Mar 9, 2021
Nancy Pelosi, House Democrats Press Conference Before Voting on American Rescue Plan Transcript March 9
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats held a press conference on March 9, 2021 before the House voted to pass the American Rescue Plan bill. Read the transcript of the briefing on the COVID-19 relief bill here.
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Nancy Pelosi: (01:17)
I don’t have the new notes. I told them I didn’t want any notes, and they didn’t give me any. Good afternoon, everyone. I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it. The Rules Committee just finished its work and now we’ll make preparation for bringing this important American rescue plan to the floor of the House. It is so exciting as you know because of what it does. Vaccines in the arms of the American people, money in their pockets, children safely in school, workers safely back to work. It’s a remarkable, historic, transformative piece of legislation which goes a very long way to crushing the virus and solving our economic crisis.
Nancy Pelosi: (02:21)
It’s interesting to me to see what I’m hearing on the floor during the PROAC debate how the Republicans are talking about their tax scam. $ 1.9 trillion dollars in their tax scam. 83% of the benefits to the top 1%, and this bill, the same amount of money. $1.9 trillion dollars overwhelmingly helping America’s working families. You’ll hear more about that from our colleagues as the next couple of days go by, but I just wanted to join members of our top leadership in just giving you an update as to where we are and that the Rules Committee has finished its work. Its work on something that in the 33 years that I have been in Congress and up until now, the Affordable Care Act has been the most consequential legislation that I have been a part of. This is definitely on a par with that, if not to exceed it in terms of its impact on many more poor people in our country.
Nancy Pelosi: (03:32)
With that, I’m pleased to yield to our distinguished Democratic leader who knows more about this schedule than any of us for any other information or any bragging rights about this important legislation. It’s not only provisions, it’s pieces of bills. Mr. Richie Neal has about a trillion dollars in money of people with pockets, right? Including the pension piece of it, which is a piece of legislation that went a long way to meet the needs of so many people in our country. That, just another example. Barbara Lee talked this morning about the equity piece and how this legislation addresses the inequality of how healthcare and the vaccine and all the rest would be distributed, a piece of legislation she and others had put together. In any event, all of it, excellent. All of it, fair. All of it, an opportunity for us to grow the economy by investing in the people, for the people. I might say for our Republican colleagues who they say, “No,” to the vote and they show up at the ribbon cuttings or the presentations [inaudible 00:04:56]. With that, I yield to Mr. Hoyer.
Steny Hoyer: (04:58)
Boy, oh boy.
Mr. Hoyer: (04:58)
Steny Hoyer: (05:02)
I was president of the Senate back in 1870 in the State of Maryland, and people would rush up to me and say, “I need this in the budget. I need this in the budget,” because it was a unified document, it wasn’t like an appropriation bill. So, “Okay. Well, let’s see if we could do that.” So it’s in the budget, and then of course they vote no.” I say, “Well, why’d you vote no?” They said, “Well, I couldn’t vote for the budget.” I said, “But you asked me to put something in there.” “Well, yeah. You did, and I appreciate that, but I can’t vote for this.” So yes, they’ll be at the ribbon cuttings. They’ll be there saying, “The schools are open, kids are in school, isn’t that great?” Yes, it is great, $130 billion dollars later in this bill and they voted against it. People have jobs, small businesses are open. Vaccines are getting in arms and they’ll say, “Isn’t that great?” They’ll be at the vaccine delivery point but they wouldn’t have voted for this bill.
Steny Hoyer: (05:59)
Let there be no mistake, this is not an unusual performance for our Republican colleagues. Nancy and I, and Rich and Jim [inaudible 00:06:12], I don’t think you were here in 2009. [inaudible 00:06:15]. Well, you were here in 2009, okay. Zero, zero. A bill that Bernanke said would keep us out of a depression. Ben Bernanke, respected by all sides. This bill is, I agree with the speaker, we all worked on the affordable healthcare bill, and the Affordable Care Act was an extraordinary piece of legislation. It took a long time for the American people to understand how much value it was to them and their families, but they’ve done that now and they certainly didn’t take the time on this bill however, where we have over 70% of the American people think this bill ought to be passed. A majority of the Republican party thinks this bill ought to be passed. I don’t know who our Republican colleagues are listening to, but let me say my job is to sort of focus in on the economy. The economic need for this bill. This big and bold legislation fills an urgent need for our economy.
