Washington, D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in strong support of the joint House-Senate conference report on HR 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The House approved the measure this afternoon by a vote of 246 to 183. The Senate is expected to pass the legislation later today and President Obama will sign it into law next week.
“Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding, I thank him, Mr. Obey, the distinguished Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Mr. Rangel, the Chair of Ways and Means, Mr. Waxman, Mr. Miller, Mr. Gordon, Mr. Oberstar, Ms. Velazquez, the chairs of the committees that have most to do with putting this legislation together -- for their great work on behalf of the American people.
“My colleagues, as we gather here today, the American people are watching and waiting. They want to see if we can act on their behalf. They want to know if we have heard their pleas. They're concerned about their jobs -- whether they can hold them. Those who have lost their jobs are concerned about how they are going to be able to have any economic stability for their families. They're concerned about their health care. They're concerned about putting food on the table.
“There's a great deal of apprehension in our country about our economy. What we need now though is not fear -- we need confidence. We need confidence in our economy, in our markets. We need consumer confidence. We need to do the job for the American people.
“Mr. Speaker, a little more than three weeks ago in his inspirational Inaugural Address, President Obama pledged ‘action, bold and swift… not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.'
“Today, only a little more than three weeks later, Congress is boldly and swiftly delivering on the President's promise of new jobs, new hope, and a New Direction for the American people.
“I said on the House -- on this floor, the ship of state is difficult to turn. Yet the American people know and historians will judge that is a remarkable moment and achievement for President Barack Obama. Never before has a President passed his first major economic proposal so boldly and so swiftly.
“It is also a remarkable achievement for this Congress that we dubbed two years ago ‘the New Direction Congress.' With the extraordinary articulation of the President's vision -- and our own -- represented in this legislation, the name “new Direction Congress” rings more true now than ever.
“It is in sharp contrast to the ‘Do Nothing' approach that some want us to take here -- and certainly very sharp contrast to the approach taken when our country was in big economic trouble leading into the Great Depression.
“My colleague, Mr. Miller, has already told you some of this but I want to revisit it. When President Hoover was faced with the Depression, he said: ‘What the country needs is a big laugh' -- he said that in 1931. ‘If someone could get off a good joke every day, I think our troubles would be over.' In 1932, Hoover asked Will Rogers to think of a joke that would stop the hoarding. He told Rudy Vallee that, ‘if you could sing a song that made people forget the Depression, I'll give you a medal.' And President Hoover told Christopher Morley, ‘Perhaps what this country needs is a good poem.'
“Sometimes a good poem can do more than legislation. Sometimes it can, but not this legislation. What President Hoover was saying then wasn't funny then, and it isn't funny now.
“The American people need action, and they need action now. And they have a right as they listen to this debate to ask about this legislation: What's in it for me?
“After all the debate, this legislation can be summed up in one word: Jobs.
“New jobs for the 3.6 million Americans who were put out of work since the recession began in December 2007.
“New jobs in an economy transformed by this legislation's new investments in health, education, science, innovation, and in clean, efficient American energy.
“New jobs created through modernizing America's roads, bridges, transit systems, and waterways -- the first such large-scale effort in a half century, since the creation of the Interstate highway system under President Eisenhower.
“And the jobs that American workers care about -- the jobs the American people care about most -- their own -- will be dramatically safer the day that President Obama signs this plan into law.
“While we jumpstart and then transform our economy for years to come -- we must also lift those harmed by the economy we inherit -- the workers and families who have been hurt in the recession.
“What's in it for them?
“More than 35 percent of this package will provide direct tax relief to 95 percent of American workers through the Making Work Pay Tax Credit.
“We provide the most significant expansion of tax cuts for low- and moderate-income Americans ever, which will lift more than 2 million Americans out of poverty.
“College will be made more affordable for 7 million American college students who will see an increase in their Pell Grants.
“4 million students will benefit from a new $2,500 American Opportunity Tax Credit that is partially deductible.
“We will also help workers and families make ends meet by extending unemployment benefits --COBRA for unemployed workers investing in job training, and increasing nutrition assistance.
“Economists tell us that every dollar invested in food stamps and in unemployment insurance creates $1.73 and $1.63 respectively -- making this the right thing to do for the American people, the right thing to do for the economy. We get the biggest bang for the buck on those initiatives that address the needs of our working families.
“The historic scope of this bill is matched by an unprecedented accountability in our tax dollars and transparency so the American people can see where each dollar is invested -- and contact by name, those responsible for how those dollars are spent, and ensuring a strong result for our economy.
“Just yesterday, the President and leaders of Congress came together -- in the Rotunda of the Capitol -- to honor the legacy and courage of our nation's greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.
“Lincoln's stirring words capture the very heart of our democracy and representative government. A few years after his sole term in this House in the House of Representatives -- and aren't we proud to call him colleague, one who has served in our House? A few years after that first term, Lincoln offered his thoughts on the aims of government.
‘The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot, do so well, for themselves in their separate, and individual capacities,' end of quote, Abraham Lincoln.
“More simply put: We're all in this together.
“As you cast your vote today -- I think I feel this more than on any occasion when we've had a very important vote -- and this vote today is indeed historic.
“When we put our card in to register our support for this very important legislation -- or not -- let us think that our hands are being held, and our hands are being pushed by all of the American people who want us to vote for them -- for their health, for the education of their children, for their jobs, for the economic security of their families, for a better future -- built on innovation, science and technology, and a future that will give them hope.
“Their expectations are high, our opportunity is great. This legislation helps fulfill the promises that President Obama not only made in his Inaugural Address, but that many of us have been working over the years in a bipartisan way, to achieve.
“I never thought I'd see the day when we would have an opportunity so great, to do so much, for so many people in our country. I urge a strong and resounding ‘yes' for the American people.”