WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn delivered the following remarks today on a press conference call with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Peter DeFazio of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. of the Committee on Energy and Commerce to discuss infrastructure priorities in their respective committees for the Phase 4 coronavirus legislative response package:
“Thank you, Madam Speaker: And thanks to all of you who have joined us in this very sobering manner. I also want to thank Chairmen Pallone and DeFazio for their visionary leadership on these issues that are of great importance.
“Lately I have been referencing Alexis De Tocqueville’s notion that “America’s greatness is not that it is more enlightened than any other nation, but rather because it has always been able to repair its faults.” Covid-19 has exposed some significant faults in our governmental structure – in this instance, our infrastructure. These faults cry out for some repairs.
“During this pandemic, it has been made abundantly clear that far too many Americans do not have access to and cannot afford some of the basic needs of a 21st century civil society: health care and the internet. As social distancing has become a required way of life, remote learning, teleworking, and telehealth all require access to a reliable internet, which many Americans still do not have. As the coronavirus has spread, our health care infrastructure is being strained beyond its capacity. I am gravely concerned that things are going to get a lot worse in rural areas, and low-income communities that are especially educationally disconnected and medically underserved.
“There has not been any significant investment in capital funding for community health centers since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009. This legislation provides $10 billion for the construction and capital improvements of community health centers. This buildout of Community health centers will enable us to reach underserved populations and provide relief to overburdened emergency rooms. Our goals are to ensure that there is a community health center within commuting distance for every American and to ensure that each center has access to the internet and is equipped to address the medical needs of any person who walks through its doors. “If I might borrow from the thought process of Martin Luther King, Jr. Barriers to education and healthcare to any one is a threat to the quality of life and health of everyone.
“The legislative framework we are announcing today will also include the product of my Rural Broadband Task Force that has proposed policies and investments needed to bring affordable high-quality internet to every American household. I applaud Chairman Pallone as well as Congressman Loebsack, Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Grace Meng and Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Lujan, for their contributions to these efforts. We have worked with Chairman DeFazio’s committee to incorporate the principle of “Dig Once” so that when we build roads, we can take advantage of that opportunity to lay fiber. I also want to thank his committee for working with my office to incorporate my 10-20-30 initiative. This formula, which has been incorporated into 15 accounts of the Appropriations Committee, targets funding to areas of persistent poverty.
“Finally, Congressman McNerney’s Digital Equity Act, with language incorporated from Chairwoman Maloney’s bill to conduct outreach on the Lifeline program, will ensure that all Americans can take full advantage of the investments we are making with this legislation. Reconstruction, the New Deal, the TARP and various Recovery Acts were great efforts, but they did not yield equitable recoveries. I thank Speaker Pelosi for her vision ensuring that the benefits of this recovery must be accessible and affordable for all. This package will achieve that goal.”