March 28, 2023

Chairman Aguilar: House Democrats Reject Polluters Over People Act, Pledge Action on Gun Safety Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar and Vice Chair Ted Lieu held a leadership press conference with Reps. Seth Magaziner (RI-02) and Jennifer McClellan (VA-04) on House Democrats putting People Over Politics on gun safety legislation and House Republicans putting Polluters Over People.

CHAIR AGUILAR:  Good morning. Thank you for joining, and I appreciate my colleagues joining me here today as well. 

We want to start with the heartbreaking loss of innocent life at a grade school in Nashville — three children and three staff dead, and a community changed forever. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for American children and teens — the leading cause. Not one child needs to die. We must pass meaningful gun safety legislation and need to look at every possible way to do so. We must give families the peace of mind to send their kids to school without fearing for their lives, but we need reasonable Republicans to come to the table to make this happen. It’s an outrage that we can’t find a handful of Republicans who are willing to put People Over Extremism and the far-right. 

We also send our condolences to the people of Rolling Fork, Mississippi who lost their loved ones. House Democrats, under the leadership of Bennie Thompson, stand ready to support these communities as they look to rebuild. 

We’re proud to be joined today by Representatives Seth Magaziner of Rhode Island and our newest colleague, Jennifer McClellan of Virginia. This week, House Republicans are wasting the American people’s time on H.R. 1, the Polluters Over People Act. This bill is a job killer. It will repeal sections of the Inflation Reduction Act, which over the course of ten years will create nine million jobs. Over 100,000 good-paying American jobs have already been created, with more on the way in clean energy and manufacturing. So instead of using their majority to help hard-working Americans get a little bit of breathing room, House Republicans want to cancel those paychecks and stall the progress of those industries that will shape our economic future and help us compete with China. And despite these claims to the contrary, H.R. 1 would do nothing to lower costs at the pump. In fact, when Democrats held the majority, we took on oil and gas companies that engaged in price gouging. House Republicans want to reward them. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has already called this bill dead on arrival, the President has issued a veto threat , so this is another political stunt by House Republicans who have shown an inability to govern. Vice Chair Ted Lieu. 

VICE CHAIR LIEU: Thank you, Chairman Aguilar. My heart goes out to the families and victims affected by yesterday’s mass shooting in Nashville. The victims include three nine-year-olds. I also want to commend the brave law enforcement officers who responded to the mass shooting and, by all accounts, ran toward gunfire and killed the shooter. We're asking law enforcement officers to run toward AR-15 weapons. You cannot support weapons of war on our streets and support law enforcement at the same time. 

That’s why we need to take action to prevent gun violence. And what did House Republicans do? Well, they had a hearing scheduled for today in the House Judiciary Committee, on which I sit, that was going to make it easier for people to get pistol braces that can make AR-15s even more deadly. And what do Republicans do? They canceled the hearing. Why would they do that? If they honestly believe as they say that arming more Americans with more guns, more AR-15s, more pistol braces would make us safer, they would have held a hearing and had that as a solution. But they didn't do that. They ran way. They ran away, and they're hiding because they know that the talking points they're spewing are simply not true. Giving everyone more AR-15s and more guns does not in fact make American society safer. Because if it did, they would have had the hearing, had the debate, had the argument and did the markup of that bill. Cowards. 

I'm now going to introduce Congressman Seth Magaziner who is going to talk about H.R. 1, and prior to Congress, he was the general treasurer of the state of Rhode Island. 

REP. MAGAZINER: Good morning. I'm here as a member of the Natural Resources Committee to talk about H.R. 1. But first, let me just say that as a parent of a one-year-old, I know that when I get home to Rhode Island later this week, I'm going to hug my son a little harder thinking about how there are parents in Nashville who aren't going to get to do that again. And we cannot let this become normal. Gun violence is now the leading cause of death of children in this country. That is not normal. More children killed by gun violence than by automobile accidents. It didn't use to be that way. It's not that way in other parts of the world. We cannot normalize this. We cannot let the Republicans continue to delay action on common-sense gun safety bills. And we stand ready to work with anyone in good faith that is willing to put children ahead of the gun companies. 

