RESTORING OUR DEMOCRACY
For too long, our political system has been rigged to serve the interests of corporations and the super rich at the expense of working people. I am a Black person who is outraged by the right-wing assault on the voting rights of people of color in America. I am a gay person who is horrified by what has become an annual ritual: spending the month of June, every year, waiting to see if the Supreme Court will vote to take away my civil rights.
And this issue isn’t just personal to me: it’s personal to all of us. Strengthening our democracy must be our priority if we truly want to enact change. We will not make strides toward guaranteeing health care for all, saving the planet from climate catastrophe, or ending gun violence if we don’t address the root of the problem.
That’s why we must fight to increase public participation in our electoral process and get Big Money out of politics. Since day one, I have refused to take money from corporations, and I was proud to lead in the fight to pass H.R. 1, the For the People Act, in the House, which if passed by the Senate would guarantee automatic voter registration, enact critical campaign financing reform, and end reckless, partisan gerrymandering through mandating independent redistricting commissions. I support restoring balance to the Supreme Court in order to have a majority committed to voting rights, and in April 2021, I introduced legislation that would expand the Supreme Court to 13 justices.
GUARANTEEING HEALTH CARE AS A RIGHT, NOT A PRIVILEGE
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed many of the gaps in our existing social safety net. The global pandemic we face demonstrates the need for health care as a human right, regardless of income or employment, as well as mandatory paid sick leave. Timely testing and treatment are essential to stopping the spread of coronavirus.
Even before the pandemic, 87 million Americans were either uninsured or underinsured, preventing them from getting necessary medical care. In the richest nation in the history of the world, health care should be a right, not a privilege. That’s why I support Medicare for All, which would insure every American with comprehensive health care (including dental, vision, and long-term care) while capping the annual cost of prescription drugs and lowering overall costs to families, small businesses, and the government.
CHAMPIONING THE RIGHTS OF WORKING PEOPLE
My grandfather was a janitor, and my grandmother cleaned homes. I was raised by a single mom who had to work multiple jobs just to put food on the table. I understand the struggles facing American workers because I’ve lived them myself, and those principles have guided my work in Congress.
Although the cost of living in this country is soaring, wages have remained stagnant for decades. I’m proud to have voted for the Raise the Wage Act this Congress, and I support raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, permanently indexed to inflation, for all workers. Although New York has seen some increases in recent years, this is simply not enough for families across New York City which ranks among the most expensive places to live in the country.
I know that our country is strongest when we have a vibrant middle-class, and that’s why we must enact labor laws that protect all of our communities. All workers deserve the right to negotiate for proper pay, safe working conditions, and the benefits they deserve. I support the power of workers to organize and bargain collectively, and I proudly helped pass the PRO Act in the House, which ensures working people can organize without fear of retaliation. The PRO Act would end misleading “Right to Work” laws and close tax loopholes that encourage jobs and investments to be outsourced. I’m proud to be supported by a number of local and state labor unions, who know I am fighting for them. That also means treating our essential workers with the dignity they deserve. I support hazard pay, providing the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) they need to work safely, and instituting labor protections that will outlast this pandemic.
PROVIDING A QUALITY EDUCATION TO ALLAs the product of public schools, which helped me rise from humble economic circumstances, I know firsthand the transformative power of public education. I owe so much to my incredible teachers, administrators, and other staff, who provided the support and encouragement that got me where I am today. I also know that, unfortunately, my story is the exception and not the rule. We must fight harder for equal opportunity in our country. As a member of Congress, I serve on the House Education and Labor Committee, where I spend every day fighting for public school students and teachers. I was proud to earn the support of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the National Educators Association (NEA) in my first campaign. In Congress, I’m fighting to increase funding for public education as well as expand access to free pre-kindergarten through a partnership between the federal government and the states. I also know firsthand that America faces a devastating student debt crisis. Thousands of people throughout New York City, despite having college degrees, must live at home with their parents because they can’t afford to be out on their own as renters or homeowners. We must forgive student debt to liberate an entire generation to fully participate in our economy, such as through homeownership, the single biggest generator of wealth in the United States. And, in order to prevent crushing student debt from accumulating in the future, student debt forgiveness should be paired with tuition-free public college moving forward.
