ICYMI: Senator Warren Speaks to the New England Council on Work in Washington
Senator Warren’s Remarks and Audience Q+A Cover Immigration, Infrastructure, Economy, Climate, and Health
Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) spoke to the New England Council and answered questions about her work in Washington. Senator Warren discussed topics including infrastructure benefits for Massachusetts under the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, the climate crisis, health care, civic engagement, and the events in Martha’s Vineyard.
As Prepared for Delivery: Senator Warren’s Remarks
to the New England Council
September 19, 2022
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren: Thank you for this opportunity to meet with all of you again. It’s good to see everyone. I thought that this morning I’d talk about three major changes in Washington over the past year that will touch the businesses and the lives of everyone in this room—infrastructure, climate and health.
First is a huge investment in our future. Since Dwight Eisenhower was President, infrastructure has been a popular bipartisan investment. And for good reason. Without roads and bridges, we don’t have an economy that can move goods. Without transit, we don’t have workers who can get to the employers who need them. And without clean water and electricity, we don’t have businesses that can function. Infrastructure is the bread-and-butter of our economy—it keeps us going.
But in the poisonous environment of Washington, much has gone wrong. Republicans have been eager to cut taxes, which means not enough money to keep our infrastructure up to date. And we have fallen far behind. The national association of engineers says that America’s infrastructure gets a grade of D+--not quite failing but working on it. Of course, we don’t need certified engineers to explain how bad our infrastructure has become. Just ask anyone who depends on the T to get to work or school each day. Or anyone who sits snarled in traffic on the Mass Pike or Expressway. Or anyone in any of the thirty towns here in Massachusetts that are currently under orders from the state not to drink their contaminated water. So yes, the need is urgent.
Urgent, and we got it done. After “infrastructure week” became a punch line during the years before President Biden was elected, we finally got a huge infrastructure plan in place. And we followed it up with a huge investment in CHIPs manufacturing. Both bills were bipartisan—so credit all around.
There will be federal money for roads and bridges. For water and power. From lead pipe replacement projects in New Bedford and Lowell, to PFAS treatment projects in North Attenborough and Townsend, communities across the Commonwealth will feel the impact of this historic funding. Money for Logan Airport. Money for big projects like the Cape bridges. Money for small projects like traffic lights and repaving and bike lanes. And money for new investments like east-west rail IF—and this is a big if—the state comes forward with a workable plan and applies for this money.
Congress deserves credit for infrastructure investments—and credit for taking a more expansive view of what constitutes infrastructure. Roads and bridges, water and power—sure. But now access to high-speed broadband has become as essential as access to electricity was a century ago. Our infrastructure plans put substantial resources into making certain that everywhere—from the tip of the Cape to the farthest corner of The Berkshires will have coverage.
Congress showed it was willing to think of infrastructure more expansively in other directions as well. We’ll have our first explicit industrial policy in decades with an investment in CHIPs manufacturing. The bill provides more than $52 billion in investments into domestic semiconductor manufacturing, a field where the United States share of global manufacturing has dropped from around 40 percent in 1990 to 12 percent today. It’s critical that we reclaim that lost market share because semiconductors are in almost everything that we need to boost our 21st century economy. They’re in cars, phones, computers, solar panels, wind turbines, you name it.
This funding will be a boon for Massachusetts high-tech businesses. And I fought to make sure that Commerce put real guardrails on this funding to ensure that it’ll be invested as it’s supposed to be, not used to subsidize companies’ stock buybacks.
We expanded our infrastructure investments in another direction as well: The CHIPS act has more than $200 billion in new science funding over the next five years. It will jump-start research and development in key technologies and broaden participation in STEM education and childcare employment both geographically and among underserved groups.
We’re nearly doubling funding for the National Science Foundation, which means more research funding for universities here in Massachusetts. We know Massachusetts punches above its weight class. I’m particularly happy about this because I’ve been fighting to increase research funding since I first ran for the Senate 10 years ago now.
All my celebrations about infrastructure have one down note. I think that in the 21st Century “infrastructure” is also about people. We need workers, and when more than a million workers are held out of the workforce because childcare isn’t available, that’s a drag on our economy that has as big an impact as a non-functioning T or water that has to be boiled.
