Washington, D.C. – Tonight, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley issued the following response to President Biden’s State of the Union Address to Congress:
“If there’s one takeaway tonight that will stick with me, it’s how much stronger our country can be when our leaders focus on working together to lift everyone up instead of sowing division and trying to tear each other down.
“In the last two years, Democrats have delivered huge wins for working families—from a bipartisan infrastructure law that’s creating jobs and modernizing Oregon, to the Inflation Reduction Act capping seniors’ insulin at $35 a month and tackling climate chaos, to the CHIPS and Science bill that’s reinvigorating Made in America manufacturing. In his address, President Biden celebrated those achievements and remained focused on what Americans at kitchen tables across the country are feeling every night. While we read headlines of record low unemployment, working families are being squeezed by big corporations every day – from burdening student loan debt to buying eggs at the grocery store, and big oil yet again breaking profit records while Oregonians still see gas prices near $4 a gallon.
“The President has gotten the State of the Union on the right track. Under his leadership, we’ve brought the economy back from the pandemic and created a record 12 million new jobs in two years. But we need to make sure we are building back an economy that restores the opportunity for working families to thrive.
“To start, I’m encouraged to hear the President calling to put a fairness tax on billionaires and quadruple the tax on corporate stock buybacks. Stock buybacks are a shameful practice that allows wealthy corporations and their executives to line their own pockets, while many continue to undermine and take advantage of the employees that are providing value and wealth to their work. I’ve called for such taxes for many years, and it’s time to make them law along with other tax policies that make the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share.
“A key to an economy that creates opportunities and prosperity for working families is supporting unions and a strong worker voice in the workplace. As the son of a union machinist, I know the difference that a union can make in delivering fair wages and the strong workplace protections that every worker deserves. My guest tonight was fellow Oregonian and AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. Liz and I have fought together to include strong labor standards and Made in America provisions in legislation to fund clean energy development and infrastructure projects. American workers should get a fair share of the wealth they create.
“I am so grateful for a president who welcomes all people, regardless of who they are or what they look like, into the American family. We have too much division in the country, and too many who live in fear of violence or prejudice because of who they are. To hear the President of the United States speak directly to trans youth and LGBTQ+ Americans was a powerful reminder of how far we’ve come, but a reminder of the human and civil rights we need to protect, including by passing my Equality Act. In the audience tonight were too many families going home without loved ones senselessly lost to brutal violence at the hands of the state. It’s on all of us as leaders to promote accountability and a public safety system that respects the dignity of our humanity.
“Tonight, the President also laid out a comprehensive vision for domestic and global leadership. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I know that our work on climate change, strengthening democracies, and security will never be effective if we don’t lead on the global stage. Since Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, the United States has stood by our Ukrainian and European allies to defend democratic values, bolster NATO, and provide critical economic and humanitarian assistance. Just like America is stronger when we stand together, the international community is stronger when democracies stand together for our shared values.
“I’ve been holding town halls across Oregon, and I can tell you what the President talked about tonight reflects what is on the minds of many Oregonians: cost of health care and prescription drugs, the need for more child care, the lack of affordable housing, the need to address mental health, and workforce shortages – especially in nurses and teachers. They want us to focus on solving our communities’ challenges and building for the future, not pursuing partisan warfare for politicians’ own gain. President Biden has led us in creating a foundation to lift up all Americans, and now, it’s time for us to build on the successes of the last two years and get to work fighting for working families to have the foundations they need to thrive.”