FIGHTING FOR OUR FAMILIESHundreds of thousands of children across New York City live below the poverty line. I, too, grew up poor in New York. When child care was too expensive, my grandmother had to take me to work with her as she cleaned homes. No child should have to accompany a guardian to work.
Today, in more than half the states in America, a year of child care costs more than a year of in-state college tuition. My mother was lucky to have my grandparents’ help in taking care of me, but many children are not so lucky. We cannot leave our children behind. I support universal child care, and I was proud to introduce the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act with Senator Elizabeth Warren, which would ensure universal access to child care and pre-K. I also led the successful fight to include provisions from this universal child bill in the version of Build Back Better that passed the House.
SAVING OUR PLANET
Our planet is in peril. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, we have 10 years remaining to prevent irreversible damage to Earth due to global warming. And, as Superstorm Sandy reminds us, this is a local as well as a global issue. We must address the climate crisis with the urgency this moment demands.
That’s why I am a proud cosponsor of the Green New Deal, which would create 20 million good-paying jobs while transitioning America to 100% renewable energy. The Green New Deal ensures a just transition to green jobs for workers in the fossil fuel industry who are displaced and provides dedicated support to our most at-risk communities. We have a responsibility to end corporate tax cuts to fossil fuel companies and invest in new, sustainable infrastructure across the country.
PROTECTING A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE
It should not be the place of the government or politicians like Donald Trump to intervene in a woman’s ability to make decisions about her own body. I support women’s access to the full range of reproductive healthcare services, and I believe that women should be able to make these deeply personal healthcare decisions for themselves. That’s why I was proud to earn the support of leading pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America in my campaign for Congress.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration and the Republican Party have systematically undermined women’s reproductive freedom. The federal government must step in to protect civil rights — and it cannot leave those rights up to the extreme conservative majority on the Supreme Court. I support codifying Roe v. Wade by statute, repealing the Hyde Amendment, and ensuring that any Medicare for All legislation includes coverage for the full range of reproductive services.
TACKLING SYSTEMIC RACISM
Growing up Black in America, it is my lived experience that people of color face unique and pervasive challenges in this country. I got my start in politics as a freshman at Spring Valley High School, when I reactivated the Spring Valley NAACP Youth Council. At the age of 19, I chaired a committee on the NAACP’s National Board of Directors. Institutional discrimination touches all facets of life in America, from health care to employment to criminal justice to housing. We must fight to achieve equality and dismantle systemic racism so that we are all able to participate fully in this society.
With law enforcement officers engaging in miscarriages of justice on both systemic and individual levels, I believe Congress has a responsibility to enact comprehensive federal oversight measures, in conjunction with state and local action. We must honor the memories of people unlawfully killed by the police by listening to the demands of their family members for justice, ensuring that law enforcement officers are held accountable, and moving towards a society where the institution of policing plays less of a role in Black and Brown communities. This is why I was proud to help pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in the House, and now the Senate must do the same.
We also need to overhaul the way we approach criminal justice policy in this country and invest in policies and programs that support formerly incarcerated individuals and prevent them from returning. That’s why I support banning the consideration of criminal convictions in hiring decisions when the nature of the conviction is irrelevant to the job’s duties. We must also guarantee the right to counsel for defendants in civil cases and give judges discretion to consider the totality of a defendant’s circumstances in making sentencing decisions by ending mandatory minimums in sentencing. It also means supporting the legalization and regulation of cannabis, as New York and other states have done.
FIXING OUR BROKEN IMMIGRATION SYSTEM
I would not be here today had my paternal grandfather not immigrated to New York City from Kingston, Jamaica generations ago. Immigrants are the backbone of our society, from our economy to our personal relationships. Immigrants are our family members, friends, neighbors, and loved ones.
