Diary of a Congresswoman

Mary-Charlotte Domandi:
Since we last talked the Senate and the House passed the American Rescue Plan, passed it on to the president and it’s been signed.
Teresa Leger Fernandez:
It is so exciting to have been in Congress to work on that. I actually sort of joked about jumping up and down, but I actually did jump up and down, because it means so much to so many communities, to so many families. It just is a game changer on a lot of issues. Some of the issues we still need to take up. It’s not the end of the road, but it is the beginning of a transformational change. And it’s also something that I’ve been talking about, which is, this is what happens when government works. I was in a hearing this morning, and there were some complaints about funding for committees. And I said, no, no, no, this is, and they were attacking the American Rescue Plan, the Republicans were. And I said, no, no, no, no. This is actually what it looks like when government works. Congress has a constitutional duty to address problems. We have the power of the purse. We passed a bill. We passed it in the House. We passed it in the Senate. There were changes that were made. There were negotiations that were had among the three branches of government. It gets signed by the president. Every local government is excited about it. I talked to Republican mayors and Republican counties and it did not matter—they all wanted to see this bill passed because they own a lot of hurt and this bill is going to help them. It’s very exciting. And you know, it’s why I wanted to run for Congress was to be able to get things done and we got things done. We delivered.
So that leads to a listener question that I got. And the listener said, basically, everyone’s excited about getting back to normal and reopening the economy. But the current economy is unsustainable and the earth is literally dying from our robust economy, and at a much more dangerous rate than the policies, you know, and the laws that are passed to mitigate things like toxic pollution and carbon emissions. So how do we think about that? I mean, this is sort of the same question that we talked about the other day with oil and gas. On the one hand, you’ve got climate change coming from oil and gas. On the other hand, it helps the state budget. So how are you thinking about that and what does it take—and I’m adding this part—what does it take to actually pass laws that allow us to have a robust economy, but really powerfully mitigate these very, very serious problems?
The good thing is that Biden has taken a position that is more progressive than any other president on addressing the climate. He has some very strong voices that he has chosen to place in his cabinet on the climate, including our Deb Haaland at the Department of Interior. And we now have a new EPA administrator. And a lot of that is because there have been voices pushing hard on this, pushing hard on this. Yucca, you know, our youth have been pushing us. The Sunrise movement has been pushing us. And then the traditional environmental organizations from the Sierra club to NRDC to Wild Earth Guardians. I mean, you name the organizations. There’s been a groundswell of people saying this has to be done. So this administration, to their credit, has listened to that and said, we need a team around us that’s willing to move fast on these issues.
So we hear that, we know that. The reality as we need to be honest, and that we’re not going say, Oh, no American is going to use a plastic bag again, that’s not going to happen overnight. But we are now getting back on the path to try to mitigate the worst effects. The other piece that I find very interesting is that corporate America and international corporate America, they see where this is going. And you have them saying, Oh, we’re going to only do electric cars. They’re now trying to outbid each other as to when is the date that their new vehicles will be all electric. United, I talked to the United Airlines CEO the other day, because he had wanted to have a conversation. And he said that they have a goal of being carbon free. Now you can’t take an airplane without having a huge carbon footprint.
So they’re going to have to do offsets. But that’s still something that they recognize that they have an obligation to that. And why are they doing that? Because they’re getting pushback and pushed from shareholders and also from their customers. So there is a movement and a groundswell on this that government’s going to have to respond to. Our problem is what we just saw with this American Rescue Plan. The American Rescue Plan was supported by the American public. It was supported by Republicans. It was supported by independence, but it was not supported by a single Republican in the Senate. It’s the only place it wasn’t supported by Republicans and Independents, was in the Senate in the House. So we will start drafting the laws that take these issues on, but we need to get them through the Senate. And we need to get them started in these next two years. And then we need to keep the House and keep the Senate in the next election.
So we don’t ever get to stop. Like when we get to celebrate a little bit what we did and the American Rescue Plan and go around and make sure everybody understands what’s in there. So I’m going to spend the next so many weeks and beyond that, making sure that our small businesses know what’s in the American Rescue Plan, that our Latino farmers who get benefits from that know what’s in the American Rescue Plan, that our women’s shelters know that there’s money for them, you know, on and on and on. There’s a lot of money in there that we do not want to waste. But at the same time that we’re doing that, we are also moving on how do we restructure the economy so that we are less carbon intensive and that’s what the whole Build Back Better approach is. So the reality is we don’t get to stop. We don’t get to stop pushing on these issues.
And so many of these issues will depend on whether we can really maintain voting rights.
Exactly. So we don’t get to stop on that either. And that depends on whether or not we can get an exception to the filibuster rule in the Senate. And so if anybody out there is listening and knows anybody who knows Joe Manchin, lives in West Virginia, reach out to your Senator, encourage him to recognize that the filibuster should not apply to this important civil rights legislation.
And on that note, we will talk tomorrow.
Okay. Bye-bye.