Beyer: Build Back Better Act "Will Be The Single Most Important Piece Of Climate Legislation" We Have Ever Had The Chance To Pass
September 14, 2021 (Washington, D.C.) – Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), who serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and is the Chair of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, delivered opening remarks today on the third day of the Ways and Means Committee’s markup of the Build Back Better Act.
Beyer’s remarks as prepared for delivery (video of remarks as delivered here):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I said earlier this year that my vote for the American Rescue Plan, which provided desperately needed assistance to millions of Americans and put us on the path to recovering from the pandemic, was the most consequential vote I had ever cast.
I believe that the legislation we are marking up today is even more significant.
This bill illustrates that we have risen to the great challenges of our time that past Congresses and Administrations have failed to fully address.
The first is the existential threat of climate change.
This bill will be the single most important piece of climate legislation we have ever had the chance to pass.
And as the International Panel on Climate Change constantly reminds us, the next decade is pivotal to determine our future climate path and the danger of heat increase we may inflict upon ourselves.
We owe it to our kids and grandkids – our future generations – to make this legislation a reality.
Not only are we making massive investments in the technologies that will reduce our carbon emissions to help stave off the worst effects of a changing climate, we are also setting ourselves up to be leaders in the sectors that will define the emerging clean energy economy.
I am especially proud of the work Rep. Panetta and I have done on the Green VAN Act, which uses tax policy to speed the adoption of electric and other zero-emission commercial vehicles.
According to the EPA, Transportation is the single largest source of emissions in the United States, and the transition of commercial vehicles lags far behind personal vehicles.
The generous tax credits we provide in this legislation will help upgrade the nation’s fleet of working vehicles, from plumbers’ vans to tractor trailers, into efficient zero-emission models.
Another key provision in the package we are considering is the NET Zero Act, which I introduced with Rep. DelBene. This is a dramatic expansion to the tax credit for direct air capture.
I have heard again and again from scientists about the importance of complementing the shift to clean energy sources with the development of negative emissions technology like direct air capture that can remove carbon pollution and other dangerous emissions directly from the air.
Together with my colleagues, we have crafted a provision that will hasten the development and deployment of direct air capture technology, which will form a critical part of our global strategy to mitigate climate change.
I am also extremely pleased to see the inclusion of the Clean Hydrogen Production and Investment Tax Credit Act, which we created with Rep. Larson’s leadership.
This legislation to support development of hydrogen energy would help power an important part of our shift over to a cleaner transportation sector and create thousands of new green jobs.
And an often forgotten but important sector to address in emissions is our buildings, comprising 13 percent of our emissions.
I was proud to work with Rep. Blumenauer on the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Act which was included here to incentivize the reduction of emissions in commercial buildings.
I would also like to highlight the important work Reps. Bowman, Nadler and Sens. Van Hollen, Sanders, Markey, Whitehouse, Warren, and Merkley have done on the Polluter Pays Climate Fund Act, which would simply require the largest fossil fuel producers to pay for the greenhouse gas emissions they have emitted over the last twenty years. It’s a straightforward and just option to raise additional revenue to pay for the climate investments we need.
The second challenge we face in this legislation is the widening gap between rich and poor that is tearing at the fabric of our society.
This bill puts us on the path to a more equitable society.
In the American Rescue Plan, we expanded and improved the Child Tax Credit, one of the most important and beneficial things Congress has done this century.
The bill before us would extend that to 2025.
It is estimated that the enhancements to the Child Tax Credit will cut the nation’s child poverty rate in half.
Another key element of this bill is a large expansion to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which will help alleviate the worsening housing crisis that has been acutely felt by working class Americans.
I am extremely pleased to see these provisions included, which Ms. DelBene and I have worked on for years.
And one of the most important pieces is the drug pricing reforms in this bill.
Americans have one of the highest costs of healthcare in the world and there are everyday stories of bankruptcy due to healthcare costs.
Health care needs to be accessible and affordable for all.
We’ve talked about these drug pricing provisions for several years now and I want to thank the health team for their dedication to getting it across the finish line.
Lastly, the inclusion in this bill of a 3% surtax on individuals with gross incomes over $5 million, which is very similar to the Millionaires Surtax Act, which Senator Chris Van Hollen and I have proposed. I believe this is an elegant and simple way to raise the necessary revenue to make these important investments while also increasing the fairness of our tax code.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman for allowing me to speak and your efforts to craft this historic legislation. I yield back.