Steny Hoyer: (07:27)
Nearly 10 million Americans are out of work compared to last March. 10 million Americans. More than 163,000 small businesses shut their doors between March and September of last year. This will help rescue a number of them. Maybe not all, but a large number. That’s 800 businesses a day closing and laying off workers. The Senate has now taken action and the House will pass this bill tomorrow and send it to the President’s desk. Economists and public health experts agree that we need substantial relief. This is not a controversy in the economic community. They know that we need this. It’s not just another temporary relief measure like the ones enacted under the Trump administration, which by the way five bills passed in a bipartisan fashion. What was the difference? One difference. Republican president, Democratic president. TARP, Republican president. We’ve got a significant number of Republicans, not the majority, Obama came in, they changed. Had nothing to do with substance and everything to do with politics. Mark Zandi at Moody’s Analytics said we need a plan to, “Get to the other side of this crisis.” This not only gets us to the other side of the crisis-
Steny Hoyer: (09:03)
This not only gets us to the other side of the crisis, it really starts healing the wounds that have been caused by this crisis. A joint analysis conducted by Brookings and The Hamilton project showed that the American rescue plan would bring a 4% growth in GDP. That’s growth. Many years, we haven’t had 4% GDP. This is growth in the GDP this year. But that without it, without this bill, real GDP would quote, remain below the pre-pandemic level for the next several years. That’s why the American people are for this bill. They may not know the specifics of it, but their gut tells them America needs this bill. That’s why this bill provides families and small businesses the relief they need to stay afloat until we defeat this pandemic.
Steny Hoyer: (09:55)
Once this bill is passed, as it will be tomorrow, and sent to the president, we will send it to President Biden to be signed into law so that the administration can get these resources out to communities to help businesses reopen safely, to help Americans until they can get back to work, and kids back in school and shots in arms. This bill is an extraordinary piece of legislation that will make an extraordinary difference in the health and well-being of Americans and America.
Steny Hoyer: (10:28)
It’s now my privilege to yield to somebody has been a fighter all his life for little people, for people who need a voice, for people who needed a strong person to stand up and say, “Look at them and help them, make them have a better life in pursuit of happiness.” My friend, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
Jim Clyburn: (10:53)
Thank you very much, Mr. Leader, Madam Speaker and my other distinguished colleagues. I don’t think that the headline that we saw in the Washington Post this morning is appropriate, by any means. In this article, it talks about what this legislation does for black farmers. And it went on to say, “This may be the biggest help that black farmers have gotten since the Civil Rights Act.” Now, all we have to do is take a hard look at the legislation and you will see exactly what they are talking about.
Jim Clyburn: (11:39)
Now, a lot of times we talk about 1890. Now, I know what the 1890 program is. It’s a reference to black colleges in the former slave states. We all remember, I think the Speaker has talked about this several times, about Abraham Lincoln signed the land grant legislation. But because of the times in which we lived, Clemson University, in my state, it’s a land grant school, the first one was Cornell. And of course, people who looked like me could not attend Clemson. So they came back and passed another land grant bill in 1890 for the former slave states. This legislation takes a look at the work of those 1890 schools and the discrimination that had taken place with black farmers.
Jim Clyburn: (12:46)
I used to run the South Carolina Commission for Farm Workers, and I can tell you I am well aware of the inequities that existed in that system. This legislation tackles that issue like no legislation we have had in my lifetime, and I think that alone makes it worthwhile. But it doesn’t stop there, by any means. This legislation also tackles the issue that we have had over the last several years with rural hospitals. This legislation goes straight to the heart of that matter and allows help for rural hospitals, especially those who are taxed with having to respond to COVID-19. This legislation has somewhere around $7 billion to assist these hospitals.
Jim Clyburn: (13:50)
That’s why, if you look, you will see 76% of the American people support this legislation. And in that number, 71% of independents support this legislation. 60% of Republicans support this legislation. This is bi-partisan legislation. It may not satisfy the partisans on both sides of the Capitol, but it satisfies Republicans. 30 Republican mayors wrote in support of this legislation. To me, it is the best piece of bi-partisan legislation that I’ve seen here in a long, long time. And with that, I’ll yield to the Assistant Speaker, Katherine Clark.
Katherine Clark: (14:46)
Thank you so much. I share the Speaker’s excitement over this transformative bill, and I am so grateful and honored to up here with Chairman Yarmuth and Chairman Neal and grateful for your work and leadership and that of your committee and your incredible staff. And to the Majority Leader and Mr. Whip, thank you for shepherding this bill through. And to our Speaker, you always put the children first. You center our work and our values around children, and women and children have been hurt so deeply during this pandemic. It has been revealed through this pandemic the house of cards that is the foundation for women in this economy. And this bill addresses those needs.
