Austin Mayor Joins Pelosi, Doggett to Share ‘Build Back Better’ Progress
AUSTIN, Texas — As Democrats returned to Capitol Hill poised to make more of the Biden administration’s agenda a reality, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, and Austin Mayor Steve Adler for an update on the progress made.
At a press conference on Thursday held at the Prosper Center South in Austin, Adler described how the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act made an impact in his city. Austin’s unemployment rate of 3.9% continues to trend downward from its 4.4% mark in June, an accomplishment Adler said would not have been achieved without the funds dispersed by the American Rescue Plan that kept businesses in the city afloat as the economy continued its rebound.
“And now we need you guys to take the next step,” Adler said during the press conference. “More affordable housing, [bringing] down the cost of prescription drugs [and] elder care… I understand you’re going to consider universal high-quality pre-K, clean energy tax credits, you’re going to allow women to get back to work. But the focus for us in so many ways is on health care. Here in Travis County, one in six people under 65 have no insurance — due in large measure to the fact that our state leadership will not expand Medicaid, which is just outrageous and has a huge impact on our community.”
Austin’s rate of uninsured citizens is 50% higher than the national average, and one in three Hispanic residents under the age of 65 are uninsured, Adler said. Issues with Austin’s uninsured rate are only expected to be compounded by the Texas Legislature’s passage of a bill banning municipalities from mandating companies to provide benefits like paid sick leave to employees.
The bill passed the Texas House and Senate and the conference committee report was adopted, although the legislation still awaits final approval by Gov. Greg Abbott.
“We need you guys to step in to help — we need the federal government,” Adler said. “Because our state is not protecting us the way that it should. We support the goal of building an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, not just from the top down. Health care coverage should be a right for everyone and not just a privilege for the wealthy.”
Doggett, who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and as chair of its Health Subcommittee, said that the Build Back Better plan would be brought up for business upon the representatives’ return to Washington. The plan will include provisions aimed at expanding access to insurance through the Affordable Care Act along with added benefits, and lowering the cost of prescription drugs while preserving the Child Tax Credit set to expire at the end of the year.
That legislation is intended to build on developments laid out by the American Rescue Plan, Doggett said, and will set forth the largest advancements to the nation’s social and economic safety net since the New Deal.
“Because [former Texas] Gov. Perry and Gov. Abbott were so ideologically opposed to taking 100% federal funding to start Medicaid expansion here in Texas, an estimated 2 million of our laborers have never gotten any benefit out of the Affordable Care Act that we approved over a decade ago,” Doggett said during the press conference.
“Strengthening Medicare is a second concern. We know that as important as Medicare is to so many of our neighbors, that it does not cover benefits for hearing, vision and dental. I have legislation that has been co-sponsored by 100 members plus of our caucus to expand that coverage. And we’re working through that in negotiations with the Senate right now, hoping that not only will we close the Medicaid gap, but we will also close the Medicare gap to provide more comprehensive coverage.”
While negotiations continue over Democrats’ health care plans, Pelosi added that any package that moves forward must include environmental protections for the sake of future generations. Provisions for environmental protections will be added to the reconciliation package to add on to protections included in the looming infrastructure bill.
In addition to adding permanent provisions to the Affordable Care Act to heighten its availability to low-income citizens and the expansion of Medicare and Medicaid, Pelosi said recent developments with abortion laws in Texas and the Supreme Court’s decision not to block enforcement have placed women’s reproductive rights at the forefront of the party’s agenda.
“I just want to say that when we talk about health care, we have to talk also about women’s reproductive rights,” Pelosi said during the press conference. “What happened in the last 36 hours or so has been stunning. The Supreme Court making the decision that it did not only disrespected women, it disrespected the Supreme Court and its former decision — it’s precedent established since Roe v. Wade.”
Pelosi continued, “When we go back to Washington, we will be putting Roe v. Wade codification on the floor of the House to make sure that women everywhere have access to reproductive health.”