version, but we think we got a good bill. They think they can make it better and let them go at it and they may make it better and we will accept better. So, I don’t think that’s anything for us to be all that concerned about. We’ve done what we think we can do, the Senate will do what it think it can do, and we’ll come together on behalf of the American people and try to have a coordinated approach as we go off into the future. I don’t fear.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (22:36)
Yeah, it’s called the legislative process and the House does not just write any bill that they think the Senate will pass. We find our common ground, but we have our own, shall we say personality about things and then we will reconcile whatever changes are needed as we ever strive to build back better, but it’s a really cause for celebration for us now. And we’re not getting bogged down in long speeches or people’s careers or what happens if this doesn’t happen. What we’re talking about is what has happened. And it’s a glorious, glorious, historic transformative piece of legislation for the people, for women, for the children. Thank you all very much. And by the way, happy Thanksgiving to all of you. As our distinguished assistant speaker has said, we have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. And I want express my gratitude for President Joe Biden. Thank you all very much.
Speaker 18: (23:41)
The president called since this passed? Have you heard from him?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (23:42)
Yes. I’ve heard from him.
Speaker 18: (23:44)
What did he have to say?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (23:44)
Congratulations to the members. Congratulations to the members. Thank you. And happy Thanksgiving.
Speaker 15: (23:44)
Happy Thanksgiving, ma’am.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (23:44)