Katherine Clark: (15:42)
Women have lost significantly more jobs than men since the pandemic began, eviscerating more than 30 years of progress in the labor force in just one year. Over two million women were pushed out of the workforce, one million working moms, and many of those are women of color. 12 million children in our country are going to bed hungry. This bill provides transformative and historic solutions. It not only will meet the immediate needs, but it ensures that we will have a more inclusive economy going forward, vaccines in the arms to get children safely back to school, $1,400 payments that will benefit 85% of adults and children in this country, an expanded tax credit that will cut child poverty in half and lift nearly 12 million people out of poverty.
Katherine Clark: (16:49)
We will boost funding for programs that protect survivors of gender-based violence, housing and food assistance, extended unemployment assistance, childcare help not only for the childcare industry, but for parents, so they can deal with the high cost of childcare and get back to work. And many of our childcare providers we know are women and women of color. Women are essential workers. They are moms and grandmothers. They are business owners. They are healthcare professionals. And they have been on the front line of this pandemic and this crisis. With this bill, we are taking a historical step to not only help them recover, we are sending them hope and the tools to rebuild a stronger and more just economy for all. And with that, I am very proud to yield to the outstanding Chairman of Ways and Means, dean of our delegation, Richard Neal.
Richard Neal: (17:57)
Steny Hoyer: (17:59)
Otherwise known as the trillion dollar man.
Richard Neal: (18:03)
Thanks. I want us to begin by-
Speaker 1: (18:03)
Thanks. I just want to begin by thanking the Speaker for the confidence that she exhibited in the Ways and Means Committee, and thank the members of the Ways and Means Committee and their staff assignments. This is seismic legislation, and we’re on the eve now of voting it out of the House, awaiting the president’s signature. Because I heard Cindy and the speaker talk about members of Congress and elected officials at a lot of purviews, would they find it easy to be at the groundbreaking and the ribbon cutting and they vote against the expenditure? It caused me a moment of nostalgia because I joined the committee when Mr. Rostenkowski was the chairman. So what he would do is if he put the item in for you and then you voted against the bill, he just took it out. No hearings. No nothing. He just took it out.
I think that we need to call attention to those members who take advantage of the legislation, because I don’t know that the 10 most consequential votes that I’ve had in the 33 years that I’ve been here now, that they’ll be anything that I will do that would be more important than this. On the child credit, on the earned income tax credit, child care credit, the retention tax credit, unemployment insurance, the checks of equity that will go out as well, these provisions are going to change lives. It addresses the issue of income inequality. 20% of the American people at the bottom end are going to directly benefit from this immediately. That’s how important, again, and how consequential this legislation is.
When you look at the numbers of what we were able to do in the committee on the Affordable Care Act, extending these price supports to members of the American family, it’s something I’m really proud of. And I want to say this again, the Speaker’s reinforcement on this, what we did with the multi-employer pension plans, 500 plans will be saved across the country. We added decades to the solvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
For those that don’t know what that is, that’s the backstop for the American pension system. When you think of people that are 75 or 76, or, well, maybe, into their 80s and 90s, to be told that their pensions were going to be cut by 40 or 50%. This was not about malfeasance. This was not about corruption. It was about factors of the marketplace. Mergers, acquisitions, and deregulation. This is a huge victory and I’m very proud of it.
We’re delivering on our promises and I can’t wait until tomorrow morning. Thank you. My friend, John Yarmuth, who really did a great job of melding these different conflicts from time to time together.
John Yarmuth: (20:51)
Thanks, Richie. I find myself in a common situation in that everything’s been said but not everyone said it, and I’m last so I’m happy to do that. First up, as I’ve told you personally and publicly, thank you for the vote of confidence you have in me to allow me to participate in this.
John Yarmuth: (21:12)
I want everybody to think back to November 4th, the day after the election, when we didn’t get the result we wanted in the House, we didn’t get the result we wanted in the Senate. We thought we would never have control of the Senate. We weren’t sure whether we would have the presidency. And here just a few months later, we’re about to pass one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in modern history. It’s nothing short of a miracle that we have gotten to this point.
John Yarmuth: (21:42)
What I am so thrilled about and so excited to have been a part of is that while I know there’s a narrative out there that Democrats are in disarray, and nowhere else in Washington could a 269 to 2 vote be considered a party in disarray, if you add the Senate and the House together. But we have come together as a party in the Congress to do something monumental, but something that also clearly reflects our values as a party, a commitment to using government to improve the lives of as many people as possible.
