Sep 24, 2021
Nancy Pelosi, Democrats Build Back Better for Women Press Conference Transcript
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press conference on women’s rights and the Build Back Better plan on September 24. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Nancy Pelosi: (00:00)
Am I supposed to do this? I guess so. Hello everyone.
Nancy Pelosi: (01:03)
In some ways, this is a great day for the women and indeed all of the families of America. In another way, it’s sad that it is so necessary because of actions of that Supreme Court supporting legislation that is shameful in every way to our country and what we are about. But many of us have waited a long time to be able to pass Roe v. Wade into the law of the land, as it is, has guaranteed the constitutional right of women to choose. But now it will be the law of the land codified. This is so exciting and it wouldn’t have happened without the leadership of so many of our members in the house. But as they know, and as we all know, our inside maneuvering can just get us so far. It’s the outside mobilization of so many families, women across the country to speak out for respect, for dignity, for them to make their own decisions about the size and timing of their families. So it’s with gratitude… Let’s hear it for the mobilization. And many of those folks are represented here today.
Nancy Pelosi: (02:23)
I’m honored to be here with Assistant Speaker, Katherine Clark, with co-chair Jackie Speier and Brenda Lawrence of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, but with so many people here who have been so much a part of this fight for so many years. People say, why didn’t you do it sooner? Well, first of all, this is the first Congress with a democratic majority, with a pro-choice majority and a Democratic president of the United States to sign the bill and not only that, to lead us in this quest. Our VIP today, and I’m pleased to be here with Nina Perez, speaking on her own experience as a mom and as National Director of Early Learning for MomsRising. MomsRising. Let’s hear it for MomsRising. Again, we’re here with our other VIPs, moms, women, and advocates speaking out for the need to transfer the care economy that this is all a part of.
Nancy Pelosi: (03:32)
But this issue is one that is so personal that it should be intruded upon by any political institution, governmental institution, is just not right. It has been declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. We wish they would just honor their own precedent on this, but they didn’t. Hence, Congress has acted [inaudible 00:03:54] send it to the Senate and then to the President of the United States for signature. This is about women’s right to choose, yes, but it’s about freedom, freedom of that choice and freedom from the vigilantes, the bounty hunters that the Texas government legislature has set in motion. This has so many things going against it you have to wonder what the Supreme Court Justices were thinking, or were they thinking. Or were they thinking? They certainly were not respecting women.
Nancy Pelosi: (04:28)
And with that, I’m very pleased to yield to the Assistant Speaker of the House, Congresswoman Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, a leader and fighter on this issue for a long time in the state Senate of Massachusetts and now in the Congress of the United States. Katherine Clark.
Katherine Clark: (04:53)
Thank you, Speaker Pelosi for your leadership, for your dedication to women, children, and families, and to my incredible colleagues behind me who know that today is an important marker for women’s reproductive freedom and that we are committed to building back better for Women.
Katherine Clark: (05:15)
Just like roads and bridges, childcare, elder care, paid family leave move our economy forward. For too long we’ve been told these are lesser issues. Somehow not infrastructure. These are women’s issues. Private family matters. That they don’t impact our economy and they are not worth investing in. But the truth is this pandemic has been brutal to American women. One out of four women have been forced out of the workforce because of the collapse of the care economy. $57 billion a year is lost in productivity because women and families struggle to find care for their loved ones. The Build Back Better agenda recognizes that families are struggling to afford home and childcare.
Katherine Clark: (06:07)
Care providers who are predominantly women and women of color can’t make ends meet or keep their doors open. They don’t make enough money caring for our children to care for their own. Parents are forced to choose between a paycheck and a sick child and basic necessities from food to diapers, to rent, to prescription drugs rake the monthly budget.
Katherine Clark: (06:33)
When I was first elected to Congress, I was balancing care for my three children and two sick parents. I felt like I was failing someone every day, but I was incredibly lucky to have a partner and to be able to afford help. But for too many people that is out of reach, and the struggle to get to work and provide for the basics of their family is out of reach as well. It’s women who pay the daily price for these social failures and it’s our entire economy that suffers when this care system collapses.
