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Congresswomen Katherine Clark And Lori Trahan On Historic COVID Relief Package21:09
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The U.S. Capitol stands at dawn on Jan. 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)
The U.S. Capitol stands at dawn on Jan. 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

The House of Representatives starts debate Tuesday on the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, with a final vote expected Wednesday.

We discuss with Massachusetts Congresswoman and Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark, and Congresswoman Lori Trahan.

Interview Highlights

On why they are so enthusiastic about this bill: 

Congresswoman Katherine Clark: "You know, when I ran for Congress, I ran to do good things for women and for children across the Commonwealth, in my district and across the country. And this bill does just that. And women have lost significantly more jobs than men since the pandemic began. We have eviscerated more than 30 years of progress in the labor force in just one year. And this bill is going to go far into helping right that ship and recognize the dignity, respect that women's work needs and the value that women play in our economy."

Rep. Katherine Clark at WBUR in 2018. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Rep. Katherine Clark at WBUR in 2018. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

"This is sort of the work that you dream about being able to do in Congress."

Massachusetts Congresswoman and Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark

"This is a historic bill in its proportion in the solutions that it delivers and in the path for the future that it sets forth where the work of women is valued. And we make sure that we are lifting all of our children up and giving them an opportunity. This is sort of the work that you dream about being able to do in Congress. We come here to help people, and this bill is not only going to meet those, you know, those immediate challenges and the loss that people have faced, but it really puts a framework for a more just economy and for equal footing for women in it. And it's a tremendous accomplishment."

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On pushback of the relief bill: 

Congresswoman Katherine Clark: "I think we have to listen to the economists, listen to the chorus of voices that are telling us the risk of over-investment is very small, but the risk of under investing in American families at this time is very large. And so this bill, I think, meets the scale and the severity of this pandemic and how it is tethered our economy. And as I travel around my district and hear the stories of loss, of anxiety, of fear, I know that this bill is a lifeline and that is exactly where we should be spending. Let's make those investments in the American people."

Congresswoman Lori Trahan: "Well, I will tell you, the sequence has always been about getting through the public health crisis so that we can start to stimulate our economy. And that's what this package does. It accelerates us getting through. We have, finally, a national testing and vaccination plan with billions of dollars behind it. We know that we want to reopen our schools. And part of the reason why we've lost so many women — so many mothers – out of the workforce is because they've been juggling, caring for their loved ones, you know, helping with remote schooling and or just had to leave to make ends meet in during this pandemic."

Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., speaks as the House of Representatives debated the articles of impeachment against President Trump at the Capitol in Washington in December 2019. (House Television via AP)
Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., speaks as the House of Representatives debated the articles of impeachment against President Trump at the Capitol in Washington in December 2019. (House Television via AP)

"There's not an economist — whether we're...talking to Republicans or Democrats — that say that this is the scale that we have to to pass a package like this so that we can have an economic recovery. It is going to, like I said, shave an entire year off our projected return to full employment. It's going to mitigate millions of jobs lost in this year alone. It'll help 2.3 million women who have been forced to leave the workforce entirely return to work. And so that is what's most important. And, you know, I do think that this is a tale of two parties with differing values."

On how it feels to be in a time with the highest percentage of women serving in Congress in history: 

Congresswoman Lori Trahan: "I think it feels a little weird to celebrate the fact that this is the most female Congress in our nation's history when you actually look at the numbers and see that it's still only 27 percent — 27 percent of seats in the House and Senate are held by women. Now, that's a huge improvement from the 13 percent a decade ago, but it also perfectly illustrates just how far we still have to go to ensure that women have the representation that we deserve when decisions are made."

"You know, I often say that I don't need to read another study to know that better decisions are made when more women are at the table. And, you know, even with this package, you can see the fingerprints of so many of our women leaders on this recovery plan because it has investments and in child care, it has investments in health care and reopening our schools. And, you know, we're going to quickly start to tackle workplace fairness and the gender pay gap and climate change for me, reining in big tech so that our children are protected and their privacy is protected. I think that's what you get when you have more women at the table. And we still need many, many more if we're going to accelerate the change that we want to see."

"I think it feels a little weird to celebrate the fact that this is the most female Congress in our nation's history when you actually look at the numbers and see that it's still only 27 percent — 27 percent of seats in the House and Senate are held by women."

Congresswoman Lori Trahan

Congresswoman Katherine Clark: "Yeah, I couldn't agree with Lori more. Let me tell you what a joy it is to have Laurie and Ayanna Pressley in our delegation. And the priorities do change. When women are at the leadership table. We bring a different perspective. We promote a different agenda. And I think that this bill is an excellent example of that. Keeping our eye on the needs of families and children, and centering our work and priorities around that. And that's what women do."

This segment aired on March 9, 2021.

Tiziana Dearing Twitter Host, Radio Boston
Tiziana Dearing is the host of Radio Boston.

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Walter Wuthmann Twitter Associate Producer
Walter Wuthmann is an associate producer in WBUR's newsroom.

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