Joe Biden

Remarks During the House Democratic Caucus Virtual Issues Conference

March 03, 2021

The President. [Laughter] Nancy, I love you. There's no one I'd rather work with than you. We've been friends a long time—and your whole family, your daughters. And it's just been a great relationship.

And I think that Angie was absolutely correct that you've been the consummate leader. I've been here a long time, and there's been no Speaker that's been your equal, although there have been some great Speakers. And you just have a special way about you, Nancy. And you're also very, very—which is important—you're kind, but you're tough. And you know what's right, and you stick by it. And I admire the devil out of you.

And I want to thank somebody I campaigned for—he was leading by 30 points until I campaigned for him, but he still won anyway—Hakeem Jeffries—and Vice Chair Aguilar for putting this conference together and including me. And I want to thank the entire leadership team and all your committee chairs for taking an important step in the American Rescue Plan last week. You all showed, at a time when the American people are depending on us—and they are desperately in need of us—that a diverse caucus isn't a divided caucus.

Congressman Clyburn, I also want to note that it was almost exactly a year ago today that you delivered the endorsement to me in South Carolina that meant so much to me and my campaign. And you're a great friend. And on the night of the—that primary, America had confirmed only fewer than 100 COVID cases. That's just a year ago.

Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were still alive. California had yet to suffer the worst—what would become the worst fire season in recorded history. And there'd been no violent insurrection on the Capitol Hill. And I could go on. A lot's changed.

My point is this: In the year that has passed, all the challenge I spoke about that night—jobs and the economy; affordable, accessible health care; climate change; and the need to root out institutional racism; the need for unity and healing—have all become urgent—urgent, urgent, urgent—especially in light of the pandemic that has taken the lives—well, as of yesterday—518,720, I believe it was, Americans—fellow Americans who have lost their lives.

And more than 400,000 businesses—mostly small businesses, many minority businesses—have been shuttered; cost of millions of jobs; 1.3 million public sector—education, nurses, cops, firefighters, essential workers—have lost their jobs.

So my message today is really simple: You—you, this caucus—have shown the American people the difference Democratic leadership and what we just had. Leadership makes a difference. And you're continuing to do so.

For example, I know that this week you're working on the "Protect Our Democracy" reforms, as well as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act—both of which I strongly support. And I know that, in the past couple of days, you've had briefings and conversations on immigration, health care, foreign policy, climate crisis, and a lot more. And as you work on all of these, I urge you to continue to speak up and speak out about the American Rescue Plan.

And here is why: You know, the confidence in the American—in American government has been plummeting since the late sixties to what it is now. And many of you remember that in 2009, we expended a lot of political capital—Nancy and I and others—in the Recovery Act. It was an act that had less than two-tenths of 1 percent waste or fraud in it, according to the experts, and the economists told us we literally saved America from a depression.

But we didn't adequately explain what we had done. Barack was so modest, he didn't want to take, as he said, a "victory lap." I kept saying, "Tell people what we did." He said: "We don't have time. I'm not going to take a victory lap." And we paid a price for it, ironically, for that humility.

And this is a case where every single piece of the bill you passed addresses a genuine, desperate need for the American people. Each piece isn't just defensible, it is urgent and overwhelmingly supported by the people. It's good policy, and it's good politics. And I'm not sure we've ever seen something that is needed as badly as the American Rescue Plan that was as broadly popular.

Nancy and I have passed some really important things in our careers, but they haven't always been—they've been badly needed, but they haven't been overwhelmingly popular.

Served—I've served in the Congress for 36 years before becoming Vice President for 8. We never had anything this urgent and this ambitious that was so widely embraced. Three-quarters of the American are together with—on this. Three quarters. Nearly unanimous support among Democrats; more than 70 percent of independents. In poll after poll, 60 percent of Republicans—I'll say that again—60 percent of Republicans support what we're doing. A bipartisan group of more than 425 mayors, Democrat and Republican. The AFL-CIO and business leaders.

Look, the show of unity we're seeing is unprecedented. It isn't just about the sum of the total package; Americans are lockstep on each major element of the plan, and they know what they are. They support what we're doing on vaccines.

Look at the progress we've made with your help. We've been able to move us to the point where we had very little supply, to we will have enough vaccine because of the work we've done with your help—enough vaccine by the end of May to be able to vaccinate every single adult in America. It will not be done by then, but that supply will be there.

They support what we're doing on direct payments, on unemployment insurance, on food and nutrition support, on keeping people in their homes, on safely reopening our schools.

Staying unified as we complete this process to pass the American Rescue Plan won't just make a difference in our fight against COVID-19 and our efforts to rebuild the economy, it will also show the American people we're capable of coming together for what matters most to them. They've lost faith in government; this is a time to reestablish that faith. And the reason why they should have faith is because we're doing the right thing. It's a show of strength and a first step forward to restoring their faith in the capacity of government to have their backs. And if we deliver on this, it also builds momentum. It builds real enthusiasm as well.

And I will make everything else we want to deliver—this will make everything more possible to get it done. That's why starting off with this victory is so important, because it's so consequential to their lives. And we know how much we have to do, but all starts—it all starts here. It starts by bringing this home, bringing home what you've done all the way.

And I know we're all making some small compromises, but I want to thank you. I want to thank you for the work you've done. I want to thank you for the work we're going to continue to do.

I know parts of this—and everything else we seek to do—are not easy, but people are going to remember how we showed up in this moment, how we listened to them—to them, not special interests; to them—and how we took action. I believe we're going to come through this, and I think that people's memories will be long. And if we continue to stay laser focused on getting shots in people's arms, responding to the economic crisis, it's going to open up a lot of hearts and a lot of doors for us tomorrow to do the many more things we know we have to do.

So I want to thank you all. I really mean it from the bottom—I want to thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

And I'm happy to take questions if that's what—I'm supposed to do, Nance. Whatever you want me to do.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:20 p.m. from the South Court Auditorium of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and her daughters Alexandra, Christine, and Jacqueline Pelosi and Nancy Corinne Prowda; Rep. Angela D. Craig; Rep. Hakeem S. Jeffries, in his capacity as chair, and Rep. Peter R. Aguilar, in his capacity as vice chair, of the House Democratic Caucus; and former President Barack Obama. He also referred to H.R. 1319.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks During the House Democratic Caucus Virtual Issues Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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