Remarks on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021
Good afternoon. Thank you, Kamala. You know, when I look out over what happened the last 50 days when Jill and I first got a chance to move into this magnificent building behind you, I promised the American people—and I guess this is becoming an overused phrase—that help was on the way.
But today, with the American Rescue Plan now signed into law, we've delivered on that promise. And I don't mean I've delivered; we've delivered. Look out there on all of you. Patty, there would still be people, kids in poverty, were it not for all the work you did all those years.
And I want to say to Bernie: Bernie, stepping up and making the case why this was so transformational made a big difference in how a lot of people voted.
I look out at all of you, House Members as well, who have made the case to the American people why this is so important. I watched my buddy, Jim, down in South Carolina, stand up and talk about how it's going to affect individual people.
I have a—my inclination is to mention every single one of you, because I think I've called most of you and thanked you already for what you did. I even called Pallone. He wasn't there though; he was on the other side of the river. [Laughter] We joke all the time. He's in—he's in New Jersey; I'm in Delaware. I keep reminding him Delaware owns the Delaware River up to the high watermark in New Jersey. [Laughter]
But all kidding aside, I want to thank you all. I want to thank, particularly, the Speaker, who, from day one—from the very first day I got the nomination—was supportive in ways that are hard for me to describe.
And you know, I served a long time in the United States Senate, longer than anybody for—still there at the time, other than Pat. If I were still in the Senate, I'd be Senate pro tem because I was 2 years ahead of Pat. [Laughter]
But all kidding aside, we've still got a lot of great majority leaders. But I never saw anybody handle such a controversial, consequential piece of legislation that was right on the edge than Chuck Schumer. I owe you, Chuck. You did an incredible job.
And look—and to the Members of the House and Senate, thanks for making this happen. You made it happen. As I said, I served 36 years in the Senate. I know how hard it is to pass major consequential legislation, particularly when we only have such minor, small majorities in both Houses, Steny. You've done an incredible job.
And, Nancy and Chuck, I have to say that I agree with many of the columnists that have commented on this legislation: What you shepherded through the Congress not only meets the moment, it does even more. It's historical, and they call it transformational. And it really is. The bill was supported overwhelmingly by the American people—Democrats, Independents, and Republicans—and had a strong support of Governors and mayors across the country in both parties—red States and blues. Over 430 mayors contacted me, many of them Republicans, supporting the bill.
And here's why: Because what you all did with it and the refinements you made, it directly addressed the emergency in this country, because it focuses on what people need most. Debbie and I often talked about: You've got to tell people in plain, simple, straightforward language what it is you're doing to help. You've got to be able to tell a story, tell the story of what you're about to do and why it matters because it's going to make a difference in the lives of millions of people and in very concrete, specific ways.
This legislation, as everybody has already mentioned, will provide $1,400 in direct payments, which we all promised. Well, that means for a typical family of four—a middle-class family, husband and wife working, making $110,000 a year—that means a $5,600 check they're going to get. Eighty-five percent of the households in America will be getting this money.
And a lot of you know—because of the way you came up like I did and others—what that can mean. Think of the millions of people going to sleep at night, staring at the ceiling, thinking: "My god, what am I going to do tomorrow? I've lost my health care. I don't have a job. Unemployment runs out. I'm behind on my mortgage. What are we going to do?" Well, guess what? They're going to be getting quite—that check soon, either by direct deposit or a check from the Treasury.
And they're going to—some are going to get it as early as this weekend. This legislation provides resources needed to open our schools. How many of you have dealt not only in your own home and with your children and grandchildren, if you have them, with how difficult it is, the mental pressure and stress that are on so many families? So many people needing help—if they had access to counseling—because it's caused an enormous, enormous stress.
This legislation extends unemployment insurance by $300 a week until September. It's going to help 11 million Americans who were days from losing that benefit. This legislation includes the biggest investment in childcare since World War II. That's not hyperbole, that's just a fact. It's a fact.
It provides help for small businesses to stay open. And you know, 400,000—so many have had to close because, the first time around, you all worked and did a great piece of work, and the House passed a significant legislation. What's the first thing the last President—he fired the folks who were supposed to watch and make sure it got, in fact, distributed the way it was supposed to. We find out so much of it went to people who didn't need it. You all took care of that.
It extends coverage and lowers health care costs for so many Americans—so many Americans. And it's a big number for people.
It provides for food and nutrition. Because people knew—and you all were out there handing out food like many of us were, but you saw people who were in car lines that were literally miles long. You'd see four lanes of cars that went back for a half a mile each, just to get a box of food. Again, through no fault of their own.
It's going to help people keep a roof over their heads. A half million are—haven't been able to make their mortgage payments, about to be thrown out of their apartments. They have to make up all that they owe. And those mom-and-pop realtors are in real trouble.
It's going to cut job poverty in half with—and you know, I've talked to so many of you. Rosa, you and I've spent so much time on this. But you guys—you, Patty, and others—are the ones that have been leading this for so long, and it's finally coming to fruition. And the American people understand it.
It pays for many of the steps we've taken on—to vaccinate Americans. We're going to be in a position where, because of what you all did in the past, we had the money to go out and literally purchase hundreds of millions of vaccines and then go out and make sure we had enough vaccinators. Vaccine is one thing. To get the vaccine in a vial, out of that vial and into a needle, and a needle into someone's arm, it took tens of thousands of people. And because of you, we were able to mobilize the military. We were able to mobilize FEMA. We were able—I was able, by Executive order, to allow former docs and nurses to come back and be able to engage in this activity.