Katherine Clark: (07:09)
Democrats have an urgent message to the American people, we see your struggle and we are taking action on it. The Build Back Better agenda will get Americans back to work, lower costs in taxes for families, ensure that everyone, women, children, communities of color are not left out or left behind. Who agrees with us? CEOs across the country, small business owners, chambers of commerce, all demanding we make these crucial investments. This is how we Build Back Better by ensuring the needs of women and families are met with the same urgency and level of funding as every other challenge facing our country. So I am confident, especially with this incredible sisterhood and my other colleagues behind me, and Joe Biden in the White House, we will meet this moment of historic challenge with historic progress.
Katherine Clark: (08:10)
And now it is my pleasure to introduce the co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, Congresswoman Jackie Speier.
Jackie Speier: (08:25)
Thank you. Thank you, Madam Speaker, Assistant Speaker. To my brothers and sisters, we are doing what? Building back better-
Jackie Speier: (08:35)
Building back better with women. So this is really all about the infrastructure bills that are before Congress right now. We have an infrastructure bill of bridges and roads and public transit that’s going to generate two million jobs. Here’s the catch though, 90% of those jobs are going to go to men.
Jackie Speier: (09:04)
Since the pandemic, women have lost 1.6 million jobs in large part because they have lost their childcare, and the question becomes, why are women and families not able to find childcare today? It’s in part because it costs so much. $2,300 a month to take care of an infant in my district. That is as much as my daughter’s mortgage. One half of the families in the United States live in what we would call childcare deserts, 126,000 childcare providers have left. So this bill is important that we restore the opportunity for women in this country to go back to work. And the second bill provides this opportunity and makes it very clear that if we do do this, we are going to create three million more jobs for women, and it will grow the GDP by some $300 billion. So we want to Build Back Better with women.
Jackie Speier: (10:20)
And now Nina Perez for MomsRising.
Nina Perez: (10:32)
Good afternoon and thank you. Thank you, leader Pelosi and thank you to all these amazing champions here. I’m Nina Perez. I’m the National Director of Early Learning at MomsRising, an online on-the-ground organization with more than a million members that I’m proud to represent today. We work to improve family economic security, stop discrimination and build a nation where families can thrive.
Nina Perez: (10:55)
The issue of childcare is deeply personal to me. When I had my now toddler, I thought I was ready to tackle childcare. I knew about the costs, the waiting lists. We looked up options, used online cost calculators, built up our savings, we were ready, or so we thought. Despite all our careful planning, when my husband and I had our daughter, we too were unable to find affordable childcare. When it happened to me, my mother and father moved away from the community they called home for 50 years to move to this area to care for my daughter. My mother, who herself was pushed out of the workforce because she couldn’t find affordable childcare, stepped in again when childcare was out of reach. That means the existing childcare system has failed my family for two generations.
Nina Perez: (11:51)
The inability to afford or even find childcare, something too many families we hear from every day in every corner of our nation experience, before the pandemic and then exacerbated by it. As childcare programs closed and arrangements collapsed, moms were forced to leave the workforce, with black indigenous and women and moms of color affected the most. To put this in perspective, women were half of our paid labor force at the start of the pandemic now women’s workforce participation has plummeted to 1988 levels. These are much needed jobs. Women are key breadwinners, including myself, in most U.S. families. And while our childcare system has relied on families paying unaffordable sums, the amazing early educators who care for our kiddos are being paid poverty-level wages. Many are moms themselves and forced to seek other job opportunities. When providers leave their jobs, when childcare programs close, when moms leave the labor force, it doesn’t just hurt moms and our families, it hurts businesses and our economy.
