Fighting Back: “We must connect all Americans to affordable broadband internet.”

 
 

The Weekly Democratic Party Address was delivered by Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina discussing the digital divide and Democratic plans to connect all Americans to affordable broadband internet.

(In this week’s address, the House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, Chair of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis and Chair of the House Democratic Rural Broadband Task Force discussed the urgent need, in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, to connect all Americans to affordable broadband internet.)

“Just as the Great Depression made clear to many that electricity was the ‘next greatest thing’ in the 20th century, the coronavirus pandemic is making clear to all that broadband is the ‘next greatest thing’ for many in the 21st century.

We call for investing $80 billion to deploy a secure and resilient broadband infrastructure to expand access for communities nationwide, connecting unserved and underserved rural, suburban and urban areas across the country, while prioritizing persistent poverty communities.

(CSPAN link to Weekly Democratic Address: here)

Transcript: Whip Jim Clyburn Delivers Weekly Democratic Address

“Hello, this is Congressman Jim Clyburn. I proudly represent the 6th Congressional District of South Carolina. I also serve as the House Majority Whip, as Chair of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 and as Chair of the House Democratic Rural Broadband Task Force.

“This week, members of our task force and the Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone unveiled our plan to connect all Americans to affordable broadband internet. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the digital divide that exists in our great country.

“Families that lack accessible, affordable high-speed internet are unable to work from home, learn remotely and consult with medical professionals via telemedicine. These are all critical components to our ability to be safe, healthy and productive during this crisis.

“I am reminded of a book, The Next Greatest Thing, which chronicled our country’s rural electrification efforts in the 20th century. The title of the book came from comments made by a farmer speaking to a gathering in a small rural Tennessee church in the 1940s. He proclaimed, ‘Brothers and sisters: I want to tell you this. The greatest thing on Earth is to have the love of God in your heart. And the next greatest thing is to have electricity in your house.’

“Just as the Great Depression made clear to many that electricity was the ‘next greatest thing’ in the 20th century, the coronavirus pandemic is making clear to all that broadband is the ‘next greatest thing’ for many in the 21st century.

“Our announcement this week of the House Democrats’ plan to connect all Americans to affordable broadband internet is an updated and expanded version of the broadband provisions of our framework for Moving America Forward. It is the product of significant collaboration between the Rural Broadband Task Force, the Energy and Commerce Committee and many Members of the House Democratic Caucus.

“Democrats welcome recent reports that Republicans support the idea of including broadband investment in upcoming coronavirus response legislation, and the President expressed the need for affordable universal broadband when I discussed it with him in an infrastructure meeting last year.

“The plan we rolled out this week will build on those discussions to accomplish the goal of delivering accessible, affordable broadband to all Americans and provide more choices to fight high prices. We call for investing $80 billion to deploy a secure and resilient broadband infrastructure to expand access for communities nationwide, connecting unserved and underserved rural, suburban and urban areas across the country, while prioritizing persistent poverty communities.

“Our plan also invests $5 billion for low-interest financing of broadband deployment through a new program that would allow eligible entities to apply for secured loans, lines of credit or loan guarantees to finance broadband infrastructure. These funds will be allocated over five years to achieve our goal of universal access to affordable broadband, so there is no time to waste getting started. We look forward to working in a bipartisan way to enact this plan and ensure that the next ‘next greatest thing’ will be a reality for all Americans.

“Thank you for listening and for your ongoing efforts to stay safe and healthy during these extraordinary times.

“Thank you.”

Any bolding has been added.

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s weekly news conference from Thursday:

Transcript: Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference

Speaker Pelosi. Good morning. I am very pleased this morning to be joined by the distinguished Whip of the House, the Democratic Whip of the House, Mr. Clyburn, now the Chair of the Select Committee on the Coronavirus.

But, today, we are here to talk about how we can reach out to everyone as we reach out with broadband. Mr. Clyburn will be addressing that. He’s been a champion on it.

You know, everything is about time. We are in a time of great sadness. Sixty thousand people have died, more than 60,000 from the coronavirus. Thirty million Americans – approximately 30 million Americans have applied for Unemployment Insurance. The lives and the livelihood of the American people are at stake and we have to make some decisions about times.

The time when we would go forward to the economy, that is the question at hand. I firmly believe there are three steps that we must take in preparation for what comes next. Many of us have talked about testing, testing, testing. Our first bill, a bipartisan bill which we wrote in February, passed on the Floor of the House on March 4th, was about testing, testing, testing.

