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Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined House Democrats for a press conference unveiling Democrats’ Moving Forward infrastructure framework to invest $760 billion over five years to create good-paying jobs rebuilding America while addressing the climate crisis, reducing carbon pollution, dramatically improving safety and spurring economic activity. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Today, we came together in our Caucus to talk about building the infrastructure of America. This is so necessary for our country, and we will have our presentation for you momentarily.
But first, I just want to say that in about an hour or so, the President of the United States will be signing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. I want to say that the bill, what the President will be signing, is quite different from what the President sent us. Because of the work of the House Democrats, under the leadership of Richie Neal with his Task Force, they made tremendous differences in what was proposed originally and what the President will be signing today. I hope he understands what he is signing today.
And it’s about the differences in enforcement, about protecting American workers, protecting the environment and the prescription drug piece of that. You have this. I’m not going to read it or reference it at all – more than I have already have.
But to say that because of the work of our Chairman of our Ways and Means Committee and the work of organized labor – the AFL-CIO and Richard Trumka – we were able to make vast improvements. If we weren’t, we would not have been able to pass the bill. We would not have even wanted to pass the bill. But it passed with overwhelming support. And we wanted to do that for America’s workers, America’s farmers, America’s economy. Just because he would be the person signing it would not be a reason why we would not do something good for the American people.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you Mr. Chairman. Can we invite – is someone calling in the others?
Here we are.
We started the morning with a session, with a House Democratic Caucus, to present infrastructure legislation, a piece, the start of an infrastructure initiatives for this Congress. Overwhelming: over 70 percent, 79 percent to 12, the American people said they want to see strong infrastructure, energy-efficient infrastructure and the rest, enacted as law of the land.
A champion in all of that has been Peter DeFazio. This has been his life’s work for over 30 years. We could not be better served by the knowledge, the vision, the experience that he has had and the legislative virtuoso that he is. This is so important to America’s working families, to everyone in our country.
I am especially proud that he brought with him today, came with him today, people who have been a force in putting this together, a large number of freshmen, who are assigned to the very coveted Transportation Committee. We will also hear from Frank Pallone, whose committee, Energy and Commerce, is a committee of jurisdiction in this piece. As well as Richie Neal, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. All three of them bring – we are very blessed by their leadership and service, especially on this particular issue.
I do want to say that this is just one part of what we will be doing when we have our legislative week for infrastructure. We will also have a special focus on housing, a special focus on education, school construction. All of it very important to this, perhaps something from the Interior – the Natural Resources Committee, Mr. Grijalva.
This is a big step though and a major expense, well we have to find the funding for it, and Richie will talk about that. But let me yield first, with great appreciation and respect and admiration and gratitude, to Chairman Peter DeFazio. Peter?
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much. My colleagues’ presentations and their commitment to this initiative that is about growth in America, creating jobs and educating people, expanding health care – empowerment.
I want to join my distinguished Chairman of the Transportation Committee in acknowledging the participation of so many new Members. I don’t call them Freshmen anymore, because they’re experienced legislators who have made such a tremendous difference, each in his or her own way.
One of the issues that came up in our Caucus this morning is how we are involving the mayors. Well, Mr. Neal is a mayor and Mr. Stanton was a mayor, and infrastructure was a very important part of his leadership then and is now and will be as we part as we go forward. But when I talk about infrastructure you are addressing an American community. We have said to the community, ‘Everybody is going to be at the table as we go forward, because everybody is affected by this, including our Native American communities.’ So, Congresswoman Davids’ participation is very important, but all of the Members of the Committee. And we’re especially invigorated by our new Members.
This is an issue that is about the quality of life, of getting people out of their cars, and that means also reducing pollutants in the air. So, it’s a health issue – a public health issue – clean air. It’s an issue of commerce – moving commerce – moving product to market. Whether it’s about dredging the Mississippi or the Delta, whatever, or having more surface transportation. It’s also about – high-speed rail in some cases, but mass transit, again, to get people out of their cars and to do so in an entrepreneurial transformative way. As I said, we couldn’t be better served than by our Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Mr. DeFazio. So again, the broadband piece that Mr. Pallone talked about and Mr. Clyburn emphasized is very, very important.
