Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce legislative summit breakfast honoring the career and accomplishments of House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, the recipient of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's Lifetime Achievement Award, and discussing the bipartisan effort in Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Below are the Leader's remarks:
"Thank you very much, Javier. As one who just, within the past few hours, got off the plane from Rome, I can say that your generous introduction made any thought of fatigue go away. I'm sure Xavier would agree, that -- this Javier can introduce us, any one of us, anytime. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here. I'm honored to be here with my Chairman of our Caucus, Xavier Becerra, with Linda Sánchez, who is our senior Democrat on the Ethics Committee, a leader on the Ways and Means Committee, a leader in the Hispanic Caucus, and one who shares her family's story so beautifully.
"When I was in Rome, I was very pleased that your colleague on the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rubén Hinojosa, the Chair, was a part of the delegation that went to Rome. I got -- one thing and another, my plane got here sooner, so you might be seeing him in the course of the day, but I can't account for the airlines. We were also joined by Loretta Sánchez, Linda's sister, who is a leader in the Congress as well on the Armed Services Committee, on the Homeland Security Committee, and very thrilled to be there to see the first Pope from Latin America to be inaugurated as, as the Holy Father, his Holiness, the Pope. It was quite wonderful, it was quite wonderful.
"But here we are, and I have said over and over again to Nydia Velázquez, as you know, she is our Ranking Member -- was Chair, hopefully will be Chair again of the Small Business Committee. She would bring us together with minority business owners, with all -- whether it was women, minorities, generally speaking all across the board. I'd always say: "I think the most optimistic thing that you can do, is to start a small business.' Maybe getting married, but I think you'll have a rougher time with a business, a few more mitigating circumstances there, but the risk is all on starting a small business.
"So, thank you for your entrepreneurial spirit, which is where jobs are created, capital is formed, success is achieved in our country. I see that Jim Costa is with us, another Member of our House Democratic Caucus, and of the Hispanic Caucus. Jim Costa, thank you for being here, it's an honor to be with you as well. I wanted to acknowledge that Alan Krueger, I know, is coming, I don't know if he's here yet, but a real -- indicates how seriously our President takes the issues of concern to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. I know you're interested in hearing from him, the White House is interested in hearing from you. And Amanda, congratulations to you in all that you have done. Whatever lies ahead, and I am sure will be great and will be imminent, thank you for your leadership bringing us together.
"So, Mark Rodriguez, thank you for your ongoing leadership as Chairman of this Chamber of Commerce, and, again, for being an intellectual resource, as well as a candid voice for issues of concern that -- telling us what we really need to hear. And you Javier, bless you for you leadership as well, for making this such an important element in the economy of our country.
"So, here we are. You come here at a time when we have, we must strive to have as much bipartisanship as possible, to grow our economy, to keep America number one. You come at a time when there are different views of what the role of government is in that respect. You come at a time that is very difficult, no question about it. But the fact is, is that the good news is that we really do think that on one issue, that has been brought up, on the immigration issue, that we will, before summer, have comprehensive immigration reform. It is just -- and thank, applaud yourselves, applaud yourselves for the role that you played. Nothing spoke more clearly. You know the expression: 'your vote is your voice?' Well that vote was a voice for immigration reform, it spoke very eloquently to the strength of the Hispanic community in our country. And because of you, and because of that, we will do something that strengthens our democracy, as Javier so generously referenced [from] my remarks.
"I've been in the past few weeks, in Colorado, in Arizona, in Texas, in California -- of course -- lots of places where they, obviously, the interest in immigration reform is very high. Lots of places where the Hispanic business community is very involved, in Laredo. We had joined Nuevo Laredo and Laredo, Laredo, "Noche Mexicana' evening, where lots of the business community, people from -- I don't know if they were actually members of this Chamber of Commerce, but they were representatives of the business community. Everyone kept asking the question Javier posed: "we want more certainty about what is going on there.'
"When all of these proposals came up, you know look, this has been going on for over a year and a half, my Members -- around 200 of them, we had fewer before, now we have a little more than 200 -- I asked them, take, go, "go to your business communities, your small business communities, and listen to what they have to say.' Whether it's a table like this, a room like this, or one-on-one. Whether it's walking the neighborhoods in your community, where small businesses thrive, listen to what they have to say about what is being proposed, and to see what it is they know about what is being proposed, I mean, what is coming across? And basically, you know, if you have 200 Members and they meet with 200 people, you have thousands of responses, and basically, what we heard was: "we need access to credit, we need a trained workforce, and we need customers, we need customers.' And for the third piece of it to happen, we need to invest in our economy, so that whether we're talking about the police force, the safety of our neighborhoods, the education of our children -- whatever it is, those same people are consumers.
"So, when we go to the budget and say: "We're slashing this, we're slashing that, we're slashing this.' We're not only slashing those good things for our families -- safe neighborhoods, good education, etcetera -- we're lowering the number of consumers with the discretionary income to spend money to help small businesses thrive. When we make those cuts, we also impact the trained workforce, the trained workforce, and one of the decisions -- and this is a bipartisan group, and I want you to stay that way, and strong and have that impact -- but one of the big, in the, one of, one of the Republican budgets, say eliminate the mandatory Pell Grant part, the mandatory part of the Pell Grant program. They will double the rate of interest by July in that bill. Well that doesn't really help our kids, [of] course it does violence to everything we're trying to do with Hispanic serving institutions and historically black colleges and the rest of that. But nonetheless, these decisions have an impact, and they have a direct impact on small business.