But I'm here today primarily to talk about H.R. 1, the Polluters Over People Act. And as a Congress, when it comes to energy policy, we have two jobs. Number one, to make energy affordable for consumers. Number two, to protect the environment. This bill does neither of those things. It does not lower costs for consumers, and it does not protect our environment. If the Republicans were serious about doing these things, they would have voted for the Inflation Reduction Act last year, which made historic investments in clean energy, which also opened the door for more conventional energy. They voted no, every one of them. The Inflation Reduction Act also had a billion dollars in it to improve agency staffing to speed up the permitting process for energy. They all voted against that, too. Because I guess it had Joe Biden's name on it. And that, to them, was more important than lowering costs or transitioning to clean energy. 

If you want to talk about lowering energy costs for consumers, we have to talk about the fact that the oil and gas industry made $300 billion of profits last year, not revenue—profits. Exxon Mobil made $6 million a minute. The profits of the big five oil companies alone were equivalent to $600 per American citizen last year. So, if we're going to have a real conversation about lowering costs for consumers, we need to talk about the runaway profits that the oil and gas industry is making price-gouging American consumers. But of course, the Republicans don't want to talk about that. Why? It might have something to do with the $23 million that the oil and gas industry contributed to Republican campaign accounts last year. And that doesn't include their support of dark money groups. $23 million. It took $23 million to protect $300 billion in profits. I think the Republicans should have held out for more. They sold themselves out too cheap. But this bill will roll back important environmental protections. It'll do nothing about the fact that the oil and gas industry is sitting on nine thousand unused leases because they want the prices to stay high. That's the bottom line. They want to make it easier to circumvent environmental regulations, get more leases and sit on them, unused, to keep prices high. So that's why, as a Caucus, we oppose this bill. That's why every Democrat in the Natural Resources voted against it. And that's why we know it's dead on arrival in the Senate and the White House. And with that, I want to yield to our newest Member, who I'm very excited to get to know, from Virginia, Jennifer McClellan.

REP. MCCLELLAN: Good morning. I am Jennifer McClellan, and first, I want to send my condolences to the families of those killed in the shooting in Nashville yesterday. I’m really struck that as we have been debating parental rights here and across the country, the number one right parents should have is the ability to send their children to school and not worry about if they’ll come back. If you look at not only how many children have died because of school shootings, but those who have been traumatized as they’ve watched their friends die, or have had to endure drills that often traumatize them just as much as an active shooter incident. Enough is enough. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. Congress needs to take action. 

As a mother, I also have deep concerns about Republicans’ H.R. 1 and its potential impacts on our national deficit, hardworking families’ pocketbooks and the health and well-being of historically marginalized communities. The Polluters Over People Act would be disastrous for our national deficit, ballooning it by $2.4 billion over the next ten years. And it would do so to pad the pockets of corporate polluters who are already, as you heard, enjoying record-breaking profits. H.R. 1 is the Republicans’ flagship legislation, but it blatantly disregards the financial interests, health and well-being of American families, while rewarding polluters with shameless giveaways. The Polluters Over People Act would repeal major cost-saving programs implemented through the Inflation Reduction Act, including a $4.5 billion home electrification rebate program that is designed to lower energy costs. It would repeal the greenhouse gas reduction fund, which will accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies and create thousands of good-paying jobs. The repeal of these programs will raise costs for hardworking Americans, rob them of quality, family-sustaining jobs and jeopardize a healthier future for our children and grandchildren. 

H.R.1 doesn't even reference clean energy, even though clean energy is the cheapest form of energy. And the Polluters Over People Act would completely undermine the bedrock environmental protections, curtail impacted communities’ ability to provide public feedback and drastically reduce their options for legal avenues of recourse. It would remove agency from impacted communities and silence historically marginalized and underrepresented communities in favor of corporate interests. 

My predecessor, the late Donald McEachin, fought to preserve environmental protections in review laws because he believed every community deserved a seat at the table. I’m proud to build on his legacy and stand with House Democrats to oppose the Polluters Over People Act. And we will continue to fight to preserve the environment while protecting the health and financial security of Americans.

Video of the full press conference and Q&A can be viewed here.