Pelosi Remarks at U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting Opening Plenary

John Boehner

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi attended the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting opening plenary.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Good afternoon, everyone.  Good afternoon.  Thank you, Mayor [Stephen K.] Benjamin, for your warm introduction.  And thank you all for your warm welcome.  And Mr. Mayor Benjamin, thank you for your great service to the city of Columbia and to the country.

Let us all salute the strong leadership of the Mayor – of all of the mayors.  Congratulations for all you do and I want to make my personal congratulations to Tom Cochran who has been such a resource to this organization, for so long.  He was here when my brother was mayor, a long time ago, and he is still here.  Thank you, Tom Cochran.  That’s an applause line.  I’ll let you know.

[Applause]

It is a personal, as well as an official honor to bring greetings to America’s mayors on behalf of the U.S. Congress.  It is a joy to welcome my Mayor, Mayor London Breed, to Washington, and again, as a daughter and sister of a Mayor – as Mayor Benjamin indicated –  I have a front row seat to the extraordinary work that you do for our country, and for our democracy, for our people.  Cities are the engines of human innovation in our nation.  Your success is the foundation of America’s success.

You’ve come at a time when the government is shut down.  Sadly, with this shutdown, the White House is not showing respect for the American people.  The senseless and prolonged shutdown is inflicting chaos across the country, and certainly in Washington, D.C., on public safety, on civil aviation, on housing, on health and financial security.  Every other dimension of family’s lives.

I know, as a daughter and sister of a mayor, that there is no buffer between a mayor and his or her constituents.  You know the stories.  You feel the pain.  You feel it.  You know the shutdown must end, and it must end now.

On day one, and since, the Democratic Congress has acted to end the chaos and restore certainty to people’s lives.  This afternoon, and that’s why I was running a few minutes late, the House is passing a package of bipartisan legislation, agreed to by the House and Senate negotiators to re-open government.  To re-open government –

[Applause]

With strong border security initiatives.  This will be our tenth vote.  Let’s hear it for border security.

[Applause]

This will be our tenth vote to re-open government.  Mind you, just, just remember this, in our earlier votes, we, and from the first day that we were sworn in, on January 3rd, on that day, we sent the Senate legislation that they had already passed, 92-6.  Something like that.  Some of it unanimously in committee.  We said, ‘Take yes for an answer. We’re sending you the Republican Senate agenda to the Republican Senate.’  And they said no.

Today, we are sending them the same packages except, because some of our House Members said, ‘Why should we vote’ – the Republicans in the House said, ‘Why should we vote with the Republicans in the Senate, with what the Senate did?’  So today, taking their suggestion, we are sending the House Senate negotiated, bipartisan, bicameral legislation for them to consider.  We will see how the Republicans in the House vote on their own suggestion and see how the Republicans in the Senate vote on their own legislation.

But it is really unfortunate, not only is the President holding the American people and America’s workers hostage, he is holding the Republicans in the Congress of the United States hostage.  Not all of them.  Some of them understand what it means to the lives of the American people.  We hope that more of them will.

Congressional Democrats support smart, effective border security.  But we do not support the President holding the health, safety and paychecks of the American people hostage, again, to a campaign applause line.

There is serious and justified concern that this President would shut down the government any time he does not get his way legislatively.  That is why we must hold the line on this shutdown in government.  That is one of the reasons Democrats and Republicans, and I know this is a bipartisan group, beautifully so.  To the Republicans in the crowd, I say take back your party.  The Grand Old Party.  America needs a strong Republican Party.  Not a rubber stamp.

Democrats and Republicans alike must urge their Senators to support the bipartisan legislation to re-open government that will be on the Floor tomorrow.  Tomorrow.  We must re-open government now, to restore, respect our workers, to protect our borders and to meet the needs of the American people.  People have to understand, there is a purpose to the governance.  You know it better than anyone, the public role in meeting the needs of people, and that people’s needs are not being met, when these people are not being employed, working and getting paid for their work.

The American people elected a House majority that would – that’s an applause line. Not for everybody, maybe.

[Applause]

That will deliver results For The People, opening up new opportunities and improving their lives.  We have the opportunity, and therefore, the responsibility to get to work: redeeming the promise of the American dream for every family and advancing progress for every community.  We must build, build, build.  Build our human infrastructure.  Invest in our physical infrastructure.  And build our democracy.

