Remarks by Vice President Harris Before Roundtable Discussion with University Presidents

The White House

Vice President’s Ceremonial Office

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

3:20 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. I want to thank these extraordinary leaders, these education leaders for being here — for traveling to be here for this important discussion and for the work that you each do every day building the future of our nation and our world. So, thank you each.

I want to first address this weekend and the historic significance of the legislation that the Senate passed. Thanks to our President Joe Biden and his leadership, we are on the verge of signing into law the Inflation Reduction Act.

And to put this in context, this piece of legislation will be the largest investment ever made to address the climate crisis. We are watching it — (applause) — indeed.

And with the Inflation Reduction Act, we’re looking at an investment of just about $370 billion to address the crisis that is clear every time we turn on the television, from what’s happening on the West Coast with fires, to hurricanes and floods.

This piece of legislation will allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, which we know — when we think about the cost of life, the cost of living, the burden of the cost of getting through the day — drug prices are a huge part of what is weighing down American families.

We are going to see a cap on insulin for seniors of $35 a month, not to mention the lowering of healthcare premium costs.

And — and as we say because it is the case, corporations are going to pay their fair share.

So this is happening as part of the vision that the President and I laid out during the beginning of our administration, which is about taking on the challenges of the moment — and that related, of course, to the pandemic and what that was in terms of the need to get vaccinations to folks and get people back to work, to what we have always intended to do. And we are seeing the progress of building a strong and prosperous America.

So, when we look at this and where we are right now, we are very proud of the fact that in delivering for American families, we brought 40 percent of children out of poverty in our first year; lifted 40 percent of America’s children out of poverty in our first year.

We rescued small businesses. We’ve seen historic job growth; in fact, we calculate at least 9 million jobs created. So we are now — and have put all of those jobs back in play in terms of the jobs that were lost during the pandemic. And we are looking at the historic lowering of unemployment — in fact, the lowest unemployment that we have experienced in our country in half a century.

So, I say all that to say that we’re proud of these accomplishments and the fact that NATO is strong, and we’re actually going to grow by two members; and a bipartisan bill to address what we need in terms of reasonable gun safety; along with, of course, the — the nomination and the confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and what that means in terms of representation on our highest court; and the President’s right decision, as it related to removing the head of al Qaeda.

So, all of that to say there is good work that has been done, but we recognize there is more to do.

And so, on the topic at hand, these leaders are leading at an extraordinary time, for many reasons. They are building the future of our nation to meet the challenges of the moment. But we are also doing that in the context of a decision by the United States Supreme Court to take a constitutional right — that had been recognized — from the people of America, from the women of America.

And let’s note that we also understand and know that the majority of women who will be impacted by this decision are between the ages of 20 and 29. And so, many of them are college-age or will be attending college. And so, I’m gathered with a group of higher education presidents and chancellors and with our Secretary of Education to discuss how this issue will uniquely impact the women of that age range and how it will impact, more specifically, women who are at — attending our colleges and universities.

The principles that are at stake are, of course, that we must trust the women of America to make those most intimate decisions for themselves and, if they choose, in consultation with their family members, with their faith leader, and with their physician. But the government should not be making this decision for her.

And when we consider the reality of women in college, we know there are specific issues that will impact them. And we’ve been hearing from them. We know that women in college are uniquely impacted by restrictions on reproductive rights in that, one, women on college campuses — and this is the sad truth — are three times more likely to experience sexual violence.

We know that many women in college have academic responsibilities, many of them may be working as well to get themselves through college and pay for tuition in a way that will limit their ability to travel and will certainly make it almost impossible in terms of their ability not only to leave school but to afford to travel to where they may receive reproductive healthcare.

So our administration has taken action to protect the reproductive care that is available and accessible to the women of America. In particular, the President has signed two executive orders which will protect reproductive healthcare, including permitting states to use Medicaid funds to help women travel and — engage in interstate travel for care — within, of course, the limits of the Hyde Amendment.

Also, our Department of Justice — the United States Department of Justice has brought a lawsuit challenging the Idaho abortion ban and is clearly prepared to do more in terms of litigation as necessary to ensure that there is no conflict between these state laws and the federal law, which requires access to — guaranteed access to emergency care.

I’ll close with saying this: Our colleges and universities are doing extraordinary work. And I know of work that is happening, in particular, around considering ways to protect students access to care by instituting, for example, flexible attendance and leave policies so that students can seek care; by creating emergency funds so that students can afford care; and by clarifying confidentiality and privacy policies for campus health services. So there is good work happening here.

And I really look forward to the conversation that we will have with these leaders, especially during these trying times.

And so, with that, I’m going to turn it over to the Secretary of Education, Cardona, to moderate and to start our discussion.

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