Kamala Harris photo

Remarks by the Vice President on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and the Build Back Better Agenda in New York City

October 22, 2021

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello, everyone. Hello, hello. It's good to be here. Good to be here. Please, have a seat.

You know, I'm telling you, we were talking backstage -- the Congressman and I were talking about how we grew up. And, you know, I grew up in the community center. I was a member of the Y. I swam at the Y. And so it is so good to be here.

And, Secretary Xavier Becerra, I want to thank you for being a lifelong public servant and for serving our nation

at the Department of Health and Human Services.

And I just want to say it is great to be back in New York, Mayor. It's good to see you. And it's good to be in the Bronx. It's good to be in the Bronx. (Laughter and applause.) It really is.

And with all of these esteemed New York elected. Speaker Heastie. I see so many friends here. And, you know, the elected leaders of New York are certainly elected leaders of this state, but national leaders. You're really the voice of -- the leaders of this city and this state really do carry a voice not only for the people who live in this state, but for the people of our country.

Governor Hochul -- where is she? There you are. Hello, Governor. Thank you for welcoming me. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, thank you. And then, of course, the Speaker. And Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins -- where is she? There you are. (Applause.) Thank you. It's good to see you all.

And to Congressman Jamaal Bowman, thank you for the work that you do that lift up the people of this district and the people of this state and country.

He and I have had many conversations about our shared commitment to many issues, but, in particular, even this morning, we were talking about the work that we have done and will continue to do addressing the issue of undiagnosed and untreated trauma in our children and how, when addressed, we can do the work of putting them on the path of achieving their God-given capacity.

So, looking out at this crowd, I see America. Looking out at this group of folks, I see -- in particular with our young leaders, and I see many of them -- the children of America. I see the families of America. And I see the people who have continued to hold it all together, through the rollercoaster of this pandemic. It has been a lot, and people are tired.

But when I look out across this room -- and I see so many of our young leaders here -- when I look out across this room and across our country, what I also see is determination. I see your resolve. I see you. President Joe Biden and I both see you. And we stand with you. And we are fighting, with the leaders here, for you each and every day.

You know, when we arrived at the White House at the beginning of this year, the President and I knew that working families in our nation were struggling. We knew that, during the pandemic, the families that had the least were being harmed the most; that there was not a family in America that did not feel the pinch of the pandemic; that working-class families, middle-class families, who were struggling before were barely holding it together now.

And so, we set out to deal with these issues, to provide all families with some relief, and it worked. The Congressman talked about it. In less than 100 days, thanks in large part to New York's congressional delegation, we passed our American Rescue Plan with $1,400 checks, plus housing assistance, plus childcare assistance, plus a larger Child Tax Credit, which is already helping to lift America's children out of poverty.

The relief that was contained in the American Rescue Plan put us on a path -- on a path toward a better future.

Today, we have within our grasp an opportunity to finish what we started with the American Rescue Plan. This, right now, is a moment that will not last. It is a particular moment of incredible opportunity and a moment to transform our nation.

And a part of what your New York leaders and the President and I have been talking about in the halls of Washington, D.C., is: Let's recognize this moment for what it is. Let's recognize that the pandemic hurt so many people. So many people experienced such great loss of every proportion.

But, by the way, things weren't so great for a lot of people before the pandemic. But the pandemic highlighted a lot of what is wrong, what was wrong -- the fractures and the fissures and the failures -- for all to see. A lot of those issues which folks in this room have been working on for a long time.

But a greater number of people had an opportunity, borne out of crisis, to see that there is work to be done and this, then, is a moment to do it.

And we can see, also, that in this moment -- this moment of transformation -- let's think about it: It's a moment where schools and small businesses are opening back up. It's a moment where jobs are being created and our economy is growing.

And so, in this moment, we have an opportunity to build an economy that works for working families. (Applause.) So let's make it work for working families.

And, right now, the President and I are working, to that end, with the United States Congress to pass our Build Back Better Agenda. And I'm sure you all have heard about the Build Back Better Agenda. In my briefing document, it usually says, "BBB." But some have been asking, "Well, what exactly does that mean?" Well, it's about being better on climate. It's about better health. It's about better jobs. And intentionally, it is about our families.

This is our agen- --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Eight families drowned here in Queens. It could have been prevented if we had the right infrastructure.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: You are right, brother.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I am right about that.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I know you are. And how about if you and I talk about that --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible) poverty is a choice.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, let me finish my --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Why aren't we working with the Chinese on the Belt and Road Initiative?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay. You know what? You and I will talk after I give my comments. And I'm happy to talk with you. (Applause.)


THE VICE PRESIDENT: But right now, let's talk about the agenda that will include --


THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- include speaking to all people and allowing everybody to be heard. Because that's part of what we want in our democracy. Everybody gets their chance to talk, and everybody gets a chance to be heard. (Applause.)


THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, this is our agenda -- this is our agenda to cut taxes. The Build Back Better Agenda includes our agenda to cut taxes. Because for too long, the burden has been misplaced in a way that it is working families, middle-class families, low-income families, while the rich are not paying their fair share.

So, this is a moment to cut taxes and lower costs for the working families of our nation. So, in the Build Back Better Agenda, we are fighting to cut healthcare costs for working families and for all people. We are fighting to cut energy costs as we combat climate change. And we are fighting to establish universal pre-K and to lower the cost of childcare so that parents can afford to care for their children and to participate in our workforce.

How much did we see during this pandemic, how that burden was disproportionately placed on the women in our workforce? So much so that 2 million women left the workforce during the pandemic and are still outside of the workforce.

