January 20, 2016

Congresswoman Lee Reacts to the State of the Union

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Barbara Lee released this statement following President Obama’s State of the Union address:

“This evening, the American people and the world had an opportunity to hear directly from our President about the important accomplishments that he’s achieved during his last seven years in the Oval Office. Domestically, President Obama has turned our economy around and generated the longest consecutive period of job growth in our nation’s history, after inheriting the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Through the Affordable Care Act, his policies have expanded access to lifesaving healthcare coverage for 18 million people. On the global stage, our President has restored relations with Cuba, advanced a global agreement on climate change and negotiated a deal that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

With these victories in mind, the President laid out a bold vision of what he hopes to achieve in his final year. A vision that creates a fairer, more just America with opportunity for all.

First, I was glad to hear the President renew his calls for criminal justice reform. While President Obama has taken important steps to repair our broken criminal justice system, much work remains. This evening, I was honored to invite Alicia Garza, co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, as my guest. As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus’s Ferguson Task Force, I am working with my colleagues to craft and pass legislation that addresses the systemic racism that pervades our institutions. I hope that the President’s message challenges my Republican colleagues to join the CBC in these efforts.

Additionally, we must address the epidemic of gun violence that plagues our communities. Every year, more than 30,000 Americans are killed by gun violence. By leaving an empty seat for all who lost their lives to gun violence, The President and First Lady Michelle Obama called attention to a crisis that must be addressed. Congress cannot continue to ignore these tragedies and the lives that we lose every year. While the President has led the way, Congress must act to pass common sense gun safety reforms. It’s past time for Congress to start listening to the American people instead of the NRA.

Next, as chair of the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity, I strongly commend the President for laying out an economic strategy that strengthens the middle class and builds ladders of opportunity out of poverty for American families. Now, Congress needs to join this fight.

Furthermore, as the co-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus’s TECH 2020 Initiative, I was pleased to hear President Obama discuss expanding computer science education for all American students. We must prepare all our students for the technology jobs of the future and ensure that these students can access opportunities in the tech field. Today, too many people of color and women are locked out of the tech sector’s good-paying jobs, Congress can and must do more to ensure techquity.

Finally, I am extremely pleased that President Obama again restated his call for a Congressional debate and vote on the year-plus long war against ISIL. He was very clear “take a vote.” Nearly one year ago, President Obama sent Congress a draft AUMF and it has sat on the Speaker’s desk ever since. Congress cannot continue to abdicate its Constitutional responsibility to give the American people a voice in matters of war and peace.

While I support much of what the President outlined in his speech, I remain strongly opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. As a Member of Congress, I cannot support another bad trade deal that will send American jobs overseas and lower wages here at home.”


Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. She serves as chair of the Whip’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity.