- Rep. Jamaal Bowman laid out a progressive response to Biden’s first joint session of Congress.
- The congressman called for environmental justice, racial equality, and a more fair economic system.
- He strongly backs legislation that would empower the reach of organized labor.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Freshman Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York on Wednesday laid out a deeply progressive response to President Joe Biden’s first joint session of Congress, arguing for increased aid for working families, the strengthening of labor unions, and a Green New Deal for cities and public schools.
Bowman, who spoke on behalf of the Working Families Party, articulated a vision of an America that reimagines what is currently seen as the limitations of Democratic governance.
Bowman is an ally of Biden, but his blueprint for a more equitable American society goes beyond what the president has often discussed regarding everything from economic policy to policing.
Bowman praised Biden for his commitment to education expansion, as laid out in the president’s $1.8 trillion plan that would offer universal pre-K and two years of free community college.
“I was pleased to hear President Biden propose expanding free public education to include pre-K and community college,” he said. “All of that is good, it’s powerful, and it’s going to make a big difference.”
The congressman then pivoted to the economic devastation that has ravaged the country during the COVID-19 pandemic since last year, emphasizing that more has to be done to improve the economic conditions of ordinary Americans. He presents these issues alongside environmental protection, racial justice, and voting rights, all subjects that progressive legislators and activists have vocally spoken about for years.
“While the richest billionaires got $1 trillion richer during the pandemic, more than 10 million families are behind on rent today, and there are 8 million fewer jobs than a year ago,” Bowman said. “The climate crisis continues to ravage our communities, and scientists tell us we’re running out of time to act. Every week, we see an unconscionable new video of police violence against Black and brown men, women, and even children.”
He added: “And our democracy is still under attack, with Republican legislatures across the country cracking down on our right to vote.”
Bowman, a member of “The Squad,” the progressive group of Democrats that have made waves within the House caucus since 2019, called for a reordering of how the US operates on a fundamental level.
“We need to rebuild our nation with a new foundation, a foundation rooted in love, and care, and equality,” he said. “Where justice is truly real for all of us, regardless of race, class, gender, orientation, or religion. I fully believe we can.”
With Democrats controlling both the House and Senate, along with the White House, Bowman said that Democrats can aim much higher when it comes to economic fairness. (Though their control of the Senate is marginal.)
In his speech, Bowman called for support of the THRIVE Act, a $10 trillion infrastructure bill that allocates much more funding than the current $2 trillion infrastructure bill that Democratic leaders would like to pa sss this year.
Bowman said that the bill could create 15 million union jobs and help drive the economic recovery of the country while addressing climate issues and environmental justice.
The congressman also called for passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize, or PRO Act, a labor bill that overrides right-to-work laws that many states have imposed to weaken the strength of unions.
The House passed the bill last month, but its passage in the Senate remains murky due to intense GOP opposition.