Oct 22, 2021
Kamala Harris Build Back Better Infrastructure Speech Transcript October 22
VP Kamala Harris spoke about the Build Back Better infrastructure agenda on October 22, 2021. Read the transcript of her speech remarks here.
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Kamala Harris: (00:06)
I’m telling you, we were talking backstage, the Congressman and I were talking about how we grew up and I grew up in the community center. I was a member of the Y. I swam at the Y. And so it is so good to be here. And Secretary Javier [inaudible 00:00:25], I want to thank you for being a lifelong public servant and for serving our nation at the Department of Health and Human Services. And I just want to say it is great to be back in New York. Mayor, it’s good to see you. And it’s good to be in the Bronx. It’s good to be in the Bronx.
Kamala Harris: (00:46)
It really is. And with all of these esteemed New York electeds. Speaker Hasty, I see so many friends here and the elected leaders of New York are certainly elected leaders of this state, but national leaders. Really the voice of the leaders of this city, of this state really do carry a voice. Not only for the people who live in this state, but for the people of our country.
Kamala Harris: (01:12)
Governor Hochul, where is she? There you are. Hello, governor. Thank you for welcoming me. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, thank you. And then of course, the speaker and Senate leader, Stewart-Cousins, where is she? There you are. Thank you. It’s good to see you all.
Kamala Harris: (01:30)
And to Congressman Jamal Bowman, thank you for the work that you do that lift up the people of this district and the people of this state and country. He and I have had many conversations of untreated trauma in our children. And how, when addressed, we can do the work of putting them on the path of achieving their God given capacity.
Kamala Harris: (02:05)
So looking out at this crowd, I see America. Looking out at this group of folks, I see in particular with our young leaders and I see many of them, the children of America. I see the families of America, and I see the people who have continued to hold it all together through the roller coaster of this pandemic. It has been a lot and people are tired. But when I look out across this room and I see so many of our young leaders here, when I look out across this room and across our country, what I also see is determination. I see your resolve. I see you.
Kamala Harris: (03:00)
President Joe Biden and I both see you. And we stand with you and we are fighting with the leaders here for you each and every day. When we arrived at the White House at the beginning of this year, the president and I knew that working families in our nation were struggling. We knew that during the pandemic, the families that had the least were being harmed the most. That there was not a family in America that did not feel the pinch of this pandemic.
Kamala Harris: (03:40)
That working class families, middle class families who were struggling before were barely holding it together now. And so, we set out to deal with these issues, to provide all families with some relief, and it worked. The congressman talked about it. In less than a hundred days, thanks in large part to New York’s congressional delegation, we passed our American Rescue Plan with $1,400 checks, plus housing assistance, plus childcare assistance, plus a larger child tax credit, which is already helping to lift America’s children out of poverty.
Kamala Harris: (04:23)
The relief that was contained in the American Rescue Plan, put us on a path, on a path toward a better future. Today, we have within our grasp an opportunity to finish what we started with the American Rescue Plan. This right now is a moment that will not last. It is a particular moment of incredible opportunity and a moment to transform our nation. And part of what your New York leaders and the president and I have been talking about in the halls of Washington DC, is let’s recognize this moment for what it is. Let’s recognize that the pandemic hurt so many people. So many people experienced such great loss of every proportion, but by the way, things weren’t so great for a lot of people before the pandemic.
Kamala Harris: (05:32)
But the pandemic highlighted a lot of what is wrong, what was wrong, the fractures and the fissures and the failures for all to see. A lot of those issues, which folks in this room have been working on for a long time, but a greater number of people had an opportunity born out of crisis to see that there is work to be done. And this then is a moment to do it.
Kamala Harris: (06:02)
And we can see also that in this moment, this moment of transformation, let’s think about it. It’s a moment where schools and small businesses are opening back up. It’s a moment where jobs are being created and our economy is growing. And so in this moment, we have an opportunity to build an economy that works for working families. So let’s make it work for families. And right now the president and I are working to that end with the United States Congress to pass our Build Back Better agenda. And I’m sure you all have heard about the Build Back Better agenda. In my briefing documents, it usually says BBB, but some have been asking, what exactly does that mean?
