Chairman Yarmuth Opening Statement at Virtual Markup of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

Feb 22, 2021

Washington, D.C.— Today, Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, gave the following opening statement during the House Budget Committee’s virtual markup of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.  The 2021 budget resolution laid the groundwork for bold action by providing the option of using budget reconciliation to deliver crucial relief to the American people and achieve the goals of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. This reconciliation bill is the next step toward implementing the plan.

Last week, the Budget Committee released legislative text for the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and a report underscoring the dire need for COVID relief and expeditious congressional action to ensure workers, families, small businesses, and communities across the country can make it to the other side of these twin health and economic crises. Chairman Yarmuth’s remarks, as prepared, are below:

Chairman Yarmuth’s remarks as prepared are below and video is available here.

Members of the Committee, the bill before us today has the power to save lives and save our nation’s economic future. I kicked off the reconciliation process with the introduction of the 2021 budget resolution 21 days ago on February 1st. From the start, we have been upfront that the sole purpose of the budget resolution was to provide the option of using reconciliation to deliver critical relief and enact the American Rescue Plan. That process has not precluded us from reaching a bipartisan agreement, but it has ensured that Congress can move forward and meet the needs of the American people with or without Republican cooperation.

Two weeks ago, nine different House Committees marked up their portions of this rescue plan. In total these committees deliberated for more than 94 hours and debated more than 400 amendments. We will add at least another 5 hours of deliberation today, as well as debate on 13 motions to instruct. We have been thorough, but this has been by no means a normal reconciliation process. Yes, we have followed all the House rules and proper procedures. But we have done so knowing the devastation that is happening in - and to - our communities every day. This February, an American has died of COVID every 32 seconds. So, while debate is important — we also need to get on with it.

This virus is evolving. Multiple variant strains of the novel coronavirus are already infecting Americans across the United States. Researchers and health professionals are bracing for a new wave of cases from the B117 variant, which is more contagious and highly infectious for both adults and children. 

We are in a race against time. Aggressive, bold action is needed before our nation is more deeply and permanently scarred by the human and economic costs of inaction.

We have the plan to beat the virus. To safely reopen schools. To quickly and equitably distribute vaccines. To deliver immediate relief to working families and small businesses. To support communities struggling with the economic fallout.

We have ample fiscal space to provide the resources necessary to end the pandemic, mitigate its economic damage, and build a stronger and more inclusive economy in its wake.

We have the backing of the American people. 7 in 10 Americans support this aid package – including 50 percent of Republicans. The American people understand that COVID-19 is not a red state or blue state issue… it’s an American crisis.

Now we have the bill to get it done – and we will.

I know we will hear arguments today that we should ‘wait and see’ if funds currently in the pipeline are enough to get us through these crises. But we already know they’re not enough – not even close. And to be clear, this is not a wait and see moment – and this is no longer a wait and see Congress or White House.

In the United States of America – right now – previously healthy people are dying from a preventable virus because COVID tests and vaccines are unavailable to most Americans. The Biden Administration has made progress, but without additional resources we will never get to where we need to be. There are parents - right now - waiting in food lines that are miles long. They used to donate to the food banks. Now they depend on them to feed their children. Millions of Americans who’ve lost their jobs or can’t safely return to work will lose their only source of income, their unemployment benefits, in just a few weeks. Rental assistance is set to expire too. And each day, more small business owners close their doors for good. 

These Americans can’t wait. We aren’t going to wait. We are going to pass this legislation and we are going to turn this pandemic and economic crisis around.

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