Pelosi on Build Back Better: ‘We’re going to have to make some important decisions’ 

House speaker joins Michigan reps. for metro Detroit roundtable

By: - October 24, 2021 11:15 am

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the NAACP convention, July 22, 2019 | Andrew Roth

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joined U.S. Reps. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) and Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) for a roundtable discussion Saturday in Plymouth on the Build Back Better plan, job and supply shortages in Southeast Michigan and semiconductor shortages affecting the automotive industry.

At the meeting with local officials and business leaders at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, Pelosi noted that Congress is inching closer to finalizing a deal for the President Joe Biden’s plans for climate change, health care, childcare and more. She said Congress is “going to have to make some important decisions,” adding that Democrats “can’t get everything” they hoped to initially have in the bill. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attends a manufacturing roundtable in Plymouth with Reps. Debbie Dingell and Haley Stevens, Oct. 23, 2021 | Julia Forrest

That’s because Congress is closely divided and Republicans have been united against various iterations of the Build Back Better plan, even as the price tag has continued to get chopped. Centrist Democrats, particularly U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), have advocated for cuts, but have not yet signalled their final support.

“This package is about jobs and how we address the economic crisis,” Pelosi said. “Exactly what we’re doing right now is what this country needs.”

Pelosi highlighted the provisions included in the plan will “get results,” saying the bill will prioritize supply-chain issues, labor shortages, and boosting workforce participation of women by improving access to childcare. 

“The ingredients [for legislation] will all be there by Sunday, hopefully the decisions will be there. And they’re hard,” Pelosi said. “Everything is about jobs and children.”

Danielle Atkinson, founding director of Mothering Justice, an organization dedicated to promoting policies to help families, noted the need for improved child care access to enable women to enter or remain in the workforce. 

“We need to be providing for the worker, the family and the business,” Atkinson said. “We know that a good job needs a good childcare system and so it is essential that we are investing in that. … We have to make sure our jobs are backed up by a system that supports the workforce.”

Danielle Atkinson of Mothering Justice speaks at South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s fundraiser in Detroit | Andrew Roth

The Build Back Better plan proposed that $450 billion go toward preschool for 3 and 4-year-olds. The bill would funnel money into grants stabilizing childcare facilities and increased wages for employees. The plan would also subsidize child care on a sliding scale and cap expenditures to 7% of annual income for middle-class families. 

Business leaders at the event also discussed the supply-chain disruptions that have led them without critical supplies to assemble products. 

One costly disruption in supply-chains has specifically affected the automotive industry, where a semiconductor shortage has caused disarray and made new vehicle production come to a halt. In response to the shortage, the U.S. Senate passed a $50 billion boost for semiconductor production, but the bill has yet to be taken up in the House. 

Stevens and Dingell sent a letter to House leadership, including Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urging they bring the Senate bill to the floor for a vote. Stevens and DIngell sent the letter alongside other members of the Michigan congressional delegation. 

Leaders also talked about labor shortages that were plaguing the industry as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Advance has reported, there are roughly 100,000 people on strike in what’s known as “Striketober,” in workplaces including Kellogg and John Deere, as workers demand better pay, benefits and schedules amid a grueling pandemic.

Stevens said the Build Back Better plan is critical to pass and emphasized the need for it to include provisions to help businesses and families across the nation. 

“We’re in the coalition of the willing; we’re in the coalition of doing and delivering, establishing and building trust in our communities,” Stevens said. “And certainly we know our manufacturers, employers, our workforce, our families, need and deserve certainty and that’s what we are working on every single day. And certainly we don’t want to wait by any means but we also want to do this right.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell attends President Joe Biden’s remarks on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 in Dearborn | Andrew Roth

Dingell said that the Build Back Better plan will help manufacturing businesses and workers across Michigan. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, manufacturers in the state make up 14.2% of the Michigan workforce. 

“Manufacturing is so important and the backbone of this country and I’d like to think Michigan is the backbone of manufacturing,” Dingell said. 

Dingell highlighted that there is a growing consensus among members of the Democratic caucus that policy changes need to happen as they continue to grapple with what should be cut and what should remain in the plan. 

“Failure is not an option,” Dingell said. “Our caucus is united. We are united in the fact that failure is not an option.”


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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.