Kamala Harris: (07:00)
Well, it’s about being better on climate. It’s about better health. It’s about better jobs. And intentionally, it is about our families. This is our agenda-
Speaker 2: (07:22)
[inaudible 00:07:22] drowned in Queens. It could have been prevented if we had the right infrastructure.
Kamala Harris: (07:26)
You are right, brother.
Speaker 2: (07:27)
I am right about that.
Kamala Harris: (07:28)
I know you are. And how about if you and I talk about that.
Speaker 2: (07:31)
[crosstalk 00:07:31] of a choice.
Kamala Harris: (07:32)
So let me finish.
Speaker 2: (07:33)
Why are we working with the Chinese on their Belt and Road Initiative?
Kamala Harris: (07:36)
Okay. You know what? You and I will talk after. I give my comments and I’m happy to talk with you. But right now let’s talk about the agenda that will include speaking to all people and allowing everybody to be heard, because that’s part of what we want in our democracy. Everybody gets their chance to talk and everybody gets a chance to be heard.
Kamala Harris: (08:05)
So this is our agenda. This is our agenda to cut taxes. The Build Back Better agenda includes our agenda to cut taxes because for too long, the burden has been misplaced in a way that it is working families, middle class families, low income families, while the rich are not paying their fair share. So this is a moment to cut taxes and lower cost for the working families of our nation. So in the Build Back Better agenda, we are fighting to cut healthcare costs for working families. And for all people, we are fighting to cut energy costs as we combat climate change. And we are fighting to establish universal pre-K and to lower the cost of childcare so that parents can afford to care for their children and to participate in our workforce.
Kamala Harris: (09:13)
How much did we see during this pandemic how that burden was disproportionately placed on the women in our workforce, so much so that 2 million women left the workforce during the pandemic and are still outside of the workforce. What we saw during the pandemic, and it was highlighted, those individuals who are among what we call the sandwich generation. Individuals, men and women who are parenting their young children while taking care of their elderly parents.
Kamala Harris: (09:49)
And let’s be clear about the burden that they carry born out of love and a sense of duty and responsibility. It is the responsibility of tending to the needs of their children, including what that might involve in terms of homework, in terms of taking care of their basic needs. And while taking care of elderly parents who have a different set of needs, these are the burdens that families are carrying often without any help. The Build Back Better agenda saying, let’s see folks, let’s see what they’re going through. Let us ask, are we really creating and reinforcing a society that is about allowing people to reach their potential? Do we have a society that rewards ambition, the ambition a parent has for their children?
Kamala Harris: (10:52)
This is at its essence. What makes we believe, and is therefore the spirit of our Build Back Better agenda. What we believe makes for a stronger and a more productive and a better community and country and a better quality of life for all of the people of our nation. So we are fighting for all of these things. We are fighting to give seniors and people with disabilities more options, so that they don’t have to move out of their home to get the care they need. We are fighting to expand paid leave, so that our nation no longer comes in last among wealthy nations in providing these essential benefits.
Kamala Harris: (11:39)
The president is about to go on a trip, a very important trip with the G20. I’ve been meeting with leaders of nations that are our partners and allies, and they look at us and they are asking, is America really fulfilling her potential and her promise? They are asking, can democracies work? Can you care about building a strong economy, coexistent with caring about human rights, civil rights, and a perspective that is born out of a sense of humanity and what it requires in terms of holding people up and treating them with dignity. All of these things are at stake right now. All of these things are at stake. So when we do things like fight to extend the child tax credit, yes, it is about our most important asset and resource, which is the children, but it is also about the strength of our nation and our standing in the world.