Today, too many hard-working families are asking, in this time of innovation and globalization, they’re asking if they have a place in the economy of tomorrow.  You hear that all the time.  We all, Mayors, Members of Congress alike, must answer them, and say, ‘We will have an economy that works for you.’  For every person in our country.

We must build an economy that gives all Americans the tools they need to succeed in the 21st Century.  Public education.  Workforce development.  Good-paying jobs.  And secure pensions.

Just as we must invest in human infrastructure, for our nation, we must invest in our physical infrastructure.  The House is committed to bold, transformative action to rebuild America, with green, modern and job-creating infrastructure, from sea to shining sea.

[Applause]

May I acknowledge another California Mayor, Mayor Garcetti, for his leadership in building the infrastructure in Los Angeles in a very major way.

Investing in our crumbling roads, bridges and transit systems and modernizing our ports and airports.  Rebuilding our children’s schools to provide safe, modern learning experiments.  We say to kids, ‘Education is important, you must study, you must learn.’ And yet, they get a different message, we send them to a school that is not up to par for them.

Mayor Palmer and I were in Trenton a while back, watching kids how to build green infrastructure in the schools there, so some of you have taken the lead, in a very important way, and I have been here when you’ve received your awards for infrastructure.  I’ve been here when you’ve received your awards for the arts.  And I’ll get back to that, the arts, in a moment.

Bringing broadband internet to every corner of the country and fixing our broken water system so that every family has access to clean, safe drinking water.  Some of our water systems are over 100 years old.  They are made of brick and wood.  Brick and wood.

Building the sustainable resilient infrastructure of the future in a way that protects clean air, clean water, creates good-paying jobs, and combats the climate crisis.

We must embrace the three I’s.  Your theme.  Building our infrastructure in a way that is innovative and inclusive. Congratulations on your leadership in all three regards.

We know that you are ready to stop talking and start digging.  We want to see dirt flying is what we want to see when we allocate these resources.  And I’m optimistic.  Because one subject that I have some common ground with the President on is the subject of infrastructure.  Maybe 80 percent of the conversations I’ve had with him since his election have been about infrastructure.

We have to find our common ground.  We’re ready.  We are ready.  And hopefully he is, too. So that we can get moving on that.  To create good-paying jobs.  And we know how important it is.  Improve the quality of life.  Promote commerce.  It is so important.  Clean air, clean water, from all of that, those investments.

We applaud America’s mayors for stepping up to deliver quality infrastructure for your citizens.  The House will do our part to support you and we will do so in a way that does not shift the burden on to your budgets.

Last year, they had an infrastructure plan that went from 80 percent federal, 20 percent local to 20 percent federal, 80 percent local.  What?  What?  Are you kidding?  Must have been.  But that’s – we will not make – we want it to happen, and we don’t want it to happen in a way that is not predictable, affordable, and again, for the return.

When you’re doing infrastructure, I talked about this with Jerry Brown this morning, he was in my office about what happened in California with the tax initiative that was on the ballot.  When people see what they get for any investment in infrastructure, they always support the infrastructure.

The Congress though needs your leadership and partnership to deliver on many of our shared priorities, to drive common progress for all.  Together, we’ll make America more safe by passing common sense legislation to end the epidemic of gun violence.

[Applause]

We will make America more American by protecting Dreamers and TPS recipients.

[Applause]

And passing comprehensive immigration reform.

[Applause]

We will make America more just by protecting people with pre-existing conditions, expanding access to health care and lowering the price of prescription drugs, and defending Medicare and Medicaid.

[Applause]

And we will strengthen our democracy by passing the Equality Act, that is an act to end discrimination against LGBT community, and so we are very excited about that.

[Applause]

And our first bill, H.R. 1, to clean up corruption in Washington, to bring dignity to government by lowering the impact of dark, secret special interest money in the political scene, and empowering people, and removing obstacles to participation, and passing the Voting Rights Act.

[Applause]

There are two challenges, well, actually three, that I want to just close with and that is, these are the – here they are.  One is the sinfulness, the immorality of the disparity of income in our country.  It is so stunning and remarkable.  Say 40 years ago or a little bit more, the disparity in income between, and we’ve had this conversation before, but it just gets worse, the disparity in income, between the CEO and the worker, was about 40 percent, and when productivity increased, everyone’s pay increased.  The CEO and the worker.  Now, it’s about 350 to 400 percent, the CEO.