Moreover, investing in our people means giving them the best educational opportunities. There was a time when America believed that children under six couldn’t learn anything. We now know that babies are learning from their first breath. High quality childcare is about babies who, later on, are better ready for school and then for work. Starting early makes sense—and that means investing in care and caregivers. Research suggests that a nickel spent on a child’s first year of life is a dollar that doesn’t have to be spent later when things go wrong.
On this front, Congress failed miserably. We had 49 Democrats ready to make that investment in our kids, but with no Republicans we just couldn’t get there. But this is a fight I will stay in. If we can do roads and bridges and CHIPs and broadband to help our workers be more productive, I believe we can—and will—do childcare.
Part 1—Infrastructure, with good bipartisan support, has made real progress.
Part 2—Climate, here it gets much more partisan.
Unless we get much more aggressive in fighting the climate crisis, we have no future. Here, there’s much to celebrate. The Inflation Reduction Act is the boldest environmental bill of our lifetime. It will cut emissions by 40% and create 9 million jobs.
Like you, I read about the climate crisis every day. I see first hand the effects of a warming planet. There is far more we need to do. But 40% reduction in eight years is a damn fine start.
There are two features that are worth noting. The first is that we hit those emission targets through a robust package of incentives--$370 billion for Clean Energy. Ten years of consumer tax credits to make homes energy efficient and run on clean energy, making heat pumps, rooftop solar, electric HVAC and water heaters more affordable.
There’s also another $9 billion in consumer home energy rebate programs, focused on low income consumers, to electrify home appliances and for energy efficient retrofits. In all, working families can expect to see their energy bills cut by $500 to $1,000 per year.
And here’s a critical area where I want to work with you – manufacturing jobs: the IRA will invest more than $60 billion to create millions of new domestic clean manufacturing jobs.
I want Massachusetts to maximize its share of these new jobs. The commonwealth has the best brainpower and workforce in the country. We need to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity and create a manufacturing base for our 21st innovation economy.
The IRA also provides $2 billion for National Labs to accelerate breakthrough energy research. A chunk of this money will go to Massachusetts universities and colleges.
The second note is that the climate package is made possible with a 15% minimum corporate tax. The entire effort is funded without adding a penny to the national debt. In fact, because of the size of the revenues from the corporate minimum tax, the total package—including all the climate efforts—will reduce the national debt.
Make no mistake about the politics of the climate initiatives. Despite the urgent need and despite a clear way to pay for these changes, the climate bill was passed only with Democratic votes—and Republicans have vowed to roll these back if they can take power. This is a reminder that the climate fight is far from over.
Part 1, infrastructure. Part 2, climate. Part 3, health.
Again, there’s much more to do, but for a minute who should take a deep breath over what we’ve accomplished. The IRA makes historic investments in health care for our seniors, which will have ripple effects throughout the health care economy.
For the first time ever, Medicare will be able to negotiate for the price of prescription drugs – making medicine more affordable for our seniors.
There will finally be caps on out-of-pocket costs for seniors. Before this, there was no limit on how much Medicare beneficiaries would have to pay out-of-pocket for their prescription drugs.
Soon, no one with Medicare coverage will have to pay more than $2,000 per year for their prescriptions. That is a huge relief, particularly for people who are facing expensive cancer treatments or treatment for chronic conditions like MS.
The bill also ensures that no one on Medicare will have to pay more than $35 per month for their insulin. We have more to do to make sure that those protections apply to everyone, but this is a big step forward.
And on top of all of that, the bill extends for another 3 years the expansions that we passed in the American Rescue Plan Act to make purchasing health insurance through the Affordable Care Act more affordable.
Those investments will free up state dollars that can be used to keep building upon these gains and that will reinforce Massachusetts’s status as one of the states with the lowest uninsured rates in the nation.
Of course, all these things intersect. The same things that cause climate change have long been causing severe public health problems, disproportionately in Black and Brown communities.
Diesel buses are often the biggest polluters in these neighborhoods. When we improve transportation, we also have a chance to tackle environmental injustice head on.
And once again, I should note that these changes were made only with Democratic votes, and that makes them vulnerable to repeal. But they are good and important and popular steps, and we will fight to hang on to them.