Kamala Harris: (12:56)
So let’s talk for a minute about the Child Tax Credit, because it has a huge impact on the families of our community and our country. The largest child tax credit that the president signed into law back in March is one of the largest ever single tax cuts for families with children. It is also the first time this tax cut has been distributed monthly. Now this is something I’ve been working on for a long time, which is the component of the plan that is about monthly payments. Why some asked, do you need to do that? And the point is really pretty simple. You got to pay your bills every month.
Kamala Harris: (13:39)
So why don’t we provide the tax cut every month if it is really designed to help people with their bills and the cost of living? So for four months now, the American families that have received this new approach have received a monthly tax cut of up to $300 per child. Parents and grandparents who are often the primary caregiver for their grandchildren have used those checks to manage the cost of raising children while continuing to work. Nearly all the families that receive the Child Tax Credit are indeed working. And for other families, the Child Tax Credit is helping them to cover the cost of childcare so that they can get back to work. But unless Congress acts, these monthly checks will stop coming after December.
Kamala Harris: (14:36)
You’ve heard that earlier today, one in three children would no longer be covered by the full tax credit. And it is of particular note and something that we all care deeply about. That includes half of black and Hispanic children in America. Needless to say, we cannot let that happen. We cannot let that happen and we will not let that happen. And that is why together with all of the congressional leaders who are here today, we are fighting to pass our Build Back Better agenda.
Kamala Harris: (15:14)
And you’ve probably seen the news or heard the news about the details of the final bill. The congressman talked a little bit about the sausage making process that that is, but I’ll tell you one thing for sure. We will not allow anyone who makes than $400,000 a year have their taxes go up. We will not allow that. That is non-negotiable. In fact, this plan cuts taxes for working families. This plan also makes corporations pay their fair share because… And we all know why that’s important. It’s just simply not right that a nurse or a teacher or a firefighter pays more in taxes than a hedge fund manager. It’s just not right. It’s just not right.
Kamala Harris: (16:15)
So the bottom line is that this is about what we value as a nation, about who we value. And I want y’all to know the president and I value working families. The president and I both come from working families. The neighborhood I grew up in was a neighborhood of hardworking folks. People who took seriously the importance of their job, who took seriously the importance of caring for their families. Who did all that they did with incredible pride, nurses and teachers and construction workers. Folks who were a part of the community, gave to the community and lived in a way that was about understanding the dignity of work.
Kamala Harris: (17:19)
My mother worked around the clock as a breast cancer researcher. She would pack lunches early in the morning for me and my sister and see us out to go catch the bus to go to school. And when we came home at night, we would eat dinner together. And then after we went to bed, I would sometimes sneak and just check on her and she’d be at the kitchen table, paying the bills. She never complained, but I know sometimes she was barely holding it together.
Kamala Harris: (17:57)
We have families around our nation who know it won’t be easy, but we can’t give up. We have families throughout our nation in this very community included who would do anything and everything to give their children the opportunities that they rightly deserved. Parents and families who see the capacity of the children, who see their dreams, who look in their eyes and see the twinkle. Who nurture their ambitions. Let’s support those families. Let’s have a system and a society that rewards the hard work that that takes. Let’s value that in every way we know we have the capacity to do.
Kamala Harris: (19:06)
That’s what this is about. And we have a moment right now to actually get this done. The members of the United States Congress right now in their hands within reach have an opportunity to lift up our families and our children, to see and acknowledge with humility what has not been working, and with excitement to do something about it. So I’m here today to ask people to see this moment for what it is, and to step up. We can do this. It is the right thing to do.
Kamala Harris: (20:13)
And to the young leaders here, and I see you and I’m so proud of you. You never let anybody tell you something can’t be done. I have a motto. I eat and drink no for breakfast. Don’t hear it. If most of us in this room heard no, we would not be in this room right now. We know it can be done. So New York, change is possible. Change is possible if we make it happen. And so let’s make this happen. Let’s get to work. Let’s pass our Build Back Better agenda. Let us build an economy that works for working families. May God bless you. And may God bless America. Thank you.