I support creating a fair pathway to citizenship for our undocumented brothers and sisters, revamping our visa system, and codifying DACA in order to protect our young people. I was proud to help pass the American Dream and Promise Act in the House, which would protect our Dreamers by putting them on a pathway to permanent residency. I also believe we must reform our immigration court system to provide the capacity to process asylum claims and hear all immigration cases.
ADVOCATING FOR OUR LGBTQIA COMMUNITY
I’m proud to serve as one of the two first openly gay, Black members of Congress in United States history and as a Co-Chair of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus. While there is no question that tremendous progress has been made for our LGBTQIA community, we still have so far to go.
Unfortunately, with rates of transphobic and homophobic hate crimes rising, many in our LGBTQIA community live under the threat of danger. LGBTQIA youth are twice as likely to be homeless than their straight and cisgender counterparts. In Congress, I was proud to help pass the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. I support comprehensive changes to our housing, health care, and education systems so LBGTQIA youth have a guaranteed roof over their heads, reliable medical care, and a quality education.
KEEPING OUR COMMUNITIES SAFE
I was in sixth grade when Columbine happened. As afraid as I was back then, I never imagined mass shootings would become the new normal. Gun violence is an epidemic in this country, and Americans deserve to live without fear of violence in our schools, movie theaters, nightclubs, synagogues, churches, and mosques.
I’ll always put the safety of our communities first, which is why my campaign does not take a dime from corporate PACs or the gun lobby, and why I’m proud that I earned an “F” rating from the NRA. I support common-sense policies like universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and a mandatory buyback of all assault weapons in the hands of civilians. I was proud to help pass bills in the House that would enact universal background checks and close the Charleston loophole. I also support allowing civil liability for manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of firearms who negligently market or provide their products to people who should not have them.
FIGHTING FOR OUR VULNERABLE COMMUNITIES
In Congress, I’m fighting to make sure all members of our communities have the support and resources they deserve. Tens of millions of Americans live with a disability, and millions more care for a loved one with a disability. For too long, their needs have been overlooked, and they can and should be incorporated into our broader public policy.
That’s why I’m fighting for Medicare for All, which guarantees healthcare services and supports without waitlists or asset or income restrictions. I also support expanding Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income to end the backlog of over 800,000 cases, which forces people with disabilities to wait years for needed assistance. And I will fight to end the subminimum wage — which in some jobs is currently less than $1 per hour — for workers with disabilities, while guaranteeing jobs and living wages in the community for all.
I support efforts to expand social security benefits and am fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare, including standing up to efforts to privatize Social Security and cut Medicare benefits. I am also fighting to lower prescription drug prices, and I oppose efforts to narrow eligibility requirements for Social Security and SNAP benefits.
We also have a responsibility to ensure the well-being of veterans who put their lives on the line to serve our country. Too often, veterans do not receive the care and support they deserve after returning home. 20 percent of veterans experience major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, and many do not receive adequate and timely treatment. Over 40,000 veterans are homeless, and 1.4 million more are at risk of homelessness. That’s why I’m committed to expanding veteran access to jobs and training, as well as making it easier for veterans to access education benefits. We must also provide veterans with disabilities quick and streamlined access to the support that they need, which is often delayed due to bureaucratic backlogs.
STOPPING ENDLESS WARS
The United States has been at war for most of my life — wars that have led to hundreds of thousands of people being killed and millions more displaced. We were led into the disastrous war in Iraq under false pretenses. The war in Afghanistan has been raging for almost 19 years. We are contributing to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, in Yemen, by providing weapons to the Saudi-led coalition. Extreme war powers, and a reluctance by members of Congress to exert oversight, enabled the Trump Administration to bring us dangerously close to the brink of war with Iran. Climate change is already helping to fuel further conflict and violence, due to its impacts on food and water sources, droughts, and other natural disasters.