But I just want to make the point that this is a major thrust, because it is the most costly, and we want to present it in a way that shows all the advantages of it as we go forward. But central to it is workforce development, and that is the education piece that will be part of our infrastructure week that the distinguished Mr. DeFazio suggested. Every day, we will have education, we’ll have infrastructure, surface transportation, we’ll have broadband, we’ll have housing. Housing is absolutely essential and necessary right now. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Chair of the Financial Services Committee, has been working a long time and thinking in an important way about the challenge to conscience that the housing issue presents to our country. And Congressman Bobby Scott has already developed his education bill, which will have a big announcement too. So I hope you’ll join us for all of that. Congressman Raúl Grijalva in terms of some of the natural resources issue that are affecting – will be affected by how we go forward with infrastructure. So, we have – every committee in Congress has some piece of this, because this has so much to do with everything that we do in the Congress.
So, I want to thank Chairman DeFazio. I thank Congress – Chairman Pallone. I thank Richie Neal. Richie, as I say, as a mayor – he didn’t talk about – he talked about Massachusetts, but Build America Bonds and how it affected so many projects in middle America. So important. You mentioned Las Vegas airport for one this morning but many, many more, especially at a time, as Steny said, of low interest rates. So, thank you Mr. Luján for your emphasis – where did he go – on the Native American community.
Any questions for our Chairman or our Freshmen? Yes ma’am.
Q: This question is for Congressman Neal. You said that you didn’t want to volunteer revenue streams until you had an agreement with the White House. What do you mean by that?
Chairman Neal. I think when we went to the White House for the first meeting, I think everyone would say it was fine. The second meeting was not very good. When we went in, the President was the one at the first meeting who volunteered the $2 trillion number. There was less agreement because there was no discussion about how to pay for it, and I think that what we’re looking for here is an agreement that we can then take to the public, between the two sides, on how best to pay for it, so there’s not one-upmanship.
I’m told by one Republican leader that there could be up to 70 votes for an infrastructure bill in the House and I think that there a lot of things that we can do in some negotiation, and my hunch is that that’s the best way to do it. But the Speaker said something that was really important, because Alan Krueger and I worked on Build America Bonds. Nothing in the Recovery Act was more successful in terms of infrastructure than the use of Build America Bonds, so I want something that’s really big. And I think Build America Bonds ought to be a really good place to start for all of us.
Speaker Pelosi. In that regard, as well, the infrastructure legislation in the past has not been partisan at all. We’ve always been able to come together. So we feel – in our campaign we put forth, For The People agenda. For The People: we would lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs and we have introduced HR 3 to do just that. In the campaign, the President said he was going to ‘negotiate like crazy,’ and we hope that ‘like crazy’ means to really negotiate for lower prices. That’s the most important way to bring it down. We also said we’re going to lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs.
We’re going to build the infrastructure of America. We’re going to build bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America and that’s what we’re here to do. The President said throughout the campaign that’s something that he wanted to do, so we hope to be joining with him in a unifying way – not a dividing way – in a unifying way about how we go forward together. And that’s what this is: Moving Forward Framework, For The People.
We also said we were going to have cleaner government. I don’t know if he’s up for that, but at least in lowering drug prices and building the infrastructure of America, we think that we have – we’re hopeful about finding common ground. But as I say, the infrastructure issue has never been partisan in our history in the Congress. Yes, sir.
Q: You said that you would have an infrastructure week at some point.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: When do you intend to put this on the Floor and will you wait for an agreement with the President on revenue before you start moving with this legislation?
Congressman Neal. The Ways and Means Committee has their hearing this afternoon starting at 1:30 and we’ve got witnesses from across the economic spectrum that’s going to speak to the issue of infrastructure and how broad it ought to be and how big it ought to be. So, the private sector based on increases in productivity, greater efficiencies and all, they’re all in on this, but I think we kick it off again this afternoon at 1:30.
Q: But as far as on the Floor?
