Pelosi at Michigan roundtable: Build Back Better is about jobs, child care

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Plymouth — Businesses facing backlogs because of open jobs and women needing child care to work outside the home were top issues at a roundtable Saturday led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi's visit at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center in Plymouth was aimed at generating support for President Joe Biden's $2 trillion domestic spending plan, known as Build Back Better. The plan proposes to bolster the nation's safety net for families and children, cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 and tax the rich.

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, left, listens as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks at the roundtable, Saturday afternoon October 23, 2021.

Gary Abusamra, CEO of Auburn Hills medical equipment manufacturer Oxus America, said the 10-year-old company has tripled in size in the last year and a half as it works with technology around oxygen concentrators and builds some components for ventilators.

"Our biggest challenge is recruiting people," Abusamra said. "We have have had 10-25 open positions on an ongoing basis for the last 18 months."

Danielle Atkinson, national executive director and founder of the Detroit advocacy organization Mothering Justice, said three million women have left the workforce during the pandemic and it's largely because of the lack of child care.

"It's important that we talk about how their needs are being met. We have to be looking at the worker, the family and business," Atkinson said. "We know that a good job means a good child care system. It is essential we are investing in that."

Pelosi said Biden's massive social agenda lowers child care costs to enable women to be in the workplace, and also addresses other issues important to women such as education of their children and caring for aging parents.

"If you want to Build Back Better, you can't build back better without women," said Pelosi, D-California.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, talks with Mothering Justice National Executive Director and Founder Danielle Atkinson after the roundtable, Saturday afternoon October 23, 2021.

Pelosi was also trying to generate enthusiasm for the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, backed by Republicans and passed in the Senate, and especially the $1.7 trillion to $1.9 trillion reconciliation spending bill that the Democrats are negotiating among themselves.

"This package is about jobs and how we address the climate crisis and transportation. … It’s about jobs and health care … child care," said Pelosi. "All of it is about how we enable people to be at their jobs without worrying about what's s happening at home."

"It’s jobs, jobs, jobs, the answer to every challenge we face," she said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flexes her muscles as she talks during the roundtable.

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, who hosted the roundtable, said the nation is close to passing the important legislation and she wanted to be sure that Pelosi is aware of what Michigan needs.

"It is support for small businesses, a plan to support the chip crisis, a plan to hardworking Americans who are being squeezed at all ends," said Stevens. "We need to be in a 21st century economy, as a country. Every day we see we have jobs open and we can't get the people to take the jobs because ... of day care." 

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell at the roundtable, Saturday afternoon October 23, 2021.

Struggles over the price tag of the reconciliation spending bill have emerged within the Democratic party among progressives and more moderate U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D–West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema, D–Arizona, who are battling over the price tag of the reconciliation spending bill.

Pelosi remarked earlier this week that the plan is "historic," "transformational" and a deal within reach. She said that an agreement is expected in coming days.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell answers a reporter's question, Saturday afternoon October 23, 2021.

"Failure is not an option," U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, said Saturday.

Michigan Republicans issued a statement about the Democrats' Build Back Better plan.

“Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Gretchen Whitmer’s policies have already made our state more unaffordable for our middle class — they’re feeling it at the pump and at grocery stores," said Gustavo Portela, MIGOP communications director. 

 "And now, to make matters worse, their Build Back Better agenda is going to be paid for with more tax hikes on people making over 50,000 a year. It’s why, come next November, we will send a clear message to Washington by electing a new Republican Governor to usher in an economy that works for everyone, not just the well connected like Gretchen Whitmer and Nancy Pelosi.”

Last week Democrats abandoned what had been a $3.5 trillion spending package for a smaller, more workable proposal that can unite the party and win passage in the closely divided Congress.

The plan is to be funded by tax hikes on corporations and the wealthiest individuals, those earning more than $400,000 a year.

Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center President Mike Coast addresses attendees of the roundtable.

Others participating in Saturday's discussion were Mike Coast, president of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, and Wayne County Assistant Executive Khalil Rahal.

The Associated Press contributed.