John Yarmuth: (22:25)
I just got out of the Rules Committee, testifying before Rules, and it was almost comical to listen to the Republicans try to come up with the appropriate attack on this legislation. They’re having a hard time doing it because, again, they voted for most of this a number of times, but one of the attacks was Bernie Sanders just said this was one of the most progressive pieces of legislation ever passed, so they’re trying to tie Bernie Sanders around it.
John Yarmuth: (22:52)
Well, of course it is. And the reason it is progressive is because there isn’t a dollar in this bill that goes to the richest Americans. Not a dollar. 70% of it goes to low and moderate income Americans to help them deal with the economic tragedy of this pandemic. A very small amount goes to small businesses, an important amount, but a small amount. A very large amount goes to state, city, county, and and local governments to help them deal with the added costs of the COVID, with loss revenues, and with giving them opportunities to help at their local level in solving some of the local problems that have resulted from the pandemic.
John Yarmuth: (23:38)
When we pass this bill tomorrow, I said after the Affordable Care Act, that I didn’t think I’d ever do anything as significant in Congress as I did that day. I’m revising my narrative now.
John Yarmuth: (23:53)
I think probably all of us who have been around for the last 10 years or so have maybe given up hope that we could do anything consequential again in Congress. Well, we proved we can. We’re all not just proud of what we’re about to do, but also energized by it. And I think we have, in a sense, changed the landscape of the American people’s expectations of us. And that’s both an opportunity… It’s a daunting challenge, but also an opportunity. And I know that we’re all committed to doing everything we can to even enhance our record on that score. So once again, thrilled to be a part of it, and I turn it back to the speaker.
Nancy Pelosi: (24:36)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And we all give accolades to Mr. Yarmuth for his excellent work over the years as Chair of the Budget Committee. I think I told you once before, when I commended him for his great work and commended his staff and thanked him for commending his staff. In his closing remarks on the floor of the House last week he said… Was it two weeks now? Week and a half ago. He said, “Yes, the staff deserves so much credit. And so does some bourbon.” So he’s true to his roots. [crosstalk 00:25:15]. Kentucky, that went without saying.
Nancy Pelosi: (25:19)
Let me say that the staff of the Congress, personal staff, and I say individual member of staff, the staffs of the committees, the staff of the leadership offices, worked relentlessly, really 24/7, on different shifts to make sure we can meet this deadline in a values-based, precise way, because this is a very complicated bill and it took our best talent, all hands on deck. So I salute the staff. I salute the members. I salute our Chairs.
Nancy Pelosi: (25:54)
As you know, I have always credited our dazzling Chairs with the excellent work that they brought to the table, whether it was this bill or other legislation related to crushing the virus and addressing saving the lives and livelihoods of the American people.
Nancy Pelosi: (26:12)
But having said that, I want to commend Chuck Schumer and the Democrats in the Senate for passing a very fine bill, very much like ours, some tweaks, but nonetheless they did a great job in the Senate.
Nancy Pelosi: (26:26)
But my praise right now goes to the President of the United States, Joe Biden. This is the Biden American Rescue Plan. It will be followed by the American Recovery Plan. And it’s about just that, saving lives and livelihoods and giving people hope for the future. His presidency does just that. This legislation is a reflection of his values.
Nancy Pelosi: (26:52)
It looks a lot like our Heroes Bill. We had quite a bit of this in our Heroes Bill, but I’m so glad our shared values, plus enhanced by…
Nancy Pelosi: (27:03)
So glad our shared values plus enhanced by Maxine’s and so many other advances that are there. We couldn’t be prouder than to be associated with him in this, and it’s so sad because, in all of the bills, as Mr. Hoyer said, we’ve had bipartisanship signed by the President. We have a Democratic president, all of a sudden, many of the same features of those other bills in one size or another are in this bill and the Republicans have decided they cannot be for it. That’s unfortunate. As I said, they’ll take some credit for it in their districts, but we’ll have more to say about that. But I do want to say this. I said earlier that there’s some legislation like the Butch Lewis Act that is so much a part of the Pension Bill and the Equities Legislation. Mr. Clyburn was so much a part of, with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Hispanic Caucus and the Asian Pacific Caucus shaping so that we have fairness in how the vaccines, et cetera, are distributed and other aspects of outreach for health.
