WASHINGTON, DC- House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn today joined Speaker Pelosi and other Congressional leaders in a meeting with President Rene Preval of Haiti to discuss earthquake recovery efforts. Before the meeting, President Preval, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Whip Clyburn addressed the media. Clyburn has been tasked by Speaker Pelosi to coordinate legislative efforts in the House in response to the earthquake in Haiti. Tomorrow, the House is expected to vote on H.R. 4573, Debt Relief for Earthquake Recovery in Haiti Act of 2010.
Following is the transcript from the media availability:
Speaker Pelosi. Good afternoon. Hello again.
It is a great privilege and a sad one to welcome the President of Haiti to the Capitol at this time. Our two countries have a strong friendship, so Members of Congress have met on many occasions with President Preval. On this occasion, we’ll be focusing on assistance to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake.
As President Obama said right from the start in his message to the people of Haiti following the earthquake: “You will not be forsaken, you will not be forgotten.” In that spirit, a number of CODELS, Congressional delegations, have visited Haiti in the weeks following the earthquake. The delegation that I was part of was House and Senate Democrats and Republicans on the one-month anniversary of the earthquake. President Preval had declared a day of mourning and we had the occasion to visit at that time.
We were stunned by the extent of the damage, always impressed by the spirit of the people, and very much appreciated the leadership of President Preval. At that time, he told us this is not about the reconstruction of Haiti, it is about the reconfiguration of Haiti. To go forward in a new way, to leapfrog over past challenges, and to address the economic, environmental, and health needs of the people of Haiti in a fresh new way.
This visit takes us further down the track of how we can work together to accomplish that. No discussion of Haiti or any conversation about it at all was complete without talking about the blessing to America that Haitian-Americans are. Their spirit, their optimism, their enthusiasm for life, their pride in their heritage, their patriotism in America – has served America well.
And with that, I’m very pleased in welcoming President Preval – to say that we have a bipartisan group of Members of welcome him in the Speaker’s office, but I also wanted to acknowledge their presence and you will hear from the Chair of our Haiti Caucus, the Democratic Whip of the House, Jim Clyburn. He and I and all the Members of Congress are honored to welcome President Preval to the Capitol of the United States.
Thank you Mr. President for joining us.
President Preval. I will take this occasion to thank all the people of the United States, to thank also the Congress, the Administration, President Obama, the two CODELs that visited Haiti two weeks ago.
As you know, it is a tragedy. And it is also an opportunity for me to present my condolences to the families of Americans that died or has been hurt in this dramatic earthquake. This morning I talk to President Obama. I know that America is ready to continue to accompany us and today, this afternoon, I have this invitation of the Speaker and this morning I was also with the Senate to explain to them our plan to rebuild Haiti. As Speaker Pelosi said, it is not just to reconstruct Haiti, it is to make another Haiti, decentralized Haiti with the opportunity of having jobs, having health care, having education wherever the Haitian is living. That is the program.
So we are here because the revenue of the state dropped from 80 percent. So in order to keep the country functioning, we need some support of the budget. Otherwise, inflation will grow and it will cause social or maybe political turbulence, political problems. So we need, we came here to explain that to the Congress. And we know that they reluctant to give direct support to the budget, but we will find a way to have this support.
And also we will explain to the Congress our plan, our vision for the March 31st meeting of donors. We want a trust fund, we want one single executive for this trust fund. So I thank you very much, again, and for giving me this opportunity to talk to the Haitian, to the American people. The Haitian people are very, very happy with and grateful for your help. Thank you very much.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Mr. Clyburn, did you want to add something?
Whip Clyburn. Thank you, Madam Speaker. Mr. President, thank you so much for being here. As many of you know, after the meeting with the President today, with President Obama today, President Preval met with Congresswoman Lowey, whose subcommittee will be addressing issues surrounding this catastrophic event, which is the most catastrophic event in 200 years.
As far as Haiti is concerned, is that hopefully after the last vote today, we will take up debate on debt relief for Haiti. We have worked over the weekend with the Senate on language, and we believe that we have the language so that the Senate will follow suit very early next week and we can get that issue off the table. And we will be calling upon other nations to join in the debt relief so that the atmosphere can be much better to reconfigure Haiti, which we think will cost in the neighborhood of $14-15 billion. Nita Lowey and her subcommittee will be working on this, and I think after this meeting with the Speaker today, you will be sitting down with Members of the Congressional Black Caucus. And we hope that all of these entities will be working together to get this done.
And finally, let me say immediately upon learning of this event, we, this Congress passed a bill that allows for tax deductions to be retroactive to 2009 for anybody that made a contribution to the Haitian relief. So, we are very active and we look forward to getting all of this done on behalf of the Haitian people.