Delivering the Working Families Party's official response to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address Tuesday night, U.S. Rep. Delia Ramirez reminded the president of steps he can take without Congress to deliver for working families and called on Democrats to not only fight far-right extremism but also the forces within their own party that impede progress.
The first-term Illinois Democrat, who advocates for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and other progressive policy proposals, noted that before Republicans won control of the House in November, Biden and Democratic lawmakers took several steps to help working people who are struggling with the rising costs of housing, child care, and other essentials as wages failed to keep up.
"The infrastructure bill will build roads and bridges and also infrastructure for clean water and electric vehicles. The Inflation Reduction Act will lower drug prices and make insurance more affordable for millions of seniors. And President Biden used his executive authority to cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt," she said, referring to the president's plan which is currently held up in the courts.
"Those things will make a difference, but let's be honest," she added. "It is still too hard for too many families in this country to make ends meet. Even while oil companies and grocery chains are making record profits, the Republicans want to blame higher prices on workers who got their first raise in a generation."
In addition to standing up to "the extremism of the MAGA Republicans," she said, "we have to show working people what Democrats will deliver for working families if they put us back in control."
Doing so will depend on Biden again using his executive authority, as advocates have previously called on him to do in order to combat the climate crisis and the fossil fuel companies that Congress has so far refused to rein in, and to ensure Americans have access to abortion care following the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year.
Until Democrats retake Congress, said Ramirez, the party must take action "with the power that we do have."
"The president can use executive authority to further reduce drug prices," said the congresswoman. "He can stand stand up for renters and hold corporate landlords accountable for the rent price-gouging and housing discrimination we are seeing throughout the nation."
"If Republicans in the majority are as interested in working class families as they claim, they'll stand with us," she added, referring to the GOP's outcry over Biden's statement during the State of the Union address regarding their plans to cut or sunset Social Security and Medicare, despite the fact that numerous right-wing lawmakers have clearly outlined those proposals.
If the president acts decisively to help Americans cope with the rising cost of living, said Ramirez, "Americans will see who's on their side and Republicans will pay the price at the ballot box."
The Alliance for Housing Justice applauded the congresswoman's "great reminder" that Biden has the power to enact tenant protections that are stronger than those he unveiled last month.
The group has joined hundreds of national and local tenant organizations in calling on Biden to use his executive authority to enforce rent regulations, define "good cause" eviction and expand tenant protections, and take other steps to hold corporate landlords accountable.
Looking ahead to 2024, said Ramirez Tuesday, Democrats "can't depend on a party label as the only reason to vote for us. Our job is to hear what working people are telling us and deliver."
The congresswoman, whose parents crossed the southern U.S. border after traveling from Guatemala while her mother was pregnant with Ramirez, also called on the president to protect all undocumented immigrants from deportation, weeks after the Biden administration announced an expansion of the Title 42 policy under which more than 2.5 million migrants have been deported.
"I know what it's like to live with uncertainty and fear, " said Ramirez, whose husband is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. "And it is why we must do everything in our power pass comprehensive immigration reform. In the meantime, we need the president to extend protections from deportation for all 12 million undocumented immigrants, and we must provide them access to work permits."
On Democracy Now! on Wednesday morning, Ramirez also responded to Biden's comments about further militarizing the border with "a record number of personnel... arresting 8,000 human smugglers, seizing over 23,000 pounds of fentanyl in just the last several months."
"There are people who are coming now, not just because they chose, 'Let me just cross the border and nearly die because it's a luxury to do that,'" she said on Democracy Now! "People are escaping poverty, people are escaping death... So to talk about securing the border without executive action to do the things that we can do right now, which is truly create a pathway to citizenship [is unacceptable]."
"We can't begin to create a situation where we help and uplift one immigrant community at the expense of the other," she added.
On Tuesday night, Ramirez noted that working people, including undocumented immigrants, "are the majority of this country."
"We believe the president and the country can do better," she said. "Working people around the country are ready to stand up for our families, for our communities, and for the best version of America."