Many CEOs really earned as much as their employees earned in a year, in the first couple of weeks in January, certainly by now.  40, 35, 350 – to 400 times, the CEO pay, to the worker’s pay.  That just simply has to end.  We do not begrudge anyone their success, their wealth, but we don’t want to see an exploitation of the work force in order to achieve that.  So that is part of our For The People agenda, to reduce that disparity, and in doing so, to increase the purchasing power that our workers have.  The middle class purchasing power is the most significant stimulus to the economy.

Secondly, we have to talk about our planet.  I was going to say the denial of some about our planet but let’s be in a more positive vein.

[Laughter]

We know that the climate crisis is at crisis in many ways.  First of all, it challenges the air our children breathe, it is a public health issue, clean air, clean water, food safety, it is a public health issue, air pollution.  The Pope called it air pollution, that drives it home for people who think of climate crisis as removed from their lives.  Climate crisis, public health.  Climate crisis, our economic success, to be number one globally, in terms of green technologies.  So it is an economic challenge.

It’s a national security challenge.  Generals, admirals, et cetera, national security people come to us and tell us that this is a national security challenge in terms of conflicts that erupt because of limitation of assets, migrations that occur, droughts, weather conditions that challenge the communities that people live in, and create unease, unrest, in our national security.

And it’s a moral issue.  If you believe, as I do, that this planet is God’s creation – I join with our evangelical community in doing so, this is God’s creation and we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of it, then we must be good stewards of it.  And if you don’t share that view, but you do agree that we owe it to future generations to pass on the planet, in a responsible way, then again, it is a moral issue.  So that is one of the challenges we face.  And I’m pleased to announce that I have established a Select Committee on Climate, once again.  I had one when I was Speaker before and we have one now, so this is about creating good-paying green jobs, good-paying green jobs.

[Applause]

And ending some of the denial that is there.  Secondly, I said disparity of income.  Third is this is something that if think hits home, no pun intended with many of you, the housing crisis, the homelessness issue that exists in our country.  We have to think in a very drastic way about this.

And I’ll quote Dr. King.  Dr. King said, ‘This is no time to engage in luxury of cooling off or take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.’  Tranquilizing drug.  We cannot think incrementally.  We have to think big.  And Maxine Waters, who is the chair of the Financial Services Committee, thinks big in this way.  We need to be working with you, to hear your ideas about how we can address the housing crisis and how we can increase the stock, make everything more affordable and meet the challenge to consciousness that homeless is in our country.  Especially our veterans.  Our veterans.  Well, for everyone.  For our families.

I bring back to the veterans because the veterans are so hurt by the shutdown.  Nearly a third of our federal workforce are veterans.  They come from the military, take off the uniform but continue in service to our country, and such an important way.  And we do a disservice to them, we do not appreciate the work that they do and one way to hurt them is to have their credit ratings be lessened because they do not have the paycheck in a timely fashion to pay their bills, their rent, their mortgage, their car payment, their credit card bill.  And if you really want to hurt a veteran, you might have an impact on some of them for their security clearances.  Security clearances are affected by your credit rating.

There are so many ways that this shutdown, that I began my remarks with, and now I end with, does a disservice to our country, and again, must end.  Our journey will not be easy to deliver on all of the priorities For The People.  We must embrace innovation, inclusion, we have to establish your model that you have put forth here today, where we’re coming back to it here, you know it.  Infrastructure, innovation, inclusion.

So guided by bold thinking and inspired by the priorities of those whom we are honored to serve, we can meet the challenges of our time.  This week, we mark the 90th year since the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  He was only 39 years old, barely old enough to be President himself and yet he has a monument on the mall, he has a day in his honor because of his values and his leadership and his courage.

Decades since his March on Washington, his words still ring powerfully clear and true.  And I will repeat, ‘This is no time engage in the luxury of cooling off or take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.  Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.’

[Applause]

So I congratulate you.  I know some of you will be honored tomorrow for your work in the arts. I  do thank you for that.  I do think one way we can all come together in our country is through the arts.  It is an area where we all, shall we say, put aside our differences, we laugh together, we cry together, we are inspired together, it gives children confidence that they can do other things, if they can be creative.

The poet Shelly once wrote, ‘The greatest force for moral good is imagination.’  So I would add that to our ‘infrastructure, innovation and inclusion’: imagination.  You are masters of it.  You have to be every single day.

So again, I congratulate whose who will be honored for their contribution to the arts.  The mayors have been in the forefront of that for so long.  Recognizing how important it is to ‘infrastructure, innovation and inclusion.  Together, let us move forward to make the promise of progress for every family, in every community, and city across the nation real.  Thank you all for your leadership.

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