Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), the expected incoming Chair of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, delivered the following remarks on the House Floor this evening during debate on the American Rescue Plan Act:
“Madam Speaker, we have a choice tonight.
American children are hungry, the recovery is stalling, and a million new people file for unemployment every week.
We can do our jobs: pass a national vaccination plan, safely reopen our schools, send relief checks to those who need, support the unemployed, and protect American jobs.
Or we can let them fend for themselves, to slowly scratch their way back to health at great human cost.
I choose relief, recovery, and progress.
Madam Speaker my first job was in 1966 at $1.25 an hour – minimum wage.
16 times Congress has chosen to increase the minimum wage, and every time there was a CBO score or a Chamber of Commerce or a conservative economist who talked about “the shrinkage of low wage jobs.”
But if we’re persuaded by this job loss mirage, we would never raise the minimum wage. And I refuse to believe that this is American exceptionalism.”
The House passed the American Rescue Plan Act late at night, after Republicans on the Rules Committee dragged out the hearing on the bill to delay the beginning of floor debate.
The American Rescue Plan Act is broad Covid relief legislation that would:
- Put Vaccines in Arms: The plan will mount a national vaccination program that includes setting up community vaccination sites nationwide. It will also take complementary measures to combat the virus, including scaling up testing and tracing, addressing shortages of personal protective equipment and other critical supplies, investing in high-quality treatments and addressing health care disparities.
- Put Children Safely Back in School: The plan will make a nearly $130 billion investment in school re-opening and making up for lost time in the classroom. These funds can be used for such things as reducing class sizes, modifying spaces so that students and teachers can socially distance, improving ventilation, implementing more mitigation measures, providing personal protective equipment, and providing summer school or other support for students that help make up lost learning time this year. The plan also provides resources for higher education, Head Start and child care facilities.
- Put Money in People’s Pockets: The plan finishes the job on the President’s promise to provide $2,000 in direct assistance to households across America with checks of $1,400 per person, following the $600 down payment enacted in December. The plan will also provide direct housing assistance, nutrition assistance for 40 million Americans, expand access to safe and reliable child care and affordable health care, extend and expand Unemployment Insurance so that 19 million American workers can pay their bills and supporting 27 million children with an expanded Child Tax Credit and 15 million low-wage workers through the Earned Income Tax Credit. It will give 27 million workers a raise and lift one million out of poverty by raising the federal minimum wage.
- Put People Back In Jobs: The plan will provide crucial support for the hardest-hit small businesses, especially those owned by entrepreneurs from racial and ethnic backgrounds that have experienced systemic discrimination, with EIDL grants, expanded PPP eligibility and more. The plan also provides crucial resources to protect the jobs of first responders, frontline public health workers, teachers, transit workers and other essential workers that all Americans depend on.
It now goes to the U.S. Senate, which is expected to begin its consideration of the bill next week.