One-two-three—infrastructure, climate and health. It’s been quite a year. I appreciate this opportunity to share what has been going on in Washington. I look forward to taking a few questions.
Transcript: New England Council Audience Q+A with
September 19, 2022
Speaker 1: Your thoughts on what is going on with immigration. When you see immigrants, newly arrived here, who are escaping poverty, violence, being treated as a piece of commodity rather than human beings. And being put on the planes, buses, and saying that at the end of the line there will be working papers for you, and there will be a job. To find out there is nothing there, and they dont even know what they want.
What can you and your colleagues do about this immigration and the way people are being treated?
Senator Warren: Brian, thank you for the question. Migrants are people, not props.
I am always proud to be the senator from Massachusetts, but never more so than in the past week. We have to remember that people have been arriving here, particularly in the Boston area generally, for quite a while now. They didn't arrive on a chartered plane, paid for by the taxpayers of Florida, and as part of a publicity stunt by their governor, but they have been arriving, in twos, and threes, and fours. And Massachusetts has done what Massachusetts always does. We've stepped up, we've provided help.
And my job as I see it, is to be a good federal partner. So, I spent a lot of time, especially this past weekend, talking with Secretary Mayorkas, of Department of Homeland Security, to see how we can be helpful to all of those who are here, those who've come in more recently, but those who've been here for a while. Talking with Leader Schumer about how to try to get enough resources into our budget, we're running out of the emergency food and shelter, budget is about to run out of money. That's the one that's used for housing and food for migrants who are here or anywhere. So, Leader Schumer and I are talking about how to get that into the continuing resolution, which will be voted on by the end of the month. I've been in touch with Mayor Wu and other public officials to ask about what's happening on the ground and what kind of help they need.
But that's how I see this, is that our public officials, our charities, just individuals, step up in Massachusetts. That's what we do. And we treat all people with basic dignity, with humanity, and we say that here in Massachusetts, we don't want anyone to be hungry, we don't want anyone to be unhoused, and we will reach out together to make sure that's the case.
Speaker 1: If I could just ask one additional question.
Senator Warren: Sure.
Speaker 1: Then I’ll have Paul ask a question.
Senator Warren: Sure.
Speaker 2: And that is, the Democrats have a time pressure put on them, they have to do an appropriation bill, and the continuing resolution by the end of the month. There were debates on whether to keep it lean and slim and just do appropriations. Other people say put the same-sex marriage in there, put the COVID funding in there, put the Ukraine funding in there, and put the fast-track permitting on fossil fuels.
Your thoughts on how that bill’s going to look.
Senator Warren: Okay, so remember, budgeting 101. We've got to do something that keeps the government open by September 30th, that's our job. Ordinarily, if this were like just the normal legislature, and so on, we would just pass a budget by then, and then we’d be done. That doesn't work so much anymore in Washington.
So the plan right now is we've got our big budget that we are hoping to get through before the end of the year. But we have to do what's called a continuing resolution right now. Continuing resolutions take 60 votes. So as you can imagine, it has two features to it that I want you to think about. The first one is you just got to leave all the money spigots on where they are. And that's both actually the upside and the downside to a continuing resolution.
For those of you, for example, who have applications in to try and get money for a particular project that has not been funded in the past, continuing resolution, mm-mm. Right, you have to wait for the big budget. So years of continuing resolutions are not where we want to be. It's also not particularly good for the government. Because it does things like the Armed Services Budget, which is ginormous, it's half of our entire budget. And it keeps spending in exactly the same places even when decisions have been made to go for new weapons programs, to drop other programs, and so CRs lock you in where you are. So the idea is try to keep the CR short and get to a real budget.
But remember that other part I said 60 votes, means there's some horse-trading, not only to keep all 50 Democrats on board, but also to find 10 Republicans. Would we love to put in a lot of things? You bet we would.
And so when folks say, why don’t you just put that in the CR, the answer is, find 10 Republicans that that's going to be okay with. And at the end of the day, we're going to end up with a CR as we have virtually every time, that I'm not going to like every single thing in it. You're not going to like every single thing in it. But overall, it keeps the government open.