What we saw during the pandemic -- and it was highlighted -- those individuals who are among what we call the "sandwich generation" -- individuals, men and women, who are parenting their young children while taking care of their elderly parents. And let's be clear about the burden that they carry born out of love and a sense of duty and responsibility.

It is the responsibility of tending to the needs of their children, including what that might involve in terms of homework, in terms of taking care of their basic needs, and while taking care of elderly parents who have a different set of needs. These are the burdens that families are carrying, often without any help.

The Build Back Better Agenda is saying: Let's see folks. Let's see what they're going through. Let us ask: Are we really creating and reinforcing a society that is about allowing people to reach their potential? Do we have a society that rewards ambition -- the ambition a parent has for their children?

This is, at its essence, what makes, we believe -- and it's therefore the spirit of our Build Back Better Agenda -- what we believe makes for a stronger and a more productive and a better community and country, and a better quality of life for all of the people of our nation.

So, we are fighting for all of these things. We are fighting to give seniors and people with disabilities more options so that they don't have to move out of their home to get the care they need.

We are fighting to expand paid leave so that our nation no longer comes in last among wealthy nations in providing these essential benefits.

You know, the President is about to go on a trip -- a very important trip -- with the G20. I've been meeting with leaders of nations that are our partners and allies. And they look at us, and they are asking, "Is America really fulfilling her potential and her promise?"

They are asking: Can democracies work? Can you care about building a strong economy, coexistent with caring about human rights, civil rights, and a perspective that is born out of a sense of humanity and what it requires, in terms of holding people up and treating them with dignity.

All of these things are at stake right now. All of these things are at stake.

So, when we do things like fight to extend the Child Tax Credit, yes, it is about our most important asset and resource, which is the children, but it is also about the strength of our nation and our standing in the world.

So, let us talk for a minute about the Child Tax Credit, because it has a huge impact on the families of our community and our country.

The larger Child Tax Credit that the President signed into law back in March is one of the largest-ever single tax cuts for families with children.

It is also the first time this tax cut has been distributed monthly. Now, this is something I've been working on for a long time, which is the component of the plan that is about monthly payments. "Why," some asked, "do you need to do that?"

And the point is really pretty simple: You got to pay your bills every month. So why don't we provide the tax cut every month if it is really designed -- (applause) -- to help people with their bills and the cost of living?

So, for four months now, the American families that have received this new approach have received a monthly tax cut of up to $300 per child. Parents and grandparents, who are often the primary caregiver for their grandchildren, have used those checks to manage the cost of raising children while continuing to work.

Nearly all the families that receive the Child Tax Credit are indeed working. And for other families, the Child Tax Credit is helping them to cover the cost of childcare so that they can get back to work.

But unless Congress acts, these monthly checks will stop coming after December; you've heard that earlier today. One in three children would no longer be covered by the full tax credit. And it is of particular note, and something that we all care deeply about: That includes half of Black and Hispanic children in America. Needless to say, we cannot let that happen. We cannot let that happen, and we will not let that happen.

And that is why, together with all of the congressional leaders who are here today, we are fighting to pass our Build Back Better Agenda.

And you've probably seen the news or heard the news about the details of the final bill. The congressman talked a little bit about the sausage-making process that that is.

But I'll tell you one thing for sure: We will not allow anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year have their taxes go up. We will not allow that. (Applause.) That is nonnegotiable.

In fact, this plan cuts taxes for working families. This plan also makes corporations pay their fair share, because -- (applause) --

And we all know why that's important. It's just simply not right that a nurse or a teacher or a firefighter pays more in taxes than a hedge fund manager. It's just not right. It's just not right. (Applause.)

So the bottom line is that this is about what we value as a nation; it's about who we value. And I want you all to know the President and I value working families. The President and I both come from working families.

The neighborhood I grew up in was a neighborhood of hardworking folks, people who took seriously the importance of their job, who took seriously the importance of caring for their families, who did all that they did with incredible pride; nurses and teachers and construction workers -- folks who were a part of the community, gave to the community, and lived in a way that was about understanding the dignity of work.

My mother worked around the clock as a breast cancer researcher. She would pack lunches early in the morning for me and my sister and see us out to go catch the bus to go to school. And when we came home at night, we would eat dinner together. And then after we went to bed, I would sometimes sneak and just check on her and she'd be at the kitchen table paying the bills. She never complained. But I know sometimes she was barely holding it together.

We have families around our nation who know it won't be easy, but we can't give up. We have families throughout our nation, in this very community included, who would do anything and everything to give their children the opportunities that they rightly deserved. Parents and families who see the capacity of the children, who see their dreams, who look in their eyes and see the twinkle, who nurture their ambitions. Let's support those families.

Let's have a system and a society that rewards the hard work that that takes. Let's value that in every way we know we have the capacity to do. That's what this is about.

And we have a moment, right now, to actually get this done. The members of the United States Congress, right now in their hands -- within reach -- have an opportunity to lift up our families and our children, to see and acknowledge with humility what has not been working, and with excitement to do something about it.

So I'm here today to ask people to see this moment for what it is, and to step up. We can do this. It is the right thing to do. (Applause.)

And to the young leaders here -- and I see you, and I'm so proud of you -- you never let anybody tell you something can't be done. (Applause.)

I have a motto: I drink -- I eat and drink "no" for breakfast. (Laughter.) Don't hear it. If most of us in this room heard "no," we would not be in this room right now. (Applause.) We know what can be done.

So, New York, change is possible; change is possible if we make it happen. And so, let's make this happen. Let's get to work. Let's pass our Build Back Better Agenda. Let us build an economy that works for working families.

May God bless you, and may God bless America. Thank you all. Thank you. (Applause.)

Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and the Build Back Better Agenda in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/353041

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