Nancy Pelosi: (28:16)
I just want to mention Rosa DeLauro. This Friday, I think it is, it will be 18 years ago that she first introduced the Child Tax Credit Refundability Bill and here we are. We did get some of that under President Bush in a bipartisan way, and now long overdue once again. So I want to salute her in that regard. But we can go on and on and we will, we’ll have so many presentations about this to praise our members because they all made a valuable contribution to this. And we all are grateful to the President of the United States for his great leadership. Any questions? Yes, sir.
Speaker 2: (29:02)
Thank you. In talking about the child tax credit.
Nancy Pelosi: (29:03)
Speaker 2: (29:04)
That lasts for a year. So you present a situation where you’re creating a fiscal cliff, if it’s not extended for all these families you’re talking about lifting above the poverty scale, could get knocked right back down.
Well one thing you should know about the tax code, getting something out of the code is oftentimes harder than getting something in the code. So I’ve already had some thoughts about how we’re going to expand it and make it permanent. And I intend to share those in the near future. But what we did is unlikely to go away.
Speaker 2: (29:39)
Do you want to share now how you pay for it?
I’ve got some ideas I will share with you at the right moment, yep.
Nancy Pelosi: (29:42)
This is a very important issue for us, and as you know, this is a COVID related legislation. Yes, Chad?
Good afternoon. You talked about the Republicans might take credit for some of this [crosstalk 00:29:57]. In a couple of days, you’re probably going to be down in numbers if the Senate confirms Marcia Fudge and Doug Collins here. What does that mean with trying to move some of the other parts of your agenda if you’re right down to the edge and you’re not getting any help from the other side of the aisle?
Nancy Pelosi: (30:16)
We’re going to have elections. We’re already in the course of one in Louisiana, where Mr. Cedric Richmond’s person who will come in, in that capacity will be here. And then when they are confirmed, and hopefully it will be soon so that they can assume their places in the Cabinet of the United States, they will have elections and they’ll be replaced. Garrett?
Do you think you’ll be able to get other support on some of these other initiatives [crosstalk 00:30:41].
Nancy Pelosi: (30:43)
It’s not going to be a problem. Garrett?
Madam Speaker, I think even last fall when the last COVID Relief Bill passed, you were already talking about having to do another bill in the new administration. Do you think this is the last primarily COVID bill that you’ll have to take up?
Nancy Pelosi: (30:57)
You’re just going to have to ask the virus. If it stops mutating, if it stops spreading and therefore mutating, then this will be. And some of the provisions in here that have a fuse, like the enhanced unemployment insurance benefit that goes until the fall, we’ll just see where we are then. But it’s not anything anybody can predict, it’s just a question of the science and we will have legislation to address it for as long as it’s there. Any comments.
Can I ask that a different way? I mean, you’ve talked about the importance of crushing the virus.
Nancy Pelosi: (31:35)
Are you confident the provisions in this bill can do that?
Nancy Pelosi: (31:39)
Yes. Again, what is interesting about this virus is that it’s resourceful. It mutates, it has variants, and so to must we be resourceful and resilient in how we deal with it. But we will be on top of it. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 3: (32:02)
Speaker 4: (32:03)
Madam Speaker, thank you. Are House Democratic leaders concerned about maybe losing some members, progressives, in this revised COVID-19 bill?
Nancy Pelosi: (32:12)
Excuse me, I’m sorry. I can’t hear. These leaders are concerned about what?
Speaker 4: (32:17)
Are House Democratic leaders concerned about losing any members in the COVID-19 revised bill this time around?
Nancy Pelosi: (32:23)
No, no, no. We’re not worried about that. [inaudible 00:32:28].
Speaker 5: (32:28)
I think we only lost two on the first time.
Nancy Pelosi: (32:30)
Speaker 5: (32:32)
And I think we at least cut it in half this time.
Nancy Pelosi: (32:37)
We have a 50% increase in the number of people who left, but let me just say, our members have good judgment and they know that this legislation is just something historic and transformative, to return to those two words. And we are not up on the fight for 15. We’ve all been involved in it for years and we will continue to be involved, and I’ll talk more about that at my press conference on Thursday once we pass this bill and the rest. But no, they know. I mean, it’s hard for us to understand how the Republicans can vote against this bill, because it has such an impact on their constituents. Our members are well aware of that and also the value, the intellectual excellence, of what is in the legislation. So we feel pretty confident about it, and we thank you for your attention to our, I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it, kind of attitude. Thank you.