July 19, 2023

ICYMI: New Dem Leadership Rolls Out Coalition's Economic Opportunity Agenda to Lower Costs, Fight Inflation, and Grow the Middle Class

“This is the Caucus that gets things done.”

Screenshot 2023-07-19 at 10

Yesterday, New Democrat Coalition (NDC) Chair Annie Kuster (NH-02), NDC Vice Chair for Communications Brad Schneider (IL-10), and NDC Economic Growth and Fiscal Responsibility Task Force Chair Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06) and Vice Chair Nikema Williams (GA-05) held a press conference to announce the release of the NDC’s Economic Opportunity Agenda to lower costs, fight inflation, and grow the middle class. During the press conference, Members described how the New Dems’ progress implementing last year’s Action Plan to Fight Inflation has strengthened the economy and how the initiatives outlined in the Economic Opportunity Agenda will make meaningful differences for hard working Americans.

You can read our Economic Opportunity Agenda here and read the transcript from today’s press conference below: 

NDC Vice Chair Schneider: Welcome everyone! I am so excited to be here today to introduce the team behind our Economic Opportunity Agenda, which we just released this morning. 

In partnership with New Dem Members, Chair Kuster, Vice Chair Kilmer and our Economic Growth and Fiscal Responsibility Task Force Leaders Chrissy Houlahan and Nikema Williams have worked tirelessly to develop this economic policy plan that will continue our Coalition’s work to strengthen the economy. This agenda builds on the economic progress New Dems made with our successful Action Plan to Fight Inflation and outlines the work ahead to ensure every American has the tools needed to achieve the American Dream.

From making housing more affordable to getting more people back to work, our agenda tackles so many of the persistent economic issues Americans are facing. As a Member of this Task Force, I look forward to working with these leaders and the entire Coalition to implement this plan, grow the middle class and bring down costs for hardworking families across the country.

Now, I’ll turn it over to Chair Kuster.

NDC Chair Kuster: Well, welcome, everyone. I'm so excited. This is the crux of the matter when it comes to New Dems, this is our sweet spot. Today the New Democrat Coalition is proud to announce our Economic Opportunity Agenda to lower costs, fight inflation, and grow the middle class. And I'm particularly excited for you all to meet the Chairs of our Task Force: Chrissy Houlahan and Nikema Williams, who have worked so hard on this plan.

The Economic Opportunity Agenda builds on the New Dems Action Plan to Fight Inflation that we released last year, which Forbes magazine called “the best inflation fighting blueprint to come out of Congress.” In the year since we put forward our Action Plan, New Dems have worked diligently to implement the plan to strengthen our economy and provide economic relief to hard-working Americans. 

Under President Biden's leadership, New Dems have achieved many of the goals that we set out in our Action Plan To Fight Inflation, including passing legislation from the CHIPS bill to the Ocean Shipping Reform Act. And, of course, the Inflation Reduction Act. As a result of these legislative wins, the economy is getting stronger, and we are seeing inflation slow to the lowest level in two years. We're seeing good-paying jobs being created in every district across the country, and American leadership is on the rise around the world. 

But there's still more that we can and must do to lower costs and help grow our economy from the middle out. So this Agenda examines the progress that we've made over the past year to strengthen supply chains, lower health care and energy costs, boost manufacturing here at home, and much more. The Agenda also identifies the critical steps that lawmakers still need to take to continue providing economic relief to hardworking American families, to our workers, and to businesses all across this country. I am especially proud that we have laid out clear-cut proposals to modernize the workforce and connect employers with qualified applicants, both through apprenticeships and unions and through community colleges and programs all across the country. This type of initiative has been very successful in my district, and I'm excited to see it applied throughout the country. We have a program at Nashua Community College for microelectronics training, where we're turning out graduates who are going straight into outstanding jobs with benefits and vacation pay. And they're very, very excited about those opportunities. 

When Democrats are in charge, progress is being made, and we take real steps to move our country and our economy forward. And as New Dems, we're committed to giving Americans the tools they need to succeed in this economy. 

And with that, I'm very excited to introduce you to our Task Force Chairs, first Chrissy Houlahan and then Nikema Williams.

Task Force Chair Houlahan: Thank you, Annie. Hi, everyone, and thank you again for being here today. I'm especially grateful, speaking of gratitude, to the New Dem coalition leaders, Representatives Kuster, Kilmer, and Schneider. And, of course, Nikema, my colleague in crime who is the Vice Chair of our mighty Economic Growth and Fiscal Responsibility Task Force. 

So for those who don't know, I represent Pennsylvania's Sixth Congressional District, which is nestled right in the Philadelphia suburbs and the rolling hills of eastern Pennsylvania. And I mention this because my community is what brings me here today. And I'm certain many of the other Representatives here today, while we represent different districts, hear the very same stories from the different districts that we serve. We hear stories of young parents who are thrilled to grow their family but perhaps might be unsure of whether they could afford their first home, or perhaps accommodate kid number two, or maybe take care of an aging parent. We hear stories of aspiring teachers – I have been one of those – first responders, and doctors who are working longer and longer hours, but might be having a harder and harder time saving money. We hear stories of small businesses that are trying to pay their employees a fair and livable wage, while also keeping costs down for food and keeping products affordable for our working families. 