The impression that was given is not everybody can be tested because we do not have enoughtests and we don’t have enough masks and we don’t have enough of this. Let’s get it. Let’s get it all.

So, the tests were reserved for those who reach a certain threshold. But that was almost two months ago, and we should be creating more tests. What will give people confidence to go into the workforce is if they know that their coworkers have been tested and cleared to be there. What will give people more confidence to know that will we go into the workforce they are not bringing something home to their children because the other people have not been tested.

So, while we aspire to a vaccine, and that is our hope and prayer, and science, science, science. And we aspire to a cure. Hopefully, they will be soon. The vaccine may take longer or there might be some, as we say, illumination on the horizon, close by.

But we do know we can make the tests, and we should make the tests available to everyone and have the subsequent care that might follow that, if someone tests positive, to be free so that it is not menacing to someone that, ‘I cannot take a test because I cannot afford what comes next.’ ‘I cannot take the test because, if I’m positive, I will not be able to go to work.’

The testing is dispositive in so many ways of getting a handle on how big this challenge is and how necessary it is for us to know who and then, as Mr. Clyburn has talked about and probably will again, testing, contact tracing, isolation and treatment. He will tell us more about that.

But what is also important there is, as he has suggested, we have mobile units going out so we are reaching a whole other market of people who might not be aware of how they should be tested. That’s one.

And two, as I said, if we do get a cure or a vaccine, we have to be prepared to manufacture it. The Defense Production Act should be geared to this, should be geared to this. As I’ve said to you before, even if we had a vaccine tomorrow, we do not have the syringes and vials and everything else that goes with vaccinating people. Let’s get that done. As we wait for a vaccine, let’s make sure we are ready when it comes. And, again, we can stockpile it until it is ready.

And third, we need to have in place an ethical, whether it is a task force, whatever it is, of scientists and others, an ethical approach to how a vaccine or therapy will be distributed so that everybody in America would know that, when that happens, I will have access to it, my family would have access to it.

Again, as we discussed, should we open up, should we not open up, there is a path. But let’s take it and let’s not say, ‘If only we had started sooner.’ Let’s start now.

I am sure you have questions about what we do and what is happening in meatpacking plants, so I will proceed and talk about the fact that – I am again, yesterday, very proud to have announced with Mr. Clyburn, the Members of our [Select] Committee on the Coronavirus [Crisis], that would be the distinguished Chair of the Committee, Mr. Clyburn; Maxine Waters, Chair of the Financial [Services] Committee; Chair of Small Business, Nydia Velázquez; Chair of the Oversight Committee, Carolyn Maloney; Congressman Bill Foster; Congressman Jamie Raskin; and Congressman Andy Kim. I am proud of that and I want to put their names out there.

But, today, we are here to talk about the issue of fairness, again, and how our sense of community and humanity in America is served by what policies we present, what legislation that it is included in and what action we take to make that possible.

I want to commend Mr. Clyburn for being in the lead for such a long time on the expansion of broadband in America. I’m going to have him speak more specifically to it, but just to commend him for the champion that he has been, the understanding that he has about it.

I also want to commend Chairman Frank Pallone, the Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He couldn’t be with us this morning, but he has been working on this issue, made a proposal for the infrastructure bill based on the task force that Mr. Clyburn has chaired.

And I also want to acknowledge the leadership role of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo for a specific piece that is in the proposal. But we do believe that the Energy and – and Mr. Clyburn will discuss that. But, I want to thank Mr. Pallone, as Chair of the full committee of jurisdiction, for not only what they’re doing on this, but what he is doing on the testing issue and tracing and the rest, what they are doing on PPE and the rest, and what they will do on oversight of the committee of jurisdiction, that has so much jurisdiction.

On that committee – see, I’m an appropriator and we call it the almighty, powerful Appropriations Committee. In their committee, they say, ‘If the sun shines on anything, it’s a matter of the Energy and Commerce Committee.’ So they have a broad jurisdiction, and I thank the Chairman for his leadership in so many ways.

So, anyways, and with that, I want to present Mr. Clyburn to talk about this important initiative that we cannot fight this virus – so we are talking about distance learning. We are talking about telemedicine. We are talking about people buying things in a way they had not before, and yet – and yet, it is not available to everyone.