And what we're trying to do on new spending is make sure that we’ve got money for Ukraine, make sure that we've got money for COVID, that's what we're trying to make sure that we get into this budget. Those are like the key pieces.
And right now it appears we will not have equal marriage in the CR and that that has been rolled over to after the election, where we were told there will be enough Republican votes to get that passed. You can imagine how I feel about this, but that's, that's kind of the overall play right now. And as for specific details on what's in and what's out, I'm headed off to Washington right now, I’ll be in leadership this afternoon, I'll know more. But it’s, all the balls are still up in the air at this point.
Speaker 1: We have time for like questions. Paul from MIT.
Senator Warren: Paul!
Speaker 3: Senator Warren, thank you so much for joining us.
Senator Warren: Thank you! Good to be here with you.
Speaker 3: Thank you. This afternoon, I'm participating in a meeting to encourage students on our campus and other campuses to register to vote.
Senator Warren: Yes.
Speaker 3: What can we do in your view, nationally, to secure our elections now that state legislators are perhaps going to maintain some control over our elections? I'm concerned about fairness, voter suppression, and the security of our elections. What can you say to us that will inspire some confidence in this future? Thank you.
Senator Warren: Well, thank you. And I'm glad that you'll be meeting with students this afternoon. Obviously, making the case for why voting is so important because of the many ways in which the decisions we are making in Washington, at the State House, and at local government don't just touch their lives right now, but will touch their lives forever. And that is obviously very, very true when we’re talking about climate, obviously true when we're talking about Roe, obviously true when we're talking about student loan debt. So just to pick those three, that have such immediate impact.
But I, I don't want to come here to be partisan. But there are certain parts of realities, we just have to acknowledge. It's just fact, and I can't change fact. The reality is, Republicans will not let us pass a bill to permit more people to vote, to permit access for American citizens to be able to vote.
And I cannot tell you, as a kid who grew up on Civics 101, I find the fact that I say that now, as a United States Senator, deeply shocking, that one political party has thrown in with not only the Big Lie of 2020, but the whole notion that purging voter rolls, keeping people from standing in line to try to vote, keeping using old voting machines, so the lines get longer in poor neighborhoods, and people feel discouraged from voting. All of those pieces, has become the policy of one political party.
So my own view on this is, is that's what 2022 is all about. If the Democrats were able to hang on to the House, and if we could get two more senators in the Senate, who are willing to hold back the filibuster for this, then the pieces start to click in the other direction. We get a robust voting rights law, not even the one we talked about earlier, but a genuinely-- and when I say voting rights, let me remind you all, it really is things like replacing 25-year-old voting machines, partly for security purposes, but partly for line purposes, so people can get in and get out. It is about making certain that every American citizen has the right to vote, and get that vote counted. I also should be clear, because there's some other clicks right behind that. If Democrats get those things, we will make Roe vs. Wade the law of the land. That’s it.
And I could keep going on this, but I will mention one more. We will do more on gun safety. It is our obligation to keep our children safe.
Speaker 1: One final question? Just wait for the mic. Identify yourself. And then we'll have a couple of minutes for photos.
Speaker 4: Morning, Senator Warner, it's good to see you.
Senator Warren: Good to see you.
Speaker 4: Thanks for being here and thanks for all that you do and your support for those living with Alzheimer's and other related dementia. Currently, there are 284,000 family members in the state clinging on by their fingernails in caregiving and providing 400 million hours of unpaid care to their family members. As you know, I was a caregiver to my late husband, Steve.
Senator Warren: I remember.
Speaker 4: Yeah, thank you, and just wondering, what is being done, or what you might we be able to do to push more support for these family caregivers who, like I say, are worn out and out of money? Thank you so much.
Senator Warren: Well, thank you. Thank you very much. And thank you for being here with us today. You know, I talked about child care, because it's the easiest one to explain and have everybody click into. But I literally was speaking with the White House on Friday, we had an hour-long conversation about how to think about the care economy and its effect on our economy.
And the idea of trying to push both at the same time, so that we're talking about child care, senior care, care for people who have significant disabilities that require another adult, and how to build out all of those systems at once because they all share the same features.