"I want to thank you for the help that you have given us -- again with your knowledge of the ramifications of every act that happens in Congress -- for your support in passing the Affordable Care Act, the President's leadership cutting taxes for small business and middle class families, empowering more Hispanic and minority, minority-owned enterprises to thrive and that's how we can create good paying jobs here at home. We think it's easy as ABC: A, Make It In America. B, build the infrastructure in America. Did you see this morning? We got a D, a D. Was it a D+ or a D-? Nonetheless, it was a D for roads, bridges, broadband; you name it, any kind of infrastructure. All those jobs, all of those initiatives create jobs, engage small businesses, and we want to make sure that when those contracts are granted, that we have the right path to engage small businesses. Whether it's our bonding requirements or not, whatever it is, so that everybody has a chance to enjoy the fullest prosperity of America as we strive to remain being number one.
"A person on the, before I leave immigration, I just want to say this -- Luis Gutiérrez has been just an absolute champion on this subject. And he's from Illinois, I don't know how familiar he is, he was in my district this weekend. I hope he doesn't decide to run against me because with his stand on immigration, he's more popular than anybody in our, in our community, they just turn out in droves for him, in churches, in civic places and the rest. But he has been wonderful and he has worked with Xavier and our group of eight people, but Xavier has been our link, he's been part of the leadership and part of that group and it gives us hope that something can happen there.
"So, Nydia Velázquez when it comes to small business. Luis Gutiérrez in terms of immigration, we have a place to go here. When we took over in '06, we planted two flags, went out there and planted two flags -- one was on small business and how do we, whatever we do, how does it affect small business. And the other flag was our veterans, what do we do to honor our veterans and the, how they make us the home of the brave and the land of the free. Many, some of this is an overlap, but all of it is important to the strength of our country.
"And central to all of that has been the leadership of Xavier Becerra, he, again, now is the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, he's one of the few in fact, maybe only two people that we can call "Mr. Chairman' on our side of the aisle. He commands the respect of our colleagues. They admire his intellect, his knowledge of issues, his judgment on decisions that we have to make. He was a force in passing the Affordable Care Act. He is a force in the prospect of passing the immigration, comprehensive immigration reform bill. One of the things you hear is "if we can certify that the border is protected' -- we've always said "secure our borders, protect our workers and our businesses, unite our families, and have a path to citizenship.' Now, we just want to make sure that all of those who have joined with us are not, are not saying, not setting a standard of securing the border that is almost impossible to achieve. But I, I don't think so, I think people are acting with courage and with good faith on the subject and that gives us all reason to be hopeful because as Xavier has told me, has heard me say many times, and I just did it not too long ago, Noche Mexicana most recently, that the -- every immigrant who comes to our country, you heard Linda Sánchez tell the story of her family and their hopes and aspirations for a better life for the children of her family.
"Every immigrant who comes with those aspirations really honors the values of our -- family values, values of community, values of education, values of faith -- just all, everything you can name about what makes America strong, well these immigrants come with their hope, their determination, their optimism to make the future better. They participate in what has been called the American Dream and every one of them, whether they came 200 years ago, or two days ago, every one of these immigrants, in that respect, makes American more American. So I thank all of you for the patriotism of your families, for what you have done to strengthen the optimism of America. Again, nothing more optimistic than starting a small business. But also to talk about a leader who really is exceptional here, Xavier, again is on the Ways and Means Committee, he knows the subjects that face our Caucus. From personal experience his family's story is the story of the American Dream and now his wonderful girls are following into his footsteps and their own footsteps to Stanford University. So, he can, he has the perspective on success, but based on values. When Xavier was speaking, he said we, we want this based on knowledge, not just emotion. Well, I don't know where you place values in there because I know that when you said the knowledge, you meant the values as well. This, Xavier takes all of these issues to a level of values and that's really what unites the American people. We could find any issue in the book that could divide us in two seconds and sometimes we do, but that's not how he operates. He has a perspective that is one of a leader in vision, knowledge of the issues, judgment on decisions to make, strategic thinker about what's the path we should go down and the respect that he commands when he speaks, to have others follow his lead.
"So we're very blessed with his leadership and I'm so honored to be here when he receives your Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. We're always talking about -- just keeps slipping in there -- in any event, again, fresh from Rome and the blessings of the Holy Father of the world, where he talked about everybody, a sense of community, of people looking out for each other. We met with the college, the Cardinals from the Americas, from America, with Vice President Biden, all they wanted to talk about is: "are we going to get an immigration bill?'
"So, the country is waiting. We have the opportunity. We certainly have the leadership in Xavier Becerra, and I thank all of you for what you have done to bring us to this place to make this possible. Internally, we can maneuver all we want, without the outside mobilization, without the outside mobilization, the job cannot be done. And as our President has said: "I'm giving this my all.' So, what more can we ask of our President of the United States than his all to support this great value for our country?
"Thank you all for enabling me to share a few thoughts with you this morning. Thank you for honoring Xavier Becerra. Thank you."