Speaker Pelosi. When we’re ready. We’ll go to the Floor when we’re ready. That is the answer that I give you all the time. We wanted to have that, where we have housing and education, as well as surface transportation, broadband and all the elements that you heard about today, and when we go we’ll be ready and it’s going to be pretty exciting for our country.
And we’re very – well, you know – again, would be sending legislation over to the Senate. We would hope that would have better prospects than the 275 bipartisan bills that we have sent to the Senate, which have been ignored by the ‘Grim Reaper.’ It’s funny to me to hear them say, ‘Why are we doing this impeachment? We should be doing the people’s business.’ Yes. You should have been doing it for the past year, because you’ve had plenty of legislation to pass, starting with protecting our children with gun violence protection.
Q: Madam Speaker, do you anticipate, would you like to go for a big package of 760 billion or smaller pieces, like surface transportation and so on?
Chairman DeFazio. Well, traditionally, service transportation, since Dwight David Eisenhower, has been paid for with user fees. I would hope it would be some combination of user fees and bonding, as Richie mentioned. I mean, it’s abysmally stupid to not borrow money – you know, the Treasury can borrow money, little over two percent, and we can build bridges that will last a hundred years and we’re going to score this as a one-year expenditure?
No. We need to look at this as a capital investment in the United States of America, so that’s surface.
Harbors: we’ve already paid for them. We already passed a bill by more than two-thirds majority out of the House to spend the money we’ve taken from the American people to invest in our harbors, because we have a huge backlog there. We will reiterate that, yet again, since the Senate hasn’t taken up that particular bill.
Then, airports haven’t been allowed to increase their passenger facility charge since 2001. Many of them are totally over capacity. If we expand capacity, we can bring in new competition, lower prices and that’s why the airlines are really opposed to increasing the passenger facility charge. They say, ‘Oh, don’t worry. If we raise bag fees twenty dollars, you’re going to thank us, but if you pay another dollar to have a better airport experience or a new entrance that’ll lower ticket prices, you’ll never fly again.’ Yeah, what a bunch of B.S. that is. So, that’s part of this package.
I’ve got – you know, we were doing the first reauthorization of the SRF fund, the Federal State Revolving Fund, for waste water since back in 1987. So, these are traditional things that we’ve done out of this Committee, historically, and they have been paid for and they yield benefits for decades to come.
Speaker Pelosi. We’ll take one last question.
Q: I just wanted to ask again about the Floor plan, whether you plan to move these together, what you think – I mean some bills have already moved, but what would be the plan if they don’t move together? And then, where – I’m a little confused about how schools, housing and parks fit in to all of this.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, they fit in very directly, because an educated workforce is essential to building the infrastructure of America and the tasking of what is needed in terms of building, in terms of what is needed for the American people. But, when we are ready to come to the Floor, and we will come to the Floor when we have as much specificity as possible and hopefully bipartisanship. And we’re not – these are not message bills. We are hoping that we will have the support of the Republicans and the President of the United States. We had hoped that all along with 275 bipartisan bills that we sent to the Senate.
But, don’t worry about the timetable, just rest assured that when we’re ready we will come to the Floor. And it won’t be soon – we’re not talking about next week or something. The Committees are working their way and when we’re ready, we’ll bring it to the Floor. We’ll see.
Q: One point of clarification: $760 billion dollars – that does not include the schools and parks. Is that correct?
Speaker Pelosi. No, that’s different. This is just for the package that you are seeing today. When the President talked about $2 trillion, the $750 [billion] is 750 over five years, so you double that for ten years, because that’s how we have to budget here. So, that’s what, a trillion and a half – that still leaves a half a trillion dollars for further investments including in these initiatives, but also into education and housing.
Affordable housing, in terms of proximity, is so important to the growth of our economy – it’s a challenge to our conscience to have affordability in housing, but it’s also a practical matter that people should be able to live closer to work so that, again, they’re out of their cars.
My colleagues, thank you. Mr. DeFazio, Mr. Pallone, Mr. Neal, to our, again, our newest Members of Congress for their leadership and invigoration to this process that they have brought.
Thank you all very much.
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