So, this is about fairness and equity in every way: access to care, access to credit, access to whatever opportunities come along in terms of testing, therapies or a vaccine.

What Mr. Clyburn will talk about is to make so much of all of that possible. And, with that, I am pleased to yield to the distinguished Chair of the Committee and Democratic Whip of the House, Mr. Clyburn.

[Editor’s Note: Representative Clyburn spoke about the plan for getting affordable broadband to every American. See Democratic Party Weekly Address for more information.]

***

Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Mr. Whip, Mr. Chairman. In so many ways such an inspiration to all of us to place this in its historic perspective and what it means and, therefore, for the future.

You are right, there are urban deserts for this. The distinguished Leader in the Senate referenced this, as far as New York is concerned. And I see in California, even if we give every child in California, and there is an inclination, we have many businesses and philanthropists who want to do so, even if we gave them all a laptop, they are still not into the system that Mr. Clyburn has taken the lead on making sure. And then, in some communities, to make it affordable, they can, it’s what I referenced earlier, they can establish their own system. So, this has a lot of entrepreneurship connected with it.

And it really is directly related to the coronavirus. So, we would hope that while we have a big bill that Mr. Pallone has helped shape into the – our infrastructure proposal, based on the, as I said, the task force that Mr. Clyburn chairs – the task force on infrastructure and broadband that Mr. Clyburn chairs – that might be able to get a piece of this, as it is so necessary to telemedicine, distance learning. So many other ways it is important for people to be connected.

With that, I would be pleased to take any questions you may have. Yes, ma’am.

Press questioning followed (see transcript)

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Speaker Pelosi held a press conference on Friday discussing the terrible injustice being done that the coronovirus stimulus check from the CARES bill is being denied to American citizens (and their children) who are married to undocumented immigrants.

Pelosi Remarks on Press Call with Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Mixed-Status Families on Denial of COVID-19 Stimulus Checks

May 1, 2020
San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and mixed-status families on a press call to discuss the importance of ensuring that all American households in financial need, including those with family members of mixed immigration status, receive COVID-19 stimulus aid. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for bringing us together as you always do to make America more American by giving respect to every person in our country with viable, beautiful solutions to do just that.

Listening to Anastasia and to Christina is just – I wish everybody in our country could hear them. The beauty of it all and the injustice of it all, the beauty of their family and the injustice of how they have been treated. And Andrea, thank you for all the leadership in this important case to make sure that people are not treated differently in our country.

And what I want to say is that I think this issue of mixed-status families is one that we must deal with, but we also must use it as a bridge. I think if the American people understood clearly the injustice of it all, they would see clearly the injustice of other kinds of lack of access, whether it’s in health care and the rest. And why it’s in all of Americans’ interest for us all to be in this together.

Hearing your story – so eloquent. We can talk about numbers and people who aren’t included and the rest, and the statistics are staggering, but the individual stories are the most eloquent and convincing. I would say this is a monumental injustice. Right now, there are millions of American citizens like Anastasia and Christina, and their children are being denied the CARES Act relief check because they are part of a mixed-status family. That’s what brings us together this morning, for us today. They pay taxes; contribute to our economy; in many cases, are fighting on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis, many of these same people. Millions of essential workers: health care workers, first responders, farm workers, teachers, the list goes on – teachers, I said but so many others are postal workers – are immigrants or part of an immigrant family.

It is particularly unconscionable that five million American children are being affected. Their parents need their relief check to buy groceries, pay rent and keep them healthy. We cannot allow children and families to be let down, be left behind during this crisis. So, I do believe that we can use this as an opportunity to cure other injustices, as has been referenced. It’s unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled that children, undocumented children should have a right to education in our country. Why not then should citizens’ children, children in taxpayers’ families, not have the opportunity to the checks that they need?

The Democrats, House and Senate, stand united with immigrant communities in this priority. That’s why I am so honored to be here with Chairman – Leader Schumer, who is, on all of this, vital. When we didn’t get it in the Senate, it wasn’t because he hadn’t fought very hard for it. But, remember, we have to get a signature. And that’s – it’s, more than the House, it’s his signature.

And that’s why the public awareness of this is so important. Chuck and I can maneuver and our Members and our Chairs and our Chair of the Hispanic Caucus, our entire Hispanic Caucus are educating Members as to how this is important, and we are united Democrats. However, we want the American people – ‘public sentiment is everything.’ Abraham Lincoln. ‘With it, we can accomplish almost anything, without it, practically nothing.’ And when the public really is aware of this, it will, I think, undermine any friendly version of this story that the President may want to put out there.