And one of the things that we said in the beginning that no one thought that I was being straight about was, I said this is going to create—we have to spend this money to make sure we have economic growth, unrelated to how much it's going to help people. Well, guess what? Every single major economist out there—left, right, and center—supported this plan. Even Wall Street agreed. According to Moody's, for example, by the end of this year, this law alone will create 7 million new jobs. Seven million.
And the bill, it does one more thing, which I think is really important: It changes the paradigm. For the first time in a long time, this bill puts working people in this Nation first. It's not hyperbole, it's a fact.
For too long, it's been the folks at the top. They're not bad folks. A significant number of them know they shouldn't be getting the tax breaks they had. But it put the richest Americans first, who benefited the most. And the theory was—we've all heard it, and especially the last 15 years. The theory was: Cut taxes, and those at the top and the benefits they get will trickle down to everyone. Well, you saw what trickle down does. We've known it for a long time. But this is the first time we've been able to, since the Johnson administration and maybe even before that, to begin to change the paradigm.
We've seen time and time again that that trickle down does not work. And by the way, we don't have anything against wealthy people. You've got a great idea, you're going to go out and make millions of dollars, that's fine. I have no problem with that. But guess what? You've got to pay your fair share. You've got to pay some. Because guess what? Folks who are making—living on the edge, they're paying. And so, again, all it's done is make those at the top richer in the past, and everyone else falling behind.
This time, it's time that we build an economy that grows from the bottom up and the middle out—the middle out. And this bill shows that when you do that, everybody does better. The wealthy do better. Everybody does better across the board.
If that's our foundation, then everything we build upon will be strong—a strong foundation: our competitiveness around the world, the jobs here at home, the health and quality of our lives. That's what the American Rescue Plan represents, and it's all about rebuilding what I've been saying, and Bernie and a lot of others are saying—the backbone of this country. The backbone of this country are hard-working folks. Hard-working folks. Middle class folks. People who built the country. And I might add, I think, unions built the middle class. And it's about creating opportunity and giving people a fair shot. That's really all and everything it's about.
In the coming weeks, Jill and I and Kamala and Doug and our Cabinet, with all of you—Members of Congress—we're going to be traveling the country to speak directly to the American people about how this law is going to make a real difference in their lives and how help is here for them. Almost every single aspect would be significant—would be every—if you took the piece of this bill and broke it into all of the pieces, every one of those pieces standing alone would be viewed as a significant accomplishment. But it's all the work you've done for years to try to get us there.
This law is not the end of our efforts though. I view it as only the beginning. As we—look, one of the things that I've been most worried about, and I think you all have too—especially those of us who've been around for a hundred years, like me—[laughter]—is you've watched people lose confidence in government. Just lose confidence in that we tell the truth. That's why, when I announced, I quoted Franklin Roosevelt. He said, "I'll give it to you straight from the shoulder." The American people can handle anything if you tell them the truth. And they really can. Just give it straight from the shoulder. And when we do something right, we're going to make a case for it. And when I make a mistake, I'm going to own up to it and say: "It was me. I made a mistake."
And I said last night: This is not over. Conditions can change. We're not finished yet. Conditions can change. The scientists have warned us about new variants of this virus. And the devil is in the details of implementing this legislation.
I know from experience when the President turned to me—like I haven't done to the Vice President yet—and said: "Take care of it. You take care of implementing the plan." [Laughter] But she could do it. But I remember being—given the dubious distinction of having to implement a Recovery Act back in—when we came into office, Barack and I. I spent literally 4 or 5 hours a day, for 6 months. I talked to over 160 mayors probably more than two or three times; every Governor, save one, who was looking at—from Alaska to Russia—and making sure that we're in a situation where we talk to everybody. But it takes—the devil is in the details.
It's one thing to pass the American Rescue Plan. It's going to be another thing to implement it. It's going to require fastidious oversight to make sure there's no waste or fraud and the law does what it's designed to do. And I mean it: We have to get this right. Details matter, because we have to continue to build confidence in the American people that their government can function for them and deliver.
So there's a lot of work for all of us left to do, but I know we'll do it. To every American watching: Help is here, and we will not stop working for you. Together, with you, we are showing it's possible to get big, important things done. That's what America does. It tackles hard problems. And how we do—you know, look, it's how we do have it within ourselves to come out of this moment, which we've been saying—a lot of us have been saying for a long time, more prosperous, more united, and stronger than we went in. That's where we have a chance to be. That's what we're going to be able to do.
And it's really critical—and it's really critical—to demonstrate not Democrat/Republican; it's critical to demonstrate that government can function—can function and deliver prosperity, security, and opportunity for the people in this country.
And as my grandfather used to kiddingly say, "With the grace of God, the good will of the neighbors, and the creek not rising," that's exactly what we're going to do.
God bless you all. Thanks for all you did. And may God protect our troops. Thank you.
I wish I could come out and shake hands with every one of you. But next time, it won't be so far apart. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate it.
NOTE: The President spoke at 2:44 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Vice President Kamala D. Harris and her husband Douglas C. Emhoff; Sens. Patricia L. Murray, Bernard Sanders, Patrick J. Leahy, and Deborah A. Stabenow; Reps. James E. Clyburn, Frank J. Pallone, Jr., and Rosa L. DeLauro; Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi; House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer; former President Barack Obama; and former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/348724