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Stacey Abrams’ State of the Union response: Fact-check and transcript

MS. ABRAMS

Good evening my fellow Americans and happy lunar new year. I’m Stacey Abrams and I’m honored to join the conversation about the state of our union.

Growing up, my family went back and forth between lower middle class and working class. Yet, even when they came home weary and bone-tired, my parents found a way to show us all who we could be. My librarian mother taught us to love learning. My father, a shipyard worker, put in overtime and extra shifts, and they made sure we volunteered to help others. Later, they both became united Methodist ministers, an expression of the faith that guides us. These were our family values — faith, service, education, and responsibility.

Now, we only had one car so sometimes my dad had hitchhike and walk long stretches during the 30-mile trip home from the shipyards. One rainy night my mom got worried. We piled in the car and went looking for him and we found my dad making his way along the road soaked and shivering in his shirt sleeves. When he got in the car my mom asked if he left his coat at work. He explained he had given it to a homeless man he met on the highway. We we asked why he had given away his only jacket, my dad turned to us and said, I knew when I left that man he’d still be alone but I could give him my coat because I knew you were coming for me.

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Our power and strength as Americans lives in our hard work and our beliefs and more. My family understood firsthand that while success is not guaranteed, we live in a nation where opportunity is possible. But we do not succeed alone. In these United States, when times are tough, we can persevere because our friends and neighbors will come for us. Our first responders will come for us. It is this mantra, this uncommon grace of community that has driven me to become an attorney, a small-business owner, a writer, and most recently, the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia.

My reason for running was simple — I love our country and its promise of opportunity for all. And I stand here tonight because I hold fast to my father’s credo, together we are coming for America, for a better America.

Just a few weeks ago, I joined volunteers to distribute meals to furloughed federal workers. They waited in line for a box of food, and the sliver of hope since they hadn’t received paychecks in weeks. Making livelihoods of our federal workers a pawn for political games is a disgrace. The shutdown was a stunt, engineered by the president of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people but our values.

After Trump’s long speech calling for unity, Abrams is looking to remind the public that it was Trump’s own hard-line stance on immigration that led to a 35-day government shutdown. And that funding lapse could repeat itself later this month, if Congress and Trump fail to come to a deal on border security.

For seven years, I led the Democratic Party in the Georgia House of Representatives. I didn’t always agree with the Republican speaker or governor, but I understood that our constituents didn’t care about our political parties. They cared about their lives. So when we had to negotiate criminal justice reform or transportation or foster care improvements, the — foster care improvements, the leaders of our state didn’t shut down. We came together and we kept our word.

It should be no different in our nation’s capital. We may come from different sides of the political aisle, but our joint commitment to the ideals of this nation cannot be negotiable. Our most urgent work is to realize Americans’ dreams of today and tomorrow, to carve a path to independence and prosperity that can last a lifetime.

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Children deserve an excellent education from cradle to career. We owe them safe schools and the highest standards, regardless of ZIP code. Yet, this White House responds timidly while first-graders practice active-shooter drills and the price of higher education grows ever steeper. From now on, our leaders must be willing to tackle gun safety measures and face the crippling effect of educational loans, to support educators and invest what is necessary to unleash the power of America’s greatest minds.

gun violence

Trump has suggested on multiple occasions that teachers should receive pay bonuses if they complete firearm training and become licensed to carry. He has also floated the idea of installing armed guards inside public schools.

gun violence

This was an issue that Democrats wanted to highlight tonight. There were at least 17 gun violence survivors at Trump’s speech tonight, according to Giffords — the advocacy group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a fellow survivor. Their goal in attending: To remind politicians (and voters watching at home) about the 35,000-plus deaths by gun every year.

Trump’s speech didn’t address college affordability or student loan debt, which now totals roughly $ 1.5 trillion.

Abrams raises those issues, but she doesn’t offer much in terms of policy proposals. Notably, she didn’t talk about tuition-free or debt-free college, which are ideas that have been embraced by many of the Democrats running for president.

Democrats’ calls to support educators comes amid a slew of labor strikes across the country over the past year in which teachers are demanding greater pay and improved classroom conditions.

One of Nancy Pelosi’s guests tonight? The head of the nation’s largest teachers union.

In Georgia and around the country, people are striving for a middle class where a salary truly equals economic security. But instead, families’ hopes are being crushed by Republican leadership that ignores real life or just doesn’t understand it. Under the current administration, far too many hard-working Americans are fall behind, living paycheck to paycheck, most without labor unions to protect them from even worse harm.

The Republican tax bill rigged the system against working people. Rather than bringing back jobs, plants are closing, layoffs are looming, and wages struggle to keep pace with the actual cost of living. We owe more to the millions of everyday folks who keep our economy running, like truck drivers forced to buy their own rigs, farmers caught in a trade war, small-business owners in search of capital, and domestic workers serving without labor protections. Women and men who could thrive if only they had the support and freedom to do so.