Enough is enough. Our national security depends on a sane approach to American foreign policy that centers diplomacy, peace, human rights, and cooperation on the challenges facing our world. We must stop fighting endless wars. We must repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which has given the executive branch a blank check to pursue foreign wars having nothing to do with the September 11th attacks. I am proud to cosponsor a bill that would do precisely that.
We must work to bring an end to existing conflicts, including the war in Afghanistan, through inclusive peace processes that center human rights, including women’s rights. I also support barring the sale of weapons to human rights violators, including Saudi Arabia, as well as redirecting funds towards conflict prevention, including through development aid to reduce poverty and inequalities and combat climate change.
ADVANCING A DIPLOMACY-FIRST FOREIGN POLICY
Our budgets reflect our values and priorities. Currently, the United States has chosen to prioritize investing in war and weapons ahead of providing for the basic needs of our people. The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allocates a whopping $738 billion dollars for military spending. We spend more than approximately the next seven countries combined. It is estimated that we have spent almost $6 trillion dollars on the so-called War on Terror alone. The United States maintains hundreds of costly military bases in dozens of countries throughout the world.
As a member of Congress, I believe we must reduce military spending and reinvest this money in the State Department, to strengthen diplomacy and peacebuilding, as well as domestically, in programs that meet the needs of our civilian population. I support prioritizing investment in human security approaches, which focus on meeting the human needs of people and protecting our environment.
As humans, we share our earth with millions of species of animals. All too often animals are not treated with the respect and care they deserve, and instead are exploited and abused for profit and human sport. Our modes of agriculture and economic development have often come at a terrible cost: climate change, environmental degradation, and the destruction of habitats. We must act to ensure animal welfare and protect wildlife habitats.
As someone who was raised in Section 8 housing in New York,and who is a renter in New York’s 10th Congressional District, our affordable housing crisis is personal to me. Simply put, we must do everything to address the severe shortage of affordable housing and end homelessness in New York City. As a member of Congress, I played a pivotal role in securing passage of the Build Back Better Act in the House, the single-largest investment in affordable housing in American history, with tens of billions of dollars in new NYCHA funding, as well as Section 8 housing funding and other housing affordability relief. But with the median rent in Manhattan reaching all-time highs and the number of unhoused New Yorkers at its highest level since the Great Depression, it’s clear Congress must do far, far more. I support the campaign for a fully affordable building at 5 WTC, I co-sponsor the Homes for All Act to create 9.5 million new affordable housing units, and I support federal financial investments that guarantee housing as a human right for New York City. Moreover, last summer, I was proud to convince the White House to instruct the CDC to extend the nation’s eviction moratorium, which kept as many as 11 million people from being evicted from their homes during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic devastated New York City. We were the epicenter, with more cases than any other city in the country long before there was a vaccine. Hospitals were pushed to the brink of collapse, sirens wailed day and night, and tens of thousands of New Yorkers died. Our economy was torn to shreds and job losses skyrocketed. And whether it was the public health impact or the economic devastation, it was communities of color and low-income neighborhoods who disproportionately felt the pain. The pandemic then tore at the fabric of society, and leaders in Washington encouraged it, leading to a spike in hate crimes against AAPI New Yorkers and increased gun violence across the city.
We still haven’t fully comprehended the total impact of the pandemic on New York City. But we must resolve to never allow a catastrophe like this to occur again. We must transform New York City from a place that was the pandemic epicenter into a global leader in pandemic prevention and response. As a member of Congress, I will continue to push the federal government to invest billions in New York City to do exactly that.
That means investing in systems that effectively assess biosecurity risks, building our capabilities in research of likely pathogens, and developing prototype vaccines to quickly deploy their life-saving abilities the next time they are needed.
We can prevent future pandemics if we invest now. Doing so will save money and save lives. But to accomplish this, we need leaders in Washington who are willing to stand up for these priorities. I am proud to be a leader on this issue because I’ve seen the devastation caused to New York’s working people and am committed to doing everything we can today to prevent future pandemics.