Remarks by Vice President Harris on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
2:18 P.M. CST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let me just first start by saying that there’s almost everything about today that is about Deanna and mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers like her around the country who have been talking, who have been shouting, who have been crying about this issue for far too long.
And so I said to Deanna, as we passed the podium, that it is because of all of that and that sacrifice born out of fear but frustration, but also a commitment, that we’re able to be here today: the Administrator of the national EPA, the Senator, the Congressmember, the Mayor, and the Vice President of the United States, supported by the President of the United States, on this issue.
So, thank you, Deanna. Thank you. (Applause.)
Administator [sic] — Administrator Regan, I want to thank you. We have been working on this issue since our administration started. Your role of leadership has been extraordinary, and I look forward to continuing as we travel to talk about the importance of this issue.
Senator Tammy Baldwin, you and I served together for my four years in the Senate. I know what a leader you have been on this issue. And I can tell you, as is the case with Gwen Moore, who I’ve also worked with over those years, that these two — in these two, Wisconsin has extraordinary leaders, who I see when the cameras are on and when the cameras are off. And in both places, they are always fighting for the people of Wisconsin.
So, it is an honor and a joy to be with both of you today and to be back in Wisconsin, back in Milwaukee, with both of you, because you are usually my chaperones through the state. (Laughs.)
Mayor, thank you. You know, this — what the Mayor spoke to really does highlight where lead pipes becomes an intersection of so many other issues. Because this is an issue that is about public health. This is an issue that is about education. This is an issue that is about environmental justice. This is an issue that is about the beauty and importance and strength of our labor unions and their apprenticeship programs. This is an issue that is about growing a middle class, as the Mayor said, because it is about developing the skills to do the work that must be done to strengthen the United States of America and our infrastructure.
All of these issues intersect around this issue of lead pipes. And then, combine on top of that, as has been said, the moral imperative that we have to finally take this issue seriously — not as a matter of concern, but as a matter of action.
And so, that is what today represents. That is what the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law represents, which is a moment where we will finally take action on an issue that has impacted our babies, the babies of a community, our collective children; an issue that has impacted seniors who, at that stage of life, are particularly vulnerable to toxins — which is what we’re talking about when we’re talking about lead pipes. That’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking about lead paint. Those substances that can hurt people, potentially permanently.
We spoke with the doctors who are here today. We spoke with community leaders. And — and the bottom line is that eliminating lead exposure in our nation must be among our nation’s highest priorities. Why? Well, millions of people in America are exposed to lead every day. There are up to 10 million households in America and 400,000 schools and childcare facilities that have lead.
In Wisconsin, as has been said, lead service lines — it is estimated — are in at least 170,000 homes, schools, and businesses. Those are places where children and people work and live.
And it is a particular issue, which is why this is also an environmental justice issue, in rural communities, in poor communities, and communities of color.
So, let’s think about what this means: Our children are going to school where they are potentially drinking lead-infused, poisonous water out of water fountains.
What does this mean? It means that our children are sleeping in bedrooms that are coated with lead paint.
What does this mean for the children of America? Well, 50 percent is estimated — 50 percent — at least half of children under the age of six in America are exposed to lead or are at risk. This is a profound issue.
And as for adults, exposure to lead can result in increased blood pressure and a decreased kidney function. In our children, irreparable damage to the body and the brain.
So when we think about this at the level of detail with which any parent or any community member should care, we know, again, this is an issue that we should, as a nation, commit to ending. Because as the administrator said, the only solution here is to get rid of lead — in our pipes, in our paint — and the exposure that our children and our families are currently enduring.
In Wisconsin, in particular, there are people like Deanna, there are people like the Congresswoman, the Mayor, the Senator who have been talking about this forever. And it is critically important to emphasize the role and the responsibility the community leaders have taken on, which has given the fuel.
You know, we talk about outside/inside activism and work. The outside work on this — of those activists, those advocates — influenced the work on the inside of getting to the point where we could get bipartisan support for $15 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to address this issue, which is to replace lead pipes.
City leaders — well, again, you have the elected leaders here who have been national leaders on this issue not only for Wisconsin, but for places around the country, communities around the country, who have been advocating for removal of lead pipes here.
In Milwaukee, it is believed that — I guess there have been over 4,000 lead pipes, so far, that have been removed because of the actions and the activism of the leaders here and, in particular, the leaders in our labor unions — the plumbers, pipe fitters, the two leaders — the men that we met earlier — who are doing the hard — the highly skilled work of removing lead pipes.
So, last month, we released the Biden-Harris Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan. And the goal is to remove and replace all lead pipes over the next 10 years. It will invest $15 billion nationally in this effort. And here in Wisconsin, as has been said, $48 million will be dedicated in the year 2022.
These investments will create good union jobs. These investments will address the needs of our children. These investments will result in improved public health, the creation of more jobs, the infusion of support for important apprenticeship programs. And it’s just simply the right thing to do — long overdue, but the right thing to do.
I said earlier — and I’ll close with this: A day in the life of a child is a very long time. We are long overdue to get this done, and we will get this done. And generations of Americans will forever benefit because of the work that is happening right here in Milwaukee.
Thank you all. (Applause.)
END 2:26 P.M. CST