Wage growth has been sluggish since the Great Recession but gained steam in recent months, with average hourly private-sector earnings up by 3.2 percent in January.

trade

Abrams’ only mention of Trump’s trade policies focuses on farmers, who have taken a hit from retaliatory tariffs.

The president’s tariffs on U.S. trading partners, like China, Mexico and Canada, has meant retaliation on billions of dollars worth of American farm goods – so much so that USDA has offered farmers access to billions in trade-relief payments.

We know bipartisanship could craft a 21st century immigration plan, but this administration chooses to cage children and tear families apart. Compassionate treatment at the border is not the same as open borders. President Reagan understood this. President Obama understood this. Americans understand this. And Democrats stand ready to effectively secure our ports and borders, but we must all embrace that from agriculture to health care — all embrace that from agriculture to health care, America is stronger with immigrants, not walls.

immigration

The Senate engaged in a freewheeling immigration debate roughly a year ago, but the White House did not support any of the bipartisan bills put forward. None of the proposals passed a procedural vote.

immigration

Thousands of migrant families were separated at the border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which ran from April through June. An internal watchdog for the Health and Human Services Department said in a January report that the number of children split apart from parents remains unknown because federal agencies did not track the separations.

Rather than suing to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, as Republicans’ attorneys generals have, our leaders must protect the progress we made and commit to expanding health care and lowering cost for everyone. My father has battled prostate cancer for years. To help cover the cost, I found myself sinking deeper into debt because while you can defer some payments, you can’t defer cancer treatment. In this great nation, Americans are skipping blood pressure pills, forced to choose between buying medicine or paying rent. Maternal mortality rates show that mothers, especially black mothers, risk death to give birth. And in 14 states, including my home state, where a majority want it, our leaders refuse to expand Medicaid which could save rural hospitals, save economies and save lives.

health care

Fact check: True. Republican-led states are trying to get the ACA struck down. And a Texas judge agreed with the GOP’s argument that the law is unconstitutional, although an appeal is moving forward.

Interestingly, the Democrat leading the Obamacare legal defense — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra — is giving Democrats’ Spanish-language response to Trump tonight.

health care

Abrams is hitting on a real, burning issue for Democrats and lots of voters — that 14 states , generally led by Republicans, have opposed efforts to expand Medicaid. That’s had real effects for millions of patients who remain uninsured and hospitals that say they’re losing out on necessary payments.

One notable trend: Even in states where voters said they want Medicaid expansion GOP , lawmakers are finding ways to block it.

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We can do so much more, take action on climate change, defend individual liberties with fair-minded judges. But none of these ambitions are possible without the bedrock guarantee of our right to vote.

climate change

Trump did not address climate change in his State of the Union address. Many of his policies, such as reversing car and truck fuel-efficiency standards set under President Barack Obama, would increase greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are warming the planet.

Let’s be clear. Voter suppression is real. From making it harder to register and stay on the rolls to moving and closing polling places, to rejecting lawful ballots, we can no longer ignore these threats to democracy. While I acknowledge the results of the 2018 election here in Georgia, I did not and we cannot accept efforts to undermine our right to vote. That’s why I started a nonpartisan organization called Fair Fight, to advocate for voting rights. This is the next battle for our democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have a say the vision they want for our country. We must reject the cynicism that says every vote cast to be counted is a power grab. Americans understand that these are the values our brave men and women in uniform and our veterans risk their lives to defend. The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders, not where politicians pick their voters.

House Democrats will focus on expanding voting rights in one of their first major bills of 2019: HR 1 would create national automatic voter registration and make Election Day a federal holiday. The Senate is unlikely to take up the bill, though.

In this time of division and crisis, we must come together and stand for and with one another. America has stumbled time and again on its quest towards justice and equality, but with each generation, we have revisited our fundamental truths and where we falter, we make amends.

We fought Jim Crow with the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Yet, we continue to confront racism from our past and in our present, which is why we must hold everyone from the highest offices to our own families accountable for racist words and deeds and call racism what it is — wrong.

America achieves a measure of reproductive justice in Roe v. Wade, but we must never forget, it is immoral to allow politicians to harm women and families to advance a political agenda. We affirmed mainly equality, and yet the LGBTQ community remains under attack.

health care

The Trump administration is rolling back a slew of protections for LGBTQ Americans, such as a regulation that would ban discrimination for patients based on their sex or gender.

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So even as I am very disappointed by the president’s approach to our problems, I still don’t want him to fail. But we need him to tell the truth and to respect his duties and respect the extraordinary diversity want him that defines our progress has always been found in the refuge, in the basic instinct of the American experiment — to do right by our people. And with a renewed commitment to social and economic justice, we will create a stronger America together. Because America wins by fighting for our shared values against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That is who we are, and when we do so, never wavering, the state of our union will always be strong.

This is a fascinating dig — at Republicans more than Trump. It was, after all, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who once said his top goal was making sure Barack Obama was a one-term president

Thank you and may God bless the United States of America.

Source: Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

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