They take people out of the workforce, just to put it in pure economic terms. They also are, caregiving is not a business that will run economically on its own. Families who need care, whether they need care for an elderly parent, they need care for a spouse who's slipping into Alzheimer's, they need care for a two-year-old. They can't afford to pay the cost of that care, they just can't. And so what we've got now is just a vicious storm of hurt in this area. Caregivers are not paid enough, I just want to start there, for how hard this work is and for the amount of responsibility that caregivers take on, they are not paid nearly enough.
In effect, parents, children, and spouses, are subsidizing our entire caregiving system because they can't afford to pay enough, the workers who are paying for less than they would get if they went over and worked at McDonald's. And that's the only thing that our economy is able to hold on to at this point. It does fall to spouses who are just worn out from what it means to do full-time care.
So all of that is by way of saying the need is urgent. I think it's time for us as a nation to stop nibbling around the edge on this. I think it is time for us to say, people who need care are entitled to care, and we will budget up to that. And if that means that we have to put federal tax dollars in place, and believe me, I have some places we can tax and put that money in, oh I know.
We need to put that money in so that caregivers are there, so that we have a flexible system. It's not one size fits all, we need some things early in the morning, and we need some things after school, and we need some things for a few hours a day, and we need some things that are full-time custodial care. It's a whole package. But we need to build that and we can't build it so long as we continue to starve this entire area.
So everybody who is doing it, to everybody who has done it, to everybody who wants to hire someone and can't figure out why you can't find those workers with five years, and 15 years, and 25 years of experience, know this. The next big challenge for our nation is to build a caregiving economy that works, so I’m in.
Speaker 1: I was just told we could do one more question. Senator, I may be incorrect, and you can correct me. I thought that under the Rescue Plan, there was language and funding for personal care attendants. And it was deleted because it wasn't enough support. That was a godsend to an awful lot of people.
Senator Warren: And this is the problem. This goes to a big political problem. Democrats come in, COVID is a big deal so everybody's ready to move. We put money in, and I'm also for that. But one big cup of dollars doesn't build the system. And indeed, a lot of folks say, I can't afford to build out in the hope that you're going to do that in the next year, and the next year and, the next year, this has to be inverted.
We have to make the commitment that there will be child care available, there will be care for those suffering from dementia, and other problems, there will be care for seniors who need extra care towards the end of their lives, and that we are making the commitment to them and the dollars will backfill behind it. If we don't do that, we end up spending more money, either by taking people out of the system or putting in these splashes of dollars, without building a system that works. And that's just plain dumb. So, I want us to reverse how we think about this.
Speaker 1: One last question, just identify yourself. You'll have the mic, just identify your affiliation.
Speaker 5: I just want to make a quick comment about child care. I became a father when I was 49, I am a boomer. Last year, we spent about $2,000 a month for my five-year-old. And after that, he started kindergarten. Now, we are spending about $800 a month for early drop-off, late pickup. And you know, next year, if what I spent on my child is not $24,000, I'm not going to get a tax break. I just want to point out that it's a lot of money on my budget. And I applaud you for this child care initiative.
Senator Warren: Thank you, that is very kind. You know, I want to add one more small point, since you gave me an opportunity to do this. And that, is there a lot of ways we could get to child care, we have somebody stay at home all the time, or to do elder care or spousal care. But another option here, and I've had this conversation with the White House, on the question of, do you get a lot of big tax breaks, so big businesses will invest.
I say you give tax breaks to businesses for investing, but little businesses can’t do it, little businesses can't build a child care center. If you've got 40 employees, right, maybe you have three who need, they desperately need it, maybe you have six. But you can't build your own child care center out that.
The point that really worries me is there is such need, that what some of the data are starting to show, is this is one of the big advantages that big businesses have over small businesses, and that is they can offer child care center on site. So it's like, you've got 3000 employees, that starts becoming economically rational and a way to hold on to employees.
So more surveys from employees are, I'd like to look around, but I'm not looking around for a job any place else. I can't work at a smaller business. I can't move somewhere else. I am tied right now to the company that can afford to put child care in front of me. I think it is important that we do this all across the state, and all across the country, and we do that through our tax dollars, that we support this in the same way we support our public K-12. We need to do the same kind of thing with child care, with spousal care, and with senior care.
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