But let’s stay as united as possible about this to protect our families, our community, our economy and our ability to combat the coronavirus crisis.

And with that, I am ready to answer any questions.

Press questioning at the link.

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  3 comments for “Fighting Back: “We must connect all Americans to affordable broadband internet.”

  1. JanF
    May 2, 2020 at 7:00 am

    Dear Colleague on Oversight of Coronavirus Relief Funds

    April 29, 2020

    Dear Democratic Colleague,

    Thank you all for your persistent advocacy for America’s working families. Your leadership is essential to the lives, livelihoods and life of American democracy.

    Thank you also for your interest in ensuring that we have the fullest benefit of everyone’s participation as we develop a plan for remote voting. I am especially grateful to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern and Committee on House Administration Chair Zoe Lofgren for giving us options that we can vote on upon our return.

    Thanks also to Members for sharing their ideas for how we exercise oversight of the nearly 2 trillion in taxpayer dollars injected into the economy through the CARES Act and other relief packages. We must be sure that the money we put forth goes to those who need it most, in a way that addresses disparities in access to health care and credit. We also owe it to the American people to prevent waste, fraud and abuse and to protect against price-gouging and profiteering.

    Later today, I will join Whip Clyburn to announce Members to the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, and I wanted to give you advance notice.

    – Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (Committee Chair)
    – Chairwoman Maxine Waters, House Financial Services Committee
    – Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, House Oversight and Reform Committee
    – Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez, House Small Business Committee
    – Chairman Bill Foster, Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of Science, Space, and Technology Committee
    – Chairman Jamie Raskin, Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of Oversight and Reform Committee
    – Chairman Andy Kim, Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access of Small Business Committee

    As we respond to this unprecedented pandemic, there will be other opportunities for Member participation which have been suggested for inclusion in legislation.

    Thanks to our distinguished Committee Chairs, we are making progress in shaping CARES 2, starting with honoring our heroes in the fight.

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  2. JanF
    May 9, 2020 at 6:55 am

    Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey delivered the Democratic Party Weekly Address for the week ending May 9th.

    Senate Menendez calls on Senate Republicans to stop blocking action on critical coronavirus legislation and emphasizes that to jump-start the economy, the Trump administration must develop a comprehensive national testing strategy. He also highlights the critical need to get funding to our local and state governments, noting that if we want to see businesses thrive again, we need to ensure that our police officers, firefighters, teachers, and public workers have the resources they need – we cannot let our states go bankrupt. In closing, Senator Menendez stresses that Congress must conduct oversight of the Trump administration to ensure that the trillions of dollars authorized in COVID-related legislation is being spent as intended and asks Republicans to join Democrats in getting to work for the American people.

    Transcript

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  3. JanF
    May 9, 2020 at 6:59 am

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s press conference from 5/7/2020:

    Transcript: Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Rayburn Room in the Capitol.

    Speaker Pelosi. It seems different to come into this room without all of our Members and guests, but here we are today.

    Last night, I had my – another tele-town hall meeting, as our colleagues are all doing, at home, listening, electronically, of course, to their constituents, and, again, bringing us the intelligence of how things are on the ground across the country. And, of course, it is a dire situation.

    So, our hearts are broken for those who have lost their loved ones. So very, very sad. And so many who are diagnosed and have that uncertainty.

    The key to our opening up our country and our economy is really science, evidence and data, which can only be obtained by testing, testing, testing. So, as we go forward here, again, listening to scientists, listening to public health officials and the rest from around the country, as well as to the intelligence from their areas that our colleagues bring, we prepare for CARES 2.

    CARES 2 will honor our heroes, those who have, on a day to day basis – our health care providers, our first responders, police, fire, emergency services, people transit, food providers, the teachers, teachers, teachers. We honor them, and that takes the form of state and local funding.

    In the previous bill, we had $150 [billion] in CARES. We kind of followed the CARES model, $150 billion for state and local. We will have to do very much more than that. And Democrats and Republicans around the country, governors, mayors, county officials, et cetera, have been calling out for this funding. So if we are going from just doing state and local as one chunk to state, local, county, et cetera, it nearly doubles what we really need to do in this bill, which is much bigger than what was in the original CARES bill. That’s a discussion that we are having.