Nina Perez: (13:00)
We need Congress to invest in childcare and in care infrastructure that includes paid leave when a new baby arrives or serious illness strikes, access to home and community-based services for people experiencing disability in the aging, a permanently expanded child tax credit, healthcare equity, living wages and a path to citizenship. Unless lawmakers do that, my daughter may very well face the same kind of care crisis and the same impossible choices my mom and I faced. Thank you.
Brenda Lawrence: (13:40)
Thank you, Nina. And I’m so glad to be standing here with my speaker of the house and with our assistant leader, Clark. I’m Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence and I proudly represent Michigan’s 14th district.
Brenda Lawrence: (13:52)
Now, we realize… Michigan. We realized we have a once in a generation opportunity to make a real difference in America. When we braced the Build Back Better, we know that we can not build back this amazing United States of America without including women every step of the way. When we say Build Back Better for women, we realized that in this country where we see poverty and we know the effects of the 56% of those who are living in poverty are women, when we talk about our educational outcomes, we know the majority of those touching our children are women. When we talk about childcare for our women and for our families, who are caring for our children? Women. When we talk about when our elders need that daily care, who’s walking in the door? The majority are women.
Brenda Lawrence: (14:54)
I was a dear, dear friend of Aretha Franklin, and she said, “What you need, I got it. All I’m asking for is a little respect.” And that respect, that respect comes in pay, that when we take those we care the most about, our children and our elders, and we say they’re the most personal things in our life, but we disrespect those who come every day to care for them. The wages of those workers are extremely important.
Brenda Lawrence: (15:28)
I want you to know that when we had the wisdom and the courage and the compassion to have child tax credits so that our families can use that money to put food on the table to pay the bills, no one should have to choose between caring for their parent and their child and going to work. I want you to know that when we talk about caregiving, disproportionately Black, Latina and Asian women are stepping up to the plate. These investments that they give us every day… It was amazing to me during the pandemic where all of a sudden we were awakened, “Oh, this is what a frontliner looks like.” In the middle of a pandemic, they’re showing up every day to take care of others in the grocery stores, in the daycare and in the eldercare, in the hospitals. So we, again, I want to invoke the words of my sister, we need to make sure that when we Build Back Better for women, we’re building back better with some R-S-E-C-T-P.
Brenda Lawrence: (16:44)
Care. We talk about investing in our infrastructure. I’m from Michigan, I know what a pothole feels like, but I will tell you a pothole is an inconvenience. Human beings are worth investing in. Thank you.
Nancy Pelosi: (17:05)
So here we are on a historic day in the Congress of the United States, but also a day that we are making progress for women. I just say to any women who are out there, if you’ve had trouble keeping up with your responsibilities at work because you lack childcare, this bill’s for you. If you have a sick person or a person with disabilities in your home that needs home healthcare, this bill is for you. If you’re one of those workers who care for those who need help, this bill is for you. If you want your children to have earliest childhood education with universal pre-K, this bill is for you. If you appreciate the child tax credit to help pay for some of the needs for your children, this bill is for you. The list goes on and on. Family and medical leave paid, if you want that this bill is for you.
Nancy Pelosi: (18:06)
And again, it’s all about respecting those who provide those services. I thank Mary Kay Henry from SEIU who’s here, who’s been taking the lead on home healthcare, to MomsRising and other groups that have mobilized around the country about putting women front and center. This legislation gives leverage to the children because of all of the provisions to improve their lives. This legislation gives leverage to women so that they can fully participate in the workforce, which is not just good for them and their family, but it’s good for our economy. This legislation, for people with disabilities, gives them leverage because many of their needs are now met in this legislation. It doesn’t do everything, but it takes us all the way down the path.
Nancy Pelosi: (18:58)
Now, let me just close by talking about our President Joe Biden. Joe Biden has put forth two bills for us, the infrastructure bill, which we will pass next week, it’s a jobs bill, and the Build Back Better legislation, which is a jobs bill. It’s a jobs bill for women in the workplace, and it’s very important to our country because we believe that when women succeed America succeeds. So let’s Build Back Better with women. Thank you all very much.