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Rep. Rashida Tlaib

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) speaks at a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on February 27, 2019. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Tlaib Says Democrats Must Elect 'Next Generation of Working Class Champions'

"I want us to imagine a government where corporate donors don't drive healthcare, climate, education and poverty policies," said the Michigan congresswoman. "Where the working families of our nation really call the shots."

Julia Conley

Responding to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address Tuesday night, Rep. Rashida Tlaib echoed the president's own call for new investments in working families, emphasizing that the past year has shown Biden's "visionary" economic agenda will only be realized if Democrats elect more lawmakers who will prioritize people over corporate profits.

In his address to Congress, Biden did not mention the stalled Build Back Better Act by name but spoke about the need to cut child care costs for families and extend the expanded Child Tax Credit, pass paid family leave, allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, and pass other provisions contained in the bill.

"The midterm elections are coming up fast—and this year we can elect the Working Families majority we need."

While Republicans and right-wing Democrats including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) refused to back the broadly popular proposals, Tlaib said, "no one fought harder for President Biden’s agenda than progressives."

"But two forces stood in the way: A Republican Party that serves only the rich and powerful, and just enough corporate-backed Democratic obstructionists to help them succeed," the Michigan Democrat added.

To ensure Congress works on behalf of working people instead of corporations and the richest political donors, she said, Democrats must look beyond "blocking the far right" in 2022 and future elections.

"We also need to elect the next generation of working families champions," the congresswoman said.

The State of the Union and Tlaib's response, given on behalf of the Working Families Party, came as voters in Texas went to the polls to vote in the 2022 midterm primary elections.

Former Austin council member Greg Casar, a Medicare for All advocate, easily won the Democratic primary in the newly-formed 35th congressional district, while immigration and human rights attorney Jessica Cisneros came within two points of beating anti-choice Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, who has represented the 28th district since 2005. Cisneros and Cuellar will face each other in a runoff in May.

Other progressive advocates for working families running this year include Summer Lee in Pennsylvania, Odessa Kelly in Tennessee, Kina Collins in Illinois, and Rana Abdelhamid in New York.

"I want us to imagine a government where corporate donors don't drive healthcare, climate, education and poverty policies. Where the working families of our nation really call the shots," said Tlaib. "It's time we had a majority in Congress to fight for us—a working families majority."

Tlaib faced criticism from right-wing Democrats and "sensational coverage" in the corporate media ahead of her address—despite the fact that progressives have responded to the State of the Union on behalf of the Working Families Party in the past.

Contrary to right-wing Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer's claim that her speech was akin to "keying your own car," Tlaib praised the president for passing coronavirus relief and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act urged the passage of more relief for Americans, saying progressives are "ready to jumpstart our work again."

"Roads and bridges are critical, but so are child care and prescription drugs—and we shouldn't have to choose," the congresswoman said. "With the majority of the Build Back Better agenda stalled, Mr. President, the work is unfinished... We still have time to lower costs for working families and preserve a livable planet for our grandchildren—but we have to act now."

Tlaib concluded her address with a call for grassroots organizers to work on the ground to elect candidates like Casar, Cisneros, and other progressives in November.

"The midterm elections are coming up fast—and this year we can elect the Working Families majority we need," Tlaib said. "It starts with staying engaged and voting—in every election, in every primary—for candidates who will put working people first."

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