    Next. Next, we talk about saving of lives and the livelihood of the American people, and of course, the life of our democracy. So, in terms of saving lives, the only way we are going to have – rid ourselves of this, as well as open up our economy, is evidence, science-based testing, testing, testing. Testing – just think of the ‘T’s’: testing, tracing, treatment, and isolation and, when necessary, of course, with social distancing. But in terms of the legislation of what we can legislate and fund, testing will be a very major part of this.

    We need a national strategy to do so. I think it is long overdue. Our first bill, March 4th, was testing, testing, testing, but it really didn’t produce. It didn’t come through in terms of policy. Our last, most recent – not last, but most recent bill, the interim bill, signed a week or so ago by the President, is about $25 billion for testing. That’s not enough, but it’s what we could get, and we need to do much more.

    Whether we’re talking about testing, tracing, treatment, et cetera, we have to do it in the most ethical way, that everybody – when we hear about the disproportionate number of people dying among people of color, well, we want to get to them sooner to test, to trace, so we can save lives and recognize that there is a path that is better than the one we’re on in this regard. So, that will be a major part of this. And with the testing and the tracing and the treatment that we will have, to have a core of people to be going out there, culturally appropriate, linguistically appropriate and the rest of that, into communities to trace. More on that, perhaps, in a moment.

    Then the third part. Honor our heroes: state and local. Open up government: testing, testing, testing. Science, that’s the key to opening up government. And, third, putting money in the pockets of the American people.

    And, again, this – the heartache that is out there. One mom reported – what did she – reported that – the moms reported that one in four children – I mean, this has been something that is my motivation for being in politics, how children – Brookings – research from Brookings reported that one in five mothers say their children are not getting enough food, three times the rate during the Great [Recession]. So, in addition to putting money in people’s pockets, with the direct payments, Unemployment Insurance, some other tax credits, et cetera, we really also need to put food on the table.

    We have – we had SNAP in the first bill. In the last three bills, they wouldn’t accept SNAP. We have to have – we have to have SNAP. ‘When I was hungry, you fed me.’ I mean, what is it that – why is that a mystery? The American people know it. The food banks are overwhelmed. And we have to have a significant increase in SNAP in there.

    So, again, we’ve tried to do this as much as possible in a bipartisan way. Republican and Democratic governors and mayors across the country support what we are doing with the state and local, honoring our heroes. These people risk their lives to save other people’s lives, and they may now lose their jobs. It’s just not right.

    So, we’ll probably have some kind of – well, I won’t go into the whole bill here because I have to get the agreement of my Caucus, but those are the broad categories that we will be working in. And among, within them, our appropriations piece will address the Postal Service and things like that. So, that’s kind of a taste of what our discussions are, but very important for you to know the priorities.

    And, in all the bills, we had some element of this: of testing, of state and local, of distribution of funds. So, this is no departure from where we went before. There are so many other things going on in all of this, and that is that.

    As you have seen, imagine in this time of the coronavirus and all the apprehension that comes with it in terms of access to health care that the President has said that he is all out to make the case in court. Now, mind you, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. The Executive branch’s role is to protect and defend the law of the land, except they are going against the law of the land, okay? But let people know what that means in their lives.

    When there was a chance that they could only do pieces of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, their top priority was to make sure that repeal of the pre-existing condition benefit. The pre-existing condition benefit, it means everything. The Little – you’ve seen the Little Lobbyists here, right on this rug. Little Lobbyists born with some challenge or other pre-existing conditions for life. Anyone who – anyone, women – being a woman was considered a pre-existing condition. No more. But you know the list of benefits that are in there.

    But I just want to focus on the fact that, when they thought they had just a few, it was severable and they would go after a few provisions, their focus was on ending the benefit of a pre-existing condition not being a barrier to access to health care. So, we had the briefings. We had a press conference, and maybe some of you were on the call with Xavier Becerra. I salute him for taking the lead against this Texas initiative, and now Trump initiative, to end the access for 20 million people as well as 125 or [150] million families whose benefits were greatly increased, essential benefits. But the President says, ‘No.’

    So, that is a bigger fight on health care. You would think, at the time of the coronavirus, there would be some sensitivity, some empathy for people who have uncertainty about their own health care and their predisposition to something like this, and their ability, at this time of economic uncertainty, to be able to afford health care.

    There are so many other things, but, with that, I will yield to you for questions.

    Questioning followed (see transcript).

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