Merkley Applauds Biden’s Emphasis on Freedom, Opportunity, and Justice for All in First National Address

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley issued the following statement today after President Biden delivered his first joint address to Congress:

“What the American people heard tonight was a President offering compassion, resolve, and a commitment to steadfast leadership. In a very short time, that leadership has already given families across the country cause for celebration: checks in Americans’ pockets, vaccine shots in Americans’ arms, kids back in their classrooms, and ‘open’ signs restored to business windows across America. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is brighter every day.

“But as President Biden has made clear, we’re not content with just minimizing the damage the pandemic inflicted, we’re looking to put in place a new vision that creates opportunity, prosperity, and justice for everyone. Every American—regardless of the color of their skin, their zip code, or current employment status—needs access to a good-paying, reliable job; a home they can afford; child care they trust; safe drinking water; clean air; and high-quality health care. And we have to stop wasting money paying for the increasingly harsh impacts of the climate crisis instead of creating jobs solving it. I will continue to work alongside my colleagues and the Biden administration to advance the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. The American Jobs Plan is, as President Biden put it, a robust ‘blue collar blueprint to rebuild America.’ It’s absolutely critical that we rebuild America’s infrastructure, from highways to broadband, and rebuild America’s energy system to support the path to 100% renewable energy. And the American Families Plan is equally important, strengthening the foundation for American families to thrive by improving education and child care and health care. As part of that health care improvement, we must end the price gouging on drugs, by enabling Medicare to negotiate the price of drugs—or better yet, passing my End Price Gouging for Prescription Drugs Act that will lower your prescription drug prices whether you’re part of Medicare or not.

“Tonight, I believed that President Biden would observe that building back better includes criminal justice reform and ending discrimination against LGBTQ Americans, and the president did not disappoint. I appreciate that he called out the importance of my Equality Act to fully end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans on the firm foundation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And tonight, transgender children—who often face tremendous bullying and adversity—heard a president say to them directly that they now have a president who ‘has their back.’

“All of these hopes and promises depend on a government that works for the people, rather than the powerful. The president noted that we have to defend the right to vote and pass the For the People Act I’m leading in the Senate. This voting rights act stops billionaires from buying elections; ensures that voters choose their politicians rather than the other way around; and protects the freedom and right of every American to cast a ballot—a right that is under enormous attack in dozens of states across the country.

“As the president noted, achieving these important goals—from the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, to the Equality Act, to the For the People Act—requires Congress to act. I hope every senator will work together to realize this powerful vision for America.”

Joining Senator Merkley as his virtual guests tonight were Nancy Haque, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), and Kieran Chase, BRO Transgender Justice Program Manager. Haque and Chase have each made significant contributions to the LGBTQ movement in Oregon, by focusing on building inclusive, strong communities and supporting young people, immigrants, refugees, Black, Brown, and transgender Oregonians in both rural and urban parts of the state. BRO is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2021.