So these stories are the things that keep me grounded, certainly, and I know keep my colleagues grounded as well. And that drives our work here in Washington on behalf of the New Dem Coalition. It's really no secret that the headlines are very quick to publish when things are going bad. It's really a lot harder to get a story out when things are going better, or well. But that's why we're here today – we're here to tell a story of how Democrats in Congress and President Joe Biden have delivered on our promises to grow the middle class and strengthen our economy. 

Of course, importantly, we have not finished the story yet, because inflation certainly still is a concern. Although it has decreased consecutively for 12 months, there's a saying on my website everywhere you look: “There still is work to be done.” And this plan lays out work for us. There are three bills that I've reintroduced this Congress, all on a bipartisan basis, and each is mentioned in this plan and will take steps to get people back to work and to invest in the long-term fiscal strength of both our nation and our families. The first of those bills is the STEM Restart Act. This bill would provide funding to support mid-career internships, called returnships, for workers who might be seeking to return or transition to the STEM workforce. The second of the bills is called the Mathematical and Statistical Modeling Education Act. This Act would modernize math curriculum, and improve K-through-12 STEM education. And finally, the third is the Ramp for Innovators Act. This would expedite the application process for two of our small business programs. 

So these are just three of the very concrete steps that are outlined in our agenda. And these are just three of the very concrete steps that we can continue to execute on to improve our economy, and to put more money into Americans’ pockets. So as we look to the future, something that we very much must continue to work towards is expanding access to paid family leave and paid medical leave as well. That’s what we spent a lot of time on. Needing time to take care of a family member or a child oftentimes leaves people with no choice but to, frankly, leave their jobs. And in many cases, they don't ever return to their places of work. We must get this done so that more parents and more caretakers can maintain financial security and remain in the workforce to contribute to our economy long term. 

So as this Agenda states, we still have a bit of road ahead of us to continue to lower costs and to continue to grow our middle class, all while fighting inflation. But if the past year has taught us anything, it's that we are, I believe, on the right track, and we should continue to build on this momentum. So as the Chair of the Economic Growth and Fiscal Responsibility Task Force, I'm proud to present this plan and to execute as much of it as we can into the next year.

I very much appreciate the chance to speak. It is my privilege to introduce my Vice Chair, Representative Williams to the podium.

Task Force Vice Chair Williams: Thank you, and welcome to everyone here today. I am Congresswoman Nikema Williams and, y'all, I proudly represent Georgia's Fifth Congressional District. Thank you to our New Dems Chairwoman Annie Kuster for putting your trust in us to do this work, because it really is about serving the people. And that's what we've set out to do. And thank you to my colleague leading the Economic Growth and Fiscal Responsibility Task Force, Representative Chrissy Houlahan, with whom it has been a joy to work with, but, y'all, there is still more work to be done.

It is essential that the American people hear from us at this moment about the ways that we're building an economy that works for everyone. By far, the number one issue on people's minds is inflation. And the good news for everyone back home is that Democrats are delivering and doing the work to bring it under control. As the Vice Chair of the New Dems Economic Growth and Fiscal Responsibility Task Force, it's important to me that when we think about economic policy, that is more than just numbers or bottom line, y'all, it's about the people, the people that we were sent here to serve. It's about working families, it's about our seniors, it's about young people who are stepping out on their own for the first time and just trying to get ahead in life. 

There is no shortage of work to do for the people. And the good thing for everyone in this country is that this is the Caucus that gets things done. Just look at what we've done working with President Biden to make the economic system a success: the American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. And y'all, that's just a few, because I would have to go on and on and take way too much of your time to spell it all out. 

We've created record numbers of jobs, wages are up, and annual inflation has reached its lowest level in more than two years. The inflation rate is dropping quickly in Atlanta, for anyone tuning in back home. While the consumer price index in Atlanta rose 4.6% in the 12 months through June, this is down from an 11.7% annual increase at this time last year. Y'all, that's progress, real progress that you can feel every day when you're leading your lives. But still, it's about the people. And my constituents told me that prices are still a little too high on essential goods, and I feel it every day with them. I'm feeling the pinch in my pocketbook; I have a growing seven-year-old son who eats a lot of food, and I continue to be shocked at how much we spend every month when I have to pack two lunches to send to school or camp. 

High prices hurt lower-income households the most, and these households are disproportionately Black and Brown. And for these households, high prices mean going without other necessities, dipping into savings to pay bills, or deferring long-term plans for things like buying a home or making home improvements. All of this leads to an increase in the racial wealth gap, which is something that I know all too well because Atlanta leads the nation with the widest racial wealth gap in the country. But each day in Congress, I focus on the steps that we can take to help us close the racial wealth gap. 

And today, that means unveiling the Economic Opportunity Agenda with my New Dem colleagues, because this plan works for everyone. This policy plan will help continue the momentum that is on the Democrats’ side, as we put more money in everybody's pockets and strengthen our economy. Democrats have already gotten so much done. But y'all, we can't stop now. The Economic Opportunity Agenda gives us more tools in the toolbox to create even more good-paying jobs, lower costs, and create an economy where everyone can thrive, no matter their zip code, and no matter their bank account.